The feeling of missing treks for last few years was paramount and the trekker in me was not letting me sit quietly. Entire 2013 being in London was dedicated to sightseeing and exploring London and Europe, but there was not a single trek. I did try to look for local youth hostels and whether there is any camping available through them. In fact I had planned for an overnight stay in Hainault forest arranged by Redbridge Council, but it did not materialize. So one of the major activities planned for 2014 was going for treks in Sahyadris. Finally it was June and I saw a Trekking schedule for VAC on Facebook.
I was in Virar a day before and decided to stay there instead of going to Borivali. Starting from Virar gave me an extra sleep of one hour and I was comfortably on platform number three for Dahanu train. Thanks to railways for starting local trains to Dahanu. I purposefully took the skywalk over lake to capture the morning peace and tranquility of the lake. The ducks and swans were at peace and enjoying their slow but elegant movements across the lake.
I met Suhas, our leader for this trek near indicator and soon we were boarded in 6:48 train to Dahanu. It was good to see few old faces like Kuldeep Chaudhari and Siddesh Vartak in the train. Talking about few previous treks like Korigadh and reminiscing the fun we had there, took me back in past and could relive few of those moments.
Suhas said there were 40 registrations on phone and that really surprised me, not because this was little less-known trek, but the heat was still on and the delayed monsoon was a talk of the town. By 7:40 we were at Palghar station and made me really happy to see the typical trekker’s crowd there. People did not really cared about the heat and their passion really made them get up and come here in this scorching heat. That’s the magic of Trekking. Really amazing.
Half of the bus was filled by VAC trekkers and it was emptied as well in next 20-25 minutes as we got down at Vaghoba Phata.The gang of monkeys was ready to pounce on you and we had to be really careful while having our Pattis, a typical VAC snack. I really love those Pattises.
The well-disciplined rituals of standing in a circle, counting, introduction and instructions were executed seamlessly. The thunderous chanting of “Praudh Pratap Purandar” , suddenly turned each one of us into a die-hard Maratha soldier on mission, ready to attack the fort and capture it.
The initial patch was the most challenging and I had a feeling that I am getting older. The steep slopes, narrow trails,rising heat and knowing that it is just the starting, there is still long way to go, made me feel abit panicky and knew it’s not going to be easy.But then there was some strange mental strength that kept driving and giving that energy to carry on.
Monsoon might have made climbing tough, as it does not have steps and climbing was steep with sudden turns and lots of bushes, branches blocking your path. But right now there was this heat making us sweat to exhaustion.
As you move on,you start getting highlights of the view that you are going to enjoy at the top. These sneaky peaks giveyou more energy and scope for your photography. So however exhausted you are, the will to go to the top, keeps on rising.
My motivation was Kirti, my VJTI mate, being his first trek and not having a lot of trekking background he was doing absolutely great. The will, to beat youngsters and stay ahead at the age of forty one, was one more inspiration for me. The forest although not very dense has a wide variety of plants. The pink colored flowers (Pink Kombada) were prominent. Kaarvi trees had lined up few patched of trail while rest of the trees looked more like Kaaju, Bor and Karavand.
Soon we had covered almost half the distance and a flat rocky patch was quite inviting to break for some time.The view from our midway-break-spot was quite wonderful. Abhijit and gang gave few fantastic and funny poses. Kirti had his own shot at photography, capturing the activity and the surrounding nature at its best. The sun did his best at making us sweat, but we had really beaten him by gathering in such a big number and enjoying the trek at our best. The energy was overpowering and everyone seems to be in that buzz.
As we moved on through our second half, panting, sweating, but still capturing the surrounding valley and view of the mountains with Surya river flowing magnificently through them. We saw the fortification of Kaaldurg fort at distance with a flag right on top.
The last patch was too tough and had very less rocky patches to hold on to. Loose rocks, steep slope, no trees to hold on to made this patch little too difficult and we were sure this would be a natural slide for many on their way back :). We thanked for not having a rainy weather, or it would have doubled our trouble.
There was this huge sense of achievement on everyone’s face as we landed onto the flat surface. The ecstatic cries of few of us really revealed that emotion. Reaching to the top took around one and half hour and it is advisable to take very few mini-micro breaks and a longer midway break at a patch where you can relax do some photography as well and get ready for the second half of the trek. Top of the fort is a huge rectangular rock.
