Categories
Geology Travel

Indonesia and the Ring of Fire

Indonesia - Volcanoes
Indonesia – Volcanoes

This is a spin-off of my earlier blog: Towering Infernos. I did some drilling-down into Indonesia, the archipelago country with the highest number of volcanoes. At present, the nation has 149 volcanoes – some active, some dormant and some extinct. While the number of extinct volcanoes is few and far between, the number of active lava-spewing monsters is alarmingly high. Add to it, the fact that some of these mischief-mongers are still actively spewing lava.

Mount Tambora
Mount Tambora

The primary reason for such alarming volcanic activity in Indonesia is because it sits tightly along what’s called the Pacific Ring of Fire. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean where most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been happening since aeons. It is said that the naughty boys in Indonesia (Mt. Merapi, Kelud etc.) are the most active volcanoes known to mankind, at least on our planets. Wait – so you did not know there are extra-terrestrial volcanoes? Well… there are. More about that later – or maybe in another blog.

Here are some stats for you to chew on:

Submarine volcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Submarine 1922

-5,000 -16,404

Yersey

-3,800

-12,467

Emperor of China

-2,850

-9,350

Nieuwerkerk

-2,285

-7,497

Banua Wuhu -5

-16

Calderas:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Bratan

2,276 7,467

Ranau

1,881

6,171

Sekincau Belirang

1,719

5,640

Batur

1,717

5,633

Sempu 1,549

5,082

Complex Volcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Iyang-Argapura

3,088 10,131

Talakmau

2,919 9,577

Marapi

2,891

9,485

Peuet Sague 2,801

9,190

Dieng 2,565

8,415

Stratovolcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Kerinci

3,800 12,467

Rinjani

3,726 12,224
Semeru 3,676

12,060

Slamet 3,432

11,260

Sumbing 3,371

11,060

Mt. Merapi is tagged as the most active volcano, globally speaking. Is it active, it is a stratovolcano, and has been erupting since 1548, not continuously though. This volcano is flanked by the busy Yogyakarta city that houses nearly 2.5 million citizens. Another tag this volcano has is ‘Decade Volcano‘.

Some of the notorious volcanoes in Indonesia are Krakatoa (or Krakatau) (I’ll get back to you with a full blog on this monster of a volcano), Toba and Tambora.

Anak Krakatoa
Anak Krakatoa

Krakatoa erupted with all its fury in 1883 (26th or 27th August). This was a ‘suicidal’ explosion since the explosion wiped 2/3rd of the island off the map of the world. Secondly, it was one of the loudest sounds ever heard. The explosion was heard almost 3000 miles (approx. 5000 km) away. That’s as good as 1/8th of the earth’s circumference. From the volcanic ejecta of Krakatau, rose Anak Krakatau (meaning ‘child of Krakatau). Those who are wondering where the photos of Krakatoa went – just a reminder – the volcano went suicidal in 1883. No photographer dared to paddle a canoe upto such a violent place just to get a photo op. Hence, no photos.

Lake Toba
Lake Toba

Toba (better known as Lake Toba) is famous (or shall I say infamous) for a ‘supervolcanic’ eruption that dates back to 75,000 years ago. It caused six years of Volcanic Winter which simply means a drop in temperature as a result of excessive volcanic ash in the atmosphere. To be precise, the destructive effects of this explosion went up to the stratosphere. For those who heard this for the first time – it is the atmospheric layer/zone in which planes fly. A regular aircraft flies at an altitude of just about 39,000 ft. while the debris from this explosion went all the way up to 1,64,042 ft. (that’s 3 times higher).

Mt. Tambora
Mt. Tambora

Now for the badass – Tambora. In 1815, this bad boy caused crop failures of epidemic proportions. This led to 1816 being labelled as The Year Without A Summer.

