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First blog post

Hey guys! Orientation nurtures your talent. And the same is true when it comes to writing. U need a platform wherein u can showcase your feelings, your words that have been rolled up with the sweetest blend of flavors. I am Ajinkya Gadgil.. A nemophilist by choice and a research scientist by profession. I would use this platform to share my thoughts, my version of mother nature! I would like to mention about Harsha huddar, my school friend, who insisted me to start a blog, and i’m quite happy I am here! Here i begin a new part of my journey!

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ढवळे-मढी महल

सह्याद्री- ज्वालामुखीच्या उद्रेकातून निर्माण झालेली ही डोंगररांग तापीनदीच्या दक्षिणेपासून सुरू होऊन गुजरात-महाराष्ट्र-गोवा-कर्नाटक-केरळ पर्यंत पसरलेली आहे. सह्याद्रीचे मुख्यतः दोन भाग पडतात- देश आणि कोकण. पुढे कोकणाचेही दोन भाग पडतात- वलाटी अणि खलाटी. घाटमाथ्यापासून 20kms पर्यंतच्या भागाला वलाटी म्हणतात व तिथून समुद्रकिनाऱ्या पर्यंतच्या भागाला खलाटी म्हणतात. घाटमाथ्याला देश म्हणतात. देशावरून कोकणात उतरण्यासाठी अनेक घाटवाटा आहेत, ढवळे घाट हा त्यातलाच एक घाट. ढवळे ते मढी महल (आर्थर सीट) हा एक अति प्राचीन दळण-वळणाचा घाट रस्ता आहे. ही घाटवाट आपल्याला पोलादपूर ते महाबळेश्वरला घेऊन जाते. हा पूर्ण पट्टा “जावळीच्या खोऱ्यात” मोडणारा आहे. ही अगदी शिवकाळापासून वापरात असलेली पायवाट आहे.

कोकणातलं गाव-ढवळे

घाटमाथ्यावरील गाव-मढी महल उर्फ आर्थर सीट

ढवळे गावाची उंची-725 feet, मढी महल ची उंची-4800 feet

ट्रेकचे एकूण टप्पे- ढवळे-बहिरीची घुमटी-गाढवाचे माळ-आर्थर सीट

प्रवास वर्णन- आम्ही ह्या ट्रेकसाठी मुंबई आणि पुणे ह्या दोन शहरातून पोलादपूर गाठणार होतो. मुंबईहून मी, प्रशांत, शिर्के मास्तर, श्रेयस, पंकज आणि पुण्याहून अजित येणार होता. आम्ही कुर्ला बस स्टँडवरून रात्रीची बस पकडली जी पोलादपूरला पहाटे 3:30ला पोचली. अजित पुण्याहून येऊन आमच्या आधी पोचला होता. आम्ही यायच्या आधी त्याने नाष्टा आणि चहा संपवला सुद्धा होता. आम्ही पोलादपूरला पोचलो तेव्हा बस स्टँड अगदीच रिकामा होता. आम्ही private गाडीची सोय होतेका ते पाहिलं, पण कुठलीच गाडी मिळाली नाही, मग काय, ST झिंदाबाद. आम्ही थोडावेळ आराम करायचा ठरवला. बस 7:30ला होती. थोडी विश्रांती घेऊन आम्ही मिसळवर ताव मारला आणि मस्त चहा उरकला. थंडी चांगलीच जाणवत होती. वेळेप्रमाणे ST 7:40ला आली (15 मिनिटे ST उशिरा येणं म्हणजे वेळेवर येणं असेच म्हटले पाहिजे).

पोलादपूर बस स्थानक

बस मध्ये बसल्यावर कळलं की रस्त्याचं काम चालू असल्यामुळे बस उमरठच्या अलीकडे 4 kms वर थांबली. उमरठ म्हणजे “सुभेदार तान्हाजी मालुसरे”ह्यांच जन्म गाव. त्यांच्या पुतळ्यासमोर नतमस्तक होऊन आम्ही पुढे निघालो. ढवळे गाठले आणि आमच्या “wikiloc” ला चालू केलं. पायथ्याला मोरे काकांचे घर आहे. आम्ही ह्या आधी चंद्रगडचा ट्रेक केला होता त्यामुळे आम्हाला सुरवातीचा मार्ग माहीत होता. मोरे दादांच्या घरी न्याहारी आटपून आम्ही मार्गक्रमण केलं.
दादा आम्हाला गावाबाहेर सोडायला आले. गावातून बाहेर पडताना एक छोटा पाडा लागला, शेतकरी आपापली कामे करत होते. थोडसं अंतर चालत गेल्यावर एक उजवीकडे मार्ग वळतो, तो चंद्रगडाला जातो. आम्ही ह्या आधी चंद्रगड केल्यामुळे ह्या वेळेस तो मार्ग टाळला. चंद्रगड करून खाली उतरताना डोंगर सोंड लागते ती उतरली की आपण गावाहून येणाऱ्या मार्गाला लागतो. ही वाट नव्हेच मुळी, घसरगुंडीच वाटते. आम्हाला गेल्यावेळेस उतरताना हा अनुभव आलाच होता. ह्या वेळेस आम्ही चंद्रगडाला वळसा घालून निघालो. चंद्रगड उजवीकडे ठेऊन आम्ही जंगलातून निघालो. वाट अगदी रुळलेली आहे, त्यामुळे चुकण्याची भीती अजिबात नाही. आमच्याकडे सोबत wikiloc असल्यामुळे आम्हाला योग्य मार्ग पाहता येत होता. ही वाट पुढे जाऊन वरून घळीतून येणाऱ्या वाटेला मिळते. येथे पाण्याचा झरा असावा. आम्ही थोडा वेळ विश्रांती घेतली आणि पाणी पिऊन घेतले.
क्षणभर विश्रांती

