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Travel: 4 top night trekking destinations near Mumbai in March

March is the ideal month for stargazing

‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare,’ wrote English poet William Henry Davies. It’s probably the best time of the year to follow his advice “March has something called a Messier Marathon, which draws many stargazers. It is named after Charles Messier, who was a commet hunter,” shares Arvind Paranjpye, director, Nehru Planetarium. He adds that this is the time of the year when amateur astronomers try to find as many Messier objects as possible during one night. The Messier catalogue includes a set of over 100 astronomical objects that resembled comets but weren’t. Listed for the first time by Messier, these include galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. “The number of Messier objects visible in any one night is always higher in March,” Paranjpye adds.

Days close to New Moon nights work best for stargazing. Any kind of bright lights hamper the experience, explains Pradeep Nayak, president, Khagol Mandal, an organisation for amateur astronomers. “For telescopic viewing, we cover torches with red cellophane paper, so that the bright light does not hit the eye. We do not allow flash photography with cameras or mobile phones either,” he says.

Meanwhile, for those, who cannot find time to act upon Davies’ advice Paranjpye has good news. “Star gazing is also ideal post the monsoon, which marks the onset of winter. The nights are not cloudy and the rains have washed away the dust in the air, allowing us to witness crystal clear skies.”

Star appeal in Neral
To spot the stars, you can join Khagol Mandal’s next observation programme at Saguna Baag Farm House in Neral.
During this overnight programme, you will spot different celestial objects through telescopes arranged by the organisers. You can spot open cluster, globular clusters, galaxies, binary star and visible planets. KM Scopes, personal scopes and all instruments will be organised. The site is roughly 3.5 km from Neral Station. For those arriving by local train, a pick-up facility is available from Neral station. For participants to the Khagol Mandal Sky Program, entry will be restricted to the premises marked for the sky show. (Read: In 2009, Khagol Mandal started a study group in Pune)

On: April 9 to April 10 (Meeting point: Nirman Park Society Gate on platform no. 1, Neral station. Pick up from Neral station is arranged for the train timing mentioned, and is free of cost.)
Time: 7.30 pm to 4.30 pm
Call: 9619396204
Log on to: www.khagolmandal.com
Cost: Rs 250 Dinner is available at an additional charge of Rs 150. Tea and coffee will be provided. Carry your dinner or choose to order at an additional cost

Myths and legends in Harishchandragad
12.30 pm Trek to Harishchandragad whose history dates back 6th century. Camp overnight in tents at this gorgeous venue that boasts of prominent caves, a concave shaped Konkan Kada surrounded by forests and the highest peak called Taramati is at an elevation of 1,429 m — the fort is what fairy tales are made of.  Also, check out the cave of Kedareshwar, which holds a Shiva Linga, completely surrounded by water.

On: March 19
Meeting point: Kalyan Bus Depot, opposite to Kalyan Railway Station.
Entry: Rs 800
Call: 8080911557

Kothaligad high
8 pm Set off on a moonlight trek in the Sahyadris. The date of the trek to the Kothaligad fort has been chosen after studying the movements of the moon. It is designed in a way that the path is naturally lit by moonlight. While you halt at Peth in the night and camp in tents, you can also star gaze post 4 am when the moonlight is low.



On:
March 19

Meeting point: Dadar TT
Entry: Rs 2,050
Call: 9167044874
Log on to: mountains@theterntravellers.co.in

Soar at Sudhagad
10 pm Located near Pali, Sudhagad makes for a fairly easy easy trek.Situated at the height of about 680 m (2,030 ft), it is fortified by steep cliffs. Due to its geographical qualities, Sudhagad was proposed by Naro Mukund to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to make it the capital of Hindavi Swaraj. Shivaji Maharaj visited Sudhagad to survey it, but he chose Raigad because of its central location.



On: March 19
Meeting point: Pritam hotel, Dadar
Entry: Rs 1,100
Log on to: www.trekmatesindia.com

Checklist
>>
Warm clothing
>> Bottled water
>> Mosquito repellent
>> Carry a comfortable dhurrie or soft mat
>> Binoculars
>> Read up on the subject
>> Observe silence and avoid playing loud music


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