We are all forced to adapt to new realities. I’m certain many of you can recall my previous post on hiking in Jaipur post-lockdown. If you haven’t, over here is the post – A hiking excursion with a club. I had shared my experience of hiking with a Trekking Club in Jaipur and my plans for undertaking hikes in the coming months.
For the reasons of safety, I did not hike for four weeks. At the same time, I feel hikes are a better option than say a walk or a jog in places like Central Park. It is important to undertake outdoor fitness activities once in a while. A solo hike is a good option for the time being. I have undertaken many solo hikes in Jaipur. I moved away from the same due to safety reasons. The hills surrounding Jaipur are home to panthers. Many fellow hikers have narrated incidents of sighting them during the hikes. The mobile network remains a scarce resource on many trails.
When I started hiking in Jaipur a couple of years ago, Hathni Kund or Hathuni Kund and Bhuteshwar Nath Mahadev trek were the first two treks. My hiking adventure started with a friend, a surgeon from Australia during the monsoon season. The Hathuni Kund was the first one we undertook. It was a fabulous place; serene and beautiful. One can sit here for hours, soaking the views and relaxing in the refreshing breeze. This was one of the preferred places for treks on weekends until the end of 2014. During the last six years, I have been to the Hathni Kund Trek only once! Here is a picture of Hathni Kund from my last trip, a couple of years ago.
Earlier this month
The curiosity led me to visit Hathuni Kund once again. Curiosity? I wanted to know if the place has changed over the past few years. There were reasons why I decided to abandon it in favor of other options. For this time, I chose an alternative trail route; shorter but with a steeper ascend. I switched to the regular trail midway from Charan Mandir.
Charan Mandir remains a prominent landmark on way to Nahargarh Fort. It is extremely crowded during the weekends; a favorite Jaipur sunrise point among locals. Charan Mandir is a historic temple supposedly 400-500 years old. Read more about it here.
The Hathuni Kund trail was buzzing with activity right from Charan Mandir parking area. As I started descending on the trail, I found many groups heading there. It is surprising to note people without masks walking together. Probably, they are immune to Coronavirus! The trail is lined with Anogeissus Pendula Tree on both sides. The tree is better known as Dhok locally. It finds home in Aravali hill range. Apart from Jaipur, it can be found in the rest of East Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi.
Midway, a well reminded me of the familiar sight back then. During my initial years of hiking, this was a preferred water hole for cattle grazers. But many visits later, I invariably found it devoid of water. It does seem like an old well.
I encountered a group of friends playing Indian classical music on a portable speaker. This was surprising since young lads don’t like this genre of music. I enquired if they like Bollywood or pop? One of them smiled and said they connect better with Indian classical.
As I reached the waterfall of Hathuni Kund, the human sound in the jungle was ubiquitous; a sign of the presence of many groups. The reason why I decided to not visit this trail was its popularity.
Ever since hikers started posting pictures of Hathuni Kund on social media, it became challenging to find tranquility. The exact reason which drew me here. Repeatedly, I would find empty bottles of beer, Whiskey, and disposable plastic glasses were strewn around. I have already discussed this issue of trash being dumped on Nahargarh Fort road in my previous write-up on Environmental issues in Jaipur.
Did I forget to mention countless plastic wrappers of “Chakna” (snacks to accompany liquor)? It wasn’t uncommon to come across loud Bollywood music being played on a portable speaker. I decided it made a little point to visit Hathuni Kund.
Knowing things haven’t changed at all, I decided to spend some time away from the waterfall area and enjoy nature from another vantage point. Here is a view of the serene spot.
Things to see at Hathni Kund
In my opinion, the best thing to do here is to enjoy the serenity – if that’s available! Still I will detail it out here for you to decide. The word Kund means water storage in Rajasthan. Usually, it refers to a well. But in some regions of Rajasthan, Kund refers to Baori (stepwell) too. A stiff cliff is the landmark of this site which is a waterfall area.
Beyond this waterfall is a valley having two temples one of which is near the cliff and is new construction. Here is a picture of Shiva temple at Hathni Kund near waterfall zone.
The modest dwelling unit is a landmark site. Close to this makeshift shelter is another temple. It seems like an old construction. I possess a little clue about its history or when it was constructed.
Right next to this temple in the valley is a small pond. It’s a water accumulation area on a rocky basin. This water is definitely present not just in monsoon but even in ensuing months.
Let me share my uinteraction with the caretaker of this temple from previous post, Sheoram where I had conversation about Hathni Kund about the safety, wild animals & why he lived there.
History – Origin of Dravyawati River?
Although it is being referred as Hathni or Hathuni Kund, this is not it’s real name. The name is derived from a local Rajasthani word referring to one of the four directions. This is unknown to most people. Many historians concur the origin of the Dravyawati river in Jaipur is Hathni Kund. Just before the waterfall is an old embankment of a dam. This dam was breached during the Jaipur floods of 1981.
The flood was caused by incessant 326 mm rainfall on 19 July 1981. From 17th July 1981 to 19th July 1981, the cumulative rainfall registered in Jaipur was 840 mm! I’m unsure about the authenticity of this claim, but the popular opinion is Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II built this dam.
After enjoying the cool breeze for a couple of minutes, it was time to head back. Although it felt nice being here back again but I realized I needed to stay from such popular trails. Cacophony and hordes are not what I seek in the midst of nature. In the post-COVID world, this is the least desirable. While the options for solo hikes in Jaipur are limited, I might find just one more partner to expand my options in the upcoming months.
As I traversed through the familiar trail, I witnessed many more groups heading to Jaipur’s most popular trek route. As I reached Charan Mandir, it was a familiar sight of usual weekend pandemonium. Of late, Charan Mandir has become a popular sunrise point in Jaipur as Nahargarh Fort was closed for a long time owing to the COVID Lockdown in Jaipur. Indeed, the sunrise from this place is epic. I’m sharing one such beautiful Jaipur sunrise from a place close to Charan Mandir.
The scene prompted me of pre-COVID time. Masks and social distancing was hard to find. I guess people were fed up with the past three months. Allow me to share the picture of the visual I encountered.
As I reached the start point of the trail, I noted it took me exactly 2 hours to complete this trail through the alternative route. The trail lined with Dhok trees is a good break from the huddled life we all lead in a crowded city. Apart from Dhok, one gets to see a variety of flora on this trail. Here are a few that I witnessed.
A peahen and a Banyan tree
The Kadamb tree flower.
This tree reminded me of the Himalayan Birch tree, also called Betula Utilis found at the height of 10,000 feet. I have many during the treks in the Himalayas. Their bark was used as paper during ancient times.
Once monsoon sets in fully, one gets to witness plenty of Sickle Bush Tree on this trail which is a pretty sight.
I did miss the sunrise, something I looked forward to on the usual trail. But I did enjoy this beautiful alternative trail. I’m not sure if I’m returning to this hiking trail in Jaipur anytime soon. Given its popularity, I’m sure I will continue to hike in other trails near Jaipur.
I suppose there will be many tweaks in the post-COVID world; a new normal. How have you adjusted to the new normal? Have you changed your fitness routine or weekend activity?