Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A Long Forgotten Cave - Kondana Caves 2015

They say, some trips are enchanted and have a feeling resounding with them the minute they begin. However, this was not one of those trips (Hahaha, horrible start this one had.). Here is my second blog post covering my trip to the oh so, forgotten, yet beautiful and historical Kondana Caves, located in Karjat near Lonavala.

It began with me receiving a forward from Yash (One of the most chill, and fun trekkers and organisers I have met, in my time.) the founder of No Mad Hikers along with Yogesh (Missed you mate.) Inviting me for an overnight trek to Kondana Caves on the 28th & 29th of March. First I was hesitant, as my weekend work schedule was still not in place, but he still assured me (Like my true trekking mate that he is.) that even if the seats get full, he will make room for me, and accommodate me. (Enter bromance caption here.) The week went on, and finally I was sure, I could go! (Yaayo! :D). The week passed by as quickly as ever then, In no time, I was boarding a train from Kurla for Karjat, and was on my way to visit one of the oldest Buddhist caves in India.

The exciting and adventurous feeling, was beginning to kick in, through the dead dry summer heat. But then all of a sudden the train took an unexpectedly long halt at Ambernath. Everyone in the train, began to get irritated and nervous about the delay and started stepping out to see what happened, to my astonishment the train was cancelled due to a fight that had taken place in one of the compartments (Here, is the horrible start I was talking about.). After meeting Yash, and the others who were in the other compartment, we were figuring and discussing how do we move ahead. We soon, stepped out had a nice glass of nimbu pani (Lemonade.) and then took a rickshaw to Badlapur station. However the rickshaw wala suggested that we take a bus, and left us at the bus stop. For us to realise that there are no busses that go to Karjat (Note to self: Never take advice from a rickshaw wala, who seems to wink at you whenever he tends to suggest something.)

We then, walked it out to the station, which wasn't too far from the stop. Ran around looking for trains and buses and finally boarded a bus, that left us half way through to Karjat. We then took a rickshaw again, and the warm summer breeze seemed to blow away, as we entered Karjat. The cloudy skies and breezy winds began to greet us, the closer we got to our destination. We had a couple of halts to pick up things, Nani (Aniruddha, a business guy. Got us some nice boiled eggs, that he managed to convince a Chinese restaurant to make for us. That we were later going to use for sandwiches.) And then, the slight drizzle, turned to breezy rain as we reached the base point of the trek. We soon began walking against, the monstrous wind, that kept pushing us away. Soon, it began to get dark, and to find the path, was not easy at all. Vishal (Aka Silver. I still have no idea, why we call him that) removed his mobile torch for us to use, so did the others.We soon began our trek, trying to locate the right path, and not get lost in the forest. We soon found steps, and a dry river bed that we began to walk across. Sushil (A frequent trekker, and someone who had been to this cave a couple of times before, seemed to have a judgement of the path.) Slowly yet steadily we managed to reach the cave, just before it got too late.

The thundering skies, and unexpected drizzle and wind was surely a thrill and joy. Once we all reached the cave. We all were in awe of its majestic structure and beauty. Even though it was dark and we couldn’t really see it as well, it still gleamed its essence of glory and history. Soon, Yash and a few others began to look for wood, to set up a bonfire. We then sat around the fire, shared our tiff-ins and dabbas, had some delicious sandwiches Silver made, and Sarvesh assisted him with. The darkness began to kick in, and Yash told us a little bit about the history of the caves.The Kondana caves are a group of 16 Buddhist caves, located 33 km north of Lonavala . These caves were excavated sometime during the 1st century BC. The Chaitya or the prayer hall has one inscription which gives information about the donors. The cave can be reached by climbing down from the Rajmachi village. Kondana is a rock-cut Buddhist cave with a stupa, chaitya, vihara, and sculptures. It is believed that during an earthquake in the early 1900s, much of the front, floor and stupa were damaged. This left the pillars in the chaitya suspended like huge stalactites from the ceiling. Large beehives are said to be present at the entrance of the cave. Hence people are told to be careful. Yash also told us that there are beautiful carvings, and there was a statue too, that due to the earthquake and during some riots was damaged and broken into.) We were only able to see the remains.

We were a small group finally, just of 6. But through the night, we ate, sang along some songs, shared and spoke about our experiences some scary some not so much. Soon, we all got some sleep, and woke up to the misty beautiful morning skies. (You need to see, the pictures. It felt lovely.) There was something about the air, something peaceful and homely. Something that wouldn't want you to leave. However, we did have to head out soon. So after exploring the cave quite a lot myself and together, entering the Monks meditation rooms, seeing their water tank, climbing up a hidden path, and getting a aerial view of the prayer hall. We soon began our journey downwards. It was a fun descend as we did not take any halts, and the early morning weather was quite, a pleasure to walk through. We soon reached the base and our trip had reached its end. We then had some morning snacks, got our tickets. And were on a train back home.

This was a different sort of trek, than the usual one. A more peaceful, small, and concise one. A one that threw a lot of challenges at us that we faced head on. And a cave, that silently comforts you and makes you feel at ease. It was a memorable trip, and trip I’d love to do again. Looking to keep in touch with the new friends I made. And to do more trek's with No Mad Hikers.

Picture of the Trek(Kondana Caves 2015) :

This is Alpal (A new nickname, given to me.) signing off, until next time.
Have a great day, and an adventurous weekend! :)                                                                                       
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Thank You

Alvin Anthony