Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts

Anjaneri Fort Trek, Nashik, Maharasthra

'Anjaneri' is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman, similar to the hill of Anjanadri near Anegundi. However, it is very difficult to ascertain the original birth place of the Lord among these two. Anjaneri is believed to be the birth place of Goddess Anjani Matha, the mother of  Lord Hanuman/Anjaneya.  There is an ancient temple at Anjaneri dedicated to the goddess. It is unique as it is believed that there is no other temple built for this goddess. We can ascertain that this place has some association with Lord Hanuman. However,  Lord Hanuman is believed to have spent most of his time at a place named Kishkinda/Kishkinde. Kishkinda of Ramayana has been identified as Anegundi and its surrounding areas in the state of Karnataka. Although there are a few other places claiming as the birth place of Lord Hanuman, Anjanadri Betta of Kishkinda is the closest in relation as per the Ramayana. Nashik too has a deep connection with Lord Rama. It is at this place Lord Rama's brother Lakshmana cut the nose of Shurpanakha (Ravana's sister) leading to the kidnapping of Sita Matha. It would be wonderful to trace the route taken by Lord Rama from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka during in his exile.
Anjaneri Hill from the Bus Stop
Good Morning
Anjaneri Landscape
 My initial plan was to trek the fort at Harihar which a much popular trekking destination and therefore booked a cab for the same through an app. However, the driver had cancelled the booking due to some reason for which no notification was sent to me. I woke up in morning only to find out that the cab booking was canceled and the next cab pick-up would easily take at least 45 mins. Thus I dropped the plan of trekking Harihar fort and instead decided to go to Trimbak, a popular pilgrimage center and one among the 12 Jyotirlingas. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon the fort of Anjaneri which is located en-route to Trimbak from Nashik and is a popular trekking destination. It is worthwhile to mention that the bus connectivity between Nashik and Trimbak is commendable and available throughout the day and night. I boarded the 5 am bus in the morning and after a journey of about 45 mins, I got down at the Anjaneri cross bus-stop from where the trek base was about good 2km. I had to cover this distance by foot since no vehicle was available in the early morning hours.
Sun Over Anjaneri
Anjaneri Lake
Contrasting Colors of Life
There are well laid roads up to the trek base. However, I took the shorter route by foot used by the locals  and reached the trek base. What lovely sight it was! On one side was a big lake with blue waters and other encompassed a mesmerizing sunrise. Finally after a good 30 min walk I reached the trek base where there were a few shops and none were open except one that was just getting opened. An elderly person who ran this shop told me to wait for 5 minutes while he prepared some hot tea for me. Here, there were few boards giving details about the ecological importance of Anjaneri apart from being protected as a vulture sanctuary. I filled up my water bottle while the hot tea was getting ready. Though I generally do not prefer drinking tea, the tea here was probably the best that I have ever had. Steps are laid from here till the plateau and in between at a few places, railings have installed for support. Many locals ascend the hill on a regular basis to offer prayers and  perform for daily pujas to Goddess Anjani Matha.
Jaina Cave Temple
Lord Parshvanatha Tirthankara
Goddess Anjani Matha Temple
Lake on the Anjaneri Hill
More Trek Options Near Nashik
Navara Navri Fort
 The first temple that I came across here was a small Jaina cave temple dedicated Lord Parshvanatha. There are 2 murtis of the Lord caved in 2 separate chambers of the cave. A short climb from here leads to a plateau region from where one has to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the temple dedicated to Anjani Matha. After offering prayers to the goddess, it was time for another cup of hot tea. A further ascent hereon leads us to the peak of Anjaneri hills. Though no fortification exist here today, once a grand fort was erected which was destroyed by the British. At the beginning of the next series of steps is a small water pond in contrast to the big lake seen below. There are a few cave temples here which I wanted to explore while descending. I continued my climb and reached the peak in about 20 minutes. The views from here were  breathtaking and no words can describe it enough. There is a small temple at the peak which is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman.
Goddess Anjani Matha
Birth Place of Lord Hanuman
Hanuman Gupha
Tales of Two Lakes
CONTINUED HERE ...

