Bhivpuri-Matheran-Chowk Range Trek: 1

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Garbett plateau is engulfed in fog as I cross a hut on the way to the base village, Sagachi wadi

This blog post has been divided into two parts: The Ascent to Matheran via Garbett plateau and the Descent via Hashyachi Patti. Link to the second part can be found at the bottom of this post.

Trek # 15

When: Monsoon ‘16
Where: Matheran Range trek (Bhivpuri Road- Garbett point- Matheran- Hashyachi Patti- Chowk Station)
Range: Matheran
Nearest railway station: Bhivpuri Road (93 kms from CST on Central Railway)
Base Village: Sagachi wadi for Garbett point ascent, Umbernewadi for Hashyachi Patti descent
Max Height: 2631 ft (801 m)
Total Elevation Gain & Loss: 3450 ft / 3392 ft
Trail length: 28 km
Time: 15 hours
Approx. expenses: Less than 300 Rs/head
Best Time: All year round except Summer

Difficulty: Medium
Endurance: 5
Risk Factor: Medium (What do these gradings indicate? Find out here!)

Map:

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An overview of the trek route

Click here for GPS trail on wikiloc.

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A map of Karjat region from Harish Kapadia’s ‘Trek the Sahyadri’

Route: Bhivpuri road-Garbett point-Matheran-Hashyachi Patti-Chowk-Karjat

Description: Board a Karjat/Khopoli bound train on Central Railway and alight at Bhivpuri Road station. Exit in towards the east side, pass through Diksal village and cross Karjat-Murbad road to enter the Bhivpuri lake environ. Proceed along the southern edge of the lake in the general direction of Garbett plateau. Cross small several small streams to reach the first landmark, a huge tree on a hill ridge. The ridge takes you to the base village for Garbett plateau, Sagachi wadi. Confirm the direction with villagers & climb onto Garbett plateau by a spur and then proceed to Garbett point. Reach the Matheran Narrow gauge railway line in half an hour & walk on to Matheran station to continue or head to Dasturi Naka if you want to end the trek.

Hashyachi Patti Descent: From Matheran Railway station, head in the direction of Malang point. At the Malang Point diversion, you ‘ll see a small shop with a stone staircase leading to a settlement, called Hashyachi Patti on the lower plateau. Visit the Hanuman Mandir and fill up water from the community taps & head south to descend to Dhavari River. Walk along the banks of the river to reach Umbernewadi and cross over to Arkaswadi. The 6 feet broad trail to Chowk goes along the western edge of Morbe Dam with Irshalgad towering over most of the route. Reach Chowk Railway station after crossing Nanivali village & oard a bus for Karjat or Panvel as per your convenience.

Our Itinerary:

04:24 hrs       (—  km)              CST-Karjat train
07:00 hrs       (00.0 km)           Left Bhivpuri Road station
07:30 hrs        (01.0 km)           Breakfast
08:00 hrs        (01.5  km)          Reached Bhivpuri Lake
09:30 hrs        (04.5 km)           Reached Sagachi wadi
10:45 hrs         (06.0 km)          Reached Garbett plateau
12:00 hrs         (07.4 km)          Reached Garbett point
13:00 hrs         (11.0 km)            Matheran station
14:30 hrs         (13.5 km)            Lunch at Hemlata Restaurant
15:30 hrs         (14.5 km)            Started Descent
15:45 hrs         (15.0 km)            Reached Hashyachi Patti
16:00 hrs        (15.8 km)            Started descending for Varose/Umbernewadi
18:00 hrs        (18.0 km)            Reached Umbernewadi
18:50 hrs        (18.5 km)             Left Arkaswadi for 9.5 km non-stop stretch to Chowk
20:20 hrs       (26.0 km)            Crossed Nanivali
21:00 hrs        (27.5 km)            Crossed Chowk Railway station
21:15 hrs         (28.0 km)            Boarded bus for Karjat Railways station
21:43 hrs        (—-   km)               Boarded slow train for CST

Other routes: This route is one of the many combinations possible of the 8 trekking routes to Matheran. You can combine any two depending on your endurance and experience.


