Thursday, July 28, 2016

Telbaila to Sudhagad -- Welcoming Summer of 2016 (Part 2)

Click Here to read Part 1

Night passed without any major incident. I really had a sound sleep in the night and later in the morning came to know that right in the middle of the night, couple of trekkers had come to the temple for shelter but seeing us they decided to look for other shelter.

"Did you meet trekkers that had come in the midnight at Pant Sachiv palace" Sagar enthusiastically asked our group who assembled early in the morning in front of Bhorai Temple. Sagar looked frantic when he got the answer in negative. As Bhorai Devi Temple and Pant Sachiv Palace are only two places for accommodation, we got worried about the whereabouts of these two trekkers. Fortunately, as we were about to leave, we spotted these two trekkers sleeping peacefully in the tiny Hanuman Temple just near to Bhorai Devi temple.

Ghangad with its adjoining mountain range just before the sunrise:

Bhorai Devi Temple:

We had to curb our temptation to visit Sudhagad to avoid the excessive heat later during the day and decided to march ahead towards Telbaila. This time, we chose to hike through Savashni Ghat which joins plateau of Telbaila.

There was some confusion whether to descend from Dhondse route or Pacchapur route. Guide suggested to descend from Pacchapur route to join start of Savashni Ghat but due to suggestion from few members, he agreed to descend from Dhondse route having good quality water at two water cisterns.

Descending was easier as we were quite fresh in the morning and weather was pleasant. During our descent, few members decided to have some breakfast near the first water cistern while some members including me preferred to have some light breakfast at second water cistern.

Ishwar Kaka, the man of steel on the way of Dhondse route:

After having some light snacks, I stacked up all the water bottles (almost 4 lit). Not to repeat last day's mistakes, everyone stacked up sufficient water and we moved forward.

Priest of Bhorai Devi temple met us at the base and showed us a shortcut for Savashni Ghat. But few of the members led by our guide were already ahead and reluctantly even knowing the shortcut, we trudged ahead to join other members. When we asked about the shortcut, our guide said that that he purposefully avoided it due to a lot of scree.

Though yesterday Puneet looked totally exhausted and worn out due to excessive heat and humidity, a night's rest really helped and he looked ready to take on today's challenge head-on.

Sanjay Amrutkar (Nana) taking a small break in the dry stream:

Aniket Nemade, trying to capture some moments; his camera with a lot of zoom capacity made him capture some wonderful photos of birds on the trail.

Some bird photography done during the trek by Aniket Nemade:

Though we were able to see the hill where we had to reach, our guide seemed to take us far away and with the longer route. Seeing this, few members ventured on their own taking the shortcut. I was not too much amused with these members as they were trying to explore on their own instead of trusting the guide. As a result, we were divided into two groups each group taking the different path.

Our guide took us on the wrong path for few meters but soon realizing his mistake, he rectified his mistake and took us on one of the hills. Seeing this, I, too, lost some confidence on our guide but still as he was the one more knowledgeable about the terrain, we had no option but to trust him.

On coming top of the hill, we heard some shouts from our second group. Initially we thought they had lost their way but after shouting for 10 minutes, we realized that they were on the right way, too and they would soon join us on other hill which we had to ascend now. Our guide's knowledge really seemed poor as he was confident that they would not reach to the hill as there was a steep valley in between. But guide was proved wrong by our second group.

Finally we all emerged at the same place though we took different paths. I requested all members to be with each other so as not to lose trail of each other. It had become exceedingly hot and we perched in the dark shade gulping water and other energy drinks. Once the temperature of the body came back to normalcy, we started ascending another steep hill.

We were in for a great surprise when our ascent started through a dense forest. It reminded us of the Andharban trail. We remained protected from the scorching sun for nearly an hour but humidity and lack of breeze drenched us with sweat while ascending this steep ascent. After a while, fatigue really started setting in and we had to take frequent breaks to replenish our water levels and cool the temperature of the body.

When top of the hill was in sight, we were about to come from the woods and under the intense rays of the sun. Our guide was waiting on top and was forcing slow members to hurry. When we enquired whether there were any trees along the trail, he nodded in negative. Considering that some of the members were still fatigued, we decided to have a long break in the last shade. Seeing this, guide showed direction to one of the members and asked us to directly come to Telbaila using that route.

It was past 12.30 PM now and after getting sufficient rest, we climbed rest of the remaining hill to see few members resting under the big tree. Again, our guide had confused us saying that there was no shade on the remaining trail. We again rested under this tree and after 10 minutes, started our final march towards Telbaila.

With two large breaks and start of plain walk along with some cool breeze brought some cheerfulness to our faces and we started enjoying our remaining walk.

