Muddy boots: 5 easy monsoon treks from Mumbai

If you live in a city like Mumbai where a new skyscraper seems to spring up each time you look out of your window, where the dream of having a Metro some day soon currently has tremendously increased your daily commute and where the monsoon showers bring a refreshing change from the sweltering summers.

That sweet earthy smell, the tiny droplets on to the window pane, the thundering sound of the rain, and the wind in your hair – everything about the monsoon is love at first sight! Some would like to be cuddled up in a warm blanket, sipping piping hot adrak waali chai and watching the drops fall from their window. While others like me would to get all soaked and muddy out there…especially in the hills all around.

Here are 5 easy getaway treks (in order of ease for beginners) that I did over weekends from July to September as time permitted:

1. SGNP

We are blessed to have Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a sprawling green forest within the city. In the past I have done many treks and trails from the Borivali gate, namely

  • Shilonda trail
  • Upper Kanheri Trek
  • Nagla Block

But instead of getting away from the maddening crowd, especially on a Sunday its packed and you may see more people than flora and fauna here.

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So maybe its time to discover some more pristine locations for trekking …..Hence this year I decided to try the Thane (Yeoor) gate side.

Yeoor: 

I wanted to take my 6 year old daughter Anushka on an outdoor expedition on the weekend so we signed up with Jack & Hill Adventures for The Yeoor Hills Forest Walk. This trek was guided by Wildlife Expert Mr Nikit Surve, who also happens to be the man responsible for Mumbai’s leopard Census conducted in both 2015 & 2019 within the national park. He made it very interesting with his detailed explanation about the wondrous wildlife specifically in the SGNP forest. Anushka was just learning about carnivores and herbivores in school and she had many questions for him.

We drove down in my car and met the others at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Tikuji ni Wadi gate) Thane Entrance at 7 am. After exploring & learning about the surroundings as we had a leisurely walk along the forest path upto Yeoor village and back for about 4 hours. There is also a beautiful butterfly garden that kids will love at the entrance.

2. Mhatarichi Khind:

This is not a hilly high incline trek but a long walk through a valley or pass between the hills (khind). I went with my all time favorite outdoor group Countryside India. They have may monsoon weekend treks you can choose from and I have been going with them since college. Great way to meet like-minded nature loving people.

They arrange for a bus that leaves from Dadar at 6 am, via Panvel to the the foot of  Matheran, at village Dhodani. From here we walked through the valley between Prabalgad fort & Matheran, crisscrossing through villages, forests, and waterfalls and rivulets. Our trek ended at Ambewadi, beneath One-Tree hill point, on the Chowk side of Morbe dam. Simply the best was to enjoy the rain in your raincoat and get all the Vitamin G your eyes can ! Its a great way to introduce kids to the outdoors, 8 years and above. This one was with few work colleagues and the rest strangers, fun nevertheless.

3. Ganpati Gadad Caves and Waterfall Trek:

Jump out of that comfort zone and do the unexpected! This time I went with a completely new trekking group that  I found on facebook and to a destination I had never heard of before. M3 Yatrik is a young and enthusiastic trekking group and I had was very happy to have joined them on this trek.

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Taking a local train from Dadar to Kalyan we went by a vehicle to the base village is called Palu, Sonawale near Murbad. We had a very tasty breakfast in a local villagers house watching the dense clouds engulf the hills beyond, hiding the caves completely. A valley full of flowers welcomed us ascended towards the caves.

Ganpati Gadad Caves is a series of 6 to 7 caves which are exceptionally beautiful during monsoon as many small waterfalls fall over them forming enchanting white veils. The path is gradual and the rocks are big, with easy stepping stones. Only at the top the path along cliff is a bit perilous, so embrace your inner Indian Jones! But its always good to go with a group where everyone offer a helping hand.If heights make you uncomfortable rethink this one.There were many rapeling groups here and thats something to enjoy as well!

The view from the top is totally breathtaking and just sitting in the serenity, with only the sound of the waterfall in the background is very soothing to the soul. ” We have to find time to stand and stare”

4. Sondai fort:

I have some friends who are regular trekkers so this was an easy one for them. A more intrepid experience and this one is not for the faint-hearted, as the trek involves steep rocks. The trail can be dangerous and slippery, especially if there is rainfall so it makes it a bit challenging for the beginners.

