Thursday, 17 December 2015

Following The Shadows Of The Ravine- Trek to Sandhan Valley

"Nature never misses any chance to leave us spellbound by it’s magnificence. All we need to do is, sit back and live the moment with it. Take pleasure as it unravels each layer of it’s virtue and enigma".
- Dipanwita Chakraborty

Ever thought of paying visit to the valleys where shadows reside? That too in the pitch dark winter nights. Come winters and the camping season starts along with long treks, a boon for all nomads bit by adventure bugs. Yes, you got it right. We did it all during our recent trek to Sandhan Valley.

Crossing pools of freezing water with water levels nearly chest deep at places. Admiring nature’s spellwork after crossing each surprise rock patch, some easy, some difficult, some scary, some cumbersome. Rock-hopping throughout the valley. Sleeping under the naked sky freckled with stars. Making childish wishes each time one spotted a shooting star. And last but not the least, that bunch of crazy friends who tag along each time I head for any madness rush. Every experience is way beyond expressions and words, which can only be felt and lived.

Sandhan Valley, also called “Valley of Shadows” is located in the west of Bandhardhara region, Samrad being the base village. Entire valley is surrounded by the majestic and beautiful Sahyadri ranges. These include the mighty Alang-Madan-Kulang(AMK), Ratangad, Ajoba range and Kalsubai. This mesmerizing valley can make anyone fall in love with rocks and boulders. Sandhan is also named as the “Grand Canyon of Maharashtra”, a 300 feet deep and 2 kms long valley carved by water.

Source- Google

The rock bedded ravine has widths less than 3 feet at several places, which blocks the sun-rays from entering inside and hence is called “Valley of Shadows”. 

Sandhan Valley trek is one of the most popular treks of Sahyadris. The reason why this valley lures hundreds of trekkers every year is due to the transfiguration it undergoes each year post monsoons. Being water carved valley, the patches keep changing every year, not all of them though. The trek is a full descend trek unlike the usual ones where one has to complete the cycle of ascending to the top and descending back.

The Trek:

This was my second visit to Sandhan and I was super excited. With a bunch of 47 trekkers, some first timers and some regulars, we started off for the most awaited trek of the season. The trek was organized by Trek Mates India. Nilesh Patil was our lead with Nishank, Ranjita, Kushal and Shilpa as co-leads.

The Start- The entire compartment was crowded by Trekmates

We reached the base village by 4:15 AM. The plan was to start right away to avoid trekking after sunset. Introduction done way before dawnbreak, in the dark, with the only sources of light being our head torches. 

At Kasara

Headed Towards Samrad

The Introduction

The Leader

All set
Sandhan is always thrilling from beginning till end. There is surprise at every turn as the patches keep unfurling. After walking for around 10-15 minutes, we come across a water pool with water levels chest deep. One has to carry their bags over the shoulders and cross the pool. Thanks to people gifted with good height for carrying all the bags to the other side of the pool.

Getting Started

Helping Hands

Ammu in Awe

The Freezing Pool

Height Ka Faayda

Together we can- Together we did

We reached the first rappelling patch after trekking for quite a while. The first rappelling patch is a 70 feet patch. Rappelling down was fun. We were among the first few to rappel down and waited for others to complete. The valley had absolutely changed it’s semblance compared to what I had experienced last year. The patches where we had a little support to climb down had no support at all. We had to climb down with bowline knots tied around our waists. Absolute thrill I must say. The second rappelling patch is much smaller one, of around 15 feet but more adventurous as it is an overhang.

The pictures below would tell the thrilling Sandhan tale in a much better way.

Rock-Hopping Across The Valley

Amrita's first ever rappelling attempt- She had mixed feelings

Rappelling Down the 1st Patch
Climbing down with bowline knots tied around waists

Bowline Plus Stop Knot Support

Show Me The Way

The 2nd Rappelling Patch

Done For The Day- Our Campsite

Dinner Being Cooked- Yum

We almost complete our trek after the second rappelling patch. In all, this year, Sandhan offered 5 thrilling patches to cover.

The Camp And The Spook:

We camped by an open space just above the pond. Dinner was delicious vegetarian food cooked by the villagers from Samrad. So, the rule of camping, as it goes by, no one is allowed to sleep. Dinner followed by antakshari and ghost stories. I was the first one to fall asleep.

What's Brewing?

It was around 3:00 AM when all of us suddenly woke up with Amrita’s shriek. Nishank felt something fall on his face from top. All torches lit up and we started searching around and inside the sleeping bags however, could not find anything out of the way. Some of us thought of the possibility of monkey attack too. We waited for sometime and went back to sleep.

