Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forest trek in Siddhagad Ahupe Ghat Area


Coming with an interesting trek which I did recently.
Siddhagad and Ahupe Ghat area always fascinates me and I was always willing for this trek from 1 year and finally I did it this week.
This trek was an exciting trek for me because it is in forest region with area having varieties of flora and fauna and mainly because this area comes under Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary hence It was more and more exciting trek.
This trek was walking alond the edge of sahyadris just below Ahupe Ghat mountain and reaching the Tungi of Siddhagad-Wadi(Actually I planned to climb up the Balekilla of Siddhagad also but it was around 2:30 pm in afternoon and It takes around 30 minutes to climd balekilla of siddhagad from siddhagadwadi hence it was too late for me and I hence I decided to climb up Siddhagad top next time )

Location of Siddhagad and Ahupe Ghat

Ahupe Ghat lies in main range of Sahyadris around 15 kms north west of Bhimashankar and Siddhagad is located in Murbad taluka of Thane district and lies between Ahupe Ghat,Damdamia mountain and Bhimashankar.Siddhagad mountain is jutted out from main range of Sahyadris into konkan.
Since these mountains are in main Sahyadris range,hence they have ferocious and sheer drop of 700 meters into konkan
Height of the mountains in this region
Gorakhgad: 618 meters
Macchindragad: 560 meters
Ahupe Ghat: 870 meters
Siddhagad: 982 meters
Damdamia:1008 meters
Bhimashankar: 1005 meters

How to reach Siddhagad?

From Pune,reach Karjat and take a bus to Murbad.Get down at Mhasa village.This village is famous for market place of buffaloes.One can get good quality cattle breed from this village(hence the name Mhasa)
From Mhasa,take a bus/Jeep to Naarivli which is 12 kms from Mhasa.Village Naarivli is the base village

Also one can reach Kalyan/Murbad from Pune via Malshej and reach Naarivli.
From Murbad there are lots of buses and jeeps available till Dehri/Dhasai which goes through Mhasa and to Naarivli village hence commuting in this area is not a problem.
You can get a first bus/jeep from morning 6:00 am till 8:00 pm in night

Starting the trek

After reaching Naarivli,get past the end of village,from small paddy fields there is a good bullock cart track going towards your left hand side.Follow that track by walking around for around 3 kms. At a first glance you would feel that you are heading towards Gorakhgad because on this track you will see Gorakhgad to your front and Siddhagad to your right side
This road joins a small river(Now a bridge is been built).Cross this small river and now the road starts heading to your right side towards Siddhagad.Now follow this track and in 1 km walking,you reach a village called SiddhagadPada.It is a village of some 10 houses.
Beyond this village,always follow the track on your right side.
The key to this trek is that if you go towards left,you will reach Bhimashankar in 8 hours and if you keep walking to your right,you will reach Siddhagad in 2.5 to 3 hours
From the SiddhagadPada village,the road gets narrower and starts going inside the Bhimashankar forests.There are many instances where you have confusion of which way to go.
But the local villagers gave me one advice that at any cost dont take left turn if you want to reach Siddhagad.
I followed this advice strictly

After walking 3 to 4 kms in the dense forest,the road starts getting more and more narrow and the forest gets more and more dense.The climd is somewhat steep and somewhere is is a gentle climb.
You cant imagine but in 12:00 pm afternoon,you feel as if you are approaching sunset.Very rarely,you are able to view open space with sunshine.
Suddenly you reach a place in forest which has a open space with few rice/paddy fields and only one house.If you reach this house,then it is confirmed that you are on the right track.
At this point,You are just below the Ahupe Ghat mountain near a place Sakhar Machi.
From that house,you can see three big mountains on your front.Just above your head to your left is Grand Ahupe Ghat mountain.In center is Damdamia the neighbour of Bhimashankar and to your right is Siddhagad
From that small house and fields,again the road enters into a very very dense forest.Again you will find a road to left going towards Bhimashankar and right to Siddhagad

While walking through the forest,you can here all sort of sound
You will hear many chirping birds,you can also hear the barking sound of deer.I first thought that it might be some dog barking but when I met one woodcutter in the forests,he told that is is the sound of a deer.
There might be around lacs/millions of butterflies in this forest.Most common are Blue Mormon variety of butterfly which is velvety black in color and having red and white dots on its wings.It is good that these butterflies are in abundance in this forest.You will find butterflies flying all over the jungle.
Also you can hear roar of Leopard/Tiger rarely but nothing to worry because they stay miles away from humans.Very rarely a Leopard /Tiger has attacked anybody in this area in 100 years.Its my feeling that if you dont do harm to them,No tiger will attack humans unless provoked.Hence I continued my jungle walk inspite of hearing the roaring sound coming from Ahupe area for 6 times but many times it was in repeated intervals.It is believed that Bhimashankar Sanctuary is having more than two tigers,around 30 Leopards at present.This is a good sign that Tigers are back in Sahyadris.
Many times there is a confusion between tiger/Leopard sound and the sound caused due to wind blowing in needs to identify that.
If the roaring sound is continuos,then surely it is an animal sound whereas if the sound is in repeated intervals , discontinuous and of same frequency,then the sound is of wind blowing and not of any Tiger/Leopard .
Also a Leopard rarely roars because it is a silent hunter.It roars only when some person comes suddenly in front of him.But at that time also the intention of leopard is just to frighten that person and to run away because leopard doesnt attack from front.It hides and attacks.A Leopord can easily hide behind only 6 inch height grass and still cant be spotted from 10 feets distance.But this is not the case of tiger.A tiger is three times big than Leopard hence it cannot hide easily.Hence it roars very aggressively to show its existence.But again a tiger also never attacks directly from front hence it is also not visible in the jungle.

