After a long period stuck at office and just wasting weekends trying to clean up the house or cooking some new recipe, it was finally time to pack bags and kick off the monsoon season with a nice short exciting trip to BheemaShankar.
Well monsoon should’ve started off by now, but alas it didn’t and we were not sure if we should move out for trekking in scrotching heat in Maharashtra or not. But Nipun is a kind of guy who gets easily frustrated if someone tries to screw up the plans made by him and I’m a kind who just wants to wander around while Saurabh is one who always fingers Nipun 🙂 So after a small chat on Thursday we decided that we’ve to do a trek this weekend, even if it doesn’t rain. And mind you the temperatures here in Mumbai and surrounding regions can soar up to 40 degrees and the place where we wanted to go was about a 4 hr hike up the mountain hill in Sahayadri region.
On Friday, I took leave from office as I had to consult a doctor about my running problem with high blood pressure and I SMSed Nipun to come down to my place after office and we packed our stuff and started off for our journey by catching a taxi to CST station. The last train to Karjat starts at around 12:38 A.M. and we managed to catch it easily. Journey from CST to Karjat is around 3 hrs (distance=100 Kms and train fare is Rs. 18 for IInd class). We reached Karjat around 3:30 A.M. and decided to take a nap before moving on to Karjat bus station from where we’d to take a bus ride to Khandas village. However Saurabh spotted a guy with an aunty who were forced down from local train by some cops and he has an uncanny habit of just poking his nose in such matters and we spent 1 hr trying to figure out what was going on between that guy and aunty. Needless to say what was in our mind but whatever it was, they were left out by cops and they took a local to CST around 4:30 A.M. Anyways we took a short nap and managed to stretch our legs. I wasn’t sure about the distance from Karjat Railway station to Karjat Bus Station so around 5:30 A.M. I woke Nipun up (Saurabh was awake already) and asked ‘em to pack up the stuff and move to bus station. Alas my notion was wrong and bus station was just 10 min. away. As we inquired the official at duty over there, he told us that there wasn’t any bus to Khandas but we could take bus till Kashede and we’ll have to manage on our own from there. As the bus to Kashede was at 6:45 A.M. so we’d another 1 hour to sleep. One thing I really love about Maharashtra State Transport is the availability and punctuality of their buses. The bus to Murbar was available at stand at 6:30 A.M. and this bus would take us to Kashede village.
We reached Kashede in 40 min. and had a plate of Bhaji and cup of special Chai. After we inquired some locals, we found a guy who agreed to give us a ride in his taxi to Khandas for Rs. 100.
It was a nice ride to Khandas and we were treated by some awfully loud songs being played in taxi 🙂 Khandas is a small village at base of Bheemashankar. The weather was nice in morning and we could see clouds at top of mountains ahead of us. This gave a nice feeling as I just hate to hike in scrotching heat, under the sun. After walking for around 2.5 kms their is a bridge and road split up at this juncture. To right is road to Bheemashankar via Ganpati Ghat and to left is road to Bheemashankar via Seedhi Ghat. The former is considered an easier way and hence we chose the latter path. We also filled up a bottle of water from a pond under the bridge for our daily chores (However I never knew that I’d need to drink that water later on….). Bheemashankar is one of 12 Jyotirlingas in India and I expected to see a decent path up the hill but don’t know why, there is no path markers along the way. And to add to pain was the fact that neither of us knew Marathi language pretty well. So after we enquired some locals about path to Seedhi Ghat, we were told to take path beside Bavadi (Bavadi means well in Marathi and we thought of it to be something else however later on we came to know from some guys that it was well. Thanks to those guys for saving our energy, else we would’ve kept on walking along the road to reach some village 5 Kms away!). After taking the path, we soon reached the jungle. This was time for Nipun to go for his daily chore and we decided to take a small break to change our clothes and come to trekking gear. As we started off again, I heard a Grrrrrr kind of noise. Wait, didn’t we read in some blog earlier that there are tigers in this jungle ! And here is another Grrrrr….. This time everyone heard it and Nipun asked us to backtrack and take some local villager as our guide. However I was adment to do this trek on our own and Saurabh also finally agreed. So we ignored the noise and decided to march ahead. Now we could see a rough path ahead of us and this gave us a moral booster. However it wasn’t to stay with us for long and soon we were stuck up at a dry river bed inside the jungle. Luckily we heard sound of some men and women passing at some distance and I asked Nipun to look around (Nipun is fastest among us in hills). Soon I heard Nipun shouting for us to come back and we managed to find a family who was also ascending to Bheemashankar and this was a third route (apart from Seedhi Ghat and Ganpati Ghat) which they were following. After having lost our way twice, we decided to stick with route they were following and we marched ahead.