पुढचा टप्पा खड्या चढ्याचा असल्यामुळे आम्ही लगेच कूच केलं.  हा टप्पा चढताना सह्याद्रीचे रौद्ररूप आणि उंची काय आहे ते जाणवतं. आम्ही कोकणातून देशावर चढत होतो, ते ही महाबळेश्वरास म्हणजे जवळ जवळ पूर्ण 3500-4000 ft खडी चढण. ही चढण पुढे असणाऱ्या सापळ खिंडीच्या अलीकडे डावीकडे वळते, ही वाट आम्हाला चुकवायची नव्हती. भूगोलाचा अभ्यास केलेला होता त्यामुळे आम्ही दिशा आणि नकाशा ह्यांच्या आधारे योग्य वाटेवर होतो. मोठमोठें दगड धोंडे लागत होते, चढ वाढत चालला होता. दुपारचा 1 वाजला होता, आम्ही बऱ्यापैकी चढ मागे टाकला होता. आता अरण्य एकदम किर्र होतं. सावली होती आणि प्रसन्न वाटत होतं. आम्ही सध्या जावळीच्या पोटात होतो. मोर्यांनी महाराजांना लिहिलेल्या एका पत्रात “येता जावळी, जाता गोवळी” असा उल्लेख केला होता. असे म्हणतात की “हिडिंबेच्या केसातली ऊ सापडेल, पण जावळीच्या अरण्यातील हत्ती सापडणार नाही”. आम्ही हे सगळं फक्त ऐकलं/वाचलं होतं पण आता त्याची अनुभूती येत होती. आम्ही वाटेत एका ठिकाणी जेवण्यासाठी थांबलो. सगळेच चांगलेच दमलेले होते, सगळ्यांनी आणलेल्या पोतड्या उघडून आम्ही जेवण सुरू केलं. थोडीशी विश्रांती घेऊन आम्ही परत मार्गाला लागलो.आता आम्हाला बहिरीची घुमटी गाठायची होती पण अजून बराच चढ बाकी होता. आता आम्ही खाली पाहिलं तर चंद्रगड अगदीच छोटा वाटत होता, आम्ही सह्याद्रीची बऱ्यापैकी उंची चढलो होतो. खाली ढवळे नदीचं खोरं, पलीकडे महादेव मुऱ्हा,  एका बाजूला प्रतापगड, त्याच्यामागे मकरंदगड, सावित्री नदीचं खोरं अशी बेलाग सह्यधार नजरेस पडते. डोळ्यांचे पारणे फिटतील असा नजारा. पुढे वाट थोडीशी चढते, इथे आपल्याला कातळात कोरलेल्या पायऱ्या दिसतात, हीच साक्ष आहे ह्या घाटवाटेच्या पुरातन वापराची. इथून पुढचा टप्पा मात्र अगदीच अवघड आहे. एका बाजूला डोंगरकडा आणि दुसऱ्या बाजूला खोल दरी. अगदी डोंगराच्या पाठीवर कोरलेली वाट.वाट अगदीच निसरडी व छोटी आहे, दृष्टीभय आहे. हा टप्पा जपून पार केलात की आपण घुमटीपाशी पोहोचतो. बहिरीची घुमटी हा एकदम छोटासा सपाटीचा भाग आहे, इथे एक वनदेवता आहे. असे म्हणतात की ही मूर्ती चोरून नेण्याचा प्रयत्न केला होता पण मूर्ती नेता आली नाही. सध्या हे मंदिर भग्नावस्थेत आहे. मागेच एक मोठा धोंडा आहे. गावातले लोक इथे येऊन पूजा-अर्चा करतात. देवीला नवस बोलतात.
बहिरीची घुमटी

ह्या छोट्याश्या पठाराच्या मागे सह्याद्रीचा कातळ कडा, खाली खोलवर दरी, समोर दिसणारा चंद्रगड, ढवळ खोरं, कोलेश्वर पश्चिम टोक, मागे रायरेश्वर पठार आणि आमच्या मागच्या बाजूला महाबळेश्वर पठार. सह्याद्रीचे इतके अजस्त्र रूप तुम्हाला दुसरीकडे कुठे पाहता येणार नाही. घुमटीच्या थोडंस आधी उजवीकडे कारवीतून मार्ग जातो, पुढे थोडासा चढ लागतो आणि लगेच दगडी पायऱ्या लागतात, इथेच “जोरचे पाणी” आहे, जे ह्या पूर्ण ट्रेक मधले एकमेव पाण्याचे ठिकाण आहे. घुमटी पासून एक रस्ता खाली जोर ह्या गावाला उतरतो. आम्ही पाणी भरलं आणि घुमटी समोरच टेंट pitch केल्या. स्वयंपाक उरकून आम्ही सगळे मस्त तारांगण पाहत बसलो. हा अनुभव शब्दात मांडता येणं महाकठीण. हे निसर्ग सौंदर्य आपल्या सह्याद्रीत आहे, हे महत्वाचं. रात्री कडाक्याची थंडी होती. पहाट झाली आणि सुर्यनारायणाचं दर्शन झालं. सह्याद्रीच्या डोंगर कपारींमधून सूर्य नारायण पाहणं हा एक वेगळाच अनुभव आहे. Maggie आणि चहा बनवून आम्ही पुढे कूच केले.
सह्याद्रीचे अजस्त्र रूप

