Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Summer Trek to Shivtharghal through Supenaal and Gopya Ghat

Anxiety prevails at the thought of trekking across ghat routes of Sahyadri Mountains. With time, these ghat routes which had witnessed hustle and bustle of visitors in their prime have slowly receded into oblivion as their need became obsolete due to advancement in road infrastructure. Still they hold a lot of mysteries and historical significance and we trekkers attempt to revisit our glorious past by re-walking these ancient trails.
Summer had started showing its true colours. Day temperature soared. Definitely, it had become unfavorable weather for hiking. Unpleasant, sweaty and exhausting! To counter this, for summer treks we have devised an idea to trek in the late afternoon or early morning. This way, we don't exert ourselves too much and also enjoy beautiful sunsets and sunrises during the hikes.

After reading blog of Saiprakash Belsare, trek of "Sangvi Village-Supe Naal- Shivtharghal-Gopya Ghat-Sangvi Village" was decided. With some whatsapp messages, we formed a group of seven with below members:
Prashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade, Deva Ghanekar, Mukund Pate, Tushar Poman, Shalabh Pareek and Nilesh Wagh. 

Nilesh Wagh was the last addition to the group and a very important addition as he had done similar route just two months back.
We started towards Varandha Ghat from Sus Road, Pashan, Pune after lunch with the idea of commencing our hike around 3.30 PM. Varandha Ghat remains one of the most neglected Ghats in Maharashtra. Year after year, rather than seeing any improvements, it is getting worse and worse. Despite having the breathtaking scenery along the way, it remains a nightmare for all the commuters.

Thanks to Innova, despite the pothole ridden road, we soaked in the great vista while travelling on this treacherous road. Mohangad was stomping its presence over the other mountains and we became nostalgic about our earlier hike to Kavlya, Mohangad and Mangalgad. We took the right turn at the start of Varandha Ghat and proceeded towards Sangvi village. 

Fort Kavlya while going towards Sangvi village:

Approach road to Sangvi was also in bad condition at some stretches. A procession for marriage welcomed us as we entered the village. We safely parked our car in front of temple after consulting with villagers and proceeded towards Supenaal.

We crossed the poultry farm along the way and entered the trail on right entering the woods. Soon, we came out of the woods. 

After walking for few more minutes, we reached to the edge of the plateau and at the start of Supenaal. Looking at the sheer drop, Supenaal was looking menacing. Before starting the descent, we soaked in the wondrous views of the mountains and queried Nilesh about the route we were going to take.

Deva Ghanekar posing for the photo:

Shalabh Pareek is the only one who takes care of clicking my photo in my camera.

Entering the Supenaal was discomforting due to some scree with valley on the left side. After descending few feet, we took a traverse. Traverse led us to entry of the actual naal

Entering the Supenaal (Time: 4.30PM):

After descending few feet through the naal, we took the left trail which again took us the entry of another descent through boulders.

Team (Left to Right): Nilesh Wagh, Mukund Pate, Tushar Poman, Deva Ghanekar, Tushar Kothawade, Shalabh Pareek

We wanted to get down to the base before dark. There were few arrows on the way and we were pretty confident about reaching to the base following the same trail. Unfortunately we lost our way couple of times. At first, trail led us to start of Gopya Ghat and as horizontal trail joined the ascending one, we realised that we had lost our way. Fortunately few villagers ascending Gopya Ghat joined us from behind and led us to the correct trail.

Second time, at an intersection, we got confused whether to take the left turn or to continue on the same trail we were walking before. Collectively, we took the decision to follow the same trail. But to our misfortune, after ten minutes of walking, we realised that this horizontal trail again started ascending into the mountain. That moment we retraced our steps back to the earlier intersection and took the trail going downwards. This trail proved to be the correct one and we felt relieved.

It started getting dark as we were still descending. Few of the lights flickered at the distance signalling the signs of any human habitation. After few minutes, we reached to a house. House owner offered us water and we rested for few minutes. House owner further showed us the trail to Shivtharghal. Trail was distinct and though it was barely visible in the approaching darkness, we continued marching on it without lighting the torches. We turned on the torches only when it had become pitch dark.

