Sunday, July 20, 2014

Heavenly Hills Of Bhimashankar

Mystical Bhimashankar
19-20th July, 2014

With just 4 odd hours of sleep the previous night, I was glad I found an empty seat to take a nap for some part of the local train journey. I reached Karjat at 7:45 am of Saturday (19th July), where the entire group assembled and then left for the base village. We reached base at 10 am after having breakfast at Khandas village.

After a round of introduction & instructions, we started the trek amidst a light drizzle at 10:30 am from Kathewadi village which is a little ahead of Khandas village. Seeing half the mountain range hidden in the clouds, I already knew what to expect! It was a good sight to witness a dozen waterfalls bisecting the huge wall of Bhimashankar. And just above the jungle in the front, one could spot a distinct line, slanting to the left – that was the ladder we were soon going to ascend.

By 12 noon, we reached the first ladder. Probably the new ladders are better and easier than the old ones, I heard. It was an enjoyable challenge to negotiate the ladders and rock patches. We reached our lunch-spot Padarwadi at 1:45 pm, which was about the halfway mark. From this point, the routes from Ganesh Ghat & Shidi Ghat merge into one single path. After lunch, the route once again steepened and zigzagged all the way up, but the rains and fog actually made it much easier. During the climb, a few cups of hot tea and some music added to the romantic Sahyadri weather.

Once at the top (which is a huge plateau), it rained fiercely as we played Hanuman-Krishna. These games are a fun way to bind the group together. We headed straight to the Dabewale dharamshala (near the main Shiva Mandir) where we were to spend the night. After depositing our bags, we quickly left for Gupt-Bhimashankar. It was again a long enough walk. Everyone was apprehensive of having to walk back again, especially after such a tiring climb. But the waterfall at Gupt-Bhimashankar cooled all nerves. The water force was indeed incredible. It was nice to have a good natural massage under the falls. That recharged all of us!
The cool climate, waterfall and the long trek were good enough reasons to grab something hot to eat. So we were back at the main temple area, where we had hot bhutta, groundnuts and refreshing Adrak-chai. It was dark by now. We then visited the temple of Lord Shiva (one of the 12 Jyotirlings in India) and witnessed the evening Aarti. Finally we returned back to the pavilion. Dinner was still some time away, so we enjoyed a couple of games in the meantime. At approximately 9 pm, it was time for dinner. Dinner was sumptuous, special Jain Dal & Sabzi was prepared for me! The food quota now exceeded the trekking part.
Later, it was a great experience to hear stories of adventures, misadventures and real life ghostly incidents. This continued late into the next day as we slept half past midnight. The night was cool. I had a very good sleep in spite of the water droplets falling from the roof every now and then. An amazing thing about being in the country side is that you automatically tend to get up early. So, by 5:30 am, I was fully awake. It was a heavenly feeling to hear the sound of the temple bell ringing in the background.
I packed up my belongings and finished the ‘most important task’ of the day. It’s always a great feeling to get a good MSR first thing in the morning. After all, for everything that is consumed, something has to be disposed off too! By 9:30 am approx, we were done with our breakfast & tea. On exiting the temple complex, we had a couple of memorable group pictures. And now the fog was so dense that the plan to visit the highest point of Bhimashankar, i.e. Nagfani Point was under debate. But thankfully majority won and Nagfani was on! At 10:15 am we started walk for Hanuman Mandir, wherefrom the climb to Nagfani point starts.
The walk to Hanuman Mandir was one of the best moments of the trek. The climate was so cool – it felt so fresh. It was probably during this 20-min walk that I experienced the theme of the trek: “Mystic Bhimashankar”. A ten minute short climb from the Hanuman Mandir took us atop the highest point of Bhimashankar. It was all foggy – green and gray! But, we were lucky that the clouds cleared up for just a moment to present us a beautiful view of Padarwadi, Tungi & Padargad (which actually resembles a rhino’s snout: with the two pinnacles resembling its horns). On returning to the Hanuman Mandir, we again took a memorable group photo, but this time the saadhu in the adjacent ashram signaled us to vacate the temple area as we inadvertently forgot to remove our footwear before entering the kund in front of the temple.

By 11:11am (my lucky time), we were back to the starting point of our walk. After having some delicious khakra, we resumed descending. Today was Sunday and there were hundreds of people ascending as well as descending, so initially the progress was a bit slow. But as soon as I got some space for ‘overtaking’, I managed to somehow clear the long queue and sped ahead. The route was very slippery not only because of the algae covered rocks but especially also due to the rainwater muddying the red soiled paths. My already wet shoes coupled with the “out of shape” in-soles made it more challenging to apply brakes in my fast paced descend. And it were my toes that bore brunt of all this! But it was total fun to try out shortcuts in the pouring rain. By 12 noon I was at Padarwadi. Once again I had some hot tea along with theplas. By the time the last member joined us it was almost 1 pm.
From here on we took the route for Ganesh Ghat. It was a beautiful walk and a memorable one too. After crossing a huge waterfall, we were on the plateau of Padargad, where we waited for the entire group to arrive. Till then we soaked in the final views of the beautiful mountain studded with waterfalls and mist all around. It was 2pm now and just then a heavy spell of rain forced us to start our journey again.
By around 4 pm, we reached the base where the private vehicle was waiting for us. We first got down at the villager’s house in Khandas where we changed into dry clothes and had lunch. Dal-rice, Cabbage and pappad were a tasty combination. The vehicles then dropped us till Karjat and it was almost 6pm.
The return train journey was yet another adventure in itself. The train that arrived from CST was fully packed and hardly anyone got down. We were 5 of us together and somehow managed to get in. Probably the fare hike by the railways was fair enough as they have an in-train gym+massage session for passengers. My toes were still paining and in that rush I was stamped upon not less than a 5-6 times. Ouch!

To summarize, Bhimashankar trek was an awesome experience. It felt as if we were vacationing in an altogether different world for 10-12 days. It was a good feeling to meet new people and make new friends. Bhimashankar was since long on my wish list and I am glad I finally trekked it.