On the way, we heard shouts coming from a remote distance and when we looked up, we saw couple of guys from our group at the base walls of Teilbaila. One of them had stood on the rock waiving to all of us. It turned out to be Sandeep Kakad from Jallosh Group, Nasik who was one of the fittest members of our group. He along with Pankaj Ghuge went ahead and decided to explore Teilbaila till the time others reached to Teilbaila village. Amazing fitness considering the overall heat and humidity!

Few of the members were already lunching at Rokade family's home when we reached there. After lunch, we gulped on refreshing Jaljira juice fondly prepared by Tushar.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to our Nasik group and we left for our respective cities reminiscing the memories of exhausting yet satisfying trek.

Reflecting back on the trek memories, it was definitely not the wise decision to trek on such a long trail in Summer with heat as well as humidity in Konkan region. Also, another lesson learnt was not to take along novice members or irregular trekking members for such a gruelling trek. Nevertheless, with all precautions and new lessons learnt, we hope to continue such difficult treks in next season as well.

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Happy hiking!

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

Telbaila to Sudhagad -- Welcoming Summer of 2016 (Part 1)

Temperature soared; soared to 42°C. Two of our trek mates, Mukund and Punnet were exhausted to continue further and perched under the scanty shade of a tree. They were adamant not to move an inch further. Witnessing their plight were two people - myself and Dr. Atul Sathaye.

"Prashant, come to the corner" Dr. Sathaye indicated after measuring the pulse rate of both Mukund and Puneet. "Pulse rate for both of them is above 140 and if we force these two guys to walk any further in this unforgiving heat and humidity, they have a real possibility of having a sunstroke". Hearing this, I realized the seriousness of the situation. By this time, other trek members had gone really ahead. Without network coverage, it was impossible to reach out to them.

Being in the better condition than all of these three, I ventured ahead to catch up with the team. I shouted, blew whistle to make few members notice and shouted to convey the message to stop.Making sure that message was conveyed to front members, I trudged back. After joining the fatigued members, I asked Dr. Sathaye to go further to join members ahead and explain them the seriousness of the situation. He readily obliged . I remained with Mukund and Puneet for some time and gradually coaxed them to walk further for few minutes slowly so as to join rest of the group.

Finally all came together as a group. All agreed to rest for few hours so as to avoid any risk of sunstroke. Most of the trees had shed almost all leaves. So it was an effort to find a tree under which we could find a shelter from the scorching sun. We formed two teams; one team rested under a a small tree which could protect only few members. Other team members went ahead in search of another tree.

Seeing the plight of these members, a thought flashed in my mind whether arranging this trek was really a mistake. This trek was arranged as per the custom of Pune-Nasik group where we arrange a summer trek which really stretch us to our limits. Last time, it was ascending Naneghat in the scorching heat of April with unbearable humidity of Konkan. 

This time it was the turn of range trek from Telbaila to Sudhagad.Plan was as below:
Day 1 (26th Feb, 2016): Telbaila-Waghjai Ghat- Sudhagad via Dhondse route
Day 2 (27th Feb, 2016): Sudhagad- Sawashni Ghat - Telbaila

As per the final the plan, Pune Team was scheduled to leave Pune by 10PM on Friday night. Nasik team planned to leave Nasik by 10.30PM. As we were already five in my car, Ishwar Gaikwad Kaka who resides in Shirur decided to go directly to Telbaila on Friday afternoon itself via bus from Swargate. As Ishwar Kaka was reaching early to Telbaila, I put the responsibility of arranging for early morning breakfast for our whole team as well as hiring a local guide for this trek. Kaka willingly accepted the suggestion making us relaxed.

We took the expressway to reach Lonavala and took the turn towards Ambi Village road. After crossing Peth Shahapur village, we took the right turn to go towards Ghangad and Telbaila. It was almost 12 AM now and we were quite in a remote place. As we were just talking about this remoteness, we were surprised to see a sea of vehicles and number of people on the road. We guessed it as a rave party looking at the attires of the crowd. Silently, we passed the area and soon we were again in the deserted area. After crossing the Saltar col, we took the right turn towards Telbaila.

A rabbit crossed our path as we were about to reach Telbaila village. We parked our car in front of a house belonging to Rokade family. Though it was 12.30 AM, there was some hustle and bustle in the village and we decided to check whether we get some enclosed space like temple to spend the night. After looking at the temple, we decided to prefer front yard of Rokade family's house to spend the night. As we were settling, we spotted Ishwar Kaka sleeping peacefully inside the sleeping bag. We soon laid our sleeping bags and retired for the day.

We rose before the crack of dawn and after finishing early morning chores, waited patiently for the splendid sunrise. 

Nasik team hadn’t joined us yet and they were out of any network range. Not knowing the exact reason of delay, we kept on waiting.As we had just started breakfasting, we saw Nasik members' bus coming to the village. Nasik members too joined for the breakfast after getting refreshed. 

