Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Into the woods" - Phansad Wild Life Sanctuary


So here I am with one more of my travel adventure to Phansad Wild Life Sanctuary.                

Phansad WLS which is located in Murud and Roha Talukas in Raigad district is approx 150kms from Mumbai. The sanctuary covering area of 53sq kms is an amazing revelation, semi-deciduous forest rich in flora & fauna, is home to array of insects, amphibians, mammals apart from being a bird sanctuary. The prize possession of these forest is Malabar Giant Squirrel and Leopards. It was private hunting block of erstwhile Siddhi Nawab of Janjira State. He was one who constructed roads and water bodies inside the sanctuary apart from establishing villages around it like Sarve and Supegoan. These villages have today become model in conservation programmes.

My Phansad Experience : It was one of my first experience of staying overnight amidst dense forest and I was very excited about it. But today as I write this blog, recollecting the entire trip. I had many first time experiences which I never had before and my trip was clearly another feather in list of treks and trails which I have done in last couple of months. It all started with long weekend approaching due to last day of Ganesh Chaturti festival. Dr Ajay suggested a overnight stay trip to Phansad WLS and I was all game for it. But due to festivity around, many of our group members had there own personal commitment and were not available. Friday evening, I got the final confirmation from Ajay that group of 5 people which included Veteran trekker Dr Nanabhai and our brave heart lady Bharti. We decided to meet at Dadar station and catch Rajya Rani express for Roha, overnight stay on station and then proceed to our destination on first rays of Sunlight. Our plan was to travel in general compartment as we had last moment plans and no confirmed reservations, but our plans was on verge of getting shattered on Dadar station as soon as the train arrived, it was like entire Mumbai was boarding the train and within few seconds there wasn't even space to stand in general compartment. !!!!!

A quick discussion and we decided to board reserved compartment without proper ticket, our destination was Roha which was only 4th station from Dadar, We decided reserved compartment as it at least had space for us to stand comfortably and our destination was only 4hrs away. Luckily TC was kind enough and said if we could move to first compartment and at Panvel to move to general compartment. He didn't even charge us any fine !!!!! It was my first, travelling without proper ticket in trains ....Lol,  TC didn't bother to come to first compartment nor we got down at Panvel, instead we got our self comfortable in whatever space we could get to sit and reached our destination - Roha in middle of night. 3.45AM. The station benches were our beds for next 3hrs as having enquired about buses to Phansad and it was at 8.30am. Sleeping on station benches was more than comfy as everyone was tired from our jobs in the morning and we boarded the train in the night so we didn't have any sleep.

With the first sun rays at Roha station we started our walk from station to the bus stand village, village atmosphere, something we Mumbaikars really miss, walking past small village row houses, village ladies washing clothes at near by river, it was lovely early morning walk and more importantly we were excited as it was now start of our adventure.

Morning curriculum in this fashion !!! I envy 
 I wish one could start our day in this fashion !!!!!! hahaha

There are only two buses which goes to Murud - Supegoan one at 8.30am and other 9.30am from Roha bus stand. It takes approx 45minutes to reach Supegaon just opposite Phansad. Since we had sometime for early morning breakfast, Udipi restaurant outside bus stand was perfect place and so was spicy hot missal. We reached Phansad around 9.30am, we quickly settled in our room, which was like depleted structure but good enough for overnight stay in the middle of jungle. They also have one fiber hut which could easily accommodate 8-10 people with 6beds but cost was Rs 1600 and as our group was of only 5people so we didn't opt that one.

A quick Poha and tea at WLS and we were off, on our way to explore WLS. Our first destination was "Dharnachi Gaan" Gaan - meaning a stream. The trail of 2.5kms passing through thick undergrowth, we came across some amazingly beautifull butterflies, and importantly we had company of veteran Dr Nanabhai who made the walk interesting by giving us some important information from his knowledge of Insects and Botany. It was like Bhul Bhulaiya trail and at some places we reaching a dead end but our another colleague Amogh clearly leading us to right direction. We also had two dogs from WLS as our guides and we were amazed to see that they actually knew the way and would show us the correct path.After a walk of nearly 1hr 30min we could hear sound of water gushing in middle of thick vegetation. We had reached our destination - "Dharnachi Gaan". It was small stream of fresh water flowing out of nowhere in middle of dense jungle. The water was cold and gave a respite from the hot and humid climate. It was not the stream but the entire trail with arrays of butterflies, mushrooms, insects that we came across and the information given by Dr Nanabhai which actually made entire trail interesting.

