Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Story of Dream unfulfilled... Lingana

I have been adventurous all my life and from the time Toby has arrived, my adventure quotient has risen. He and I did several treks which involved technical stuff like rock climbing & rappelling. After Nalichi Wat at Harishchandragad, I searched a lot and we purchased a good rock climbing harness for him online. We did a good abseil at Sandhan Valley in May 2019.  Having him on treks has been a treat. Many a times patrons on treks of Zenith Odysseys also inquire whether he would be joining or not. He is a well behaved dog whilst on trek which is not really expected from an Indian dog.  So taking him to a climb, putting his harness to good use and pending items my bucket list were pointing to Lingana.

Lingana is also looked upon as a Mecca for the rock climbing community of Western Ghats of India, however, many commercial trek operators organize rock climbing events here and the mountain has lost its sanctity.
The urge to visit this place was getting stronger day by day and I started looking for team. I am usually look for a team with certain qualities like stable mind, ability to perform under pressure, respect towards the nature, physical capacity and stamina, team spirit and of course technical knowledge. Apart from playing team, I usually have couple of non playing captains who in case of emergency can handle rescue if required. 

I messaged “The BMC bud” & “The BMC Kid”, another lady friend and few other regular patrons of Zenith Odyssey. “The BMC Kid” said yes unconditionally and “The BMC bud” put up a condition of choosing weekends. I strongly wanted “The BMC bud” to join as He, “The BMC Kid” and I would have made an awesome team. We three are batch mates of Basic Mountaineering Course and have been glued to each other since then. Initial plan involved just 5 people and then there were few additions. However, the rains lasted much beyond expected and some withdrew and some were on wait and watch mode. One fine day, “The BOY” messaged he wished to take The DOG, a breed dog to Lingana and I thought of taking two dogs to summit. So the plan was shaping up nicely and we forgot about it in few days.

Then again “A FRIEND” asked about status and we all came back to life. As “the climbing season” for commercial trek operators had already begun, we decided to climb on weekdays. With this decision few others along with “The BMC bud” dropped out. I chalked out a rough itinerary and we decided to leave on 18 December early morning and return by early evening of 19 December.
Two days prior I started preparing. I borrowed few stuff like branded harnesses and a Jumar etc. from a friend and also bought some stuff for Toby. “A FRIEND” chose to look after food. It seemed like “The BOY” and I had all the required gear. By the nightfall on 17 December, Toby and I were ready to move out next day. “The BOY” and I had been planning on introducing Toby and The DOG before the trek however due to other commitments I couldn’t do that.

I was up by 345 on 18 December and we all were already exchanging messages on WhatsApp. By 5 AM “A FRIEND” and “The BMC Kid” had arrived and few moments later “The BOY” arrived along with his friend “The GIRL”. I was surprised to see her since it was never discussed that she would be joining. “A FRIEND” mentioned he was carrying food for only four people; I assured him it would be alright.  In the morning we tried very hard to make Toby and The DOG friends, however both kept growling at each other and then I decided to give up after around 20 minutes. It was a noisy start of the day for the entire neighborhood. I removed Toby’s stuff from my backpack along with his backpack. My baby looked confusedly at me. I could not even hide my disappointment in my fate and left. By the time we finally left from my place, it was 0605.

We reached Velhe and hungrily searched for a place to eat. Torana Vihar hadn’t opened yet so we decided to eat at the only place available.

The road after Kelad khind (pass) seemed ok until a point and after that practically just because it looked like something which looked like a road because handful of heavy duty vehicles could pass. We reached Mohari Village at 915 and prepared for the hike. I removed some more stuff and left it in the car. Time was 940 and we were delayed by almost one and half hour already. At that time it just meant less rest between lunch and final climb and it didn’t matter much technically.
We walked nonstop till the starting point of Borata Naal – the Gorge that goes down closest towards Lingana.  At the entrance of the gorge we took a small break and “The GIRL” already looked tired. I was worried but pretended otherwise and carried on. Time was 1030 AM.

The hike down was pretty easy but slow. I didn’t want to push anyone to stress themselves and make things difficult for themselves and others. The rock was heating up and Sun was teasing us with every minute lost. By the time we reached the traverse, it was 1130 AM. This is where I started calculating daylight hours left and making equations as to how much time would be required to reach cave.
During the planning, “The BOY” and I had discussed a possibility of climbing the summit before sunset and rappelling in dark to the cave. At that point of that time, it looked very much possible, but every time I looked at “The GIRL”, I could feel that this possibility was now diminishing. We reached the col below Lingana at about 1330 and I declared that we would be just pushing to the cave before the nightfall and would attempt the summit next day at sunrise.

“The BOY” was our lead climber, his rope management and climbing skills are top notch. He fixed the rope and helped us climb. Looking at the losing daylight, I suggested two people climbing at same time. And then I realized that we were so smart that we were carrying only one static rope and other one was left in the car. I literally wanted to abandon the climb and return home right from that spot.

Working upon my suggestion, “The BOY” anchored the rope with a clove hitch and now two ends were available.  I suggested that “The BMC Kid” to be last man so that he could assist “A FRIEND” and “The GIRL” to get on the rope and climb. I postponed my dream to climb Lingana and used the other end to jumar up loads of backpacks and the dog. I kept telling the climbers to self anchor whenever they would reach the station and also kept anchoring the backpacks and the dog during my load ferries. Every time I started Jumaring with the dog on my harness, a chill would go down my spine. I was the only one the local made, uncertified harness. (We did have 4 branded and UIAA certified and I had picked up this one last moment after I saw “The GIRL”)   
As per the original plan we should have been in the cave by 1400 having lunch. And here we were just beginning to climb with hungry stomachs.

During this climb, I also realized that “The GIRL” knew close to nothing of climbing and also that the rope had severe abrasions near the midpoint. The entire climbing activity looked like a grave mistake and it would have been wiser to return home immediately. However, hiking back would have taken far more time since “The GIRL” was almost exhausted and also we were short of water at that point. The water source and shelter was available some hundred meters above us. It was a catch 22 situation. I made certain notes in the mind.

We put great efforts and the team finally reached the cave near the water source. First thing we did was that we had the sandwiches “A FRIEND” had brought for us. Time was 1700. I declared that now we rest and do the rest of the climb next day morning. Everyone agreed, I didn’t want to let “The GIRL” climb but didn’t know how to put it forward. Thankfully, she herself came up with the suggestion.

“The BOY” and “The GIRL” helped refilling the water. We “A FRIEND” had also brought ready to heat dinner for us all, Which we had by 2130 and slept off in no time. Although, the night was pretty much uneventful, I didn’t get good sleep. Perhaps the thoughts of next day kept me disturbed all night long. We woke up by 700 and it was already late to start the climb. The breakfast preparations and packing the stuff after that took almost an hour after that.

We all had kept only climbing gear outside and had packed everything else inside. I had also left a Swiss army knife with long cord. We had a set of walkie talkie to facilitate communication across stations. I handed over one set to “The GIRL” who was going to stay back in the cave, One to “The BOY”, One to “A FRIEND” and one was to be shared between “The BMC Kid” and me. I had specifically requested everyone to be careful with the sets and keep them in the zipped pockets of the clothing. “The BOY” took out cord of my Swiss army knife and attached it to his set of walkie talkie without my knowledge.

