Thursday, 24 July 2014

Trek to Kalsubai & a visit to Bhandardara

Date of Journey: 12th & 13th July, 2014

Kalsubai (कळसुबाई) is the highest peak in Maharashtra with 5400 ft. or 1650 mtr.
Please Note: Highest Fort in Sahyadri is Salher (5141 ft. or 1567 mtr.)
Click here to read more about Salher Fort

The Overview of the trek:

The most awaited and the most procrastinated trek of all times. We have been planning to climb this mountain since our first day in college but was left out due to some unknown reason. On the 12th July, close to midnight, heavy downpour welcomed the Mahanagri Express on platform number 18 at CST station. Amidst the crowd, we managed to push ourselves in and found some empty seats in the general compartment. The downpour continued till Kasara, and seemed to plummet as the train approached Igatpuri station. We had fresh kanda bhajji (कांदा भजी) and tea at the railway canteen and proceeded to the bus stand. Igatpuri bus stand is 10 minutes of leisure-walk from the station. The sound of the motors revving broke the 5.00 AM silence, and a Bhandardara bound ST came out of the yard. At Bari (6.30 AM) we had another good strong cuppa and began the climb. 

Kalsubai bus timings, travel directions and more: There is a direct bus from Kasara station in the morning ~7.10 AM connecting the Kasara local train. Destination is Bhandardara and goes via Igatpuri-Ghoti.First bus in the morning is from Igatpuri ST bus depot 5 AM. 

The trail starts with the small tar road entering village and then turning left out into the open fields again. With every step, the trail climbs-up. Multiple ladders and metal stairways are fitted all along the way-up, making the climb easier. With enough fun and breaks, we reached the top at 10 AM. Strong winds along with the rains had restricted the visibility of the surrounding mountains. The Kalsubai top is best known for viewing the mighty Alang-Madan-Kulang forts, the most difficult forts in Sahyadris. 

Although the village at the base of Kalsubai had experienced a relatively lesser rainfall by this month, the rain clouds at the top of the mountain showed no signs of abating. We started to climb down by 11.00 AM. It was taking a bit longer as the Jamun and Bush-plum trees were slowing us down. The route was filled loads of Jamun trees and we just couldn't resist passing by them without tasting the fruit. So the clock ticked 1.30 PM when we were at the base of Kalsubai. 

We proceeded to Bhandardara (Wilson Dam):

The air was ripe with the pleasant showers and the sky had started clearing as we waited for our transport to Bhandardara. We almost spent an hour, waiting at the bus stop, chatting with a school kid and dozing off in-between. Our ride to Bhandardara arrived at 2.45 PM. The stop name is Shendi village. The bus conductor told us buy the tickets for Shendi village and not Bhandardara.

Expanse of the backwaters

We were lucky to get the 4.30 PM, Kasara bound bus, directly from Bhandardara (Shendi). From Kasara, as usual, local train back to Dadar !

Note: The forest covered route and several steep iron ladders were the only attraction of Kalsubai. I remember my sister climbing it when she was 7 yrs old. This trek officially marked the end of my Semester 8 as well as my 4-year journey of Electronics Engineering, together with Aaditya Gurav, Abhash Kumar, Manoj Patil and Tarun Kaushik.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Trek to Harishchandragad

28th and 29th June, 2014
Camping in the Cave at the top
Water available at the top
Cost: 220 Rs (From Dadar to Dadar, including healthy food and breakfast)

There are plenty of trails going to the top of Harishchandragad. A difficult beeline route, known as Nali chi vaat (नळी ची वाट) exists, which joins the Kokan Kada (कोकण कडा) a massive parabolic overhang cliff. There are multiple Nali chya waata and they all need fit peopleClimbers have climbed the parabolic overhang (कोकण कडा) tooThe trail of 'Junnar Darwaza' starts from Khireshwar. The most preferred route via Tolar Khind also starts from Khireshvar village, and later meets the route from Junnar Darwaza. Khubi phata (खुबी फाटा) is well connected by Public transport.  Harishchandragad can also be accessed from opposite side- Pachnai (राजूर, अकोले) and also from लव्हाळे village.

About Harishchandragad:

Belonging to 6th century, countable number of relics of the bygone age are still found here. At the base of the mountain, resides the Nageshwar (नागेश्वर) temple. There are carvings of different Hindu deity, right from the ceiling to the floor, which are pleasing to watch at. At the top of the mountain, 4700 ft. above sea level, lies yet another ancient temple- Harishchandreshwar (हरीश्चन्द्रेश्वर). Sounding the temple bell and listening to its clangor was, as usual, a divine experience. Behind the temple is the cave of Kedareshwar (केदारेश्वर) and the (supposed to be) origin of the river Mangal Ganga (मंगळ गंगा). Harishchandreshwar temple lies at the center, surrounded by different caves. 

I have created this short video based on adventure we had there. The snake in the video is a baby-python, and no, it wasn't harmed while filming the video. Enjoy the video. 