Dharnachi Gaan

Our Guides

We were back at our base hut by 1.30pm right in time for lunch made by village ladies working in WLS. A full veg meal was just what every one's hungry tummy was waiting for.... It was now time for quick nap. Life was suddenly becoming interesting and royal by any standards.... Roam around in middle of jungle, full delicious .. sumptuous meal, nap royal under the shades of trees !!!!!  what more one can ask for ...........

Around 3ish after a cup of tea, we were off to another trail "Phansad Gaan", there are quite a few trails and treks that one can do in entire WLS and we were off to another one now. It was ascending & winding climb again in middle of thick forest growth. On the way we came across huge spider webs blocking our path, and it seemed that we were the first souls passing through the path after a long time, may be after the rains. We were now passing through the territory of someone we all fear and indicators on the tree "Sawdhan" reminding us every now and then as we moved ahead.

Our two guides - dogs from WLS were with us again and they stopping and their ears alert at smallest sound on the way. It was like some "Ram Gopal verma or Ramsay brothers horror movie scene" and on top of it, all of sudden sun was covered with clouds and thundering of the clouds was last thing that we expected. Our center of fun was now Bharti - our brave lady who was worried lot and all scared.  We had walked for over one hour now, We reached a spot of dead end with trees fallen and no way to move ahead, decided to sit in middle of nowhere, we sat talking, cracking jokes and clicking pictures. It had started to drizzle and was turning dark even though it was only 5pm so we moved back leaving our trail in between.

Dead End

Looks like some animal climbing but its just a bark of the tree 
Reaching back to our base and nothing to do, we sat in open structure covered from top, perfect place to chillax in open, while we narrated some ghost stories, passing our time and we were the only 5 people now in the entire WLS. Bharti - our only lady in the group was a scared soul not wanting to hear the ghost stories. It had started to drizzle and with insects troubling us every now and then we moved back in our rooms. We had enough food with us to survive in the night so we didn't order any dinner which was welcome by village ladies as they wanted to be part of the Ganesh Visarjan festival. Around 8pm there was power cut and it was pitch dark outside, we did have our ammo of batteries though, we decided to do small walk in open around our base. It was one hell of experience with no one else except us in vicinity, only the sound of dhols used in Visarjan festival from villages close by. It was amazing feeling away from hustle & bustle of city life, no worldly things to wile our time away except our mobile phones which again didn't have any network. A perfect feel of how life would have been earlier when people didn't have access to TV's, electricity and electronics equipments which we cannot live without today.

After a good night sleep, we were up early at 6am and by 6.45am we were off to another trail Chikhal gaan trail which was approx 6kms from the base. It was my first early morning trek before the first sunrays. Also our reason to start early was that we had to move out by 10am. On our way, we came across a diversion where we also had another option to go to Sarwat lake or Chikhal gaan. Our Leader Dr Ajay decided to take first option of Sarwat lake, we walked in middle of dense forest amidst early morning mist, it was clear marked road (best part about the trails here -its marked clearly unless you reach a dead spot !!!!). The first rays of sun piercing through the thick forest was worth a sight and was also instrumental in me getting THE picture of the trek..... It was just wow sight, never before I had seen something like this.

