“If you find a path with no obstacles,it probably doesn’t lead anywhere” Frank.A.Clark.
I take to the woods whenever I am tired of the monotonous concrete jungle of the city.Mumbai is blessed with the western ghats.There are many places one can getaway on weekends,but if you want to test your fitness level then what other way than to trek and explore. Bhimashankar Trek is the ultimate test on your fitness,endurance and mental strength.This trekking hotspot is situated in the village of Bhavagiri. One of the twelve Jytotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India, Bhimashankar has always been a special place. Dense forests, lofty peaks and a plethora of animal life characterize this beautiful getaway.
Trekking to Bhimashankar was in my mind for quite sometime but the hesitation was there – will I be able to do it as the trek involved about 25 kms of steep ascend and descend with stony paths. But when I I found a notification from Darkgreen Adventures for a night trek I challenged myself and I took the next step of booking a place.
Bhīmāshankar is the source of the Bhima river which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river.With endless stretches of virgin forests, lofty peaks that seem to reach out to the heavens and the whispering waters of the Bhīmā River, Bhīmāshankar is definitely one of God’s choicest creations.
It seems as if Lord Shiva is keeping a silent vigil over the majestic ranges of the Sahyādris The serenity interrupted only by the silent murmuring of the cool breeze and the occasional chirping of birds, Bhīmāshankar is a trekker’s delight and a traveller’s sojourn.
As per the instructions of our team leader,we boarded the train to Karjat from Thane(8.03 pm from platform no 3).The train starts from Thane unlike the other Karjat trains starting from CSTM boarding which at Thane are difficult.I was joined by a young teenager also a first time trekker who obviously was very excited about her first trek,We boarded the train and posted a message in our group created earlier by Krishna(Trek Leader).
After making ourselves comfortable, we munched on our packed dinner. As the train chugged along we chatted and reached Karjat station at 10 pm which was the final meeting point for the group.We met the other members including two more enthusiastic women trekkers and after a quick introduction, made a beeline for the washroom.(The washroom was clean).
There were two big jeeps waiting for us at Karjat station to ferry our fairly large group of nineteen including the trek leader.For those attempting a day trek, there are shared vehicles available from Karjat to Kashele and for Khandas from Kashele village.The jeeps dropped us at Ganesh Ghat 4 kms ahead of Khandas village. There are two Trek routes for Bhimashankar – Ganesh Ghat and Shidi Ghat (Ladder route). We took the Ganesh Ghat route for both ascend and descend.
After the customary round of introductions we took a group photo and commenced our trek at 10.45 pm making our way in the dead of night with the assistance of the light from the full moon and our flash lights.The pitch dark night and the strong wind gave a kind of eerie ambience and I was reminded of the Film Gumnaam a thriller which I had seen many years back. Thankfully all of us were safe and no member either went missing or suffered any injury.The hissng sound of the wind combined with the nocturnal sounds the forest made the experience indeed very thrilling. With my eyes firmly on the ground, I spotted a snake (brown with white spots) crossing our track. I waited patiently for the creature to cross when the trekkers behind me were inquisitive as to why I had stopped. I whispered at them to quietly watch the snake.I thought of pulling out my camera to take a photo but then withdrew thinking of not disturbing the creature with the flash as, after all we were in their territory !!.We took a 10 mins break after an hour into the trek when we quenched our thirst from our water bottles and some also munched on some light snacks.We resumed our trek and after a further half an hour, took a few minutes of standing break to catch our breath as it was a steep climb up.
The photos taken at Night
After the next half an hour, there was a again ten minute break during which I took some photos though it was pitch dark , but surprisingly the photos came out to be quite clear.
We reached Padarwadi – our destination on schedule at 2.30 am where we all waited under a makeshift village shop – deserted at that time of the night. After getting in touch with our contact person of the village, he arrived at the spot and escorted us to his hut which was to be, our shelter for the night. The hut was far more comfortable than I had imagined and a sweet cup of hot tea refreshed us all on our arrival.
There were two big rooms in the hut – the inner room was reserved for the girls which had matting on the floor and boys settled in the outside room. Some young members(a group of five) lit a fire and spent the night chatting while the other members tried to make themselves as comfortable as possible lying on the floor.We girls snuggled ourselves into our shawls/blankets and chatted for a while. It was a very windy night and the howling winds kept us awake for quite some time. A pet cat after sniffing around made itself comfortable in a corner and soon fell asleep.Our tired bodies soon gave up and we must have slept for an hour and a half.The wake up call was 5 am as 6 was the time to commence the remaining part of the trek.
After freshening up and a cup of tea we commenced the next leg of our trek. The crisp morning breeze greeted us and although it was cold, five minutes into the trek we all started sweating,the big rocks and boulders along our path looking daunting and it seemed as if they were placed to challenge us!
In the morning the group was split into two, the slow movers led by the trek leader Krishna and the fast ones with trekker Kushal. After about an hour of climb through rocky surface, it was time for a break and a bite of the delicious theplas and chutney( krishna’s favourite) was yummilicious . Some more snacks like dates, chikki and til laddoos came out of some member’s backpacks which we all relished and quenched our thirst as the next break would be only after an hour.
