Rangitoto – A Volcanic Island

30 August, 2010
Participants: Anand, Lukasz, Milind and Rakesh

After landing at New Zealand, I always wanted to make a Trip to Rangitoto – A Volcanic Island located at Hauraki Gulf near Auckland. I have read a lot about this exciting place and my friend, Milind had also mentioned about his exciting trip to this Island a few months back. We started tracing the weather a week before our trip and as per the forecast it was supposed to be Sunny with some drizzles occasionally. Since the weather seemed conducive, we decided to visit Rangitoto on Saturday; 28 August, 2010. Milind made the booking for the ferry a day before from Fullers’ website and we went to collect the tickets the same evening at Fullers’ office located at Viaduct.

The first ferry to Rangitoto departs Auckland at 9:15 am. We planned to be at the harbor at 9:00 as we had already collected the tickets. On saturday as decided we were at the harbour by 9:00 am and also met Lukasz who had already arrived around 8:50 am. The boarding started 10 minutes before the departure time and we all took the top deck of the ferry to get a glimpse of the surroundings. The ferry departed on time and the next stop was at Devonport to allow passengers travelling from/to Auckland, Rangitoto to embark and disembark.

The ferry left Devonport at 9:30 am. Since the weather was good we were able to get a great view of Auckland city, Devonport, Rangitoto and nearby islands. In maori language Rangitoto means ‘Bloody Sky’. It is believed that this Island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions between 600 and 700 years ago. The volcano is not expected to become active again, although future eruptions are likely within the volcanic field.

Finally we reached Rangitoto at 9:45 am. From the ferry we could see the Volcanic Explorer Road Train. We had opted to take this train which makes a complete tour of the volcanic island. We were accompanied by a guide who gave us a brief introduction of the tour and the island. This island boasts of a Volcano cone at a height of around 850 ft. rising above the sea and is around 5.5km wide. Rangitoto is considered as the most recent and largest of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. Rangitoto is seperated from the mainland of Auckland’s northshore by Rangitoto channel.

Our first stop was at a location from where the summit was accessible with a hike of about 15 minutes. We reached the summit from where we could get a beautiful view of Motutapu and surrounding islands. Also in between we visited the rim of the crater. This crater was formed by the settling matter during the cooling process. There is a small trail which goes right around the rim. After spending some time at the summit; photographing the beautiful landscape and blue waters we started our way back for our next stop near lava stones. These lava stones are present in some parts of the island. These stones are light in weight known as Scoria. Further ahead was McKenzie bay located on the western part of the Island. After some photography sessions, we headed back to the same location where we boarded the road train.

Now it was time for us to hike to the Lava Caves. It takes approximately 40 minutes to reach the caves by foot from the base. There are around 7 known Lava Caves. These caves are located on the eastern side at an elevation of 650 feet. These were actually tubes left behind after the passage of molten lava. Some of the caves are big enough where visitors can pass through them. Lava tubes are formed when the low viscoscity molten lava flows from the crater and the outsde; in contact with the ground and air ,cools to form a hard crust allowing the still liquid molten lava to continue to flow through. At Rangitoto the large tubes are cave like. A torch is needed to explore the caves. The longest known cave is about 50m long. After exploring the caves we started our descent back as it was around 2:00 pm.

We refuelled ourselves with some fruits which we had carried on our backpacks. It was 3:00 pm by now and we had around 1 hour to board our ferries back to Auckland. Our next stop was on the western side of the island to capture some photographs of Devonport and Auckland.

At around 3:45 pm, we boarded the return ferry to Auckland. The ferry left the island at 4:00 pm sharp and we reached auckland around 4:40 pm after a wonderful and memorable trip.


Turner Falls

24 April, 2010

Irving, Texas

Based on my friend’s suggestion, I planned to do a small hike at Arbuckle Mountains.

By viewing the photographs at their official website, I was very impressed and even told my friend, Anshul about the same. He was also pretty excited and we both decided to visit Turner Falls, Oklahoma. This place is located approximately 120 Miles north of Dallas and takes around 2 Hours to reach.

Turner Falls Park is the oldest park in Oklahoma. Many springs from Arbuckle Mountains form a Honey creek and cascades down a 77 Feet fall to a Natural Swimming Pool. It is also the biggest waterfall in Oklahoma. The park consists of many camping areas, natural hiking trails, caves, geological wonders, natural swimming pools, etc. It is described that this area is one of the three geological windows in to our past including the Grand Canyon and Black hills of South Dakota. The city of Davis operates this park and has around 1500 acres of adventure and fun in the heart of Arbuckles.

