Harishchandra via Nalichi Vaat – Dec 2009

I had been to Harishchandragad once before , via the Tolar Khind route and since then , had always wanted to try the tougher , more thrilling ‘ Nali chi vaat ‘ . Trek Mates had organised one for the 12th , 13th of december , which suited me just fine . ( exam getting over on the ninth and a trek on the 12th ! what else could I ask for ! )
I reached Kalyan station on the night of the 11th , alone as usual from Navi Mumbai ! . I met Vishal , Meenu , Parikshit , Dilesh among others over there and we were soon joined by the others. Well , this is the last time I am reaching a TM trek on time , because there is always a one hour cushion which I intend to make full use of ! . We clambered into the bus at around 11 30 i guess , only to find it full . So obviously we had to stand , and with that went my plan of taking a good nap before we got to the base village . I managed to sit down in the alleyway between seats , with my bag as a backrest .Not very comfortable , but whos looking for that on a trek ! . The ST bus dropped us off near Tokawade , a village by the side of Malshej Ghat .
So , there we were in pitch darkness , waiting for our next transport to arrive ! . The beautiful winter sky was in full bloom now , and I reminisced about all those nights I had spent star gazing . We travelled by lorry to Belpada , the base village for our trek . It was great sitting in the lorry , at the edge of the cargo compartment . A sudden brake , and all four of us would be on the road !!. But it was fun sitting there , watching the narrow and dark highway recede into the distance . The canopy of tall , dark trees made it look even more eerie .
We reached Belpada by about 2 in the morning . I was feeling damn sleepy by then . Without even bothering to remove my shoes or jacket , I rolled out my sleeping mat on a suitable peice of land and was soon fast asleep on it . Sleeping bag and all could wait for later .
We freshend up in the morning , had tea and after a quick introduction round ( in which just about everyone faked his or her trekking experience ) started off towards Harishchandragad .
As soon as we left Belpada , we could see the huge concave wall of the Kokan kada looming over us . Well , if you could imagine a bowl with a dia of 1800 metres , you could get a slight idea of what I am talking about ! . Keeping the huge mountain to our right , we passed through well trodden paths and fields and finally joined an empty river bed . Round , smooth stones of all sizes made up our path as we made our way ahead . Constant wear by the elements , especially water had coloured the stones various hues of white and grey . With the hot morning sun beating down on our backs , the river bed looked all the more brighter . The path meandered on , the stones and pebbles getting progressively larger as we moved ahead . After an hour of trekking , we came to the ‘giant steps ‘ – two huge rocks lying right across our path , each roughly rectangular in shape and a good ten – twelve feet high ! A staircase for giants , no doubt ! This was also our last watering point , and a great place for photo ops . From here on , the route really began to climb . Each step we took was at least as high as our thighs , and the continous plod made it a tiring proposition . We were now close to the ‘ nali ‘ and decided to halt for lunch . Lunch , well basically consisted of eating evrything that everyone else had brought ! So by the time half an hour was up , I had eaten cakes , theplas , pomegranates , chips , biscuits , puran poli and few other assorted foodstuffs . It was noon by now , and the hot afternoon sun beat down on us . In the far distance , I could see the peculiar ‘human ‘ shaped pinnacle , on the far side of Kokan kada. Closer by , a few trees and of course the long path we had come by . Above us , a cloudless sky and a gentle breeze . Add to that a full stomach and I reallly wanted to lie down and go off to sleep then and there .
But there was a trek to do , so I picked myself up , put my bag on my shoulders and started off once more . In any case , the trek to follow put to rest any plans to doze off !! .
The path moved ahead , and up into two huge enclosing walls . The right hand side was off course the near end of the Kokan kada and the one on the left a separate mountain . We were following the path of a waterfall which cascades in between the two in the monsoons . Wether the waterfall caused the split or the split caused the waterfall , I do not know . Anyways , such intelligent thoughts were furthest from my mind then , as the large stones of the river bed gave to small rocks and scree . The whole place looked like a blasting site , like someone was using dynamite or something to build a tunnel throught that place . The route moved to the right , traversing the wall , then further on to what looked like steps ! I am really amazed actually , as to how are the rocks in that place cut into such sharp geometrical shapes . I could see a lot of straight edges wherever the waterfall had flowed .
We soon came to the first rock patch , which i reckon was about 15 – 20 feet high . I remembered climbing barefoot on Madangad , and managing pretty well . So I decided to climb this one barefoot too ( maaz actually . I had seen 3 -4 guys manage quite well even with their shoes on ! ) But this was not Madangad , and the rock face was soon poking into the soles of feet . Apart from that , there wasnt any hassle and I soon managed to get to the top . Even got a sarcastic applause for that !!
