Trek # 20
When: November ‘16
Where: Nakhind-Peb(Vikatgad)-Matheran Range trek
Route: Vangani-Bedisgaon-Vaghachi wadi-Nakhind Nedhe-Nakhind peak-Vikatgad-Dasturi Naka
Description: Reach Vangani station by train, commute to Bedisgaon by auto (100 rs), ask villagers for way to Vaghachi wadi. Once you are on the correct path, its tough to miss it. You ‘ll reach Vaghachi wadi in an hour. A way passes through the hamlet which takes you to the ridge and reaches Nedhe in two hours. A faint trail moves south from the Nedhe and after a 4m high tricky rock patch, a very exposed route takes you to the highest point of Nakhind. Follow the rarely used path which descends steeply to Vikatgad-Nakhind col in two hours (when in doubt, take the east route and it should move back up to the ridge at a lower altitude). Move in Vikatgad’s direction from the col and reach the Temple in three hours. Descend to the ashram on the east face of the mountain and proceed towards the double ladder to reach Matheran tracks in another 90 mins. Take right from NM 156 to reach Dasturi Naka in an hour and hire a cab which ‘ll take you to Neral in 20 mins. Check out my wikiloc page for GPS trails of this and other treks.
Nearest railway station: Vangani (78 kms from Central Railway)
Base Village: Vaghachi wadi/Bedisgaon
Height: 664 m (approx. 2178 ft) as per Google Maps.
Total Distance: 11 km
Time: 9 to 12 hours
Approx. expenses: Travelling: 160 per head & 500 for Guide till Vikatgad-Nakhind col.
Guide: Mangal Bhau (From Vaghachi wadi to Vikatgad-Nakhind col)
Best Time: November-January, Late September
Risk Factor: High (What do these grading indicate? Find out here!)
- One Day Range Trek: Vangani-Bedisgaon-Nakhind-Traverse-Vikatgad-Dasturi Naka-Neral
- Two Day Range trek:
Day 1: Vangani-Bedisgaon-Nakhind-Traverse-Vikatgad-Matheran (Night stay)
Day 2: Matheran- Malang Point- Hashyachi Patti-Umbernewadi-Irshalwadi- Irshalgad Nedhe-Nanivali-Chowk Bus stop-Karjat/Panvel
- All the pictures used in this post have been clicked by me or my friends, unless stated otherwise.
Account of the Trek:
I had first read about this trek while looking up the offbeat route we ended up joining on our way to Vikatgad back in Jan ’15. We had followed the usual route till the foothills of Peb and then inadvertently ended up in the col (lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks) on the less frequented route that came down from the peak of Nakhind and made its way to the Vikatgad cave. You can read an account of that trek here. The fact that it was rarely used and little info was available about it intrigued me further. After a couple of canned plans to do this route, I finally did it this November and the following is an attempt to fill that void of information as well as answer the many questions I faced while planning for it.
The Gang: Sud & Me
Most of the trekkers heading to Nakhind go till the Nedhe (For the uninitiated, Nedhe is a Marathi word for a hole in the mountain formed by natural processes) and turn back. Similarly, Trekkers going to Vikatgad take a short route that goes to the saddle from Fanaswadi. What few people know about and even fewer have attempted, is a route that goes from the Nedhe of Nakhind, passes through its highest point and descends to the col before joining the short route to Vikatgad. This is called the NAKHIND-PEB TRAVERSE.
The Nakhind-Peb Traverse had been an object of fascination for me ever since I had first read about it. I had planned to do this trek with some other friends of mine (Abhi, Tejas, Shardul, Manish, Mansi, Yogesh & Omkar Z) in December ’16. Since we hadn’t done a serious trek after the Bhivpuri-Chowk back in July, we thought it prudent to try a simpler trek first to get back into groove before attempting this. I had already contacted Ram after reading about his dad guiding a trekking group over this route some years back. Travel plans, as you must be knowing, are never meant to work to the T. So, I get a call from Sud on Friday evening asking me to plan a trek for the next day. All I could think about was the ‘Traverse’ and even Sud had been wanting to do Vikatgad ever since he had heard about it. I called up Ram again and after some bargaining, he settled on 500 rs as the guiding charges. Apologies to the gang I had been planning this trek with, but to be honest, I HAD (You ‘ll understand why I changed my mind once you read this post) every intention of doing this trek again in December.
We boarded the 5.21 Thane-Karjat train and reached Vangani at 6.30 am.
Vangani, unlike other stations on Central Railway wears a deserted look till 7 in the morning and even the stores outside the station take their own sweet time to open for the day. In case you are setting out early like us it ‘ll be better to not rely on buying stuff at Vangani. We bought some more bottles of water & juice from the Railway canteen to take our total fluid stock to 9.5 ltrs.
