Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pelhar lake - Pristine, Untouched, Amazing

This destination was something that I had never heard of till I visited the place nor my friends who are native of Vasai itself didn't have any clue about this place. I received email for the trail from one of trekking group headed by Dr A Pradhan, open invitation to all and since I had been to long trek of Tungareshwar WLS day before so it was welcome change for me as I didn't want to miss on exploring newer destination and also didn't want to stretch myself more with one more hardcore trekking destination.

Meeting place was decided at Vasai Station east at 7.45am.Heart in Heart I knew this place would be worth a visit and only information that I had about the place was, It was at the base of Tunga Hills in Tunga WLS. With gangs of Wanderlust Adventures having gathered at Vasai on time, we all headed to rickshaw stand for share a rick towards Hotel Pelhar on Mumbai - Ahmedabad Highway which was approx 9kms from the station.From the highway, it was walk on muddy road passing by some grassland and some huge Tabelas or Buffalo sheds.One the way we came across a tree which housed nest of Baya Bird (weaver bird), amazingly beautiful yellow bird. We also saw a peacock in the grassland near by. Sohiel, one of our group member was bird enthusiast, shared more info about the bird which was quite interesting. One of the passerby informed that peacock was domesticated by the Tabela owner and sometimes people catch the bird when its close to the road and click pictures with it but for us the bird was quite far in the muddy grass and also we didn't want to scar the bird away.

Wild Basil Or Tulsi 
Nevertheless we moved forward, We came across one small plant with soft and wooly leaf, when touched gave strong & sweet aroma, Soheil's knowledege came in handy and he identified it as Wild Basil or Tulsi.

With dark rain clouds forming over Tunga hill which was clearly visible now, We hoped that it would rain heavily as all wanted to get soaked in rain water. We passed by some huge tabelas that I had ever seen but road was full of gobar or buffalo dung and due to overnight rain it made it very difficult to walk. We all tried all the balancing act while walking to avoid spoiling the shoes and getting slipped on slippery road.

Finally after a walk of 10minutes, we reached a iron gate and bridge over a nalla which was our destination to Pelhar lake dam....... I am still wondering how come Mumbaites don't know about such a beautiful place. Moment we entered the gates, there was neatly carved road leading to the top of the dam and also alternate steps to reach at the top. The place was lush green, We clicked pictures, enjoyed talks and very moment while we marched forward. On reaching at the top, we came across huge dam water controller and viewing deck overlooking Pelhar lake and Tungareshwar hills surrounding it. what a sight !!!!!! I never expected something so pristine, untouched and immensely beautiful and that too so close to Mumbai.

Viewing deck and dam water controller

We stood at the watch tower in awe, our minds completely mesmerised with the beauty in front of us. We had our breakfast at the top. Since the water level of the lake was not much we decided to explore the surroundings and also walk along the banks of the lake. Bank of the lake was lined with rocks, we decided to walk on the rocks except for some members, who decided to take easy route of walking at the top of the dam.

The only humans that we came across were some locals making their way towards Tungareshwar and one odd fishermen putting their fishing net for the catch. We sat for almost over two hours enjoying the place, cool breeze and some rain drizzle, it was such a romantic place. I still have the view fresh in my mind. Veena of my colleague was so mesmerised with the beauty of the place that she could stop posing for a photoshoot by our leader Dr Ajay Pradhan who did all the clicking. In fact we all captured the place in our heart and in our lens from all angles. We wanted to enjoy the rains but expect for some short drizzle, it didn't rain at all but as I pour my heart out in this blog I feel if it had rained that we certainly wouldn't have enjoyed the place like we did without rains. After spending couple of hours we decided to move back home. On the way, we saw some local kids fishing, one of the fisherman on seeing us clicking pictures, invited all of us for a selfless lunch at his house nearby.We all promised to be back at the place next time and have lunch with him. With such fond memories we bid adieu to the place and couldn't thank our leader Dr Pradhan for getting us to such a beautiful location close to Mumbai.

