Tag Archives: adventure

Smell of the Mountain

It’s an hour to midnight

The gong strikes and cuckoo sings

He is typing vehemently on his laptop

When a message pings

*

His friend is back from a trek

And awaits below the building

To return the backpack and bottle

He runs down the wing

*

An hour of discussion

He gets the fill of the adventure

His eyes rove as his friend enacts

The key things right from departure.

*

He returns back to his laptop

And glances at the work pending

I need some coffee, he figures

To help with the work unending

*

He goes to the kitchen

And takes the bottle inside

Only to open it

And be taken on a joyride

*

For the bottle emits

The smell of the mountain

Fresh. Nostalgic. Petrichor.

He whiffs again to ascertain.

*

Indeed the bottle smells

Of stories of adventures

Of sweat and success

Of off the road ventures

*

His mind nerves recreate

The feeling of being on a trek

He is standing on the mountain

With hard sun behind his neck

*

The view gets his guard down

For nothing but humility can throng

He relives the magnitude of nature

And the feeling of being strong.

*

He has smelled the mountain now

There is no more holding back

He needs to pack his backpack

And set off on a new track.

*

He sips the hot coffee

Browsing for upcoming treks

For The Mountains Are Calling

And He Should Go!!!

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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 😛 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!!

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 – 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

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! 😛

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 😉

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! 😉

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.

Dudhsagar Falls

USP – India’s fifth largest waterfall. Picture a four tiered waterfall in the background and a train passing by underneath it. Incredible!

The Pic which got Dudhsagar on my bucket list!
The Pic which got Dudhsagar on my bucket list!

Legend of Dudhsagar

The Konkani name for the falls, which literally translated means “sea of milk”, derives from clouds of milky foam which rises up at the bottom of the falls.

The legend tells the story of a powerful and wealthy king who ruled a kingdom in the Western Ghats. The King had a beautiful daughter, who used to enjoy taking a bath during the hot summers in the picturesque lake near the forest on the edge of the King’s palace grounds. It was her habit to finish her bath and have a jug of sugared milk.

One day, when she was finishing her usual jug of milk she found herself being watched by a handsome prince standing amongst the trees. Embarassed by her inadequate bathing attire, the resourceful Princess poured the sugared milk in front of her to form an improvised curtain to hide her body, while one of the maids rushed to cover her with a dress.

Thus was the legend born; the sugared milk (dudh) poured down the mountainside and continued to flow as a tribute to the everlasting virtue and modesty of the Princess.

Trek Grade – Easy but Lengthy

Path to waterfall – Walking on railway tracks – Dudhsagar lies between two railway stations – Kulem and Castle Rock. You can start walking on railway tracks from either of the two stations and reach Dudhsagar. Distance varies on the basis of route you take.

Reaching Dudhsagar (Weekend Trek)
1.       Catch 17318 Hubli Express from LTT on Saturday Morning at 9.05 AM and reach Londha station on Sunday early morning at 12.08 AM. From there catch 06948 Ubl Vsg Link Express at 2.15 AM and reach castle rock at 3.05 AM. Get down 10-15 minutes after castle rock station when train halts and start walking towards
Dudhsagar.

2.       Instead of the above, book a train to Pune and catch 06948 train from Pune to Castle Rock.

3.       Catch 12201 LTTKCVL Express on Saturday 4.55 PM and reach Madgaon station around 2.15 AM. From Madgaon reach Kulem via road. Start walking on tracks from Kulem. Approx distance one side is 14 KM.

Way back
1.       One side walk to Dudhsagar falls can range from 12-15 KM. After reaching there, one can walk back to Sonalium Station (approx. 5 KM) and from there board a train and get down at either Kullem / Madgoan

2.       From Madgaon catch either the10112 Konkan Kanya Express which leaves Madgaon at 4.45 PM and reaches Dadar at 5.30 AM next day or 12620 Matsyagandha Express which leaves Madgaon at 7.15 PM and reaches LTT at 6.35 AM next day.