NOTE: I have always been in favour of carrying minimum weight but this trek was an exception for several reasons.
Firstly, it is not a straightforward ascent-descent trek. It has five ascent sections separated by plateaus or descents.
- Bedisgaon to Vaghachi wadi plateau
- Vaghachi wadi to Nedhe
- Nedhe to Nakhind peak
- Nakhind-Vikatgad col to Temple
- Vikatgad Matheran col to NM 156
Secondly, once you leave Vaghachi wadi, there is no drinking water available till Dasturi naka (except two water cisterns on Vikatgad- one near the ladder on fort wall and another near the temple but I had doubts over its potability so we decided to be safe than sorry).
You can reach Bedisgaon (4 Kms from Vangani station) by sharing an auto for 15/20 rs per seat (they take 5/6 seats) or hiring one altogether for 100 rs. We opted for the latter & reached Bedisgaon by 7 am.
A broad trail goes up to Vaghachi wadi (250m above MSL). It is a pleasant walk of an hour in the early morn.
Ram greeted us near the village and his son took us to the house where we met Ram’s father, Mangal Bhau.
Can’t see the Nedhe? Let’s take a closer look!
NETWORK: Available at most places till Nedhe and interminently after that. We even got 4G in the Nedhe 😛
INFO: Three paths originate from Vaghachi wadi to the three mountains near it- Peb, Nakhind & Chanderi.
- The path in the west direction climbs onto the ridge and culminates at the Nakhind Nedhe, which was going to be our route.
- Another path going in the south direction is a plain walk that leads you to the dried stream and climbs on to the Vikatgad-Nakhind col. Mangal Bhau used this path to return home from the col.
- Path in the north direction joins the Chinchavali-Chanderi route midway but is no more in use due to the loose scree and dense jungle.
We updated Hitesh about our location while Mangal Bhau got ready for the trek.
NOTE: Incidents of robbery in Sahyadri are extremely rare. Infact villagers will go out of their way to help you in emergencies but it’s a good practice to keep someone updated about your location when you are heading to a new place with a small group.
The path to Nedhe is covered by 5 feet tall grass and therefore not easy to spot if you are coming here for the first time. Mangal bhau, armed with a sickle and a long stick moved swiftly and we followed him at a relatively good pace considering our heavy loads. The route crosses several dried waterfalls and is quite steep at times but easy in winter. The dried waterfall prompted us to ask him about the water situation in the village. Wells provide drinking water all year round except late summer when they have to fetch it from Bedisgaon at the base! 😮 We looked at each other and wondered when would such basic amenities reach the far-flung villages.
We reached the famous (atleast in the trekking community 😉 ) Nakhind ridge at 9 and continued south. The ridge is flanked by a steep valley on the right and a gentle slope on the left. The rock with the Nedhe has a small flag hoisted on its top.
A narrow path from the east of the rock brings you to the Nedhe (Yeah Nature wanted to make its own polo 😛 )
It is a peculiar feature of the Sahyadri mountains. Other famous Nedhes are found in Ratangad, Irshalgad, Harishchandragad (Junnar Darwaja) & Rajgad.
The wind here is particularly strong and can be difficult to handle during the monsoons. This point is the destination for most of the people and they trace back the path to Vaghachi wadi before ending their trek at bedisgaon. We, however had completed only 30 % of our trek.
NOTE: If You are a newbie, read on to know why you shouldn’t attempt the Nakhind-Peb traverse. If you are an experienced trekker hell-bent on doing the Traverse, this is my effort at dissuading you from attempting it. If you absolutely must do it, I have also provided all the info you ‘ll ever need BUT do take a guide with you because you ‘ll need him.
After resting at the Nedhe for half an hour, we set out for the peak of Nakhind at 9:45. The path to the peak continues from the east of the Nedhe and goes south. Follow the trail at the base of the Nedhe without going into the jungle below and a 5-min walk will get you to the base of the first rock patch. A 3-m high gully leads to a small depression between two rocks.
The rock to the right has the aforementioned flag hoisted on its top by villagers and a slippery exposed route leads to it. The rock at the left is what you ‘ll need to scale to move onto the peak. Mangal Bhau went up first and hauled up our bags with the help of the thin rope we were carrying. The rock patch has to be climbed from the east and people who have done rock climbing before shouldn’t have a problem negotiating it. A gently sloping valley lies beneath the climbing side but nothing too scary. Cactus plant at the base of the rock is what awaits your bum in case you lose your grip 😛
Mangal Bhau asked us to climb with the help of the rope which he had now anchored to the top portion of the rock patch. I went up first and found the rope more of a hindrance than help and climbed using the holds instead. Sud followed me and we marvelled at the sight in front of us.
CAUTION: The following section is the riskiest you ‘ll come across on the trek.
