It was very last minute plan; busy week had ensured no time to plan for the weekend. I knew I had escape from Mumbai for two days, didn’t know where. On the Friday noon, a friend goggled TMI, a group leaving late night for some Sandhan valley trek and luckily had space for few. At 7 o’clock I called them, doing last round of query, still to finalize between the option of trekking Harishchandragad peak by ourselves, one I was longing to go for some time now or this descend we had just googled and saw some snaps . We decided to decide after reaching a Ghatkopar station, least common denominator for both destinations. We left for dinner around 9, packing the bags after buying new pair of shoes; old ones had ended their support on the last trip to Naneghat Jivdhan.
On station we met few people from the same group, we all boarded 11:17 PM local to Kasara. At Kasara we joined rest of TMI group and finally knew were we were going (still joining the group I was nt sure where I was going…lol). It was a group of 30 individuals from different walks of life; all struck a formal friendly chord instantly. This was first time I was traveling with an unknown organized group. Around 2:30 AM we boarded local jeeps from Kasara to Samrad village (3000 fts above sea level). Reaching there around 5 AM, while rest of group decided to sleep, three of us went for late night stroll. Few miles from village, lying on the rocks by country roadside with silhouette of mountain at a distance in front, sky watching – saw few shooting stars, slice like moon hidden behind some hill. It was worth skipping the sleep, I had already started enjoying the place. About 7:30, we started descend, after having breakfast of PoranPoli, chapatti made with jaggery – Marathi special.
Sandhan valley is situated in the Sahyadri, Western Ghats, near Samrad village in Nagar District near Ratangad peak. Few minutes in the canyon/ gorge, it becomes clear why it’s called valley of shadows. Valley of Shadows is surrounded by Alang, Malang, Kulang, Kalsubai, Ratangad and Ajoba peaks, at some places has just few feet of space to walk and sun rays fail to touch ground between the natural walls of mountains. It’s a water carved ravine two km (approx) long and 50 to 400 feet deep, with few water filled patches, making sure it drenches you waist deep.
Gradually place sinks in, if rocks make the knees crack and shadows of the mountain with each step promise eyes the more magnificent views. As soon as you start enjoying the trail, spot comes where the way forward is walking through waist deep water. Out of water, drained energy makes you forget about drenched cloths. Before one reaches the sudden fall of 50 feet (rappelling point); the walk through water faints into memory. This was first time, I would be doing rappelling, walk till now had silent and retrospective for me. At beginning, I was walking with friend made in local, after water patch had separated. It was insightful silent watchful walk, only few instants getting or extending support on uneven surface to each-other in the group. The ways through hills are like ways through life, intriguing personal and impersonal simultaneously. In between, I started walking with a group singing songs – old melodies in most unusual of the places may have disturb some but it made my journey more relaxing and thoughtful.
Mentioning the above brief, was important as discussion with few of these people, which started at rappelling point continued till end of the trek and was in continuation of my deliberation about society and life in last few years. It also reminds me of few similar discussion at other unusual (may seem awkward places to many) places with people I had just met – like at Brighton beach, Humpi Badami trip or talks at UP election travel with strangers. The discussion engulfed the topics ranging from society, economics, spirituality and India vis-à-vis its spiritual traditions.
The rappelling may have been one of the most existing new things I may have done in couple of years. Though I was profusely sweating when reaching down, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing sudden fall of 50 feet didn’t give as much thrill as rappelling it down. The next four rock patches till roping were I guess most difficult ones on the track. At second last of them one has to slip through cavity in the rocks and one drops down from hole below to ground below it. Thanks to shouts, we wouldn’t have found the hole in the rocks. Most of the tiring trail was covered, with only a roping point, once doing it was all smooth walk. However, majority of best scenic place had past too. Sun, shadow, walls and falls with breeze passing through the greens, make the ravine delight to eyes and mind.
Henceforth, the discussion developed, becoming more stimulating and insightful. By evening time we reached our resting site for night. Leaving our bags, most of us jumped in the pond in vicinity (I guess a small waterfall in monsoon), big water hole between the massive rocks. The way pond was laid out by nature, it seemed as much a wonder as the valley of shadows we had just passed. Pond had big rocks on three sides, in front a flat entrance side and rock bang opposite entrance side had feet long space above to sit or dive in deeper side. As others cooked dinner, the discussion picked up again till night sky was filled with start on a no moon night, Amavasya. The yesterday’s sky watching gave way to star gazing, (of course a new friend knew most about them, and was kind enough to share). After, school may be locate Orion, Sapt Rishi, Milky Way and lot many others till I fell to sleep.
In morning, it was swimming time again in the pond. It seemed private pool then as hardly anybody dared to get into water, maybe wrongly presuming it was cold or may be disinterested. For me it was more relaxing than the night sleep. After breakfast we started again for end base village and end of my weekend. It was a walk on relatively flat ground towards the Dehane village (Base of Ajoba fort) in Thane district. It seemed the valley, pool and nature were tempting one to stay back, and forget the tiredness. The descend, like spiraling down phase of life, too just leaves enjoyable memories and rest all would be a passing phase. Back to ground zero, we had Marathi lunch of peetla, bakri, kadi at a house in the village with friendly kids and got in jeeps to catch local. You can desire to get away from maddening life of concentrated human habitation, called cities, however to escape is different game altogether.
Still to visit: Harishchandragad peak, Aswala Fort, Bhairavgad Fort, Pabargad Fort, Ratangad, Alang –Madan-Kulang Fort, Kalsubai (5400 ft. highest peak in Maharashtra)