ह्या दिवशी आम्हाला मढी महल गाठायचे होते, आता चढ जास्त नव्हता, 3 तासात आम्ही पोहोचू असे वाटले. घुमटी मागे सोडली आणि चढ सुरू केला. थोड्याच वेळात खाली दरीत सापळखिंड, घुमटी, खाली ढवळ खोरं सगळं दृष्टीस पडताच जाणवलं की आपण किती उंच आलेलो आहोत. थोडासा चढ चढल्यावर आपण एका अश्या जागेवर येतो ज्याला विंडो पॉईंट म्हणतात, इथून पलीकडे जोर चे खोरे आणि अलीकडे ढवळ खोरे. समोर आता अजस्त्र असा महाबळेश्वर खुणावत होता. प्रतापगड, मधू-मकरंदगड हे सर्व किल्ले आता स्पष्ट दिसत होते.
Window पॉईंट
समोर आर्थर सीट आणि महाबळेश्वराचे तासलेले कडे. इथून पुढे आपण एका पठारावर येतो ज्याला “गाढवाचे माळ” म्हणतात. इथे बहुदा पूर्वीच्या काळी गाढवानां बांधत असावेत. हे पठार पार केल्यावर आपण परत दाट झाडीत प्रवेश करतो. ह्या भागात “कडुलिंबाची” बरीच झाडे आहेत. इथून थोड्या अंतरावर परत थोडासा चढ आहे ह्यानंतर मात्र आपण आर्थर सीटच्या एकदम जवळ येतो, एक छोटासा rock patch आहे, प्रस्तरारोहणाची गरज नाही, हा टप्पा पार केल्यावर आपण मढी महलला पोचतो. आम्ही हा ट्रेक केला तेव्हा गणतन्त्र दिवस होता,आम्ही इथेच राष्ट्रगीत म्हणून “26 january” साजरी केली. मढी महालला पोहोचल्यावर आम्ही थोडासा आराम केला, खाऊन घेतलं आणि पुढे ओल्ड महाबळेश्वरला जाण्यासाठी वाहन शोधायला लागलो. त्या दिवशी खूपच गर्दी असल्यामुळे आम्ही गाडी प्रवास टाळला आणि पायी निघालो. आर्थर सीट ते ओल्ड महाबळेश्वर पुन्हा 2-3 तासाचा ट्रेक आहे, पण मार्ग सोपा आहे. बऱ्याचदा आम्ही थोडं चुकलो पण परत योग्य मार्गावर आलो. आम्ही हा ट्रेक 3 तासात संपवला आणि तिथून ओल्ड महाबळेश्वर गाठले. तिथून एका सहा आसनी गाडीनं आम्हाला बस स्टँडला सोडलं. आधी पोटभर जेऊन घेतले आणि मग आम्ही महाबळेश्वरहुन आपापल्या घरी निघालो. दोघे पुण्याला तर आम्ही चौघे मुंबईला निघालो. येताना पूर्ण प्रवासात आम्ही त्या “बहिरीच्या घुमटीला” आणि “जवळीला” मनात भरभरून साठवत होतो.

मढी महल/आर्थर सीट

ह्या पूर्ण ट्रेक मध्ये आम्ही “अरुण कुंभार” ह्यांनी दिलेला wikiloc वरचा नकाशा वापरला.

Wikiloc map

Lonavala-Bhimashankar-Siddhagad (Lo-Bhi-Sid)

Trekking in Sahyadri can be categorized into 3 different formats-
Small hikes
Medium hikes
Trail run/Mega treks
In all of these three formats you would come across two different trials, one is the hike to the forts and another is the mountain pass.
The trek that I am going to take you along, with this article is the “Dream come true” trek to anyone who loves the slopes.

Region– Lonavala and Bhimashankar
Trail pattern– Ascend, descend and plateau walk. No rock patches
Difficulty level– Difficult in terms of stamina and distance. You need to do it with tremendous patience and a perfect plan.
Actual trek distance– 70-75 kms

This dates back to September, 2015. We were looking for new options to explore. The weather was just right as it was cold, green and full of life. We stumbled upon this trek after checking other options. The plan was made by Imran Vasta and we were 5 in the team. But 2 members cancelled due to some reasons and we were now left with 3 people. We decided not to quit and we marched ahead. Prashant Salian was along, as always. The map was studied by Imran bhai. He had done the trail from Lonavala to Rajmachi, Rajmachi to Dhak and he knew the fact that the trail is quite clear from Padarwadi to Bhimashankar. Also, we had been to Kamaljai plateau from Vajantri ghat and we had done the Bhorgiri route till Bhimashankar. But, the challenging part was to find the way to Kusur and from Kusur Plateau to the Kusur gaon.
Kusur plateau is one of the largest table top land that one can find in the Sahyadri. It is just jaw dropping. You would keep walking on the plateau for hours and hours and yet you would not even find any lead, if you missed out the correct trail. Also, the trail has a lot of dense jungle patches, closely spaced trees and the forest is inhabited by leopards. It is difficult to find the trail and it is quite lengthy, energy consuming and you require hell lot of patience. If you lack patience I would not recommend you to walk on this plateau.


