As we type this, it has been 48 hours since the trek was successfully completed, but we are still not back yet. Our hearts, minds, and even our bodies are still lingering somewhere in the deep crevices of the valley, or hovering above the vertical rock that we climbed with our bare hands.
If we were to choose adjectives that would best describe the trek experience, we would say – stupefying, testing, invigorating, testing, exhilarating, testing…
At the end of the 9 hours that it took us to traverse down the rocky valley (which is actually the path of a river that flows during the Monsoon) and up the mostly steep mountain range, we were almost sorry that the trek ended…. while during the trek, there may have been a few hundred times when we questioned ourselves: “Why did we decide to come to this trek, again???”
The answers to us were amply clear – First off, we didn’t know what “tough” meant when our trek leaders told us it’s a ‘tough’ trek, and secondly, we were determined to test the limits of our endurance which is one of the biggest challenges of the Sandhan Valley trek. As our trek leader Jeetendran Nair (who is a retired Indian Naval officer) told us, “This experience will reveal the real ‘you’; it will bare you open – mentally, physically and most of all, psychologically…”
We began the downward climb at about 8am. Our progress was on schedule even though in a group of 9 we had three young children (aged 6-9) and a teen who was raring to go every opportunity that presented itself. Incidentally, the children had no problems climbing down the rocky terrain. Nimble footed, light on their feet, these young girls, jumped from one rock to another like mountain goats, leading the pack, and displaying tremendous spirit.
Less than an hour later we came across a shallow pool of water that we needed to wade through. The water body was formed in a depression in the valley and at the time we traversed it was about 5 feet deep. Right after the rains, the water would be at a much higher level we were told. The little girls were hauled on the shoulders of the adult male members of the group and the crossing though completed successfully soaked each of us to the bone.
After grazing our elbows on jagged rocks, sliding down some mighty ones, slithering down the slippery ones, we arrived at a little drop in the valley. We were then geared to rappel down, an experience that was terrifying for those attempting it for the first time.
Yes, we were one of the first timers, a fear compounded by our very real phobia of heights. Jeetendran gave us a pep talk, empathising with our fear and at the same time, encouraging us to overcome our trepidation.
The harness was secure, the gear in place and we were guided down the cliff expertly by the support team. All the time, the group cheered us on. As our feet touched the Earth, the sense of accomplishment we felt is indescribable!
Soon we were at the half way mark, a flat area where the river forms another pool during the Monsoon, where we rested our aching limbs and geared ourselves for the arduous climb up.
The upward climb drained us all. The Sun was overhead and the heat coupled with the strain of the climb was a real test of our mental make-up as well as physical. We took too many breaks, resting, catching our breaths, and pushing the group behind schedule by hours. Goaded on by the trek leaders, and the fear of failing light forced our already ravaged bodies for those final minutes of climbing till we reached the top in 9 hours.
How to Get There
Sandhan is a 5-6 hour drive from Pune, on the Nashik highway, towards Bhandardhara, the site of a famous hydro-power project.
Coupled with the time taken to travel to and from Pune and the average time taken for the trek itself, this trip is usually planned as a two-day trip with a night halt on the plateau.
For the astounding view of a diamond sky the trip must be planned on a full moon night.
Who to Go with
The Sandhan valley trek incorporates a rappelling experience and freehold rock climbing and descending, which cannot be undertaken by a group of rookies or individual trekkers. You would have to enlist the help of an operator who will, in addition to the technical gear also provide you camping gear and food cooked in one of the homes in the village on the plateau.
Grassland Adventures, is an adventure company operating from Pune and is run by two enthusiasts – Jeetendran Nair and Pawan Naik. They can be contacted on +91 9421 038 552 and + 91 9970 010 848.
They organise the trek from departure to arrival to offer you a glitch-free experience. Their energy is inspiring as they lead the group to the completion of one of the toughest treks ever!
And of course, they also supply the rum! 🙂
Wholesome local fare, the food offered on the trip is basic but exactly what you need to energise your bodies before and after the arduous trek.
Cooked by the village folk, the food is delicious and served to you hot.
What to Wear on the Trek
Good pair of shoes, floaters (for the water wade), long sleeved shirts and full length track bottoms.
A backpack with hi-energy snacks like bars of chocolates, nutri-bars, a fruit and sachets of glucose, Gatorade or other energy drinks that can be mixed with water. Don’t carry too much. A heavy backpack will slow you down considerably.
An indomitable spirit – whether or not you wear a long sleeved shirt or carry a bar of chocolate, you cannot do without this crucial constituent on the Sandhan Valley trek.
Your spirit will be tested, tried, broken several times and rejuvenated when you finally complete the trek!!!
Why YOU should go to Sandhan
It is a trek that will reinvent your idea of a trek… You go down first and then you climb back up which is contrary to regular trek paths.
The drive to the valley is replete with hidden treasures of the Sahyadris – beautiful, serene water bodies, Grand Canyon-like ranges, deep valleys and rapid waterfalls.
The quietude you will experience on the plateau is part of the experience of the trek itself. Camping under the open sky, you will be astounded at the brilliance of the stars – an experience city dwellers are bound to revel in.
The topography is unlike any you may have experienced before. It’s a great location for photography enthusiasts!
The trek is a test of your endurance, physical, mental and psychological.