We actually planned to leave early Saturday morning around 5:00 AM but had to stay back due to bad weather. We finally set out at 9:30 AM from our hotel at Irving, Texas. Turner Falls Park is located 117 Miles north of Irving. We continued out journey on I-35 and after approx. 40 Miles, we stopped to buy some snacks and also to refuel the car at one of the Gas stations besides the highway.

From here we resumed our journey on Interstate Highway 35 for 1.5 Hours and then took exit 47 to Turner Falls. The entrance of the park is situated just 3 miles away from this exit. This was Anshul’s first road trip where he drove for such a long distance and was very excited.

We reached Turner Falls at 11:45 AM. At the entrance we had to pay a nominal Park Fee of $3.5 each and in return received a Receipt and also a map of the Park marked with all main points and trails. After entering, we found a suitable place to park the car. From here, we took our cameras and set out to explore the park. Our first point was the Main fall – Turner Fall which is near to the entrance of the park. This is one of the main attractions of this park and since it was a weekend, there were many visitors.

After exploring and some photo sessions near the waterfall area, we decided to hike the left hill located at the left of waterfall. After reaching the top, we could see a scenic view of the nearby hills and even the Fall’s natural swimming pool.

Since it was a very small hike and we had some more time to spare, we thought of hiking the other side (right side) of the waterfall. The trail is covered by thick woods on both sides. The hike is pretty easy and small. For the top, we had a beautiful glimpse of nearby campsites.

By now, it was 2:30 PM and it was time for us to wind up the trip. We headed by taking I-35 south towards Dallas. On our way back, Anshul wanted to try his luck at the Casino located at Thackerville, Oklahoma. After traveling for around 1 hour, we took an exit to Winstar Casino.

It is a very big place and known as Winstar World Casino where its exterior and interior depicts the famous architectures of the world; Big Ben, Palace of Westminster, The Rise of Castles in Europe, Puerta de Alcalá, The Roman Colosseum, Doge’s Palace, The Pantheon, The Triumphal Arch, Palazzo Vecchio, The Streets capes of Europe, Foundations of Far East.

After playing for around an hour, we decided to resume our journey. It was really a very nice and enjoyable trip and we were very fortunate enough to have a good weather.

For more information and maps, visit the Turner Falls Park website at http://www.turnerfallspark.com/


Ratangad – The jewel of Forts

05th September 2009.

Participants – Jitesh, Puneet, Rakesh and Winnith.

This time Bhramanti had planned a trek to Ratangad situated near the banks of Bhandardara lake of Ahmednagar District. Initially there were many members but some got dropped off due to unavoidable circumstances. The plan was to board the 12:20 AM local train from Mumbai CST to Kasara which takes around 2.40 hrs to reach.

I started off from my home at around 10:45 in the night and took a train to Churchgate from Vasai Road. I got down at Dadar at 11:50 AM and had another 0.5 hrs to catch the local train to Kasara. Since Winnith had already reached Kurla, I also thought of accompanying him. The trains were well on time and we both boarded the Kasara train from Kurla at 12:40 AM. After boarding the train, we phoned up Puneet and Jitesh and updated them about the train status. Since Puneet and Jitesh are staying at Thane, they had decided to board the train from Thane station.

The train arrived Thane at 1:10 AM and we spotted both of them quite easily as there were hardly any crowd. Jitesh was quite excited as it was his first Trek with Bhramanti. The train reached Dombivili and gradually the second class compartment turned in to a Sleeper coach as there were hardly any passengers except we four and other few. Still there was around 1.5 hrs of more traveling left to reach Kasara and we utilized the empty seats to rest by lying down.

The train arrived at Kasara around 3 in the morning. Our next destination was to reach Bhandardara/Shendi. We knew that there is a bus which ply from Kasara to Shendi but was not sure with the timings. After some photography sessions with Puneet’s camera, we proceeded to find out the bus timings. Due to the odd time, it was hard for us to spot anybody. Luckily, we met an old local man and enquired him about the bus timings. He told us that the first bus from Kasara to Shendi is at 7 AM. To take this bus we had to wait another 3.5 hrs as it was just 3:20 AM and thought of going for some other viable option. Luckily, we spotted a mini truck going towards Nashik. We asked the vehicle driver and he agreed to drop us at Ghoti highway. It takes just 0.5 hrs to reach Ghoti from Kasara. We got down at Ghoti and proceeded to the main village. At the village a local man directed us to a place/junction from where we will need to go for a bus to Shendi.

