My Realm

Meet me - know me - read my posts and try to figure me! Well I am someone who is always thirsty for adventure, someone who simply hates playing sheep(u know the types - follow the herd!). An enthusiastic trekker, who loves to travel and ever ready for one of those wierd new found sports- luv to make new friends and njoy being my family's pet :)!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Crow Heads

A hot female “item number” star gets into a controversy, and we are having lunch in the lunch room heartily. What’s all the co-relation about? Well picture this -a big lunch room with a 29" TV and speakers all around, the room is 90% occupied by males and 5% by empty seats. The Channel on is "Aaj Tak" and the news is that of "indecent exposure". What’s more, the channel has a very canny way of presenting the ordeal -the lower left corner has a little window that has the reporter speaking about the event (that no one watching the channel would want to watch or hear- except for his over enthusiastic relatives and friends, you know the type "there he is yippee!"). The majority of the screen area from the top left to the bottom right till the left edge of the little window held the repetitive scene of the "supposedly" "indecent exposure".

This is how the report goes -graphically. The major area window shows this female clad in skim-pies, gyrating (and wobbling and shaking and what not –did I mention some dancing) in an attempt to get her steps right at rehearsals, successfully showing off very little of all that’s to be "exposed" to all of the inquisitive audience. The main window keeps expanding every now and then to occupy all of the TV area with the little -unnoticed- window zooming out behind the main window all the time. So –you have a gyrating female on the big screen in a room full of gentlemen :-), and the time to relax and have lunch. What do you expect…?

I would bet just 0.2% of the 90% and 0% of the empty chairs and of the 5% in minority :-) did not crane their necks around to even get a glimpse of the TV screen. Everyone in the room was engrossed in their conversation and munching on food (I bet they loved the food today, even thought it’s not really meant to be:-P) with 90% of the time their eyes glued to the TV screen -which btw. is mounted on the left corner of the room at about 7 feet from the ground. Every now and then, the head would take a quick wag- to the normal posture- to either complete a conversation or just pick the right stuff from the plate. What’s more -the scene kept repeating, and by now everyone had their set of favorite moves defined that they’d not want to miss!

All of this crow headed motion continued along as the reporter kept blabbering something no one cared to listen (except for the few who were “interested” in the NEWS or the few who got curious as to why such a big fuss over their –by now- favorite star’s dancing who seemed all innocent :-P). The 5% minority too enjoyed the piece of TV journalism as they gave this “Oh my god- like what’s going on…” grinning looks as they got their plates to the table not compromising any of the 10 frames (from the persistence of vision fame) for another but the gyration to the second!

At the table we all exchanged glances, amidst the crow head motion displaying our 32 teeth in content or a tight lip wide smile in an attempt to keep the stuffed chappatis and bhajji in the trap, while the other shy ones bowed down to shy off a shameless smile.

Was the controversy really needed or not, also was a reporter needed or not :-). These are all unanswered queries not to be ever answered. Even if the star gets into a heated controversy or ends up with some legal punishment, we –the true- ~90% in the lunch room totally enjoyed the event to our hearts content!

Btw. If you are wondering.... This happened today (Fri- 26th May '06) at lunch in office, not to mention this one of the many times :))!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dosai suude.. Dosai

What the title means is "Dosas hot .. dosas!" (in tamil). Ever since my current company started offering free food, round the clock mind you, I hardly tasted home made food. I sort of forgot what the original sambaar, dosas, idlis, rasam, bhajjis etc etc tasted like. My stomach caught sycnh with this new official food, or mostly the food I have on treks (which mind you is again a relesishing delicacy in in its own right!).

Schools are having summer vacation now, and hence mom is on vacation! So she is back what she is extremely good at. Preparing amazing mouth watering food (all delicaies I relish on!). So she would try all things melodrams, pammpering etc. to get me in the mood to have some home food. Also since she cooks great and has the time now, she ends up cooking a huge quantity. Lately I was pretty busy, not just in the office but also in treking activities and friend meetups. Due to this I sucessfully managed to get mummy grumpy :-).

So today morning I got up as usual -to the 8am alarm and quit bed at 10:15am, followed all rituals and fresh to face my mom with a question in my hustle bustle :-). "Vinu will you have dosais, I have prepared really amazing ones... ", said mom with this extreme content and satisfaction with a hint of interogation -if I would relish on them. I said "no mom, I am geting late blah blah..." leting out the usual grumble. But jsut before leaving I said "ok, just one.. but make it quik... I am geting late!" (I always am late ... actualy this was the earliest of all late days :-) ). So mom prepared a quick dosai, I had it with tenga (coconut) chutney and sambaar! It tasted good, then I sortof let out "mom dont shut the gas.. one more :-)". Mom was more happy that ever, and quicky prepared another flat steming dosai. This way I cotinued to 4 amazing dosas, mocking my mom over her melodrama she poses to get me to eat:-). Well I must admit, I usualy pose a drama too -like I am in a hurry and all .

