Saturday, April 05, 2014

Alang – Madan Trek – 15 & 16 March, 2014 – Part 2 – Alang

...continued from my previous post – Alang – Madan Trek – 15 & 16 March, 2014 – Part 1 – Madan

When at the small cave on Alang, we finished the remaining part of our lunch and were immediately at the base of the 25 feet rock patch. I wanted to see Kailash doing the free climb on the difficult 70 feet rock patch and hence I was amongst the first ones for climbing the 25 feet rock patch. The local guides did a free climb of the 25 feet rock patch followed by Shashank Thosar who also climbed the patch along with his bag without the rope which the local guides were holding above. Encouraged by Shashank's courageous stint, I also successfully climbed the patch along with my bag and without the rope to reach the base of the 70 feet rock patch at 4:30 pm (however, it's advisable to climb this rock patch with the support of a rope)!

Our local guides do a free climb of the 25 feet rock patch on AlangShashank climbs the 25 feet rock patch on Alang along with his bag and without rope
A close-up shot of the 70 feet rock patch on Alang from its baseThe white rock patch on the right hand side of the 70 feet rock patch on Alang that we had seen from the base village Ambewadi

Kailash had a quick Puranpoli snack, bowed down to pray and started his free climb with a rope tied around himself. The 19 year old daredevil climbed the rock patch from the left side like an acrobat with strong technique and spatial orientation in just 3:15 minutes! After reaching the cave on top, he used the rope to first pull up the firewood that they had collected for us and then the other local guide. Again, everyone started wearing the harnesses and climbing the rock patch one by one. Our bags were separately being pulled up with the help of another rope. Since this rock patch was relatively flatter and didn't have many holds, each one of us was literally pulled up by our local guides.

Kailash offering Puranpoli to the other local guide before doing a free climb of the 70 feet rock patch on AlangOur local guide Kailash pulling up the firewood after doing a free climb of the 70 feet rock patch on Alang
Kailash doing a free climb of the 70 feet rock patch on Alang

Our team lead Nilesh Patil climbing the 70 feet rock patch on AlangOur bags were pulled up the 70 feet rock patch on Alang using a separate rope

When my turn came up and I had covered 75% of the rock patch (the key is to just pull yourself up using the belay rope), I got to know the hard way why Nilesh had enquired about my weight when I had talked to him the first time. The belay rope was causing my hands to burn because of which I couldn't use it anymore to pull myself up and my weight was too much for the lean local guides to pull me up. So there I was, hanging in mid-air, totally helpless not knowing what to do next. But luckily for me, a few of my trek mates came to my rescue. Anil, Prashant, Rohan Gokhale and Shashank caught hold of the rope and along with the local guides, they pulled me up. I heaved a sigh of relief on reaching the cave above the patch and thanked all of them sincerely for their help.

It was 5:30 pm and we had to climb the last flight of steps that were so small and dangerous that each step had a hold carved in it which we were supposed to grip while climbing. Nilesh was again instructing us, sternly this time, not to show our backs to the mountain wall while climbing the steps since our bag would come in between us and the wall resulting in us being pushed down the deep valley below. After climbing the steps carefully, we reached the plateau on top of Alang at about 5:45 pm. Nilesh had asked the two local guides to return to their village since their job was accomplished.

On top of the 70 feet rock patch on AlangClimbing the dangerous steps above the 70 feet rock patch on Alang
We reach on top of Alang - water tanks, the cave where we were to stay and an old ruined store house on the summit can be seen hereThe view of base village Ambewadi on the plains below taken from the top of Alang

Once on top, the sky started becoming cloudy and it started raining heavily. Can you imagine rains in the middle of March? But it was a welcome change since it meant that the climate would become pleasant. Luckily, all of us had climbed the rock patch before it started raining and we all hurried towards the cave where we had to spend the night. Thank God that it didn't rain while we were climbing the rock patch else we would have had to spend the night in the cave below.

After reaching the cave, those who were drenched in the rain either continued enjoying the rain or changed their clothes. I had kept aside my extra clothes in the base village to reduce the weight of my bag and hence I had to literally run to get inside the cave to keep myself dry. I did get a bit wet but dried myself off in the cool breeze that was a result of the unexpected rains. The rains were accompanied by lightning and thunder and were so heavy that they started a huge waterfall from the far end of Alang.

At about 6:30 pm, the rains subsided and we witnessed the most spectacular event of our lives. The mist was flowing through the mountains and suddenly the clouds above gave way to the setting red Sun! We thought we would miss the Sunset because of the rains but there it was on top of the mountain range in front in its full glory. We were fortunate enough to witness this astounding Sunset for about 15 minutes and at one point of time the red Sun even appeared squarish because of the cloud cover around it. The Sun set at about 6:48 pm and we started settling in the cave.

