Raireshwar – Nakhind – Aswalkhind : Jan 2011

DAY 1 : Raireshwar – Nakhind – Kudali

It had been 5 months since my last trek , what with me being away in Delhi . For someone accustomed to trekking once every 20 odd days , 5 months was quite a sabbatical ! . So when Priti asked whether I was interested in a trek to Raireshwar , and further to Nakhind and Aswalkhind , I jumped at the chance ! More so , because this would be a raw , hardcore trek , right from finding the correct route . Organized trekking , though hassle free , does take away this element of exploration and watching the trek unfold before you through its various ups and downs .

The place we were to go to , Raireshwar , is a hill situated about 200 km away from Mumbai , in Satara . It is famous as the place where Chhatrapati Shivaji took his oath of swarajya , to free the Sahyadris from foreign rulers . Thus , for us it is a very important historical place , almost a pilgrimage . From Raireshwar , we were to proceed to Nakhind , a nearby hill , then descend down to a pass called Aswalkhind . At least that was the initial plan . Aswalkhind would put us close to Poladpur on the Mumbai – Goa highway. Thus, we were to trek and descend from the Mumbai – Bangalore highway (NH – 4) onto the Mumbai – Goa highway (NH -17)

We started from Mumbai for Bhor on Friday night , me joining from Vashi . Priti , Rajas , Ameya and Saurabh had boarded the bus much earlier in Parel itself . Manoj Kalwar would join us later , as he had been caught up in some work .The rickety state transport bus prattled down the highway to Pune , stopping at Panvel , Khopoli and Lonavla en route . I tried catching up on some sleep , which was quite a challenge considering the roller coaster rides that state transport buses offer !! . From Pune , the bus continued for an hour till Bhor , the driver all the while driving like a wannabe Schumacher . I reckon we reached our destination at around 4 in the morning . After that , there was nothing much to do apart from shivering in the cold and having a cup of hot piping tea from a roadside stall till Manoj arrived .  He did come finally , almost an hour later . We then busied ourselves in looking for someone to take us to Raireshwar , in one of those Sumos or Trax they have . One guy finally agreed for a total of 1000 . Which was quite good .

It was almost day break by the time we alighted from the jeep . I believe we got a good bargain considering all the driving he had to do through the narrow ghat. The sun rose from behind Kenjalgad , a nearby hill – fort , as we began trekking along a well worn path leading to the temple of Raireshwar . The flat saucer – like top of Kenjal could be seen beautifully silhouetted against the rising sun , as we plodded on . A couple of iron ladders had been put in place to make our job easier , as well as a wide well made staircase . Reaching the temple was thus a cakewalk . Priti , Rajas and Saurabh went ahead to a small village on the mountain , to arrange for some food while me , Manoj and Ameya decided to visit the temple .

