Giant Swing at The Grand Canyon of Maharashtra
No matter how much someone says that he/she doesn’t like adventure activities there’s still some sort of an urge within them that makes them go for that activity someday in their lives. The adventure junkies are always on the hunt for events that allow them to feel the adrenaline rush through such activities. Those from Maharashtra are blessed as they can get to experience this thrill in their own turf – Sandhan Valley at Nashik, Maharashtra. And if the place is offering you a natural structure for an activity like Giant swing, there’s nothing like it.
WHERE IS SANDHAN VALLEY?
For those unaware of this place, Sandhan Valley is a 200 feet deep canyon situated in Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Closer to the beautiful Bhandardara region, the valley is surrounded by forts like Ratangad, Ajoba and the famous troika of Alang-Madan-Kulang (AMK) forts. Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra (1,646 m) is also close by.
WHAT WAS THE ADVENTURE EVENT AT SANDHAN VALLEY?
So I happened to come across this website www.adventures365.in and got to know about the Sandhan Camp event sometime in September 2016. Organised by Isolation Zone under the leadership of Arun Sawant Sir, the event comprises of:
The event has about 6 daily batches (typically from Friday to Wednesday) and is organised in the second week of December. No points for guessing that the weekend batches get booked immediately. So make sure you sign up on the above mentioned website so that you would get the notification whenever the booking for the event is available. Since I booked for the event in September, I had to settle for the Monday batch (leaving on Sunday night). The participants can either reach the Samrad village (the starting point of trek) directly by their own vehicle or opt for the bus transport by organisers – leaving from Mumbai & Pune.
WHAT WERE THE CHARGES FOR ADVENTURE EVENT AT SANDHAN VALLEY?
The entire package i.e. all four activities would cost you Rs. 4,000. They don’t have any policy of letting the participant choose only specific activities and give a discount on the pricing.
- Mumbai – Sandhan Camp – Mumbai / Pune – Sandhan Camp – Pune Non-AC private bus transport
- Breakfast (Poha & Tea), Lunch (chapatis, mix veg sabzi, dal, rice, papad)
- Activities – Burma bridge crossing, Flying fox, Rappelling & Giant swing
HOW WAS MY EXPERIENCE AT THE EVENT?
So I had opted for the 12th December 2016 (Monday) batch. The bus from Mumbai was supposed to leave from National Park, Borivali at 8 pm on 11th December 2016 but due to traffic, it actually left for Samrad village at 9 pm. Nevertheless, it was a smooth journey till Samrad village where we reached at maybe 4 am. We took a nap for an hour or so and got a wakeup call from the organiser team. You have to attend the nature’s call in the nearby fields only. So it is better to wake up before others and get done with your business.
We left the base village for the actual event camp site at 6 am and after a 45 minute easy trek, reached the top of the hill. All the participants were served the breakfast and tea and were provided the gear for the activities viz. safety helmet, mittens, harness, descender, etc.
It was followed by the instruction round conducted by one of the founding members of Isolation Zone. The organisers had tied up with videography team of some Stoned Eye Productions from Mumbai. They briefed everyone about their video making services and the pricing for the same.
The charges for video packages were:
- Rs. 2,000 for only Giant swing
- Rs. 2,500 for all activities
- No flexibility/ no discounts/ no negotiations
The volunteers/ organisers were attentive to every participant and made sure that all of them were wearing the harness properly. If you feel that the helmet is not a good fit for your head, you can adjust the belt as per your comfort.
Remember that the sequence of events for every participant is assigned randomly. Hence please do not make requests to the organisers to make arrangements so as to let you and your friends do the same activity together. Fortunately I was assigned the same sequence as my friends which was – Burma bridge crossing, Flying Fox, Rappelling and finally the showstopper Giant swing. At the end of the day, I felt this was the ideal sequence of activities. So if you too get it, consider yourself lucky.
Burma Bridge Crossing
Our first activity was crossing the Burma bridge built between the two hills on the sides of 200 feet deep valley. Burma bridge structure has three thick ropes – one on which you are supposed to walk and the other two on your sides which you hold for support. The upper two ropes are tied to bottom rope by multiple small ropes at regular intervals. And this structure also has couple of safety ropes above you to which your harness is attached so that even if you fall off the bottom rope, you will be safe. So the real task is to reach the other point from one point walking on a single rope over a 200 feet deep valley. I think that is enough to scare you for the time being.
Tip: Just stay calm. Keep your arms wide and try to push the side ropes away from you. This will make your arms and shoulder feel the soreness after a while but that’s the key to balance your weight on a single rope. Always place your foot on the knots on the bottom rope for better grip. When you reach the center of the bridge, you can gather some courage and look around and down to see what crazy thing you have come to do. If you feel your shoulders are paining or your legs are shaking, just take your time to relax. Do not panic. Just shout out at any person at either ends and he will instruct you properly.
