On the weekend of 26th and 27th of Feb 2005, instead of lazing around in our homes; complaining how much work we had done throughout the week and finding another million excuses to sleep for more than eight hours a day we decided to go for a trek!
We met at CST station by 12.00 to board the last train to Karjat at 12.45. The mere fact of traveling so late in the night gave a head start to my adventure! The two of us were amateurs who had little experience in trekking and no experience in rock climbing. We were on our two-day trek to Rajmachi DhakBhairy caves. We were 14 in all, which included 10 trekkers and 4 climbers who planned to get to the pinnacle. We reached Karjat by about 3.30. Since it was the last stop we thought the train would halt for a while but it didn't. We weren't fast enough and before we could alight, we found the train moving straight towards the yard! We tried pulling the chains but the train just won't stop. Finally when it did, we were already about a kilometer away from the station. We had to walk on tracks back to Karjat, cautiously looking for other trains that were heading to the yard. Our adventure had already begun, with the moonlit railway tracks!
We then walked up to the ST stand in the village. We could catch about an hour of sleep at the bus stop, on the katta. It was amazing how two (Rashmi and Sheetal) of us managed to sleep on one katta! Necessity is the mother of adjustment. Nevertheless we slept, that one hour of sleep admidst all the mosquitoes and their buzzing was bliss. The climbers (Rajan, Rishi, Kaivalya and Hemant) then proceeded to Sandshi in a bus that left at about 5.00 a.m.
The trekkers then had breakfast (Kanda pohe) in one of the huts and go into a tamtam (rickshaw, suppose to be a sixseater in which 10 of us sat! Adventure has its ways to find you even when you are just travelling) to the base of the hill. Our first destination was Kondana caves. We walked for about 2 hours through the forest to get there. We were busy capturing every sight in our cameras, from the wild cactus to the anthills. In the monsoons this place is very popular for rappelling. We rested for a while before we started off to Rajmachi village.
We reached the village in time for lunch. We had a big hut to ourselves. It turns out this hut is sponsored by the Rajmachi Association of Adventure Sports. An NGO- thus the living charges were bare minimal. It was just one big room with three 2 small windows and two doors. The floor was just mud smeared with cow dung. The toilet was quite interesting. It was a homemade one; just an enclosure with a hole in the ground! We all had carried a bit of lunch with us. So we just ordered some Jhunka -Bhakhri and buttermilk. Not having slept the night before and all that trekking certainly warranted a nap. It was a hot afternoon and we slept on the bare muddy floor. The warm attitude of the villagers really touches you. It is here that you realize how mechanical and selfish our lives have become. They don't demand money for the services they offer. Their simple lifestyle and mannerisms tend to attract you. Commendable is the fact that despite their living conditions they humbly accept whatever money is offered for their services.
There were two forts near Rajmachi village. We decided to go up the fort Shreevardhan, as that was closer. By 5.00 we started to trek up the fort. It was just about less than a kilometer to get up to the top. This wasn't really a fort. It was a watchtower. It had nice clean water up there too. On the way back down, we took another route, which led to a temple. The way of life that the villagers adhere to can be seen clearly in the temple also. It had the idols; they were simply decorated with wild flowers almost giving it a touch of rustic romanticism. The next stop was the lake in the village. One is not allowed to bathe in this water as it is used as potable purposes in the village. We caught a glimpse of sunset by the lake. The water was so cold and refreshing, it was a perfect way of rejuvenating.
We later had dinner, rice pickle and aloo curry, at one of the huts in the village. At night the whole scene was different. There is no electricity. Night without lights takes a while to get used to. One of the guys, Ajay, happily stepped on a baby scorpion. The scorpion was quick to react and thrust his fangs right into his feet. It must have hurt like hell but the villagers were quite calm about it and they said he should be okay in 12 hours. They gave him some medication with cactus milk and other herbs and assured him that he'll be all right. They said a scorpion bite was quite usual and it’s not poisonous and certainly not fatal. Hmnnn...close encounter with the ‘wild’ that was. We checked up the whole hut before we slept and we found a huge - really huge spider, between the cupboards. It freaked us out completely, but if they thought scorpions were harmless, how could we throw a ruckus about a spider! We just chose to shut up. But true enough Ajay had completely recovered by morning. The villagers sure knew what they were saying.
Next morning, we started off to Dhak Bairy caves. It was about 8 kilometers to the cave. We packed some lunch from the village and started off. We had a guide, which was a great idea, as he knew all the shortcuts through the jungle. We carried lots of lemons with us. Gopal and Harshal made fresh lemonade on the way. We also had carrots to munch which proved quite useful in walking in the heat. Our first stop was at a temple. And then we trekked finally to the top of the hill. The DhakBhairy cave was apparently a little lower than the top of the hill. So we had to climb down a gorge to get to the cave. Almost vertical that you could see the valley straight below. It was an amazing descend between the rocks to the cave base. We met Rajan and the other 3 climbers who had completed climbing the pinnacle. We had a quick lunch in the cave. Hemant and Kaivalya had cooked Baigan Bharta on choolah! How cool is that!
The interesting part of the trek was rock-climbing bit from the base of the cave to a temple in another cave. It was about two in the afternoon and the sun was right on our heads. The rock was burning and it seemed impossible for us girls to do. But Rajan wouldn't let us back out. He got the ropes and Rishi , Hemant and Kaivalya affixed ropes on the rocks and handed us mittens- these are gloves used in trekking, rappelling etc. Now there was no way we could say no.
We started to climb finding our grip on groves in the rock. They told us where exactly to keep our foot next and where to look for the next grove in the rock and so on. So with just such detailed instructions we managed to climb slowly. At one point there was only a bamboo stick fixed to the rock, with little sticks protruding left and right at regular intervals, which was like a ladder to climb. That was the toughest part of the climb. One small mistake would mean going down the valley at full speed. But Rajan and the crew were so encouraging that everything seemed possible to do.
Up in the cave, there was a pool of cold water to quench our thirst. As we were resting up there, gasping for breath, and proud of our achievement, there were also loads of monkeys who were wondering what the fuss about climbing is all about. Fresh, cold water and cool breeze. Now we were all set for the descend. Climbing down wasn't easy and we used the ropes around our waist for the descend on the bamboo stick. You have to turn yourself towards the rock and just feel for the grips with your feet, which needs a bit of practice. So we were just content following orders like, "put your right leg where your left leg was". Our first attempt at rock climbing was truly an exhilarating experience. It was almost 4.00 but the time we reached back to the Dhak Bhairy cave.
Without wasting any time we started the descend back to the Sandshi village. It would take us about 3 hours to reach there. Some parts were quite extremely muddy with no firm grip and we slipped quite a few times. We had to get to the village before dark and also didn't want to miss the bus. Cutting through the jungle, the cactus, the wild thorny bushes, it was really what you call roughing it out. We caught beautiful sunset right in the middle of the jungle. The same sun looks so beautiful when you are amidst nature. It's a breathtaking sight.
We walked continuously for about 3.5 hours only to realize we had just missed the last bus to Karjat station. We had Neembo sharbat and tea in the village as we waited for a tempo to get us back to the station. It took us about an hour to reach Karjat .We boarded the 9.00 pm train from there back to Bombay. Totally drained out and completely rejuvenated at the same time. Now if you’re wondering what that ironical feeling is, just join the next trek to find out how.
Written by: Rashmi and Sheetal (Bhramanti Members)
Kalakrai Climbing article: Click Here