At about 815, “The BOY” started climbing and even before he had reached first station he shouted watch out. We glued ourselves to the rockwall and saw some small object falling. He then informed me that it was his set of walkie talkie. I was terribly frustrated already. We who were at base station tried to look for it however realized it was way too dangerous to move even an inch towards the valley without proper safety. We gave up the idea and I decided to climb with the dog on my local uncertified harness. It just felt way too risky because I kept feeling that the sewing of the harness might just rip off. Also due to load and incorrect placement of the Jumar, it kept locking up. Seeing me struggle that “A FRIEND” said he didn’t want to go to the top. I didn’t push him and suggested we all give up the idea of summit and start our journey back home, which “The BMC Kid”and “A FRIEND” agreed with no questions asked. Same time, “The BOY” tried to give similar suggestion from the first station. And due to wind and “The GIRL”s over enthusiasm to reach “The BOY” with her voice was causing hindrance. Somehow “The BOY” got the message and we wound up the climbing plan. In few minutes, he was back to the base station near water source.

“The BMC Kid”said the walkie talkie set had fallen in the grass nearby and we could perhaps retrieve it. “The BOY” took the responsibility on himself and anchored himself and went downwards on the face of the mountain. Thankfully he retrieved the walkie talkie set which was undamaged except for missing back cover.

We went back to the cave. Did little bit of rearrangement of all the backpacks to share the loads as to reduce the weight from “The GIRL”’s backpack and help her walk a bit freely.

We set up the ropes for abseil and I suggested “The BMC Kid”to go first and then “A FRIEND”, “The GIRL”, myself and “The BOY” to be last. Before we started, I reiterated importance of being self anchored and made sure that everyone including the dog had a tapesling with a carabineer. It was almost 1030 when “The BMC Kid”started abseiling.  “A FRIEND” was just reaching first station and “The GIRL” told me to go before her with the dog. I was just not ready to take the dog on my harness again. But then I realized that I had no option as “The BOY” might have to do tandem – abseil or simul-rappelling with “The GIRL” because it was probably first time that she was abseiling. My anger had already reached sky and with great difficulty I controlled it and quietly took the dog and abseiled. Here “A FRIEND”, “The BMC Kid”and I sat for about 45 minutes before the couple arrived. Somewhere back of the mind I was cursing myself for this misadventure.

I have never lost my temper in the mountains but this time and I shouted at “The GIRL” and used all sort of offensive words for throwing up tantrums during the abseil. Although it was just abseiling, it took us almost 5 hours to reach the col. I was on the verge of break down when we reached there. I sent texts to  We took a quick break of about 15 minutes to re-hydrate and relieve ourselves and started immediately.
all the three backups – non playing captains that we had finally abseiled safely. It was a great relief that everyone had reached safely to the base.

Now the second part was the upward hike towards Railing Plateau and later the easy walk to Mohri Village. We did have food and hydration yet I wasn’t really convinced that we would make it to Railing before sunset.

I was literally coercing “The BMC Kid”to exchange his backpack with “The GIRL” (his backpack was lightest; I knew it since I had packed most of it). Nonetheless, “The BMC Kid”and “A FRIEND” volunteered and we shuffled some more stuff). The climb went through far better than I had anticipated and we were out of Boratyachi Naal (the gully) by 1720. I have never been that grateful to the almighty as I was at that moment.

I wanted to go near the cliff of the Railing Plateau and thus suggested “The GIRL” to rest and “The BOY” to accompany her. “A FRIEND”, “The BMC Kid”and I went on the small hike without our heavy backpacks. So it was a quick walk of about 10 minutes and we could see the entire vertex of Lingana in single glance.

During the return hike, “A FRIEND” had said that he felt bad that we gave up our summit attempt because of him. I had tried to convey that it was not at all about him but various other reasons. And with experience I knew that a complete picture would tell him the exact story.
So when three of us were standing on the edge, I pointed towards the cave and elaborated the climb that we had abandoned. He seemed relieved. “The BMC Kid”had a funny reaction,” Did we go there just for camping? We could have simply pitched our tent right here and looked at the mountain.” I sincerely felt sorry for the kid. We didn’t wait for the sunset and rushed back to the point where “The BOY” and “The GIRL” were resting. We picked up our bags and walked back to the village. We just dumped our backpacks in the boot and drove off. We took a stop at Velha again for dinner. It was almost 2230 when I reached home.

Although this climb was not successful, I did learn certain lessons that I am sharing below: 
  •  Strictly no strangers on the technical climbing activity. Ideally I should have declined to venture out in the outdoors especially on a climb like Lingana with a girl who was a complete stranger. But because of my inability to say NO, we did. I now feel “The BOY” was also a stranger to me when it came to outdoors. His outdoor ethics seemed far different than mine and it did make me uncomfortable throughout the climb.
  •  Strictly no last minute additions on the climbing. Apart from reasons mentioned in the blog, it also affects the logistics like food, water and equipment.
  •  My ideology of small group in outdoors again proved to be correct! This time we were 5, I would add just one more person who would be capable of climbing. 
  • The equipment should be sufficient. We left second rope in the car. We had only one Jumar, carabineers were just numbered. One lost or broken would have put us in unwanted - unpleasant situations.  There were no Prussik cords available. We didn’t have enough gloves / mittens.  
  •  All equipment should always be branded and certified by UIAA. Period. (More about this in next blog)
  • Gather all the equipment at least two days prior to the activity in one place. 
  • Check all the equipment prior to the activity. There were abrasions on the rope.
  • No dogs on multi pitch climbing. No questions asked!
  • Adhering to timelines. I think this is enough said!
  • This is a personal learning: I should develop the skill/ tact to be able to say no or stop when things don’t seem right. This climb could have turned into a grave fatal accident. I will be guilty all my life for having jeopardizing lives of my friends and myself and the dog. Mountains are never forgiving. They’ve spared us this time, but that may not be the case every time.
  • I am usually look for a team with certain qualities like stable mind, ability to perform under pressure, respect towards the nature, physical capacity and stamina, team spirit and of course technical knowledge. But going forward I should be following this strictly! 
I look forward to work hard and complete the dream in the year 2020...
Lingana waits... 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

वारी हरिशचंद्रगड - नळीची वाट

अवघ्या भटक्यांची पंढरी असलेल्या हरिशचंद्रगडला वर्षातुन एकदा तरी जाणे मस्ट... मग ते पाचनई मार्गे असो वा नळीच्या वाटेने.

जुन २०१४ मध्ये झेनिथ ओडिसीज ची सुरुवात केल्या पासुन मी एक गोष्ट पाळते ते म्हणजे जर एखादा ट्रेक ना नफा ना तोटा असा करायची वेळ आली तरी तो करायचाच. क्वचित काही ट्रेक ला खिशाला चाट पण पडते पण सह्याद्री मध्ये फिरण्यासाठी सब कुछ करेंगे.

