Journey to Wonderland: Kasol to Sar Pass

Journey to Wonderland: Kasol to Sar Pass

Snow clad mountains amidst pine trees , the sound of river flowing, breath-taking views, beautiful sunrise and sunset, and the star-lit sky. Pretty much like a wonderland ? Yes, my journey to Sar Pass from Kasol, indeed seemed like a journey to wonderland. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty by the time I reached Kasol base camp. I was pretty excited, as it was my first Himalayan trek, which I had booked long back with Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI).

Reaching Kasol:

The best way to reach Kasol from Mumbai is taking a flight till Delhi and then taking a bus to Bhuntar. There are flights directly till Kullu also but the frequency is less, also they are quite expensive. The reason I selected to go via Delhi was the road journey from Delhi to Bhuntar. In 2006, I went on a road trip from Delhi to Manali, and it was full of breathtaking views. The journey from Delhi to Bhuntar din’t disappoint me either. River Beas accompanies you throughout the journey; the flow keeps increasing with the altitude. Might Beas river flowing through the hills is a sight that needs to be captured.

We reached Bhuntar early in the morning. ( Had left alone, but found a backpacker from Delhi, who was going on the same trek as mine). It is an overnight journey, we started from Delhi around 9:30 pm. Our bus was actually late; few passengers lost their bags on the way. Apparently there was some issue with the door of outside bus storage compartment and few bags fell. As an obligation, the driver took the bus few kms back, but in vain. I was glad the bags weren’t mine, couldn’t imagine a 10 day trek without my backpack !!

Bhuntar to Kasol is around 31 km. We took a state transport bus from Bhuntar to Kasol. That was one epic bus journey. The bus was full of locals, and few other backpackers like us. We got place to sit though. The best part were the songs, it seemed like an very old playlist of mine. All peppy Punjabi songs, Imran Khan, Honey Singh and other artists. The view and the playlist was a great combination. A hippie was trying to sell us drugs, he thought our purpose of going to Kasol was dope and rave parties. We somehow convinced him that we aren’t interested. 😉

Kasol YHAI Base Camp: Reporting & Acclimatization

Finally we reached Kasol. The journey till Kasol only was so eventful, I was sure the coming days would definitely be memorable. The YHAI campsite is located on the banks of Parvati River. There are certain formalities to be done once you reach the base camp, like submitting the receipt, YHAI membership card, doctor’s certificate, etc. Post which, you get assigned a tent. Being from Mumbai, I was feeling cold at the Base camp itself. I was wondering what would happen at higher altitudes. But then after discussing with the camp staff, got assured that we will be acclimatized.

The first day at the camp I felt as if I at a military camp, the rules, the schedule, expected discipline. There were timetables and schedule displayed to give everyone a fair idea of how the upcoming days. The first day was rest day, while the rest of the days they had planned exercises, and mini treks to acclimatize the group. The training was very much helpful later at higher altitudes.

 

Grahan Village:

Grahan is a small village with only 50 houses and a population of around 350 people. Everyone knows each other here , chances are that if you meet someone here once, you will keep meeting them again. The houses are traditional wooden houses, some of them are 200 years old.

The hike to Grahan is incredibly beautiful, with picture perfect locations on the way. Just the start of the trek and I was mesmerized with the beauty of Parvati Valley. Though later I had sinus issues due to change in temperature and altitude, but soon was acclimatized and kept hiking, one step at a time.

The wooden houses are visible only in the last 100-150 m of the hike. I remember we were greeted by a group of happy children. We were the last batch of our trekking group as we were taking halts in between and soaking in the beauty of nature. A young and confident boy, Vishwas volunteered to show us the way to the YHAI campsite. Finally we reached the first campsite. Words are less to describe the beauty of the place and even the people there. You have to be there in the moment to actually understand it.

Magical Padri:

Grahan to Padri was a 9 km hike, covered in approx 6 hours. The trail was through the stream and forests. We had to cross old bridges too. The best part of this hike was the post lunch trail through the forest, I felt like taking a halt and nap there itself 🙂 The views from Padri camp were mesmerizing, we could see the icy mountains, the forests and even horses grazing.

There was something magical about the place, everyone felt so happy and cheerful. I remember laughing so much with my group, my new trek mates, that my stomach was aching. We named that mountain where were discussing about trek, people, life and what not, as the Laughing Mountain. We were warned that there were snow bears around the camp-site, hence going out alone in the night was not advisable.

Ming Thatch:

In terms of distance, the trail from Padri to higher camp, Ming Thatch was longest, ie 10 kms. The trail consisted of thick dense forest, narrow bridges crossing the stream, and spectacular views of snow peaked mountains through the pine trees. The lunch point of this climb had amazing views. It was the best lunch of my life, lunch with a view.

