Best Pilot Trek : Andharban

Andharban was gaining popularity in 2016 due to the wide range of waterfalls & its then untouched jungle trail. Also, this trek is a complete descending trek which makes it ideal for beginners as well. So my friends and I decided to do a pilot trek on August, 14th ,to this dark forest located near the Tamhini ghat. We did our research for the trek and embarked on an overnight journey from Mumbai, by a private vehicle.

The journey was absolutely blissful, since monsoon had made way for a lot of natural waterfalls throughout the ghat and the weather was chilly too. Once we reached the base village we took some rest in our vehicle itself, as it was pitch dark outside & we didn’t want to get in trouble with a few drunkards around. They were repeatedly warning us against getting into the pond nearby. At around 5am in the morning, one of us randomly decided to cook Maggie. To our surprise he was well equipped with a cooking pot & also a dry coconut shell for the preparation. He was determined to cook that pot of Maggie inspite of pouring rain. He tried his absolute best to spark some kind of a fire with the dry coconut shell by shielding it from the rain with his windcheater. He even tried to start a fire with a deodorant but the only thing that managed to catch fire was a few of his arm hair. With all our efforts going down the drain, we settled for raw Maggie and some biscuits for breakfast.

As soon as it was dawn we decided to move by guiding our driver to reach the end point of the trek. My friend, Adi and I took charge of leading the pack in search of the trek route. As far as we knew, the route was supposed to be narrow, cutting through a dense jungle. We proceeded further on this route until we were stopped by a dead end. Soon we realised that we were on the wrong path & had to return back to the road to gather more information on the start route. We also had to wipe out the wrong directions carved on the trees, to avoid any sort of confusion later on.

Soon we confirmed that the correct route was in the direction exactly opposite of the mountain that we were chasing. By this point, we had already lost almost an hour of our time on the hunt for the correct route, but we let a sigh of relief on finding ourselves on the correct trail. Soon we reached the kundalika valley view point & that view was breathtaking with fog playing a major part in it. Then we enjoyed a series of clear and pristine waterfalls. I would take that over any resort, any day. We almost spent an hour in the pure, ice cold water of the first pond. Adi was busy capturing these moments through his lenses. We all were having a great time. We also walked through the dark forest with trees that had roots dangling from their branches, with mysterious noises echoing, giving us some eerie experience. We soon reached another crystal clear waterfall where many of us danced to the shitti song (whistle podu). We safely crossed the flowing river, against the current by forming a human chain.

This was a long trek & we were tired after walking & dancing in the waterfalls so it was essential for us to fuel our bodies with food. We took our lunch break on an open plateau just before hirdi village, where we made idli pizza, thanks to our friend, whom we jokingly call Major Ram, for bringing in the ingredients including a handy pizza masala. After we licked the last of the food from our fingers, we made a move towards the completion of our trek.

We followed the designated trail until a point where we messed up again by taking a wrong turn (Currently, this route was blocked by the villagers by bushes). This route was slippery & steep which involved continuous descends & walks. One of our members had one of their shoes torn apart & so we had to escort him cautiously. Although, we knew that we were on the right path, the journey felt never ending, until we managed to pull through to the other end of the village. We were content that we completed the trek on time & reached Bhira village as estimated. The view from here was enthralling with massive lush green hills in the backdrop with pristine waterfalls pouring down from all the mountains. That was one moment of unadulterated joy. But our excitement was short lived as we were in for a surprise. We were told by a local person that the village where we had ended up in was named Nagshet and Bhira village was, in fact, 3 hours away from there. We all looked at each other, totally exasperated & asked the villager for help. He guided us to walk down another 3 kms to reach the nearest bus depot, wherein a bus could take us to Pali, where we could reach our car.

So we decided to wait near a temple where few of us took a short nap while others were on a lookout for the bus. In the meanwhile, we managed to contact our driver with the help of local villagers BSNL network & informed him to reach Pali parking area besides the famous temple.
Finally the wait was over & we boarded our bus to Pali & luckily all got the window seat.
The driver seemed like a car racing enthusiast, as he drove the bus like a Ferrari, running over the potholes & speed breakers with no intentions of slowing down. At one moment, the ride got so rough that the muddy water was splashed inside of the bus & onto the face of one of our members. As one might have guessed, taking a nap in this bus was out of question. Most of us were holding onto the seat bar for dear life. This was one hell of a journey & we decided to take a snap to capture this moment. We could now see Sarasgad from our window which meant that we have reached near Pali. Finally this roller coaster (literally) ended and we got down with our bones stiff and body sore, searching for our driver.
Luckily we got network & we could call our driver & met him in the parking area. We all were starving by this point and decided to have a proper lunch at a restaurant in Pali.

In the end, we were all satisfied to have had completed the trek, but decided to come again to find the original route to Bhira dam & figure out where we went wrong.
The car journey was very smooth and we all fell asleep peacefully, putting the exhaustion of the journey and the bus ride behind us.
After that we decided to always hire a local guide when exploring a new trek route, even if most of us are experienced trekkers. Lesson learnt the hard way.

Written by : Ameet Shet

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