तर असा हा हरिश्चंद्रगडचा बेत ठरला. मी माझ्यापरीने जाहिरात केली पण नेहमीचे ३ आणि नवीन २ असे ५ जण ट्रेक तयार झाले. गाडीकाकानी नेहमी प्रमाणे पैश्याची खळखळ करत येतो म्हणून सांगितले. १० ला झेनिथ च्या ऑफिस मधुन उर्फ माझ्या घरून निघू याला नेहमी प्रमाणे टांग मारून ते त्यांच्या सोयींनी १०३० ला आले. मग सामान टाकुन संकल्पिता आणि मी टोब्याला घेऊन निघालो. गिरिशसर नळस्टॉपला वाट पाहतच होते. मग नाशिक फाट्यावर फिलिप, हर्षल आणि शुभम आले आणि आम्ही एकदाचे निघालो.

एके काळी राष्ट्रीय महामार्ग आहे अशी अफवा असलेला NH50 आज NH60 म्हणुन दिमाखदार झालाय. एके काळी म्हणजे फार पूर्वी नव्हे अगदी ३ वर्षापुर्वी इथून जाणे म्हणजे शिक्षा वाटत असे. तेव्हा हा रस्ता अतिशय अरुंद आणि खड्ड्यानी भरलेला होता मग याचा कायापालट झाला. आता चौपदरी आणि मुलायम अश्या या रस्त्यावरून प्रवास अतिशय सुखकर झालाय.

साधारण सव्वा वाजता आळेफाट्याला पोचलो. एक चहाचा राऊंड झाला आणि आम्ही खुबी फाट्याकडे वळलो. तिथून पुढे मी वल्हीवले - बेलपाडा साठी GPS लावला होता. रात्रीची वेळ असल्यामुळे माळशेज घाटात वाहतूक फारशी नव्हती. साधारण ३ ला आम्ही बेलपाड्यात पोचलो. पुरुष मंडळींनी झाडाच्या पारावर पथाऱ्या पसरल्या तर मी आणि संकल्पिता गाडीच्या सीटांवर पसरलो.

सकाळी ५३० चा गजर लावला होता खरा पण दिवसभर झालेली धावपळ आणि रात्रभर रस्ता दाखवण्यामुळे झालेले जागरण या मुळे तो बंद करून झोपण्याचा मोह आवरला नाही. ६ ला आम्ही दोघी उठलो. नाश्त्यासाठी उपमा आणि चहा घेऊन बाकी आवरून निघे पर्यंत ८ वाजलेच. तरी नळीच्या वाटेने चढणार म्हणजे पश्चिमेकडून चढाई अर्थात उन्हाचा फारसा त्रास होणार नाही याची खात्री आणि म्हणुनच एक प्रकारचा मानसिक आधार वाटत होता.

ट्रेकला निघण्या आधीपासूनच मी गावात संपर्क करायचा प्रयत्न करत होते पण प्रस्थापित वाटाडे दाद लागू देत नव्हते. असो. सकाळी नाश्ता बनवत असताना, गावातील एक दोघेजण आले, मी त्यांच्याशी संवाद साधण्याचा प्रयत्न केला. पण बहुदा पिकनिक type पब्लिक मुळे सवय लागली असेल वा काहीही कारणांनी त्यांनी अवाढव्य रक्कम सांगितली, जी मला परवडणार नव्हती. मग आम्ही तसेच चालु पडलो. मग त्यांनी तिकडे "वाहाघ" आहे, तुमच्यासोबत कुत्रा आहे वगैरे भिती घालायचा प्रयत्न केला. मी पण आगाव... त्यांना म्हणाले बिबटे माळशेज घाटाच्या आसपास नसतील तर काय पुण्यात सदाशिवात असतील काय? एवढे उत्तर पुरेसे होते आणि त्यांनी काढता पाय घेतला.

गावाबाहेर गणेश म्हणुन एक मुलगा येऊन मिळाला. त्याला विचारले येतोस का तर येतो म्हणाला. सोबत चालु लागला. आम्ही त्याची चौकशी केली तर नववी मध्ये आहे म्हणाला. मग आजची शाळा? असे विचारल्यावर बुडवली असे म्हणाला. गावापासुन पुढे येऊन २० मिनिटे झाली तसे म्हणायला लागला उशीर होतोय मी जातो. माझी बिदागी आणि बहिणीसाठी खाऊ द्या... मी थक्क झाले... नळीचे तोंड सुद्धा आले नव्हते. काय बोलणार आता. त्याला १०० रुपये आणि बहिणीसाठी खाऊचा पुडा दिला. फोटो वगैरे चमत्कार करून त्याला निरोप दिला.

गावाबाहेर आल्यावर टोबी ला मोकळा सोडला, तसेही त्याला धरून चालणे मला अवघड जात होते. कार्टा उधळला होता. त्याच्या उजव्या पायाची जखम पुर्ण बरी नव्हती झाली त्यामुळे मला जरा काळजीचं वाटत होती. पण मोकळे मिळाल्यावर तो खुष झाला होता.

मग आम्ही पुढे निघालो. काही ठिकाणी दगड (केर्न्स - cairns) रचले होते. आता टोबीनी पण मस्ती आवरती घेतली होती आणि फक्त पुढे मागे करणे चालु ठेवले होते. He was just acting like a good shepherd dog, trying to herd entire team together.

आता आम्ही मुख्य नळीत होतो, कोकणकडा समोर उभा ठाकला होता. त्याचे रौद्र रुप खुपच मनोहर होते. त्याला पाहताना काही दिवस आधी झालेला प्रसंग आठवून अंगावर शहारे आले. असो. आम्ही एक छोटा पाणी ब्रेक घेतला आणि पुढे निघालो. आता मुख्य नाळ आणि त्याच्या उजव्या डाव्या बाजुने २ उपनळी... आणि आम्ही confused! मी हा ट्रेक २ वर्षापुर्वी केला होता, मला बऱ्यापैकी आठवत होते पण नळीची वाट म्हणजे पावसाळ्यात धबधब्याची वाट अर्थात दर वर्षी बदलणारी... इथेही केर्न्स होते त्यावरून अंदाज बांधून आम्ही डावीकडची नाळ घेतली. साधारण २० मिनिटे वर
गेल्यावर कळाले कि पुढची वाट बंद आहे. आली का पंचाईत... बाकीच्यांना तसेच बसवून मी आणि शुभम परत
केर्न्स पर्यंत खाली आलो. मुख्य नाळी मधुनच चढायचे असे ठरवले. शुभम ला त्या नळीतून वर पाठवले आणि मी बाकीच्यांना आणायला परत गेले. दोन्ही नळी मध्ये एक safe पण गचपणानी भरलेला ट्रॅव्हर्स सापडला तो घेऊन आम्ही सगळे शुभम ला येऊन भेटलो. एक छोटा ब्रेक घेऊन आम्ही पुढे निघालो.

हवामान अगदी छान होते ११ वाजले तरी उन्हाचा तडाखा नव्हता कि हवा आणि खडक गरम झाले नव्हते. आम्ही केर्न्स शोधत होतो. पण एकही दिसेना. तसेच परत वर गेलो. आता कोकणकडा अगदीच जवळ होता. आम्ही अगदी कोकणकड्याच्या पोटात पोचलो होतो... आता परत वाट चुकली होती. तेवढ्यात माझा फोन vibrate झाला. अर्रे range आली तर... मग मी एवढा वेळ आत ठेवलेला फोन काढला. व्हाट्सऍप आणि फेसबुक ला रॉयल इग्नोर मारत मी आधी गुगल मॅप्स चालु केले. (फोन नवीन आहे, बॅटरी टिकते वगैरे वगैरे, आणि एक सोलर चार्जेर आणि एक पॉवर बँक पाठीवर वागवली होती).