On reaching the camp site, it felt like an achievement, as it was a higher altitude camp ( 11200 ft) and we reached safely. The oxygen level becomes less from here, and also there is a drastic change in temperature. We were advised to wear proper inner , jackets and gloves to protect from cold temperature. We got to know that Ming Thatch camp is perfect for star gazing, and even Milky Way is visible clearly post 2 am. Never in my life, I had seen the Milky Way, so I had made up my mind to get up at 2 am; I was lucky enough to get a nature’s call around that time too.

Waking up at 2 am, in freezing cold, and witnessing the wonderful galaxy, was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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Nagaru:

Ming Thatch to Nagaru was a 5 km, 5 hour climb. Even though the distance was less compared to other trails, this was more of a climb and very less of walking. This was the highest camp site, with amazing views. The altitude is 12,500 ft, and it felt great. There was no water at the camp, only water source was the glaciers. We got network here for sometime, after five days of being disconnected.

The sunset was amazing here, and the majestic mountain views can make everyone realize how small we and our problems are in this world. We had to start early the next day, 2 am scheduled wake up call. The reason for starting early was that the snow starts to melt later, hence we had to cover maximum area before that.

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Final Milestone: Nagaru to Sar Pass

The final day, the day when we will conquer Sar Pass. We started very early, with torch in one hand, and walking stick in another. This was the first time we started walking in jackets, with gloves and all. It was a different feeling altogether. We were walking in a line, the guides were very helpful. For most of us, it was the first time we were walking on so much snow. We had to cover 14 kms in 6 hours. And finally, with slow but steady pace, we reached Sar Pass, the frozen lake pass. That feeling when you are actually at the point which you were thinking about for days. Some of the patches were quite slippery, but all of us managed without any injuries.

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The Descent: Sar Pass to Beskari

I was assuming this would be the easy part, once that the highest point is accomplished. But this was the most slippery part, and one needs to be very careful, patient and mentally strong. I had never witnessed snow mountains so closely in my life, and there I was, walking, climbing and crossing them. Our batch could not experience Beskari slide as the snow was less, being the second last batch. But still, it was a great experience, the beauty of the place can leave anyone stunned.

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Mini Switzerland of India: Bhandak Thatch

Beskari to Bhandak Thatch trail seemed straight like a wonderland. The trek was mainly over, but the amazing views din’t leave us till the end.

Bhandak Thatch in my opinion was the most beautiful campsite of the trek. It is called as Mini Switzerland of India, and to be honest, I felt it’s exaggeration,  but the place actually is Mini Switzerland. We were lucky to experience rainfall at this camp site, and it just added to the beauty. View from our tent was amazing, and post rain all snow peaks were covered in more snow, making the place look more similar to Switzerland. I had mixed feelings here, happy that the trek was completed successfully, with so many amazing memories and a bunch of good travel friends; sad because it’s over. But it’s best to live in the moment and enjoy. Everything seemed magical about that place, and I was wishing the day shouldn’t end.

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From Bhandak, we descended to Barsheni Village crossing beautiful villages of Kalga, Pulga , Tulga and reached Manikaran. Finally had a bath, hot spring bath that too, after 10 days.  Celebrations continued after reaching Kasol, we were now certified trekkers.

A journey and adventure of a lifetime ended, leaving behind, memories, lessons, pictures and some great friends. I will never forget my journey to wonderland…

 

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti

25th Birthday, 25 Lessons 

25th Birthday, 25 Lessons 

19th November 2017 – I am a quarter century old today ! I was pretty much excited for my 25th birthday. My entire year went awesome; explored new places, made new friends, discarded some toxic people from my life and spent a lot of time with nature and myself. I wanted my 25th birthday to be a different experience, not regular partying and dinner scenes. Wanted to disconnect and be with nature, see the sunset, sunrise, and the night sky. So I booked star gazing camping with a travel group, at a village where there would be hardly any network. I was almost reaching the base railway station of the campsite (Asangaon), and I get a call from my mother that my grandmother passed away. I returned home to support my family. I had spent almost 6 hours in train continuously , had a very bad headache too. But I had to be strong, I did not even shed a tear in front of my mom or dad. My sinus triggered due to train commute and stress. My birthday eve and weekend was not at all close to what I had planned, but how does it matter ? You need to be there when your family needs you. 

My birthday overall went good, I disconnected myself, no calls at 12 am, as anyway had to get up early as mom had early morning flight. I watched the sunrise, had a good breakfast and my close friends came over to my place to cheer me up and took me out for sometime. 

