I had been on a hike to Dhak – Bahiri Caves in the Sahyadris. Though we planned it out as a short night trek it ended up being one hell of a long adventurous hike.
Amit, Mohit, Vikram, Varun and Me started off from Lonavala around 2:00 am at night. We lost our way initially in the city but the choukidars (watchmen) got us back on track. We had to reach Tungarli Dam and follow the trail half-way (approx 6kms) towards Rajmachi. Then take a right and hike towards Mansarjuma range. It took us 3.5 hours to walk in the moonlight with a couple of breaks in between to reach a place which looked like a village. It was breezy and so we though of sleeping for a couple of hours and hike the rest in daylight. We accidentally discovered a Hanuman temple while it was still dark and slept in it.
We got up by around 7:30am by noises around and so tried to figure out our location. We were at a village and it was good to know that we were still on the right trail. We also met another group which were asleep in a school nearby. They pointed us in the direction of Dhak vaguely and we took off so we could reach early. We were still 2.5 hours away from our base, Kondeshwar Temple.
What followed next was following a trail in the wrong direction for another 1.5 hours through the jungle. At a point we were totally confused and couldn’t find a distinct trail. It was then that I indulged in photographing wild flowers.
Finally, we decided to get back to the village and ask the villagers. We had already lost 2 hours, had 2 bread packs and just half a bottle of water. Back in the village, we understood where we missed the trail from the villagers and refilled our bottles. We thought of having breakfast and then continuing the hike. We had our bread with a generous serving of butter and moved ahead.
This time we were on the right trail. We could see the village, the dam, Rajmachi twin forts (Shrivardhan and Manoranjan) and a distinct trail most of the time. It was 11 by now and we were hiking in scorching heat. We followed the trail through the forest and finally got a glimpse of Dhak. There it was standing tall and a delight to our eyes after so long. Finally, we could see our destination and thus pull ourselves through rest of the hike.
Our next stop was the Kondeshwar Temple. We took rest in the temple for some time and started off for the final stretch. We had grossly miscalculated the time needed to get here. Initially, we were thinking of reaching Kondeshwar by 6am and now it was 12:45pm. The last ST bus service from Jambivali (nearest village) to Kamshet was at 6:00pm. So, we had to make sure that we reached the village by that time.
Most of the last stretch was through the jungle. Feels good to have vegetation to protect you from the sun.
Finally, we reached the point from where there is a steep descent to approach the Bahiri caves. After a 30 feet descent on the right you see a big cave which can accommodate atleast 30 people. From there crossing the rocks and climbing up leads you towards the Bahiri caves.
The path ahead looked dangerous. There was a clean fall of 80 feet of the left and the inclination was around 70 – 80 degrees throughout. The footing of the rocks was a few inches at most places. Me and Amit ventured ahead, others rested in the cave. Actually, they kept a close eye on our movement and guided us along the path when needed. It was 2:30 pm and the basalt rock was hot. No way could we support ourselves on the rock face. Our fingers had a burning sensation each time we took support on the rock. The climb was getting riskier. With no solid footing along the path stopping was not an option. We somehow got ourselves to safer location where we could stand on our feet without taking support from the rock. Next up was a vertical climb and then a rope climb to top it all. Because of the lack of water intake we were more susceptible to cramps. It was then that we decided that we better stop. Lets make another attempt, next time in the morning. Finally, it was a sane decision and we carefully got ourselves back to the cave where others were waiting.
Thats it! We headed back to the village and had some refreshments before hopping onto the ST bus to Kamshet. Journey back home was long (Kamshet – Lonavala – Kalyan – Slow train – Dadar – Borivali) and I reached home at 1:30am. All along the journey I had an incomplete feeling but the satisfaction of not doing something outrightly foolish.
All I want to say is, “I will be back ;)”