It’s August 2019, when heavy rains were creating havoc across southwestern parts of India (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala), thousands of people evacuated from their place, a lot of people lost their life, trains were cancelled, highways were closed due to water logging and what not…
Amidst all this, just like everyone else even we were praying for the Mother Nature to calm down so that the people’s lives gets back to normal. We also had a pinch of selfish reason, with a special interest on Pune. Had booked bus to Pune for BhimaShankar trek (on Aug 15th long weekend) a month ago. We were constantly under the fear of the trek plan getting cancelled. Maybe the gods heard the prayers. Just a few days before our plan, rains started reducing, highways were opened for transportation.
As planned earlier, group of 7 friends start our journey from Bengaluru on 14th August 2019, 7PM in a Bus. Got down in Wakad stop of Pune around 10:30AM the next day. Quickly finished our morning duties and breakfast in a nearby restaurant. Since we had half day spare time we decided to visit Lonavala. We took a local train from Chinchwad station to Lonavala. It was my 1st time experience of a local train, it was good, standing at the door watching the beautiful scenery all along the journey. By the time we reached Lonavala it started to rain. We were at the Lonavala station wondering what to do next! It was 3PM already. We wore our raincoats and headed out of the station in search of vehicles to strike a deal for our transportation in Lonavala. Before we found any vehicle, we found a small shop right in front of railway station called ANAND VADEVALE selling what was Maharashtra’s most famous snack VADAPAV! @ 5 rupee each. The boys were craving for some snacks, and this was a boon. We ate as much as we wanted. I would say this was the best vadapav we had in our entire journey. After our tummy was happy, we found a 7 seater Maruti Ertiga and struck a deal for 1400 rupees to show us Tiger point, Bhushi dam, Lonavala dam and then drop us back to railway station by 6PM. First we reached Bhushi dam, since it was Aug 15th, a public holiday, there were hell lot of people. Because of too much crowd we couldn’t enjoy/appreciate the beauty of Bhushi dam much. But, Bhushi dam is surrounded by a beautiful lush green scenery which draws attention (at least in monsoon). Overall, Bhushi dam is a typical family holiday destination.
After this we continued our journey towards Tiger point which is around 7-8kms of ghat, as expected it was a beautiful drive all along the way fully covered in fog. On the way, we can find INS and IAF base. Due to fog the road was barely visible. We almost reached our destination, for some unknown reason there was traffic jam, our driver took a U turn and parked the vehicle saying “because of the jam we cannot go further to see Lion point, this is Tiger point go ahead and have a look”. We had no other option but to listen to him, we got down from the vehicle. Due to the fog the visibility range was just a few meters (maybe 5-10 meters). No matter which directional we turn all we see is fog! It was a kind a good relaxing feeling to walk in the fog. We began exploring the land in the direction driver had vaguely pointed his finger. We took a few pictures in the fog, continued exploring. Along the sound of blowing wind we were able to hear a mild sound of water flowing and started walking towards it, we could barely see fence like poles at a short distance, we went past the poles and to our surprise there is sudden steep and a small quantity of water falling made it look like a mini water fall. We assume this is the Tiger point. Had there been no fog, we might have got a view. This was a place worth visiting.
We began our return journey and saw Lonavala dam on our way back to railway station. We had a plan to go to Karjat for the overnight stay (Karjat is the nearest town for the BhimaShankar trek). To our surprise the train from Lonavala to Karjat had been cancelled due to some reason related to floods. Now neither do we have a train nor bus to Karjat! It’s already past 6:30PM. We began asking people for more options. We found that we have a bus from Lonavala to Khopoli and we can get a local train from Khopoli to Karjat. The bus was around 1kms from Lonavala railway station. We got into the already crowded bus and immediately bus started, it seemed almost like the bus was waiting for us. It’s a 30-40mins journey, since we were the last to board the bus our place was on the footboard which I found to be the perfect place to enjoy the journey with semi dark view with drizzle all along. The bus passes through ghat section and joins the Pune-Mumbai express way for a short distance and then gets back to a town road to reach Khopoli. We took the local train and reached Karjat finally! Little bit of exploration and we found a lodge to stay for the night. All done for the day. At the end of the day we had a sense of satisfaction, nothing much was planned but still everything fell in the right place at the right time, there were a lot of things that could have stopped us from reaching Karjat, but still we made it.
Start of trek journey
We left the lodge @7:45AM, hired a Maruthi EECO for 800 rupees to reach Khandas which is ~38km from Karjat. Due to bad road conditions, journey takes around 1hr 30mins. Khandas (a small village) is where we start the trek. Basically we have 2 routes to start the trek. 1) Ganesh ghat 2) Seedhee(ladder) ghat. Both the routes meet at a common meeting point after around 35-40% of total distance and then it’s a single route till the hill top. Ganesh ghat is the most common route, because seedhee ghat is a bit adventurous and risky. One of our friend had been to this trek before, so we knew this information. It’s decision time, since we were all young blood seedhee ghat was our obvious choice to start with, and we decided while returning we will return through Ganesh ghat because returning from seedhee ghat would be too much of a risk to take. We asked a local guide to accompany us till the common meeting point. All set to start the trek. Its around 10:45AM. We could see the range of hills laid majestically across the horizon forming a brilliant panoramic view filled with lush green, huge rocks (like a vertical wall), water falls visible at regular intervals, the hill top covered in fog. To be honest words fall short to describe the view, a picture of it can only be a representation, true beauty of it can only be felt when seen through naked eyes.
