Off late, the discerning traveler has started to get out of his/her comfort zone and choose offbeat destinations. What’s more? Travelers these days even choosing not so popular weather conditions over high season. However, more and more people are taking up trekking in monsoon, especially in the geographically blessed Sahyadris in Maharashtra. Not many brave to trek during monsoon, fearing rains will spoil their plans. However, I feel it doesn’t rain all day in most of the places and one can still travel in monsoon. In fact, the fun of traveling in monsoon is double. Not only is the weather therapeutic but the monsoon foods, bonfires, the water sports etc make it all the more fun. Such excursions are best enjoyed with close friends and family.
It is one thing to trek in the majestic Sahyadris in the dry season but it’s a different ballgame altogether to indulge in a monsoon trek through the verdant and misty hills of Maharashtra. Of course, it’s a ‘limited period offer’. Come July, August and September and the hills of Maharashtra display their split personality unabashedly.
The dry brown shrubs give way to greenery all around. The hot clear skies turn cool, breezy and mist laden, the nondescript dry streams metamorphosize into monstrous waterfalls and the clouds are your constant companion. There is joie de vivre in the air and you should definitely be a part of it! In my seven years in Maharashtra, I have been to some of the most scenic treks. Here is the list of hand picked trails (suitable for monsoon) for you based upon my personal experience.
Disclaimer: I have personally attempted monsoon treks only in Naneghat (July) and Bhimashankar (August). Rest of the below mentioned treks I have done in dry season. However, I have verified with experts and they have confirmed that below treks are monsoon friendly.
It is one of the easiest treks I have attempted ever. Barring a few patches when you have to climb the steep stairs, it’s mostly a cakewalk. The panoramic view from the fort on the top is breathtaking. The highlight of the trek is Vinchu-Kata (scorpion’s sting). It looks like a scorpion’s sting and hence the name. The trek passes through charming little villages. Wave to the villagers en route, or better still break a bread with them. Check out the ancient but well preserved Bhaje caves nearby.
The route was once an ancient trade route which was in extensive use to transport goods arriving at the Junnar which was then a flourishing marketplace. The locals are still found using this pass to reach Konkan. Not only is it easy to reach but is a relatively easy trek, making it ideal for beginners. The final 20 minutes of the trek was something the memories of which we will cherish forever. It’s a simple uphill route on neatly man made rock cut stairs. What makes it out of the ordinary is that during monsoon one gets to traverse it with a gushing waterfall engulfing the legs as one climbs up. The highlight of this trek was the ancient cave, said to be commissioned by a woman ruler Naganika, probably to serve as a resting place for the traders who used this route. Naganika was the wife of Satakarni (180-170 BCE), the third ruler from the Satavahana era. The inscriptions mostly talk about the achievements of the dynasty and thus are a vital source of information for historians.
Though not very tiring, this trek can be tricky in monsoon. The steps can be slippery. What makes it exciting as well as risky is the last stretch of vertical steps which are almost at a 90 degree angle. But the views on top are rewarding. The trekkers can cook their own food and stay in an abandoned cave overnight like I did. We trekked in night under full moon and it was magical. However, during monsoon, a day trek is advised. You will not forget in a lifetime the intensity with which the wind slaps your face as you reach the top. Spend at least 2 days here. While returning, have a swim in a lake nearby.
This strenuous trek takes at least two days to complete. We started from Lonavala and ended the trek at Karjat. Expect to see different species of birds, mammals and reptiles en route. We were lucky to see a series of shooting stars during our night trek. The view from the fort is breathtaking. We cooked instant noodles in the open and sourced the water from a cave nearby. Our sleep, the next day, was broken by the sound of many bike enthusiasts revving up their mean machines. This place is popular with bikers for off roading. We ended the trek with a sumptuous lunch at the house of one of the locals.
The difficulty level of this trek is medium. However, it requires you to be in fit shape as the trek is strenuous in patches. I like this trek for the many opportunities of delicious local food one gets to eat while the trek is still on. Look out for makeshift huts selling poha , Jhunka-Bhakhari and fresh lime water. Once the trek is over, binge on the mouth watering pedas fresh from the shops lining the temple. The trek is also memorable for a series of waterfalls one gets to see en route. Keep your eyes open for little surprises en route. Beware of the slippery patches in monsoon.
It is the most dangerous trek I have attempted in Sahyadris and survived to tell the tale. After an easy trek of 2 hours, I reached the point from where there is a steep descent to approach the Dhak Bahiri caves. The task was to reach the cave by crossing the rocks and climbing up. There was an iron rod holding on to which I had to walk on the narrow space below my feet to cross the 1st level on the vertical hill.
There was a clean fall and the inclination was around 70 – 80 degrees throughout. So a slip here and there while negotiating the rock patch and I am no more. After the horizontal trek, next up was a vertical climb and then a rope climb to top it all. The next 2 levels were more risky. No wonder, many people gave up after 1st level. Here I had to go vertical and reach the cave holding on to just a rope and resting our leg on not very trust able and hostile rocks. The climb was getting riskier. However, once I reached the top, the feeling was indescribable.
Caution: Don’t attempt this trek if you are not confident! I would suggest attempt this at the end of monsoon season, when it doesn’t rain much, the rocks are not slippery but the weather is still pleasant.
Things to carry in a monsoon trek in Sahyadris :
– A windcheater/raincoat/Poncho and umbrella to brave the rains.
– Mosquito repellents like odomos to fight the mosquito, esp. in monsoons.
– Lots of snacks and lime water to keep energy levels up.
– Camera and plastic covers to protect camera and other electronics from rain
– Walking stick, not much required though.
– Basic first aid kit. Personal medicines, if one is on any medication.
– Sunscreen, caps, goggles if it’s a sunny day.
– Water (around 2 ltrs per person as it is a 3-4 hour trek one side, esp in dry season)
– Spare dry clothes and lots of small and big polythene bags to compartmentalize wet clothes and most importantly to protect your electronics, esp. camera and cellphones.
– Do wear trekking shoes (No chappals or sandals)
– Please avoid wearing gold and other ornaments.
Enjoy the nature’s bounty this monsoon in hills of Maharashtra. Be respectful to the nature and locals when you are at it. If you have any queries, ask me in the comments below.
Note: An abridged version of this article was published in the website Mobo.
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