I took the time to reflect, and jotted down 25 lessons I have learned so far; 25 lessons learnt documented on my 25th birthday :

  1. Not everything will go as per your plan, accept it , life is full of uncertainties, be prepared for everything
  2. You and only you are responsible for your happiness, there are external factors, but peace of mind is an internal job
  3. Laugh and smile often, makes you forget everything for that moment
  4. Manage your finances well, you never know when you may need surplus money
  5. Live in the moment
  6. Don’t postpone things and happiness for a later time unless necessary
  7. Waking up before the sunrise leads to a very positive day , gives immense energy and even some quality me-time
  8. Face your fears, small steps at a time, but do face them, may or may not conquer
  9. Distance and Duration of friendship doesn’t make it strong or weak. It all depends on the connection between two true selves.
  10. Spend time doing something you love, as much and whenever possible, it refreshes you
  11. Stay away from toxic people and negative sources, automatically focus on oneself would be more.
  12. Take care of your health, nothing is worth compromising your health
  13. Follow your heart, don’t seek too much advice from outside, everyone has a different path and outlook.
  14. Document experiences, whenever possible, a good way to reflect on your experience, positive or negative.
  15. Respect every opinion
  16. Let things go
  17. Your family will always support you , and want the best for you
  18. Love yourself, always be there for yourself.
  19. There are some people who always want you to stay happy and smiling, Treasure them
  20. You cannot please everyone, and even trying that is merely waste of time
  21. Not having any expectations from anyone is the simplest formula for happiness
  22. No point in stressing about things which are beyond your control
  23. Don’t create mental blocks for anything
  24. Never say no to any new opportunity, even if it seems challenging 
  25. Travel as much as you can, we were born nomads, and not meant to be in one place forever

    Straight From My Heart, 

    Prakriti 

    Solo morning stroll to PandavKada Falls

    Solo morning stroll to PandavKada Falls

    I left alone for a morning walk, on the self-extended weekend,

    Came back with beautiful captures, adventure of a lifetime and a new friend.

    It was a Monday morning, a rainy Monday morning. It was raining continuously for the last two days. I decided not to go to office, I was anyway a resigned employee with 5 days of service left and . Had two ways to enjoy Monday off- to sleep again for few more hours, or go hill side and enjoy. I chose the second option, I was in mood to capture the green hills too.

    I started my walk, it wasn’t even a walk. I was strolling. So much peace , that too on a Monday. People were rushing to work, while I was walking in the opposite direction. The footpaths were slippery, had to be careful.

    I was trying to absorb as much as possible – the fresh air, the green trees and the green hills.  There was a unique sense of freedom within me. Slowly I reached the first hill range, the driving range. But I saw people there, and decided not to go there. I have realised I enjoy my own company with nature. My solo trip was one major milestone in this realization. So I continued straight towards the golf course area.

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    Took my first halt there, just for the view- grass, woods and waterfall. It just left me mesmerized. The Pandavakada falls looked so beautiful and full of glory. I felt attracted , I felt spell bound. I decided that I will reach as close as possible to witness Pandavkada falls’ beauty at peak.

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    While I was lost in thoughts and excitement, I saw there was one more guy walking ahead. But he was comparatively walking fast. I was wondering who else took out time for a morning stroll. I gathered senses and then resumed my stroll. As I was crossing the golf course area, I could see myself getting close to the falls.

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    All the time I was hoping that the entry point for the falls should be open. Many times the police and Kharghar Forest Department officials block the way due to the unwanted accidents that have taken place. Finally I reached Kharghar Gurudwara, from where there’s the  way to Pandavkada falls.

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    I stood there for a minute, admiring the beauty and feeling the silence of nature. I was glad that there were no Forest department officials, and considered it as completion of first milestone in reaching the falls. While I was just about to start my journey towards the falls, I heard a voice from behind. It was the same guy I saw near the golf course, he wanted to know whether there is a way ahead and is it safe. I was initially reluctant to entertain anyone, but then I had already made my mind so I thought I should continue and asked him to join me. We started walking towards the falls. The route has undergone many changes with time. I was recollecting, the time when there was literally no way and we had to actually find one through the rocks and hills. Had even documented that in one of my earlier posts: A Letter from Mother Nature.

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    The way seemed very easy but they say never judge a book by it’s cover. After just few steps we saw a stream, with a very heavy current; obviously due to heavy rains. We thought it would be difficult to cross it, but then we saw an uncle crossing it, he seemed so refreshed and happy. A villager was helping him cross. That gave us motivation to go on, and moreover, the smile on his face revealed it’s worth going ahead. Slowly, we crossed the stream and continued towards the falls. Pandavkada looked beautiful, in its full glory, surrounded by lush greenery.

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    In spite of the commercialization, the place can never lose it’s beauty. Also, there were hardly any one enroute falls, as it was a Monday morning. Only few school and college students who bunked to enjoy nature’s beauty on a windy day. I realized that I was walking  and exchanging thoughts with this guy for quite sometime, but din’t even know his name. Finally we introduced ourselves to each other. Shanker, seemed a nature lover and an avid traveler too. He had taken work from home that day. But couldn’t stay at home. Read somewhere – If you don’t find company to go somewhere, go alone and you will find people like you in the journey. I could actually relate to it at the time.

