Published: March 16th 2009March 5th 2009
went trekking in the Harishchandra range in Maharashtra. the summit is 1424m. we started on sat. feb 21. I was to meet my friends Mallik and Sanjay in Kalyan at 6pm. They were taking the train from Mumbai to Kalyan. As for me, I started at 3:30pm from Savarsai village, took a rickshaw to Pen, then from Pen, I took a bus to Panvel, then from Panvel, I took another bus to Kalyan. I didn't know there was an express from Panvel to Kalyan and took the slow bus which arrived there at 6:55pm so I was really late. When I got there, they said the bus we needed to take is at 7pm so we didn't miss it but when we waited, we saw the bus leave as it picked people up in another stand, not the one we expected. when we asked, they said we could catch the bus to Murbad and from there, catch another bus to Savarne (the village we want to go to). so we did. it took an hour to get to Murbad and from there we caught another bus to Savarne, but when we got on, we realized it was the one we missed :). We got to Savarne about 9:30pm. a villager in Savarne showed us a path and said this is the way to Belpada (where we will sleep for the night) so off we went. it's suppose to be a 45 min walk to Belpada, the village closest to the mountain where we plan to hike. we walked about 3 minutes and then got lost. we tried to go further and then heard dogs barking which meant there are people nearby, so we went towards the barking, somebody came out. the villager told us to take the path by his hut, so we did. but we quickly got lost again. again, there was barking, and again we asked for directions, etc., etc., this went on for quite some time. We were in complete darkness with just our headlamps. I think this is why they say one should never hike at night. anyway, I found it funny how each villager would tell us to take the path beside their hut. hmmm... Some of the people we approached were sleeping outside their hut which was common. One man who helped us was very very old and emaciated. He was wearing only a cloth that covered his private parts which was held around his waist by a string. He was sitting on a mat outside his hut and his long hair was wound with a cloth around the top of his head. He looked so much like some yogi or holy man in those yoga or meditation books. My friends told me that this is a very typical old villager—they all look like that. What he was wearing is the traditional underwear, and for sure, he could run up the mountain faster than any of us. (oh! well, he is sort of like a yogi, then!) Hey, if I’m writing some spiritual book, I could just go and find some old villager, take his photo and put it in the book and my crap will look completely authentic!
we finally went over this hill and got to Belpada at 11:30pm. I was so dead tired! I have to say though that hiking in the dark was fun in a very different way :) In Belpada, we stopped at the first hut and slept outside the hut under a thatched covering (awning) which was made with sticks stuck together with mud and this dried mud kept falling down in the form of fine particles so that by morning, I was covered with soot. We just rolled out our mats and slept as we were all really tired. However, the baby inside the hut kept crying, dogs were barking, motor bikes came passing by and various other noises kept me up most of the night. When we got up at 5:45 am, I felt really tired. The woman inside the hut came out and brought us some water for washing, and then some tea and water for drinking (from the village well). We asked for no sugar in the tea but it was still a bit sweet. The woman had 5 children, all girls. We paid her 50 Rs for her service. This is camping, Indian style. You can find villagers almost everywhere in India. why pack a stove?
We started our trek at 7am and hired a villager to guide us. The climb was pretty steep and it was really hard for me as I was so out of shape. I couldn’t keep up and kept making everyone wait for me. There was a section that was pretty straight up so the guide went up first and hoisted our packs up and then we climbed up. I’ve never climbed heights with such a heavy pack which had 3 L of water, some food and sleeping bag, etc. I normally would enjoy these kind of climbs but I have to say I didn’t enjoy it at all because of the heavy pack, it was quite painful, but when we got to the top and I saw the view, I thought it was totally worth the pain. The guide left us just before the top and we paid him 300 Rs. We got to the top around 12 noon. Hiked a bit more, found a shady spot and stopped for lunch for an hour. The section we went up is called Konkan kada as the range is in a semi-circle (kada=bangle). The route we went up is where the water comes down during the rainy season so it was just all rocks which are washed down with the water. The semi-circular side of Konkan kada (you can google for images) is a sheer vertical wall of about 2000 ft with a slight overhang at the top. Apparently, professional rock climbers have done this wall. I wonder where they anchor because I couldn’t see anything to anchor to at the top and there were no bolts. I couldn’t see any cracks either. The view at the top was spectacular. there were mountain ranges everywhere you turned. however, the view would be 10 times more spectacular if there wasn't haze everywhere (because it's so dry) which obscured the horizon and other ranges that were further away. so the best time to come up here would be right after the rainy season when all the dust is gone and everything is green (Sep or Oct).
We continued our hike down the other side of Konkan kada to Harishchandreshwar Mandir (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harishchandragad) which is a temple from the 6th century. Most of the statues are eroded to just stones of indistinguishable shapes and the original shivalingam has eroded down to nothing but people still pray to it. There was a sunken room that contained spring water that comes down from the mountains and we filled our bottles there as we were all out of water by that time. The water tasted really sweet. Beside the main temple is an even older temple with a huge shivalingam surrounded by a large pool of water. There were many caves around (dug out from rocks) and since this is a shiva temple and tomorrow being Shivratri, there were tons of people around. The caves were all taken up by people staying overnight and there were also many tents set up. As we descended down from the temple to the village Khireshwar, there was an endless stream of people going up, bringing cricket bats, balls, etc. I guess the festival is just like a huge picnic for all the villagers around. We took the Tolar Khind—the path that takes you to the path that descends into the village—which is suppose to have 7 humps but we took a shortcut that had only one hump (the path to the right, so coming up, it would be the path to the left). The descent to the village was pretty steep as well but most of it was an actual path through the forest, not a rocky water route like the one we went up. We left the temple at 4pm and got to the village restaurant by 6:15. the lime drink at this place was awesome. after dinner, as we were walking out from the village to the main road, we caught a mini-tempo-like vehicle for cargo that drove us to the main road. I was so happy about that because the road was flat but very rocky and my feet were killing me, and I was so dead that I really couldn’t walk anymore. When we got to the main road, we saw a lot of lights up ahead and headed towards that. It turned out to be a huge restaurant. There was a bus parked there—what a lucky break!—it was an express bus to Kalyan that stopped at the restaurant for a break. As soon as we got on, it took off. We got to Kalyan at 10:45pm and then took the train to Mumbai. For me, the trip officially ended at midnight. I was so dead, I slept till 3:30pm the next day. I so wanted to sleep more but I had to get up, goddamn it!