Two days later, four of us were on our way to this wonderful place called Ganpati Garad. A place situated approximately 2.5 hours from Kalyan station in Mumbai. A discreetly located place, not frequented by many people, that piqued my interest when I stumbled upon a couple of snaps put up by some trekkers. Not many blogs are available online pertaining to this trek. The trek is comparatively easy to complete, but reaching the place via public transport is a strain considering there is no direct transport to reach the base village ‘Sonavle’. Private transport at your disposal to do this trek would be a boon considering the distance to be covered and the time taken to travel the same.
Four of my friends decided to trek Ganpati Garad and all of us decided to meet up at Kalyan station at 7.00 AM. Two of them camped out at Chembur as it wasn’t feasible to travel from Malad to Kalyan by the early morning trains. Reaching Kalyan, we were greeted by a small drizzle that was enough to remind and check the packing of our stuff and electronic equipment, though that consisted only of the cellular phone.
The starting point for our trek was Kalyan bus depot, which is right outside Kalyan station. From here, State Transport buses (ST buses) to Murbad are available. Buses are very frequent to Murbad and with a fare of Rs. 24/- and a travelling time of approximately one hour, it is an awesome way to catch up on a quick nap or to revel in the scenic village views once the bus leaves the town limits. From Murbad, share rickshaws; named ‘Tum Tum’ are available to the village called ‘Mhasa’, fare being Rs. 12/- for a distance of 20 kms. Tum Tum’s are these wide rickshaws running on diesel having a cramped up capacity of 15 people on the inside. A third changeover onto a private vehicle; ‘Sumo’ car; operating as a cab in ‘Mhasa’ will take you all the way to the village ‘Dhasai’. The driver of this car ferries kids who hang on the outside of the private vehicle, trying to return home after school. Direct ST buses are available from Murbad to Dhasai, but lack of clarity on the time of bus and time constraint, we decided for the former route. Mhasa to Dhasai takes about 30 mins with a fare of about Rs. 25/- for a distance of 12kms. Since we were pressed for time, mainly for the time we still had to cover up and secondly, due to the number of people still to take their seats (11 more people; total capacity was 15 people in a ‘Sumo’ for each trip) before the driver starts his trip; we decided to hire the entire cab agreeing to pay Rs. 250/- to the driver to take us up to Dhasai. The sights of Sudhagad and Naneghat, all flash across menacingly when travelling from ‘Mhasa’ to ‘Dhasai’.]The final leg from ‘Dhasai’ to the base village ‘Sonavle’ is at a distance of 7 kms and covered in 20 mins approximately by a ‘Tum Tum’ for a fare of Rs. 10/-.
Once at the base village, the caves of Ganpati Garad can be viewed giving an indication of the place where we were headed to finally. Some of the villagers warned us about the trek route indicating that there were quite a many rogue paths leading into the forest and it wasn’t a difficult way to actually wander off track unless we knew the path perfectly. This threw us into a tentative and speculative meeting at the end of which we decided to go in for a guide. The decision to not hire a guide was made instantly when the charge of Rs. 200/- was quoted to us.
The trek through the village finally started at about 11.40 AM with a possible time frame of 1 hour to 1.5 hours to reach the caves. Though, the caves were our destination, it was situated at a height of only 1/4th the size of the mountain. This mountain according to locals needs a full 1 day of trekking by a different route all together with a small village located on top. Coming back to the trek, it started wonderfully; cloudy skies throughout our journey, walking through rice paddy fields, and the seemingly unknown task of trying to figure out the trek route in front of us. It was wonderful for the trek to finally materialize from a possible group of 12 people to finally end with up with 4! It was a trek of firsts for a couple of reasons as well. One of our friends was coming with us for the trek for the 1st time and secondly, the trek was not the top of the cliff, but 6-7 caves located on the face of the mountain.
Legend has it that the caves used to accommodate Luv and Khush, the two sons of Lord Rama. Shivaji Maharaj in his pursuit to have an exit strategy in place for contingencies built a tunnel from the back side of the cave temple all the way to somewhere close to Pune. This tunnel, though, has been blocked and unfrequented. Considering that only about 4-5 groups of trekkers carry out this trek a year gave us a sense of pride as well as optimism. Pride for being amongst the lucky few and Optimism for the trek and the challenges that lie ahead.
Luckily for us, we came across a village boy named Mr. Yogesh who was herding his cattle and agreed to take us to the foothill giving us a clearer picture of the route to take to reach the caves successfully. He was kind enough to not charge us for the effort. But, as a token of appreciation, we did provide him a bit of cash. Continuing ahead, our endeavours of ‘Chasing the monsoons’ was becoming a kind of cumbersome task with no rains in either of our earlier treks. This was just before the rains decided to finally open up. The trek seemingly became easier to carry out once the rains started. The path was easy at first until the foothill and then, it turned into a gradual climb and a steep climb for the entire distance. Though, the distance is approximately 1000 feet above sea level, the views and the streams we had to cross and the final ledge walking just before reaching the caves gave us enough steam to believe that this trek though easy, was challenging enough. The site of a massive waterfall falling right across the face of our cave greeting us was simply fabulous. ‘Nature has its own ways!’ one could have added. The very idea that this trek was not frequented by many trekkers also got us involved close to nature in this beautiful season with only the sounds of nature to communicate with. The scene from the movie ‘Apocalypto’ will definitely be worth a mention.
The path to the caves was a bit tricky, but we always kept to the right. Passing two beautiful streams could be considered landmarks to consider that right route is being followed. Trekking during a dry weather wouldn’t be recommended, but a beautiful trek nevertheless to complete. The caves; a total number of around 7-8 are small and tricky. But, one cave which is the temple is massive and spacious and is regularly swept clean by the villagers.
Resting for a while after soaking in the sights from the caves, we had to leave back down considering the last ‘Tum Tum’ from the base village to Dhasai was at 4.00 PM. Though, this was a slight bother, we needed to reach the village on time. On our way down, the sight of rain and a small waterfall, changed our plans and in a jiffy all of us were in that waterfall. We were still halfway down at 4.30 PM when we decided that camping out at the village in case we miss our transport wasn’t a bad idea considering the next day was Sunday. But, as all our trek winds up, we lost our way, thanks to one of my friend who took a seemingly known wrong turn expecting us to lead us to original path quickly. Instead, it lead us deep into the forest in double quick time. In this, we also crossed an extra stream twice. With the rains now lashing, daylight on its fag end and no torch or light available with us, we bucked up our speed to reach the dam of Sonavle village. Once crossing this dam, we came across a farmer who pointed us that we were on the right track; just had taken the alternative route and had to just follow the road down. We reached the village at 6.00 PM to find one villager waiting for the ‘Tum Tum’ to take us back to ‘Dhasai’.
From ‘Dhasai’ we caught another ‘Tum Tum’ that took us straight to ‘Murbad’, from where an ST bus to Kalyan. An eventful and tiring day but worth the effort and the time involved. The trek, if being done would be easier if you start very early in the morning considering the distance and the change of transport to finally reach the village.
A beautiful one day trek, approximately 2.5 hours from Kalyan, away from the hustle and bustle of the city with a 1.5 hour trek is a complete stress buster and worth a recommendation to each one and all.
Trek Start point and route: Kalyan bus depotà Murbadà Mhasaà Dhasaià Sonavle
Base Village: Sonavle
The Total costs: Rs. 200 - Rs. 250/- per head (Based on the transport we ferried by-From Kalyan depot)