मग हा निळा ठिपका आहे ना तो आपण आहोत, हि पांढरी रेष आहेना ती नळीची वाट आहे. आपल्याला तिकडे जायचे आहे. तर एकूण आम्ही नालीच्या वाटेपासुन साधारणपणे १०० मीटर दक्षिणेकडे होतो. मग फिलिप आणि हर्षल थोडे पुढे जाऊन वाट शोधुन आले पण ती काही मिळाली नाही. मग आम्ही परत थोडे उतरलो. आधी वर चढताना फिलिपनी एक वाट पाहिली होती, जी मी नापास केली होती तीच घेतली आणि मग आम्ही पोचलो परफेक्टली नळीच्या वाटेवर.

आता सुरु झाला खरा थरार... मोठ्ठाल्ले दगड ज्यांना boulders म्हणता येईल असे पार करत, कुठे निसरडी माती कुठे छोटे रॉक patches. टोबीशेट मी कसा natural climber आहे ते दाखवुन देत होते. सकाळच्या उत्साहाची जागा आता सेफ्टी फर्स्ट नी घेतली होती. २ मुले आमची मदत करायला थांबली होती. तेवढ्यात एक गावकरी उतरताना दिसला. त्याला गिरीश सरानी विचारले किती वेळ लागेल. त्यांनी सांगितले जाताल वर ५ - ६ वाजेपर्यंत. तेव्हा माझ्या घड्याळात झाले होते २. अर्रे ३ तास फक्त... सगळ्यांच्या जीवात जरा जीव आला. मग सगळ्यांनी जरा झपाझप चालायला सुरुवात केली पण कसचं काय. नुसती दगडे आणि निसरडी माती. नाही म्हटले तरी वेग मंदावला होता. मग आला पहिला रॉक पॅच. टोबी काही बाजुनी सुट्या झालेल्या दगडांवरून जायला तयार नव्हता मग रोप लावुन त्याला वर चढवला, सोबतच सगळ्यांच्या सॅक दिल्या. आम्ही एक दोघे बाजुनी सुट्या झालेल्या दगडांवरून गेलो काही रोपची मदत घेऊन चढले. पहिला अवघड टप्पा पार पडला वेळ होती ३१५.
इथे एके ठिकाणी डोंगराच्या अगदी पोटातुन उजवीकडून जायचे होते. टोबी इथं अडकला... मी थोडी रागावले पण माझ्या लक्षात आले कि त्याचा डावा डोळा निकामी आहे, उजवा डोळा त्याला डोंगराला लावून पुढे येताच येणार नव्हते. मग मी पुढे झाले. सॅक उतरवली आणि फिलिप दिसत होता त्याला परत बोलावले. तो आल्यावर आम्ही टोबीला leash up केले आधी मी पुढे झाले फिलिपनी त्याला उचलून माझ्याकडे दिले, आणि टोबी पार झाल्यावर तो आला.

तसेच पुढे गेलो आणि १५ मिनिटात दुसऱ्या रॉक पॅच ला पोचलो, हा आधीच्या रॉक पॅचच्या तुलनेत उंच होता. साधारण ८ मीटर खडा आणि नंतर २ मीटर सोपा. शुभम आधी वर गेला. मग मी रोप घेऊन चढले, तिकडे नशीबाने एक झाड होते त्याला clove hitch मारून anchor केला. तेवढ्यात गडावरून माणिकराव आले, ते मला म्हणाले मॅडम तुम्ही मागे राहा मी पुढचे बघतो. सगळ्यात आधी टोब्याला haul केला. शेट आधी खाली उतरायला बघत होते मग अरे आपल्याला पण क्लाइंबिंग येते हे आठवल्यावर रॉक वर जोर देऊन चढायला लागले. मला खुप अनपेक्षित असा सुखद धक्का देऊन तो अलगद वर आला.
मग २ सॅक haul केल्या. मग रोपच्या एका टोकाला bowline on bight मारली, दुसरे टोक तसच सपोर्ट म्हणुन सोडले. सगळ्यात आधी संकल्पिता आली. तिला पाहुन मला धक्का बसला. पोरगी सॅक पाठीवर घेऊनच चढली होती. धन्य!
मग फिलिप आला, तो हि सॅक पाठीवर घेऊन चढला. मग गिरिशसर आले, त्यांची सॅक आधीच आली होती पण ते पण अतिशय सराईतासारखे पटापट चढून आले. बाकी सगळ्यांना पुढे पाठवून दिले आणि खाली हर्षल शिट्टी वाजवत होता. गिरिशसर त्याला विचारत होते, खुष दिसतोयस, तिथेच राहतोस का? बिचारा शेवटी एकटा राहिला होता खाली, आम्ही त्याला विसरून जाऊ नये म्हणुन शिट्टी वाजवत होता बहुतेक. रोप टाकल्यावर तो हि पटापट आला.

आता होता आला शेवटचा रॉक पॅच. तसा बराच सोपा होता. पण तरीही रोप लावुन चढलो. वेळ होती ५१५. म्हणजे काळोख होण्याआधी नळीमधून बाहेर आलो होतो. माणिकरावांनी सुमधुर असे लिंबु सरबत दिले आणि आमच्यासोबत भास्कर कडे निघाले. अपुरी झोप, आदल्या दिवशीची दगदग आणि आजचा ट्रेक यांनी खूप दमले होते आणि थोडी चिडचिड होत होती पण माणिकरावानी आम्हाला व्यवस्थित भास्करकडे पोचवले आणि सुपुर्त केले.
टीम ला टेन्ट्स लावायच्या आधी जेवायला सांगितले आणि मी टोबीची खाण्याची व्यवस्था करायला गेले.
टोबी जाम दमला होता पण काळा आणि डोळा दिसल्यावर त्याला त्यांच्याशी खेळायचे होते. मग मी त्याला पलीकडे भाकऱ्यांच्या चुलीजवळ बांधले आणि दुध पोळी दिली. ती खाऊन झाल्यावर त्याला झोपायचे होते पण माझे जेवण बाकी होते.

मी जेवायला बसले, तेव्हा आठवले मी दुपारी काहीच खाल्ले नव्हते. संत्र्याच्या २/३ फोडी, अमुल ताकाचा एक carton आणि २ ग्लास लिंबु सरबत यावर मी ट्रेक पुर्ण केला होता. तेवढ्यात भास्कर आला, माझ्या ताटाकडे बघुन हसायला लागला, असे कसे खातेयस... मग भाकरीचा कुस्करा, त्यावर कढी आणि ठेचा... अहाहा काय चव होती... बसच...

मग टेन्ट्स लावले... पण अफाट बेभान वारा... सॅक टाकल्या आणि सगळे झोपायच्या मुड मध्ये आले. पण हर्षल ला कढी प्यायची होती आणि गिरीश सरांना चहा. कढी मिळाली पण गर्दी बघुन मी भीतभीतच भास्कर ला विचारले चहा मिळेल का?अगं बाई तुला काय हवेय तू फक्त सांग... पुरवायची जबाबदारी माझी...

