Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Matheran Trek - Dodhani Village to Sunset point

Another Sunday and it was my yet another trek in rainy month of July 2012. Wanderlust Adventure group lead by Dr Pradhan had planned trekking to Matheran - The Queen of hills in Maharashtra from base village of Dodhani and I decided to be part of the group.

Matheran, One of the oldest and most splendid hill stations in Maharashtra is located 90kms from Mumbai at elevation of 2625feet above sea level. The most unforgettable things about Matheran are deep forest and valleys surrounding it with abundant waterfalls specially in rainy season. Matheran in local language means " Forest at the top" covers 8 square kms in Sahyadri mountain range. This beautiful place discovered in 1850 by Hugh Poyntz Malet has 28 viewing points which gives splendid panoramic 360 view of surrounding ghats and valleys with breathtaking sunrise & sunset views.

My trek : Meeting point was decided at Panvel station at 7.15am sharp as our plan was to complete the trek by afternoon, have packed lunch at Matheran, take cab from Dasturi naka to Neral and train journey back home by early evening to avoid rush of returning Mumbaikers who flock to Matheran during weekends. I started quiet early at 4.30am from Borivali as Panvel being around 3hrs from my place. Even at 4.30am in the morning, Borivali station was packed with enthusiastic crowd on their way to enjoy the rains at various places around Mumbai. After changing trains at Andheri and Wadala, I finally reached our meeting point - Panvel. We all gathered at Panvel and by 7.30am we were all marching towards the ST stand to catch ST bus to our base village Dodhani.The bus route from Panvel to Dodhani passes through some naturally beautiful green landscapes and as human settlement recedes it makes way for greener pastures, velvety paddy fields and green hills. En route we passed through small streams and Gadheswar bus stand from where one can go to less explored Gadheshwar lake and dam over it.

It took one hr from Panvel to reach Dodhani village - the base to Matheran trek. The village was no less than a heaven with scenic high hills covered with dark rain clouds and waterfall from the top of the hill which was truly mesmerising.

With cool breeze and beautiful landscape around the small village adding to zeal, everyone was charged up to go climbing to Matheran. Our brief introduction round and after deciding to take a local as our guide, We all marched following our local guide Vishnu who lead our way. The rain god showered occasional drizzle on us as we climbed higher. The climb was not strenuous but passed through some dense forest and thick undergrowth. Our first halt was at a small waterfall on the way, half way to our destination. The view of the valley and other peaks including Garbett point of Matheran was nothing less than spectacular. Climbing steadily on narrow edge with valley down below at times the route was difficult at some spots with slippery muddy road and rocks covered with green algae,with sun overpowering rain clouds at times we huffing and puffing would take short halts gasping for some breath but the spectacular view of the valley would recharge the group and would thus become a short photo session for everyone.

On our way we came across a small temple with enough space around it for the group to enjoy a short break with one of our group member Sachin played a small game with the group to re energise everyone.One important thing that I noticed on the way was the whole route was loaded with Karvy stems everywhere, the flower which blooms once in only 8years and its expected to bloom this year in September. Our climb took approx 3hrs and we were at the Sunset point of Matheran. The view of surrounding cliffs, forts, deep valleys and waterfalls was major highlight of the trek with everyone deciding to rest here and have our packed lunch

After spending some time at sunset point, we started our 45minutes walk through the fragile jungles of Matheran to market place. Entire Matheran is covered with dense jungles and red soil and walk to market place was interesting enough with everyone sharing their own past experience and occasional stop for yet another photo sessions. We came across some amazing bungalows and properties which were more than a decade old. With time running fast we decided to skip the market place and decided to walk down to Dasturi naka to catch a cab to Neral station. But again on the way walking on the tracks of world famous Matheran toy train we did have hot cuppa of chai (tea) and fried bhutta (maize corn) which was irresistible specially after our long journey.

Bidding adios to Matheran we took cab for our return journey to Neral station and train to our destination back home. With many first timers in the group swearing about long and tiring trek but they agreed that the scenery around Matheran and the experience was one to be remembered for lifetime. Happy again that one more new destination covered successfully in my quest to explore the unexplored destinations.As I happily sit back and pen down my experience in this blog the picturesque Matheran comes back fresh in my mind again

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.........................