So finally, I relished on the taste I had almost forgoten. The hot amazing soft mouthwatering taste of the dosais with the amazing thikat(spicy) chuteny and suude(hot) sambaar. I decided to fill myself up and skip lunch at office. "Daddy also said he will have only moore sadam (curd rice) for lunch" said mom, so very true- after having such mouth watering dosais who can think of lunch!

So all full and tight, post a hot cup of tea -I ended up leaving for office (the whole event lasted hardly 15 mins- but definately amdist melodrama posed by me 'n mom -dad and grandma making guest appearences every now and then :-D ). hahaaa

The day went cool (food wise - all content). Also now my friend decided to throw us a party at Garden Court, so said mummy with a chukkle "serri seerii - latea varuvaya appe - no problem" (ok ok -so will you come late then - no problem) - I could sense the content in her voice (satisfied that I relished heartily over breakfast) !


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Finally in Production!

I first saw Yogesh some 5.5 years back in ASC (now Sungard) when he was done with his interview with Abhay and was waiting (all this when we were in the office that existed on Prabhat road). Eventually he joined the company and is my buddy ever since. The one thing about the guy is his laughter and wierd sounds that only he is capable of producing. Eventually after about 2 years he quit but by then we had formed this elite groups of frustrated ASC'ians, the 2 of us were part and parcel of that.

One day I quit, then he joined where I still am- he is on a new venture now. Everytime on any outings or general TP stuff, he would never undertake any major risks (well I guess he overdid most of the times :-D, sorry Yog :-P). Things like -he did would not take up steep climbs on treks, or would never sit in the front seat when I drive at knuckle brain breakaneck speeds etc. etc.. The one dialog that he would deliver at such ocations were like -"Arrey dada... insurence use nahi karneka hai mera... Production mein bhi janeka hai!". Simply put -what that meant was he did not want to take risks before geting married. Basically he was hell bent on geting married (sure that led to linking him-up with quiet a few unknowns :-) ... but all of them were part of the teases).

Ok so much said about him. His dream has come true... as it stands now, he is married :-), and wayyy I mean wwwwaaaaaayyyy too happpy about it! His marriage was in Bangalore, non of us buddies could go there on a weekday to attend the marriage(12th May '06) :-(, he felt bad about it- but truly speaking nothing could be done. Anyways we went for his reception(14th May '06)- it was held in in Guruwaar Peth (Avik mis-read it as Gurdwaara Peth ... says he- "Arrey haan wo jo hai .. na pata hai re... wahan kahi to ek Gurudwaara dheka tha" I was in splits). The reception was simple and a job well done! The non-Puneiets had a great time exploring the Peth area (heart of Pune) and some of us enjoyed an amazing walk back home.

Yog (as we all call him) was clad in a dhoti and kurta ans was all smiles with his new found soul-mate. Yes now hot lips sure can get into PRODUCTION!!! (Whats hot-lips haan- Yog has a bad allergy with Chana/Rajma masala ends up with red swollen lips for a couple of days -well thats why he keeps his thick 'n big moustache :-D).

Congrats Yog!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bhangaar Meetup

Mangesh had been away for more than a year now, and is coming back to town. So all of us Bhangaars with their respective Bhangar-is decided to meetup somewhere.

So the mail thread commenced. Harsh and Rahulya could not resist from getting overexcited about the event and formalize the whole thing. Harsh said that 19 people would meetup so lets make it to Lonavala or somewhere, what the! 19 people (which was a miscalculation BTW.- as admitted by him- to 21 hahahaaa) from where... his idea was that all of us (Mangya, Rahulya, Zadya and myself meetup with all family). I mean common!!! I mean Mangesh is coming back after such a long time and this is the best time to have the wacky talk underway, rather that tight-lip ourselves and refrain from the ritual talk under a good-boy cover. To add to the melodrama, Rahulya suggested we meetup at some resort like Manas- which has boating swimming and all fantasies. I could literally imagine Rahulya dancing on his seat as he typed the mail with all 32 teeth flashing. Mangya was into splits when I related the mail thread with him (I met up with him that evening to decide more on the Big meetup). So after some more mails and taking weight from Mangya's, Zadya's and my opinion that it would be just all the Bhangaars and their spouses for the meetup - Zadya cooked up his own melodrama and set the meeting spot in the city somewhere near MIT tekdi in a hotel called Nakshatra.

So date decided was 6th May saturday at night somewhere around 7pm (against the 6:30pm decision). So after a lot of mis-timeliness (except from Rahulya and Harsh) all of us were finally at the meetup at around 8:30pm! The perfect time for the start of Dinner (Mangesh and Rajyashree being the last to arrive (Viva la Pardeshis).

