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Diwali Trek in the Nashik region 2005

Extreme is something hard to experience. We were to engage in once such activity. Diwali treks with Bhramanti have always been something different. Last year the group went around the sea forts of Maharashtra and contrast to that this year we decided to go for the most dry, non-green region of Maharashtra the Satana region with the lowest rainfall. We planned to trek the Selbari range known for some of the difficult treks. It was a 5 day trek ( 29 th Oct’05 - 2 nd Nov’05 ). Of the many mountains, we decided to start trek with Mangi-Tungi covering Nhavi, Mulher, Mora, Hargadh, Salher and end with Salota.

A five day trek dated towards the end of October and beginning of November in the North West corner of Nashik (i.e. Salberi & Dolbari range) was attended by nine Bhramanti’iets. As per to the plan and schedule the trek would start from Mangi-Tungi and end at Salota. After making all the necessary arrangements (like food, medical kit, transportation, etc.) needed for such a kind of trek we all finally started off towards Malegaon (near dhule) from Mumbai. It was a night journey.

Day 1. ( 29 th November 2005 )

Reached Malegaon early morning a little behind schedule from where we boarded the very first morning bus ( 7.30 am ) heading directly to Bhilwad going via Tahirabad ( 10ish am). Though the name is Bhilwad, it’s locally known as ‘Mangi-Tungi’. At Mangi-Tungi nestles the Jain temple's of Adinath and Parshwanath, a pilgrimage place, famous amongst the Jain community which has a fairly large campus consisting provision stores, an ashram and large canteen with fairly decent provision of stay, food and water.

After having a quick lunch we all set off for our very first destination Mangi-Tungi. Taking the route from behind the ashram which immediately passes through the village and crossing over a small stream we come across an arch at the base of Mangi-Tungi in about 20 minutes. On the way can be seen the long zigzag winding steps leading right up to the base of Mangi-Tungi pinnacle. On the right stands the grand pinnacle of Tungi. Climbing the steps is extremely exhausting and takes about 2-3 hrs from the base taking several breaks in-between. At the end of these steps is another arch which provides a good resting place. The route on the left goes to Mangi whereas the one on right goes to Tungi. We head for Mangi first. On reaching the base of Mangi, we took a 360 degree rotation around the Mangi pinnacle. Water is in abundance over here. From here one gets the first glimpse of the surrounding mountains and a fair idea of the distance to be covered within the next four days. On way one comes across several rock-cut caves having metal gates which are normally closed as the carved out images inside are defiled. Straight ahead can be seen the pinnacle of Tungi. Enjoying the view from the top and further wasting not much time we descend down the same way till the common arch and proceed straight towards Tungi. From this place it takes about 30 min to reach the base of Tungi pinnacle.The base of Tungi pinnacle is further elevated and can be reached by a climb of rock cut steps. The pinnacle of Tungi stands very bold against the vast sky and offers a very interesting topic for photography. As one moves up the steps right from the mountain base, different perspectives of Tungi pinnacle can be captured. On the way towards Tungi, slightly ahead from the arch is a beautiful shrine 'Vrindvan' of lord Shri Krishna. Walk from Mangi to Tungi is over the ridge connecting both these pinnacles. After having explored the place we return back to the arch, down the steps to the ashram at times breaking into a run. The total exploration from the base to the top and back took us around 6-7 hrs. Back at the ashram refreshing ourselves and having dinner we windup early for the day.

Day 2. ( 30 th November 2005 )

The overnight rest was a much needed one.

Our next destination was Mulher via Nhavi.

As per the schedule we had to reach Mulher fort for the 2 nd night’s stay. Reaching Mulher well in time seemed a big task as we had to cover Nhavi fort on the way. The nature of route ahead was unknown.

