Sandhan Valley Trek – Day 2

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22-Mar-2014: We were woken up by temple ghanta sound at 6:00 am. We got ready quickly, packed our things and were ready to go. We first took Shankar darshan in the Amruteshwar temple and clicked some pics. Poha and tea was being prepared for the group by the local vendor. It was ok and once we were done with our breakfast, we had a little talk session from the organizers about the plan and dos/donts etc and then we left for the base village Samrad in our bus. Samrad is around 30 mins from the place we were staying and en-route is very scenic. You can watch some of the magnificent mountains in the Sahyadri range, like Mt Kalsubai (I and G had been to), which is the tallest in Maharashtra and the famed AMK (Alang, Madan, Kulang mountains). Such a beautiful sight! Hope one day I am able to scale them all 😉

We finally reached the base Samrad and started for Sandhan valley. The mouth of the valley is around 15-20 mins walking distance from the village. And then we entered the den! Its spell bounding to say the least. Nothing like it I have ever seen. There and then I realized why it is also called the valley of shadows.

The valley cuts across 2 hills which are at the height of over 200 meters. It is narrow at most places and very narrow at some, where you can hardly pass by. Sun light hardly reaches the ground and it’s such a cool and at the same time creepy place. There are boulders, some very big, some small all across and you can see freshly fallen rock cliffs as you trek along. We started the trek and it was great to muddle across this place.

We had to sometimes climb the boulders, jump over them or pass through the gaps between them. There are 3 water bodies on the way and the only way you can cross them is through it. One being so deep that you are submerged waist down. No wonder you cannot go there in monsoon season as it is said to be impossible to cross the valley then. The water was very chilled in the summer month also as hardly any sun rays reach there. Other interesting thing is that many water streams were still flowing as late as this month of March. If you look up, you can only see small part of sky, through the slit in the valley surrounded by tall wall of rocky cliffs on either sides.

We went along the route and were feeling great just to be there. Our group was the only one that day visiting and so the surroundings was quite and silent . After trekking for over 2 hours we finally reached the end of valley. We thought this was it and we have seen all, but the view from that place was just unbelievable. The valley falls rapidly in height in the decent to the plains from that point, which provides clear and great view from that spot. Just amazing!!! We took rest there and had our lunch. Lunch was packed food which included parathas, shrikhand, haldiram snacks and frooti, which was provided to us when we had started for the day. It was getting bit hot by then as it was noon and sun was directly above us. This would be the only time sun rays would reach some parts, still excluding a large part of the valley. There was no mobile range surprisingly as I get range where others don’t ;), so called home from friends phone. We took lot of pics there and also en-route. They are few of the amazing pics I have from my many travels.

Then we started back as it was already 2:00 pm and we had to be back in Pune by 9:00 pm as per the plan :). On the way back, I slipped a bit and had minor injury on my right leg below the knee. That was the only dampener in the trip and I need to be more careful going forward. Actually my shoes were wet crossing the water bodies and so afterwards when I was crossing the boulders I lost grip and slipped. There were couple of injuries to other members of the group, but we reached safely back to Samrad, where one of the villagers gave us mast hot tea and then we started back.

We reached Pune well after 10:00 pm .We had taken one break on the way for vadapav and tea. It was great 2 days trip, though we were quite tired and I bit injured, this trip will remain in my memory forever.

PS: The real adventure happened after I reached home :). I freshened up in the bathroom and was getting out. As my right leg was injured I had a weak grip and as there was some water on the floor just outside the bathroom I slipped (yes again 🙂 ) and injured my left feet 😦  . So I was down left and right and it took me whole 2 weeks to recover to some extent ;).

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Sandhan Valley Trek – Day 1

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21-Mar-2014: Our company’s trek group had planned for 2 days trekking trip to Sandhan Valley. Sandhan valley is a deep gorge/valley formed between 2 hills in the Sahyadri mountain ranges due to constant cutting of rocks by water streams over many million years. It is located in Nagar region and close to Bhandardhara dam. This was going to be a unique experience as I had never done a night stopover trek before. A big group of over 60-70 people was going to go for this trek. We were to leave on Friday night and the bus was going to start from the company gate itself. So we had brought all the stuff to carry with us to office on that day and had dinner at company canteen only. I remember the day distinctly as it was India v/s Pakistan World T 20 match and we had our dinner in the canteen, watching Indian team playing good (India won the match eventually).

