Chanderi Fort and Sleepless nights
p.s. This is a story within a story. All the characters are real and all the incidents are true in both the stories (within my knowledge).
I and Abhishek Bharatiya set out to trek on saturday (28th). When we were planning everyone else was busy with something or the other. We were browsing through TrekShitiz , when we saw a posting for a trek to Chanderi fort. It was a group called “Ajinkya HIkers”, a group based in Badlapur. We called them and it was fixed.
Set out at 6:30 am in a local to Badlapur. In our bogey was a group of 4-5 men, regular commuters who were singing. Singing devotional and film songs is a common way of passing time during the long train rides. But what set this group apart was their chice of songs. They would sing one bhajan then their would be a commercial break, a jingle for nerolac paints (jab ghar ki raunak badhhaani ho…). Then they would start a marathi nursery rhyme, with sounds of various animals (bhow bhow bhow ..meaow meaow meaow). Everyone in the bogey had such a nice time, the 1:30 hours to badlapur went unnoticed.
At Badlapur station we met Dinesh (9323731063), a member of ajinkya hikers, who had come to pick us up. We went to their office were we met Prakash and Ratnakar (9323642246) and Anand. Dinesh had some work, so couldnt come along.
At 9:30 am we started. Took a rickshaw to Chinchowli gaon. 10 bucks per seat. From Chinchowli gaon, the trail starts near the school. Ask any local for chanderi fort. The trail goes through hillocks. After walking some 40 mins up and down we reach the base of the mountain. Ratnakar was painting signs along the way. The previous monsoons had washed away sections of the mountain, and the trail had changed.
I was standing on a big rock which had a black patch. It was only when the wise Prakash pointed out the pieces of bones, near my leg that I stepped aside. We where on the very spot where a boar had been cut. I did not recognize the dried blood which almost looked black. The locals hunt wild boars and small game like rabbits. For hunting rabbits and other small game they start fire on a dry patch along an arc. As the fire closes inside the arc, all the animals run towards the opening. Here are the nets in which the rabbits get caught. Since the fires are controlled it is not very dangerous, only the dry leaves get burnt the trees are not harmed. Also this prevents accidental forest fires which can wipeout whole forests.
We reached the fort at around 12:30 pm. The cave is huge horizontally. It can accomodate at least 40-50 people. Their is also a tank near the cave, which when looked through the naive urban glazed eyes seems not potable. But it was that water which kept us going for two days. Quiet clean too, only some algae, minerals and other organic matter.
These people Prakash etc,,are really experienced, not just at climbing, but all the other survival skills. Like starting a fire in no time. Cooking rice for 8 people in a small vessel, etc.etc.. So in no time POHA was made and after eating that we took a nap. at 4:30. We went to the other side which in itself is something. Their are parts where just a great fall to one side and plane rock to walk on. It’s a kind of elimination round. I am sure who cannot get through it could not and should not attempt to climb the pinnacle. We did’nt try the pinnacle that day as the rocks were quiet hot and the sun was goind down. Their is a tank some way down which has some really clean and cool water (no sarcasm here).
Came back and with Prakash as head cook and we as assistants cooked a fantastic dinner/lunch. After dinner i called a lot of my friends. Yeah this place has connectivity. Round 10:30 most of us settled inside our kambals.
I was just getting into REM when i woke up dur to some alien sounds. Female voices.
That’s where the second story starts.
“Oh its bleeding.”
“Who has the first aid kit?”
“Sameer, take some cotton and savlon ….”
mmmmmmm….ouchhhh….. (female sound)
“come on Saloni, i thought u were tough.”
“Dude find some cozy place inside the cave where we can sleep.”
A small fire has been started.
“What do we have first, ….let’s make soup.”
“….and the guitaring…Jeff Beck is the best yaa..”
“so u dint tell your mom you were going on a night trek?”
“oh i just said Shadab had called and ..everything else is taken care off.”
“Don’t u admire these two chicks?”
“Sure man…I know many guys who would have shat in their pants tonight.”
“This is the best paneer tikka I ever had.”
“U know Harish Chandra…danger man …once when the seniors came into our class, i stood up as i was supposed to do…they dint notice me….and then i thought one of them waved at me to sit. SO i sat. Then this Harish Chandra looks at me…”Bhen*&*^ stand up.” ..
He made me murga…”
“this harish chandra is the guy with the nice moustache??” (female voice)
“no no he’s just one of harish’s sidekick, XYZ”
“They have vintage bullets…their dadajee’s ….”
“THese guys are from mumbai only??” (female voice)
“what time is it?….quarter to 3??..we should sleep.”
All these are snippets of audio which i could comprehend with by sleepy groggy head. The only thought the kept me from giving them a, “Shut the F^%^ up, ppl are trying to sleep here” was, one of them liked Jeff Beck………and i myself had done such things while i was in college.
In the morning we woke up at 6 to climb the pinnacle. They were asleep inside their sleeping bags. But what was this I could make out many male voices in the night …how come their were 5 sleeping bags with long silky hair coming out?
The climb upto the pinnacle was the most challenging i had ever attempted. No safety ropes. And rock climbing for the first time. But seeing Prakash climb with such ease boosted my confidence. After some 30-40 mins of climbing we reached the top. There are remnants of a watch tower. Some broken pieces of a stone “aata chakki”..And a bronze statue of shivaji. We did aarati before the shivaji statue and many “Jai shivaji, Jai bhavani”.
Climbing down was technically tougher but mentally much easier. We got back to the cave at 12:30 pm. The sleeping beauties had woken up, packed and ready to go. They were FYJC and SYJC students from HR, Jai Hind and Xaviers. Common thread being trekking.
Made maggi. Took a small nap. Packed our stuff. Cleaned the place. Started downlhill at 3. The sun was relentless. I and bharatiya were in the front, missed a turn. Had to take a long detour, which meant 45 mins extra in the hot sun. Thanks to Ratnakar, Prakash and Anand who had to wait in the village for us. Very sorry to keep you waiting.
So this was the story and the story. It was the perfect trek, with the bonus of getting ourselves lost in the end. It cost us 150 bucks each for everything, transport, food..etc. “Ajinkya hikers” as they call themselves post the scehdules and plans on the trekshitiz site. I have given their phone numbers in the beginning. If you want to trek in the regions near Badlapur, i am sure they will be helpful.
p.s. I have changed some names I had mentioned. It seems some body found out this post and was pissed of because I ‘talked down’ about some people. He thinks I should have shut them up, if I felt so. Indeed I could have, and spoilt their trek. Instead I decided to write an interesting (to me at least post about it).