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A Road Trip to Kolhapur and Satara from Bengaluru

Our desire to witness the 'Kaas'/ 'Khas'/'Kas' plateau, popularly known as 'The Valley of Flowers' was long overdue. The best season to visit Khas being September luckily coincided with the vacation we planned. Thus our travel itinerary of Maharashtra was mainly based on visiting 3 places namely the Kaas pathar, the Reverse waterfalls and the sacred Marleshwar apart from others. It is well known that this entire region is a blessing to travel during the monsoon. Thus a 9 day road trip to Kolhapur, Satara and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra was planned. As we were building our itinerary of places to visit in these regions, we realised that 9 days is too short a time to cover all the places and decided to visit whatever possible within the planned time. Our overall journey was good as we managed to travel across as per plan though there were a couple of hiccups for our vehicle, involving a running repair (starter motor not working) and tyre punctures. The same was handled well without much disturbance or deviation.
We stopped by at a road-side hotel about 45 km before Belagavi for refreshments and took a bio-break. While we were all set to proceed further, our vehicle refused to get started. We tried and checked all possible ways but in vain. Even calling the service advisor from Mahindra and acting as per his advice did not produce any fruitful result as the starter motor was not in working condition. We took help from the hotel staff who kindly obliged and pushed the vehicle up-slope for some distance. Thankfully our vehicle started and we moved on after thanking the staff.  We informed the  service advisor about the same for which he advised us to drive down our vehicle to the next available showroom at Belagavi and also told us to call the helpline. We reached Sutaria motors, the authorized service centre for Mahindra in this region who were of little help, who even refused to even check our vehicle for the problem and told us to go to Kolhapur since we were driving in that direction. We were a little disappointed at their behavior as it was an emergency and they were of no help. We had taken care to keep the vehicle on all along and proceeded further as we were racing against time to reach the next available Mahindra showroom.
Without wasting much time we drove towards to Kolhapur and after a few rounds of U turns, we finally made it to Trendy Wheels showroom at Kolhapur.  We reached here by 5:45 pm, 15 minutes prior to their closing time! We were anxious as the next day was a Sunday and most of the service providers remain closed. The staff here were extremely helpful and made immediate arrangements for my wife and kids to take the much needed rest and also arranged for some tea and snacks. Heartfelt thanks to them for their kind hospitality. Suraj, the service advisor who attended to us gave us first hand information that their workshop remains open on Sunday's too. We felt more relaxed now. He also  asked us if it is an emergency so that he could get it rectified the same evening by requesting his staff  to work over time. We were already much grateful to them and did not want to overload their staff.  Meanwhile, the technicians who were working on the starter motor detected the cause of the problem and assured us that the vehicle will be ready by the next day afternoon. We packed the necessary luggage and reached the main town of Kolhapur as the service centre was located off the Bangalore - Pune highway. We chose to halt at a lodge close by Sri Mahalakshmi temple, so that we could move around without any vehicle and much hassle. It was late evening by the time we refreshed and had dinner. We were fortunate enough for having a good darshan of the mother goddess that night. The atmosphere here was electrical. We returned to our hotel and retired early. 

