My Tryst with Pachmarhi!!
Date: 17th August 2007
It was around 8 in the night. I, with some of my friends, was sitting on our parked vehicles in front of a tapri in Ramnagar. It is a regular meeting place for us. Last few days in college had been a roller coaster ride.
Finally, our college had agreed for the long-awaited picnic. We had never been to an official picnic in the last four years of college. This time, surprisingly, it had agreed to a night-stay picnic. But it had turned out to be a flash in the pan. At the last moment our college had backed out. It was a betrayal but not really unexpected.
Most of my classmates were eager to go to Pachmarhi and after coming so close to executing a full-fledged picnic, nobody wanted to let it get cancelled again. Most of them were ready for an unofficial picnic also! So, here we were discussing how to go about the picnic. Anyhow, we had to leave the next day because we were getting a continuous holiday of 3 days and couldn’t afford to miss college due to picnic. After a lot of hue and cry, finally at around 11pm, a travel was booked and everything was settled. We were to leave the next day in the morning so that we could reach Pachmarhi by evening. A Scorpio and Tavera were to take 18 people to Pachmarhi.
Date: 18th August 2007
But as it always happens with us, things never turn out as expected. Three of my friends were facing stiff resistance from their parents. But they had to be taken in any case. So everybody landed at my friend’s place to convince his parents and at last, after a long & hard battle, we took off for Pachmarhi at around 4pm in the afternoon!! It takes around 9-10 hours to reach Pachmarhi from Nagpur, a distance of approximately 350 km. That meant we wouldn’t be reaching before midnight. And we hadn’t booked any hotel as well! That was because everything was decided at the last moment… (Take my advice, always get an accommodation before you start your journey… you will save a lot of trouble!)
The journey was amazing beyond doubt. There was a little shower on the outskirts of the city but it stopped pretty soon. Listening songs, watching movies (yes, the vehicle was equipped with a screen!), cracking panchats… you really cannot worry about anything when amongst friends! Though I was oblivious to whatever was going on inside as I sat looking out through the window.
Somehow, for me, a road or train journey is always like sailing through a different world. I can really go on & on watching the sceneries outside flow past without getting tired or bored irrespective of whether its night or day. And here too I found myself appreciating the highways and the rural areas typical of our beloved country.
Our first stop was after we had left Maharashtra and the notorious roads of Madhya Pradesh had greeted us – a typical round bus stop where you have to pay to attend Nature’s call also! We next stopped at a famous mandir which is situated just along the roadside. It is said that one should always stop and pray at this mandir before going on with the journey… and I think it’s quite right too, because this temple marks the start of dangerous Ghats going up the mountain. From here, the roads and the scenery become such that you have to stop whatever you are on with to have a look at it. This was the first Ghats we encountered and felt like climbing a mountain. Even watching Ghats flow by makes my adrenaline flow. It was amazing.
After a long drive through the mountains and occasional villages we finally reached Chindwara late in the night. It was decided to have the dinner here. From here we went non-stop until we had reached Pachmarhi at around 2.30 in the night. Standing in the middle of the deserted main road Market somehow didn’t let me feel that I was in Pachmarhi… where were the mountains? It was difficult to believe that we were among them. But with nothing visible, we had no option but to wait till the morning. Right now, we had more pressing matters on hand. Here we were in a totally new place at 3 am with no place to spend the night. Not a soul was stirring. It seemed sleeping in the car was all that could be done now. But Pachmarhi being a tourist place is quite co-operative in such situations. After knocking and disturbing almost 10 hotels, we finally found one which had a room and a dormitory ready. Girls were sent to the dormitory and few boys spend the night in the room and the car. After a lot of masti, sleep finally took over.
Date: 19th August 2007
Next day, we woke up at 9’o clock, got ready and met the girls. It was decided to book gypsies as our vehicles weren’t allowed in this season.