How we did it

We decided to catch Saturday Morning Hubli express and reach Londa station and from there catch train to castle rock. However, since connecting train to castle rock was running late due to a derailment incident in Madhya Pradesh a week ago, we had to book cars which picked us up at Londa and dropped us at Kulem. We started walking from Kulem at 2.30 in the morning and reached the waterfall by 6.30 (approx. 14 KM). From there, we took the jungle trail and finally reached Sonalium station, boarded a train to Madgoan and reached Madgaon by 1 PM. Our connecting train was Konkan Kanya Express scheduled at 4.45 PM.

Our Story – Raj Vora and Associates

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Dudhsagar was on my bucket list since 2014. A random chat with college friends in May led to initiation of the plan and everyone was game for it! As planned, tickets were booked in the
coming week. After lot of browsing, we finalised to not do the trek through known trekking organisations since they take 100 people+ in a batch but manage it on our own and hire a guide at the falls. Dudhsagar was the first trek organised by my friend Jugal and me! After months of discussions, listing down things to be carried, making food, travel and other arrangements, finally we were a night away from the journey day; I wasn’t able to sleep,  butterflies running in my stomach – hoping this trek goes as planned and we all enjoy together.

S4 coach
S4 coach

We assembled LTT platform 2 near S4 coach on Saturday at 8.30 AM to board Hubli Express. Jugal had made a sheet having details of seating arrangement, and named it Raj Vora & Associates – The Trekker’s Choice; hence the name! There were shy hellos between people who met first time on one side and long hugs between people catching up after a long time on the other. After initial round of introduction and chats our train journey started towards Londa station, making its way through green rice fields and vast expanses of skylines filled with banana and coconut trees.

Our train rushing beside rows of well cultivated fields
Our train rushing beside rows of well cultivated fields

Some people slept, rest stayed awake, for they couldn’t miss any moment – be it interesting conversations or watching clouds pass by or reading a book by the window seat.

Picturesque landscapes
Picturesque landscapes

The sunset was scenic with sky hitting neon notes towards the end as we digged into theplas and cheese dips followed by sweetness of soan papdi and ice halwa 😛

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Between our conversations on paragliding, adventure sports, start ups, photo printing, college days, articleship stories, go pro, dogs, random somethings we arrived at Londa station at 12.08 AM Sunday morning – our bags filled with food and water, our hearts brimming enthusiasm. We had hired three cars to Kulem as our connecting train to Castle Rock was running late by eight hours.

It was dark, foggy and sound of small waterfalls kept humming in the background as we moved swiftly towards Kulem under sky full of stars, braving the harsh winds. As we glanced up at the sky filled with stars, we hummed along counting stars!

‘Lately I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But, baby I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard
Said no more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars’

After a couple of Ed Sheeran songs (Nikita Manral’s deep meaning songs :P), late 70s Jazz (Yash’s favourites), Adele’s lovebites, Ylvis’s The Fox (special mention for the Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! chorus by Shubham, Suraj) we shifted back to desi tunes (sung by all of us)!!

At Kulem, equipped with torches, walking on the tracks felt manageable, taking the cement rods and avoiding the pebbles. And then rains lashed us! It got cold, foggy and unpleasantly wet. Our feet were wet within first half hour of the trek! Luckily, rains stopped after that for some time giving us a breather. Walking in pairs of two, we followed the trail as it went through tunnels formed by trees. We switched off the torches for some time to soak in the darkness and let the dim moonlight guide us. Suddenly we saw flashes of green, orange and red here and there – fireflies!! It was beautiful. Shubham followed Nikita leg-by-leg; never missing a beat proving why he’s such an awesome dancer 😀

The tunnels we passed through were enormous, made of bauxite. Trains would sound horns as they neared and we would move sideways to make way. It was like old hindi movies. First, darkness
and just the sound of train coming and somewhere from the corner, a bright yellow light slowly advancing towards you… the sound getting louder and the light getting brighter.

Arpit guided the way with his Marauder’s map tattoo on his fist! Finally we were 4 Km away from the falls and saw the break of dawn. Things started getting brighter and sound of magnanimous falls echoed around. This acted as a motivation to move ahead and we kept walking ahead, managing our way through the tracks, not caring much for the pebbles in our way.

Each turning was a frame to capture
Each turning was a frame to capture

Break of dawn added life to our aching toes and made us feel like dancing our way to the falls.

Nature at its best!
Nature at its best!