Rain drops in the cave on AlangMist flowing through the mountains after the rain

The magnificent Sunset seen from our cave on AlangEnjoying the Sunset sitting in the cave on Alang

Many of us were staying in a cave for the first time. It had a big entrance with a water cistern outside it. It had three big rooms, four small chambers and a kitchen. We started preparations for our dinner. Everyone started extending their help. The ladies cut the vegetables. I chipped in as well by giving them my Swiss Knife, a big Candle and also was holding my torch for providing light. Nilesh and a few others lighted the firewood in a make-shift three-stone stove. We had carried along a couple of vessels. Nilesh, acting as our Master Chef, started preparing rice in one vessel and mixed vegetable stew with Soya chunks in the other vessel using the water from the water cistern.

The ladies helped in cutting the vegetables for our dinner in the cave in AlangOur kitchen in the cave on Alang

Till the time the food got ready, we all sang songs to pass the time. One of our trek mates, Anil chipped in with the 'Aajaa Shaam Hone Aayi' song but mispronounced 'Shaam' as 'Saam' as a result of which a song-riot ensued. Everyone started replacing 'Sh' with 'Sa' and vice versa in every song that we sang after that – Antak'sh'ari became Antak's'ari and 'S'ongs became 'Sh'ongs :) e.g. 'Sh'ama Hai 'Sh'uhaanaa 'Sh'uhaanaa, 'Sh'aayad Meri 'S'aadi Kaa Khayaal, etc. The food was getting ready and we were all starving. This is when our other trek mate Puneet started playing his flute to calm our nerves and hunger pangs. The moon was up in the cloudy sky and even it was emitting red light around it. Finally the food got ready. We took out our plates and spoons, self served the vegetable stew on rice and gobbled up the tasty food along with papad and pickles. We were done with our dinner by 10:00 pm and then we retired for the night in our sleeping bags. Everyone had spread old newspapers below their sleeping bags.

The magnificent Sunset seen from our cave on AlangA red moon in the night skies on Alang

It was a completely different experience spending the night in a cave on one of the highest peaks of Maharashtra! We were to see the Sunrise in the morning and hence I woke up to my phone alarm at 6:00 am. I was sleeping in one of the chambers along with Manjunath and Rohan Gokhale. I woke them up as well and after attending to nature's call, we started climbing above our cave to reach the highest point on Alang to witness the Sunrise. The North Star was distinctly visible over the mountain top. When we climbed up, the sky started getting illuminated and we could see the Kalsubai peak in the distance just peeping out beyond the Kirda mountain.

The North Star over the Alang mountainKalsubai peak in the distance just peeping out beyond the Kirda mountain

The Ghatghar Dam, Ghatghar Konkankada and the plains were also visible in front of us. There were a couple of Water Tanks and a ruined Store House that we passed on our way. One of the Water Tanks were built in a cascading manner to collect the water falling from the mountain first in the topmost tanks and later in the lower tanks as it overflowed from the top tanks – an engineering marvel of the old times! The first rays of the sun came out at 6:46 am in the sky between Kalsubai and the Ghatghar Dam. The rays started concentrating at one place and finally the majestic Sun peeped out at 7:02 am! It was a spectacle in itself. To witness heavy rains, Sunset, Moonrise, North Star and Sunrise doubled with the thrills of the trek and stay in the cave was like a dream come true!

Cascading Water Tanks on top of AlangOld ruined Store House and Water Tanks on Alang
The first rays of the sun coming out in the sky between Kalsubai and the Ghatghar DamThe majestic Sunrise on Alang

360 Degree View during Sunrise from the Top of Alang

We posed for some photographs, made our way through a few ruins of old houses and descended another shorter route that had steps leading to our cave.

Ruins of old houses on top of AlangGoing down the steps of the shorter route to our cave
Close-up of the Madan and Kulang peaks from AlangClose-up of Ghatghar Dam and Ghatghar Konkankada from Alang

Back at the cave, Nilesh and team had prepared Maggi, Vegetable Biryani (from the remains of last night) and masala tea for breakfast. We all pounced on the food and finished everything but for some Biryani which we put aside at a distance for the monkeys to eat. The masala tea was the best masala tea that I ever had in my life and everyone had 2-3 helpings of the tea each. It requires great skill to prepare such delicious masala tea for a group of people and we all praised Nilesh for the same.

Back in our cave on AlangMasala Tea prepared by our team lead Nilesh Patil

Trek Mates India is a very eco-friendly trekking outfit and follow a strict policy of "no trace" trekking. And true to their motto "Take nothing but memories and photographs, leave nothing but footprints!", we burnt all the waste in a pit inside the cave. We then got ready and gathered outside the cave. Puneet shouted out a powerful, impressive Shiv-Garjana in honour of our great king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj post which we started our descend at 10:25 am.

