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  • Writer's pictureAjinkya Waradpande

Onto the heights of Alang and Madan.

About the trek

Thrilling experience that’s the expression. The AMK trek as it is called; one of the most difficult treks in Sahyadri Ranges. The trek we were all awaiting was finally organised by Small Steps. I had once in my previous blog said that Small Steps takes you out of your comfort zone for weekends; but this is something different, this is not merely going out of comfort zone, the trek requires ambition from within, it requires self confidence that you can do it and you will do it. Believe me this is no fun; there is no scope for getting panicked during this trek.

Start of Journey

We started from Thane to Kasara on Friday night, it was the last local train to Kasara, we were about 27 of us and all were good trekkers. After reaching Kasara by around 1.30; 2 trax were booked that took us to base village to climb Alang, The ride to base village was also wonderful going from Kasara Ghat, Nashik Highway and then taking a turn for base village, There was lot of traffic and crowd on highway and on Dhabas as it was weekend. Most of the groups were going to Sandhan valley. We reached the base village at about 4 am in the morning. There was biting cold we rested near a school on outside Veranda. At 6 in the morning we lit camp-fire as the cold was unbearable; some warmth gave us relief. Datta and I had got up early shivering with cold, and lit the camp-fire. Datta is another good trekker, whom I had met during previous trek (Harischandragad). We trekked this one together.

Reaching base and Climbing Alang.

Around 6.30 we all got ready to climb Alang. Breakfast was served by villagers and some of them were going to lead us in the trek. So we bucked up, got set and ready.

First we had to walk for nearly 45 mins, then the climb started. The climb to Alang is steep, it does leave you tired for a while.

After climbing for around 1 hour you reach a flat plateau, from where a beautiful scenery is visible. The clouds were covering all the mountains and a distinctive layer of it could be seen.

Well the nature re energised us and we continued further. The trek further has steep rock patches. 

After the rock patch; we climbed a ladder which was already fixed there and further steps built in olden days were to be climbed. After climbing the steps, there is a door on which a Lord Ganpati is carved in stone. The door was packed with stones, so it couldn’t be crossed. We climbed the wall besides the door and continued our trek to reach caves of Alang. To reach caves we walked traverse, there was no further climbing but traverse walking. On one side there was big mountain and on the other valley, we were walking on edge leaning towards the right side, Lean towards right was the call.

On the highs of Alang

We reached the caves at around 2 pm. The lunch was arranged in the cave by the villagers who had climbed as though a daily routine, and Alang climb was some sort of an accomplishment for us. The cave was big, it was kind of partitioned hall and as usual water is abundant on forts, a small tank of water was built besides the cave. We ate Roti and Pickle, with hot served rice, oh the food on these treks is just so awesome, a great contribution from villagers, also healthy. Some people took a nap inside the cave, some wandered around the fort and some engaged in discussions. Well I was the one sitting on the rock at the entrance gazing the view from cave, marvellous. There is dilapidated structure of fort, if further climbed up from the cave. Also walking ahead of the cave on the Forts flat plateau there are some 10 to 11 tanks and reservoirs of water in line. The surface of the Alang fort is flatly curved.

Climbing Madan and unexpected halt

The interesting and the thrilling part of treks starts now; done with lunch and well rested we move further to reach Madan, Reaching Madan from Alang is adventurous and actually tests the ability and trekking qualities of a trekker. First there is 70 feet Straight Rappelling. As we reached the rappelling spot a group of about 20 people was climbing; only one activity can happen through the 70 ft. rock patch. So naturally we had to wait and as it was difficult spot, the climbers were taking their sweet time. This was not anticipated rather cannot be.  As we waited, a funny thing happened, the fort has lots of thorny plants and insects; one of our trekkers Shreeharsh was observing the climb and after sometime he came back and sat with us, the moment he sat down he had to get up, and went running ahead, we did not understand what happened, he again came and told us that an insect had bitten him as he sat. We were rolling out with laughter, this cheered everyone and made the moments lighter. To tell the truth Shreeharsh is a very good trekker and he too took it in a lighter note.

