Day 6: The Mango Thief (Secret Paths of Sahyadri)

27th November 2012

A new day, a new start to a new journey, but where will I end up tonight? I didn’t yet know that but all I knew was that I will run to the hills, the sea side was too hot to my liking and I didn’t want to spend another afternoon over there. The plan was to hit the hills as soon as possible and enjoy the fresh cool breeze. I asked the person at the hotel reception about Amba Ghat, one of the finest ghat sections in Maharashtra, smooth flowing corners.  He directed me and told me to go to Hathkhamba and take the highway from there till Pali and then ask anyone for Amba. Asking directions from multiple people I got out of the city and hit the open road. Within a few kms from the city outskirts I saw a truck that had met with an accident. This reminded me of the perils of riding on Indian roads, I decided to take it slow, but that decision vanished slowly when I saw the smooth curves of NH17.

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The journey till Pali was completed in a jiffy, no trails taken, no exploration done because I felt that the area was filled with people so there won’t be much to explore. I however enjoyed the limited curves of the NH17 before Pali. On reaching Pali I asked for directions again and headed towards Amba. Soon after Pali I saw a branch road on my right, now I had lots of time to explore around as it was just 9:00 A.M in the morning. I turned left and well, I feel in love with the road immediately. It was a small single lane road covered by trees and large bushes. It was still early morning and I could see some kids with backpacks walking towards the highway, either going to school or going to some tuition classes. As they crossed me they looked at me in awe. I continued on that road and started descending the road. I soon came to a junction and took the road on the left. This road led me to village and there I saw a trail on the right and went ahead to explore it.

 All through the day till now I could see a lot of mango trees and this village was no exception, there were mango trees all over, it seemed that all the ‘Ratnagiri-aam’ comes from here only. The village seemed to be moving at its own pace, people going to the forest to get dry wood for firewood and farmers taking their herd of cattle to the nearest crazing ground. I grabbed a lot of attention instantaneously. A farmer who was taking his cow somewhere, told me “There is no road ahead and you probably have come in the wrong direction” all this was said in Marathi and I was happy that I could understand it. I nodded in agreement and I clicked some pics and with no option left had to return to the point from I took the right turn.

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 As soon as I saddled up and moved a few meters, a lady came out of her house and indicated me to stop. We had a small little conversation and I was surprised when she started talking to me in Hindi.

She: Why have you come here? Tourist don’t come here.

Me: I am not a tourist, I like to roam around.

She ( with a smile): Tell me the truth, are you here to steal our mangoes?

Me (with a shocked expression on my face): what?

She: Yes, I feel that you have come to steal our mangoes, that’s why you are here.

Me (after regaining my composure) : but there are no mangoes now.

She: So that means you were looking for mangoes.

Me: Nope, I am here just to wander, see places which people don’t come to, I don’t like crowded places, I was born in a village and hence always like to travel to remote areas. 

She: People go to Ganpatiphule and Ratnagiri, they don’t come here, when we want to make a holiday we also go to Ganpatiphule, its wonderful.

Me: And when I want to have a holiday I come to these places, far away from the crowd.

She: But you telling the truth na that you are not a mango-thief?

Me: You can trust me on that, and by the way do I look like a mango-thief?

She: No, you look like a city boy, but still I wanted to be sure.

Me: Thank you, that was comforting, and you have full rights to question my intention, as this is you village, you trees, I am just an outsider.

 Saying this I said good bye and advanced towards my next unknown trail. I now took a right turn on the main road. Soon the green trees and large bushes gave way to the brown grass, my companion throughout the ride. The scenery looked magical, the fog and the smoke, probably from the firewood,  added the much needed charm to the landscape. I kept riding slowly enjoying the aroma of fresh, unpolluted air, and then saw two guys sitting on the road. I didn’t honk at them, I just took my bike off the road and crossed them, after all its their place, I am an infiltrator there. Then I came to a school, which was probably closed due to the long diwali vacations.  I felt nostalgic seeing that school, in my early days I had also gone to these kinds of schools in my village and then shifted to an English-medium school.

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 With fond memories of my distant past I moved ahead and found another trail on my left. Sadly it ended in a steep slope that lead to a narrow bridge. I pondered on the risk of taking my bike there and decided against it. But my disappointment was washed away when I saw a small trail on the left of the bridge, it provided me an excellent opportunity to capture the essence of the place, a couple of ladies washing clothes, a cow drinking water, birds chirping, I felt I can’t get more closer to nature.

