Monday, December 26, 2011

A trek that tested our strength

In past couple of years, since all of us got a bike / car and have started working somewhere, we have started enjoying luxurious treks with respect to food variety, taking vehicle till the very end of the road before we can start climbing up some fort. It has become very easy and time saving with a vehicle at our disposal and we can cover any forts at far distances, but every time, at some point we feel that we should now go to a real trek.

Having a last 3 days weekend of this year, Parth & myself decided to go for a trek that can actually be called a real nice trek. So, on the 22nd afternoon we talked to couple of friends and booked bus tickets for Ashish, Parth and myself. We started for Nashik by 11:59 pm bus and had to get out of it at Narayangav around 1:30 in the morning due to a punctured tyre. We took another bus to Nashik around 2 am and reached there by 5:15 am.

23rd December 2011
Koldher
After having cleaned up and having some breakfast at Padmalaxmi, the best south Indian restaurant on the bus stand, we walked to the old bus stand and got a Nandurbar bus around 7 am. By mistake we got down at Kheldari village, instead of Kheldari phata. We started from the village at 8:45 am, and on the way to Kheldari phata, saw lots of Grape plantations. Kheldari phata (near toll) comes after Kheldari village and the phata is nearer to the Koldher fort, so it is advisable to get down at the Kheldari phata and start walking on the road opposite to the toll. From this road we need to take left turn after Kheldari substation and veet bhatti (the place where bricks are made) to go in the cole, which leads to Koldher fort. We need to cross couple of farms and Mr. Damu Sonavane's house on the way. By the time we passed Mr. Sonavane's house, it was 11 am. The way to reach top of the cole, goes from the right side of the mountains, even though the Koldher fort is on the left side.

Fort Kanchana till Fort Dhodap seen from Koldher
We reached at the base of Koldher fort around 12 and after resting for few minutes started climbing up the fort. There is nothing much to see on the fort although it is spread quite far on the both sides from where we climbed up. After climbing up for around 15 minutes, on the left side of Koldher, there is a stone with a carving of Lord Hanuman, which is quite difficult to find on the fort but we coincidentally saw it. Since there is no marked path from this level, we randomly started climbing up the fort towards to topmost area. To reach the base of the dyke, a stone level needs to be climbed. We thought of climbing up that level from wherever we could as there is nothing but lot of thorny hay and cactus on the entire fort but as we reached the stone level, we found some carved steps leading to the base of dyke. We had a quick lunch of bread, butter, sauce, karanji etc. in the shades on the steps. As per the books we referred, technical climbing is required to go up the dyke so it was not an option for us. So we went up to the left of the dyke to see the view behind it. We were amazed to see the range of forts and hills, from fort Kanchana to Fort Dhodap, so nicely arranged that make a fabulous view.

Rajdher
Around 2:10 pm we had to start walking down, as we wanted to go on Rajdher fort for night's stay. We went back to the cole on the right of Koldher and took small path towards a plateau opposite to Koldher fort. In half an hour we reached a small dam, built above Shindewadi. The dam water is used by cattle but on the other side of the dam a small pond is available with potable water. It was already passed 4 pm by the time we filled water bottles and it was crucial to move towards Rajdher, as one of our friends had told us to climb up the ladder at Rajdher in the day light, otherwise it is pretty difficult to find it. He had also told us that the Koldher to Rajdher trek takes around 4 hours and we had reached the dam in less than an hour. Fortunately one of the shepherds, Somnath mama from Rajdherwadi agreed to show us the path towards Rajdher and we started from the spot around 4:30 pm. The climb was quite steep and with heavy rucksacks it was not possible to climb up very fast. It was due to Somnath mama, we sprinted like never before and reached the ladder just before 6 pm. As Somnath mama left for Rajdherwadi, we started climbing up the ladder. The ladder is around 50 feet and take us to the stone carved steps to the fort. The amazing thing about this ladder is that at around 25-30 feet, there is an overhang. It is scary to climb up with heavy weight on back but it is scarier while climbing down as it is difficult to see the steps below. But at the same time it is exciting..

Ladder at Rajdher
We rested on the steps for couple of minutes and were on our feet again in search of a place to stay. When we climb up the stairs and come on the flat grounds, there are 2 small pillars standing, forming a way to enter the fort. On the right side, there is a bastion at the end of the fort, on the way there are remnants of buildings and another structure with 3 arches, which can be a place to stay. Facing towards the topmost area of the fort, there is a cave carved in stone, upside on the right and an area on the left is marked around a grave. If we face the cave, on the left there are some stairs, a temple like but closed structure and a water tank hidden in a cave. The water is potable and cool. If we take the stairs and keep walking on the path, towards the upper part of the fort, couple of trees can be see n on the left side, one of which is a some palm tree. This tree is the landmark to find a lake which mostly have been a stone build water tank. On the right side of this lake there is a temple and path alongside the lake reaches there. We climbed up from the side of Palm tree and had to go from the lake side stones, but it is better to follow the steps and the path which directly takes you to a spot from where it is easy to fill up water from lake and the same path goes towards temple. Temple is situated exactly above one of the side of lake and it seems a bit hidden. It is a lord Shiva's temple and can accommodate 3 people. We had soup and Khichadi for dinner and went to sleep in the temple around 11 pm.

