Saturday 6 January 2007

Letter from the Chief Seathl of the Suwamish tribe to the President ofUS in 1855.(The early years of the age of destruction)"

How can you buy or sell the sky-the warmth of the land? The idea isstrange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle ofthe water. How can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time.Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pineneedle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every humminginsect is holy in the memory and experience of my people."
"We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portionof the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger whocomes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earthis not his brother, but his enemy and when he has conquered it, hemoves on. He leaves his father's graves behind and he does not care.He kidnaps the earth from his children. He does not care, hisfather's graves and his children's birthright is forgotten. Hisappetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the redman. But perhaps it isbecause the redman is a savage and does not understand."
"Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriorshave felt shame. And after defeat they turn their days to idleness andcontaminate their bodies with sweet, food and drink. It matters littlewhere we pass the rest of our days-they are not many. A few more hours,a few more winters and none of the children of the great tribes thatonce lived on the earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods,will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful andhopeful as yours."
"Continue to contaminate your bed you will one night suffocate inyour own waste. When the buffaloes are all slaughtered, the wild horsesall tamed, the sacred concern of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it tosay good bye to the swift and the haunt-the end of living and beginningof survival. We might understand if we know what it was that the whiteman dreams. What hopes he describes to his children on long winternights, what visions he burns into their minds, so that they all wishfor tomorrow."
The letter is a reflection of how the old men already knew what the white man was upto except that the definition of the white man has probably changed.

Kas Lake 1st October'06

It has become instinctive for us to get into the lap of nature’s beauty. Finally reaching the summit brings you the joy of winning over the hurdles. Experiencing the wind, the heights and the view from our perch gives a feeling of trance. Experiences like these make us feel how puny we are against mother nature.

So finally after a long and detailed search, we came across a place called Kaas, about 160 kms off Pune, which seemed to suit our interests. Kaas is also referred locally as the ‘Valley of flowers’.
For the bookworms, there is a delightful yet simple book on the rich and indigenous flora and fauna present over at Kaas. The mention of wild flowers, especially (Utricularia, Impatience Cavis), which form a carpet over a vast area also finds a mention in the book " Flora of Kaas plateau of Satara District") by Chavan P.B., V.P.Khandekar and S.H.Mahamul, 1973. Our interest to visit this place was further fuelled by the description presented by various websites and travelers who had visited the place earlier.

Once decided, the two of us, (Udi and Avi), embarked on our journey from Pune (Udi had come all the way from Thane to join me). We decide that we would go in true adventurous style on our bike, given the fantastic climate around that time in Pune.
Our adventure started off from Swargateat around 10.30 am , quite late but still better rather than not go. After aquick ride, we took a break near Katraj to wipe our faces off the smoke and dust thrown by the huge trucks enroute. However, we forgave everything as we saw the beautiful roads and the great climate to go for. The road to Satara has been recently done up and one can just cruise on it without worrying for any bumps or ditches.

After our brief stop, where we also managed to click some pics of some beautiful roadside yellow flowers, we started our journey again, only to halt at Satara. With our stomachs growling after the long ride (almost 120Kms), we decided to submit to our stomach’s hue and cry. We had a hearty lunch in a hotel located opposite the central bus stand of Satara. The food was good and clean.

We had gorged so much, we were wondering if we would be even able to walk any further!! However, after some rest, we resumed our journey for Kaas , which was just 40 odd kms away. We kept asking directions to people. You need to ask for road to Kaas or Bamnoli. Kaas is a well known spot on the way to Bamnoli. The town people guided us towards the “Bogda” road (Bogda means tunnel in Marathi), which was about 10-12 kms from the bus stand. From there we took a right turn towards Kaas plateau. One should ask for the road leading to Bamnoli. We cruised through a long winding road covered with mist coiling around the hills. It made us halt and have a look at the beautiful Kaas plateau. It had lush greenery, a sight one always gets to see when traveling in monsoons. We took some snaps and moved forward. On our way to the fields of flowers, we searched for the Kaas Lake.