Our Journey in a nutshell:

We boarded a Pune bound ST bus from Kalyan, at 6:35 AM, going via Manchar - Junnar, and got down at Khubi phata (खुबी फाटा). Khubi phata to Khireshwar village is a ~3 KM walk (also a good warm-up exercise). We climbed Harishchandragad via Tolar khind route, which is a traverse through the mountain.

We visited the Taramati peak, Kokan kada but had to skip the citadel (बाले किल्ला) due to time constraints. On the next day, we had a swim in the Pimplagaon dam. Roughly around 4:30 PM we caught the ST bus to Kalyan, and reached Dadar station at 9.30 PM.


Visiting kokan kada was top on our priority list. After having a light lunch we took the road to the cliff. The sky was partly-cloudy which means not suitable for experiencing the sunset. Whats so special about this kokan kada ? Well, there's a parabolic overhang beneath the cliff and when the wind blows inwards (towards the cliff), it gets an upward momentum. Throw a small tree branch- it falls few feet below and then rises with the wind to atleast 200 ft in the air above the cliff. Do experience this once in the lifetime. Try throwing water, the water droplets fly upwards!!

Note: Please do not throw plastic bottles or any plastic waste. It becomes difficult to clean those. Its a bad scenario if the bizarre place like Kokan-kada is infested by plastic. 

It started getting darker by 6.30 PM and we headed to our caves (pretty nomadic eh!!!) With Maggi Noodles and Bhakri for dinner, we went to sleep in our cozy sleeping bags and mattresses.


It was 3.45 AM in the morning. We (Ninad, Sumit, Aditya and me) stepped out of the cave. The sight was quite spooky. It was dark, the fog had engulfed the whole top and we couldn't even see beyond the the 3rd feet. Not to mention the bone-chilling cold !! By 5.30 AM everyone woke up and we started our trek to Taramati peak, the highest point of Harishchandragad. It was even more spookier at the top than we expected. the valley was covered in the clouds on both the sides, and we were walking on the ridge, not having a single clue about the depth of the valley. We encountered a few steep rock-climbs at some places which were exposed to the valley. But we couldn't see the valley in the first place and so no fear while climbing !! It wasn't raining, but the strong winds and the clouds felt as if it was. The experience was nostalgic. Only sad luck was that we were not going to experience the heavenly sunrise.

A long way to go....
From left: Nikhil Phatak, Ninad Vilankar, Aditya Gurav, Sumit Ghogale. The Mountain is hiding behind the thick mist ahead. There are jeeps available to reach Khireshvar, but they charge heavily. So we preferred walking.


Some reptiles- dead ones

Some reptiles- live ones

At Tolar Khind
The famous carving of a tiger

On the way. Almost half-way.

On the way
The route from Junnar Darwaza meets somewhere near this small shanty. This is after the rock-patch. The remainants of fort walls can be seen here. After this, there is still a long way to go. The arrow-markings all along the route helps to trace the proper route.
Temple of lord Ganesh- at the top

Temple of Harishchandreshwar

Water cistern

The square lake - Saptatirtha Pushkarni Lake
In this picture, is the सप्ततीर्थ पुष्करणी तलाव. This lake has 14 small temple like compartments (as seen in the pic). When my parents visited this place some decades ago, they had the 14 Lord Vishnu idols in them. Now these idols are shifted to different temples (Harishchandreshvar etc.). Although the lake looks in a bad shape, the locals said that there will be a cleaning mission soon happening here.

Mountains surrounding Harishchandragad

Experiencing the divine "Kokan kada"

A really big group
From left: Nikhil Phatak, Pratik Ghag, Me, Aditya Sapate, Aditya Gurav, Ninad Vilankar, Tarun Gangwani (Grey shirt at back), Alok Narayan, Sumit Ghogale. And Manoj Patil was busy on his phone, as usual :)

Shivling inside the cave (Kedareshwar)
The world ends when the fourth pillar falls
Now this is a big Shiv Linga right there. A tradition- go around the Shiv-Ling in the 4-feet waist-deep  freezing cold water! Its very safe, but cold. There were four pillars holding the temple. Now the temple stands on the single pillar. The legend- the World ends when the fourth Pillar falls. And personally, I don't have a good reason (yet) as why I should not believe this old legend ! The water in this temple never dries out, not even in Summer !



A hole inside the mountain
It called a Nedha (नेढ)
The Junnar Darwaza route goes via this Nedha. This route is not frequented, but exists. It would be an adventurous journey to try this route.

Nageshwar temple
At the base of the Mountain
This is a very old temple full of carvings and sculptures from the ceiling to bottom. It houses the शेषशायी विष्णु sculpture.

Pimpalgaon Dam.
A swim is a must here
A Note: Harishchandragad is super crowded during weekends. It is changing its designation from a trek to 'picnic spot'. People ring the villagers to "book" a cave for them. You may also find tents near the caves. Beware, late night chaos in the caves is common now. If you are planning to go to Harishchandragad for peace, then aim for a weekday. If not, then I strongly recommend you to carry your own tent and sleeping bag, and camp somewhere else, away from that boisterous crowd. And if you don't have a tent, cave is the only option, and you find an empty cave, then take it! Its still first come first serve. Do speak to the locals, they might help you.