Monday, July 17, 2017

Trigundhara Ghat - An Adventurous Descent

We woke up to the thick mist in Durgawadi village. Threat of rain loomed. Night's rest had done wonders making us feel quite fit and energetic even though yesterday's strenuous ascent of Darya Ghat and many hours of struggle to locate Durgawadi village had drained us completely. After finishing early morning chores, we packed our backpacks and proceeded to the house where our breakfast was arranged. 

As the breakfast was getting prepared, weather started clearing and soon cloudy weather gave way to the bright sunshine. With great sunshine, our hopes of descending Trigundhara Ghat (a/k/a Doni Daar) in good weather brightened.

Beautiful morning at Durg village:

House where we spent the night:

Kiran Kale on the backdrop of Durg Fort:

After finishing breakfast, we posed for the group photo before starting the hike. Couple of villagers agreed to accompany us till the start of Trigundhara Ghat. As we were short on time, we decided to skip hike to Durg Fort.

"Yesterday there was a landslide at Trigundhara Ghat. So it is better if you descend it before rain starts" a villager said. These words made me nervous and a passing thought of cancelling the plan to descend Trigundhara touched my mind. Considering our vehicles were waiting for us at the base village of Trigundhara Ghat, we decided to continue with the original plan.

After walking for 10 minutes on the plateau, trail entered the woods going towards Durgamata temple. Clinging of bells with sonorous voices of prayer filled the atmosphere with pure magic as I approached the temple.

After spending few moments of bliss in the temple, we resumed our hike towards entry of Trigundhara Ghat. We soon reached to the western plateau from where guides showed us Waghachi Wadi village where we were going to ascend. It didn't look far and I guessed we would reach to it within 4 hours. 

Views from the Western Plateau:

Sameer barely missed stepping on the small cobra resting on the trail. We observed this small creature for a while before resuming the hike again. We rested a bit above the "Poshichi Naal". This naal is inaccessible and we didn't see any possible route to descend through it. Sight of sheer vertical drop of this Naal made my head dizzy.

"Are there any wild animals in the vicinity?" I started the conversation with one of the guides.
"There used to be plenty in the past. Almost 25 years ago in my prime of youth, I fought with the leopard and killed him. " This dialogue with the guide piqued my curiosity and I asked about the details of the whole incident. I believed the guide only when he showed me the marks of leopard's 
teeth on his thigh. Suddenly I felt proud to walk and talk with the man with a great courage.

Our guides:

We soon reached near the entry of Trigundhara Ghat. With the cover of bushes, our guides missed to locate the entry and we went few meters ahead. A local woman from a distance shouted and guided us to the correct trail.

Start of Trigundhara Ghat:

Recent rain showers had already made the trail slippery and steepness of initial descent provided enough indication of the difficulties ahead. Our guides had agreed to come with us till some part of descent and with the company of these locals, we were descending with a rapid pace. With heavy camera hanging to right of my waist, I was finding it difficult to descend quickly. Very rarely I found carrying camera a burden and this was such a rare moment when I was cursing myself for carrying the camera.

Deafening noise startled us when avalanche started falling down. For the moment, we did not know what to do. Nothing to hide except few tiny and dried bushes, panic-stricken  I started running for cover. But alas! I slipped on the trail bruising my right hand. Sameer kept his composure and helped me to stand on my feet. To our great fortune, all the boulders and stones rolled down few meters from us and we escaped only by a few meters. Had we started this trek few minutes late, we would have definitely under the barrage of these rolling boulders. Pictures of family danced in front of my eyes during these anxious moments prompting me to reflect on wisdom of venturing into unknown so regularly.

Still shaken with this incident, we increased the speed on the trail and started descending as quickly as we could. Occasional glance at the slopes of the mountains, we spotted many huge rocks barely held by the soil waiting to be cascaded down the mountain at any moment. Apart from last Fadtaal Naal, never ever I had felt so vulnerable and helpless pitted against the unforgiving terrain. Anxiety and fear looming, we kept on descending. We wanted to get out of this hostile terrain before the arrival of rain. With rain, the situation could have turned worse.