Taking directions from a small shack owner, where we even had some hot piping chai, we followed the path as shown and reached the Lake. The whole path was covered with mist and looked awesome but still there was no signs of the flowers we were looking for.
Finally we reached the lake. We could only a small part of the huge lake due to the heavy mist. It looked absolutely beautiful. There stood a lone tree in the water, a short distance from the shore. It was amazing. We moved on from the lake, came back to the main road, rode about 5 kms down the road only to find a small pathway cutting into the vegetation. We parked our bike and followed the path which led us to a small and completely isolated dam.It was a small conventional dam, made of small rocks. The view was amazing with a small stream of water flowing down from the dam and the area completely covered with mist. We were shivering with cold, totally drenched due to the heavy rain from our way from Satara till here. The mist never gave us a chance to dry off even though the rain had reduced to a drizzle. Avi was unable to light even a cigaratte also because of the mist, the rain and not to forget the shivering chilly winds.

After drinking in the mesmeric view there, we realized it was almost 3:30 pm and we needed to move towards our goal - the valley of flowers. We were on the road again with eyes searching for signs of flowers but there were no flowers to be seen. We then suddenly saw some small flowers amongst the mist. We parked our bike and moved in towards the mist to explore further. Lost of all hopes, we could now see some flowers finally. We followed the trail surrounded by flowers. Suddenly, the mist cleared for a fraction of a second and we found ourselves amidst a field of small but beautiful flowers.

The whole plateau was covered with tiny pink flowers, each one very small but together when seen giving the feeling of a carpet of flowers. it was a long and unending carpet of flowers with a variety of other different coloured flowers also. It is a heaven for a botanist to look around the plateau, abundant with such wild and exquisite flowers. The place is rich also in minerals and you can see the red patches of laterite rocks typically called ‘Sadaa’ in Marathi.

We roamed about for almost an hour in the mist. At a point we thought we had got lost for we had ventured deep into the mist, looking for flowers, away from the main road where we had parked our bike. But looking at the different variety of flowers and amazed by the extent to which they were spread, we found ourselves to be looking around with the inquisitiveness of a small child. Suddenly we realized it was almost 5:30pm and we had to move towards Pune as it was getting dark. After a long and desparate search of half an hour, we managed to find our way back to the main road. For travelers information, the plateau can be reached once you take a right turn from the road opposite a small Hanuman temple. Beware as the place is so isolated, you may not find anybody to guide you to the field of flowers, though you can at times follow tyre track marks left by previous vehicles in the mud, moving towards the areas where flowers can be seen.

It is better that one first visits the plateau and then proceeds for the Lake/Dam as you may not be able to see the whole plateau as it becomes darker. Anyways, we too realized that it would be difficult to drive once it gets dark and we had a long way to go. Once we reached the main road, we realized it was extremely difficult to drive as the bike didn’t have fog lamps. The mist was all over the place and there was no way we could see beyond 15 ft. As it was getting darker, we decided we would cross the plateau and reach Satara before the conditions becomes worse. The place becomes totally isolated by evening and one can have a tough time getting any help if required. We drove slowly and cautiously, very careful of the oncoming traffic and the turns and twists of the road. We finally reached Satara by 8:00 PM given the slow drive. We had started our return journey from Kaas around 6:30 PM only. Yet we were thankful that we were back till Satara which was far better given the absence of mist.

We had a cup of hot pipping tea to relax ourselves and proceeded on our journey to Pune. It was raining hard and was a very difficult ride till Pune with the headlights of the oncoming vehicle blinding us. After a short debate so as to halt in Satara and move to Pune next morning or proceed to Pune immediately, we decided to carry on owards Pune. After a long and skillful ride by Avi, we finally reached Pune by 12:30am, completely drenched due to the heavy rains but safe and secure in the city.

