Tung across Pavna
Amey (mama) and me have been talking about going for some weekend trek for quite some time now. So we decided we will go to Tikona, which is a simple trek and easily accessible. Mama and Mami were to leave from Mumbai early and we were to meetup at Lonavala.

Ani was here so he decided to come with me. Mama called me up from Panvel at about 0630hrs. We got up got ready and were on the road at 0800. It was pretty cold and there was no sign of the sun. The roads were empty and we had a fast ride to Lonavala. At Ramkrishna, where the couple was waiting, we had hot idli-wada sambar and chai and headed on to Tikona.

Tikona is at the back side of Lohagad-Visapur. The road passes alongside the Pawna waters. I do not think even an inch of the hillside is free land - all fancy bungalows and estates of the rich. It is pretty sad.

As we neared Tikona we came out of the playground of the rich into the poor people's world. heh. Passing the base village we had to ride about a kilometer of dirt track to get to the point at the base of the fort from there is a trail up.  There were several bikes and a couple of cars parked. This being a easy trek and near Pune and Sunday lots of people around.

It was a easy trek. Nice weather. Just before the final climb, near the Taljai mandir, I felt a little uneasy about by breath and stopped. (I was climbing with the help of doxofilline anyways hehe) .. The rest did the 20 minute steep climb and came down in an hour having explored the top.

We had decided to cook our own lunch. It is so much fun. I got the stove and the pots, Mama got the rice and the 'kulith'. He made 'kulithache pithle'. Hot rice and hot pithle was awesome.

After washing up we headed down. At the base village we split having said good byes. We had just realised that we were pretty near Pune from interior roads. We were about 18km away from Paud which connects directly to Chandani Chowk and is about 20km away.

The road upto Paud was in pretty bad shape but passed through some excellent countryside, again full of large estates.  From Paud it is a good road right up to the NH4.  We made some good time and had reached Warje in about 90mins.

In all a small but enjoyable trek. Need to do this more often. The fresh air and the open sky does good to one's soul.

Route Taken
Hanuman Mandir, Tikona
Tikona top
Taljai Mandir, Tikona
Lunch, Tikona
Lunch, Tikona
East ridge, Tikona

Harishchandragad, From Pachnai

We had been planning this trek for quite some time. Finally come November we did go. 11th Thu to 13th Sat. What an amazing experience it was, for the nine of us. A lucky trek. A happy trek. Full of fun and relaxation.

We decided to go in our own cars so Sumedh and Anurag got theirs from Mumbai. We left early morning on Thursday. Had breakfast at an unholy early hour near the University and then headed on. The drive was nice but long. From Ale fata we took a left going towards Malshej and then at Otur got off the highway onto a small road. From Rajur we were headed for Pachnai - a small hamlet at the base of the gad. It was pretty far away with the road in pretty bad shape. Pachnai is the dead end village. This region is pretty remote.

At Pachnai we packed up and headed up the Gad. We climbed slowly and with lots of fun and frolic. Sumedh and Percy were fully loaded (as was Mrugesh) ... but their spirits were high. The weather was fantastic with the sun being very mild and intermittent. At the Gad we scouted for a cave and got the one I had stayed in last. The village boys had set up a camp in half the cave - they ran some sort of highland wild hotel up there, from the cave front.

We settled down and started making preparations for dinner and a thunderstorm hit us. Visibility went down to almost 1-2 feet - it was a complete white out. The lightening was so near that it lit up the whole cloud. We had just missed getting stranded out in this storm. Lucky us.  Dinner was rice and batata rassa bhaji.  We all ate up and hit the hay .. err .. stone.

Next day was a beautiful day with light clouds enveloping the Gad now and then. We all had a lazy tea and headed for the Konkan Kada. What a memorable time we had there. We were in the clouds most of the time with glimpses of the kada.  Then the clouds cleared for some time for us. The kada is nature's magnificence.  We had a lazy walk to one end amongst the grass and the wild flowers. No one wanted to leave. But we had left Percy and Mrugesh with the baggage and had to relieve them.

