Nearly a year had passed after the enthralling Kalavantin trek attempted by me!
Looking at some alternatives for my next trek, I stumbled upon the Sandhan Valley trek and had made up my mind that this would be my next trek at any cost!
Although I had to wait for another year (an abnormal year by all means🙈) before I could actually attempt this one, it was worth the wait!
The planning for this one was not short of challenges, from cancelling the trek a week prior to the Christmas weekend, to some startling changes a day before the Christmas weekend when we were actually going to attempt this trek, it was a troublesome two weeks!🙈
Nevertheless, all is well that ends well and here I am finally penning down my experience of attempting one of the most fascinating and unique treks in the Sahyadris!😉
So amigos, hold on to that adrenaline rush and join me and my group as we take you through our hike in The Valley of Shadows!
Sandhan Valley, also known as ‘The Valley of Shadows’ (as no sun rays reach the depth of the ravines), nestled in the vicinity of two of the most famous trekking destinations in Maharashtra, offers a unique experience to trek lovers!
It is not similar to your conventional treks which include hiking to the top of the summit or a hill fort, but this will challenge your limits as it not only provides you with a proper camping experience but does also offer an unparalleled rappelling and rock climbing experience whereby you will be able to literally feel that you are going to altitude levels which are below the normal levels which you experience!
Here are some Quick Facts to get you rolling:
Sandhan Valley Rappelling and Camping
In Kalsubai-Harishchandragadh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra
• From Mumbai – approx 190 kms
• From Pune – approx 200 kms
Moderate to Difficult
• Alang-Madan-Kulang Forts (AMK Trek)
• Bhandardara Camping
• Kalsubai Peak
• Harishchandragadh Hill Fort
• Ratangad Fort
First, let me introduce you to the travelling pack which consisted of Tirath and Chaitanya who had accompanied me to the Kalavantin Durg trek, Pruthvi with whom I had been to Kalsubai last year and mine and Chaitanya’s younger cousins aged 14, both named Shubham!
The journey commenced from National Park at Borivali East from where we had to reach our first checkpoint i.e. Ghoti village and then to our final destination, (unlike the movie franchise🙊🙈) Samrad Village.
Also halfway through the road trip, you are bound to lose your network connection so its highly advisable to download an offline map via Google Maps to assist you in navigating in the later half of the trip!
Further during you will pass through a couple of ghats in the later half of the trip.
So people suffering from motion sickness are hereby advised to take tablets or medicine to avoid that nauseated feeling!
The entire road trip takes around 5 to 6 hours depending on the halts as well, so its advisable to commence your journey around 10 a.m. to ensure you reach Samrad by 5 p.m.
At around 10:30 p.m. we finally reached Samrad Village where we met our trek leader Unmesh (a lookalike of Indian Cricketer Sanju Samson) who helped set up our tents along with the bonfire!
The network range had disappeared and also the temperature had dropped by a couple of degrees giving all of us a chilly feeling🥶
Soon the bonfire was ready and everyone assembled around it and the warmth of the bonfire was what we required at that very moment!
Shubham (S1-my cousin) sang a couple of songs which set the tone for the next hour or so while the others were busy having theplas prepared by my Mom (perks of having a Gujju with you on a trek😎)!
Once the bonfire was starting to die down, Unmesh informed us that we would be starting the trek around 7:30 or 8 the next morning and so everyone trailed back to the tents with Shubham (S1), Pruthvi and me settling in one tent whereas Chaitanya, Tirath and Shubham (S2) heading into the tent to the right of ours.
Tirath and I though strolled around the vast ground engaging in some deep conversations and catching up with the recent happenings before we decided to call it a day!
Once inside the tent, the only thing on my mind was the main event which was waiting for us somewhere nearby from where we had set up our camps!
Waking up around 6:30, I found out Pruthvi and S1 standing outside the tent absorbing the beauty of the nature around us!
I couldn’t wait to experience the same and hence ventured out and was awestruck by what was visible ahead of us!
Ratangad, standing high and mighty, lay ahead of us surrounded by some of the other lofty peaks and there was a vast expanse to the right and left of it!
The sky was a light shade of pink as we saw the other groups getting ready to begin with the hike.
We got going with our routine and in another hour or so we clicked some amazing pics with Ratangad as the backdrop!
