This is Part 2 of Bhivpuri-Matheran-Chowk Range trek. Read first part here: Ascent via Garbett Point!
1 pm, Matheran Station: Manish had been dealing with blisters on his feet from a day before the trek and the 6-hour climb from Bhivpuri via Garbett point had worsened it. I asked him if he ‘ll be able to continue or not. There was no question of moving on without any one of us and a ‘No’ from him would have meant the end of trek for us as well.
That is not what you want, halfway through a 28-km range trek.
I ‘ll be honest here- I would have been mightily disappointed to turn back for Dasturi Naka from there but at the same time, I wouldn’t have held it against him. Walking with a blistered foot is bad enough, descending with one is sheer torture!
All of us: Are you okay? Should we turn back?
Manish: (showing his feet) Every step is painful. How long will the Patti descend take?
Me: About 7 hours more. We ‘ll have to cover over 15 kms.
Manish: Is it a continuous walk?
Me (worried at the impending no from him): Errm… Yes.
Manish: Then I ‘ll do it!
I was flabbergasted.
Yeah okay.. I agree we are a crazy bunch of people. There’s Shardul, who ‘ll climb the most difficult of patches with ease but tumble over walking on a paved road. There’s Abhishek, who won’t get flustered by the riskiest of places but worry about getting back home on time and then there’s Tejas. He ‘d sooner jump down a 1000 ft valley than let his camera take a bump from a few feet! Manish though, had taken this craziness to a whole new level! 😀
But it set the tone for a crazy second half of the journey!
NOTE: We always carry a full-fledged First Aid kit on treks along with 14 metres of rope for emergency purposes. It had been kept at Manish’s place after the Visapur trek but he had forgotten to pack it in while leaving for the range trek. As it turned out, he ended up needing it the most and we, of course, didn’t leave a single opportunity to remind him about that! 😉
It was 10 minutes past 1 when we left Matheran station. Since it was a weekday, business was low in the quaint little hill station and thus most of the shops were closed. We proceeded west from the station to find a general store bought a few bottles of water.
Matheran, even though fairly well marked, has plenty of blind spots where you can’t make out the correct way unless you are a localite. At one such junction, we took the road opposite to the one we should have and ended up circling a huge hotel before staggering into a makeshift restaurant with rumbling tummies at 2.30 pm.
As you can imagine, the choices were limited and we settled for Pohe, Maggi and roasted Corn on the cob. There are matches made in heaven and freshly roasted Corn in Monsoon is certainly one of them! 😀
While our lunch was being prepared, we tried to patch our battered bodies with the limited first aid stuff we could find in the corners of our backpacks. Tejas had been having trouble with his shoulder since the Visapur trek, so he used Relispray and changed into a dry tee while Manish tried band-aids to help him with the blisters.
The owner of the restaurant advised us against descending from the Patti as the route passed through “very very dense” forest and we would get lost.
When you have been trekking with someone for a long time, you learn to make out what your partner is thinking from the tiniest of gestures. Hearing the owner’s ominous words, we thanked him for his concern but a quick glance between ourselves made it apparent that no one was even thinking of abandoning the plan! 😉
Some piping hot Maggi & burned tongues later, we left the restaurant at 3 pm when Manish suddenly panicked! His Black and White umbrella was nowhere in sight!
Us: Okay but why are you panicking? As it is we have got completely drenched.
Manish: Arre tine gift keli hoti! (His girlfriend had gifted him)
S**t! Now we were worried too! 😛
We went up and down the street but couldn’t find the umbrella and even looked inside the restaurant but the owner denied ever seeing one with us. Manish resigned to the fact that his beloved umbrella was lost for good. The clock was ticking and we left for Patti one more time.
The route ahead was a typical Matheran route: stone paved path flanked by trees and covered in mist 🙂
We even got a glimpse of Prabalgad-Kalavantin Durg col on our way to Malang point.
At a diversion for Malang point near the western face of Matheran, a lady asked us where were we going in such heavy rain. We told her about wanting to descend to Patti and she pointed to a staircase beside the shop.
Turns out when people say ‘descend to Hashyachi Patti from Malang point’, what they really mean is descend to Patti from a place NEAR the Malang point 😛
A short guy was packing two huge polythene bags with bakery products and offered to accompany us to the Patti on his way to Dodhani.
NOTE: You can reach Dodhani from Hashyachi Patti as well as from Sunset point of Matheran and both routes figured on our list of descending options for this trek (check the last pic of Part 1)
The stairs are in very good condition for most of the part (as you can see at the top of the post) but there are a few patches where they have gone missing and you need to be careful while descending in monsoon. The guy accompanying us (Sorry I forgot his name. I hadn’t started noting down little things about treks back then) was an interesting character. He had a colourful vocabulary and told us how once every week, he started in the morning with cakes & patties from a bakery in Kurla to sell them to shops in Matheran, via Neral. He had got done with Matheran for the day and was going to sell some stuff in Dodhani before heading to Panvel and then back to Kurla.
