Friday, April 1, 2011

Harishchandragad Trek

Harishchandragad is a beautiful trek,

Sudarshan and I  began our journey to Harishchandragad on 17th December 10 at 05:30 am in the morning. We caught the 6:00 hrs train from Thane to Kalyan, and then caught the 06:40 am ST bus to Shirdi. Almost two hours later, winding through the maze of mountains and valleys we reached our staging point, Khubi Phata.
At Khubi Phata.
The view from Khubi Phata, the fields at the base of Harishchandragad.

Pimpalgaon Joge Dam

Khireshwar village lies at the base of the mountain.

Khubi Phata is at the end of this road.
Harishchandragad amazes many people and we were met by one such gentleman who was  driving in a car with his family. On learning that we were going to Harishchandragad he stopped his car. He had been there twice and showed us the way, the various landmarks and the expected duration to reach the top. Surprisingly, Harishchandragad was right in front of us and although, to get to the top. 

Khubi Phata lies at one end of the man made lake(damming a river), an hour walk to the base village, Khireshwar. We started the walk on the lake embankment of the lake. The view is wonderful with cool breeze of the lake hitting our faces. An hour later we reached Khireshwar and had kanda poha at the village. There was nothing else on the menu, but we were exited so it felt good. There were six boys with us who also were going to Harishchandragad. I felt relieved that we would not be alone at the top. However the feeling was soon lost on hearing that some 30 or 40 people from Standard Chartered were also accompanying us.

We tanked on a few bottles of water and set off from Khireshwar at 10:00 am. Our next destination would be Tolar Khind in about 2 hours. Starting off from Khireshwar we were followed by a dog who followed us all through the way. We kept following the trail through the trees. and thick vegetation. The initial ascent is quite steep with steps, we kept walking for some twenty minutes and soon got tired and took rest. this kept happening for few more times. We later had quite a brain wave and started using broken branches as walking sticks. Even a relatively weak branch does take some load off your Back (more likely legs). Climbing and most the balancing with the heavy knapsack became more bearable. With a few more stops and about 2 hours from leaving Khireshwar we were at the first landmark Tolar Khind.

Our Companion

Tolar Khind

Walking from Tolar Khind was easier,  we walked from some time until we reached a vertical cliff. With a big bag on our backs climbing on all fours was especially difficult. There are steel columns for support that make the ascent easier, but one misstep will certainly take one 30 feet down on the rocks. But we made it and the track thereon takes you along the mountain slope with an awesome view of the valley. It is December, so the climate is cool and even the mountain is cool. The climate was very comfortable and we had a feeling that we would come to regret the warm clothes that we had taken along. Unfortunately in the night even with all that I was still freezing. A few more climbs and we saw flat land, I had a feeling now Harishchandragad was near. It was near 2:00 pm while a friend who had been there before had predicted that we would be there by 4:00 pm and towards the end we would feeling like we were walking for ever. He was right.

Saw Scale Viper

We were tired now. The villagers are very enterprising and they have taken weekend jobs of providing food and lime water to the people coming to Harishchandragad. The prices are on the higher side, but it is alright for their effort to bring materials so high up, besides it serves as local cottage industry. We took a break and drank lime water. It certainly felt good. The grass and the flowers now looked beautiful and our friends from Khireshwar let us know that we had seven hills to climb up and down.We walked for some time many times up and down (lost count now), across many streams and one Saw scale viper and a another small snake. we were feeling hungry. We sat down to lunch, a few hard boiled eggs and rested for a long time. We commenced walking and within half an hour we were at Harishchandragad at last. The temple and the surrounding looked amazing. It was 04:45 pm.

Harishchandragad Temple

We  moved to the caves (Rock cut caves) near the temple where we would spend the night, most were occupied and and we found a large cave with three people, and there was some space for us, we settled down, put our bags down, and our friends in the cave told us about the beautiful sunset from Konkan Kada. We left our bags in the cave and moved out. We first went to the amazing temple of Harishchandragad made out of stone. Despite age the temple is in good condition. The main presiding deity is Shiva.

Konkan Kada
They have "No Fear".

Sudarshan in his Thoughts.

From here we moved to view the sunset at the famed Konkan Kada. It is a half an hour walk from the temple. The view from the Konkan Kada and the mountain itself is amazing. We spent some time digesting the amazing view and taking pictures. We left just before sunset as we were tired and not too sure of the light conditions after sunset. We came back to the cave and settled down and had dinner (Few hard boiled eggs, chapatis & apple juice). We now walked around a bit, came back and went to sleep at 8:00 pm. 


In December despite wearing layers of T-shits, jacket, muffler, etc. it was freezing cold, which woke me up many times in the night. (Traveling to Harishchandragad or any place with an overnight stay do carry as much warm clothes as you can). 

Sudarshan got up at 3:00 am and woke me up. We walked to the Harishchandragad temple and sat outside it. The day was auspicious and villagers had gathered inside the temple in the night and were singing devotional songs. It was an amazing experience in the moonlight the stars seem so bright. We did some stargazing, talked about a few things, I was feeling cold and Sudarshan lent me his gloves. Some time later the moon went down, the stars now were at their brightest.

The temple at sunrise.
Kedareshwar Cave

After some time we went back to our dwelling and off to sleep. Sudarshan woke me up in the morning to see the sun rise. We did not see the sun rise. After exploring the area around the temple and the Kedareshwar cave. While we were feeling chilly people around us were having a great time swimming in the pond in front of the temple. After a few photographs we went back and decided to leave early. The people in the cave who had come by Pachnai advised us to take that route which is shorter about 2 hours to the village of Pachnai and a local bus would be available at 10:00 am. We decided to take this route saving us time.  A few villagers were walking towards Pachnai and we decided to follow them. The walk to Pachnai was enchanting taking us across a dry riverbed and winding along the slopes of the mountain the view was fabulous.

The way to Pachnai
Add caption


The view at Pachnai
 We reached the village Pachnai at 10:00 am in about 1.5 hours from Harishchandragad and had kanda poha at the village. The bus to Rajour from Pachnai was at 11:00 am. It came at 11:30 and took us to Rajour in about an hour. From Rajour we took the taxi (jeep) seating 13 people + a driver to Kasara. Probably this was the most uncomfortable part of our trip. It took us 2 hours to reach Kasara. We had lunch at Kasara and then took the local train to Thane.