RAJGAD to TORNAGAD – When HISTORY became our Trek-mate

Team: Sumita, Salil, Kishor, Arun Shitole, Sandip Joshi, Hitesh, Manoj Patil, Manoj Appu, raman, Abhijit, Kanchan, Amit.

Plan: Day 1: Pune Station – Gunjavane gaon – Rajgad (Padmavati Machi) – Suvela Machi – Bale Killa – Padmavati Machi. Day 2: Padmavati Machi – Sanjivani Machi – Tornagad. Day 3: Tornagad – Zunjar Machi – Bini Darwaza – Velhe Gaon – Swar gate.

Rajgad –Torna………………. Rajgad – Torna……………..   Rajgad –Torna……

I have been hearing this being repeated often and at regular intervals over the past year. Discussions of this Trek would crop up during other Treks, at Unnecessary Get-togethers, Birthday treats, anniversary gigs and even otherwise… Some would talk about it in hushed tones of reverence, some with the seriousness as if discussing matters of national security while others with the enthusiasm and excitement of 10 year olds… and why wouldn’t it be so!!! There is so much history and heritage attached to these two forts. Some among us tried to rope along renowned Historian Shri. Appa Parab to enlighten us with all the Historical Facts as in “Live Telecast”.

I have never seen so much back-stage lobbying happening in the context of a single Trek. Each member wanting to ensure that the Trek happened at a time when it did not clash with individual commitments. I’m sure that when Reuben finally announced the dates for the Trek as 11,12,13 Jan2013, Kishor was bracing for some intense lobbying. I wouldn’t know about others, but I was seriously relieved and happy because any other weekend of January was an impossibility for me. I was already Grinning. My Grin only grew wider when I came to know that Sumi will be the Trek Leader and Salil banega “Munimji”… J

From the onset, lots of things were going right for this Trek. To start with, the initial journey to Pune was by the overnight Shirdi bound train. Mhannje 2-3 taas changle zhop bhet-til… compared to the excuse of a sleep managed on buses.

Previous Night : 11pm 10 Jan 2013

Kanchan boarded at Dadar. Poor girl had been enduring a bout of cough and cold. But Rajgad-Torna Trek cannot be missed. Her conversation with her mother while leaving home ended with the warning “Azaari ho-un aalis tar bagh !!” All this pressure and the anxiety of boarding the train with unmarked coaches was showing on her face… which prompted another passenger, a wrinkly Old Man, to ask her “Are you running away from Home?!!?” We all had a lot of laughs at her expense.

Seven of us – Sumi (Sumita), Salil, me (raman), Manoj Appu, Amya (Amit Sawant), Kishya (Kishore Rane) and Badya (Arun Shitole) boarded at Thane. The grim prospect of an ST bus strike the following day posed a challenge but Kishya in his Indomitable way laughed it away.

Our Munimji, Salil, started off collecting money in his own inimitable style – With a smile on his face and a palm jutting out like a knife. Probably for the first time the expression “Mithi Chhuri” could be used in a male context. Manoj Patil, Sandip Joshi and Hitesh joined us at Kalyan. Though our seats were scattered, we managed to stick together and rested till we reached Pune Station.

Day 1: 11 Jan 2013

Though it was 4:30 am, we were all fresh when we disembarked the train in Pune. Kishore went ahead to check out the ST timings for our trip to Gunjavane, the base village for Rajgad.

As usual our Visralu Amya managed to forget a bundle of sleeping mats in the train. But, since the stars were smiling on him and this trek, the train waited till he could retrieve the mats. Having confirmed that the bus towards Nasarapur Phata leaves at 0615hrs, we decided to have breakfast to utilize the free time. I’m not really sure whether a meal had at 5:00 am can be called breakfast. Those members whose body clock disallowed this anomaly did not eat; the rest of us had a sumptuous meal of ultra-lite Kande-pohe and heavy-duty Bhurji-pav.

Abhijit joined us while we waited at the Bus Depot. Our Team of 12 was complete. The number was surprisingly low considering amount of interest evinced by all present and past members of Unnecessary Hikers. Apparently, Shri Appa Parab does not entertain such a small group for his live discourses. So the mantle of explaining the History of these forts fell on our resident Historians – Badya and Manya.

Apart from the 12 of us, we had the company of “The Smiling Stars” all along. Eg. On the day of ST strike we got an “ST” bus till Nasrapur Phata. What better example of Good Luck?

We boarded the ST bus looking forward to the next milestone. Dear Friends, I have to confess that for a long time I have been suffering from a particularly severe form of an illness called BTBAFA (Board the Bus & Fall Asleep) syndrome. Hence, I have absolutely no recollection of what happened till we got down at Nasrapur Phata at around 0730hrs.

Our negotiators immediately started discussions with the local Jeep drivers for the transit to Gunjavane village. One of them apparently gave us a good deal. The wily Bugger pointed towards a much big bigger vehicle while negotiating, but when it was time to board he took us to the much smaller vehicle right behind the bigger one. Humein Phasaya gaya!!… But there was no point in arguing further as the driver of the bigger vehicle had not arrived to start his day.

Memories of the jeep ride while going to Prachitgad flashed in front of the eyes; only more difficult. There were 13 of us (including the driver) in a closed type jeep (with no carrier) which can normally accommodate 8. Add to this, 12 full size back-packs with rations for 3 days. Even we were amazed that we could all Squeeze in. It was a record of sorts.

Over the years of “Unnecessarily Trekking”, my fear of heights has gradually diminished. Slowly I’ve been able to manage the fear of slipping, sliding and the tingling in the soles while looking over ledges. However, nothing prepared me for the FEAR that I was facing in that closed tiny space squeezed in with 12 compatriots on the way to Gunjawane.  “THE FEAR OF PUK”.

It was so easy for a little bit of “Trapped Air” to escape under so much pressure, yet it did not happen. Another instance when The Stars were truly Smiling.

We reached Gunjawane Base Village by 0845hrs. Here we had our 3rd cup of tea since morning. We stretched and visited a neighboring house where there was a scaled-down model of Rajgad, the only such instance in so many treks or forts that we have visited. Though this gave us an idea of what lie in store for us, it was nowhere near the towering presence of Rajgad in the Background. By 0930hrs we were on our way to Rajgad. The route started with an incline right away. There were barely any flat stretches all along.

We crossed a “Couple of Couples” en route. Somebody among us complimented their commitment to literally trek to such Heights to express their feelings; a Good test for a Budding Relationship. By experience we now know that the first Half an hour the body gives a lot of resistance and the trek looks like an impossible task. After that the body goes into submission. However, in Hitesh’s case, the resistance was much higher and longer. Kishor kaka had to literally sweet-talk, goad and even scold to get him to the top. The lightly loaded Manoj Appu pitched in to carry his back-pack.

We took a couple of breaks on the way just enough to catch our breath and to admire the “Nedhe” that we could see in the Suvela Machi section.

As usual the final stretch to the Chor Darwaza at Padmavati machi was the steepest. But we made it in good time. We reached Padmavati Machi by 1130hrs. This gave us a lot of time to look around & pose for snaps. We settled at the structure made for trekkers like us and visited the temple just next to it. Badya was giving us a discourse on the greatness of the Fort when somebody pointed out that we need to have lunch asap so that we can go to visit Suvela Machi and Bale Killa.

Sumi had adorned the mantle of Trek Leader effortlessly. In her own words, the leadership post didn’t matter much, because she has always been organizing the pre-trek arrangements related to food and snacks. The obvious difference compared to previous treks was that she shot a mail giving instructions to each member about the do’s, don’ts and what needed to be carried. Sumi is the uncrowned Queen of our Treks (At least the ones that I’ve been to) and she enjoys widespread respect across the spectrum. Maybe she was oblivious about it. So when she sent a specific mail instructing everyone to carry a lunch and some dry snacks, it resulted in each member not only carrying a lunch for themselves but for other members as well. Even the most notorious ones (Manoj Appu: are you listening?), who have always avoided the hassle of carrying lunch, carried food for themselves and others. All this: because NOBODY messes with Sumi. As a result, a team of 12 was carrying food for 50 people. With so much food we could have Hosted a Banquet at Rajgad, or put up a food stall for other visitors. The food went to the Dogs. I mean literally. I’m sure that there is at least one family of dogs who will remember us forever and pass on this story to several Dog Generations.

Having spent Less time Eating food and More time trying to Dispose the excess, we got ready to visit the Suvela Machi. We left our bags with the caretaker of the fort for safe-keeping, carried enough bottles of water and set off to explore Suvela machi and Bale Killa till sundown. It was not 2pm yet.

Unlike most Forts, Rajgad is truly the King of All forts. It is very extensive on the top which means that it may take several days if not weeks to explore the fort in all detail. But, we could not afford that luxury of time. The next morning we had planned to explore Sanjeevani Machi first and then go to Tornagad.

The route to Suvela machi is a traverse at the base of Bale Killa. On the way we saw Gunjawane Darwaza. It appeared as an unused route. There were sporadic fortifications along the way. Though it was afternoon, it was pleasant as we were traversing in the shadow of Bale Kille. We also passed a green patch with a small temple and a water-hole. After that we were exposed to the hot sun. By now the distinct fortification of Suvela Machi was visible. It is best to rely on the photo album since words cannot do justice trying to explain the intricacies of construction. We encountered Zunjar Buruj (watch tower) first which gave us a grand view of Suvela Machi and the ranges around us. We passed the Buruj and approached the Nedhe (gaping horizontal hole in the rock formation). Everybody wanted to climb and sit in the best location available in the Nedhe. However, even before everybody could settle down in the Nedhe, a swarm of agitated bees near there ensured that we all descended back to the machi at break-neck speed. Going further, we checked out the rest of Suvela Machi. The Machi itself was at different levels and going to and fro meant a lot of effort climbing and descending giant steps. We reached the far end of Suvela Machi before half past 3. Needless to say, it was “Posing” time. After half an hour worth of admiring the scenery and posing in front of it, we decided to move towards Bale Killa.

Bale Killa appeared to be far from where we stood. It is like a centrally located citadel within the fort, constructed on a Hillock. It is the central part of a triangle whose 3 vertices were defined by Padmavati Machi, Suvela Machi and Sanjeevani Machi. As we approached from Suvela Machi to the first inclines of this part of the fort, we were not sure whether to follow the unmarked path to Bale Killa or go back towards Padmavati Machi where we had seen a signboard showing directions to Balle Killa. Finally logic prevailed that there has to be a direct way to Balle Killa from Suvela Machi so we used the unmarked way. We were not wrong. After the initial steep climb in the sun, the path hit a traverse into the shade of Balle Killa which eventually led us to the steps (carved out of rock) almost vertically upwards to Balle Killa. Amazingly we reached the top by 1630 hrs.

Rajgad has plenty of water sources spread all over its expanse. Yet there was this initial scramble to locate drinking water on top.  After everybody’s thirst was quenched, it was up to each member what they wanted to do till sundown. People dispersed in different directions. Some took a nap, others walked around the ruins. We met this fellow trekker Andrew from Hong Kong, who was on his own exploring the different parts of Rajgad. He was fast and efficient in covering every part of Rajgad. Aaple Kishore Kaka did not waste time in giving him information about other forts and places of interest in and around the Sahyadris.

The view from the top was awesome. It was a Grand Visual Treat. The Balle Killa provided an excellent vantage point to control and direct all the 3 machis. The ruins on Balle Killa were good enough to indicate the floor layouts – The Bazaar Peth, The Rakshak Huda, The Rajwada, The Daru Kothar, etc. Even before we could realize, it was sundown. It was 6pm and it was getting cold and windy. Reluctantly we started the climb down from Balle Killa to Padmavati Machi where we had planned our night stay. We collected some firewood for the campfire on the way. Having reached early, Salil immediately got on to the job of preparing tea, which many of us were longing for. Most people felt filled up after this, so there was no immediate clamor for dinner. We had a great eventful day. Everything went off just as planned. The Stars were truly smiling on us.

It did not become as cold as we expected, so nobody was interested in a campfire. The tiring day started showing its effect on all of us as we all started looking for a place to park our bu** and be motionless. The only activity which could be done without moving our bu** was to sing, which we did with gay abandon. Dinner was uneventful though the sleeping arrangements were RACIST – The Snorers and Non-Snorers were segregated. Somebody call Human Rights !!!

All through the day, I was a bit dazed – couldn’t figure out why. As I lay down to sleep, I realized the reason: When we entered Rajgad from the Chor Darwaza, we had actually stepped into History. Everything thing that we saw, had a story to tell. Each wall, every stairway, every detail was screaming for attention. It was overwhelming. Laying there by myself, without any distractions, gradually all the pieces of the Past started falling into place. I slowly drifted into History: the hustle and bustle around the Padmavati Pond during Peace-time. The Karbharins are busy with their daily chores; their children diving into the pond and splashing water; some of them are running up and down the inclines leading to the pond, chasing small animals; some Sainiks are giving teens lessons in combat and warfare. The vigilant guards at the chor darwaza are stopping and checking anyone who wants to enter; their “Chaudi Chhaati” and menacing gait discouraging all the unwanted elements; the Sentries, patrolling along the walls keeping a watchful eye on all the slopes and the rocky patches.

One look at the fortifications and the scene immediately changes to times of war. The Shoor Sainiks crouched behind the thick walls keeping an eye on the enemy below; confident that those walls can withstand all onslaughts. Each Sainik identifying a target; waiting till the enemy soldier becomes a sitting duck and then letting the lone arrow take him out. The Senapati on the Buruj is sending out instructions; changing the formation of troops as and when required to repulse the attack. Sainiks are running up and down along those thick walls relaying messages and replenishing ammunition. Some troops are adjusting the cannons to inflict maximum damage on the enemy; the deafening explosion when each cannon is fired. Those strategic discussions in Balle Killa ; signals being sent to the nearby forts informing status. I could just go on….

It was a cinematic experience. That is when I understood the distant look most of our team members had earlier in the day, when we reached the top. Each one was running his/her own cinematic version of History while exploring the fort. They were all responding with a delay; as if putting the movie on “Pause” before replying.

The whole experience was magical. It did not matter, whether our imagination was factually correct. All that mattered was that we were there at that Historical place and we could feel the spirit of all the Brave and Great Warriors who served on this fort. We could contemplate the Pride and Inspiration each occupant of Rajgad had felt. We could feel the presence of the One and Only, the Greatest of all Maratha Kings – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj !!! Har Har Mahadev !!!

Day 2: 12 Jan 2013

I realized that I was asleep when I got up. I was already filled with the excitement of exploring Sanjeevani Machi. This also made me a bit impatient. Fortunately everybody was as excited as I was. Even the habitual morning delay offenders (Badya – aikla ka?) were up and ready well before time. Some terse comments from Munimji and the Trek leader deflated my impatience and brought me back to normal. After having the regular bread-butter breakfast & tea, we were all packed by 8am. With the inspiring clarion call “Jai Bhavani !!!  Jai Shivaji !!!” we were en route by 8:15am.

After a bit of climb, we took the diversion to the right for Sanjeevani Machi. This too had a traverse near the base of Balle Killa, only it was on the Pali Side. The narrow path was scenic and pleasant; the sun was on the other side, so we could enjoy the shade. We could see Pali Darwaza on the slopes, Tornagad in the distance and the ridge connecting Tornagad to Rajgad even as we reached Sanjeevani Machi.

The ingenuity of the architecture/construction of the fort was such that even a handful of Sainiks who were defending the fort could do their job at leisure no matter how big the attack was. Some of the Vantage Points were so safe and secure that even “Trainee Sainiks” could get hands-on training during war-time without exposing themselves to any kind of danger.

Suvela Machi and Sanjivani Machi, though they looked similar, were distinct as far as the construction goes. Suvela Machi has elevated steps/platform along the entire length of the external fortified wall to allow Sainiks to comfortably stand behind the wall and easily duck for cover. The mountain on which it was built had steep slopes on all sides. Sanjivani Machi has a Double Wall construction along almost the entire periphery of that machi, each wall almost a meter thick. Between these two walls was a passage which allowed easy movement of Sainiks without being exposed to enemy fire. These differences were definitely due to the varied Threat Perception at different locations. Sanjeevani machi had a broad shoulder just below its fortified walls, which would allow an enemy to accumulate a number of soldiers and bring cannons for an attack. A double wall structure here would serve as a back-up if the first wall is blown apart.  A number of Chikalthi Buruj was scattered all around Sanjeevani Machi. These are bastion-like projections on the outer wall half way down the height of the wall which gives direct line of sight on anybody trying to scale the wall from the flanks. Access to all the Chikalthi Burujs is through very narrow tunnels which can be easily defended.

Needless to say, each one had started playing the war-movie which was paused the day before; everybody relishing each scene. And like every good movie, there was a Grand Interval too. Suddenly out of nowhere, this Gavkari appeared with a vessel full of fresh curd (our Lucky Stars in Play again). As is the trend with Unnecessary Hikers, all his curd disappeared in no time. Our blatant display of greed for the curd gave him an opportunity to fleece us when it was time to pay.

It was 10am and time to leave for Tornagad. Exploring Sanjeevani Machi did not get us thirsty and the curd had refreshed us. We were told that no water was available on the ridge between Rajgad and Tornagad and water was on ration. It was to be had only when all were present, and in quantities decided by the leader. As left through Aloo Darwaza, we were bracing ourselves for this stretch. This entire stretch was over the ridge formed by several small mountains which were lined up between Rajgad and Tornagad.

Though it was only 10am, it was hot and there was barely any shade. The descent was tricky and there were some steep rock-patches. It was clear from the topology of the terrain that our path will be going up and down all the way. Since it was a fairly straight forward path which did not require special path locating skills most of our team members possessed, I had no hesitation taking the lead. Being up front was quite rewarding. The path and the scenery unfolded simultaneously; hence I could fully enjoy the view too. And I could set the pace, which reduced fatigue.

It was me, Abhi jit, Manoj A and Hitesh in front. Since, we were much ahead of everyone, we did not hurry. Soon we reached the lowest level of descent, the point from where the ridge started. We halted for a moment. But Hitesh said that the rest are fast and will catch up in no time. So we took to climbing the ridge at a brisk pace. The Hot Sun and the steep incline made things difficult but there was a silver lining. Walking along the ridge gave a breath-taking view on both sides of the mountain, unlike other paths where we get to see only one side of the terrain.

Hitesh was having a tough time. There was only occasional wild growth which would offer a little bit of shade. At the end of one such descent we came across a recently constructed paved road which connected Bhutande Village to Pali Khind. This was the route that Shivaji Maharaj took to invade Surat. Senapati Yesaji Kank who was based in this village was a key element in these conquests. We continued our climb. Eventually we reached the House of the Curd Vendor who we met at Sanjeevani machi. He had said that we will get free “Chaas”(buttermilk) if we go to his house. This was the only concession he gave us when we were haggling with him over the price of curd. However, there were only 3 glasses of Chaas available which we distributed among the 12 of us. Even water was scarce, as they have to fetch water from a great distance.

At this juncture Hitesh felt it was best if he cut short his Trek. He was having a harrowing time already and the paved road, which we’d crossed, gave an exit for him to hitch a ride to Pali Khind. It was a wise decision in retrospect. After the farewells, we got going. As the hours passed by, it was only getting more arduous. We reached a fork where the trodden path led us down, while the logical path led us up. Kishor went to check out the upper path while we took the well-trodden path. Though Kishor went the correct way, we went in the direction where our Smiling Stars led us. Not far from that point we reached a wadi where a Kind Kaka gave us a fill of water and Chaas. It was not a big detour after all, since he led us to a traverse which met up with the path on the ridge. The “Smiling Stars” were at work once again. What else would explain getting 2 water/chaas breaks where we were told none was available?

After this the terrain became barren with no shade whatsoever. All of us were getting tired of the incessant walking. At one point all were exhausted and wanted a break, but we could not find shade. Short temper and indifferent replies indicated that everybody had reached their limits of exhaustion. Somehow, we trudged along for almost a kilometer before we found shade. Everybody just plonked themselves down on the narrow path without a care. Kanchan who had been braving the flu took a pill before we started again. It was 2pm. Everybody was hungry, but we decided we will eat only when we reach Budhala Machi.

The last stretch was the most grueling grind of the entire trek. It was steep all along. The Hot Sun was bearing down on us. Most of us had stopped admiring the view, it was more about somehow reaching the next milestone. The Back-packs felt heavier than ever. It was one Rock patch followed by another. At the end of one such Rock patch was the base of Budhala Machi. It is difficult to describe the sense of relief at that point of time. It was 2:30 pm. This was a flat piece of terrain just below the machi but we had to choose a rocky patch with big boulders to escape the sun. I silently saluted Kanchan’s perseverance. Inspite of being unwell, she did not lag behind. I guess Girl Power was in full display in this trek. In retrospect, we did cover the ridge at a very good pace. We had our dry lunch here and rested for a while. Though our destination was at least an hour’s worth of steep hiking, we were relieved that at least we had reached the boundary wall of Tornagad.

After the break which lasted almost 1 hour, we got up to scale the rock patch which crossed into the boundary of Tornagad. That is when our Smiling Stars decided to poke fun at one of our members. The fact that Unnecessary Hikers has a trek at least once a month makes managing “Leave” very tricky for our team members. They have to come up with really imaginative reasons and stories to get leave-sanction, which they cook up assuming no one is gonna know. However, the law of averages caught up with one of our team members (leave sanctioned over a cooked-up story), when one of his colleagues (on legitimate leave) from another department showed up at that exact time at that same Rock Patch of Tornagad (at a location where one couldn’t hide from the other) but trekking in the opposite direction. I can’t recollect another instance in my entire life when lady luck had so mercilessly caught a guy with his Pant’s down. I don’t know how he would extract himself from this situation.

Though we had entered Tornagad using a metal ladder fixed at that difficult rock patch, we were still far away from our destination. And no way was the rest of the trek a walk in the park. The trek was tough and difficult. The paths were too narrow. Some patches had scree. We came across another team of two who took a wrong turn to get stuck on a ridge. They couldn’t move in any direction. It took our experts Kishya and Manya considerable effort to get them off their predicament. We crossed Chilan Darwaza and Kokan Darwaza as we trudged along. The rest of the trek was uneventful till we reached the Mengai Devi temple where we intended to stay that night. It was 5pm.

However, Kishor kaka had a surprise in store for us. At the temple his old trek mates : Makarand, Steven and Shrikant were waiting for us. They had started from Velhe village 3 hours ago to reach Tornagad. For us it was more the merrier. Especially, since they had got some tasty Mutton curry from the village. We all had a gala time having tea, soup, preparing dinner and having lots of fun. After dinner some of us wandered off to a nearby Buruj. We laid down gazing at the millions of stars on a moonless night.

