Category Archives: Travel Diaries

Chinchoti Waterfall Trek

After planning for so long to go on a trek, we finally decided to start small with #ChinchotiWaterfalls in the midst of #Tungareshwar Forest. This place is so close to Mumbai and accessible from Vasai/Naigaon, it is a must visit for anyone who lives in Mumbai.

It is an easy trek for beginners, but anyone can get lost in the forest. You won’t really find markings on trees like most blogs may have mentioned. You may spot an arrow or two on small rocks but you can never trust them because due to the force of wind/water it could point any direction.

To get to this place, you can catch a train to Naigaon/Vasai station and take an auto to Kaman Phata and start your trek with the help of local shopkeepers/people you see in the vicinity.

If you are travelling by a private vehicle like we did, then you can park your car at this spot (check image below).  I had asked my cousin who has been to this place before to point out the exact location on map since on Google Maps it showed a route near Tungareshwar Shiva Temple and I wasn’t sure if there is a route from there.

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We had our driver along so it was easy for us to park and get off here. You can park anywhere in the field-like area, hopefully. From this point you need to go walking. We started from home at 6 am, so we were pretty early that way. We reached the parking spot around 7 am. The trek doesn’t start yet!

Here’s something no blog has ever discussed about! Dogs! Yes, as soon as you enter the trek area, you will be welcomed by 10-15 dogs who will not just follow you wherever you go but also try to pounce on you and fight with each other. We tried to get rid of them but couldn’t do anything. To top all that, most of us are scared of dogs. We asked locals for help to try and keep them away from us but they kept telling us there was no way really. They follow you right till you reach your destination and return with you. Apparently, they follow you for food which most trekkers here feed them. We bought a couple of biscuit packets and fed them. While they were still eating, we hurriedly left the scene leaving them behind but well, they still caught up with us and started walking around us while fighting and growling amongst themselves.  Pissed and frustrated, we almost gave up and planned to cancel the trek 3-4 times. We had already wasted around 30 mins going in and out of the forest. We tried one last time with the local shopkeeper and he gave us a suggestion. He asked us to hit the dog with a stick but we couldn’t do that for obvious reasons. So he did that on our behalf and asked us to carry a stick just to keep them away from us. So one of us kept tapping the stick on the ground and though the dogs still kept following us, they did maintain a distance. So finally, we started our trek, still afraid of the howling dogs!

Once inside the forest, we came across forks in our path a couple of times. We accidentally took the wrong path and eventually got lost inside the forest for a good 2 hours trying to figure out where to go. With the help of the compass on one of our phones, we tried to choose paths ahead. We could see paths where waterfalls would normally flow but were now dry. We saw huge rocks and ascended difficult steep areas of the forest and by now we were pretty clear we were not going right. We waded through huge cobwebs. That was a sign that people didn’t take this path for sure. We could see the falls far away across but didn’t know how to reach there. You know how the ways inside a forest can be. You may go north east but eventually reach north west. We were worried since we were aware of wild animals in the forest and that they did come out after 6 pm.

Now, there were just 2 dogs with us who weren’t of any help either. They never guided us and were hopefully enjoying getting lost with us. We did feel safe, though. So we almost for the final time disheartened, decided to head back home as we really weren’t sure where we were going.  Just then, a miracle happened! Like my husband calls this an epiphany! One of our friends spotted a local and we asked him to take us to the falls. He kept declining the help by saying he is here to collect herbs but after we offered him money, he agreed to guide us to the falls.

Already exhausted from the long walk, we took many little breaks and the dogs took power naps too along with us. It took us 45 mins from where we were lost to reach our destination, but the feeling you get when you finally see the beautiful waterfall is breathtaking. We craved that view so much and were so happy that we didn’t take the road back home without seeing this beauty. We had not planned to swim in the water but after the tiring hike, who wouldn’t want to take a dip? And such cold refreshing water! Be careful as the depth can mislead anyone. So enter at your own risk and be careful of water currents. A lot of drunkards apparently come here, so beware of tiny glass pieces near the  rocks. The extra pair of rain footwear helped us here. Don’t hurt your feet!

We were told that there will be many people being weekends but we were alone when we reached and after sometime we saw a group join in. So after a peaceful time in the water, we dried ourselves and had some snacks and water. We found a huge flat rock near the waterfalls, so we quickly settled and played a round of monopoly deal (card version) in the midst of the forest. After spending a good 2 hours near the falls, we decided to make our way back home. The return was now easy and it took us barely 45 mins to 1 hour to reach our car. So by 3.30 we were out of the forest and heading home. Mumbai traffic took us 3 hours to reach home, but that’s another story!

The last time my husband and I trekked, it was in New Zealand. This was our first trek here with friends and of course it was way different. From canceling the trek a number of times due to a dozen dogs following us into the forests to finally deciding to do the trek and then getting lost in the forest for 2 hours, and then finally making it to the waterfalls, it was one adventurous trek. It’s by far one of the simplest treks, but we complicated it by taking one wrong path that led to many other wrong paths. But to think about it, the best part of the trek was getting lost in the wilderness and the thrill of finding our way back!

