Friday, July 19, 2013

Kalsubai peak - Mt Everest of Sahyadris

After my first trek of the season at Harishchandragad, I had adrenaline rush to do another trek for which I had registered month in advance, It was highest point in Maharashtra at 5400 feet - Kalsubai peak. Honestly till last year this trek was never or last on my list. I was not confident that I would ever be able to successfully do it. But after HCG trek I had sudden increase in my confidence and was all excited for this upcoming trek and finally the D-Day arrived. It was Saturday 13th July when TMI group decided to take a total of whopping 90+ trekkers to highest peak in Sahyadris mountain range. It was going to be a experience of a lifetime and add to the spice was heavy rainfall that Mumbai witnessed a day before.

About Kalsubai peak : The everest of Sahyadris, Kalsubai is the highest peak of the mountain range of Sahyadris at 1646meters (5400 feet). Its part of Kalsubai Harishchandragad wildlife sanctuary which spreads from Kalsubai to Harishchandragad. There are more than one route to reach the peak summit however ladder route with Bari village as base is the most popular route. Bari can be reached from Mumbai - Nasik route and then taking a left for Bhandardhara. Its 8kms before Bhandardhara.Other route being from Indorey village which is steeper, tougher climb and not very popular among trekkers. One a clear day one can see to the north, mountain ranges like Ramsej, Brahmagiri, Anjaneri, Ghargad, Tringalwadi, to the east we can see Aundha, Vishramgad,Bitangad, to the west its the famous sisters Alang, Malang, Kulang and to the south its Prabhargad, Harishchandragad and south west its Ratangad.

Legend of Kalsubai : According to the legend, Kalsu was household who worked on one condition that she should not be asked to clean pots and sweep, however when she was forced to do it, she did it and then climbed the peak and stayed there till her death !!!!!. A temple dedicated to Goddess Kalsubai is built at the peak and is worshipped by locals. A traditional pooja is performed at the summit temple every Tuesday and Thursday by local priest. On occasion of Navratri, its a festive atmosphere as many people come to worship at the summit and Fair is organised during the nine days of Navratri.

My adventurous trek : It was Saturday night, meeting place Pritam Hotel near Dadar station east.It was from here that our journey to explore (not capture !!) the highest mountain peak started around 11.30pm. Two buses and 90+ all charged up trekkers, many first timers, some repeaters. Our team lead by Manoj Kalwar and ably supported by Rachana, Swapnil, Sai, Puneet, Nishant. We picked some of group members from Thane and had our first midnight tea / coffee at Highway Dhaba near Kasara ghat. Hot brewing cuppa in middle of night at highway dhaba and supported by rainy atmosphere, Awesome !!!!!!!. We must have reached Bari - base village around 4.30am, it was pitch dark as we parked our buses outside the village. It was drizzling on and off. We still had few hours before we start our journey so few decided to grab some sleep in the bus while most of them were loitering around on the road, waiting for first rays of sun, excited to reach the top of summit (5400feet !!!!)

At around 6am, We started our journey by entering the base village of Bari, we could see first line of mountain range covered with fog, it was our destination that we all were here for. First glance of sleepy Bari village with paddy fields, small houses, streams of water, some waterfalls from top of the mountains, it was pure bliss, serene atmosphere, a perfect surroundings one would always love to wake up every morning !!!!

Dumping our bags or things we were carrying extra in one villagers house, we all gathered at temple compound at the village bari. The sight of village ladies filling water from hand pumps and carrying it home, small shops and houses in village giving first glance of life in villages. We had our breakfast of poha and hot tea, it was all prepared at villagers house, arrangements made by TMI. Now it was time for introduction round and do's and don'ts before we start our journey. It was interesting to know the trekking experience of everyone and broad spectrum of industries that we all belong to. Manoj our leader informed that trek was uphill climb and could take 3-4hrs climb and 2-3hrs descend.

Our journey now begin, passing through paddy fields and crossing stream with gushing water from mountain top. Initial climb was through muddy path and it was little slippery as well due to overnight rains. Luckily it was not raining today. After a climb of around 20minutes we came across temple of Kalsubai, which was the base temple at machi. Here we got the first glance of Diety Kalsubai.

Everyone climbing at their own pace, some experienced trekkers moved much faster while some first timers were slow in their climb. Sai, Nishant, Swapnil and Rachana our leaders moving along with small groups while Manoj leading the group from front and Puneet - our backlead ensuring that no one was left behind. On the way we came across one small hut or I would say shop selling tea. lime water and biscuits, One can only imagine the important role they play in our journey to the summit. Place where one can sit and catch breathe, have tea, biscuits, or lime water, reenergise oneself and move up to the destination. After a climb of around 1hr we reached first plateau, view from here of mountains covered with fogs and waterfalls was mesmerising. We had some rest for sometime with group indulging in photo session at this point.

