Sandhan Valley or the Valley of Suspense is a narrow 1.5 kilometre long valley with 100 feet rock walls on both its sides carved by water over years in the Western Ghats! Sunrays are not able to penetrate to the bottom and hence the valley always stays pleasant, sometimes even cold. Winds roar across the huge boulders unflinchingly.
Sandhan Valley is filled with water during monsoons and becomes very slippery to rappel down; November to February is the best time to visit this – Post that, water reservoirs dry up, leading to paucity in drinking water. This is a two day trek; descent starts on Day 1 in the morning at 7.30 post breakfast and is followed by crossing a part filled with water by making a 10+ person human chain(4-6 feet deep, depending on the time you go), a 60 feet and a 30 feet rappel and some tricky descents on huge boulders. Post the descent, we camp at the end of the valley basking in the glory of moon light and start walking towards the village at dawn on the next day.
Kasara railway station is a pandora’s box for trekkers! It leads to many beautiful treks in the Western Ghats like Harishchandragad, Kalsubai, Alang, Madan, Kulang and Sandhan Valley. Catch the last local to Kasara and reach there by 3 AM. From Kasara, catch a jeep to Samrad. Taxi services are available; but would recommend you to do this trek only via a trekking organisation and in a group! You reach the base by 5.30 AM.
In addition to carrying necessary stuff for a trek and camping overnight, please carry the following too –
We registered with Mumbai Travellers – were a group of 34 people with 4 trek leaders. Trekking experience with Mumbai Travellers was good. Would recommend to join a group with a small group for this trek – coz there are three to four bottle necks and two rappelling points where only one member can descend at a time – thus making the procedure more time consuming for bigger groups.
Descending the valley; we crossed through huge boulders, braved the cool winds and crossed 5 foot deep water patch by forming human chains, rappelled down twice, crossed a cave in military style – crawling on our hands and legs trying not to lift our heads or else, it would bang with the boulders, jumped along the final path and finally set camp in the evening on not so flat surfaced rocks. Playing games and singing songs at the bonfire brought an end to a tiring day only for our eyes to open again to witness the entire lake-side camp bask in the glory of moonlight. It was bright enough for anyone to read a book, if he had brought one 😛 The valley looked extremely calm and beautiful in moonlight – the breeze soothed our bodies and helped divert attention from our aching legs. It looked beautiful in the night.
Siddharth, my trek mate made this poem on Sandhan. As for me, I’m sharing my story through a video this time. Check it out!!
Sleeping in taxi and base village for some time,
Trembling, shivering in the cold water, no one wanted to dip in,
Passing the bags and crossing stones,
Many sung songs in tone of their own.
Rappelling was breathtakingly,
sitting on high stones, watching the deep valley,
Jumping on stones to passing the stony cave,
Exhausted and tired, we had no energy saved,
It was a trek all adventure seekers crave.
Under the sky we played funny games,
Attacked on dinner and peacefully slept,
At 1 AM, alone a boy danced, I got to see by chance,
At 3 AM the moon overhead, illuminated the patch,
Only chirping crickets interrupted,
Still the silence and beauty was serene,
The wind at night made us shiver,
Sleeping on stone was once in a lifetime experience,
The upma in breakfast was tasty,
The walk to village was nasty
The village lunch was indeed feasty.
The video – Please watch it in HD mode for clarity!!
4. Academics & 2015
Clearing CFA Level II was a much anticipated expectation from 2015. Achieving it has made me all the more determined to give my best to the ultimate level in 2016.
5. Friends & 2015
RIP my Black and Yellow wind cheater – we spent a short but adventurous time together! 😛
Friday night 11.30 PM, Mihir and I finally decided to go on a trek next day and rigorously started looking up on the net for treks scheduled the next day – 30 minutes of efforts and we were on on our way to Gorakhgad next morning with trekking group ‘Wandering Soul Riders’!
Trek Difficulty – Medium with a tricky last 20 minute patch. We had a 52 year old lady with us and she was able to do it easily.
Getting there – Reach Kalyan by 7 AM in the morning. From Kalyan bus depot, catch an ST bus to Murbad (45 Min). From Murbad catch an ST bus to base village Dehri, alternatively you can catch a jeep too (45 Min).
Total Cost – To and fro journey from Kalyan will cost Rs 100 – Rs 150.
