Category Archives: The Photographer

Sharing my first experiments with a DSLR

Sandhan Valley – A valley of rocks and boulders!

What?

Sandhan Valley Topography
Notice the straight line – That’s Sandhan Valley!

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.

Trekking Sandhan Valley

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Trek Grade – Medium

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.

 

Reaching there

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.

Things to Carry

In addition to carrying necessary stuff for a trek and camping overnight, please carry the following too –

  • Neck Gaitor / Scarf to cover neck from scorching heat
  • Alum to purify the water you fill from streams (or a cloth to filter water)
  • Odomos
  • Inflatabe Pillow along with a mat and blanket
  • Electoral Powder

How we did it

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 ūüėõ 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.

Our Experience

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!!

Year in Review – Tales of 2015!!

2015 was a roller coaster ride for me! Right from finishing things begun earlier to starting newer things; I did a lot of things for the first time, started inclining gradually up the learning curves; made loads of new friends and discovered newer interests!! I call 2015 as the year of self discovery – I got more persistent in being in inquiry (which was a struggle) and came to know more about myself! I thank each and every one of you readers for being a part of this amazing journey! Here is a fourteen pointer listicle to summarise 2015 along with lots of collages!!
1. CA Convocation & First Half Marathon
Running the half marathon for the first time, getting my Chartered Accountant Degree in Convocation
Running the half marathon for the first time, getting my Chartered Accountant Degree in Convocation
2015 began on a high note – One year after clearing CA examinations and applying for membership, we had our convocation in January. It was a great ceremony; I’ve always awaited this moment when I’d get to wear the graduation cloak and hat and throw it in the air (throwing the hat in the air part didn’t happen though :P). With the convocation, one of the biggest journeys of my life – of being a CA student came to an end and a new journey of being a student of life began!
After practising for two weeks with a do or die attitude, I ran my very first half marathon in Jan 2015 and completed it in 3 hours, 3 minutes. Running the half marathon was an enriching experience Рthere are so many people out there who do their best in supporting you throughout the route! And believe me, its the best way to see Mumbai Рyou get to listen to its heart beat in the spirit of every runner and the encouraging words and cheering of all Mumbaikars. It makes you feel a part of a bigger community Рeveryone is out there to support you to the finish line!
2. Weddings & 2015
 
2015 was a year of weddings РI attended 8 weddings of close friends and cousins! Here are some pictures I could get my hands on Р 
Pranav weds Shetal
Pranav weds Shetal
My best friend Pranav got married to Shetal; the best thing about it being we are great friends since 5 long years Рwe were interning together at a CA firm! It was one of the most coveted event for years Рthe fun we had preparing for the sangeet performance is beyond words!  
Arpit weds Vidhu
Arpit weds Vidhu
Another fellow colleague from the place we interned got hitched and had a spectacular wedding in Ajmer! It was the first time I attended a marwadi wedding Рwhich is generally after sunset!  
Pratik weds Dhwani
Pratik weds Dhwani
Pratik, a friend from school days tied the knot with Dhwani and became another martyr :P. It was a dream wedding Рthey both make a terrific couple together and we had a lot of fun being around them during these two days Рthe pictures say it all!  
Hardip weds Maitri
Hardip weds Maitri
My cousin Hardip married Maitri in Ahmedabad and it was one of the best cousins time we had. Fortunately, everyone was able to make it and we had a blast time together – we met each other after a span of 10 years! From crazy pics to non-stop laughter sessions – we had them all. Inspite of the geographic and time distances, we got glue to each other and the cousin gang got a whole lot bigger this year!
Mother's Day!
Mother’s Day!
Along with the wedding celebrations, we also celebrated Mother’s Day with all our cousins and moms – each one of us held our moms and walked around the society with pride and joy – Watching the happiness on faces of all moms was one of the best moments of 2015!
3. Family Celebrations & 2015
Silver Jubilee Celebrations
Silver Jubilee Celebrations
We started the year on an awesome note – with my mama and mami (mom’s brother and sister-in-law) completing 25 years of togetherness and celebrating it. Deciding on theme of Nehru jackets, planning for dance performances and impromptu gujarati garbas during the orchestra was fun!
Manasvi's Arangetram
Manasvi’s Arangetram
Manasvi, 13, our youngest cousin, performed her Arangetram and it was a sight to behold.¬†¬†Looking at her dance on the stage put all of my cousins down the memory lane – it just felt a couple of years ago when we held her in our hands when she was born! Youngest ones grow the fastest! An ode to her performance –
Let time freeze in the theatre of darkness,
Illuminate us with the inner radiance you harness.
Lose yourself in the expressions, melody and rhythm,
For we’ll see poetry in motion!!
Diwali, Birthdays and more
Diwali, Birthdays and more
This was one of the rare years when my family was home to celebrate Diwali; thanks to our unplanned spiritual sojourn to Sammed Skhikharji right after that. Diwali pujan is one of my favourite Diwali day Рthe importance of poojan being conveyed and followed since childhood.

