Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Son Rises

Why write reports?
The main aim of writing a report/experience is to enable you to express yourself and your thoughts. Whenever you pen down something, do it primarily for yourself. The next equally important aim is to share your written experiences with others (i.e. fellow hiking friends). Do not try to compare yourself with any one else.

Writing requires recollecting memories. Hiking has given me so many joyful experiences. Whenever I write a report, the memories are replayed in my mind and it’s just like visualizing the whole hike again. After a few weeks or months or even years, when I’d read my reports again, my memories would get refreshed and I’d feel happy once again.

The Birthplace Of Sambhaji Raje

I had been to Purandar with the Podar Hikers’ Club on 20/09/09. We were some 30 members comprising of current committee members (Ameya Mahajan, Satsheel, Shrenik, Disha, Omkar etc.), past students (Vikas Kavle, Gautam Chury, Archana Ajgaonkar 2008, Vikrant Keer 2008, Chetan Nakte 2009 and myself), new comers from FYJC and FYBCOM and several other college students. We missed the presence of Phadke Sir, though.

We left the college at around 2330 hrs on 19th September 2009. The fun in the bus began as usual with common games like Antakshari and Dumb-charades. We took a brief halt at around 1am. Most of us slept only at 3am. I was on the first seat where the cold air from the door put me to sleep. We must have slept hardly for some 2 odd hours.

The start of the day was very good. Early in the morning at around 5am, we visited the Lord Vishweshwar temple near Pune which is a replica of the famous Tirupati Balaji temple of South India. It was a soothing experience. The temple had wonderful carvings and the rangolis painted on the floor were also worth noticing. But photography inside temple premises is banned. The silhouette of Purandar fort could be seen in the north east direction. It being early morning, several birds like sparrows, common mynas, bulbuls, parrots, drongos, crows and pigeons could be spotted in and around the temple premises. They all seemed to welcome the new day.

By the time we collected ‘prasad’ and returned to our bus, it was already dawn. We traversed the whole mountain range from the west side and reached the base village which is located to the north of the mountain range. The mountain range runs in a somewhat northeast-southwest direction. Thus, the base village of Purandar and the Balaji temple are located approximately on the opposite sides of the mountain range, if I am not mistaken. The sky was clear blue with hardly any cloud cover. This meant: no rain, but certainly a good day for photography and birding. As we traversed, we witnessed Mother Nature waking up to unleash its beauty. Green Meadows and Colourful Flowers, Morning Dew and Bright Sunshine! Wow, How Amazing!

We were climbing the mountain from the northern slopes. We had the advantage of an early start. We must’ve started at 8am or so. Early morning is considered to be the best time for bird watching and rightly so. At the very start, many red whiskered bulbuls could be spotted. Though there were a couple of other birds also which I couldn’t identify. The climb was easy and the group maintained a good speed. My friend Vicky and I started a bit late and were at the back, clicking photos and hearing many melodious bird calls.  Though there were many sweet bird calls, we could only see the bulbuls. We tried to take snaps of bulbuls in flight, but were unsuccessful. Bird watching requires patience and silence. But clicking good pictures of birds is even more difficult.

Meanwhile our group had moved far ahead. And so we decided to carry on non-stop till the first entrance of the fort. On the way, I clicked photos of several flowers. We came across many other hikers (or tourists) who were descending.

Purandar fort has two distinct plateau levels. The first entrance to the fort is located on the lower plateau level. Whereas, the main entrance (dilli darwaza) is located on the upper plateau level. And the final destination i.e. the temple of Lord Shankar is situated atop the triangular peak which is connected to the upper plateau level by a flight of stairs. This I suppose is the highest point (summit) of the mountain.

We soon reached the first entrance. The first entrance of the fort included a darwaza and a rock staircase leading to a tall flag post. The saffron flag of the Marathas fluttered high in the air. There is an interesting piece of history attached to Purandar. We all have read about the Treaty of Purandar in school history. Sambhaji, the eldest son of Shivaji was born here. Murarbaji Deshpande, a brave Maratha warrior in Shivajis Army lost his life while defending the fort from the Mughals. His statue has been erected near the first entrance. During the British rule, Purandar was used as a sanitarium for British soldiers and a jail for prisoners’ of war. A German soldier was jailed here during the Second World War. He has written a book on this fort.

One can thus notice a mixture of architecture here. Apart from the fort walls and darwazas built by rulers prior to and during the Maratha regime, constructions like a church, a house (probably a jail) etc. have been built probably by the British. Now-a-days, Purandar is also a centre for Army training and NCC (or is it NSS) camps. Hence, there is a motor-able road up to the first plateau level. The church was located near the first entrance and further ahead there were a few houses of villagers who provide tea and snacks to visitors. This is the last point for civilians. The road has been blocked as the area beyond that belongs to the army and a “Trespassers will be prosecuted” signboard has been put up as a warning.