Tired from the long and hectic trip, we proceeded to our homes for a good and long snooze.Finally, next day as we sat back and recalled our experince, we realized that though the pics we took looked amazing, it could never replace and capture the actual experience as we saw it. A truly refreshing and adventurous trip had come to an end.

Saturday 30 December 2006

Raigad -6th August 2006

The monsoons are best time to trek around with the nature in its full glory. This simple fact propelled us to visit the Bastion of the Maratha power at Raigad. The fort of Raigad is a delight for the history buffs and one of the best-preserved forts of Maharashtra. The beautiful and majestic photos of the fort and Shivaji Maharaj on Internet geared us to trek at Raigad.
Three of us (Ud, Abhinav and Avinash) got together at the Thane ST stand on the midnight of 5th Aug(Saturday), 2006. After a grueling day’s work at the office, its sheer madness to travel 200 odd kms for 4.5 hours in a ST on a moon cratered terrain. However, we had already decided to go for it. We had imported one member (Avinash) from Pune especially for the trek. There was a lot of uncertainty, for the bus was supposed to be full, we had no reservations and yet were ready to stand for 4 to 5 hours and go. Luckily we got a seat and left for Mahad around 12.30am. After a tiring journey, we landed in Mahad at 5am. A quick breakfast at the ST stand and we were ready to go to Raigad. Since the beginning to the end of our adventure, it never stopped raining for even a second. We hired an autorickshaw for about 200 bucks who took us to Raigad, about 26 odd kms from Mahad. The ride to Raigad was fantastic and unique. We reached the foot of the fort in an hour, around 6.15 am. The shops at the foot were shut tight and devoid of any human life. The rain was beating heavily and the wind was howling like mad. Luckily, we were all well armed, ie carrying rain jackets, not to save ourselves from the rain but from the cold. One of the brave (rather foolish) souls amongst us had not bothered to carry anything and now was totally drenched. Dont want to take any names but it was neither me nor Abhinav ;-). Hehehe.
We started climbing the steps to the fort and soon found it is easier to climb along a rugged terrain than walk on the steps. On our way, we came across numerous waterfalls that threatened to toss us back to the start while we crossed it. The strength of the water gushing down and crossing our path was so terrific that we had to hold each other firmly to prevent getting washed off. I at times thought the wind would definitely blow me off the hill, my humble 60 kgs not withstanding. We reached the top in about 1.15 hour. The fort is supposed to have around 1400 steps, which we climbed up. The climb is not so tiring but can take a toll on the thighs if not used to this type of exertion. The fort is one of the best-preserved and artistic forts I have seen. It gave us a brief glimpse of the Maratha power and grandeur. By now, we were totally drenched, shivering. We went to a nearby hut of a villager staying on the top, had some hot piping tea. The villager offered to be our guide for about 80Rs. Usually we would have preferred not to take a guide and find our way, but decided to hire him due to time constraint, poor visibility and harsh rains. The guide took us around various places like the Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj, the Throne place, the majestic statue of Maharaj, the huge Baazar peth, Jogeshwari temple, Takmak Point etc. I have seen Baazar peth at Rajgarh but that seemed miniscule compared to this one. The throne place was grand and especially the entrance gate to it was huge and towering. The remnants of the separate quarters for the ministers can still be seen and so can the Rani Mahal (queens palace). There was also a prison hidden deep underground. The wind along with the rain was at its fiercest. The rain was hitting us mercilessly while the wind howled around us. The raindrops felt like small needles piercing our body due to its force. But the sight of the whole fort was truly amazing. We had our lunch at a small one-room hut along with the inhabitants, which included 3 cats, a dog and lots of chicken, besides the owner of the hut. The animals gave us company during our meal, never losing sight of the food we were eating. The warm food seemed heavenly in a small cozy place with the chullah (fire place) burning not very far away. After that short but refreshing break, we started back downhill. There is a ropeway constructed which ferries people to and fro from top to bottom of the fort within minutes. Maximum carrying capacity is 8 people and charges are 120Rs both ways and Rs 75 one-way. The operator decides if the ropeway is to be used or is too risky due to the harsh rains and the wind. Luckily for us, he decided to let us down. The ride down the ropeway is an experience in itself. The wind is so strong and with the rain pouring over, you feel the cabin will topple over anytime or rock like a boat. However, it remained steady. The feeling as the cabin passes over the wire is like moving from one cloud to another. We could not see the foothill due to the clouds. It’s literally like floating in heaven. For a brief moment, the clouds cleared and the view took our breadth away. People looked like specs on the lush green earth below and in front of us we could see the numerous waterfalls gushing down from the fort above. I gave up counting the waterfalls after I counted more than 11 of them, all sizes and shapes. The water looked milky due to the froth it produced. Awesome!!! We were down in about 4 minutes. There was hardly any transportation around, so we walked about 8 to 9 kms before we got a ST bus to Mahad. We also spectacularly managed to change ‘all’ our wet clothes on the back seat of the bus. From there, luckily, we immediately got our respective buses. Me and Abhinav to Bombay and Avinash to Pune. It was around 4.30pm. We reached back home around 10p.m.The whole trek cost us around Rs 500 each, including travel, food etc. It is peanuts compared to the fun we had and I guess a city slicker normally blows away that amount within a few hours at some snazzy mall or a restaurant. The trek is over; we are dead tired, hectic day tomorrow at the office. But the mind and the soul are totally refreshed, ready to take on afresh the clutter of the great cities.We have already started looking for our next destination and newer places to go.

