Monday

Madhu-Makarandgad

This trek takes you through dense forests near Mahabaleshwar.


Nestled in the Sahyadris, this Maratha fort was probably used as a watch-fort to guard a trade route connecting Mahabaleshwar to Poladpur. Reaching a height of over 4000 feet, it was referred to as Saddleback by the British, due to the resemblance of its two flattened humps with a ridge between, to a saddle.

Most of the trek route is shaded as it passes through the jungle. Though the sun shone steadily a friendly breeze cooled us. As we walked on, the forest spread out in the valleys, unfolded its rich hues.

Declared as one of the global biodiversity hotspots by Conservation International, the Sahyadri range runs parallel to the west coast of India. In the west its steep face falls away to the Konkan coast, while the eastern slope gradually runs down to the Deccan plateau. Here you can find the flowering Kinjal, the Kumbha with its gorgeous sweet smelling flowers, and medicinal plants Hirda and Beheda. The doughty Anjan trees with their glossy green leaves, blossom into flower, encasing the branches like swathes of thick purple blue wool.
 
Summer is also the fruiting season for a variety of plants here. Often you come across tall Jamun trees with their ripe purple berries, wild fig with pink red fruit clusters, thickets of karvanda, and a variety of other wild berries. Most of these have a delicious sweet sour taste and attract a horde of birds, butterflies, boisterous langur monkeys and the occasional sloth bear.

A climber flowering
After a couple of hours of climbing we reached a small hamlet. A group of thatched roofs clustered together. This is the village of Ghonaspur. Most of the houses here have a large courtyard in front of their homes, covered with a thatch to keep it cool. We reached one such house and asked the lady if we could put our sacks down for a while. Smilingly she also obliged with a bucketful of cold water to drink.  
A deep pull of this cold mountain manna and we were all refreshed. The people here are Lingayats and eschew alcohol. They grow their own vegetables, potatoes, and onions on land adjacent to their village. As we resumed our ascent we saw several women of the village busy harvesting the crop.

Shiv Mandir right at the top
A kilometer up is the Gaodevi temple where we decided to set up camp for the day. Since it was still a couple of hours for the sun to set, we decided to trek right to the top of Makarandgad.

At the top is a Shiva temple. This spot affords some amazing views of the entire valley with folds of mountains stretched out. From here is a path to the rarely visited peak, Madhu. The breeze is quite strong. A bit of scree on the way makes the climb down a slippery affair. Using a stout stick helps break possible stumbles.

Once back to the temple, we made some tea. Water bottles were replenished from the tap in the village below. Chit-chat, jokes, and much laughter filled the air as a cool evening breeze played around us.







It is quite an experience to collect wood, get a fire lit, and actually cook something on it. The resultant food acquires a tang of warm wood-smoke. A delicious meal of khichadi made on woodfire, roasted papad, pickles and buttermilk was eaten with gusto. Earlier during the evening we had chatted with the villagers requesting some buttermilk. As there were several cows and buffaloes in the village there was bound to be some dairy production. The villagers are a genuine, proud and a reserved lot. A straightforward commercial offer is looked upon with distaste. Luckily they seemed to find us acceptable. Soon the ‘not available’ turned into a ‘yes’, and a large brass pot of buttermilk magically appeared at the temple. Before leaving we left some money with them for temple renovation.

Soon it was pitch dark. The night sky was awash with stars that glittered hard as diamonds. We could see the lights on Mahabaleshwar plateau glimmering across the chasm of the vast valley. It only served to emphasize our blissful solitude. 

 Later we spread out our bedding rolls in the outer room of temple. It has a low concrete wall with iron grill above supporting a corrugated asbestos roof. The night on the mountain was unimaginably cold with a breeze that made us shiver beneath our summery blankets! After a while we could only hear the sounds of the jungle – the chhzzz of cicadas and the liquid sounding kappu kappu of the nightjars. 
Sunrise at Makarandgad

3 comments:

  1. lovely photos - thanks for sharing...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some great photos, especially the couple with the morning mist over the mountains.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Liz, Jon. Have added a few more photos plus the write-up too.

    ReplyDelete