There was another trekking group who we had to share the temple with. Also due to the Racist Undercurrents, some of us chose to sleep in the tents we had carried along. It was a beautiful end to a remarkable day.

Day 3: 13 Jan 2013

Morning began with the hustle/bustle of people trying to catch a glimpse of sunrise despite the biting cold. Else it is very difficult to get people out of their sleeping bags. We were right on top of Tornagad, the best viewing point available on that range. We could see the sky changing shades even before the sun rose. The outline of Rajgad in the foreground was simply Ethereal.

The day started at an easy pace. We packed our tents, had tea, dry snacks and breakfast. The day was clearer than other days. It was easy to spot Sinhagad in one direction and Raigad in the other direction. Rajgad looked formidable from Tornagad. We were soon packed up and ready to leave by 9am. The plan was to visit Zunjar Machi and then start the descent to Velhe village from the Bini Darwaza.

Tornagad was not as elaborately built as compared to Rajgad. Yet there was plenty of fortification. We started moving towards Zunjar machi which is at a lower level. It was surprising that there was no straightforward route to go there. It required some rock climbing skills to reach the machi. We were left wondering how the Sainiks managed this in the past. After descending to Zunjar Machi, we were witness to some awesome views of the ridge and the valleys below. We took our time looking around and taking snaps. Very soon we were back to where we started in the morning. We then took a detour of the fort along the wall till we reached Bini Darwaza, where we took a Nimbu Sherbet break at a vendor inside the fort. By now a number of groups had started arriving at Torna, Sunday being a holiday and this being a popular destination for people from nearby towns.

We left Torna by 11:20am. Except for a couple of rock patches, the descent was fairly straightforward. But it can’t be classified as simple. The route is quite steep with varying grades of difficulty. However, we managed to cover this distance within one and half hours. We crossed a number of trekkers trying to reach summit and guessed it would have made the whole place very crowded. We were happy that we had the fort to ourselves the previous day.

By 1pm we were at the same hotel where Makya and gang had packed the mutton curry. The food that we had at that place was sublime and the service was even better. People just couldn’t have enough of what was served. But then all good things have to end. Badya and Kanchan left with Makrand, Stevens and Shrikant who had come in a car. With 2 people and their bags gone, for us too, the return journey to Nasrapur Phata was more comfortable compared to earlier. Since the windows were open, I dozed off without the fear of Puk. At Nusrapur Phata we got a connecting ride to Swar Gate,Pune. My BTBAFA syndrome kicked in and even before I realized we were at Swar Gate. And as if we were not lucky enough, the Smiling Stars made their presence felt once again. The moment we entered the SWAR Gate ST depot, there was this empty point to point ST Bus headed to Vandana talkies (Thane), waiting for us.

We happily boarded the bus and settled into our seats grateful for the favors from Lady Luck. Even as I drifted into another bout of BTBAFA, I faintly remembered those lines by Paulo Coelho in the Alchemist :

“When a person really desires something, the whole universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”

This Rajgad-Torna Trek was proof to that. We Desired and Dreamt and the whole universe conspired to make sure that it was Realized… The Hype that was floating around this trek turned out to be TRUE. This was one of those Treks which will be permanently imprinted in our memories.


Kishor’s photo gallery

Manoj’s photo gallery

Slidermen 4 – Scree-ing from Chandragad to Arthur Seat


Friday – 21st Dec – Meet at CIDCO bus stand Thane by 11.30 PM. Start our journey by 12.
Sat – 22nd Dec – Reach Dhavale gaon near Poladpur. Start trek by 7.30 AM. First Chandragad and then to Arthur seat Mahabaleshwar. Trek duration is 8-9 hrs. We will reach Arthur seat by 5 PM. Our vehicle will join us there.
Sun – 23rd Dec – As we have enough time, we will try to explore one more fort on Sunday. Maybe Pratapgad or Makarandgad. For this we will reach base village of the fort by Saturday night.
Our return journey to Mumbai will start by Sunday afternoon.

Day 1: 22nd Dec 2012.

Each time a Trek is announced, I wonder how this is going to be different from the previous one.

This time we did not have to wait for the trek to unravel itself. It was different right from the beginning. We had a change of Guard. Kishore-kaka, the veteran commander of countless earlier Adventures had announced early on that the Trek will be led by our “CM” Pawar. CM as in Chaitali Madhukar Pawar. The CM tag fits her well considering that professionally she is part of the Bureaucracy. That her current stint was in Alibaug only makes her more qualified for this politically relevant role.

The Change in Regime was evident right from the beginning. First it was ensured that all the remaining Trek Members were present at the pick-up point (Cidco Bus Stand). Then the Chief Protocol Officer (Bapu) left for the Official Residence of the Trek leader and brought the Trek Leader to the pick-up point in her official vehicle (Auto). The leader was welcomed by all the members with a great amount of Gusto. After the mandatory exchange of (un)pleasantries the Leader Flagged Off the Bus for this Trek with the customary “Ganpati Bappaaa… Moryaaaa !!”.  It was 12:45am of the intervening night of 21st and 22nd Dec 2012.

At this point there were 11 of us :

1.       Chaitali

2.       Bapu

3.       Kishya

4.       Kiran Fedex

5.       Manya

6.       Amya

7.       Abhilash

8.       Abhi   jit

9.       Raman (the voice in the back-ground)

10.   Swalpesh

11.   Kiran More

Badya and Sujit were to join us on the way at Jui Nagar Railway Station. We all remembered from the previous Trek that our bus would have overshot Badya and Sujit, but for the timely intervention by Kishor. We at Unnecessary Hiker learn well from our past mistakes. This time we were all prepared with Amya in the lead. We not only managed to overshoot Badya’s location by 2kms, we did a bigger detour through a maze of service roads to circle back and pick them up. Our Unnecessary target for next time is to overshoot them by at least 5kms !!!

The team of Thirteen who set about on a Friday was now complete.

Even before we started Off from Cidco, Manya was murmering “mala bhook lagli aahe”… Though I was sound asleep, I could imagine how difficult it must have been to hold him back till Poladpur where we reached around 4:30 am. In the next half an hour, the entire inventory of the Wada-Pav center was wiped out without a trace. The poor Groggy vendor, in that early hour, had no clue what was happening and surely he must have dismissed the entire episode as a fictitious bad dream the following morning. A dream he wouldn’t wish to have again.

The Good thing was, in the entire melee, somebody managed to secure enough Vada-pavs for breakfast when we reach Dhawale Village.

There are many advantages of remaining asleep during the journey. Though we close our eyes to the Clutter of the Urban Setting, in the morning our Eyes open up to the Surreal Charm of a quaint village, the type we read about in fairy tales. Dhawale Village, in the morning, is surely the inspiration of several such fairy tales. The small beautiful village, so snugly ensconced in the valley looks all the more Magical in the rays of the morning sun. The warm hospitality that the Villagers extend is equally of the kind we read in Fairy tales.

However, this Charm invariably becomes the victim of amnesia the moment the climb becomes steep and water becomes scarce. Our guides Pappu and Ravi (who were recruited from Dhawale Village by our specialist negotiators) made sure that the onset of amnesia happened much earlier.

We broke-fast with Vada Pav from Poladpur. The bus driver was given instructions to meet us at Arthur’s Seat at Mahabaleshwar.

It was already quarter to eight when we started Off towards Chandragad. Being a new-comer (relatively), I have always been a passenger on all these Treks till date. I would Board these Treks looking for some exciting albeit UNNECESSARY Adventures, follow the cue of the senior Trekkers, experience some anxious and trouser-tearing moments and after having much more than the recommended dose of hardship and adventure, return home with a body not capable of further abuse and a mind having a stupid smile plastered all over it. I would look like a fit case for Psychiatric Help.

This time, Kishya has deputed me to write about the experience. So I’ll pretend to be this Trek-Guru who is aware of all the History and Geography of the peaks and forts that we have climbed with some (insignificant) help from Google Baba. I also have to remind Kishya that he has broken protocol by bypassing the authority of CM Pawar before deputing me on this job and that he will be directly responsible for any negative outcome of his (and my) actions.

Chandragad, also known as Ramchandragad, was built by Chandrarao More who controlled the Jawali region before Shivaji Raje Bhosale took over. Though we had no intentions of taking over this fort, we thought we should at least have a peek. A short walk through the meadows and we passed Shelarwadi, a hamlet of few houses. This point onwards, the gradient changed gradually. The trail was marked with “Om Namah Shivay” boards nailed onto tree-trunks. A fleeting thought crossed my mind – Why have a guide for such a well marked trail? And we were having two of them. But right then we saw this dilapidated signboard “Chandragad Darshan” just across a dried up stream. This was our first water-break. The trek was smooth sailing till here. The gradient became quite steep from this point onwards and the scree made it a bit challenging, yet nothing that could ruffle Unnecessary feathers. Somewhere along the path near the top, Pappu pointed out a diversion for Arthur Seat. I couldn’t see any obvious route and assumed I must have overlooked it. Up further with some basic climbing skills and without much ado we reached the top at 09.45 am (????). Sujit, the youngest among us, made it look like “Bachchon ka khel”.  

On the top there are broken remnants of a temple, houses, walls and fortress. There is a Shiva-ling and a Nandi statue at one place. The view from the top was breath-taking with a clear view of Raireshwar to the Northeast & Mahableshwar to the South East.

On the northern end of the fort there are a couple of water reservoirs. Though the water did not look encouraging, the Guides swore by it and it tasted good. The water-holes on the western ledge are accessible only to Expert Climbers. The slope is too steep and the scree is unpredictable. We filled the bottles to make sure that we had enough water for the next part of the trek.

After spending some relaxing moments quenching our thirst and gorging the sights, we left the top around 10 am. Our Next Objective was Bahirichi Ghumati(????) which was en route to Arthur Seat. I was thinking “ Its 10am, we have finished one Fort and already on the way to the other !!! Treks have become too easy these days…”… Another 15 minutes and I realised I couldn’t be more WRONG.

On our way down, we had to negotiate the steep route just as we anticipated. While going down, the perception of endless depth plays tricks on the mind and the scree only makes things worse. However, all of us being seasoned trekkers, we descended quite efficiently to the point where Pappu stopped for the diversion to be taken for Arthur Seat. It dawned upon me that I had not overlooked this route on our way to the top. I had seen the route, only my mind did not accept it as a route. The traverse looked like it is efficiently designed for the purpose of sliding down on the scree (what Manya prefers to call ball-bearings) and not for crossing. Only when I saw Pappu hold Sujit’s hands to take him across did I believe that he was not joking. All of us struggled to get across. Pappu, the guide, even tripped once, trying to stop Sujit from sliding away. The traverse may have been about 250 feet across. Yet by the time we were all across, it was already 11am.

It was a big sigh of relief when all got across especially since Pappu declared it was an easy path downhill from that point onwards. After having done a decent number of treks, I can now print a dictionary about Gavkari’s and Village Guide’s lingo. “What they say and what they mean!!!” So when they say it is easy, I’m fully aware NO WAY is it going to be easy. Yet we still lap up these assurances like gullible customers.

The next hour was a roller-coaster ride sliding down a steep slope. It was as if the entire side of that hill was crumbling under our feet. Everything that we laid our feet upon came loose – sand, gravel, small rocks, medium rocks, big rocks, boulders… everything. There was one saving grace – we got to hold on to the dried stalks of wild growth. It is an irony that wild growth can be a saving grace, because they are always in your face, scrape your arms and obscure the vision. Always Irritating. Now it became a saviour. Yet there was a catch… there always is. Randomly dispersed among them were an equal number of loose stalks which appeared firmly planted, yet they would come off the moment they were held. What followed was an episode of Takeshi’s castle!! Only there were no padding, safety nets and Javed Jaffery’s comments.

We covered a lot of distance on that treacherous slope tumbling, stumbling, tripping & sliding down. There were no proud moments about form or posture or technique of Rock Climbing. There were only Clumsy moments for All !!!

Given the background of scams which were happening in the urban world, this thought crossed my mind – God had outsourced manufacturing of these Mountains to some corrupt contractors who cheated on the quantity of Fevicol used while building these mountains just as they cheat on cement used for building for the roads and bridges. And so these slopes were crumbling when we stepped on them.

I also realised why we needed the guides. There was no path through that growth. One just had to know in which direction to go in that wild growth where one couldn’t see more than 10 metres in any direction. At this stage everybody was suffering with a collective bout of Amnesia of the sights and beauty of the Dhawale Village… J

The path then opened up to a more sensible rocky route. The descent was quite steep yet manageable, but energy sapping nevertheless. I was convinced that we descended more than we climbed for Chandragad, that we were much deeper in a valley. In spite of the difficulties posed, we covered the distance at a fast pace. Whenever we asked, Pappu replied on every occasion that the end of this descent is just ahead. Later we wizened up and stopped asking.

At one point on the path he just stopped. The path went further down. However, there was a small opening to the right which was supposed to be the next ‘leg’ of our journey. But by now we were not sure whether there were any ‘legs’ left with us. Without a guide, it was very easy to miss this diversion. It was 12noon when we reached here. This spot was a nice shaded area in the valley.

The guides advised us to have our lunch break here, considering that there was a 3 and half hour distance to Bahirichi Ghumati looming ahead before our next water hole at Jor-che-pani. After discussion, it was decided to have a snack break of sandwiches and cakes, since the general consensus was that a full fledged lunch would make us groggy and lethargic.

Fortunately there was water in a dried up stream 7-8 minutes away. We refilled our bottles and were on our way by 12:45pm. The next 3 and half hours of the trek can be called the most excruciating part of the whole trek. There was a continuous and relentless upward gradient which was scree ridden for a large part of it. There was hardly any traverse in the climb till we reached Bahirichi Ghumati. Fortunately, most part of this leg was through shaded jungle. As we approached the ridge, we were exposed to the afternoon sun, which made the climb more difficult till we reached Bahirichi Ghumati. A small diversion and a short climb and we reached the water hole at Jor-che-pani. By the time everybody reached this point, it was past 4:15p.m. In this entire phase, this was the only piece of open terrain which could fit 15 people. The break was more than welcome considering that everybody was totally exhausted beyond imagination. Though late, Lunch and the rest did wonders in rejuvenating everybody.

We started the last leg just before 5pm. The nip in the air so early in the evening more than suggested that we are near a Hill Station. We had our fill of food and water and carried enough water to suffice till we reach Arthur Seat. The moment Arthur Seat was visible, our Guides Pappu and Ravi gave us directions to reach there. They had to return back before it was too late. Amya bid them their final goodbyes making sure that the Guides will be enthusiastic (₹₹₹₹₹) to guide all future trekkers. Abhi Jit took over the guide’s job at this stage. Young and Enthusiastic that he is, we covered the final phase at a good pace within an hour. He was up on the viewing point of Arthur Seat along with Amya by 6pm.

This was the most rewarding phase of the entire trek. We had to traverse across the ridge to a rock patch which was below and to the left of Arthur Seat. The scenic beauty which we experienced during this traverse made us forget all the hardships we had to endure to reach there. We were in luck since we got the sun-set just about the same time. This was among the most unforgettable memories of our lifetime. The view of the valley was breath-taking. When we reached about 200 feet below to the left of Arthur Seat, Abhi Jit and Amya made light of the final Rock patch showing the rest of us the way up. Sujit was up and on the point in a jiffy. The remaining members took their time to clamber up. This journey ended with several group snaps at Arthur Point.

In the meanwhile, our Bus was already waiting for us at the entrance of Arthur Seat. It was 7pm already. The traffic jam on the way and the blockade by the forest guard killed any hopes of cooking dinner. So we halted at Hotel Sahyadri for Dinner. Our plan had been to reach the base village for Madhu-Makarandgad by nightfall. We barely made it to another village called Kasrud before we decided to set up camp. It was too late and one could easily lose way at that time of the night searching for the base village Hatlot.

We were all so famished that I have no recollection of what happened between getting down from the bus and falling asleep in the Temple.


Day 2:

The night of sleep did wonders to all. For once, everybody slept well, inspite of the roaring at the level of a Grand Prix race. Each roar having its own unique characteristic as was its owner. The chill of the night barely mattered to anybody.

Once everybody was awake, it required Kishor-kaka’s nagging to jump-start everybody to start with the morning activities. Manya took the initiative for preparing tea and I helped him with the finer details.

There was a lesson to learn about the break-fast of bread and butter. Butter in the cold mornings is a time-waster. Making sandwiches from them becomes a big challenge. Lot of allegations and accusations flew over the quality of the Bread. Manya, who brought the bread, brazenly admitted that he was too lazy to go to a store farther than the Iyengar Bakery which is next to his House. The responses from the Teflon-coated Manya did not in any way reassure us that we are going to get any better bread the next time around.

Meanwhile, a big argument started between villagers who had queued up for Water at a distance. We all thought it was best for us to leave the place before we were caught in their cross-fire. It was 8:30 am when we all chanted “Ganpati Bappaaa… Morya…”

Hatlot, the base village we couldn’t reach last night, was at a winding distance of 4 kms. The Bus-driver used his driving skills very well to negotiate the hair-pin bends to reach us here. The first reaction that everybody had on reaching Hatlot was that we should have spent the night here. This was a small cosy village, instantly liked by all.

Somehow the whole setting of this new place made us forget the hardships of the previous day. Kishore had already talked to a village elder and organised a guide for us. We all were set to start the fresh new day with a fresh new trek. Madhu Makrandgad, where we intended to go, had this imposing presence in the back-ground of this village.

Madhu Makarand Gad is a twin peak in the Sahyadri. It is visible from Pratapgad and Raigad. This fort was a watch fort guarding the trade route of Radtondi pass connecting Wai-Mahabaleshwar to Poladpur. This fort became redundant after Pratapgad was built. Since it had very steep cliffs on all sides, it did not need fortification. Out of the two peaks, Madhu peak is inaccessible to common trekkers. Makarand peak was converted as a fort.

Even as we started, there were several drop-outs.

Kiran Fedex had come on this trek after a very long break. He had brilliantly trekked the previous day keeping Pappu on his toes all the while. But by nightfall, Uske Ghutne ne jawab de diya !!! His will to trek was further smothered by the cosiness of the village. He came to know of this lovely stream flowing through the village. He was more determined to convert this part of the trek into a spa experience.

Sujit saw an opportunity to watch DVD movies on the LCD TV mounted in the bus. He managed to give all of us (especially Badya) the slip. Badya realised that Sujit had bunked only when the trek started. By then it was too late for him to take corrective action.

Aaple Trek leader Chaitali la Kantala aala. Apparently Makarand Gad was not a ‘Happening’ Place for her. She felt Hatlot was more “Happentoy”. Though we all tried to convince her, we relented because then she could make Lunch “Happen”.

So, the ten of us set off with enough water and snacks. It was past 9:30am. The guide first took us to the village temple where we paid our respects. In 10 mins we were off to the mountains. The first part of the trek was through the plains of the village, navigating through farms and haystacks before we reached the first inclines.

Even as we stepped into the jungle, we were relieved for 2 reasons:

1.       There was no scree. (Hurray)

2.       The forest was dense enough to have a constant shade for almost the entire duration of the trek.

It almost felt like somebody was compensating us for the difficulties faced the previous day. The trek was a copybook experience. It is the type of trek which should be used to initiate newcomers. Steady incline, good amount of shade, barely any scree & several locations to have cosy breaks. The traverses were also suitably located to provide just the right amount of relief from the climb without having to stop.

The first phase of this pleasant trek ended at the Gaodevi temple. A calm and peaceful place. We all paid our respects and got ready for the next phase. Kiran More (whose rays had dimmed and was kept lit only by the constant prodding of Kishor the previous day) decided that he is going to stay put. For a new-comer he had already done very well. He decided to rest in the temple while the rest of us set off to the reach the fort. Our guide did not have any plans to come to the fort, since he felt there was no need to. The path was fairly straight-forward.

The fort was an almost barren piece of geology sticking out vertically from the forest and greenery. The climb here onwards was steep. One look at the peak and we estimated that it may take half an hour to reach the top. We went up at a leisurely place taking our time to take snaps as well as enjoy the beauty all around. When we reached half way up, we came across a traverse which after a short distance split into two ways with a Kalash kept in front of a Deity placed exactly on the fork. One path led upwards and the other continued the traverse. Not able to make up our mind, we looked around. Kishor saw some people at the top and waved at them for directions. They gestured us to continue with the traverse. We did that. After we almost went around the whole peak we started having doubts. But all those doubts cleared off when we saw Wells dug out of the rocky face of the Mountain. We had our fill, filled our bottles & posed for some snaps here.

By now we had already overshot our initial estimated time by 15 mins. Kishor-kaka got everybody to move up on the small, yet tricky path cut into the steep slope next to the water hole. All were on top within 10 mins. There is this Shiva Temple right on top with Nandi facing the entrance. The view from the top was fantastic with a good view of Pratapgad, Koyna backwaters and the Mahabaleshwar Plateau.

We had snacks here in the shade of the tree right in front of the Shiva Temple. It was 12:30pm and Amya said we should be back in Hatlot village by 1:30 to have lunch. Kishor immediately started the descent at a blistering pace and I had difficulty keeping up with him.  I wondered why we were hurrying up so much. I “smelt” a rat (figuratively and literally), but focussed more on catching up with him. We used the other path to go down, the path which meets the traverse near the Kalash. We were down near the Gaodevi temple in no time. Then I realised what was wrong. Kishore had missed a “Call” in the morning. So he had to attend the call as soon as possible before the rest caught up so that we don’t lose any more time in our descent. J

That is when I got to reflect on what had just happened. The 2nd phase of this trek from the Gaodevi temple to the top and back was dry and barren. It was Scree-ridden at many patches, more so on the path we had chosen to descend. This kind of scree had always given me knots in the tummy in all the previous treks. I would be thankful on each past occasion that the scree was only for a short distance and I would tackle them on all fours. However, I barely realised that this time I had literally run through this scree trying to catch up with Kishor. The previous day’s Scree torment from Chandragad to Arthur Seat had made the Makarandgad scree-obstacles look ordinary. It was like, I graduated from a level 1 to a level 3 in a video game. I almost caught myself gloating that I was growing as a Trekker and increasingly skilled at handling obstacles. It took a while to wipe that silly grin off my face.

