Five started off – but by the end all were dead! (Figuratively, of course!)
We had heard great things about Bhimashankar and this featured next on our list! Since this is a trek that normally takes a lot of time treading up and down, we initially planned to head there early on Saturday morning, stay the night, and then head back down on Sunday. However, since we had work to get to on Monday, we decided to start Friday night instead. So, Colin, Bunny, Ronson and I met up at Dadar station to catch the 12.45a.m train to Neral. Mangesh climbed in at Thane, and before we knew it, the five of us were alone in the compartment, trying to grab some shuteye!
While the initial plan was to get off at Neral and sleep on the station, we decided to instead get off at Karjat – with one random guy in a red jumpsuit following us (off the train, up the bridge and he even stopped at the same snack stall we stopped at – I think Bunny got scared of him too... haha ). Since it was 3am, we decided to camp at the station itself since we needed to wait for daybreak. Word of caution to whoever is reading this – if you plan to spend the night at any station, kindly come with a monkey cap and a decent bedsheet because for some unknown reason – it’s freaking cold (shivering is considered normal….. yea, you read that right!). Using newspapers in place of a bedsheet, and a towel wrapped around your head as a monkey cap substitute just doesn’t cut it – trust me on this! From Karjat station you need to travel to Khandas village, which is around 40 kms away, either by ST bus or tumtums, plying between Khandas and Kashele, so at 5.30 am with around 20 mosquito bites on our face, teeth chattering, and the towel still wrapped across our faces we took a rickshaw. (2nd mental note to readers – the ‘freaking cold and shivering’ I talked about earlier was child’s play compared to what you experience when sitting in a tumtum having the wind blow across your face at 5.45am!) The only exception to this was Colin, who came equipped with enough winter wear for Kargil. He could spend the entire night under 10 feet of snow (and to think we all thought he was crack to mention carrying bedsheets along!! J ). We all dozed off in the tumtum, and eventually were woken up from deep slumber by the driver who told to get off since we had reached the Khandas base village. It was now 6.45 – yup, it takes more than an hour to reach the base village at 5.30 am and no traffic on the road (should give you a decent sense of how far that place is from Karjat). Teeth still chattering and wearing multiple shirts, we took our regular-mountaineering-spirited doze of hot coffee and poah which got us all charged up again. Double shirts off; we started the climb.
There are two routes to Bhimashankar from the base village of Khandas, which are most popular among trekkers – Shidi (ladder) Route and Ganesh Ghat. Of course, we can’t choose the easy way, now can we? So, off we went along the Shidi (ladder) Route. This was quite a steep and difficult route to climb and gets its name from the ladders placed on the steepest parts. The worst part is that we took a wrong turn somewhere and circled the same area twice (we knew it was the same area since there was some left over campfire that we passed!! – I remember telling Ronson that people were quite stupid to build two campfires so close by J – My Bad). Luckily for us some villagers appeared (God-sent, in my opinion) and sent us further along the right path into the wilderness.
Tip: Carry enough water – around 4 ltrs should suffice, and also have some sweets in your pocket, (not chocolates, but sweets like lozenges) they help to salivate the mouth, making you feel less thirsty. Thanks to Colin for that tip!
To reach Bhimashankar there are three mountains that need to be climbed – some with ladders. Check out some of these images of us along the ladders – point to the reader, these ladders shake quite a bit so double check each step you take on every rung of the ladder.
Eventually we noticed that the trek was getting steeper and steeper. In addition, while climbing up the steep edge of one mountain, we had a crazy-ass monkey snarling and staring wide-eyed at us – and that was freaky! He was so fierce, and we literally had to gingerly walk just 2 feet away from him, because on the other side was a sheer drop off the cliff – that I’ll never forget!! F****ing crazy-ass monkeys, can’t mind your own business – yea, if you’re reading this – that’s right, I’m talking about you, you dumbass, under-grown orangutan!
Coming back to our story… the great thing about Bhimashankar is that along the way you get Nimbu paani at the small villager huts that are set up. Really refreshing too– would definitely advise you to gather your bearings at these joints. Moreover, the Nimbu paani is quite tasty as well. Check out the below pics, there was one point where we had to climb vertically up – damn why don’t they build ladders in these places (though, I’m quite sure there was some other way up, we just didn’t discover). Mangesh climbed up first, how he did it I’ll never know – but great job Manges, you’re the man, and then he lent a helping hand to the rest of us, with as usual, a 1000 foot mountain drop behind us!
Once we reached the top, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was quite a bit of hustle and bustle there – there were stalls selling water, nariyal paani and other showcase confectionary items too. We grabbed a delicious thali meal at one of the Veg restaurants – which was simply scrumptious – and then started our descent, which only took us half the amount of time. Check out the pics below – and yup that’s the amount of steps I walked that day (thanks Polar Loop!) – the most I ever walked in a day!