Account of the trek:

After starting Monsoon ’16 with Visapur trek, we had been looking for something exciting and much deliberation later, we zeroed in on the Garbett point-Matheran- Hashyachi Patti route. The total trail length being 28 kms, considerable time was spent in formulating contingency plans and identifying all the possible exit points in the trek and finally one fine July morning, the five of us set out to complete this epic journey in a single day!

The Gang: Abhishek, Manish, Shardul, Tejas & Me

NOTE: The page may take a few moments to load. All the pictures used in this post have been clicked by me or my friends unless stated otherwise.


Prologue:

Matheran & My quest: Matheran is a small hill station near Mumbai, first discovered in 1850 by Hugh Poyntz Malet, then District Collector of Thane  when he entered it through what is now known as the One tree hill point (Illustrated Handbook to Matheran, Dabake V.B, 1924) and subsequently developed as a hill station. It derived its name from what the tribals called ‘Matha par Ran hai’ (There’s jungle on the Head).

Two modes of transport are available to reach Matheran- the 21 km Narrow Gauge railway line and the 11 km long paved road, both originating from Neral (86 km from CST on Central Railway). For the more adventurous lot, there are several trekking routes which take you to Matheran, six of which are unique and cater to every difficulty level (individual route rating):

  1. Sunset point via Dodhani: Easiest
  2. One tree hill via Ambewadi: Easy
  3. Garbett point via Sagachi Wadi: Medium
  4. Malang point via Hashyachi Patti: Medium
  5. NM 156 via Vikatgad: Difficult
  6. Pisarnath Ladder ascent via Umbernewadi: Very Difficult

By the time Monsoon ’16 rolled into Mumbai, I had done 4 of these: 1,2,5,6 besides hiking up to Matheran by the Railway line as well as the Roadway.

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Clockwise from top left: Matheran via 1.) Pisarnath Ladder, 2.) 21 km rail hike, 3.) Sunset point from Dodhani, 4.) Vikatgad, 5.) 11 km road hike, 6.) One tree hill from Ambewadi

Garbett point & Hashyachi Patti as standalone treks did not offer anything novel in terms of difficulty and hence kept getting pushed down my list of ‘to-do’ treks UNTIL I read about an ambitious plan covering both the routes in a single day. Now I was interested! 😀

A blogger (@gotherecaptain) helped me out with a few details about the latter route. I soon realised it was not going be easy but what’s an adventure if it does not push your limits? A scene from Anurag Kashyap’s polarising crime drama ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ sprang up in my mind and I quickly juxtaposed it with my situation 😉

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Cheesy! I know 😛

I sent out a text to my usual partners-in-crime and 4 of them jumped at the opportunity. The day before trek was fairly hectic with stitching the map in Photoshop followed by laminating the printout to waterproof it and repacking everything in Zip pouches! As the clock struck 1 in the night, I made a last ditch attempt to get a few hours of sleep before the trek.


TREK DAY:

According to the schedule I had made, the trek was going to take atleast 13 hours if we kept a reasonable good pace (& everything went right), which meant we needed to start early. VERY early. Therefore we had decided to take the first train in the morning for Bhivpuri Road: the 4.24 am CST- Khopoli local.

And as everyone who’s ever made a plan probably knows- everything NEVER goes to plan and accordingly, Shardul missed the train by a whisker 😛 The rest of us reached Bhivpuri Road at half past six and eventually left for Diksal Village on the East side after he alighted from the following train at 7 am.

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Left: Bhivpuri Road station @ 6.43 am ; Right: Errm.. Station selfie # 1

The route starts from Karjat end of the platform and takes you to the Karjat-Murbad road in 5 mins. We decided to have breakfast at a small shop there and gobbled couple of Vada-Pavs to start the day.