Day-1
We left on 4th September midnight (Friday). Our backpacks were heavy, very heavy to be precise (14kgs around). We had the load of three days (but actual weight was for 4 or 5 days). We had everything with us, to mention some of the menu- Imli rice made by Prashant (That would almost suffice for 3 days), Methi Paratha made by me (For the breakfast) and lots of fruits and other stuff brought by Imran bhai. Everyone had almost 5 litres of Water along with Tang and other rehydration sachets. We had planned for the worst, so that even if anything goes wrong, we would still have shelter, food and water.
We left Mumbai at around 12in the night and took the last bus to Pune via Lonavala. We got down at Lonavala at around 2:30 am. We packed our bags and started the trek at around 2:45 am. We took left from the petrol pump and marched straight till we met the route to Rajmachi. The initial hike is steep and later on as you reach certain elevation the trail flattens out. As you climb the route you see the city lights of Lonavala. We passed the upper deck resort, that is last resort on the trail. After this, you come out of the village and the trail meanders through the jungle. After almost an hour, you come across a junction called as “Jambhali naka”. The left route goes to Rajmachi and the Right route goes to Valvand. We took the right and took the trail to Valvand. This was our first place of halt. We had black tea made from jaggery here from the local villager, took a break of about 15 mins and we started off for the next part of the trek. The trail now goes parallel to the water canal and some point, you can see the route that climbs up.

We need to take this route. This route goes to “Kondeshwar”. The local villagers can help you with the trail. You start gaining elevation here and now we can see the Valvand village beneath. The trail is straight, well-marked and narrow at some points. You need to be alert here as you need to get down the hill towards a “Triangular shaped plateau” that you can see from the hill. The trail is not well marked hence there are chances to loose the trail. We lost the left turn and headed straight. Imran bhai found out that we have missed the trail and we started searching the exact route. We saw Kondeshwar mandir beneath and that’s a sign that shows you’ve missed the trail. Because you do not see the temple from the triangular shaped plateau. Soon we found the actual trail. The trail goes through thick bush and it is quite scree as some places due to loose soil. We soon came out of the thick bush and entered the small plateau. From this point, one can see the “Dhak fort”.

This almost marks to the 30-35% trail of “Rajmachi to Dhak Bahiri”. We had Methi paratha here along with Imli rice and other things that we had along. After the refreshing breakfast we started again towards Bhimashankar. As you come out of the plateau, you can find a junction. The straight route goes to Dhak and the Right trail ascend towards Kusur. There is giant tree here, where a board has been placed that can guide you from being lost. The trail now ascends to the Kusur Plateau, the giant plateau. We started walking the plateau. After almost 1 and half hour of non-stop walk, we decided to have lunch there. Man, the lunch was just amazing. We had enough water and felt satisfied. We decided to rest for a while (for 15 mins) and we soon we ended up snoring We all were dead asleep and we got up after almost 40 mins. We had water and started the next part of the plateau trek.

Water canal
Way towards Dhak/Bhimashankar
Kusur plateau


The zone that we had entered now was a dense jungle, very dark and scary. The trees were so closely spaced, that we could barely see anything ahead. We also saw some pug-marks on the way. We came out of this mysterious patch and the un-ending trail was checking our level of patience. We were walking for almost 2 and half hours on that plateau. To some relief we saw a small hut and we enquired about the trail to the villager. He told us that we missed the left turn towards the tower and that we need to go back and walk some 45 mins again. We were blessed that we met that villager, because we came to know that the plateau was still long and after 2hr of walk, we would have ended up at “Kamshet”. We now came back to the long tower that we had seen before. This is the landmark to take left. There is a small hut here and the trail descends to Kusur village. After about 45 mins we reached Kusur village. Here we had completed almost 2/3 of the trail. From Kusur, you need to travel to “Talpewadi” which was our first halt for the day. We did find any vehicles here to travel till Talpewadi. We requested the villagers to drop us there and they agreed. We paid them and they dropped us to the village. We took off our sacks and ended our day 1 at around 6 pm. We had our food and we slept early.

Way towards Gaydara ghat. Sakharmachi at the backdrop


Day-2
Our target for the day was to reach Padarwadi. The local villagers showed us the start of the trail. We started our hike towards the Vandre khind. We had a good start of the day; the weather was pleasant and trail was green. Very soon after about 40 mins we came across a waterfall. Unnamed waterfall, but I bet you, you wouldn’t see a waterfall like this anywhere. It’s amidst dense forest, no one around. You get completely soaked in the beauty that nature offers.
Figure 4Waterfall at Talpewadi
The water was freezing cold. We enjoyed a bit here. After a break of about 20 mins, we started our hike towards the Vandre khind. We lost the track here as there were two routes and we took the straight route. Soon we realised this and one went to the right and one checked for any other possible trail. Soon we figured out the trail. We took the right turn and one can easily see a wind mills on the hill. We need to follow same direction until we reach the mouth of the valley. To mark the mouth of the valley, pile of stones arranged one above the other have been kept atop. One cannot miss this point. From here you start descending the trail. After about 45 mins you reach a small inhabited town called “Vandrewadi” followed by Padarwadi.

