Nature’s the artist, Mother Earth’s the canvas and we are just small specs on this huge Art
Harishchandragad via Nallichi vaat (17th August 2012 night – 19th August 2012 night)
I have done quite a few treks till date and though not an expert trekker, I certainly can claim to be an above average trekker. Claiming that means having done quite a few glamorous and treacherous treks like Alang Madan Kulang, Padargad and so on… Now these treks have booked some part of my memory forever. But as I still have much of a larger part quite empty and available for adding more memorable treks, I literally jumped at the chance to trek Harishchandragad. All said and done, I had never ever visited this Peak. I had just heard of its eminence from people who had done it and not done it. I had read a lot about this trek from various blogs. Somehow, listening and reading was not adequate and I wanted to have a firsthand experience. Unknowing to the fact that even when I experience the beauty of it my words would still fail me; I booked myself for the Legendary trek to Harishchandragad via Nallichi vaat (in bold Monsoon trek). Many have tried this path in Summers and Winters, very few have tried in heavy Monsoons and I alongwith another 16 nature lovers decided to tread the untrodden path in Monsoons. Few might question of how is it untrodden if it is already chosen by few before us. I would say it is so coz Nature presents us with a new questeverytime we visit there. So, even when I visit there for the 100th time it would still be untrodden path for me and for everyone who syncs with Nature.
Here, I recount our journey to you as it came to me (unaware of what is kept in store for us)
- Kama (Local guide with Rajni style)
- Anantha (Local guide with Rajni style)
- Abhishek 1
- Abhishek 2
- Ujwala (Me)
At about 11 pm, we started from Kalyan station in 2 jeeps (1st White and 2nd Black n Yellow). About 5 minutes went on in settling our bags in the jeeps and 5 minutes went on in settling us above that JOff we started and then zoom we went till the phone call from Black n Yellow jeep’s driver telling us that he’s been stopped by the Night police from whatsoever reasons. Next halt was at a small roadside hotel sipping piping hot tea/chaha/chai and few of us munching biscuits with us. We had not yet literally started our current adventure and yet the reckless part of us was craving for other ventures in future. Discussing all these treks/rappels/haunted forts*, we all restarted the journey to Belpada (the base village from where, Nallichi vaat starts). Belpada is just about an hour before Malshej ghat. As per the driver dada, the area is so dense and full of animals that no driver comes there alone at night. It either has to be 2 jeeps together or another driver in the same jeep as it’s highly risky to betravelling alone. Open jeeps are a complete no-no coz of the leopards. At about 1.30 am to 1.45 am, we reached Belpada welcomed by Dogs barking madly at us from the secured homesJSomehow, Miron managed to shout over their barking and woke the owner of a house, where we took shelter for the night. The veranda (known as Padvi) was warm n cozy with a bamboo door to it and a lamb bleating its life out to keep us awake… Few of us slept comfortably even snoring (as Bhushan kindly reminded me of; now seriously I don’t believe him that I snore) and few of us were trying to sleep.
Everyone woke up at 6.30 am and it was time to get freshen up and have tea. Then it was backpacking the portable mat/sleeping bags and stuff. Oh yes, it also meant biscuit munching time for the dogs!
7.30 am, we rounded off and started our intro sessions. Not surprisingly, though all of us were seasoned trekkers, only few of us had visited Harishchandragad earlier and sparingly few byNallichi vaat.
7.45 am, we marched towards the base of Nalli led by the super-duper Kama and Anantha. All of us were fully geared with nice backpacks, branded shoes, water bottles, high nutritional eatables and blah blah blah…Opposite to all that Kama and Anantha were off with us just wearing the Aladdin’s magical kaleen kind of magical Paragon slippers, which just glided over the stones, rocks and mud alike come what may; holding a jute handbag with ropes in it. How can I forget the so famous purple raincoat Kama wore? When all of us were busy examining over shoes and bags for a slashes and rips, Kama and Anantha were flying at a speed even Hummer would be embarrassed of in these rocky paths (now, that’s hyperbole and take me literally)…no but seriously they were so fast!
Now, you know what I mean???
First break, the breaky break was at around 10.00 am. We all adjusted ourselves in the waterfall. Yes, you read me correct, in the midst of a waterfall – no need to go elsewhere for a handwash or drinking water
Thanks to Kaku (Dipti’s mum) for so delicious ‘masala bhaat’. Then there were the energizing Kajur, some junky stuff and we were done.
