Trek to Harishchandragad (yet again)

Growing increasingly familiar with Harishchandragad. Started out on Friday night, caught the ten thirty train to Kalyan, and met up with the group at the station. There was another group scheduled to meet at Kalyan, at the same time, for the same trek. Got in to the luggage compartment , because  the regular compartments were crowded, even at that time of the night. A few regulars were chatting in a circle and passing around some biscuits and other shit to eat.  On the way over, met a guy (forgot the name) who was also going for the same trek - but with a different group. Had gone to Mahuli with that group (Baan Hikers)... I was going with Mangesh's Green Carpet.  We caught a bus at around eleven thirty, to Khubi Phata, which is the drop off point for going to Harishchandragad. This was a two and a half hour ride, which was great, we sang songs on the way, with a healthy mix of expletives thrown in. 

From Khubi Phata, it was a six kilometer walk to the base village... this took us a good hour with a light drizzle, and on a no moon night. We slept off in the school of the village. It was pretty chilly, and we were too stupid to look in a nice cozy and unlocked classroom. We started trekking at around eight in the morning, after having a breakfast of Kanda-Poha and tea at Hotel Aishwarya, which is at the base village. There was a redundant round of introductions, as we already knew each other well. After a while, we came to the rock patch, which takes about forty minutes for the entire group to traverse, and is the only remotely difficult part of the trek. 

The rest of the trek to the caves  was like walking a sine wave, we went up and down a few times. We were at a high altitude, and we were cloaked by  fog. Made a typo right now, and realised that the keyboard is arranged in such a way, that you can easily type out god instead of fog.  Been on this trek in the winter, which I guess now is the best time to go... all of this was green, and you could see the ground beyond where we were walking, far below us. 

Just after the rock patch, was a small plateu, and this is where all of got exstatic, because of the climate, and the location, and the rock patch felt like a small achievement. 

The group jumped for joy, and posed for the camera, while at it. 

Some of us explained where we were and what we were up to to our near and dear ones. 

The vegetation consisted of interesting colours. There were drops of dew everywhere, and it was well into the day. 

We spotted this snake on the way. It was a tiny one, probably a baby. According to some, it was a baby cobra, and I could see something like a  the spec mark on the head, but I am not convinced. Little thing was pretty lively, and  apparently poisenous. You can tell by the shape of the head, and the pattern on the body, but I can't. 

Somehow, this reminded me of Avalon.

Some pretty looking shit on the way... all of these were taken on the relatively straightforward walk from the rock patch to the caves. 

This is at the little stream ten minutes away from the caves. A great source for water,  one of the few places on the top where water is flowing all year round. 

This dragonfly was friggin huge. I am at least four feet away from the insect. Wingspan of about eight inches. No kidding. 

Some splashes. Not advisable. Even for the sake of photos. My bad. The water was teeming with fish, which were put there to eat the garbage.

The entrance is marked by a small plaque. Supposedly at least two  big cats in the area, one on top, near Taramati, and one just before the rock patch. The area is huge, but no one explores away from the trail, so the whole mental map of Harishchandragad is deceptively small. 

Small crabs in the area. There were bright red ones too. Some of the guys caught bigger ones and had em for dinner. Was apparently very tasty. 

One of the Cobra lilies at the Temple on the top, around two minutes from the caves. 

This is the cave where the shivling is located. I got in with the camera, as the water level was lower than it was the last time I came here. We prayed on impluse, and this was the first time in at least eight years that I actually joined in when people were praying. 

Rare to get a shot from this angle... don't think another one of these exist. The three fallen pillars are supposed to represent the three yugas. The fourth one, is the present yuga, and will collapse when the world ends. The cieling is held up because of this one pillar. Wonder what will happen, or what story will be told, if the fourth one, too, falls, before the world ends, which is more likely looking at how cracked it was. 

This is the guy I met on the train from Thane to Kalyan. 

Growing in a ditch. 

The clouds and mist cleared for some time, showing the clear blue sky. The moment of clarity lasted less than half a minute. 

On an impulse, we decided to head over to Taramati. Taramati is the second highest peak in Maharashtra, which I didn't know till Saturday. Had been to Taramati once before, its a short walk from the caves.  The trail is steep, and goes almost straight up, so it is surprising how fast and how high we climbed. This is half way to the top from the caves, where we got a great view of the temple complex below us. 

Another one of those rare moments of clarity, that showed us how high we really were. After this, we were blanketed by the clouds, and it was raining below us. 

The absolute top of Taramati. The pole was secured by a number of cables, so that it does not topple because of the wind. 

Some introspection...

...and meditation...

...then the group came up. Some of us had gone ahead. We were on the top for hardly ten minutes. No view whatsoever, the clouds were rolling continuously, and it was very windy. 

So windy, that we walked down holding hands. The leader was scared of lightning. 

In the evening, we headed out to Kokankada, the highest cliff in Maharashtra. Unfortunately, we were blanketed by the fog, and those who had trekked to Harishchandragad for the first time missed out on the majesty of the cliffs. We sat close to the cliff edge, and took it in. I joked that we wouldn't be sitting so close, if we could see where we were. A little while later, for hardly ten seconds, the view cleared just a bit, enough for a couple of people sitting nearby to walk away. Those who weren't with the group did not believe us when we said the view had cleared for a while, and demanded to see photos. I explained to them that there was no time for photos, and anyway, I didn't think of it when the view cleared. Don't think they bought it. 

But a few of us kept looking in the hope that it would clear again. Fortunately, it did, and parts of the cliff was exposed now and then. Still, nothing compared to the entire view...

A very docile and camera friendly praying mantis showed up right at the top. Came pretty close to the lense too.

My lense got all wet, and the water condensed inside, so it was useless for the rest of the trip. Slept in the caves that night, was pretty warm this time around. Had a carrymat, and was not chilled to the bone, so it was a comfortable night. We spoke about stuff well into the knight, including a good general knowledge session.

The next morning, we walked down after an early breakfast of maggi. We reached the base at four, after many breaks for conversations in between. There was also an adivasi dance just before the rock patch, if something goes up on YouTube, will link it here. There was a slippery stretch, that I skid down. Good eight feet of it.
We had a great lunch at Hotel Aishwarya, then got a lift till Khubi Phata from a busload of people going to Pune. From Khubi Phata, we hailed an empty truck to Kalyan, which was a lucky break. Click here for more photos, and at better resolutions.