SO these were the ppl - Rahulya and Samruddhi - Harshya and Triveni - Zadya and Mugdha - Mangya and Rajyashree and me alone :). The event started with the usual laughter over anything that's nothing, and the casual slaps on the back of the head. The way we were seated was all ladies together at one side and guys at the other (really speaking, the guys and girls sort of shared a part of each side of the corner rectangular table on the open terrace of Nakshtra hotel). Then came in -Harsh's brainomatics- the cake (Black forest an excellent option against from the little cut cake alternatives from college days -thanks to my Bhabis :-)). So started the event of placing a No. 3 candle (to signify 3 years of potential togetherness on Mangya's 3rd wedding anniversary -the previous day May 5th) on the cake and the round robin tournament to get the match-stick to light which came to light on the second box of match-sticks! So then Mangya cut the cake and Rahulya overenthusiastically splat some cream on his face (which Mangya readily offered) but lady Mangya ran to the other end of the terrace. Harshya did click some snaps with his mobile phone- which obviously are yet to be shared which never will - the usual :)

In no time the soups (some Irani stuff with an even wierder name) and starters were done. It took us well over 1/2 hour to place the main course order -every one had their own option and preferences (but as we had it what we eventually ordered was no different to what we would have had anyways). So had a hearty dinner and an amazing time pulling each others leg and cracking all sorts of jokes and recollecting old times! (I must say this Bhangaar group is really no different with the new Bhangaaris :) Hats off!).

So we were done with dinner and at that time Sandya decided to call (from the US). So we had a round robin with Mangyas Mobile again, and had a great time chatting with him. Zadya 'n Mugdha left as they had to pick their daughter from Mugdha's house. Finally the dinner came to an end with my option for Fresh Lime soda for desert (hmm.. :P) . Post payment (Mangesh's treat) we made or way to the Nakshtra main gate where we munched on some amazing Magai Paan. The meetup ended the traditional way -a lot of talk and laughter as though the meetup has just started types!

Eventually we decided to give it a chill and take off for the night! The time ticked somewhere near 11:30pm. It was a faboulous meetup!

Btw. for those who dont know - Bhangaars is a group of us friends (Mangesh-Mangya/Hadkul, Sandeep-Sandya/Leo, Rohit-Zadya, Rahulya-Rahulya/Barik, Harsh-Harshya/Buddha and me-Vindya) from Engineering college days. Basically we were two project groups (1. Mangya Sandya and me - and 2. the rest :) ) that got really close especially in the forth year of engineering, and still live life the same way we did then.

It was a an amazing meetup, after a long time all came together and decided to meetup again somewhere someplace prior to Mangya's departure. Lets see how well that goes :)


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dhak Chi Bahiri! (an exciting trek..)

Some five months back in December we decided to trek to Dhak Bahiri with the start of the New Year, but as fate had it the trek seemed to be getting delayed and a lost dream. Amit was getting restless for a trek so was I (especially given the fact that I had not set foot on trekking grounds for over 2 months!). So one day (April 24th) we decided to make it a reality. The trekking date was set to May 1st, and for this we had to depart on the night of 30th of April.

So I started researching the net for all sorts of information about this infamous trek. All write-ups reads and photos gave a very drastic picture- steep climbs, terrifying ascents, staring death in the face, 1 slip and you hurtle down 400 ft! I was starting to get to a weird feeling -a little uncomfortable, especially with my break in the trekking routine. But none-the-less this had to be done and done in style too!

So what I am going to write now is going to be more of a personal opinion of the trek rather than a detailed description (more of like what I felt coupled with the trek description!). Let’s see how it goes…

Amit was to be accompanied with his friend Rahul, so a total of 2 and me (3) were the trek package (For some reason Nike dropped off). So clad in a kurta jeans and rubber chappals with a haversack- Amit and clad in a t-shirt pant and a backpack- Rahul made their appearance at my house at around 9:15 pm. So we had an introductory session post, which it was decided that Amit would attend the reception (Harry’s) while we have dinner at Sweekar before embarking for the trek.

The clock ticked at about 10pm when the 3 of us left the city lights behind. En-route we took a halt to fill petrol at Dehu road, that’s when we met a bunch of trekkers who too were on their way to Dhak. They said another 40 have gone ahead! Boy were they kidding 40 people on the rock patch, we could sense commotion –party public, novices! We started getting second thoughts for the ordeal, Amit suggested Siddhagad. No one answered- well we took the crowd as a challenge and decided to hit Jambavili as planned. The road went through Kamshet from where we had to take a right to drive another 22 kms for our destination. Anyone on the way, whom we stopped for directions, simply started with the same sentence “Arrey bahut lamba hai yaar…”

It was dark everywhere, just the car beams seemed to lay out the road ahead of us. We passed a board that read 15 kms to Jambiwili, and in about an hour’s time after a blunder stop at the wrong village we reached the destination at roughly 12am. I mean it was pretty easy to spot the Jambiwili in the dark –from a distance we could see this bright spot light, so definitely there was a decent village in the vicinity and after all the distance we traveled it had to be Jambiwili.

So the villagers asked us to park the vehicle in the school premises, and take rest there for the night. So we did that. A 40-seater bus was parked there as wellJ. No explanation required. Ganpat, a local came by to assist us getting comfy. He said the 40 people- boys girls and all, had gone up to the Kondeshwar mandir to spend the night. According to him the group would not be up by 9 am the next day. He also said that there was a marriage the next day, so that was the reason for all the commotion in the main village square in front of the little temple for setting up the pandal. By this time the trekkers we met at the petrol pump drove on through the school ground and went on the dirty path behind towards the Kondeshwar temple.