As usual Kishor attended his “call” with precision timing. By the time the last member was down from the peak, he was all set to go. Kishor had no reason to announce “Puk” for the rest of the trip. J . Unnecessary Hikers will forever be indebted to Aarush Rane for coining this word.

From the beginning of the descent at GaoDevi temple, Swalpesh set a scorching pace. He was literally galloping down the slopes with Kishor, Abhi Jit and me playing catch up. Half-way down, we came across another group from Kolhapur, who had started the trek about the same time as us in the morning. They had taken a break for Lunch. We continued without taking any further breaks and the four of us in the lead reached Hatlot by 1:35pm. The rest arrived in the next 15-20 mins.

Reaching back to Hatlot was like the Icing on a Cake. Obviously finishing a Trek gives a different sort of High, but this time it was mainly because of the Effort of our Leader Chaitali under the able guidance of Senior Trekker Kiran Fedex. They had organised the most Fantastic meal I had experienced in the little time that I’ve spent with Unnecessary hikers. It was all possible with the help of a very warm and kind Karbharin who welcomed us in her house with open arms.

When we reached our Bus, the bus-driver pointed us towards the house where Chaitali and Kiran had set shop. When we approached the Aangan of that beautifully well-kept house, we could catch the aroma of Gavti Chicken curry. At that instant, nothing else mattered. In the background I could hear the voice of Kishor, who was a bit disappointed that rice was not ready too. He had a point, considering that there was a lot of time available. But Chaitali wanted Hot food to be served and so delayed making Rice.

Our lunch menu was:

1.       Gavti Chicken Curry

2.       Dal Tadka

3.       Potato subzi

4.       Pappad

5.       Basmati Rice

This was a 5-star meal. However, we did take lessons from this effort – one lesson was to tilt the balance a bit away from quantity towards quality to make it an even better meal.

All of us individually thanked the Lady of the House for the warmth and hospitality extended.

After the meal, it was time to board the bus for the next “mukkam”. Only we were not able to decide which one. Some of us wanted to go to Pratapgad and others didn’t. However, the “yays” prevailed over the “nays” with the justification that having come all the way within a shouting distance of Pratapgad, one should not miss it. So we did reach Pratapgad.

Arun (Badya) who was very vocal about going to Pratapgad was also the first to be disappointed.

I’ve never been to Pratapgad before. Yet I could feel the reason for everybody’s disappointment. This fort of great Significance during the Maratha rule had been allowed to degenerate into a touristy place where the Feeding needs of the visitor was given more priority over the Historical Importance of the Fort. The entire fort was lined up with permanent structures of Hotels, soft-drink vendors, etc.

Our visit boiled down to leaving that place as soon as possible, which in reality was easier said than done because of the traffic jam we encountered on the way down.

We left this place around 6:30 pm hoping to reach back home in good time. It really did not matter at that point, since Kiran Fedex was in the “mood” and we all joined the chorus to all the melodies that Kiran and Badya dug out from the archives. I guess we all reached home between 12am and 2am.

I reached home, took a shower and jumped into bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was on rewind. It was funny considering that I would be the first to doze off each time I boarded the bus, much to the chagrin of my co-passenger Abhilash who wouldn’t get sleep on the bus. J

I dozed off with the satisfaction that though Unnecesary, the last 2 days were among the most well-spent days of my life.


Manoj’s photo gallery

हरिश्चंद्रगड – surprise package

फार पूर्वी केव्हातरी लोकप्रभा मधल्या नळीच्या वाटेचा फोटो पाहून हरिश्चंद्रगडाच्या प्रेमात पडले होते, पण माझा आणि  या  वाटेचा योग काही जुळत  नव्हता. इतकी वर्ष नुसतीच ट्रेकिंगच्या  देहूआळंदीच्या वारया  करत होते पण या ट्रेकर्स च्या पंढरीच दर्शन व्हायला २०१२ ची दिवाळी उजाडावी लागली, पण तेहि अगदी मिळमिळीत पाचनईच्या वाटेने. मला या देवळातल्या विठोबापेक्षा वारीच्या वाटेचं (नळीच्या वाटेचं) अप्रूप जास्त होतं. Unnecessary Hikers नुकतेच फेब्रुवारी मध्ये तोलार खिंडीने  हरिश्चंद्रगड चढले होते आणि नळीच्या वाटेने उतरले होतेतेव्हाहि काही वैयक्तिक कारणांमुळे जाणं शक्य झालं नव्हतं. “श्रीकांतचा ONGC चा ग्रुप नळीच्या वाटेने हरिश्चंद्र चढणार आहेत आणि साधले घाटाने उतरणार आहेत मी जातोय, तुम्ही कुणी इंटरेस्टेड असाल तर येऊ शकता” असा किशोरचा मेल पाहिला आणि मनात नक्की केलं कि हि वारी चुकवायची नाही. 


Unnecessary Hikers ने १० तासात हरिश्चंद्र गड नळीच्या वाटेने उतरला होतामनोज २१  का २२ तासात पूर्वी पावसाळ्यात नळीच्या वाटेने चढला होताआंतरजालावर (internet वर) किमान कालावधी ९ तास तरी लागतातच असं वाचलं त्यात किशोरच्या मेल ला लोकांचे रिप्लाय पण +ve येईनात. बापू ने तर एप्रिल च्या उन्हात मी काही येत नाही आणि कृपा करून तुम्ही पण कुणी जाऊ नका अशी विनंती केली. भरीस भर म्हणून जेव्हा सोमवारी आईला मी जाऊ का म्हणून विचारलं तर आईच्या “अगं मरशील उष्माघाताने” या वाक्याने मला परत विचार करायला भाग पाडलंपण मनात म्हंटल “कांचन अभी नही तो कभी नही”.१९ ला श्रीराम नवमी निमित्त सुट्टी होती म्हणून मला मानसिक तयारीला बराच वेळ मिळाला. कमीत कमी सामान घ्यायचं ठरवलं कारण २-३ लिटर पाणीएकवेळचा डबाथोडंसं इतर खायलास्लिपिंग ब्याग आणि स्वत: पुरती का होईना पण संत्री सोबत घेऊन ती नळीची वाट काय माहित किती तास चढायची होती…. 


कायकुठे?… दुपारी १२ वाजता बाहेर काय असतं माहित आहे ना ?…. , आता अजून किती वेळा ?…. ,  मरशील उष्माघाताने ….  जायचचं आहे का ?… असे संवाद आपआपल्या घरी ऐकतच नळीच्या वाटेसाठी किशोरमनोजअमितसंदीपरमणअभिलाषअभिजित आणि मी असे ८ जण शहाड स्टेशन ला भेटलो (आश्चर्य कारक रित्या यात ONGC चं कुणीच नव्हतं). मुंबईत इंटरव्ह्यु साठी आलेल्या अभिजीतचा इंटरव्ह्यु cancel झाल्याने तो पण आला होता…. नाही तो आणला गेला होता. शहाडहून जीप ने रात्री १ ला बेलपाडा गावात पोहोचलोगावातल्या आश्रमशाळेचा आश्रय रात्रीच्या झोपेसाठी घेतला. शाळेच्या एखाद्या वर्गात झोपू  म्हणून आत गेलो, तर फळ्यावर “धोका आहे” असं लिहिलेलं पाहून हसतच बाहेर आलो आणि सकाळी ६ चा गजर लावून व्हरांड्यातच झोपलो. घरी मेल्यासारखं निवांत झोपणारया मला बाहेर कुठेही गाढ झोप येत नाहीथोडसं खुट्ट झाल तरी जाग येते. सकाळी ६ ला रमण ने आवाज दिला आणि पहिल्या आवाजातच सगळे उठले. नक्की किती वेळात आणि किती वाजता पोहचू याची कल्पना नसल्याने, ऊन माथ्यावर येईपर्यंत शक्य तितकं अंतर कापायचं असं ठरल. आम्ही सर्व विधी आटोपून रमणच्या त्या “खास” sandwiches चा नाश्ता करून ६:४५ ला निघालो. मेल टाकल्यापासूनच किशोर रेकॉर्ड टाईम मध्ये पूर्ण करू ट्रेक अस म्हणत होताआणि बाकीच्या ६ जणांची पण त्याला संमती होती. पण मला माझी हद्द माहित असल्याने मला मी कच्चा लिंबू ठरण्याची दाट शक्यता वाटत होती. हळूच मनोजला म्हंटल “रेकॉर्ड टाईम वगैरे नको हं मनोज”. अमितकडचा एक टोप आणि अभिजीतचे formal shoes बेलपाड्यात  एका घरात ठेवून आम्ही निघालो. संदीप पहिल्यांदाच हरिश्चंद्राला येत होता ते पण नळीच्या वाटेने  किशोर ने निघता निघता त्याला या वाटेची कल्पना दिली. आम्ही निघालो तेव्हा रात्रीची वस्तीची एस. टी. गावातून निघण्यासाठी सीटं भरत होती. मनातल्या मनात मनावर दगड ठेवून हा शेवटचा मागे फिरायचा दोर छाटला आणि आमची ८ जणांची फौज नळीच्या वाटेकडे निघाली. 


मनोजअमितअभिलाषरमण आणि अभिजित फेब्रुवारीतच नळीची वाट उतरले होते त्यांना रस्ता माहित होता म्हणून कुठेही न अडता आम्ही त्यांच्या पावलावर पाऊल ठेवून चाललो होतो. कधी नदी पात्रातून तरी कधी नदी काठाने रस्ता होता. एप्रिल चे दिवस असल्याने नदीचं पात्र  कोरडं ठणठणीत होतंनदीतल्या दगड गोट्यांतून कोकण कड्याला उजवीकडे ठेवत अडखळतच निघालो. तो अवाढव्य आंतरवक्र कातळ कडा माणसाला त्याची कुवत दाखवत उभा आहे …आताशा कोकण कड्या सारख्या भीषण आणि राक्षसी वाटणाऱ्या गोष्टी मला awesome, amazing च काय पण beautiful / handsome वाटायला लागल्यात. सपाटी होती तोपर्यंत ठीक होत पण जशी चढण सुरु झाली तसा दगडांचा आकार वाढायला लागला. अंतर लवकर संपाव म्हणून पाय लांब टाकत होते पण त्यामुळे दमून जायला होत होतंत्यात नाकाने घेतलेला श्वास पुरत नव्हता म्हणून तोंडाने पण श्वास घेत होते आणि पर्यायाने अजून जास्त दमत होते. किशोर आणि अभिलाष संपूर्ण रस्ता मला “तोंड बंद ठेव” सांगत होते पण मला काही ते जमत नव्हतंतशीही ट्रेकची पहिली ३०-४० मिनीटं तुमचा अंत पहातात. पण गौरांगगौरांगच लग्नगौरांगची बायको हा सगळ्यांच्या अतिशय जिव्हाळ्याचा विषय निघाला आणि उर्जेची एक अदृश्य लाट सळसळत गेली सगळ्यांच्या अंगातून. एका ठिकाणी सपाटी पाहून आम्ही आमचा पहिला थांबा घेतलाघसा कोरडा पडला होता म्हणून घोट घोट पाणी घेतलं. रस्त्यात कुठे पाण्याचा स्त्रोत नाही हे माहित असल्याने पाणी रेशनिंग वर होत मी मात्र मायनॉरीटीचा पुरेपूर फायदा घेत होते. या भागात बरीच माकडं आहेत हे रस्त्यातले खराब झालेले दगड सांगत होतेथोडक्यात काय तर एप्रिल च्या उन्हात या वाटेवर माकडांची पण फाटते.  ९ वाजेपर्यंत आम्ही नळीच्या तोंडाशी पोहोचलो. मी पहिल्यांदाच नळीच्या वाटेने येत असल्याने अजून किती अंतर आहे याचा काही म्हणजे काहीच अंदाज येत नव्हता फक्त टार्गेट माहित होतं. किशोर आणि  मनोज च्या म्हणण्यानुसार आम्ही बर करत होतो. हि नळीची वाट आम्हाला सह्याद्रीच रौद्र रूप दाखवत होती .मोठ मोठे दगड रस्ता अडवून उभे होते. इथे आमच्या मदतीला धावले ते बापूचैताली आणि सचिन तेंडूलकर आम्ही या तिघां मध्ये इतके गुंतलो कि त्यांच्या नादात आम्ही बराच पल्ला पार केला.


सगळ्यात त्रासदायक गोष्ट म्हणजे दगड निखळत होतेआपण पायाची पकड दगडावर घट्ट करावी तर पाय न निसटता अख्खा दगडचं निसटत होता. एके ठिकाणी सगळ्यात शेवटी असलेला अभिजीतअभिलाष वर चढण्याची वाट पहात होता. इतक्यात रमण च्या पायाने एक छोटा दगड घरंगळला म्हणून अभिजित थोडा सरकला आणि तेवढयात किशोरच्या पायाखालून एक मोठा दगड अभिलाष आणि अभिजित च्या दिशेने आला. अभिलाष अशा जागेवर होता कि तो पुढे मागे कुठेही हलू शकत नव्हताआपल्या तब्येतीचा विचार न करता अभिलाष ने दगड एका हाताने थांबवला आणि बाजूला ढकलून दिला. पुढे पुढे दगड पाय ठेवू देईनात इतके निखळू लागले. मध्ये २ ठिकाणी दोर लावावा लागतोआम्ही दोर बरोबर घेतले होते पण त्यात वेळ जातो म्हणून लावायचे टाळत होतो. पैकी पहिल्या ठिकाणी आल्यावर मनोजअभिलाष आणि अमित वर गेलेआम्ही आमच्या ब्याग वर दिल्या आणि मग मी मनोज आणि अमितच्या instructions follow करत वर आले. जो  पॅच वेळ घेईल अस वाटत होत तो आम्ही ८ जणांनी १५ मिनिटात पार केला. पुढचा पॅच अजून थोडा रिस्की होताछोटासाच traverse पण भुसभुशीत दगडांचाएकदम “नजर हटी,दुर्घटना घटी” टाईप. फारच मोजून मापून पाऊल ठेवावं लागत होतं. थोडीशी चुकही तुम्हाला किमान १०० फूट खाली घेऊन जाऊ शकते. भीती वाटतेयजमत नाहीये याच्या पलीकडचा हा पॅच. खरतरं आपल्याला या रस्त्याने जायचयं असं जेव्हा अमित म्हणाला तेव्हा मी कुठे रस्ता दिसतोय का ते पाहत होते. अरे बापरे… हा रस्ता आहे ??? नक्की???.  चढताना जाणवलं नाही पण आता फोटो पहाताना लक्षात येतंय कि नळीची वाट “नळीची वाट” का आहे ते. हा ट्रेक मनोज लीड करत होता तो पुढे जाऊन सगळ्यांना कस यायचं ते सांगत होता. रमण आणि संदीप माझ्या पुढे होते आणि अमित माझ्या मागेच उभा होता. अमितनेच माझी Unnecessary Hikers शी ओळख करून दिली असल्या कारणाने बिचारा मी बरोबर असले कि माझं काळजीवाहू सरकार असतो. मी सुरुवात केली आणि पहिलचं पाऊल एक मजबूत दगड पाहून त्याच्यावर ठेवलं आणि जसा त्याच्यावर भार दिला तसा दगड निखळला आणि मी खाली. मी अगदी अलीकडे असल्याने फार धोकादायक ठिकाणी उभी नसले तरी माझं तोंड दरीकडे होतं त्यामुळे डोळ्यासमोरचं दृश्य पाहून एक क्षण सुन्न झाले. एखादं फुट उभीच्या उभी खाली घसरले आणि खाचेत अडकलेडावा पाय खरचटला चांगलाच (कसं काय ते आईला सांगितलं नाहीये मीआणि माकड हाड हलल्यासारख वाटलं. आता मात्र सगळे सावध झाले आणि मनोजने  पुढे येउन मला अगदी पाऊलंन पाऊल कुठे ठेवायचं ते सांगत तो traverse पार केला. 


थोडा वेळ बसून आम्ही शेजारच्या नळीत शिरलो इथून पुढे घसरणीचे पॅचेस सोडले तर फार काही अवघड चढण नव्हती. एक छोटा रॉक पॅच करून पोहोचलोच  कि आम्ही हरिश्चंद्रच्या पठारावर. हेच ते ठिकाण जिथे मनोजने अमितच्या मुलांचं बारस केलं  मुलगा झाला तर stok  आणि मुलगी झाली तर kangri  आणि जुळं झाल तर stok- kangri (संदर्भ: Unnecessary Hikers चं 2nd Himalayan expedition to Mt. Stok Kangri). अमितला आता सगळेजण छोट्या छोट्या गोष्टींवरून “अमित promotion होतयं आता तूझं, आता तरी निट वाग” सांगून वीट आणत होते. सकाळी ६:४५ ला निघालेलो आम्ही रात्र नळीच्या वाटेत काढावी लागू नये म्हणून प्रयत्न करता करता  दुपारी ११:२० पर्यंत पोहोचलो सुद्धा. माणसाला शिजे पर्यंत दम निघतो पण निवेपर्यंत निघत नाही तसाच कोकण कडा २ मिनिटावर असताना आम्ही एका झाडाच्या सावलीत बसलो.  ” आई शपथ ११:२० अमेझिंग……. यार”. ४ तास ३५ मिनीटं४ थांबे२ छोटे अपघातआणि दोरचा अजिबात वापर नाही आम्ही आता याची कारण शोधत होतोरमण ने sandwich मध्ये नक्की काय घातलं होतंयावर त्याच ते “और थोडासा प्यार” हे उत्तरहा अफू/गांजा ला तर प्यार म्हणत नव्हता ना. माझं लेडी लक/पायगुण (हे फार महत्वाचं कारण असू शकतं)आज अमावस्या तर नाहीये ना?, आपण रात्री शाळेतच वारलो आणि आता आपली भूतं तर नाही ना आली वर?? असे विनोद करत होतो. अमितचं “पेपर कठीण आहे म्हणून इतका अभ्यास केला कि मेरीट मध्ये आलो” हे मात्र सगळ्यांना पटलं. आश्चर्य म्हणजे कुणीही भयंकर थकलं नव्हतं सगळे छान फ्रेश दिसत होतेना कुणाला कडकडून भूक लागली होतीना कुणाला उन्हाचा तडाखा जाणवत होता. मी स्वत:ला फारच अंडर एस्टीमेट करत होते, “not bad कांचनछान केल कि तू”. आजचा दिवस आमचा होता. ” आज आमच्याकडे खूप वेळ होता” म्हणून मग आम्ही खूप वेळ कोकण कड्यावरच बसून राहिलो. रेलिंग वगैरे लावून कोकण कडा विद्रूप करून ठेवलाय… बरं त्या रेलिंगचा ठोस काही उपयोग तर तसही काही नाही. कोकणकडयावर फक्त आम्ही ८ जण आणि एक कुटुंब कळसुबाई हून आलं होतं पाचनईत पाहुण्यांकडे ते होते. टळटळीत दुपारी आम्ही कोकण कड्यावर गप्पा मारत बसलो होतो. अमितकिशोर त्याच्या laptop चा काहीही प्रोब्लेम झाला कि कसा फोन करतो ते काहीतरी सांगत होता. तर त्यावर लव गुरु किशोरने लगेच “टेक्नीकल काही असेल तर रमन ला विचारा पण ह्रुदया बद्दल काही प्रश्न असतील तर ते मला विचारा” असा सल्ला दिला. आणि खरंही आहे ते ग्रुप मध्ये टेक्नीकल ते हृदय सगळ्याचे expertise आहेत.  त्यात रमणचं आणि सी. व्ही. रमणचं तर नक्की कुठेतरी काहीतरी connection असणार. रमण म्हणजे गुगल आहे… तुम्हाला कुठे लागून रक्त येतंय एवढ जर त्याला सांगितलं तर तो तुम्हाला वाहणाऱ्या रक्ताची गुठळी कशी होते(Blood Clot  कसं होत) ते DNA  म्हणजे नक्की कायया पैकी कशाचीही माहिती देऊ शकतो. किशोर बाबांचं थोडंसं वेगळं आहे म्हणजे त्यांचा विषय वेगळा आहे आणि कार्य खूप विस्तारलेलं आहे. खूप लोकांच जीवन मार्गी लावलय बाबांनी. शिष्य गण तर अफाट आहेआणि बाबांचा long term वर अजिबात विश्वास नाहीये.    


पाचनईतल्या लोकांची दुकानं कम हॉटेलं कम टपरया आहेत वरतीन टपऱ्या तर अगदी कोकण कड्यावरच होत्या. एका काकांना लिंबू सरबत मिळेल का विचारलं आणि २-२ ग्लास सरबत पिऊन जीव गार केला. पिठलं भाकरी पण मिळते या काकांच्या वाक्याने आमच्या रात्रीच्या जेवणात बदल झाला. हरिश्चंद्रेश्वराच्या देवळात जेऊन थोडी विश्रांती घेऊन तारामती पाहायला जायचं ठरलं. देऊळ कोकण कड्यापासून अर्ध्या तासाच्या अंतरावर आहे. जसं देऊळ दृष्टीपथात आलं तसं जाणवलं कि शनिवार असूनही अजून कुणीच ट्रेकर्स नव्हते इथे. मनोजला आव्हाडांनी इथेहि बंद पुकारला कि काय अशी शंका आली. देवळात जाऊन हरिश्चंद्रेश्वराचं दर्शन घेतलं. देऊळ भीमाशंकर मंदिरासारखं  हेमाडपंथी बांधकामाचं आहे. आत जाताना मंदिराच्या डाव्या भिंतीला पूर्वाभिमुख गणपतीची मूर्ती आहे. मंदिराच्या आतल्या नंदी मागे एक गुफा होती आणि गुहेच्या दोन्ही बाजूला पाण्याची टाकंआम्ही दुपारच जेवण करून थोडा वेळ आराम करावा म्हणून पाठ टेकली. आता एवढ्या लवकर पोहोचलो होतो कि वेळ जाईना. किशोरला यामुळे vaccum आल्यासारखं वाटू लागल होतं. रेकॉर्ड टाईम मध्ये हरिश्चंद्र गड करणाऱ्या unnecessary hikers चं मन आता भौतिक जगात आलंआता सगळ्यांना आपण रविवारी काय काय करू शकतो ते आठवू लागलंअभिलाषला त्याच्या Violin class ची ओढ लागली. किशोर आणि अभिलाष आजचं उतरू गड अस म्हणू लागले. लवकर घरी गेलो तर आनंदच होता पण सगळेजण या नळीच्या वाटेसाठी अगदी वेळ काढून आल्यामुळे सगळेजण सगळ्या पर्यायांसाठी तयार होते. मनोजला मात्र रात्री कोकण कड्यावर झोपायचं होतं, त्यामुळे तो काही तयार होत नव्हता. दुपारी सगळेजण डुलक्या काढत असताना किशोर मात्र hyper active मुलांसारखा मंदिरात आणि आजूबाजूला फोटो काढत फिरत होता. झोप झाल्यावर आम्ही चहा करायला घेतला मी यापूर्वी  केव्हाच दुधाच्या पावडरचा चहा केला नव्हता त्यामुळे अंदाज येईना४०० ग्रॅम दुध पावडर फक्त ८ जणांच्या चहाला वापरली मी, हा पण एक रेकॉर्डचं म्हणावा लागेल. चहापाणी झाल्यावर आम्ही तारामती पाहायला निघालो. किशोरला तारामतीत इंटरेस्ट नव्हता, त्यामुळे तो मंदिरातच थांबला. तारामती हे कळसुबाई आणि साल्हेर नंतरचं महाराष्ट्रातलं सर्वात उंच ठिकाण आहे.  पिंपळगाव जोगा धरणमुंबई- नगर NH 222, माळशेज घाटनानाचा अंगठाभैरवगडघनचक्करआजा पर्वतलव-कुशकलाडगडनाप्टा असा बराच मोठा परिसर दिसतो इथून. 


