Friday, September 12, 2014

Ghangad - A Majestic Guardian of Ghat routes

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go.... This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future." -- Terry Tempest Williams

Last weekend of year 2013 came knocking on the door and it was again time to escape into the wilderness world and this time destination was Ghangad fort -  a small watch tower built to guard ghat routes in the past, tucked away into the interiors of the magnificent Lonavala region.

My earlier two attempts to set foot onto Ghangad fort were foiled because of one or the other reason and I had started to believe it as some kind of jinx. My first attempt to visit it was somewhere in February 2013 last year with a well-known trekking group when I was just a novice in the trekking field. Unfortunately the trekking group had to cancel the trek because of insufficient participation. In the second attempt, I planned it at the start of December 2013 on my own; everything was set and to my dismay, three of my trek-mates backed out one after another on the previous day of the trek and I had to abandon the plan. But as per saying "When one door closes, another opens", I seized other opportunities and overcame the disappointment of missing out on Ghangad first time by conquering "Kalsubai" – highest peak of Maharashtra and second time by scaling “Kalavantin” pinnacle/fort.  

Considering the first two failed attempts to have a go at Ghangad, I was extremely determined to make the third attempt successful and planned it in advance with the trek-mates who were most likely not to ditch at the last moment.  

"Sandeepak Phadke" joined me after a gap of more than two to three months. There seems to be some connection among three of us – me, Sandeepak and Lonavala. Whenever we trek together, we land up in passing through Lonavala though each time we discuss to change the location next time. Sandeepak brought along his friend, "Ajay Deshpande" who is also an advocate by profession like Sandeepak.

"Paresh Amrutkar", my nephew, who is a student of Economics in Symbiosis, instantly agreed to join even though he had done Ghangad before on his cycling expedition. It feels amazing to be with such fitness freak young guys. Their energy and enthusiasm rub on you and you also start feeling a lot younger in their presence.

I also invited "Sameer Kadam" to whom I had met first time on the earlier trek to Visapur almost six months back. Sameer in turn invited his friend "Swapnil Kamthe" who readily accepted the invite. 

Our original plan was to visit both Ghangad and Telbaila. As Sandeepak and Ajay had some work in evening, they planned to skip Telbaila and return before 6 in the evening. So we settled for two cars - one for Sandeepak and Ajay and other for rest four of us. Meeting point was at my place on Sus Road, Pashan, Pune. We picked up Sameer and Swapnil at Wakad and drove through the old highway and not expressway. One reason to use old highway is to avoid exorbitant toll on expressway and making the trek economical for all the members. I see no sense in paying this extra toll if there is really no urgency.

We experienced heavy traffic mainly because of the large containers and we moved at snail’s place at certain stretches. Finally, we reached to Lonavala. We were quite peckish and halted at Ram-Krishna restaurant for the breakfast. After having a sumptuous breakfast and a hot tea, we took the left turn and proceeded towards Ambi valley. In about 30 minutes, we reached to Peth-Shahapur, base village of Korigad. We asked the direction of Bhamburde and soon proceeded towards it.

Road till intersection to Bhamburde village was smooth and once we turned right to proceed towards Bhamburde, we were welcomed by a horrible, almost non-existent road full of potholes. This was the worst road I had ever driven. Only few weeks ago, I had driven to Chavand fort which was the worst road till that day. I was feeling like a poor soul who had dire misfortune of driving on two of the worst roads on consecutive two occasions.Only good part of the drive was that we were able to soak in real beauty around as I was driving mostly on first or second gear at a painstakingly slower pace. For many miles, no vehicle passed by and there was hardly any soul in sight. I had not imagined the road could be so bad. After a while, we came to an intersection where the road seemed to have been repaired. I was not sure which road to take and we halted with the uncertainty. Our other car was just behind us and we all came out of the car and stretched to check whether every bone was in order. We waited for few minutes and spotted a few shepherds coming towards us. We confirmed the direction and to our dismay, we had to continue on the same pathetic road.

We continued slowly on the same road, passed the intersection which was going to Telbaila. As we were about to reach to Bhamburde village, we were alarmed to see large boulders placed perfectly on the road for a long stretch and road-repairing was in full swing. It was impossible to ply your vehicle on the boulders and we decided to park our vehicle on the side of the same road. Our earlier plan to go to directly Ekole village was ruined and we had to begin our hike from the same location, many miles before the base village.



Ghangad appeared on the right side and now as we were walking, we decided to take the shortcut from the fields instead of walking along the road. We were helped by few villages by confirming that we could reach the Ekole village after walking through the fields.



Soon, we reached to Ekole village. It appeared to be a very small village.


A small trail starts from the village which takes you to top of Ghangad.



The route goes through a thicket. 



After ascending for half an hour, you reach to a small temple of Garjai.


Small idol inside the temple:



After resting for few minutes, we started our hike towards the top of the fort and reached to the first entrance of the fort.



After crossing the entrance, you need to negotiate a small rock patch to reach to the top of fort. This rock patch is made easier by Shivaji Trail Group who have installed a sturdy ladder over this rock patch.



On right side, there is a small carving of some deity. I did not observe it closely; So not sure which deity it was.


There is a large opening created between the two giant rock faces.One huge rock seemed to have separated from the main cliff and inclined on the wall of the fort. This triangle shaped opening is so breathtakingly beautiful that you just can't take your eyes off. Once you stand in front of it, you just submit yourself to nature's splendor and your existence seems minuscule in the presence of nature's grandeur.



There is a small water tank as you proceed further. But to visit this water tank, you need to walk over the edge with the deep valley on the right side. There is a small metal rope attached to the bolts and you need to take help of this rope to walk over a very narrow route to reach to the water tank. Your heart skips a beat if you look down as you walk over this edge. Definitely not for the people with acrophobia!


