Date: 27th and 28th June 2009.
It was a very fine day with a cloudy cast over the sky. As usual I had planned to leave on Saturday Evening from my home. This time Pawan and Jatin had also planned to join for the Trek.
Our plan was to reach Thane Station to board the last local at 9:10 pm to Khopoli. Hence, we took a Pune bus from Vasai Road to Thane at 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, the bus met with a huge traffic at Sativali which made our chances to reach Thane station on time almost impossible. Considering this situation, I thought to change the plan and directly head to Panvel in the same bus. Since the bus was not going en-route Panvel, we decided to get down at Belapur and join Gopal who was yet to start his journey.
We got down at Belapur at around 10:00 pm and waited at the bus stop for a few minutes for Gopal to join. We four, then set out to Panvel which is at a distance of 20 min from Belapur.
After reaching Panvel, luckily we saw a bus going to Wai. Since this bus had a stop at Khopoli we boarded the bus and bought the tickets. Khopoli is at a distance of 38 kms away from Panvel by road. It took us around 1.15 hrs to reach Khopoli bus depot (Sheel Phata Bus Depot). This is the point from where we had to take an early morning bus (6:15 AM) to Ganpati Pali.
Since the rest of the group were already waiting at Khopoli Railway Station, we (four of us) thought of walking from the Bus Depot to Khopoli Railway Station which is around 4 KMS away. We reached the station after a brisk walk of 30 min. We met the rest of the team members who had already finished their dinner and were waiting for us to join. Since the area was not conducive to stay, we decided to hire some rooms in a lodge somewhere nearby.
Unfortunately, even this didn’t work out. The prices were quite huge and we did not felt it worth to spend for just 5 hours as it was around 1:30 in the night. Gopal suggested that we all will proceed back to Sheel Phata Bus Depot and have the stay over there.
Everybody (16 of us) started walking towards the Bus Stop and it took us around 40 mins to reach the same. The bus depot was quite spacious and was well sheltered to accomodate everyone of us but the area was quite filthy and full of mosquitos. Some of them managed to have a short nap, others were just roaming here and there to escape from the mosquitos. Sib and his wife dropped by at around 3:30 AM by the Pune Bus.
Everyone was quite excited and awake well before time to catch the morning bus to Pali. Some of us had a refreshing tea from a stall nearby. The bus arrived at around 6:15 am and we all proceeded to Pali. We reached Pali at around 7:30 in the morning. At Pali we met Kiran and team (5 members) who all had come in a private car.
We had our breakfast at the local canteen conisting of Poha, Vada Pav, Misal Pav, etc. There was a bus from Pali to Thanale Village at 9:45 am. The time was now 8:10 and since the next bus to Thanale Village was around 9:45, we planned to take a bus at 8:30 to Dhondse Phata and then proceed from there to Thanale Village which is around 5 km. From Dhondse Phata, Nadsur Village is around 1 Km. We all reached Nadsur village in just 10 min and then continued further to Thanale Village which is around 4 kms.
We all assembled (23 participants) at Thanale Village and had an introduction session. We also shared some knowledge about the location and especially the caves. After the introduction session we were accompanied with some local kids as our guide. The area is quite thickly forested and it is very easy to lose one’s trail. But since we had the locals as our guide, we never had any problems finding our way.
It took us around 3 hours to reach the caves. In between we also encountered with a small waterfall with crystal clear water. Many of them cooled off their heated bodies as the weather was quite humid and it didn’t rain. Some of us even filled the empty water bottles with the flowing water.
From the waterfall, the caves are clearly visible. These Caves are believed to be 2,200 years old. The caves encompass an arrangement of about 20-22 halls, each meticulously provided with spaces in the form of benches and reclining platforms. The most aesthetic of the halls, which was once an important congregation center for prayers, features many Stupas. The last vestiges found in one of the caves point to an association with the erstwhile Mauryan dynasty. There are exquisite carvings decorating the ceilings and doors.
For the first time, punch marked silver coins of Ashokan period (268-227 B.C.) were found here. These caves would be older than the Bhaja Cave complex, the oldest known. After the decline of Chaul as port during the end of 5th century, the trade routes were altered and this cave complex was rendered desolate and fell into oblivion. It was rediscovered by a missionary J. A. Abbot in January 1890.
It is believed that the revolutionary Vaudev Balvant Phadake used to take refuge in these caves. Cave 8 is the only Chaitya. Cave 3 is a memorial complex consisting of 6 monolith, 2 corner stones and 5 built-up i.e. Total 13 stupas. Cave 7 is a model for engineering , architecture and Grandeur, Vestigies of ancient plastering and paintings are also present.
Some of us explored the caves and the adjoining areas. We walked through the front side of the caves and managed to reach the top of the hill which the caves belonged to. After the exploration session, we had some light snacks which we had carried along with us.
We all started to proceed down to the village. The decent was quite quicker as compared to the ascent. We all reached Thanale Village at 2:30 pm. It took us around 45 min to reach Thanale Village. Here, we had a break of 5 min and again started our walk to Nadsur Village. After reaching Nadsur, we all took a Vikram (8 seater rickshaw) to Pali.
We had some snacks at the local canteen before the Thane bus arrived at 3:45. We all did not board the bus as it was already crowded with passengers. Luckily, there was a Panvel bus which was supposed to leave at 4:45 PM from Pali. We all boarded the bus to Panvel.
Winnith, Tejas and Nitin got down at Khopoli to take a train back to Mumbai. Others continued to travel to Panvel. After reaching panvel, everybody returned back to mumbai through different routes.