Banua Wuhu
Banua Wuhu

VEI:

Whenever we talk about volcanic eruptions – we also need to talk about how its destructive power is measured/described. That’s why we need to talk VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index. The rankings range from 0 to 8 where 0 denotes the weakest and 8 denotes the strongest/most violent/destructive explosions. Just so you know, there haven’t been any VEI8 explosions in the last 50,000 years.

The bad boy Tambora scored a 7 (VEI7) and Krakatau managed just a 3 (VEI3). Now you do the math – at VEI3, 1/8th of the earth’s circumference could hear the explosion. What do think will happen if there’s a VEI8 explosion. I’m guessing, Martians will report ‘disturbance’ from Earth.

Volcanic Explosivity Index
Volcanic Explosivity Index

I started by providing a teaser on ‘Ring of Fire’. Now, Indonesia is not the only country in that ring. Other countries include the likes of Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia, United States etc. The only reason I’m fixated on Indonesia is because this county alone has 149 volcanoes spread across such a small area (19,04,569 sq. km.). In essence, each volcano occupies about 12,697 sq. km. which is equivalent of 180 states of Tripura each having one volcano.

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

All this is what (IMHO) makes Indonesia a marvelous country. One that lives at the edge – at almost all times. One that has a never-say-die attitude even in the presence of such geographical monstrosities. One with cost of living that goes easy on an Indian’s pockets. One that offers excellent conversion to the Indian Rupee (1 INR = 204.50 IDR or to have 1 पेटी in IDR, I just need a 500-rupees note). One that offers Visa on Arrival to Indians. Once that shares a lot of cultural similarities with India. So, did someone just ask me if I was planning a move to Indonesia? Well, I won’t say no. I’ve handled a rock-solid marriage for 8 years 5 months 26 days (as of today). You think these volcanoes can scare me? They haven’t met my wife yet.

So, see you soon (if I’m alive – she can read English too, you see?)

Reference:

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Krakatoa

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lake_Toba

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_volcanoes_in_Indonesia

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Mount_Tambora

Disclaimer: This blog post is just an attempt at unveiling the volcanic activity in the archipelago nation. This post in no way suggests that Indonesia is a dangerous/uninhabitable/inhospitable country or allude to anything remotely related to that thought. The author personally admires seismic activity in the area and is even open to the idea of moving to Indonesia.

Categories
Life experiences Travel

Magnificent Jaipur

Hola mi amigos. Recently I’d been to Jaipur on an official trip. At first, I was not sure if I wanted to go. I’m a family man and I prefer visiting such places with my family. Well – when duty calls, the employed have to go – and so I went. The date: 12th July 2019. The weather was a far cry from Mumbai’s rainy weather. I went prepared – with a raincoat and an umbrella – things I never removed from my bag. It was hot and dry in Jaipur – so I was relieved (an ex-Nagpurkar that I am).

We had 93 hours to spend in Jaipur and I wanted to make the most out of it. Now, let me remind you that we were on an official trip and had ‘work’ to be done. So, these escapades that I’m going to describe later were managed in the ‘in-between’ times. We made two trips whilst in Jaipur.

  • Day 1: Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and Rajasthali

How to get there: Take a metro train to Chand Pol and then an e-Rickshaw to your Badi Chaupad (big market)

The metro ride was nothing to write home about – just run-of-the-mill. Once we alighted and got off the station, we were accosted by rick drivers. We had to manage to steer clear of them and walk ahead to an e-rick driver who readily agreed to take us to Hawa Mahal (he added the other two destinations by himself – for a price though).

Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal:

For the uninitiated, Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II (a.k.a. Sawai Jai Singh, who became a ruler at the tender age of 11 (I was learning to ride a bicycle and fly kites then). His grandson, Sawai Pratap Singh built the Hawa Mahal in 1799, at the age of 35 (I just got married at that age was learning the ropes of accepting dominion by a queen). A dominating feature of Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind/Breeze) is the façade that includes 900+ jharokhas (protruding balcony). These jharokhas are neatly stacked in a 5-storey near-pyramidal structure about 50 ft high. It’s said that the design of Hawa Mahal was inspired from Khetri Mahal in Jhunjhunu).