At the days break with renewed zest we all set off to Nhavi fort which is a merry 11/2 hrs walk form Bhilwad. After having a quick sip on tea and bite on snacks, we took the same route from behind the ashram going to Mangi-Tungi base as we had the earlier day. After a walk of about 20 min we come over a point where the route turns sharply towards the right at a 90-degree angle. At this point we leave the path and take the route going towards left. From here on towards the right, Tambolya hill and straight ahead Nhavi fort comes into view. On the way ahead, towards the right we come across a beautiful lake at the foot of Tambolya. The view of Tambolya reflecting into the calm waters is worth capturing. Walking for a while on this well trodden path for about 40 min, we reach Vadakhel village. We proceed straight ahead over the ascending path to the right going to Patalwadi. Patalwadi is another 30 min walk from Vadakhel village. Though Nhavi fort appears to be near it takes about 30-40 min to reach the foot of this fort. The approach to the fort is over the ridge descending down from the northern end of the fort. Midway climbing to the fort over this ridge, on the left, is seen a small temple. Just above the temple at the height of about 30ft, cut in the rock face is a water cistern. The route hereon is quiet treacherous. The path is over the thin ridge with enough exposure on both sides. Also the final approach is over very narrow and crumbled rock steps, which make the move and approach pretty difficult. Keeping in account the safety measures of all and the distance to be covered till Mulher, we quit Nhavi and retracing our steps return back to the Patalwadi village where we had left our sacks. Had lunch at one of the villagers place and rested for a while. Taking adequate information about the route directions and accounting on the duration to reach Mulher we set off for Mulher fort. Information about the route helped us in saving almost about 2-3 hrs. Reaching Mulher well in time seemed a great task as the distance seemed to be great. Keeping the spirits at their max and making our way through the bushes we take the path over the ridge descending towards Malivade village. While descending, Mulher village comes into view right in front at the base of Mulher fort. After a short break just before Malivade, from where across chilli fields and through the sugarcane fields taking the un-metalled road we finally reach Mulher village. “What a sigh of relief”? From Patalwadi it takes about roughly 3-4 hrs to reach Mulher village. It was almost early evening and after a long tiring walk a much needed break awaited us. Having tea at one of the restaurants and purchasing needed grocery, making our way through the market, we reach the other end of the village. Exquisite wooden carvings decorating the facades of the houses here give the glimpse of the past glory. Walking for a while over the unmetalled road we come at a place where the road turns left with a huge single house at its corner. Here we leave the metalled road and walk over the beaten ways heading straight to Mulher base. Further ahead one notices a path climbing up towards the right to the col between Mulher and Hargadh. This route is quiet roundabout. Avoiding this path, we take the one going straight climbing Mulher. Passing through the three gates we finally reach the Mulher machi. Here the first glimpse of the Ganpati Lake and the adjoining temple of lord Ganesha surrounded with dense forest is a much welcome sight. Six pillars hold this temple roof and are completely open on its one end, which faces the lake. After a mild exploration in the surrounding area and cleaning the temple floor we set up for the night stay. It was evening time and the cold had started setting in. Before the lights could completely fade off making the visibility bare we prepared ourselves for the night. Hot tea was a welcome treat at that moment, also simultaneously started the preparation of dinner. ‘Khichadi’ was on menu. Candles and torches were out, as they were the only source of light over there. Darkness had enveloped us all by now. It was cold enough. Cooking was fun as there was quiet an entertainment like singing and ‘halla-gulla’. The smell of the cooking khichadi made us feel more hungry and impatient. Finally, there it was “all ready”. Treating our hungry stomachs with the well prepared hot steaming khichadi we finally winded up the day at earliest. It was very cold by now.

Day 3. ( 31 st October 2005 )

It was a very pleasant morning, with cold still in the air. The sun had already made its way up. Today, we were not in much of a hurry, cause as per our schedule, after exploring the fort we had to return back to Mulher village from where we had to avail ST at 6 pm and reach Salher village for our night stay. So no cross country walk and no carrying of our heavy sacks today. By the time we freshened up, tea and poha for breakfast were ready. Mulher is a twin plateau fort also known as ‘Auranggad’. The left extension of the plateau is called Mora. The main darwaza of Mora fort can be seen right from the Ganesh mandir on the machi below. Carrying the basic necessities like water, pack food which we had carried, medical kit, etc. in a small sack we finally set off for the fort’s exploration. It was 9.30 am by then. Exploration of Mulher fort, Mora and Hargadh were on today’s agenda. No matter how much time it took for the entire round about, we had to make sure that we were at the Mulher village before 6 pm for the ST bus to Salher, our next destination. Keeping the Ganpati lake on our right, we followed a small trail making its way up through the well grown forest and reached the Someshwar temple. This temple is on the eastern flanks of the machi slightly on the higher grounds than the Ganesh temple and takes about 20 min to reach. On our way we come upon a bifurcation. The route on the right comes from the Ram – Laxman temple. This temple lies behind the Ganesh temple in the western direction. We rest here a while at the Someshwar temple enjoying the beautiful forest and the cool breeze. After paying our obeisance at the Someshwar temple, we head in hunt for the well named “Chandan Bav”. This well is at a distance of about 100 footsteps in the northwest direction and tucked inside the thick undergrowth. It’s difficult to find this well due to thick vegetation. This well is approximately three storeyed with steps leading down into it. The steps have crumbled down and should not be attempted unless for sure. This strange piece of medieval architecture is now in a very bad stage. A small temple of Mahadeo stands next to the well.