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    We finally reached near the halls. We could see the front view of the waterfalls. Stood there quietly absorbing as much as I could. Tried to capture it perfectly too. But some beauties are difficult to capture. You have to be there, experience it, to actually capture it.

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    After few moments of being lost in nature, we finally spoke. Shanker asked whether I wanted to go further, as the way was hilly and tricky ahead. I instantly said yes, as is my nature to take challenges, and go as far as I can. But he warned and reminded me of the stream. It was about to rain, and that if it starts raining heavily like it was it would be very difficult to cross it. He had a valid point. It would have been different if we were in a group; and I feel grateful he advised me. So we decided to return.

    Soaking all energy from the green hills and the vibrant waterfall, I turned my back to head home. After few minutes, it started raining. I told myself Thank God I accepted Shanker’s advice. Also had told mom I would be back in half an hour, couldn’t afford getting stuck. 🙂

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    By this time, Shanker and I became good friends. Both of us are very talkative and candid in nature. We reached the stream, the current was indeed heavy. We took a long and thick stick, and used it to cross. We held the opposite ends of it, it just made it easier. And after few more steps, back to city.

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    That’s the beauty of Kharghar, we can visit the hills too, and in some time back to the roads. Feeling rejuvenated, we walked towards home. I realized that Shanker’s  stays very close to my place. So we accompanied each other on our way back too.

    I felt great that I decided to step out, and not sleep. The most spontaneous plans and decisions in life are the best. I felt peace that day, and captured some beautiful images and videos, and made a new friend.

    Straight From My Heart,

    Prakriti

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    Discovering myself at Sarasgad – My solo hike experience

    Discovering myself at Sarasgad – My solo hike experience

    I left, all alone for my first solo trek. But no, I wasn’t alone, I had the spirit of adventure with me, I had the desire to explore.
    It was not a pre planned solo trek, it was supposed to be a group one, but later all backed out, some because it was risky in the season(it rained heavily one day before). But once I make up my mind for something, I go for it. So I decided to conquer Sarasgad fort, the base village for which is Pali, alone. At first, the thought seemed very scary, but then I planned for it. I decided to take 7 am ST bus for Pali from Panvel. As it’s very unsafe for a solo female hiker, I kept my pepper spray with me, and even practised few kicks, punches and aims with the pepper spray. I packed my bag with overall 1.5 L water bottles, stole, cap, extra clothes, sanitizer, towels and some fruits. There were many constraints which I was aware of, the major one that I had no power bank, and my phone has a battery problem; Imagining myself lost(worst-case) with no humans around, without any means of communication, made me question my decision. Later as a solution, I decided to keep mobile data off, and use my phone in battery saver mode throughout the journey, that meant no snapchats, no maps, just me and the people around in case I need help. I even made a milestone list to track my journey, and even motivate myself at every step. Once done with planning, I slept early to reach on time at Panvel. Both excitement and nervous filled me, somehow managed to sleep.

    Milestone 1: Boarding Panvel-Pali bus 

    The next day, I was on time, it was all dark when I left home. On reaching Panvel, I enquired about the bus for Pali, and within few minutes got it. For the first time in my life, I was travelling in a ST bus. There was a weird hesitation inside me, or I can say, a kind of fear, which accompanied me. This feeling was there inside since morning, when I was packing up, going through my checklist, wearing my shoes and when I left. Ignoring this weird feeling,  I concentrated on the surroundings, the view and decided to forget all tension. The song “Yuhi chala chal rahi, yuhi chala chal rahi, kitni haseen hai yeh duniya“( The traveler travels… just like that, The traveler travels…just like that, How beautiful is, this world) was running in my mind. The route was full of greenery, green  hills, green grass and green trees all around. The bus takes the Bombay-Pune road, from Khopoli, it enters the Khopoli-Pali road and enters taluka Sudhagad.

    Milestone 2: Reaching Pali , Having Breakfast

    As planned, reached Pali at 9, luckily the bus was on time. By this time, the weird feeling, the fear, the hesitation was vanished. Reaching Pali, was a major milestone of my plan. I decided to start by visiting Pali Ganpati temple, which is one of the“Ashtavinayak” Lord Ganesha.

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    Before starting I wanted to have proper breakfast, my friend Dinesh had given me a contact of a local resident Harshal who had a food joint there. I called him, but he dint pick up. I kept walking and found a good place and ordered misal paav, one of my favourite breakfast item.I found some people staring at me, maybe because I was alone, and everyone in group of friends or family, the only person seemed welcoming and smiling was the boy who got my order. Confirming the way to the fort from him, I continued.

    Milestone 3: Start of the hike

    Walking for few minutes landed me to the start of the journey. I could see the map, and a narrow way between houses.