Next day, we started a bit slow and lazed around while we got a call from Mahindra informing us to collect the vehicle by 2 pm. We walked around in the temple premises and decided to visit the temple again, but were taken aback by the huge crowd. We later realised that it was Krishna Janmasthami that day and during Shravana month, a large number of people come to offer prayers. We visited a few more places around the main temple and then reached Mahindra showroom. Our vehicle was ready and after the necessary checks, we were all ready to continue our journey ahead with much enthusiasm. They had done a great job in a short time and their service was impressive. Knowing that we would be their one time customer and that too for a running repair problem, their action and efforts were highly commendable. We witnessed the striking contrast between the customer service provided by two Mahindra authorised dealers, where one even refused to look at the problem and the other acknowledged with exceptional service! Trust us! This kind of quality customer service is rather quite rare in today's world. Thank you again Trendy Wheels, Mahindra at Kolhapur!
The same evening while returning from Khirdapur, our vehicle had a flat tyre, this time luckily right in front of a puncture shop at Ichalkaranji. The mechanic took less than 5 minutes to fix the puncture and we were back on the road. We continued to explore various places the next four days until Friday, when we were a bit relaxed and hence planned to take an adventurous route to Chiplun from Mahabaleshwar. This route is not advised by the locals as it is not much frequented and less traveled as it is amidst densely forested area coupled with a few bad stretches of roads. The route passes through the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and the drive for most of the stretch is alongside the river Koyna, making it the most beautiful one. We were all excited and started driving along this scenic route. We traveled about 35 km along this route and it was heaven! We had another 60 km to finish this stretch. About 7 km from Chaturbet, in between the villages of Dabhe Mohan and Dabhe Dabhekar is a small bridge across a stream that connects them. To our dismay, our vehicle had a flat tyre again! This time around, the puncture was severe as the short stretch just before the bridge had eroded due to heavy rains and consisted of sharp aggregates. I had to change the tyre and made arrangements.  At the same time, a ST (state transport) bus passed us from the opposite direction taking extra caution as it was a single lane road and our vehicle was parked there. Post this episode, I managed to change the tyre successfully only to find out that the back up tyre was not inflated enough to drive. It was around 4 pm that evening and time was running out. We had to cover that stretch before the sun went down. Without panicking, we rested for a while and discussed about our next move.
Meanwhile, a local who was grazing his cattle conversed with us  and witnessed the entire situation. He informed us that there is not a single tyre puncher shop in about 20 km radius!!!! The next question to him was about the availability of any public transport to the nearest town to get the puncture repaired. He replied  that the ST bus which passed by a few minutes back was our only option! The next bus to Mahabaleshwar would arrive only the next morning at around 8 am. That apart, no other private transport is available. Upon inquiring further for any availability of vehicles in the village, he said that there was only one person in this village who owns a bike. So, we both decided to meet him and reached his house. Though we saw his vehicle parked outside, we had to trace him as he was not around. We explained the situation to him, but he replied that his bike did not have enough fuel. Nevertheless he came along with us to analyze the situation. He gave up the idea of taking his bike as it was quite risky amidst forest area and advised us to inquire if the car was available in the next village and moved on.  While I went with the local to the next village, my wife inquired with a passer-by who was very kind, and obliged by giving the phone number of a mechanic he knew who was located about 20 km away. He was damn sure that the mechanic would come by and resolve our problem. He tried calling him but the area had no signal. In fact, the passer-by was himself walking all the way up so he could get signal and told my wife he would surely call the mechanic and inform. When my wife called the mechanic and requested to come by, he replied that he was out of town and would not be able to make it. As the signal was weak, the conversation could not be continued and the call was lost. The news of our vehicle breakdown had spread across the village and a few more villagers gathered near our vehicle. At the neighboring village we found that no one was around in the house. While people around me went in search of the car owner (Sanjay), I was waiting in front of his house. In the meantime, the person (Manish) whom we had approached initially came hurriedly in search of me to inform that he had stopped a car which had come to drop someone from Mahabaleshwar and had agreed to take us to the nearest tyre puncture shop. While I was walking down with him, the passer-by (teacher) called us and told us to wait as he was on call conversing with the mechanic as promised and requested (or rather pleaded) him to come and help. Finally the mechanic was convinced and agreed to come by. We walked quickly to the car that was stopped and thanked the driver who was patiently waiting for us. It was really heartwarming to see each one's kind behavior. As we waited for the mechanic's arrival (which would probably take an hour or so), Manish invited us home for some tea and snacks. As we had our two little partners with us and it was getting dark, it was a safe call. It also began to rain heavily. The mobile connectivity here was questionable as there was a lot of struggle in getting any signal. Finally, the call connected between Manish ji and Shinde ji (the mechanic) and we were told to come near the vehicle. The mechanic tried all possible ways to fix the puncture, but as the cut was big, he was unable to repair it with tools. He gave up at last saying that he will not be able to fix it. We requested him to check the back up tyre and as he inflated it and checked for any puncture, he found none. Luckily now we had one tyre ready. Everyone around advised us to abandon our journey further and told us to go back and take the highway. We thanked everyone who came to our rescue. We drove slowly until we reached the highway and halted at Khed. This was probably the best experience we have had in sometime, where the entire village came to our rescue. We will always remain grateful to the kind teacher who literally pleaded with the mechanic for our sake, Manish ji who was kind and hospitable all along, Shinde ji who came all the way in the rains, riding through the forest and had to go back in the dark and all  the others who helped us directly or indirectly.
'Maharashtra' is one of the most vibrant states of India and is very rich culturally. Their love for the great Shivaji Maharaja is indispensable and significant, so much so that every place here has an association with the great king. The Western Ghats/Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra comes to life during the monsoon with innumerable waterfalls taking birth from amidst the hills, and the hills exhibiting splendid colors as the flowers are in full bloom amid lush greenery. Though rains had subsided, most of the places we visited greeted us with rains. The plains were hot, but the mountains remained cold. Overall it was a satisfying trip. Maharashtra, truly a great state turns magical during monsoon!
Kolhapur - Satara Road Trip

