Friday the 10th of September was looking like a distant cousin of July
the 26th. Mumbai was drenched and going under water. Doubts had creeped
in some minds about the feasiblity of the Ratangad trek arranged by
Bhramanti. But keeping in theme with the spirit of trekking, it was
heartening to see all the 16 had turned up at the Thane ST stand. We
took the 11.15 ST bus to Sangamner. The bus was comparitively full and
some of us had to sit near the driver, some on the steps and some
unlucky ones like me had to travel standing for some time.
We reached Igatpuri highway bypass at around 2:30 am in the morning.
There was fog all around and the visibility was very low. Vehicles were
plying with their fog lights on. We had to search for the route to the
ST stand, since we could not make out much in the fog. However we
managed to reach by 3:00 am. We were told the bus is at 5:00 am. We
decided to rest for some time and wait till the bus started.
At around 5:15 we boarded the Igatpuri - Bhandardara bus. And this
journey gave us the glimse of beautiful things to come. Very soon in
about 45 mins we reached the Shendi village. This is where the
Bhandardara dam is situated. It was around 6:30 am and we went down to
the dam to have a look at it. We were told that the first boat to
Ratanwadi is at 9:30 am. Since we would have to wait for a long time,
we decided to take a jeep to Ratawadi. Since there were 16 of us,
couple of us decided to sit over the top of the jeep. And boy that was
a fun ride.
Anyways we reached the Ratanwadi village at around 9:30 am. Right at
the start of the village is the Amruteshwar temple. A very famous
temple because of its age. Its said to be about 1000 years old. Its one
of the rare temples with carvings normally found in temples of South
India. There was a Shiv Ling but the inner sanctrum was filled with
taking snaps all around the temple, we had a formal introduction of
members. We hired a guide who offered to stay with us and it turned out
to be a good decision. How come? Read on..
We started walking from a path that just goes near the temple. We
crossed the stream number of times. Very soon we reached a plateau. We
couldnot see the fort on the top because of the clouds covering it.
Turning to the right we soon entered the jungle. Everyone was trying
their best to keep pace with the guide and soon we reached the ladders.
We had been warned by our seniors that trekkers are supposed to be very
careful on the second ladder and that after the ladded there is a small
chimney climb sort of. So myself and Rishi went ahead and then we
helped the guys cross the chimney. Since it was raining heavily the
guide was of the opinon that it was risky but i believe because of
rains the steps werent slippery. Anyways we soon crossed the Ganesh
Darwaza. After there there is a route that goes right and one that
climbs to the left to the Hanuman Darwaza. We took the right route that
took us to two caves. The smaller cave is a temple which can accomodate
3-4 ppl and the second one where we decided to camp could accomodate
about 20 - 25.
raining heavily and it was all clouds. We could not see any scenery
below us because of the clouds. The fort is at a height of 4500 feet.
In clear weather you should be able to see the Alang, Kulang and wall
We had our lunch and then we were comtemplating whether we should go
for the tour of the fort or take a rest. The guide advised us that it
was cloudy all around and that it would be better if we took rest and
then on the way back we could see the sights on rest of the fort.
So we decided to take the suggestion and sat down talking. We were all
the time watching the clouds. We could not make out where the horizon
started, the sky ended or the ground lay. According to couple of us, it
seemed as if we were watching the IMAX dome screen. Nothing but a white
screen. Ajay volunteered to make tea and he made a slightly different
tea. ;) Wasnt bad but it had a generous helping of 'adrak' and so some
called it adrak medicine. :)
After tea people got talking and gossiping and soon after resting it
was time to cook dinner. Which also meant it was time for the singers
to flaunt their talent. And singing and cooking , hand in hand, Ajay
decided to stick to something orthodox and this time he came up with
vegetable pulav. It smelled great and tasted the same. Soon we had our
full and everybody went to sleep.
Everybody was asked to get up real early in the morning. And one of the
few treks where people did wake up early. Dot 5:30 am people were up
and awake. Its was chilly and still cloudy. Everybody packed their
carry mats and couple of us started working on breakfast.
Poha done and packed everybody started moving. Nobody had any idea of
what beauty was in store for us. None of the articles that I had read
had mentioned about the Kalyan Darwaza. Ok.. first things first. The
guide took us through the Hanuman Darwaza into the higher part of the
fort. The wind here was awesome. Believe it or not, people here were
being thrown off the path. Thankfully the wind was towards the mountain
and so it was safe. Rainwater was being blown right into our ears. :)
First to view, was the Chor Darwaza. The door was almost covered by
rubble. It seems there is still a route upto the door but since this
door is now buried no one can enter from there. It looked intruiging
but more was to come.
Next was the 'Bara Tank' i.e Twelve tanks. Ratangad has ample drinking
water in these tanks and all were overflowing. Next we came to somthing
that i thought was a tank. But I could see that on one side of the tank
there was a door sort of. The guide informed me that there were rooms
inside the rock and steps going down. It was eerie. Somehow it looked
scary. At the other end of the tank ie. right below where we were
standing, a passage could be seen. The guide said that this passage was
linked to the Chor Darwaza. But even that passage I could see was now
buried under rocks.
Things were getting exciting and the rains was doing a great job of
creating the ambience. Very soon we reached the Kalyan Darwaza. Now the
guide asked us to be very careful at the steps. Slowly each one of us
procedded over the steps. And once the steps were done, started a ver
'edgy' journey. All the while we were going across the edge of a deep
valley. Thankfully the clouds had covered the valley or we would have
been scared seeing the depth of the valley. Visiblity was only about
3-4 feet and still the guys were moving at a brisk pace.
In and out of jungles, fighting the strong winds, enjoying the rains we
reached the plateaus. To add to the fun we had just seen, a snake lay
in the way to meet us. Slow moving and surprising moving right along
the path instead of going across. So each one of us went past it
actually three different routes
a) Start from Shendi and reach the fort as we did
b) Start from Asangaon and cross the Karoli ghat and from Samrat
plateau reach the fort
c) Go to Shendi but from here go to Samrat plateau and to the fort.
The second route is good for experienced trekkers since its long but
reached the village, we saw the river and we decided it was time for
some fun. Rishi and myself went to play in the strong current and
luckily or not, the current pulled us and we went with the river for
about 10-12 feet. And soon it was game time for all of them. Everybody
would go into the current as if it was a water slide. And at the other
end Subendu, Ajay volunteered to catch them. Literally like wicket
It was getting late so we made our way back to the Amruteshwar temple
where it had all started. The jeep was waiting for us. We tied our bags
on the jeep and back we went to Shendi. On the way there were countless
number of waterfalls to be seen. And the most exciting was a reverse
waterfall. One waterfall because of the windcurrent had the water going
right up into the sky and the current had the shape of an elephant
trunk. It was beautiful. All along the roads there were waterfalls and
couple of times the drivers friend had to get down and check if it was
safe to cross the strong water current.
Going ahead we found a Maruti going towards Ratanwadi and the driver
was sure that the car would have to turn back cause it couldn't cross
the stream. Reaching Bhandardara we saw another beautiful sight. The
water was overflowing the dam walls and onto the roads.
We realised it was raining real had for two days and now we started
getting worried about the transport back to Mumbai. At Shendi we had
our fill of Bhajia and wada pavs and then made our way to the ST stop.
We took the bus to Igatpuri. From Igatpuri after a gap of about an hour
or so, we got the bus to Kasara.
8:05 local from Kasara and a fitting end to a fun filled trek.
Written By: Kirshnadas W.