We were divided into many groups during the descent. Fast moving members descended pretty quickly. I along with Sameer and Vinit were lumbering at the last taking each step cautiously. Descending through boulders posed many challenges as usual. But with the previous experiences of difficult descents through Kondnaal and Fadtaal Naal, we were confident that we would negotiate this descent successfully.

Pictures taken during the descent:

First water source during descent; we halted for 15 minutes massaging our legs with the cold water:

Deva Ghanekar posing for the shutterbug:

Thousands of boulders testing our knees:

Sujata Tai and Milind Dadu enjoying under a small waterfall:

One of our senior members Kulkarni Kaka was finding it difficult to negotiate a patch. But with the proper team work led by Milind Kulkarni, we were able to negotiate the patch safely. Sack was held on Milind Dadu’s head to create a temporary step for everyone to descend and I too made use of this luxurious arrangement to descend. Having a large group sometimes help when you get a pool of trekkers to help in crisis situation.

Photo: Vinit Date

We heaved a collective sigh of relief when we came out of two hostile walls of the mountain. Now onward there was a simple descent through the thicket without any danger. 

Finally we came to a large plateau. The same mountains that looked ominous during descent started appearing beautiful again. Finally dark clouds of gloom had passed away giving way to bright sunshine of glee. 

On the backdrop of hostile Trigundhara Ghat:

Celebration time:

With further walk of around 20 minutes, we reached to the village named “Waghachi Vadi”. After a quick session of stretches, we rejuvenated ourselves with the cold water bath. It was now time to bid adieu to our Nasik team.

As walls of the mountains stood tall indifferent to our presence, their presence ruled my mind as we headed towards Pune.

In retrospection, descending Trigundhara Ghat at the start of rainy season was not the right decision. Lucky escape from the avalanche highlighted this fact. Most of the times, we felt vulnerable to the rolling stones and boulders. So please stay away from this route around monsoon season. Winter is the best season to hike through this route.


Pune Group: Prashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade, Vinit Date, Milind Kulkarni, Namdev Gaware, Sujata Raygade, Deva Ghanekar, Sameer Kadam, Ganesh Kundapurkar, Tushar Poman

Nasik Group: Sandeep Kakad, Ashwin Alai, Sanjay Kulkarni, Kiran Kale

Date: 10th and 11th June 2017

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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, July 1, 2017

Darya Ghat - Welcoming Monsoon of 2017!

" I won't hike through the ghat routes anytime soon. I have enough of it". Oath of mine after descending notorious Fadtaad Naal lasted exactly ten days as addiction of exploring the unknown took the precedence over the life in the comfort zone and there I was embarking on another treacherous terrains of Darya Ghat and Trigundhara Ghat -- ancient ghat routes joining Pune region to Thane region.

After injuring my left ankle while descending Fadtaad Naal, I hardly did any physical activity providing ample rest to my leg for 7-8 days. I was not sure about attending "Darya Ghat-Trigundhara Ghat" trek when our Pune-Nasik Trek group announced it. Not putting any strain on the leg proved beneficial and I recovered in time to join for this trek. Total team of 10 members from Pune and 5 members from Nasik confirmed for this trek. This time we decided to hire a mini-bus from Pune. We departed from Sus Road, Pashan at 5 AM. Everyone arrived on time except Shalabh. Despite several attempts, he did not pick up the call and we decided to proceed without him. Nana (Sanjay Amrutkar) from Nasik Group also decided to skip this trek due to family emergency.

Following members finally made it for the trek:

Pune Group: Prashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade, Vinit Date, Milind Kulkarni, Namdev Gaware, Sujata Raygade, Deva Ghanekar, Sameer Kadam, Ganesh Kundapurkar, Tushar Poman

Nasik Group: Sandeep Kakad, Ashwin Alai, Sanjay Kulkarni, Kiran Kale

Date: 10th and 11th June 2017

Watching the enormous range on the right side, I got nostalgic about my "Siddhgadghat-Gaydara Ghat-Bhimashankar-Ransheel Ghat" trek done last year. Most of the forest in this mountain range is still intact providing ultimate joy of trekking.

