Sandhan Valley is one of the greatest canyons in Sahyadri mountain range. It is located at the border of Ahemadnagar, Pune and Kalyan district near Bhandardara dam. A water carved valley with 300ft rock walls on both sides, there are many points where sun light can not reach and hence the name “valley of shadows“. The valley is surrounded with Alang, Madan and Kulang (AMK- rated as the toughest trek in Sahyadri) Ratangad, Ajoba & Kalsubai (highest peak in Maharashtra) mountain ranges.
On our last weekend trip to Bhandardara, we were very clear about the plan; camping near water body, witnessing fireflies, and next morning visit to Amruteshwar temple and Ghatghar..Easy peasy! A relaxed weekend, as we thought, unaware of what’s in store for us!
The moment we got to know from locals that Sandhan valley is very near to our camping village Udawane (10 K.M) and this time is perfect for full trek, our next day plan started getting sluggish! We are greedy travelers to be honest, no matter how much we plan for a relaxing trip we end up doing some adventure (sometime uncalled). And this time it was none other than Sandhan Valley, A combination of Valley and Canyon! who would like to miss?
Next morning, we woke up in our tents and went to our local guide’s place for freshening up and tea. We discussed with our guide about our wish to trek Sandhan Valley, he was initially reluctant as it will take around 6 hours for descend only and again 3 hours to return. To be honest, he was not sure about our capabilities, fair enough!(he was being realistic!). Moreover, as the trek was not in the menu we were not all prepared both mentally and physically; we were in floaters, our friends in casuals, we had to drive back to Mumbai (5 hours) on the same day as next day we had to report in Office (every Monday Story). So, in short everything was not in favor but somewhere in our heart we wanted to have a peek, if not the whole trek! Finally after agreeing to every difficulty and possible scenario, explained by our local guide we left for Sandhan Valley at 10 A.M.
How to reach
It is around 180 -200 K.M. from Mumbai (depending on route), 250 K.M. from Pune, and 95K.M. from Nashik. The base village for Sandhan Valley trek is Samrad Village.
For Mumbaikars, the pocket friendly way is to take a Central Railway train bound for Kasara. The journey takes around about three hours. The other alternative is to board a train to Igatpuri. From both the stations, one can opt for ST bus going towards Bhandardara or Shendi . From Shendi, one have to hire a private vehicle to Reach to the Samrad village. Hiring a private vehicle would be the most suitable way of getting to Sandhan Valley as this place is not well connected and hence getting public transport is difficult.
If you are planning to go by your own vehicle, it will take around 5 hours to reach the base village, Samrad. We traveled in our friend’s car and it took us four and half hours to reach Bhandardara from Mumbai. It took us another one hour to reach base village.
Sandhan Valley trek
From base village it takes another half an hour walk in plain terrain to reach the entrance of the Valley. Sandhan valley falls under medium difficulty level trek, and demands great endurance. The trek offers approx 2 K.M. descend amidst huge rocks which takes around 6-7 hours. One has to cross two waterpools to reach end of the gorge. The water level changes according to season. In winter water level can go upto shoulders and in summer it is up to waist high level. There are few rock patches where one has to rappel down, the longest being 50ft.
The end point, is relatively plain terrain, usually trekkers take a night stay in tents. The best time to visit this valley is from November-May, the trek remains closed in monsoons.
Usually it takes two days and one night to complete the full trek, however since we were short of the time we completed the trek in one day.
Once we entered the valley, we started descending by hopping from one rock to another. The valley looked beautiful and nothing like we have seen somewhere else before. The two big rock wall on both side and narrow rocky way were picturesque to say the least. Despite of scorching heat outside, the valley was relatively cool which was a big relief. Initially it was easy considering in other treks one has to climb up which requires strength. In around half an hour we reached the second water pool which was bigger and around 2-2.5 feet deep. We ensured our belongings and stepped in water, which was clear and cold. We could clearly see small fishes around and I even tried to catch them by bare hands, I failed obviously!
We crossed the pool and headed forward, many trekkers were trying there hands on rappeling near the spot. I found it amazing unaware of the fact that we will be rappeling few hours after. We continued hopping and sliding from one rock to another. Since we were four of us, the time flew in making fun of each other and clicking crazy pictures.
In around one and half hours we reached exit point of the valley, there were only few of us left. From this point, one can opt to travel back to the Samrad village by the same route or instead of returning back to the village, trekkers can go down. However going forth requires proper trekking and rappeling equipments to reach the base camp as there are two rock patches in between which you can cross only by rappelling (of which I was unaware till then :/)
Once you reach base camp you can use Karoli ghat to reach back to Samrad village or else from base camp we can go to Dehane village which is near to Shahapur in Thane district.We along with our friends, guide and a team of two men and a kid opted to move forward. The patches were getting difficult to descend, and we have to put our mind to find the best way beyond.
Now we were proceeding with caution as there were loose gravels. The cool breeze was flowing all thanks to the structure of valley
Our guide was carrying ropes with him and was muttering something about rappeling since beginning. To be honest I didn’t pay heed, I thought rappeling is optional and I don’t need to do it. I was wrong! the first patch for rappeling was coming near. I was scared, I never tried it before, what if I fall! Why can’t we just slide through the patch. Not possible because the patch was about 50ft high!I was nervous! Paresh was motivating me, I think he was also nervous but he knows how to control it. I, on the other hand is a cry baby. My turn came, I was second last,”no escape”I said to myself, I went and did it:)
Paresh was last, he ensured I rapple down without troubling others, Lol! He came down pretty quick and we resumed our way down with speed as it was already 2:00p.m.and we were starving.
We resumed our trek with full speed and then half an hour again one rough patch appeared which requires rappeling, this time Paresh went first as from top the rocks were not visible. Paresh somehow reached on ground but alerted the guide that there were no rocks to take support, he basically was hanging while going down. Then guide tied the rope to other side of boulder as directed by Paresh. This time I went ahead, And rappeled down with much ease and confidence.
All of us made our way to the base camp by 4:00 clock crossing rocks by sliding, climbing and what not. We were exhausted, we wanted food and rest. Our guide along with his helpers prepared masala rice then and there on earthen chulha.
We hogged on rice like monkeys, it tasted heavenly after hours of toil. After filling our stomach, all we wanted was to lie down under tree and take a nap. But our guide warned us of remaining trek to base village. He was right, as once it gets dark, the trek will be difficult amidst forest.
Half-heartedly we started our return trek to Samrad village at 5 p.m. To reach the same village we had to climb from back side of one of the mountains which was acting as one of the wall of valley (Karoli ghat). Usually trekkers walk down the way to Dehne village in plain terrain. But our car was parked in the village so that was not the option.
This time everyone was too exhausted to utter a word, all were focused to reach the top in minimum time. Except two of us, I was too tired and hence was taking time,plucking and eating karaunda (a type of wild berries). Whereas Paresh was still enthusiastic to click photographs.
The way to top was well marked and hence we completed the ascend in less than two hours, faster than expected time of three hours. We reached initial plain terrain at around 7:00 p.m. Everyone was again smiling with a sense of accomplishment.
Everyone was rushing to reach the place where we parked our car, We two on the other hand were busy bidding good bye to beautiful mountains.