Vasota fort (Koyna Sanctuary) 24th to 25th march.

It’s the love for adventure and outdoors that prompted a bunch of MBA students to search every nook and corner of the Internet for good places to trek around Pune. With classes soon coming to an end, we wanted to see as many places as possible before we plunge into the grind of the corporate world. With this thought in mind, we managed to zero in on this fort called Vasota. It appeared quite attractive on the net. The fort seemed isolated; however what really thrilled us was that in order to reach this fort we had to travel in a launch for about an hour and half, which sounded adventurous enough. We always travel on a shoestring budget and hence did not want to spend for stay in lodges. Thus on the evening of 23rd March ‘06, we began the frantic search for a few good tents. Luckily one of our visiting faculties lent us two tents, which could accommodate 4 people each. We were finally able to lay our paws on the tents by 11.30 pm. With our most important requirement in place, we were all geared to go the next day. From the details given on line and our knowledge of the trek fares, the trip should not have cost us more than 600 bucks each.
The day of the trek started with breakfast at Kamla Nehru Park at 8am. As each trip has its share of fumbles, we realized none of us had made provisions for our food. So each of us pooled in money to buy food. But we had forgotten that we were in the pensioner’s paradise of Pune, where shops open only at the whims and fancies of its owners. After a long search of about an hour or so, we managed to pool in our resources with a few chapati packets, chips, biscuits, extra torch cells, medicines etc. There were a few blunders made too with a few of us entrusted to buying the foodstuff bought jam and sauce in glass bottles!! (Whatever happened to the pouches??) Also there were few bars of Cadbury chocolates purchased. Needless to say what happened to them when opened later after traveling through the sweltering summer heat…Determined to make this trip a success, we marched off to Swargate bus stand, which has more frequency of buses to Satara than any other bus stand. We boarded a Pune-Satara non stop Asiad at 10 am.
The fare was around Rs 63 each. It took us about 2 and ½ hours to reach Satara. Satara is a hilly city with scores of forts scattered around it. The most famous of them what we learnt of is the Ajinkyatara fort. Our troop clambered down at the Satara main bus stand. From here, we were supposed to go to a place called Bamnoli, about 35kms from Satara. Bamnoli being a small village, buses to this place are scarce. There were three in total, at 9.30am, at 12.45pm and next at 5.30pm. We were just in time to catch the 1.15pm bus. However, a few gluttons amongst us managed to sneak out and bought packets of grapes, which again dented our cash reserves given the cost of this juicy but expensive fruit. There were also bunches of bananas bought which got smashed into pulp due to the overlying weight in the bags later. The bus fare was around Rs 25 each. The ride to Bamnoli was quite fantastic, as we were impressed by the huge hills and mountain ranges enroute. The state transport bus cared two hoots for any speed breakers and hence we had a very bumpy ride much to our joy and to the chargin of the elderly people in the bus. However, the bus ride was very safe and never rash even for a moment along the narrow roads.We reached Bamnoli by around 2.30 pm.
Bamnoli is a small sleepy village with its proximity to the Koyna Sanctuary being its claim to fame. A huge board with Koyna Sanctuary written over it greets you with pictures of the wildlife found over there which included leopards, bison, jackals, sloth bears etc. Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Western Maharashtra. It covers over 420 sq km. The sanctuary encompasses Eastern and Western catchments of Koyna dam. The dam is a main hydroelectric project center in Western Maharashtra. Tigers, Panthers, Gaurs, Sloth Bears, Sambars, Barking Deers, Mouse Deers, Dholes, Gaint Squirrels, Otters, Common Langurs, Pythons and Cobras compose the main wildlife found in the sanctuary. A variety of bird species are also found in the sanctuary. Heart Spotted Rufous, Brown Capped Woodpecker, Goshawk, Long Tailed Nightjar and Fairy Bluebird are among them. October is the best season to visit the sanctuary. There was a small hotel at Bamnoli, which had the regular stuff of any other small village hotel. Hens pecking around the coke bottles did provide for a very contrasting picture.
It’s from here that our real adventure started. We were not aware that permission is to be taken from the forest department to go to Vasota. These rules have been made since last year to preserve the sanctity of the forest, generate revenue and keep a tab on rowdy tourists. We were charged about Rs 20 each for each day we stayed in the sanctuary. (Today and tomorrow.) Then came the killer. We had to pay Rs 400 as tent charges even though we were carrying our own tents. The rule is that we have to pay for the tent even if we use or don’t use the tents provided by the forest officials.