We began walking behind our guide, we could see the hill which we would need to scale right in front of us at a distance. After a certain distance we got a much better view of the hill. Once we got close to the base of the hill we had to cross a small river, so our shoes were bound to get soaked in water. Till this point the terrain was almost flat without much inclination. After crossing the river the trail goes into the forest. Now we are surrounded by trees, terrain bit rocky, getting slowly steeper, inclination increasing. After about 20-30mins of trek in the rocky forest we reach the base of the huge rock structure which we saw earlier. We were in awe looking at it from it’s foot. It’s a mere wall like rock, flat and tall. Felt like capturing a vertical panoramic picture. And here is where all the adventure begins, the seedhee (ladder) in front of us. There are two metallic ladders laid one after the other. If we didn’t have the ladders in place, I don’t think anybody could have crossed this point without any accessories (like rope, etc).
Since the ladder was a bit shaky we didn’t hurry, climbed one after another. Once we are up the ladder, we do not have a walking trail anymore. It’s rock climbing time! The risk is that we have the vertical wall like rock to our right and a vertical drop to our left, it’s always scary. To look at the positive side, we have a mesmerising view! After climbing few rocks we again get another metallic ladder after which we get a cave like formation, the best part is that we will have a small waterfall from above the cave, it’s an awesome feeling to be there. We get basically 3 instances where we need to carefully climb without hurrying. Since we were a team, we coordinated with each other and crossed without much hiccups. Once the rock climbing session is done, we get the trail path again. Though the rock climbing is done, we still have the vertical drop to our left for quite some time. Continuing for some more time, we get a flat land, that’s the top of the flat wall like rock. We are finally over it. Walking through the flat land we can see some farm land and a couple of houses! Crossing the farm land will lead us to the common meeting point of Ganesh ghat and seedhee ghat. Our local guide returns back from here. We have 3 hut like structures where we can have some refreshments. Since there was rains at regular time intervals we were fully drenched, it cooled down our body, didn’t feel much tiredness. Yet we were desperate for some refreshments. We had freshly made hot Maggi noodles and Tea.
After some relaxation time, we began our journey again. The hill that we saw from the trek starting point, we were on top of it. But there was another hill on top of that hill which was covered in fog, which wasn’t visible for us from the trek starting point. So we were half way through. The second hill terrain was a typical hilly terrain with a fairly tough inclination and covered in fog. Now that both the routes are merged, we had more people around. After trekking for some time we get a flat terrain surrounded by trees with thick fog and very minimal visibility range.
By this time we are done with 80-85% of the trek. After around 10mins of walk, we again find an inclined path passing through which would get us to the top of the hill. Finally we made it through the BhimaShankar trek and reached the top @ ~3PM. During this trek the worst part was to see plastic water bottles lying around in the trek path. It’s such a beautiful scenic environment, why can’t we keep it clean! How heavy would the empty bottles/chocolate paper be to carry with us and dispose in a proper place! Looks like people have got used to littering. Once we reached the BhimaShankar temple locality, there are a lot of shops, fairly crowded. People on the street were covering themselves with plastic body cover to avoid getting wet in rain, we on the other hand were completely drenched and walking elegantly without any hesitation of rain. We had booked a room while in Bengaluru itself, the room guy came, picked us in a TATA sumo and took us to the room which was 6km from the temple locality. We had the entire evening to relax. The evening walk with fog around, breeze of chilling air along with slight drizzle, it’s a walk to be remembered. The next day morning, same guy dropped us back to the temple, we visited the temple, had some breakfast and began our descend journey. Since there were regular rains, the rocky trails were slippery. With a bit of caution we managed to descend at a steady pace, enjoying the view. We reached the common meeting point, stoped for a while and had tea. As per our plan we were to take the Ganesh ghat route now, but… some of us had our adrenaline pumped, began suggesting to take seedhee ghat! since we all had seen how difficult it was to climb upwards, we knew it would be much more difficult to climb down, so not everyone were in par with the suggestion. We had a quick debate, the guys who were not in par with the idea, half heartedly agreed and we began our descend via seedhee ghat. With a lot of patience and coordination, we made it through tough phases of the descend.
The breathtaking moments can only be experienced, cannot be described! Continuing the downward path, we reached the small river which we crossed initially. Technically, we were done with the trek. In the end, we lost our way, took a long route instead of a short one to Khandas. Booked another vehicle from Khandas to Karjat. Took a train from Karjat to Pune. And then again train from Pune to Bengaluru.
That’s it folks!
Things to know for BhimaShankar Trek
Total distance: approx 13km (each side)
Forest permission required?: NO
Guide required: not really, but 1st timers or people not confident of catching up with the trail can hire a localite from Khandas
Guide fee: 400-500 rupees (not fixed)
How to reach Khandas?: Pune>Karjat, we get vehicles (auto rickshaws, cabs, etc.,) from karjat
Best season to visit: Monsoon (August, September)
Altitude: Khandas – 490ft, Bhimashankar hill top – 3315ft