आम्हाला सूर्यास्त पाहायलाजेवायला आणि झोपायला कोकणकड्यावर जायचं होतं म्हणून फक्त १५-२० मिनिटात आम्ही परत फिरलो. आमच्यापैकी खूप जणांनी आर्मी प्रिंट च्या कार्गो ट्राऊसर्स घातलेल्या होत्याते पाहून मंदिरा जवळच्या एका टपरी वजा हॉटेल मधून “हे मिल्ट्री वालेत…. आपण कापड़डं  पाहून सांगू शकतो काय्य्य ??? ऐकू आलं, खरतरं त्या अख्ख्या हरिश्चंद्र गडावर गावकरी सोडून आम्ही ८ जणच असल्याने ते फारच निरखून पाहत असावेत आम्हाला.


मंदिरातून आम्ही आपलं बिऱ्हाड उचलुन परत कोकण कड्या कडे निघालो. सुर्यनारायण जणू आमच्यासाठीचं ताटकळले होते. सकाळच्या लिंबू सरबत वाल्या काकांना जेवणासाठी बेसन करायला सांगितलं आणि आम्ही सूर्यास्ताची वाट पाहू लागलो. हळूहळू आभाळाला केशरी रुपेरी किनार येऊ लागली. नोकरीव्यवसाय, appraisals, promotions, बायकामुलंलग्न आणि असे  इतर अनेक विषय त्या अर्ध्या तासापुरते तरी त्या रंगामध्ये विरघळून गेल्यासारखे वाटले. आयुष्यातला एक अप्रतिम सूर्यास्त पहिल्याचा आनंद मनात साठवत आम्ही जेवायला आलो . वातावरणात आता कमालीचा आणि अनपेक्षित बदल झाला होता. कोकण कड्यावर सनानून थंडी जाणवायला लागली. काकांच्या त्या खोपटात मी थेट चुली जवळीची जागा पकडली. मावशींनी पिठलंबाजरीची भाकरी आणि भात केला होता. बेसन आणि चपातीने सुरुवात केलेले आम्ही भाकरीभात सगळ्याला आळं घालून आलो. मावशींच्या हाताला चव होतीसगळा मेन्यु पहिल्या नंबराने पास झाला. बेसन तर अगदी कढई खरवडून खाल्लं. मावशींना स्वत: साठी व काकांसाठी परत कराव लागलं. चुलीपासून दूर झाल्यावर पुन्हा थंडी वाजू लागली म्हणून मग चुलीतलीचं काही लाकडं आणून बाहेर शेकोटी केली. किशोरअमितमनोज आणि रमण कोकण कड्यावर थंडी अनुभवत होते. त्यांनी आम्हाला काहीतरी पाहायला म्हणून हाक मारली. कोकण कड्याकडे जायच्या त्या १५-२० पावलात मी अगदी गार पडले. भर उन्हाळ्यात, एप्रिलच्या महिन्यात हरिश्चंद्र गडावर १ फुट पुढचं न दिसण्याइतकं धुकं पसरलं होतं. विचित्रचं… नाही??? त्या अंधारात ते ढग आहेत कि धुकं हेही कळत नव्हत. जे काही होत ते इतक दाट होतं कि मागून विजेरी मारल्यावर त्याची आकृती दिसत होती धुक्यावर. काल पाचनईत गारांचा अवकाळी पाऊस पडला होता त्याचाच परिणाम असावा हा. 


एवढ्या थंडीत कोकण कड्यावर झोपणं  म्हणजे माझ्यासाठी तरी आत्महत्याचं ठरली असती पण मी काही बोलायच्या आधीचं किशोरने आपण देवळात झोपायला जावू म्हणून जाहीर केलं. मनोज काहीच बोलला नाही, त्याची सहमती नसली कि तो असाच काहीच बोलत नाही. तो निरुत्साहानेच निघालात्याची फार म्हणजे फारच इच्छा होती कोकण कड्यावर झोपायची. पण या वातावरणात एकूण सगळ्यांसाठी (म्हणजे माझ्यासारख्यांसाठी) ते अशक्य होतं. आम्ही आता परत आमची दप्तरं पाठीवर टाकून मंदिराकडे निघालो. मावशी आणि काका पण आमच्याबरोबर निघालेदोघेही फार प्रेमळ होते. “पोरीची काळजी घ्या” असं वारंवार सांगत होते. गावाकडच्या लोकांना एकंदरच खूप माया असते. देवळात पोहोचलो तेव्हा अजून एक ग्रुप जेवण तयार करत होता. आत जाऊन आम्ही आपापल्या जागा ठरवल्या आणि अंथरूणं टाकली.  गुफेच्या तोंडाशी वारयाबरोबर धुकं वाहताना दिसत होतं जणू देऊळ ढगात बुडालं होतं. अभिजित काहीच तयारी ने आला नव्हतात्याच्याकडे काहीच नव्हतं पांघरायला, कसा झोपला तो त्या दिवशी त्यालाच माहित???


सकाळी ६ ला रमणच्या आवाजाने जागे झालो खरं, पण तसेच स्लीपिंग ब्याग मध्ये बसून राहिलो, १० मिनिटांनी रमन ने परत आवाज दिल्यावर मात्र पटापट उठलो. कालच्या सकाळी १ मिनिटही वाया न घालवलेले आम्ही आज मात्र शिथिल झालो होतो. कालच्या ४ तास ३५ मिनिटांनी आमचा आत्मविश्वास फारच वाढवला होता. आता साधले घाट पण लवकरात लवकर उतरू असा घाट  घातला. ब्यागा आवरून आम्ही एका टपरीत चहा आणि ब्रेड-बटर चा नाश्ता केलाटपरीचा मालकचं आम्हाला साधले घाटाचा रस्ता दाखवणार होता.सुरवातीचा रस्ता अवघड नसला तरी बारीक बारीक दगडांमुळे  घसरणीचा होता. माझं मानसिक असावं बहुदा पण मला अशी घसरण पहिली कि भीती वाटते. मोडकळीला आलेल्या कल्याण दरवाजात थोडी विश्रांती घेवून आम्ही उतरणीला लागलो आणि त्या उतरणी नंतर पुढे अर्ध्या-एक तासाचं पठार आहे. पठार संपलं कि आलाच साधले घाट.सकाळी ७:३० ला निघालेलो आम्ही ९:३०  वाजता साधले घाटाच्या ओठात होतो. इथे थोडा वेळ विश्रांती साठी थांबलो.  कालचा दिवस अपेक्षेपेक्षा कमी हेक्टिक होता म्हणजे आम्हाला खूप वाईट परिस्थिती अपेक्षित होती म्हणून काल सगळचं रेशनिंग वर होतं त्यामुळे आमची खूप संत्री उरली होती पण मी मात्र माझ्या ब्याग मधलं पाणी आणि संत्री साधले घाटाच्या आधी कशी संपतील याची रीतसर काळजी घेत होते. 


साधले घाट नळीच्या वाटेची सोपी आवृत्ती होती. उतरताना थोडं जपून उतरावं लागत होतं. इथे माझा वेग बऱ्यापैकी मंदावला. कदाचित मला वजा केलं असतं तर बाकीच्यांनी साधले घाट पण रेकॉर्ड टाईम मध्ये पूर्ण केला असता. आता ऊन पण लागायला सुरवात झाली. आम्ही एप्रिल मध्ये ट्रेक करतोय याची जाणिव आता कुठे व्हायला लागली होती. सुरवातीचा उतार फारच उभा होता. साधले घाट दमवणार हे अगदी सुरवातीलाच लक्षात आलं माझ्या. पण या मनोजकिशोरअभिलाषअमित यांच्या शरीरात हाडंसांधेस्नायू असं काही आहे कि नाही अशी शंका येते मला केव्हा केव्हा. यांची खरचं भूतं नव्हती ना झाली कालं???गमतीचा भाग जाऊ दे, पण यांचं कौतुक आहे मलाकिरकोळ शरीरयष्टी (अभिलाष ची तर फक्त यष्टीचं) असून सुध्धा दोरजेवणाचे टोप, stove, रॉकेलतांदूळ, tomato, कांदा असं काय काय, वर स्वत:चं सामान carry करतं आणि याउप्पर त्यांचे ते नाजूक आणि प्राणप्रिय कॅमेरे सांभाळत सर्वांच्या पुढे असतात. रस्त्यात कधी उजव्या बाजूला वळतं तर कधी डाव्या बाजूला वळतं एका मागून एक ओढे पार करत होतो किंवा कदाचित एकच ओढा इकडून तिकडून येत आमच्या पायात घुटमळत असावा. रस्त्यातले ते मोठ मोठे दगड धोंडे पार करत आम्ही एका छोट्या पाण्याच्या खडग्याजवळ टेकलो. हा रस्त्यातला एकमेव पाण्याचा स्त्रोत होता. इथे पोटभर पाणी प्यालो आणि जरा मोठी विश्रांती घेतली. कधी घसरडी पायवाट तर कधी ओढा असं करत करत शेवटी एकदाचा संपला तो साधले घाट. मघाशी घाटाच्या तोंडाशी काळेवाडी हून “मोहाची” वर घेवून जाणारे एक काका भेटले होतेत्यांनी आंब्याच्या झाडापासून डावीकडे वळा म्हणून सांगितलं होतं मग अंदाजानेच एका आंब्याच्या झाडापासून डावीकडे वळलो. खरतरं काल कोकण कड्यावरून बेलपाडा आणि काळेवाडी दोन्ही गावं पाहिलेली असल्याने दिशांचा थोडा अंदाज आला होता. खाली रस्त्यात करवंदाची जाळी दिसली तसे आम्ही अगदी सोमालियातून आल्यासारखे तुटून पडलो करवंदांवर. करवंद तोडताना चिक लागून हात चिकट होताहेत हे सुद्धा नजरेआड केलं. आताशा माणसांच्या खुणा दिसू लागल्या होत्या. दिशा माहित असल्याने चालत राहिलो पण आता ऊन असह्य होऊ लागलं होतं,  घामाच्या धारा शर्टाच्या बाहीला पुसत पुसत चालणं मात्र कायम ठेवलं. ऊनघाम आणि चिकट झालेले हात आता वीट आणत होते. चालता चालताच अभिलाष कडे  हात धुण्यासाठी पाणी मागितलं तर मागून येणारा संदीप “thank you kanchan” म्हणत बसलाच खाली. माझ्या आईचा उष्माघात तो हाच असावा बहुदा. संदीप अतिशय मितभाषी आहेपण T- shirt मात्र खूप बोलक होत त्याचं “Together we can achieve more”  नळीच्या वाटेसाठी खास तयार करून घेतल्यासारखं. काळेवाडितली घरं मागे पडून आता बेलपाडा गावातली पाण्याची टाकी दिसली तस्स सगळ्यांनी हुश्श केलं. आम्हाला हरीश्चान्द्राहून बेलपाडा गावात यायला  ५ तास लागले होते१२:३० ला आम्ही गावात शिरलो. गावात शिरताना एका घरासमोर सिमेंटची पाण्याची टाकी दिसली. उन्हाने करपलेल्या आम्ही गार पाण्याने तोंड-हात धूतलं. तापल्या जमिनीवर पाणी ओतल्यावर कशा वाफा निघतात तसं काहीतरी वाटलं अंगाला पाणी लागल्यावर. काल अमितने ज्यांच्या घरी टोप ठेवला होता त्यांच्या अंगणात टेकलो. अमितने फोन करून गाडी बोलावून घेतली होती. आम्ही फार टाईम पास न करता ब्यागा गाडीत ठेवून निघायची तयारी केली. जुने खजिनदार अमित कामावर रुजू झाले होते, त्यांनी balance sheet पाहून आम्हाला  non-veg खाऊ घालायचं आश्वासन दिलंमोरोशीजवळ RAINBOW नावाच्या हॉटेल ला गाडी लावली आणि चिकन सुक्कारोटी वर ताव मारला. चिकन छान असलं तरी शाकाहारी अभिलाष आणि संदीप ने मागवलेली शेवभाजी भारी होती (सोमवारी सकाळी लगेच गुगळली शेवभाजीची रेसिपी). ४:०० ला आम्ही शहाड स्टेशनला पोहोचलोहि. आता अभिलाषला त्याचा violin क्लास attend करता येणार होतारमणला नंदू ला लवकर भेटता येणार होतं,  मलापण पुण्याहून अवचित भेटीसाठी आलेल्या मामे भावंडांना भेटता येणार होतं. सगळ्याच दृष्टीने हा ट्रेक आमच्यासाठी surprise package ठरला होता . 


रविवारी रात्री छान आराम केलेले स्नायू नेहमीप्रमाणे सोमवारी शरीरात असल्याची जाणीव करून देत होते. रमणच्या भाषेत सांगायचं झाल तर आता आमच्या adrenal glands नि dopamine आणि endorphin release करायचं थांबवलं होतं (तुमच्या माझ्यासारख्या सामान्य माणसांसाठी: natural pain killers नि काम करायचं बंद केलं होतं) तर इकडे facebook वर आमच्या या पराक्रमाच्या अभिलाषच्या status update वर “Next plan…..one day trek to Harishchandra gad via Nalichi vat” अशी किशोर ची कमेंट आली. किशोर तू सदाहरित देव आनंद असलास तरी जगात ए. के. हंगल पण असतात अरे


संघ      किशोरमनोजअमितसंदीपरमणअभिलाषअभिजित आणि कांचन 

तारीख : १९ -२०- २१ एप्रिल २०१३.  

वेळ :     बेलपाडा ते कोकणकडा नळीच्या वाटेने (दिनांक २० एप्रिल सकाळी ६:४५ ते ११:२० एकूण

       ४ तास ३५ मिनिट) 

                हरिश्चंद्रेश्वर ते बेलपाडा साधले घाटाने (दिनांक २१ एप्रिल सकाळी ७:३० ते १२:३०  

       एकूण ५ तास)  


  Kishor’s photo gallery


To Rohida, Raireshwar and Kenjalgad

Rohida, Raireshwar, Kenjalgad

2nd October 2010

Read to know how we met twelve Ranchos!

On Friday 1st of October, seven of us (Manoj Patil, Manoj Appu, Arun Badya, Amit, Bapu, Santosh, Mayuresh and Kishore) took a Qualis and proceeded towards Bhor. We reached the base village Bajarwadi in the early hours and climbed Rohida within two hours. There was nothing much to see, except for the watchtowers, which were in good condition. There was a lot of hikers, maybe because it was very close to Pune. And most of them, like us, were planning to climb Raireshwar too. We got downhill in half an hour. It was that easy.

After lunch we ascended to Raireshwar. It is believed that, it was here at the age of sixteen, a young Shivaji cut his little finger and vowed for Swaraj.

When we reached the top we were a little disappointed to see a proper road reaching almost the top. Now that means in a couple of years it may be a tourist spot, a la Koraigad, near Amby Valley. One may drive in their Volkswagens or Mercs and reach the top. It may no longer be hiker’s delight.

Rohida, Raireshwar, Kenjalgad On that day, the view up here was amazing. There were two wonderful lakes on the top. Maybe we were just lucky to experience the place in it’s natural beauty, before commercialisation sneaks in.

The sun had just set and we’ve managed to reach the base village. We were not allowed to stay in the village school, as it would require the Sarpanch‘s (village head) permission. Neither could we stay inside the temple, because the villagers don’t want people to disturb the sanctity of the place.

However we managed to find a villager, who served us supper and also provided us some space to spend the night.

A very interesting thing about this village was it’s school. It had a total of twelve students, from class one to seven. Class one had two students, while class two had one, class three and four had two each, class five had one and class six and seven again had two each. There was one classroom and all the twelve students sat together. And there were two teachers, who took turns to teach them. So what do you have there? Twelve Rancho Chanchads! Remember 3-idiots. After the seventh standard, these students either went to nearby Wai, to study further, from class eight to tenth. Some joined hostels if their parents could afford to send them.

The next day be visited the Raireshwar temple. It was well maintained and looked very beautiful. One of the villager suggested that there was an area where you could see soils of different colors. Unfortunately we couldn’t see it because the rains had smeared red all over. So everything looked the same.

Rohida, Raireshwar, Kenjalgad We then marched towards Kenjalgad. Enroute we spotted atleast two snakes. While one was having a happy meal, the other was taking a siesta, maybe.

There wasn’t much atop this fort but the view from up there was breathtaking. It was green all over and one could see a hundred species of flowers. While climbing down we had some fun. We decided to take a different route to the village. A route which wasn’t much travelled. It was steep and we were literally sliding down – the almost seventy degree – slope.

We came across a stream near the base village, Korle. Everyone took a dip, before getting into our gaddi to return to Amchi Mumbai.

Kishore’s photogallery | Manoj’s photogallery


Wah Wah Vasota – Don’t miss it the next time

24th – 26th Jan 2009

Ever since I started trekking, I’ve heard people go ga-ga (read vah vah) about Vasota. And I have always been unfortunate to miss out on this wonderful trek. So this time when kishore, said that he was planning it during the long weekend, I was the first one to put my hand up with my fingers crossed.

Then came the planning. And if it is Kishore bhai at the helm, you are assured of a thorough plan. From ration to rope to utensils to travel to haversacks to medical….every god damn thing. The final head count was twenty three, including the veteran trekker Anil (PD) and Jaison, who joined us at Satara ST stand, traveling all the way from Kerala and Bangalore, respectively. Crazy isn’t it?

Patcy and I received Anjali and her friend Anu, who was on her first trek. Kapil joined us soon and saved me from getting assaulted by the girls, who thought I shouldn’t have called them one hour early. Manoj, who was the only one to have gone to Vasota came in next with Abhilash and Hari, who for a change was an early bird. The latter, has this reputation of calling up his friends, when they are about to board the train in 5mins, and say, ‘Hey, wait for me….I just leaving home’

Kishore and Shailesh came in after a while and just then our ST bus arrived and we all hopped in. Thanks to Kiran who had made reservations, we didn’t have to elbow our ways in. Next stop was Chembur Maitri Park, where Darshan and his wife Anjali, Salil and Sumita with their budding nine-year old trekker Parth, Kiran, Sachin and Arvind got in.

My nephew Noel, Hitesh and Raj Kulkarni (Savarkar) got in at CBD Belapur. Three last minute cancellations allowed us stack our heavy sacks on those vacant seats. But the slightly drunk conductor saw an opportunity. Mauke ka faayda. Thankfully he didn’t get any passengers; neither were we going to allow him.

Salil and Darshan took to the floor immediately. Nah nah… not the dance floor…but they got the sleeping mat on to the floor and slept. The rest of gang either slept or tried to sleep.

At quarter to five we reached Satara ST stand where we met PD and Jaison. Kishore and I arranged for some garam chai (hey that rhymed), before we got into yet another bus which would take us to Bomnoli. The almost two hour ride took us away from city to the interiors, passing through villages, maneuvering numerous hairpin mountain lanes which left some of us dizzy.

We reached Bamnoli to find many trekkers already there. While waiting for breakfast at a small tea stall, Arvind had a very simple question for all the experienced trekkers. “What do you learn or achieve by trekking?” Remember he was a first timer. LOTS, we answered in unison. From team work to discipline to man management to patience.

After a misal-paav breakfast, we went to the forest department to get permission. We had to fill up a form with everyone’s name, sex and age and leader’s address. After that we had to pay the launchwala and get the receipt with the boatman’s name and signature, which had to be submitted to the forest department official. Ok now things get a lil tricky. The launches/ferries are privately run. One way, they charge Rs 700 per boat, which can fit in 14 to 15 people. We decided to take two boats. But if you tell him we are not returning…they charge you more. Here’s where your marketing skill comes handy. Arvind, that’s one lesson for you….bol bachchan giri. Else we would have been duped by the boatwala. He did try his best, but couldn’t outwit Manoj.

The one hour boat ride through the backwaters of Koyna was awesome. Mountains on both sides with a hut or two, once in a while, blue sky, crystal clear water, ab kya batau? It was straight out of a National Geography documentary shot in India. The boats dropped us at Met Indavali, where some construction work was going on. Otherwise it had only one concrete house…which was more like a museum and place to stay. The walls had photographs of the flora and fauna of the Vasota jungle and some tips for the trekkers.

There was also a small hut and 4 tents for the trekkers to stay. Bajrang bhau, the caretaker here, checked our receipt from the forest department, before allowing us to either stay in the house or one of the tents. You are also allowed to pitch in your private tent here. No one is allowed to camp up atop the Vasota fort, for reasons best known to them. You are fined Rs.300 per head if you do so.

We anyways had decided not trek that day, so we occupied the biggest tent to fit in twenty three of us and more than thirty baggages.

When we were doing some research about Vasota, we stumbled upon an article about a mishap at Vasota, where someone had lost his life, for not getting the basics right – staying together. Read the above article and you’d know

Anyways, we got into a hurdle and introduced ourselves once again to each other. When there is a big group, there is bound to be difference of opinions, misunderstanding and arguments. So it’s better to tell everyone whose decision would be final. Kishore and Manoj, were the obvious ones, but it’s good that it’s made very clear in the beginning. A group without a leader is bound to lose track. Arvind are you listening?

While some of us arranged our baggages in the tent, others went in search of drinking water. Kishya came back with some refreshing news. We could eat by the water stream and also take a swim. Out came the lunch boxes and we headed towards the spot.

