Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Mighty One: Alang, Madan and Kulang Forts


“Heads or tells “I was not able to make a decision either to go for trek of Alang, Madan and Kulang forts (AMK) or to stay back. So I relied on the toss. And indeed toss gave me correct direction. As per toss I opted for AMK trek. 15 fellows including me opted for AMK. Only experienced trekkers were allowed to join as it was very tough trek. Dhaval organized this trek. Many of my friends were there in the group. After exchanging few mails we knew what we should bring with us. We booked tempo traveler enough for 16 sits. Distance between Pune and Kulangwadi is about 200 km. State transport is very rare as the village is remotely placed.

Everybody except bus was there. Bus was late by an hour. We lost one precious hour from our planning. Finally we left Pune at 10 pm. On the way we got introduced to each other well. We reached Kulangwadi at 6am,

thanks to bad road between Ambewadi and Kulangwadi. Our driver was very upset with us as we forced him to drive on that road.
Next task was to find a villager who could guide us for two days through three forts. It is always better to take a local guide than to get lost somewhere in jungle. Finally we found Mangesh (the guide). Straightaway we left for Kulang gadh. We reached to the base of Kulang fort in half an hour. There was a well full of drinking water at the base.
We felt hungry as we progressed to Kulang. Our lunch was planned after Kulang. Steep continuous climb of Kulang is very tough. This tired everybody in just half way to top. Everybody kept their sacks with Magesh and went forward to top. Steps that English people did not destroy were there to help us climb. Kulang challenged us in stamina. Still all of us climbed to top. Views of Bhandardara backwater and Madan gadh were fabulous from top. Elephant of Madangadh is exquisite. There is ample water on Kulang. Apart from scenery there is nothing on top.
With empty stomach we started descending. We collected our bags. Now our next destination was plateau between Alang and Madan fort. Heat and tiresome trek to Kulang were showing results on our body. Cramps, dehydration and pain took over few of us. Lunch was the only medicine. We took a lunch break for an hour. Menu included Dinesh's Pithale Bhakari and pickle, strawberry from Prashant and Parathe - Thecha from Kailash. Every bit of lunch was lavishing and with empty stomach not less than a five star treat. What else we needed as booster? Then we traversed to Alang.
On the way Vishal had severe cramps. Trek drawn first blood. But with a lot of electrolyte and water he was able to walk. Mangesh carried his sack for rest of trek. Chetan (aka Ramat gamat) had knee ache. I was very tired and had at least 20 scars on all over body. Humors kept us going all the way. Finally after 3 hours at about 4pm we reached to plateau. Until now I was walking very last. From there onwards we stared our final traverse to climbing point of Alang. It was just 15 minutes journey but felt like lifetime.

One group from Mumbai was also present. As soon as they saw us they deliberately started climbing before us. We lost almost 2 hours there. But in next 2 hours and 30 minutes we all were on
top of Alang. Dhawal climbed first and fixed the rope. Prashant and I followed him. We started pulling sacks over the patch simultaneously. Prashant (builder) with Samyak did that job very well. Dhaval and I were helping rest of guys to climb up.

Steps to top of Alang were quite dangerous. With a lot of care and precaution we steadily made it to the cave.
Few guys including Vishal were first to reach. They reserved place for us in the cave and also made fabulous mix soup for all of us. Caves on Alang are very big and can hold almost 100 people easily. Everybody was hungry and tired. I went to bed with my sleeping bag. Just to relax and not to sleep. I was in hands of sleep within seconds. Dhawal and Vishal (with help of our water team) made good Pulav. Nobody even tried to wake me up!!!
Good 10 hours sleep acted well as medicine. With fresh day and fresh mind we started ramping up for next challenge that of Madan gadh. Some photo shoots took place on Alang.We refilled our water storage. Ample drinking water is available on Alang. I did rappelling first and fixed rope for next small patch. Rappelling was joyful as it was very easy patch. Within one and half hour everybody rappelled down. Photo shoots made some delays. But that’s why we were there. It was about 12 pm when I traversed to plateau again. Whenever you return it is always simpler than before. I quickly passed it with few mistakes on the road. There are various roads downwards which can fool you. Dhawal and Aditya were last to rappel down.
I left them so that I can rest a bit on the plateau. Energy was needed to climb on Madan. I did not know what happened to me. At the start of trek I heard from Dhawal that Madan's climb patch is easier than that of Alang. So without any rest I asked Mangesh to head towards Madan. I was hoping to climb it free as there was plenty of time with me as I came forward. Traversal to Madan is very easy except one patch where there is nothing to hold and one mistake can cost you life. I only recognized it when others told me, because Mangesh was fearless. He walked on that path so comfortably as if it is a piece of cake. So did me.

We reached to climbing spot in 15 minutes (because I was walking with Mangesh's speed). There are plenty supports and bolts on this patch. So I decided to give it a try. I started slowly and steadily. In few seconds I gained confidence and within a minute I was on top without any help. I free climbed Madan. I removed shoes for greater grip and it helped. I was without water and shoes on top. So without wasting any time I went forward to see Madan from top. It took 15 minutes again to reach at top of fort.
Along the way there was one cave with capacity to hold about 10 to 15 people. There was little water on top. So if you want to stay on Madan do take ample water with you. The views from top were amazing. Complete U shape formed by Alang and Kulang made it look like Konkankada. Bhandardara backwater view is there. One can also see the caves on Alang. Madan provided the best of slot scenery . With no water I felt thirsty. So I went back to climbing point.
Everybody was cheered to see me on top without any support. Mangesh's threw an orange to me. So I could wait for others to come. Within half an hour rest of the team was ready to climb. Dhawal climbed first. As I was already on top, Dhawal passed rope through 2 bolts and then threw it to me. I fixed it to big rock on top. Within an hour they climbed up and I descended down.
I went back to plateau. It was an achievement for me to climb Madan. I was very happy with it. At about 3 pm I decided to descend down towards village with few guys. So that we can descend the waterfall way slowly and comfortably. The path was pretty easy as it was going to end our journey. Thalipith, dahi and chatani by Chetan made the main course, while Puranpoli and Khawa poli by Shrikant made for desert. But in the urge of getting to destination we moved much ahead of our meeting point decided by Magesh. We realized it late but not but soon enough to return to meeting point. Finally, guys arrived after an hour’s rest. We moved further towards village. In few minutes road was in our sight. We decide to wait there for bus. Dhawal, Magesh and few others went to village to bring the bus.
In half an hour bus came and all of us relieved. We were so happy to return, we were so happy to see the bus. Accomplishment to complete the most difficult trek in two days was on our faces. We were feeling on top of the world. We just stopped for dinner before reaching Pune by 2am.
On this journey everybody was relentless in putting their 100%. Commitment was unparallel throughout the trek. There were no casualties or serious injuries. Humor and spirit continued to the end. I got many new trekker friends. It was really nice to hear some of the experiences shared by Chetan. No aches, no pain even after such was a surprise to me. I did go to office and Jim next day as per schedule.
I rate this trek with 5 stars. It is better than all treks what I did before. Rs. 1150 was the contribution per head which includes all gears, dinner and traveling. Hope to see you with my next adventure soon.
Shridhar Purandare

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