The experience that we had in Padarwadi was really awful. They wanted us to hire one of the locals as our guide and we refused as we wanted to do it on our own. They even misguided us and told the wrong route so that we would come back to the village to ask for their help. They even frightened us not to do the trail as we would get lost in the jungle. We moved ahead and we still found out the correct route. All because of Imran bhai. He knew that there is a proper, cattle trail ahead of Padarwadi and that is prominent. After R&D we were back on the track. We took right on this trail and now the trail was straight and it was a cattle route. We walked for about 15 mins and on the left you can see a mark that indicates the way to the Bhimashankar. You need to be alert here. Once you enter this trail, the route is well marked and it’s hard to be lost. You see a school and you need to take left here. The trail is prominent and after about 1 and half hr, you reach “Kamaljai mandir”. The route from “Vajantri Ghat” meets here. After this point you need to cross “Bhima River” and now the trail is of the Bhorgiri Bhimashankar route. We entered the “Gupt Bhimashankar” and after 15 mins we reached “Bhimashankar”. That completed the major part of the trail which was about 60kms from Lonavala. In between 8-9 kms is a tar road from Kusur to Talpewadi. So if we take out that part we had trekked almost 50-55kms in two days. We had tea and snacks at Bhimashankar and headed towards “Kondhwal”. We got a vehicle that dropped us to Kondhwal. We ended the day 2 here.


Day-3
The hospitality that was shown by the villagers of “Kondhwal” was terrific. They welcomed us and made us feel comfortable. Soon we felt as if we were one amongst them. Next day they gave us “Milk tea” and also offered us “Bhakri and Bhaji”. We felt emotional as the kind of hospitality they offered us for beyond our imagination. We left the village with a heavy heart. The next part of the trek was to follow the “Ahupe ghat” route till Siddhagad. We took a local villager to help us show the path. After about an hour we came at the entrance of the mountain pass called “Gaydhara ghat”. We descended till Siddhagad machi. We could see the Sakhar machi and our plan was to descend via sakhar machi.


But the trail was closed as the area was landslide prone and the trail was lost in that. So, the next option that our guide gave was to descend “Jhakmata, Narmata ghat”. We continued our trail until we reached “Narmata mandir”.

Narmata mandir

We took break here and after 25 mins we started traversing the siddhagad, siddhachi lingi. There is another temple called as “Jhak mata” that we came across. The trail now descended quite sharp. We were walking continuously for 3 days now. We finished the descend and reached the statue of “Bhai Kotwal” at the base. This marked the end of the trek. From here we took an Auto to Mhasa and from Mhasa we found a shared vehicle that dropped us to Murbad. From Murbad we came to Kalyan and that’s where we were finally done.
The entire trek was about 70-75kms and we did it in 3 days. This trek was one of the finest treks I’ve ever come across. It demands patience, trail knowledge, map study and will power to finish the trek. This trek will always have a special place in my heart. We finished the trek with a heavy heart.

Emotions

Grumpy emotions often get submerged within, leaving no vent to the enlightment! All the hues of mankind upsurge with maturity, except the way to apprehend his life!

It’s strange how a chapter in your life unfolds. At some moment of time, you feel, the pages that you had read, have come up again. Same clause, same words, but with a different interpretation. They whip your past trying to snuggle around with your present.

Emotions often drive those endless roads, having no destination. Just like highways, connecting one city with the other. They often come, to drive you all over again. It’s all up to you, to hold back and enjoy while you drive downtown or to complain passing the same streets, all over again!

Agony, grief, euphoria, anger, disquietude, fatigue are all sorts of emotions that you live with. They roll the ball, tackling all the odds, trying to take over the supreme position of “control”. So, set the court free, dodge your emotions, for that shall make you stand firm in passing storm!

-Ajinkya Gadgil, 24/04/2020

Bramhatal 9th feb to 14th feb 2019

We seldom forget our destination, but sometimes the journey is so beautiful, that we wish the path never leads to the destination. Because the end point marks the end of the fun, and what keeps us going is the journey. A journey to search one’s own heart. A journey to find solace. Himalayas, my second home, a place where i can go, when i’m in bitter need of peace. This time we had planned for bramhatal, a winter trek in the hills of garhwal range. The journey started from kathgodam. Of all the stations that i have visited so far, none could take the position of kathgodam.

The station is right at the base of the himalayan hills. The last place where you can buy all the stuff that you need before heading off towards the mountains. The drive was long yet lenient as we were enjoying the sweeping lawns and landscaped vistas. We had our breakfast at Dewal and headed towards almora, kausani and finally reaching lohajung. As we crossed kausani, cold breeze started engulfing the warmness inside the car. It was dark as we reached lohajung base camp. Lohajung was completely blanketed under snow. It was cold, and we settled quickly into our rooms. We had a briefing session about our trek. Due to bad weather, the entire trail was sunk under the snow, and a new route was chopped down with shovels in the snow. Bramhatal summit had around 4 and a half feet of snow, that made it difficult to reach the top. Itinerary was changed and the camping at bekaltal and bramhatal was changed to daldum.

Daldum campsite

It was not possible to camp at those sites because of the snow. Next day we headed to daldum. A small 4kms trail that was completely covered with snow. We reached at around 1pm and had an amazing lunch at top. We took our tents, and the fun started. At 4pm we had our tea, followed by soup and snacks. The place where we had camped was completely into snow. It was around knee level. That took an extra effort every time we had to move around the tent. Weather was clear and we could see the setting sun. The colours intermixed creating a fabulous skyline. The temperature dropped down to negative and soon we had our dinner, played an amazing game of UNO and at around 11pm we went to rest. The sky turned out to be cloudy and we were not lucky to see a star lit sky. But nevertheless we had an amazing weather. Next morning, we headed to see the bekaltal.