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

Dancing, Holi, Makar Sankrant, Ganeshotsav, CA Parties!!!
Dancing, Holi, Makar Sankrant, Ganeshotsav, CA Parties!!!
2015 was a year of impromptu meets, celebrations, sharing of happiness and more! It was also the year when most of our planned things didn’t work out ūüėõ but our bonds strengthened further with time.
Bday
It was the first year I went on a self planned night trek for my birthday with a couple of crazy friends and we have an awesome story to tell – we got lost, never made it to the trek point, took a detour and finally camped at a place we realised we wont be able to walk further from – but it was beautiful – with a surprise cake which fitted in a backpack, music to make our hearts skip a beat and millions of stars above us – the shooting stars were the icing on the cake followed by the magnificient sunrise! ūüėČ
Partying together in full Quorum!
Partying together in full Quorum!
6. Trekking & 2015
We did three back to back treks every weekend in August; out of which one was planned and organised by my friend and myself for 17 college friends! Trekking has been one of the most inspiring and rewarding activities I’ve discovered. Waiting for monsoon showers to hit the mountains and chasing the greenery has made me fitter and happier and left me with a broader perspective! Infact, it has called out the photographer and travel blogger in me to share my experience with friends and motivate them to do it. You can read the following blog posts on various treks I did in 2015 –¬†Kalsubai,¬†Dudhsagar Falls,¬†Harishchandragad¬†and¬†Gorakhgad. Here are some pictures! ¬†
Kalsubai Dobara!
Kalsubai Dobara!
The Story of a Princess, her virtue and modesty!
The Story of a Princess, her virtue and modesty!
Flag Hoisting at 3994 feet!
Flag Hoisting at 3994 feet!

RIP my Black and Yellow wind cheater – we spent a short but adventurous time together! ūüėõ

Sunkissed at Gorakhgad!
Sunkissed at Gorakhgad!
7. Travel & 2015 
Ooty & Coorg Diaries with family
Ooty & Coorg Diaries with family
We had awesome family in June in Ooty & Coorg! Both are beautiful places to visit in South.  Being a kid once again with cousins was fun Рright from playing school games to fighting like kids! Check 5 things to do in Ooty here and my road trip experience from Ooty to Coorg here (Where road romances the sky).
Ganapatipule
Ganapatipule
This was followed by a vacation with friends in Ganapatipule on 2nd and 3rd October (do the dates ring a bell :P) – clean water, beautiful beaches and miraculous sunsets!!
 
8. Spiritual Journey to the Heart of India 
Finding the I in me!
Finding the I in me!
Sammed Shikharji in central India is one of the places which holds a lot of significance for Jains – 20 out out 24 Tirthankars ( Jain Monks) attained nirvana or salvation meditating in those range of mountains over various centuries thousands of years ago. Jains ensure to visit this place of purity at least once in their lifetime.
The trip happened in a jiffy and we are extremely happy it happened to us Рsome last moment cancellations for the trip, some phone calls from family members persuading us to come along and after getting a green signal from the doctor to go, my parents and I got to be part of this special caravan along with 1000 other like minded people. Doing this jatra together is easier as it is difficult to plan a 12 day trip there on your own without knowing much of history or which places to visit.  
With all my friends!
With all my friends!
This trip got me present to so many things in life I take for granted – my parents, family, community, body and I’m now grateful for everything around me – right from my conditioning to small things which have helped me be who I am. I learned a lot of new things about Jainism and also made new friends for life! People I met on this spiritual sojourn were filled with knowledge and were¬†willing to share it with me!
 