The unique architecture of Hawa Mahal is what makes it so beautiful. This reddish-pink sandstone monument is located close to City Palace and Jantar Mantar. All these 3 (Hawa Mahal, Jantar and City Palace) are within a stone’s throw from each other – if you could throw a stone 900m away, that is.

Note: the trio is located in what’s called the pink city.

Jal Mahal
Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal:

Made somewhere in the 18th century, this is a quaint palace located right in the middle of Man Sagar Lake off Amer Road. This palace was also the handiwork of Jai Singh II. A striking peculiarity of this place is that this palace is a 5-storeyed structure of which four remain submerged during monsoons when the lake is full. Only one storey is visible in that case.

Rajasthali Textile Development Corporation:

Another attraction (maybe not for everyone) along the same road is this fantastic place where one can shop for genuine Rajasthani garments and handicrafts. Some of the popular shopper’s items sold here are the ultra-lightweight Jaipuri Razai (quilt). It’s so light that if packed nice and tight, it could fit a lady’s handbag. The fillings in these quilts include angora wool, mohair, cashmere/pashmina etc. I bought one filled with Angora wool. Another peculiarity of these quilts is that they keep you warm in winter and cosy in summer. In addition to this, they have usual inclusions like dress material, saris, wood carvings, lac bangles etc. Now that’s something I’m no expert of – hence I had to leave it alone.

Note: I completed my target of 10,000 steps for the first time.

Amber fort
Amber fort
  • Day 2: Amer Fort

How to get there: Take bus 3B (from Badi Chaupad), AC1, AC5 (from Man Sarovar metro station). I’d say getting to Chand Pol is your best bet.

This was the most spectacular of sights that I saw in Jaipur (not that I’ve seen it all). All one needs to do to get here is get to Chand Pol metro station, disembark and take a bus to Amer fort. Now, this fort is a part of another trio: Nahar Garh, Jai Garh and Amer and all three are close (just a cannonball’s throw away). Unfortunately, we had time only to see Amer fort.

Maota lake
Maota lake

While the place is spelt Amber – it’s pronounced with the ‘b’ silent. So, don’t correct when google maps suggest Amber when you typed Amer. Constructed in 967 AD, this fort is a little over a millennium old. It started with the settlement of the Amer town (actually a hamlet) in 967 AD. The palace and the fortifications were built later. The bastions (perimeter wall) enclose an impressive 12sq. km area. Jodha Bai (of Jodha-Akbar fame) a.k.a. Mariam-uz-Zamani a.k.a. Harkha Bai was born in Amber in 1542. Her ancestral home is in ruins today – but who cares. At least the concerned authorities don’t.

Jodhabai's home
Jodhabai’s home

The moment our bus neared Amber bus stop, we were greeted by this magnificent marble and sandstone monument that has stood the test of time and braved the apathy of the governing bodies. In 2013, UNESCO labelled it a World Heritage Site. Every square inch of this place reeks of history and it’s past glory. One just needs to see it from a perspective different from that of tourists. I did – and I could FEEL history unfold itself unto me as I paced slowly and steadily along the winding passages that finally led to the giant castle gates. At a distance, one can see the lofty Jaigarh fort too with a Pachrang flag fluttering atop an imposing tower.

Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)
Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)

Another sight that welcomes you even before you reach Amer palace is the (now dry) मावठा झील (Maota lake). I’m sure this lake doubled as a moat back in the days. Attached to the lake is Kesar Kyari. The garden gets its name from the Kesar plant (saffron) which the king tried to cultivate – but failed. Geography and botany bow to no kings/queens, you see?