Bekaltal- A frozen lake

It is one of the high altitude frozen lake, that is attached with many local stories. The route towards bekaltal was just magical. The snow turned out to be powdery now, and it looked as if the the powder was just sprinkled upon the trail. It was literally soft and gave an soothing effect, when touched. The trail was so damn beautiful, that it was hard to be captured into a lens. Standing on the shoulders of the frozen lake, we realised how much less we have seen nature, and how beautiful our country is. We had our lunch and came back to daldum campsite. Post tea, soup and snacks we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. It was jalebi for dinner along with roti, sabzi and chawal. Next day we headed to the jhandi top, a summit at 11,500 feet. The trail was a continuous ascend of about 3 hrs, that took us to the summit.

Summit trail

The moment we reached summit, we were speechless. The view that we were seeing was beyond any imagination. We saw Mt Nanda ghunti, Mt Trishul, Mt mana, Mt maitoli and so on. Also we could see bedini bugyal and the roopkund trail, which lies just besides the bramhatal trail and can be clearly seen from the top. We enjoyed the beauty, took some photographs and headed towards daldum. We were surprised to see ‘garma garam samosa’ at the base camp for us. We enjoyed the snacks and had amazing dinner that night. This time the menu was gulab jamun. The next day, we headed towards lohajung and that marked an end to the wonderful journey we made into the mountains. We had a great group and all the team members now became a part of the family. We started our journey to kathgodam with heavy heart and sack full of memories , with a promise to return back to the mountains soon!

Painting the canvas

The shades of red entered a palette.
Diminishing the light, fading the way.
Painting the canvas with an untold story.

The story of valour, the story of pride.
The story of a battle that ended up right.

The unsung song was sung with glory. With all the syllables it could hold with fury.

For the canvas knew, the story had a golden fringe.
And soon the chariot would thrive the journey.

Soon a pawn played its role,
The rays were swept across the globe

The blue from palette ran across the lawn

Changing the story with a new song.

Tahuli-Dadima

People in Mumbai and Pune are blessed to have numerous treks that can be done in a day. Tahuli, is one such trek. Its approximately 40 mins from kalyan and is easily accesible, yet this trek is not done by many. There are many peaks that scale high, and are interconnected, which are together known as Tahuli. On it’s opposite side, the two tall peaks of haji malang stand tall.

Some details about the trek-

Category- Hill trek

Difficulty- Medium

Endurance level- High

Elevation- 3487 feet above MSL

Time of ascend- Approx 4 hrs

Time of descend- 3 and a half hour

Total no of kms to and fro- 23 kms

There are two major points where you hike on Tahuli. The one that is visited by many is Dadima and the lesser know is Panch peer. We had decided to visit Dadima. As planned, we all met at Kalyan station by 6:30 am and took the bus at 6:35 am from Kalyan going to Haji Malang. It was a beautiful day, with green backdrop everywhere as we left kalyan. We could soon see some big green mountains as we came near to our base village. After 40 mins, we reached khushivali, base village for Tahuli from Kalyan side. The bus drops you at a stop, where you have a road going to the left, which is a proper tar road.

Start point of the trek, Khushivali village

As you enter the village, you see a magnificent backdrop of all the peaks that stand tall. The peaks are all around you and the more you start looking at them, the more you start falling in love with them. I would bet who wouldn’t be amazed by such a pretty view. As you walk for 5 mins on the tar road, you come across a village, with a mud trail. Follow the route, which is a straight route with no turns. It’s a plateau walk of about 4.5 kms, ahead of which, you come across a small stream which you have to cross. After another 10 mins, you need to cross another stream, now much bigger than the previous one. In summer, it’s completely dried up, but in monsoon, during high time, you can expect lot of water here.

Water stream

Soon as you cross the stream, the actual hike starts. You start gaining height rapidly. You now enter into a deep forest, covered with canopy. You gain height rapidly now.

After an hour, you reach a waterfall, which you have to traverse. At some point, you come across two paths, you need to take the one of the left,which is going staight. The right path goes to haji malang. There is a temporary shade that you can see here which is an indication of the correct route.

Temporaray shade, take the left route

After this point, you again gain height rapidly, and soon you reach a plateau. The walk after this point is a plateau walk of about an hour. On the way, you also see a reverse waterfall

Reverse waterfall

After 30 mins, the trail again starts climbing up and soon you reach out of the jungle patch, and now you can see ganesh kartik pinnacle right in front of you

Ganesh-Kartik pinnacle

After another 15 mins, you reach the first pit stop, a hut, which is where you can take your first break. There is a shiva temple around, which is currently under construction.

Shiva temple, first pit stop

After this, you need to hike for another 45 mins, and now you come across rock cut steps, which take you to another water source, a small waterfall, where railings have been placed.

Railings placed, just before the second hut

As you cross this, you reach to the second pit stop, a hut, which is where you can take your second break. After this, you keep walking for an hour and half, where in, the ganesh kartik pinnacle is to your right initially. You see a beautiful view of the ganesh kartik pinnacle. There is a natural stone that has been fallen down, in between both the peaks.

Ganesh Kartik pinnacle

After a walk of an hour, you now come onto a ridge, which is the most beautiful part of the journey. We were lucky to experience a magical view here, with rain lashing on to one cheek, and wind gushing on to the another. Clouds made the view more lovely.

Ridge walk

The sight was to behold. As you cross the ridge, You now climb the final section of 15 mins, that will take you to the top of the Dadima pinnacle. There is a Gadge maharaj dharmashala on top, and also you can find a few tombs of Muslim saints. There is also a shiva idol on the top. This place is a perfect conglomerate of two religions, at the same plateau. To sum up, it was a wonderful trek, filled with serene view of the mountains. It is a perfect get away, that you would want, close to the city. Thanks to everyone, for making this a memorable one.