Telbaila was looking very inviting. Considering many of Nasik members had not been to Telbaila, a long discussion prevailed whether to visit Telbaila now or after ending the trek. As there was really a long trail trek in store and sun had started heating up, we unanimously agreed to skip Telbaila and immediately started on the trail towards Waghjai ghat. 

Group photo before starting the trek:

Today’s plan was to descend to Konkan region via Waghjai Ghat and ascend to Sudhagad via Dhondse route.

Twin dikes of Telbaila never fail to awestruck any of the trekker. Despite witnessing it many time with different angles, perspectives, it still casts mesmerizing spell on you.

Soon, we reached at the end of the plateau and at the entrance of Waghjai Ghat. As we hadn’t done too much of beforehand study, we were not sure how much we had to descend. With that curiosity and excitement of the unknown, we started our descent.After around 15 minutes of descent, we visited Waghjai Temple for which we had to take a detour on the left.

Waghjai Temple:

Picture Credit: Sanjay Amrutkar

We came across some idols along the way.

As we rested for some time, we inquired about the Thanale Caves which we had in our minds. Guide told that they were far away and we already had descended down from the route of Thanale Caves. Hearing this, we were little disappointed with the guide as he didn’t ask for that option earlier.

Descending Waghjai Ghat did not pose any trouble and we soon were at the base of it. 

We perched in the front yard of one of houses in Thanale village.With the knowledge that villagers would take 2 hrs to reach on top of Sudhagad, I imagined that we would take approx.. 3 to 4 hrs with the whole group. 

With refreshing break at the village, we resumed our hike.

Humidity and heat of Konkan started taking its toll and we had frequent breaks. 

As Sudhagad was still not yet visible as we were traversing the hill, we kept on walking. Finally majestic Sudhagad unleashed as we came on top of hill’s plateau. Sudhagad was looking absolutely rugged and impenetrable in the scorching heat. As trees had shed all their leaves, the terrain was looking more forbidden.

With the loss of fluids in the body, every ascent was further exhausting us. Only comforting factor and motivation to trudge was that Sudhagad had started coming closer and closer. 

As Mukund and Puneet were suffering from utter exhaustion, sensing the impending danger, we decided to rest for couple of hours. 

Picture Credit: Sanjay Amrutkar

After resting for about 90 minutes, Mukund and Puneet started feeling better and we resumed our hike. As our water source was depleting fast, we were cautious in consuming it till we come across any water source. As Sudhagad was still looking distant, we wanted to hurry but humidity and heat were making our hike very arduous and painstakingly slow.

Hanuman Idol on Dhondse route:

When the actual ascent from Dhondse route started, sun was making its journey in the westward direction providing some respite from the heat. But now the plain walk had ended and steep ascent had started. Unfortunately drop in temperature did not help much as loss of temperature was compensated by the unrelenting humidity and steep ascent. 

With water source very thin and seeing the plight of some exhausting members, Tushar asked few of the fit members to quickly move ahead and make themselves ready to come down with water if required. Fortunately, that need did not arise as we finally reached to Tanaji Take (Water Cistern) carved in the rock face of the mountain. Euphoria prevailed as we gulped down litres of water from this water cistern. Very rarely water seemed the most precious thing in the world!

Soon smiles started flashing on everyone’s face as we consumed water and gorged on some snacks around this water cistern. This new found energy and replenished water in the body helped us overcome remaining steep ascent. 

Finally fully exhausted, we reached to first entrance of the fort. 

Pic Credit: Aniket Nemade

Darkness gradually enveloped us but as we had almost reached to the top and we had head torches with us, it was not much of a worry. It was totally dark when last remaining members joined us at the first entrance of the fort. Finally with further ascent of about 10 minutes, we reached to top of the fort. 

Finally with the mixed feeling of exhaustion and elation, we stepped into the dilapidated Pant Sachiv Palace, one of the two places to spend night on the fort. It was bustling with already arrived trekkers. Not having further energy of going away from the crowd, we occupied the last remaining side of the square porches of Pant Sachiv palace. Our packed dinner was cold and had lost its freshness by being in the scorching heat. Fortunately, our group members were already carrying all the raw material to prepare Masala Rice and despite being exhausted, they immediately started preparing the rice after collecting some firewood.

Soon, rice was cooked and we ate it whole-heartedly thanking the cooks for the sumptuous treat. It is really great to have enthusiastic cooks as your co-trekkers. While they get immense pleasure in cooking and feeding trekkers at unlikely places, trekkers like me take equal pleasure in eating their food.

We got needed much needed energy after finishing supper. Few of us decided to stay at a temple as Pant Sachiv Palace was really crowded. 6-7 of us quietly slipped away from rest of the group and proceeded towards Bhoraidevi temple. With millions of stars twinkling in the sky, we chatted outside the temple with Dr. Sathaye explaining us the history of Sudhagad. Gradually eyelids started becoming heavier and heavier and we all retired inside the temple having a deep and sound sleep.

Click Here to read Part 2