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Enchanted by a mountain god.Harishchandragad



Harishchandreshwar Temple
Harishchandrshwar temple atop the plateau
The Mountain

Harishchandragad is probably the favorite destination for most trekkers (both casual and regular trekkers). It offers views no other destination can offer It presents phenomenon which cannot be found anywhere in the world . Tourist from outside India frequent this spot.  
Whats so unique about Harishchandragarh? A formation of mountains to create a special view called Konkan Kada . No one who visits it , believes it at first. It will forever capture a part of your memories. Still today , I can remember that exact time when I stood with a gaping open mouth, thunderstruck. 
From its summit , at morning, I watched the sun emerging in between clouds from its abode . All the stories I heard became true. There is nothing beautiful than nature.
This was the second trek of my life (first being Ratangarh..another gem..another fantastic trek). And this was special. A night trek.

Inside my mind


I had no idea how a trek with medium grade difficulty can be organized with a group of amateurs. Children, wives and husbands, oldies and youngsters, all bunched together. There were families, school and college students, few IT guys (like me). Scary & Interesting

As stories travel longer than reality, I had heard a lot about Harishchandragarh. Mostly disturbing news. People jumped off in a fit of nostalgia just after they saw Konkan Kada. Apparently in their suicide speech, they said, they have nothing left to live for,  as they have seen the greatest creation of god. 
I had already pictured myself around the movie 300 , the Greek warrior, Leonidas climbing the rocks with great skill. I stepped on that bus with this picture in my mind. This is all crazy. I don't need this. But something kept pushing me. Stop being a coward. It will be OK

Journey to base station


We started around 9 PM from Pune. I was picked up at SNDT bus stop by the group leader Prateek. I was shocked when I saw him at first. A boy, a college going teen (Later I came to know, this boy was a boy wonder with 500+ treks starting from his early school days). Oh my god, I'm done for. It was 13th December, 2014. I had a lot of stress in mind. Job, incoming marriage wave etc etc and all this fresh data added to nervousness. Nevertheless, I left it all behind. Soon antakshari started. Boredom kicked in. I'm not the sort of person who enjoy high decibel crowd. I plugged in my earphones. Shunned them off.
It took around 4 hours (can take 5-6 hours at day) to reach Nashik. Base village, Khireshwar . The bus came to a stop on a half-baked stone road. Seemed like a dead end. We got out of the bus one by one into pitch darkness. I had my cycle torch ready. Time was 1 AM. A sign board in a corner, which looked like beginning of a trail said,

"Road to Harishchandragad"

The Ascent

There are 5 different routes to reach the village and each presents its own difficulty of grades of difficulty and this was supposed to be medium.
We gathered for a group photo session in the dark. (I did not get the point here....we must be looking like idiots in the photo). We started on the trail. It was to my surprise, easy and thrilling. The weather was chilly. Visibility dropped as we climbed higher as fog density thickened. After some time, I found myself spearheading the group. We stopped at a flat point trying to start a bonfire. All in vain as the air had so much moisture (We were literally inside the clouds). We ended up wasting a lot of kerosene we carried for preparing breakfast next day..



Bonfire attempt while ascending

We continued. Reached at around 3:30 AM to village Harishchandragarh. I was really confused about the demographics of spot. Soon , we were ushered in the caves nearby (around 4 caves with a lot of capacity). It was suffocating. One tiny door. More than a dozen people inside. Welcome to death chamber.


The Night


I could not bear the oxygen deprivation. I abandoned the cave, found myself shelter near a tree . Some companions had already put some chatai (mat) . With sky as my roof , I just laid down. It was super chilly. Very hard to fall asleep. I was struggling to stop shaking. I had no idea where most of my fellow trekkers settled. I saw some groups leaving on another trail. Revolt?

The Morning


 
 Our leader suggested we leave for the summit called Taramati Peak. To greet the morning Sun . We started climbing again. The trail was wet and muddy. 


 Yellow flowers were spread all over the place. Valley of flowers. Welcome bonus . Near the summit , the ascent was difficult. Almost no grips at some points. Literally had to stick to the wall and crawl. To save myself anymore embarrassment , I discovered a new route to the flat top. Forgetting that I have to get down too, I clawed myself up to the top .


And there I was. A different world. 


The sun was just about to show it's face when I saw nothing short of what I call, miracle. I saw tiny heads began to show. Mountain heads. Like they were hiding. Waiting to rise and walk on Earth. 



I saw the sun come up from beneath the clouds. It was the most amazing sight. It felt like I could touch the sun just by raising my hand. Around me, I was surrounded my mountains in every direction. Now I could see their shoulders too. Beneath them. A carpet of clouds.



Surreal. Just....Unbelievable.

Breakfast

This was interesting. Maggi packets were out along with cookware. A small stove. A big vessel, paper plates. I ate till my heart was full.

The Temple



  I finished my breakfast quickly so I can have some time alone with the location. I started exploring. I could recognize many tents plugged on the flat grounds. They were barely visible at night due to dense fog. I found a small hut with smoke coming out. Tea. Nice. Luxury. After this happy moment, I went by to see the famous Temple. I am not a holy person, nor do I believe in mythology. But I saw a cave filled with knee deep water...Which had 4 pillars, 3 broken.The gossips is, .When the 4th one breaks, the world will end as we see.


The Grand Finale


We headed for our last spot. I didn't  knew this will change my life. Konkan Kada. It was close by. As you approach the edge, you will just see a dead end. A long wide dead end with nothing ahead but sky with mountains surrounding garnished with clouds. As I carefully tip toed towards the edge, I saw it. This is something no one can ever describe it to you. .I cant describe it. I cant give you a picture(literally). Because no camera can catch a single shot of its vastness. Will probably need 3-4 images to be stitched together. It was a 4000+ foot straight drop. You cannot even risk standing at the edge. You have to lie down . Someone should hold your legs so you don't loose your wits and fall. Look at the pictures. They might give some, only some idea.


 I sat there for an hour gazing . Once again it was proven that hard work pays well



The return journey was just me dreaming and pondering about the past 24hrs. We cleaned a lot of plastic during our descent. It took about 3 hrs in the scorching sun. Reached Pune around 7 PM. Dead meats all of us. But each and everyone I bet, carries a memory they will never ever loose.

By the way..thanks to my trek organizer..Prateek. Since after this trek, I have had several more treks with him and will forever continue this addiction. He organizes a lot of treks around Pune. You can find upcoming trek details in his group here.
I feel good seeing younger generations interested in nature living outside digital cages. And thank you for keeping patience enough to reach here :)

Find more about Harishchandragad in Wikipedia here.

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