My trek to Harishchandragad, in the countryside of Maharashtra, commenced in a flurry of uncoordinated moves and unplanned developments that caused a miserable delay on my behalf. Being a Type I Diabetic patient, I was vulnerable to unstable sugar levels, owing to which I had prudently consumed a few homemade laddoos prepared by my very helpful mother. Time was failing me as I scurried to pack my contents into my fluorescent yellow rucksack – the bright color would serve as a cry for help in case of isolation – my phone’s constant buzzing reminding me of the admonishing faces that my trek organizers were bound to sport.
I had my friend’s fifteen year old son Jatan for adolescent company. The poor boy had to wait for three quarters of an hour at the very crowded Dadar station anticipating my arrival. We took the Central Line train which would eventually drop us off at Kalyan station after an hour and a half. Even with first class tickets, my train compartment was unfortunately overcrowded. It simply got worse at Kurla station where people started cursing me and my big rucksack for lack of space, but alas, I could not do anything to mollify their discomfort.
There is a Maharashtra State Transport (ST) bus stand near Kalyan station, where we got off from the train. The group of trekkers, my companions for the weekend, had already gathered there, and we joined them meekly.
The next phase of transport was a little uncomfortable and way too dark. The ST bus cut through the inky dark of the night until we got off at Chaukada, a place without lamplight. We had to wait there for a good half an hour, and every time a zooming vehicle zipped past us, we were made aware of the shining headlights that grew intense and then dim again. It was a very un-urban experience.
The jeeps announced their arrival with their cranky, rusty engines just at the moment our wait in the dark began bordering on monotony. Let me tell you, these jeeps were in no way state-of-the-art, in fact, they were quite obsolete, with a make do roof, and no doors. Everything was out there in the open. To the old school soul like myself, this was quite a treat really, for the nervous rumble of the engine brought back memories from my younger days. I pitied my young companion, however, but not for long, because he seemed quite fascinated by the vehicle himself. So our journey through the jeep started at around 1 am in the wee hours of morning.
We caught some sleep in the vibrating vehicle, or at least attempted to, on our way to Khireshwar village. The road that we were cruising through was a meandering one in the famous Malshej Ghat, and the driver had to maintain a very cautious pace thanks to our foggy environment. After a steady drive through this road, we took a left and continued onto a very rudimentary street that was slushy and wet from the evident rains.
Khireshwar village was very welcoming – the local population had made it their business to tend to the trekkers that arrive here early morning, providing them with tea, coffee and other forms of refreshments. We reached here at 3.30 am, following which we were allowed a yard to lay our sleeping bags and get a couple hours of sleep before the final trek. It rained powerfully that night though, causing us to drag our mattresses away from the open and under the shed to avoid getting them wet.
After a troubled night’s sleep, we rose with the sun at the crack of dawn, our enthusiasm not marred by the wet rains, but rather fueled further by the anticipated mountain walk that lay ahead of us. I cannot wait to tell you about the crazy times we had on our way to the peak! The very dangerous Konkan Kada, the mesmerizing Harishchandreshwar temple that was carved out of rock, and even getting lost in the ever present mist that reigned the higher altitudes – all of these experiences made my hiking quite memorable. Click below to read the next part of the trek!