We waited at this point to board the first bus to Shendi. This bus actually goes to Pune via Shendi and charges Rs. 20 per seat from Ghoti to Shendi. The bus came at 5:20 AM. It takes around 1 hour to travel and we reached Shendi at 6:30 in the morning. Our next destination was to reach Ratanwadi (Base Village) and there are three options to reach the same from Shendi.

  • A 3 to 4 km. walk from Shendi to a village called Murshet. From Murshet, we can avail a local non-motorized boat to reach Ratanwadi situated on the other bank of the lake.
  • Second option is to take a non-motorized boat directly from Bhandardara dam near the MTDC resort to Ratanwadi.
  • The third option is to avail a jeep or van to Ratanwadi. The distance is approximately 22 kms. and it takes around 40 minutes.
  • The rates for the above travel fluctuates highly and vary from season to season.

After getting down at Shendi, we went to a local tea stall and enquired about the travel options available. Since there was very less probability regarding the boat availability, we opted to take a vehicle directly from Shendi to Bhandardara. The guy at the tea stall arranged for a Van (Maruti Omni). Initially the driver had quoted 900 Rs. to and fro but Winnith and Jitesh managed to bring the rate to 800 Rs.

We finished our morning breakfast and tea and set out to our next point, Ratanwadi. The road is completely tarred and is in good shape. The path paves through the ghats with thick lush green villages along the banks of Bhandardara. After reaching Ratawadi, we straightaway started the trek at 8:30 AM sharp. Just after walking a bit we met a local villager and she insisted us to go for a Guide but we decided to do it alone to make it more exciting. The area is quite thickly forested and its very easy to lose the trail and get lost in the midst of the jungle.

We started walking along the banks of the lake and after some time we came across a point where the River – Pravara met the lake. We continued to walk along the banks of the river. After walking for about 10 minutes, we had to cross the river once. Moving further we followed a small trail and had to crisscross the river thrice. The area is surrounded with very thick forest. Proceeding further on our way we encountered with a small stream which meets the river. The path now slowly climbs up keeping the river to our left. From here a clear path extends and one has to just follow the trail.

After ascending for some time, we reached a green flat land covered with grass. From this flat land, the Bhandardara lake is clearly visible. We started following the trail towards the right from the flat land. After walking for some time, we came across a point with two routes leading to two different directions. The route which goes straight will lead us to Katrabai pass and the other trail going up will lead us to Ratangad. From here the chances of missing one’s way is quite less as the route is quite clearly paved.

Climbing further, we encountered with a ladder painted in bright orange. The sides of the ladder are not in good condition and hence should not be relied upon for support. After climbing this ladder we immediately encountered with another ladder. After cautiously ascending the second ladder we came across the last rock patch which takes us to the entrance of Ganesh Darwaja. It is a bit difficult to climb this rock patch during the monsoons as the rocks are covered with moss and are quite slippery. One should take extreme care especially while climbing this rock patch.

After reaching the entrance of Ganesh Darwaja we took a turn towards the right and after a bit of climb, we encountered with some steps which led us to Hanuman Darwaja. From here we took a turn to the right and came across the Queen’s Palace (Ranicha Huda). There is also a small water tank situated besides the palace. Walking past the palace, off the fort, a narrow trail passes through tall grass along the edge of the fort. Following this trail for approx. 10 minutes, we encountered with another gate known as Trimbak Darwaja. From here the Ratangad Pinnacle – Khutta is also seen. A small path before the Trimbak Darwarja climbs up which leads us to a Natural Orifice (Nedhe). The Nedhe is quite large enough to seat around 5 to 6 people. Strong winds lash through the Nedhe. Here, we decided to rest and have some snacks which we had carried.

Ratangad was captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and is believed to be one of his favorites. Ratangad is also considered as a Jewel among the forts in this region. If the climate is clear enough then one can have a breathtaking view of the Bhandardara Lake, Alang, Kulang, Kalsubai, etc. The Britishers had also captured this fort in the year 1982 but the previous occupants battled to conquer it back again.

It was 12:50 in the afternoon and we decided to descend back as we had to board the 5:30 PM bus to Kasara. Jitesh phoned up the van driver and notified him to reach Ratanwadi at around 4 PM. We started to descend by 1:00 PM by the same way from which we had ascended. Again while descending through the rock patch and ladder one has to be extremely cautious during the monsoons. It took us very less time to descend and were blessed with heavy downpour all along the way.With some photography sessions near the river, we reached Ratanwadi at 3:45 PM.  We visited the temple of Amruteshwar – Temple of Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to be built around 1100 years back. It is carved out of rocks and is built in the Hemadpanti architectural style.

