Barbara Lake And Irvine Spectrum

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30-Dec-2016: I was on long leave and we were going around places. Some time back we had got his tickets for rides in Irvine Spectrum which we had not completely exhausted and so wanted to use that. But we also wanted to go out some place to have lunch. So we decided to go to some park/beach etc for lunch and then head towards Irvine Spectrum. Considering how late we were and time on our hand we decided to drop beach etc and through of going to this lake called Barbara lake which is en-route to our final destination. So G got the lunch ready ,which was parathas and we packed up and left.

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Barbara lake is one of the natural lakes here (many are artificial) and in the Laguna area. It is on Laguna Canyon road as is tucked in between the hills. There is an entry gate close to a mile before the lake, where you have to park and rest you have to hike. After parking we started the hike, which at the beginning did not sound very exciting. It was after noon and was fairly hot and also most of the area was dry wilderness. There are many rolling hills through which you hike to reach the lake. Ar was not interested and wanted to go home. Seeing the lake and may be ducks! kept her going. The route is pretty straight forward and well marked. There were only few people around but the place was not quite as the hike is parallel to the highway (CA 133) and you continuously here the vehicles passing by.

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On the way there were hardly any trees and so no shade, but suddenly the area started turning green with lots of trees and we knew we are close to the lake. Finally we reached the lake which at that time was quite small, though in good rainy season it would be quite big.  What we liked the most the natural setup of the lake and the forest surrounding it as we were quite bored by the many artificial man made lakes with perfectly curated park and tress around it. Another natural thing about it was there were no benches to sit and unfortunately thinking that there would be ones we had not picked the sheet in our cars trunk. We used some paper and even the back pack to sit along the shore. It was so quite there and bit cool due to water. There were few ducks in the lake, some swimming close to us. We had nice lunch alongside such a nice and serene place. After the lunch we would have very much liked to have a nice siesta alongside such a nice place, but we had other engagements and so we had to leave.

The way back as the way in was not much exiting. We just drugged along the trial to reach the parking. We were quite tired and thought of going back home crossed our mind, but Ar was excited to go do the rides and so we jumped in the car and headed north towards Irvine. We were going to the Irvine Spectrum complex, which is large and nice complex of shops and entertainment zone. It is strategically located in between I-5 and I-405. The parking is huge and is located close to the complex. The Complex is a sky open boulevard flanked by shops. The architecture is Mediterranean and is really nice place to shop and unwind oneself. We like to come here once a while and it has an added attraction of rides and other activities.

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They have rides like Merry go round, Giant wheel, train along with some seasonal attractions. You can but individual ride ticket ($5) or you could buy a ride book which include 4 tickets for each ride ($51).  We had got the book last time and had enjoyed the rides but there some tickets left (2 of train, 2 Carousal and 1 Giant wheel).

So this was a good time to exhaust the remaining tickets. So G ad Ar went to the train ride, then Ar did the Carousal which by the way is her favorite and G and Ar did the Giant wheel (we bought one more). I was mainly the photo and videographer 🙂 There was also the ice rink, but we did not do it. The Giant ride especially is really good, it being one the tallest in US and you get a nice view from the top. Especially in the night the view is spectacular, with the whole wheel lit in multi colored led lights and you get the city lights view from the top. Today luckily there was no rush as usual and so we were done in 1 – 1/2 hours and ready to head home.

We did couple of thing today but enjoyed a lot, especially Ar who was looking forward to rides for some time.

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Eaton Waterfalls Trail

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06-Nov-2016: There were no specific plans for today but we wanted to go somewhere hiking. We have been doing hiking since some time and so decided to keep the momentum. One thing which had been missing from our sojourns here has been waterfalls (leave aside the Niagara!) as there aren’t many. Also we were passing through one of the longest drought’s in California’s history and even the reservoirs were empty, so waterfalls was long shot. But in our research on the places to go around we found this location called Eaton waterfalls which is located in the Angeles forest north east of LA. Per the latest blogs we read on the net it had water at that point in time and so even if the place was bit far away we decided to head there.

We had to leave really early considering the early sunsets during this time of the year, but as usual we got bit late and started only around 9:30 am. G had plans to have sandwiches there for lunch and so she packed veggies, bread, etc along with other snacks items and juice. Eaton falls is located close to Altadena and which was over 70 miles from our place and took us well over 2 hours to reach. The route you take is I-405 N and then onto I-605 N and take exit at Altadena Dr. The weather was quite cold and it was going to be an interesting day. The traffic was light and we enjoyed the drive.