Well at about 12:45am we called it a day, and set the alarms for 5am. The night was not so quiet and not that comfy as well. Two reasons for this,

  1. The continuous noise of carrying wood and placing asbestos sheets here and there
  2. The lizards, insects and others making their presence felt every now and then.

But I must say, the portable bed, pillow and the bed-sheet was a boon. Had it not been for that we would have lost out on our few hours of pure sleep.

The alarm rang at 5am. Amit and me were up instantly. For Rahul it was like we were in his dream -he slept like a log. The early morning view (the surroundings were still dark but the sky was getting bright), was amazing- we could spot dark clouds everywhere. The breeze was cool and we felt refreshed. A villager came by enquiring for our needs, and said that his house was right next to the road (yeah fun for us is business for him). So after hunting around the village for a dabba, which was in vein- we were done brushing our teeth. By the time Rahul was up it was about 6am.

By about 6:20am we were all done packing and parking the car next to the villager’s house (as suggested by him), and settled down to have a hot cup of tea and amazing mouth watering Malai Dande Golls. So it was just two bags: Amit’s and mine (we just carried the little stove enough water and the food stuffs, the rest we dumped it in the car- we had to climb some rock faces after all, carrying all the weight made no sense).

Once refreshed, we set forth for what we came - the trek to Dhak Bahiri!

By now it was bright everywhere, the clock was ticking at about 6:45am. The walk was amazing, the clouds had engulfed the distant mountain and hilltops and the breeze was cool and no direct sun. It was just perfect and bliss to have such a gifted start. Rahul said this would not last long though- it would be lost in no time and we would be hiking in relentless heat and sunlight! Well he was to be proven wrongJ. The path led from behind the school through some tree cover. The initial road was bad (we wondered why Ganpat suggested the other night that we drive up to Kondeshwar for the night- The road was good only for two wheelers or 4 by 4’s). Later the road seemed to be pretty even, always there was this cloud cover everywhere, Amit and me started the picture saga.

Walking on slowly, in a distance we spotted a temple. Rahul and Amit confirmed it was Kondeshwar. The path went straight then went down towards the temple. The temple had this big quadrangle a central little pillar type structure and the temple itself lined to one of the perimeters of the quadrangle. Bags were littered all through the place. People (all males) were walking here and there some with little water buckets in search of hidden treesJ. The females hid themselves inside the temple. Once we reached there an elderly person, who called himself the badji, welcomed us and confirmed our route ahead. People kept peering at us trekkers clad in all respects complete with backpacks! (Well Amit was the lucky one at this point in time –without the back pack.).

From this temple quadrangle is where we got our first distant clouded faint view of Dhak. It looked eerie, it looked magnificent, it looked fabulous, and I felt a shiver looking at a huge distant prominent steep black mound type rock structure covered partially in grey clouds jutting out from the distant valley over the distant adjacent plateau.

So we carried on, as I said the weather just did not seem to have any grudge against us. It was so pleasant. We managed to quickly gallop our way ahead climbing the hillock to take a right from ahead of Kondeshwar to the plateau. The sun which was shying off all this time, made us gaze up to search for it when we felt the rays playing a game of cat and mouse. The sun looked no different than a faint bright white ball (had it had some spots – it could easily be mistaken for the moon!). So needless to say enough photos were showered at this point. The path went on straight ahead leaving the mandir behind, and advancing on towards the edge of the plateau.

What a view it was! The valley was covered in clouds the distant ranges were a rarity to be spotted (as against a clear view on a summer day). No one could believe we were actually trekking with such thick clouds and to add gravity to the comment- it was 1st of May, the peak of summer season! Rahul pointed out to the steep hill behind me saying that it was the alternate path from the Lonavala side (a bifurcation from the famous Rajmachi trail). The hill it self looked beautiful with the gray cloud cover. Well we did spend a lot of time here simply in awe of the beauty around us. The distant black mound of Dhak still lay hidden behind the clouds saving its might for a later direct confrontation. The shiver in me had taken a stride.

Walking ahead we had to climb up a hillock that led up and later was subject to go steep down to the base of the Dhak hill/mountain. Rahul said that the remainder of the walk was to be a tiring event since we would be running down and then would have to negotiate a steep ascent to the top –base of Dhak, simply to run down (the infamous Kalkarai-Dhak rift (ghal)) to start the rock traverse. I did not know how I should take it, since I had already been though many such situations in previous treks- but here that we were nearing the actual destination of one of the challenging and must-do treks of the Sahyadris for any trekker put me in a confused mode (I did not know what to think, so I simply carried onJ).

The climb led from the plateau to a climb up a hillock that kept passing through tree cover and openings at regular intervals. I bet everyone seriously preferred to be in the open than in the tree cover, given the current conditions. Now the tiredness started to make itself visible, we took a brief halt at the edge, energizing ourselves with the view around. The path now went on straight for some time and then started a gradual descent into a thick forest.

The time was now roughly 7:45am, not bad at all as the two Dhak seasoned trekkers put it. This part of the walk was awesome. The jungle was thick and the path was narrow. The descent was gradual characterized with some windings. Eventually, the descent gave way to a straight path walk in the thick jungle. The jungle definitely was a marked mini replica of the Bhimashankar forest. Here Amit said “Dabba time…” Rahul said, “hold on for another 10-15 minutes and we would be up at the Ghal…” We agreedJ.