There was a lot of variety on the menu. Idlis, theplas, lemon rice, boiled eggs, jhaavlas (dried fish), chappatis, subzis, achaar. And mineral water on the flow?. Honestly it tasted better than the bottled ones we get here. After lunch, it was swimming time. I could see everyone shiver in that chilling water. Anjali and Sumita showed their floating skills, while Kiran and others played mischief. Kishore, I and few others were content watching them. We did bathe, but much later.

The sun was setting soon and it was getting colder and colder. The woollens came out even before we started cooking. While Darshan took the bacha party to collect wood for the campfire, Anjali and Sumita set up the kitchen. Here’s when we got to see the vegetable cutting talent of Jaison. All the girls were maha impressed. At this point lemme tell everyone …that he is my cousin. Haha.

Thanks to Patcy, even the other campers knew that we were preparing Dal-chawal and egg masala. Hitesh proved that he is a pucca Sindhi, by roasting some fifty odd papads on our neighbour’s choola. Manoj and Shailesh, meanwhile got pally with the villagers and got some fish from them and roasted it.

By the time we finished eating and cleaning up it was eleven. While most of us got into their sleeping bags, some of us stayed back at the campfire, singing some slow melodies. How can we put the efforts of the bachha party to waste? Guys, who slept missed the campfire.

Next morning, Kishore and I got up at six, but it was too dark to wake everyone up. The early morning calm in the forest, everything so silent, and then first rays of dawn painting the surrounding with crimson was so heavenly. No 7.10 ki local, dhoodwala, paperwala, Waah! Mazza aa gaya!

By seven, everyone was up; answering calls (arey phones calls nahin – samjha karo yaar), brushing and packing up. Kandha poha and chai for breakfast before the big march began. While we were packing our stuff, an elderly person came up to us and asked if we had some biscuits to spare for his daughter, who had to rush to school and they didn’t have time to cook for her. That was really touching….because trust me, he wasn’t begging. But he was helpless. We have so many comforts in our lives, yet most of us aren’t thankful. We either waste or over feed ourselves. Acha acha sorry….I know thoda senti ho gaya main. We offered him some biscuits.

Next was a fall-in for instruction from the boss. Kapil and Sachin would be the last and no-one would be left behind them. Manoj would be leading the pack and everyone will be moving together. No one was allowed to say, ‘you guys carry on….I shall catch up’

Atleast five of us had double backpacks, one in the front and back. The initial patch was easy, early morning freshness and everyone was quite enthusiastic. The two school kids, Noel and Parth were full of energy and put many of us to shame. After four hours of hike through the jungle we reached a diversion. One headed upwards towards Vasota fort, while the other one towards Nageshwar temple seemed easier. From here the climb to the fort would take another hour and once we reach there we had to come all the way down and start walking towards Nageshwar. “Kishore, can I sit here while you guys see the fort and come back and then I can join you”, I heard someone ask. Kishore will only laugh aloud, I knew. The one who asked the question also got the answer. Saala khadoos hain he/she must have thought about Kishore. Smiling assassin, some call him. Anyways….after almost six hours of hike from the base, we reached the top. There was a Hanuman temple just as we enter. Everyone just dropped their backpacks there and lay on the ground. All the bottles were obviously empty by now. Manoj knew where we could get water….so he took some guys to refill the bottles. Anjali made nimbu flavoured Tang in that naturally cold water. After quenching their thirst everyone went for a stroll and enjoyed the surrounding.

Nearby there was Babu-kada, from where one could see the old Vasota region. It was densely forested and no one is allowed to go there. The valley looked great from here. I overheard a foreigner, remark that Vasota was over-rated. It wasn’t has great as what he had read about on the net. I wanted agree with him, but I was sure that there was more to explore and the adventure was yet to begin. I wasn’t wrong. Read on and you’d know.

It was almost two and Kishore called for one more hurdle. This time he had some not-so-pleasant news for us. He had heard from the other trekkers that the forest department officials fined those who decided to stay at the Nageshwar cave temple, which was our actual plan. The fine part was okay, but then he also heard that even after paying the fine, the trekkers were force to leave. Now that would be difficult, because after trekking so much if you had to descend after sunset…it would not only be tiring but dangerous too.

So there we had to slightly change our plan. Lunch had to be skipped; instead we had some light refreshments. Then we started our trek to Nageshwar. This time there was no climb, but we were in for some nice adventure. We had to take a very narrow path where everyone had to walk in a single line. I mean there wasn’t enough space for two people to walk side by side. And it was so edgy that if you look towards your left you see the open valley and nothing to hold on to. Noel and Parth was our biggest concerns, but they just sleep walked, the entire patch. Patcy and Salil, both had vertigo problem and Savarkar demanded that I walked in front of him and Kishore behind him. Not that his request was fulfilled. While Salil managed on his own, Patcy had Kapil for support. Infact, Kapil was kind of a personal instructor for Patcy, from the very start to the end. Surprisingly, she followed every order from him and came out successful. As Kapil put it later…her vertigo had disappeared by the end of the trek.

The last patch was so scary that after finishing it I saw a very relieved Salil, just throwing his backpack aside and telling Kishore, ‘lemme lie down here for sometime and believe that I had actually overcome vertigo and cleared that patch. I want to just to get the fear out of me.’

It took us more than two and half hours from Vasota fort to Nageshwar temple. Everyone went straight to the nearby well to drink water and freshen up. There were already some two to three groups of trekkers either filling up water or cooking or washing.

Manoj, Hitesh, Harish and I filled up some bottles, pick up some backpacks and headed towards the cave to secure some place for the whole group. We had to push ourselves really really hard. But once we reached the cave, we were so relieved to see that the cave had a proper tiling done, thanks to the villagers. The Nageshwar temple was frequently visited by them and other pilgrims.

Towards our right we could see the sun setting slowly. The cave faced north-south, so sitting inside the cave one could experience the sunrise as well as sunset. Manoj was sharing his experience of how he witnessed both, many years ago, with only three others for company. They had spent two full days there, with no one around. I envied him.

I did not want our gang to miss the sunset, so I went down again to call them. And what do I see? The forest officials were on their round up and collecting fines. We bribed them to allow us to stay on top. But the next day when we got to Choravne village, the Sarpanch informed us that we didn’t have to pay anything because the region where the temple was situated didn’t come under the forest department and so they didn’t have any right collect fines. He gathered the villagers and was planning to take up this issue. Anyways, next time we know what to do.

All of us reached the cave and some just crashed to the floor. Alas they missed the sunset. Now it was time to set up the kitchen once again. Anjali and Sumi once again took charge. I was lying on the floor when I felt some reaching for my leg and giving it a massage. Kapil was playing a masseur. Infact, Jaison, Patcy and Anu were also giving everyone a massage. It was such a nice gesture by all of them. No one had asked…but then they had volunteered. That’s bonding for you Arvind. Most of us were meeting each other for the first time but we were gelling well together as a team.

Raj Kulkarni ensured that there was a conversation going on, about teamwork, leadership, responsibility, etc. I could see Kishore trying too hard, while Salil almost pulling his hair apart, trying to convince Raj. But he wouldn’t agree to anything. Jaison treated us with a Kerala folk song, while Kiran inspired Raj to sing some Marathi classics.

We had Jeera rice, Alu mutter and Papad (by now we knew Hitesh was a pro at it) for dinner. By the time we were done, it was almost midnight. We lied down gazing at the open sky with a million stars twinkling. Was I sleeping in an amphitheatre? It was so blissful. I didn’t realized when I had passed out.

I woke up when, Kishore played mischief and rang the temple bell. It was 6 in the morning. He and some others were waiting for the sunrise. But somehow Suryadev kept them waiting, so they were up to some masti waking up others. Finally at 7.30 we saw it peeping from behind the mountains. Out came the cameras and the mobiles to click pictures of the orange ball lighting up the hills. I think this was the first time I had experienced both from the same place.

Mr. Sun had delayed our schedule once again, but we were not here to live according to a time-table, were we?. While some went down to brush and clean up, others took to making breakfast. Poha and garam chai ummm. After breakfast Manoj had plans for a flag hoisting, but just when we packing up, some other trekkers had formed into squad and requested us to join them. Within a minute leaving everything each one us was in a squad and one among them gave Savdhan order and then Rashtriya Geet (National Anthem)

I saw everyone’s chest expand with pride, while some got emotional. Later I heard that Jaison had tears in his eyes, and Hitesh and some others had goose pimples, singing the anthem at a height of 4000 feet above sea level. Some confessed that they had the pages of history flipping through their minds and how proud they felt of the Great Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Now it was time for descend and Kishore for the last time gathered everyone and gave a briefing, including how important it would be to save water, because the next source of it would be right at the base village. No sooner had we started our descend we encounter our first difficult patch. There was some iron railings but then it didn’t look very dependable. Every step had to be watchful. Someone suggested to take out the rope but Manoj was confident we wouldn’t need it. He was carefully managing the kids and asking Hari and Abhilash to pass on the baggages. Abhi drop one bag…and down it went into the valley. It was Anil’s. We just heard the sound and no sign of it. Everyone was stunned and lil scared too. Thankfully it came to a halt on the slope. But it would be difficult to get there.

Kishore ordered to forget about it for the moment. First let’s get everyone down from this patch; the sack could be retrieved later. Some sat and dragged themselves, while others carefully managed to clear the patch.

Just then I heard Manoj asking Kishore, “I can see the bag, can I go and fetch it.” Now that’s discipline for you. Even though Manoj was a seasoned trekker, he made it a point to get the leader’s permission. What an example to set. And the moment he got an okay from Kishore, what we saw was just amazing. I saw this man running (or even sliding) down the slope, pick up the bag and run back up. It all happened in a jiffy that I managed to click one snap of him doing that.

After that for about an hour we kept facing such difficult patches….but none was as difficult as the first. It was getting hotter and hotter and the water bottles were getting emptier. Lemon and orange sweets were also getting over faster than expected.

There were many breaks in between and each time we stopped Raj and others asked for water. Kishore and Manoj kept on refusing. We didn’t know how much more we had to cover to reach the village and sun wasn’t showing any mercy either. Unlike the previous day when we climbed from Satara, which was densely forested, there wasn’t much shade on this side. We had warned everyone about this before we started. What if there was an emergency where we needed water. Everyone very reluctantly agreed. Water was allowed only when everyone had gathered. No one drank in private. Everyone understood the importance of saving water.

We reached a spot where we saw a kachha road. But we weren’t sure how much we had to walk till the village. There were some unmanned huts at the beginning of the road. Anjali went to check for water. She couldn’t find anyone but she found some pots of water. Apparently the villagers had stocked it for themselves or the trekkers. We wouldn’t know. However we filled a couple of bottles and left some money. But honestly speaking money couldn’t wash away our guilt. We drank lil and started walking. It was well past three, and no one realized that we hadn’t had our lunch. No one was complaining but it was getting to be little frustrating. Everyone just wanted to get to the village, but the road seemed never ending. On route, we met two guys carrying pots of water on their heads. Anjali asked them and they readily obliged. Salil offered them money, which they refused. We were so touched, that some of us refused to drink until we reached the village.

Just then we heard children play and familiar sounds of a village nearby. We could also hear Kishore and Kiran from one of the houses. I reached there to find Noel and Parth playing with a dog. Where would they get all that energy? While I was drinking water I saw Kapil getting his ward. Arey Patcy, who else?

I asked Kishore if we could go for a dip in the river nearby. Kishore informed that everyone had already left for the spot. Aaah, it was so refreshing to splash water onto your face and lie down in the stream. After bathing, we changed and headed straight to the house where lunch was awaiting us. We had the best bhakris and sabzi, daal chawal. Everyone ate their hearts out.

After thanking the villagers we took our bags and walked towards our bus. Yes… we had arranged a private bus to take us from Choravne village to Mumbai. Planing boss, planning. This last patch seemed even more difficult. I suffered cramps, which had to be attended to. Somehow I managed to reach the bus.

In the bus, Dr. Kapil was attending to blisters on Pat’s feet. We left the village at around 6pm. Everyone was refreshed and had energy to sing some taraane naye purane. The best number came from Manoj – singing – Ek jhopda banayenge, dono mazze karenge – in his unique style. Waise he admits that he sings for himself.

Anil and Jaison left us at Khed, from where they would travel back to their respective destinations. In the bus we had some testimonials. Arvind agreed to have learnt a lot from his first trek. He admitted that it was the first time ever that he had washed his own plate. He promised to keep up the good work and help his mom more often.

Anu wished she could join us more often. We don’t mind coming to Dubai, Anu. Just send us those tickets and we’d be there.

Abhilash who by now had done many a trek with Manoj, admitted how innocently he had asked the latter, if he could get Bisleri water on the top of the mountain, during his first trek. Manoj had convinced him that he could get real mineral water up there. He now laughs on his stupid questions.

Shailesh always envied his sister Swati who was a regular with us. But now he had experienced all the fun personally, which till that day he had only heard from his chatter box sister.

Hitesh was proud to have done what none his friends in college must have done. Celebrating Republic Day atop a mountain. We appreciate your papad-roasting skills buddy.

Kishore was happy that everything went off well and everyone had co-operated so well. Basically there was a sense of achievement in everyone.

Am sure everyone wi-ll remember this trek for a long long time. I would easily put this among the top five treks that I have done so far.


Also see

Manoj’s Vasota photos

राजगड तोरणा – एक अविस्मरणीय अनुभव

राजगड- तोरणा खूप दिवस Un-Necessary च्या to do list मध्ये होता…पण मुहूर्त मिळत नव्हता…२५-२६-२७ जानेवारी २०१३ ला लागोपाठ सुट्ट्या असल्याने हीच ती मंगल घटिका अस म्हणून ट्रेक प्लान झाला…पण…. काही अपरिहार्य कारणांमुळे आम्हाला हा ट्रेक prepone करावा लागला….आता राजगड तोरण्याचा मुहूर्त होता ११-१२-१३ जानेवारी..ज्येष्ठ इतिहासकार अप्पा परब यांच्या बरोबर राजगड-तोरणा करायचा मानस होता पण आमची संख्या घटत घटत गेल्याने हे जमल नाही….१६ जणांच्या confirmation नंतर १० तारखेपर्यंत संख्या ११ झाली……