मग आई जवळ थोडं बसावे म्हणुन गेले तर तीनी आधी कान धरला, इतका वेळ कसा लागला म्हणून. मग सगळे सांगितल्यावर म्हणाली नशीब पोचलीस व्यवस्थित ते. रात्री ९ वाजले तरी लोक येत होते. भाकरी करण्याऱ्या मुलीला विचारले तर म्हणाली सकाळपासुन २०० भाकऱ्या मी एकटीनेच केल्या असतील. आई आणि दुसऱ्या मुलीच्या वेगळ्या...

सगळे आटोपून आम्ही रात्री ९३० ला एकदाचे अंथरुणात पडलो. रात्रभर वाऱ्यांनी टेन्ट फडफडत होता. शांत अशी झोप झाली नाही.

सकाळी चिवचिवाटापेक्षा गलक्यानी जाग आली. मला वाटले असेल एखादा ग्रुप पण टेन्ट बाहेर आल्यावर
माझी नजर जिथे जाईल तिथे टेन्ट लावलेले दिसत होते आणि कोकणकडा एखाद्या रेल्वे स्टेशन इतका गजबजला होता. अर्थात तक्रार करून उपयोग नाही. असो.

मी उठायच्या आधीच भास्कर पाचनईला गेला होता, चहा मग नाश्ता करून, हिशोब करून आई बाबांचा निरोप घेतला आणि आम्ही हरिश्चंद्रेश्वरच्या मंदिराकडे आलो. मी टोब्याला घेऊन थांबले आणि सगळे गुहा बघून आले. मंदिरात मी पाणी भरायला गेले तेव्हा मंदिरामागच्या गुहेत दोन साधु पोथी मोठ्यांदा वाचत होते. सकाळच्या त्या वातावरणांत ते उच्चार मंगल वाटत होते. तिथेच ते ऐकत बसायची इच्छा होती पण वेळे अभावी शक्य नव्हते. बाहेर परत आल्यावर कोणी blue tooth वर तम्मा तम्मा ऐकत होते तर कोणी रामरक्षा लावली होती. मा पामराला या गोष्टी नाही कळत त्यामुळे त्या यात्रेकरूंची मी मनोमन माफी मागितली आणि आणि आम्ही बरोबर १० ला खिरेश्वर च्या रस्त्याला लागलो.

हा रस्ता तसा जरा सोपाच आहे फक्त थोडा वेळ जास्त लागतो. वाटेत ३/४ ठिकाणी ब्रेक घेत, लिंबू सरबत घेऊन तरतरीत होत आम्ही टोलार खिंडीतून खिरेश्वर गाठले आणि पुण्याच्या रस्त्याला लागलो.

या पुर्ण ट्रेक मध्ये फिलिप ची टोबीसाठी खुपच मदत झाली. पण एकंदरीत पहाता टोबीला रॉक क्लाइंबिंग च्या ट्रैनिंग ची नितांत गरज आहे तसेच त्याच्या दिव्यांगांमुळे त्याच्या हालचालींना काही बंधने येणार आहेत त्यानुसार प्लांनिंग करून त्याला नेणे योग्य होईल. अन्यथा अपघाताला आमंत्रण दिल्यासारखेच आहे.

वाटेत जेवण आणि चहा करुन पुण्यात मी घरी पोचले तेव्हा रात्रीचे ८ चे टोले पडत होते.

इति हरिश्चंद्रगड यात्रा अविघ्नम संपुर्णम! 

Friday, 27 April 2018

घर कि मुर्गी दाल बराबर: सिंहगड

गाडीवाटेने जाताना दिसणारा सिंहगड

इतिहासातील एक पुरातन किल्ला सिंहगड
पुण्याजवळील एक दिवसीय सहलीचे ठिकाण सिंहगड

श्री तानाजी मालुसऱ्यांच्या बलिदानाने पावन झालेला सिंहगड
चविष्ट खेकडा कांदाभजी आणि दही ताक मिळण्याचे ठिकाण सिंहगड

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Weekend ला फिरायला जाण्याचे ठिकाण सिंहगड

सिंहगड या वर काय लिहिणार? नेहमी तर जातेस नवीन काय आहे तिथे...
थोडक्यात काय तर घर कि मुर्गी दाल बराबर... पण आहे ना बाबा... बघायला अनुभवायला हि खूप आहे... चविष्ट खेकडा कांदाभजी आणि दही ताक तर आहेच पण दूरवर दिसणारे राजगड तोरणा... हवामान अगदी चांगले असेल तर अगदी तुंग तिकोना, पुरंदर रुद्रमाळ... बाहू स्फुरण पावतील अश्या मावळ्यांच्या शौर्यगाथा... आणि आधुनिक मानवांनी केलेला कचरा, त्यातल्याच काहींची तो साफ करण्यासाठी चाललेली धडपड. हिमालयात निघालेल्यांची फिटनेस साठी चाललेले प्रयत्न. रोज (हल्ली वीकेंडला) गडावर दही ताक विकणाऱ्या मावश्या आणि अजुन खूप काही...               

संध्याकाळी दिसणारे राजगड तोरणा
कालानुरूप बदलत गेलेली ओळख घेऊन अजूनही ताठ मानेने, दिलदार मनाने सगळ्यांचे स्वागत करतोय हा किल्ला. पुणे शहरापासुन फक्त २५ किलोमीटर वर नैऋत्य दिशेला भुलेश्वर रांगेमधला हा किल्ला किती पुरातन आहे त्याचा अंदाज काही नुसता जाऊन येत नाही. कौंडिण्य ऋषींच्या तप करण्याचे ठिकाण असावे म्हणून कोंढाणा नाव पडले असा कयास. इतिहासातील नोंदी १४व्या शतकापासुनच्या आहेत. इसवी सन १८१८ पर्यंत अनेक हस्तान्तरे पाहिली याने.

श्री शिव छत्रपतींनी आधी श्री शहाजी राजांच्या सुटके साठी व नंतर इसवी सन १६६५ मध्ये पुरंदरच्या  तहामध्ये हा महत्वाचा किल्ला गमावला. आणि इसवी सन १६७० मध्ये  श्री तानाजी मालुसऱ्यानी बलिदान देऊन हा किल्ला स्वराज्यात आणला. मधल्या काळात किल्ला औरंगजेब आणि मराठे यांच्यात हस्तांतरीत होत राहिला आणि इसवी सन १७७० मध्ये  श्री राजाराम छत्रपतींनी येथेच देह ठेवला. १७०३ मध्ये औरंगजेबाने किल्ला जिंकून नाव ठेवले बक्षींदाबक्ष! पुढे मराठे, मुघल आणि निजाम यांच्या या किल्ल्यावर लढाया होत राहिल्या. १८१८ मध्ये जनरल प्रिझलर ने मराठ्यांकडून हा किल्ला जिंकुन घेतला. ब्रिटिश राज काळात लोकमान्य टिळक व अन्य प्रभृतींनी येथे वास्तव्य केल्याच्या नोंदी आहेत.   

