Thank God it's a Friday !!!!!!!! Just about the only positive thought that occured to me while spending a long, dreadful hour in an Autorickshaw waiting to get to Andheri Station, since the prospect of an adventurously exciting monsoon trek to Harishchandragadh for the coming weekend with Nakool, a friend accompanying me for the trek, was looming large in my mind.
Little did we know however what adventure Harishchandragadh had in store for us, for since the time we reached Khubi Phata @ 0300 Hrs after taking the last ST bus service from Kalyan, till the time we reached the non-descripit vilage of Pachnai, we completed a monsoon trek that will stay etched in our memories for a very long time to come.
After getting down at Khubi Phata in the middle of a very foggy night , we settled down in a local roadside joint,hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before commencing our trek at the crack of dawn, here we met a group of trekkers from Pune & soon realised that busloads of trekkers were already at Harishchandragadh & finding accomodation in the caves at the top was going to be a problem.Heavy fog resulting in reduced visibility delayed our start by an hour , however the 5 km walk from the Phata to Khireshwar village walking along the banks of the Khireshwar dam is one of the best walks of my life, dense fog cutting of the view from all sides & only a little patch of road directly in front of us visible, it felt much like a heavenly walk amidst clouds.Finally an hour later we managed to reach Khireshwar village & headed straight to a local dhaba, a nourishing breakfast of Poha & a steaming cup of Hot tea in the rainy weather did much to liven up our spirits,& finally half an hour later we were ready to make the final push to the top,walking along the well beaten track, we soon crossed the dense jungles at the base of the fort, & gaining altitude slowly but steadily reached the Tolar Khind- a 100 ft rock wall that stands guard to the fort. Here we decided to take some rest before proceeding ahead & had a very nourishing drink of lime juice in the makeshift hut of a villager, talking to him we soon realised that the crossing of Khind was going to be a very dangerous & risky affair.
The 100 ft natural rock wall exposed to deep valleys on one side and sheer rock face on the other side was for me an adrenaline rush the kind of which i was just hoping for when i left home , with sleets of rain falling ferociously upon us, coupled with heavy winds threatening to blow us off on each step, & dense fog cutting of all visibility, approach was of neccesity ,slow & cautious, since one false step could mean a fall into eternity, finally however we succesfully negotiated the slippery rock face to reach the top, where nature blessed us with such a magnificient view that made all the effort in getting to the top seem worthy enough.With the clouds below us & only the mountain tops above them visible it was like we had entered the gates of heaven to be blessed by mother nature herself, making ourselves comfortable in a villagers hut & getting some much needed warmth from the little fire that he kept going , we relaxed for some time & clicked plenty of pictures before moving onto the final leg of the journey to reach the Harishchandragadh Temple.
The 5 Km walk after crossing the Tolar Khind takes us across seven hills, with crossing of numerous streams raging wild in the monsoons & winds that can make you fly like birds before it reaches a natural depression in the hills where the temple complex is situated. It took us 2 hrs to reach the temple & if it was not for a helpful villager we met on the way we would have easily lost our way in the jungles at the top since we had lost all sense of direction in that foggy weather.By the time we reached the temple complex , the weather had turned from bad to worse & the hillside was being lashed with torrential rains. Heavy fog had engulfed us & we quickly decided to take shelter in the brahminical caves situated a little distance from the temple complex to assess our situation & contemplate on the next course of action.Here to our immense dissatisfaction we found that most of the caves were water logged & the ones that weren't were already occupied by other trekkers, also since food for trekkers was being made in the caves itself, the resulting kerosene fires accompanied by heavy smoke caused us a lot of discomfort, finally we agreed that there was no point staying on top ,contrary to our plan of spending the night in the caves & ascending the Taramati peak the following morning, & had also to forgo of the plans to visit the Konkan Kada because of inclement weather,a decision that caused us immense dissatisfaction since we were really looking forward to visiting the kada.
After a Staple meal of Maggi & Soup, we came to the conclusion of descending the mountain from the other side, & to this effect we hired a villager to take us down via the Ahmednagar Route to the village of Pachnai .The 4 Km descent to the village of Pachnai from the temple is one of the best monsoon walks that i have had the fortune to undertake, crossing numerous waterfalls along the edge of the mountain face, with panoramic views of nearby mountain ranges & every step along the way displaying mother nature's magnificient bounty, it is a monsoon walk that i would recommend to every passionate trekker.
Soon we reached the Village of Pachnai & Dinkar, the local villager who helped us during the descent very graciously offered to accomodate us in his humble house in the village, with no other choices we accepted his invitation thankfully & made way to his home which felt suprisingly comfortable to our tired limbs, & cooping ourselves up in the sleeping bags we had carried, took some much needed rest.
Soon it was evening & a very refreshing Herbal Tea prepared by Dinkar gave our bodies some much needed warmth from the chilling weather outside, conversing with him & a few others gathered at his house we realised the extent of poverty under which the village was reeling, with no electricity, medical facilities, proper sanitation & schooling facilities. Limited means of income with a very low standard of life meant that the village was under a perennial state of poverty with no hope of progress in the shining & incredible India. Inspite of all this however our very gracious host spared no efforts to make us comfortable, & much to our discomfort stretched his very limited resources to please us by getting some freshly laid eggs from his poultry which were probably meant to be served as breakfast to his young & growing children. After a Hearty meal of Egg Bhurji , Maggi & a most delicious bhakri prepared very lovingly by Dinkar's elderly mother it was time for a peaceful night of sleep in the very homely atmosphere of Dinkar's house.
Reflecting back on the trek ,every moment of which was spent walking in torrential rains, coupled with dense fog & high velocity winds enhanced with the experience of a traditional homestay in the village of Pachnai ,we realised that we had succesfully completed a challenging monsoon trek, the kind of which will stay fresh in our memories for a very long time to come for the thrill it provided & the friendly & peaceful village life encountered along the way.
The following morning we took the first & only ST bus connecting the Village from the from the rest of the district to Rajur from where a local Jeep got us to the nearest railhead i.e Kasara , & then to Home, hoping to continue my love affair with the mountains the following weekend.