Both the half have its own challenges. I was wearing a Bermuda but quickly realize that a track-pant would have been better, as there are lot of cactuses and thorny bushes that might prick you at times. Being a less frequented trail, the Kaarvi trees, grass and other bushes are generally overgrown and can cause trouble.
The group was mainly composed of lot of youngsters, but the presence of veterans like Kuldeep, Suhas and Siddesh made sure that the discipline is maintained at all cost. It was made very clear that one can’t forget that we are at trek and not on a picnic. So while having lot of fun, leg pulling,commenting, jokes, there were no nasty pranks or disrespect of the environment. Everyone enjoyed sharing the snacks, posing in groups, getting information on spots around, identifying places, that people know of.People staying close by, were proactive to point the spots and adding to our knowledge
The whistle for lunch blew and the 52 hungry souls, quite pleased after experiencing the cool oxygen-rich breeze at the top reached out to their sacks. The grand feast did not take a lot of time. Tasting the variety of food was an amazing fun and Kirti made sure to give me experience of his authentic Gujarati flavors of homemade food.
The two girls from Kiravali,Priyanka and don’t really remember the second girl’s name, made sure they don’t treat the Sunday as Tuesday and few spicy delicious chicken pieces added great taste. The Shiraa (a Maharashtrian sweet) made by my mother in law and Puranpolis (again a maharashtrian sweet) from a local shop in Virar served as a perfect desert.
After a mouthwatering feast, sleeping on one of the huge rock at the corner, looking at the open skies, breathing the cool air and admiring the valleys,mountains, winding Surya river, cute villages and expanses of Arabian sea at distance, Mahim and Kelva beaches, the mind was contented. I was in my Nirvaana state at that moment and nothing else could have replaced that joy for the moment.
That’s how life is, you never know what you are looking for and then there are these tiny bundles of joy that embrace you all of a sudden and you feel humbled, the feeling of gratitude is overwhelming and you can’t just stops saying thanks to the almighty, for giving this beautiful life and a soul to experience it.
Well the whistle blew again and it was time to bid good bye to this beauty and the scenery. The 52 contented souls were back on their journey,now much homogeneous. Few were new acquaintances, while few probably soul mates, few sticking to their groups, but each enjoying their time here.
As predicted, the descent, was putting lot of pressure on feet and one wrong step and you are sure for a free slide. After all the care, few of the minor injuries were unavoidable. The sun was much harder on us now and we thanked our self for making it to the top much early in the day. Although it would have been tough during monsoon, everyone missed rains. We gave very sad looks to each other, after spotting few of the tiny dry waterfalls at the corners.
The midway spot gave us the required rest and a nice break. The slides and few traffic jams continued in the second half as we made it to the Vaghoba Mandir.
The refreshment store lady did some good business as people were craving for Mango Slice and other cold drinks. State Transport proved to be in our favour as we got two STs in a very short while. We were soon boarded in MEMU(Mainline Electric Multiple Unit) Train to Dadar. I had good chat with Siddhesh, Kuldeep, Kirti and Priyanka.Did some leg pulling of Dilip as well.
This was the quickest trek that I had. I was at home sipping my Tropicana guava juice,talking about the awesome fun that we had and playing with my four month old son at 5 pm.
This gave a good sense of achievement with lot of fun. It really makes you push yourself and tests not only your physical strength, but mental power as well. This kind of activity is always a team work and a great way to bright about that love and caring for nature. After breathing lot of oxygen, the whole week retains that buzz. It’s nice to pass on the excitement to others as well and feel contented. Also it’s fun to make few others feel jealous, especially those who did not join,to motivate them to join next
Base :WaghobaKhind on road to Jalgaon from Palghar
Grade : Medium
Height: 1547 feet
- The cost of a ticket to WagobaMandir by ST is Rs. 9 per head and by Tum-Tum; the fare is Rs.20 per head.
- Near the temple there is a small refreshment store serving cold drinks and dry snack items.
- Carry min two liters of water if you are trekking on a sunny day. If there is no rain, it’s really exhausting
- Don’t wear sleeveless T shirts as there are lots of thorns and narrow trails.One can see lots of Cactus plants too.