The first place we visited was Pandav Caves, a few kms from the Main Market. This place is believed to be the one where the Pandavs stayed for sometime during their exile. A nice place for a morning visit, with lush gardens; it gives a good view of the surroundings from the top of the caves. There weren’t really any caves; just a small hill with artificial stairs to reach the top. But something interesting happened in one of the so called cave. I and one of my friends went inside a small cave which appeared to have a dead end like most others. But just as we were turning to return, I observed an opening in the right wal, big enough for a man to go through. Excited by the prospect of a deeper cave, we went there to explore. Standing on the entrance, we were trying to see through the complete darkness, when there were sudden shouts of laughter coming right from the place we were looking and echoing from the walls of the cave. The chilling laughter and its reverberations made our hair on the back stand on end. As our eyes got accustomed to the darkness and we regained composure from the momentary shock, we saw two men sitting in a relaxed way with their legs folded laughing loudly and sycophantically. They sat there with apparently no other purpose but to scare the hell out of the people. Laughing with them, we came out as quickly as possible.
After a light breakfast, we headed for one of the waterfalls. Pachmarhi has 3 famous waterfalls: The Silver Fall, Apsara Vihar and the Bee Falls. The latter is where you can take a bath and enjoy water falling right on top of you. We visited the falls in that order. A drive of 10 km and a walk of a few hundred meters led us to the Silver Fall. We weren’t exactly close to the fall, but were standing on an adjoining hill which held a beautiful view of the fall amongst the maze of mountains.
The most amazing thing about the Silver Fall was its location… With the grandeur of mountains surrounding it, it was difficult to take your eyes away from it. Standing on the edge of the hill, we all shouted in chorus, to hear the faint echo which seemed to stay longer than the original voice and when it faded, it felt as if the echo was carrying itself away from the nearest mountain to the farthest visible. After a few laughs and eatables, we left for the next fall: Apsara Vihar which was very close to The Silver Fall but not visible from here.
The real fun was undoubtedly Apsara Vihar also called The Dutchess Fall! And we understood why after reaching there… The way was such that the source of the fall came first and then we could go down to see the actual fall. But as soon as we set eyes on the source, we couldn’t stop ourselves. Forgetting everything, we simply jumped into it! The fast rush of pure water through the rocks looked like a fairytale scene! Probably Apsaras from the sky would have descended here to take a bath. And here, we felt like one too! We had thought of going into waters only in the Bee Falls. But this was too good to ignore!
We had a lot of fun here. It was getting very difficult to resist the temptation of staying in the water for eternity. You just cannot have enough of it! After more than an hour of pure wet masti and propelled by the shouts of jealous girls (they were to get in water at the next fall!) to get out, we finally left the comfort of the water. Amazingly, it took very little time for the clothes to dry considering the weather, though my jeans didn’t dry up till I reached Nagpur 2 days later!
The next fall: The Bee Falls was a short drive from Apsara Vihar. Back in the gypsies we were all feeling wet and cold but a light drizzle through the drive made it look even better! The drive to the Bee Falls included lots of twists and turns and once again we had a good view of the scenery. In 15 minutes we had reached the spot. We soon realized that once again we were at the source of the waterfall and had to go down about 400 metres through thick mountain bushes and rocks to get to the bathing area… It was visible from above and it looked terrifying from that height… After 10 minutes we had reached the bottom and a wonderful sight met our eyes… The huge and by far the best waterfall was in front of us. It looked intimidating. You don’t often get to see a waterfall from so close. Without pausing to take breath from the journey down, we got into the act! And being already wet helped a bit!
I must say it was an extravagant experience. Standing beneath the fall and letting the water fall on you hard felt amazing! Here’s something I suggest you to do if you ever get a chance to get beneath a waterfall! Go stand on the rocks and tilt yourself supported by the walls and let the water hit your head. Close your eyes and tilt your head back too. Breath through your mouth because you wont be able to breathe through your nose. Relax and feel… let the water flow through you. Soon your ears will block all unnecessary sounds and you will feel alone and with just a soft noise… like a constant breeze gushing around you. I stayed that way for about 15 minutes and it felt really good. A Statutory Warning: Don’t blame me if you catch cold! But if you be careful to not let the water enter your nose then you will be fine.