Shiv Garjana by Puneet Karmarkar on Alang

Burning waste in a pit inside the cave on AlangAnd we start our descend

We filled up drinking water from the water cistern on our way and even played a mini-Holi by splashing water on each other (the festival of Holi was on the next day and we were relieved by the fact that we would get a day to rest after this tiring trek). Ahead of the water cistern, we came across a circular stone structure that housed a Shiv Ling. We had missed it last evening since we were running towards the cave to avoid getting wet in the rains. We proceeded towards the dangerous steps after taking Lord Shivji's blessings.

Filling up drinking water from the Water Tank on AlangShiv Ling in a circular stone structure on Alang

We waited for our turn to go down the steps since the cave above the 70 feet rock patch, where we had to wear a harness and gloves again and wait for our rappelling turn, could accommodate only a few people at a time. One by one we got down the most dangerous steps backwards (i.e. the way we came up), carefully gripping the holds carved in the steps and reached the cave.

Waiting for our turn to go down the dangerous steps before the 70 feet rock patchGoing down the dangerous steps on Alang

We got down the most dangerous steps backwardsInside the cave above the 70 feet rock patch waiting for our rappelling turn

Finally I rappelled down the rock patch along with my bag with Nilesh's help at about 11:30 am and waited on the edge of the cliff below the rock patch with the others for the remaining group to rappel down. Later on, I went down the 25 feet rock patch, again without using a rope but without my bag (since our bags were lowered down earlier), and was at the small cave below at about 1:15 pm. This is when we noticed a deity carved in stone, that resembled Lord Vithhal, below the cave. We had completely missed it during our ascend.

Salil Mahadik rappelling down the 70 feet rock patch on AlangWaiting for their rappelling turn on top of the 70 feet rock patch on Alang

Coming down the 25 feet rock patch below the 70 feet rock patch on AlangA deity carved in stone, that resembled Lord Vithhal, below the small cave on Alang

Everyone was down the rock patch by 1:30 pm and we started going down the steps below the cave. The descend was swift with Aniket taking the lead in singing songs this time and we reached ground zero at about 2:50 pm after taking just one halt at the water cistern to refresh ourselves.

Going down the steps below the small cave on AlangA parting shot of the tough 70 feet rock patch on Alang
Coming down the steps, leaving Alang behind usWe reach ground zero and rest for a while

After taking some more rest, we marched towards the base village and reached it at about 3:30 pm. Our lunch arrangements were made at another house in the village. I collected my belongings that I had left behind in Laakhan's house, bought a few mineral water bottles for all of us from Laakhan's shop thereby earning the title of 'Karya Samrat' from Aniket :) and went to the other house for lunch. The house lady served us yummy Dal-Rice with Potato Curry and authentic Maharashtrian Mirchi Thechaa (Crushed Chilli Chutney) at about 4:00 pm.

A parting shot of Alang and MadanA parting shot of Kalsubai, Sakira and Kirda peaks

We finally reach the base village AmbewadiThe village house where we had our lunch

Nilesh had called for a Tempo to take us to Kasara Railway Station. After posing for a few snaps in the Tempo, we bid adieu to the house lady, Laakhan and our two local guides and started our return journey to the Station at 4:45 pm. As usual, we started singing songs in the Tempo to kill time and the song-riot started by Anil of singing 'Sa' instead of 'Sh' and vice versa continued. We reached Kasara Station on time to catch the 6:16 local train to CST. We shared our email addresses and bid adieu to each other at our respective stations. I reached home at about 8:30 pm, completely satisfied on accomplishing the toughest yet thrilling Alang-Madan Trek!

Singing songs in the Tempo on our way back to Kasara railway stationGoing home in the 6:16 pm Kasara-CST local train

I hereby extend my special and heartfelt thanks to Trek Mates India for organising such an exciting trek and especially to Nilesh Patil for guiding us throughout the trek! He and the team managed the trek very professionally and I am already looking forward to doing more treks with them. I have taken some efforts to capture the entire trek in the video below and dedicate the same to my wonderful trek mates, Nilesh Patil and Trek Mates India:

Alang-Madan Trek by Trek Mates India - 15 & 16 March, 2014

Our wonderful Alang - Madan Trek group
Our wonderful Alang-Madan Trek group

Useful Links:
2. Adventure of Alang – Madan with Amit Railkar – Nicely written blog post in Marathi
3. Alang-Madan-Kulang (AMK) Trek – 13 to 15 December, 2013 (Yash Gaikwad with Bhramanti365) – shows the entire trek route nicely with arrows

Note to Readers: If you like this blog post or if you find the information that I have provided in this blog post useful to you or if you have any query, I will really appreciate if you leave your comment below.