Saturday, May 21, 2011

Harishchandragad Trek 21 May 2011

"Harishchandragad" This word itself is the trekkers delight.This fort is such that the trekker must visit it.Yes this fort tests your trekking abilities.Harischandragad is famous for mant things like its rugged and rough trek,its vastness,nature's miracle,and ofcourse the huge kokan-kada.

Harishchandragad is located in Akole taluka Ahmednagar district bordering Thane district Murbad taluka to west,Junnar taluka in Pune district to south.The mountain of Harishchandragad is divided into three parts 1)The main Balekilla in the east 2)Taramati peak in center the highest point of Harishchandragad and 3)Rohidas peak with a difficult approach located towards west neighbouring kokan-kada.Harishchandragad is located in Malshej area adjoining the Bhandardara mountain ranges.Also from this fort,a branch of mountains run towards east direction till Beed district also called as Harishchandra Mountain range.
Harishchandragad is 1429 meters above sea level slight higher than Mahabaleshwar and Torna fort.

This fort has many approaches
1)The popular one which trekkers from Pune,Mumbai does ie Get down at Khubi Fata near Malshej ghat.From there along the wall of pimpalgaon-joga dam,walk 4 kms to reach khireshwar village.From the temple in khireshwar village,a route will take you till Tolar Khind which is a pass between Harishchandragad and its neighbour Karkrai mountain.From this Tolar khind,take left and a rocky patch climb of 600 feets welcomes you.After climbing this patch,you will have to cross almost 4 hills to reach the balekilla.It takes around 4 hours to reach the top fom Khireshwar. Harishchandragad from this route is approx 800 meters climb from base village.You need to walk more than 10 kms to reach the balekilla

2)Somewhat easy approach is from village Pachnai 26 kms from Rajur.From sangamner on
Pune Nasik highway,take road going to Bhandardara/Ghoti and reach Rajur,take left towards road going to Pachnai/Kumshet.After reaching Pachnai village,walk for around 1 km,after crossing a small bridge,you will see a board from forest and wildlife department Maharashtra state welcoming you to the Harishchandragad-Kalsubai Wild life sanctuary and few rules about the forest written on it.
From this board itself take left and start moving.After climbing a small rocky patch(Iron bars are there for support) and after walking for around 45 minutes,you will find a huge rock towards your left with small caves and valley towards your right side.Follow this route till you encounter a river bed(in rainy season,there is a huge waterfall here).Dont cross that river bed.Instead keep going towards left by keeping the river bed towards right(just walk for sometime on left bank of that river).After sometime now cross that river bed by taking right.Now the road enters into a dense forest with somewhat steep climb.You have to walk around 8 kms to reach the top.
After crossing 2 hills from here you will reach the top.You will see Harishchandreshwar temple to your right,a pool of water called as pushkarni and a small ganesha temple and a chain of caves behind that temple.Balekilla from here is around 60 to 100 meters climb.The Pachnai route is somewhat easier and it is approx 600 meters climb from base village and takes around 2.5 hours to reach the top.

3)The third approach is from Belpada village in Thane district at the foothills of Malshej ghat.Belpada village is 8 kms from Savarne on Ahmednagar-Kalyan Highway.But this climb from Belpada is very much exhausting because it is just adjoining the kokan-kada with steep and exposed rock faces of more that 3000 feets.Suitable for only rock climbers.From this side Harishchandragad is approx 1000 meters climb and takes too much time.
There is a strong wind blowing all the time on the top hence in month of may also you dont feel any heat after reaching the top.

One more popular route among trekkers going to Ratangad
After climbing down half Ratangad,there is a bullock cart road going through forests.From that point take right turn and walk towards Katrabai Khind and further going you will reach near Kumshet,Shirpunje the approach village for Ajoba from here again proceed by bypassing the mighty Ghanchakkar and Muda,Wakri mountains near Bhandardara.After walking 20 kms for around 6 hours you will reach Pachnai village.

After reaching the top of balekilla,you can have a view of Malshej ghat,Nane Ghat to your south and Bhandardara Kalsubai mountain ranges,Muda,Wakri and Ghanchakkar mountains to north.

Places to visit on this fort
1) Kokan-Kada; Ofcourse when we talk about Harishchandragad nobody will miss out the kokan-kada It is the 900 meters(approx 4000 feet) huge semicircular rock and concave in shape.It is the highest rock patch in the Sahyadris
At this point there is always a strong wind blowing.I tried to throw few stones in the valley from this point but surprisingly most of them came back towards me due to the air pressure.There is a tremendous gusty wind blowing here.At some point I felt that this wind might blow me away.Also this kokan-kada point is famous for another nature's unique phenomena the huge circular rainbow and your shadow inscribed in that circle rainbow.During rainy season , people have experienced it and believe me, kokan-kada point is the only point in this world where you can see this unique phenomena (But this doesnt occours too often.In 18th century an british officer Col. Sykes observed this and in 1988 few trekkers experienced this and in 2009 a group of doctors from mumbai who were trekking saw this but this nature's phenomena is experienced only here and nowhere in world anyone has experienced this)
From kokan-kada point you can view area from Nane Ghat till Ratangad.To your front you can see twin projections of Napta,to further north west you can see a sharp projections of Ghodishep and further you can see mighty Ajoba dongar,Katrabai and Ratangad