Frequency of Buses – There is a bus from Kalyan to Murbad every 15 minutes. Buses from Murbad to Dehri are at an interval of 45 minutes to one hour, so while returning plan your descent according to the bus timings – There is a bus from Dehri to Murbad at 5.15 PM, 6.00 PM and so on (They generally run 10 min late)
What to Wear & Carry – There is 30 minute dense foliage you need to navigate through in the start which protects you from the rains and sun, but also leads to itching. Wear full track pants and a t shirt (half sleeve if its going to be sunny) and carry some lotion or mosquito repellent. Carry atleast 3 litres of water as there is no water source on the top
Boarding the Wrong Bus
We reached Kalyan bus depot at 7 AM and after attendance, rushed in to board an ST bus. Boarding a bus in Kalyan is a different ball game, although there are buses every 15 minutes, it is over its occupancy capacity. People will run towards the bus depending on which spot is it parked (there are 10 spots). Each bus can go at any place, there are no fixed bus numbers. The moment the conductor announces the destination, people will throw in their luggage through windows to reserve their seats and rush in the bus. We jumped into the bus parked on spot 9 (which generally goes to Murbad). After five minutes we realised we had caught the wrong bus, had to de board and walk back to the bus depot! It was humorous the way others looked at us while we were getting down.
Boarding the right bus
Our trek leader was Yamini, a versatile student, pursuing third year engineering, done a one month mountaineering course! We got engrossed in her stories of various treks, her mountaineering experience and voila, we reached Murbad
Boarding the jeep
We had arranged for a vehicle to take us from Murbad to Dheri. However, it turned out to be a jeep. How do you manage to seat 15 people in a jeep? Simple, 4 people sit on the carrier! It was fun!
Starting the trek
We reached Dehri by 10 AM, had breakfast and started walking towards the huddle point near a temple. It was sunny, something we hadn’t prepared for (we assumed it will be pleasant or raining). After brief introduction, we started walking through greenery making our way amidst huge bushes, some had flowers, some had thorns. But all lead to itching.
There were sunflowers for a huge stretch amidst tall grass, wild orchids in all different shapes and sizes, mushrooms, spider webs and lots of earthworms.
The path ahead was no longer mucky, but had rock steps. The sun was right above us and rocks were too hot to walk on or take support of. But the thought of making it to the top beckoned us!
We tried walking as fast as possible to make it to the orange door upstairs which was like an entrance to heaven – a cool spot which protected us from the sun.
Reaching the Cave
After reaching there, there is another 5-10 min walk which took us to the cave! The cave was magnanimous – could accommodate close to hundred people inside!
We sat there in the cave, soaking in the view
After taking some rest, testing our walkie talkie and clicking some action pics, we decided to go ahead for the final climb towards the Shiva temple.
The Final Climb
Coming to the final ascend, we crossed a small water tank, which had many kinds of fish in it, we managed to spot a salmon too! The walk up was tricky, but made easy by strategic holes drilled on the rocks. Luckily, since it wasnt raining, rocks weren’t slippery.
View from the top
We reached the top at 1.30 PM, the view from the top was amazing. Sun shined highlighting the various shades of green! There were huge mountains on one side and deep valley on the other.
Sitting there on the edge
I saw an upright green wedge
Separating the Present from the Past
I stared silently at the shadow it cast
Lunch with Monkeys
As we began to descend back to the cave, (our lunch point) we realised almost all had finished their stock of water. Getting down to the cave was trickier than climbing up, but it was made easy by Yamini through rope she had carried, we rappelled our way down!
We had lunch inside the cave consciously trying to avoid monkeys but they managed to locate us. Finally, we shared food with them and had a great time.
We started the descent at 3.15 PM and managed to reach down by 5.15 PM. Since our water sources had depleted, the walk seemed long under the scorching heat. Walking back the same route still felt different, the mere change of angle made scenery more beautiful!
We saw a lot of butterflies in varied sizes and colours.
We made it to the base village and ordered nimbu paani at a shop. It was like elixir of life!! It totally refreshed our tired bodies and hot heads, a vibe of energy sparked inside and along with it the aliveness of completing the trek!! We proceeded to catch the 5.15 PM bus (which came at 5.30 PM) to Murbad and from there took a connecting bus to Kalyan Station and managed to reach home by 8 PM, right on time for dinner! 😉
The trek was an amazing test of our patience to bear the heat and persistence to go on.