Walking on we spotted this little yellow board in the forest, what the map (cross arrows) indicated was that we were at a cross road: the left road led to Sandishi, the right road to the Dhak village, the path straight ahead to Dhak Bahiri and finally the path we came from (Kondeshwar/Jhambiwili). Had the board not been there it was tough to recognize the spot as a crossroad- the left and right roads were all covered up in bushes just leaving a very faint trail. So we had to move ahead, and so the climb had to start.

Here from the jungle, looking up through the trees we could spot a huge rock massif on one side and a jutting rock on the other-left. We were getting deadly close to Dhak.

The initial patch of the climb was pretty ok, a gradual winding route going up. But later it was pretty steep and challenging -yes very much challenging indeed- the climb. The basic inclination of the climb it self was getting from somewhere near 40 degrees to roughly 60 or more degrees! But what made it even tougher for me were 2 reasons again:

  1. The loose mud we had to walk on was just too slippery and one could not really stand in a very comfortable position here.
  2. Rahul was getting up very slow- with me on his tail, which was really not that good since gravity was taking a toll on me with every halt.

So this is what I did at times, the moment I found a reasonable ground to stand on I would halt, let Rahul continue up for sometime then when he covered enough distance, get on ahead at a good pace. This is something characteristic about my climb, may apply for many others as well- on any ascent I cannot follow a slow trekker, it just does not work out for me no matter how slow or fast I myself am climbing, I just cannot trek right following a slow trekker, especially on loose soil ascents.

The climb went on steep up, at times jutting branches from trees would break the rhythm at others logs fallen on the path would block the ascent. But in no less than 15 minutes we were atop. Amit shouted out from up “Guyz… ghal ala…”

Boy had the write-ups hyped up the whole ghal thing! Yes it was a steep descent, basically what it was- a rift between the Dhak fort to the right and the Kalkarai rock pinnacle to the left. There was barely 1.5 feet of even ground between the start of the rift and the climb we just negotiated. The 1.5 feet of ground patch was basically a path that originated somewhere from the left below- the Kalkarai base to the left encircling the Dhak massif to the right possibly leading to the fort above (unknown to many: The Dhak fort). Why I felt the write-ups over hyped was to the fact that all gave an impression that the ghal was something which had a steep descent with a steep foot ground and one could see the path going down to the open valley below. What one actually sees is this, a steep passage way leading down, The passage can be viewed as huge un-built steps going down, the gap is enough for at most one person on most sections of the descent – the ground is all full of loose soil so one sure enough has to use all four limbs for the descent on most sections in the ghal. Yes it was a magnificent and a challenging section of the trek- but definitely not as tough and undoable as the many write-ups say it is.

“So Vindy... this is where the Dhak Chi Bahi trek starts”, those were the golden words marked by Amit.

Plop I got rid of my backpack and stood still to catch my breath from the steep ascent. That’s when Amit decided to get his dabba venture to reality, but where on earth could he fulfill the desire? The path we were standing on was the only patch of flat ground. The topography went steep behind and to the left where as to the right there was not much space rather the thin path led away alongside the Dhak hill somewhere upwards. So the only portion he could opt for was to the left, eventually after some search and thought he settled down behind a tree on the slope. No sooner was he done Rahul stood in line and opted for the ordeal, that’s when Amit related the hilarious posture he had to maintain for the discharge! J

Amit got up partway of the Kalkarai pinnacle base, to capture some good pictures of the ghal. That’s when we heard some voices from below. We kept praying that all 40 people don’t show up at that point in time. Well so Rahul was done by then and I ventured for my assault but all in vein –I could not assume that position. I’d rather control myself. Finally 4 trekkers came up and halted for some rest, from them we learnt that the rest of the troupe was still far behind. We decided to make a go.

The descent had to be slow. Was it steep? –Oh yes it was, the only reasonable key to move on was to hold on to the sides and get down with slow and proper steps. I followed Amit who in-turn followed Rahul (btw Rahul had been to the Bahiri four times already and this was the third time for Amit- so it made sense for me to keep last). Well this was not the right place, but we could not help but somewhat halt at reasonably even ground and click some photos in the rift! Rahul asked me “Hey why is your left leg trembling so much…” well it was- you see, I was standing with my right leg straight on the ground and the left one was bent on a little jutting rock from the Kalkarai wall, so I was standing still against the descent with some weird balancing act on my left leg.

But surprisingly apart from the couple of photographic halts we were pretty quick and steady on our way down. In no time the steep descent came to an end and one had to get down a step almost 4 feet. At this point the right side of the rift wall opened up to the rock wall on the other side of Dhak that houses the cave (Bahiri). In a distance we spotted a couple of red flags jutting out of a cave bang in the middle of the cliff, the approach path could be spotted as going along a path at the base of the cliff and then some how mysteriously (we could not spot the infamous vertical climb from here) get up to the cave. Well, again, it really did not seem all that scary since the path that led till the base of the cave seemed pretty much a straight forward walk along a narrow path at the base of the cliff. But definitely this was one magnificent site! But here we were, still to negotiate the high step. Rahul with Amit’s bag was the first to get down then it was my bag, which Amit decided to carry, followed by him then me. The step was pretty peculiar- you could view it as though the rift walls came so close to each other just to leave enough room to squeeze though. So this part of the descent was an effort, but we got through this.