9. Navratri & 2015
Coincidentally appearing at item number 9 is Navratri Рone of the most colourful festivals of India where lakhs of people dance to a mixture of traditional gujarati folk songs and bollywood songs! This festival which was a society to society affair has been commercialised totally Рbut its still fun. From learning how to participate in competitions to winning one; from competing to creating a group Рparticipating in 2015 Navratri competition opened up a lot of things for me. You can read more about it here.
Participating in competitions with my group!
Participating in competitions with my group!
This year Navratri was also about experimenting beyond my comfort zone – we competed in three different locations – generally I play only in one area – and learned different things from different places. Late night hang outs, hunger kicks and hogging at joints which remained open specifically during navratri for people like us – I’ll miss everything about it!
Fun with friends!
Fun with friends!
10. Blogging & 2015
 
We write, therefore you are!
We write, therefore we are!
2015 was a year of lots of seminars and events to attend and learn; make new friends, read their blogs, interact and exchange ideas and create models to take blogs ahead! 2015 got me my highest views and hits till date – especially on trekking articles. Blogging is still like a rabbit hole to me where I’m yet to immerse completely; and I’m happy with where I am at the moment. ūüėČ
11. Movies, Series & 2015
Tamasha and Manjhi the mountain man were the best Bollywood movies of 2015. Other mentionable movies include РBaby, Gabbar is Back, Baahubali the Beginning, Drishyam, Badlapur, Piku. 
Inside Out (a must watch animation movie!), The Martian, Avengers – Age of Ultron, The Intern were creative stories.
Quantico was a surprise to me – Priyanka Chopra has done an awesome job and the story is gripping! Game of Thrones, Person of Interest, House of Cards, Da Vinci‚Äôs Demons, Fargo, Castle, Big Bang Theory,¬†Shark¬†Tank did good too! Suits, Arrow were disappointing. All said, FRIENDS still is one of the best TV series to binge watch – it is like wine, gets better with age! ūüėČ
 
12. Year of Adding Value
My close friend decided to do Kashmir Great Lakes trek and enrolled 8 of his friends to do the same after reading my experience! It was their first trek!This was later followed by another close friend going on his first trek to Kuari with four friends in Dec 2015. This reiterated the power of writing and the purpose of my blog! Receiving feedback from various friends after going through my articles on travel and trekking made me write more of them to make a difference; glad my blogging was of help РI take pride in saying my writing facilitated close to 50 people to go ahead and try trekking Рa whole new world opened up for them and there is no feeling to describe the happiness I get when I listen to what all they accomplished out of this!
13. Experimenting & 2015 
The excitement of doing something you've never done before!
The excitement of doing something you’ve never done before!
Right from growing a beard and shaping it :P, to running, learning hip hop, rediscovering the joy of cycling with free hands, teaching and starting to learn photography and movie making Р2015 was a year of experimenting!! It made me rekindle my curiosity and reaffirm the power of knowledge! Also, it made me feel so tiny and humbled as compared to the magnanimity of mother nature РIf earth is an art, a photographer is only a witness, that too restricted to a particular frame! I thank all my friends who allowed me into their worlds and through them I got access to these activities.
14. Vulnerability & 2015 
2015 is the year in which I let others add value to me – this happened after I learned to be vulnerable. You wont get what you want unless you ask for it; put your neck on the line, take ownership and give it your best shot – things are bound to move – people will act the way you want them to. Actions form an extremely important aspect to outcomes – be it success or failure; whether right or wrong I feel deciding and acting is still better than being at the place where you’re just thinking!!
Things lined up for 2016
Bring it on!!
Bring it on!!
I’m extremely excited for 2016 РBucket list includes learning spanish, cycling from Manali to Leh, backpacking North East India and Europe, starting a travel blog, learn a bit about human behaviour and psychology, meeting passionate people who made a career out of their passion and share their stories on Passion Diaries. Also, I’d be watching Kung Fu Panda III and Baahubali the End Рfinally we’ll get to know why Katappa killed Baahubali; also the fate of John Snow in Game of Thrones!!
A big thank you to my readers for being my motivators and critiques. It is empowering to know what I’m writing is creating an impact. If this post helps you plan your 2016, my job here is done!!
PS – ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sharing¬†my #TalesOf2015 with¬†BlogAdda.‚ÄĚ

Sunkissed at Gorakhgad!

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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’!

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Trek Difficulty РMedium 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

Navigating through the dense foliage
Navigating through the dense foliage

Our Experience

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!

Our Jeep from Murbad to Dehri. 13 people in one Jeep! :P
Our Jeep from Murbad to Dehri. 15 people in one Jeep! ūüėõ

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.