१० जानेवारीला शिर्डी फ़ास्ट / मुंबई- पुणे पैसेंजर रात्री ११:३५ ला ठाण्याहून पकडून ११ जानेवारीला सकाळी ४ पर्यंत पुणे स्टेशन – स्वारगेटहून नसरापूर किंवा थेट गुंजवणे (राजगडाच base village). सकाळी ८:३० ला ट्रेक सुरु करून ११:०० पर्यंत पद्मावती माची… राजगडावर वस्ती. १२ जानेवारीला अळू दरवाजाने राजगड उतरून ५-६ तासाच  ट्रेकिंग करून तोरणा, रात्री तोरण्यावर मंदिरात किंवा टेंट मध्ये वस्ती. १३ जानेवारीला तोरणा पाहून सकाळी ११:०० ला तोरणा उतरायला सुरुवात करायची ३:३० पर्यंत वेल्हे गावात आणि मग मुंबईकडे…… असा आमचा प्लान होता.
मोहिमेचे शिलेदार :- सुमिता मेनन ( नवीन सेनापती), सलिल मेनन (नवीन खजिनदार), किशोर राणे ( सर नौबत), मनोज पाटील, अमित सावंत , अरुण शितोळे उर्फ बड्या, मनोज अप्पू, संदीप जोशी, हितेश व्यवहारे, अभिजित आणि दस्तूर खुद्द कांचन म्हणजे मी ….
मी सुरुवातीलाच आभार मानून घेते Thank you kishor, thank u so much….
आमचं गुरुवार दिनांक १० जानेवारी च्या शिर्डी फ़ास्ट / मुंबई- पुणे पैसेंजरच रात्री ११:३५ च आरक्षण होतं . लोणावळा – भीमाशंकर ट्रेक साठी मी हिच गाड़ी दादरहून पकडली होती (तिकिट ठाण्याहुन असताना सुद्धा ) भीड़ चेपली होती अणि उशीर झाला होता म्हणून मी या वेळेस देखिल दादरहूनच गाड़ी पकडायची ठरवलं . सिद्धेश्वर एक्सप्रेस , शिर्डी फ़ास्ट पैसेंजर आणि कोकण कन्या लागोपाठ सुटत असल्याने अणि मध्य रेल्वेला प्रवाशांना टांगतं ठेवायची सवय असल्याने गाड़ी कोणत्या platform वर येणार हे चौकशी खिडकीला सुद्धा माहित नव्हतं, ५१०३३ गाड़ी आलटून पालटून ४ आणि ५ नं च्या platform वर लावत असल्याने मी वर ब्रिज वरच उभी राहिले आणि गाड़ी ४ नं platform ला लागेपर्यंत ५१०२७ दाखवणारया इंडिकेटरने शब्द फिरवला… नाही नाही आकडे फिरवले आता तो ५१०३३ म्हणत होता .बुद्धि पेक्षा पायांनी तत्परता दाखवल्यानं मी पटकन पायरया उतरून पुलाजवळ च्या जनरल डब्यात चढले आणि लक्षात आलं कि मी स्लीपर डब्यापासून बरयाच पुढच्या डब्यात बसले होते. ठाण्यात गाडी थांबली कि धावत आपल्या डब्यात जायचं म्हणून ठाणे आल्यावर un-necessary चे बाकीचे लोक कुठे उभे आहेत आणि किती मागे जावं लागेल याचा अंदाज बांधत असतानाच मागून एका काकांनी “hope you are not running from your house” असा प्रश्न टाकला . अहो काका अस फक्त सिनेमातच होतं हे म्हणायला हि माझ्याकडे वेळ नव्हता, घाबरून मानेनेच नाही अस उत्तर देऊन मागे धावायला सुरुवात केली, किशोरला फलाटावर पाहून सुटकेचा निश्वास टाकला आणि आता अगदी बरोबर डब्यात चढले. सीट शोधे पर्यंत कल्याण आलं, मनोज पाटील आणि हितेश गाडीत चढले . सकाळी ४.०० पर्यंत पुण्यात पोहोचणार असल्याने शक्य तेवढी झोप घेणार होतो .ब्यागा व्यवस्थित लावून झोपायची तयारी करणार इतक्यात ५-६ मुलं त्यांच्या सीट शोधत शेजारच्या compartment मध्ये आली आणि मग त्यांनी सकाळी २ वाजेपर्यंत ऑफिस , क्रिकेट , राजकारण ( दिल्ली ते अगदी गल्ली) यावर यथासांग चर्चा केली या सगळ्यात मिळेल तेवढी झोप काढून सकाळी सुमारे ४ च्या दरम्यान आम्ही पुणे स्टेशनला उतरलो . स्वारगेट हून अभिजित join होणार होता .आधीच एस. टी. च्या आंदोलनामुळे खूप गाड्या रद्द झाल्या होत्या अजून गोंधळ नको म्हणून किशोरने त्याला पुणे स्टेशनलाच बोलावून घेतलं . आम्ही तो पर्यंत सकाळी…सकाळी हां ४:३० च्या सुमारास चहा , पोहे आणि बुर्जी चा नाश्ता केला. पुणे स्टेशन बस स्टॉप ला आलो आणि ६:३० ची भोर गाडी पकडायची ठरलं इतक्यात आंघोळ आणि दाढी करून चकचकीत अभिजित आला. बस स्टॉप वरची शिवनेरी आशाळभूत नजरेने पाहणाऱ्या मनोज अप्पूला नवीन खजिनदार सलिल ने पुढच्या वेळेस charter flight बोलावू अस सांगून लाल डबा दाखवला आणि आम्ही गाडीत बसलो. एस. टी. महामंडळ महाराष्ट्राच्या काना कोपरयात पोहोचत असल्याने आणि कमी खर्चिक असल्याने ट्रेकर्स साठी एकदम बेस्ट. या मनोज अप्पूला खरचं हिंदी /मराठी कळत नाही का ?? ” खिडकी लावून घ्या ना भाऊ” या सहप्रवाशाच्या विनंतीला मनोज अप्पू ने “what did he say?” अशी प्रतिक्रिया दिली त्यावर सलीलचं ” अबे खिडकी लगा साले” हे मात्र त्याला लगेच कळलं. सलिल मला वाटत पुण्यात जन्माला यायचा होता शेवटच्या क्षणी देवाने त्याला केरळात पाठवलं. सकाळी ७:३० च्या आस पास आम्ही नसरापूर फाट्यावर उतरलो. अमित, हितेश आणि शितोळेन्नी जीप वाल्याबरोबर negotiate केलं आणि आम्ही गुंजवणे गावाला लागलो. किशोर सारखी अंगकाठी असलेली माणसं कुठही adjust होतात…. अभिलाष असता तर त्याला कुठे adjust केल असत यावर पण मत प्रदर्शन झाल.
वातावरणात किंचित गारठा होता एवढी शांत सकाळ फक्त ग्रामीण भागातच अनुभवू शकतो आपण. सकाळच प्रसन्न वातावरण अनुभवत आणि खूप सारे खंड्या, कोतवाल, दयाळ आणि काऊ चिऊ पाहत पाऊण-एक तासात आम्ही गुंजवणे गावात आलो. राजगड चढण्यासाठी तीन ठोस वाटा आहेत एक गुंजवणे गावातून चोर दरवाजा मार्गे , एक पाली दरवाजा मार्गे आणि एक अळू दरवजा मार्गे . आम्ही चोर दरवाजा मार्गे पद्मावती माची चढणार होतो. गावात एका छोट्या हॉटेल मध्ये चहा पिऊयात असा एक प्रस्ताव आला , किशोर नाखुशीनेच हो म्हणाला. किशोरला केव्हा एकदा गडावर पोहोचतो अस झाल असावं आणि आता तर काय हातात जुन्या १२x ऐवजी नवा कोरा ४२x होता. एका दुसरया हॉटेल मधे लावलेले बरेचसे फोटो आणि बाहेरच्या अंगाला असलेली आपण दिवाळीत करतो तशी पण बऱ्या पैकी मोठी आणि सिमेंटची राजगडाची अप्रतिम प्रतीकृती ( नेढं सुद्धा बनवलं होत) पाहून आम्ही मार्गस्थ झालो. एकांतासाठी इतक्या दूर आलेल्या एका जोडप्या बरोबर आम्ही ११ जणानी त्यांना company देत गड चढायला सुरुवात केली. बरयाचदा ट्रेक ची सुरुवात सपाटीने होते पण राजगडचं तो त्याची सुरुवातच चढणीने झाली आणि काही ठिकाणी ती खूपच खडी होती . अजूनही मला प्रत्येक ट्रेकला “अग घरी निवांत आराम करायचा सोडून इकडे का आली आहेस तंगड्या तोडायला?” अस प्रश्न पडतो. मनोज पाटील, किशोर, अमित असे बिनीचे शिलेदार सोडले तर आम्ही बाकीच्या सर्व मावळ्यांनी कमी जास्त प्रमाणात धापा टाकतच ११:०० च्या दरम्यान चोर दरवाजा गाठला. हा चोर दरवाजा स्वत:च नाव सार्थ करतो, दरवाजा आहेच असा कि कुणाला कळणार नाही. चोर दरवाजाने आत शिरल्यावर समोरच दिसतो तो पद्मावती तलाव, तलाव बरया पैकी सुस्थितीत आहे, एका बाजूने तलावात उतरण्यासाठी दगडी कमान बांधलेली आहे. तलाव सोडून वर गेल्यावर काळ्या दगडातलं दोन खोल्यांचं प्रशस्त पर्यटक निवास आहे. तिथून पद्मावती देवी मंदिराकडे जाताना महाराजांच्या पहिल्या राणी सईबाई साहेबांची समाधी आहे. पद्मावती देवीचं मंदिर छान प्रशस्त अगदी १५-२० माणसं झोपू शकतील एवढं आहे ( छ्या बाबा ट्रेकिंग सुरु केल्यापासून न मी जागा किती माणसं झोपू शकतील अशा दृष्टीकोनातून पाहायला लागलेय). रमण च्या technical डोळ्यांनी तेवढ्यात मंदिराच्या तुळया तिरक्या झाल्यात हे टिपल. मंदिराच्या समोर उजव्या हाताला पिण्याच्या पाण्याचं टाकं आहे यात बारमाही पाणी असत म्हणे…. आम्ही आमच्या ब्यागा पर्यटक निवासात ठेऊनच माचीवर थोडं फिरलो. किशोर तटावर उभा राहून आम्हांला समोरचा तोरणा , सिंहगड , रायगड , पाली दरवाजा दाखवत होता तिथेच आम्हाला पहिल्यांदा Andrew दिसला. हा US चा Hongkong स्थित Andrew पुण्यात राहून महाराष्ट्रातले गडकोट एकटाच धुंडाळत होता. आमच्या Indian मनोज अप्पूला इथली भाषा कळत नाही या Andrew ला कशी कळत असेल? मला न केव्हा केव्हा काहीही प्रश्न पडतात …
आम्ही गडावर आल्याची नोंद तिथल्या पुरातत्व विभागाच्या दफ्तरात केली …( राजगडावर पण ऑफिस ).  दुपारी १:०० वाजता आम्हाला आमच्या पोटाची जाणीव झाली आणि आम्ही जेवायला बसलो. सुमीच्या leadership मुळे घाबरून का होईना सगळ्यांनी खूपच जेवण आणलं होतं आणि ‘अहो आश्चर्यम’ कध्धी कध्धी डबा न आणणाऱ्या मनोज अप्पू ने फिश करी आणि बरोटा आणले होते. दुर्दैवाने फिश करी आंबली पण आम्हाला गुंजवणे गावापासून इथपर्यंत साथ देणाऱ्या कुत्र्याची मात्र ऐश झाली.बरोबर २:०० वाजता सुमी ने पेंगुळलेल्या मावळ्यांना हाक दिली आणि आम्ही पद्मावती माची आणि सुवेळा माची पाहायला निघालो. पुरातत्व खात्याने एवढे करोडो रुपये खर्च करूनही गडावर नुसतेच अवशेष दिसतात. राजवाडयाचे अवशेष, अंबारखाना, सदर आणि सदरेखाली ५-६ माणूस बसू शकेल अशी छोटी खोली (गुप्त मसलतींसाठी असावी का?) पाहिली. या सगळ्यात दारू कोठार हि एकच वास्तु शाबूत आहे आणि म्हणूनच कडी कुलपात असावी. एक सांगायचचं राहील गड चढल्यापासून शितोळे, मनोज पाटील आणि अमित राजगडाबद्दल, राजांबद्दलच बोलत होते. शिवराय, स्वराज्य, गड, कोट, गनिमीकावा या सगळ्या बद्दल बोलताना त्यांचे डोळे आणि आमचे कान मोठे होत होते.
शिवरायांचे आठवावे रूप । शिवरायांचा आठवावा प्रताप ।
 शिवरायांचा आठवावा साक्षेप । भूमंडळी ।।१।।
आग्र्याहून सुटकेनंतर महाराज आणि जिजाऊ साहेबांची भेट , सईबाई साहेबांचा मृत्यू आणि राजा राम महाराजांचा जन्म या आणि अशा अनेक महत्वाच्या घटना पाहिलेला आणि २६ वर्ष मराठेशाहीची राजधानी होऊन राहिलेल्या राजगडावरचे अवशेष पाहून हे सर्व ३५० वर्षांपूर्वी कसं दिसत असेल याची आपण फक्त कल्पनाच करू शकतो… time machine चा शोध अजून का लागला नाहीये??? कानंदी आणि गुंजवणी नद्यांच्या खोरयात १२ कोस पसरलेला राजगड पूर्वी मुरुंब देवाचा डोंगर म्हणून माहित होता. १६४६-४७ च्या दरम्यान महाराजांनी मुरुंब देवाचा डोंगर जिंकून घेतला व त्यास “राजगड” नाव दिले. गडाला तीन सोंडा आहेत त्यावर राजांनी माच्या बांधल्या व त्यास पद्मावती माची, सुवेळा माची आणि संजीवनी माची अशी नावे दिली.
पद्मावती माचीवर ढालकाठी जवळ तिठा लागतो त्यातली एक वाट सुवेळा माचीकडे , एक बालेकिल्ल्याकडे आणि एक संजीवनी माचीकडे जाते . आम्ही सुवेळा माचीकडे जाताना वाटेच्या खालच्या बाजूला गुंजवणे दरवाजा दिसला. गडावर यायची हि अजून एक वाट. तसेच मधेच एक छोटी टेकडी लागली त्याला डूबा म्हणतात, या डूब्याच्या डाव्या बाजूने आम्ही माचीकडे वळलो आणि समोर दिसला झुंजार बुरुज. या ठिकाणी छायाचित्रकार मंडळी पुढे सरसावली आणि खूप सारे फोटो काढून आम्ही निघालो… बुरुजाच्या थोडस पुढे नेढं होत याला ‘वाघाचा डोळा’ पण म्हणतात. एक एक करत आम्ही सर्व जण नेढयात जाऊन बसलो पण सगळ्यात शेवटी आलेला अमित काय बोलत आला कोण जाणे? त्याचा आवाज ऐकून मधमाशा उठल्या आणि त्यांना उठलेल पाहून आम्ही पण काढता पाय घेतला. माचीच्या टोकावर जाताना लक्षात आल कि माचीला दुहेरी तटबंदी आहे यालाच चिलखती तटबंदी अस म्हणत असावेत. काय idea आहे राव… शत्रूने शंभर प्रयत्न करून बाहेरची तटबंदी पाडली तर स्वागताला तीतकीच अभेद्य दुसरी तटबंदी आहेच शत्रू हे पाहूनच गारद होत असेल….. चिलखती तटबंदी आणि चिलखती बुरुज… राजांनी मोठ्या प्रेमानी गड आकारला होता
पुणं झालं जुनं , गाऊ भोर त्या भरन्याला
सोनीयाची ग पायरी राजगड तोरण्याला !
माचीच्या या टोकावर पुन्हा फोटोग्राफी झाली… फोटोग्राफर्स कॅमेरात आणि आम्ही आमच्या डोळ्यात सुवेळा माची आणि राजगड साठवत होतो. सुवेळा माचीवरून खाली डूब्याच्या बरोबर उजव्या अंगाला दिसतो तो काळकाईचा बुरुज आम्ही तिकडे न जाता मोर्चा बालेकिल्ल्याकडे वळवला. सूर्यास्त बाले किल्ल्या वरून पहायचा होता आम्हाला…. राजगड जिथे संपतो अस वाटत तिथे तो सुरु होतो असं झालं माझं बालेकिल्ल्याकडे पाहून. माझ्यासारखा शत्रू जर कदाचीत त्या तटबंद्या तोडून आत आला असता तर बालेकिल्ला पाहून परत घरी गेला असता. सरळसोट अरुंद वाटेचा बालेकिल्ला, चढतानाच जीव जाईल एखाद्याचा. आता रेलिंग असल्यामुळे जरा, जरा हं सोपी झालीय हि चढण. राजांचा राजगडावर एवढा जीव का जडला होता हे पाहण्यासाठी राजगडाचा बालेकिल्ला पहाच. “राजियांचा गड , गडांचा राजा” उगाच नाही म्हणत त्याला. आम्ही बाले किल्ल्याच्या दरवाजात आलो. दरवाजा अजूनही फार छान व मोठा आहे. दरवाजातून आत आल्या आल्या दिसते ते जननी मंदिर आम्ही आत न जाता वर जायला वळलो .वर जायला चांगल्या नजीकच्या काळात बांधलेल्या पायऱ्या लागल्या, वर गेल्याबरोबर समोर तळ दिसलं त्याच्या  आकारामुळे बहुदा त्याला चंद्रकोर तळ म्हणत असावेत. या वेळेस शितोळे नि सलिल वर सरशी करत तळ्याच्या शेजारी हिरव्या गवताचा बिछाना पटकावला. सलिल सोडून आम्ही सर्व पद्मावती माचीच्या बाजूला असलेल्या बुरुजाकडे गेलो. तिथून पद्मावती माचीचा फार सुंदर view दिसत होता, सिंहगड मात्र धुक्यामुळे दिसत नव्हता. बालेकिल्ल्यावरून राजगड अधिकच देखणा दिसतो. फोटोग्राफर्स ची हत्यार परत बाहेर आली. राजगडला प्रदक्षिणा घालुन आलेल्या Andrew ला किशोर ने अजून कोण कोणते किल्ले पाहायलाच हवे त्याची माहिती दिली. संजीवनी माची वरुन तोरण्याकडे जाणारा ridge पाहून उदया किती चालायचयं याचा थोडा बहुत अंदाज आला आम्हालाबाजारपेठ, सदर , राजवाडा पाहत आणि Un-Necessary Hikers च्या संस्थळा बद्दल चर्चा करत आम्ही सूर्यास्त पहिला व परत पद्मावती माचीच्या दिशेने उतरू लागलो थोडी थंडी जाणवायला लागल्यामुळे आम्ही शेकोटी साठी रस्त्याने थोड सरपण गोळा करत निघालो. अपेक्षेपेक्षा कमी पण आता बरया पैकी थंडी लागायला सुरुवात झाली होती. बहुदा शुक्रवार असल्याने असेल कदाचित राजगडावर फार मंडळी नव्हती, आम्ही ११ जण (पर्यटक निवासात) आणि अजून दुसरे दोघेजण (मंदिरात) एवढेच होतो वस्तीला. सलीलने सर्वांसाठी चहा केला …जियो सलिल ( चहाला अमृततुल्य का म्हणतात हे कळण्यासाठी तरी अशी तंगडतोड कराच एकदा). सुमीने ready to eat आणायला सुरुवात केल्यापासून kitchen committee च काम खूप सोप्प झालयं (muahh सुमी ..) …. पण जेवणा अगोदर रंगली ती गाण्यांची मैफल …शितोळे ,सलिल, सुमी, किशोर, मनोज पाटील, हितेश, रमण, संदीप सर्वांनी एक से बढकर एक जुनी गाणी म्हंटली…मी मात्र कोरस मध्ये होते..जेवणाचा पावभाजी, चपात्या आणि वर पापड असा फक्कड बेत जमलाजेवण संपवून थकल्या भागल्या धारकरयांनि पथारया पसरल्या (स्लीपिंग ब्याग हो) आणि क्षणात माझी ब्रह्मानंदी टाळी लागली.
दुसरा दिवस :(१२ जानेवारी )
सकाळी ६:०० ला अमितच्या मोबाईलचा गजर झाला ( या वेळेस अमितच आवडत “ऊठा राष्ट्रवीर हो” गाणं नव्हत)आणि सगळे उठले……उठले म्हणजे मी नुसतीच जागी झाले.रात्री कोण कोण घोरत होत यावर चर्चा करून आम्ही आमच्या स्लीपिंग ब्याग आवरल्या सकाळची सगळी काम आवरून (म्हणजे ब्रश वगैरे वगैर वगैरे) आणि ब्रेड बटर चा भरपेट नाष्टा करत आम्ही संजीवनी माचीकडे निघालो. आज लांबचा पल्ला गाठायचा होता, संजीवनी माची अळू दरवाजाने उतरून आम्हाला तोरण्याकडे जायचं होतं , माचीकडे जाताना पाली दरवाजाचा छान view दिसतो. पाली दरवाजा राजगडा वर पोहोचण्याचा सर्वात सोपा मार्ग आहे. सुवेळा माची प्रमाणेच संजीवनी माचीलाही दुहेरी चिलखती तटबंदी आणि चिलखती बुरुज आहेत, तसच पाण्याची टाकं हि आहेत तीही त्यांचा तळ दिसावा इतकी स्वच्छ. मध्येच आम्हाला एक छोटा दरवाजा दिसला दरवाजात उतरायला छोट उतरतं भुयार होतं आणि दरवाजा तर अगदीच छोटा बसून बाहेर याव एवढाच होता. मी, सलिल, सुमी, अभीजीत आणि रमणनं थोडा वेळ तिथे काढला. परत वर येत असताना मनोज आणि अमित बुरुजावारचा भगवा हातात घेऊन करत असलेल्या शिवगर्जना ऐकू आल्या.
प्रौढ़ प्रताप पुरंदर, क्षत्रिय कुलावतंस,
सिंहासनाधिश्वर, महाराजाधिराज,
शिव छत्रपती श्री शिवाजी महाराज की जय…..
ब्यागा अळू दरवाजाजवळ ठेवत आम्ही माचीच्या टोकाशी आलो आता आम्हाला तिथून तोरण्याकडे जायचा ridge स्पष्ट समोर दिसत होता. शनिवार रविवारी खूप ट्रेकर्स येत असल्याने त्यांच्यासाठी दही, ताक, लिंबू सरबत घेऊन भवतालच्या गावातले लोक वर येताना दिसले. हे लोक पायात विमान टायरच्या चपला किंवा अगदी स्लीपर घालून सुद्धा काय भारी चढतात किल्ले.आम्हालाही दही विकणारा विलास भेटला आणि त्याने आम्हाला २५ रुपयांना एक ग्लास( पेल्याला ग्लास म्हणत होता तो) अस चक्क गंडवल आम्ही पण दही पिउन झाल्यावर negotiate करायला लागलो आमची हि घासाघीस पाहून त्याने आम्हाला त्याचं  रस्त्यात लागणारं घर दाखवून माझ नाव सांगून घरी ताक प्या अशी offer दिली. आम्ही माचीवरून अळू दरवाजात परत येताना दोन तटबंद्यांच्या मधून चालत निघालो .तटबंद्यां मधलं अंतर एकावेळी एकच माणूस जाऊ शकेल एवढं आहे आणि काही काही ठिकाणी तर तटबंद्यां चांगल्या दोन- अडीच पुरुष उंच आहेत मला न खूप भारी आणि गूढ वाटत होत सगळ… १०:००-१०:३० ला आम्ही अळू दरवाजातून गडाच्या बाहेरच्या बाजूला आलो म्हणजे तोरण्याच्या विरुद्ध बाजूला आलो. बाहेरून दिसत होत्या त्या उंचच उंच सुबक, आखीव, रेखीव काळ्या तटबंद्यां. आणि वरचा अभेद्य बालेकिल्ला. माचीच्या बुरुजाला वळसा घालून आम्ही समोरचा तोरणा पाहिला आणि आगेकूच चालू ठेवली. गड चढताना कठीण कि उतरताना?? हा अजून एक अनुत्तरीत प्रश्न. चांगली मळलेली वाट होती. दुपारचं जेवण बुधला माची जवळ करायचं ठरलं. आता फक्त सरळ चालायचं म्हंटल्यावर आपोआप आमच्या तीन तुकड्या पडल्या रमन, मनोज अप्पू, अभिजित, हितेश ची पहिली तुकडी बरीच पुढे होती मागोमाग मी, सलिल, सुमी, शितोळे आणि संदीप आणि सगळ्यात मागच्या झेंड्याच्या तुकडीत किशोर,अमित, मनोज पाटील असे फोटोग्राफेर्स. अर्ध्या तासाच्या आत बाहेर आम्हाला एक डांबरी रस्ता लागला आत्ताचा हा डांबरी रस्ता म्हणजेच ती पाली खिंड राजे सुरत लुटायला याच पाली खिंडी मार्गे गेले होते म्हणे… पुढे जराशा अंतरावर विलासाच घर लागल त्या हुशार विलासन सगळ दही विकायला नेल होत घरी फक्त २-३ पेले ताक शिल्लक होत. रस्ता पाहून हितेशच्या काय मनात आल कुणास ठाऊक त्याने तिथूनच मागे जायचं ठरवलं..२ वर्षांनी ट्रेक ला आलेला हितेश खूपच दमला होता. अमितने किशोरला  “कसे रे तुमचे जुने ट्रेकर्स” असा टोमणा मारला आणि किशोर “बर्रर्र ” म्हणून गूढ हसला. तितक्यात गौरांगचा फोन आला आणि मुकुंदचे अमित आणि शितोळे थोडे tension मध्ये आले. अमितने जळगावला मित्राच्या लग्नाला जाण्याच कारण सांगितलं होत ऑफिस मध्ये तर शितोळे च्या घरी emergency होती. काल आमच्या बरोबर राजगडावर वस्तीला असलेले ते काका आणि त्यांचा सहकारी पुन्हा भेटले काका सत्तरीत असावेत बहुदा पण उत्साह मात्र एखाद्या तरण्याला लाजवील असा होता. मध्ये आम्ही एकदा रस्ता चुकलो आणि एका वाडी त आलो तिथे एका घरात पाणी आणि ताक प्यायलो ( यावेळेस ग्लास म्हणजे ग्लासच होता) त्या काकांनी आम्हाला रस्ता दाखवला. उन खूप असल तरी असह्य उकाडा नव्हता. हवेत अजूनही गारवा होता. त्यामुळे चालताना त्रास होत नव्हता. पण रस्त्यात छोटा ब्रेक घेण्यासाठी झाडी नव्हती. बरयाच वेळाने रस्यात थोडी झाडी पाहून थांबलो आणि संत्री खाल्ली. या वेळेस मात्र मला त्रास झाला, खूप कफ होता त्यामुळे श्वास घ्यायला त्रास होत होता पण या ब्रेक नंतर बर वाटल. शेवटच्या प्याच ला मात्र हवालदिल झाले, बुधला माचीच्या बुरुजाच्या पायथ्याशी बसून दुपारी ४:०० ला जेवण उरकल. थोडा वेळ थांबून पुढे निघालो ……….कुण्या पुण्यात्म्याने तिथे लोखंडी शिडी लावली आहे. आम्ही शिडी चढून वर जात असताना एक ग्रुप शिडी उतरण्यासाठी थांबला होता. अमित जसा शिडी चढून वर गेला तस त्यातल्या एकाने ” या राजे या” म्हणत अमितला अलिंगन दिले अमितच्या department मधला एक जण अमितला भेटला होता आणि जळगावला गेलेला अमित तोरण्यावर अव्वाक का काय म्हणतात तो झाला होता. त्यात वरून पाहत असताना दुर्दैवाने चुकून एक छोटा दगड त्या ग्रुप मधल्या एका छोट्या मुलीच्या डोक्यात पडला आणि अमितच्या “watch out ” वर तो खूप उखडला. पुढचा ट्रेक अमित ने tension मध्ये पूर्ण केला असावा. एका उंच दगडावर आम्हाला ते सत्तरीतले काका आणि त्यांचा सहकारी घोड्यावर बसतात तसे बसलेले दिसले आम्ही त्यांच्यापर्यंत पोहोचल्यावर कळल कि त्या दगडाच्या बाजूचा वळसा त्यांनी मिस केला आणि त्या दगडा वरुनच पुढे वाट आहे अस समजून चढले आता चढले खर पण उतरता येईना मग आमच्यातल्या काहीजणांनी त्यांच्या ब्यागा खाली उतरवून घेतल्या तेव्हा कुठे ते खाली उतरून पुढे निघाले. कोकण दरवाजातून पुढे होत आम्ही मेंगाई देवी मंदिराकडे निघालो.
तोरणा – स्वराज्यातला पहिला किल्ला …राजांनी स्वराज्याच तोरण हा किल्ला घेऊनच बांधल…कानद खोरयातला तोरणा पुणे प्रांतातला सगळ्यात उंच किल्ला आहेगडाला झुंजार माची आणि बुधला माची अशा दोन माच्या आहेत…..एक कोस लांब आणि पाव कोस रुंद असा गडाचा पसारा…. १६ वर्षाच्या राजांनी तोरणा जिंकून दुरुस्तीला सुरुवात केली आणि भवानी पावली किल्ल्याच्या तटात राजांना खजिना सापडला.. हा खजिना राजांनी तोरण्याच्या दुरुस्तीकरिता आणि राजगडच्या उभारणीकरिता वापरला. गडाच्या बालेकिल्ल्यावर मेंगाई देवीच मंदिर आहे. बुधला माची, कोकण दरवाजा, मेंगाई देवी मंदिर, झुंजार माची, तोरणजाई मंदिर आणि काही वास्तूंचे अवशेष गडावर आहेत.
मेंगाई देवीच मंदिर आमचा आज रात्रीचा पत्ता होता म्हणून आम्ही थेट मंदिराकडेच गेलो किशोर अगोदरच पोहोचला होता आणि हे काय??? एक एक करत श्रीकांत, मकरंद आणि स्टीवन देवाळामागून आमच्या पुढे आले हे तिघेजण तोरण्यावर येणार हे किशोर सोडून आमच्यातल्या कुणालाच माहित नव्हत त्यामुळे आम्ही सगळेच जसे जसे त्यांना पाहत होतो  तसे तसे आश्चर्य चकित होत होतो या घडीला आम्हाला किशोरच्या त्या गूढ हास्याच रहस्य उलगडल. मंदिरासमोर थोड पुढे खाली पिण्याच्या पाण्याच टाक होत त्याला पाहून आम्हाला आम्ही सकाळ पासून तोंड देखील धुतलं नसल्याच लक्षात आल, सर्दी मुळे मी सारखीच नाक पुसत होतेगार पाणी तोंडाला लागल आणि नाक सोलून निघाल्याची जाणीव झाली, पण आता कस अगदी फ्रेश वाटत होत…राजगड च्या मानाने तोरण्या वर चांगलीच थंडी होती. मला थंडी बिलकुल सहन होत नाही पण म्हणतात न हौसेला मोल नसत त्यात आमची हौस हि अशी… दोन दोन jacket घेऊन जाइन पण जाईनच ट्रेकला हा हट्ट… मकरंद, स्टीवन आणि श्रीकांतने वेल्हे गावातून “बटाट्याची रस्सा भाजी” आणली होती, अमित आणि स्टीवनने देवळाच्या बाहेर चूल करून भाजी गरम करायची तयारी केली, आणि आत सलिल चहा आणि सूप च्या तयारीला लागला. चहा आणि सूपची वाढी झाल्यावर सुमी, सलिल आणि मी आत देवळातच गप्पा मारत बसलो , मनोज अप्पू torch च्या प्रकाशात पुस्तक वाचत बसला होता (हा एक आपल्याच तंद्रीत असतो.) बाकीचे सर्व बाहेर गप्पा ठोकत होते. स्टीवन आणि अमित ने भाजी गरम झाल्यावर चुलीवरच भात लावला. सुमी ने ready to eat डाळ गरम केली, पापड भाजले. सुमी 

kitchen committee ची हेड अणि मी हेल्पर या पदावर कार्यरत होतो. ” बटाट्याची भाजी”, भाकरी, वरण-भात आणि पापड बेष्टच बेत झाला. एक ६ जणांचा ग्रुप तोवर किल्ल्यावर आला होता. मेंगाई देवी मंदिर चांगल प्रशस्त असल्याने आणि आम्ही ३ tent पण carry केलेले असल्याने झोपायच्या जागेची अडचण नव्हती. शितोळे, रमन, मकरंद, अमित, किशोर, मनोज पाटील, अभिजीत बाहेर tent मध्ये झोपले तर मी, सुमी, सलिल, स्टीवन, संदीप, मनोज अप्पू, आणि श्रीकांत आत मंदिरात झोपलो. आज खूपच दमल्याने आम्ही सर्व जण लगेच स्लीपिंग ब्याग मधे शिरलो आणि झोप लागली सुद्धा …पण थोड्याच वेळात कानाच्या अगदी जवळ काहीतरी आवाज झाला आणि मी जागी झाले. मेणबत्तीच्या प्रकाशात मला माझ्या अगदी डोक्याजवळून धावताना उंदीर दिसला आता मात्र माझी झोप उडाली. मी परत परत सुमीची torch घेऊन तो आमच्या ब्यागा तर कुरतडत नाहीये ना हे तपासात राहिले, झोप अनावर होत होती म्हणून मी जागा बदलली पण तरी देखील रात्रभर दचकून दचकून जागी होत होते.