Once down we landed on flat ground roughly 3-4 sq. feet in area. The open valley lay ahead roughly 400 feet deep, the Kalkarai pinnacle stood large erect behind us, while the massive rock face of Dhak lay to our right to the left was a thin path going behind a rock but ended there. By now the clouds had disappeared and we stood in the shade as the sun was sleeping low behind the Dhak fort. The time was ticking at roughly 8:40am.

We took a right and went forth towards the Cave, walking alongside the rock. The path was not all that narrow- it was roughly one foot wide. By this time, Rahul had sprinted ahead and was only partly visible far ahead behind a couple of mounds in the distant path. Amit and I decided to click some great snaps of the Kalkarai pinnacle and the surroundings. Rajmachi was posing an excellent view from here- Shrivardhan and Manoranjan stood along side each other at the other edge of the Lonavala valley. We made a move ahead along the path, as we went ahead we went past little cave like structures along the path –the upper wall jutted out thus giving it a cave like appearance. The path slowly lost straight ground and what we were left walking on was an angular ground roughly 30 degrees but pretty wide, so we could walk casually over it. Then we had to climb a small rock mound, after this the walk was converted to a rock traverse- we had to stay at an angle towards the rock with support of the right hand, the only foot ground we had was barely a few centimeters- the little rock cracks were the only means for a good grip.

Here we stopped in awe of the valley that was hanging loose beneath our feet to the wide panoramic scenery ahead. But here again, the valley beneath our feet was not all that steep- the rock cliff from below our feet went at roughly 50 degrees for about 100 feet to muddy ground which continued into a forest at lesser angels of elevation to the valley far below. So somehow I was not at all scared (as Amit put it when I mentioned the same to him: “The HarishchandraGad Naalichi vaat experience has truly paid off well…”). Well later I realized that we stopped basically because Rahul was not sure whether we were taking the right path ahead –well what other path could there be, or so I thought- Amit suggested that we should have taken the lower path with the lesser elevated angle as it seemed to have better ground hold, at this point I recalled many of the snaps I had seen on the net, where the trekkers braced them selves to the rock walls and some how moved downwards and circled the rock face –it was this very spot we were standing at. At that very moment the 4 trekkers behind us (whom we met at the start of the ghal) had got down the rift, and since from our little introductions we learnt they were the lead trekkers from the “Maitri” trekking group we decided to wait for them and follow suite.

Till they got where we were, we made use of the opportunity to stand further on at the mid-edge of this cliff and face the valley to absorb the freshness of nature. In no time the trekkers got to our standpoint and overtook us, Rahul teamed in with them while Amit and I followed suite.

I was correct, the path did go downwards and we had to in a way brace ourselves to the rock or stand very close to the rock face to take very cautious steps into the little foot mould steps carved into the narrow path along the rock face. Here the walk got a little slow, one had to be really concentrative on his next step- one mistake or a surge of overconfidence (which is very likely for the firm grip one gets on the footholds) and you go slip down from the rocky slope to the muddy (loose soil) slope in to the forest below –sure one would not meet the grim reaper at the fall, but will break some bones or get enough bruises or both which could lead to a dirty scar for a long time to come. (Once a trekker had slipped a little before this point and fortunately his fall was arrested by an old broken lone tree at the edge of the rock face –he ended up with a bad bang on his feet and torso- one of the Maitri trekkers shared this with us)

Post this it was again a pretty simple traverse (by now we caught the right rhythm along this traverse). That’s when we spotted one of the trekkers ahead climbing straight up. “Just check out the angle man…” Amit quoted this, as Rahul started making his slow and extremely careful and calculated ascent on the rock steps. There were rock steps which led straight up some 15 feet, as we arched our necks to look up the steps we spotted the saffron flags (they look red from a distance, but are saffron in reality) which now lay some 40 feet high on to the right, also a couple of ropes could be seen dangling under it over a rock. So we had to climb up and then take a right to get to the cave, that’s what I calculated from this point. Here Amit took the opportunity to make a video recording of this whole climbing event, as he did this the other trekkers from this huge group started making their presence felt at the end of the Ghal. I should say this place, due to its peculiar concave curvature from the ghal end to the other end of the Dhak massif, generates some real good acoustics (and echoes as well)- this became evident when the trekkers standing on a rock step atop Amit’s head shouted out “keep the rest in the little cave, don’t get them ahead till we fix the ropes…” the other distant trekker at the ghal obliged.