The van arrived at 4:15 PM and reached Shendi at 5:00 PM. Here we waited at a tea stall for our bus to Kasara while sipping some hot tea. The Akola-Kasara bus arrived at 5:45 PM. We boarded the bus and bought tickets to Kasara at Rs. 37 each. Luckily, we did not meet any traffic at Kasara ghat and the bus managed to reach Kasara at 7:45 PM.

We were well on time to take the local train from Kasara to Mumbai CST. Jitesh and Puneet got down at Thane station while Winnith got down at Kurla. I took a local to Virar after getting down at Dadar to complete my last leg of the journey after an adventurous and wonderful trek.

Would like to give my special thanks to all the participants and Bhramanti for making it a successful and enjoyable experience.

Kalsubai – Highest Peak of Sahyadris

Date: 22nd Aug 2009

Trek Members – Rakesh, Pawan and Winnith

This time we had planned to Trek the highest Peak in the Sahyadris, ‘The Kalsubai’. Mount Kalsubai lies in the district of Ahmednagar and is approx. 130 Kms away from Mumbai. Since it is a bit distant away, we had to start our travel a day before and had decided to board the Mahanagri Express from CST at 12:10 AM.

Myself and Pawan boarded the 9:30 PM train from Vasai to Churchgate on Friday, 21st Aug 2009. We got down at Dadar and took another local to CST. At CST we met Winnith who was already there at the station waiting for us. Our plan was to get down at Igatpuri railway station which is a 3 hour train journey from Mumbai. We bought 3 general class tickets at a price of Rs. 42.00 each. Since we were traveling in a general class compartment, we had to wait in a huge queue to catch the train. The train arrived at CST at 11:50 PM and luckily we managed to get a place to stand inside the compartment. The train departed CST on time and we had to stand for the whole journey till Igatpuri.

The climate was gradually getting cooler and cooler as we were nearing Igatpuri. The train arrived Igatpuri at 3:10 AM. Our next destination was to reach ST Bus Depot which is just 7 minutes walk from the railway station. From the station we took the foot over bridge and proceeded towards the west side of the station. A road runs parallel to the railway tracks which leads to the ST stand.

Our plan was to board the first bus from Igatpuri to Pune which was scheduled at 5:00 AM. Since it was quite an odd time, around 3:30 AM, there was no body in the Bus depot. We had 1 1/2 hour to rest and the Bus stand provided a very conducive environment for us to sleep.

Our next destination was to reach Bari Village which is around 45 minutes journey from Igatpuri. We boarded the bus at 5:30 AM (already delayed by half an hour) and bought three tickets to Bari at Rs. 20 each. The route to Bari is quite spectacular with huge mountain ranges surrounding on both sides. The bus reached Bari at 6:15 AM. From the road itself we can see the whole Kalsubai range but the top peak was hidden behind the clouds. If the climate is clear then the temple of Goddess Kalsubai can be seen from the village. We decided to start the trek at 7:00 AM and had our breakfast consisting of hot tasty Poha and Tea from a nearby stall.

The trek as such is quite simple with many routes. It takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the top. The main and most common route is from the village, Bari. The villagers would prompt you for a guide but there is no need to hire. The trail is quite straight forward and not thickly forested. After some initial photography sessions, we started our trek from Bari village at sharp 7:00 AM. After walking for around 15 minutes, we reached a temple of Goddess Kalsubai located at the base of the mountain. Proceeding further, we took a route from behind the temple. It is advisable to carry enough water since there are no source of water after we leave the base village. There are four ladders on the way. Some parts of the trek are quite steep but the advantage is that we gain height quite fast. There is a well at the top after the fourth ladder.

It took us 2.40 hours to reach the summit. At the summit there is a small temple of Goddess Kalsubai. If one is lucky, from the top a great view of the surroundings can be seen. The vastly spread out backwaters of Bhandardara attracts ones attention from the top. To the north of the mountain range forts such as Ramsej, Harihargad, Brahmagiri, Anjaneri, Ghargad, Bahula, Tringalwadi, Kavnai can be seen. To the east one can spot Aundha, Vishramgad, Bitangad and to the west Alang, Madan, Kulang, Ratangad (South West) and to the south Pabhargad, Ghanchakkar, Harishchandragad can be seen.

