Monday, April 17, 2006

Visapur Trek

Date : Friday [14/04/2006 16.30 hrs IST]
Venue : Orkut
My scrapbook read:
André: ---- From mumbai trekker community.
Interested in a one-day trek this weekend? There are 4 ppl currently.

A minute later, André's scrapbook read:
Shishir: what's the plan ? Unfortunately, I have to go to the office tomorrow evening for an hour or so [17.00 - 18.00]. But let me know the plan and may be able to make it !

Soon, we were exchanging scraps and from there-on, emails. On Friday night, we had decided that come what may, we will go out for a trek over the weekend. We decided to take up Lohgad as it had been classified as an easy trek - would be a good option for the summers. A few more guys had shown concrete interest in joining the trek - Manoj, Arjun, Gautam & Nilhil.

I was on my way to the office on Saturday evening for some work and I got a call from a number from the NSE. I thought it would be for something related to the evening's activity that I was going for. There was an Aditya from NSE IT on the other end and he said that he was interested in joining us, though he was not very sure. I told him the broad plan and wasn't really sure if he would be able to jump in at the last minute. In the mean time, Nikhil had intimated us that something urgent had come up on his side, so he would have to drop out of the plan.

Effectively, we were 5 of us who were going for sure and I wasn't very sure about Adi. We initially decided to depart by Siddheshwar Exress but Gautam would be a bit late at the office, so we decided to take the Passenger train to Pune from Dadar. Accordingly, I messaged everyone that we are meeting at 11.00 PM at Dadar station. I reached Dadar at around 10.30 PM and went to the enquiry counter to find that the last Passenger train to Pune leaves at 10.55 PM ! After that, the only option was Madras Mail. I messaged the gang again, Arjun and Manoj arrived in a few minutes but apparently, others had stuck to the 11.00 PM plan, so we were sure to miss the Passenger train. Soon, everyone else except André were there [Even Aditya had turned up]. I then realised that André wouldn't have got my message because he had lost his mobile phone. I should have intimated him separately about the change in plan. When I called up his residence, they said that he had already left for the trek. Now the funniest part was the all six of us hadn't seen each other before that day. Most of the co-ordination was online and on phone. We bought the tickets and were waiting on Dadar Platform no. 5, expecting that we would jump in if André would reach even in the last minute. However, we missed the train and went out at the assembly point - André had already arrived !

We decided to take the road route now, so we walked towards the Asiad bus stop at Dadar. After enquiries and all that, we freezed on hiring a private vehicle [which turned out to be a wise decision later] and managed to hire a Chevrolet Tavera. We started off from Mumbai at around 1.00 AM [yes it was Sunday now]. The journey was fairly comfortable except for the fact that we couldn't sleep at all [Except for Arjun, who claims that he did manage to sleep for a while]. We had an arrangement with the driver that he would drop us to the Malawali village and not on the Express Highway because it would be too late in the night for us to get off at the Express Highway and look for alternate transport to Malawali. After we crossed Lonavala, there was no sight of Malawali and suddenly, we found ourselves passing through Kamshet. We realised that something was wrong and decided to ask for directions. We met two watchmen outside a temple in Kamshet and they said that we had left Malwali 8 kms back ! Luckliy, it was just a railway station away from Kamshet, so we left that Tavera and walked down to the Kamshet railway station to take a small nap. However, we soon realised that André had lost his wallet [most probably dropped in the Tavera only]. But we couldn't find it now.Arjun, André & me had a small nap on the station benches. It was very cool because there was a river flowing just adjacent to the railway station. In the morning, we brushed our teeth on the station and started off to Malawali by the first local train coming from Pune.