Haveli
Haveli

Before we entered the castle – we took a small detour along a cobblestone-lined road that leads to the village downstairs. The village was not our goal – an old Haveli was. This haveli is said to be built the same time as the fort itself – meaning it was also a millennium old. Unlike the palace, this haveli was completely derelict. What a pity. One monument deserves all the care and another gets nothing. I guess the authorities do not fully understand their job. With just a home guard on duty, the place reeked of human and animal excrement. One could also see some empty beer bottles lying around – speaking volumes about its upkeep.

Path to the palace
Path to the palace

After we’ve had enough of the haveli, we walked back into the fort, towards the palace. The palace we entered (also the main entrance) is called Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate (called so because it faced east – the rising sun). we could walk freely across a sprawling courtyard after which we had to buy tickets (@ Rs. 50 per adult) to enter the private sections of the palace. Our tickets were checked twice along the way. The first time – at Ganesh Pol (Ganesha gate) where we could see a Ganesh temple – still owned by the royals. The statue of Lord Ganesha is made of coral and hence, is red.

There are a few distinct sections of the Amer palace – the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khaas, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana (ladies’ section), 27 Kachehri (27 courts), Hot and Cold-water Turkish baths, latticed garden etc.

It is said that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives (ranis/queens) and he had made 12 (deodhi) apartments for them. He could freely visit any queen of his choice without letting the other 11 know who the king is with. He had individual stairs/passages to each such apartment from his ‘Man Singh Palace’ (now closed to tourists). The deodhis were cleverly designed to get proper ventilation but poor visibility. It is alleged that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives since he was a strong believer in astronomy and believed in the 12 nakshatras.

27 Kachehri
27 Kachehri

27 Kachehri was a place where Diwans from 27 villages managed their day-to-day administrative duties.

Darbar-i-Aam
Darbar-i-Aam

Diwan-i-Aam or the house of the commons is a place where the king held court where he listened to public grievances.

Diwan-i-Khas is akin to the house of the lords where the king held high-level ministerial meetings, entertained royal/political guests.

Sheesh-mahal is an intricately carved section of the palace that houses thousands of convex pieces of Belgian glass mirrors. These pieces formed a beautiful and elaborate mosaic of mirrors which would glitter when as much as a small candle was lit below it.

Amongst other attractions is Sukh Mahal, the entrance to which is managed by Sandalwood doors with carvings that are a copy of the garden on the opposite side. Most of the door carvings were plundered – and now there’s a glass case that seals this door. The water for this garden was fed to overhead tanks and this water flowed down a carved marble ramp – cooling it as it flowed down and back to the garden. The result – an air-conditioned chamber appropriately called Sukh Mahal.

With a heavy heart and tired feet, we crawled our way to the Amer town, down the hillock and boarded the next bus to Jaipur station. No, we were not leaving yet – that’s where our hotel was. I wanted more – to see more, to feel more, to dig deeper into those magical times when kings ruled, to feel in unison with every story I heard about this breathtaking monument… the wanderlust and the archaeology-lover in me were still not satisfied.

I could go on and on and never tire – that’s how much my mind holds in terms of memories from that visit. Alas! My hands hurt from all the typing and backspacing. So, I’ll let you enjoy the imagery I have attempted to create for you. I strongly recommend visiting this castle trio – Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh

Till we meet again – hasta luego!!!

Categories
Life experiences Travel

A trip to Matheran a.k.a. निसर्गरम्य माथेरान

I’m back after a short break and a wonderful trip to Matheran. The first time I heard about this place is when I was in the 3rd or the 4th grade – through a lesson in Marathi निसर्गरम्य माथेरान. As the name board below clearly indicates, the town is 803 m (2635 ft) above sea level. For the uninitiated, this information is displayed on all station name boards (I’m sure you’ve never noticed). MSL = Mean Sea Level.