After a while, Nishank experienced the same spooky feeling once again. This time, he got hold of whatever had fallen on his face only to discover it to be Vaibhav’s hand. He got up and revealed the source of fear which had, a few minutes earlier freaked everyone out. Everyone was in splits. Now that we were completely awake at 3:30 AM, we started discussing the stars and constellations. We spotted quite a few shooting stars too. We went back to sleep only after being reprimanded by Nilesh. 

The Morning Tea And Chidiya Udd:

Morning started early with the usual Nilesh special ginger and lemongrass tea. We had poha for breakfast.

Nilesh Serving His Signature Ginger-Lemongrass Tea
The Breakfast

Started our journey towards Dehane after prolonged session of photos. Stopped by another water pool for some more fun. 

Kahin Pe Nigaahei- Kahin Pe Nishaana

The Fight For Being Clicked

Ladaai Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Dost

Further, on the way, we spotted Giant Wood Spiders. Nilesh apprised us about a typical behavior of the females of this species. The females kill their male partners after mating. Typical cannibalism. When researched about the same, I came to know that this is a very common behaviour among many species of spiders wherein the female eats up/kills their male partners after mating.

Giant Wood Spider

We decided to take another break at an open space after crossing the jungle area. Another round of fun and games with “Sheep and the Sheppard” played among 4 groups. The losing teams danced on old bollywood songs (songs included the likes of "pyaar kiya toh darna kya" from the movie "Mughal-e-Azam" and many others) with their eyes blindfolded.

The moment we reached the base village, we jumped upon the stock of pepsi-cola squeezies, grabbing as many sqeezies as possible.  After having squeezies to our heart’s content, we headed towards the seating area. Lunch comprised of authentic Maharshtrian food. The lunch was absolutely delectable.

A round of hilarious “Chidiya Udd” game between Nilesh, Kailesh, Vaibhav and Ansh kept everyone glued till the end. The only difference in this game was that the rules were bent as per our craziness quotient. So, the person who fails to raise or not raise his / her finger would not go out of the game but have to face bashes from other members in the group and re-join the game. And, the most important rule- You cannot quit the game. (wink wink)

Chidiya Udd

Looser Gets Bashes

We started off for Mumbai by 4:30 PM after a round of evening tea. Bid goodbyes with heavy heart but with plans for the next trek together.

The Sandhan Family- Batch 3- 2015

Trekmates- keep trekking, keep smiling.

**Click on the pictures to get better resolution

Picture Credits- Vaibhav, Mahesh and Shreekumar

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Sanguine December

That’s how I feel
At your arrival

My heart;
Keeps on swirling,
Deep into the abyss
Of emotions so vulnerable,
Restively waiting,
To be rescued by a smile.

At the threshold,
Of goals and resolutions,
Some conceived, some achieved,
Some passed, some lost.
I look past them;
In silence,
Every memory, every thought,
Every drop of my tear,
Every panic
In that jiffy of fear.
I lived throughout,
And kept hoping,
For every tangle,
To be sorted.

Though appeared gossamer,
Strongly stood will
Facing the odds,
And leading through
The cob-web of doubts,
Obligations and convictions.

And among all uncertainties,
There you come;
Oh darling December
So buoyant and ebullient,
With promises
Of bliss and joy,
Beyond the fireworks,
Let love blossom,
Let life brighten,
Let blessings shower,
Let nostalgia hover.

Beloved December
Embrace me
In all colors of felicity;
From whites to golds,
Of snowflakes and jingling bells,
Startle me;
With your coquettish mirth,
Let calmness come along
And happiness remain flooded,
All around.

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A Glassful Of Tides, Love and Happiness

Wavering between highs and lows,
Swelling and Subsiding
With moon smiling above.

I look at the river;
Moonlit and shining blue
Under the sky, stark and dark

Amorous and glacé
With powdered mirth and curvy smiles

A glassful of memories;
With teaspoon of humor,
A pinch of thoughtfulness and dash of swag

Like a swish tagged with desires,
How so whimsical, how so queer.

Can’t you just;
Not be a cloak-and-dagger,
Simply stick and flicker around.

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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Tranquility Surrounds

Gazing at the waves,
And their many attempts
To brush against my feet.

I turn my face;
To the wind
Dipped in salt
And bittersweet.

I time travel;
To the decade that passed by
Gifting reminiscences
Of simmering coffee
Smiling cookies
Melting sun
And twilights.

Aha love!
Your gracious smile
And glinting eyes
Piercing through
The realm of my heart.

I smile at the waves,
Endeavour triumphs
As they kiss my feet.

Bustling with laughter;
You and I.

One peck on my cheek;
Held in your arms,
I freeze and melt
In chorus
Tranquility surrounds.

Linking with Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Tranquility

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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Magical Mystical Moods

Indian Bloggers
The magic of life and moments;
Rants and laments.
The magic when heart skips a beat;
At mere sense of an unexpected feat.