Time stands still, beauty in all she is!!
Time stands still, beauty in all she is!!
Now imagine having a home here!
Now imagine having a home here!
View after completing the dense foliage
View after completing the dense foliage

Floral Pathways

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.

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There were huge spider webs we had to make way through.
There were huge spider webs we had to make way through.
This one caught my eye! Sunlight made it even more beautiful!!

Halfway Through

As per local folktales, the mountain behind resembles face of a man from one angle
Halfway through and you can see our excitement!

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!

Doorway to heaven!
Doorway to heaven!

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.

The Orange Door and stairs to go ahead - Group Pic
The Orange Door and stairs to go ahead – Group Pic

Reaching the Cave

Trek leader Yamini assisting fellow trekkers climb the final incline before the cave comes in sight
Trek leader Yamini assisting fellow trekkers climb the final incline before the cave comes in sight
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10 minute walk to the caves from the orange door

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

Nearby moutain as seen from the cave
Nearby mountain as seen from the cave
The eyes which want to read, travel, write and stare into infinity - Aarti, a fellow trekker
The eyes which want to read, travel, write and stare into infinity – Aarti, a fellow trekker

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.

Fresco on the cave walls
Fresco on the cave walls
When Drama > Action ;-)
When Drama > Action, Badlapur turns to Dostana ūüėČ

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.

Lord Shiva temple at the top
Lord Shiva temple at the top

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 on the edge admiring the view

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

High Jumps

No trek is complete without high jumps!!
No trek is complete without high jumps!!

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.

Naveen and Dinesh trying to lift the imaginary Goavardhan Mountain (Cave)
Naveen and Dinesh trying to lift the imaginary Goavardhan Mountain (Cave)

The Descent

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!

On our way down!
On our way down!

We saw a lot of butterflies in varied sizes and colours.

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The Conclusion

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! ūüėČ

The trek was an amazing test of our patience to bear the heat and persistence to go on.

Group pic at the caves with the banner
Group pic at the caves with the banner

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.

Flag Hoisting at 3994 Feet!

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.

Kedareshwar Cave
Kedareshwar Cave

Why Harishchandragad?

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 –

  1. Pachnai Route РOne of the easiest route but less scenic Рit will take 2.5 to 3 hours for ascent and 4 hours for descent
  2. Khireshwar Route – Easy to medium route – takes 3.5 to 4 hours for ascent and 4-5 hours for descent
  3. Nalichi Vaat (Passage through the gorge) РDifficult route, lies towards extreme end of the mountain. Popular among climbers and experienced trekkers, Nalichi Vaat involves a near 80 degree climb, involving steep rock patches and is not recommended for monsoons

How we did it

Making our way to the top
Making our way to the top

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.

Our Experience

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 –

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There was not other way out than to cross the parked train!

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.

View from Panchnai
View from Panchnai
With our flags!!!
With our flags!!!

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.

Seems like Lord of the Rings movie scene!

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.

Way to Kedareshwar Cave
Way to Kedareshwar Cave, slippery due to algae but manageable

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 РHe 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.

Temple of Shiva and Ganesha

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.

Lord Ganesha
Lord Ganesha
Animals carved on the temple walls, beautiful pillars make me wonder how this temple would have looked in its full glory
Animals carved on the temple walls, beautiful pillars make me wonder how this temple would have looked in its full glory

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 РFreedom 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 Рbe 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.

There's magic in the details, all you need is an eye for it!
There’s magic in the details, all you need is an eye for it!
The one where we realised we are lost and decided to head towards the way we came there
The one where we realised we are lost and decided to head towards the way we came there

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!

The View
The View

It took us nearly 4.5 hours to reach Khireshwar base camp. Sometimes the fog would make way and we could see the scenery!

Some clicks when sunshined bright!
Some clicks when sun shined bright!

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. ūüėõ While each step taken wrong could lead to serious injuries, we managed to cross it and enjoy the view¬†the route¬†rewarded.

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Lakeside view!

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).

 

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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

Trekkers beginning their overnight trek as we move down to end our journey!
Trekkers beginning their  trek as we move down to complete ours!

We reached the final viewpoint on the route and saw the deep valley beneath us. It was breathtaking!

The last viewpoint
The last viewpoint

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)

We made it to the base!!
We made it to the base!!

As we crossed around one km, it started raining again and we felt its better to board a car directly to Kalyan station.

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This is where we came down from! The top is engulfed in fog

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.

Sunset from the Car!
Shades of Sky

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.

Sunset!!
Sunset!!

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… ūüôā

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