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    Wondering if it is the right way, I confirmed again from a female who was passing by. She confirmed back that I was on the right way, but after knowing that I am going alone, she started shouting that its very risky and I shouldn’t be going. She managed to gather few people too. Everyone said the same. Apparently there was no hiking group which started for the fort that day, and few “bad boys” according to them who went up. No this was something unanticipated, and shattered my confidence I had gained from Panvel to Pali journey. I could see the fort from below, and I thought it would be very stupid to return from there, hence started. I walked for few minutes and I came across a diversion, both ways I could just see narrow pathways surrounded by tall grass. I took one for way which seemed obvious, took few steps and all I found was, tall grass. The pathway was blocked completely because of grass and plants. No way was seen through it.It was very risky to get into it, now I could understand why the villagers reacted that way. Unwilling to give up, called up Harshal( the localite) , hoping this time he would pick up. He did in sometime, and came rushing there too, he was the same friendly guy who got the breakfast for me. Unknowingly we met before, had a conversation too, like we were destined to meet. After discussing with him, came to know that there is a separate route too, which is actually meant for hikers and trekkers , its from the opposite side of the fort. He suggested that his brother will guide me to that route.

    I thought it would be a simple route, but it was steeper,more challenging and through dense forest.

    Harshal’s brother insisted me not to go alone, but I insisted him to let me, as otherwise it wouldn’t serve the purpose. Finally he agreed; and I went by myself to continue.

    Milestone 4: Reaching the top

    With a stick in hand, eyes and ears alert, I kept walking and climbing. Tall grass, rocks in between, slippery hills, nothing could stop me.

    I just had one thing in my mind,  I have to reach the top. There were places when I felt I wont be able to go further. The first time I came across a probable block, totally steep rocks, I panicked, wondering how would I manage. It was like a big challenge for me, but I managed, the grass which seemed hurdle for me, came to rescue, it gave me better grip while climbing. Similar blocks kept coming; I found my own way to keep moving forward. It became more and more humid, and the route more and more difficult. At a point later, I felt lost again, couldn’t find the way ahead. With no humans within kilometres, there was no point in shouting for help too. I halted, took deep breathes, and felt good about reaching so far. The small, quaint village of Pali was visible. I settled on a rock somehow.

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    By this time, I started enjoying the silence; the silence of nature. I started enjoying being alone; I began my introspection, trying to find answers to the questions I had within myself. Then suddenly I hear a hissing noise, and felt something crawling near my feet, Yes , it was a snake !! Startled initially, but dint make any movement, and it just passed quietly. That time I realized, Nature doesn’t harm humans, humans harm nature.

    Gaining confidence, started again. It was cloudy by then, something which was both a reason for being happy and worried, happy as the scorching heat won’t trouble me, worried as it would be really difficult if it starts raining. Hence I increased my pace to avoid getting stuck between insects and snakes. I climbed and climbed, and finally almost reached the base. I could see the fort , and was curious to get to the top, and other side.

    Completely exhausted due to the humidity, I decided to give my back some rest. Lying on the grass, with a sense of satisfaction, was a beautiful feeling that nothing can replace. I walked a little further, and decided to stop, and go back. Not that I gave up, but my purpose was fulfilled, the journey gave me answers I was searching for. Also it was a calculative decision, as continuing the return journey, when it rained would be difficult; and I couldn’t afford to wait.

    Milestone 5: Return Journey

    I thought the return journey would be very easy, but again, obvious assumptions tend to be wrong. I was confident and bold, with no fear at all, but there were times I literally sloped down the steep rocks. Finding the way was another task, I got confused between the trees and landmarks which I thought would help me in my return trip.

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    Instead of descending vertically, I started going horizontally, like a crab. Using this technique, I covered most of the area. I reached near to the village. But I knew I was going on a different route than I started. Looking at the village, managed to find the way. And this way, I reached down. I could see the twin fort of Sudhagad too.

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    Harshal had come to pick me up. He was still worried, but happy to see me happy and safe. He told me it was a risky decision, to continue it alone, that too from the opposite side. I also became aware that monkeys in approximately groups of 20,attack hikers, particularly in that season.He purposely dint tell me prior to the start. I felt grateful, that I din’t encounter such attacks. He dropped me at a restaurant near ST bus stand and returned to his.

    As soon I entered the restaurant, it started raining heavily. I looked back, and thanked God again. Feeling dehydrated, ordered fresh lime soda and puri bhaji after changing my clothes.