At around 11.00 am we reached the first patch, which surprisingly didn’t seem much of a patch and we just walked through it unscratched. As soon as we reached there, I could see why it is said to be a nature’s own hand carved heaven. Most amazing and breathtakingly cut were those huge stones. Now, I must admit that the sight was a bit scary to the normal eyes but unusual penetrating ones can see the sheer beauty beneath that sight. At about 11.45 am we reached the legendary (for atleast our group), Pravin and Dipti patch (Patch 2). Now, that was a historical moment here…Kama, Anantha and Bhushan reached the patch. All 3 of them climbed the patch with a free reign. Later they tied a rope to it. Later when Swati was climbing with the help of this rope, Miron somehow had a premonition and he climbed halfway through and supported in time avoiding her fall. Though, this didn’t stop the fall of those 2 huge rocks breaking their fall on hanging Miron’s hip. Kunal and I had to literally jump out of these rocks way to save our feet. No worries with Miron, it did hurt him but he’s in one piece and all fit and fine. Then Miron set a belay for others to climb, which helped us concentrate fully on the climbing holds without bothering about the fall. Now then, it was Dipti’s turn to climb and all taps of the overhanging clouds opened at once, soaking her and making the climb difficult. Somehow, she made it and then it was Pravin. Oh, before I tell you about the journey ahead, let me tell you that Pravin and Venkee had come from Hyderabad for this trek. Now, back to Pravin’s climb. If it were the taps that opened for Dipti, it now was the pipes that burst open for Pravin. Uncontrollably, crying the rains brought our Pravin to tears. The waterfall flow was so huge and speedy that Pravin was getting thrown back at every step he took. His bag was becoming so much of a load that he had to throw it down. The patch where, others took only 5 minutes for the climb Pravin invested his 15 minutes approximately. Invested, do I say as he finally made it by sheer determination and Miron and Bhushan’s help and Venkee’s motivation. Though, he could not find any of those around him then. Determination lost him when the gushing water started suffocating him. Help lost him as he could not hear Bhushan and Mirontelling him about the holds and footsteps over the pouring rains. Motivation lost him as Venkeetoo was nowhere audible LBut then he finally made it over the patch and that is what matters. Sitting there are the top of the patch, I could see the surging relief on his face. And now, the twist in tale comes – the moment Pravin made it to the top, all the pipes mended and taps closed JSo, this is how it becomes the legendary Pravin and Dipti patch!!!
Woah, after this when I look back towards the way we had already covered, I was hit back by an amazingly beautiful paradise. I know that I have been using the adjective ‘amazing’ a lot but then Nallichi vaat is amazing!
And the way ahead was artistically cut. Every rock has its own shape and beauty. There are 2 ways we can describe this place – ‘Beastly beauty’ or ‘Beautiful beast’. The beast that speeds the heartbeats. Get Discovery and NatGeo of the world with their best cameras. I bet no one can capture the real beauty of this place. Obviously, this is no place for the one, who wants to enjoy sitting at home on a sofa. Is this Nature’s way of justice? Only a person so much in love with Nature, who dares enough to getup, go out there to propose the beastly beauty has a right to see the unveiling of such an incomparable awesomeness.
No sooner had we got our eyes accustomed to this pure beauty, we came to a patch that just maybe 10 feet high. But I can and still not ashamed to accept the fact, it was the scariest of all patches. It was just a little taller than us but enough to scare us off. Oh no, it wasn’t the height, which scared us off but it was the dependability on a rope and a rope ladder and no other source to lean on. It was suddenly like being in space with nothing more than single oxygen cylinder for back-up… And finally we climbed the so called ladder… Ufff… By the time, I had reached the ladder with Ambarish and Dipti, Miron, Kunal and Bhushan had already caught on us after winding up from the last patch. Once, the ladder was crossed, there was this spectacular traverse in view. Standing there, we could feel every breath of nature with every breeze that flew our souls off us! Passing over the traverse, we entered a seemingly (I said seemingly, no complaints to me for not warning you) safer cove. This is officially the end of our legendary Nalli but then how were you to know that we were nowhere near the end of our day-off. The cove that seems safe is not really that safe; it’s made of this thick red paste like mud and stones. Kama was waiting for us there so I made it safely with the help of Kama andBhushan. Dipti was with Miron, Ambarish and Kunal. Swati and Rohini had already gone further up the way. So Bhushan, Kama and I hurried to catch up with all of them. I forgot to mention the traverse is considered another rock patch. By now, everyone was of a mind that the gruesome part of trek is over and to shock us all there was a slimy slope of about 15 feet and stands at somewhere around 70 degrees. All of the pack, who had reached earlier, were waiting for the others to reach. By now the team had bonded