Thrill meter: 7/10
Flying Fox/ Zipline
It took me 10-13 minutes to cross the bridge and then I proceeded to the place for Flying fox/ zipline activity which was a few feet away from where I landed after crossing the Burma bridge. A zipline consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on a slope.
It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley. It hardly took 20-30 seconds to cross the valley with a zipline. This actually brings you back to the starting point of Burma bridge activity.
Thrill meter: 3/10
After Zipline, our next activity was Rappeling or Abseiling. It is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope. After reaching the Rappelling spot, we had to wait for more than an hour to get our turn to rappel down. The time taken to actually rappel down depends on the fear levels and confidence of the participant.
Please remember that you are not going to fall down. All you have to do is trust the instructor and stand as much on the edge of the cliff as possible. Always keep your right hand behind your waist while holding the rope and keep feeding the rope up i.e. to your left hand holding the rope in front. The more you put your weight behind better will it be for you to descend. Ideal position is keeping your body as parallel to ground as possible/ perpendicular to the rock surface, keeping your legs wide apart and not bending your knees. While standing on the edge of the cliff, you can even set both your hands free and enjoy the moment. I would recommend holding the rope and turn around and have a look at the beautiful valley down below. Sounds scary but it’s worth it.
Thrill meter: 7/10
After rappelling down, we reached the bottom of the valley and had to go up once again for the final activity. We had to almost walk the entire 1 km stretch of the valley and even had to cross couple of water patches, one of them being 5 feet deep. You need not hurry to go up. You should spend some time in the valley to experience the serenity and the beauty of this valley of shadows.
When we were back to the top of the hill, we had our lunch and took rest as there was relatively long queue for the Giant Swing, thanks to the mismanagement by the videography team.
The Showstopper: Giant Swing
The Giant swing setup at Sandhan valley is completely natural unlike the man-made bridge at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand organised and supervised by professionals from New Zealand.
Nonetheless, the swing activity at Sandhan valley is totally safe. You have to rappel down a few feet to reach the spot from where you are released for the swing. I wouldn’t divulge more details of the swing activity here as it would kill all the excitement and surprise. But trust me, this activity is worth all the money you are paying.
The only difference between the swing activity done at Rishikesh and that at Sandhan Valley is the direction you are facing when you have a free fall. You go face first at Rishikesh giant swing whereas at Sandhan valley you are facing the rock surface of the hill initially. Post release, you get to see the beautiful view of the valley as the rope attached to your harness turns after few seconds.
Thrill meter: 10/10
Now few things about the video shoot. I am sure you would be curious to know about how your videos would look like. So, I have already mentioned the charges for the different video packages. The final edited video was supposed to be 3-4 minutes long which included:
- standard event brief in the opening,
- your pre-activity interview,
- the actual activity video and
- finally your post-activity interview.
We were given an assurance that we would get our videos in 25 days from the day of activity. But we had to face a lot of unprofessional behaviour by Stoned Eye Productions team. Even the people who paid the full amount on the day of the event didn’t get their videos on time. Finally I received my video sometime in last week of March; that’s more than 3 months. Although I was satisfied with the video, the videography team had already killed all the excitement.
After our post-activity interview, we were done for the day. We witnessed the lovely sunset and then packed our bags for the return journey with some thrilling memories.
Things to remember
- First of all, buy a pair of Action Trekking Shoes. These are probably the best shoes for treks in Sahyadri range and are available at around Rs. 800-1000. The shoes have amazing grip and last very long. Please avoid wearing sports shoes and Woodland Shoes are a big no-no, especially if you are trekking anywhere in the monsoon season.
- Carry minimum 2 liters of water.
- Full sleeves tshirt and track pant is a must. Avoid low neck tops/ tshirts, 3/4th pants, jeans, etc. Carry extra pair of clothes as you would get completely wet in the water patches in the valley.
- Carry sunscreen, newspaper, couple of extra carry bags (to keep wet clothes and shoes), toilet paper, wet tissues, paper soap, extra small water bottle for nature’s call, toothbrush, toothpaste etc.
- Do not apply a perfume or a deodorant as the fragrance might provoke the bees. There could be a beehive anywhere nearby the campsite.
- Check if you are given all the required equipments.
- Do not panic if you are scared at any moment during any activity. Stay calm and ask the instructor next steps. Do not let the fear overpower your courage.
- During the Giant swing activity, you may turn around a bit if you wish to see the valley the moment the swing starts. Just ask the instructor to wait for you to take the appropriate position. And in this particular position, keep your elbow above the rope while holding it and not below it.
- Carrying phone during activities is entirely upto you. But make sure you can take care of it while walking the 5 feet deep water patch.
I must mention here that the event was well-coordinated and organisers adhered to time limits thanks to Arun Sawant Sir. Also, since I had not carried my camera/ phone during the activities, the pictures uploaded in this post ARE NOT taken by me. They all belong to fellow participants.
Here’s a video of my Giant swing:
Drop your queries and suggestions in the comments section below and I would be more than happy to address them.
Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!