There is a launch available, which takes people from Bamnoli to the foot of Vasota, at a place called Met Indavali. The launch takes about an hour and half to reach Met Indavali from Bamnoli. The to and fro fare for the launch is Rs 1000 irrespective of the number of people. A quick calculation of our funds showed we would be able to barely make it back till Satara from where we could again withdraw money from ATMs to go back home. Thus after a lot of pleading to let go the tent charges, we had to finally pay Rs 400 tent charges, Rs 1000 launch charges and Rs 40 each for two day visit to the sanctuary.We were told that since we started late, we would not be able to climb the fort for it would soon become dark and it would be unsafe to do so. The forest department had a small lodge at Met Indavali where we were to stay in tents provided by them.With these things in our mind, we boarded the launch at around 4pm after a short snack at the hotel. It was a fantastic ride. The launch runs on diesel with one-way trip using about 5 litres of diesel. The launch ride was a real pleasure with people happily getting their snaps in all possible ways on the boat. We managed to hang in from the side of the launch and put in our feet in the water. Felt like as if we were water skating!! Some of us who were light weight (even yours truly!!) clambered on the top of the launch and tried to do various acrobatics to enjoy the sight of the water. It was really a fantastic ride.After a ride of about one and half hours, we landed in Met Indavali at around 5.30pm. It had already started becoming dark. The place was totally isolated with jungle all around us. A group of 6 people who had gone in the morning to visit the fort were waiting on the shore for the launch to take them back. As we landed, we shared information between us as trekkers passing each other usually do. The group had not halted for a night stay. They also did not see any wildlife. That did disappoint us a bit. We bid the launch and the returning group goodbye with instructions to the launch chap to pick us up next day around 12.30pm from the same spot.
Soon the launch became a speck in the water. The light started dimming fast. We now had to look out for the forest lodge. We walked along a beaten trail, which we though led towards the lodge. We also saw footprints of various animals along the shore that must be coming to quench their thirst in the earlier nights. Suddenly we heard a animal making noises very close to where we were walking. We were very near to the jungle edge. It seemed like a jackal. We started cracking jokes about getting scared. Hardly had we moved any further that we heard a blood-curdling growl from the edge of the forest, about 100 feet from where we were. The growl was of a leopard. We froze in our tracks and it caused real panicked amongst us.
The feeling of city slickers stranded in the jungle, miles from any help to be encountered by a creature as swift and powerful as a leopard paralyzed us. We rapidly started moving along the trail. Shockingly, the trail ended abruptly and we could not make out where to go. As we were trying to make heads or tails out of it, we suddenly saw few wild buffaloes (not bisons). The sight of even wild buffaloes terrified us at this point. However, we managed to find a trail near from where the wild buffaloes were standing. Everyone scrambled on this trail. Much to our relief, we saw the green colored jungle lodge within next 10 minutes. There was a small clearing, which had a small wooden barricade to prevent entry of wild animals.
A small makeshift wooden fence surrounded the clearing. There was a one-room lodge, locked, and a mud house and two tents pitched in this clearing. We plopped down and tried to get back our hearts to normal pace after that sudden scare.We decided to wait for the forest guards to come and help us out. However, much to our horror, even after 2 hours, no one turned up. We assumed that we would have to spend the night without any help. We immediately decided to pitch the tents we had brought with us. It was the first time we were putting up these tents and it seemed a Herculean task in the pitch darkness. We decided to use lesser number of torches as we had only 5 torches between the 8 of us, and I guess we were going to need all we got to spend the night safely. We scanned all possible places to sleep. We ruled out the mud house as it had a thatched roof and we could hear all rustling noises from the roof. After checking it with our torches, we found tons of cockroaches in the roof and suspected the presence of snakes too. At one time we even thought of breaking the lock of the lodge and sleep inside it but later abandoned this thought. We then set up our foldable tents within the tents provided by the forest deportment for double security. We fit in our two foldable tents within in a huge tent.
We had an early dinner in the other forest department tent. We made sure no single scrap of food was left outside or on the ground for we were scared that the animals might smell it and come near the tent. It was a scary night. My legs were towards the opening of the tent and I was scared that in case an animal decides to investigate our tent, my leg would be the first thing it would come across!! I could not sleep throughout the night with sounds coming from all over the lodge boundary. There were cries of hyenas, jackals and all types of birds. Whenever I did manage to catch a wink, I was rudely awakened by the snores of fellow mates happily snoring away to glory!! These sleeping beauties themselves sounded no less than any animal around to think on the lighter side of it, must have scared any inquisitive animal coming near our tent!