Climb to Bheemashankar:
Climb to Bheemashankar is pretty demanding on legs and soon we were tired of hiking up the hill. The uneven path formed by gushing water down the hills in monsoon made the task even more difficult. To add to our agony, the clouds which were looking pretty dense in morning just evaporated into thin air and we were now climbing up the hill in tortureous heat, under the sun. These are the kind of treks which makes one feel the importance of things like shade of trees and invaluable properties of water. We’d carried 6 water bottles with us and it seemed that they would be plenty but we were so wrong. Our bodies were sweating like anything and very soon we found that we’d just 1 bottle of water left with us and we were somewhere mid-way. However this place was coool and we decided to take some rest. It was a meadow kind of area with flat land scape and ahead of us was the massive hill, atop of which, somewhere was Bheemashankar. We took out utensils from our rucksack and it was time to have meal. We cooked maggie and seriously this was real fun as I’d not cooked in a jungle since my school days, when we used to go to jungle camps on a regular basis.
What the hell ! No way can we climb atop this mountain man ….
Having taken a nice meal, we decided to march ahead. But soon the energy went away as the mountain ahead seemed too huge to climb in a day. How could those villagers tell us that it’s surmountable in 2.5 hrs ? And now the jungle was also clearing away and we were reaching a path which was on edge of moutain. This was the worst part of trek as just to our left was a steep fall down to valley below and the path was not more than a foot wide at some places. However as if this wasn’t the worst scenario, we soon encountered a place where we’d to cut our way across few rocks and this was scareist part of the entire journey. It seemed at times to me that my feet were not in sync and it is really tiring to create a way across the hills when you are in doubt. Anyhow we managed to move ahead but this entire passage left us really tired and thirsty. And this was time we realized that we were pretty screwed up, as we’d just 1 litre of water with us. Anyhow as there was no other option, we decided to share the water among us and had a gulp of it to quench our thirst. Suddenly we found few people coming down the hill and upon inquiring we were told that Bheemashankar was just an hour ahead. This news brought in new ray of hope and energy to our tired and exhausted body and soul and we started to march ahead.
Never Eat Anything & Everything in Jungle
As we were climbing up we eventually lost our energy after reaching a point from where we could see the village at Bheemashankar. This was a crucial period for us as we didn’t want to waste our time relaxing and wanted to reach Bheemashankar at the earliest but our bodies were too tired. Suddenly I saw few fruits scattered all over the place. They were bitten by some birds or monkeys. I thought, if birds can have ‘em then sure we too can. Fruits are also a good supplement for water. I bit one of the fruit and tried to smell it. Coool the smell is pretty nice. As I licked the juice coming out of the cut, it tasted sweet. Great so we can have it ! I plucked off some of those fruits from the trees and we just went bizark after we had a big bite of it. It was pretty awful and tasted really bitter. This taught us a lesson that never eat anything inside jungle, unless you are sure about it. This bitter taste added to our agony, as we’d no water left with us to get that taste off our taste buds and this was time when Nipun reminded me of the water he had carried from the pond. It was a green liquid and we didn’t knew what the hell was it all containing. But I didn’t care at that point and had a mouthful of it. It was kinda sweet and smell of detergents was all I could make of. However it did helped me get relief from the heat and prespiration.