Pristine, Virgin, Untouched beauty - Pelhar lake

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monsoon trails to S.G National Park - Borivali

For every nature lover, trekkers, Come the first showers of Monsoon in the month of June in Mumbai and its time to go for nature trails & trekking. Monsoon rains in Mumbai are much awaited by everyone to get relief from scorching summer heat and humidity and also by nature lovers and trekkers as its time for trekking season, to experience and enjoy the nature at its best. Monsoon showers carpet the areas surrounding Mumbai in vibrant and lush green thick undergrowth. Its a feeling which cannot be put in words but is best experienced. I was keenly awaiting rains to get feel of whole new world at S.G.National park in Borivali and also at Tungareshwar wild life sanctuary which transforms itself in green paradise with abundant waterfalls.

Monsoon trail at Sanjay Gandhi National park: This green oasis in the heart of Metro city like Mumbai is biggest National park in middle of any metro city in the world covering 104 sq kms (65 sq miles). It presents a different picture in every season be it Winters or Summers or Monsoon rains. Its best experienced in Monsoon when the whole place comes to life with trees covered with green leaves and dried mountains covering itself in green carpet of thick undergrowth. This park is semi deciduous forest so after dry summers when trees had shed all its leaves, Monsoons are epitome of change and whole of park is buzzing with new life. Apart from its natural, pollution free environment, national park is home to large flora & fauna variety, as well as 1000 years old history - The Kanheri caves also called Krishnagiri caves.


My trail started at 7am on Sunday of July month as this year rains had been delayed and whole of June was a dry spell.But with whatever rains we had in June was for more than enough to fuel new growth in the forest and by July, it was fuming with new life. Thick green carpet till eyes could reach. Its a feast to watch and experience. As I walked to my destination - Kanheri caves, could see some people jogging, some on their usual morning walk or weekend walk, some in their groups or going solo like me. We all shared one thing, love for the place, love for nature and above all our aim to keep oneself fit and healthy. I being a regular to this trail as not having missed any opportunity of going on this trail whenever I get week off from work on a Sunday, The place had changed dramatically from my last visit which was in early June, gap of one month and few showers of rain and here I was in different surrounding, full of fresh air and feast to eyes with greenery everywhere.

I came across small streams of water flowing down from the hills, although it was still young but I am sure by end of July / August when rains would be pouring down heavily, it would be sight worth watching, water gushing down with full force. On the way I could only smile as the entire road leading towards Kanheri caves had changed with trees on both sides of the road in full glory and greenery everywhere. What a change !!!!

As soon as I reached the gates of Kanheri caves, I started raining and it was a amazing to watch that within 5min of rains, water had already started falling from the top of Kanheri caves. Sipping hot tea and vada pav snacks had never tasted like this before. The rains stopped as quickly as it came, I decided to walk back home, sure to come back during days of heavy rains, hoping to see some waterfall at Kanheri caves. My journey or I should say my walk from national park gate to Kanheri caves have always excited me, covering 13kms both ways. One thing that I never miss when ever I am here is star fruit or cucumber sold by tribal ladies, its fresh, grown organically in natural surroundings, thirst quenching.

Hoping to continue my trend of not missing any day of being here when I have week off from work or when I am not doing trekking to some other places in Sahyadris.

My next destination will be Tungareshwar wild life sanctuary and I am also hoping to do Shilonda trail within S.G.National park which again is something not to be missed during Monsoon.

Merci beaucoup, C Ya at next destination.........................

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moonlight trek from Katraj to Sinhgad

Super full moon night happens once in a year when moon is brightest and closest to earth. It was this day ... sorry I mean night when most of the trekking community in Pune come together to do 22kms trek covering 13hills from Katraj to the destination Sinhgad.

The Sinhagad fort stands about 25 kms from Pune and is one of the important Maratha forts having a colourful history linked with it. The fort was formerly known as Kondhana, its literal translation is the "Fortress of the Lion". In 1670 Shivaji's General, Tanaji Malusare, led a force of men who scaled the steep hillside in the dark and defeated the unprepared forces of Bijapur. There are monuments at the spot where Tanaji died, and also at the place where he lost his left hand before his death. There is also a historic bungalow up there, where Gandhiji met the freedom fighter, Tilak, in 1915.