So what did we learn from this experience?

1 – Always take a guide if you are not sure. We could have saved the lost time inside  the forest, had we convinced any one local with money to guide us through the forest.

2 – Ignore the dogs. Be stern with them to keep them away if you are not comfortable with them jumping on you. We fed them post our trek. Or go with a dog lover who can handle any kind of dog with ease.

3 – A guide wouldn’t really be required here. The trick to know which way to take when you see a fork is to check which path has more litter. This was the only place where we went hunting for chocolate, paan masala, snack wrappers and empty bottles. We were saddened by the litter in such a green forested area but since there were no arrows to guide, the litter was our only guide to know whether or not we were still on the trekking path.

 

Best time to visit:
– During or right after rains. Other times you may not get to see the waterfall. Just dry.

What to carry:
– 1 Litre water & 1 Litre energy drink like Gatorade per person
– Dry snacks like Chips, Cupcakes, Energy/Protein bars
– Bagpack
– Insect Repellent
– Portable Charger
– Cap
– Raincoat/Poncho
– Extra Pair of Clothes
– A Pair of Floaters/Slippers
– Sturdy Trekking/Sport Shoes (Saw many dead soles on our way)
– Hand Towel
– Bath Towel
– Personal Medicines and First-Aid kit. (I carried Odomos,  Alcohol Pads, Band-Aids and Pain Relief Spray)

What will you see inside the forest:
– Dogs, following you.
– Crabs, big-small-black-white crawling on the ground
– Spiders and Spider webs
– Wild Mushrooms
– Snake & Ant Hills
– Streams, dry and wet
– Huge Rocks
– And finally the waterfall!

Some Pictures:

It is a beautiful place for a day trek that’s and so close for Mumbaikars! Thank you Akhilesh Gupta (Husband), Milan Kakkad, Pawan Punjabi and Yash Thanawala for one great day!

Happy Travelling,
Divyashree Mangalorkar

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The Island Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask!

Mount Oyama

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyake-jima is an island in the Izu group, southeast of Honshū, Japan. About 160 kilometers south of Tokyo , this town is a hub for volcanic activity where over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years Mount Oyama which is an extremely active volcano spot erupted & 17,500 earthquakes hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

Inside of Mount OyamaEruption of Mount Oyama in Miyakejima Japan Picture

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring as high as 10 miles enveloped Miyake-jima, and heavy ash fell as the craters collapsed. High levels of toxic sulphur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land not fit for habitation. Covered with a cloud of harmful sulphur dioxide gas, spewed into the air by volcanic eruptions, the islands heavy weather systems and cold make it worse. At one point, it was so bad that it was polluting the air with 42,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. Those who have studied the volcano’s patterns have found that it goes off in intervals of 20 years.  But even when Mount Oyama isn’t mid-eruption, it continues to emit sulfuric gas.

Miyakejima Panorama Photograph

The eruptions released so much toxic gas into the air that three months later in September, the government had to force a mass evacuation of the entire island. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. For five years, Miyake-jima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world. Dead trees and rusted cars peppered the derelict space. Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulphuric dioxide gas from its summit every day for two years following the eruption. Slowly, though, the evacuation order began to lift, and in 2005 citizens were allowed to return to their homes.

6_gas mask town japanGas Protection

Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth, some island denizens just can’t stay away! Some opted to remain in their relocated houses in Tokyo, but about 2,800 chose to return, taking back the island’s abandoned buildings. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island.

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Considering the re-populating of the island, nearly a third of Miyake-jima remains permanently uninhabitable and the government mandates regular health checkups and enforces age restrictions in certain areas. In terms of monitoring the air quality, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been watching the volcanic activity through videos, helicopter and satellite images.

Naval Leapfrog4_gas mask town japan3_gas mask town japan

In the meantime, civilians walk around with gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity. All residents and visitors are required to carry gas masks, and an air raid alarm goes off when the sulfur levels get unhealthily high. So when the air quality gets bad enough, the town turns into a masked extra-terrestrial looking crowd of people seemingly attending the same themed costume party.

Miyakejima The Gas Mask Town

But all that poisoned air does have its perks. While many wouldn’t exactly call this an ideal spot for tourists, some curious about this town where the citizens wear gas masks do venture through. Gas mask tourism is a huge draw for people who want to pretend they’re living in the post-destruction age. With disposable masks sold at ferry stations and local stores, this gas-soaked village hasn’t kept tourists away. The city’s site advises visitors to learn about the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide before visiting as it can be quite damaging to one’s health. They even suggest tourists get a respiratory medical exam before booking the trip. Visitors can also take tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava or dip themselves in hot spring baths, until self-awareness hits and visitors realize that they find disaster enjoyable enough to pay for.

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