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Ankai - Tankai - Gorakshgadh Trek ( 14- 15 July 2007)

This was a long awaited venture , personally for me, especially due to the location which is quite far off from Mumbai, the transformation of this desert like place during monsoon & to refresh memory of my first pinnacle climb on Hadbi-chi-shendi!

This region receives scanty rain & hence was an ideal spot during the peak season of July. One gets the pleasure of good sight seeing as well as the drizzle showers which plays hide & seek. Apart from the pinnacle Hadbi-chi-shendi which is meant for serious rock climbers, this region has hill forts like Gorakhnath (Gorakhgad) , Ankai & Tankai which are quite easy to trek.

This time, our trek was quite well planned with the reservations done to & fro Mumbai - Manmad. Our group consisted of youngest 8 years lad to 53 years enthusiast. Ankai Quila is small railway station off Manmad, around 8 kms. After an overnight journey by Devgiri Express, our team of 17 got down at this miniscule stn which is devoid of any platform. It was like a deserted place without any habitation or settlement. Just a state highway & rail connecting Manmad to Daund. Probably just a tea stall which was still closed at 7.30 in the morning. After having a round of introduction, we left for Gorakhgad. Facing Manmad, this is to the left side of the rail. Gorakhgad & Ankai-Tankai are on either sides of the road/rail.

A short walk of 15 min. got us to a small house which houses the heirs of Suryavanshi community since ages. He was glad enough to provide us with that rejuvenating cup of tea to top our snack breakfast. After a quick photography session, we started off for the hike towards Gorakhgad. With proper steps till half of the climb, the hike is little monotonous. So we started spreading apart leaving the steps & scrambling towards the top. After a half an hour climb, one comes across a small ledge. The Gorakhnath Temple is located in a deep cave. After another climb of 5 min. above this ledge, one comes across a larger ledge. It has a couple of water tanks towards right side with the hill on to our left side. Still ahead, one comes across an open space. It offers a good view of the Ankai fort. The rail & road line can be clearly seen. The Hadbi-chi-shendi pinnacle stands as though inviting for another climbs. It is also referred to as thumbs up pinnacle. Vast expanse of land is visible till the horizon. This region allows farmers to cultivate just 1 crop a year ie during rainy season, other seasons being dry throughout. Sometimes, it’s difficult to even manage drinking water during summer season. We turned back & heading towards the other side keeping the hill on to our right side, we come across a huge water tank on right side with the Kanifnath Temple in this cave. This water may be potable. Beyond this point, the exposure to the left side kept us away from visiting the top.

We returned the same way back to the Ankai stn area. Had a tea & headed to Ankai village which is across the rails. It’s a half an hour trek skirting the Ankai hill to reach the village. We tried our luck for food arrangement in the Jain ashram. On enquiry, we had to turn back since the supper was meant for that particular religion only. We caught hold of a villager lady who was more than willing to prepare all food for all 17 of us. She took 2-3 hrs to prepare chapattis, bhakris & dal amti! It was a treat & worth waiting for this long. Finally, we took off towards the col between Anjai & Tankai. This col can be seen right in front of the village.

At the base of this col, there are Jain caves. The carvings are beautiful although they need better maintenance. There is 2 storey cave too. After a detailed exploration, we finally headed towards the twin hill col. It’s around half an hour climb. Drizzle rain showers welcomed us through the huge fort twin gates. This col is extremely scenic may be especially in this rainy season. One side of the col is the village while the other side offers a good view of the pinnacle, Gorakhgad & Manmad area. Facing the pinnacle, the right flight of steps reaches the Tankai fort while the left flight of steps takes to Ankai fort. Our stay was planned on the Ankai fort. It’s another half an hour climb to the Temple cum ashram at top. Enroute one sees a couple of caves & water tanks. Water not potable.

The Temple is beautiful. Its well maintained by a baba & his young devotee. The Temple is a huge cave which has a small room too. Adjacent to this Temple, there are couple of other caves too which are used for lodging for devotees who come up during the holy month of Shravan. We introduced ourselves to the baba & his disciple. We offered to hand over the ration which we had bought especially for dinner & breakfast. The young devotee himself offered to cook for all of us. Onions, garlic & non vegetarian is strictly not allowed in these premises.

Its quite a large plateau around. The west end faces the rail down below as well as the stn. This end has a large structure. We caught a brief glimpse of the sunset too which was a surprise in July! The plateau has water tank with a statue of a deity at its center. We then went up the small hill above the Temple. It offers a fine view of the entire Tankai plateau. It’s a square shaped plateau without any tree, covered with fine grass & few water ponds over it. Towards the centre of this plateau, a small Pandav Temple is barely visible. We returned back to the Temple. This Temple has a good drinking water tank which is huge & attached to it. We had a good full dinner & called it a day. It was a clear sky at night.

The Sunday morning was pleasant with drizzle shower & entire area covered with clouds. We had a bath at the water tank on the plateau. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of sunrise too! Had the morning aartis in the Temple. We were welcomed by nicely cooked poha & black tea. Finally we had the group pics & left for the Tankai fort. Had to carefully get down the stairs since some were slippery. After reaching the col, Sham opted to wait while everybody else went up the Tankai fort. We left our sacks here & went up. It takes around 15-20 min. to reach the plateau. The sight is scenic. It is covered with tiny grass all over. Cattles & horses graze here. Its quite windy too. We went up to the Temple. There is a small pond in front of this Temple. We circumvented the entire fort. All 4 corners of this plateau have some existence of fort walls. There is no shelter here. We then returned to the col. Packed ourselves & started our journey back to civilization. From the village, we took rick (6 seater) for Manmad stn.

We found that as usual the up trains to Mumbai were delayed by about 3 hrs. We had a brief visit to the famous Gurudwara on the west side of Manmad. It was a quite a relaxed trek this time. We reached our homes by 9.30 pm even though it was a far off trek. It was satisfying too since we explored 3 places viz Gorakhnath, Ankai & Tankai forts.

Written By: Kiran Sarode

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