As we exited the Altadena Dr, from here to the destination was small road passing through few towns. I was not happy with the direction GPS was showing as in the map I could see a better route so I changed to Google maps on my mobile. Its quite intriguing that each app show different paths and one is better than the other on its day! So we thought we were now on the right path and had now entered the foothills which had winding roads. This part was even colder due to hills and good forest cover. It felt nice being there.

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We somehow missed the entrance, blame the GPS ;). But I think it was G who had spotted the entrance on the way and so we rerouted and after some winding turns and reached the entrance. There is a big entry gate for the Eton Canyon Natural Area Park and they have nice gardens, a museum about the local habitat and people, a small picnic area and big parking lot. It was almost 12:00 pm and we were running bit late. We were hungry too! So we first got a table, cleaned it up a bit and opened our bag to prepare some yummy sandwiches. Sitting under a big tree and in the middle of a jungle we had nice lunch. It was already 2:00 pm and we had to get going as we had to start back and pass LA before dark, though we were bit lazy after nice lunch and won’t have minded for a nice nap 🙂

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We filled our backpacks, had juice and started the hike. There are many small hills around here and many marked trails. So initially it appeared to be a plain hike and we were not sure if coming all the way down here was worth it. One another thing which I remember was using Google maps a lot to find the falls as there are many forks to the trail and sometimes it can be bit confusing. After continuing the walk we all were pretty bored and decided that lets turn back after walking for 5 more mins. Our map was showing the fall around 2 miles from here, but the hike looked so plain and vegetation mostly dry, we were not excited to continue. But in some time the hike completely transformed as we entered a dense forest, it was colder here, but was nice to hike. We then passed under a bridge, which was one of the oldest in the area and is called bridge to nowhere and is quite famous. It used to connect Altadena to some hamlet I think, but is no longer in active use.

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And then we heard something.. a sweet sound.. off course it was unmistakably a stream. From here on it becomes real fun, kind of adventure, bit difficult to put down in words. There was small gorge formed here, stream traversing through it and all around us was thick forest cover. We rested here a bit to enjoy the scenery which was looked as if it had come out of a painting. There were couple of logs fallen on the stream path and we all sat on one, water flowing past and below us. Now was the real hike was starting.

From here on you just keep following the stream, which is fairly wide in size and under drought condition still had lots of water. Upstream from here is the waterfall and this stream would have it sources in the Angeles mountain. The stream was following a serpentine path and there are few places where you keep crisscrossing it. At the points where you have to cross it, the stream is like a small river, they have placed big stones or wood log etc and its so fun to step on them to cross, I think the most happy here was Ar.  There were fair number of people around and at these points there used to be a small jam as only 1-2 people could cross at a time. We could just imagine what this place would be like once it rains nicely!

As you start approaching the fall, the small stones, rocks on the path turn into big boulders and the water flows underneath or through the gaps. The boulders are pretty big some over a meter in height and give you nice calf and joint exercise. No doubt Ar was doing nice through out, but in this section with only little help she was at ease and was negotiating the trail nicely and enjoying it. Finally we could hear the fall and though we were bit tired, we rushed though the last few rocks.

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The water falls from fair height and there are in fact 2 falls here. The upper falls which is closed for public access and the lower falls where we were. We all love the sound of the falls and all our hard work and persistence was worth it. The water slides down the stones and it has created a small pool or pond at the base. There were so many people around but it still felt so quite. We were in middle of jungle on the foothills along the falls. The water was cold though, so I and G stayed away, but as Ar got going, she even would have dived in it 🙂 She was not ready to come out of it and was enjoying the splash, but finally what brought her out may have been the juice bottle which G pulled from the backpack. Sitting on the rocks we ate and had juice.

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It was such a nice place that our feet were not turning back. But it was around 3:30 pm and was getting dark and so we had to start back. We had planned to be part of or follow some group as on the way we had encountered multiple paths and we were bit concerned about getting lost (yeah!) amid my mobile also having low battery. But as no one seemed ready to move on (neither were we!), we got going. We kept following the stream and on the intersections we were trying to remember which was the right path. We did fairly well; though at couple of points we were having second thoughts, but G showed the way.  There was one point where there is this small cave, which looked quite old, may have been used by early settlers here! We could now see the sun going down the horizon which was such an amazing sight. On the way we talked a lot and also clicked many pics which we had avoided doing earlier (to conserve the mobile battery). Ar was in full speed and was racing with us. In the end we all were quite tired, but we enjoyed every bit of it.