Along the way we passed few more villages and joined the tar road. Now it was tedious walking on the road. Shivtharghal was still many kilometres away and we kept on pushing. A villager agreed to accompany us through a short cut avoiding the longer winding road. We walked through fields and finally reached to the base of Shivthargal (Time: 7.45PM).

We requested dinner for seven of us at the restaurant at the base of Shivthargal. Ordering the food, we visited Shivtharghal. It was quiet, devoid of any visitors except the caretakers. After enquiring about us, caretakers offered us keys for dormitory for night stay and we checked in to the dormitory. Last time during monsoon, this dormitory was swarmed with many visitors but this time we were the only occupants of this huge dormitory with attached washrooms and bathrooms. All of us had sweated a lot during the day and we enjoyed the quiet cold water bath rejuvenating us completely. 

Dinner was waiting for us as we reached to the restaurant. Famished, we feasted on "Pithala-Bhakari-Rice" along with multiple glasses of Kokam Juice and buttermilk to replenish the fluids lost during the day. Contented, we chatted with the owner of the restaurant - Salunke Uncle who amused us by telling many interesting facts about his family and ancestors. 

We retired to the dormitory after sumptuous dinner. We tried few tricks to get the fans in the dormitory working but with no luck. We opened few windows to get the ventilation going. After chatting for a while, we quietly drifted into the sleep. At midnight I woke up to the snoring of many of the trek mates before again drifting into the sleep.

We arose before the crack of dawn. We were invited for morning tea by the caretaker and we were more than happy to accept the invitation. There was not a single drop of water left in the famous waterfall of Shivthargal which saddened us. With bowing our heads to Saint Ramdas, we descended back to the restaurant, breakfasted on Pohe and Tea.

Team ready for return hike (Time: 7.15AM):

Our today's target was to reach Sangvi village after ascending Gopya Ghat. We knew it would take more than 4 hours to reach to our destination. Salunke Uncle told us shortcut to reach to Gopya Ghat. A saint in saffron clothes started accompanying us on the trail. At first he wanted to go to Mahad but on hearing our discussion, he decided to accompany us till top of Gopya Ghat as he also wanted to visit it for quite some time.

Sun was still hiding behind the mountains though illuminating top of the mountains. 

We deviated from the trail to visit Khadageshwar Temple - one of the ancient temples.

In the vicinity of Khadageshwar Temple:

On the way to Gopya Ghat

Ascending Gopya Ghat:

We came across many people ascending Gopya Ghat after attending the marriage on the previous day. We were quite amused to see so many people still dressed in the formal clothes and saris on this trail. Despite living in 21st century, facilities of the roads have not reached to these remote villages and access to those still lies through the mountains.

Finally we reached to top of Gopya Ghat. We stopped at a water cistern lying on right side of the trail. We gulped on the cold water, prepared mixed Jaljira and lemon juice with ample sugar and replenished all the lost fluids.

As we were enjoying our juices in the shade, unthinkable happened. Bride and groom arrived in their marriage attire after ascending Gopya Ghat. With heat and humidity, both were sweating profusely and we joked whether the groom would ever visit his in-laws again. If this was not enough, there came other men carrying various gift items on their shoulders. It was the most amusing marriage sight I had ever witnessed.

Sangvi village was still 2 hours away. We lost our way initially by taking the trail leading to Bope village. Realising our mistake, we retraced our steps and took the trail going in the right direction. Here again, we lost our way and chanced upon one more ancient temple. Saint accompanying us took the liking for this temple and decided to spend some time in the temple. After resting for few minutes in the temple, we again searched the right trail going towards Sangvi village. 

It had become exceedingly hot and despite walking for many miles, village was nowhere at sight. We had no option but to keep on pushing. Sometimes in the long trekking trail, it is beneficial to keep on pushing rather than taking the frequent breaks and walking slowly. It helps to finish your ordeal early.

Finally we reached to Sangvi village. (Time: 12.30PM) After getting refreshed and changing the soiled clothes, we started our journey back to Pune. We stopped at Vaibhavi Hotel on Pune-Satara highway after consulting with Onkar Oak on the phone. With a hearty afternoon meal, favourite songs playing in the car with full air conditioning on, we returned back to Pune culminating the two fantastic days of trekking.