Trek Group Contact Details – I would definitely recommend ‘Wandering Soul Riders’. Trek leader Yamini was well equipped and well trained to handle various situations. You can connect with them on facebook here. Contact Number – 7303055000. They do trekking, rafting, rappelling and bike rides.
After two back to back weekend treks, we ended up at Harishchandragad on Independence Day. It was special due to the day as well as the place we chose! Harishchandragad is in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, and is one of the most challenging treks in the Western Ghats.
History & Folklore of Harishchandragad
Harishchandragad fort is quiet ancient, with its origin dating back to the sixth century. There are caves situated all over the fort, believed to be carved out in the eleventh century. Kedareshwar cave is one of the biggest and hosts a big shivlingam which is surrounded by water. The lingam is surrounded by four pillars that essentially represent the four yugas of life on earth. The general belief is that the current phase is the Kali Yuga. The day the fourth pillar breaks down will be considered the end of this era.
Konkan Kada (Konkan Cliff) is one of the main reasons why you should visit this fort. Situated at 3994 feet high, this cobra head shaped cliff faces west and looks down upon the Konkan
Taramati Peak – the topmost point of the fort at 4679 feet boasts views of all surrounding mountain peaks – including Naneghat and other Murbad forts.
Trek Grade – Medium with some tricky parts
Routes to the top
There are three known routes you can take –
How we did it
We chose to ascend by Panchnai route and descend via Khireshwar route. We took at last local to Kasara and reached there on 15th August at 1:18 AM. From there we hopped onto a car to reach the base camp at Panchnai (3.5 hours). While we got down at Khireshwar, we hired a car till Kalyan station (2.5 – 3 hours) and then boarded a train from there.
We did this trek through Trek Guru but would not recommend it to others for lack of planning and awareness of the leader.
Harishchandragad being one of the most beautiful treks in Western ghats, my expectations from it were quite high. I was waiting thinking about the view that would greet us at Konkan Kada.
I was running late for catching the last local from Ghatkopar to Kasara; somehow I managed to board it and we assembled in the predecided coach. We were a group of 10 people. The entire coach was filled with trekkers – the biggest one being a 50 member group of Trek Mates India headed to Kalsubai. After catching up with friends and making new ones we reached Kasara and walked our way out to find this –
We had to climb the parked train in order to get down on the other side. The way to Pachnai base was uneventful, with almost everyone sleeping. The road wasn’t that good and there were no street lights. The silence in the car made the sound of rains lashing over the rooftop feel like thunderstorms. We reached there at 4.30 AM and opened the car door. The strong gush of wind filled our chest – painful at first, but pleasant once we got used to it. After resting, listening to music and having breakfast in the morning, we started the trek at 6 AM.
We huddled up, introduced ourselves, listened to the instructions. Virendra in our group had got us small flags! Pinning them with pride, we began walking; unaware of which mountain were we going to climb, thanks to the fog.
As we started climbing the incline, it started raining. Mud underneath became mushy and difficult to have a grip on and surroundings became more foggy.
After crossing some waterfalls, we came across a point where there were huge boulders and a small route on the edge to walk on.
We crossed around 4-5 small waterfalls, some bathed in all of them (our Bahubali – Mihir). We reached the temple near Kedareshwar caves and walked straight towards the cave first.
In Hinduism, there is Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the organiser) and Mahesh (the destructor). We need to destroy and make space to create something new and organise it. Lord Shiva/Mahadev/Mahesh is one of the coolest Gods – He dances, smokes chillum and has a third eye, which when opened leads to destruction. We embody all three forms.
There was a group of Lord Shiva followers who had reached there without footwear. They took a dip in the cave waters, chanting ‘Om Namah Shivah’ and paying respect to the indivisibleness of the linga and yoni – from which life originates. After praying to the shivlingam inside the huge cave, we proceeded towards the temple.
The temple was in ruins and engulfed in various climbers and creepers. There was a small lake besides the temple. Wild flowers adorned the roof of the temple. As we walked past the main entrance, we worshipped the linga, and then bowed to Lord Ganesha, the vanquisher of obstacles. It is said you should always start something new with blessings of Lord Ganesha.