The route to the next rock patch was just scree and nothing else . The path climbed steeply and getting ahead was a case of two steps ahead and one step back ! . Brittle slate rock covered our entire path . Rocks as large as our foot crumbled beneath our feet , and every now and then someone further up sent a generous helping of stones and pebbles downhill ! The route had also got narrower now , and the two huge walls on either side of us seemed to have an overbearing presence . A slip and fall on this patch , and well , one would have to do the whole patch again .
On the top of this scree filled patch , was our second rock climb . A 10 – 15 feet high rock , which at first would seem like a dead end ! . Nilesh did the free climbing part . There were twenty of us , and one by one all of us managed to scramble up the rock face ( ofcourse with a rope aound our waist ! ) .
Further on , an exposed traverse which brought us closer to Kokan kada . A tree was growing here , of all places , to add to the thrill . Keeping myself as close to the mountain as possible , I made my way to a third rock patch . Since the traverse had taken me around the earlier rock , my field of view now changed completely ! Instead of the ‘man ‘ shaped pinnacle , now Rohidas came into view . That short traverse in the evening light , with the huge mountain of Rohidas in the background was another memorable part of the trek .
Tiny foot holds made the climb over the rock patch easy . We were now nearing the end of our trek . Bushes and shrubs near the top of the mountain came into view at last . Two more relatively simpler rock patches , and we were on familiar terrain . Yellow grass scrunched under our feet and each step threw up tiny puffs of soil . The huge sweep of the Kokan kada was now in view . We had reached a plateau by now , on the far left of the massive cliff . The sun was almost beginning to set now , and had acquired a fiery orange hue . We still had a long way to go though , especially over a small hill covered in dense forest . I personally found that part of the trek very irritating . A steep gradient , loose soil and roots and branches all over the place . My sleeping mat got caught , torn at least half a dozen times on that little hill . After a hard day of trekking , that is the last thing you want .
We all finally managed to reach the plateau . Some of us had already got there sometime before , as usually happens with a big group on a long trek . Some of them had collected firewood for the night , and after resting for some time , all of us started off for the caves . All of us trooped of in one file , torches in hand away from Kokan kada . After trekking for about half an hour , we came to a small plateau which directly overlooked the temple to the left and the caves to the right . We soon lit a campfire , which we fed with lots of firewood to ensure it glowed brightly . We had collected enough for a funeral , so that was thankfully , never an issue . All that firewood would come in handy later on , when it got really cold . For the present though , all of us assembled around the campfire for antakshari and other such timepass . We also had our dinner over there and then each one retired to sleep .I was glad I had brought my jacket along , alongwith the sleeping bag . Lying down , I could see the winter sky in all its splendour . I could spot the beautiful cluster of stars known as ‘ Pleadies ‘ alongwith Taurus the Bull . I moved my head to spot Orion and Gemini , with their host of bright stars . I had spent hours as a child looking at thoseand other constellations , and with that thought in mind , I drifted off to sleep . I awoke at about 5 , and spent the next hour discussing with other such early risers wether we should go to Taramati to see the sun rise . Well , sun rose while we were still at it , so obviously the Taramati plan was off . We instead decided to pay another visit to Kokan kada . Another trek along familiar trek and we were at the cliff . Looking down from there , I could see a river path meandering and then disappearing into the rightmost edge of Harishchandragad . That was the path we had come by yesterday . A long photo sessions followed , which is understandable at a place like the Kokan kada ! We returned to the caves , had our breakfast and went ahead to the temple and Kedareshwar . The temple was ancient , 6th century or something like that ! Kedareshwar was basically a Shiv Ling covered on all sides by water . The eight foot tall structure is a sight to see !
After this we started descending the mountain . Descent was well , quite uneventful . And I am also getting bored of writing this now , so I wont describe our descent in detail . Well , basically , the ten of us formed the back lead , and we stopped at evry opportunity we could . My right knee had quite inexplicably begun to pain by now , so I was limping along , although I must say the relis spray helped . We had limbu sharbat twice on the way down , sat down and chatted a couple of other times , aani umbryachya zhadachi fala khanya sarkhya faltu goshti karat hoto ( credit Vishal with that ) . And took our own sweet time in getting to Khireshwar .
At the base village , a great lunch , a visit to a marvellous temple and we were off to Mumbai , or rather to Khubi phata , where we spent a great deal of time flagging down tempos , trucks and buses . Finally , just after sunset we managed to get one lorry going to Kalyan . All of us clambered in and lorry driver drove off towards Mumbai . Harischandragad receded into the back ground in the fading evening light as a fantastic trek came to an end .

Closing comments , well , another great trek by TM . Had a whale of a time . Kudos to evryone for attending and completing the trek ! Thanks to Priti , Nilesh , Vishal , Miron for managing the rock climbing patches . Without rope bahutekanchi hava tight zhali asti !! . I hope to meet all twenty of the trekking group on further treks too .

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