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We reached the base around 4:30 pm. We refreshed and also had a look at the museum which was quite nice. We had a long ride back and left around 5:00 pm. Not surprisingly we encountered heavy traffic en route and reached home around 8:00 pm. It had been a tiring day, but I can say that this was a gem of a place and one of the best hikes we had and we have had many!

PS:We would definitely return 🙂 . We also have to find more about the bridge to nowhere 🙂

Jyotiba Temple & Panhala Fort – Day 3

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02-Oct-2017: Woke up early today as there was so much to do. We got ready and did the checkout formalities. We decided to even have tea later on. The hotel was next to railway line and we saw few of them passing by which was a nice sight. We left the hotel at 8:00 am and went straight to Gokul restaurant. We had misal and batate vada sambar. We also had tea. Refreshed we moved towards Jyotiba temple. Jyotiba temple is located around 20 km from here and located on Jyotiba hill. It took us around half an hour to reach there. There are multiple entrances to the temple, one at the top of the hill where you arrive after you ascend the ghat, the actual temple being bit downhill from here. Another entrance is close to the temple and now a days they have a road which descents to the parking spot near it. But on that day due to some reason it was closed and we had to park at the top and descend many steps to the temple which was bit of excursion for Aai.

We had nice darshan at the temple and then after spending some time there and then ascended the steps back to the parking spot. It was around 10:30 am and we were thinking of what next. In the three days of our trip we had not really done some sightseeing or went to see some place and so we wanted to do something to that affect. So we decided to head towards Panhala fort which is around 12 km from here and takes around 20 mins to reach. As we descended the Jyotiba hill and touched the main road, from where we took right turn we could see the majestic fort from a distance on our left hand side. But as we continued on this road, we saw it going away from us. Off-course we were heading towards wrong direction :). So after checking with locals we realized we were headed in opposite side, so we took the u turn and were now on the right path. In some time we started ascending the ghat towards the fort.

The roads here are really nice and well maintained. This fort is the Taluka headquarter and has a living population of 5000+. The ghat section is beautiful and down below we could see lush green valley and fields. We reached at the top in 7-8 mins and were at the chowk there which has statue of Baji Parbhu Deshapande, wielding 2 swords in his each hand reminiscent of the famous battle of Pavan khind. Now we have been to this fort few times in childhood, but this was our visit after long time and so we wanted to explore the fort in detail. There are few guides who offered to show us around, but as our car was full there was no much space to accommodate them.  So we decided to explore it on our own.

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We went around for some time but were not sure if we were heading anywhere. On the way we spotted Tabak udyan, so we parked there and were thinking of exploring it. Luckily at that time a guy came on bike and offered to be our guide to take us around the fort. As he had his own vehicle it was perfect for us and his fees was if I remember correctly Rs 300 was reasonable. We were glad we found him, rather he found us else we wont have been able to see much. So he first gave some info on the fort and then took us to our first spot which was Sajja. This was a palace from the day of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and this is where the plan to break out of Siddi Johar’s vedha (encirclement) was made and from here only on that historic night Maharaj left in palki with 600 bandals towards Vishalgadh. This was also the place where Maharaj last met with Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.

This palace was of 2 levels and had multiple rooms. We explored the ground floor and then through stairs went to 1st floor. This room had good arches and some nice features. It also had big windows with nice views. It always feel so great being at the places where historic events had taken place. We were also interested to know the place from where on that historic day Maharaj descended the fort and crossed the vedha, which he told is at some distance from here and we would be visiting that too. We then descended and went to see some tatbandi (fortification) around this place. The next stop was one of the buruj which had a steep climb of 25-30 steps, The view from top was breath taking and has a good vantage point. From here on one could also see the bunglows of dyons of marathi film industry, Bhalji pendharkar, V Shantaram and all.