We came back and had Bhurgi and bread for lunch. Then Percy, Mrughesh and Sumedh left for the kada. The rest of us lazed around. At night that day we had a nice bonfire. Sang songs. Had small talk. Relaxed. Dinner was bhaji yukt maggi.

Next morning was leaving time. Had some hot chai. Packed up and left at a comfortable time. The journey down was even more leisurely than the one up. We had so much fun.  At the base there is a house which is sorta a hotel. We ordered lunch there of bhakri and pithle ... Relaxed. Talked. Ate. While we were eating a thunder storm hit us. Very heavy rain from about 45mins. Lucky us. :) We could get into the cars dry, to leave. The drive back was long. We took a less used road which was pretty bad but showed us the interior parts of this region. Amazing countryside.

We reached Pune pretty late. All buggered out. But happy. It was one of the most fun relaxing treks I have been on.  Thanks to everyone, Him and His weather.

The Konkan Kada
Almost up!
Shiv Mandir
At the edge of the Kada
Photographing the hills
The group
All ready to start the descent
Water pools
Sumedh and Percy
Climb down almost done
The path is through this narrow valley

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost
Dukkar Khind, Warje
Sunset at Dukkar Khind

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. We had a late lunch. Then we headed up the small hill behind Percy's house for a ramble. It is called Dukkar Khind and is a place with a disreputable past. But times have changed. What was out of city limits and lonely has been surrounded by the every encroaching concrete jungle. We found people playing cricket on top. Also a heard of goats and sheep and their two shepherds.

Sunset at Dukkar Khind
Tyo looks across the city
Sinhagad across the city
Early winter twilight, Sinhagad
Khadakwasla, past sunset from Sinhagad

The weather had turned nippy in Warje (Pune) - touching 16C. Then the rains started. November rain. The cold went away. The crops were destroyed. Then the rains stopped, a few days ago.

Today was a waiting day for me. I waited. Then, in the evening, I decided to go to Sinhagad to find peace. Wintery light makes the landscape look oh so romantic. Having started late, all I got was the twilight. It was so beautiful. I was about the only ones going up while everyone else was coming down. Heh. Such is the way of fools, is it not? A few photos and a hot cup of tea at the top. Then the mad ride down to the base. Yes, unlike other days today I rode down pretty fast and mad. Heh.

Is it not that, after the end and before the beginning, in between, in the twilight, one becomes more observant of the transient nature of the surroundings and gladly forgets himself? The fury of activity of life, the drama of the encroaching shadows and the riot of changing colours hold us an enthralled audience.
As a friend said - such a beautiful escape.

Khadakwasla, past sunset from Sinhagad
pathway, Sinhagad
Tower on Sinhagad
Bhandardhara and Malshej
Tree and rain clouds.

This was my first monsoon at Pune. Shockingly it was totally unlike the ones in Mumbai. I love the Mumbai monsoons .. the beautiful light .. the heavy rains for weeks at end .. the sea faces with the darkened horizon. I have so many memories of my favourite season in my favourite city.

The smell of the first rain in our garden outside of A-2. The first rain we used to encounter early on the morning when we used to arrive from our summer vacations at Solapur. Going to school through the muck of Manipada. Football in the rain and mud in the ground next to the Class IV quarters. Cycling all the time. Sitting next to the huge waterbodies near the exam house. Those walks with P. :)

The rain treks through the Sahyadris - the most fantastically beautiful times I have spent in nature. Me, Vasu etc. screaming and dancing in the first rain of the season in Dadkar .. late at night. The times when I used to sit at the Naka watching the rain till DP's shut down. That one walk down Worli sea-face, that day, with X. :)

Well, those days have gone by. Pune monsoons are dry in comparison. It has rained here more via thunderstorms at the fag end of the season than in the middle of it. I got desperate, as the season progressed without much fun, to see some real rain.  So Vivek and I left on a sudden trip to Bhandardhara and Malshej.  It was so beautiful. Here I present some studies in B&W, of that time and space.

Storage hut and wildflowers in the hedge.
Wild grass in the rocks.