Well, after all the masti and splashing waters, we got dressed and came back up. All of us were really exhausted and hungry and decided to have lunch. It was already 5’o clock. We landed at a hotel suggested by our guide and ate chicken to our hearts content. For your information, non-veg is costly here probably due to non-availability.
As nobody had energy left for anymore sightseeing, we landed back to our resting place. The market looked quite different with slight fog surrounding the place. The evening was spent indoors with gossiping and getting fresh. The day had been a good one but still another place was left to be seen. It was decided to go their next day as soon as possible.
The night was again beautiful. Quite soon around 9pm, the shops had closed and the streets were nearly empty. But still the closed shops keep their lights on so that even in the absence of streetlights, it is never completely dark. I did do a few night time wanderings and the place never felt threatening or unsafe.
Guys in our group decided to have a bumper that night. Most of them got drunk and we roamed the empty streets freely in search of a hotel would be ready to accept a group of drunkards in the dead of a night! Dinner was a minimal and formality as most of us finally drifted to sleep at different hours.
Date: 20th August 2007
Next Morning, though we had planned to wake up early… the fact that we planned made it sure it would fail. So we woke up late. We took our time to get fresh, take a bath and finally to be ready to go out again. all the while it was decided to visit Chauragarh as the last destination and return back to Nagpur. Chauragarh was to be a long drive and then a walk/climb of 4kms! But everybody was excited to go there as it is the highest peak of Pachmarhi and a temple is located at the top which was, incidentally, visible in the background of The Silver Fall. It was at that time that the trip to Chauragarh was actually planned.. and yeah executed as well!
We had breakast of idli sambhar in one of the bigger hotels. When there are about 18 people waiting for the same thing, even breakfast can take over an hour. Finally, after getting well-fed we all settled in the car and were off! The road to the base camp was once again enthralling. All gossips stopped as everyone paused to relish the exquisite beauty of the jungle and hills along the road. Once again ghats had started which were as curvy as a perfect-figured lass. It took us an hour to reach the base camp from where the trekking began.
Realization stuck to many when we saw a sign-board mentioning 3.8kms of trekking to be done from the base camp. Few girls decided to give it up and stayed in the car. The sign-board also mentioned Gupt Mahadeo at a distance of 0.2kms. Actually, the place which I am calling as base camp is known as Mahadeo, a Shiv temple. The Gupt Mahadeo as we came to know later was a very thin cave, 100 meters long. It is so thin that a lean person has to go sideways. At the entrance is a huge figure of Lord Hanuman. Inside, with the help of a 60W bulb, is visible an idol of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha. Nice little adventure, I would say. The Gupt Mahadeo is on the way to Chauragarh.
Undoubtedly, the journey to the temple of Chauragarh is wonderful! Beautiful sight will meet your eyes at every turn. Start clicking photos here itself if you are waiting to do it till you reach the top because nothing would be visible from up there! Only white fog! As I said, it was a long journey… stairs and plane surfaces coming alternately. With bursts of energy and more resting, we finally reached a bell which marked the start of the temple. We were really tired but the constant breeze and a slight drizzle refreshed us in no time!
It was peace and harmony here. Standing at the edge of the hill, it looked a completely different place. It was nostalgic. 10 years… it was 10 years since I left the company of mountains (Sahyadri Mountains, the Western Ghats), and how I missed them! But here I was sensing each and every angle around me. The aura of the mountain shook me from inside. One side of the temple showed us the view of the plains below. It seemed to be a scene taken straight out of a bollywood movie. The patterned fields intersecting the brown paths looked like one of those rural scenes were the hero is flirting and the heroine is busy caressing the grass! Soon it was time to leave the heavens for the earth. We didn’t want to face darkness while getting down. After few photo sessions, we started the descend. Those of us who had reached earlier, (it was impossible for everyone to be together as everybody had their own speeds… so small groups had formed.) were already getting down.