On reaching Malawali, we started walking [there was one more family with a lot of kids, who seemed to be walking along-with us. I later realised that they were going to a dargah on the Lohgad fort or Lohgaon]. We had morning tea at a small shop and started trekking immediately, hoping that we would beat the sun by starting early and have breakfast somewhere on the way. We soon trekked upto a point where there was a diversion of routes - one going towards Lohgad [this was our original destination] and the other towards Visapur fort. We had some nimbu pani at a hut [I feel lucky we had it then], and took the route to the left [towards Visapur].
Lohgad and Visapur are popular forts for trekkers and can be toured in a day from Pune. Lohagad is 3400 feet high and is very wide spread fort. There are 4 doors to Lohagad from the nearby village - Lohgaon. i.e. 'Ganesh Darwaja' , 'Narayan Darwaja' , 'Hanuman Darwaja' and 'Maha Darwaja'. Some sculptures can also be seen on Maha Darwaja. Lohagad is not so spreaded and can be easily seen in few hours . The famous spot on Lohagad is 'Vinchu Kata' - a range of hills that looks like a scorpion's claw. Amazing view of Pawana Dam is also visible from the back side of Lohagad. The wealth from Surat was brought here under the leadership of Netaji Palkar and kept here for some period. The other fort near Lohagad is Visapur. It is 3500 feet high and situated between Lohagad and Bedse Caves. A huge cannon (almost 10 feet long) on Visapur is very vital as it has an impression of royal crown. One can see Purandar on south-east. Sinhagad as well as Tung and Tikona can also be clearly seen. Both these forts are of Satwahan Era and of great importance in Shivaji's period as to keep watch on Konkan and Bor Ghat. These two forts are historically very crucial.
This was not in our original plan. We had planned Lohgad, which was rated as an easy trek. However, this route seemed to be a bit tough as we started going ahead. Each of us was carrying a bottle full of water and we had bought some biscuits on the way. We had planned to get food on the way, as it would be available. We soon realised that we were running out of water and the sun was getting harsh and I started de-hydrating quickly. The route didn't seem to end at all and we seemed to be going round the fort. The route seemed to be going up and down but never near to the entrance of the fort. I thought for a while that we had lost the route and were wandering in the wild. However, we found a couple of houses on the way and Arjun went to enquire about the route. He returned back to report that a lady spoke something in marathi [which he couldn't understand] but had pointed to a direction. We started walking in that direction. We seemed to hit dead-ends some times, but upon little exploration, there seemed to be a way going ahead. I was soon feeling weak because of hunger / thirst and the heat and started trailing soon. The guys kept company and soon we were able to make it to the top, passing through thorny bushes and stony routes.

We were very happy to have reached the top of the fort and suddenly started feeling fresh again. Arjun found the master bedroom of the fort and went to sleep soon. I too had a small nap and then joined others to explore the fort. We met 4 more guys on the trek - probably the only humans that we saw on the route after we chose the Visapur route ! They had climed up from an alternate path - a dry waterfall, which was a much shorter route than what we had taken. We discussed the route with them and decided to descend from the route which they had taken. In turn, they asked us about our route and decided to descend from the route that we had taken to climb up. I thought that the descend by shorter route would be very easy and started off in high spirits again, expecting to find food / water soon. However, we soon found that this route was no less tougher than the route we had taken to climb up the fort.

This time, Arjun and André led the descent, making way through the dead waterfall. I was totally de-hydrated on the way and two sips of water + loads of glucose powder with Adi / Gautam saved me from fainting. All my previous treks were in the Himalayan region, where the temperatures are not as hot as the Sahyadris in the summers. This surely was a tough bet for people used to working in air-conditioned datacenter environments ! Once we descended the dry watefall, we felt more energetic and started walking toward the diversion where we had got our doses of nimbu pani in the morning. We soon reached the point and dropped down in the hut, filling up nimbu pani and asking for more ! Manoj also dared to have a zunka-bhakar and others tasted it too. We then started discussing further action. André suggested that we descend quickly and go to Lonavla for lunch because Malawali was a small village without any hotels / restaurants. The only option here was to request a household to prepare food for us. It was already past 14.30 hrs and an odd time to find lunch in the village.

We started the descent again. Soon, I started trailing again and Manoj was with me. We lost the trail again and entered another village [Bhaje] instead of Malawali. We reached an orphanage school, where we managed to get some water to drink again. After that, we walked down to the junction of Malawali and Bhaje village, where Adi was waiting for us. André, Arjun and Gautam had gone ahead in an auto to Malawali station to arrange tickets etc. They sent back the auto for us and we reached Malawali station soon, where we found a water cooler. We washed our dusty faces and felt much better. Soon, we reached Lonavala and had a hearty lunch at the Ram Krishna Hotel on the Mumbai Pune highway. After lunch, Gautam decided to stay back and we were on our way to Mumbai. We went to the railway station to get our tickets for Mumbai. We decided to board the Koyna Express upto Karjat, from where we could get the local trains to our respective destinations. As if the trek was not enough, the journey through Koyna Express was equally bad. The train was badly crowded and halted on the way for almost 20-30 minutes for some odd reason. We got off at Karjat and boarded the Karjat local within the next 40 minutes and were on our way to Aamchi Mumbai. Soon, everyone was fast asleep [ we had missed our sleep the previous night too]. I bid a bye to the gang at Kalyan and got off at Dombivli, while the others continued their journey to respective places.

Overall, though it was a tough trek, it made 6 guys who did not know each other at all come together, trek together and we were very good friends at the end of this trek ! At the end of the trek, we couldn't believe that we were total strangers the previous day.

PS: A piece of advise if you are keen on trekking the Sahyadris in the summer, do make sure that you carry a lot of water alongwith you !

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