Water tank after you negotiate a tricky traverse:



After visiting the water tank, we climbed the ladder one by one. After climbing the ladder, there is a single step of cast iron; just enough to place your few toes and you feel vulnerable while crossing this step.




Water tank on the fort:



After climbing the ladder, there is a steep ascent of about 5-10 minutes which will lead you to another entrance of the fort.



Another Entrance on the fort:


Bastion on the fort:



Another water tank on the fort:


After spending few minutes, we went towards the western side of the fort. We were stunned by the sights of deep valleys; valleys so deep that your eyes cannot locate the bottom of it. We were transfixed to see the real rugged sight of Sahyadri mountains.



"Chilkhati Buruj (Bastion)":


Soon, we started descending. Before descending, we visited a col between Ghangad and other mountain.



View from this col was equally breathtaking with many miles of wilderness in sight.



There is a small cave located on the backside of Ghangad. From the col, you need to climb a small rock patch with the help of small grooves carved in the rock and walk along the edge to reach to this cave. Sitting in the cave was a divine experience and we witnessed few moments of absolute serenity, calmness and pure bliss. These are the moments that fill your life with absolute joy.



We reached to the base and instead of trying the same short cut through fields, we continued on the tar road starting from Ekole Village and going towards Bhamburde village.



Sun was absolutely pounding and road seemed to take us further away from our destination. Still, we continued on the same road and after 45 minutes reached to Bhamburde village. "Navara-Navari" pinnacles were looking absolutely stunning from the village. I felt irresistible temptation to go till the base of these pinnacles; even asked a villager regarding the direction to visit it; but as we still had to take our lunch and this was never in the original plan, I decided to curb the temptation and instead walked further in the direction of our cars.



Along the way, I spotted a nice house with a colorful bullock cart parked in front of the house.


The road indeed was a very long cut. It circled all the fields and made us walk a large, unanticipated distance. Finally, we reached near our cars where road construction work was halted because of the lunch break for all the labors.




It was almost 1.30 in the afternoon and we were famished. We had had our packed lunch and started our journey back. We skipped the option of visiting Telbaila as we were running behind the schedule and we didn’t want to ply further on treacherous route. Fortunately, tires of both of our cars did not desert us and our cars came out of the treacherous road unscathed. We had an option of visiting Korigad along the way but it had become exceedingly hot and we already had walked a lot more than anticipated; so we settled on a clicking a picture of magnificent Korigad.



I reached home before 5 in the evening and was welcomed with a nice dish of freshly cooked Gajar-Halwa by my wife. It was really a great pleasure to get such a grand welcome back home and ending a hike on a sweet note!

Overall,  driving on the treacherous road, unexpected challenge of starting a hike from altogether a different location, pleasure of plodding through fields, unusual route of ladder to reach on top of fort, witnessing massive valleys and spending few divine moments in the cave made this hike really a sweet memoir.

Tips for the hikers
  • You can combine Ghangad with either Telbaila (base without rock climbing) or Korigad. This can be done in a day.
  • Recently as part of cleaning and restoration, water tanks have been cleaned to make water potable.
  • Carry your own lunch in case you want to have it on the fort. As this is an offbeat fort, there is no eating facility on the fort.
  • You can drive to Ekole village or you can alight at Bhamburde village and walk till Ekole village from where you can start the hike.
  • Don’t miss visiting the col and cave at the backside of Ghangad.

Thank you for reading the blog!

Do visit my home page to easily navigate to my other blogs.

Happy hiking!

Appeal: No litter; no plastic; no wrappers; keep the mother nature clean!

12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Jeetendra.. I also adore your blogs and photography :)

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  2. Very nice and cheering blog for the new year... The Appeal was a good one.
    I feel this year you can take this at a larger shape meaning you can start organizing the treks for teams or larger groups. We badly need that.
    Thanks for sharing the blog ...

    - Harshad

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  3. Dear Prashant, I have few questions for you...
    1. Did it ever occur to you where the Informative Display panel at the temple came from...?
    2. Did it ever occur to you where and how that ladder came from...?
    3. You mentioned about the bolted rope and imagined that it was there forever…?
    4. Have you ever wondered how the water tanks on fort look so clean and maintained…?
    5. Who told you that the water in the tanks on the fort is not potable; unless you drink only distill water?
    You seem to be a promising trekker and it would be great if you can make it a habit to collect and share the information about the restoration and maintenance works (with due credits) carried at the sites of historical importance you visit. Hoping to see you some time as our paths are destined to cross, I wish you all the best and look forward to more expressive trekking posts from you. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by. I already have mentioned "Shivaji Trails" for installing ladder at a difficult rock patch. It would be great if you can share if any other group is involved in the restoration work. Also, it would be my pleasure to share and give credits to people who have done remarkable job of restoration.

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  4. Dear Prashant,

    I write to you a as a complete stranger. The reason behind writing is
    1) I also love to trek to different forts.
    2) I also stay at Sus Road.

    Can we meet some time as our interests are common? My no is 9921151122.

    Mangesh Javkhedkar

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  5. Very well photographed, thanks for sharing info. All the best on your future treks.

    Rohan

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  6. Very well photographed, thanks for sharing info. All the best on your future treks.

    Rohan

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  7. Hi Prashant, Shailesh here.. Next week going to Ghangad along with my few friends so gathering some info. I have few questions. Can we stay atop at gangad? or do we stay at Ekole or Bhamburde village?? is there any homestay or like that?

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    Replies
    1. Please call on my number 9890676717 and I will explain.

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