From here I could only see ladders and railings and we had a huge mountain to climb ..... I literally had goose bumps !!!!!!!  All the way I was just wondering will I be able to complete this trek !!!!! and heart in hearts I was trying to motivate myself that Yes I could and Yes I will.. Again this was best season to the trek as its one trek where one can only find water at the top of the summit and at base village but in between there is no source of water and it would be really dehydrating to do this trek in other seasons.

There are total of four ladders on the route and then there are carved steps on the rocks with railings on the side, this really make the route quite safe and easy ..... EASY is the word I really wouldn't have used when I was climbing but yes today after completing the trek and as I write this blog I had change of opinion !!!! We climbed the ladders slowly, taking calculative steps, ensuring one doesn't become a casualty. At times we had to stop on the way as there would be long queue at certain points where it was important to climb slowly and also along with us there were other groups as well. But all ensured that we had fun while going up. Photo session at every point where we stopped. We crossed around three plateaus and three ladders before we reached the final plateau.

We didn't experience rains and it was at times humid but as we moved up, climate was changing and it was getting windy and chilly. On the way, we came across small streams of water gushing down from the top of mountains and it was icy cold. Once we reached third or fourth plateau, clouds had started playing hide and seek. From here we had first glance of last ladder and peak Kalsubai ......... It was our destination......We were at 5400 feet and we had almost reached the top.

Nandini and her group, Sai, Swapnil, Adarsh, Nishant... I am sure I missed names of so many who were with us and we had gala time climbing up.

Just before the last ladder, there was small hut or a shop where one could get hot kanda bhajia, tea and there was small well which was probably the only source of water in entire journey. As we had to climb last leg of our journey and then move down so didn't wait to eat or for hot cuppa. Also we were running behind scheduled as we had taken more then 4hrs to climb and Manoj was getting desperate... Are you reading .....LOL

The last ladder was only way to go up and come down hence there was bottleneck with few trying to come down and many waiting to climb up. Finally after wait of over 30minutes we finally got the chance to climb up the ladder. It was "THE MOMENT"....... I had never imagined that I would ever do this trek initially when I started trekking few years back and today I was at standing at highest point in Sahyadri mountain range.

It was cloudy, it was chilly and to top it up it started raining heavily now !!!! Rain drops hitting us like someone was throwing small stones at you. At the peak there is small temple of Deity Kalsubai and I am sure view from the top would be amazing in non rainy season but all we could see was fog and fog around us.... We were literally standing in clouds. I was carrying incense stick and coconut offering which I offered at temple, small temple which didn't have space for more than 5people. Standing here it really gave first timer like me a sense of achievement and a feather in my trekking history of being able to summit this highest peak in Sahyadris. In meanwhile it was getting more and more cold as we stood at the peak, fingers getting numb, we were all shivering but the it was joy of reaching at the top and experiencing the moment of a lifetime that was holding us back...... Sheetal one of co trekker was literally in demand as she had carried "Bhakarwadi packet" all the way to the top and group members pounced to get a piece !!!!!! Moments to remember .......hahaha

It was now time for descend but again due to bottleneck at the ladder we waited for almost 30minutes before we got chance to climb down. It was thrilling moment for some as it was little difficult to climb down and to top it up there was rains and winds but touchwood we all climbed down safely. We started our descend without wasting much time as only thing that was on mind now was "Lunch" waiting for us at base village. It took around 2hrs to reach back the base village - Bari. We had our lunch - which as usual tastes the best after such a wonderful trek. Looking back I can only imagine how difficult this trek would have been if those railings and ladders were not put in place. All in all it was experience that would be cherished by one and all for years to come.

Here again I say "AU REVOIR" with moments to cherish and would be back next time with yet another feather in my TREKKING CAP. I bow to mighty Sahyadris for experience that would be remembered for years to come...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lonad Caves & Pise dam - Places less travelled near Mumbai

Sundays are rare and few that I get to enjoy. I had one more week off on Sunday and I didn't really wanted to wile it away at home doing nothing, Since all trekking events in summer's are night trek so couldn't join as Saturday was working for me. Dr Ajay from Wanderlust decided a half day outing to  some place less travelled and it was decided we go to LONAD CAVES near Kalyan / Bhiwandi and PISE dam. I had never heard about it before and not much information was available on net except from few who had visited the place before. Since it was close to Mumbai and was sort of day outing so I decided to join Ajay.

