NaneghatAbout a month ago, a couple of my friends suggested that we needed to get out of city and go trekking to someplace. After much thought, we decided on trekking to Naneghat, in the Malshej Ghat Region.

Naneghat is a mountain pass in the Western ghats near Junnar, in the Pune district. The trail is a popular one, with many trekking groups heading there on the weekends. The highlight of the trek is a set of caves with inscriptions dating back to about 180 BC and the mountain pass. Both are a legacy of the Satavahana kings, who ruled the region and came into prominence after the fall of the Mauryan Empire. The trail is generally considered to vary in difficulty from easy to medium and as such has no cliff exposure, which also makes it relatively safe. You can see the distinctive thumb shaped formation of Naneghat on the way to Malshej Ghat, and the trail begins from the same road.

Initially, we had decided to go on the trek on the 13th of September but postponed it for the following week. Next week, it so happened that a number of people happened to have last minute obligations and it was scrapped once again. After losing out on two weekends and not being sure if my friends would be really free on the next weekend, I decided to go on my own. However heavy rains lashed the city on that weekend and I had to cancel plans a third time. I then decided to postpone the trip to the Diwali weekend, hoping that my fourth attempt to get there would indeed be successful.
Finally after waiting for two weeks, the day arrived. My sister and dad were also free and they too agreed to come along.  We left home early in the morning at about 5:30 am to reach Kalyan, the nearest railhead on the suburban train system. Getting to Kalyan was quite simple and by around 7:00 we were at the ST Bus stand. However, we were quite unprepared for the chaos that greeted us at the ST bus stand. On previous trips to the region, I have always been able to find a bus quite easily and the journey has been hassle free. However, this time round the bus stand was crowded with people heading home to the towns and villages to celebrate Diwali. With great difficulty we managed to get into a bus headed towards Malshej Ghat. An uncomfortable, cramped two hours later, we finally reached the starting point of the trail.

We had a few snacks, rested for a little while and then started on the trail. It was about 9:40 am when we started and we expected to reach the top by about 1:00. The trail initially was flat and even went gently downhill in some places. In the distance, the hill that we had to ascend could be seen. We crossed a number of small streams, before we finally reached the first stretch of uphill climbing. The uphill climb took us through an insect infested jungle. Mosquitoes swarmed around us as we climbed onwards.  The trail was quite reminiscent of the trail leading up to Mahuli fort, actually. Finally we reached an open plateau like area, where we took a short break.

A quick look at the map showed us that we had covered quite a bit of the trail and we had about a third or so of the trail to cover. However, this third of the trail was almost consistently uphill and was steeper. The trail took us once again through some jungle. At a certain spot on the trail, we could distinctly smell some wild animal (possibly a wild pig or boar). The trail now began climbing uphill. The climb was a bit winding and went relentlessly uphill. At one spot, something moved from under the stone I had just stepped over. It turned out to be a small snake. From then on we were extra cautious about where we put our feet. We had two more such close sightings of snakes on the way uphill.

By now, the mid-day heat was getting to us. We would rest for five minutes and then climb for another five. Our progress slowed down a lot. After a little while, we came across a water cistern. Since this was marked on the map to be close to the end of the trail, we were re-energized by its sighting, knowing that the end was near. In a few short minutes, we reached the caves.

As compared to the trail, the caves were soothingly cool. The main cave, where we rested, had walls that were covered with ancient writings. The floor though seemed to be recently made, covered with names of people who must have carved them when the floor was still setting. Somehow, I guess, people just can’t resist defacing old monuments. Part of the human desire to be remembered over time, to be immortal, I guess.

The area surrounding the caves had numerous small frogs jumping around. In fact one of them almost fell on me while I was walking. Frogs are increasingly becoming endangered around the globe so it was heartening to see them in such numbers.

While we were resting in the caves, we met some locals who were passing through the region. Some of them had come via the Ghatghar road to spend a leisurely afternoon at the caves, while others were using the ancient pass to move from the coastal plains to the villages on the plateau. One of them was a very old man, who moved with great speed in spite of his advanced years. Seeing him, we were quite ashamed that we weren’t fit enough to reach the caves without huffing and puffing.

Finally after lunch we clicked a few photographs at the caves and then decided to head up using the pass and explore the plateau. During the rainy season, the water flows down the hill through the pass. The wind also blows quite fiercely through the narrow pass. However, since the rainy season was over and there wasn’t much of a breeze blowing that day, we had no problems climbing up. During the climb we chanced upon a centipede being eaten alive by large group of ants.

After a short while we reached the plateau. Flanking the path was a large stone vessel. The legend goes that the vessel was used to store the toll collected for using the pass during ancient times. The traffic through the pass then was so high that the large vessel used to overflow several times in a single day with the toll collections.

We spent a little time soaking in the views from the plateau. The plateau commands a panaromic view of the valley below. The view is even better if you ascend to the view point. However, as we were a bit tired by then we decided not to ascend completely to the view point, but were satisfied by the view that we got from about halfway up to the view point.

We had estimated that we would take about half the time to descend from the caves. However, descending turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined. Also I think that the descent was furthered slowed down by the footwear that we were wearing. My shoes in particular seem more suited for running and climbing and not so much for descending down on uneven rocks.

Along the way, we realized that we would run out of water. Faced with the prospect of running out of water and having about half the trek back ahead of us, we were perplexed as to what we would do. Luckily, we managed to find a clean stream in the jungle (at least I hope it was clean, haven’t suffered any adverse after effects so far) and filled our bottles from the stream.

After a few hours of trekking we finally reached the main road. It was about 6:00 in the evening and was getting dark soon. We tried flagging two ST buses that were headed to Kalyan, but they didn’t halt for us. We were contemplating whether we should hike the next 2 odd km to the nearest village, when lady luck smiled on us. The next ST bus we tried flagging, stopped for us. Soon we were on our way home.

After about 3 hours we finally reached home. We were tired, exhausted and ready to drop dead, but we were happy that we had spent the day trying to trek to Naneghat and had succeeded.

PS: Photographs of the trip are here


Naneghat. (2009, September 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

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