As we passed the last tunnel before we reached Dudhsagar, we started brisk walking and then practically running towards the destination. It lured us with its sound. It was sheer love – not being able to see it but could feel it all over 😛

Crossing tunnels can be tricky when trains pass by
Crossing tunnels can be tricky when trains pass by

We had to wait at view point for some time for the fog to clear in order to see the gushing waterfall.  I could recollect William Henry quoting –

‘No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night’

And then finally we got to see it… My knees gave way and I bent down to honour the sheer force of nature. So pure. So white. So divine.

Love at first sight..
Love at first sight..

I almost felt like I’ve entered a movie and Bahubali is playing. THe sheer grandeur of Dudhsagar though, is more than graphical waterfall in Bahubali movie.

Waterfall ke saath selfie to banta hai!
Waterfall ke saath selfie to banta hai!

After spending half hour admiring the waterfall and watching monkeys raid our food bags, we then proceeded towards the jungle trail. We were extremely tired and wished if we could board a train. And voila, a goods train arrived having railings both sides for people to stand. The driver was kind enough to allow us to board the train and gave us a free ride till for about 10-15 minutes. The sheer fun of getting into a goods train was out of the world!

Aaj main Upar!! All aboard the train
Aaj main Upar!! All aboard the train

As we then proceeded towards the base of the waterfall following the jungle trail, we encountered a small rivulet joining the waterfall and jumped in! We played around, calming our overworked legs and throwing water on each other.

Into the woods... In a rivulet
Into the woods… In a rivulet

We then had tea, poha and theplas and began a three kilometre easy walk to Sonalium station which had come on our way earlier.We took in the last view of the waterfall and bid adieu!

The last view!
The last view!

On our way to Sonalium station, we stopped by at a place and clicked a lot of pics. Little did we know, we would have a leech attack there!

The one before the Leech Attack!
The one before the Leech Attack!

Sohini, was everyone’ s best friend after the leech attack. 😛 She treated everyone, running with salt grains and turmeric the moment she heard some shrills or loud screeches. Leeches were found on legs, hands, neck and even head! So be careful and avoid clicking pics in the jungle near Sonalium.

After an eventful photoshoot we waited at Sonalium station and caught the first train to Madgaon station from there. We reached Madgoan at 1 PM and checked the cloak rooms. They were extremely clean and had Goa street art by Mario de Miranda!! At 5 bucks a person (ya supercheap and decent!), we bathed there and finally sat awaiting our train at 4.45 PM. It felt like we sat after ages! So much relief just by removing wet shoes and feeling our numb toes! We got lunch from a nearby punjabi restaurant and had it at the station itself.

Graffiti on Walls
Graffiti on Walls

Finally we boarded our train and all went to sleep, got up to have dinner and again went to sleep :P. The trip was awesome and everyone had big smiles on their faces in spite of the pain in their toes!!

With our Precious!!!
With our Precious!!!

Photo Credits – Geet for awesome GoPro clicks, Jugal for pics clicked from his HTC phone.

The Secret of Success

Fritz Roethlisberger, a very wise Harvard Business School Professor, gave a talk at the school over sixty years ago with the title “What is the secret of success?” He concluded quickly that it was “silly, meaningless and unanswerable question”!

The problem is, he said, is that it encourages too many of us to think of the present time as a means and the future as some golden goal that we will eventually reach. As a result we never get to enjoy the present. The question we should be asking, he said is “What prevents me from learning here and now?”

He continued:

Are there not two different kinds of goals? . . . one kind which takes all meaning and significance out of the present, and . . . another kind of goal which makes the present more meaningful and significant. . . . By means of [the first kind] we make ourselves miserable in the present . . . we create a target just in order to shoot at it and we make ourselves miserable every time we fail to hit the bull’s-eye. . . .

In the case of the second kind of goal, we create the target to perfect our shooting here and now. This kind of goal works for us. It makes meaningful and significant the present. It facilitates growth, learning, the sense of adventure and exploration. In this frame of reference, hitting the bull’s-eye isn’t an end in itself. The bull’s-eye merely becomes a means for correcting the source of error here and now. Are not such goals treating the future as a means and the present as an end? If so, what are these goals which allow us to retain our zest for growth and learning and adaptation until the day we die? This [is the] question.

 

The journey is the only reward, so you had better enjoy it!