I haven’t trekked much in the last 2 months. A reason for that might be that it isn’t Monsoons yet (my favorite season for trekking). Anyways, this Sunday was fixed for the trek to Ajoba Hills, which has been in my list for some time now.
Quoting from the wiki – Standing at a height of 4511 feet in the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, Ajoba Hill is one of the highest peaks in the Sahyadri ranges. Situated in the Shahapur Taluka at the base village of Dehene, the Ajoba Hill is considered sacred due to the local folklore that this was the place where goddess Sita stayed in an Ashram during her exile and separation from Lord Rama. Halfway through the climb up the mountain is located the “Valmiki Ashram” and the cave here Goddess Sita stayed with her two sons Luv and Khush. The hill got its name from the term “Ajoba” which means grandfather in Marathi – a term that Luv and Khush used to address Saint Valmiki. It is also believed that Saint Valmiki’s Samadhi in the hill increases in size every few years.
A Sunday morning trek means that you get to sacrifice your Saturday night plans and go to bed sober, fully hydrated and with a conviction in mind that you won’t hit snooze button no matter what. This part of the plan really went well as we found ourselves at the Dadar Station at 7 in the morning, helping ourselves with Samosa Paav while waiting for the Fast to Kasara. It took us 90 minutes to reach Asangaon from Dadar, the place from where the journey to our base village Dehne was set to start.
We inquired the locals for the fastest way to reach Dehne. Turned out that a 9 PM bus to Shahpur followed by a jeep / auto from Shahpur to Dehne was what we needed to take. We got into the bus and found some time to finish some of our sleep while the bus ran through the fields towards its destination. It took us an hour and 30 bucks to reach Shahpur.
Going onwards we tried our luck with a jeep there. The driver told us that it would not leave until the jeep is full. And by full he meant a total of 16 heads to be stuffed in there. “Why do you need to stuff that much”, I asked. To this the driver replied – “Arey bhaiyya police waalo ko hafta dene k liye jyaada baithaana padta hai”. Typical story there. We decided to skip the torture chamber and booked an auto for Dehne. 20 minutes later, we were standing in Dehne village, all prepared to start our trek.
The first stop from here was the Valmiki Ashram, which was an hour trek from Dehne. The second part was the trek from Ashram to the Luv – Kush cave, which would take another hour. Though a trek of short duration, the second part of the trek is considered to be really challenging with the very steep rocky terrain.
The trail from Dehne to Ashram was pretty straightforward. Keep ascending the sandy road for the next few kilometres. You could make it more interesting by taking detours through the forest.
On the way we met a lady with her two kids who were also headed towards the Ashram. At the start they took it on their ego when we got past them and they kept running ahead to make sure they won the race. But in some time we were walking ahead together. Since the kids had no school on Sunday, they were going to the Ashram to help their dad in distributing Prasad. They told us the stories about all those monkeys in the Ashrams and how they are very excited about Maha Shivratri the next day when all the people from nearby villages will come to the Ashram, many shops will be set up there and the kind of fun they are going to have. We passed a swarm of honey bees which they dismissed as being completely harmless.
We did not realize how the time went by and we had already reached the much talked about place – The Valmiki Ashram.
First look and the place appeared to have surfaced right out of the stories. Humans, monkeys, cows and dogs all seemed to be living together without any conflict. The place was abuzz with people starting their preparation for the Maha Shivratri. There were temples dedicated to God Rama, Sita and Shiva. The tall trees canopied all the cottages. Seldom will you find a place with such a beautiful blend of Nature.
So the kids asked us to come to the center cottage. Their dad welcomed us and invited us for lunch. All the guests to the Ashram were given a free meal. They believed that no one, be it humans or animals, should be hungry. We were really overwhelmed by the way we were treated. The joy of being selfless was evident. Everyone in the Ashram had a smile on their face.
Post the meal when we went to wash our hand, a saint sitting their told us to wash our hands over the plants. That way every drop of water will serve dual purpose. A lot to learn. After seeking blessings from Lord Ram and Shiva we left for the Luv Kush cave.
We asked for a few directions and left for the Luv Kush cave. 15 minutes down and the trail had already started challenging us. It looked more like rock climbing. The ascent was getting steeper with every climb and we kept convincing ourselves that we would reach a plateau real soon. We also looked for alternative paths, but there was none. So we continued going forward upwards.
Half an hour of relentless climbing and we knew that this was the wrong path. By this time we had hit a dead end – a 100 m cliff stared right at us. We wanted to give it a try but the descent already looked way difficult than we had prepared for. Even settling at a place there required us to maintain a tough grip without relaxing.
This trek was all about maintaining the right grip. Loose rocks made the descent even more difficult. One wrong step could have been fatal. As there was no alternative, we decided to take it one step at a time and descend.
We were lucky to make it back down without a single scratch (Well that’s just a phrase – I had scratches all over my body as I was using both hands and legs during descend. The point is that no one sustained any injury). It was already 2 in the afternoon and we had to drop our plan to visit Luv – Kush cave. I am a big cricket fan and was not ready to miss the Asia Cup final.
We sat near a stream for some time pondering over how beautiful and adventurous last 2 hours had been. We wouldn’t repeat the same if given a chance but were glad that we did it the first time. Missing the visit to the caves was in our minds but the alternative experience was almost as good, if not better.
Time to head back home boys. The rest of the descend was pretty simple. We kept on walking for some 90 minutes, encountering the Ashram once again, more people making their way to the Ashram for Maha Shivratri and kids playing while their parents were involved in preparations. More than one person in our way requested us to stay back for the night as the festival was bound to be a great experience. We contemplated but decided against it. Any other day, we might have stayed but we were unable to convince ourselves.
The area after Dehne village looked like a desert. No human, birds or animals in view. Appeared everyone had already left for the festival.
We took a cab to Shahpur (playing good old Hindi Songs) followed by another cab to Asangaon. The 5 PM fast to CST dropped us at Dadar by 6.30 PM. The match was delayed due to rain but we got the result we wanted. India crushed their opponent once again to lift the Asia Cup. Could the day have been better for me? In my dreams, may be.