Route we took 

To be continued.... 

An Unknown Plateau of Flowers - Masai Pathar, Kolhapur, Maharashtra

The Plateau of Flowers - Masai Pathar/Masai Pattar/Masai Plateau

'Masai Pathar/Masai Pattar'/'Massai Plateau' is one among the many plateaus of Maharashtra. While researching the places to visit around Kolhapur, we stumbled upon Masai Pathar and ensured we visit here. Though unaware of what this place had to offer, post our visit to the lovely fort of Panhala we made sure to stop by and explore. Not knowing what was in store made our visit more exciting and what we witnessed was simply unbelievable!  It was nothing less than Heaven on Earth!  A paradise less explored, much beautiful and filled with color. We were at a place second only to Khas or rather equally beautiful. The vast expanse of the colorful flower blooms in all directions made it seem like the abode of god.
Masai Pathar
Smithia hirsuta - Yellow Flowers
Masai Devi Mandir
Masai Pathar is one of the bigger plateaus in Maharashtra, located about 8 km from Panhala. As our guide at Panhala gave us directions to Masai, we reached here without any difficulty. The drive to this location was extremely scenic and thanks to the incessant rains that it was lush green all around. We had to cross the village of Masai to reach the pathar. We parked our car right at the start of the plateau and decided to explore by foot. At first, we only saw small pockets of flower blooms spread across the plain land. As we walked further, we found blooms of various colors.
Blue Pimpernel - Anagallis monelli
Button Grass - Eriocaulon carsonii 
Neanotis lancifolia
Exacum lawai
Competitive World
Senecio grahamii
Utricularia arcuata
 A paradise unexplored was in front of us and we decided to trek further. We spotted a small temple with a lake in its background. We met the guardian of the temple, who was also a local shepherd and had come to graze his cattle. He patiently answered to all our questions, though he only spoke the language of Marathi. He informed us that a further trek of about 3 km (one way) will lead us to the main temple of Masai Devi. We were in two minds about this trek as it was late afternoon, we were  extremely hungry and the weather was not in favor due to the frequent rains. We finally made up our minds to trek in the rains! With all our rain gears out, we proceeded without looking back. It was the best decision ever! As we trekked ahead, we were greeted by flowers, more flowers and more and more flowers! The blooms from the small temple were as intact as possible. The carpet of flowers all through was a treat to the eyes. It was simply remarkable!
Historical Buddhist Cave
A Lark waiting for its Prey
The next place we visited were the historical Buddhist caves which we had sighted during our ascent and wished to explore while returning. After walking along this plateau of flowers and admiring every bit of color around, we reached the Masai Devi temple. The plateau gets its name due to the presence of this temple. As per the legend, "the villagers prayed to the goddess Masai to protect them from a demon named 'Matsyadaitya'. The goddess appeared in this place and killed the demon by pushing him down from the cliff and settled here only in order to protect the locals. A fair is conducted every year during the Dasara festival. It is also believed that Shivaji Maharaja prayed here while escaping from Panhala to Vishalgad during Jouhar's siege.
Masai Devi Mandir, Masai Pathar
Pathar Ke Phool
Beautiful Masai Pathar
'Pandavleni' is a series of ancient caves located close by to the temple. Since it was raining and it was late in the evening, the locals advised us not to venture there. Hence we abandoned our idea of visiting the caves. As we trekked back, it rained all the way until we reached our vehicle. It was one hell of an experience! The beauty and color of this plateau cannot be described in words. Hope this place retains its charm always.
Enjoy Responsibly
The Guardian of Masai

Also remember to "Enjoy Responsibly".