well and we were all a happy pack JKama, very expertly went up the patch and tied a rope for our support. Now, Bhaskarand Sujit climbed with the help of this rope not as expertly as Kama and Anantha did but surely very nicely. Abhishek, Abhishek, Suman, Swati, Rohini and I climbed after Miron and Bhushantied us to the rope one by one. Sujit asked Swati a very overwhelming question once she was up the patch, “How do you feel?” I can’t publish what the answer was! :p but no seriously, by then we had started freezing and everyone realized we had missed our lunch. We swiftly went to the feeding mode, opened our dabba and had Rice bhakaras with junka and mushrooms. God bless my n Bhushan’s mum for that. Then Siddharth took out some fruits from his pack. It was Shravan and so no eggs for the meal. Once, all of us were that patch, we waited for few minutes and started again along the trail. By the time Dipti reached, we had finished up the mushroom and Bhakari; even finished licking the fingers! After that patch there was a plateau for sometime and then again an ascend. Once, we reached the end of the ascend trail, there was a steep patch to be climbed. It was maybe 5 times slimier than the earlier patch and standing at about 80 degrees. If that earlier patch we were freezing, our bodies had now become a solid ice. Kama again took the lead and climbed a chimney style at the corner of this patch. Venkee tried but couldn’t reach the top. Finally Sujit went up and then Rohini tried. She tried her level best but a slip and she literally crashed down bruising herself but again no greater harm there. It was then that Miron declared, no one’s going up without locking themselves. So then Miron went up first and then set up a belay with Sujit’s help. Venkee then tied us to the belay one by one (girls first as it was almost 6.30 pm and getting darker). All earlier patched were no problem to climb when tied to the rope but my body had frozen so much that I messed it up here and added few scratches and bruises to my body. Rohini made it safely the second time. Dipti too climbed this one fairly good but by the time we girls made it was dark and we all cuddled to one corner. I had left my raincheater with Bhushan and I was freezing all the more. Finally, Dipti gave me hers, which I covered over myself like a tent. It wasn’t sufficient but a lot better than nothing. Finally, at around 7.45 pm, all were up the last patch and by 8.00 pm we had wrapped up. It was dark and we could hear gushing waterfall nearby. All torches went on and we moved in a pack huddled together. Everyone was freezing but the only solace being that we would be reaching the warmth of caves kept us moving. That was only momentarily as the visibility went out due to fog and we lost track of our way on a small rocky patch. We couldn’t find direction arrow. Kama and Anantha had moved ahead hours earlier to book ourselves in a cave. We placed our bags on the rock and stood there. Few guys went here and there to try finding the path but the waterfall sound made it so dreadful that we asked all the guys not to spread anywhere. We just knew we were at the Kokankada and had absolutely no idea on which side was the kada that mean we couldn’t wander to look for the path. The gushing waterfall was sounded so near that we all again huddled and tried in vain to block ourselves from the wind by placing the hitlon mats around us. Miron suddenly had an idea and tried calling Tukaram and Badri (Kama and Anantha’s friend who stay in a nearby village on the other side) as their mobiles were out of network. Unfortunately Badri’s phone was not reachable and Tukaram’s phone was with some lady (I am still not sure if she was his wife or his sister). But somehow, fate wanted it differently as Tukaram was at the caves and there was no one in the village, who could have come to our rescue LShe only explained on and on that cross a Nalla and we would find the way. But what nalla was she talking of? Now, the only way, remained was to wait for Kama or Anantha to realize we must have lost our way and come for rescuing us. By then, we had somewhat prepared us for the then seemingly terrible night. Still when Miron announced to put up on that rocky surface for the night under the freezing night rain failingly trying to block the winds from reaching us, not everyone took it nicely. Nopes, no hard feeling there but only a being who could have gone through what we had, would understand the humanness of those meaningless curses beneath the breath. When all this drama was going on, our breath was freezing as quickly as a black mamba but the clock was ticking as slowly as a snail. We all removed our mats and laid them on the rocky patch by which time, the mats had drenched as much as we were. Now, as it was raining gustily we had to cover atleast our faces. So everyone removed the sleeping bags and zipped them open so that 3 could huddle together for as much warmth as possible. Miron, Ambarishand Kunal went off again to try and search for the path. Miron left his phone with Rohini just incase if anyone from the village would call back. And now we had huddled ourselves back and laid on our backs. How much ever tired we were, we couldn’t sleep. By now, our bodies had frozen as much possible. Being in Mumbai for so long, our bodies were well adjusted to as much heat and humidity but not to so much cold and fog. Everyone shared