As this was going to be a stopover trek, we had brought bedding and bigger stock of things like food, clothes, water etc. We reached the gate by 8:40 pm, the official leaving time being 9:00 pm but as always the bus came late and we didn’t start before 10:00 pm. Finally we were all seated in 2 buses and we started for Sandhan valley. The route we were going to take was Nashik Phata-> Narayangaon->Bhandardhara->Amruteshwar Temple. I had earlier been to Bhandardhara with G couple of years ago and we had taken different route i.e. Nagar road -> Sangamneshwar->Bhandardhara, which I think was better, but the organizers had a different route in their plan. Bhandardhara and the adjoining region is beautiful place and we had liked it a lot, so was looking forward to go to this region, but to visit a new place.

The road is pretty bad and rugged to say the least and also there are lot of small/medium ghats one has to cross, though the route is scenic. The worst part was the driver was in full form and driving like there is no tomorrow. Only by god’s grace we reached safely to the destination. As per the itinerary we were supposed to reach by 2:00 am, but late start and bad roads later, we reached around 3:30 am. We were going to stay in the Dharmshala adjoining to Amruteshwar temple. The 1st thing we did after we got off the bus, was to capture the space for our group and put in our beddings there. The people who were bit lazy faire had hard time finding space to sleep and few even had to sleep outside in open :). God was besides them to bless 😉

So this was it for the day and wake up call being set at 6:00 am in the morning, we hardly had few hours to sleep and rest.

Ganpatipule Trip – Day 3

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03-May-2014: Today morning I and Ar were the last ones to wake up. We quickly got ready and packed up. Then I completed the checkout formalities and we headed to the restaurant for breakfast. We had a heavy breakfast, packed dosas for Ar and then started for the Ganpatipule Temple. The temple is right on the beach and just 3-4 minutes walking distance from MTDC resort. It has swayambhu Ganpati idol and the temple is very nice. We took Ganpati darshan and took prasad and were out in the courtyard. The outer courtyard faces the beach and then we started back.

While coming back yesterday from the tour I had seen a very good spot just few kms before Ganapatipule. It’s the village called Bhandarpule and so we decided to head there 1st. We were on our route back to Pune and I had thought that we would be passing through this spot. But when I realized that’s not the case, I took a u turn and headed to Bhandarpule. This spot is a good as Aare Ware spot and it has a great views of Ganapatipule and Bhandarpule beachs along with the sea. We spent close to 20- 25 mins there appreciating the natural beauty and taking many pics and videos. Seeing the beach and sea in front of her, Ar was pointing towards it and wanted to go back again to play in the waters. But then our vacation was coming to close and we had to head back.

On the way back G suggested we keep an eye for mango trees and pluck few mangoes. So we stopped at 2-3 spots where the mango trees were full of mangos and they were hanging quite low for us to easily pluck them. At one place, such mango trees were part of the private property and G braved her way and plucked quite good mangoes from there 🙂 We also bought Cashews on the way from the Cashew factory. We were hardly covering much of a distance due to constant stops in between and so decided that as we are running late we will not stop until lunch.

We took break for lunch only when we reached Karad. G had spotted Dominoes and other hotels and we decided to go for the pizza. While I went ahead and placed the order, Ar had her food in the car. Then we had a good fresh pizza and bit of rest from the long drive and then started back. On the way to Satara, it started to get cloudy and we were anticipating rains. And then it came, it rained cats and dogs for long time and I had great time driving through it 🙂 The traffic was normal and so we were back home by 6:30 pm. It took almost same time; 8 hours for the return journey mainly because we had taken many breaks on our way back.

Thus the 3 days vacation was over in no time and we were back with great memories. I think we will remember the natural beauty of kokan, nice kozy resort, beautiful coastal roads, Ganpatipule temple and aroma of Ratnagiri hapoos for long time. But the thing which will be in my memory for long would be Ar’s gaar.. gaar.. papa.. 🙂

PS: We would be back soon to gaar.. gaar.. papa.. Ar 🙂

Ganpatipule Trip – Day 2

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02-May-2014: I woke up early at 7:00 am and decided to go for a morning walk on the beach. I was surprised that there were so many people already on the beach. It was great to walk early morning on the beach, I took few pictures and was back to the room. Ar had still not woken up. We had to get ready, have breakfast and leave by 9:00 am as the cab was going to arrive by that time. Somehow we managed and started for the day trip.

1st we went to see Keshavsut memorial, which was good, then we headed for the Aquarium at Malgund. It’s a small aquarium, privately maintained and had many of the normal fishes which we also have/had in our home aquarium. But we got to see some unique fish like Pirhana and Kombada fish. Ar liked it a lot.