    The Conclusion

    I couldn’t conquer the fort, but I conquered one of the biggest fear, which every human share, the fear of being alone. An extrovert by nature, can enjoy being alone too. The writer within me loves to spend time alone, get lost in nature, because nature has its own way to answer questions, and provide guidance.The journey made me firmly believe something which I always read and found beautiful, Paulo Coelho’s quote, When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Connected everything to it- me unknowingly halting at Harshal’s restaurant, those villagers warning me, the snake passing by, my decision to descend, me being safe and not attacked by monkeys… and then it all made sense…

    Straight from my Heart,

    Prakriti Singh

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    Kharghar Hills- The Unplanned Nature Trail

    Kharghar Hills- The Unplanned Nature Trail

    Kharghar hills signify the start of Kharghar, welcoming everyone who enters the node; with beauty at its peak during monsoon. I see them everyday, every time my train reaches Kharghar,every time when I take a train from Kharghar. But seldom do I go walking there, maybe because I am busy exploring the interiors and because of other commitments. I went there in December, but not during or just after the rainy season. Finally got a chance to visit, thanks to long weekends.:)
    My friend Sneha and I had planned for an early morning walk, which ultimately became a nature trail. It is open only from 6 am – 9 am in the morning. But we started only late, 7 50 we were at the gate. People were coming down, while we were just about to start. The guard even warned us to be back on time, maybe because he saw Sneha’s camera or assumed we are lazy to come so late 😉

    We started walking, initially at a good pace. Everyone there seemed so energetic and fresh, wishing each other good morning. The path was surrounded by green trees on both side. Our pace started reducing gradually, and then there was a time, when there were just two of us on the path !! We started capturing the beauty around us.While Sneha was capturing everything on her camera, I was just living the moment, and capturing everything in my heart. Due to monsoon, and even post monsoon showers, the flora and fauna were richest. There were  waterfalls also, some almost dried, and some small ones. Banana trees, Gulmohar trees and many wild plants accompanied us in our leisure walk. Crabs are very common, and keep running and side-walking throughout. Even butterflies, we saw so many of them !

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    We were meeting after a long time, and there was lots to talk about. And the serenity of nature, gave the perfect moment for heart-to-heart talking session. We shared and discussed each other’s problems, and then ultimately left on a note that if something is meant to be,it will happen; We can only give our best and believe in positivity.

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    The path seemed so very photogenic that we paused so many times for that perfect shot. The song “Tanha Dil” by Shaan came to my mind. I even shared this with Sneha, and then we both started singing the song. Then we realized that it was already 8:16 and we were not even half-way !! I told her to rush, but a photographer can’t miss to capture a place in its entirety. We saw a chameleon and she tried to capture it, but could not. We find them very fascinating, we discussed how it camouflages. In my mind, related it to life, how one should adapt to a situation, however it is.

    Speeding up, I reached a little ahead of Sneha. There was a beautiful silence all around, and also the sounds of nature. The chirping sound of birds, the flow of wind, the humming noise of the insects and birds. It was so soothing. With the crowd of the city, and noisy horns we fail to listen the beautiful and diverse sounds of nature. I was lost for a moment, in the silence, in the beauty, or in my thoughts !! And then suddenly Sneha shouted, “Hey I got it”. She managed to capture a chameleon(not sure a garden lizard or a chameleon). Again, we restated, the power of positivity, hope and “if its meant to happen, it will”

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    We reached the first view point, that time we realized that we have covered some distance and height. We saw some people there, resting after their walk/jog. It was a little foggy morning.

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    Sneha wondered if there is more to see, and if we should go back. I told her to keep going, and it is worth it. By this time, all sweaty and drained because of humidity, still kept walking. We anyway had crossed the allowed timings, why not experience fully 😉

    We met few villagers on the way. They seemed happy and content. I was wondering that they must be so used to climbing up and down the hill for basic necessities. I smiled and waved at them, they smiled back too 🙂

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    Paced up and finally reached the end point. The point where it diverts into the village, and the view point. The Kharghar hill plateau was seen from there, full green and live. A better view of Kharghar, the entire node, the well planned one.

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    Hence we considered our journey as successful, reaching till the top of hill. Learning so many things, getting so close with nature, spending quality time and clicking so many wonderful pictures. We asked for a lift while coming down, the driver had permissions to take the villagers, hence we were not asked any questions..

    Let the journey never end…Keep moving

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    Photo credits:  Sneha Panchal

    Special thanks to her, contact her for photography assignments Contact Sneha Panchal

    Contact me for exploring Navi Mumbai 🙂

    Straight from My Heart,

    Prakriti Singh

    Gallery:

    Owe Dam, Kharghar: The Beauty and the Beasts

    Owe Dam, Kharghar: The Beauty and the Beasts

    The more I spend time with nature, the more I find myself, the more I realize that happiness lies within, yet we search it in others.

    Owe dam, Kharghar is such a place, to find oneself , to get lost in nature, to experience peace ! The moment I reached, I was mesmerized by the beauty, green hills all around; the calm and quiet water in centre.

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    The journey is more amazing, starts with wide clean roads and ends with off roading on muddy ground; starts with city and ends falling in love with a village, Owe camp.