तिसरा दिवस :
सकाळी सुर्योदय पहायचा म्हणून लवकर उठलो पण थंडीमुळे स्लीपिंग ब्याग मधुन बाहेर यावसं काही वाटत नव्हतं . कसंतरी  उठून बाहेर आलो सूर्योदय अजून व्हायचा होता आम्ही समोरच्या राजगडाकडे पाहत उभे होतो.. क्षितीजावर लाल, पिवळ्या आणि नारिंगी रंगाच्या कित्येक छटांमध्ये राजगड मोठा राजस दिसत होता. आम्हांला झुंजार माची पाहून तोरणा उतारायचा होता म्हणून पटापट ब्रश वगैरे करून चहा घेऊन आणि काही सटर फटर खावून आम्ही तयार झालो आणि मेंगाई मंदिराच्या डाव्या हाताला असलेल्या बुरुजाकडे वळलो… झुंजार माची अगदी सापासारखी दिसत होती इथून वळणा वळणाची आणि त्रिकोणी डोक्याची…. माचीकडे जायला एक लोखंडी शिडी आहे ब्यागा वर ठेऊन जायचा निर्णय आम्ही माकडांना पाहून बदलला आणि ब्यागा घेऊनच उतरायला सुरुवात केली माचीकडे जायचा रस्ता त्यामानाने खूपच बिकट होता. पण मनोज पाटील, अभिजित आणि अमितच्या मदतीने सगळ्यांनी हा रस्ता पार केला. मधेच किशोर ओरडला मला “कांचन सोपा प्याच कठीण करू नकोस “किशोर…. आता ५ फूट २ इंच माणसाने पाय तरी किती लांब लांब टाकायचे ?? माचीवर जाताना एक छोट दार आहे तिथून खाली उतरायला खुप अरुंद आणि बिकट वाट आहे. छ्ये वाट कसली मला पहिल्यांदा कडेलोटाची जागा वाटली ती. माचीच्या टोकाला बुरुजाला बाहेरच्या बाजूला जायला मस्त वाकून जाऊ शकू असा दरवाजा आहे. आम्ही तिथे गेलो आणि आणि आमचे मॉडेल पटापट pose द्यायला लागले ठीगभर फोटो काढून आणि  माचीचं पोटभर दर्शन घेऊन आम्ही परतीच्या वाटेला लागलो. तटबंदीवर चालत चालत आम्ही कोठी दरवाजा जवळ आलो….आणि हे काय वर चक्क हॉटेल आहे ….२-२ ग्लास लिंबू सरबत पिउन आम्ही तोरणा उतारायला सुरुवात केली. बिनीच्या दरवाजा पासून रेलिंग लावलेले असले तरी काही काही प्याच अवघडच आहेत. आज गडावर बरीच गर्दी होणार अस दिसत होत…. कितीतरी हवशे नवशे गवशे तोरणा चढताना दिसत होते. काही काही जोडप्यां पैकी मुलींचे चेहरे पाहून हे ब्रेक-अप करूनच घरी जाणार अस दिसत होतं ….एक जण तर दुपारी १२ च्या सुमारास ७-८ महिन्यांच्या बाळाला आणि बायकोला घेऊन चढताना दिसला…किशोरने त्याला परत मागे फिरायचा सल्ला दिला तरी बच्चा ऐकतोय कुठे… त्याची बायको हुशार निघाली तिने त्याला मागे फिरवलं. रस्त्यात किशोरने मला बरेच interesting आणि बोधपर किस्से ऐकवलेकाल स्टीवन, श्रीकांत आणि मकरंद ने पण खूप मेहनत केली होती हे दिसलं… आता आम्ही वेल्हे गावात आलो पण या तिघांनी गाडी अगदी गावाच्या दुसरया टोकाला पार्क केली होती…. तोरणा उतरण्यापेक्षा हे अंतर आता जास्त वाटत होतं…आम्ही चिकन आणि मटण थाळी मागवली.. जेवण येईपर्यंत आम्ही चांगली ३ ताट भरून tomato slice खाल्ले. हॉटेल मधले काका अगदी आतिथ्यशील होते आग्रह करून करून वाढत होते …जेवण तर उत्कृष्टचं होतं पण इंद्रायनीचा भात अप्रतिम… चिकट पण ultimate होता…आता सगळ्यांनाच परतीचे वेध लागले होते….शितोळे ना रविवारी night shift ला जायचं होत म्हणून मग स्टीवन च्या गाडीत मकरंद आणि श्रीकांत बरोबर ते पण जाणार होते, किशोर ने माझं पण त्याच गाडीच तिकीट काढलं..तो पर्यंत दुसरी जीप पण आली … आम्ही स्टीवन च्या गाडीतून थेट मुंबईतच जाणार होतो पण बाकीचे लोक नसरापूर पर्यंत आणि तिथून पुढे स्वारगेटला गेले…आणि स्वारगेट हून त्यांना थेट गाडी मिळाली….मी आता उद्या परत ऑफिसला जायचं  या विचारात होते….पण मला खात्री आहे किशोर च्या डोक्यात मात्र पुढच्या हरीशचंद्र गड ट्रेक किंवा माळशेज रय़ाप्लिंगचं  किंवा मग अजून काही off beat ट्रेकचं प्लानिंग चालू असणार…
आता पुढच्या ट्रेक साठी आईची permission मिळवण्यासाठी काय शक्कल लढवायची बरं ???????

Kishor’s photo gallery

Manoj’s photo gallery

A walk in the clouds –Shishir Bhate

Himalayan trek 2011

A walk in the clouds 

-Shishir Bhate

Have you ever tried pushing a 3-tonne battle-tank up a hill? Alone? While the driver is standing on its brake pedal?

Or maybe you have tried coming down a sheer rocky mountain, splattered in patches with slimy clay – the kind they make quicksand from – wearing roller skates?


Well, then you’ve never really gone trekking. For, that’s what it felt like to me: all the way up and all the way down.

Nietzsche once said, ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking’. And it was while I was huffing, puffing and gasping my way up and down Ajoba (Ajaparvat), the only motivating thoughts that kept me going were the kaleidoscopic variety of plans I made to find the most torturous – and gleeful – way of throttling my Unnecessary Hiker friend, Reuben, and his partner in crime who talked me into the trek, Preeti.

I vowed the next time anyone of them asks me out on a trek, I would tell them – with as much insolence as I could summon – to go take a hike, preferably a one-way hike.

But the warmth and the hospitality, the spirit and the camaraderie, the naughtiness and the levity, the concern and the carefulness, the sensitivity and the kindness this eclectic bunch of hikers showered on strangers like me and some other first-timers during the entire trek, made me chuck away all those murderous thoughts.

Their warmth was stuff that forms the foundation of fine friendships and spawns a lifetime of memories. Thank you, guys.

Anyway, before I get mushy, let me speak of what I really felt before I melt into a puddle of emotions.

What was meant to be a simple trek turned into a sort of a spiritual journey – with an extremely heavy dose of physical exertion thrown in, where not only did you learn about the new facets of others whom you thought you knew pretty well, but also about yourself. It was an incredible experience disguised as a trek.

There was, however, nothing disguised or subtle about the pain I nurture as a result of subjecting my body to sudden physical violence. I now have excruciating aches in places I didn’t even know I had places.

Himalayan trek 2011On my singular, slender frame, which is kept together by some bones and a few raw nerves, there is nary a sign of fat or muscle – but I swear by the Holy book that I positively suffered multiple muscle pulls during the ordeal.

The trek — mind you, this was the ‘easier’ variety, the ‘beginner’s trek’, as defined by Reuben and his Unnecessary Hikers gang – had more than I bargained for. Beginner’s trek, my foot! (both of which, by the way, are aching like they were on the wrong end of a battering ram)!

It began with yours truly, with teenage daughter in tow, zipping across the still slumbering Mumbai in the wee hours towards the rendezvous point. We reached almost half hour before the ‘picnic’ was to begin, only to find that most others were still cosy in their warm beds or ‘on their way’ (which was a euphemism for saying, ‘we are going to be hours late’).

Anyway, as luck would have it, father and daughter encroached upon the parking slot and the hospitality so generously offered by Salil and Sumita Menon at that unearthly hour– boring them with my banter and asking them for tea. Polite people, the Menons, they were kind enough not to let me know what they really thought of me. Instead, I treated myself to a hot cup of tea.

Finally, when the entire flock was rounded up, it was time to begin the trek. Starting off with breakfast on a fast-moving bus to listening to some of the funniest and most creative mash-up of ad jingles and songs, the journey to the base of the mountain was a breeze. Hey, I am calling it a mountain because it felt like the freaking Everest to me (although to some others it might not have been more than a slight bump in the road)!

The first thing that hit me as soon as I got off the bus was the funny smell in the air. I wrinkled my nose and snorted a lot, but it just wouldn’t go away. It took me a while to realise that this was air as it is meant to be in its purest form, minus the pollutants that I am so used to inhaling in noxious Mumbai.

When we got off the bus, we were all cheerful and raring to go (despite the funny smell of fresh air), when Reuben punctured my fully inflated balloon of fancy. “It’s a one-and-a-half-hour uphill walk till we reach the base of the mountain. Then there’s a two-and-a-half-hour climb up the mountain to the spot from where you can see heaven.”

Hell, I thought, panicking like a woman who knows Jack the Ripper is under her bed. Good heavens, I screamed internally, ‘what have I let myself into?’ I glared at Reuben and Preeti and everyone else – from behind my dark glasses — which I later chucked as the green, green grass under my feet started to appear black after only 15 minutes into the walk (it wasn’t the glasses though, it was just pure exertion) – and quickly began to think up some excuses to get out of the predicament I found myself in.

Himalayan trek 2011But you can’t let your only child think you are chicken, so you go along with the flow – like the bali ka bakraa we actually saw later in the evening. So with the heart beating like a racing car, off we went on that loooooooooooooooooooong walk.

About a quarter of the way, the one thought that kept haunting me was: the farther I go, the more I will have to walk to come back. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory. Since there was no way out, I decided to test the endurance power of my only body. Frankly, I should have got my only head tested for having been talked into this walk.

But it was too late: by then most of my body parts were functioning independently of the brain. It was as if there was a mutiny in the ranks and the legs did what they wanted to and the arms operated on their own volition.

With only the first part of the trek over, I felt as limp as a wet sock. But we Bhates are made of stronger stuff than I had believed, so I decided to go along on the climb up the mountain through the dense jungle.

By the time I reached the summit (let me call it that, somehow makes my achievement seem that much worthier), I was wheezing like a pressure cooker with a faulty valve and I think I had sweated enough to start off a minor waterfall.

Once I stopped seeing double and the eyes swam back into their sockets, standing on my wobbly legs I focused at the heavenly sight before me. It was everything Reuben and gang had promised; in fact, more than what they had promised.

The scene was ethereal.. it was as if we had stepped into the misty land of cottony clouds.. soft as smoke and smooth as silk… And it was extremely windy… Then came the rain as if to greet sore limbs and tired minds. It was cool as could be… felt like you had carved a giant watermelon and had curled up inside it….

There were many firsts for me here too: first time I was going on such a trek in 20 years, first time I sweated as much as I did, first time I sincerely harboured thoughts of throttling perfectly fine human beings, first time I saw a goat being sacrificed… It was also the first time I had the experience of cutting off a rather sizeable portion of a lady’s jeans — while she was still in them…!

Himalayan trek 2011Anyway, soon after partaking of various kinds of delicacies, it was time to begin the trek downhill. I did it in half the time it took me to get up the mountain, but I had no hand in it. I had no idea that while I was up there on Ajoba, the track had transformed itself into a bar of wet soap. So I slithered and slipped and roller-skated my way down the hill.

That I reached the foothills of Ajoba without a broken limb was entirely providential: it had nothing to do with my skill. Unfortunately, I have no bruises to show off as mementos. All I have is a mass of aching organs…………

Be that as it may, not only did yours truly make it all the way, the daughter also managed to do it. Despite her earlier misgivings, she hardly seemed any worse for wear. That’s more than you could say for her old man.

Thus ended the beginner’s trek — I am omitting parts where you had to climb out of drenched clothes into dry attire within the confines of the bus – while other wet souls waited outside for their turn to clad themselves similarly…. Modesty forbids.

Anyway, so like that author said: ‘Whether chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.’

Thank you, dear Reuben, Salil, Nandu, Raman, Kishore, Gaurang, Darshan, Sumita, Lalitha, Anjali, Preeti – and everyone else whom I might have missed naming here — for helping me visit the angels’ abode and drive my demons away.

There will be more angels to chase and more demons to slay: will do that with you guys on other treks…

Till then, dear Unnecessary Hikers, stay true to your motto: Keep Moving!

When I almost wet my pants-Patcy

This story is based on real-life experience. All characters are real and incidents mentioned are non-fictional. Any similarity is purely non-coincidental and intended to be taken in good spirit. 

With specials thanks to rediff.com for giving me no work on my weekend; to the shady old man who nearly made me wet my pants and to Vipin for making my story readable.

The time’s between 9:30 pm -10 pm on January 26, 2007. I and my friends just had a great day at Rajmachi, which is God knows how many kilometers away from Mumbai. We are walking back to the base camp through the dense, creepy jungle in a perfect moonlit night. The eeriness and hustle behind the bushes kept us on our toes. I was in bad shape. Drained in sweat, tired of trudging through the rough terrain and with immense pain in the back, I was afraid of earning my friends’ wrath. I was delaying their return journey. Then, my body gave in. I couldn’t move a step. Reuben and Nandu rushed to help me. Suddenly, a crackle of dry leaves… We froze… coming towards us was something or someone we thought (at least I did) could be our nemesis…

It was unlike the usual days of life. Today promised the excitement, the thrill and the adventure that I craved for. I wanted to go away from the milieu… far far away from it. However, like most things in life, the trek to Rajmachi Fort did not start off in time (not that I had expected it to!). In fact, this journey was bound to end up delayed just like most our country’s trains… thanks to our lead stars Salil and Sumita (they are husband & wife. So avoid the gossips), and Nandu the comedian (nowhere near Johnny Walker or Paresh Rawal standards) and Lalitha (the child artist). It is a different story that I did add to the delay eventually… But never mind!!!

This grouping of so-called adventurers also included Anjali (the Jhansi ki Rani clone), Chella (the smiling-swaggering lady), Reuben (the customary guide) and myself — Patcy (just to SPICE up things)!!!

We arrived at the base camp in Lonavala by noon, hoping to begin our trek by 12:45 pm after lunch. The initial anxiety at the start of the trek dissipated not long after we began our journey, as we made our way around the terrain huffing-puffing. That’s when we spotted a river. It was like showing an oasis to a thirsty traveler, and soon we were cooling off in the water… (oops!!! Forgive me… it was just me… others were satisfied with just dipping their feet in water).

Time for an item song — yeh mera dil, pyaar ka deewana…Kind of a mismatch here. Yet, I wonder how I could have pulled off the number showcasing my bulging curves. We moved on (But only after the item girl has had a dress change).

Like a badly edited movie, the scene shifted focus to the realization that we were OUT OF DRINKING WATER. While Nandu and Reuben tried their luck at a nearby village, the rest of the gang huddled under a tree (the only tree we could manage to find). The scorching mid afternoon heat was taking a toll on us. (We regretted not carrying our shades… We didn’t have it when we needed it the most). Meanwhile, our water-carriers returned… As we eagerly took turns to take a gulp, the duo narrated how an old lady had been our saviour. Despite the fact that she had to climb mountains to get water everyday, the old lady did not refuse to partake with her elixir of life. She gave us three (precious) bottles of water. Who says Indian culture has taken a beating at the hands of rapid industrialisation?

The journey to Rajmachi village proceeded at good pace. Though our destination lies further ahead, we called it a day at the village… much to the disappointment of some trekkers (including me) who had planned to have a nap at a cave in our destination.

Tukaram, a resident of the barely 20-30-house village, offered to take us in his home. Once again, the down-to-earth attitude floored us. Tukaram’s family took good care of us – got us warm water to wash ourselves, offered us tea and the fed us some good food. Indian villages still have not lost their belief in athithi devo bhavah.

Over dinner at Tukaram’s small, cosy home, a discussion on national security kicked off with the bone of contention being why does Reuben want to remain single?

I and Salil come up with all sorts of ‘interesting’ conclusions but our guide is unnerved (all you can ever see on his face is a smile…Common fella!! Time for an expression change and for heaven’s sake change your life’s caller tune — Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko doohay main uadata chala gaya…)

After a point I thought we were very mean to Reuben. We went to the extent of stating that he just did not want to take responsibility (too much!!!). We did not realise that he too had the right to his opinion. If he is not forcing his single hood on us, we shouldn’t force our marriage idea on him. Anyways, it was very nice of Reuben not to take the criticism to heart. (I guess what I said the line before spares me the spanking).

The next morning, we prepared to set off for our destination after breakfast. Then we encounter Z-bac, a group of enthusiastic rock climbers who had arrived at the village the night before. They group offered us rope-rappelling experience (thanks to our guide’s contacts in the group).

The trek to the fort was long and winding. It was an exhilarating moment when we reached the summit of the mountain on which the fort had been built. As for me, I started thinking that I could very well add trekking feather to my frail feather-filled cap. I had just walked, climbed and reached a fort above how much sea level I don’t know… (Little did I know that the worst was yet to come!!!). Meanwhile, we continue to explore the fort, the cave…Ahh…which reminds me of an incident that only I can be so proud to write about. While others were marveling at things like the sight from top of the fort and the design of the cave, I managed to spot a condom… So proud I was on my discovery that I went about tom-toming it… The expression of the faces of Sumita, Anjali and Lalita were worth a Kodak moment.

We were so enthusiastic that we performed stunts… The camera-hungry animal within us unleashed itself as we posed for photographs atop trees and a flag post.

Then Salil – our hero (just in case you forgot) got into the act. Spotting a bullock cart sans the bullock, he asked Sumita to get on to it while he pushed the cart. Imagine a medley of Jo tum ko woh pasand, wohi baat karenge and Sumita singing kaaton se kheech ke yeh aachal, todh ke bandh baande payal, koi toh rokhe dil ki udhhan ko dil yeh chaalaaa….. aaj phir zeene ki tamanaa hai… I was jealous. Wish someone could do that for me. But hey, I am just an item girl not the lead actress in the story.

Soon, we started making our way back to the village. Hunger was creeping up slowly. The famished souls were further disappointed when we reached the village. Our hopes of finding a sumptuous meal were shred to pieces, as we had to make do with rice, dal bhaji and papad. (Wonder what gave us the idea that we could savour chicken rasaa and bhakari?)

Nevertheless, as they say something is better than nothing. We decided to take a siesta at a temple in the village before starting our trek down to base camp. The battalion was ready to march at 4:30 pm. The route down the hill was steep. We had not expected it to be so… especially me and Salil — the trekkers with vertigo. We were shit scared. Poor Chella kept on falling (thanks to the slippers she was wearing… This dialogue should aptly describe her determination — Girte hai shai sawar maidan ne jung main, woh tiffal kya girre jo ghunto ke bal chale). Lalita was tired even before we started the journey; the only people who could withstand this were Sumita, Anjali, Reuben and Nandu. I felt ashamed every time I looked at Lalita. Oh man, if she can do it, then I have to do it too.

Everybody’s spirits were at high when the team split in two groups. Group A comprised of Sumita, Salil, Anjali, Chella and Lalita while group B had me, Reuben and Nandu.