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Our next stop was to see the spot we wanted to see earlier, the place from where Maharaj descended the fort and it passed through thick jungle. If I would have come with our group or would have had more time, would have liked to go and explore it more. For next time, maybe!  We then moved to see a very interesting place, called Andhar Bawdi (Hidden well). It is a three storied structure having two levels located underground. At the base is a hidden step well. This structure would help protect the well from the enemies whose first act would be to poison the water in it.  The upper level is road facing and so as the enemy storms the fort, they don’t see the underground structures nor the guards stationed at the basement, who then could surprise them. This well was the drinking water source for the inhabitants of the Fort. The back side of Andhar Bawdi is also well fortified by two layers of thick stone wall and it also has escape routes in case of emergency.  From the fortification one gets excellent views of the fort and the valley.

Our next stop was Teen Darwaza (Three doors) which are at walk able distance from Andhar Bawdi. It is one of the gateways to the Fort from Konkan side. The doors have been constructed in such a way that the enemy entering from the main door from Konkan side cannot see another two doors until they are fully in by which time the guards stationed there can surprise them. The doors would have been huge and strong to withstand even the charge by the elephant. The doors have beautiful arches having nice carvings.

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Our next visit was to visit the Bale Killa (Citadel), which also houses the Ambarkhana (Warehouse) and is located at the center of the Fort. There are three granaries in this structure, having names Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati to store rice, varai and nachni and are huge, having capacity of around 25OOO quintals of rice. The rice collected from country would be poured from holes on the top of the high ceiling. The structure itself has huge pillars and they connected by arches which look imposing and beautiful.The Ambarkhana used to be fortified by 15 meter deep trenches to prevent attacks. This whole area is encircled by fortification and was part of the Citadel.

There were few more places to visit like Tararani’s palace, Shiva Kashid’s statue and memorial, but due to that day being election day some parts were closed and we could not visit them. So we were at the end of our tour and decided to have lunch on the fort itself. We were thirsty as well and chaas just outside the fortification of Bale Killa was perfect drink! From there we saw a hotel just opposite to it. We decided to try it out. They had freshly prepared bhakari, zhunka with thecha and chaas as menu. The food was really nice and the ambiance of we sitting in front of Bale Killa of Panhala was just perfect! We relaxed there for some time and would have liked to spend the whole day on the fort itself. But home was also calling and with our tummies filled, we decide to head back. We didn’t had to go back to Kolhapur as there was bypass connecting to the highway at some distance from Panahala and in some time we were on our way.

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The weather was just perfect, cloudy with cool breeze. I think most of us took some nap and we didn’t stop until just before the Khambatki ghat at Aaram hotel. This is a new hotel and last time we had missed coming here. Its very large and has many sections for different cuisines. We had some south indian snacks, batata vada and tea. Just as we were having our snacks it started raining heavily, really heavily and I got one more chance of enjoying the monsoon after many years. We had to wait for more than an hour for the rains to stop and then we headed home. As we entered Pune from Katraj we got some traffic till we reached home at around 6:00 pm. Thus came to conclusion a nice, spiritual and relaxing trip.

PS: With Panhala fort covered (though had been here few times in childhood) and my earlier coverage of Vishalgadh fort and Pavankhind the historic circuit was complete.

Hurda Party At Rajewadi

Feb 2010 : Since some time we were thinking of going for some trek, but it was not happening. Ram suggested to come visit his village and we can also have Hurda party as well on his farm. Also per him we can trek one of the hills near his house which has a great views of many backwaters and surroundings from the top. So this seemed to be a good option and we finalized on a date and left the planning to Ram to do our kahtirdari 🙂

We decided to book a vehicle (Ram wanted to go on the bike) and spend some time at his village and come back in half day. We started early on that day though we had breakfast at home only to keep the trip short. Rajewadi is his village, which is off Pune – Satara super highway on the other side of Neera river. Its around 50 km from Pune city and takes around 1 hour to reach. We reached there by 9:00 am. This area is an upcoming industrial area and we saw many factories along internal road leading to his village. The village is small, but beautiful, flanked by hills on one side and Neera river on other.

We then went to his home and got introduced to his family. They served us tea and after small conversation, we decided to head to the fields. The day was quite hot. His farm was nearby to his house and along with other crops had the jowary planted. We picked few of the kanis from his fields but they were small and bit raw. Instead we observed that the next field had big kanis and looked fresh. So we tore down many from that field 🙂 . Grass is greener on the other side, hence proved! 😉 We took all of it to Ram’s field for roasting. We found a small canopy and started working on lighting the fire. As simple as it may look, getting a fire going can be tricky task. It took us some time to get it going and after some trail and error we were finally start roasting the hurdas.