Our earlier plan of breakfasting at Mhasa village was foiled as all restaurants were closed due to some death in the village. Dhasai village was our last chance to eat something and famished we gorged on the delicious Wada-Pav at Dhasai.

Nasik group was waiting for us just before Singapur village. We parked our respective vehicles in front of a big house at Singapur village. As we were going to descend to a village named "Waghachi Wadi" which was at a fair distance from Singapur village, we quickly arranged for a driver who would take Nasik member - Sandeep Kakad's Creta from Singapur village to Waghachi Wadi village.

Two boys from the village agreed to accompany us till the start of Darya Ghat. As per Sanjay Kulkarni Uncle, our guide till Durgawadi - our halting station for tonight was going to receive us at the top of Darya Ghat. Satisfied with this arrangement, we started our hike in the direction of Darya Ghat. Time: 10 AM

Few spells of rain had dampened the earth. Fresh smell of wet earth was enough to bring a lively sprite in our gaits. Small puddles on the trail on the backdrop of mountains provided good visuals.

Vinit Date on the backdrop of Naneghat:

Peaks draped in the fine satin layers of clouds:

Our guides returned back after ensuring us on the correct trail of Darya Ghat. After this point, there was an uphill climb. Weather was overcast and it was such a welcome relief after doing previous treks in scorching summer.

Deva Ghanekar in a relaxed frame of mind:

Kiran Kale posing for the shutterbug:

Sujata Raygude Tai - Ultra Marathon Runner in a happy mood:

Super-fast ND another long distance runner; I generally meet him only twice during the trek; at the start and at the end! So it was pleasure capturing him in between the trek.

Whole ascent of Darya Ghat was through infinite boulders of varied sizes and shapes. Brain needed to be in super active state to take the correct decision of on which boulders to step on and which to avoid. Carrying your heavy camera poses a different challenge and many times you need to seek help of your trek mates to negotiate some rock patches by passing on the camera. Giant wall of Dhakoba fort was accompanying us on the right side throughout the trek. Upper side of the mountain was totally engulfed in the clouds and rain seemed to be on the cards. We needed to hurry before rain started hitting us in the ghat section.

No sign of our guide unnerved us as we reached to top of Darya Ghat. It was post 2 PM and we decided to have lunch.

Rest after lunch:

Even after finishing lunch, there were no signs of our guide. This made us anxious. As per our knowledge, Durgawadi was almost 3 hrs from top of Darya Ghat. We became hopeful when we heard someone talking from the distance. Unfortunately it was not our guide but a shepherd.

Shepherd: “I will show you the correct trail”
We: “We plan to descend to Amboli village and then go to Durgawadi” We suggested to shepherd with our limited knowledge.
Shepherd: "No need to descend to Amboli. I will show you the shortcut which will take you to Durgawadi village"
We: "We are new to the area. Are you sure we won't lose our way"
Shepherd: "Yes, keep walking on this trail and you will reach Durgawadi without any issue"

With these assuring words of the shepherd, we started feeling better. A difficult challenge presented in front of us when we saw a difficult rock patch right at the start of the trail. After more assurance from the shepherd, we started following him. With the recent rainfall, whole rock patch was wet. Sheer drop at the right side made us very nervous and with great precautions, we negotiated this rock patch.

Now, we were on a small plateau and shepherd returned back after showing us the trail. Fog enveloped us as we started following the trail. Beautiful landscape presented itself once cloud cover lifted for a while. It was a beautiful walk as we were encountering some gurgling streams along the way. Periodically we stopped at these streams rejuvenating ourselves with the cold splash of water on our faces. We also gulped on this flowing clean water.

Our confusion started when we came across three trails branching from the main trail. After some discussion, we took the trail ascending the hill. We spotted an arrow on the rock indicating that we were in the right direction.

It was close to two hours after shepherd left us and we started anticipating our first milestone - Dhakoba Temple. But it was nowhere in sight. This seeded some doubt in our mind but we kept on marching on the same trail. Finally after walking further for another hour, sight of Dhakoba Temple on the big plateau provided relief and happiness. Time: 5.15 PM.

