Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sagargad Trek

Trek To Sagargad.

Last weekend [27-Aug-2005], the MumbaiVoyagers group did not trek. Saturday was a meeting day at CCD, Dadar. This meeting of the group was much more successful than the previous meeting when only two people turned up. One - the group founder Vishy and the other - yours truly. I could not attend this meeting owing to personal reasons.

This week, activity on the messaging board started early from Tuesday [30-Aug-2005]. Most people had a place they wanted to visit. The moot point of these discussions was whether to go on a Saturday or Sunday. I was in favor of a Saturday trek as adequate rest can be taken on Sunday.

The members of the group continued adding messages to the board changing the confirmations. This was before a place or a date was actually finalized. There were also people considering an overnighter. This was not possible for me and with the exception of Vini, all other girls would have dropped out.

Varun had thought of Sagargad trek and I was interested, as I had never been to the place before. Sagargad is a beautiful fort very close to Alibag. There are two approach routes to the top of the fort. One is from a village named Khandala and the other is from Vaghole. Both these villages lie on the bus-route to Alibag, from Mumbai. The route to Sagargad is a scenic one with lush green vegetation complimented by a relatively thick jungle. The route from Khandala has the added attraction of a waterfall. Since this was a monsoon trek, the waterfall was the decisive factor in choosing our route.

After discussions with the other moderators (read Vishwa and Vini), we decided to go to Sagargad. I informed Varun about the number of people ready to join. The bus was at six in the morning from Thane. I informed Vishwa about the alternative to travel to Panvel to catch the bus. However he called me up at around 11:30 pm and informed me that he would be coming to Thane with everyone. By 11:30, three people had dropped out. Vini,Surender and Shabbir (Traitors). We had come down to our more normal, manageable number of six people.

There are a number of buses plying between Alibagh and Thane. The first bus in the morning is scheduled at 10 minutes past six. On this particular day, the driver of the bus decided to reschedule it to six am. So the bus started early. I was still paying the rickshaw fare, when the bus took off. Meanwhile, Vishwa, Miss Tee and Miss IRS were still in the train. The latest report received from them indicated that their train had reached Kanjurmarg station, three stations away from Thane. It would take them eleven more minutes to reach Thane station. Three more to reach the bus-stand. So me, Rohit and Varun decided to forego this bus.

The next bus is at half past six. So we wait for everyone to arrive. General introductions are made and Vishwa calls up at quarter past six to ask for directions to the bus-stand. He is accompanied by Miss IRS and Miss Tee. Another round of introductions follows. The next bus still hasn’t lined up. Varun and I go to Kunjvihar to have some coffee. We are served, when there is a call on my mobile telling me to reach the stand quickly as the bus has arrived. I gulp down the coffee as fast as possible, scalding my tongue in the process.

The bus – journey is un-eventful for me as I sleep through most of it. ;) We reach Khandala village by quarter to ten. This is one village which strikes me as odd. There are no chai stalls, no restaurants a very few stalls to be seen. All the stalls are selling is hot "batata-wadas". Just one item to offer. After having a couple of wadas, we proceed to negotiate with the rickshaw driver for a ride till Siddeshwar. Siddeshwar is the starting point for this trek.

At Siddeshwar, we proceed till the point where the steps begin. With Varun leading the way, I have no worries of getting lost. Varun has done almost all the forts in Maharashtra. He has a good memory of routes and rarely gets lost. However we do stray from the path once along the way. That is not so bad. After a time loss of about five minutes, we are back on track.

The route is every bit as good as advertised. Along the way, there is one point, where we have been surrounded by monkeys. I find it slightly exciting, but the others don’t want me to provoke the monkeys. I want to click their photographs, but people around me are tense. So I decide to forego this opportunity. The monkeys look menacing and there are about sixteen of them.

We proceed to the Math at SagargadMachi. A Math essentially is a temple with some accommodation arrangements attached to it. The particular Math has a nice stream flowing next to it. This stream is the source of the waterfall. Everybody goes to the top of the waterfall, while I proceed to keep a watch over the bags. There are more monkeys over here and I start clicking their snaps. I also notice a turtle in the well. I attempt three snaps, before I get one that looks right.

After this visit to the Math, we go to Sagargad Machi. Along the way we notice some buffaloes taking a bath in the water. All villages under the base of a fort are called Machi. At one of the houses in the village, we have herbal tea. This tea is wonderful. Between the five of us, we manage to finish 10 cups. The villagers are nice people. They do not want any money from us. We force 20 bucks on them. They want us to visit again. We give sweets to the kids.
We proceed to the top of the fort. The fort is a vast expanse of greenery with a few dilapidated structures on the top. We reach a banyan tree which looks majestic. I make a few attempts to capture it in a photograph.

Next to the fort is a pinnacle with a flag on the top. The pinnacle makes a good subject for the camera. I wait for sunlight and click a photo. There are some vultures flying around. Varun takes the camera and tries to click a few shots. The vulture is not interested in posing for the camera. It appears as a speck in the sky. I wish I had a telephoto lens and then this problem would not have occurred.

We have lunch. Everyone has got loads of snacks. Good work folks. I take out the butter chakli. Miss IRS has got some kind of religion related issues with food. So she foregoes most of the stuff. Good for us. I also eat some mawa cakes. Trekking does increase your appetite for food. It is exciting to eat Mawa cakes, butter chaklis and chiwda on the top. All the foods, that I normally avoid when at home.

Our return journey has started after spending some more time on the top. The return journey is equally uneventful. We come all the way down, reach the marker to the waterfall. Varun and Rohit prefer to stay outside the water stream. The rest of us jump in. Whats the point of carrying extra clothes if you do not get wet on a monsoon trek? The steps leading to the waterfall are slippery.
The waterfall is a lot of fun. The water is swaying due to the wind. In Vishy's words it is "paisa vasool". Rohit clicks our photographs.

On our way into the village, we notice a group of people beating up a snake. Varun stops them from killing it. Most of the villagers are naturally scared of snakes.
Snakes are an important part of the eco-system. They reduce the population of rats. Rat population grows at an alarming rate and snakes are required to keep them in check. This particular snake called locally as "kandar" is a poisonous species. Varun takes a plastic wrapper and picks it up. The snake is not yet fully grown. This specimen is about 10 inches in length. The tail of the snake has been thrashed by the villagers. The women-folk warn us about the poison of the snake. Varun releases the snake faraway. I hope it survives.

We reach Alibagh by auto. In the hotel, we have a nice lunch.
After a quick change of clothes, its time to take the bus home. There are people who wish to take a ferry. Ferry doesn't look like a logical option to me. I have to go to Thane. The return journey is in an Asiad bus. IRS and Rohit keep on quarrelling througout the journey.

More photographs on my yahoo photos - Yahoo Albums
Just came to know that Shraddha has released her version. Here is the link.