Sundays are usually spent lazing in the bed, cooking elaborate dishes for the family and watching movies on Netflix. However, this Sunday, I decided to do something different, something solely for myself. So while hubby was minding little A, along with two of my friends from the gym, I visited Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali for a trek.
‘In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks’ – John Muir.
Thinking that we are regular weight lifters and have a reasonably fit body, we chose the most difficult trek called the Bamboo Hut (Gaumukh) Trail (the entry point of the trail had a few bamboo huts once upon a time, hence the name). We started trekking around 8:30 along with our guide, Sandy, provided by the park itself. We knew that the path was rocky and slippery, but we realised the actual extent of it only once we started the trek.
There were many other trekkers along the way, some first timers and some seasoned ones. Passing through fresh water steams, holding on to branches for support and treading carefully on rocks, it took us nearly two and a half hours to reach the summit.
The summit is the highest point of Mumbai, some 1500 mtrs from the sea level. From the tall watch tower, you get a beautiful view of Mumbai, right from the Pagoda in Gorai to Haji Ali in South Mumbai. Due to a dense fog, we couldn’t see much of Mumbai’s skyline, however we could clearly see the three prominent lakes of Mumbai – Tulsi, Vihar and Powai.
Seriously, the top was worth the falls, pains and bruises.
While coming down, we decided to take another route, that is via Kanheri caves. It was a more tricky and treacherous route, and except the guide, all of us slipped at least once on the mossy basalt (volcanic) rocks.
What to see in Borivali National Park:
Most people come to visit the 2500-old Buddhist Kanheri Caves. It is a good spot for picnics and some fun and frolic in the nearby streams. There are rides and mini toy train for kids. People also visit the park for cycling and running.
But, the jungle houses some enthralling flora and fauna. Our guide, Sandy was a naturalist and shared some valuable information to us regarding the trees, flowers, animals and insects found in the park.
What was remarkable about the park was its cleanliness and the fact that the jungle was left untouched by the humans. There was not a single plastic bag, juice carton, water bottle or human debris in the jungle. Trees that had fallen down were left to decompose on their own. It was jungle at its purest and wildest.
The jungle is resident to 40-45 leopards, deer and wild boars, however, we didn’t come across any. We came across a deer skull nicely locked in a tree trunk. We saw perfect spider webs, fresh water crabs, furry caterpillars and a bamboo pit viper who was sleeping coiled around a plant.
We ate sour ambadi leaves that the local adivasis (forest tribes) use as a souring agent. We even saw ghost trees, the sap of which is used to make ‘dink laddoos’. You can’t miss lichens on trees and rocks. Lichens are made of fungus and alga. Their presence is an indicator that the air in the surrounding is not polluted. Can you imagine we breathed clean and fresh air in the middle of Mumbai?
What to carry?
- Wear comfortable trekking clothes.
- Be fully clothed as there are some hungry mosquitoes in the jungle and they stick to you like leeches.
- Take a mosquito repellent. Spray or apply from time to time.
- Good trekking shoes that can hold onto rocks during the rains.
- Cap in the summer and windcheater during the monsoon.
- Water – at least 1-2 ltrs.
- Carry nutrient packed food as there is no food available in the jungle.
- A bag to collect your garbage. Do not litter in the jungle.
Some useful information on booking your trek:
- Reach Borivali National Park by 7:30. That is when the gates open for trekkers.
- The entrance fee is Rs. 53 per person. If you are driving there in your own car, you can take it inside by paying a separate fee.
- Go to the Nature Information Center (100 mtrs from the main gate) to book your trek. Trek booking is Rs. 300 per person.
- You will be assigned a guide. You cannot enter the forest without a guide/naturalist.
- The guide fee is Rs. 250 per hour for a group.
- From the Center, the trail start point is a good 6-7 kms. Now, you can choose to walk till there, take you care there and park. Or rent a seat in one of the many Omni shuttles available. A one-way transfer costs you Rs. 50 per person. Best bus no. 188 operates inside the park only on Sundays. You can avail of its service at any point in the park. Just signal and the bus will stop. Bus tickets costs Rs. 14 per person.
- Avoid Sundays especially in the rains as the park is a favourite hub for family outings and picnics. The endless honking and the mindless traffic jam inside the park are bound to upset you if you are a nature lover.
There are many trails in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to suit all fitness levels and interest. Bamboo Hut trail being tough is ideal for medium to seasoned trekkers. However, if you want to introduce kids to trekking, Shilonda trail and Upper trail or Kanheri trail are ideal. I am planning to take Miss A sometime soon for Shilonda trail. Playing in parks is fine, but nothing like witnessing the wilderness for kids to understand and appreciate the true beauty of nature.