That goblet of love and pint of tear;
Come together.  Always together.
Pain and ice, walk along for miles;
Break the ice with magic of smiles.

Oh so true! Says heart over mind;
Feel the magic when passion unwinds.
Dreams and smiles and all those sighs;
Coupled with gleam in those eyes.

When sleeping under the moonless sky,
Freckled with stars;
And, see the sun rise after waiting for hours.
The magic of being lost and found,
In and out; of sight and sound.

That place where sweet mixes with the salt;
And love happens over beer with extra malt.
The magic of music;
Captive and mystic.

That washing away of the snow;
With colors of spring.
Close thy eyes and feel the mystique,
Of magical moods, elfin but unique.

Magic it is;
Anywhere and everywhere around.


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Friday, 23 October 2015

आज फिर जीने को जी चाहता है

एक मुठ्ठी ज़मीन; एक टुकड़ा आसमाँ,
थोड़ी सी हसी; थोड़ा सा ग़म मेहरबाँ,
कही प्यार को तरसे,
कही प्यार में डूबा किसी का जहाँ; 
हर दिल की उम्मीद के साये में,
ढलता जाए खुशियो का समां ||

चल आज फिर चुरा ले; 
कुछ पल की खुशियाँ,
चल आज फिर ओढ़ ले; 
वो सुनहरी धूप की चादर,
और लौट चले उस गुलमोहर के तले, 
जहा बसता था बचपन;
खेला करते थे आँख मिचोली हम; 
खेल खेल में यूही रंग ले,
सतरंगी सपनो की चुनरियाँ || 

आज फिर जीने को जी चाहता है;
हसते हसते रोने को जी चाहता है,
सपनो में फिर खो जाने को जी चाहता है, 
क्या पता कल कहाँ ले जाए ज़िन्दगी:
आज सारी ज़िन्दगी जी लेने को जी चाहता है || 

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Covering The Range- Ratangad 2 Harishchandragad: Day 3- Harishchandragad

Harishchandragad (HCG), at an elevation of 4,665 ft above MSL, surrounded by ruins and caves from antiquity and with one of the most daunting routes to be trekked on, offers the best trekking experience in the Sahyadris for every trekker. It is also referred to as a trekker’s paradise since one trek to HCG can be combined with rappelling, valley crossing and rock-climbing.

Tit - Bits From Times Gone By:

HCG is a beautiful hill fort in the Malshej region of Western Ghats, located in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India. The fortifications have been traced back to the Microlithic age (6th Century). Many ancient scriptures like Matsyapurana, Skandapurana and Agnipurana have the mention and references about HCG. The caves are dated back to 11th century. The origin of the fort is said to have been during the rule of Kalachuri dynasty.

A great saint named Changdev (created the epic- Tatvasaar) is believed to have meditated for 12 continuous years inside the caves besides the Harishchandreshwara temple during 14th Century.

The Harishchandreshwar Temple is an astounding example of the magnificent Hemadpanthi Architecture formed during the 13th Century in Maharashtra. This architectural style is named after it’s founder, Hemadpant, the prime minister from the court of Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri.

The Harishchandreshwar Temple

The carvings on the temple walls and also in the Kedareshwar cave indicate that the fort belongs to the medieval period. Later, the Mughals took control over the fort followed by the Marathas during 1747.

The Trek- The Day 3 Itinerary:

Ascent to Harishchandragad via Pachnai – Visit Konkan Kada – Breakfast - Explore HCG - Descent via Khireshwar - Lunch en route Khireshwar - Khireshwar to Khubi Phata - Mumbai

Final day and mighty HCG (Harishchandragad) awaited us. 4 members dropped out of final lap of the trek. Radha and Anand due to Radha’s broken shoes. Bharadwaj and Sagar due to unplanned work schedules that came up. 4 down, 14 left for the last ascent.

We were to ascent via Paachnai and descent was planned via Khireshwar route.

Wake up call at 4:30 AM. Everyone woke up at one call. HCG excitement. We started at around 5:45 for Harishchandragad after having tea.

The Start

The Paachnai route towards HCG is the simplest of the 5 routes to reach HCG. It took us approximate 2 hours to complete the ascent with one tea and snack break in between by a stream. Once atop, we directly started for Konkan Kada without stopping by any caves and temples. Did not wish to miss the most spectacular view of the valley from the cliff.

The Route
The Tea And Snack Break


Konkan Kada (Konkan Cliff) is the principal attraction of HCG. This vertical overhang is like a cobra’s hood and gives the most beautiful panoramic view of the valley. Konkan Kada is also the best place to get the glimpse of “Indravajra” (a circular rainbow - the Brocken Spectre phenomenon). This can mostly be seen during the monsoon or at the presence of mist in the valley with sun right behind the person facing the valley.