We had brought salt and chilli powder from Ram’s place with us in puddis. Ram was roasting it one after other and once couple were done which didn’t come out that well, once the makeshift stove was hot the next batch started coming out well. The Hurda was quite good and we enjoyed the party. We then rested under the shade for some time, we would have liked to stay there whole afternoon. The winter sun was up and it was pleasant weather to just lay down. Then we decided to go for the next item of itinerary was trek the hill which was just across the fields. The hill was looking quite tall and the slopes quite imposing.

Ashk was not much in favor of trek , but as others persisted and also Ram was the one who was our host and organizer of this event, we decided to go. Though the hill was looking quite close by, from the field where we stood, it took us some 20-25 mins walk to reach the base. From there we started the real trek. Surprising it was difficult! One reason was there were not many marked trails and the gravel on the surface was quite loose and slippery. We are slipping once a while and it was making the progress slow. Also there was hardly any vegetation at the base and on the slopes for shade, though at the top there was some tree cover.

We reached the top in around 30 minutes. The top was a narrow ridge connecting the one end of hill to other. We started walking on the ridge, which was quite an adventure 🙂 After 10 -12 mins walk, where we were walking in the single file, so narrow was the ridge and there was valley on each side, we reached the final ascent. We were slipping a bit once a while and it was bit risky having valley on both sides. After covering this section, we started the accent and it was getting difficult now. The gravel here was more slippery and we had hard time getting on top. But the view from top was worth the effort and we could see far off amongst cool breeze. From here there was again small hike to the topmost point from where you can see many backwaters, but by then everyone in the group had given up. Also the section was bit dangerous and we decided to head back. Ram was unhappy that we didn’t go to the point where he wanted to take us.

The descent was even more difficult with slippery gravel. Most of the section we descended sitting down, just sliding over the surface. This where I strained my knee’s ligament, which still hurts :(. We reached the bottom in 20 mins and headed to Ram place. They had prepared lunch for us. We all sat down and had a nice home made lunch. We took some rest and then headed back to Pune. We were back home around 6:30 pm.

It was indeed very memorable experience and would definitely want to have another Hurda party some day!

Hike To Ortega Falls

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06-May-2017 : It was 2:00 pm and we had just had our lunch. I was just back from grocery and the day was progressing slowly and me watching some documentary on Netflix and getting ready for a siesta! Then I heard G -> Are we going to spend this weekend at home only? Are we not going out some where? Enough of your afternoon siesta’s … You would have got the idea. So I was like yeah, lets go somewhere then, but where we want to go now, in the afternoon. See its raining. What a nice time for a quick nap! But G was not impressed and finally I had to get on the iPad and start looking for places to go.

I was earlier thinking of going to some beach, but outside it was raining and cold and so beach was not a good idea. G and Ar were looking for some trek near by and I was like if we have to go lets go to some distance. Rain made us think about waterfall and so we decided to head for one of the nice ones around. Now there are not many of them around Orange County to choose from and we were thinking of going to Holly Jim falls which is in Rancho Santa Margarita. I did some research on it and came to know that the last 4 miles to it is a dirt road and not good for cars with low clearance. So that was dropped and while looking for more options came across Ortega falls, which is not as close, but not too far.  Looking at pictures and some information it looked a good waterfall with some hike to it. So Ortega falls it was going to be! We quickly packed the snacks (no surprises!) and left.

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Outside it was quite cold, I was still thinking of home :). But we were on our way. We had the tank filled up at Costco and were off. It is around 29 miles from out home, close to 40 mins drive. The direction you take is Pacific Park -> Antonio Pkwy -> CA-74 E. In around 20 mins we were on CA-74 E. Its a small highway of 2 lanes and it was fun driving on it as it reminded me of some drives back home in India! The road is really nice and it paces through hills and then you start climbing the ghat, which is beautiful. The weather made the ride even more pleasing.

As you get closer to the top, the surrounding starts getting greener and greener and you start passing through clouds. It kind of reminded me of Mahabaleshwar. The highest point is around 2200 ft. Somehow we missed the exit for the falls as we kept going. You need to be careful to pull up at right place as there is no U turn and there is no way to go back. As we also wanted to visit the lake Elsinore which is on the other side of hills, we continued. As we started the descent, we could see the lake to our left. Its very big and quite scenic. We were downhill in 10 mins and pulled up close to the lake. We would have liked to go to lake park and spend some time, but it was already 4:00 pm and we still wanted to take a shot at the waterfall. So after spending some time on lake shore, we headed back on CA-74W and started the ascent.

