Monsoon season is the best time to hike in Maharashtra. If you have trekked before, then you know how extraordinary of an experience it is. You traverse through the lush green pastures, walk in the surreal clouds, breathe fresh air, eat healthy home-cooked meal by the warm-hearted locals, make new friends and most of all, it is just a perfect getaway from the daily mundane.
The Western Ghats that pass through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and conclude at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu; offer one of the world’s best hiking sites. The Sahyadri mountain range falling in the parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka are home to some great peaks that are every trekker’s paradise.
Here is a list of activities that you can indulge in during the weekend and unwind your senses. Go climb a mountain and conquer the peak. If you are not living on the edge, then you are occupying a lot of space!
If you are a starter, then this is a perfect trek for you. The terrain is easy and you will enjoy the pleasant atmosphere surrounded by lush greenery. Visapur is a peaceful alternative to its crowded twin fort, Lohagad. You will also see the ruins of Peshwa Palace from here. From the base village of Malavali, it takes around 2 hours to reach the top.
What will you find at the top? Caves, cisterns of water, roofless decorated arch and old houses which were believed to have been government cottages during the Peshwas era.
Getting there: From Mumbai, Visapur is about 108 kms and from Pune it is just 59 kms. You can also board Indrayani Express from Mumbai and get down at Lonavala station and trek from there.
The best time to visit Rajmachi is in monsoons as it is flanked by waterfalls and greenery on all the sides. The highlight of this trek is the rendezvous with the fireflies in the darkness. So go for an overnight night trek and enjoy a home-stay at a local villager’s home. Alternatively, you can take shelter in the Kondane caves. It will approximately take 3.5 hours to reach the top from its base - Kondivade.
What will you find at the top? Two citadels- Shrivardhan and Manoranjan and an ancient temple in between them. You will also witness Kondane caves and a lake.
Getting there: Take a Karjat train on the central railway line and catch local transport up to the Kondivade. The distance from Mumbai to the base village is about 99 kms.
Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra is every trekker’s pride. Located about 5,406 ft above the sea level, Kalsubai houses a tiny temple of Goddess Kalsubai. The terrain is relatively easy and one does not require ropes or any other gear to surmount it. There are three ladders that need to be climbed to reach the pinnacle. On the way to Kalsubai, you must enjoy hot tea and bhajjis sold at a small stall run by a villager. It takes around 3 hours to surmount Maharashtra’s highest pinnacle.
What will you find at the top? A temple of local deity, Kalsubai which is deep saffron in colour.
Getting there: To start your trek, you will have to reach the base village Bari located 126 kms from Mumbai in Igatpuri. You can also opt for a central railway train from Mumbai to Kasara. Road distance from Mumbai to Kasara is 105 kms. Otherwise, catch a train that directly takes you to Igatpuri. From Kasara, you will find a lot of vehicles that will take you to the base village. State transport buses are also available from Igatpuri.
One of the most exciting parts of this trek are the steps inclined at almost 80 degrees. It is a thrilling experience to ascend and descend these steps. The road to the base village- Nirgudpada is a scenic route and you will see Vaitarna River imparting her beauty to this village. It takes around 2.5 hours to reach the top.
Getting there: Once you get down at Kasara, you can either hire a cab or take the state transport bus to Nirgudpada. The distance from Kasara to Nirgudpada is about 54 kms.
Bhimashankar via Shidi Ghat or Ladder route
Bhimashakar is a scared Hindu place as it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Shiva in India. Apart from being a pilgrim hot-spot, it is also a trekker and nature lover’s favoured destination. There are two routes to reach this place. You can choose any route between the easier and longer Ganesh Ghat or the shorter and thrilling Shidi Ghat. Although the later route is shorter, it is more challenging. Both the routes are equally scenic and beautiful. You will find a variety of endangered species of wild flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you can capture the Giant Indian Squirrel in your lens too. Gupt Bhimashankar and Nagphani temple at the peak are the major attractions. It takes around 4.5 hours to reach the top from the base village, Khandas.
It is ideal to stay one night at a lodge and then start your descend the next day. It can get strenuous to trek continuously for 9-10 hours.
What will you find at the top? Nagphani, Shiv temple, Gupt Bhimashankar, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Getting there: After taking a train up to Karjat on central railway from Mumbai, hire a taxi or board a bus to reach the base village which is approximately 31 kms away. Mumbai to Khandas is around 93 kms. So you can choose going directly by road too.
Has rafting always been bucket-listed? However, you’ve not been able to make it to Rishikesh. Don’t worry! You can ride the white rapids of river Kundalika in the village of Bhira. These rapids are controlled by Ravalje Dam. Non-swimmers don’t have to get apprehensive about this sport. Life jackets are provided and all the necessary precautions are taken for safety. There are options to stay overnight so that you can start your adventure early when the dam water is in full force.
Getting there: Take the Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH-17) and ask the locals for Ravalje Dam which is the starting point of the activity. The distance is around 122 kms from Mumbai.
In recent years, waterfall rappelling, a variation to simple rappelling has become very popular as an adventure sport. There are many places in Maharashtra that offer exciting locations for this adventure sport. The top among them being Vihigaon, Kolad, Malshej, Bhivpuri and some more.
Dudhsagar Waterfall with camping
Plummeting at a majestic height, river Mandovi flows in its entire beauty to paint a waterfall heavenly, milky white picture. You will traverse through dense lush green forests and will be surrounded by musical tweets of birds on your trek to this waterfall in Goa. The camping site is just about 1 km. away from the falls.
Getting there: Board a train to Goa and alight at Castle Rock or Kulem station to start the trek. Road distance from Mumbai to Dudhsagar Falls is 594 kms. It is advisable to stay overnight at a camp or a resort nearby.
So, wait not! Go, explore the wild and live the adventure.
Tips & tricks
1. The thumb rule for trekking is finding trekking shoes with good grip. Shoes that don’t have a hard sole give away to the rough, uneven terrain.
2. Carry substantial amount of water. You cannot expect to find water up high on the mountains. It is ideal to carry at least 2 litres of water.
3. Remember, nature is the mother of all. Do not litter around and dirty the place.
4. Carry eatables like dry fruits, energy bars, plum cakes, theplas, oral rehydration salts and chocolates that are light in weight and provides instant energy.
5. Considering the dense vegetation around, avoid shorts and sleeveless clothes.
6. Carry a personal first aid with bandages, antibiotic creams, sanitizer and emergency pills.
7. They say you can never predict women and weather. So always be prepared and carry cap and trekking glares irrespective of the season.
8. Remember to waterproof your bag, mobile phone, wallet and everything else with a rain poncho or plastic bags.
Author : Winnie Karnik
Photo Courtesy : Abhay Singh, Neel Dey