The temple itself was rather small and simple , with a brown tin roof . In front of it a bust of Shivaji had been installed . Inside , especially inside the sanctum sanctorum , it was pitch dark and I had to make use of my torch to ensure I didnt stumble somewhere . The famous pindi , where Shivaji took his oath , was in this part , and we dutifully paid obeisance to it . A glorious painting , showing a young Shivaji taking his famous oath adorned one wall , while a pair of swords and a shield adorned the other . From the temple , we proceeded to the small village , where we had our breakfast . We also took care to pack bhakri and mirchi cha thecha from a kind villager , before we left . Now began our real trek ! . No one knew the route for sure , not even the guide we had taken with us . All we had to rely on were photographs clicked by some other trekker and maps from Google Earth ! So we began , at around ten in the morning , across the plateau of Raireshwar , which I reckon was around 15 km long . The sun was by now nearly overhead , beating down on us . Thankfully , it being the month of Jan , we did not get scorched ! The path was a well worn one , which alternated between flat patches of grass and dense undergrowth . The weed called ‘karvi ‘ in local parlance was in abundance here , and it would keep us company for a long time ! .There was nothing much we did , apart from trudging from one end of the plateau to the other . En route we got beautiful views of ___ dam as also Pratapgad , Chandragad etc . Our first aim was to have a good view of the nedha ( hole in the rock ) of Nakhind  . perhaps try and reach there if possible . Every nedha is unique in itself and a sight to see . After a couple of hours of walking , some of it through head high shrubs and a small traverse , we managed to get a clear view . But it soon became evident that getting there was next to impossible . The path ended over there , and beyond were simply tufts of dried grass overlooking a dangerous drop . So we trekked back to a fork in the road which had brought us there . This time , instead of going left , we turned right , and headed straight into some very thick and thorny shrubs . My hands , legs and ofcourse my sleeping mat were continually getting pricked by thorns m twigs and branches left right and centre . There was no route to speak of really , we were making one ! . Half the time I spent in avoiding tripping over some branch or weed at my feet , and the other half in stopping something from hitting my face . After trekking like this for some time , I reckon an hour , the shrubs opened up to a more regular forest . The trees were taller now , and the ground much better . A couple of them had even an arrow mark on them ! . Our guide then led us to a path , that , to me on first glance seemed to head into thin air . A closer look told us that it was a narrow and very exposed descent , possibly towards Aswalkhind . We asked our guide to take us there . ” It is a very difficult route . See if you can manage , we won’t be coming with you ” came the reply ! . Ameya and Saurabh then decided to check out the route for themselves , but came back after some time . ” It is difficult with our bulky bags . Plus , once we start , there is no turning back ” . Now we were in a quandary . Which way to go next ? But since it was already nearly 2 , we decided to have lunch , which also gave us time to think over our next step .

It was then decided that Priti and Saurabh would go towards the nedha , to find a route via one of the channels made by waterfalls . Ameya and Manoj proceeded , with the guide , to the far end of the hill , to find a route to Kudali village . Me and Rajas were left guarding the bags . Rajas promptly went off to sleep , while me , after stretching out on the bare ground for some time , busied myself with photography ! . After about half hour both search parties returned , one with good news and the other not so good . Priti and Saurabh , for want of a sickle , had been unable to get to the point of finding any route . The other two had been luckier ” Yes there is a route . A rarely used one , but a route for sure ” Ameya reassured us .The guide had left us by now , after taking his pay . From this point , we were entirely on our own .  Once again , we trekked , plodding through grass and karvy , till the path abruptly finished as the plateau ended . I could see a well worn path going across a ridge in the distance , but how would we get there ? I could make out a narrow path , the kind made by cattle , descending from Raireshwar towards the ridge . Dusk was almost upon aus as we began our descent . The path was narrow and exposed , with plenty of loose soil and dry grass . Using bottom theory was a good idea here ! . Slowly but surely , we got to the ridge as the sun set behind the mountains . We were glad we had managed the descent well before nightfall , and now had the luxury of watching a beautiful sunset . What’s more , we found ourselves on a well beaten track . Snacks and jokes and wise cracks followed in a relaxed atmosphere with sliced cake and biscuits and such stuff being passed around .

It soon started getting dark , and we had to take a call , whether to spend the night there itself on that ridge , or continue further . And there was no second opinion about it ! Out came our little electric torches and the night trek to Kudali began in right earnest . We followed the mud path which had guided us on the ridge . It snaked along , sometimes svwerving to the right , though our destination was to the left of the ridge . This did cause some doubt in our minds initially , but those were quickly put to rest . As we sped along , the stars came out one by one , making the sky a very beautiful and enchanting sight . Under the company of the stars , we finally reached the village called Kudali .

For dinner , Priti prepared her exquisite bhel . It did not last long among 6 very hungry and tired trekkers , though I think quite a quantity had been prepared ! . Quite expensive too .. we had put onions in it !! . After this , we proceeded to fill water from a nearby pond . Nothing refreshing like cool water after a day of hard trekking . We decided to put up in the verandah of the local school for the night . It had been a hard day of trekking .. more than 13 hrs of walking in total ,and I fell into a deep sleep almost immediately after lying down ! .

