|TOPOGRAPHICAL VIEW OF BHIMASHANKAR IN THE WESTERN GHATS OF MAHARASHTRA|
Bhimashankar is a famous pilgrimage centre in Maharashtra having one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Hindu God Shiva called the Bhimashankar temple situated in the midst of lush jungle at an altitude of 3296 ft.The Bhimashankar Temple is one of the top 25 pilgrimage centers in India and there is a direct road leading to the temple for pilgrims..Besides pilgrimage treks to the Bhimashankar temple the surrounding forests is famous for harbouring the National animal of Maharashtra, the giant Malabar squirrel known as "Shekra".Barking deer, sambar and the leopard are among the larger species of this mountain jungle besides reptiles,rare birds and insects.Hence, Naturalists, trekkers as well as pilgrims make regular treks in the forests of Bhimashankar wild-life reserve and the Bhimashankar Temple.
Departure Mumbai(Saturday 27-7-2013) :- Bhimashanker is approx 250 Kms from Mumbai near Karjat situated at the end of the Sahyadri Mountain range(Western Ghats) in Maharashtra.The base village of Khadas for the start of the trek is approximately 34 Kms from Karjat.Our scheduled departure by bus was 2330 hrs from Dadar(East), the rendezvous being the vicinity of Pritam hotel .As usual was the earliest at Dadar and later met a few young co-trekkers which included Mr Pritesh.Pandya, his wife and brother-in-law, a small family of trekkers.The trekker crowd gradually increased and as usual made acquaintances.One thing i observed was that this was a total youth crowd and had their own groups, myself being the grand uncle of this trek group!Mr Jagdish.Patil arrived at approx 2315 hrs and it was a "House-Full' trek with 2 buses being organized and a total of 90 trekkers ! Our bus arrived and we finally departed at 0015 hrs past midnight, a delay of approx 45 minutes.My co-passenger was Mr Ashok.Pandya and after brief conversation realized that the world is a global village. Mr Ashok.Pandey was also a qualified marine engineer having done his Marine engineering apprenticeship at "M.J.Patel Eng" and later ventured into a different profession after sailing for a year or two for personal reasons.This was his first trekking adventure experience although sea-life is a combination of different adventures sports packaged into a single profession !..Drowsed through the night and was woken up at approx 0430 hrs due to the erratic movements of our bus. About half an hour was spent in the driver negotiating a sharp bend on the narrow road towards Khadas village as these roads are not normally meant for large buses. .We finally reached the village car parking junction in the dark of dawn situated near a gushing river bridge .It was drizzling but not raining heavily, excellent trekking weather.This was the largest trekking crowd in my trekking adventure sports experiences with various trek groups of Mumbai, maximum trekkers being below the 30 years age group ..Breaksfast was a delicious "Upma", a local delicacy..After breakfast Mr Jagdish.Patil gave a brief introduction about the trek agenda, a very hectic test of trekking skill,physical fitness and trekking psychology.Ultimately, besides physical fitness, akin to any sport trekking also involves mental toughness and thinking. a slight error in trekking judgement could result in a injury, death or being lost in a dense jungle.
|"SHIKhAR VEDH" group Trek participants. Some of the total of 90 participants.|
|START OF TREK :-Passing along "Khandas village" enroute to Bhimashankar using the "SHIDI TREKKING ROUTE",|
|Crossing a gushing monsoon stream enroute to Bhimashanker.|
|SHIDI (Ladder Route):- "Shikhar Vedh" trekkers in a queue to climb the vertical mountain staircase.|
|Shidi Nos 2 :- The last ladder on the "Shidi Trek Route" , a ordinary steel ladder.|
|"PINNACLE POINT":(Named by me !Rudolph.A.Furtado)- The most dangerous ascent.OBSERVE THE SINGLE PINNACLE WITH NO SIDE SUPPORTS AND JUDGE THE EFFECT OF A HUMAN FALL.|
The lesser fall would be approx 20 feet below on solid hard rock.A volunteer of "Shikhar Vedh" group assisted each trekker individually as we climbed past "Pinnacle Point". In my short trekking experience in the Shahyadri hill forts and mountains have never ever come across such a dangerous death-defying rock climb.Finally all 90 of us made it past "Pinnacle Point" and made our way towards the second plateau which had a small village with rice cultivation.i somehow trudged my way towards the plateau. There were a few village-tea shops on this plateau and refreshed myself with tea and roasted maize.The weather was excellent, cloudy with no rain and cool.As usual made acquaintances with Mr Jigneesh.Gheelani and Mr Niraj.Kumar ,both Mumbai city dwellers with hectic schedules on a week-end trek.I spotted a trekker who seemed older than me and realized that Mr Apaji.Sawant and not myself was the oldest trekker amongst us, beating my age by two years !Trekking is basically a youth adventure sport as it is strenuous and dangerous.
