Bhandardara and Ratangad Trek:
Sahyadris fascinates trekkers very much and the Bhandardara region is full of huge mountains which is a paradise for trekkers.
Average height for mountains in this area is around 1400 meters.Kalsubai,the highest peak in Maharashtra comes under this region.
You have a big dam in this area,the Wilson lake or Bhandardara lake near Shendi village.
As a trekker,I just thought to visit Bhandardara and then decide where to go(Either Kalsubai or Ratangad.Actually I wanted to go both places but due to time restrictions,anyway there is always a next time).
I arrived at Bhandardara morning around 10:30 am on my bike from Pune.It was a 4 hr Drive via Nasik Highway - Ale Phata - Malshej road - Otur -Bramhanwada - kotul - Akole - Rajur , but it was saturday 1st May 2010 and due to 2 days holidays,I didnt get bookings at any resort at Bhandardara even though I was trying from 10 days.Hence I decided that I will reach this place and search for accomodation.Also tents were not available.
It was 11:00 am now and I was just walking through shores of the lake.due to summer season,this lake was almost dry.
After talking to few people in Bhandardara,I just made up my mind to go to either Ratangad or Kalsubai.I also heard of Konkan-Kada near Ghatghar some 23 kms away from Bhandardara,hence I decided to go there first then come back to Bhandardara.
The road to Ghatghar was full of dust,zig-zag turns,through dense forests(Actually there is a reserved forest between Harishchandragad to Kalsubai area and backwaters of Bhandardara falls under this region).In almost 45 minutes,I reached Ghatghar dam,
From here there was a somewhat motorable road through dense forests about 2 kms where there is the konkan-kada point.
Apart from the dam and one house and one small garden near the konkankada point,there was absoloutely no person living in that village in dense forests.
It was a good view from that kokankada.Concave rock of about 1000 feet straightway into konkan area.From the top one can see the sakurdi ghat area which is a route for trekkers to descend into konkan towards Kalyan.Also there is a Chor Nali(Secret pass) which descends from Samrad to Dehne,the base village of Ajoba Hill.But for this,one needs to climb down the huge rocks.
After that,I again came towards the Dam and while I reached Samrad,I saw a board showing Ratanwadi 28 kms towards right.I have heard much of the Ratanwadi Amruteshwar temple,hence I decided to go to this place first and then go back to Bhandardara
The scenes were terrific.On my left,I could see Kulang,Madangad,Alang and Kalsubai,backwaters of Bhandardara dam and on my right,I could see the Pinnacle of Ratangad,Katrabai,Ajoba and Ghanchakkar,Muda,Pabargad mountains.
The road was not that good,hence within a hour nearby 2:30 pm,I reached the base village Ratanwadi.
It is a village with around 30-40 houses,and a ancient temple of lord Shiva called as Amruteshwar temple.It is believed that this temple is 1500 years old.This temple is marvellous with carvings in rock is excellent.Its structure is similiar to the temples of Vijaynagar.
After having food ,I asked a local villager nearby temple for accomodation and he readily invited me to stay at his place.
It was around 4:00 pm now and I just decided to continue to Ratangad and stay there overnight in a cave and return back next afternoon and proceed to pune,but it started raining when I was about to climb the hill.
Hence I came back and decided to start early morning next day.
I also met a group of trekkers who climbed down ratangad.after talking to them,I came to know that a local guide is necesscary because there are lot of confusing paths while climbing.Hence I talked to a local person and he agreed to come with me early morning around 5:30 am.
Till than i didnt have any work hence,I continued in the village trying to learn better photography with my camera :)
The sunset seen from Ratanwadi village was beautiful.
I had temple in front,with Ratangad fort in background and I was able to see a needle hole on top of the fort through which,the sun rays were coming out and It was looking like a diamond ring(I thought that may be due to this this fort might be named as Ratangad)
I had a stay near Ratanwadi temple and was waiting for morning
As decided,at morning 6:00 am,the guide arrived and I met one more trekker in the village.
So we started our trek.
We just started through the road adjoining Pravara river,Very soon after 1 kilometer, the dense forest started and after crossing the dry river bed,we entered the forest and steep climbings started.
Very soon in half hour,I was able to see the sunrise behind the Kalsubai mountain and shining backwaters of Bhandardara lake with lush grenery all around(I was not able to believe that it was month of may).