Sun went down unnoticed. We were nowhere near our base camp (we were supposed to be there at 7:30 pm). To top it all, we didn’t have torches. Moonlight it was all the way. Then in typical filmy fashion, Salil and team lose their way. As they were figuring out their way, suddenly they could hear faint noises coming from a distance. The voices were closing in fast. Our hero gets prepared for the worst, asking Sumita to get his knife. He is ready to die but resolves to take two or three with him. Lalita was in tears as Nandu was not with her at the moment. The nausikhas (barring Anjali and Sumita) trembled with fear.

Soon the voices confronted them. It was the Z-bac group on their way back. A relieved Group A decided to follow the dictates of the Z-bac to safety.

Meanwhile, Group B had its own cause for worry – ME. The steep journey down and the circus during the day had taken a toll on me. Reuben and Nandu were trying to boost my morale as I kept breaking down with unbearable pain in my back. Sometimes, I thought I just couldn’t move another step. But they kept pepping me up, telling me that I could take as many breaks I wanted. On one such break, a sudden crackle of dry leaves got me on my toes. Kon hai tikde (Who is it there), we call out almost in unison.

I literally peed in my pants even as I gripped both Nandu and Reuben very tight. In the dim moonlight, we could make out a frail figure with a stick in his hand. My first reaction was obvious… I froze as the feeling of having seen a ghost flashed past.

It turned out to be an octogenarian, who offered to help us show the way to a nearby village. Our guide thrust 2 ten-rupees notes in his hand. He was thankful. Then it was our time to encounter the Z-bac group who told us that group A had gone ahead. Somehow, we managed to contact them and asked them to wait for us. We hitched a ride on Z bac’s bus, which was headed for Thane. Group A was picked up at some kilometers distance. Thanks to some snobby Talwalkarians on the Z bac bus, we decided to get down at the nearby village. Thankfully, we found rickshaws that took us to Karjat station… The train journey back to civilization was a non-stop chat — about Rajmachians memorable trip.


A cross-country trek from Samradh – Ratangad – Katrabai forest – Kaladgad – Harishchandragad

 8th – 10th Jan 2010 

This started as a dream for our trek guru Kishore (Reuben I hope you don’t mind) that actually came true after a lot of logistical nightmare?

The group was selected basis availability and early responders and it was as below;

Kishore: The Un-crowned King of The Sahyadri’s

Sushma: Jijabai

Manoj: The crown Prince

Amit: Munimji

Gaurang: The court jester alias Shipurdya

Badya: The court Tansen

Sunil: The wise Minister

Manoj Appu: Expat from Uganda with British accent

Abhijit: The Court Observer

Sachin: The Pirate

Sumita: Anarkali

Parth: Sambhaji

and Self: Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro

It was with deep sadness that we came to know that the two leading lights of our treks were not going to accompany us. Reuben – the expelled King and Patcy – the Iron lady. Reuben we have been given to understand has switched his loyalty towards PYT’s (Pretty Young Things) or he has developed a liking for not so Pretty Young Boys – Pranil. In any case he had chickened out of Dukes Nose rappelling camp and for this trek he suddenly rushes to Delhi…. Is he getting on in AGE? Or has he developed cold feet? Patcy very predictably backed out wondering who will carry her baggage physical and emotional, right Patcy?

Day -1
The trek started as usual at 10 pm from Vikhroli wherein all the serial offenders managed to delay it by 45 mins and finally left the last stop Kalyan at midnight for a long and eventful trek to the Sahyadri.

On our way our Sumi kept everyone on their toes by vomiting her way into the record books (Limca) while Sambhaji and I snored away to glory. She was attributed a lot of names viz: Waqari Younus, Vocari.com, etc

The Amit got into action by collecting funds, which he does with amazing consistency, and Kishya is quite impressed by his performance and is seriously considering promoting him within the ranks.

We reached our destination Samradh at around 4 am and tumbled our way thru the small hamlet to find our elusive Guide Dutta a la Dev Anand and finally managed to find our tent and quickly settled for a well-deserved nap.

We got up in the morning to the structured snore (read ROAR) and the nagging powers of Kishya at 6.30 am. The day started with hot sweet water, which we later realized was tea and bread butter, post which we packed our bags and were on our way to conquer the first fort- “Ratangad” at 8 am after the customary speech by Kishya on what to expect in the next 3 days. The journey began as usual in all earnest and very soon we had our first near casualty our Shipurdya who was feeling acidic owing to the abnormal breakfast he had bread butter which was the legacy of our expelled King, Reuben. A Digene was quickly administered and he was back on his feet.

We traversed thru the lovely serene stretch taking in the nature, bull fights and lovely cliff formations. After 4 hours of hectic climb we came to the stairs which took us up to the front gates of the fort at around 12 noon which was breathtakingly beautiful and we took to a impromptu photo sessions with all the fancy cameras with the group now … Amit was very depressed because his personal photographer SRT was missing in action. It’s then that Kishya announced that we will walk up to the caves for our lunch which was taken with a lot of Ooh‘s and Aah‘s

On the way, Manya met with one his long list of accidents; he banged his head against the roof of the cave by showing extra – enthusiasm in answering Kishya’s call. It was suggested by some that we stay over at Ratangad rather than travel the whole way to Kumshet. But Kishya quickly shot it down after consultation with the MC. After a short stop at the water tank we reached the cave at 1 pm for our much-awaited lunch.

Lunch was an assortment of various chappatis, bhakris, and methi, tomato, and alu sabzees and with some fresh bread with shrikand and cheese spread. Quite an assortment to be had 2500 feet above sea level. It was not a smooth lunch what with we being attacked by a group of very aggressive monkeys They were ably countered by kishya who resorted to a lot of karate and martial arts and the occasional rifle shooting: dhiskyaon to ward of our ancestors which Sambhaji enjoyed a lot.

After lunch, Kishya sanctioned a 15 min nap to all which was utilized to the hilt by Jijabai, Sumi and yours truly.

After a short nap we started our grueling trek at 2 pm to reach Kumshet, which was routed through Katrabai jungles. On our way down Ratangad through the iron stairs the same monkeys who were seeking vendetta for not giving them enough food cornered a couple of our soldiers. But our force Appu, Badya and Amit faced the wrath of the monkeys very bravely indeed.

Meanwhile, Sachin who had challenged the girls to hurry up as the stairs were very dangerous and it will take time for them to get down, was in for a surprise to see both the girls literally jump down the stairs and reach in a flash. Then began the long march through the thick jungles of Katrabai, but fortunately the path was shaded and we didn’t have to face the afternoon heat. The progress was steady and the force was getting a bit tired ’cause of the endless terrain! After hours of steady walk our guide announced we have reached the base of the khind, which later turned out to be 20 mins ahead. By this time I was completely exhausted and refused to budge any further but was coaxed by the team to walk a lil more which I did and we finally reached the Khind at 5.15 pm and crashed down for a much needed break.

The break went on for almost an hour and we had to be literally hauled up to move ahead to our final destination for the day, that is, Kumshet gaon at around 6 pm. We trudged through long winding route and by now we have been walking for almost 5 hours. Very soon we heard Sumi scream we have reached and everyone was relieved, only to be told that we had another couple of kms to trek Aaahhh !!

Soon enough we reached the village school wherein we were supposed to spend our night and we settled in slowly to rest our aching legs. But kishya being what he is soon distributed various jobs to people. Manya and Sachin were in charge of setting up tents, Jijabai and Sumi were in charge of tea, others went to fill water and Datta volunteered to cook kichdi for the night. Sunil was charged up after he had his share of tea, which he relishes. Appu spread his pink mat to steal a quick nap. Jijabai and Sambhaji took to frying dried fish for dinner. Kishya announced that Sunil, Appu and I would help in cooking the next day, which they readily agreed. Soon we will settled down to a wonderful supper which consisted of kichdi, papad and dried fish. After dinner we divided ourselves into 3 groups and got into our respective tents for a well deserved sleep after the long trek.

We all woke up to 2 very distinct sound – one, the very sweet but repeated cock-a-doodle-doo and the other our own in house Big Ben Alarm – BADYA. The very disturbed Gaurang was sleeping outside the tent bearing the brunt of the chill just to get away from the snore. Everybody then slowly got up and discussed various cures for Badya’s snore and his wife Yojana and son Sujit were unanimously conferred bravery awards on behalf of Unnecessary Hikers for braving his snore for all these years.

Kishya insisted that the school will start by 9, which set all the force scattered in various directions with bottled water and and by the time we left the village it was renamed as KHUM –SHIT. After a very hearty breakfast of fried butter rice and bread butter in the morning we left for Pathechi Wadi the base village of Kaladgad at 8.30 am and now we had 2 guides one our own Dutta and the other one we were forced to take on account of territorial infiltration…uuggh.

The stretch to Pathechi wadi was very serene and the sight of Mula river valley from the top was breathtaking!! Very strangely my left knees gave up completely and walking up and down became very painful. It was only the force, the constant pep talks and a stick, which Sachin very graciously handed me, that gave me strength to move ahead. We reached the base of Kaladgad at 12.30 am and it was decided that I would stay down and rest my knees and the others would go up the peak and since it was optional Sachin and Badya decided to stay back to give me company. The others started their walk up the cliff and we got down to preparing lunch for everyone so that it was ready the moment they came back. The climb was not very long but was very steep at some points and the panoramic view that the force enjoyed on top was worth all the trouble. They also managed to find a couple of date palms on top and took to impromptu photo session around the same. They started the descend in sometime and Parth and Dutta broke all previous record in getting down the cliff and by the time everyone came down hot steaming Maggi was awaiting them. A few villagers who passed by gave our group a new name “Houshie Paryatak (ambitious tourists)” ’cause they were amazed by our passion of the mountains.

Here it was time to bid goodbye to apna Dutta who was such huge help to us. The force cheered him on and gave him a vote of thanks till we meet him again. We started our trek to Pashnai village at 4 pm, the trip was very pleasant and untiring, and the weather was amazingly good. We reached Pashnai at 5.15 and rested on the riverbed for an hour. Here it was decided that we would spend the night on a flat rocky plateau enroute to Harishchandragad (HCG), which was taken with a lot of cheers all around. We started our ascend to HCG at 6.15 pm. The climb was very pleasant ’cause of the early evening chill in the air and therefore it was not tiring. Sachin and Appu saw to it that I was well taken care of so that my other knee was intact.

Enroute Gaurang and Kishya volunteered to carry my bag, which was sweet of them, and I was feeling awfully guilty to be doing so too!! Finally we reached the plateau and again after a short huddle we decided not to stay there as it could get into freezing temperatures in the night and also due to lurking dangers of wild animals. After a short trudge we reached uphill at 8.15 pm to a rather unpleasant sight of a huge unruly crowd and the caves almost resembled the slums of Bhandup hills. The boys went ahead hunting for a place for us to camp and to our delight we got the best location in the site, the temple premises. We quickly got down to business and started to pitch our tents and prepare dinner. I volunteered to make manchow soup with Sumi assisting me and Sushma and Amit got down to making rice and kulid peet. We probably had the best dinner possible within the limitations .The steaming hot manchow soup with theeka sev and the piping hot steam rice and kulid peet with pickle was something to die for!! Post dinner we retired to our respective tents for our well earned sleep and very soon we all were in various planets except few…

DAY -3
It was only in the morning that we realized that a couple of our force could not sleep through out the night ’cause of Badya’s consistent ROARING!! Sunil and Appu bore the brunt of it and others were not spared either…. sometimes it pays to sleep like a LOG like I did! Some suggested surgery while others felt ayurveda would help but I for one suggested that everyone carry cottton earplugs from next time because medical science has its limitations and this comes under life threatening illness and has no available cure. Sumi even orchestrated a well-timed BOW to the Roaring Hero for his nocturnal exploits.

After freshening up Sushma and Sumi got down to preparing poha and tea which quickly disappeared as if it never existed and then we were off to Konkan Kada to take in the wonderful creation of Mother Earth. We decided to blindfold Sunil, Abhijit and Appu as they were on their first trip and we wanted shock them with what was in store and also capture their expressions. Well the best expression was from Sunil and he being the travel freak enjoyed the moment to the hilt. Appu and Abhijit’s expression were a little better then Arjun Rampal’s. Both are instructed to join Sushma School of Drama for a crash course in expressions and exclamations a la Sheee baba or Heeeee aayee.

Konkan kada was an amazing experience and the view simply took one’s breath away. Kishya was duly pestered by the force to arrange a rappelling down the cliff, which is in his wish list too!! Reuben you can book your tickets to Delhi once we announce the dates for the same!! LOL

Kishya was surrounded by a lot of youngsters and his Fan club is on the rise and we are worried if he too will desert us the way Reuben did for younger and fresher legs!! We also met some guys who were really impressed by Parth’s presence amidst us and when they heard about his trekking escapades they were spell bound. After a lot of photo sessions we started our trip back to the temple for our lunch – Junka Bhakar that was ordered in advance. Finally after a 15 mins break we started our final journey of the trek to Khireshwar at 1pm with sad and long faces as it was the last leg of the tour and the force was frustrated thinking of Monday morning blues in Mumbai.

I was allotted Amit and Sachin to ensure I don’t fall of the cliff and disturb the lovely nature beneath. But jokes apart, I was very lucky to be part of the wonderful group who motivated me to complete the trek w/o any great difficulty as my left knee had completely given up.

There was a large group ahead of us and a lot of them were first timers and hence Kishya instructed us to move ahead of them as they would slow us down at the narrow curves which will delay our descend. This was truly followed by the force and we moved on with great speed and practically no breaks apart from the one at Tolar khind, which was our birthright. Kishya complimented the team on their wonderful effort to get down in less than 4 hrs, which broke all our previous records.

Finally after a long winding trek we reached our final frontier Hotel Aishwarya at 4.30 pm and we all crashed in all the available spaces for a well-deserved tea and snack break. I gave up my wonderful companion the STICK that carried me all through Khumshet to Khireshwar. In between Sushma managed to frighten a small kitten by jumping up on the chair and screaming to scare the shit out of it. In the process she managed to break Anju George’s previous long jump record joining Sumi and Badya in the record-breaking spree in puking and snoring.

We again set out in a jeep which would take us to the highway from were we could take a lift back to Kalyan which took quite some time and finally we managed to get a truck which seemed like it was back from the Iraq war as it had gaping holes in it and thankfully Abhilash was not a part of this trek as he could have fallen from one of the Holes!! LOL. The truck dropped us at Murbad and from there we took a bus to Kalyan and then the Mumbai’s lifeline local to our respective destinations.

Thanks to Kishya and the entire force for making this trek a wonderful experience as we feel proud of the fact that we traversed around 4 mountains through a thick forest and trekked for almost close to 50 kms in 3 days and had the fun of our lifetime. Jokes apart we missed Reuben and Patcy a lot and guys pls do not miss such treks in the future for whatever reasons as this beats everything else hands down!!

PS: Pranil please arrange to transfer 2000 bucks into the Unnecessary account for failing to show up for the last 2 treks after committing yourself in and if you think this is a joke the amount will double after every week that you fail to pay.

Amit: Over spending is bad but under utilizing funds is a CRIME.

Appu: Pls arrange for a translator next time you trek with us.

Sunil: Bring the Girl that we all saw in the last marathon so that we too can do some handholding.

Sushma: Don’t scare poor animals as Maneka Gandhi could sue you.

Sachin: Don’t under estimate women power, get married and you will realize.

Manya: Please get trained in Nikon 3000 ASAP and transfer your skill sets to me at the earliest.

Gaurang: Start publishing your own dictionary on Maharashtrian abuses.

Abhijit: Our Pushpak Hero – silent but effective.

Sumi: Carry a plastic bag next time or rather lots of them or make it a sintex tank for multiple use

Parth: Please undo all that you have learned for Gaurang. Thurra, Shepurdya, Pongya, Dhuchkya, etc are not a part of our vocational training.

Kishya: Take us to the next level as we have progressed beyond Pethgads and Naneghats.

Badya: Get your own tent and a sound proof one or else get lots of cotton ear plugs for all us.

Myself: No one’s perfect and I am No One. Lol!


paragon to house the throne
paragon to house the throne

My First Trek-RJ Archana Pania – Radio City

My designer friend Reuben said it best when he said, “the BEST TIME TO START trekking is the MONSOOON!” 

Tann, Mann Ko SuKOOON mil gaya trekking in MONSOON!

My Journey to HariHar FORT was a DREAM TREK as far as I am concerned! Its along the Mumbai-Nasik Highway about 3 and half hours away from Thane! Falls under the traiyambakk range of hills!

Shivaji Maharaaaaj ke one of the MANY MANY forts, that is on a “HATHEE” shaped hill!! (hatheee . . . .u cant imagine how excited that made me feel when I saw itt!!!!!!! Yoohoooooooo moment thaa!!!!!)

I HAD NO CLUE how high it was and what we were going to climb until we actually reached the foot of the hill which was an hour away from the start point!

First of all our group “UN-Necessary” trekkers (meaning = U ‘n NATURE necessary) was HUGE (28 people) and solid ek se ek personalities the!

THEY SING SONGS on their way that are full of life, josh and junoon- like yeh jawaanee hai deewaanee haaan, meri raaneee to beedi jalayee ley! Loved each and every one of them, for being so unique, simple, loving and chilled out! My heart throb was RAEE (meaning Forest in Marathi) who was all of 6 and has been trekking since she was 8 months! She was fearless and adventurous to the core! Showing everyone around the uniqueness of the fields the fort et al! Loved herrr!!!!! (And she was a scorpion too … LOL! Heheheehe!)

Reuben was the REASON I was there! The man who LOOKS so much younger than his actual age and who has been all over India on a cycle! He is a true adventurer at soul! And have wanted to trek with him only for 5 years NOW! So had to had to finally do it!!!!! Why this time! ? ? ? Hari Har – meaning mix of Shiv + Krishna Hari= Krishna
Har Har (Mahadev)= Shivji

No No just kidding about the funda above, trekking JUST HAPPENS when its got to happen doesn’t it!!

I have no gyming, regular exercising, or any physical activity happening in my life . . . . . .whatsoever that could equip me for this trip EXCEPT for my superrr eXxxcitement to trekkk!!

When we started to climb I had no concept of what its like to reach a hill top! Climbing the zig-zag winding paths (where no breeze reaches at times) made me breathless and eXtremely uncomfortable! But looking at the way everyone kept going, I was too energized to keep at it too! The fabbb greenery and the foggy cloudy dream like atmosphere doubled the mazzzaaaa!! But my breath was heavy and I was like Oh God this is NOT as simple as one wud have imagined!

Worser more I wore my fake do numbree ka “Crocss” they were so not apt for the trek, (Later Sumita told me that the best stuff to wear is ‘power’ from BATA, sasta sunder, tikau for treks) And in the monsoon the water drains out of the floaters too!

Once we reached the foothill in one and quarter hour(S) I felt exhilarated but then looking at the HILL ahead of us I was like, NO WAYS! It looked gorgeous olright but something told me . . . HOW will we manage and manage u do as its so exciting and bloddy adventurous, ki while g**nd is phatoiiiing and life might seem like its nikkkLoing from ur hands, u just have to concentrate and take ONE STEP AT A TIME!!!

The steps uphill were steep and magnificent! They had a D shapedddd holes dug out on the right and lefthand cornerss (like the handle in ur car doors) to latch on to and climb uppp!! Amazing!!!

THANDAAAA paanee was dripppping from up above the hill as it was raining and we wud drink it upp (tipppp by tippp) as u get bloody thirsty while u sweating In ur trek! Parched is the word!

of course the fact that bakree shit and cow shit was found on on way further up dint make us puke that we had dripping water from somewhere in between!

But u realize how tough jaanwars are while u climb and watch the big fat cows on their scrawny legs and bakrrreeees who look so frail and yet they climb all these mountains like we walk on the footpath! Amazing hai nature!!

Up there at the top of the hilllll, Shivji Ka Mandir and HANUMAAAANJI ka mandir in the midst of all thefogg!!!!!! AAAAAAh kay majaaa aaayaa!
And Shivaji Mahraaaj ki Jai Ho! Unhoney bahut saare kuwe aur water ponds banayey to be able to drink tonss of paanee and also he made a lil house for stocking upppp! He was a GENIUSSS by faaaar!

Itne lambe journey ke baad bhooooook jo lagtee hai, jo bhooook lagtee hai! Uff kya batayey@@@@

We ate chompppp chomppp sab ke ghar ka khaanaaa! I sat in the middle of all the trekkers who formed a circle and ate everything everyone got along, TAMARIND RICE, CURD RICE, BHURJEE-ROTEE, NACHNEE CHIPZZ, mere ghar ka PULAO + DAHEE, oh there was so much yaaaad bhee naheen hai abbb!

But the best was the chocolate (which the South Africa – World Cup returned Sunil Sharma) and the fruits (pomegranate, apppppples) that one of the UNNECESSARY gang members got that got us all grooving! I have realized the effect that CHOCOLATE has on kids and elders!!!

Lil song and dance happened, loo-iiing in the open fields happened, Yog at the edge of the cLiff happened! And then the climb down the hill, in which I glided most of my way down and TORE my 3/4th traXXXX@@@

On our way back in the bus the “UNNECESSARY” trekkers sang soft mellow and soothing numbers for the sore body!!! But I chose to sleep the way back, because I had a torn pair of traxx on so dint want to jump around and also I had not visited the LOO in the open air alllllllll day (except for one leak on the hill top in the green grass. . . hehehehehe) from 4 in the morning till I got home at 11:30!

But . . . . . .who caresssssss!

Aaaaall worth it! The best best best adventure and nature trip I have ever had!

I realized that the mall, and movie culture we have in Mumbai cannot give us half the learning, thrill, chill and REAL FUN like a trek and so was glad that kids were being brought to these treks to have a TRULY fun experience over a weekend mall visit!

Trekking my friends is Like “Life” packaged in a few hours! How? U may ask?

Here is how:
You start ur journey in full gusto, energized by the tasks ahead of you.

But when u lose steam you feel like giving up many a times!

But then u remind yourself that you have to get to your destination before darkness dawns!

Sometimes u are tired and so rest a bit.

But if You have true caring friends, their encouragement, help and energy pushes you to keep going!

Kids always always give u a FRESHHHHHH purpose of living!

When yOu are confident of the path you have tread, you feel like showing the way to others and helping them out too!

A bit of a “risky” path gives you an all renewed energy and focus to do MORE!

The path can be tiresome, dangerous, and SEEM very very LONG!


When u reach your destination its TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!

MOVE on, take a trek today to catch up with LIFE and TRUE LIVING!