Finally day dawned and we all got up around 6.30 am. It was extremely cold outside though we did not feel it due to our cozy tents. We packed our stuff and started the ascent to Vasota fort. The trail was also dense and the path cool, even though the sun had made its appearance. The trees were tall and cast a shade over the entire path. It was a pleasure to walk through the path. During our trek, we came across two small temples enroute made from rocks placed strategically and given the saffron color. Seemed like the forest deity protecting its subjects. It took us around 2 hours to reach the pinnacle of the fort. We all tanked ourselves up with glucose, tons of water and left over grapes.After resting for a short while, we decided to explore the fort. The fort does not hold any great structures. There is a Hanuman temple at the entrance, while a little further down we came upon another temple housing a Shivling. The Shivling is said to be “Swayambhu”, i.e. self generated one. (Not made by human hands). We could see mountain ranges scattered over the horizon. Down below, there was dense forest. Suddenly, we saw a small movement in a clearing within the dense forest. That’s where we first saw a Bison coming out from the dense forest. To our delight, it was followed by a baby and within a span of 5 minutes by an entire herd. It was a delightful sight. Though the animals were not very clear, we could clearly make out the bisons due to their characteristic white spots over the head and leg and also their enormous bulk.Next we moved on to see the Babu kada, which is a deep ravine with dense jungle nested within it. The Babu kada is the Konkan face from where the Konkan region starts. We sat there for some time and enjoyed the breathtaking view. We were also supposed to see the Nageshwar temple but then the time restrictions did not permit us to do so, as this place was slightly far away. It was almost 11am. To the delight of a few of us, their mobiles started catching on the signal and there was a sense of being again connected to the city even while we were sitting so far away from it. From the top of the fort, a call was made to the launch owner and asked him to come on time by 12.30pm. Surprisingly, with pollution level almost nil in the region, the voice over the cell phone was so crystal clear that people sitting around could hear the voice of the launch owner very clearly.Tired and baked in then sun, we decided to move back towards where the launch would arrive to the foot of the fort. The descent was faster than expected. We all moved real fast with the hope of resting out our wearied bodies in the cool shade of the launch. However, the best was saved for the last. Just as we were about to break through into the clearing away from the forest, we suddenly came across hundreds of butterflies flying all over a small trail of the forest. It was a stupendous sight. Something which I can dream of seeing only on Discovery Channel or National Geographic. For a few minutes, we tried to drink in this spectacular sight. The butterflies were all of the same type but were all over the place. We tried to photograph them but were unable to do so due to poor light as the trees hardly let in even a ray of light.
We finally reached the foot of the fort in about an hour’s time. The descent was faster. We passed the jungle lodge enroute to the launch. We found the launch anchored firmly to the shore. Weary with the grueling trek and experiences, the water was too tempting to resist. So like a herd of buffaloes, we all jumped in the water and swam to our hearts fill for almost half an hour. With exhaustion taking on its toll, we all crashed in on the boat with it silently chugging along back to Bamnoli. Buses from Bamnoli back to Satara are around 11a.m, 2.30pm, and 5pm. We managed to get the 2.30pm bus and landed in Satara. A trip to nearby ATM ensured that we had sufficient money to go back to Pune and even have a small feast at the Satara bus stand hotel. We caught a State transport bus back to Pune and were back in Pune by around 7pm.
Tired, dirty and hungry but grateful that we could go through such a great experience. The green, lush forest totally refreshed us. The ride in the launch was like a cruise for us. The fear we felt when we heard the growl of the leopard, the hyena laughing at us or the jackals howling away was an experience never to forget. The wait for the forest guards seemed never ending. The helplessness we felt with no shelter cannot be forgotten. But at the same time the group coming up together, fixing tents, dividing chores and keeping a watch was also a great experience. In short, every part of this trek was an experience in itself, making us face real life situations and getting the best and worst out of us. Am looking forward eagerly to more treks like these. Always open to more experiences!!!