Happy trekking😊

Science dipped into emotions

When you think you have done for the day, and try to relax, that’s when the “thoughts” crack the soil. You start thinking about what happened in the recent past. You start wondering what you are going to do in the coming months. You start dreaming. I sometimes wonder why our brain loves to dive in the past. Why does it even want to visit those places, those folded pages, which we have lived to the fullest. Memories that you share with your friends, the stupid things that you do with them, create a special place in your heart. You remember every single thing that you have done with them. According to the neuro science, memories are stored in two different forms. One, the short term memory and the other, long term memory. That’s how the brain works in getting out the trash cleaned and storing only few things into the long term section, if not, we would have flooded our brain with tons of unwanted information. You still remember those days when you came back home after a long day at school, and without even changing your uniform, you ended up playing outdoor. I personally believe our generation was really lucky, because we have played outside. We had endless games to play, to chunk down few of them, we played cricket, football, volley ball which school kids play even now, but we had few other games that we have played like top, hide and seek, catching a thief, marbles and the list would go on and on. We still remember every single moment of the days that we have lived. Those were the days when we went to each other’s place to call out for a game. A single thing associated with that makes your brain dive back into that very moment which you have truly lived. Those summer vacations when you have plucked mangoes, not by hand but by hitting a stone, and collecting the heap with joy. All these memories pave a way into the section of the cortex and it remains shared within numerous neurons spread across. Another fascinating thing with the memory is a fragrance. Yes, a fragrance is also a emotion, that is stored into the olfactory lobe of the brain. Each and every smell that you have experienced in the past, is clogged with a memory that clings to it. So a smell of raw mango, would take you down the lane into the summer vacations. The smell of jasmine, would make you remember the garland your granny used to offer to lord ganesha. The smell of soil, when it rains, will definitely run you down the days when you have tasted that wet soil as a kid. The smell of green herbacious odor, takes you down the lane when you had rolled upon a grass. The smell that you have had, gets along your brain and is stored with either a emotion or a visual effect or sometimes both. It would be rather strange to know, but the smell is also associated with your mood. Some fragrances make you feel happy, some fragrances make you feel sad and some make you feel into the nature. The olfactory lobe of the brain is the section where in the odour is analyzed by our brain. The olfactory lobe has several olfactory bulbs which are connected with the amygdala and the hippocampus of the brain. So, as the odour reaches this particular area, it triggers a series of emotions. Apart from smell, no other sensory organs are linked to the hippocampus and amygdala of the brain, where the visual and sensory emotions are stored. That is the reason, a smell can provoke endless hidden memories, and can trigger your emotions, your behaviour. A fragrance can take you all along the path that you have traversed. People suffering from anosmia (A disorder where in a person cannot smell), do not feel anything, they cannot connect emotions with sensory behaviour. They feel depressed and find no interest in the life. That’s something uncanny, but that’s how the science is dipped into the emotions!

Manikgad-A gem amongst forts

People from Mumbai and Pune are blessed with nature as the Sahyadri runs across both the cities. Reach Panvel and you will get a list of treks that can be done in a day. As you travel from Mumbai to Pune through express way, you come across many forts on your left and right. As you reach close to Panvel you can see Irshalgad, Kalavantin, Prabalgad, On your left and Karnala or your right. Exactly opposite to the karnala you find another fort that stands tall amogst all other peaks, and that is none other than Manikgad. The name is derived from Manik-Ruby, as it was considered to be special and precious as the ruby. The fort, now remains, was a watch tower to keep an eye on the trade route that now runs between Mumbai and Pune. Some details about the fort-

Range of sahyadri-None, it does not connect any major range.

Altitude-1876 feet above MSL

Type of fort-Hill fort

Aim of the fort-Watch tower

Base village- Vadgaon

Details about the route- Vadgaon is the base village for the trek. To reach vadgaon you need to get down at Panvel, if you are coming from Mumbai. Take a bus from Panvel bus stand and reach Vadgaon. There is a bus at 7am from Panvel that takes you directly to Vadgaon. If you happen to arrive late, you can take a bus to Vashiwali. Vashiwali and Vadgaon are just 15 mins apart. There are good number of buses to vashiwali. If you reach vashivali, walk a few meters ahead and you will come across a right turn. A board has been hanged that indicates you the turn. Walk straight as you reach Vadgaon. Ask for the locals to reach the start point of the trek from village. We met Atmaram jambhulkar, who was our local friend there. We had our breakfast and tea there. He provided us with the guide. A marking (Radium/Glowing label) has been pitched on a tree to show you the start point of the trek. A mountain trunk connects Manikgad to Vadgaon. Start walking along the well trodden route. After 20 minutes we came across steps that have been carved out in the basalt. After 25 minutues we reached a plateau. This plateau takes about 45 minutes to complete. You can see Manikgad right infront of you. Soon you end up reaching the exact base of the fort. The view is just jaw dropping. You can see the majestic fort, right infront of you. There are two routes that you need to consider. The one on the left starts ascending and it is the shortest route. However, the ascend is steep. This route is called as “Eka payachi waat” meaning “A narrow route”. The initial climb is through the jungle and in next 5 minutes you reach an open area. You can see another route on the right side and the fort right infront. The route is quite narrow at two points, but can be done easily. You enter a col and this takes you to the top. As we started climbing, heavy downpour welcomed us. Rain water found the gaps and pores of the cracks and soon started overflowing. There are boulders on the way and the climb drives your adrenaline rush. After you reach the top, at a point you come across two paths, one going straight and another turning right and climbing up. Take the right route. Soon after 10 minutes you see the ramparts of the fort. You come across a water tank on the right. You can see wide view from here. Vadgaon can be spotted easily from here. After you cross the tank, take a right turn and follow the trodden route. Soon you enter the fort through the broken rampart. As you reach the top you can see a big crusher for calcium carbonate. It is called as “Chunyacha ghana” where the calcium carbonate was crushed and mixed along with jaggery and used for construction of forts. Keep walking ahead and you come across a big water tank, a huge structure on the fort. A straight route takes you through another gate, which is now broken. A ganesha idol is been fixed over the top of the gate. This was the inner most part of the fort and now you reach the highest point of the fort. Remains of some palaces can be seen here. As you walk ahead you come across a bastion, where you get a nice view of the valley beneath. Turn right keeping the valley now to your left and keep walking staight. You can see two water tanks here and another water tank beneath the rampart. This was the hidden passage that takes you outside the fort. When the weather is clear you can see Irshalgad,Prabalgad,Matheran in the North, Karnala in the north-west and sankshi fort in the North-East direction. There is a old shiva temple, which is now competely destroyed and only a shiva linga can be seen. A straight route takes you to the initial point of the fort. On the We had our lunch there at the top and started descending the trail. We reached base village at 7:30 and had steamy hot tea. Mr Jambhulkar dropped us at Vashiwali. We took the bus at 8 and reached panvel at 9:30. Finally it was the time to bid adeu. The most difficult part of the journey. We parted away with lot of memories.