We rested at the first entrance for quite a while, took many photographs there. We saw some members of our group proceeding towards the village. Here there were many house swifts and bulbuls. Probably they took shelter in the darwaza. When we were atop the darwaza, near the flag pole, a pair of red whiskered bulbuls suddenly came and sat near us. They were just some 1 or 2 meters from us. Oh! What a golden opportunity! Luckily, Vicky had his digi-cam ready in his hands. We stood still and maintained a pin drop silence and then clicked them. It was very delightful. I am sure the pic has come out really well. But this lasted for only some 10-20 seconds because the bulbuls flew away after being distracted by shouts from a group of people who were descending the fort. We also spotted a shiny dark blue coloured bird of a crow’s size. And also worth mentioning are the house swifts which flew very close to our heads. We were finally rewarded for our efforts since morning.

We then decided to continue our climb. The next destination was the dilli darwaza. There are 2 approaches – one from the village which is the last point for civilians and another, a shortcut from the first entrance. We took the latter one because it was quicker. However both the routes combine halfway up.

We still hadn’t met our group. To my surprise, halfway up the climb towards dilli darwaza, we saw them climbing up from the village route. Okay, we are no more behind, I thought. It’s a nice feeling to be in the lead, after all. The climb up to dilli darwaza was a nice one. There was a small temple of a goddess and Lord Hanuman just before dilli darwaza. Perhaps dilli darwaza derives the name from the fact that it is the northern entrance to the fort. The group dispersed as we reached dilli darwaza. On the left i.e. to the east we could see the fort of Vajragad and the summit was on our right hand side i.e. to the west.

The final route was exposed without any shelter. The upper plateau was grassy and adorned by many colourful flowers. The walk was easy. There were several water tanks on this path. The final climb consisted of a rock staircase with walls on both the sides. It takes about 30-40 minutes from the dilli darwaza to reach the top. I was the last one to reach the top. The group had positioned itself in the shade of the temple. Some were already taking a comfortable nap in the shade.

It was 11am approximately. The top provided an excellent view of the surroundings and I immediately indulged in my hobby – photography, but not before visiting the temple and ringing the ghant (bell). It was peaceful inside the temple. The group spent an enjoyable time at the top. After a brief halt of 30-40 minutes, the group started descending. I stayed at the top with Vicky. We had some food and fruits. Then there was this white dog, to whom I fed some theplas and he gulped down 4-5 of them quickly. We started descending soon after emptying the tiffin.

We reached the lower plateau where we joined our group. They were having lunch in the village. It was 12pm. I too had a glass of buttermilk there. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention, as experienced by many of us several times before, theplas were available in abundance. And there were a couple of dogs who were hungry. So we mutually agreed to transfer the excess supply of theplas to the areas of demand. The dogs were afraid of us, so they kept a safe distance. But they ate the theplas alright because they were hungry. Any animal lover could tell that from their eyes. They needed care. Soon it was time for us to leave the place and head down towards the bus. But before that we found a big frog and everyone tried to catch it and click its photo.

I was the last person to get down. It was noon and the sun was scorching hot. To add to this, I had forgotten to carry my cap. My head was feeling the heat. On my way down I overtook a few people and was at the base within 30 minutes. I sat down besides others under the shelter of a big tree. And we waited for others to come. But something was wrong. I wasn’t feeling well. My head was paining and I felt like nauseating. Descending quickly, in the hot weather, without any head gear proved costly. I vomited all that I had eaten and it was a terrible feeling. I lied down in the shelter for a few moments. I drank some water and consumed a sweet. We boarded the bus and started our return journey.

My head pain had subsided but I was not feeling fully alright. In the bus, I was given the seat near the door. Hardly five minutes later, the bus had to be stopped. I once again vomited the ‘sweet’. It seemed as if my stomach wasn’t ready to accept anything. After that I dozed off. The sleep provided much needed relief. When I got up I was back to normal. As a precaution I avoided eating anything. Luckily I had brought along fruits. Pomegranate suited me best at that time.

Purandar was the ‘last monsoon hike’ of the year. So it had to rain and it did (even though it was after the hike, during the return journey). When we were near Lonavala on the Expressway, we took a halt for tea and refreshments. From there we could see the surrounding mountain ranges. There were two prominent peaks visible, most probably Lohagad and Visapur.

The return journey was short but was still enjoyable. Beginning from Vashi, people started getting down at their respective destinations. We reached Mumbai quite early at 5-6pm. After requesting everyone to share the photos of the hike (actually most of them had transferred the pics amongst themselves via Bluetooth) via the Google group of Podar Hikers’ Club, I too got down at my stop.

That’s all folks!
See you all around in December for the winter hikes.
Looking forward to meeting you all.
Keep trekking!

+Parin. J