Then we headed for Prachin Kokan museum, which is an exhibition showcasing the life and times of 400-500 year old Kokan. It was quite good and had life size statues of different craftsmen in the society, there abodes along with miniatures and replicas of some of the important places in Kokan. It’s a long uphill walk and it takes 1-1:30 hours to cover the complete tour. One funny thing which happened there was that at the entrance Ar spotted few dogs and she started heckling them. But when we started the tour with the guide, Ar wanted to go back to the bhoo bhoo and started crying ;), many people in our group were trying to get her into good mood, but it took a long time for her to get it out of her mind 🙂 .

From there we started for Ratnagiri city. It’s around 25 Km from Ganpatipule. The roads to Ratnagiri city are beautiful and there you can see the splendor of Kokan in full display. Long coastline, pristine beaches, mango and coconut farms, rivers, hills and jungles. Absolutely amazing! The road passes through few villages and in some places it is quite narrow and we got stuck in traffic jam at one such village. On the way we took break at Aare Ware beach spot. It’s on the cliff and you see great view of the two beaches and endless sea. Great place to unwind and take pics. From there we continued to Ratangiri city. It was almost time for lunch and our driver suggested we break for lunch.

He showed us a veg hotel and as the Tilak house was nearby he dropped us there and asked us to cover that and come to the hotel. The Tilak wada was good and there was a small display of few of the Lokmanya Tilak’s belongings. It was great feeling to visit the birthplace of one of the founding fathers of India.

We had asked the driver to take us to a more homemade food kind of place, but this was a typical Punjabi hotel and we had usual options. For Ar we couldn’t find anything good to eat and she had to make do with what we had brought along and finger chips 😦 . We had Alu paratha. Kokam sarbat was the only saving grace and it was really good.

From there we started for Ratnadurg Fort. It was already quite hot outside though we were comfortable in our AC car, but we had to get out for sightseeing :). One of the issues with going with cab service is that you cannot customize the plan too much as per your current situation. Ideally we would have avoided going into the sun at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. But nevertheless we were on our way to the fort which is close to the city. The drive to the fort was great and the fort looked quite good from outside. You have to ascend some 20-30 steps and then it is plain walk at the top. The fort is in quite a good shape. There is also Bhagavati devi temple on the fort which we visited on our way back and so the fort is also referred to as Bhagavati fort. We took a walk across the fort and it has some great view of the sea. One point which I especially liked was a newly constructed structure having midsized windows, having small podium to a sit. You can sit there and just stare across the endless sea .. forever.. :).

We were back from the fort by around 2:45 pm and there was no point in going to Bhatye beach in middle of the afternoon, so we decided to cover Thebaw palace. This is the palace built by British for the last king of Burma after he was displaced from the throne and put under house arrest here. The palace is big and has a south east Asian style of architecture. There is a small museum on the ground and 1st floor of the palace, but not much to see and do. But as we had to do some time-pass, we roamed around but finally decided to leave.

We had to buy Mangoes and other stuff and so had planned for a stopover at the local market. The driver dropped us to the main Market, but we couldn’t find much to buy, so we mainly brought some fruits for Ar. We were also looking for Kokam fruits, but vendors told us that we will not get it there. Driver told us that he will take us to one Mango vendor on our way back to the hotel and so we headed for the last stop of the day; Bhatye beach.

I had heard a lot about Bhatye beach and frankly it is good, but not to the extent I had imagined. It was around 3:30 pm we reached there and it was quite hot and humid and the beach sand was baking hot. There was a small shack where a lady was selling coconut water and snacks. We decided to head there first, get refreshed and also allow the Sun to go down a bit and then head for the waters. The coconut shells were quite big and the water was also very sweet. The malai inside was equally good. We had 3 coconuts 😉 and parceled couple of them. Then we headed for the waters. This beach is bit different than Ganpatipule as it is a black sand beach in contrast with white sand beaches. The sand in here holds itself better than the Ganpatipule beach when the waves back out, but the white sand beaches look better. The beach overall is good, but also there is lot of trash around. You can see the Ratnadurg fort from here. Here again Ar enjoyed a lot and had lot of fun in the waters. We also clicked few pics there and decided to head back.

On our way back the driver had a stopover at mango vendor. The Mangoes were quite good and rates were reasonable. We bought 2 dozens of ripe and 1 dozen of raw Ratnagiri Hapoos mangoes here. Later in the evening I bought another 2 dozens of raw mangoes at Kelkar store in Ganpatipule. We headed back after bit hectic, bit exhausting due to heat but also an eventful and fun day. We refreshed and rested after we were back at the hotel. Then we headed for the Ganpatipule beach. Ar was thrilled looking at the sea again and was eager to get into the waters. This time around she had even more fun and in the end was very reluctant to go back. We also experienced an unforgettable Sunset on the beach. We ordered the dinner to the room itself and called the day.