पुण्यात राहणाऱ्यांकडे कोणी पाहुणे आले कि त्यांना ऑथेंटिक मटका दही आणि खेकडा भजी खाऊ घालायला गाडी पुणे खडकवासला गोळेवाडी मार्गे येते सिंहगडावर. गोळेवाडी ते सिंहगड वाहनतळ असा सुमारे ९ किमी चा घाट पार करून आपण वर पोचतो ते खांदकड्याच्या खाली नवीनच बांधलेल्या वाहनतळावर. आजुबाजुला गडकऱ्यांनी बांधलेली झोपडी कम हॉटेल्स आहेत. या घाटात एक वाट खेड शिवापूरच्या जवळ कोंढणपुर ला उतरते.    

पुणे दरवाजा क्रमांक २
पाहुणे थोडे उत्साही असतील तर आतकरवाडीतून किल्ला चढत येतात. या वाटेने येताना मध्ये एका मेटावर काळूबाईचे स्थान आहे. हि वाट पोचते पुणे दरवाज्याजवळ असलेल्या पायऱ्यांजवळ. उजवीकडे पायऱ्या आणि पुणे दरवाजा कि डावीकडे वाहनतळ अश्या चक्रात ना पडता आपण आपले ३ दरवाजे ओलांडून वर जायचे. उजवीकडे दिसते ते दारुगोळ्याचे कोठार कि ब्रिटिश कालीन चर्च... आणि डावीकडे खांब असलेली खोदीव गुहा जी कदाचित पागा म्हणुन वापरली गेली असावी. आपण आपले पदपथावरून चालत राहायचे मग एक वाट डावीकडे वळते तिकडे जायचे. मग चालू होते गडाच्या कड्यावरून जी वाट - पूर्वी अत्यंत बिकट असावी असा मनात विचार सुद्धा येणार नाही अशी बांधलेली आणि कोणी खाली पडू नये म्हणून कठड्यानी सजवलेली. या कड्यावरून खाली कल्याण, कोंढणपूर गावे आणि उजवीकडे गडाच्या पोटात असलेला कल्याण दरवाजा. मान ताठ केली तर समोर राजगड आणि तशीच उजवीकडे नजर वळवली कि तोरणा... तसा हे किल्ले ओळखायला फार अभ्यास करावा लागत नाही. असच डावी कडे पाहिले कि दूरदर्शन चा मनोरा. आता उजवी वळायचे आणि चालू पडायचे. थोडे अंतर गेल्यावर एक वाट डावीकडे खाली उतरते आणि जाते कल्याण दरवाजाकडे. एकापाठोपाठ एक अशी रचना आहे. वाट पुढे कोंढणपुरला  जाते हे लक्षात ठेवायचे आणि आणि गुमान मागे फिरायचे. दरवाज्यावर एक कोरीव हत्ती दिसतो, एक देवनागरी शिलालेख आहे. 

थोडे वर येऊन, आलो त्याच्या विरुद्ध दिशेला म्हणजे मावळतीला चालु पडायचे.  इथे दिसतो तो झुंजार बुरुज. आणि खाली असलेले कळकी मेट. इथे देखील एक दिंडी आहे. करायची थोडी शोधाशोध, सापडते लगेच.

खेकडा भजी
इथून पुढे चालु लागलो कि तटबंदी वरून जाणारी उंच सखल वाट घेऊन जाते विंडपॉइंट उर्फ तानाजी कडा उर्फ डोणागिरीच्या कड्यावर. तानाजीराव इथुनच रात्रीच्या अंधारात चढुन आले होते स्वतःचा जीव पणाला लाऊन एक वेडे स्वप्न पुरे करायला. आपल्याला काय त्याचे! आपण आपली पिकनिक चालु ठेवायची आणि विंडपॉइंट चा वारा खाऊन आणि सरबत पियुन पुढे निघायचे. कलावंतिणीच्या बुरुजाजवळ म. रा. प. वि. मं. ने एक प्रेक्षागृह आणि काहीबाही बांधले आहे. त्या कडे फार लक्ष ना देता पुढे बंगले दिसतात तिकडे जायचे. अचानक एक रस्ता डावीकडे उंचावर जायला लागतो, जायचे ना मग तिकडेच. श्री कोंढाणेश्वराचे मंदिर, किल्ल्यावरील सर्वात उंच पॉईंट - किल्लेदाराचा वाडा आणि पुढे तानाजीरावांचे स्मारक वगैरे बघुन आपण पोचतो ते एका पठारावर. इथे बरीच हॉटेल्स आहेत, आपण आपली पिठले भाकरी ओरपायची आणि पाणी कुठून आले असेल याचा विचार न करता हल्ली ऊन खूपच आहे असे म्हणत पडी घ्यायची. फारच उत्सुकता वाटली तर १२ महिने २४ तास अविरत पाणी पुरवणारे देवटाके बघुन घ्यायचे.
तानाजी मालुसरे स्मारक
 तानाजी स्मारक समितीने काही काळापूर्वी या स्मारकाची निर्मिती केली. हरसाल माघ वद्य नवमी ला येथे स्मृती समारंभ केला जातो. याच्या जवळच तानाजीच्या विरुद्ध लढणाऱ्या मुगल अधिकारी उदेभानु चे देखील स्मारक आहे.   

आलो त्याच चढणीवरून परत फिरलो कि डाव्या हाताला खाली श्री राजाराम छत्रपतींची समाधी बघायची. तिथल्या  टाक्यांमधली घाण कुणी तरी मुर्खाने केली म्हणून त्याला नाव ठेवायची, आपल्या हातातली संपलेली पाण्याची बाटली पण तिथेच टाकायची आणि आणि पुढे चालू पडायचे.

पुढे अचानक काही जुन्या प्रकारचे बैठे बंगले दिसतात. यातील एक आहे लोकमान्य टिळकांचा. अरेच्या! असेल काही तरी असं म्हणायचे आणि पुढे निघायचे.    

इथून एक वाट पुढे जाऊन पुणे दरवाजा क्रमांक ३ जवळ पोचते, त्या आधी तिथे डावीकडे शौचालये आहेत. फार अपेक्षा ना ठेवता जर गरज असेल तर लाभार्थींनी लाभ घ्यायचा. डावीकडे अफाट पसरलेलं पुणे शहर दिसते.

पिठले भाकरी
पूर्वापार चालत आलेल्या पद्धती नुसार आसपासचे गावकरी अजूनही दूध दही घेऊन विकायला येतात. जागोजागी विक्रय चालू असतो. संक्रांतीची सुगडी असतात तश्या मातीच्या छोट्या मडक्यांमध्ये हे दही लावलेले असते. गडावर बरेच जण पिठले भाकरी वगैरे बनवून देतात. बड्या हॉटेल्स मध्ये वाद न घालता असेल त्या किमतीत छटाक भर भाजी घेणारे इथे मात्र एक भाकरी आणि पिठले याचे ५० रुपये जास्त आहेत असा वाद घालताना नक्की दिसतील.  

मटका दही
तर इतिहासातील एक जीर्ण झालेले सोनेरी पान वगैरे काही विचार ना करता, स्वातंत्र्य, स्वराज्य वगैरे गोष्टींचा फार लोड ना घेता आपण आपले घरी परत निघायचे.

चढून आणि गडफेरी करून थकला असाल आणि गाडी नाही तरी फिकर नॉट. वाहनतळावर खाली जाणाऱ्या जीप / वडाप मिळून जातील फक्त योग्य तो मोबदला द्यावा हि त्यांची अपेक्षा.

