Valley of Shadow- Sandhan Valley
I believe in challenging myself to overcome my fears and Trekking has been one such area for me of late. I had partially exposed myself to the rigours of trekking in the rain-forests of Agumbe (http://datravelography.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/into-the-wilds/) to try and see the sunset from the top of a hill. Like a typical debutante, I fell 4-5 times and considerably bruised myself. To extract that little extra out of a destination, to go beyond the usual ‘tourist’ spots, one has to take that extra step (quite literally in this case!), so I decided to give trekking another chance. I armoured myself like a warrior before a war- bought trekking shoes, a good backpack, and a head-lamp and was all set to go on my first (proper) trek. I was hoping for a few good pictures as well and hence packed my camera and my tripod as well. The organizers said it was a difficult trek to do; I was a bit nervous and uncertain about how things are going to be. The only thought that kept me going was “when others can, why can’t you?” And I believe you need more of mental strength than physical strength to pursue such tasks anyway.
Sandhan valley is a wonder of nature and a gem in the Western Ghats. The water carved valley is the greatest canyon approx 300 ft deep, near Samrad village. The whole trek was a dream like and you will feel the wilderness to the core as you walk into the Valley of Shadow. My trek to Sandhan valley started early morning at 6:25 am from Samrad village. As soon as the trekking started we had to cross two water pools and that’s what refreshed me up that morning. As the trek progressed, it became more fascinating to walk between two high mountain walls. It reminded us of ‘127 hours’ and we secretly prayed the resemblance stopped there, if you know what I mean. Thankfully the weather was pleasant and not too hot. We kept descending through the boulders and some of the patches were very difficult to pass. At times we all shrieked that something bad was about to happen. But I had faith in the organizers and their skills. We kept walking through the day sharing food and laughs. But after a certain point, we were all exhausted and had no strength left to jump around the boulders. Our legs were shaking and hands were red with bruises.
After crossing a few more patches, rappelling down we reached the base camp in the valley at 8:30 pm, after 14 hours of climbing and jumping through boulders and we were dead tired. Some delicious food at night and a swim in pool in morning refreshed me and we walked next day till noon to pass those dreaded boulders again. It was great to finally see the planes and the beautiful village (named Dehane) over them.
I wouldn’t say that I have now pledged to trek every now and then but this experience would surely help me in picking my travel destinations which I avoided earlier. You never know your capabilities until you put yourself in such situations. And yes, I did receive a few compliments by the fellow trekkers that I (apparently) am a natural trekker. It is a victory in itself, and now trekking can not hold me back to see the beauty around. But I would still prefer to see the sunrise when I feel fresh to welcome it rather than in sweating trekking pants. And yes about the packing checklist, taking tripod was not a good decision as I didn’t use it at all as the focus was entirely different. I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would have. I was even scared that my camera might break as the bag kept banging here and there throughout the trek, so I would recommend a small point and shoot over a DSLR.
Things I loved the most-
- Villages– Samrad Village (Start point, near Kasara) and Dehane Village (End point, near Asana Village), it is a perfect campsite for photography and relaxing your muscles. The open grounds surrounded by mountains of Westerns Ghats were breathtaking.
- Water pool– On day 2 we all bathed in a pool at base camp, Sandhan Valley which was quite deep. People call it Blue lagoon but it was rather grey in the month of February. You may find it in better colour after monsoon. I didn’t let any pool pass by without taking a dip, as it was pretty hot next day.
- Food– We had delicious Maharashtrian food, cooked by local villagers, it was such a delight after the tiresome day.
- Giant Swing– It was a great sight to see someone swinging from the height of 500 feet. It is one of India’s first natural Giant swing set-up. It is absolutely safe but even the view sends chills down the spine; of course it is now a part of my bucket list.
Important things to know-
- It is not a monsoon trek as the valley would be flooding with water.
- It is a difficult trek including challenges of crossing water pools, rappelling down on two to three patches and a full descend among the boulders.
- Carry your water bottles, headlamp, food and good trekking shoes.
- Try to join a group for trekking, so that you don’t get stuck alone in extreme situation.
I traveled with Mumbai Travelers who encourage offbeat travels. They have expertise in trekking, wildlife and biking tours