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Left: The shop ; Right: Breakfast

After the half-hour long breakfast, we left for the hills surrounding Dhom lake (popularly known as Bhivpuri Lake).

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Left: On the way to Dhom lake ; Right: Shirdi Sai baba temple

The path again goes through a small settlement before joining a kuchcha road. We were at the lake by 8  am where this grand sight awaited us! 😀

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Dhom Lake with Garbett plateau covered in fog. Original Panorama dimensions: 22226 by 3767 pixels, about 84 Mp.

There are few places more peaceful than a still water body surrounded by lush green mountains. Out came the cameras and the trek turned into a photo-walk. We passed quite a few villagers on their way to work in the city, who were amused by our awestruck faces. The villagers are used to the beauty around their homes but for us, who have grown up in the concrete jungle, this was heavenly.

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This beautiful picture still doesn’t do justice to the actual sight. Sigh!

We could see a roaring waterfall in the distance and there are quite a few around Bhivpuri, the most famous of those being the Umroli waterfall.

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Streams and Waterfalls on the way

Note: Be careful while walking along the trail that hugs the southern edge of the lake, else you ‘ll end up like Manish:

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Manish holds the accidental pose for a click 😀

We passed numerous small streams and mini waterfalls before crossing the widest one that flows into Dhom lake just before our first landmark- the Hill with the tree.

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Reaching the widest stream. The tree is visible on the middle hill.

The stream was fairly easy to cross since it had only been drizzling since morning. I would advise caution while crossing the stream if it’s been raining heavily even for a short period of time.
The path up the hill is short but steep and our heavy bags left us breathless by the time we were done climbing it.

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The first climb of the trek, just before the ‘Tree’

We rested under the shade of the big tree, but red ants made sure our break wasn’t a long one 😛

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Resting under the tree

The trail towards wadi gives you a lovely view of the fields below. Agriculture is the primary form of subsidence in the foothills of Matheran and we negotiated numerous paddy fields before reaching Sagachiwadi around 9.30.

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Top: The faint trail from the tree to Sagachi wadi ; Bottom: Paddy fields outside the village

We made our way through the hamlet saving ourselves from the village dogs while people went about their daily chores and came across a well with opaque blue coloured water.

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Village well with the curiously blue water

Fog still engulfed the plateau above the wadi and not wanting to take a chance with the route, we approached an elderly man for the directions. To our surprise, he started walking and asked us to follow him.

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Left: The old man ; Right: A 3D view of the route from Sagachi Wadi

We were slowly walking uphill in the direction of a spur in the northwest.

As has been our experience with all the villagers till now, the old man’s brisk walk uphill was making us look like turtles and our heavy bags weren’t helping either. About 15 mins later, we were standing at the base of the spur which seemed to stretch into the heavens above 😛

He told us to stick to the straight trail and avoid any exposed path that branches off either way as they would likely have been made by the grazing cattle. We nodded and handed him 50 Rs as a token of gratitude which he gladly accepted and skipped his way back to the village.

We had just started climbing the steep spur when the clouds opened up and it started raining heavily. With the wet soil slipping beneath our feet, we were forced to adopt a quick tempo- Climb briskly for 5 mins and then rest for 2 mins before starting again. Even though you gain altitude quickly by this method, it also takes a very heavy toll on your energy reserves and is best avoided until there is no alternative.

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The foggy climb

After climbing for half hour, we came across a well-trodden narrow trail that went north (the spur lies along East-West). We remembered the old man’s words and proceeded after confirming that it isn’t a cattle trail.

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The narrow trail

As we went higher, the vegetation gradually turned sparse and after a certain point, we were climbing with considerable exposure on our right. I cross checked our position with the map and unfortunately, we were on the correct route 😛

About 10 mins into the narrow trail, Shardul, walking at the front stopped all of a sudden. He could see a pack of 6 wild dogs standing on our trail a few metres ahead! 😮

Damn!! I thought. If the wild dogs decided we posed a threat to them, we were going to be in a lot of trouble. With no place to run to or stones to defend ourselves, a tense two-minute stand-off followed.

