A trek to nature’s wonderland and back!
This is no travelogue and does not provide accurate directions to visit Vasota. It is just a web weaved with words by a lover of nature and history. It is the ranting and raving of a mad poetic heart. Technically, it is the output of a machine whose input is the haunting Vasota. This is what I feel it is. For pro-accuracy people, this is my interpretation, go take a hike (literally and that too, to Vasota!).
Even after this, you consider this a travelogue, its your loss or gain, as you see fit!
” If any task is difficult then it is worthy of being done.Anyone can do a simple task”
This legend left on a metal sign by Giribhraman Sanstha tells you the importance of trekking to the lofty heights on Vasota. Although not a difficult trek, it is one of the most thrilling and enchanting treks in all of Maharashtra.
The first glimpse you catch of Vasota is when you are approaching Bamnoli by S.T. Bus. Its spell binds you. As the bus twists and turns on the road down to Bamnoli, Vasota makes you twist and turn in your seat just to continue getting that one glimpse of it.
Vasota stands tall amidst the evergreen forests of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and mesmerizes you with its beauty. Each contour and fold of the Vasota mountain enhances its beauty many times over. It looks like it has broken free of the shackles of the earth and it is intent on kissing the blue sky.
Beside Vasota you can see the grand old fort of Old Vasota. Now rendered inaccessible by dense forests and vegetation and also due to presence of carnivores Old Vasota is much taller than New Vasota fort and is even more mysterious to a curious cat like me. The standing fortifications can be clearly seen from Vasota and they call out to you to come and explore them. Old Vasota is like an old man who is never visited by relatives and friends and never taken care of! Well, all forts in Maharashtra are like that, courtesty our great leaders who love Shivaji Maharaj so much that they have no time to look after his forts! Anyways…
The boat ride to Vasota is engaging and bewitching.
The blue-green expanse of the Koyna backwaters makes me want to jump off the boat to swim and splash in its cool depths. But I know that if I jump in the others will want to jump in and then I have to keep my appointment with Ms.Time too!The water is covered in ripples at times while at other moments it is glass-smooth and makes you marvel at the wonder called wind.
You are greeted by scores of butterflies when you reach the banks of Met Indavali. I have never seen so many butterflies at one place before. All sizes and all colours in one place!
Walking up a small path you come to a camp set up by the Forest Dept. It is complete with tents for tourists and trekkers like us. Some of the tents do resemble those that were shown in the movie Border and have taken on the red colour of the earth but we got a huge Shamiana at our disposal which reminded me of a military camp right out of any periodic TV serial.
One of the attractions at Vasota is the Shiv Mandir in a cave inside the Nageshwar Pinnacle. Water drips on to the Shivlinga here from a crack in the ceiling throughout the year. No source of water at the top of the pinnacle but its just the rain water which is rationed by nature to drip all year long!
We opted to visit Nageshwar before Vasota contrary to others who normally proceed to Vasota first. On the way we first came across a Hanuman & Ganesh temple which is recognizable only because of the two carved idols and the plinth on which they stand.
No walls and no roof remain. Once you enter this area it is like you have come into an air-conditioned room! It becomes cold and shields you from the searing heat of the Sahyadri sun!
To the right of the idols is a dried-up stream. Although it is dried up now the stream must be a roaring-monster during the monsoons. All the greenery in and around the stream makes this evident!
When you fill your bottle you get condensed water droplets on the bottle! Buy any of the most modern refrigerators you won’t get this chill and thirst-quenching property in that water.Such clean and pure water that your filters at home are useless here. They are better-off at your house cleaning contaminated city water!This water is like the ad-slogan, just modified “No one can drink just once!”
Follow this rocky stream and you feel like you are walking through nature’s own wildlife exhibiton!
I even saw an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, which ofcourse disappeared before I could shoot it (through my camera, ofcourse! :P). I did catch a fleeting glimpse of its flowing tail thought and it still is fresh in my mind’s camera! We also found a skull of a Barking deer (Bhekar)
and lots of other funnily shaped rocks and boulders! (Ofcourse they were eroded by the water in the rainy season!)
As we proceeded through the path of the dry stream we came to one point where (you are not going to believe this!) we found butterflies in thousands and lakhs! They were like 100 butterflies per 1 cubic metre (to be technical). I found a dried up branch on which so many butterflies were sitting that I mistook them for leaves of the tree! And beyond the stream, in the jungle the air was thick with even more butterflies! That is a vision to be treasured and I have treasured it in my mind! No matter how many words I write I will not be able to describe the beauty that I saw that day!! That vision, I guess, will die with me! (Unless, ofcourse any of you also has seen it!)