Further the climbing became more and more steep and we started to enter dense forests and now,It was sweating a lot and we reached a point where a road among forests go towards Harishchandragad(6 hours walking distance from this point).
This point is most confusing one especially if you are new in this region,hence I dont regret the decission to hire a local guide because I might have confused by the road and would have went somewhere.
From this confusing point,take a right turn and again a steep climb starts and within 15-20 minutes one can reach the ladders of fort.
These ladders are fixed in the rock and after climbing the rock,you reach the Hanuman Darwaza and next ladder takes you to Ganesh Darwaza and from here,you reach the top of the fort.
After reaching the fort,I was speechless.The scene which I saw,I didnt move from that place till 15-20 minutes.
It took total 2 hours to reach the top.
After reaching the top,I saw the huge rock walls to Konkan.These rocks were around 2000 to 3000 feet in height from ground.In your front you see Katrabai and Ajoba mountain with huge rock walls and scissor like sharp rocks of katrabai(Katri in Marathi means scissor)
To South you can see Ajoba and katrabai mountains,To your East you can view Muda and Ghanchakkar mountains and to your north you see huge Kalsubai,Alang Kulang and sharp rocks of Madangad and backwaters of Bhandardara lake and towards west,huge walls of Ratangad falling towards Konkan.These rock walls are almost 2000 feet and straight.
After this breathtaking view,we moved further to take rest in a cave.
The cave is big enough that it can accomodate around 20 persons very easily.Also there is a water tank but not drinkable water in summer(So if you want to stay in cave,Atleast 4 liters water per person is needed).
The reason for not drinkable is because many fellow trekkers wash their utensils by dipping directly in the tank,throw plastic cups and cans,hence a good source of water is completely spoiled now.This thing makes me angry when a good source of water is spoiled.
After spending some time near caves,we decided to descend Ratangad and come back to Ratanwadi.But We decided to descend from the Konkan side through a chimney shaped rock having steep steps.
The steps were almost 80 degrees in the rocks and straight into the valley.It was frightening one.If by mistake if you slip,you will be in the valley within a flash.Very carefully we descended the rock of around 600 - 800 feets and we proceeded towards the pinnacle of Ratangad.
Again the road towards the pinnacle was frightening one.
To your left there is a valley of around 3000 feet with a straight wall and a very small road on the side of wall going towards pinnacle.It was a frightening scene.You have to walk aside the rock wall for around 500 meters so one has to be very very careful here.Please dont prefer this route in rainy season unless you dont have expertize. or fair amount of practice in trekking.
It took 2.5 hours to descend to Ratanwadi from that pinnacle.We were almost dehydrated due to the heat.
Around 12:30,We reached Ratanwadi.
Maybe next time I would think of going to Kalsubai.
Around 3:00 pm I left for Pune.Again there was pre monsoonal rain nearby Alephata,hence I stopped there for 2 hours.Again after the rain was over,I started to go towards pune and reached around 10:00 pm.
Very interesting Biking trip and a good trek to Ratangad I had
Some photos I have uploaded
1) Way to Konkankada from Bhandardara Behind Kalsubai.
2) From Ghatghar Kokankada
3) Ghatghar Dam (Madangad and Alang seen behind)
4) Ajoba and katrabai mountains from Samrad Village
5) Kalsubai mountain seen on the way to Ratanwadi
6) KulangGad ,Madangad and Alang Gad seen from Ghatghar (From Left to right)
7) Ratanwadi Amruteshwar Temple
8) Sunset at Ratanwadi(Needle hole of Ratangad seen clearly in the top of fort)
9) Sunrise on way to Ratangad
10) Reaching the Ladders of Ratangad Fort
11) Entrance to Ratangad Fort
12) Konkan side scene from top of Ratangad.Straight rocks of around 3000 feets of Katrabai and Ajoba
13 ) Katrabai Dongar(Scissior like sharp rocks seen)
14) Huge rock of Katrabai connecting Ajoba and Ghanchakkar,Mutkhel mountains.From this mountain,there is a 6 hours walking route to Harishchandragad
15 ) Mighty Ajoba Dongar famous for Samadhi of Valmiki Rishi and Birth place of Lav and Kush in Ramayana
16 ) Descending down from steps carved inside rocks which are around 80 degrees straight into 4000 feets valley
17) Ratangad Pinnacle
From this Pinnacle,we took right turn and descended to Ratanwadi village