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 As I kept riding ahead, I had to stop again in the next 10 mins. The slightly foggy road, greenery on both sides and a father and her daughter walking along the road made a perfect frame.

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 I soon crossed them and came to a point where a path was going into the jungle. I knew that I could not take my bike there, hence parked it and walked towards the jungle. I returned in a jiffy as I started feeling hungry. Before I could put my helmet on I could see the father and the daughter approaching me. I said hello to him and he responded with a smile. I asked  him if I could click a picture of him, to which he nodded in agreement. I asked him his name and he said he is ‘Desai’.  I then asked him “where can I get drinking water here?” as I was running out of my stock of drinking water. He pointed towards a nearby small stream of flowing water and said “We drink this, its safe” and smiled at me. I dint think twice and started to drink the water. It was fresh, the freshness cannot be found in the most expensive bottled water that we get in our cities. It had the aroma of nature in it.

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 Desai ji also informed me that there is a river nearby but the bike won’t go till that point, but I can park my bike with all the luggage in it in the village which was a km away. He also mentioned that don’t worry about your luggage, no human would touch it. It’s our village.

I soon came to a dead end of the motorable road and parked my bike, took off my jacket and helmet and kept them on the bike and started to make my way towards the river in my wrangler outfit. The road to the river goes through houses and I was not sure if I am allowed to take that route, but since I didn’t see anyone I decided to take it. In no time I was near the river, which wasn’t impressive at all, spent some time clicking and then started to return back. I don’t know why I felt like checking if I have network, I had a strong feeling that I wont, and I was correct. It was just BSNL that had network in that place. My mobile screen made me happy, it indicated that I was in some remote location away from the urban areas, a place where no one could disturb me, a place where I could just sit and enjoy nature and be one with the environment surrounding me. A place where the wind hitting your face makes you proud, makes you realize that you are a part of a clan that lives free on these highlands. Aplace where the air that you breathe is so pure and so clean. (as said by Harris of Iron Maiden)

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  The way to the river

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  BSNL – My next touring network

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 I reached back to the point took out some biscuits and started having my so-called-breakfast. I then headed back to the main junction from which I had taken the left turn, now it was time to explore what lies on the right side of the junction. This road was just like any other road that takes you through a small village, I rode till the road allowed me to and then returned back and joined the NH204 which would take me to Amba. NH204 is exciting, with a thick canopy of trees through most of the parts. As soon as I got to the highway I started riding fast, and kept looking for any branch roads, if any.

The Dead End

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NH204

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I kept continuing along the highway and soon I could see a crowd of people standing along the highway. I stopped there as I could see a road on the left. A person from the crowd asked for a lift till the next village, but sadly I had to reject his request as I was having saddle bags and it won’t be possible to accommodate him on my bike. I showed him the saddle bags and he too seemed to understand and smiled and said ‘no problem’ and I moved ahead. I could see milestones indicating the distance of unknown places. The road was lined with trees on both the side. A few kms ahead there was a hairpin turn in the road and after that the main road that I was following turned right through another hairpin bend. But I could see another road that was going straight, for sure to some village. I took that road and kept continuing ahead and reached a village.

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 It looked like a big village, I could spot lots of motorcycles, unlike the other villages I have been through in my ride till now. I again came to a fork in the road and took the left one. I kept moving into the interior of the village through this road hoping that I will get to the other side by crossing the village, but unfortunately, nature had different plans. I had to return soon as I had come to a dead end. While returning I could see monkeys jumping across the road, I was in a fix whether to ride fast or slow, but decided to take it slow and by God’s grace crossed the monkey-zone without any issue.

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  Firewood

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While I was clicking I meet a villager and he started a conversation in Marathi. I tried my best to continue in Marathi but after 2-3 statement I had to give up and asked him to continue in Hindi. Through the conversation I learnt that he had lived in Mumbai for 20 years and used to work in a mill and then he had returned to his village as there was no one to look after the farms. He also warned me that I should not just enter any village like this. People are not good and might harm me. I said that I have been through many villages and have been welcomed everywhere. I tried to end the conversation and moved ahead. I got out of the village and joined the main road that had forked at the hairpin bend.

