Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dream Come True

NANEGHAT – JIVDHAN 11th Dec 2011

Denewala jab bhi deta, deta Chhappar phaad ke!
Yes, Absolutely this has to be the theme of the hike, at least for me! It was a Dream Come True as we were keen on Jivdhan since our college days. And Esp. more so because we missed reaching Naneghat cave during our earlier attempt just a week ago.

The hike plan was superb! I'd say it was a success. We could've improved a lot as far as punctuality and individual preparations were concerned.

Firstly I'd like to add some geographic importance about Naneghat region. India is gifted  with a long Coastline. The Western Ghats lie parallel to the West Coast starting from Gujarat in the north, followed by Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and finally Kerala in the south. The part of Western Ghats lying in Maharashtra is known as "Sahyadri". This Sahyadri range is a beautiful range of mountains having numerous bends and natural formations offering many good trekking opportunities for those who love to explore Nature.

The Sahyadri Mountain Range, as many of us already know, stands like a great wall, bisecting the State of Maharashtra into two parts:
(1) The thin strip of coastal area (a.k.a Konkan) to the west.
(2) The vast Deccan plateau (a.k.a Desh) to the east.

In olden days, the only way to cross over to the other side of the mountain was through the numerous passes (a.k.a 'Ghaats' in local language) lying in the Sahyadris,
namely Malshej-ghat, Nane-ghat, Bhor-ghat, etc. These passes came to be used as trading routes and gradually gained strategic importance.

ABOUT NANEGHAT (830m/2724ft):
Naneghat was one such famous trade route. It was developed since the Satavahana Era dating back to 230 B.C. The carvings inside the caves at Naneghat are a proof of this. Traders were required to pay some 'tax' to the then rulers for using the route.

Geographically, Naneghat is located at a bend in the Sahyadri, thus, offering amazing views in all directions. It boasts of some caves and a huge plateau atop. A special feature of Naneghat is a thumb-like projection called "Nana cha Angtha" which adds to the beauty of the whole range.

ABOUT JIVDHAN FORT (1145m/3754ft):
Jivdhan is a wonderful historic fort located on the plateau of Naneghat. It was a fort of strategic importance since the occupant ruler of Jivdhan could control the trade route of Naneghat which was a source of revenue to the kingdom. It also commands a grand 360degree view.

In 1636, Mughals captured the last Nizam, who was a young boy and brought end to the Nizamshahi Sultanate. Shahaji Raje Bhonsale (father of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) who was then a part of Nizamshahi Camp had vouched for the safety of the young Nizam. He rescued the young Nizam from Jivdhan Fort but was soon trapped by the mighty Mughals and hence had to hand him over to the Mughals, who was later inducted in Adilshahi Sultanate.

Jivdhan fort was used to store food grains. But,the entire stock was burnt and one still finds knee-deep ashes in one of the caves. In 1818, The fort was destroyed by the Britishers so that it lost its strategic importance and was rendered useless. Recently, debris has been cleared and the trekking is possible once again through the West Darwaza.

MY EXPERIENCE (10-11 DEC 2011):
I am once again thankful to PODAR HIKERS' CLUB for organizing a Night hike in Winter. This one's my third after Sudhagad and Rajmachi.

Winters are ideal for long duration hikes. It is perhaps the right time to explore new places. And there's no better way than to club 2 nearby places together. The idea of a night trek with a full moon is really an excellent one, as it is not only enjoyable to climb in the night but it also enables one to have an early start for the next morning's adventure. But everything said, it still requires perfect planning/scheduling.

After a 2 hour delayed start, at about 2100 hours on 10th Dec 2011, by mini-bus from college, picking up members on the way, we paused for dinner at a hotel in Kalyan West. Reached Naneghat phata via Murbad at approx 0030 hours on 11 Dec 2011. Started the climb at approx 0100 hours.

I'd returned unsuccessful just the previous Sunday, that too in daytime. So I was eager to better the record and this was during the night time. So, I was excited and got the opportunity to lead the group, thanks to Phadke Sir. It was going good. Nice cool Climate, bright moonlight and a steady start. But the chirpy college girls disturbed the peaceful environment (i am sure that must have irritated our birding team!).

Abhinandan joined me in the lead and it was good to have an experienced senior alongside. Bhavin and Sachin were close behind. We were getting all the Arrow marks, so we were on the right track. Meanwhile, we met a middle-aged uncle who overtook us. He seemed experienced and probably had come solo for the night hike - that's daringly superb! & that's what I'd like to achieve someday. He occasionally guided us through the route.

By the time we reached the plateau mid-way, we realized we were reduced to half of our strength. But we continued, hoping others shall follow soon. The climb hereon was made of rocky steps which zigzagged right up to the cave. 

The cool breeze never made us feel tired and by 0345 hours, we made it to the cave. And as expected, the cave was almost full. Any available space was quickly occupied. I had, to be frank, underestimated the cold. However, with the available resources (read: carry mat & an extra T shirt) I managed to get some sleep. But the cold wind wouldn't give up so easily. It ensured that i woke up from my sweet dreams. I wasn't gonna give up either. After all, I had determined to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise. So instead of sitting down shivering, I decided to get my body moving.

At around 0545 hours, I started towards the plateau atop. I was joined by Suyog. We had a walk. It was still dark with the cold wind blowing. The Moon was still there and it looked beautiful. Slowly, the colors on the horizon started changing. I thought the best point to be was on top of the Angtha and within 10 minutes we were there...Woaah!! What amazing views and positive feeling!!!

On one hand the Moon was set to set and The Sun was all set to Rise from the opposite direction. With every Ray of The Rising Sun, the moon appeared smaller and dimmer. The wind speed was amazingly high! I happened to click some good pictures.