After much walking we reached the base of Nageshwar pinnacle and from there we get a breathtaking view of Vasota and Old Vasota.
The folds and contours on the mountain of Vasota coupled with its sheer cliffs give it the look of a muscular warrior!!
The view of Konkan from the point was also awesome! After climbing a few steps we reached the Nageshwar Cave temple. Cool breeze greeted us as we reached the temple. It is a hot favourite spot for pilgrims during MahaShivratri and one can clearly see the incessant drop by drop dripping of water over the Shivlinga.
The path from Nageshwar to Vasota is a flat path and one can enjoy the sight of the straight drop to the right into the Konkan region. This is real fun, walking on a narrow path where one wrong step spells instant death! I particularly love such paths more than any climb in the world! They have the ability to thrill the walker without making him use any of his energy and all the while he can just enjoy the relaxing cool breeze!! 🙂
It was getting dark and we had to use torches for the last kilometer or so but the more thrilling part of that last mile (or kilometer i must say!) was when we switched off our torches and stumbled and found our way out of the jungle!!
Our night-time was pretty much occupied by the regular food-making operations and other such things.
But the highlight of the night was the camp fire where we had our dinner, told dirty jokes aloud, laughed raucously like wild, bearded stone-age men and then dozed off to snoring equally fast!
Next day we had scheduled a lightning fast climb to Vasota and an equally rapid descent from the fort, the reason being time again! The climb was once again awesome and never ever tired us because the entire path has forest cover over it! There are some patches where the vegetation over-head is so thick that the sun-rays refuse to touch the forest floor!!
Once we reach the top of Vasota we come across a Bhagwa Flag fluttering in the wind.It fills you with energy!! It makes you even more enthusiastic to climb the remainder of the fort and explore it!
As you climb the steps of Vasota’s main entrance you cannot help but feel sad for the bad condition of the fort neglected by people and the government in general. The bastions and gates destroyed by the Britishers when they captured the fort still take you back to those days.
We come across a roof-less Hanuman Temple as soon as we enter the fort where one finds this legend:
” If any task is difficult then it is worthy of being done.Anyone can do a simple task”
It spurs you on! Makes you feel you are the King of the world! Makes you proud of yourself and gives you the satisfaction of having achieved something!
The forests on top of Vasota are thick and have grown over the ruins of the fort rendering access to the interiors of the fort almost impossible. But one can still see the foundations of many mansions on the fort.
The only completely standing structure on the fort is a Mahadev Temple. It has a photo of my god, Shivaji Maharaj, inside it. From here a splendid panoramic view of the Konkan region can be seen along with the Nageshwar pinnacle!!
The other end of the fort joins Vasota to Old Vasota via a narrow ridge and of course, the famous Babu Kadaa! Babu Kadaa( unlike its baby-ish name!) is a steep and tall cliff which reminds you of a very strong stone wall, only that it is natural! Babu Kadaa is the second steepest cliff in the Sahyadris, the first being Konkan Kadaa! The view from Babu Kadaa makes you speechless!! Just speechless!!
Old Vasota sits like a king on top of Babu Kadaa. It has been stated as being out of bounds by the Forest Dept. We are like grown-up children. Denying anything makes us want it even more!
Old Vasota laughs at you. It taunts you! In your face pathetic human!! You cannot conquer me! The way to me is lost! You cannot walk on my sacred ground and defame me with your pathetic name writing and plastic garbage!!
I stare at its old fortifications covered in vegetation. I feel helpless, frustrated. I’ll be back old man! With more time and more people! And I will find the way through to you because I know it exists! And whats more I will bring you to your knees by walking on your sacred grounds! I will unveil your mysteries!! You cannot deny me entry, I am born of these great old mountains. I will come to you!
We finally descend Vasota and return to base camp.
As we bid adieu to this grand old fort duo we find it difficult to move our eyes away from them until the boat turns and the forts disappear behind a hill.
They do make a re-appeareance when you are travelling to Satara but that is for only a brief period of time, just to say a final good-bye! Until next time my old friends! We shall meet again, I say!
PS: Please click on the photographs for an enlarged view. Trust me, its worth clicking on them!
This work by Pranjal A. Wagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License