I continued on the road and passed some more villages. The road had ample amount of curves to keep a corner junkie happy. But I tried to ride as carefully as possible because most of them were blind corners as the trees and bushes were covering the corners. All through I could see trees on either side of the road, besides making the road look picture perfect they also kept the temperatures under control, I mean who wouldn’t love to ride through a road protected from sunlight after getting all sweaty the last day.

The roads were mostly occupied by pedestrians. Motorcycles or any other vehicle was a rare sight on this road.  Since the last 2-3 days I have been noticing that all the villagers carry a axe like weapon for chopping wood. Be it Desaiji or any other villager, they by default had it. I guess they use it for chopping the dry wood in the jungle so that they can chop the dry branches into sizes suitable for carrying over their heads.

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I soon came to another junction and saw a handful of people waiting there. This junction had  milestone,I stopped there or a click and then the people sitting there asked me “is there any bus coming?” I said “I havent seen any in the last 5-6 kms”. Then it struck me that these people just come here and wait for the bus without even knowing when it will come, just come and sit in the sun and keep waiting.

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 After a few kms I spotted another junction and then next moment I saw a restaurant. I stopped for a super-delayed breakfast at around 11:30 A.M. I hopped in and asked for a vada-pav and chai. But they said that they have South Indian dishes, so I ordered for a sada dosa and chai. I guess I was too hungry because I finished the sada dosa in no time and ordered for another.

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The restaurant manager inquired about my travel and as usual was astonished to know about my journey and asked “don’t you get bored alone”. All I could do is smile at him and say “No”. Well I thought that he wouldn’t be able to understand my thoughts so didn’t speak to him about it. Solo ride for me is one of the greatest means of finding solace, you are not following any timetable, you do whatever you want to do, stop wherever you want to and stay wherever you want. It gives you time to think; think about yourself, to contemplate things.

He also told me the direction to Amba, he told me to go to Shakarpa by taking a right turn from the junction ahead. It would take me to the NH204, from which I had taken a left turn, and then it would take me straight to Amba.

I started off, but as soon as I reached the junction I felt like taking the left turn rather than the right turn for the highway. I listened to myself and took the left turn. Soon I realized that it was the wrong turn as I could see lots of people and later I learnt that I was on the outskirts of a small town ‘Devrukh’. I wanted to skip crowded places and fortunately I saw a small road on my right. I took it without knowing where it would lead me. Well it was just 12:00 noon, and I had lots of time to explore, so I didn’t bother asking anyone the destination of that road.

The road was very narrow, if a car were to come from the opposite direction then I would have to go off the road, such was the width of the road. I love enjoy riding on these roads, riding in silence, without the worry of the world, without worrying about some careless driver/rider coming into my lane. At this point I could see a road on the right, but I continued to head straight and thought that if I return via the same road, then I would take this right turn.

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  I again encountered a fork in the road and decided to go left.  The road took me to a village and ended there. I guess the name of the village was ‘Kundi’. I could just spot two villagers there, both of them were busy arranging logs of wood into a pile. Probably they will sell it or will use it to build houses. I could also see lots of stock of dried smaller tree branches, probably to be used as firewood.

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 I returned to the fork and again went straight this time and came to another village, this time I decided to return back without going to the dead end as a villager said that the road ends in a couple of kms.

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 I again headed back to the first fork that I had encountered and decided to take the turn I had no taken while coming. Once I reached the fork I could see a milestone, but due to the effect of the monsoons, it had gone black and nothing was visible. I asked a pedestrian if this road leads to Amba. He gave an affirmative node and said i can take either a left turn or a right turn from the next village ‘Hativ’.

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 Upon reaching Hativ I took a right turn only to realize that the highway is too close, I turned back and headed straight. I enquired and understood that now if I go straight I will go through some villages and join the NH204 just before Amba.

I loved the road to the core, it was a zig-zag road through villages and took me through a very scenic panorama. I could see the structures made of hay all along the landscape. The farmers make these after they harvest the paddy, in order to keep the paddy safe from the climate for a long time.

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 Soon the road started climbing up and I got connected to the NH204. I could see the villages I crossed at a distance. The next few kms took me to Amba ghats. To be honest I was disappointed with the road condition in the ghat section. Amba ghat is supposedly one of the finest ghats in Maharashtra, know for the smooth tarmac and superb corners. I nonetheless stopped at a big curve for some clicks.