Harishchandragad is a part of the Sahayadri range with one of the most amazing concave fall called the Konkan Kada. After days of searching for fellow trekkers, we both (avinash and Uday) went ahead with this trek. We started early in the morning to catch a bus for Ale Phata. We were supposed to check out for a bus to Khireshwar, the base village for our trek.
The area for Harishchandragad is Ahmednagar district, close to the famed Junnar, the den of leopards. We got down at Ale Phata only to realize we wouldn't get a bus for Khireshwar. We had just missed it by about by 40 odd minutes. For future budding trekkers, there is one bus which goes directly from Pune to Khireshwar which also passes through Otur bus stand by around 9.30 am. We managed to wriggle into a bus for Khubi Phata, which is located about 4 Kms from Khireshwar. We started the journey to Khubi Phata and were mesmerized by nature's beauty present enroute in form of the huge Sahayadri range.
We were all set to deal with the leopards and even the chilling cold , looming over us it being the end of January. Though it was quite pleasant in Pune, we had expected it to be a little tougher in this region, especially at the top of our summit, which was approx 4500 ft high. We got down at Khubi Phata only to realize that we would have to walk 4km to reach at the base village, Khireshwar, along the Malshej Ghat. This place is buzzing with tourists and a heaven for an ornithologist during the months from June to September with Flamingoes who have travelled thousands of kms from Siberia, flocking in hoardes during the rainy season.
The water seemed very calm and cool and we after a long,dusty walk in the hot sun, we could not resist it for long. We decided to halt and take a break.
We started our trek to the summit. It took us grueling three and a half hours from the base village to reach the top. The terrain is good but extremely demanding and physically taxing for novices till one croses the Tolar Khind. We rested at the Khind for some time. The vegetation along the way is thick and though we started in the daytime we did not feel the heat due to the greenery , it being winter also added in.
One golden rule is to carry as much as water as possible, it's a long and tiring trek. There are water cisterns on top of the hill but its better to carry water from the start itself.
Post Tolar Khind, the terrain becomes steeper and we ended up on a place where we had to manage with just a frail and thin rod to catch hold while climbing from the edge, with the sheer fall beneath us. The path is well carved yet it would be demanding to climb this terrain in the rainy season. We reached at the top of the hill and then a long walk of about an hour and half brought us to the temple. The temple seems quite old , almost a few hundred years old. The temple is of Lord Shiva and according to the details given by the villagers, it gets real crowded during Shivaratari.
Totally exhausted, we rested for a while. There is a small ramshackle stall where we had some taak(buttermilk), which was truly refreshing at that moment. It was getting a little dark so we moved on to see the famed Konkan Kada, which is about 20 minutes from the temple. We hastened to the Kada and were well rewarded for all our efforts with the majestic view from the Kada. The sight took away all the pain and made us feel worth the effort put in. It is an out of world experience to sit near the edge of the Konkan Kada and watch the sun set. It's an amazing piece of nature's art . One has to be there IN PERSON to experience its beauty. We realized photographs can never inspire the feeling that one would experince when actually seeing this wonder.
We came back to the temple. It was already dark. We reached our shelter for the night with the majestic view and experience of Konkan Kada, captured in our minds forever. We reached back to the temple and hunted for some space to sleep. The guy at the ramshackle stall offers a simple dinner as well and can also help to find a place to sleep.
There are a lot of huge and ancient caves where one can take refuge , have a small fire and cook one’s meals. Some of the caves can house even around 15 to 20 people.We decided to stay in a small cave within the temple premises.