Accommodation/Food: Panhala is the best and closest option for accommodation.

Road Trippers Club Expedition to Neelakurinji Blooming at Kodaikanal

Neelakurinji Blooming 2018
Neelakurinji Bloom
August 2018 was the much awaited month for witnessing the rare Neelakurinji mass blooming that occurs once in 12 years in most of the areas of Kerala.  Last year we visited the Hills of Sandur to witness the rare Neelakurinji bloom, though in a small scale. This year around, we were sure it was going to be on a grand scale as we were planning to visit Munnar which is home to the largest mass  blooming of Neelakurinji. However, I received a message on whats-app one evening about a road-trip being planned to Munnar during the long weekend for witnessing this rarity and decided to tag along. But as the blossoming season was hit by the unexpected spell of rains across the state of Kerala, Munnar was distressed and as days passed by, the situation only deteriorated due to the continuing heavy rains leading to the floods all across the state. Also the news coming in from Kerala was not very encouraging to continue our drive to Munnar, and hence the team at RTC relocated the destination to Kodaikanal.
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As the D-Day arrived, the members of the team began their journeys mostly from Mumbai, while a few started their drives from Hyderabad and Bangalore. We reached Kodaikanal on the 16th evening as per the plan after visiting a few beautiful temples in Tamil Nadu, built during the Chola period.  After a good night's rest at Kodai, we were all ready the next morning  to go in search of the bloom. We all drove down to Vattakanal and much to my shock, this place was already crowded. After all the hustle and bustle of parking our vehicles, we were all set to start our trek. However, we were still unsure of the occurrence of Neelakurinji blooming on the hills there. Though the feedback after an initial inquiry about the bloom was not much encouraging, yet we all decided to continue our trek down and see what lies ahead.

Kodaikanal
View of Kodaikanal from Vattakanal

Mountains and More Mountains
Towering Heights
Eagerly Walking Down
We reached the first view point named the mountain view, from where the sight of Kodaikanal was breathtaking. While I inquired with a local regarding the Neelakurinji bloom, he replied in the affirmative directing us to the next view point. With much enthusiasm, we continued to descend and proceeded further to reach the Dolphin's nose view point (named so due to the shape of this rock) and lo! There it was! Blooms of the beautiful Neelakurinji!. This light purple colored flowers bloom once in 12 years and grow only at an altitude between 1300 meters to 2400 meters above MSL. The patches of Neelakurinji blooms here seemed much stressed and disturbed owing to the crowd movement and irresponsible plucking of the flowers by flocking crowds. We stopped by the echo rock point and rested for a while. As we continued our walk further down, we could spot more pockets of the Neelakurinji bloom. When we inquired about where the path would lead us to, we were informed that this route would end in Munnar in about 16 km. At this point we decided to halt our descent and head back.
Dolphin Nose Kodaikanal
Dolphin Nose
Cyanotis tuberosa
Neelakurinji Mass blooming At Dolphin Nose
We Trekked Till the Last

 The climb up was a bit tiring and uneventful. We regrouped at the start point of the trek,while a few  headed to the parking lot to bring up their vehicles. One of our vehicles halted up slope and due to the terrain and the narrow space available for driving, it was tricky to either go back down to the parking or come up. However, a good Samaritan came to our rescue and with the combined efforts of RTC, the vehicle was driven up slope and we moved ahead. The evening was enjoyable and to top it up, the wild Gaurs visited the resort and spent quite sometime alongside. The entire experience was a wonderful one! It was great meeting like minded road trippers from various parts of India. Kudos to the entire team for having completed this expedition successfully! Read more about the drive here. If you wish to join us on such drives, kindly visit the website of Road Trippers Club for more information and  be a part of many such fabulous drives across India. We are very thankful to Vineet and the RTC team for tagging us along for this drive and ensuring that we witness the rare phenomenon of Neelakurinji blooms.
Experience and Curiosity
Young Explorer
Clouds Kissing the Mountains
Wild Gaur with Cow

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