Amit followed suite and got up, then it was my turn. The ascent was roughly inclined at 70 degrees and had these deeply cut foot holds (rock carved steps), but at a couple of places there was nothing so we had judge the ascent based on some little grooves and notches on the rock. But in no less than a minute I was up. Here we stood again on a flat floor roughly 2 sq. feet wide. From here we could clearly see the final ascent to the cave – one had to traverse along the rock to the right which gradually led up (had very less foot ground) post this there were two tree trunks (which looked like dried up wood) which one had to hold onto to get up with aid of the rope, with knots at every 30 centimeters, that hung from the edge of the Bahiri cave. Rahul by now was already getting up the tree trunk, with a lot of guidance from all of use 6 trekkersJ (One of the Maitri’s was already on top in the cave and came down for assistance). Rahul seemed to be getting a little panicky (he was trekking now after almost 1.5 years), so he sort-of never got up the tree truck without making mistakes. But slowly and eventually he was above the tree trunk ready for his last pull to the top into the Bahiri cave.

Now we reached this point where it was our turn for the excitement! There were two tree trunks with their branches copped off- which replaced for an amazing natural ladder, both of them were merely balanced into a little crevices in the rock, the main tree trunk was tied to the other at its center with a rope (where the knot had to be used as a step) The tree trunks were barely less than a double fist in diameter and stood at an angle of about 80 degrees to the 90 degree or greater rock patch. At this time, one of the trekkers negotiated the rock patch merely using the rope! We were impressed!

Amit got in position to push up- by this time Rahul was in the cave and kept cheering on. Amit clung on to the branch and got up a couple of steps and was then totally lost on his next step, it felt as though he would never make it up! So a lot of guidance from me –since I could clearly see where all he could place his feet for the next move- he pushed on above the branch and was at the top. Basically what he missed out was -the rope knot had to be used as a firm step to get up. This was a good lesson for me.

Now it was my turn, basically when Amit was getting up I was standing to his right guiding him and when he gave up I had to get down around from behind him with most of my body out in the valley to the left –this had pumped enough confidence in me for the last leg. So I stood confidently on the log, that’s when it was clear why the many write-ups say that this log is a challenging piece. Basically the branch keeps shaking and moving in the crevice below as one gets up. Also I had leant that you use your hands only for the rope and never the log, but I made that mistake and let go of the rope – my left foot was in one of the cut branches the right foot in the rope notch, right hand on the log (MISTAKE!!!) and the left was left scavenging around for a hold on the rock- “DON’T let go of the rope VINDYY!” Amit yelled, but by then I was in rhythm of this new strategy so simply said, “Yes …yes” as I pulled myself up to the rock above. By now Amit had gotten into the cave and was looking down at me ready to help me out with the next last push. The cave was at the level of my fore head, here I had to use both the rope and a dried up tree vine (which was put by villagers and at one time was the only source to get up) with my left and right hands respectively as I got up using little crevices in the rock as foot hold to guide myself up. It was approximately 9am.

Once up, one can notice the vine is tied up secure to a rock that is painted red. Ahead were these stone bricks that marked some type of an entrance to the cave, behind this lay the huge cave! Rahul by this time was seated to the extreme right emptying his backpack getting ready to prepare some amazing coffee. To the left lay the idol of Lord Bairoba in whose respect this cave gains its importance from. To the back lay a big water cistern that had a lot of water –but as against the many write-ups the water did not look clean and was full of utensils at one end. At the far right end of the cave, there were little natural steps that led on to another adjacent cave. That was the first place I sprinted off to. The second cave again was as huge as the earlier one it had a big rock pit at the centre, in that lay a slaughtered carcass of a goat. Littered around the far end of the cave were heads of cocks and feathers and coconut hair (which we had already spotted in abundance along the rock traverse). This confirmed the bakri balli (goat sacrifice) ritual I had read about.

From this second cave the view was amazing. As I stood at the far end and peeked out and look around to the left, the Kalkarai pinnacle looked splendid, and then turning around towards the right the Lonavala valley spelt pure excellence and the distant ranges added to the glory. Amongst the known peaks – Dukes Nose, Rajmachi couple of Shrivardan and Manoranjan were visible in all their might straight ahead! By now Rahul was done preparing the brew and Amit done with getting engrossed in the surrounding beauty, we decided to sit over the edge of the second cave and slurp on. Rahul was facing some diet issues so he handed over his cup to the Maitri trekkers (who were only 2 in number now. Ever since they got up they were busy in setting up ropes and fixing the lines. Their plan was to fix the line all the way from the cave to the flat narrow path below. Once their whole group got up, they were to rappel down to the narrow path. Excellent!).

Sitting at the edge of the cave sipping on coffee (Rahul with water) and the Malai Dande Golls was one heavenly experience! We discussed on when to get down from the cave –I wanted to wait as long as we could, but practically put by my more sensible friends we had to get down by the time the group of 40 got even close –all this to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam. So we decided to make a move. The time was ticking at roughly 9:45am.