The path of the ascend and the descend are different but quickly meet outside the vicinity of the temple. Just a short way into the descending path, ran another set of steep stairs which seemed to go in a totally different direction. We asked a haggard-looking stall owner at the corner of the turn who replied after we had literally shouted out the question. He told that this route will also take us down to Mahadeo. So I and two other friends who were the only people left among our group decided to try this new route. The well-built stairs looked inviting and safe but they flattered to deceive. The stairs took a sharp turn and suddenly there was nothing except huge rocks and wild hanging tree-trunks. Cursing the stall-owner, we were thinking of returning when my friend spotted stairs few meters away. They were hidden among the rocks. Somehow, we managed to get to those stairs and then realized that this was an alternate path but wasn’t being used as their was a safer route. How less safe this route turned out to be, we realized very soon! The path through the mountain was carved such that on one side was the sharply cut mountain and on the other a deep gorge with no iron railings as was installed throughout the original path. But they were giving such marvelous scenes that we stopped for a photo every minute! As their was not a soul on this route, we removed our jerseys; something we were eager to do from a long time. This route was exhausting what with going up & down like a see-saw! But somehow, it could not sap our energies now. We were excited, thrilled and a bit tensed, to be honest, with this new path we had decided to tread. Thinking of the wonderful book, The Road Less Traveled, to give myself some positive thoughts we kept moving. Even after one and a half hours, we were not sure whether we would touch the original route or not. Occasionally, we did see the original route with its railings in the distance, but that was only when we were on the crest of the route. It was the troughs that most terrified us as it seemed we were going through a thick jungle and an animal might jump at us from anywhere! After what seemed like a new discovery, we finally touched the original road and co-incidentally met the other groups who had left before us! They were shocked to see us coming from somewhere which seemed to them as a basement of a hill! Thrilled by our unique adventure, we completed the rest of the journey laughing and enjoying!
Just before reaching back to Gupt Mahadeo, we found a big open cave carved in the alongside hill. In the center of the cave sat a Sadhu, deep in meditation. A trishul stood erect on his left. He had applied rakh to all parts of his body and from a distance looked like a glowing ball contrasting the dark cave wall at the back. Out of curiosity, we went near him. He wasn’t meditating at that time. Taking permission from him, we took some photographs. He was wearing a golden watch on his left hand which glistened against his grayish wrist. On inquiry, we came to know that he was sitting here for the past ten days and was to stay there for another four days. After a few more photographs and inspection of the cave, we left him to his meditation.
Within fifteen minutes, we had reached our starting point. It was 6pm and the sun was nowhere to be seen, though there was still a lot of light. We had successfully avoided the night which didn’t seem probable when we had started. Getting back in our vehicles, we decided to have dinner and finally headed back to Nagpur. It was going to be a night time journey.
The day had been fruitful. Though we had seen only one spot, we felt elated and happy… full to the brim. Our journey back to Nagpur was more of a silent acceptance of the end of the picnic. Instead of the usual gossiping and chirruping, everybody felt tired and indeed, most of us spent the return journey sleeping. We took around three breaks in our journey for tea and refreshment. The roads were deserted for most part of the journey. But once again, I kept myself awake. It wasn’t going to be difficult as I had already stayed awake for a night when I was returning from Pune by bus last year.
We took a small detour to visit Jam Sawli temple at 4’o clock in the night. Considering the time, there were lot of people loitering around. But we realized that this people were waiting for the regular aarti scheduled at 5.30am. It would have been too late and so we decided to continue our way back, which wasn’t very far anyway.
I spent the last half an hour of the journey watching the sky turn from black to grayish orange to a lighter shade of blue and by the time it turned to the pale blue I was used to seeing every morning, I found myself at my friend’s home bidding everyone adieu for the time spent together.
PS. Check out the album…