Lone farmhouse
Hut and flowers.
Rain clouds and overflowing dam, Rajur

of Panshet and the golden flowers
field, full of golden flowers

I had to skip going to Torna (again). This time with Percy and his brotherhood. So on sunday went on a drive to Panshet. Had been there at the beginning of the Monsoons when the dam waters had hit rock bottom.

The drive turned very pleasant as we left the Uttamnagars and the NDA's behind.  The roadside was littered with blossoms of variety of large golden-orange-yellow flowers. The colour of the flowers contrasted so well with the fresh lush green of the vegetation.  Panshet was full. We had a couple o'cuppa's of tea and some hot 'pohe'.  All accompanied by interesting conversations. It was a day for lots of chitter chatter. On the way back sampled some bhel (very sad one) at a stall near the Khadakwasla dam where we stopped to get something to drink.

One surprising scene we saw was that of hundreds of people gathered on the other side of Khadakwasla dam to wash their rugs and 'godadis' .. literally hundreds .. people had come in cars, autos, jeeps ... it was one mad and colourful scene.  Maybe it was a day for washing your linen in public ? :)

As I had very nicely forgotten both of my cameras (which sit next to my laptop, begging to be used), all the photos here are clicked using the k790 camera phone.

hillside of flowers

On the way to Panshet

Backlit, flowers on the roadside

beautiful lane

golden flower, near Sinhagad

Khadakwasala dam

Sinhagad Cycling
Tyo and Q

So I had a bet with Vivek (and later Percy) that I could cycle to the top of Sinhagad on a cycle. They said I could not even reach the base let alone the top Vivek said I could not even reach the base but Percy bet him that I could reach the base.  So we exchanged a couple of emails to formalize the conditions (sic) and the bet was on.

Next step was to acquire a cycle.  Because we could not beg or borrow one, we brought one.  Hercules 18 gears with alloy rims. Nice and light.  The me and percy practiced a bit in Warje. It was freaking HARD to climb up even a minor slope .. hehe .. 

The bet got talked about. And as is the way of our gang, there was a nice hype around including a facebook countdown by Shot (tu ruk saale). People had promised they would come down from Mumbai to support.  Vivek and Percy from Pune would, ofcourse, be here.

Tyo (who already has a cycle) decided to give me company. Which was good news. Two is better than one on the road. :)  So Trupti and Tyo, Vivek and Percy, Sumedh, Shot and Busty all came over to stay the previous night. Aniket was also here but he did not join the next day. It was typical tp the previous night and was about 3am before we got to sleep...

The day, 7th August 2010, started early for us. Me and Tyo got up, ate some stuff and got ready to leave. After a brief warmup we were ready and the others had also got up by then to bid us bye.  We left at about 6.30am.

After the first 10 minutes I was cursing myself for getting into this shit. We encountered a long and steep slope in the first 20 minutes. It was hard going up.  But now we were committed. Base village had to be reached at the minimum. So we went along.  First halt of 10 mins was Khadakwasla dam. We had been sipping some getorade which Trupti had got along with her.  The weather was fantastic. We were early, there was no sun. It was completely overcast. There was a cool breeze blowing. As soon as we left the dirty city behind it was very refreshing to cycle along.  The landscape was so crisp and green.  After the first break we started getting light rain intermittently. It only doubled the enjoyment. In the meanwhile all the support staff were behind or ahead of us in 2 cars.  They used to wait for us and shout encouragement and cheer us along.  It was great fun.

So finally we reached the village at the base of Sinhagad. I decided I was no way going to be able to cycle the steep slope of 12km up to the top.  I lost the bet (but thankfully Vivek, being the kind hearted guy he is, gave me ~95% discount in the bet). But I was happy I was able to do 20 odd km till here.  The gang got some gulabjamuns to celebrate our ride.

It was a great day. Thank you guys!

Me, Early morning
Tyo, Early morning
q and tyo
on the way!!

horseplay of the support section
busting acting up
hum paanch
going on ..
Sinhagad base village
Baaji, Busty and Khobs
q's tshirt