Gradually the voices faded away as most of us tried to grasp some sleep. Some of us had a late nite tea 2 accompany the driver. Than we took a right from khubi phata. After an hour of ’shaking’ journey we reached Khireshwar at 2.30 am. For the sake of sleep everyone acted very fast to book a place in the lawn of a hotel cum home, whereas few other preferred coziness of bus. We volunteers tried hard to stay awake but sleep took its hold.
We got up at 5 am had breakfast and started our adventurous journey. The sun was rising behind us as we faced the huge rocky Mountains. These ranges were in 180 degree. As we walked facing the mountains and early sun rays falling on it, made me feel that we human are so small and negligent in front of such enormous nature creation. Everyone was full of energy and ready to take up the challenge. The journey was long and tiring. Kids were very enthusiastic and stayed ahead with Amol. There were few other too who walked with good pace. I have to mention about Walke kaka who is 60+ and yet was better climber than many in the group. The group was divided on walking stamina, but we were communicating through whistles and made sure that at least on difficult patches groups are not far from each other.
The kids and few other reached very early, and few tired ones or new trekkers took some more time to reach. But trekking is not about reaching first, it is about enjoying your journey, feeling closer to nature, testing your own limits and overcoming them. I always look at treks as way to find inner peace and find some time for myself, to look at life from different perspective. I challenge my own short comings and try to overcome it by walking a few more steps when I am tired and want to give up. While telling this I can’t go further without mentioning about Mrs Neeta Banait. She is in her mid forties and trekking after 17-18 years, she was not physically fit for the trek as she had slip disc (she told us this when we reached the top), but she never gave up. I really admire her spirit and her will power. She found some difficulties on few spots, but there along with me was a person who really made it possible for her to complete her trek, it was Sunil Gudulkar.
Thus with all hard work and will power we reached the top of Harishchandragad. Group members had already caught a cave for us. Staying in a cave is itself an unique experience, its not always that you shelter in some 11th century hand carved dwelling. We ate some light snacks and took some rest, while other who had reached early had already gone for sightseeing in the temple premises. The temple is a piece of awesome architecture. Now though most of the structures are in ruins you can still make out this could have been some important place in past. Most structures are not well preserved, not much care is taken to avoid or slow down the fast deteriorating condition of this legendary temple. This reflects the lackadaisical attitude of our people towards our rich heritage. No authentic or proper records are found about this place.
This place is referred in some puranas like Matsyapurana, Agnipurana and Skandapurana . The forts origin is said to have been in 6th century, during the rule of Kalchuri dynasty. The various caves probably have been carved out in the 11th century. These caves have idols of lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Shivlingam. Great sage Changdev (creator of the epic “Tatvasaar”) meditated here in 14th century. The fort was under the control of Moguls. The Marathas captured it in 1747. To the east of the temple is a well-built lake called “Saptatirtha”. On its bank are small temples in which there were idols of Lord Vishnu, now those are shifted in the caves near the temple of Harishchandreshwar
There is a huge cave right side behind the temple, its the Kedareshwar Cave. It has a huge shivlingam in the centre surrounded by 4 pillars, of which only one is standing today. Local legend holds that these pillars resemble four yug, the last one is for kalyug when it falls the world will come to an end. The lingam is in water which is cold throughout the year. There are some scripts carved on it but reference of which is not clear.One can find some small temples all over the premises and some carved stone laying here and there. Its a sad plight to see that such rich history is not conserved and known. There are water tanks near temple and caves which are spoiled by trekkers by throwing waste and plastics in it. These tanks were source of drinking water and now they are so filthy. Trekkers must understand the trekking is not just fun but it makes you aware of the nature and history which needs to be protected
Moving on from there we visited the most enchanting place, visiting this place is one of the 100 things one must do before dying, its ‘Konkan Kada’. It is a spectacular C-shaped cliff with awesome view and breathtaking depth. I have no words to explain it. Its dangerous to lean and look below, so there is a waist deep pit dug on the edge, standing in which you can safely admire the enormous Konkan kada. Also you can lie down and see it.
There is nothing like watching the sunset from this point. Ahead of you lies the beautiful valley with a river flowing and sun setting at a distance. We had some fun clicking snaps but as darkness fell and sun reached the horizon, most of us surrendered to the enchanting, divine atmosphere, deeply lost in some cosmic world.
As we headed back to our caves it was barely possible to see anything as it was ‘amavasya’, but the treat was that most of the group members had never seen so many stars in the sky. Everyone was hungry, so before dinner we had some hot tomato soup (it was fun to watch Sachin & Pradnesh preparing it) which was happy treat on cold evening. Than for dinner our stomachs were at the mercy of only cook available, Badri. He is up there on every Saturday and Sunday. He prepared a lavish dinner in terms of what can be expected at trek. It was not just edible but good to taste too. Most of us enjoyed it, however there were few who didn’t liked it, but its a trek to fort and not picnic to resort. After dinner we were planning to have some camp fire but most of us were tired and slept in the lavish cave. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to sit below the starry sky on cold nite with some warm fire and friends, so some of us went for camp fire. We started singing songs, shortly our neighbouring cave mates also joined us. Gradually songs stopped and we started talking about the history of this and other forts, bravery stories of Shivaji maharaj and his mawale, and how important it is to conserve our history and the nature so the coming generations must have a story to tell and places to visit. About 12 am we too went to sleep. Cave was filled with grunting and snoring in different tones, it sounded like an opera. Night was colder and our shawls were not enough to protect us. Thankfully we were not visited by some friendly neighbours like snakes, lizards etc.
We woke up at loud alarm of 5 am, but snoozed it and dozed off again, but life is not so good as we had Amol with us. He blowed loud whistle near our ears and flashed torch on our eyes. We had no option but to wake up at least to beat Amol. Drowsily everyone woke, completed morning duties wandering among the bushes. We had planned to go to Taramati, second highest peak in Sahyadris, but everyone was so tired to climb up again.
We decide to visit the temple again. We had mad fun there, especially in the dome of the temple. There is a 2*2 feet hole above the temple pavement to go inside the dome which can accommodate atleast 10 people inside. Manoj, Ashwini, Amol, Kuldeep, Pradnesh, Manasi, Santosh and Sachin all went inside. I was too scared to go in, I tried twice but couldn’t gather the courage to go in. Then we took all possible snaps of the temple and its premises. We got late in all this fun. It was already 9 am. We went back to our cave asked everyone to pack their bags. Meanwhile Pradnesh and Amol cooked some tasty maggi noodles for everyone.
We left marvellous Harishchandra gad to go back to our city life. Initially we decided to have the entire group together but the kids were not at all tired and they hopped their way down. So our journey began, Amol with kids and few others, Manasi with the second group, Sachin moving to and fro from one group to other. I was in last group along with Neeta Banait, cause for her going downhill was more difficult than climbing up. This time I had company of Sunil, Manoj and Pradnesh on the way we met Ashwini, Kuldeep and Sachin. She hurt her leg so we decide i’ll carry her bag and move ahead whereas Sunil will bring her down. As we reached the base village it was already 3.45 pm. Kids and others had their lunch and were resting. When everyone had their lunch and ready to leave it was 5 pm. We boarded our bus and bid farewell to this beautiful place. Everyone was admiring the scenic view and the rock strewn mountains in dusky light of setting sun. As night fell, silent whispers also faded away and we waited to reach the crowded city again to get entangled in our busy lives.