24th December  2011
We had been walking for around 12 hours the day before so we rested more than expected and woke up around 7:30 am. Packing up, breakfast took quite a while and before we proceeded to see the fort, it was 11 am. It took around an hour to see all the places on the fort. We started climbing down and had a snack break at a cave like place by the side of stairs near fort entrance. The view from this cave is fabulous, Indrai is spread over a large area, only hay and cactus is spread in region, a beautiful and quite large water reservoir adds up to the beauty of the view.

After climbing down the stairs while facing Indrai, the path on left goes to Rajdherwadi. The whole path is marked with white paint on stones and it is quite easy to find it. It took us 2 hours to reach Rajdherwadi. On the way we met Mr. Vasant Vithoba Jadhav fom Rajdherwadi, who has climbed up all these forts and explained the route to us and shared his experiences. Mr. Prakash Pawar, who let us cook our lunch at his house, showed us from where we need to climb up the Indrai fort and asked us to take his number so that if required we can call him to ask for directions.

Indrai from Rajdher
Indrai is spread from west to east, as seen from Rajdherwadi. We started climbing from east side of the mountain, shifted towards west side and climbed up on a plateu. We thought the stairs would be somewhere in the rock on the far east side which we could see from the village, but as we turned around the east corner we had seen, there was another wall standing there which added to our worries. Now there were 2 ways going up and we didnt know which one lead to the stairs. Ashish and Parth went to check out these paths, one on the Chandwad fort's side and on the Rajdherwadi's side respectively and as the sun was going down on the other side of the fort, drowning everything around in a starry night, Ashish came calling for us, telling he had finally found the stairs. It took us another 10 minutes to reach the stairs and by 6:30 pm we were on the fort. Finally once again we had managed to climb up the fort before everything went dark. Now another issue infront of us was finding caves to stay. The problem was that the books said the caves were on the right side of the fort facing Rajdher and caves we knew, where our friends had stayed few months back were on the left of the fort facing Chandwad fort. After climbing up the stairs we started climbing up on the left side and kept walking on the path which we thought was leading us correctly and finally in another half an hour we reached the caves. Few people were already camping in one of the caves and they showed us the water cistern with potable water. We decided on staying in a cave and literally danced there to level the soil in the cave to have a flat ground to sleep on. It was quite chilly and it felt great to drink soup then. We had a nice Corn - Mint rice and went to sleep around 11 pm.

25th December 2011
The Indrai fort has spread over a large area and we can feel the vastness of it in a glance anywhere around.

There are these caves facing Chandwad, which does not have any carvings, only pillars outside some caves have some carved designs. In the same line as these caves there are water cisterns on the left and right. Climbing up on another level from the caves, walking towards tho top most area of the fort on the west side, there is a temple of Lord Shiva. Temple is quite big with couple of pillars in it. But due to the pillars there isn't much space for staying there. There is a small dry lake / rock cut cistern in front of the temple. On the upper plateau of this temple, there is a huge rock cut water tank with stairs to reach the water. Nearby, some remnants of buildings can be seen.

Lake near Lord Shiva's temple
Lord Shiva's temple and water tank
Caves facing Chandwad

We wanted to find the caves facing towards Rajdher and it was already 11 am, so we decided to skip Chandwad and find the caves. We climbed up and down the fort and got great views of the surrounding forts but unfortunately didnt find those caves and had to start back by 12:30 pm. We took a stop at a water cistern where the stairs to fort start going up. After having nice lemon sarbat, we started climbing down. Originally the plan was that if we skipped Chandwad fort then we could come back in Pune by a sensible night time. But when we started climbing down from the stairs, it was past 1 pm. On the way down we saw a rock carved Hanuman, which I suppose is referred as a temple by villagers. We kept climbing down and reached Vadbare village by 3 pm.

After unfruitful wait for a transport to reach the Mumbai - Agra highway, we started walking the 2 km distance and reached the highway in another half an hour. We saw an old but renovated temple of a deity Renuka. The temple is very big and the deity is situated in a cave inside the temple. 2 beautiful 'Deepmala' (Big pillars with number of slots to put lamps on), and old stone entrance are standing in front of the temple. Beyond this entrance, Chandwad village is situated.

We took a rikshaw to Chandwad bus stand. We reached Nashik by 7:15 pm, had some snacks and boarded a 8 o'clock bus for Pune. It felt like we were disconncted from the outside world for so long and it was so peaceful then. Now when I am writing this, I realised, even though there was an urgency while walking for 9-10 hours a day to reach on a fort in time, it never felt that tiring, but booking seats for the 8 o'clock bus and consuming snacks in those last 10-15 minutes, listening to the noises around felt so tiring. Among all this clutter, the only thing we could think of was how great the trek was and we should do such treks again.

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