This article is contibuted by Ruzbeh Billimoria
Trek Dates : 25th & 26th January, 2003
Bhramanti group, a few guests and a few new comers, all gathered at Mumbai CST at 11pm on Friday, 24th January 2003. We caught the last train to Karjat at 12.45am. A few participants boarded the train at Dadar and a few met us directly at Kalyan. We reached Kalyan at 2.15am and spent the remaining night at the ST depot. In all we were 17 and our group leader was Rajan, a very experienced trekker. We were also lucky to have other experienced trekkers like Milind Gyani, Deepak Deorukhkar & Dharmesh Desai.
We caught the first bus at 5.30am, but had to disembark because a few participants arrived late. We finally caught the 6am bus. The ride was very scenic and the driver was very fast. We could see the beautiful hills, peaks and forts of the Malshej Ghat region. Just before reaching the top of Malshej there is a tunnel, resembling the one on the Khandala Ghat. At Malshej we saw the Flamingo Hill Resort at the edge of the ghats. We finally got down at Khubi phata at 9am, about 92kms. from Kalyan. This is not an official ST stop, but one can request the conductor to halt the bus here. We had breakfast and tea at the roadside tea-stall. To our good luck we got an empty tempo going to Khireshwar, the base village of Harishchandragad, 5kms. away. This saved us an hour of walking. There is a beautiful man-made lake all along the road. In fact the road is built on the dam.
At Khireshwar we had an introduction and a brief talk by our leader. We decided to take the Tolar Khind route to our destination, Harishchandragad. After a 15 minutes walk two routes bifurcate. A few who were ahead took the easier route on the right and the few lagging behind took the route on the left. This route requires a bit of rock-climbing. Both the routes eventually meet in the forest just before a small water tank. Finally, the entire group met at Tolar Khind. We took a bit of rest and turn left to Harishchandragad as indicated by arrows. The route straight ahead goes to Kothale village. The entire route from the base village to the fort is marked with red and white arrows, so it is very easy to locate the route. After a tricky climb we reach the plateau of the fort. From here after crossing 7 humps we finally reach the fort at 2.30pm. We quickly occupy 2 caves in the Harishchandreshwar Mahadev temple complex, a beautiful temple carved from solid black rock. After lunch and a bit of rest we proceed to Konkan Kada at 5pm. This is a unique formation in the Sahyadris and the best part of the fort. It is a semi-circular cliff of about 1000 feet straight drop in the Konkan plains. The grandeur and beauty of the plains and the surrounding mountains leaves us totally spellbound. It is such a fascinating site that a boy from Pune jumped off this cliff. A monument is built in his memory which no longer exists. We sit and wait for sunset as it is one of the best sunsets in the Sahyadris. At 7pm, after viewing the beautiful sunset we proceed back to the temple with the help of our torches. We then prepare our dinner with the help of a stove and utensils. After dinner we knock- off by 10pm. It was a wonderful experience sleeping in caves.
The next day on Republic day, we got up at 7am and after freshening up we proceed to Taramati peak, the highest point of the fort at 4671 feet. It is an easy half hour climb uphill. There is a small Shivling on Taramati. From here in the north we get a very good view of Igatpuri range of mountains and the highest peak of the Sahyadris, Kalsubai at 5400 feet. In the south we can see the Malshej road, Nane Ghat. After a few group photographs, we come back to our cave and have our breakfast.
We then decide to take the Junnar darwaja route to Khireshwar via 'Kalshaya col'. Since the route was unknown to us we hire a villager who runs a small dhaba on the fort. We finally start our trek at 11am. After crossing a hump we start descending. After sometime we come across a gully which descends steeply down. It is known as 'Wat' in Marathi. This route is the ancient route and there are steps which are in very bad condition. At the side there are niches in the wall for gripping. After 2 hours of descending we turn left in the forest and finally we reach Khireshwar at 5pm. After having water we walk back to Khubi phata. We have tea here and wait for a ST bus. No ST bus stopped here because they were full. We decide to hire a tempo. The tempo was full of goonies of onions and we had to sit over them. We sang songs and enjoyed ourselves. Even though the tempo was going to Kalyan, the driver agreed to take us to Murbad, 29kms. short of Kalyan. We reached Murbad at 9.30pm from where we hired a Trax to Kalyan station. This was indeed a memorable trek for all of us and I hope to see you in the future.
(27th January 2003)
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