PS- One event which got left out above was after dinner, I went to rest on one of the hammock’s at the resort. After an hectic day swinging on hammock, gazing at the stars, with soothing sound of waves and cool breeze as company, I didn’t even realize when I fell asleep and that I even missed G’s call. Finally late in the night I woke up and went back to the room and slept. Not to mention, I had to hear different kind of music in the morning! :(.

Ganpatipule Trip – Day 1

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01-May-2014: A long weekend was coming up at the start of the month of May. We had a holiday on 1st of May which was Thursday and if you took a day’s leave (i.e. Friday), you had 4 days of long weekend. Since last few years we have been going out for small vacations in summers and this time also we started planning for it. Lot of options were discussed like Mahabaleshwar (not again, we had just been there last December), Matheran (G’s choice, but I wanted to go there some other day), some place near to Pune, Kokan etc.

Finally we decided on Kokan, but still had not zeroed on the place to go. Options included Ganpatipule, Tarkali, Diveagar etc, but finally we locked down on Ganpatipule as it was not too close, not too far and also the place where we were planning to stay (MTDC), was right on the beach, having beach view from all the rooms. The pics we saw from net of Ganpatipule and MTDC resort made us come to the decision. Though we wanted AC room and as no AC room was available (summer!), it was a small hiccup, but I thought we should be good and lets go ahead.

We decided to have a 2 night and 3 days trip, so that we can have 1 day’s rest when we are back. So on 1st May we were all set and planned to start early. But Ar took much longer time to get ready 🙂 and so we could only start by 10:00 am. I was anticipating a steady traffic due to it being a long weekend, but it was much more than I had anticipated. Right from Katraj bypass, to Khed Shivapur toll booth, to Balaji chowk it was heavy traffic. But the main jam was in the Khambatki ghat where traffic was moving bumper to bumper. Because of this we found many broken down cars on the way and they were causing more traffic. Luckily our good old Wagon R was good as ever and we didn’t had any problems 🙂 .

We took a quick lunch break at Virangula and had sandwiches and limbu pani which were good. Ar already had her lunch in the car. It took us 3.5 hours to reach Satara bypass, which normally takes us 2-2:15 hours. From there on we didn’t face much of traffic issues and we took Karad->Malkapur->Amba Ghat->Sakharpa->Pali->GanpatiPule route. The road except for few patches is in good shape and is also quite scenic. The Amba ghat section is very scenic and we took a break for pictures there. This ghat section though is quite long. PawanKhind is located in that area only, which we want to visit, but it is not happening since long time 😦 . The total distance from our home to resort was 320 kms.

We finally reached Ganpatipule at 6:20 pm, so it took us nearly 8 hours to reach. The drive went smooth except G had some uneasiness in the ghat sections and Ar had a vomit. So we had taken a break along the way and started after Ar felt bit better. Once at the resort, we freshened up and Ar had her food. Then we decided to go to the beach. MTDC resort is very conveniently located as it is right on the beach. Through the room porch you can see the beach and hear the waves. Such a beautiful sight. It’s hardly 3-4 minutes’ walk to the beach and then we went into waters. Ar enjoyed a lot and was very excited and happy. All the while she was chanting Gaaar..Gaar- papa.. The beach is very beautiful and clean.

Though it was summer time, the cool sea breeze refreshed us. Ar was not ready to get out of waters and was very angry when we took her out ;). We enjoyed a lot and before dark started back to the room. Then we had dinner at the resort only, which was ok. In the premise of the MTDC restaurant there was a tour guy and I enquired about the local sightseeing trip options he had. Earlier we had planned that we would visit the nearby places in our car only, but after the long drive of today and the long drive back home a day after in front of us, this seemed to be the best option. So I booked Ratnagiri tour, AC car and asked for few customization’s in the tour and we were all set.

We were back in the room and sleeping so close to the beach, hearing the sound of waves was great feeling. But were not able to sleep till late into the night as it was quite hot and humid and there were power cuts more than once. So all in all an interesting day and waiting for tomorrow…

PS: One interesting event which I would remember of the trip, was listening to a very good interview of Aamir Khan on Vivid Bharti. After Khambatki ghat, we lost the FM signal and I was searching for some FM channel to hear and I chanced upon Vivid Bharti, where Aamir was speaking. It was very good talk show and Aamir played lot of his favorite songs and shared many experiences. It was treat to hear the show…