Finally after 1.5 hours of waiting, our group started rappelling. It was already evening, so the trek leaders decided that instead of climbing Madan on that day we would stay for the night in nearby cave. The rappelling in night was full of thrill. To reach the rappelling spot one has to climb down few stairs; as you start descending you notice that on one side there are rocks; and on the other valley. There is nothing to support if your balance is lost. But as the stairs are in good condition and there are hooks nailed into rocks, the rope is inserted through the hooks, and we by holding the ropes descended through stairs. There is small cave near the vertical rock patch to be rappelled. We waited there as one by one people were rappelling, some had already went down and making arrangements for the stay. One of the villagers was holding the feed for the rappel. And two of the trek leaders Sushant and Rashmi were helping people and explaining the technique of rappelling. As my turn came it was pitch dark only stars in the sky and tiny lights of villages down were visible. I already had experience of rappelling so I got ready with the equipment and rappelled down smoothly, still a little fear is always there in mind. The base of after rappelling was about 3 to 4 feet; and valley ahead. So we had to be very careful after rappelling not to just wander, but stay close towards rock. After all rappelled down, there was another steep patch of rock that need to be climbed down, but it couldn’t be rappelled as the patch was uneven, one had to take the grip in the groves and descend.

Stay at cave in between Alang and Madan

Further there was a base and a cave situated some feet above from the base. The cave was spacious. The trek leaders had decided to stay here for the night. Down near the base; villagers were cooking food for some of us also joined for the cooking activity and helped in cooking the meal. We rested in cave, chatted with each other, some discussions became quite serious too, one of them was about what all regions can be considered into Mumbai, and is Navi-Mumbai Better than Mumbai; or Thane is better than Navi Mumbai. I took part initially than rested besides for a while. Cold breeze blew from outside.

Meanwhile we were served with soup, unexpectedly. The soup tasted heavenly, and soon the Khichadi followed. Khichadi and pickle, felt like home. Done with dinner we made sleeping arrangements. As everybody were not able to sleep comfortably in the cave, because other group of trekkers were also there, some of us (Sushant, Rashmi, Jyotsna, Sagar, Manoj and me) decided to sleep on the base of the cave. The base was long enough and ahead had steep slope and thorny plants. We put our sleeping mats and sheets on the base took our sleeping bags and gazed into the starry night. Making patterns from the stars and chatting about other treks and other stuffs, we fell asleep.

Into the starry night we gazed and slept in the dreams of stars onto the mountains of sky.

Some groups arrived in the early morning, the dreams broke and I got up from gazing into the stars of night to glaring into the star of day; the Sun. Well the people sleeping in cave also had very good sleep; so I hear, just few snoring sounds and little cramped up that’s all :P. As the dawn spread, everyone got up. We freshened, and made the breakfast the tea and patanjali noodles (Maggie not available). Got set, ready to move ahead and climb Madan.  The Kulang was cancelled sadly, as reaching Madan would take time and we had to get back on the same day.

Climb to Madan

There is much of traverse to reach Madan. But again traverse as such on one side Rock and on the other valley, there is no patch in this trek where you feel you can easily cross it. One has to be always cautious and careful while trekking. So as we traversed we reached stairs that ascended towards a base from where there is 50 to 60 feet vertical Climb. Here also an unanticipated thin happened, another group was rappelling from the point that we had to climb. Again we had to wait fro around 2 hours to start our climb. But the spot where we were awaiting was provided us with distant views of mountains and villages that appeared tiny down the hill. So there was lot of scope for photos and selfies, we spent our time in posing for different shots.Well for amazing and awesome pics there is always Sumit; the professional photographer of the treks. His clicks capture the essence of treks.

Finally the wait was over and our climb started. Tell you the truth felt pretty much like the climb in Lakshya Movie. Only that the climb was small but the base was also very narrow and ahead directly was the steep rocks down the valley. One by One we climbed, trekker’s Sakshi and Shrushti were little panicked, in general they are good trekkers but sometimes the fear gets stuck in the head. But they overcame it; only at the spot of rappelling and climbing they needed more encouragement and our trek leaders provided it to anyone and everyone in need. So as my turn came I was suggested to climb with bare foot, another technique if the sole is little big. 