By the time we reached Konkan Kada, the mist started to blanket over. Well, we missed the view of the valley and now hoped for the unexpected. Appearance of “The Indravajra”. Sitting by the edge of Konkan Kada, I couldn’t help but realize the diminutiveness of all beings in comparison to the resplendence of the nature. While I was immersed in the thoughts that kept blurting out of my mind, I suddenly became aware of a fuss among our team.

On the Edge Of Konkan Kada

Trekmates on Konkan Kada

Sanket, Varad, Aaditya started screaming and pointing towards the valley. Far away, in the midst of the misty blanket, there was a dim circular rainbow that appeared. All of us got super-excited and started waving towards it. With the sun right behind us and luck smiling, we got to witness one of the most spectacular and rare phenomenon. We got to see “The Indravajra”. Our happiness and excitements knew no bounds.

The Indravajra- Photo Credit: Sambit Dash

People camp on the Konkan Kada and wait for days for a glimpse of Indravajra but are not always lucky enough. We were lucky at the first go.

We headed towards the caves after having breakfast and tea at Bhaskar dada’s food stall. The first stop was the Harishchandreshwara Temple. Sanket introduced us to the rich history of the temple and apprised us about the Hemadpanthi architectural style, in which the temple was built.

The Harishchandreshwar Temple

Ganesha Idol at Harishchandreshwar Temple
Paying attention to Sanket

Towards the east of Harishchandreshwara temple is the Saptatirtha Pushkarni pond. Saptatirtha Pushkarni is a temple pond. The temple like constructions had idols of Lord Vishnu in them, which, until recently, have been shifted into one of the caves besides Harishchandreshwar temple. An interesting fact about the water of the pond is that, it remains ice- cold even during the scorching summer heat.

Saptatirtha Pushkarni

Trekmates at Pushkarni

The famous Kedareshwar cave is on the right of Harishchandreshwar temple. The Kedareshwar Cave is famous for the it’s beautiful 5 ft tall Shivalingam, surrounded by biting cold water and 4 pillars, namely symbolizing the 4 yugas (eras); “Satya Yug”, “Treta Yug”, “Dwapar Yug” and “Kali Yug”. Local legend has it that each pillar would break by itself at the end of each yuga. As per general belief, we are currently in the “Kali Yug” and the day the 4th pillar breaks, it will be considered as the end of the era / world.

Kedareshwar Shivalingam- 3 Pillars Down, 1 Left

We were immersed in taking pictures all time and not ready to start the descent. Sanket kept insisting that we start descending since the Khireswar route was long and time consuming. He had set the target of reaching Khireshwar no later than 3:00 PM. A good scolding from Sanket and stern instructions to keep all cameras inside the bags made us behave righteously.

Righteously Agreeing to Start Descend

There were quite a few tricky yet manageable patches during the descend. Major part of the descend was rocky and through forest.

The first stopover was for lunch and a long long break. Some of us even went for power naps before starting the next leg of descent. Around 45 mins of walking after lunch, we reached Tolar Khind (Tolar Valley). Dehydrated to core, everyone went on for many rounds of lemon water. 


The Afternoon Nap

Sanket, Himanshu and Sambit almost started running and were non-traceable for the remaining part of the descent. We reached Khireshwar exactly at 3:00 PM. Sanket, who had reached Khireshwar long before us, had already played his cards and came with a work-around which saved us from walking for 2 more hours till Khubi Phata and struggle to catch a bus for Kalyan.

Waiting Waiting- At Khireshwar
Tribute to Sachin's Woodlad which gave him hard time

Collective Tribute to Sachin's Woodland

We would hire a private vehicle which would drop us till Murbad. So, 14 people squeezed inside a vehicle that could accommodate only 10.

The Last Group Pic

Musical and sleepy journey till Murbad. Murbad to Shahad in another vehicle. Shahad to Mumbai in local train. Trekmates back to their respective homes.

To Sum It all Up- Creativity by Shirish Marde

At the end of one more amazing experience, some more new places and few more new friends, I came back much richer. It is always overwhelming to re-live those moments each time I sit for writing about a trek. It takes me back to day one when I had gone for my first trek. All alone, with a lost vision about life and abstruse future. Today it’s entirely different. Today, I smile a lot and seldom worry.

I always thank the divine almighty for having sent angels in my life and help me carve the right path for myself through the many thicks.

Awaiting many more to come. Till then, Trekmates- Keep Trekking, Keep Adventuring and Keep Smiling

You may read the Day 1 and Day 2 stories here & here 

** Click on pictures for better resolution

Picture Credits- Shirish, Kiran and Dipanwita

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