I along with group of 8 from bagpack outdoors started our journey from Dadar picking our colleagues on the way from Vashi & Kharghar. We were expected to join our counterparts from Pune - a bigger group of 32 at Katraj old tunnel - the starting point of our exciting trek but due to continuous delay we could barely reach Katraj at 10pm and our counterparts had already started their journey 2hrs earlier. But nevertheless everyone was quite excited & ready for the most exciting trek. We could also see some other groups were also starting along with us. One liner which aptly describes this trek is "Where there is a hill, there better be a way"

The moon was biggest I had seen, was the guiding source of light in the pitch dark night above Katraj tunnel. With our call of "JAI BHAVANI JAI SHIVAJI" we started our trek. On reaching the top of first hill we could see the red light at a distance which was our destination "The sinhgad fort" which looked quite far but it was not going to let our spirits down.The second hill was our first challenge as it was quite steep climb with everyone trying to climb on the muddy hill which was quite slippery. I finally managed to climb up with the support of the rocks coming out of the muddy hill. Our slogan "KEEP WALKING" we followed our leader - AKSHAY who was leading our way. We were making our way past big rugged rocks, dry dead grass and thorny bushes on muddy patch. Pune city lights in the night was one amazing sight with moving vehicle lights on the highway making it look like glittering diamonds in the night.

Also let me tell you that in this trek, if you happen to change your mind to discontinue the trek, the option is available only when you are at hills 1-2-3 but after that only way is to move ahead which makes this trek quite a thrill as you never know how your experience is going to be. Climbing down on hill 3 was also quite a task as you looking down 4-5 stories down and have to climb down slowly as road is quite muddy and slippery. But one learning from this trek was that it actually helps you overcome the phobia or vertigo problems and each hill that you cover makes you more confident to complete the trek.The wind was quite chilly even though it was summer time and we actually felt the need of some warmer clothes. I couldn't resist thinking what would it be like in winters. !!!!!

We easily managed to climb up and down 5-6 hills in next 3hours talking, gossiping, occasional stops for the group to catch up together and clicking pictures on the way. We were now half way and Pune city light behind us and we were now surrounded by hills. Time was slipping by quite fast. To put it in other words, we were not maintaining the required pace. No one was exactly sure as to how much was left ahead, since after crossing every hillock, Sinhagad appeared equally far. Apparently, there were just a couple of hills to cross before we would hit the base of Sinhagad fort. Our group leader just kept motivating that we only had two more hills !!!!

On one of the hills, my group managed to climb up taking support from the rocks while I got stuck in middle of the hill with no option to go down while climbing up was becoming more & more difficult for me. I took support from thorny shrubs while my group trying to motivate me and flashing light on the rocks to guide me in the night. I waited for almost 20minutes at same place analysing how to climb up, which I finally did with support from the rocks, climbing like a monkey on four limbs. Phew !!!! that was the most toughest and scariest moment in the entire trek. After this climb it was just walk from one hill to another at the top.

It was now 7am in the morning with first rays on sun, It was spectacular view of khadakvasla lake at the far end and hills glowing in first golden rays of sun. We could now see the motorable road reaching to Sinhgad and that was our destination but now the reality actually sank in and we still had 4hills to cover. But now since the destination was in sight we got more zeal and will power to climb and descend the remaining hills. On the way, our group leader Mayur from pune was waiting for us to provide us with chocolates and fruit juice. It was a welcome break and much needed energy booster.

We had lost count of how many hills we had conquered but now the last leg of journey was not that tough as we just had to walk through some dense forest and finally at around 9am we finally reach the tar road. A journey which took 11hours and it was our successful endurance test. We leaped in joy on completion of our successful trek. Factors like scorching heat, long distance, strenuous route, were all won over by enthusiasm and sheer will power.

There was one, I stress ONLY ONE road side tea stall run by a couple which was welcomed by everyone. Lime juice ready for us and hot cuppa of tea with kanda bhajji was most delicious on dead hungry stomach. While waiting for our Qualis to take us back home, no one had strength and all lied down on the road side parapet not minding the summer sun at the top what mattered was place to lie and rest, some even started their 1500CC engine (snoring) ...... We started our journey back to Mumbai happy to have completed one more trek successfully which was surely a test of our stamina, will power - a real endurance test in itself.

ADIOS for now, till I narrate my other adventures in future.

My Pics from My Clicks from the trek