गडावर एक तोफ आहे, पण हा उल्लेख सोडून इतर माहिती टाळली आहे कारण बरेच जण फोटोशूट साठी प्रॉप म्हणुन त्याचा वापर करतात. आणि बघायची असेल तर शोधा कि जरा स्वतःची स्वतः! 

आतकरवाडी मधुन एक वाट डोंगराच्या पोटात जाते, तिथे बरेच पक्षी दिसतात, त्यामुळे बरीच "पुण्य"वान मंडळी तेथे पक्षी निरीक्षणासाठी जातात.

खुप जण फिटनेस साठी, हिमालय मोहिमांच्या पुर्वतयारी साठी नियमित येत असतात. कात्रज ते सिंहगड (K2S)  हा एक लोकप्रिय ट्रेक आहे  तसेच सिंहगड पुण्याजवळ असल्यामुळे व कमी कष्टात गडमाथ्यापर्यंत पोहोचण्याच्या सोयीमुळे खूप वर्दळ असते त्यामुळे अतिशय कचरा होतो. कुठल्याही दुर्गम ठिकाणी पाळण्याचे नियम पाळले तर सहल / गिरिभ्रमण / गिर्यारोहण उर्फ ट्रेक सगळ्यांसाठीच सुखावह होऊ शकतो. निम्नोक्त काही नियम आहेत ते पाळणे गरजेचे आहे जेणे करून आपला हा जैवविविध्याचा आणि ऐतिहासिक वारसा पुढील पिढयांना सुद्धा अनुभवता येईल.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Raireshwar Part 2 - January 3, 2016

On the New Year’s Day, I reached home at about 2245. After reaching home I got busy with cleaning and unpacking my backpack. Before going to bed I checked my phone. Prasad informed that we could go to Raireshwar next day. I slept like a baby that night. In less than 24 hours, I was to go for another exciting trek.

During the day, I shopped for food and packed again. Sagar came to pick me at 2000. At about 2045 we took a tea break near Khed Shivapur Toll Naka while waiting for Prasad.
At Bhor, we took another break and then zoomed off to Raireshwar. The road was still the same!
Once at the Raireshwar Plateau, we decided not to disturb the civilization and pitched the tents midway near a waterhole. 

It was exact 0030 when we pitched the tent and started cooking maggi as midnight meal.  Hot soupy maggi! Yummy!! I had not even entered the sleeping bag and Prasad was already snoring. His snores made me feel safe in the wilderness.

At 600 Sagar was already up and was trying to wake up Prasad and me. After a lot of efforts, I managed my way out of tent at about 645. We quickly wound up the camp and headed to Mama’s place. Mami again cooked Pohe and tea for us, and at 830 we were out in pursuit of Nakhind.

This time two doggies started following us. And later i.e. while drafting this blog I realized that one of them was our companion last time.  

Sagar was leading; Prasad had put on GPS tracking for us. All I had to do was to enjoy the beauty of Sahyadri and click photos.

We walked on and on… This time it wasn’t much difficult. There were no fog, no clouds and the Karvi was drying fast. It made our route much simpler than last time.
Like previous time, this time as well, we were carrying enough food and water for three of us. We were well equipped I would say.

Koleshwar Plateau on opposite side of valley looked gorgeous.  Now, we moved ahead and some trails were available. Kenjalgad and Kamalgad were very easily visible.
It was 1130, when Sagar showed us a mile stone, It read Nakhind 7 kms. It felt like an achievement then. We decided to take a quick break. And suddenly, Sagar pointed behind me. I was extremely happy to see my second home – Rajgad. Then Torna, then Prasad pointed towards Raigad, the Varandha ghat section, Mohangad, Mangalgad… OMG. That place was just awesome. We rushed towards another end of plateau to have a better look. Kudali village could be seen. Prasad has great hold of Geography.

At 1230 we were near a waterhole, so decided to take a quick pitstop to refill our bottles and eat Thalipith.
The day went on so did we. At about 1300, we reached near an end of the plateau and Nakhind was visible. But the trail was missing.  There was a dried waterfall which was surrounded by a forest. We decided to climb up the waterfall and we entered the forest. This was a thick forest and this time it was not karvy. At places we had to crawl below trees. The trees had inch long thorns. I suggested Prasad to climb up a tree and check where we needed to head. He tried that twice. The first tree wasn’t much tall but second tree that we found later was much taller. He said we needed to head towards left towards a hillock and he also estimated that we would take about 30 minutes. And in exact 30 minutes we were on that hillock. There was a light trail heading towards Nakhind’s GPS position.
We followed this trail and which led us to another side of the cliff we had encountered before entering the forest. We had lost a lot of energy and time fighting that forest. Hence, we decided to have lunch and return from this point as time was already 1515. Starting the return hike in about half hour would have awarded us enough daylight time to get back to the right trail and yet it would have been dark to reach Mama’s place.
Lunch consisted of boiled eggs, bread, butter, jam etc. We rested for few minutes and started the return hike. In between Prasad kept tracking our GPS location. It was close to 1700 when we reached near the waterhole where we had our break earlier that day. We did not have to encounter the forest on our way back, so it was much comfortable walk.

Near the sunset, we came across a man who was tending his cattle. Now the trail was available and it wasn’t much difficult but we had to develop our “nightvision”.

At 1900, we were close to civilization yet decided to take a break. Sagar informed mama that we were on our way back. We fed biscuits to the dogs and had oranges for ourselves. Hats off to both the dogs! They both had walked entire distance with us plus more when they ran around chasing preys.

It was around 1945 when we reached mama’s house. Mama was insisting that we should have dinner, but riding post dinner would have meant a sleepy ride so we asked of Limewater which was very refreshing.
After having dinner at a hotel on NH4, we returned to Pune at 0030.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Kokandiva May 2015

On 29 May 2015, I returned from Great Himalayan NationalPark and had no plans for the weekend. So, I was half sleepy when Sagar messaged asking how my Himalayan trek had been. The discussion went on and I asked him what he was upto that weekend. He said he was planning to go to Kokandiva overnight.
Kokandiva had been a failed plan for long, I asked him if I could tag along. He said, “Are you sure? It is not even 24 hours that you have returned.” I was absolutely sure about visiting Sahyadri right away.

I had to unpack and repack. Got some food and we were on our way at 5 PM. After a brief tea break near Panshet, we rode towards Ghol. Just before Ghol, a small dusty path leads us to Garjaiwadi. The condition of that road was so bad that we parked the bike midway and walked towards Garjaiwadi. It was dark, the dogs started barking when we entered the village. Sagar went to a house and handed over our riding gear.
After almost an hour, we were on a plateau. We rested here for some time and tried to spot the villages in the valley. Now the final climb! It was steep, real steep. It took another hour for us to reach the top. After reaching the cave, we made some maggi with eggs and cheese at 0000 and slept off.

When I woke up, Sagar was already up and was basking in rising sunlight. I seriously wanted to sleep for more time. Luckily, he was ok with it.