whatever shelter was available without a trace of selfishness. Someone had removed some theplas or some parathas (trust me I am phobic to theplas and parathas) and I ate it as hurriedly as others. Tukaram’s wife/sister called back or Rohini called her. Another faded memory from the night. And Rohini in her Marathi tried to explain our problem to her and ask for help. The entire Marathi speaking crowd understood that she needed help but no one had the energy to get up and talk on the phone. Anyways hats off to Rohini for being brave enough to try for all of us. All her efforts went in vain but Miron leaving back his mobile phone was fruitful as 3 of them had lost their way back to us and we could give them directions back to us. We faintly saw their torches and heard their voices but thought they are calling each other. Still few of us called back and lighted our torches. Finally they came back and told us that they were lost and couldn’t find their way. It was almost , 12.30 am now when the 3 of them were back. By then, I could hold the rains no longer on my bare legs with just a plastic over my head. And I had to remove my blanket despite Bhushan’s scolding me. I had heard Mum and Dad telling me that in olden days, people used thick blankets, which gave warmth to body even after getting wet and dripping. Afterwards, Bhushan did agree that my blanket (not so thick as a Ghongdi) gave some warmth. Everyone was just trying to stay alive with the ticking of clock. We were lying on our backs but our heads were in water and after a while few of us went into hallucination stage forgetting that we were nowhere on the highest direct fall cliff of Sahyadris. Time was not passing and we were literally waiting for the night to pass. Few were even cursing themselves to undertake such a task as coming for the trek. Few of us were going into a state of unconsciousness and then suddenly jerked back to reality by someone’s shivering or moans of pains. At around 3.00 am when everyone was praying to all nature Gods for stopping the rains, the drizzle turned into a huge pour and then finally in and out of hallucination it was 5.30 am and then it was 6.00 am but no one was ready to remove the shelter. I could see from the gap of my plastic sheet that there was just fog. Finally Miron, removed his side of the cover and his white face (out of whole night in rain) went more whiter. The moment his eyes cleared of fog, he was the so called nalla was where we slept entire night. Though, the sound of gushing water was booming, of which, we were so scared, it was the same stream we had to cross and there was this path JSo this was how we spent our night at the legendary Konkankada with almost no shelter, pouring rains and freezing winds. None of our words can express that night enough or our feelings. Only the 17 of us can understand the importance of that night as after waking up we were all one group, a bond, which was brought by the terrifying conditions. So now when I think and reconsider the night a thought crosses my mind and a feeling crosses my heart – was that night a test for our bond together? Anyways, I am thankful to that nature for keeping us together. One decision, which made us go through that night, was to stay together huddled to each other.
Well, in the morning, we started our walk towards the cave. At that moment, I was so thankful to nature god for that foggy and rainy night. Walking along the Kada ahead with gusty winds and slippery paths, I could understand our need of the night stay there. Maybe others who read this would think it was very terrible but we who witnessed it understand how Nature safe kept us from any harm, which might have came our way had we decided to walk off in the night. We met Kama and Anantha (worry clear on their faces for our well-being). Both had come to rescue us thrice during the night lighting their torches and yelling our name from the other side of nalla. But no voice came to us nor did any light and our voices never reached them or our lights too. Well, we then moved to the caves, where we had tea and biscuits without changing (no dry clothes to change L) Pohe was on the way and Venkee very generously offered his Maggi packets for us. Dipti agreed to cook but Kama told her to take rest and then finally, we had hot (not to our frozen tongues) Pohe and maggi to our fill. Few of us then went to Kedarling temple when few stayed back to rest. All that beautiful architecture was so pleasant to look at but it was so disgusting to see drunkards all over the place. Stinking filthy ones roaming over the place like slimy worms LOnce, we got back to the caves and we started our return journey. Lunch was to be back at the village. We bidded farewell and conveyed our thanks to Kama and Badri from here. Return journey was safe but descending on a curvy rock patch was tricky. So we linked ourselves together and safely made it to the base. Back at the village (Pimpalgoan), we had late lunch. After about 45 minutes the jeeps arrived and we were off to Mumbai. We dozed off after we crossed Malshej ghat. Our bodies now started answering the bruises and cuts, you are right in thinking that till then our bodies had lost sensation. We literally had to pick our legs while settling in the car as they couldn’t move on their own JI now sign off as I have to pack for this weekend’s (30th August 2012 – 2nd September 2012) AMK adventure.