Matheran
Matheran

Being a Nagpurkar, I could only dream of visiting the place. Little did I know that one fine day, I’ll move to Mumbai, get married, start a family and eventually plan a trip to the now local tourist attraction Matheran. Let’s just say one thing led to another and here I am describing the trip. It started with the Missus suggesting we make the trip. I looked up the internet and asked a few friends too – for travel info from Mira Road to Matheran. What I understood from my research is that the best way to reach Neral (from Mira Road) is to take a bus via Ghodbunder Road to Thane Station (25 km or 1 hour) and then hop on to a Karjat bound train from Thane (60 km or 1 hour) and alight at Neral.

Matheran - Temperature
Matheran – Temperature

The above graph (Source: Wikipedia) shows that December and January are the best months to visit. Now, a few words about how to get there. One needs to reach Neral, a quaint town in Raigad district. For those familiar with the Mumbai suburban map – Neral is a station on the Thane-Kalyan/Khopoli/Kasara line. One can take any Karjat bound train on this line and reach Neral in about an hour. This train will drop you on Platform 1 from where you need to reach platform 2 which is attached to the Toy Train station.

Time Table
Time Table: Neral to Matheran

The ticketing system is completely offline/manual. The ticketing experience reminded me of the ‘80s when you got ‘card’ tickets. Please be warned – the ticket counter opens just 45 minutes before the departure time. So, if you train departs at 8 am, the booking starts only at 7:15 am. In the summertime, things can get a bit difficult with kids having their summer vacation and their parents wanting to take them to Matheran.

NDM1
NDM1

The ride is a beautiful six-coach train hauled by the legendary NDM1 diesel loco powered by a Cummins diesel powerhouse. The 6-coach Neral Matheran toy train accommodates only 75 in total. For those who need a marginally better travel experience, go for the 1st class or the Deluxe coach. Others can still avail the 2nd class ticket. The journey takes about 3 hours and offers some breathtaking scenery for you to feast your eyes upon. While the distance between Neral and Matheran is just about 20 km – the journey takes almost 3 hours since the rail gauge is maintained at 2 ft. Now, add meandering rails running through a treacherously precipitous hillside and you get a train that can do a just 8-12 kmph. This should give you the reason for the protracted journey.

After a while of travel, you reach the first stop – Jumma Patti (I’ve no clue why it’s called that). The train halts here for 5 minutes. This is where you can have a cup of tea, maybe grab a snack or just relieve your UT. The next stop is called Water Pipe – a place which supplies water to the neighbouring hamlets. The third stop ‘Aman Lodge’ is the last point till which you can drive your automobiles. The final destination for all types of vehicles is ‘Dasturi Point’. After 10 minutes of leaving Aman Lodge, the train finally rolls into the last stop – Matheran.

Once you disembark, you need to buy a capitation ticket @ Rs 50 per adult (no clue why). This is the tax/fee you pay to set foot in Matheran town limits. Once in, you have several options. You can either:

  • Walk
  • Ride a horse
  • Be carried in a hand-pulled rickshaw

Be sure to feed yourself well since you’ll need the energy to roam around, regardless of your mode of transport. I am not going to detail the points one can see here – it’s all over the internet. I can definitely say that my wife and I enjoyed every moment in Matheran.

Matheran-map
Matheran-map

Once we alighted the train and ‘entered’ the city limits – we turned down every ‘horsing’ offer made by the local horsemen. We had planned to rough it out – on foot. And so we did. We wandered off to the northern side and saw just 2 points (what an effing waste) – Monkey point and Heart Point. Although what matters is not the number of points – it’s the number of times you got to inhale the unpolluted air of this quaint yet majestic hill station. Every breath was refreshing. Despite the relative humidity and the beads of sweat rolling down our foreheads and backs – we still enjoyed every moment we spent there.

Our first stop (after grabbing a snack) was monkey point. Needless to say – beware of monkeys – the entire hill station is full of our simian friends. With all these years of interacting with Homo sapiens – they have learnt to survive in our presence. They aren’t scared of us anymore. Instead, they attack us if they find us carrying foodstuff in our hands.