I took out my camera, but I found that the lens cap was not there, naturally I thought it should be there in the camera bag. But I couldn’t find it. I was frustrated like hell at that moment. I broke my camera, the zipper of the camera bag giving trouble and now this. I was literally freaking out. I however tried to compose myself saying lets get some action shots of myself riding.  But I guess nothing could calm me down at that moment but riding.

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 The ghat section soon gave way to a small patch of arrow straight road. I ripped like crazy to get my frustration out. I then realized that, the best thing I could do at that moment was take a break. I stopped at Chandoli for lunch. Enjoyed a not-so-delicious chicken thali, cooled down myself and started thinking about my destination for the day. People in the restaurant suggested Kolhapur, but I didn’t want to go to the hustle-bustle of the city till my ride was over. Then someone suggested Panhala, a well know tourist destination hardly some kms away from Kolhapur.

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With the destination of the day fixed I headed towards Chandoli National Park. I took the most commonly used route to go to Chandoli, well I had very little time before sunset, hence didn’t want to experiment with the route, hence took the Malkapur-Chincholi-Chandoli National Park route.  I headed straight to the Warana reservoir only to see two policeman standing alongside a barricade. They told me that I can’t go any further. I was disappointed on hearing this, I came there as quick as possible only to find this. These are some disadvantages of not having a proper plan and information of the places one wants to visit. I  then decided to do some exploration around that area.

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As I was returning from the closed gates I saw a road on my right. I took that and explored around that area. My disappointment of not being able to visit the dam vanished as I made my way through some trails in the jungle. I had to turn back after a point as nature didn’t want infiltrators beyond that point and had successfully blocked the trail with a fallen tree. I however was satisfied with the place, it was calm, quiet, peaceful, serene and made me feel close to nature.

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Soon I found another blocked gate and a guard near it, and he said that I cant go inside without permission. I therefore decided to head opposite to the gate where there was no road. Seeing this he was shocked and said that its not a good idea. I however continued and yet again thanked myself for taking the tough path. This was the place I was looking for,. Once I killed the ignition of my bike all i could hear was the sound of water gushing out of the dam gates and making its way through the stones, some birds chirping and wind rustling through the trees. I was satisfied with the day after finding such a place. The villagers were taking their cattle back to their village indicating that the day is coming to an end.

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 I turned back and went further ahead into what seemed to be a road to a village, as I could see groups of kids in school uniform returning from their school. This sight again made me think rather it started a debate within me, who are luckier, the kids of rich people living in cities going to expensive schools in expensive cars or these kids who walk miles to go to a govt school. To me these kids looked happier. I clicked some pics and decided to return as the sun was about to set and I was far away from my destination and had lots and lots to blog.

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On my return from this point I had to stop yet again for a photo. I could spot a forest fire , A PLANNED forest fire to burn off the fallen leaves I guess. I couldn’t help but click it and the headed back.

My mobile battery got discharged on my way back and I just stopped once for clicking. I stopped under a bridge, I stopped as I saw a free flow of a stream of water. I wondered what was the bridge for, as I couldn’t spot any vehicles neither were there any electric wires or something that could make it usable for rail transport and the continuous flow of water increased my curiosity. I finally asked a local guy and he said that the bridge carries water from the reservoir to the nearby towns.

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 The sun was making its daily run towards the horizon and I started for Panhala. To reach Panhala we need to take a right turn from the NH204. I reached a junction in Panhala and could see a hotel right at the junction. I went in and enquired and found it to be pretty expensive for a night’s stay. Moved further up and found a couple of hotels, but they denied rooms to single person. I was shocked on knowing this and questioned their logic, the just ignored me. I didn’t have much more energy left and hence decided to go back to the same hotel at the junction. Got myself a comfortable room, opened up my laptop, sorted out pics and started blogging. After an hour or so went for dinner and called it a day thinking about tomorrow, the last day of the trip, the trip that has taught me so many things, I began getting flashbacks of the highlights of the trip and went to sleep.

Total Kms done on Day 6: 310 kms

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One thought on “Day 6: The Mango Thief (Secret Paths of Sahyadri)

  1. Pingback: True Wanderers Ride – Secret Paths of Sahyadri | TouroGraphy

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