The valley of shadows: Sandhan Valley, Maharashtra
Sandhan Valley is a part of the beautiful Sahyadri mountain range and offers a challenging trek. It is also called the Valley of Shadows because at some places the width between the rocks is less than three feet thus obstructing the rays of the sun casting shadows that make it difficult to click pictures due to poor light.
On the west side of Bhandardara region is Samrad, the base village to Sandhan Valley. Samrad village is the starting point before the decent to the valley. Bhandardara is extremely beautiful and scenic making it a must visit place. Sandhan Valley is surrounded by mighty mountain ranges on all sides.
The best way from Mumbai to get to Sandhan Valley is to take a Central Railway train bound for Kasara. The train journey takes around about 2 hours, 40 minutes. It is advisable to check the railway time-table in advance since trains going to Kasara are not very frequent.
Another choice would be to take a train to Igatpuri; however Kasara would be a preferable option as there are plenty of local trains to choose from as compared to Igatpuri where only out-bound train are available.
It is more convenient to take a jeep from Kasara to Samrad village which is at a distance of 80 kms and would take about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the base village. Since the train reaches early morning arrangements for a private vehicle should be made before hand to reach Samrad village.
There is also an option to take an ST bus from Kasara or Igatpuri station but proper note of the actual time the bus leaves has to be made as it is very important to reach the village early in the morning to start the trek to Sandhan Valley at an early hour.
Hiring a private vehicle would be the most suitable and suggested way of getting to Sandhan Valley as this place is not well connected and a bit secluded hence getting public transport is difficult.
On reaching Samrad village, it is absolutely essential to hire a guide from the village. The guide is the only help available in this region who will be able to provide assistance with rappelling, making arrangements for food and bring you safely down the valley. It should be noted that without assistance it is not safe to continue with this trek as it can be dangerous and risky. The villagers are very familiar with the place and make best guides.
It is very important to have a good set of shoes with ankle support to make the trek easier as walking on the rocks can be quite challenging. Another important factor is to stay well hydrated and carry minimum of 2 litres of water along.
The people of Samrad village are extremely friendly and helpful. Their homes are made of cow-dung and roofs of dry hay making them cool inside. There are no shops or place to eat. However, making a deal with the guide helps ensure a very reasonable cost for local food. The villagers’ tea, poha, bakris (rice rotis) preparation is a must have.
After breakfast and some rest set off with the guide to Sandhan Valley. The valley is simply magnificent and the view is a feast for the eyes. Descending towards the base gets more and more difficult as the rocks seem a bit too wide apart and jumping from one rock to another may be difficult. It is important to follow the guide’s route.
At the rappelling point, first timers may find it difficult. However, it is the only option that can take you down to the next point. High level of fitness and prior trekking experience is needed. At the end of the valley taking rest becomes a must. The guide will make arrangements for lunch by asking the villagers to prepare food on an open fire.
After lunch, the last and final challenge is the long walk through the end of the valley to a village which marks the end of the trek. During this part a lot of energy is needed and it is very vital to stay hydrated.
On reaching the village taking a private jeep to Asangaon the nearest railway station is the only option. A walk to the nearest bus stop which is far is also an option but not advised.
The valley cannot be accessed during the monsoons due to heavy rainfall. The best time to visit would be during mid-November to February as the climate is cool and pleasant.
The trek to Sandhan Valley is advisable only for people who want to do a challenging task; Sandhan Valley is definitely a good try for does who do not like crowded places.
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