    I have been there many times, and every time I go there, I find and learn something new. The first time I went there, I was speechless. The nature lover within me wanted to stay there forever, and experience nature in its true form. Only a few minutes there can make someone feel so relaxed and peaceful from within.Every time I promise myself to be there back again. My friend took me there for the first time, it was an unplanned visit. We were four of us in car. The way is through Owe camp, and includes off-roading.Muddy roads surrounded by rice fields accompany us till the destination. We felt like dancing in joy, the colour green has some energy attached to it; it denotes freedom, freedom to grow. The green grass all around made us feel free, free from pollution, free from the crowd, and free from the hustle and bustle of the city. There were few villagers who were swimming in the dam water. We crossed the hill and sat peacefully on the other side. The place seemed untouched by humans, and that fascinated us more.

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    The second time, we were three girls on a two wheeler. More fun to drive on the muddy roads 😉 Actually no, I was at the last and had to get down every time it got stuck. Unaware of the destination, they kept doubting me and my decision to come there, somehow I convinced them to keep going. This time we had to park our vehicle, a little far from the destination.

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    On the way we met a villager, she owned the rice fields there. We confirmed our way to the dam, and kept going. The feeling and sight on reaching was just the same, but there was something which was changed. The beauty of nature, which I described as untouched by humans, seemed disturbed. The place which was earlier just green had plastics and wrappers for biscuits and snacks. There were bottles at some places, bottles of alcohol. I don’t understand why people destroy nature to consume alcohol. There are places meant for that. We just sat for sometime, discussed few life-goals and left. On our way back, we met the same female, she was so excited to show the fields, so we had a look. She even posed for us. She explained a little about her life, and views on how “city people” act smart and destroy the beauty of the place. It was nice interacting with her, we learned that few boys got drowned while swimming in the dam. She then continued her work, and we continued to the “city”.

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    The next time, I went there in the morning. My office friend wanted to see the place. It rained a lot the night before, hence the drive was difficult this time too. We had to park a few metres ahead of the destination, because of the fresh wet mud and puddles. Everything seemed more beautiful in the morning, the fresh green grass, the fields, the hills and the water ! We tried to capture the serenity of nature, which slowly got transferred within.  It is difficult to describe the feeling, because some things can only be experienced.

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    On our way back, I was disappointed to see that the stone quarrying activities near it, have increased to a significant level. In the middle of such beauty, it was a disturbing sight !!

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    I wonder why do we humans keep disturbing nature ? Why do we disturb the balance, why do we destroy beauty, litter, pollute and spoil everything ! Are we humans , or beasts ? Can’t we keep some things as it is ? Can’t we live in harmony !

    Hoping the next time I go there I don’t find some new beastly activity of humans. Till then, have a feel of the journey…

    Humble request – If you plan to go there, please do not litter and be a human, not a beast 🙂

    Thanks

    Straight from my heart,

    Prakriti

    Video credits: Matthew Varkey

    Song suggestion for video: Sindhya B.

    Contact me for exploring Navi Mumbai 🙂

    The Road Not Taken: Discovering Belapur Fort

    The Road Not Taken: Discovering Belapur Fort

    If you don’t value what you have,

    You are sure to lose it

    -Jeanne Philips

    Belapur fort, in Killa Gaothan, the village of forts, which fought three battles successfully is an example of how history remains neglected. It’s been five years in Navi Mumbai and I never thought of visiting Belapur Fort. Many residents are unaware of it’s existence, and those who did, never really cared to discover. It was in my check-list for about a month, and finally ticked 🙂

    The fort is not in a very good condition, but the journey in discovering it was beautiful, surrounded by nature,at its peak because of the monsoon.

    History:

    Forts are fascinating for the history attached to it. Like, every fort, The Belapur Fort has a story too. Not much is available online though.

    It was built in 1560-1570 by the Siddis of Janjira, after they wrested control of the area from the Portuguese. The Portuguese recaptured the fort in 1682 and added in their territory, the regions controlled by the Siddis, near Belapur (at that time known as Shabaz). In 1733, the Marathas led by Chimnaji Appa wrested control of the fort from the Portuguese. He had made a vow that if it were to be successfully recaptured from the Portuguese,  he would place a garland of beli leaves in a nearby Amruthaishwar temple, and after the victory the fort was renamed as Belapur Fort. The Marathas ruled the area until June 23, 1817, when it was captured by Captain Charles Gray of the British East India Company.

    The British partially destroyed the fort in under their policy of razing any Maratha stronghold in the area. During its better days, the fort stationed four companies each of 180 men, and 14 guns ranging from four to 12 pounds in weight. An underground tunnel is also supposed to exist, which many locals believe connects it to Gharapuri Island, the site of the Elephanta Caves.

    The journey:

    It was an unplanned visit. Instead of sitting and lazing in a cafe, one afternoon my friend and I decided to “find” the Belapur Fort. We started with locating it on Google Maps first. We thought it would be pretty easy to find it, but on the way there were many diversions and distractions.