The Fort doesn’t have many ruins as such. Just some water cisterns and a cave where we had camped in night. So, after I got up, I made some coffee and went to the hill top. Seeing Raigad from a height was treat to the eyes, especially since one could identify the mountain top from with details on it like Jagadishwar Temple. Beautiful site of Lingana was cherry on the cake.

At about 10, we returned to the cave and I thought of making some egg burji only to realize that in the chaos of packing and unpacking I had forgotten to get oil or butter. So, I mixed some garlic chutney and cheese and made bhurji sans oil. Meantime, Sagar played some Marathi song on the mobile.

After brunch, it was coffee time and a Marathi song “Yajanmavar, ya jaganyawar shatada prem karave”… (Literally translates to: One could love this birth, this life hundreds of times) I could give my entire life for such moments!

We wound the camp and started descending at 1130. The jungle was now visible. The shrubs were bearing Karawande (wild berries), we ate and ate, filled all our pockets.

On the way, we came across the temple which we had missed in the night. The path from here is a plain jungle trail to Garjaiwadi. We picked up our riding gear and headed back to Pune. 

Photo & Content Copyright : theGypsyPrincess.Com (2015)

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Ulhas Valley January 1, 2016

It was 3 PM of 31 December 2015 and it seemed like I will be welcoming the New Year in most traditional (boring) way.  I was trying to convince (in vain) my mom to go somewhere… She didn’t want climb even the smallest hill nearby, nor she wanted to camp in a tent!

At about 1615, I saw some conversation between Prasad & Sagar which mentioned camping at Visapur and trek to Umberkhind or Ulhas Valley on New Year’s day. Like most of the times, this was a last minute plan. I asked my mom for permission to go. (Not that I am stopped anytime, but it is always better to follow the process.)

So at 1630, I informed Prasad that I would be joining his band. He told me to report at Pune Railway Station by 1845 and we would take 1905 local to Lonavala. Activa had a flat tyre so I knew I had to depend on public transport. That meant I had less than an hour to prepare and leave.

As such, packing my backpack for a trek is part of my skill set now yet it is a time consuming process. Process of elimination of necessities is the tricky part. Prasad had mentioned that we would be 5 heads trekking next day that meant carrying additional food. (Going by my previous experience, any amount of food carried is less on the trek. The more the merrier)

Finally with all the preparations done, mom dropped me off at the nearest junction from where I got a shared auto to Swarget. Looking at the watch, I knew I would miss the local train if I would stick to the plan of going to Pune Railway Station, hence I called Prasad and informed him that I would be boarding the train next suburban station Shivaji Nagar and he advised that if I missed this train then I could catch next train as well and reach Lonavala.

With all the game, I managed to reach Shivaji Nagar Railway Station in time and boarded the train. Looking at my backpack people were staring at me as if an alien has boarded the train.
Prasad and his gang from Pune were in the same coach yet it took few stations for me to locate them. Finally train reached Lonavala and we headed towards a hotel for dinner. At about 2030, the guys from Mumbai informed that they were still at Andheri as the bus hadn’t arrived. Prasad suggested them to stay back and arrive next morning.

Meantime, Sagar was mentioning about going to Raireshwar again next day. I had a feeling of being torn in 2 plans. It was like I wanted to step on both the stones simultaneously. Prasad as well was enthusiastic about Raireshwar. So he convinced Sagar to postpone the Raireshwar plan for some other day.

We had dinner and started going back to the station when Mehul called Prasad to inform that they had boarded the bus. Sujan and Prasad went looking for Maggi for midnight snacks and I and Shalini purchased the tickets to Malavali, the base village to Visapur.

We boarded the train at 2205 at Lonavala, got down at Malavali and started walking towards Bhaje village. Mehul again called and informed that the bus had reached Panvel. At this point, we decided to stay put near Bhaje Caves till these guys arrived and then to trek ahead later in night. The plan to watch crackers as part of New Year celebrations had doomed already. While, three of us, Sujan, Shalini and I stay put at the Caves, Prasad tried to look for the trail going further to Visapur in vain. 

The midnight came and we could see a lot of crackers from the caves. At about 130, Mehul, Akash and Sonam came. After a brief introduction round, we decided to sleep where were.
Prasad and band sat chatting for a while and I chose to snore.

Next morning, we headed back to Malavali Station. I checked the train time, we had to wait for good one hour before next train and Sujan and Shalini had a train in about half an hour so, instead of wasting our time We had breakfast and completed morning chores at station.

After reaching Lonavala, we purchased some chikki and buttermilk and took auto to Kamat Hotel. Some 5 years ago, I had been to Ulhas valley with my guru Ajit Ranade and few other friends. I missed them terribly.

It was 1115 when we started our descent from Shooting Point at Khandala. The descent is gradual and involves one or two tricky rock patches. At a patch, we used the 5 mm chord to emotionally aid the new bees. Prasad and I were laughing at us but it was important in order to encourage them.

Somewhere on the descent, Jill (read me) came tumbling down, bruised both hands and developed a small bump on crown. Team came to check if I was ok. I felt ok too. Rest of the descent was otherwise uneventful. After 2 hours we reached the base of the valley and before we would start traverse, we settled down and had lunch.

After that small accident, Prasad had already taken my heavy bag and I was carrying his lighter bag. This bag became lighter now.

We started the traverse and the most exciting part of this trek began. We had to cross the stream at times. We had started late that meant we had lost a major time of day light hence marching in speed was crucial yet safety couldn’t be compromised.

At several locations I noticed stones which looked like deliberately positioned. I would accept that as trail mark. So we were on right path. After some time we had to negotiate a small easy rock patch and commit to the stream again. After this point, I decided to position cairns for ourselves too. It also helped me rest before these guys would catch up.

It was 1530 when we reached base of monkey hill. The horns of Railways passing kept us the company all day. Apart from the rubbish thrown down the valley; that was only sign of civilization nearby.

We took few breaks in between for buttermilk and chikki.
Prasad said one stream comes from Kataldhar and joins Ulhas Valley. Post which there is village Mundhewadi, then Kondana from where we may get some vehicle towards Karjat. It was near this stream we got into the jungles drifted from main stream of Ulhas River as it had become deep and speedy. We crossed that stream and now Rajmachi was visible on our Right Side. Now the forests looked pristine. The water was not clean anywhere and was contaminated with sewage right from the beginning of trail.

This point forth, the trail was not clear and there were several misleading cattle trails around. Establishing trail marks like cairns made more sense here. Mehul kept checking our GPS location on his phone.

At a point, we saw few buffaloes in river, which was a sign of civilization nearby.  Time was 1600. Prasad said we would need another 2 hours to reach Kondane. Sonam looked tired. Hats off to this girl for not giving up anytime.  A well trodden trail led us from here.

Sometime passed and we came across few cattle like animals on the trail we were on. The debate is still on if they were bison! Prasad was leading the One of these charged against him. We retreated immediately, and took another trail which we had ignored earlier.

It was about 1830 when we saw some lights and as expected it gave us more energy to walk further. So finally we reached had reached Mundhewadi and now it was regular route to Kondane.
At Kondane, we got a dugdug to Karjat.  Once back in the civilization, we all broke loose and had ice cream.  I took a train back to Pune.

A New Year’s day was well spent in the lap of Sahyadri which also added more plans for the year.

Photo & Content Copyright : theGypsyPrincess.Com (2015)