After walking for a few minutes (amidst the lush greenery) from the town centre, we reached ‘Monkey Point’. As the name suggests – it’s ‘ruled’ by monkeys. They coolly walk up to you, check your baggage for anything they find palatable and leave you if your bag doesn’t have anything for them. Just try not to fight them off – don’t even look them in the eye – they can get pretty aggressive. After all, they aren’t encroaching our space – we are encroaching theirs.

After spending a while at Monkey Point (and clicking several pictures) we proceeded to our next (and last for the day) point – Heart Point. There was a ‘monocular man’ who charged everyone Rs. 20 for peeping into his monocular. He claimed that the viewers can see ‘कड्यावरचा गणपती’ through his lens. Although, I used my 55-250mm lens and zoomed in as much as the camera could – I could still not see it. Also, another tourist (who paid him for the view) couldn’t see it either. I don’t know if the guy was pranking them. I didn’t bother to investigate.

कड्यावरचा गणपती
कड्यावरचा गणपती

Both points (actually very close to each other) offer an excellent view of the valley below and the striated rocks that make up the pristine beauty of Matheran. The landscape was not the greenest – I’m guessing that only since it was summertime and the monsoon is still at least a month away. I’m sure after a few wet spells – the forest should regain its green sheen. I can’t wait to find that out… post-monsoon trip coming up.

Time Table: Matheran to Neral
Time Table: Matheran to Neral

After spending another few minutes at the Heart point and panting all the way back to the station – we had lunch. That meal tasted like the manna that day. Once we were done with the meal – we checked out the local market where we found some really good bargains. Finally, we decided to call it a day – we walked to the station and stood in the line (for tickets) for almost an hour and a half. We sat for another three hours while our train meandered downhill.

Reaching Neral station was not the end though. We had to wait for another 30 minutes before we could get a commuter train to Thane. We had just enough time to have dinner and proceed to our final destination – Mira Road. By the time we reached home, it was already 11 pm and we crashed. The day, thus, ended on a beautiful note. The journey – more than exhausting – was magical. I slept like a log – with pleasant memories of the day’s trip slowly making way to sweet dreams.

This journey not only created memories – but it also bolstered my bond with nature – something I missed for a long time (especially after my Karnala trip). That’s all for now, friends.

Ciao!!!

Categories
Travel

A trip to Saswad

While the title sounds like an essay topic from schooldays – I maintain, it’s deliberate.

Hello friends. It’s good to be back on my writing bench (read: desktop computer). The end of 2018 was truly an amazing one – involved a lot of travel. I DO NOT mean COMMUTE – I know one from another (thank you). It kickstarted with an industrial visit to Gujarat. It was immediately followed by an ultra-short trip to Vadodara and back. I closed the year with a spectacular trip to a sleepy town Saswad nestled along the banks of the Karha River.

Just a few things about this city. It’s about 33 km southeast of Pune. Take whichever route like i.e. from Shivajinagar or Swargate (Punekars would know better). I’d choose Swargate since it’s 2 km closer to Saswad. After driving (read: crawling) through the congested roads of Pune city for about 15-20 min – one breathes a sigh of relief on seeing the ‘great outdoors’. The magnificent striated Western Ghats a.k.a. Sahyadri welcome you from afar. Now, Saswad stands at an average elevation of 1000 m (3280 ft) which, by itself, is wonderful. This is the most elevated city I’ve been to/stayed in yet.

 

It all started with an old-time pal calling me up for a meeting – he stays in Nagpur and I, in Mumbai. He was coming to Pune for some work and we set Pune Central Station as our rendezvous point. From there, his nephew drove us to the idyllic climes of Saswad (his place). After lunch and a post-lunch siesta, my friend and I drove off for some sightseeing.

We had shortlisted two destinations from the data we had compiled from various online searches.