    We took an auto from Belapur station to Kille Junction. I read other blogs before, so was aware about the landmark. I also asked the driver in curiosity whether he was aware about the actual Killa, but he said it must be destroyed and doesn’t know much. He dropped us near Croma on the main road, from there we continued using Maps. After walking few metres, we saw a fort-like structure, which wasn’t located on the Maps too. It was barely visible, being almost on the road junction too !

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    The other side of it, towards the entrance was better, as it is cleaner and attached with a small park.

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    We wanted to discover more, but were a little reluctant as it was totally deserted and seemed a little spooky. After asking the gardener there, we went ahead, there are a few stairs which lead to a watching area with few windows-like structures.

    Old trees guard the fort, and also there is fresh green growth too, because of the rains. Only one floor was accessible. Trying to capture from all corners and views, we were taking pictures from all possible angles, when one traffic policeman warned us about snakes present there. We were lucky to be safe, as I read later that once it was full of snakes !!

    My friend believed that this was the only part of fort left, but I wanted to discover more. I wanted to follow the map, and find the real one. As we walked further, we came across a diversion,one was going straight ; the other road was narrow, and seemed would not lead us to the destination.

    There was also a board “Kille Belapur” and showed arrows, which were pointing to an old house !! We got confused, we even asked people, some were unaware, others din’t wanted to answer !!

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    One diversion, and we got distracted. The Maps showed Sea Coast 1, and Sea Coast 2, so we decided to see the sea coast first. We chose the wider road and not the road less travelled.

    As we followed the map towards the sea coast, we realized we are in a village – Killa Gaothan ! We could see small houses, few cowsheds and grazing fields too. This is actually the base village of the fort, hence everywhere one can see fort like structures. There are also some good societies , which I guess the government bought the land from villagers for development purposes. The original villagers speak some dialect of Hindi or Marathi. On the way, one boy suggested to visit one Devi temple, he also informed that earlier, only some particular caste was allowed to visit it. We were not sure, whether we would be able to go inside, still tried. Small stairs lead to the temple. I was wondering, if this is the same,  Amruthaishwar temple, where  Chimnaji Appa placed a garland of beli leaves on victory.

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    Then we continued towards the sea-coast. Finally we reached the sea coast.

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    We could see the Belapur creek bridge from there. The view was amazing, the silence and calmness was very soothing. Away from the constant noise pollution, the area has a charm of its own, even though it is surrounded by abandoned creek marine boats.IMG_20150818_175050
    We were there for sometime , and realized that still haven’t reached our destination.

    Our cell phone batteries were low, so we had to disable data, no more relying on Maps.On our way back, we stopped near one beautiful society, and asked the watchman there. He told us that the fort, was on the other road. The road which we assumed would lead to no where !

    We went all the way back, reached the diversion point, and took the other road.

    After walking few metres, the view totally changed. Long empty road, with trees forming a beautiful canopy of leaves. There was just one person within my line of sight, he was brisk walking. He seemed familiar with the road. We were walking slowly, getting lost in nature, step by step.

    Snapchat--7917601756575858531                            Snapchat-9051307944281901864Half-way, the same man who was brisk walking was returning. We enquired about the fort, he said there is nothing like that !! Still we could not give up after all this. We continued. And finally we saw the orange flag, showing the direction. I wonder how come that man never noticed it 😉

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    There was a narrow path made using bricks. We followed it, and reached, the remaining Belapur Fort. With the fort which is left today, makes it hard to believe it’s history . No one can believe it fought three battles, and stationed four companies ! There is just one opening we could find, and probably the only one remaining. It seemed beautiful, even though in dilapidated condition.

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    We were just happy we could find it. It was difficult to wait there for a long time, because of the mosquitoes, also we din’t feel very much safe there too. We din’t find any names or rather scribblings on the fort walls, maybe people don’t come there or are unaware. Also, no plastic bottles, and wrappers. That’s the good part. I just hope it remains the same, and people don’t use it for other purposes (drinking, smoking, etc) . There are boards everywhere, issued by Sahyadri Pratishthan, a city organisation working for the conservation of forts, to keep the place clean. Thanks to them, the fort is still alive.

    And hence the journey ended. Every journey, every trip, long or short, teaches us some thing, and this one did too. In the journey of life, there will be many roads less travelled, and many people who would not believe you, and may even discourage you. What matters is how much you believe yourself, and accomplish what you want in life. The road otherwise not taken, maybe more beautiful and satisfactory !!

    Straight From My Heart,

    Prakriti

    Gallery:

    References: 

    http://www.marathiheritage.com/belapurfort.html

    http://merwynsrucksack.blogspot.in/2012/07/belapur-fort.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belapur_Fort

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llhvBB2DDkA