NOTE: Never stare a wild dog in the eye or even smile at them. They can mistake either gesture as a sign of aggression from you and won’t hesitate to attack.

Wild dogs can be very dangerous and after what seemed like an eternity back then, the dogs started moving up the trail while we stayed back for another minute to give them a good headstart and avoid another confrontation.

NOTE: Exercise caution on this trail as we noticed the soil had been washed off at a number of places by the numerous streams that dot the trail and thus we had to negotiate rock patches that slanted towards the valley with practically no hand-holds.

I learned quite a few things during this trek and one of them was this: Your friends will crack the most hilarious of jokes at the riskiest of places & you ‘ll have trouble deciding who’s a greater danger to your life- the valley below or the crazy folks trekking alongside you! 😀  😛

Back to the trek! So, about 10 mins after the dog encounter, our trail joined a flat patch of land and it took a moment to realise we were on the Garbett plateau! Woohoo! Even though we couldn’t see anything farther than 20 feet cos of fog, that being a weekday, we were pretty sure there was no one else on that vast plateau! (This excitement was dampened a little later when a grazing cow ate our perceived solitude for lunch 😛 )

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Garbett Plateau

Prior knowledge of the terrain always helps you verify if you are indeed on the correct path and becomes all the more important when visibility drops dangerously low. It certainly came in handy for us at the plateau and our quest to Garbett point continued at a good pace.

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Markers & Route from Bhivpuri to Garbett point

After a flat walk of just under a km, the trail starts going uphill. From what I had read on blogs, this part of the trek is a scary exposed climb. We, of course, couldn’t make out the exposure cos of the fog and maybe that helped us climb quickly. About halfway to the point, the trail morphs into a steep rock patch but has plenty of holds. We took a breather here before continuing the climb.

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Left: Shardul(faintly visible) and Abhishek approach the rock patch ; Right: Tejas takes a breather by the valley

We could see a faint railing above the rock patch when Shardul, again leading the way, continued his ‘Encounters with the Wild’ and gave a call to stop. This tiny baby was sitting pretty right in the middle of the rock path.

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A baby Common Sand Boa (Eryx Conicus): Non-Venomous. Thank you Bharat Kene & Namrata Sawant for helping me correctly identify the reptile. I had mistaken it for the similar looking Indian Rock Python.

Trying to jump over the reptile would have caused him to feel threatened and possibly bite us. So, I asked Shardul to come back while I tried to traverse the rock patch from the west along with Abhishek.

My usual trek shoes had worn out and the new pair I was wearing on this trek didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. So, I went around the rocks very carefully and waited just below the Garbett point to let others pass. Abhishek and Tejas went up first, followed by Shardul and Manish, who had been busy photographing the reptile from a safe distance 😛

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Left: Abhishek & Manish climb the rock patch ; Right: At the Garbett Point

Garbett point provides a mesmerizing view of the surroundings, but all we could see was fog. We weren’t complaining though! You can always stroll here from Dasturi Naka for the view but climbing all the way up in peak monsoon is a different high altogether 🙂

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View of the Garbett plateau in clear weather. Image credit: Vhikerz

A flurry of pictures later, we started for Matheran. A trail goes north from the point and about halfway to the railway line, you ‘ll reach a bifurcation. The right path takes you closer to Dasturi Naka whereas the left path joins the track near Aman Lodge stn.

