Author – Goutham Valeti
Many of my friends ask me, “Why do you travel all the way to painfully go through tiring 10-15 hours of journey and climb rocks, when you can happily stretch your legs and watch a movie at home?!” Well, my answer would be, “There is an element of craziness in all of us; we need to explore that. Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination!”
I think everyone has their own passion and desires, and mine is to trek. Following my passion to undertake offbeat travel, I joined Great Hyderabad Adventure Club’s trekking expeditions across India. It was thrilling to experience the adrenanline rush I got from various adventure activities such as trekking, rock climbing, rappelling, valley crossing, forest camping, river rafting, etc. One of these expeditions was really memorable for me since we just climbed down a deep narrow valley without climbing back!
‘Sandhan Valley’, also known as the “Valley of Shadow”, is truly a marvel of nature. It is a 200 feet deep canyon carved into the massive rocks of Sahyadri Mountains in the Western Ghats. This water carved valley is just around 15-20 feet wide and sunlight barely trickles down the valley at midday. The brilliant and deep narrow rock floored ravine is located between the two high walls of mountain range. At some places its width is less than 3 feet and at some places Sun rays unable to reach the ground. Hence the name, “Valley of Shadow”!
Our proposed itinerary was for a three-day trek with around 16 of us left from Hyderabad on a cold night taking a train to Pune. We took a minibus to Samrad village, which is considered a base camp for the Sandhan Valley trek. There is literally no civilization around this valley nestled deep in the Sahyadri Mountains. The only village nearby is Samrad situated on the backwaters of Bhandardara Dam.
Despite the tiresome journey, we were all in high spirits and eager to begin our trek. After we reached Samrad, we had our breakfast and were briefed by our organizers, Swaminathan and Jamila about the tough trek ahead. Although it is not an extremely difficult trek, we need endurance to withstand the vigorous climb down the valley, which has some steep gorges. We trekked along the river stream and rappelled down steep edges of rock dropping 40-50 feet.
We had spent a lot of time here as we only had one harness and it took 10 to 15 minutes for each of us to climb down. Jamila was an expert in rappelling, who took time to explain some basic rules since there were many first time climbers among us. Further, we were fortunate enough that we had some company during the trek with some trekkers from Pune who were generous enough to lend their harness, which made our trek much easier.
Since we were delayed due to the treacherous climb, our organizer Swaminathan split our team and took the lead team to set up the camping spot. Later we all gathered at a 20 feet rock patch except for the first batch led by Swaminathan who had reached the camping spot before sunset. Swami came back for us and it was already dark so we had to take out our torches and go on.
After we enjoyed the natural light & sound show in the valley during the day, it was time for sparkling stars in the crystal clear sky. We were in a deep ravine completely surrounded by two massive walls of rock reaching to heights of 100 to 150 feet. The breathtaking sight of a river of sparkling stars enthralled us in the night!
The next day morning, everyone got ready and were all set to go by 8am after some photo sessions at our campsite. The second day was quite tiring since it was an uphill climb and we had to take a lot of breaks all along the way. Many of us we were literally dragging ourselves through exhausting journey and on top of this, there was no water and our throats were parched.
Finally, when we saw plain land and few huts at a distance, everybody’s spirits were up and we marched towards the village. We reached Samrad village by early evening and had a good lunch and headed back towards Pune. It was truly a memorable experience for all of us which we can look back with pride for having trekked such a tough treacherous valley!