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This time we set the direction on Google maps and not my GPS, which kind of confused us earlier. On the way the traffic was also less, so I was enjoying the drive. We pulled up at a vista point having nice views of the lake for a quick stopover. Then we headed straight to the entry point of falls. We could see some cars parked there and pulled over. In front of us was the valley and in the opposite side nice big hills. G went to the mound and spotted the waterfall hidden in the thick of bushes. So we took out stuff and started the hike.

The whole surrounding was green and covered with shrubs. There were few trees as well. There were many trails and we picked one which we thought was the shortest. We could see the waterfall on our far right and so we figured out we first would have to descend the valley to the floor and then climb back up to reach the falls. The weather was good so we were enjoying the trek, under sun it would be tiring as there are only few trees for cover. We were making OK progress, but the shrubs which crisscross you on the trails was a major irritant. Some of the shrubs had either thorns or were having leaves which can cause itching. So we had to be careful. As always Ar was leading the trek at many times and she was having fun. We were trying to teach her some basics of hiking and she kind of got it I think, but was reluctant to use her hands to hold rocks or trees and instead was using us as the stick 😉

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We reached the base on 15- 20 mins. On the way there were few cross trails and there was some argument between I and G on which one to take. At one point we were glad to have taken the one suggested by G, the other one would have taken us far off! But looking at so many trails, I was bit worried about our way back as they would be causing us confusion. I was trying to remember the paths, with some landmarks, but they would still cause us some worrying moments as we shall see. As we neared the base we could clearly hear the falls and flowing water. Finally we could see the stream and took a break there. Now we just had to follow it upstream to reach the falls. Here the stones are big, like boulders and also very smooth and slippery. We had to be careful crossing those, especially with Ar. Finally we reached the falls. It was small, but nice and I always enjoy the sound these make, which gives you peace. We could see some people who were further uphill from us, but it would have been bit tricky scaling the rock patch to it with Ar and so we decided to the stop there only.

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But I wanted to check whats up there and also see if there is any other way for us all to reach the top, I continued for some distance. I realized in sometime that the main waterfall is where we had taken the break and at top its just stream flowing through the stones. Also the stones there were more smooth and slippery and so didn’t make the case for them to get here and so I scaled down. The waterfall is small but pristine and the sound it makes as it falls and flows over the stones is amazing. It is surrounded by thick forest. We just spent some moments here just listening. Ar was excited to drop the small paper boat she had got from home, though she was sad it did not cover much distance. We had some snacks there, soaked in the nature for a while and then decided to head back. It was already 5:30 pm and though the Sun sets late now, due to cloud cover it was already quite dark and we wanted to be back through the maze of pathways at the parking lot before dark.

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We made good progress initially and Ar was looking more confident in the hike. We then hit one intersection and there was a confusion on which trail to take. There were at least 3-4 trails there and per my suggestion and the one against G’s we selected the middle road. We might have passed few meters and got stuck in thick bushes, which made us second guess my choice. Not a good thing to do!

So we turned back and took the trail which G had suggested earlier which was heading left. After sometime we reached another intersection where we took the one going up hill as we knew we had to keep going upwards. Luckily as this trail is located close to highway, we could see and hear the sounds of the vehicles so I knew we were on wrong path as the vehicles were appearing closer to our right and farther in the direction we were heading. But G was persistent and so she continued scaling the rocks, but finally I was able to convince her to head back. It was getting dark and I was worried, if we cant figure this out quickly we would be in real mess. So after backtracking, we took the same direction I had suggested earlier, just we used the parallel trail.

As we kept moving and the bushed really made it difficult as well as irritating, we started hearing the noise of the vehicles clearer, we knew we were in right direction, only not sure at which point we would exit. Finally we could see cars and we were out of the bushes and what was pleasantly surprising that we had exited at the same spot from where we had entered. Now that’s some sixth sense! Ar was bit tired in the last leg, but we had made it in time. We rested a bit and headed back to our home. On the way back nothing interesting happened, traffic was low though. We were back at our home by 6:45 pm. We had had a nice small unplanned trip and G was happy!