When we told him that we planned on hiking to Chowk through Umbernewadi, he was perplexed. He hadn’t heard of it before he said. I pointed in the direction of the village and he said “Oh! You mean Varose!”
Varose is a village further up the river between Umbernewadi and Ambewadi. He told us how the people residing at Hashyachi Patti are helpful but the locals from Dodhani will ask for money to help stranded trekkers. I can’t vouch for what he said about Dodhani people cos we had trekked to sunset point on our own back in January but I sure agree with the former statement of his (you ‘ll read why in a bit).
About 20 mins after leaving Matheran, we reached the Hanuman Temple in Hashyachi Patti. Our companion left for Dodhani in the north whereas we freshened ourselves at the community taps before heading south.
We were trying to find a way through the houses when a guard dog started baying for our blood, trying with all his might to free himself of the chain and pounce on us. Hearing the commotion, some village women came out of their houses and when we told them we were heading for Varose, they called out a couple of teenage boys to show us the way to the edge of the hamlet.
The way out of the village passes through the houses’ enclosures and soon we were jumping over the mini fences.
We crossed the village well, again with blue water. Tejas, meanwhile asked them the reason behind the queer name of the village. Turns out the boys had never questioned it themselves and were just as clueless as us 😀
TRIVIA: The hamlet has been called ‘Aashachi Patti’ in the Sahyadri companion and Hashyachi Patti everywhere else. If the former was indeed the true name of the hamlet, then it meant a ‘village of hope’ and it’s quite possible that it got twisted to Hashya over time.
A brisk 10 min walk took us to the edge of the plateau with a clear view of the Morbe Dam. The boys showed us the way down the valley by drawing an imaginary line with their fingers over the dense jungle. You can get an idea of the jungle from the pic below:
It had started raining again and worried at the lack of markers or open trail, I asked them for some landmark and they pointed at a spot in the jungle from where rose a single billowing column of white smoke. If the trail branches at any spot, take the middle one they said. Thanking them, we offered them a small amount for showing us the way but they flat out refused to take it. After much insistence, they reluctantly accepted a couple of energy bars (from our emergency food stock) and we started our descent at 4 pm after taking a picture with them 🙂
CAUTION: Descending from Hashyachi Patti in monsoons can be dangerous cos:
- The descent is very steep, and maxes out at 58 degrees at certain points.
- If it’s raining, don’t count on the plants for grip either. I uprooted plenty of small bushes while trying to get a handhold so I know better 😉
- At certain points, the sunlight barely reaches the floor cos of the dense forest. Stay safe and do it on your own ONLY if you are an experienced trekker.
Descending slowly, we reached a bifurcation just before the dense forest started. A very clear trail moved right whereas a faint steep trail went straight down into the forest. Not very confident about the straight one, I took out a whistle and went scouting the right trail to check if it’s the correct way while others waited at the bifurcation. After about 100 metres, I reached a dead end with a small waterfall overlooking a steep drop. The trail must have been made by villagers fetching water.
Man vs Wild myth no. 1 busted: Not all waterways lead you to the correct path! 😛
So, I came back and we proceeded down the straight path. A fallen tree blocked the trail some way down and we had to crawl underneath it to proceed.
Feeling like a commando? Checked! 😉 😀
I kept looking out for the smoke at regular intervals to make sure we were moving in the correct direction and gradually, the trail too became clearer. Half an hour later, we reached the source of smoke:
I am not sure about this but I guess they were making charcoal. Anyone with knowledge of what this exactly is, please confirm or deny the same!
Moving ahead, the rumbling sound of the river started getting louder by the minute and at a few minutes later, the forest gave way to a clear sky and a clearer river! 😀
Elation at the sight of the river soon gave way to a photo frenzy and we wallowed in the river for a good half hour 😀
A fairly broad trail goes off into the woods in the south-east and at 5.30, we started again for Umbernewadi.
I had been to Umbernewadi during our trek to Pisarnath ladder along with Abhishek last year and had a rough idea of the path to take. As we went further south, the rivulets intercepting the trail started becoming deeper and after climbing a small mound, we reached Umbernewadi at 6 pm.
Tejas had been saving his DSLR’s battery for one last good shot and when Umbernewadi provided a splendid view of the western face of Matheran, he went click-happy!