We spent some time clicking images of the surroundings from the top and even had some snacks which we had carried in our backpacks. By now it was 11:00 AM and we decided to start our descend down through the same route. It takes less time to reach down and it took us around 1.5 hours to reach the base village.

Our next plan was to reach Shendi/Bhandardara to visit the Dam and Bhandardara Lake. Shendi is around 8 Kms away from Bari and takes approx. 10 minutes to reach. There are plenty of jeeps plying to Shendi/Bhandardara. These jeeps operate from Kasara or Ghoti and charge Rs. 5 a seat from Bari to Shendi. We decided to give it a try and opted to sit on top of the jeep which is a very common scenario among the villagers.

We got down at Shendi and decided to eat something before visiting the Dam and Lake. We went to a local hotel and had Misal Pav (a common and tasty dish in some parts of Maharashtra) as it was the only thing available in that hotel.

Unfortunately, the dam was not open therefore we were unable to see the Umbrella Waterfall. After whiling away some time we proceeded on to visit the other side of the dam (Bhandardara Lake). The lake was full with clean blue water and was surrounded with beautiful lush green land and villages. Lots of MTDC resorts are also located along the banks of the lake.

By now it was 5:00 PM and it was time for us to return back to Shendi bus stop to board the bus to Kasara. It takes 2 hours to reach Kasara from Shendi and costs Rs. 40 per seat. We got the bus at 6:00 PM and we reached Kasara Railway station at sharp 8:00 PM.

After getting down from the bus, we rushed ourselves to buy the tickets as there is an 8:10 local train from Kasara to Mumbai CST. The train was not crowded and we comfortably got seats to sit. The train reached Mumbai at 10:30 PM. Winnith got down at Kurla station as he had to go to Chembur. Myself and Pawan got down at Dadar station and took another local to Virar at 10:47 PM. Finally we reached home at around 12:00 AM after an awesome and wonderful trek.


Cycling trip to Arnala

26th July 2009.

Participants – Anil, Diggaj, Harsh, Nilesh and Rakesh

All started on 25th evening at a local cycle service center in my area. Initially myself, Anil, Pawan, Diggaj, Harsh, Nilesh and Jatin had decided to leave next day early morning. Due to some unavoidable circumstances, Pawan and Jatin couldn’t make it up.

Since Diggaj had some test at 12:30 on the same day, we decided to return back well before the same. We all assembled downstairs at 6:45 in the morning and started our journey at 7:00 am. Arnala is around 17 kms away from Vasai. The road is very good with very less traffic. The road paves through villages with lots of vegetation on both sides. We stopped a couple of times in between to hydrate ourselves and even managed to click some photographs.

While riding, suddenly we heard a loud noise of a blast and was disappointed to know that Nilesh’s cycle’s back tyre went flat. Currently, we were at a place which was just before Arnala Village. A local woman said that the nearest shop is at Arnala village itself which was at a distance of around 1 km.

We all reached the village at 8:30 am. Since it was quite early in the morning, the shop was closed. A shopkeeper besides said that the cycle repairer will come by 9 in the morning. We left the cycle at the village itself and proceeded to Arnala beach which is around 4 kms.

Within 10 min we reached a place known as Arnala Naka. From there proceeded straight towards the beach. The route passes through a Kholi (Local Fisherman) Village. We all spent some time near the beach and decided to return as Diggaj had to reach home before 12 noon.

We returned back by the same route and reached Arnala Village. All of us had Vada Pav as breakfast at a local stall in the village itself while Nilesh got the cycle repaired. After having some rest, we all proceeded to return back. As we had already reached Kalam, Nilesh suggested that we can have a glimpse of the beach. As we reached the beach, the rain started pouring heavily which drenched us wet. Since the sand in the beach was wet and soft, it was very difficult for us to ride and had to get down from the cycle several times. We rode on the beach for some time and again got back on road. Since Diggaj was in a hurry, he was flying quite ahead of us and at one point he was not to be seen.

Since Diggaj had already left, and the rest of us were not in a hurry to return home, I suggested others to explore some dirt biking. Instead of following the actual route, we took a left turn from Gaasgaon. A very good dirt trail exists from Gaasgaon which is also a shortcut to reach Vasai.

Nilesh and Anil didn’t have a dirt bike so it was a bit uncomfortable for them to control it but managed very well. In between we reached a point where the trail was submerged in water. But fortunately the water depth was just waist deep and we all managed to cross the trail along with our bicycles.

At last we four of us completed the dirt trail and managed to reach home by 12 in the afternoon.