PS: Though the waterfall and surroundings was great at the falls itself there was some trash as well as graffiti on rocks which was sad 😦

Purandar and Vajragad Fort trek

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Fort Type : Hill                                                       Base Village : Narayanpur, Pune district

Grade : Medium                                                     Height : 4472 feet

Distance From Pune : 40 kms

05-Feb-2017 : So we were in India for few weeks and I was raring to go and do some trekking and visit some forts. We were thinking about the options and preference was to cover something new, but the limitation of time and people availability had also to be considered. So after much deliberations it came down to 2 options, Rajmachi or Purandar and Vajragadh. Both were close to Pune and even though we had done Purandar back in 2009, we could not do its jod gadh Vajragadh.

Finally Purandar/Vajragadh was finalized considering the distance and the limited time we had. So the plan was to start early and be back to Pune no later than 5:00 pm. I was running a busy schedule, the previous day (4th) was Ar’s B’day and the celebrations ran late in the evening and there was only few hours to catch sleep and head for the trek. After I would be gone, later in the morning G and Ar were going to G’s place and considering all these factors and other members availability, 5th Feb was selected. The day before we had packed some food, fruits etc. Breakfast and lunch we had planned to do on the way. We had booked our friend’s acquaintance’s jeep.

I woke up early at around 5:30 am, got ready quickly and was ready to leave by 6:15 am. I thought I was late as we had planned to assemble at Ashk’s place at 6:30 am and I was not going to get there in 15 mins for sure as I was still at home! So I gave him a call and told him that I am just leaving and would be there in 20- 25 mins. Now from sound of his he made me believe that he is all padded up and ready to leave, when I reached there he was still nowhere to be seen. Later he confessed, I was the one who had actually woken him up 😉  So left home on bike and reached Ashk’s place, parked the bike and as noted earlier I and Ram waited there for long time for him to arrive.

So we were 3 of us leaving from this pickup point and the next pick up point was Undri and then Hadapsar, where 4 more of our friend’s were going to join. We took the Katraj bypass road to head to Undri. This road I knew was bad, but it turned out to be even worse now. There are so many big potholes and with road concretisation going on it was real bad. The journey which should have taken 20 mins took more than double of that and we finally picked Sam and from there headed towards Hadapsar to pick Ran and Rav. After that finally we were on Saswad road heading towards our destination and we were running quite late. It was already 8:00 am!

There are many ways to reach Purander from Pune and the one which we took was Hadapsar -> Saswad -> (Saswad – Kapurhol road) -> just after Narayanpur take the ghat to Purandar fort. The roads are now good and wide, even the Dive ghat section, since the last time I came here. While ascending Dive ghat, in the valley on your left you see the Mastani talav, which we were planning to cover on the way back, but did not happen. We were making good progress and reached Saswad by around 9:00 am. Earlier we were planning to have Breakfast on the way to Saswad at any good restaurant besides the Highway, but we couldnt spot any and also Ashok through his friend found out that there is one good misal joint in Saswad and we decided to try that. The name of this place is Chandu seth misal and he seems to be quite famous. Near the Saswad Shivaji chowk we did couple of inquiries and they guided us to the spot. It is in front of Dakshinmukhi Maruti Mandir and its nice small place.

The misal here is unique and I have never had such. So before you even take a seat each table already has the bowl, filled with shev and farsan. Onion, lemon etc are on the table. Just as you enter the hotel you spot multiple big pots having sample are being boiled continuously. As you take seat and are ready to be served, the server would get 3 buckets on your table, one having medium spicy sample, one hot sample and one tarri. He will also get Pav in plates. You mix and match the 3 liquids in your bowl and enjoy the misal. Taste wise its OK, but I liked the style! So we had garma garam misal and with our tummy’s full, we headed out. They only serve Misal, not even chai. So we found one chai tapari just besides the temple and the kaka made special masala tea for us. We even had a uncalled guest, who had tea on our expense! So we were all energized and ready to head towards the fort.

So last time we had come to Purander, we were on bikes and it was in middle of summer. Some good old memories from then, I think it was in April 2009. It was nice to be going back. But this time around we were not going to commit the same mistake (or was it, its still being debated!) as last time of parking at Narayanpur and walking in sweltering heat to the base. In fact this time we were not going to walk from base, but were going straight till the Car park near the top of the fort and explore the fort. This fort is maintained by military and so there are number of gates and checkpoints. So as we came near the main gate we saw it was still closed. There were few cars waiting in front of us. On making inquiries at the checkpoint learnt that it opens at 10:00 am, so that was only 10- 15 mins away, what a great timing! Luckily all of us had brought ID’s with us as only after verifying that they allow you in. So the gates opened in some time and after our ID’s and vehicle checked we were allowed in.