One of our trekkers Swapnil (we called him Bahubali because of his built); was helping to Pull in climb. Well till the point we could get grip and put our feet and hands in groves, the climb was manageable but at some spots which were totally flat, caught the hold of rope pull ourselves up with help from Swapnil. Manoj had initially helped for pulling people up during climb; he is another great experienced trekker and was encouraging and giving tips and techniques about the trek. He was the most active trekker in our group. It is this very thing that you meet people from different walks of life sharing same interests and have wise words, I like going on treks. His sheer enthusiasm and energy for treks is marvellous.

One by one we climbed and moved ahead towards top of Madan. As the vertical climb was done, we had to move still further; here we climbed on broken rock steps. From one point a beautiful view of Alang fort and its curvature can be seen. 

On the top of Madan there are 3 ponds constructed in line. The villagers had already reached and cooking meal. The villagers are big support on the treks, even if they don’t lead you or even if they don’t trek with you, no trek cannot be completed without their help or direction. Again we were served with rice and dal; again unexpectedly with bhajiya; delicious and yummy. After having lunch, resting for very little while, roaming around the fort, we started descending.

Descending Madan Fort.

Well climbing down the Madan, there was twinge in my stomach when I just looked down while descending. It was mixture of fear and awe. The scenic beauty, the picturesque horizon and mountains in ranges, nature is wonderful, it is infinite and we are very small and tiny and little in front of it. What is Life if one has never explored into it; I feel, what is life if one has never discovered the joy of discovering self in discovering nature?

 The Kalsubai peak of Maharashtra is very clearly visible from Madan Fort. Now the rappelling from the point we had climbed. Well we waited as one by one people rappelled down. As we chatted, we were looking back at our trek and remembering the funny moments; well those are inexplicable in blogs or write ups and it has its situational flavour, I would just say we laughed a lot as the rappelling rope was being set up and awaited our turns. Vikram one of the trekker was the source of entertainment for all of us not just at this spot but for the whole trek. His witty timing of jokes would relieve the pressure of trekking.

After rappelling we descended through a khind between Alang and Madan.

Descending the Mountain

The descend was also quite difficult as one had to descend through slippery rocks. Basically water must be flowing through that path in rainy season. While descending too one had to be careful, where to place the foot as the rocks might not be fixed to the ground. One such incident happened with me, Before me two of the trekkers (Pranav and Datta) placed a foot on one of the big rocks and moved ahead, behind them as I set the foot onto the rock the rock slipped, I fell down and rock was going to fall on my foot, but fortunately Pranav held it instinctively, otherwise my foot could have been trapped on it. Pranav yet another trekker whom I became friends with and had discussions about trekking during our adventure.

It soon became dark and we had to light our torches. Everyone was coordinating with each other so as to le know the directions, of course the villagers were with us. Walking in the jungle in pitch dark with torches lit is another, thrilling experience of the trek.

We reached the farms and concrete road on the base of the fort at about 8 pm in the evening. We walked further where our traxes were parked. Back into the traxes we started our return journey to Kasara railway station. We reached Kasara by 10 pm. The last train to thane was at 10.30 pm.

The Journey back

In the train we were remembering the trekking moments. Surprisingly no one was sleepy. We reached Thane at around 12.30 pm. Some went ahead till Dadar. Many of us got down at Thane and separated our ways.

There were around 27 of us and I wouldn’t count how many boys or girls. Because it didn’t matter our identity was and is of trekker irrespective of gender and at least for this trek. The trek came to an end on a happy and adventurous note. Once again it was a lifetime experience.

I couldn’t name all in my experience of trek, but surely I remember everyone.

Small steps

It is a group founded by Sagar, Yogi, Sushant, Ravi, Prashant and Rashmi (about which I came to know in this trek only). The small steps is an adventure group, they have a purpose of taking people out of their comfort zone and leading them onto an adventurous path to explore nature and great forts. This time also quick decision and Management even though only two founders were leading could be observed. The decision about resting in nearby cave as it had become dark was significant, because the path ahead from there was tricky and risky.

Technical Details:

Alang Fort: In Nashik district, in Western Ghats of Maharashtra.

Base Village: Ambevadi and Dudhavane. One can climb from both the villages we climbed from Dudhavane.

Madan Fort: In Same range. Base Village: Ambevadi, we descended into Ambevadi village.

Transport: Trax are available from Kasara railway station to reach the base village.

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