Before moving to the villagers hut where we would be served with hot tea and poha, I readied myself to take a timelapse of the sunrise along with some stunning captures!
Once we were done with the breakfast, we finally commenced our first and last trek of this challenging year filled with intrigue and excitement!
Walking along the dust path for around 15 minutes, we reached the main entrance of the Sandhan Valley trekking point.
Venturing further, we reached the point where we had the first glimpse of the breathtaking valley emanating a calming experience in our minds😍!
Surrounded by greenery on 3 sides, we could finally see the depth of the valley by how high the rappelling start point was (as seen in the top left corner of the below pic)
Unable to contain our excitement for too long, we went up from a path which curved towards the left of us and after treading for 5 minutes we reached the starting point of the rappelling activity.
So the rappelling was conducted by the local guides who had arranged the activity by attaching ropes to the trees in 2 pairs whereby 4 people can do rappelling at one go!
So from our group Unmesh and Pruthvi got ready by wearing the harness around their waist and the helmets and gloves offered by the guides.
Next in line was Tirath followed by S1 who was pretty excited to rappel down the mountain side!
But once Tirath had descended along with Unmesh and Pruthvi, it was now time for S1 to finally get a feel of the wild!
All set up, S1 readied himself by getting his body at a 90° angle to the mountain side but acrophobia (fear of heights) got the better of him🙈😕
I tried settling him down saying that there was no need to look down as all he had to do was look up!
The guides even gave him time to calm down and give it another go but somehow he was afraid to let go off the rope and lower his body down the valley and hence he changed his mind!
I was a bit sad and tried my best to reassure him that we will give it another go after Chaitanya was done with the same.
But little did I know, even Chaitanya who was suffering from acrophobia, was not ready to rappel down the side and he also shook his head and came back up towards us!
Now I had some doubts as two of my group members had quit from the starting point itself😕
But somehow I knew that it isn’t as difficult as it looks because you aren’t going to fall down at anytime because of the harness and also I had somehow overcome acrophobia after my first trek itself 🙈✌🏻
So yes, the guide was giving me instructions on how to descend and always keep my legs straight and not to bend them at the knees!
S1 clicked a couple of pics of mine and I was ready to release the rope in my right hand slightly so as to move down.
But, I lost my footing and I swung to the left and then back to the right and finally I steadied myself in the centre🙈
It did feel embarrassing at that time but yes, once I got the grip, there was no looking back!
I descended pretty quickly and I could hear Tirath shouting out that I need to slow down🙈
Anyways in the next couple of minutes, I joined Pruthvi and Tirath back at the base of the rappelling point and we waited for S2 to complete the activity and also for Chaitanya and S1 to join us back through another route.
Once everyone of us had assembled back, we started the next leg of the hike, the valley exploration!
The valley was approximately 10 feet wide and it felt cold at the bottom.
From the bottom we could easily make out how tall was the mountain side from where we had descended assuming the height to be around 70 to 80 feet!
Trudging slowly through the path which was full off boulders of all sizes, we reached the first patch of water where we removed our shoes and walked barefoot through the ankle length water.
Remember one thing friends, do not make the same mistake which I did!
Avoid wearing Woodland Shoes on this trek as these shoes are not suitable for any trek where there is even a slight probability of water to be found!
Even good running shoes with sturdy grip would be enough for you to arm yourselves going into this trek!
So I removed my shoes and socks and put them in a plastic bag, and took my first step in that chilling water!
It took me sometime to acclimatise to the chilly water but once it was done, I treaded slowly as the rocks at the bottom were loosely placed and the fear of slipping and spraining my ankle was there at the back of my mind!
Once on the other side, I could see that there were some huge boulders with a flat top, standing on top of which you could click some jaw dropping shots with the valley as the backdrop!
Walking barefoot, my feet had started paining because of the uneven and sharp rocks lying at the valley bed.
So I decided to wear my socks at least to protect my feet from the treacherous terrain, but soon I realised that there is still a chance that wearing these socks I might slip on the boulders that lay ahead!
Also, I decided to wear my socks inside out so as to create more friction between my feet and the rocky valley bed (a trick which I had seen in Man vs Wild, but which I got to apply only recently😉) and soon Chaitanya followed with the same trick too and to my surprise, it did actually work!
Now moving ahead, there lay the second and the longest water patch in the valley with waist length and also neck length water levels🙈😍
Unmesh had decided not to venture further ahead so we kept S1’s bag along with him and I decided to carry my bag along with my shoes hoping that I would be able to wear it once I reach the other side.
