Monday, December 16, 2013

Kulang trek - Camping on the edge of the Kalsubai range

Ever since my earlier trek to Kalsubai and Ratangad, and after looking at the magnificient trio of Alang-Madan-Kulang (AMK), I kept yearning for a trek to Kulang. Kulang is the easier of the trio, but it is also the highest climb in Maharashtra. Imagine the joy that I felt when I found out that a trekking group was planning an overnight trek to Kulang in the cool month of December!

The trek began overnight on Friday. A bus was arranged for a serious group of 10 people. We started at around 11:30 pm and after an event-filled night that included a tyre puncture at around 1:00/2:00 am, no sleep because of the bumpy route, driver acting cranky because of the long route, et al, we managed to reach Ambewadi/Ambevadi village at 5:30 am.

Sleep was out of question for me. I was just glad that we reached a place where I could see the mountains.

Some people from our group managed some sleep in that short time while the rest of us roamed about. The plan was to take a break of about an hour and then have tea-breakfast and move to Kurangwadi / Kulangwadi from where the route to Kulang trek starts. We took the help of a local villager to show us the route as it could be confusing at times. There are ways that villagers use to take their cattle for grazing that are misleading.
Kulang trek begins.
The route initially takes you along some small farms, Kolhapur-type dams, eventually leading to the base of the mountain and the start of the incline. The walk is continuously upwards almost at an angle of 40-45 degrees.

After almost 90 minutes we reach a rocky patch that has footholds in the rocks that are remnants of steps. The angle of inclination slightly increases here and for a long time we climb along the rocky patches. Along these patches, we collected fallen twigs a wooden sticks that we intended to use as firewood. It's better to collect them in the last two-thirds of the climb because once the rock patches start, it's difficult to find any firewood. There are no trees on the top of Kulang.
Eventually, we come near a stone staircase which probably got saved from the British canons because of the height from the base. This staircase is remarkable and you keep wondering how the people from the yore would have managed to reach till this point and then use tools to cut through the stone.
That slight opening in the rock face are the stairs.
After climbing the staircase, we finally reached on the top of Kulang. It took us about 2 hours 52 minutes to climb. This is probably a good time according to one of our instructors since it included a couple of breaks as well.
From Kurangwadi to the top of Kulang (click to see the larger version)
On the top of Kulang we settled in a cave. The cave is big enough to accommodate 20-30 people. We were just 10 so it proved to be rather big for us.
The cave
After settling down for a while, we started preparing lunch. It was indeed a fun time to make a rustic stove made up of stones and use firewood as fuel. We also visited the water tanks (about 7-8 in number) that are on the east of the cave and used them for cleaning up the dishes. There is one particular tank that has cleaner water and we could see the bottom of the water tank. We used water from this tank for drinking (after treating it with Mediclor!) Lunch as usual was splendid for the hungry appetites and the sleep that followed was blissful.
Some water tanks
What woke us up after the afternoon siesta was a slight chill in the air, mostly because of the drop in the temperature of the cave floor. The silence inside the cave was deafening. No external sound at all! This was around 5 PM. A plan was made to walk towards the edge eastern of Kulang from where we could see Madangad, Alang, and the unmistakable peak of Kalsubai. It probably is the highest point on Kulang and a splendid place to catch the sunset from.
The first peak on the left is Kalsubai. The immediate peak in the front is Madangad.
We walked back to the caves in that twilight time and then settled outside the cave for some soup and dinner. Then we met another small trekking group that had climbed after us. Some of these guys had a tent and others were planning to sleep outside in the open. This was a very inviting idea and I always like to test my sleeping bag so I was all for it! What an experience it was to sleep outside in the open, where the wind chilled our senses and the innumerable stars shined upon our eyes, while the moon smiled in it's glorious crescent.
Our camp site facing the entrance to the caves. (morning time)
Though I did wake up whenever the wind managed to sneak inside my sleeping bag, it was indeed a splendid idea to sleep out in the open. I just had to lift myself slightly towards the east and I saw the hint of the rising sun. What a peaceful morning time it was!
Shades of the morning
Then after the usual morning activities and watching the sunrise and basking in its warmth, we decided to break our fast, pack our bags and start our journey back. While others were packing up, we decided to visit the western end of Kulang. The view from this part of the mountain was beautiful. We could see the ranges all in their morning glory (though under a net of haze) and were amazed at the magnificent beauty.
We could have easily spent a lot of time watching these mountains and the surrounding scenery. The edge becomes sharper towards the flag and the subtle thrill that walk gave is difficult to describe.
Top of Kulang showing the relative location of caves and water tanks. The green marker is the location of the flag.
The downward journey was swifter as expected, but we managed to get lost because we did not have anyone to show us the route. But this was just once and after asking the few villagers, who had climbed to collect firewood, we managed to reach the base, cook lunch, find our bus, and start our return journey to Pune.

Kulang indeed is a beautiful trek. Best time for the trek would definitely be just after monsoon when the grass is green yet the sky is open and the surrounding ranges are visible. It is so serenely peaceful on the top, that I thought of planning a stay for a week sometime. Think about it, collect firewood, cook food, read, sleep, roam around.

In peace!

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