Dr Nanabhai and Dr Ajay clicking pictures of every insects, every butterfly or every living creepy soul they could sight. As we moved deeper the jungle sounds began to fill the air. Prominent among them was Cicada, loudly announcing its presence to his to be mate. Early morning walk in dense forest, Sunrays trying to creep between the trees to reach the grounds, air filled with jungle sound.... What a experience, still getting goosebumps while I narrate the experience. Almost 2hrs walk and distance seemed too far more than the indicators on the way which showed, lake was only around 4.5kms away. Amogh, Bharti and me leading the way while Dr Ajay and Dr Nanabhai were behind as they were trying to click as many creepy creatures that could lay their eyes on. On our way while we were waiting for Dr's from our group to catch up, we found that we were actually standing in areas full of leeches. OMG !!!! we could see tiny little creepy things clearly doing somersault moves on our shoes. not one, two but 4-5 of them at the same time ....and it was moving up fast !!!!! We removed them and trying our best not to allow these blood suckers to feast on our blood or for that matter sneak into our shoes or trek pants. I really felt for the first time.. how important and helpful my full trek pants and ankle protection full trek shoes were. But not wanting to leave the trek in between we decided to move ahead, making sure those creatures don't move up our shoes. The main reason was the entire area was dense and thick forest growth and soil was moist due to rains and on top of that sun rays not able to reach the grounds due to huge trees. It was walk of over 3hrs when he reached the lake. The lake was surrounded by thick growth but our minds was stuck on those blood suckers down below and we were right in middle of leech's country. In no mood of waiting even for a minute more, we headed back and trust me it was due to these creepy tiny little blood suckers that we were back to our base in record time of 90minutes. It took little over 3hrs to reach the lake and only 90minutes to come back. We were sweating profusely, panting but no one wanted to stop even for a minute in blood suckers country. We only relaxed once we were sure that we were out of reaches of leeches and none were on the ground, minutes away from our base. Phew, luckily none of these blood suckers could creep in, except one which was on legs of Dr Nanabhai, as soon as he removed it, blood started oozing out.. It was really a close shave for everyone and also first.

We skipped Chikhalgaan as it was another 4kms away and it was now 11am and time for us to move out but we decided to skip it for our next visit. Reaching our base, we found that there was some ministers visit today and entire police officials army from nearby areas had come there. We met one Mr Naik - who was from Roha - Sarve village juridiction. Had a small talk with him only to find that he was really a different breed of official who was really into conservation programme. Gave insight about some Vulture conservation programme going on at Chikhalgaan, also how he and his team had found some rare species in the forest never heard of before. He was also part of wild life consensus programme. He runs a website ..... It was nice to meet such interesting people.

We had our quick breakfast with tea and were now out of Phansad WLS, bidding adios with such wonderfull memories and experience, promising to comeback again with bigger group and complete the  trails that we missed. Dr Nanabhai suggested that adventure shouldn't end here and wanted to take the ferry ride back home. We all were game for it but one problem was the bus stand was cool 90 minute walk down from the sanctuary from where we could get transport for Alibaug. As we started our walk down, saw a truck filled with bricks coming our way. A request to truck driver and he agreed to drop us at the next village. The truck was filled with bricks and sitting on the top, getting the glimpse of surrounding picturesque areas, it was ride of a lifetime. My another first time experience....

After reaching the base village, we took a tum-tum ride to Revdanda village from where we could take another bus or tum tum ride to Alibaug, Passing through few virgin beaches and also the famous Kashid beach. It was a pleasant tum -tum ride. We took another tum-tum ride to Alibaug and from there ferry ride back to Mumbai - Gateway of India. It was clearly a wonderful adventure trip that we had just completed. Looking back we thanked the truck driver who gave us the ride of lifetime and had it not been for that ride, it would have been really tough for us to reach Mumbai, saved us clearly 2-3hrs.

One thing was clear that Phansad was lesser known and less visited sanctuary near Mumbai but best part of visiting such lesser known and visited places is that you have the whole place for yourself. Important about this WLS is the role which its playing in Vulture conservation programme - a near extinct bird, also home to some species which was suppose to be found elsewhere but not in this part of India, Its was home to some amazing Flora and Fauna which was very unique to this place, especially Malabar squirrel which remained elusive in our tour but hoping to catch a glimpse of it in our next visit. It was yet another memorable experience, another adventure, another journey coming to an end till I experience yet another one........................ ADIOS

I am enlightened