DAY 2  : ASWALKHIND

Next day dawned bright and clear , with a rooster waking us from our slumber . Mountains loomed over the small village , a pleasing sight first thing in the morning . The fresh morning sunlight falling on the sloping clay rooftops of huts  , nestled among the hills , made for a quaint picture . We busied ourselves in collecting firewood for preparing the morning tea . Thankfully , there was plenty in the village , and the villagers as usual helpful . We soon sat down on the bare ground for having breakfast by the newly made campfire / temporary stove ! . We finished off whatever was left of the bread , cheese , biscuits and sauce with us . We even roasted a few potatoes , which tasted quite incredible . And of course tea ! .

We finally hit the road at around 9 30 , towards Aswalkhind . We intended to cross the entire pass and end our trek in Kamthe , a village in the Konkan . The route began on a well made tar road , before branching out into a more rugged path . As always , there were kind people around who helped us with the road we had to take . The path rose slightly after leaving the road , along a riverbed , although at a height . At one point , it descended rapidly and we found ourselves walking across the dry stream . From here , we could have a clear view of the pass , nestled between two tall , thickly forested mountains .

Hereon , the path climbed steeply into the jungle , though it was still wide and quite safe . Sunlight filtered in to the ground , obstructed by tall trees . This created strange mosaics on the ground , the kind of thing only a walk in the wilderness can give . We continued on , without stopping . Adrenalin had kicked in fully by now I guess . I say that , because after 16 hrs of trekking in total , my knees ought to have been aching ! The path rose in fits and starts . A steep climb for some time , then a flat walk , then the process would repeat itself . And all along we had the shade of tall deciduous trees for company . In fact , at one point , we even spotted dry feaces by the wayside , which Priti identified as those of a tiger . We even proceeded to crush it with a stone , only to find pieces of bone inside . Quite a find actually , considering how rare anything related to a tiger is , especially in these parts .

After walking through the jungle like this for three three and a half hour , we came upon a queer rock formation . A few massive boulders had been clustered together , almost as if a giant had marked the place ! . We decided to take a small break here , the highest point in the pass . We were now actually parallel to Nakhind , albeit at a much lower level . Priti , Rajas and Saurabh clambered up a small hillock to have a look at the route we had abandoned the previous day . Their hunch was right ! The path did lead to where we were ! . But I reckon it would have been too much of a risk to try the route the previous day . We spent some time here , busying ourselves with the usual photo ops and stuff .

The path descended ferociously from there on . Again the same pattern of steep descents and flat walks . Some of these patches were quite exposed and full of scree , making trekking tedious . And of course we had the company of the jungle . But this steep descent – flat walk pattern did help us maintain a very good speed throughout . By around lunchtime , we had arrived at a small clearing , where we had our lunch . This place had an awesome view of Nakhind and few other mountains , the vertical basalt walls making for quite a sight . We could also see our destination , Kamthe in the distance . Lunch consisted of bhakri and mirchi cha thecha , which we had packed the previous day . Rustic food in a rustic setting . We descended quite quickly from here on . The path was a lot more rocky now , making the descent easier . In another hour or so , we were at the village .

Thankfully for us , we didnt have to wait to much for a transport , since a jeep bound for Poladpur was already in the village . After a bit of haggling , he finally agreed to take us all to Poladpur . Poladpur was the closest town from where we could hope to get a ST or similar transport bound for Mumbai . Thus after nearly 18 hrs of walking , and 2 very memorable days of trekking , our trek had finally come to an end .I believe we covered more than 40 km in total .   We clambered into the jeep bound for Poladpur . From there , we hired a Sumo bound for Mumbai . And by dinner time that night , I was home . Quite something that trek , which we started on the Mumbai – Bangalore road and ended on the Mumbai – Goa road !

As a closing comment , would like to thank Priti , Rajas , Saurabh , Ameya and Manoj for a great time ; and will cherish this trek for a long time to come .

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