After this exploration of the well we come back to the Someshwar temple. From here right in front is the cliff wall of the balekilla, a small gully climbing up, comes into view. Our route passes through this gully. On the left jolting out slightly is the Mora fort and opposite to it on the right connected by a small col is the Mulher machi. Both the Mora and the Mulher machi are at the same height. It takes about an hour from the Someshwar temple to reach the col. From here, below in the jungle, can be seen the Someshwar and Ganesh temple with the lake. The initial approach to Mora is over narrow, rock cut steps with a bit of exposure on one side. There is nothing much to see on top except for a small lake and two water tanks nestling under a banyan tree. This fort is compact and naturally defended by perpendicular precipices. We rest at the lake for quiet a while enjoying the cool water. Having had the food we carried, with renewed zest we set off for Mulher machi. Retracing our steps, we return back to col. walking over the wall we reach at the entrance to Mulher machi. This is a huge plateau with a couple of water tanks on the lower left and a Bhadanganath temple in the centre, whose dome is missing. Taking a short note of these things, we make our way through the dilapidated fortification and bastions. Very soon we come across another entrance “Chor Darwaja”, ‘Escape Exit’ which descends steeply down to the lower machi. On the way down towards the left, we come across two fairly large caves, next to which stands a rock cut idol of lord Maruti painted orange in colour. This idol can be seen from the Ganesh temple on the lower machi. The first cave has a coarse floor, but the other one much better can accommodate around 10-15 people. Carefully making our way down over the loose mud we finally reach the Ganesh temple where we had left our sacks behind. While descending, on the right, down below, ‘Moti Taki’ and ‘Hatti Taki’ can be seen. We dropped out on Hargadh as we run out of time. Mulher, Mora and Hargadh are not possible in a single day. Having eaten the prepared poha we descend down to Mulher village for the 6 pm Satana – Manur bus to reach Salher village for our night stay. The way back to the Mulher village appeared like a desert walk, with dry, loose soil below our feet and the pinnacle of Mangi-Tungi, Tambolya and Nhavi appearing as pyramids in distance. It was quiet a sight.

We reached the base village of Salher and stayed in a school premises of an ‘Ashram Shala’. In the court yard at a distance in the dark stands a water hand pump. After the long tiring day at Mulher – Mora, the cold water from the pump refreshed us. Everyone had a nice time having hands on experience on the hand pump and it became an entertaining activity for us. Back at the school premises we settle ourselves for the preparation of dinner. The same old khichdi again, and for a change, along was the vegetable of cauliflower on the menu.

Day-4. ( 1st November’05 )

This was a special day. The day of ‘Diwali’. Taking bath was far from possible, we just washed our head for the so called Pahili angol (first bath of Diwali) and wished each other a Happy Diwali before proceeding for our main task, the so-called attraction- Salher fort. Salher fort (5140 feet) boasts of being the highest fort in Sahyadri's in Maharashtra and the 2 nd highest peak to Kalsubai. After a check on the way with a localite, we set off for our much-awaited Salher trek. The fort didn’t look much of a challenge from base till witnessed. Selabri range is a arid zone with extreme temperature. Scorching heat during the day and cold nights. The last 3 days were a little too comfortable as we didn’t carry our sacks while climbing. But we carried our sacks while climbing Salher as we were to camp in on the fort top overnight. After day break, we set forth towards the fort. Facing the fort, we take the which climbs up through the fields, by the right side of the ridge in the front. The way progressed initially in the sun and shade, and after one hour of climbing, the way turned in to rock cut steps and exposed us to the wild sun. After taking few breaks on the way, we were confronted by the first darwaza, which really comforted us all. A series of 2 darwazas followed leading us to a machi which ran parallel to the mountain. The whole machi was under dense vegetation around shoulder length. We further reached the base of rock cut steep steps onto the right climbing up straight. These fleet of steps lead into another darwaza and here we reach ‘Gadipathar’, a vast plateau stretching across in front of us. On the right stands a hillock of the Balekilla. The temple of Lord Parshuram can be seen on the top of balekilla, which is the highest on the fort. Our destination appeared far in sight, and we had covered only ¾ of the fort by now. As we walk over the plateau for about 30 min, we came across placid, clear water tank carrying very cold water. Further moving parallel we could see other mountains dwarfed in front of Salher. On further walking for about 10 min from this tank, we come across a good artificial lake, known as Gangasagar. The water is mossy green in appearance. On walking further ahead around the lake we come across, the temple of Renukamata comes into sight. Facing the temple, onto the left, slightly above on the higher ground at above the distance of 30-40 footsteps are the three caves, adjoining in its courtyard is an idle, which might be that of Lord Parshuram. We went and dropped our sacks there, took some rest and then moved for our ultimate destination the Salher peak. To reach the caves from the village takes about roughly 4 hrs. We took the narrow trail above the caves from the right and within 30-35 minutes reached Salher top. The view was splendid; we were on the highest fort in the Sahayadris in Maharashtra . From the south to the east reveals the forts of Dhodap, Ikhara, and other forts in the Satmal range and also Mulher, Hargad, Nahvi, Mangi – Tungi. In the east right in front of us stands the fort of Salota along with the route leading to it. We were yet not content with this place, but had to get back to the caves before it got dark. The sun was on its way down and the cold turned into chill. Back in caves was a memorable experience. We a group of nine adventurers were celebrating Diwali in a unique way. We lit the caves with candles. Today was our feast day. We further burnt the few fireworks we carried with us and then retired for the day, happy with the day’s achievement and celebration.