Date: 18th and 19th March 2017
TrekkersPrashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade, Deva Ghanekar, Mukund Pate, Tushar Poman, Shalabh Pareek and Nilesh Wagh

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!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Unravelling the mysteries of Singapur Naal and Agya Naal

With the norm  of trekking on alternate weekend, after trekking on 18th-19th Feb, our next plan to trek was on 4th and 5th March. Till then we were savouring the wonderful trekking moments spent at Ghanchakkar and Shirpunje Bhairavgad. It was Friday 24th Feb and suddenly I was presented with a challenge of attending an important event on 5th Mar with my wife. It posed a great threat to my 4th and 5th March’s trek plan. Pondering over this misfortune, I checked with my other trek mates to see whether plan for 25th and 26th Feb could be materialized. Few trekkers showed the interest and I immediately met with Tushar Dada after dinner.

With few calls and suggestions, following trek plan was finalized at 11.30PM on Friday:
Day 1: Singpur-Singapur Naal-Dapoli (Stay)
Day 2: Dapoli- Nisani Route- Singapur

I was not sure about Day 2 plan as it all depended on local guide’s availability.

When I slept at Friday night, four trekkers had given final confirmation. When I woke up, one member decided to cancel and we were left to three. As I was mulling whether to go ahead with this particular trek of ghat routes, Tushar Poman who was tentative last night called to provide his confirmation and again our count increased back to four with following members:
Prashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade, Mukund Pate, Tushar Poman

We started around 12.30PM from Sus Road, picked up Tushar Poman from Dhayari Phata and reached to Velhe via Pabe Ghat. It was exceedingly hot in the afternoon and we sipped at Sugarcane Juice at Velhe.

Torna while going towards Mohari village:

Rajgad seen at a distance:

When we took right turn towards Mohari, I was pleasantly surprised with a very smooth road. This surprise lasted only for few minutes as condition of the road deteriorated. We stopped at a small village to check whether we could get guide for 2 days. No one among us had done these ghat routes earlier and we were keen to hire a local guide. Village was deserted in the afternoon and we spotted a youth and an old man at separate houses. Both of them were knowing Singapur Naal route but not sure about Nisani route, they didn’t seem too keen to accompany us as the guide.

Disappointed, we left the village and decided to search for the guide in Singapur village itself. On the way, we spotted few locals. Couple of elders were cognizant of both the ghat routes but they were too old to take the rigor of descending and ascending two ghat routes. Again disappointed, we marched ahead towards Singapur.

Checking for a guide with few locals spotted on the way to Singapur village:

Raigad and Lingana:

We parked our car in front of a big house in Singapur village. Three elderly women chatted with us for a while and offered us water. We inquired about the guide but no one was available at that time. But to our advantage, these women told us exact route to descend Singapur Nal. For now, procrastinating worry about our ascent via Nisani route and with the hope that someone from Dapoli village at the base would accompany us, we started towards Singapur Naal.

We walked along the distinct trail from Singapur for 2-3 kilometers to reach to start of our descent.
Trail of descent was quite distinct. So we were walking confidently and merrily but our excitement lasted only for a while. Suddenly we came across a traverse from where there was no trace of any route and there was a dense forest at the base of this traverse.

Confused, we decided to call our regular trek mate - Chinmay Kirtane who had done this trek earlier. Luckily we had a good mobile range and Chinmay picked up the phone. He assured us that we were following the correct trail and asked us to descend the traverse which would lead us to the correct trail. Thanking Chinmay, we descended the rock patch of the traverse and seemed to hit the correct trail.

Traverse which confused us and which made us call Chinmay to check on the correct trail:

Mukund soaking in the great vistas:

We kept on descending; sometimes walking along the traverse. On the way, we met an elderly man - Mr. Dagdu More who was ascending to Singapur village from Dapoli village. He compassionately inquired about us and took on himself to show us the correct trail. He came with us for further 10 minutes and once assured that we were on the correct trail, he again started ascending.