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Trail from Garbett point to the railway track. Notice Manish’s fondness for the umbrella.You ‘ll know the reason in the next part 😉

We took the left path and reached the tracks in 15 mins to start the monotonous 1.5 km walk to the Matheran stn. I have been through this patch so many times that I don’t find it interesting anymore. Nevertheless, viewing the Garbett point shrouded in mist across the valley was a sight for sore eyes 🙂

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Left: The Garbett point as seen from the track ; Right: Station selfie # 2

Matheran-Neral train service is usually suspended in the monsoon for safety reasons, but the Aman Lodge-Matheran shuttle service operates all year round. But not last year.
A couple of derailments along this stretch in the preceding summer meant the shuttle wasn’t running either. When we reached Matheran Railway stn at 1 pm, the plight of the station premises left me heartbroken. The counter window-pane was broken, garbage filled the waiting area, the water filters were rusting and not a single official was in sight. Central Railway should have done better than letting the station remain in such a mess since they had recently applied for a World Heritage status from UNESCO for the hill railway 😦

We decided to rest in the carriage shed a little further from the station and called our families to inform them about our location.

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A man walks towards the carriage shed

Now came the million dollar question. From where should we descend?

Even though descending via Hashyachi Patti had been the primary plan, it was also the longest route. These were our alternatives (jotted down on the back of the printed maps) depending on the time we reached Matheran station:

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Sorry for the almost illegible writing!

A quick check told us we were ahead of schedule with spare time for lunch, so the Hashyachi Patti-Chowk descent was very much on, except for one problem.

To find out what the problem was, read the Part 2: Descent via Hashyachi Patti


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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Bro must say…one of the the best and very well explained blog
    keep it up

    Liked by 2 people

    1. nomadosauras says:

      Thank you bro! It is only fitting that your debut on my blog happened with a comment on Monsoon trek! 😉

      Like

  2. wanderwolf says:

    I like the mix of humor, information, and getting to know the trek. Cool posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nomadosauras says:

      😁 Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. gautamsghosh says:

    Awesome, it was as if I was traveling along with you! Again awesome keep it up folks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      Like

  4. I like your style of writing. That’s a baby snake!? (。ŏ﹏ŏ)
    Is the stream water potable?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much! You have a lovely writing style yourself 🙂 As for the sand boa, yes it is a baby snake 😀 Adult Indian Sand Boas are known to be amongst the largest Sand Boas found all over the world with many reaching a length of 4+ feet. This one here was little over 2 feet.
      And the streams! If the stream has fast running, clear water and there’s no settlement between its origin and your location, it can be safely used for drinking in most cases. When in doubt though, it is better to collect it and boil it later on if you are on a camping trip else you can use water purification tablets and let it stay still for a while before drinking 🙂
      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Vivek anandan says:

    What a lovely writeup.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much Vivek! Means a lot! 🙂

      Like

  6. Mona says:

    Great write up.. felt like I am travelling along with you. ☺ And how could that deadly looking snake be non venomous! 🤔😵

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hahaha! Yeah, that baby snake certainly does look dangerous from a distance but looking up the region’s commonly found snakes beforr a trek certainly helps! 🙂 Even we had confused it for a rock python (another non-venomous snake) but unfortunately for these creatures, they are often killed by unsuspecting locals who fail to distinguish them from the very dangerous Vipers. Now that you have brought it to my pointed it out, I ‘ll update my checklist post to include looking up the fauna of the region! And thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂

      Like

      1. Mona says:

        I see quite a lot of snakes but never know how distinguish between venomous and non venomous snakes. So I follow the rule of staying away from all kinds of snakes. 😛 I have even accidentally killed a snake baby in my childhood. 😦
        I quite like your travel blog. Unlike the ones I have read before you are very descriptive and take account of every possible thing that can happen on a trek. Though I am not much of a trekker but being a pahadi, I guess even a walk to my village is a trek.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nomadosauras says:

        That is the best thing to do when in doubt if it’s a venomous snake or not! 🙂 And Thank you again! I had meant these to be memoirs but then I thought people might find the it useful while planning a visit! Hence the general info section 🙂

        Like

      3. Nomadosauras says:

        About being ready for every possibility, that’s partly down to the fact that we prefer trekking when the routes are less crowded, which essentially leaves us on our own! 🙂 And you ‘re a Pahadi? Damn! You guys are more than a match for trekkers! Yet to meet a person who’s from the hills and hasn’t put our climbing pace to shame! 😂

        Like

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