About Harishchandragad
The top of this fort is very vast and you have a approx10,000 year old Shiva temple Harishchandreshwar temple built in Hemadpanthi style with a huge rock cut and carved.Surprisingly how can such beautiful temple be situated at a difficult location.There are few caves and water tanks surrounding this temple (full and crystal clear water)
Another natures Miracle:Just near Harishchandreshwar temple there is a Shiv Mandir in a cave Kedareshwar temple in which a shiv linga is surrounded with around 3 feets of water.Even in month of may, the water in this cave is ice cold.Believe me or not,nobody dares to get into this water.If you insert your hand in this water,you will find that even water kept in refrigrator is not that much cold.
Harishchandragad is believed to be around 10,000 years old.There are no traces in history available about Harishchandragad and Shivaji Maharaj but in 12th century,noted saint Changdev Maharaj during Dnyaneshwar Maharaj period used to stay here for meditation.The balekilla has some walls of fortification.Harishchandragad was in Peshwa rule for some period before the britishers captured it in 1819.

Where to Stay:
There are lot of caves on fort behind Ganesh temple and in Harishchandreshwar temple so at the most more than 100 people can be easily accomodated plus there are 2-3 houses belonging to people of Pachnai village hence getting food and tea is not a problem.In the water tank at Harishchandreshwar temple,there is abundant crystal clear drinking water available.
Also at base village Pachnai there are few houses who can allow to accomodate if requested.
If trekking from Malshej Ghat-Khubi Fata side,then base village Khireshwar has got few temples to acomodate people

My route:
I started from Pune saturday 21 May 2011 around 3:30 am from pune and reached the base village Pachnai 7:00 am.Parked car in Pachnai village and started walking towards the bridge from the board,I followed the path which the villagers of pachnai use.Also one more family from Rajur accompanied me at Pachnai village.After crossing the the river bed and entering dense forest,there was lot of black berries/karvanda .We were 7 people and within 1 hour walk,almost everyone were able to collect about 1 kg of berries.These berries were abundant.Also At few times I seen the blue mormon butterflies found in deep forests of sahyadris.One butterfly I seen was almost equal to my palm size(It is not a moth.A proper butterfly but I dont know about its species)
There are too much medicinal plants available in that forest.You can find Hirda,Beheda,Arjuna(Called Sadada in Marathi),karapa,Jambhul very commonly plus you can get wild lemons(Junglee limboo) and karvand abundantly
I reached the top around 10:00 am.In 30 minutes,I reached balekilla,saw view from top and came back to the temple,had lunch in afternoon in the temple caves and headed towards kokan-kada around 2:00 pm and came back to Temple around 4:00 is a 30 minutes walk from temple to kokan-kada.After having some tea,I decided to move back around 4:30 pm(I was not able to go to Taramati peak because again for that I have to traverse round the balekilla and come back from kokan-kada side again to temple so again 2 more hours) and after folowing the same route,I reached the base village around 5:30 pm and in 15 minutes I headed back towards Pune and reached Pune around 11:00 pm

Approach and Public Transport to base villages:
1) From Malshej route no problem at all.Buses from Mumbai to Ahmednagar halts at Khubi Fata as well as Savarne(near Belpada 8 kms).Also buses from Pune to Kalyan going through Otur halts at Khubi Fata.
2)From Pachnai,looking at road condition, I dont think that ST bus comes till that village.Few Jeeps are seen but still I think that they drop you around 3 kms from the base village.

Petrol Pumps Availability
1)From Malshej ghat nothing to worry because you can find petrol pumps till near Malshej Ghat coming from Pune side and there are many petrol pumps from Kalyan-Murbad till Tokavde
2) From Sangamner-Igatpuri route there are very less petrol pumps.After Sangamner there are 3 pumps near Akole, 1 near Rajur(always closed/no stock) and after that you wont find any pump till Igatpuri.

Well Here are some Photos

Way towards Harishchandragad from Pachnai

Harishchandragad seen after climbing half the route

Balekilla of Harishchandragad to left and Taramati peak to right

Pushkarni on Harishchandragad

Rock carvings near Harishchandreshwar temple

View of Harishchandreshwar temple

Harishchandreshwar Temple

Caves and Water Tanks in Harishchandreshwar temple

Kedareshwar Temple famous for Shiv-linga immersed in ice cold water of around 3 feet

From top of Harishchandragad (Ghanchakkar and Muda mountains view in front)

View from Kokan-Kada point

Rohidas Peak in front seen from Kokan Kada Point(It is very difficult to reach there)

Aerial view of Kokan Kada(There is a small trench at kokan-kada point and from here just lye down and stretch your hands as much as you can with camera in air and you get this photograph of kokan kada)

Aerial view of Kokan Kada 2

Wish I could Fly