Mukund felt quite drained today. Generally a fit trekker, he was having a bad day in the scorching heat and humidity. Seeing his condition, we decided to stop for 10 minutes. With plenty of fluids and snacks inside his stomach, Mukund felt better and we resumed our descent further.

Mukund feeling better now:

Tushar Poman, a man with great knowledge of history:

We still were not able to see base of the mountain from which we were descending as there were large trees in front of us. So every time a plateau came, we felt that we were at the base but soon after the plateau, another descent waited for us. This continued for a while. Looking back, Lingana was towering above us.

Finally we came out of the woods and located Dapoli village situated at the base. We quickly negotiated the further descent. Village was still far but now it was a flat trail leading us to the village.
We decided to rejuvenate ourselves only when we came closer to the village. Perched on the grass, we savoured the thrilling moments of the day and soon entered Dapoli village.

Trail leading towards Dapoli village:

Peaks basking in the golden light of the setting sun:

Another angle of mighty Lingana:

Few villagers greeted us as soon as we entered Dapoli village. Village looked absolutely clean and we stopped in front of a house. Owner of the house provided us water and we started chatting in front of his house. We inquired about possibility of getting dinner and we were redirected to another house of More Uncle. We now shifted our luggage to More Uncle's house and now started chatting in front of his house. Many other villagers joined us and we chatted on different subjects. Though many subjects were being discussed from local politics to history, my whole attention was on the dinner that was being prepared in the house.

Finally we were ushered into More's house for dinner. A simple dinner of Rice and Potato vegetable with gravy was served to us. Famished, we stuffed ourselves with the food. After dinner, we had a walk around the village and soon retired to sleep.

We arose early as our alarm buzzed off. After finishing early morning chores and having the hot tea, we started towards Agya Naal. Considering none of us knew the entry to Agya Naal, More Uncle agreed to guide us till the start of Agya Naal.

We set off around 6.45 in the morning. We wanted to avoid afternoon heat for the trek and were aiming to reach top as early as possible. None of us had done any study on Agya Naal as it was not in the original plan. With excitement and nervousness of the unknown, we marched ahead in the footsteps of our guide.

More Uncle was very swift and it took a lot of our energy to match to his steps. But to our advantage, we walked at a fair pace for 1.15 hours non stop. Most of the time, we were walking through the river bed with boulders in multitude.

We stopped directly at a water source. Replenishing our water supply to 3 lit each, we resumed our trek. Soon, we were at the start of Agya Naal. More Uncle seemed concerned about us finding the correct trail to the top. So he magnanimously offered to accompany us till top and till Singapur village. We were elated to have him as our guide for the whole trek and our nervousness dissipated in a jiffy.

Arrow in the left indicating the route towards Agya Naal:

There was barely any trail left as there are hardly any footfalls on this route. This posed a lot of challenges and slowed down our pace at certain stretches. Still we maintained a good pace because of our guide and kept on ascending.

Only comforting factor was that we were shielded by scorching sun from the lofty mountains above.

Finally all faces lit up as top came within striking distance. It was past 10 am and still we hadn't breakfasted as we wanted to ascend as much as possible in the morning. With almost to the top, we decided to munch on few snacks.

There was still some steep ascent and now we were directly exposed to sun. As a result, rest of the ascent proved quite tiresome.

Finally, we came to a plateau from where village was at a striking distance. By this time, every step was laborious under the intense heat.

Finally Tushar Dada arrived with the car and we set off for the return journey. We ate heartily at Swapnil Restaurant in Velhe and were back to Pune by 3.30PM.

Finally the mystery of two significant ancient ghat routes descending towards Raigad was unravelled. Descending Singapur Naal posed few challenges without guide but in the end, it proved to be a memorable hike with some stunning views of Lingana and other mountains along the trail. Spending the night at Dapoli village among the caring villagers proved to be a special experience. Agya Naal presented some unique challenge with its obscurity and wilderness. But the most touching memory from this trek was the magnanimity and compassion shown by More Uncle who guided us through Agya Naal with the sheer intention of keeping us safe and protected in the hostile terrain.

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!