Some of the greatest joys of a corporate life are hidden within the weekends; One such recent getaway took me to this amazing little place hidden from the hoard and unknown to a good portion of the regular trek groups. Kondana Caves are a bunch of ancient Buddhist caves carved out of rock somewhere in the region of 200 BC – 100 BC. Situated on the Rajmachi mountain, 20-25 kms off Karjat, we stumbled upon this place more by accident than intent. Our planned destination happened to be the scenic Malshej Ghat (supposedly one of the most beautiful waterfalls around the region), but had to turn back from the base of the Ghat since the landslide that occurred a couple of days ago still had debris spewed all over the road rendering it pretty much in-navigable.
On the recommendation of a couple of locals, we then decided to drive over to Kondana Caves instead. The ride from through Ulhasnagar towards Karjat was somewhat more resembling of a roller-coaster than a road, but these are things you learn to live with once you start embracing the outdoors don’t you? The caves are fairly popular with the locals once you pass the Karjat phata, you can ask around for the way and folk are generally more than eager to help you out. Beware though, their perceptions of time and distance are heavily skewed compared to yours. A couple of kms or a 2 minute drive in their words will usually mean your destination is at least 10kms or 30 minutes away. Although bumpy, the ride to the Caves was a scenic one, flanked on one side by rural landscape & the other by a mild looking river, which can get pretty ferocious in the rains. You need to cross the base village of Kondhivde to reach the base of Rajmachi and then climb up on foot.
The trek in itself is very mild in nature – nothing too technical. In fact we, as a group were complete novices at treks and neither of us had any difficulties climbing right to the top. Of course the terrain is rugged and the rain makes everything mucky – to the extent that your next footstep does need some thought unless you don’t mind slipping and rolling around in the muck. Personally, if you’re comfortable climbing barefoot, that’s the best approach to take when the muck is excessive. I noticed a barrage of lost chappals and shoe soles claimed by the muck very early in the climb and decided it was wiser to go barefoot than have your footwear stuck in the muck and pull you back all the time. If it’s been raining the same day, you will be fortunate enough to come across 3-4 streams (or waterfalls) while you climb – none of them are too dangerous and easily cross-able.
The Caves by the way, are a National Monument and it’s easy to see why. Carved almost whole out of a rock at a time when tools were in all likelihood an unknown commodity, you can’t help but appreciate the mind-numbing detail. Although some of the caves are now lost to an earthquake in the 19th century (or we couldn’t find them in any case) the main opening in itself is a majestic sight. Standing right at its mouth, you’re literally under a brilliant waterfall, which by the way, can batter you like a brick if you stand too long. It was a shame to see names written out in chalk with a heart over some of the walls & carvings – never really understood the motivation behind this and never will. Like who the fuck gives a holy shit if Neha & Viraj were here and are in love? Do people really not understand that something created by someone else after timeless effort & pain deserves more than a rash act of rebellious, passionate degradation?
We’d love to have met a local or a guide who could explain more about the Caves and their history but weren’t blessed with such luck. Anyway, I suppose we still had more than we could have asked for after our initial plan failed as brilliantly as Ram Gopal Verma’s Aag. We climbed down at double speed and were on our way back to our dreary lives, wondering how things would have been different if we could have lived like this more often than not.
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