Now the road becomes very very steep and ater climbing some 200 meters in dense forests,you reach a waterfall.Even in month of January,this waterfall was existing with a good force.

Through the dense forest,I continued till the waterfall.Also while trek,I met few people in between.Most of them are woodcutters,shepherds of village while some of them are residents of Tungi of siddhagadwadi..
From this waterfall,the road becomes more and more steep and there are rocks all over the narrow road and very dense trees with no sunlight reaching you.
from here the steep climb is continued for more than 300 to 400 meters.
Finally you reach the main gate of Siddhagad on your right after climbing around 650 to 700 meters from base village(Almost height of Torna,Rajgad fort).
At the gate of Siddhagad also you see a road going to Bhimashankar to your left .
After entering through the gate ,you will find a temple in dense trees to your left.
This is the temple of Shri NaarMata .
Now the straight walk of 20 minutes will take you to what is called as Tungi of SiddhagadWadi.
I reached there in 3 hours.I started around 11:00 am from Narivli and reached around 2:00 pm

From the top,I was getting a fantastic view of Ahupe Ghat and Gorakhgad in front,Damdamia and Bhimashankar to right.
The pinnacles of Gorakhgad and Macchindragad were appearing dwarf in front of Siddhagad and Damdamia with Ahupe Ghat in background.

This village is a small settlement of tribal people who live on top of the fort.There are small huts of villagers.Nearly 50 people live here.This village also has a school which is now closed because no teacher is ready to come till there.
The villagers of SiddhagadWadi are very respectful for their guests.The moment,I entered this village,I was greeted,offered water and two ripe bananas grown in the forests.
I just spent around 30 minutes in that village.
From villagers,I came to know that to reach Balekilla,it takes 30 to 45 minutes and there is a road going in dense trees behind the School in village.
It was 2:30 pm and I realized that it was not possible to reach Balekilla because it takes 30 minutes more to reach the top and 30 minutes to see the top of fort and 45 minutes or more to climb down(the rock patch is exposed more hence climbing down balekilla is difficult than climbing up)
So it will take 2 more hours if I reach the balekilla and come back.
Hence I decided to come somewhere next time in early morning and climb till balekilla of Siddhagad

My camera battery also drained up completely while climbing up hence only few photos taken.

I started climbing down around 2:30 pm and I reached around 5:00 pm in base village Naarivli.Overall,it was approx 20 kms and 6 hours trek in dense forests of Bhimashankar Sanctuary

According to the villagers in Naarivli,very rarely only single person has done this trek alone(other than local villagers).
Hence when I reached the base village,almost all the village gathered to greet me because they said that very rarely some alone person has succesfully done this trek.People say that there are many trekkers coming every saturday/sunday but they are minimum in group of four to five people and yet many people have returned back from halfway itself.

One person in Naarivli greeted me with a pet jar containing 6 feet cobra.I hold that pet jar and observed carefully.He told me that he will release back that snake in forest again so that it would go to its natural habitat.
Thus people in this area are very cautious about preserving nature.

Some people in village came to drop me till village gate from where I got a jeep till Murbad and from there,I reached Kalyan around 9:00 pm.

Some History of Siddhagad
There is no incidence in history about Shivaji Maharaj and Siddhagad.But this fort was in Swarajya till year 1690.It was taken by british in 1818.
Siddhagad was at a difficult location and cannons fired by britishers were not reaching siddhagad hence britishers brought their cannons through Pune-Bhimashankar till Damdamia which is slightly higher than Siddhagad.From Damdamia,britishers fired cannon shells to destroy Siddhagad in year 1819.
The villagers tell that those cannons are still left in dense forests of Damdamia.
Siddhagad was used by freedom fighters during british rule.One of the prominient freedom fighter in this region was Bhai Kotwal a social reformer from Neral who along with local tribal people from Neral,Murbad of Colaba province had driven away britishers from this place.Britishers didnt dare to come in this area till 1943 when Bhai Kotwal and his colleague Hiraji Patil were killed by Britishers on 2nd January 1943
Memorial of Bhai Kotwal and Hiraji Patil is south of Siddhagad and around 9 kms from Mhasa village.

Other possible combinations from this trek

1) From Main entrance of Siddhagad , continue to the road in your front .This is the road going towards Damdamia ,Sakhar Machi of Ahupe Ghat.From here walk in dense forests for approx 6 hours to reach Kondhwal and from here you can reach Bhimashankar in 2 more hours and get a bus to Pune/Kalyan/Mumbai.

2) Overnight halt at Tungi of Siddhagadwadi/Naarivli village and reach dehri 6 kms from Narivli to climb Gorakhgad and from there one can climb Ahupe Ghat to reach Ahupe village and get a bus to Mumbai/Pune

3)Climb up Balekilla of Siddhagad and overnight stay in Tungi of Siddhagadwadi.Next day you can get down from Southern side of Siddhagad to go to Memorial of Bhai Kotwal.From here you can enjoy walk on the edge of ghats till bhimashankar but this is a very long route and a difficult one.

Here are some interesting photos of the trek

View of Ahupe Ghat while climbing Siddhagad from Naarivli

Ahupe Ghat in front and the dense forests in Bhimashankar wild life sanctuary

Grand view of Ahupe Ghat

Close View of Siddhagad fort

Siddhagad fort seen from base village Naarivli

Bhimashankar's Neighbour Damdamia mountain

Siddhagad main entrance

School in Tungi of Siddhagad Wadi village top of Siddhagad