 

  1. Changa Vateshwar Mandir (चंगा वटेश्वर मंदिर)
  2. Purandar fort (किल्ले पुरंदर)

Changa Vateshwar Mandir (चंगा वटेश्वर मंदिर)

Changa Vateshwar Mandir
Changa Vateshwar Mandir

Though an agnostic, archaeology fascinates me and hence I chose to go see the 700+ years old temple. The temple is an excellent example of Hemadpanti architecture. Since this form of temple architecture originated in the 13th century, the temple definitely cannot be older than that. This means the temple was built during1200-1300 AD. Although the presiding deity is Lord Shiva, the temple is named after a local mystic yogi Changdev Maharaj (or just Changa Dev). He reportedly lived in a village nearby.

The main entrance
The main entrance

For a good measure, photography was not banned inside or outside the temple. I still chose not to stir the hornet’s nest by keeping my phone in my pockets while within the sanctum (गर्भगृह). I then sought the permission of the custodian of the temple and clicked pictures. Too bad – not much info could be gleaned from the custodian (I couldn’t understand the dialect of Marathi he spoke in). I decided to get some more info from the internet only to find that there is very little information about this wonderful temple even on the internet. (The next time I go there, I’ll take a local with me – one who understands the dialect, get as much information possible and upload it for the multitude to read).

दीपस्तम्भ
दीपस्तम्भ

One is welcomed by two flights of stairs on approaching the fort-styled entrance to the temple. After climbing the first flight (definitely after washing your feet in a small pool next to the stairs) one reaches the main entrance. On entering from that gate, one needs to climb the second flight of stairs to reach the temple. On entering the temple, you are welcomed by an imposing statue of Nandi (Lord Shiva’s ride) – as is the wont in all Shiva temples. After crossing Nandi, one can enter the sanctum (गर्भगृह) to offer prayers to the deity. One look at the ceiling and one can just marvel at the intricate stonework done on it. The ceiling, the pillars, the walls – they all bear the marks of fine ancient stonemasonry. What surprised me was that the dome of the temple was resplendent (probably re-painted) while the rest showed signs of ageing. Some structures had taken too many beatings at the hands of time. the temple premises also boasted of a huge column of lamps known as दीप ज्योति स्तम्भ or simply दीपस्तम्भ. The experience was refreshing, in toto. From there, we moved on to our next destination – Purandar fort. It was almost a 1-hour drive from the temple.

Purandar fort (किल्ले पुरंदर)

Purandar Fort
Purandar Fort

The drive to the fort was a scenic one – meandering through the hilly terrain – we reached our first checkpoint – the gate to the Army Training Center. After getting our car thoroughly checked by the army men, we headed off to our next checkpoint – the car park. That’s only as far as you can go in a vehicle, as a civilian. Don’t be alarmed at the presence of heavily armed combat-ready jawans. You’re in their territory and not the other way around. So just move on – without doing anything that may get their attention.

The actual fort
The actual fort

Now comes the sad part. No sooner had we started walking towards our final destination (the main entrance to the fort) than we started getting out of breath. I could attribute this to the following reasons:

  1. Age was catching up with us.
  2. It was 17:15 already and as per the jawans, the army entrance closes at 17:30.
  3. We were already at an altitude of 1,300 ft (4,265 ft) above sea level.

At this height, oxygen levels (for men who don’t have a healthy lifestyle and not ‘fit’) start getting depleted. For the first time in my life, I (think I) experience the effects of the lack of oxygen. We had to beat a hasty retreat to the car park. But whilst doing so, I still managed to capture the scenic beauty of the fort, the hills around and the panoramic view of Saswad. One could see Pune clearly from that vantage point.

One valuable lesson I learnt that day is that life’s really short and that one must grab each travel opportunity by the collar and milk it dry. I will – from now on. Enough of counting candles on cakes and the greys on the head (the more one counts – the more the mind tells about the proximity to old age). Just go out there and explore. Sitting on the armchair, with a full head of greys, one can only repent and let out cold sighs of despair. Well… I’m going – you go too – pack your bags.

Adios!!!