As we were soaking in the glory of the temple, a group of 15 individuals came and asked us to be a part of flag hoisting! We felt pride in the fact we got to respect our flag at such 3994 feet! They were past members of NCC and we did the flag hoisting in correct spirit and procedure. As we sang our national anthem, drops of water fell from the sky and our Tiranga flew higher in the wind passing by. Patriotism filled our nerves and we got goosebumps, thinking of the soldiers who stand guard our borders in sub-zero temperatures for our protection! Standing there, I felt free – Freedom to think, envision and be what I want to. I imagined a possibility of hunger free India and thanked Modiji to bring back hope and rekindle my dreams of better India. I take pride in saying India is my country and I am doing my bit for its progress!
After the emotional moment, we began to walk towards Konkan Kada, passing through plateaus filled with greenery – be it grasses or flowers. Our trek leader didnt know the way to Konkan Kada and after crossing many non existant paths through dense bushes, he acknowledged the fact that we were lost and it would be better to head back from where we started.
We came back to the mid point where we ate lunch and then began to descend through Khireshwar route. The descent was eventful with many a skids and falls – Some ouchs to loud aaaaahhhhs!
It took us nearly 4.5 hours to reach Khireshwar base camp. Sometimes the fog would make way and we could see the scenery!
As we continued our way ahead quoting Suits and Game of thrones, we came to a tricky descent. The railings were shaking and the descent was steep. The fun of quoting Arnab saying ‘ The nation wants to know why the railings are shaking?’ left us and reality struck us. Our group leader stood last and guided from behind while we helped each other take necessary grips and get down. 😛 While each step taken wrong could lead to serious injuries, we managed to cross it and enjoy the view the route rewarded.
After completing the tricky part, rest of descent was manageable, we ran through the woods, where roots of huge trees acted as stairs. As we lost sight of some members, we would shout ‘O A’ and they would reply back ‘A O’ (to confirm they are following us).
The wind was strong enough to change the flow of waterfalls! Some flowing at different angle while some defying gravity and not falling down, creating reverse waterfalls.
After finishing the major chunk of descent, as we waited for rest of members to catch up, we dipped our shoes in running water and our aching toes got some much needed relief! Though, its another story that we had to walk further for an hour with wet shoes on!!:P
We reached the final viewpoint on the route and saw the deep valley beneath us. It was breathtaking!
Another 45 minutes of comfortable descent and we had reached Khireshwar base! We got out of our wet shoes, changed our clothes and began to walk towards the main highway (approx 7 km from there)
As we crossed around one km, it started raining again and we felt its better to board a car directly to Kalyan station.
After some inquiries from houses coming on our way, we waited at a dhaba and then booked a car from there to Kalyan directly. The wait was worth it for all our legs were aching badly.
We got network once we touched the highway, made necessary calls to our families (yes, I’m alive :P) and watched with baited breath as the sun made its way to the horizon.
On our way back, Malsej ghats was totally crowded, people had parked their cars and were bathing on the road in small waterfalls. It was like we re entered the concrete jungle, filled with people, noice and pollution.
The trip ended with us running from one platform to another in Kalyan trying to figure out on which platform would train to CST come first and announcements kept changing (there are two platforms for CST – one from Karjat and one from Kasara). That was quite funny, as we were running (or trying to run) with our luggage!
We boarded the CST fast train which was filled 300% higher than capacity!! But hey, that’s Mumbai! With the natural massages we got as we braved our way from one end of the coach door to the one on the other side, we finally reached our respective destinations with happy memories!
Harishchandragad is definitely one of the most gruelling and gargantuan treks and I’m glad we could complete it without injuries! We couldnt see the view from Konkan Kada due to zero visibility. For that we’ll be going back in winter!
That brings me to what I learned in this trek – life doesn’t go as you always expect it to be. There are some days which are great and some which aren’t so great. Accept that and move on rather than being disappointed. For what you hold right now is still worth much more than what you don’t have… 🙂
PS – If you like my posts, please enter you email ID in the ‘Get Updates’ tab and hit enter. Confirm the mail in your inbox. Posts will be delivered through email. To read more of my trekking experiences, please click on these – Dudhsagar Falls, Kalsubai, Kashmir Trek