IMG_20190818_110643We drove to the base village Sondewadi, near Karjat which is situated at 1/4th height of this fort and then started climbing the rest of the way. Its better to reach early as many groups come later in the day on weekends.

The last part has a set of metal steps to climb till the watch tower.

We were completely embraced by the clouds and here are some amazing vistas from which to view the countryside around of the Morbe reservoir from the top IMG-20190818-WA0017

5. Sunset point, Matheran:

Although I’ve graded this the last in terms of intensity and duration as well, its was the most enjoyable of all as I went with my new found friends: the Yoga Girl Gang  of Chaitanya towers and also because the destination was a surprise for us. We were told by Nitin Sir that we were going on the trek to test our endurance levels but the rest was a secret!

The starting point was Dodhani village and the waterfalls were overflowing. The warm aroma of wada being fried on a rainy day can be the most tantalizing !!! We just couldn’t help devour as many as we could of the most delicious wadas and spicy chutney ( we had a lot of calories to burn ahead !!!) and started to follow the guide.

Its a fairly long trek, mildly strenuous day hike. It wouldn’t be a cake walk,gradual in the beginning, through rice fields and farms, then ascends a bit through a thick forest and the final part as you get closer to Matheran gets steeper and steeper. We did encounter a few steep drop-offs. Yet as the mist engulfs you, your adrenaline surges and you want to conquer it and get above.

It’s the journey that counts not the destination, they say. And its also the people who trek with you. Overcoming difficulties, coaxing and encouraging each other, we trudged on the mission impossible …that was not so impossible after all!

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The “V” sign, whether you make it with your arms or legs signifies pure glee once you make it to the top and eases away all the the aches and pains.

Its ain’t called the “Magic of the monsoons” for nothing

Until the next summit !!!

Where butterflies lead the way……Waichin valley

This valley tucked away beyond Malana in Himachal Pradesh is also popularly known as Magic valley and the name needs no explanation. Magic here is in the air, in the emerald waters of the Malana river, in the towering snow-capped mountains and the in the clouds and blue skies above. In all you see, breathe and hear around you, there is only magic.

The magic begins from the Dam and Malana reservoir. As there are no motorable roads beyond, the rest of the journey is on foot. But for the next 3 hours or so your legs wont falter as walking through paradise is a very enjoyable experience here.

A scrumptious breakfast and refreshing cup of coffee at AYOYA Malana Resort – Shiva Cafe where we stayed in Malana, 4 km away, is just what you need to get you going on this wonderful trek. Its easy and the beauty of nature is so invigorating, perfect for a beginner. You could go as a day-trip but I would definitely recommend and overnight stay if the weather permits in the log huts.

One can walk through the coniferous forests or along the river, both routes behold mesmerizing beauty of the wonders of nature. The butterflies frolicking along the wildflowers led us through the forest path to Atodang village, a few wooden houses that are surrounded by fields.

Rest your weary feet, basking in the unfiltered rays of the sun in peaceful solitude. The dancing butterflies, the humming bees and chirping birds paint a pretty picture here and you wonder if you really need to go ahead ..or anywhere else in the world !

The people here live a very simple life, farming and rearing sheep. They hold on to their traditions and will not share any food or allow outsiders to come into their homes.

As the mountainous path ascends further, gurgling brooks greet you along the way with all the freshness and energy of the melted snow. A few sips of this delicious water and all the fatigue has melted away!

Here is Magic valley, where misty clouds float around.There are a few log huts and campsites for overnight stay.

The best place is undoubtedly the Monk Hut In Bela Moon. A hot plate of Maggi noodles, cozy hammock with warm blankets to cuddle in and enjoy the view till sunset.

As Jerome K. Jerome said…“Seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world – some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint.”

 

The nights are also very magical here. Sitting by the warm campfire I saw my first moon rise..another magical moment. Simple pleasures we miss in the city. Making new friends with other guests from different parts of the world underneath the clear skies with twinkling stars, over a plate of warm rajma chawal. These memories will last a lifetime.

The butterflies all along the way left such an indelible impression on my heart and soul that once we were back to AYOYA Malana Resort – Shiva Cafe by the next afternoon, I got down to painting my heart out ..and lo behold are the motley crew on a pillar ! AYOYA Malana Resort – Shiva Cafe is a place you can really chill out in the lap of nature, unwind and rediscover your soul!