Kanheri caves was on my bucket list for long, but somehow it did not work out, although I had tried planning a visit for couple of times. It had already rained quite well this time and I was contemplating the greenery inside national park. This time it was a quick plan spawned and executed on the very same day.
So it was trekking combined with Vana-Bhojan (eating admist forest). More of a day picnic, to enjoy nature as well as a bit of adventure, history and a family outing.
Vivaan, my younger son, seemed more than excited as we were getting ready in the morning. He knew even at one and half years of age that today is different and he gets to move out of home, at early morning hours itself and does not have to wait for evening, for his daily garden excursion.
The looks of the national park have changed over time. In fact as far as my memory goes during my childhood, we had visited national park for a large variety of animals and it was a great experience to watch animals apart from the usual “Van-Raani” train’s joy ride and boating experiences.
Over the period, the number of animals has gone down drastically, with only few lions and tigers left here. My last safari was the most pitiful experience with an ailing lioness whining with pain, while few tigers and their cubs were in very small cage.
I had come here at few occasions, during last few years, with my family and friends after shifting from Vasai to Borivali. For me it’s been a normal practice, to take any of my relatives who come for a stay at my place, to national park. I have been here with my cousins Krutik and Soni for a boating trip in the lake. Sheetal had taken Eriko, my friend from Japan to national park during her visit to India. All this while it was only the greenery which attracted us, but nothing more.
But today I could see some of the old glory back with better facilities, new hoarding, maps and a plan to renovate and get those old glory days back. Felt really nice as we had lot of old memories associated with this place. This in fact is one of the most well preserved forests in Mumbai and the expanses are enormous.
I have seen thickness of this jungle during my travel to our Ghodbandar office and the greenery of those cascading mountains spanning from Borivali to Ghodbundar and towards Mulund makes you feel really happy. I had fallen in love with these mountain and this scenic road over a period of time with few unique spots being my most favourite.
At one point where these mountains and the beautiful Ullas River meet each other and right at this spot there is this Shiva temple at the top. A right spot to spend evening, admire the sunset in the foreground of vast expanses of Ullas River and surrounding mountains.
The expanding metropolis and constant endeavour to create more concrete jungles has compromised lot of greenery of Mumbai and that is why these green mountains spanning over this landmass right in the centre of the city gives some amount of relief. Although there is some amount of trespassing even in this jungle.
BNP, as it is fondly referred to, is quite famous amongst health and sports enthusiasts and you would see all of them flocking at the gates of BNP, early in the morning, to get entry into this serene natural forest and breath some fresh air, as they continue their health regimes of jogging or walking into the thickness of the forest.
Few of the people from my trekking group like Yogesh, Pranesh, Roshan and my cousin Harsha are quite regular members of BNP and come down from Vasai for their Marathon practice here. So how can I give a complete miss on this natural treasure and carry that guilt all along.
Since it was still raining it made sense to finish with breakfats and wait for some time for the rain to go. A short distance from the entrance, they have these very nice shelters made especially for picnickers very close to the lake. It was fun eating in this completely natural setting as Vivaan was having his first excursion and enjoying every bit of it.
After the savoury meal, we moved towards Kanheri. The jungle was now getting thicker and the road here is quite narrow. I could not help but stop at times and capture some of the beauty around. Roasted corn was the most appropriate munching at this moment and the healthy, delicious bites of those corns made me really feel good.
In 15-20 minutes of drive, the tall rocky Kanheri caves became visible from distance. We really had to slow down after this spot, as the uphill road has sharp turns, as it takes you to the Kanheri entrance. Well-Well it was not just we who had planned to be here to enjoy the weather. The parking place had overflown and it was really hard to get place for parking. Those leaving had hard time getting their car out and finding a way out.
We managed to park and were surrounded by a gang of Monkey in all sizes. As usual there was this shouting and scary cries from those, carrying food item. Monkeys made sure they get their piece of the pie 🙂 and give them a sense of adventure as well.
There are couple of huge caves right after the entrance. This place seemed to be flooded with people and it was hard to find any angle to get a clear background for a snap. The caves have been carved out of black stones during 10th century AC. There are as many as 109 caves here of different shapes and sizes. It has a Buddhist stupa and demonstrate Buddhist influence on the art and culture of India.
The climb was slippery at few places and we really had to be careful. The view from the top was amazing as we moved towards the top. The Mumbai Janta was enjoying the water stream and few were lying there soaking themselves into the muddy water and getting one with nature. For Vivaan this was the first real adventurous outdoor experience and I could see mix of joy and surprise on his face.
We had one shorter break at one of the caves and finished our midday meal. It started raining now and we had to extend our break for little while. Soon the rain had turned into a drizzle and we decided to move on. The final patch revealed more of nature around and as we reached to the top there was this usual sense of achievement. This was no less than a trek and still manageable with a family and kids.
They do have rock chiselled steps out here, but one needs to be careful in the monsoon. The panoramic view of the jungle around made us fell nice about staying so close to this natural gift. Also felt sad that we do not really pay frequent visit to this place. In fact have been to many countries till now, but really missed on this natural treasure for so long. We keep looking for our treasures in distant land and they seem to be lying around us. Life is like this. I could relate to the novel by Paulo Coelho named “The Alchemist”.
Vivaan and Maitri were enjoying both rain and the wind. Vivaan waved with both his hands and enjoyed the rains. In fact Vivaan wanted to be on his feet and kept pushing me to let him down. I did give him some opportunity but at one and half years of age, I can expect him to climb mountains and had to control his energy. Well we all were happy but, he was the happiest, his joy was limitless when we were at the top and could see the deciduous thick jungle around with few waterfalls at the distance.
This was one eventful family holiday, full of natural beauty, adventure and fun. It was almost 3 pm now and we were on our way back, again through the thick forest, quite satisfied and happy.