Later, I returned to the caves to check with our group. This same place, which was so tranquil at night had already turned into a mad rush! Almost everybody was awake from our group, some still lying in their bags, others were seen rushing for brushing and catching the morning flight!

I was expecting the other group to wake up early since i assumed they too were here for Jivdhan trek. But on inquiry came to know that they were mostly from Pune and had returned from an Adventurous Valley Crossing Expedition between Jivdhan & Vanar-lingi (pinnacle). This Adventure was conducted by a Thane based group called SAC (Sahyadri Adventure Club). Well, that pretty much explained and also justified the tight sleep!

There was still no sign of our respected seniors. That surprised me. Anyways, We all then returned to the plateau atop. One thing on the plateau got me excited -- A Bicycle! A village boy named Eknath had it by his side and on request he allowed me to have a ride -- That added to the fun!

After such a wonderful start to the day, I was all charged up for the day's adventure. I had no clue of the exact plan/route for Jivdhan. Apparently, Phadke Sir had arranged for Breakfast at the house of one Mr. Nandu Pansare in Ghatghar village. So, we left for village, which was a good 40 minute walk. By this, it was already 0900 hours, i think.

The walk in the village has its own charm - village houses, village temple, village school, village farms, small kids, pets, cattle and the welcoming villagers! The breakfast took a while to come, till then we relaxed and did tp in the Aangan of The Pansare house. Some students played with a small kitten and two pet dogs. I decided to lay down and catch some sleep. But soon Breakfast arrived. It included hot n fresh 'Pohe' followed by Hot n Sweet Tea, which was a  really great combo. The hospitality of the Pansare family was admirable. While leaving, we requested for a guide and took along Mr. Dinkar as our guide.

We must've started at 1040 hours or so. I was apprehensive of the sun. But luckily the route had sufficient cover and offered some mind-blowing rock climbing experience! After a short and sweet trek we reached the topmost part. It was 1300hours. The fort is hugely barren with a vast expanse and amazing views of Narayangaon plateau. We crossed certain caves and a big storehouse on the way up.

Soon we were on the other side of the Fort facing Nana-cha-Angtha. Once again the view of Naneghat plateau was superb! The route lay through flowery and thorny bushes. These were of chest length and reminded me of Tea Gardens Of Dharamsala. We were led to two water tanks where we refilled our bottles. We proceeded for lunch near the main Darwaza which is now accessible after a famous trekking group removed the debris with help of the locals. It was 1430 hours approximately. The huge walls provided shade and it was cool to have lunch here.  By the time we finished our lunch, it was nearing 1530 hours. We left for Naneghat cave.

And then there came the challenging rock patch just a few steps below the Darwaza. There was along queue at this juncture. The progress was slow, but obviously. Our Secretary madam had warned me to stay at the back and i had no other option! Meanwhile the pressure of Yesterday's Pav-bhaji and morning's breakfast was fast mounting! So i excused myself and returned after unloading.

We were still waiting for our turn in the queue. It was 1600 hours already. Naneghat was shining brightly in the evening sun. Luckily the path we stood in was surrounded by huge walls creating a calm ambiance. I was almost lulled to sleep by the cool evening breeze.

The tricky rock patch was soon negotiated (thanks to Abhi Dada, Sachin and Phadke Sir) and we were back on our way down. It was a tiringly slow downward journey in spite of it being a short route. Time was running fast. Our average speed improved after we touched down the plateau level. A brief walk led us to Naneghat cave.

It was 1730 hours. We were 19 of us. There was no time to rest. Getting down to the bus would take at least 2 hours in daylight at normal trekkers speed. But we had a group which was tired and the average speed and experience was also low. Plus we had only 30minutes of daylight. This was a challenge worth accepting!

Firstly we started off in 3-4 small batches, with each batch having a 'leader'. Myself, Bhavin and Sachin stayed at the back. Slowly and steadily we made our way downwards hoping to reach the bus as soon as possible. Everyone knew we'd be walking in the dark anytime soon. But the young guys kept the spirit up and everybody was cheered and encouraged.

Eventually all groups combined into one single queue and leaders were designated their respective positions within the group. So Bhavin led us from the front. I must admit he did a very good job! Manish, Anuj, Manisha and Sachin were in the middle and did the important task of keeping the link intact. I was at the end ensuring nobody was left behind. We all ensured that everyone was in hearing range. It was worth praising the unity of the team. I felt relieved that I had very capable friends who shared the responsibility. That we were on the right track was confirmed by the Arrows marked on the rocks. We often heard the vehicles from the highway. So now, it was only a question of time!

The mOOn was still on the other side of the MountaiN. So it was still pretty dark. Till then we relied on our torchlights. But as soon as it crossed over to this side, it once again spread its bright light all over the area. It was a treat to watch it rise from the back. By the time we reached the final walk, it shone brightly over our heads.

At around 2130 hours, just as we neared our bus, We were welcomed by Bhaji and Laman. They cheered and appreciated everybody and it felt good to receive a pat on the back from a senior. Hats off to all the hikers, who completed the full trek in spite of being short on sleep. This hike really tested the limits of first-timers.

Personally, it gave me a great amount of satisfaction to complete 2 peaks in a day after having returned empty-handed the previous weekend. And for the first time, I got the opportunity to shoulder the responsibility of the entire group. That has given me huge confidence.

Later, cold Water and Slice at a dhaba satisfied the thirst. The return journey was also memorable. Anand Dada patiently lent an ear to my songs! Reached home at 0100hours on 12-12-2011.

I am sure the memories of this hike will last very long! Three Cheers to PODAR HIKERS' CLUB!!!

xxxxx THE  END xxxxxx