Forts Trekking .Rappelling / Rock climbing. Celebration.
This sums up our three day journey (Feb 22 – Feb 25) of the famous AMK & Sandhan Valley Treks in the Nashik range of the Sahyadris, Maharashtra.
Let me dissect the above three words for you!
Forts Trekking :
It all started with a saying “New people, new place, new experience, then you are definitely in for a new adventure!” when I signed up for this trek. Formalities at the airport by meeting the new like-minded people. Curiosity in the mind when you are travelling to a new place, especially across the coast from east to west. As per the schedule arrived at the city of dreams, Mumbai at around 1930 Hrs on Feb 22. Reached the people packed Ghatkopar railway station with a small taste of pre-trek toast, followed by the so called “Power Nap” sessions in the local train to the last station Kasara. Boarded the jeeps to reach the base camp of the AMK trek. We were briefed on the next adventures about to come by our energetic organizers as we dropped our baggage and took only a minimal backpack and not to mention about attending the nature calls. Started the trek with the headlamps and torches around 0500 Hrs when dark was still battling with the sun. Our first target was towards Alang Fort. Initial part was more of an ascent till we reached the point where the rocky terrain started.
People have been so frequently visiting these places, no wonder there is a ladder to climb the tricky part. It was followed by mix of trails and rocky paths which was very narrow at times till we reached the base of the Alang fort around 0900 Hrs. We were accompanied by two humble guides who had the equipment for the climbing & rappelling along with the “master” chef. Our breakfast (The famous “Poha”) preparation was underway while we climbed up to Alang Fort to fill its ruined beauty & history into our minds and still water (you heard it right, stagnant and pure) from the tanks into our thirsty bottles. One unique thing about this part of Sahyadris is that unlike Western Ghats of Kerala & Karnataka, these are no scenic lush green paradises. These are more of a carved majestic sculptures, whose appearance itself speaks for its history and valor. Alang fort is ruined and has many water tanks, for which the rain is the only source. Back at the Alang base, had our breakfast and marched towards the next two forts. Here came out our first technical rappelling point. The reason why I used the word technical was that it had to be rappelled by using the harness and fixed ropes and bolts. Thanks to the many professional climbers (who had set up fixed bolts) and our two guides, the system was quickly set up as we were waiting for our turns to taste this stunt with a splendid valley being the backdrop. One by one descended safely and quickly there was another a “not so technical” rappelling point. While the others were rappelling, some of us marched towards the next fort Kulang. The walk to Kulang was very tiring given the sun was already on top of us and the trail was the mixture of rocks, loose sand & gravels and the thorny branches wishing us sometimes. The last stretch was a strenuous climb with carved steps (out of rocks) being as narrow as it gets. At times, you feel like it is just you in between the mountain and valley next to you. Kulang (~1400m) is again a ruined fort with lots of water tanks. We should take a moment to appreciate the genius of Shivaji and Marathas who built these forts at such heights, not to mention the knowledge of mountaineering they had given their guerrilla warfare strategies. Started to descend from Kulang at around 1200 Hrs towards the last piece of the puzzle for the day, I.e. Madan Fort. By the time we reached Madan base around 1330 Hrs, our Chef had prepared good Veg rice with basin sabji for us. After addressing the hungry paunch, we started towards conquering the last one. Again, the initial part was very narrow trail with only carved steps separating the mountain and the valley. It was followed by a brave rock climbing patch. Given the state of exhaustion and cramps we had, we were actually pulled up by our guides. You get a very good view of the Alang fort from Madan. Though we didn’t go up till the fort of Madan, we were satisfied that we had covered most of it. Again, same story, rappel, walk down and assemble at the Madan base. Started our descent towards the actual base camp at 1600 Hrs. As the sun started to set and dark started to knock, we reached the famous POTY point at 1900 Hrs. From here we were taken to the near-by village called Samrad. We were given good home hospitality from the natives of the village. We were served with a delicious roti, dhal and papad for our dinner. Also a space to sleep under the starry sky. When I look back to Feb 23rd, all I can recall is the bunch of fit CTCians completing this typically two day trek (tough? – how they rate it!) of ~29Km in 13 hrs of a single freaking day. And of course the haunting Forts.
Rappelling / Rock Climbing:
The reason why I strongly remember this word from our second day is because it was full of rocks, boulders and lots of rappelling. As planned, organizing team made everyone to wake up at 0400 Hrs, finished our duties, breakfast was served at 0430 Hrs, lunch was packed and handed over to everyone by 0500 Hrs (never seen this flow of breakfast and lunch packing so early in morning) and were ready to hit the trail. Our journey started towards the Sandhan Valley at 0500 Hrs, still dark but everyone was ready to shine. The initial part was rocks, boulders and again rocks till we reached a point where we had to cross a water stretch which was ~4 feet deep. We created a human chain to transfer the backpacks to the other end, while we were half drenched in the freezing cold water. Again the journey resumed with photographs, dead snake and fun owl. Sandhan valley is a very unique place where you walk inside the deep gorge. At times it felt like haunted or a place more suited for bandits. Since we were already way ahead of our day schedule, all of us rested for a while. Some were lost in the beauty of the valley, some were seriously discussing on current affairs and movies and some like me were a taking a power nap.
As we progressed and was slowly losing altitude, we reached our first rappelling point. Again, stick to your basics. Wear harness, hold the rope as directed, keep your knees straight, bend on your back, pose for a couple of pictures and done. You are almost ~60 ft below in doing this. This was followed by some of rappelling without a harness, a fall here and there, scratches on the body, a little bleeding until we reached our camping point. It was hardly 1100 Hrs. Sandhan valley mission was accomplished. While some of us took a dip from the nearby so called waterfall and pond, the others had their packed lunch and started to doze off in the lap of the rocks and tree shadows. As the day advanced, we put our tents and settled down. Once we finished the dinner party, the discussion got very interesting. From ghosts to parallel universes, from dark to light, from life to death and so on. The beauty of these kind of conversations is that it expands your horizons of knowledge by knowing new people, their stories and experiences. The day ended with the pinnacle of a mountain ready to greet us the following morning. When I just closed my eyes, I thought to myself “Oh boy! That was a lot of rappelling today and too much of new information to process for my brain”.
After a breakfast of Maggie, packed up everything and started towards the nearby village. Reached the jeep pick up point at around 1000 Hrs, from where we were taken to a nearby village. We had a delicious lunch of both veg and non-veg in a native house. From there we started towards Asangaon railway station and reached there by 1200 Hrs. Just when I switched on my network, the first thing to hear was the demise of actress Sridevi (RIP). We boarded a train towards Ghatkopar. Now comes the best part, as we reached Ghatkopar, we immediately checked into a local bar. Sat there, had couple a of beers, uttered with heart out, laughs everywhere and boom, it was 1700 Hrs. A great time should always come to an end as we reached the airport to catch our scheduled flights back. The group was split at the airport given different departure timings. Few of us had a good time in CCD discussing on the upcoming events and future plans as some tried to become sober and some tried to stay high.(:P)
We were thrown back to our reality when we boarded our flight and returned to Chennai at 2330 Hrs.
Thanks to Captain of the Ship, Aravind for his leadership and straightforward nature.
Special thanks to Yamini from Traveller’s Tribe for being the guide and taking care of all the things.
I have been hearing a lot from many CTC volunteers that when you take from CTC you always give back.
Hope, I can also give back someday soon!
(a.k.a American Mapilai)