As per our calculation, Durgawadi was another 2 hours walking distance from Dhakoba Temple. We exactly had 2 hours of daylight left. So after resting for 5-10 minutes, we quickly resumed our hike. With the big plateau, we were not sure about the correct trail and took the first distinct trail. This trail soon entered the bushes and started taking us down. This started confusing us as we were not expecting to descend. Still as the trail was distinct, we kept on descending. Our visibility was greatly reduced due to thick cover of fog. We spotted a big hut at a distance when cloud cover lifted for a while but this hut seemed unreachable and very far as there was a valley in between.

Time was quickly running out. It was 6 PM now. Fog seemed to be our perpetual enemy and with the lack of guide, everything started seeming alien to us. Now, we had two options: Either to return to Dhakoba Temple and spend night there OR keep on following the trail. Out of 14 trekkers, I and Milind Dadu were of the opinion to return to Dhakoba Temple for night stay but other 12 trekkers were of the opinion to keep on marching ahead. Considering the majority, we decided not to return back and decided to march ahead.

During the animated discussion, Sameer got success to launch his already loaded Google Map. It was such a big relief. This map us helped us with the sense of direction and we took the trail in the direction of Durgawadi as shown by the map.

Only problem with the map was that it was just showing us the direction but we had to find correct trails on our own. With the fading light, I spotted another arrow marking but it seemed to go in the direction of small water reservoir and another trail seemed more distinct. Majority of the members decided to ignore the arrow mark and started following the distinct trail. After about 10 minutes, I and Sameer again checked the google map and to our dismay, we found ourselves going in totally opposite direction of Durgawadi. Now, we had again two options: Going back to the arrow which I spotted 10 minutes ago or search for another trail through the jungle going towards Durgawadi.

Tushar Dada spotted a trail going in the correct direction as per the map and we started following it. After about 10 minutes of gradual descent, we came on a plateau. Here again there were multiple trails but now we were confident about following the trail as per the map. After about 10 minutes, we seemed to reach to a stream with hills on both the sides. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to have any trail visible and we were sort of stuck. Now, though we knew the direction, we we were not able to locate the trail.

Darkness was quickly embracing us and we needed to be out of this mess soon. Couple of guys had located a trail going upside the hill on our left side few minutes back and we decided to try that trail. As everyone started returning back, I found a trail on the right side of the hill going uphill. I checked it by ascending the trail for few meters and elated, I asked everyone to follow it. Now, we were again on some distinct trail and more importantly going in the right direction as per the map. Time: 7.30PM

This trail joined Bandhara (embankment) and we crossed it. Twilight seemed to have supported us today and it was still not pitch dark even when it was 7.30PM. Suddenly, we started hearing some conversation from the woods. With the first sign of any human other than us, we shouted to catch the attention of these messiahs of god. Hearing our shouts, they asked us to come to their side. Finally we were not going to spend the night in the jungle. Three to four guys had come to the forest to catch some crabs and two of them agreed to accompany us till the village. Finally we were in the safe custody of the locals ending our ordeal of finding the correct route.

It was 8 PM when we reached to the village. "Where is Praksah? Why didn't he come to us to pick us on top of Darya Ghat? It is by luck that we reach to your village safely otherwise we would have spent the whole night in jungle". Poor house owner seemed to have embarrassed with our barrage of questions. On further discussion, we realised that there was a great misunderstanding. Our guide was searching us at Trigundhara Ghat instead of Darya Ghat. Despite the clear instructions, he assumed that we would be ascending via Doni Dar (Trigundhara Ghat) and he searched us almost 2-3 hours and even descended half of the ghat in search of us.

Exhaustion had taken over after a strenuous hike of almost 10 hours. Stretching session provided us some relief to the whole body and we kept on waiting for dinner. Dinner was served almost at 10PM and after dinner, we were escorted to a big house where our sleeping arrangement was made. Without further fuss, everyone slipped inside the sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep.

Tomorrow another excitement was in store for us as we were going to descend to Thane district via Trigundhara Ghat.

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!