Meeting place was decided at ST stand close to Borivali station east at 7am, We were only 3 of us, Dr Ajay, Dr Bharat and me, As soon as we reached ST stand, bus for Bhiwandi was ready and waiting for us !!!! Took around 1hr to reach Bhiwandi in the morning. On enquiring about bus for Pise dam, we were informed it was at 8.30am. Since we had time of around 15minutes, decided to breakfast as we all were hungry. One of rickshaw wala informed about famous vadapav wala just opposite Bhiwandi ST stand. The stall person was just preparing hot vada pav and we just couldn't resist hogging on to Vada pav, Bharji pav and Missal pav. I usually avoid eating street food in summer season but then cant resist when its right in front of you and that too its famous and you are on outing !!!!! .We were so carried away with our tasty breakfast that we didn't realise that it was 8.30am and by the time we reached the ST stand, bus had left and next bus was now at 11.30am. First time I realised that buses have become so punctual that we were only 3minutes late and we had missed the bus !!!! As always our adventure starts much earlier. On enquiring about rickshaws for Lonad and Pise dam, first they didn't know where the place is and one informed Rs 500/- one way ride and other Rs 300/-. It was as if we had just landed here from some far off land ........

We enquired at ST stand enquiry counter and person was more than helpful, were informed to walk down to Vanjarpatti phata from where we would get share a rickshaw to our destination. Our rickshaw was already full with 3, surprised to hear from the driver that one can sit behind and two on front sit next to driver. You cannot get more thrilling ride even in Essel world. It was ride of around 15minutes and cost was Rs 20/- per head. We were now at the base village of Lonad. I was amazed to find huge pipelines on other side of the road. These are the same pipes which quenches the thirst of Mumbaikers bring water from Bhatsa dam all the way to Mumbai.

Another landmark for Lonad caves was just opposite to Village Janwal. Few huts below and marked road leading towards the caves. Just a walk of around 5minutes uphill and we were at the doorstep of another spectacular heritage site. Call it our apathy that we are just not bothered to conserve and preserve such an amazing heritage. The caves though small in size had three pillars out of which one remains which also has huge cracks due to construction activity going on just next to the hill, also came to know that it was earlier a quarry and they used to blast rocks.

Some really neat carvings can still be seen on the top of pillar walls. As one steps in, there is a huge hall or could have been meditation chamber. Side of the door had two tigers but were not in good shape. The cave has been transformed into a temple with Khandeshwari idols inside the cave. At the entrance of the cave on one side is carved Ganapati idol on the wall and on other side there is beautiful carving of King sitting in the court along with his ministers. That's one of the prominent carvings and the only attraction in the cave. History says these caves were of Buddhist origin but no trace of its origin has been left and is now converted into Hindu temple. There is a water cistern but its not potable and its used by devotees for cleaning purpose

Moving on we reached main road, Waiting to see what mode of transport we could get to reach Pise dam. Finally after a wait of around 20minutes we came across one tempo which was empty and agreed to provide us lift till Savad naka. Another Joy ride though it was only for about 5 minutes. Lol ....

From Savad naka, we got into another rickshaw to our next destination PISE WEIR or PISE DAM. Another joy ride with Bharat and me sitting in front with the driver and Dr Ajay sitting behind with already four occupants. It was thrilling ride !!!! with my heart pounding each time any vehicle came from opposite side.... Touchwood I was safe and sound as we reached Pise. It was welcome relief from scorching sun with roads lined with trees.

Pise Weir is one of the few reservoirs where water from Bhatsa river is transported via huge pipes, filtered and chlorinated, then piped across the city to quench the thirst of Mumbai. The overflowing water is used by the locals from nearby villages to wash clothes and fishing. The water was at low level due to summer but I am sure this place would worth another visit in rains, We sat in shade of the tree for a while, munching on the food that we were carrying. It was now around 12ish and sun at its peak, we didn't really had the energy left to do any more exploration and we headed back. It was wait of around 30minutes again for the bus but it was direct bus to Bhiwandi bus depot. From there Dr Bharat took bus to Thane while Dr Ajay and me caught the direct bus to Borivali. Except for the summer heat it was a wonderful one day trip to yet another heritage site facing the brunt of our own selfish destruction of nature. Its time for us to start conserving our nature and our heritage before its too late. Else many Mumbaikers would never even know that such a heritage site did exist so close by

With this I complete my narration of one more of my adventure trips, Hoping for rains to come soon I wish to continue my journey to more new places and pen them down in my blogs as memoirs !!!

Till then Au Revoir