The first thing you notice is this is one of the best maintained forts in terms of infrastructure with good roads and facilities and well maintained. We passed through the Binni darwaja, passed MurarBaji’s statue and parked in the parking area. There we were asked to keep our mobiles and camera’s in the car which you cant carry further from that point, which was sad. So we packed all those things kept it safetly in the car and started the small trek. From here you get a good view of the fort’s ramparts. You also get a good view of Vajragad. The trail passes through thick cover of trees and in 15- 20 mins you reach the top near the Zhenda. From here we explored the fort a bit and headed towards the Mahadev mandir.

Here you need to pass through the designed pathways only, else you are warned by the security officials. At one location where there was a Y intersection, we were not sure which one to take so we used the lower road which was quite an adventure, we had to pass over the water tank through ladder laid from one end to other :). Somehow we crossed it and we might have gone few meters, we heard the whistle. Not to say we had to do one more round of balancing act on the ladder 🙂 and we were on right road. Soon we could see the temple on the top end of the fort. There are stone steps from the bottom to reach the temple. We took darshan and sat outside on the platform. It was around 12:00 pm and we were at the top. A cool breeze was blowing and spectacular view was in front of us. We had some snacks and fruits (apples) and had some good chat. We then started the descent and came to the base in half an hour. We then went straight to Sambhaji Maharaj’s statue and then visited Sambhaji Maharaj’s birth place. It was nice being here.

We wanted to go to Vajragad next which is historical fort connected to Purandar. Unfortunately as it is now closed to public, we had to drop it!  Yeah, second time around  :(. We had to contend seeing that majestic fort from a distance only. Then we came back to our cars to find our mobiles safe 😉 and headed towards Pune. On the way we took stop at Murar Baji’s  statue and then headed towards Narayanpur and were soon on the way to Saswad. At Saswad there was some traffic jam due to nivadnuk miravnuk (Corporation and ZP elections were round the corner). We reached Garva hotel in some time. We took some rest, I had veg pullav and lime juice and relived some old memories. Then we headed back to Pune. The traffic was slowly started building up. We first dropped Hadapsar and Undri guys and then we were deliberating to change the route (after morning experience), but did not and that decision led to some avoidable consequence (see PS). We reached Katraj by 4:30 pm. I picked my bike and was back home by 5:00 pm. Nice fort trek after long time with our group!

PS: So our picking the same route of Katraj – Undri bypass had unintended consequence. Not only we had to endure the bad roads again(which was given) but our vehicle was stopped by traffic police and our driver fined due to some documentation issue!

Aurangabad Trip – Day 2 (part 2)

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15-August-2011 : We woke up early today and took our luggage and put in the car. Today was 15 th August and we were in transit to way back. No kadhai jalebis today 😦 But never mind, it had been a memorable independence day weekend. We had hearty breakfast at hotel, did the checkout formalities and took some pics of the hotel and headed out. Unfortunately, we could hardly explore the hotel, which was quite big and had lots of activities.

Our first stop was Bibi ki makbara. It is a copy of the Taj Mahal and after seeing the original this was a disappointment, but G having not being to the original one found it interesting. Then we headed towards Panchakki which was an interesting place. It is flour mill, which runs on water. It is designed such that the flow of water, rotates the wheels and grounds the grains. Was a nice place.

From there we moved to our last item in our itinerary, Daulatabad fort, also called as Deogiri fort. This was the capital seat of Maharashtra long time ago and the fort is one of the few which are well maintained. This fort is considered to be impregnable and have been ever won through kutniti only. We reached at the base around 11:00 am and we could see the majesty of the fort from far distance. I would have liked to cover the complete fort, but G was not up to it that day and so we decided to cover till midway and hired a guide. We saw ramparts, many doors and the minar etc. It truly looked  invincible.

We were at the end of our trip and to think of it we managed to cover more than we ever thought we could. We left Aurangabad by 12:30 pm. On the way we decided to stop at the food mall which we had been told served good food. The food was nice and we were in Pune city by 4:00 pm, but after crossing Ranjangaon, the traffic started to build up and it took more than 2 hours to reach home. We were tired, but had checked out one of the long standing places to see in our list.