Dayara Bugyal

Trekking into the himalayas always brings a glee to the tired soul. Himalayas are often travelled for either mythological connection or to hit the snowy slopes of the terrain. Most people enjoy winter treks as you get to crush the snow under your feet, which any city chap would love to do. When in summer the terrain changes to grassland and snow can be found only at higher altitudes. There is another side of the coin which very few people are aware of, the bugyal or the meadows. At altitudes higher than the treeline, some areas are covered with lush green meadows, spread to the infinity. This trek was one of those meadows which make you remove your shoes and walk barefoot on the grass. Our group consisted of Myself, Subodh dada, Dhani, Chitra and Dhanashree. The magnitude of those meadows cannot be filled into words and only retina can capture it. With a view of mighty peaks like Banderpoonch, Gangotri 1, DKD 1, DKD 2, Swargarohini, Kala nag, Shrikhanda Mahadev and many more snow capped peaks along the horizon, you enjoy the best of both worlds. Day one started with the journey from Dehradun to Raithal, a small village nestled amidst the arms of himalayan slopes. You get to see a typical three storeyed house, dating back to 18th century. The house is made up of stones and wooden blogs, set one upon the other. Wheat is the main cash crop of the village. Day one was bit steep but it was well defined trail. Day two started with a 4kms walk from Raithal to Gui. Another small place where some people of Raithal settle down in the summer season. Beautiful place to camp on. You get to see mighty alpine trees, surrounded by all sides and just one open land mass where you pitch your tent. We got to see some igloo houses made by the forest department. We played some football at the slopes to acclimatize faster. All the meals served were sumptuous. Temperature dropped down to 6°C as the midnight approached. Day three started with a 4kms walk from Gui to Dayara, a vast expanse of lush green meadows, which looked as if the green carpet was laid down by the nature. No wonder, people would go crazy and run down barefoot on this carpet. The feel of the soft grass under your feet is heavenly. You can just see green slopes till the expanse of your vision. To add cherry over the cake, the himalayan big peaks were extended at the horizon. The campsite was just a gem of the throne. Day 4 was the summit day, where we started from Dayara Bugyal to Bakhriya top. The highest point of the trek. We all reached pretty quickly and after clicking some pics we started trekking towards Barshu. In all it was a 8kms walk for the day. We had started at 8:30 in the morning from Dayara and reached Barshu at around 1 in the noon. This marked the end of the trail and we took our cabs from Barshu to reach Dehradun and ahead to Delhi. The flora that we encountered enroute composed of Golden leaf tree, Silver leaf tree, Cedarwood, Oak species, Maple trees, Horse chestnut, and some insectivorous pitcher plants. Monal, black bulbul, Himalayan vulture, Quail were some of the birds that are abundant in this region. To sum up, the journey was like a fairy tale and all the memories that we made can never be erased.

Connections

Some connections are so complex that it takes you years and years to understand it’s complexity. I have got a close connection with the mountains. I do not know what made me connect to the mountains, why i was looking for them, who made me understand them, all i know is, now they have become an integral part of my life. Travelling is the sine qua non of my life. On dull days, i hit to the mountains. On days when i am happy, i head to the nature to celebrate it. You need to understand the silence nature offers. There is a lot to understand if you can grasp everything. If you feel your life has become messy, take a deep breath, and just make your way out of the city. A place where you own a 4×4, where the walls of opposite buildings make a tangent with your own. Escape out, sit on a dry wooden log, walk on the trail, crunching those brown dried leaves under your sole. Listen to the whistles of nature, lay down in the shadow of a tree. Find a lake or a river. Take a dip into it and feel the freshness. Smell the soil when it rains, get wet like a child, jump in a puddle. Get dirty. Life is not just to wear hat and tie. It does not matter who you are and where you work. Once you start walking on a trail, you become one with the nature. You become a part of the nature! So set free your limits, break those chains of stagnancy and head out, take a less trodden path and make your journey worth remembering!