Day 5.( 2 nd November’05 )

Most of us didn’t sleep with the idea of covering Salota early in the morning, as we were to return Mumbai on the same day and our journey way back to Mumbai was a long one. Taking into consideration the steep, vertical and exposed way and the scree factors at Salota few of us dropped out and our dare devils went ahead as planned. Our task was now just to descend Salher. Salher and Salota have a common junction – this col binds both Salher and Salota. Three of us left quiet before the descending group. On the way to Salota there are many man made caves and water cisterns in line before the descend. The descend up to the col are uneven rock steep steps. After reaching the Col , we went ahead through the so called Salota fort, known for its steep, narrow ways. The mountain is so steep that one wrong move or slip over the scree could land you in the valley. Of course it was a far more challenge than Salher - the highest fort. As we get down into the narrow col joining Salher and Salota, Vaghambe village on the left and Maldar village on the right comes into view. From the col, the route upto Satota is quiet interesting and very adventurous.

We move over a very the small narrow trail along the cliff of Salota. After closing two clusters of thickets and bushes, we reach a small plateau on which is a cattle pasture on which some dilapidated houses stand desolated along with some temple ruins, a Shivling, Paduka (sacred foot prints). The rock cut steps leading to the top with an overhang on the left and exposure on the right can be seen from here. It seems to reach there but the task is quite difficult. The route leading to these steps has crumbled down and littered with loose earth. On our way till the cattle pasture, we cross two waterfalls on the left coming straight down from the cliff wall. The approach till the steps is a big struggle over the loose scree with exposure on one hand, which makes the climb extremely difficult. Our route climbs up from the second waterfall. Using some simple rock climbing techniques, we cautiously move up over the steep rock face. On reaching straight up near the face of the cliff, where the waterfall narrows up further, towards the left, a fleet of crumbled down steps comes into view. From here on the route is quite prominent. The first entrance on this route is made of black stone and is in a dilapidated condition, the rock boulders had all crumbled in making the entrance to a mere hole. On moving further over the zig-zag path under the overhang cliff, we pass through the second entrance. From here on are a plethora of caves. Proceeding further we reach the top of the fort. The top offers nothing much, but a couple of rock cut water cisterns. On the other end stands the Hanuman Temple in utter isolation. After a quick exploration on the fort we return back to the col by the same route. The way up was far better than the risk of coming down. It took about 3 hours to reach Salota. Salher stood right in front and the way down we took from Salher looked almost at 90 degrees to the base from here. From the col we descended toward the Vaghambe village, from where we would proceed with our journey back home to Mumbai via Satana and Nashik. The way back to the base village Vaghambe appeared a little long marking the end of our 5 day adventure. We managed to prepare poha with leftover resources and then started from there by ST Bus at 4.30 pm for Satana from where we had to avail another bus for Nashik. Having dinner at Nashik in one of the restaurants, we finally took a bus to Mumbai at 10.00 pm , back in our own nest.

The 5 day trek, served much to our appetite of adventure. Not to mention the little moments of glee and pain that added to make a memory of its kind.

Written By: Nitin More

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