आता ठाण्याला जाणाऱ्या गाडीत विशेष काय, असं विचाराल, तर काहीच नाही। प्रगतीने खंडाळा सोडलं आणि मी दारात जाऊन उभा राहिलो । तपकिरी पिवळे डोंगर, उघडा बोडका कातळ, त्यावर मध्येच मोठाल्या गोवऱ्या थापल्या आहेत अशी माती , तर अधून मधून आम्ही अजून टिकून आहोत असं सांगणारी झाडी । हा देखावा जुनी हिंदी गाणी किंवा मराठी भावगीते मनात गुंजू लागतील असा नक्कीच नव्हता।
पण का कुणास ठाऊक त्या उन्हात होरपळून गेलेल्या आणि पावसाची वाट पाहणाऱ्या डोंगरांत मी हरवून गेलो । डोंगरवाटा मला खुणावत होत्या – वर चढायला, धावायला, धापा टाकायला । मला तो अलीकडचा कात्रज सिंहगड ट्रेक आठवला ।
पुढच्या क्षणी मी गाडीच्या फुटबोर्डवर मित्रांबरोबर दाटीवाटीने बसलो होतो । ठाण्याहून मध्यरात्री नंतर निघणारी दुसरी पॅसेंजर । कर्जत येईपर्यंत मुक्काम फुटबोर्डवर। मकडोवेल नंबर 1 किंवा aristocrat सारखी स्वस्त आणि बेकार व्हिस्की किंवा ओल्ड मॉंक सारखी स्वस्त आणि मस्त रम बाटली सरळ तोंडाला , बरोबर फरसाण । कर्जतला उतरून माथेरान नाहीतर भीमाशंकर।
पुण्याला आलोच तर राजगड तोरणा नाहीतर सायकलने महाबळेश्वर , असे उद्योग ।
कर्जत आलं ते कळलंच नाही । डोंगर संपले, स्वप्न तात्पुरतं संपलं।
According a version of history, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj used this route to get away from Shahistekhan’s army after a midnight raid cutting the Khan’s fingers and sending them on a chase behind running bulls with horns having burning torches. One thing is sure: No way Khan’s army could have chased the great Shivaji and his raiding party on this route that runs over ridge connecting many hills. It was a brilliant tactic.
Katraj to Sinhgad is a trek (K2S) that takes you from the old Katraj tunnel to the Sinhgad fort. 15 Km long, the trek has innumerable hills with no bypass tracks. A Facebook post says 14 hills, but believe me, they were innumerable! You must climb up and down each of them.
We started the trek with chants of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji ! and Ganpati Bappa Morya!
It was a tricky trek because there were no rocks to land on, no trees that could hold soil together. Nothing except gorges filled with gravel. No shoes, not even those with studs, can give you a firm grip on gravel filled slopes. Almost every hill had such an ascent and a descent. Every step climbing up was a test of stamina and skill of not slipping too much while gaining toeholds and finding a rare stone or root to grab if your toehold wasn’t enough. Every foot down was a test of how not to get washed down by the treacherous gravel. Any spotting of rock against which you could plant one foot brought relief.
Gravel filled descents meant that most trekkers had to use all their fours and even bums while trying to control their downward travel. So there was an hour’s traffic jam right at the first climb down.
It was a lovely full moon night, but the trail was barely visible. The full moon night and our gravel addled brains had consequences.
Pic by my runner friend Himanshu
When I reached one of those heavenly horizontal gravel sections, I was looking for a place to throw down my sack and sit down. I chose a shade of a tree! The tree had indeed cast its shadow on ground and I found shelter in it! My fellow trekker came by and said ,’ Why aren’t you coming for the moonshine? ‘ I realized what I had done and started laughing . She said she had done the same silly thing! So we laughed at ourselves and at each other.
A late start and traffic jams enroute meant we reached the end point after the sun was well up. Dahi and tak seller guys were there. So we sprawled around and had glasses of tak.
Six of us from our Anyone Can Run group trekked together. For me, it was a first trek in eight years. I did better than I had expected. It was a nice comeback trek.