Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kavnai - A night trek in the starry night

19th Dec 2015
           It had been some time since I last trekked, so I grabbed the first opportunity that came my way. With Tattva again, Kavnai it was! And the exciting element here was that it was a night trek.

Though the thought of travelling all the way to Kasara and then Igatpuri played a lazy ruckus in my mind till the last minute, I finally shoved myself into the last train to Kasara.

The base village of Kavnai is around 18 kms from Kasara station. Jeeps are lined outside the Kasara station to take you to various destinations like Igatpuri, Bhandardara, Nasik etc. but to find a ride at such an unearthly hour, one has to call and book in advance which our trek organisers had already done. The ride costs around INR 100 per person up to Nasik. We reached Kasara around 2 am, the train running late and after refreshing ourselves at a dhaba on the highway en-route, we reached the base village of Kavnai at 3 am. There are 2 temples dedicated to Shri Ram and Sita and Hanuman.

We had a local guide for assistance. So finally at 3:30 am we embarked on our journey to the top of the fort. Like ghosts, swaying our torches as we moved through some houses, we were welcomed by barking dogs ready to pounce on us. Thankfully, they kept their shiny pointed teeth to themselves and were satisfied killing the silence of the night.

                In the darkness we could barely see the top of the fort. The initial part of the trek was covered in scree and was very slippery. Without a torch, on these narrow twists and turns, it would be very easy to take a wrong step and reach the base of the village tumbling in no time. All of us expected a cold night and we were dressed accordingly but the climb had us sweating in no time. Halfway through the trek, one comes across a small hillock giving you the first glimpse of the Mukane dam. The lovely waters of the Vaitarna can be seen from the top on the other side. As I have experienced on most of my other treks, the sky was crowded with the twinkling gems and someone pointed a satellite as well.

Our trek guru briefed us that the great Maratha king Shivaji Maharaj secretly visited this fort and had included this fort in his kingdom after his coronation. This fort, like most other forts in Maharashtra was captured by the British and was under their rule for a long time. Another few minutes of trekking over the hillock and we reached an iron ladder. The climb from here is nearly perpendicular and needless to say a bit challenging. It would be more challenging in the monsoons I’m sure. A little above the iron ladder is the door to the fort and seems to be the only structure that is in a relatively good condition that assures you of an entry to a fort, not just another mountain.

We reached the top of the fort in the dark in less than an hour. There is a big pond on the right of the plateau. We decided to explore the fort post sunrise. So, after transferring the cakes, chaklis, wafers etc. from our bags to our stomachs, the melody of the guitar strings was brought to life by Sai, and a romantic rendezvous began in the still of the night.

A few hours later, the children in the sky made a disappearing act back to their homes as the reddish hues spread across, asserting the arrival of the Sun god. The tranquil waters of the Vaitarna were set on fire as the glowing orange sphere grew in proportion. We caught the neighbouring mountains and the beautiful landscape quietly waking up to the mesmerizing sight of the first rays. Sublime scenery for the greedy eyes! One can catch a glimpse of the Kalsubai range, Trimbak range and Tringalwadi from here.

We wandered on the plateau. The calm waters of the pond looked soothing. We met a Sadhu baba feeding fish; he lives in a hut near the small temple by the pond. Less than an hour is sufficient to explore the fort and after we had our fill of sightseeing and photography, we headed back for the descent. The descent almost always proves to be a bit more challenging than the ascent. As we were descending, we could hear the temple bells clanging in the distance. Carefully treading back, we reached the base village of Kavnai in about an hour.

We visited a huge and beautiful temple of Shri Ram. This is not the same temple as I mentioned before. Ask the locals for it. A giant Hanuman keeps watch over an artificial pond outside the temple. Just outside the sanctum, guarded by four elephants, is another small pond and it is said that a saint brought a child back to life by immersing him in this pond (source: our trek guide).

Kavnai is a relatively easy but enjoyable trek and it can also be clubbed with a trek to the neighbouring mountains. A night well spent singing songs under the stars!!

Neighbouring peak

....and the sun rises

Pond at the top of the fort

Remnants of the fort

An open temple by the pond

Temple at the top

Entrance to the fort

The waters of Vaitarna

Temple at the base village from where the trek starts

A beautiful temple in the  Kavnai village

Magical healer