Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ratangad 2016 !

Doing something different for New Year's , I decided to join friends on a trek to RatanGad Fort.

Ratangad , is also called Nhavi Killa or Barber's Fort. Possibly in honor of  one of its commandants, Dhanaji, who belonged to the Nhavi caste.  This was one of the Forts of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and it is known, that a Koli  names Govindrao  Khari , appointed by the Peshwa,  was commanding the Fort with his garrison of other Kolis , around 1822-1827, despite the Peshwa's fall from power. The British took away Govindrao's power citing his disloyalty to them,  and the Fort fell into British hands .

 This fort lies in the Ajoba mountain range which is surrounded by mountains of Alang, Kalsubai, Kulang, Katarabai etc. (I have trekked to Kalsubai). It is also the origin for the Pravara River , on which the Bhandardara Dam is built.

Ratanwadi is the base village.  It has a Amruteshwar temple, in Hemadpanti style,  which is famous for its carvings.and about halfway up the hill , one reaches the entrance to the Fort.  There are old ruins of what looks like a stately courthouse inside the Fort. The Fort also has about eight rock cut reservoirs built into the sides of the hills, and the plateau has a Mahadev Temple and a Moslem Tomb.

Ratangad has a natural rock peak with a cavity in it at the top which is called 'Nedhe' or 'Eye of the Needle'. Possibly caused due to natural erosion and heavy winds.

We started by road from Bhandup, one of Mumbai's eastern suburbs, and went along Highway 3 (the old Bombay-Agra Rd)   Mumbai-Nashik Expressway. Then at Shahpur , went eastwards on Highway no 44   (Shenve-Dolkhanmb rd) to reach Shendi Bhandardara around 11 am or so.

Unlike other trips, we planned to cook some simple stuff and I was carrying some utensils along with my backpack.  We would be buying basic required provisions at the Ratanwadi village. The plan was to cook our evening meal in the open at the top of the Fort , under the stars, and celebrate the New Year, taking care to leave our environment clean . It involved everyone sharing the load, and climbing with all kinds of food and utensils , besides our own backpacks, and was a new experience.

Seven of us , made it to the top with all kinds of stuff , some of which is seen here.

Clearly, it meant we take short breaks and rest, while ascending the mountain.  Notice the empty water can we were carrying.  Our leader Ranchhodas Das , was familiar with the terrain  and knew the places from where we could source water for cooking.

This fort overlooks the  Bhandardara Region in Ahmednagar district.  We saw some water bodies with check dams /bandharas  , like the one shown here.  The Bhandaardara Dam is one of the major dams in the area, further away.
You must know, how to fix the loads  you plan to carry on your back.  In Life as well as while trekking.   Here , our leader Ranchchodas  is seen adjusting a load. 

The sighting of the top of the Fort. 

Clearly, we were getting closer , as we climbed. 

The clearing where we would be resting, cooking and spending the night. 

We had two tents. This is the bigger one.  We carried the tents on  our backs. 

In Mumbai parlance, this was our Hall-Kitchen.  All in one.  Folks are at work, setting up tents, lighting fire, and getting started with the cooking. The Menu ?  You need to wait and see.  Hint : Someone cutting onions and tomatoes. 

The residence !

A full fledged kitchen being handled by the experts.  We made several trips and climbed down to a water source to fill water in our water can , and climbed back up with it again.  Makes you greatly respect those who do this every single day of their life......

The Fort, watching the proceedings with interest. 

The experts in action. We came prepared. Notice the "saanshee " on the stone, lower left. This is Ranchchoddas starting the makings of a chicken curry, with a basic tadka.
Life is made a bit simpler , with the addition of LED lamps , which ensure we see what goes into the recipe clearly and well.  The three stone Choolah doing its stuff.

Some folks have the luxury of sitting on log sofas and fanning the fire, enjoying the delicious smells of food getting cooked.   PC : Jayanand Supali.

PC : Jayanand Supali.

Yay! Now it can be told. We cooked chicken curry, paneer (for the vegetarians), peas pulao , and there was cut salad /cucumbers/carrots. Here is one of our members, dishing out the stuff .  PC : Jayanand Supali.

The  New Year's Eve feast ! 

It was cold!  Warming ourselves after the meal, enjoying the campfire. 
PC : Jayanand Supali.

No cosmetics can bring such glows.  Its the lovely climb, cold weather, fresh air, delicious food, warm fire and great friends! 

The residence !

Like they say  in housing brochures, "situated in the lap of nature" !
 Kya lap hai !

The Fort approach . Sheer rocks and their majesty. 

There is magic in the way the sun and the rocks play with shadows. 
One such .

Another shadow play.  And you feel so small ....     

Then again, another Game of Shadows...

There are two ladders one needs to climb  before reaching the top. These have been installed for the benefit and safety of hikers and trekkers, and one must be careful  with the slightly old and rusted sections. 
PC : Jayanand Supali.

And the climb continues. PC : Jayanand Supali.

This has to be some trick photography. We cannot be leaning like this normally, and this looks like some dance from a movie....
PC : Jayanand Supali.

Structures at the top somewhere may hold many folks.  Just in case you think it is a management mantra, it is not. Just a bunch of us enjoying the lovely morning .
PC : Jayanand Supali.

There is a sense of wonder in how the tops of these mountains have been eroded in similar design. 

Another early morning view  on the trek path.

Another perspective, showing the valley landscape, and the sheer verticality of the Fort walls, as we climbed. 

It felt good to sit in the Sun and take a breather.  We had left our luggage and backpacks in our tents , and this made moving easier .

The team, celebrating the New Year , on the edge of a small plateau!

Celebration 1.  Showing everyone how to jump. These two are not impressed.
PC : Jayanand Supali.
Celebration 2.   Amazing effort by the group. 
PC : Jayanand Supali.
Celebration 3 .  Things are getting really exciting here.  The mountain peaks watch in wonder as folks jump up and down and others click. Some with backpacks !
 PC : Jayanand Supali.
Clearly, some refuse to give up. 
PC : Jayanand Supali.
The landscape  , as we descend. Notice the several water bodies  in the valley region. 

The mountain vegetation as we descend  lower down.

Another click of the earlier mountain water body with the bandhaara, at a different time of the day. 

Another panorama, another vista.

Here is a bunch of us trying to pose like the mountain peaks.  

Kya baat! Kya baat! 

Saying goodbye to our "residence" on the mountain and celebrating with a selfie . I wonder what people did when they had heavy cameras with tripods and timers. 

This is called a sleeping selfie .

The cool grass, the Sun, a lovely breeze.   What to do ?  I am like that only ....

1 comment:

  1. Wow Pankaja! That was one awesome new year activity and while I loved all the things you guys and gals did, including the jumping up and down, I was completely impressed by your feast! Hugs!