We finally reached the top and village at Bheemashankar was in our sight. As we were entering the village, we saw some sign boards indicating, Nagfani Point, Hanuman Talav, Bombay Point etc. We decided to have a look at them, but first thing in top of priority list was getting water and having some food. We found a real nice Chai shop and the guy served us with Missal Pao + Mirinda + Tea and really really really nice and cool jug of WATER. Water never tasted so nice as it then. There was ample rush at the village as people from Pune and Mumbai were flocking to the shrine in their cars and buses. We inquired about accomodation and we were told that it’ll be easily available. So we decided to explore the place.
This was perhaps the most exciting portion of our trek. Nagfani is a place, few kms away from Bheemashankar shrine and is a must visit place for every trekker. The route till Hanuman Talav is a dusty rough road track. Couldn’t believe that even autorickshaws ply on those roads. Though locals speak of the Talav (aka pond) as a big one but it’s a small pond and a baba has setup a temple over there. You can find ample monkeys around this place. The trek to Nagfani moves straight ahead across the temple and one has to literally make his/her way up the massive rock which is seriously not recommended during monsoons. However once a person reaches the top, the view is mesmerizing. One can see the entire route we followed to reach up here. Down there thousands of feet below is Khandas village and it was just wonderful to sit, relax and enjoy the view from up here. There is even a bench made up of stones up there. We took some photographs up there, relaxed for a while and enjoyed the view, before marching back to Bheemashankar village.
Room & Food !
Next big job ahead of us was to figure out a place to spend our night. Luckily we found a decent room with 3 beds for Rs. 300/- and after having a refreshing bath, it was time to hit bed. I woke up at around 10:00 P.M. and both Nipun and Saurabh were asleep. I was feeling really hungry and I woke up Nipun, who after much hesitation agreed to accompany me. Saurabh just couldn’t get out the bed. The food was just awesome. Don’t know if it was the gravy of Mutter Paneer or if it was my hunger which made the seemingly simple food soooooooooo delicious. But after having a good food, it was time to hit bed and call off the day.
At Bheemashankar Temple
Bheemashankar shrine is located few kms away from main village and we moved to the temple, early in morning to avoid rush of people. The temple is situated in middle of Jungle and is surrounded by village. The queue wasn’t big enough and we easily managed to get a glimpse of the Shiva Linga. There was a family inside which I presume had given good sum of money to Priests, as they were only allowing ‘em to touch the deity. Anyways after offerings it was time to move back. But hey we do needed some photographs and Saurabh climbed up a nearby staircase to take some photographs. Suddenly out of no where we saw a girl, she was beautiful and Saurabh took a pic of her too ! Later on we found that she was Bua of few kids and we made Nipun the Fufa of ‘em ….. Hi hi hi hi hi hI (Yeah we are just like that ! ).
After having some bhajia and cup of tea, it was time to say goodbye to Bheemashankar. We were not in mood to follow the same old path, so we took another route. This route goes to village called NandGaon and it seemed like a good decision to follow this route. Well atleast initially. The route which was climbing down easily earlier soon turned out to be a pretty hectic decent. To make the matters worse, I was unable to synchronize my movement down the hill and very soon I twisted my right ankle. Now having an injured right leg and a week left leg, rest of the journey was always going to be hard. However thanks to Saurabh and Nipun for bearing with me and we managed to get down the hill, slowly and steadily. Once at the base, looking at top of the mountain from where we decended from was a magnificant view. However we just couldn’t enjoy the view for long, cauz’ once again we had lost our way and around 12:30 P.M. the sun was shining right above our heads. We finally managed to reach a hut, but it was deserted and we’d to rely on our instincts and we decided to take a deserted path, right ahead of us. After walking for few kms. we finally managed to reach motor road and there we were guided by one of the locals. He was really kind enough to show us the way upto autorickshaw station. Now the time was for some party and we celebrated it with coool Sprite and mouthful of Anjir’s.
Thanks to Nipun and Saurabh for accompanying me on this wonderful excursion.
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