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Sunday
, July 21, 2002
Travel

Magic of the monsoon trek to Bhimashankar
Sarvesh

Walking under a gentle monsoon shower is a unique experience
Walking under a gentle monsoon shower is a unique experience

ON its 12th anniversary, the Malad unit of the Youth Hostels Associations of India in Mumbai, organised an unforgettable monsoon trek to Bhimashankar, one of the 12 sacred jyotirlings of Lord Shiva. Undoubtedly, it is a unique experience to walk through the majestic Sahyadris under the blessing of a gentle monsoon shower.

We started from Mumbai and took a bus to Karjat, a sleepy little township in the Western Ghats, not very far from Pune. The base camp is a 10-minute walk from the town centre, in a Van Niwas guest house. We made it to Karjat by afternoon and used the rest of the day to unwind and understand details of the trek schedule.

We left for Kondiwade, a charming little village tucked away in the ghats, by bus the next morning. It was a 45-minute bus ride. The actual trek commenced from here. Making our way through lush fields, we reached Kondana Caves in about two hours. These are Buddhist rock cut caves, with stupa-like structures defining them from the inside. None of the locals could give their date, and we were too taken in by their sudden appearance to find out more details.

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After crossing the caves, we were in for a steep climb up to Rajmachi, about 3000 ft above sea-level. A couple of our fellow trekkers did complain initially, but once we reached the summit, the panoramic view was so fabulous that everyone soon forgot their aches and pains. There is a beautiful fort, credited to Shivaji, which is visible as soon as you reach here. As usual, none of the villagers were forthcoming about its history. This made one feel that the Youth Association itself should compile a brief history of the places of historic interest that come on the way!

The temple at Bhimashankar has an unusual entrance
The temple at Bhimashankar has an unusual entrance

While we were taking in the ambience, the camp leader had put together a sumptuous tea for all of us, which we gratefully partook of and sauntered off to examine the fort more closely. Interestingly, the main fort has two smaller fortresses within its complex, namely the Shrivadhan, which houses the Bhairavnath Temple, and Manoranjan which had a number of guard houses and arsenal depots within.

Later that night, we lit a campfire, which was a lot of fun. Most of us were too tired though and had to retire early. The next morning we left for Kusur, about 10 km away. This is a gradual trek along the ridge of the plateau. We passed the well-known Kondeshwar Temple on the way. The temple is tucked away in a valley, surrounded by hills on all sides. In fact, if the villagers at Rajmachi hadnít told us about this temple, we could have easily missed it in the misty surroundings of Kusur village, set picturesquely by the side of Andre Lake.

We had to first cross Khandi village on the way, after which we reached Savala village and then trekked through dense forests before we approached Kusur. We were also fortunate to have an opportunity to witness and photograph the flowering of the karvi blossom, which only blooms once every seven to eight years. There were a number of springs and waterfalls that we had to cross on the way, which also made the trek much more invigorating! Butterflies had a field day mesmerising us alternately with their beauty and their flightiness. There is a magnificent view from Kusur. One can clearly see Dhak hill and Dhak fort from here. Besides this we got a rear view of the Bhairi caves. There are 12 villages on the bank of the Andre Lake. They say the water never dries here even in summer. It is perennially fed by the tiny rivulets and springs in the region.

The route to Bhimashankar is breathtakingly beautiful
The route to Bhimashankar is breathtakingly beautiful

The next day we trekked up to the Andre Pass. The Andre top provides a vantage point to view both the Andre Valley and Wandre Valley sprawling on either side of it. The trek down from the Andre Pass to Wandrewadi village was extremely pleasurable. The villagers had prepared a royal repast for us. Their speciality, hot rotis or Bhakri, as they refer to it in the local dialect, made of Madwa flour, had us licking our chomps.

To reach Bhimashankar from Wandrewadi, we had to cross a forest followed by a steep climb all the way up to the temple. The mist was high, so we were unable to see the Kothadi Garh Fort in the distance. The Seema river which flows through the valley below, gushed along with us.

Bhimashankar may alternately be accessed from Khandas village. The distance from Khandas to Bhimashankar is a mere 6 to 7 km, and one can easily make a day trip to Bhimashankar and back from here. Besides, one doesnít have to trek it here. It makes an ideal weekend getaway for the entire family as there are good roads connecting it to both Mumbai and Pune. There are also a couple of Dharamshalas here for an overnight stay, if required.

The Bhimashankar Temple, situated at a height of approximately 3600 ft, has an unusual carved entrance. The temple trustees told us about an annual fair that is held here on Maha Shivratri every year. We went around the temple and those of us who wished to offer prayers and take blessings were free to do so. One thing, however, that the temple trust should look into is the sanitation facilities here, which are appalling. Although the tourist traffic here is not so heavy round the year, it could still do with a couple of sulabh shauchalayas to gear up for the festival time.

At Bhimashankar we were all presented with certificates for having participated in the tour. After that, we took a bus back to Karjat and from went to our separate destinations. We took a train to Mumbai. From there it was back to Delhi.

Important note: This is an environment-friendly trek! Do not litter or spoil the trail in any manner. In fact, if you should find wrappers and cans left behind by other trekkers, make it a point to keep an extra bag to collect all the rubbish you spot on the way and deposit it at the base camp on your return!

Fact file

How to get there:

By air: One can either fly down to Mumbai or Pune and bus it down to the base camp in Karjat. Bhimashankar is approximately 95 kms from Pune. The base camp at Karjat is a little off the Mumbai-Pune main highway.

By rail: Similarly, one can take a train to Mumbai or Pune and reach the base camp by road.

By road: Maharashtra has an adequate Interstate Bus Service that connects all the neighbouring areas to Pune and subsequently Karjat.

Where to stay:

While on the trek, the Youth Association organises each and every detail. To find out more about this trek one can personally contact:

Youth Associations of India

Maharashtra State Branch,

Malad Unit. Or write to their secretary:

Deven Purandare,

8, Dattachaya Maharashtra Nagar,

Borivili (West)

Mumbai-400092

Phone: 8631295.

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