While we were clicking pics, a middle-aged man from the village told me it ‘ll take us atleast 3 hours to reach Chowk from the wadi and we should hurry up, for the transport options from Chowk dwindle after 9 pm. Paying heed to his advice, we wrapped up our photo-session and moved on to Pirkatwadi, another village to the south of Umbernewadi.
I had started struggling with blisters due to the wet shoes and we took a small break at Pirkatwadi before crossing the river to reach Arkaswadi on the opposite side. The river is broadest at this crossing and therefore the current is slower too. Even though one can easily cross it individually, we used it to test our group river-fording skills and tried a technique which can come in handy while crossing swollen rivers. Needless to say, we need to work on it 😛
TRIVIA: Morbe Dam is a 3.5 km long dam on the Dhavari river, completed in 2006. Trek logs from the 80’s show routes from Ambewadi (one tree hill trek base village) to Irshalgad passing through present day Morbe lake.
The path from Arkaswadi to Chowk crosses a couple of fields before entering the dense jungle. We prepared ourselves for the ‘Jungle Walk’ by wolfing down some biscuits and wrapping our torches in plastic sheets to prevent water seeping in and finally started from Arkaswadi at 6.45 pm.
Irshalgad (click here for an account of my trek to the Nedhe of Irshalgad) towers over most of the route and numerous small waterfalls nestled in the forest can be heard thundering down the mountain, forming small streams that flow through the trail and into the lake.
The 7km long trail along the western edge of Morbe Dam takes you to Nanivali.
Trekking through a forest at night is an experience which cannot be put in words and it becomes even more surreal when you have a close-knit group of friends walking alongside you. The forest itself seems to morph into a living, breathing entity with the nocturnal creatures coming alive and the odd crab scurrying through your path.
We entered the forest a little after 7 pm and tried to walk along the middle of the fairly broad trail to avoid any accidental brush with the low hanging branches (and snakes) but it also meant walking in a line of sorts and hence, took turns walking at the end of the group to keep up everyone’s morale.
Meanwhile, Our GPS app crashed and with no internet, a green dot on a blank page was all we could see in the map page. So, we resorted to approximating our location by matching the sequence of slight turns with the printed map.
About an hour into the jungle, we saw something like a flash about 50 m behind us in the upper reaches of the forest. Thinking it to be some lost trekker, we called out and signaled using our torches, twice, but didn’t get any response. Thinking it to be a reflection of our own torches, we moved ahead.
About 2 km from Nanivali, we started seeing a faint light from a house in the village and that brought a spring in our steps. We turned right after another km and I was just able to make out the silhouette of Irshalwadi trail in the distance when we heard loud voices from the far end of the forest behind us.
We saw several large flashlights bobbing up and down the uneven path and could hear them talking in a rural dialect of Marathi, so they surely had to be locals. Why they kept a safe distance from us and didn’t answer our calls, we ‘ll never know.
Our legs had gone numb by the time we crossed Nanivali but we still couldn’t afford a break. There are very few streetlights to Chowk and we soon reached a fork in the road with a swamp separating the railway line from us. We weren’t sure about the way so I went to a village on the right where a girl was doing some work. I asked her the way to Chowk and no sooner had I finished my sentence that she giggled and ran inside the house!
I was trying to make sense of this interaction when an old guy from a nearby house told me to take the left road for Chowk. He offered to drop us to Karjat stn (11 km from Chowk) in his auto for 500 Rs but we knew buses ply on the route till 9.30 pm, so I politely declined his offer.
Note: Panvel-Chowk-Karjat Railway line mainly caters to freight trains and Pune-Bhusawal express is the only passenger train with a scheduled halt at Chowk. Hence, there are no shops in the station nor other basic facilities.
We crossed the deserted Chowk railway stn at 9 pm and were at the bus stop on the opposite side in another 5 mins. A fairly empty bus heading to Karjat arrived at 9.15pm and we dragged ourselves inside to try and get some sleep while the driver sped his way through the traffic.
You ‘ll find plenty of trains for CST from Karjat with the last local train arriving at 10.41 pm from Khopoli. We limped into the station while Shardul looked around for a hotel for takeaway (the shops around Karjat start closing by 9 pm). We occupied one of the empty cars and Shardul followed us with hands full of Bhajji pav (again!). As the train started for CST at 9.43, Abhishek whipped out his cell phone for one last picture of the day:
I had considerable difficulty walking for a couple of days after the trek cos of blisters. It’s a bruisingly long trek and even more so when done in a day. You can attempt it as a two-day trek with a night camp at Matheran.
When I am done with any trek, I usually make a list of things that I would change the next time I do that trek.
But not this time.
There’s absolutely nothing I would want to change if I ever did this trek again. Nothing.
Not the route, Nor the plan, Neither the pain. ‘The people?’ You ask… NOT A CHANCE! 😉
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