The Thepla Break
By now the sun was out and shining brightly but was yet not very warm and there were also some wet patches along our track.To our relief we found some sections of straight patches too where we were able to increase our speed of trek
On the way we noticed a few huts where the locals sell bhutta,(corn) nimboopaani(Lime juice) and chaas.(buttermilk)But the stalls were deserted so early in the morning.While descending, we did enjoy a drink of nimboo paani.(lime juice)
We reached the top at 08.30 am bang on the scheduled time.
Resting after reaching the TopThe slow and the fast movers kept pace with each other and that is how we managed to complete the trek on time.After resting for a while we headed to Hotel Ashok which did not have much choice on the menu to choose from – poha(Flattened rice cooked with onions and nuts),missal pav ( is a popular dish from Maharashtra, India. It consists of misal (a spicy curry usually made of sprouted moth beans) and pav (a type of Indian bread roll) and pakoras.(Veggies deepfried in gram flour batter)The food and the tea was indeed welcome to our growling stomachs.
Some fellow trekkers decided to trek to Nagphani point after a quick darshan at the temple, while the rest of us relaxed and conserved on our energy for the descend.We freshened up and then went for DarshanViewing/sighting)of the temple.
The legend of Bhimashankar temple – The story in short is that Bhima and his mother were abandoned by his father Kumbhkaran which infuriated him and he set out to do a severe penance to please Lord Brahma who was pleased and granted him immense powers which he misused to torment the gods and the people, who approached Lord Shiva to end their misery.Shiva then killed the tyrant and put an end to their misery.The Gods then requested Shiva to make this place as his abode. Lord Shiva thus manifested himself in the form of the Bhīmāshankar Jyotirlingam.
The Temple Complex
There are about 300 comfortable steps leading to the Jyotirlnga. One can hire Palkis(Palanquin) especially for the aged.There are shops on both sides of the steps selling puja material like flowers sweets etc.We reached around 10 am and had a comfortable Darshan(viewing/sighting).Photograpy is prohibited here.The temple complex has a Shani mandir ,Ganesha temple ,the Nandi bull.At the entrance is a huge Portugese Bell and the Deep Stambh.
As you walk towards the temple,you can see the origin of the Bhima River.There is another temple and a Kund(which we missed because we were not aware of it).The river was created by the sweat of Lord Shiva during the war with Bhima. After offering our prayers in the temple we set out to the view point from where one gets a magnificient view of the entire region.Took some good shots and proceeded to the meeting place. By this time our fellow trekkers who had gone to Nagphani had returned and it was time for us to commence our descend.We started the descend at 11.30 am.The descend was tricky with the loose mud and stones and of course the bigger boulders but still it was faster and we reached the village hut at 1.15pm where a simple home cooked lunch of chappati,rice,dal and a mixed vegetable with papad,pickle and chutney was served.We were all ravenous and had a tummy full.
We did not get much time to rest after lunch and we resumed our descend at 2.30pm.The faster group started about 30 minutes after the slow group..On the way we saw an old well some of us peeped in and joked about the well being haunted.We didnt take breaks during the descend. Altough the sun was up and above we did not feel much heat as there was forest cover in most part of the trek down but nevertheless, we were sweaty by the time we reached Ganesh temple our first break.Ganesh temple is half an hour away from Ganesh ghat.
Various Stages of the Trek
At the Ganesh temple some of us refreshed ourselves with chaas(Buttermilk) and nimboo pani(lime juice) without giving much thought to the quality of the water 🙂 The second batch soon caught up with us in the temple and both the groups were again together.We reached Ganesh Ghat at 5.15 pm where the jeeps were waiting for us and we were relieved that we were not late to catch the train back home from Karjat.
The trek leader treated us with sweets for being a good group.We reached Karjat station at 6.15 pm where we had a cuppa of tea, bid adieu to each other with promises to keep in touch and waited to board the train to return home.We had bonded well and enjoyed each other’s company.
This article is a tribute to all members of the group.The trek as usual was professionally managed by the trek leader – kudos to Krishna Kuya without whose support and cooperation of the other members, it would have been very difficult/ nay impossible for me to complete the trek successfully.
Some more shots of the Trek
It would be apt to end this with this quotation “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one go”
How to get there:
1)Take a local train to karjat from which ever place you stay.There are fast
and slow locals.Check the schedule on M-Indicator.
2) If the group is 9 or 10 you can book a jeep or take sharing jeeps till
Things to carry
- Wear track pants/shorts or similar attire with comfortable T-shirt/shirt
- Carry 2 litres of water ,dry snacks, fruits.
- If you are trekking in the monsoon then carry a Raincoat or similar(Umbrellas hinder your movement as while walking your hands should be free
- Sun glasses and sunscreen
- A cap
- Camera for good photos
- A haversack/backpack to carry your belongings
- Carry something warm to cover yourself at night
- Good trekking/Sports shoes.