The rock patch is followed by a 30 m long ridge covered by dried grass (6 feet at its widest) and flanked by deep valleys on both sides. As you move forward, the path narrows down to barely 3 feet at one point and with nothing to hold onto, a slip here could prove fatal. The valley on the right is inaccessible from the west and any rescue operation would have to be by professionals. Trekking groups around the Matheran range do help in rescuing stranded trekkers and but the remote location ensures that potential help is often several hours away.
We took a couple of quick pictures and negotiated this patch very carefully. Soon we came across the small tricky rock step mentioned in a blog I had read. This particular rock is inclined towards the steep valley such that its middle step feels like a smear hold. Mangal bhau casually stepped on the smear hold and went ahead. One of the rules of rock climbing is to make sure you aren’t betting on a single hold before making your next move and Mangal Bhau had just annihilated it! 😛
I was a little apprehensive since the rock was covered by dried grass and looked around for a hand hold. After groping around for a few moments, I realised there isn’t any! So, I put my right feet on the smear hold and jammed my left shoe into a tiny crack in the rock to step over.
Sud had accompanied me on four treks but this was tougher than all of them. I had gambled on him pulling through this and he never let me down. Kudos to him for doing this trek with a smile 🙂
Although the ridge widens after 30 metres, the left side is covered by dense forest and the path continues to hug the right edge for some distance. Another small rock step lay ahead before the path moved left into the forest.
A tree in the middle of the path had turned grey which was in sharp contrast to the surroundings. Mangal Bhau inferred from the lack of vegetation near its base that a lightning had struck it in the preceding monsoon. I ‘ll like to point out this very neglected danger while trekking: Lightning. Since the tree was very close to the highest point, it was a very likely target for lightning during a storm.
NOTE: Wear full sleeved t-shirt/top and pants on this trek.
The path that went through the forest hadn’t been used recently and wild thorny plants had taken it over. Hell even the leaves of some plants have a sharp edge here! By the time we were out of the dense forest, my forearms and sud’s calves were covered with scratches. We felt a sharp burning sensation in the areas exposed to the plants, something which I had never experienced before despite going through countless dense forests. It persisted a good hour after we had left the forest so you can imagine what we went through back then. I guess some plant endemic to the region was responsible for this since another trekker had mentioned going through a similar ordeal some years back.
The highest point of Nakhind doesn’t provide a unique vantage point as such ‘coz much of it we had already seen at the rock patch, albeit at a slightly lower elevation. One can see Vikatgad, Matheran, Prabalgad, Kalavantin Durg, Chanderi & Mhasmal. I had seen Nakhind so many times from the peak of Vikatgad so it felt nice to view the temple from Nakhind’s peak for a change! 🙂
It was 10:55 now and we decided to continue to the tower on the ridge which was vaguely visible now. The path follows the ridge before going around the east of a rock and then descends to the second hill. This portion reminded me of Harishchandragad’s Junnar Darwaja- very steep descending path with an incline towards the valley and nothing but the dried plants to hold onto.
It’s a comparatively easier hour-long walk from the second hill to the col.
A small fall over the slippery grass had left me with a tender left wrist but otherwise it was fairly uneventful and we reached the col at exact noon.
The col is a junction of four paths:
- North: Nakhind
- South: Vikatgad
- West: Panvel
- East: Neral/Vaghachi wadi.
This is the end of the rarely used Nakhind-Vikatgad Traverse. The path onwards is frequently used and therefore in much better condition.
Mangal Bhau parted ways to head back to his village via the Neral path and we headed for the tower on the Vikatgad ridge. I hadn’t been on this path this early in winter and it was covered with withering tall grass.
Sud had now begun to feel the strain of 5 hours of almost continuous climbing. His quads were cramping and the heat wasn’t helping either. I had resorted to carrying fresh Banana leaves over my head in addition to my cap to avoid direct Sun 😀
I know it sounds stupid, but if it works, It ain’t stupid! 😛
The path from the col to the cave is particularly steep and the only places where you can rest after the col are the 15 feet rock patch and the cave, both of them about 45-60 minutes away from the tower.
The normal route to Vikatgad climbs up from the foothills and joins the saddle at the left most depression as seen from Neral.
We took a small break at this point & chomped on our energy bars. A short climb lead us to the rock patch where we could see a solitary guy sitting on the ledge as if exhausted but when we went closer, we saw 3 more guys having their lunch at its base. We were greeted with the quintessential trek question ‘Do you know the way beyond this?’ and I smiled at the similarity with our condition the first time we had come here.
It was the first trek for Devesh, Chinmay, Prayag and Milind. They had been on the correct path till the foothills but got lost in the jungle after the third tower and somehow came up to the rock patch by climbing the dry waterfall. Their dwindling water stock partly explained the exhausted demeanour. When I told them that the temple was still more than an hour away, they promptly decided to retrace their path. It mustn’t have been an easy decision for them but it was certainly the best ‘coz if they had attempted to reach the peak, it could have gotten dark before they descended back to Fanaswadi where they had parked their bikes.