A small crowd had gathered there waiting for their turn to cross the patch and reach out on the other side so we patiently waited for our turn.
Pruthvi and S1 were the first ones to get going and looking at the water level reaching Pruthvi’s torso, I guessed the same would reach till my neck🙈
A word of caution for everyone reading this, if the water level was reaching this height in the month of December, you can surely imagine what it would be like to attempt this trek in Monsoon!
So all those looking to attempt this trek in the months between June to September can do it, provided you are a risk taker or a thrill seeker!
Also there was a small raft made by the locals which was used to carry stuff like bags from one end to another at a meagre cost of Rs 20.
So taking support of the raft, Pruthvi S1 and Tirath reached midway through the water patch where the water levels had receded and the raft returned to the start to assist another group of hikers!
Preparing myself mentally for the small challenge that lay ahead, I slowly took a step down and tried feeling my feet getting a firm grip at the bottom.
Carefully, Chaitanya, S2 and I ventured forward taking support of the raft besides us!
The neck length water levels did make it a bit tough for us but we soon reached the other side safely!
Pruthvi, S1 and Tirath were moving at a steady pace and even Chaitanya and S2 decided to wear their shoes so as to catch up with them, which literally made me the only one in my group to complete almost 90% of the trek barefoot wearing only my socks that too inside out (quite an achievement that😌🙈)
Further the valley started getting a bit wider and there was not much crowd left ahead of us.
All of us grouped back together and utilised this time to click some amazing solo pics and groupfies!
Almost 3.5 hours had passed since we had started with the trek and almost 400 metres ahead of us was the end of the valley where there was a drop but we could have reached this spot only after navigating across 2 more water patches.
So better sense prevailed in returning back as we had explored majority of the valley as again we had to cover the entire path which lay behind us full of numerous boulders and challenging rocky outcrops!
And I was cursing myself on my choice of selecting my Woodland shoes as my feet were gonna go through some hellish environment once again😑
The return journey seemed less tiresome as we had taken ample rest before retreating back to the start of the 2km long valley!
Tirath, Chaitanya, S1 and S2 were at the head of the pack followed by Pruthvi and lastly me, who was moving at a snail’s pace so as to ensure I dont hurt myself in the process🙈😅
In another 45 minutes, after trudging through the very unfriendly terrain, we finally reached the spot whereby we had to climb big boulders upto a height of 50 feet to reach the starting point from where we had meandered towards the rappelling start point!
This entire activity did actually feel like a rough body massage whereby every joint of mine had been worked upon which in fact was a good thing!
So in another 30 minutes, i.e around 12:30 p.m, we had set course for the base village after being severely exhausted with the events taking place throughout the morning!
My legs could have given up on me anytime but I somehow managed to reach back to our white coloured Innova standing near the raised platform in the ground.
We quickly freshened up and changed into a new pair of clothes as we all were hungry and could hear the rumbling in our tummies!
Packing our things, we reached the house where lunch was going to be served to us and once the lunch was served, we were enamoured by the aroma emanating from the freshly cooked food❤
It was a proper lunch with ‘shev bhaji’, daal, big rotis and that extra tinge of spice!
The lunch was as yummy as the dinner which I had on my last trek at Kalavantin, if not better!
We quickly gobbled up the food and clicked a few pics with our mode of transport and got ready to bid farewell to this trek which had provided us with a lot of challenges but all of those were worth it!
When I look back at this trek, it reminds me of all the uncertainties which life throws at us and teaches us that we just need to calm down a bit and take a proper decision although there is an element of risk involved!
This trek was a unique experience especially in this year whereby the trekking industry has been badly affected and nobody knew when it was going to get back to normal!
But, this is life!
Just as one trek gets completed, we need to let the past year go and embrace the future i.e. the next trek which awaits us😉
So here’s hoping for a lovely 2021 for all you readers out there and hopefully we can adjust to this new normal sooner!
And lastly, a token of appreciation for my friends who had accompanied me on this trek without whom this would have been a dull affair and also to S1 and S2 who had their first trekking experience and did a commendable job, well done guys!
And also a very big Thank You to our very own Sanju, Unmesh for being such a good leader!
Looking forward to the next trek with this awesome bunch❤😊