Mr Yuichiro Miura climbed Mt Everest in May 2013 at 80 years of age and hence in comparison Mr Apajay.Sawant and myself were teenagers in the adventure sport of Trekking.Similarly if Guribadat Singh, Prithvi Singh, Ajay Sohal, Shubham, Fateh Singh and Raghav Juneja of St Lawrence school Sanawar aged between 15 to 17 years became the youngest school boys to Climb Mt Everest in the same month then our entire trekking team of young men and women seemed like "Old Men and women"! Chronological age is just a number and barring few natural physical deterioration of the human body with age or monetary retirement with fixed age limit, most accomplishments, both physical and mental are a mind game.IF YOU THINK YOU ARE OLD THEN YOU ARE OLD AND NONE CAN CHANGE THAT.If not a "Marine engineer" then i would definitely have become a lawyer since i love reasoning and introspecting situations in life.We finally reached Bhimashankar village at approx 1115 hrs our entry being near the entrance of Bhimashankar temple , the total trek time being approx 4 hrs 45 minutes.The change in weather was drastic on arrival at Bhimashankar village, the entire town being covered with thick mist and visibility reduced to approx 25 to 50 meters.Spotted the first wild-life sighting, a macaque monkey on a tree near the main road.Macaque monkeys always Was surprised at the abrupt change of topography from dense rain forests to a small town with roads and vehicles.Saw a few old pilgrims being carried by 4 men on "Palki's" to the temples, the first time i witnessed this scene in India.The entire town centered around the temple and the pilgrims with numerous small hotels and religious stalls on the narrow main road.Trek leader Mr Jagdeesh.Patil informed us of the lunch itinerary and the departure timings from Bhimashankar village.
|Religious and souvenir handicraft shop in Bhimashankar Village.|
At approx 1150 hrs made my way to "Shithiz Hotel" and was the first in the group to have a excellent vegetarian thali .Rest of the 90 trekkers gradually followed and the small hotel was packed with "Shikhar Vedh" trek group tourists. Breakfast, lunch and tea was included in the total trek charges of Rs 750, excellent value for money for a week-end adventure outing.After lunch i purchased some sweets and also tasted a few local sweets , excellent and cheap.
The weather in Bhimashankar town was straight out of a film set, heavy intermittent rain with dense fog.Visibility was reduced to a bare 25 meters and photography not possible in the dense monsoon fog. After everyone had finished lunch, a total of 90 trekkers we finally decided to begin the descent to Khandas village.
|"GANESH GHAT" trek route:- Village cattle being herded through the narrow forest path.|
Keeping trek of 90 trekkers is not easy management, especially in forest trekking where a person could get lost or face serious injury.We began the descent in small groups, the younger trekkers literally bounding towards base while a few of us trekked at medium pace, never last but not also first! I was in a group of approx 15 trekkers along with Mr Niraj.Kumar ,conversing and discussing the toughness of this simple altitude mountain.As we walked ahead we suddenly realized that we were on the wrong path, the worst fear of any professional or first time trekker.We had done approx 15 minutes of walking before realizing our mistake and returning back to the town.Inquiries with local villagers put us on the right pathway and we finally began our descent at approx 1330 hrs.The "GANESH GHAT ROUTE" descent is easier than the tough "Shidi Ghat Route" but of a longer duration.We finally reached the "Plateau Village", the common link base for trekkers from both, the "Ganesh Ghat route" and the "Shidi Ghat route".Our group had some rest at this village base along with the normal village tea.The beauty of treks is that total strangers become acquaintances and sometimes friends and in a few cases into love story's! At the Village tea-shop we exchanged conversation and got to know the different adventure sports undertaken by other fellow trekkers. A young lady trekker Dipti.Lapasiya astounded me with her adventure sports conversations reminding me of the young women Western trekkers i came across in Nepal who made me look like a novice in "Solo Travel".I was pleased to learn that ultimately young and wealthy Indians were into expensive "Adventure sports" with the same being conducted in India, a generation change from a mere 100 $'s foreign exchange tourist allowance prior the reforms era of 1992.We Indians have come a long way in tourism , both local as well as International.The very fact that there are numerous local adventure sports agencies in Mumbai indicates the enthusiasm of the average Indian youth in travel and the outdoors.There is a local adventure sport suited for every budget and one of the cheapest could be the "Bhimashankar Trek", moneys worth of adventure and experience.
|"PLATEAU VILLAGE" :- Common village base on Bhimashankar mountain for "SHIDI GHAT" and "GANESH GHAT" route trekkers.|
|KHADAS VILLAGE :- The beginning and end of our epic "BHIMASHANKAR TREK-2013"|
The next day my leg muscles absolutely stiff i rang up Jagdish to inquire about the missing man.Thankfully he was found safe and sound at Bhimashankar town near the temple.Would like to meet him to find out his description of the excellent and dangerous "BHIMASHANKAR TREK-2013"..