Many people give in to the lure of summit & overlook the potential hazards. I have heard plenty of people justify the recklessness by calling it courage but it takes just as much courage, if not more, to acknowledge the danger you could be putting yourself in, as also others by proceeding and not turning back. The immortal lines by Hervey Voge spring to mind-
“The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure You are too.”
We bid adieu to our companions and climbed the patch as they descended the saddle.
A Y-fork greets you couple of mins after the rock patch. The right path is a simple traverse that climbs to the cave after a horizontal walk of 100 m and the left path climbs to the flagpost and then reaches the cave after a tricky rock step. I asked Sud which one would he prefer and he opted for the simpler traverse. The cave is barely 5 mins from the fork. Sud took a quick nap to recover after reaching the cave while I clicked pictures of every nook and corner besides some selfies 😉
There were several clay diyas inside the cave and I guess the disciples of Swami Samarth, who have been so instrumental in maintaining the cave and constructing the temple on the peak, had been here during the Diwali and must have left these to fetch them at a later time.
We did some stretching after Sud woke up and resumed our climb after having lunch.
The path from the cave leads to the fort wall fixed with a ladder to help trekkers.
A Hanuman Idol is kept at the right of the stairs on the wall followed by a water cistern. If you look to the left of the stairs, you can see partially blown off steps which must have been carved in the rock back when the fort was used as a granary during the Maratha Raj of the 17th century.
A short climb up the gully after the stairs leads you to a clearing on the right. You can see the temple beyond a small patch of forest towering above you.
Two paths lead to the temple from here- A long exposed one goes in the south direction around the west face of the mountain and then climbs up whereas the shorter one climbs directly towards the temple. The shorter path is in essence, a scramble over loose soil, but with no exposure and strong tree roots to aid you in the climb, it’s my preferred route to the temple every time I come here.
The view from the peak is something to behold.
We could see our entire path from Nakhind’s peak and even the tiny snaking lines in the distant plains which were the Railways.
Sud, though feeling much better now, was still persevering through occasional cramps and we decided to skip the Buruj (bastion) and headed straight for the double ladder at 3.30pm.
The temple is constructed on the highest level of the mountain, called Prati Girnar. A couple of cemented steps bring you to the second level and a precarious horizontal ladder placed over two rocks takes you to the third level, joining the route from the west. Take left to descend to the Ashram on the east face of the mountain or go straight for Buruj. Take the most prominent trail in the south direction from the Ashram as it descends a few metres to what looks like a hollow, but is in fact, the double ladder.
The old fort wall which stands over the double ladder, was in a much worse condition than the last time I had seen it. We could see a hollow portion between the soil and the wall which is never a good thing. I would advise being alert while using the ladder.
Head straight from the ladder to reach the Vikatgad-Matheran col. An exposed path climbs from the col and turns west to a U-turn after half hour.
You ‘ll come across the fourth and last ladder in this portion.
Right from the U-turn goes to the Kadyavarcha Ganpati (Ganpati on the edge- You ‘ll understand once you see it) and the left path which goes up, reaches the tracks in 5 mins.
We literally sprinted from the U turn to the bell at the NM 156 marker in 2 mins and finally my body gave up too. We slumped on the concrete benches near the bell and took a small break.
Clicked a few pictures and left for Dasturi Naka @ 4.45 pm.
NOTE: You can head either ways from the bell at NM 156. Dasturi Naka lies at a distance of 3 kms in the west whereas east leads you to the last rail-road intersection, known as NM 134 marker in a little less than 2.5 kms. If you are part of a large group hoping to catch a cab back, it would be advisable to head to Dasturi naka.
When heading west, you ‘ll come cross a bell hung on a pole near the track in 5 mins. You can see Kadyavarcha Ganpati from here. It has been carved in natural stone and wood.
The Neral-Matheran narrow gauge train hadn’t resumed services due to upgradation work which was to be done on the tracks and we could see landslides & grass had covered the tracks at several places.
As we turned the corner, we caught a last glimpse of the Mountains which had been our home for a few hours.
We reached Neral station at 6.15pm. The 6.44 CST fast arrived slightly late and looking at the packed second class, we nonchalantly walked into the first class while our conscience cribbed about the second class tickets in our wallets 😛
This is one of the few treks where suffering is essential, more so when you attempt it in winter & summer. As the receding Matheran range melted into the dark sky, I wiped the dried blood of my forearms and decided that I wasn’t coming back to this traverse ever again. Somewhere else, some other Nomad was getting fascinated with the dark silhouette of Nakhind.
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