Doing the Flying-Fox at Vihi-Kasara

I came to know there was a water rappelling event organized by VRangers this weekend via the Mumbai Hikers blog. We booked it and only realized later that it was 220+ km away and we’ll have to be there by 10am. Ouch. We inquired for stays in Igatpuri so that we can reach there on Saturday afternoon and head back on Sunday afternoon. No luck – every single hotel we could reach out to was fully booked. Yikes, what is so special about this place Igatpuri that the whole area is full? We were going to find out later since we decided to head out anyway, and started driving at 5:30am on a Sunday morning.

We headed out on the Maharashtra State Highway 50 which is a 2-lane no-divider highway which made it difficult and slow to drive because of the slow heavy trucks. An hour later, we stopped at this beautiful spot to have packed healthy sandwiches for breakfast:

View from our breakfast spot
View from our breakfast spot

 

View of breakfast point
View of breakfast point

 

View from our breakfast spot
View from our breakfast spot

 

Breakfast spot
Breakfast spot

 

Less than an hour later, Google Maps showed a possible route other than going through Nashik and we wanted to avoid going to Nashik. So even though the locals also discouraged us, we decided to take the shorter SH51 route that Google Maps showed us, and boy are we glad that we did!

SH21 to Igatpuri
SH21 to Igatpuri

 

The Road

 

The Road

 

Flower field
Flower field

 

Waterfalls by the road
Waterfalls by the road

 

The road

 

Lush green hillocks
Lush green hillocks

 

The road

 

Field, where we stopped to eat apples
Field, where we stopped to eat apples

 

Raining while driving in the beautiful scenic road
Raining while driving in the beautiful scenic road

 

Clouds into the hills
Clouds into the hills

 

The road

 

Big waterfalls seen at a distance
Big waterfalls seen at a distance

 

Waterfalls, by the road
Waterfalls, by the road

 

The road

After feasting our eyes on lush green hills, beautiful waterfalls far and near (by the road side) and green fields with grazing animals, we reached our final destination – Vihi gaon, near Manas Resort, Igatpuri, after 5.5 hours of driving through countless bends and turns.

We were both excited to do waterfall rappelling but when we reached, they said that due to heavy rainfall and strong water flowing, the number of safe spots that rappelling can be done from is only one and another group had already taken it up, so we were going to do another activity. We were disappointed at first but safety concerns are important, so we were happy there was another activity – the flying fox  (also called a zip-line).

Although there were too many people in queue (nearly a hundred!), the organizers VRangers handled things very well and ensured everyone’s safety as well as fun.

Crossing the water to the flying fox start point
Crossing the water to the flying fox start point

 

Small waterfall level above and before the big waterfall
Small waterfall level above and before the big waterfall

 

Queue waiting for their turn
Queue waiting for their turn

 

Flying Fox start point
Flying Fox start point

 

Flying Fox start point, my wife
Flying Fox start point, my wife

 

A video of the view from the start of the flying fox rope : this is my wife who is going down the rope, it hard to get a good shot because, due to safety reasons, the waiting folks were at a distance from the crew and the cliff:

A view from the other side, the end of the flying fox rope : this is a random person coming down the rope:

Experiencing the water splashes:

View of the pouring waterfall, from the end point
View of the pouring waterfall, from the end point

 

Waterfall full view
Waterfall full view

 

Waterfall rapelling by another group
Waterfall rapelling by another group

 

Waterfall rappelling by another group
Waterfall rappelling by another group

 

We enjoyed being at the waterfalls for quite some time, then went to a nearby Greelands hotel, changed to dry clothes in the surprisingly clean bathrooms, had lunch and finally headed back to Pune around 4:30pm in the same route.

Waterfalls view, from the road
Waterfalls view, from the road

 

River, by the road
River, by the road

 

Small waterfalls, by the road
Small waterfalls, by the road

 

The road, all rained out
The road, all rained out

 

The highlight on the way back was a beautiful rainbow:

A rainbow
A rainbow!

 

We had dinner around 8 at Chaitrali restaurant – their Veg. Kasuri is a must-try. Then headed out again doing the sometimes-scary highway overtaking and the even-more-scary overtaking from left because of slow-moving moron drivers who insists on being on the right side of the lane. We finally reached home at 10:30pm, I washed up and crashed for the night with a smile on my face and aches everywhere.

Holiday at The Machan

My wife and myself recently had a great time at The Machan in Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. It’s perfect for nature lovers who want a weekend (or in our case, weekday) getaway and be amidst greenery and silence. It is certainly not the place if you’re looking for “activities to do in a resort”.

The word “machan” means “a platform erected in a tree, used originally for hunting large animals and now for watching animals in wildlife reserves.”

To reach the place, you need to first book online. Couples and small families go into the Canopy Machan, big families or groups can go into the Heritage Machan. Then, you follow their directions or use their location in Google Maps, because you won’t find any signage anywhere. In fact, even after reaching the place, their name is not mentioned anywhere. They really want to be as natural as possible, I guess.

 The Machan is a little less than 90 km from Pune, so we had a pleasant drive and reached in under two hours. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by this beautiful wooden reception area. It reminded me of the woodhouse in Gharshana movie.
The Machan claim they are completely  “off grid” because they depend on solar and wind power for their electricity. I found that claim a little disingenuous because they have LPG cylinders for heating the water in each machan. But in the larger picture, they are as eco friendly as possible.
We were eager to see our machan for the day and were enthralled by it.
Climbing the stairs to our “canopy” machan
View from the deck of our machan for the day
View down from the deck of the “canopy” machan, you’re literally looking down on a big tree
You could say that the bathroom was luxurious. You could.
We were equally fascinated by the furniture and the british era style interiors.
Old-style switches
Deck chair
Collapsible hanger

After we were done admiring the place and the view, we had a scrumptious simple lunch served by the courteous and helpful staff in the open dining area.