But unfortunately we could not rush down, since the Maitri folks were busy affixing their lines. So we sat at the edge and spoke on with a couple of newly arrived lead-trekkers from the same group. In no time Mandar –one of the lead trekkers of Mitri -suggested us to start the descent. Rahul was the first one to go. Again he descended very slow and cautiously. After he negotiated the tree trunk below it was my turn (this time Amit and I were the ones with the backpacks). It seemed a little tricky to get down –turning around with your back to the valley and get down- but with aid of my fist step from Mandar the rest of the descent was a breeze (“You are tall … so there is no problem for you” may be those encouraging words of Mandar made my descent more comfortable). Eventually Rahul and I were at the patch before the rock cut step descent, we waited on for Amit, and he too after some assistance from Mandar arrived comfortably.

Now here we had to wait on for some 15 minutes, since by now the 40odd group was already down the ghal and were arriving in small batches towards the rock climb. First all the small kids arrived. Amit took this opportunity to capture a video of the entire path from the ghal to the Bahiri cave! Here on we too became Maitri assistants for the fresh participants, it felt good assisting them. Bidding farewell and conveying our gratitude to the helpful Maitri leads we got down one vertical patch then in a few minutes the rocks steps. From here we observed a group of three arrive from the valley to the left (with respect to us facing the rock patch) below- on enquiries it became clear that they has come from Sandishi. After a few halts we got on ahead and were on the narrow path patch.

Here a group of roughly 30 people were seated waiting for their turn to get on ahead. “These guyz have already gone up the Bahiri and coming back… Wow!” or so we overheard the group comment on us… I must say that felt really good! We reached the base of the Kalkarai-Dhak Ghal. The clock showed some 10:30am. The sun was coming up and the far end of the Dhak wall was getting some sunlight. We were truly happy at our pace and decision to get down before the traffic picks up!

Rahul squeezed up the 4 feet step followed by our bags. Finally Amit and I hauled ourselves up. A couple of clicks later we started ascending the slipper ghal. Some village folks that were part of the huge group at the rock too followed us and were ascending behind us. In no less that 10 minutes we were up and took a break before making it down the steep slippery path into the jungle.

The descent was slippery but was quick. The reason why I found this part of the trek quiet challenging is for the fact that the steepness is very similar to that of the ghal except there are no side walls to cling on to, the only things that could assist you are the some jutting rocks on the ground or some dried up shoots of the a couple of jutting branches. Once down we traced back our path through the jungle- now the jungle was pure bliss for the fact that the temperature had shot up and the tree cover made the environment pretty much bearable! Here I realized my hat was lost, Amit suggested we get back to the ghal to search for it but I decided against it since it was an old cap anyways.

Walking on we passed the crossroad and then started the tiring ascent. In about 15 minutes we were up and panting – by now we were all spaced apart and out of sight of each other. Amit had raced ahead then I had overtaken Rahul somewhere mid way so he was trailing far back. Rahul and I teamed in, then we started calling out for Amit but got no response. So we carried on hoping he was far ahead, later once we got out of the jungle to a flat walk in the blazing sun in the opening we heard Amit call out from behind in the jungle. He teamed in, and related that he had his path blundered midway and reached some path that carried on to Bhimashankar! None-the-less we were back together under the scorching heat.

From here we looked back and saw the typical unique structure of the mighty Dhak mountain with the Kalkarai pinnacle to its left. It looked very unique, as though the mountain was stooping away from us! The time was ~11:30am –the sun was blasting down on us perspiration felt a bliss with any flowing gust. Here we took a couple of breaks in the open for some pictures of the clear valley. En-route we spotted some villages heading our way, they were headed for Bahiri (amazing how the villagers walk swift even under the blazing sun!). Kondeshwar temple could be spotted in a distance, and Rahul spotted an alternate path from up here that bypassed the curving long path via Kondeshwar. We all agreed to Rahul’s idea of hiking on to get onto the newly spotted path. The path went over some dried up riverbeds and descended through a jungle, and eventually opened up into an open ground and finally to the path we had spotted.

The walk went on and on, and it just did not seem to end. The sun seemed so say “hey guyz you had fun walking, hiding me behind clouds and trees- now taste my summer strength…” Yes it was a long walk on a straight path of dusty road- the path never had seemed that long and stretched out in the morning though. Eventually, at about 12:30 pm, walking on we reached the open school ground, where we were invited by some folk music playing on a radio of a parked truck and a whole lot of villagers walking around a full pandal (The wedding lunch was underway and the village was full of people). Once out of the school gate we washed our selves with some cool water from a tap outside, and went on towards the house along which was parked our blue Indica.

The villager’s house was full of guests. There we had a conversation with him. Had some soft drinks followed by some amazing home made village food –bajra bhakri, bhaat, sukhi batata, batata rassa amti- the food was excellent! Post this we paid the villager and thanked him for all his help and parked the car back at the school (making space for a newly arrived maruti vanJ), where we rested at the corridor for a few minutes before heading back.

It was nearly 1:30pm by the time we left the village. On the way we saw the true condition of the road we had traveled on- it was really bad. But later it got much better as we passed numerous dams and drove along a river! Boy had we missed a lot on the night rideJ. Finally we drove through Kamshet village and eventually hit the highway via Dehu road and eventually getting in through Chandani chowk we drove to my place. We touched home at about 3:15pm.

This was one amazing trek!


-Vinod Sairaman (a trek can be tough or exciting or both but never devoid of both!)

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