We had our dinner that we carried from Pune and arranged our sleeping bags ,preparing to sleep in the cold and clammy cave. One can get clean and fresh water from the underground water cisterns at the temple. The water is always cool, which is truly refreshing at that time. We came out to have some fresh air and were amazed by the sight of the sky, which was full of stars. This was a new discovery for us. Millions of stars, brightly sparkling. A sight a city slicker can only dream of. It was a truly amazing sight and we sat there for about an hour or so gazing at the sky, so different from a polluted city sky. We had brought a few stout sticks with us in case we would require to have a small fire. However, there seemed o need for it now. We were also to weary to have a fire. We used the sticks to bar the cave entry point. Just to ensure no one enters the cave while we were sleeping, no humans, dogs or as we had heard , leopards!!
The night passed peacefully. We got up early in the morning and went to see the two peaks of Taramati and Rohidas as well as the Balle Killa. It was amazing to see a score of hills of the Sahayadri surrounding the peak. The temple looked like a speck amidst a green carpet. The greenery was amazing, pointing to the rich Flora and Fauna surrounding the peak.
We bid adieu to the peak and started our descent. We completed the descent in one and a half hours as compared to the four and a half hours it took us to climb the place. We also visited an old temple along the way back to Khubi Phata. This walk from Khireshwar to Khubi Phata was quite painful with us almost dragging ourselves . Walking four more kms in the hot sun after a grueling trek was sapping. We reached the main road and tried almost two to three times to flag down the buses. However, all the buses seemed to be in a tearing hurry. Finally, we did manage to get a bus to Ale-Phata and returned back to Pune, in apiece.
It was a wonderful experience to be there at the peak. However, the major attraction of this trek would be the fantastic Konkan Kada and the crystal clear sky with the sparkling stars. A sight not easily to be forgotten.