A negative at first is that there is no phone connectivity but it quickly turns into a positive because you end up reading a book or enjoying the calmness.

We met another nice family and had a great time chatting with them. It is one of those chance encounters that leaves a lasting positive impression in your mind.

Immediately after lunch, we set out to explore the estate.
One of the first things we saw near the machans is that there is an upcoming “conference hall” which devastated my image of the place and I was glad that we came to see the estate now before it becomes fully commercial, say, next year.
We had picked up a “trail map” on the desk in the machan room and religiously followed it and were well rewarded.
Crossing the stream with carefully laid stones
Bench in the jungle
Out of the trees, into the field
The trail is visible for any experienced trekker. I realized it’s not so visible for others.
View of our canopy machan, from the bench by the water – observe the top of the photo closely
Bench by the water
Once we played around in the water and relaxed a bit at the “bench by the water”, we set out on the rest of the trail, and suddenly found ourselves back at the bench by the water. We had ended up in a loop which happened to be a different trail than the one we were pursuing. The wrong turn we took was because there was a brook on the left side and we went right. We checked it out again and realized there is a trail after we jump across the water. And we kept walking until we came at this beautiful “sunset point”. The lovely breeze, silence, privacy, and sprinkles of drizzle made us linger here for a long time.
The sunset point is close the entrance of the Machan estate, so we walked outside for nearly a kilometre towards the main road so that we get phone connectivity. Every girl wants to talk to her mom once a day.
We walked back to the room, ordered for masala tea which was perfect after a trek and perfect for the weather.
We started reading a book and a magazine respectively, listening to the birds in the trees below us and around us.
Once it got dark, we fell into a deep conversation about life, dreams, and everything.
After dinner in the lit-up dining area, we slept warmly in the cold weather and woke up to see the mist in the hills.
After omelettes and poha for breakfast, we relaxed by the pond. We didn’t get to see rain on the day we were there even though they told us it has been pouring for a while.
Then, we jumped into the car and headed back towards the concrete jungle.

P.S. Special thanks to BG for telling me about this place.

Mullainagiri, third time lucky as well

This weekend, we climbed Mullainagiri and Bababudanagiri. Even though this is my third visit, it never fails to delight me on its beauty. Mullainagiri and Tadiyandamol are my favorite trekking spots in terms of scenery.

In the 3-4 days before the trek, we didn’t spend enough time on the preparation and hence we were worried. So I wrote a “Trekking Howto a.k.a. “The Checklist” which we can read before a trek so that we won’t have to rethink every time about whether we have taken care of all aspects.

It was a perfect trek in terms of weather and company. We had the most fun in looking back after every few hours and seeing how far we have come, since we could actually see the Mullainagiri temple while trekking towards Bababudanagiri.

Mullainagiri III 05
Mullainagiri III 11
Mullainagiri III 27

How to do the Mullainagiri trek : Arrive at Chikmagalur. Hire a jeep to take you to the starting point of the trek, cost Rs.250. The starting point is a small iron gate that will lead you directly into the hill. Follow the path. After 1-2 hours, you’ll reach the topmost point – the temple. You can request the purohit here to stay for the night and they’ll even prepare dinner if you ask them. Wrap yourself up in your sleeping bag for the night because it is going to get really cold.

The next day morning, start early or late depending on whether you want to face the cold weather, but leave at least by 8 or 9. Make sure you donate a good amount to the purohit for being a good host. Follow the path downhill towards the right from the temple. After a few hours, you’ll reach the road. Cross the road towards the right and start trekking downwards. This is the start of a good long up-and-down route towards Bababudanagiri. Once you reach the destination, have some tea and pakodas at the stalls. Then either hire a jeep (Rs.10-20 per head) or walk down to the Bababudanagiri temple. Make sure you catch the 3.30pm bus which will take you back to Chikmagalur.

Mullainagiri III 24
Mullainagiri III 44
Mullainagiri III 50
Mullainagiri III 55

The photos are of low quality because they are taken using my mobile phone. Regardless, the rest of the photos are in my Flickr set.

Update: Photos by Vikram and photos by Varun.

Trekking in Kodachadri

This weekend, one of my long-pending wishes came true: I finally trekked Kodachadri.

Kodachadri is a mountain in the Western Ghats, in Karnataka. It is a famous trekking spot.

On Saturday morning, we reached Nittur, grabbed some breakfast and then proceeded towards Kumble, the starting point of the trek. Right there, I could see clouds playing hide-and-seek among the mountains and I knew it was going to be a good trek.

Kodachadri 07

What I didn’t know was how awesome the 14 km of terrain was going to be. At one moment we would be trudging in the mountain avoiding branches and forcing through thick vegetation, the next moment we would be crossing a stream of water…

Kodachadri 09
Kodachadri 15
Kodachadri 18
Kodachadri 27

… Some time later we would be climbing up very slippery stones right next to flowing water, then suddenly in an open area and then walking along the edge of a cliff while it is raining and then walking in the clouds, literally. This was easily one of the best trekking spots I’ve ever been to, and I was so happy that I finally got to be there. We even got to drench ourselves in a freezing cold waterfall.

Kodachadri 36
Kodachadri 37
Kodachadri 41

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