Failed on First Attempt
It was 16th Jan 2010, when we (Team NDS) had planned a Trek to Mahuli. It is not that we were trekking for the first time or we had only trekked to smaller forts. Our team had good experience in trekking, but somehow many small unwanted things happened and finally we fell short of reaching our target. We had to retreat after completing almost 90% of our trek. First of all, our train which was supposed to reach Asangoan around 8:00 reached almost an hour late. By the time we reached the foothills it was almost 10:00. After starting the trek, for the first couple of hours we were lost in the jungle (since not many trekkers trek over here in this season, you hardly find anybody to ask directions), going in a completely incorrect direction. So the actual trek started only after noon, which is quite late given that it is reasonably hot at noon in January. To add to our problems, we were running out of water and had exhausted almost all of it before getting on the correct path. Thanks to the teams commitment, we attempted to reach the top even after such shaky start. But just commitment was never going to be enough. We couldn’t complete it. Slow and steady we almost reached the top. The final bastion was within our sight. But we couldn’t complete it. 😦
The Second Coming
Planning for Trek
Coming back to present, as the monsoon had set in on time, all the trekking enthusiast of our office (Team Mphasis) started discussing about possible places for trek. Krishna, my friend, who is leaving our organization in a month, took the initiative and coordinated amongst the team members. After a lot of deliberation we decided to go to Mahuli on 7th July. Since we had sizable number of people who were coming for the trek, we decided to hire a small bus. Every team member was also asked to carry a food item and ample of water.
At The Crack of Dawn
The bus was scheduled to leave from Borivli at 6:00. Gagan, Shraddha and Me boarded 5:26 local train from Vasai. Apart from us, Abhijit, Chetan, Bhavik, Rama and Bhakti too had come to Borivli. Everyone came on time, except the Bus itself. 😉 So after waiting for around half an hour we finally left Borivli and picked others (Rupali, Adarsh, Rushabh, Krishna, Ishita, Neha, Lovjit, Lavanya & Krishna M respectively) on our way. Santosh was the last one (Eighteenth) to board the bus at Thane. Time was passing but we were having fun in the bus, playing antakshari, having Idli and dosas. Every now and then Rushabh use to come up with his own versions of hindi songs. Followed by Bhavik , with his witty jokes. In an hour we had reached the foothills of the fort.
The Trek Begins
The trek begin at around 9:30. Unlike my previous attempt, when there was hardly any group in that season, this time the crowd was in good numbers. Hence there was no scope of getting lost. Apart from the crowd, there was proper arrow markings at regular intervals for people to follow. At the base itself we were required to cross a stream to proceed further. The climate was pleasant, with dense green forest all around. It was not raining though. The initial climb was very gentle, but as we went higher it became steeper. Since many amongst us were trekking for the first time and Mahuli being the highest peak in Thane district, Expecting everybody to reach the top would have been quite ambitious. Even then, everybody were climbing with reasonable ease. In around an hour, we had our casualty. Gagan, one of our first timer was fully exhausted. After waiting for a while, he asked us to proceed. Neha who has reasonable experience in trekking, was also not feeling well today. But even after that she managed to complete almost half the trek before giving up. Gagan too, tried his level best to continue, but he was too tired to do so. Ishita had some initial hiccups, but she is not one would give up so easily. She took some rest and in few minutes was back with the team.
Meanwhile, rest of the team continued without any issues. Abhijt was leading the team. Bhavik was helping Rupali to climb. Notably, Rupali and Bhakti, both first timers, were doing exceptionally well. Looking at them, no one would have said they were trekking for the first time. Infact Rupali was climbing few of the rock patches with utmost ease. Me and Rushabh were at the end for most part of the trek, helping Lavanya over the difficult patches.
Everything was going on smoothly when suddenly Chetan received a call from Gagan. He was saying there was a snake in front of him. According to him, the snake was not allowing him to make any movement. To add to the problem another snake had come to the scene. Everyone went into a tizzy. Poor Gagan was standing alone in that part of the jungle having two snakes staring at him. We had come a long way from where we had left him. So reaching back to him quickly was not a possibility. Anyways, we were contemplating going back to where he was. Just then he called us back to inform us that he is fine. Luckily two other trekkers were returning back and they helped him out. He went back to base village along with them. Phew! What a sigh of relief!! I have been trekking for so many years now. But such an incident have never ever happened to us. At times we have seen snakes, but they never bother us. This was something unusual. But then, it did happen!
By this time, we had almost reached the spot where I had stopped on my first attempt. Lavanya was very tired, she would have stopped there itself if any other team member had agreed to stop with her.;) But, fortunately everyone was excited to reach the top and there was no question of going back from there. Also, Gagan’s incident was fresh in her mind, so stopping alone was also not an option for her. We assured her, we were almost there and won’t take much time to reach the top. But to be honest, the last part of the trek was the most difficult. It was steep and rocky. To top it all, it had started raining heavily by then. But we were determined to make it to the top, and yes, we did it!! All of us had reached the pinnacle by 1:00. It was quite pleasant up there. Mild drizzle accompanied with thick fog, with visibility hardly few meters at times. We had some snacks which we had carried and started our descend in some time.
The peak of this fort is the highest point in Thane district of Maharashtra. The origin of this fort is not known. The forest around this fort is declared as a protected sanctuary. The view from the top is amazing. Due to heavy fog the adjoining pinnacles were not visible though.
When Shahaji Raje became the secretary of Nijamshahi, Adilshahi and Mughals of Delhi together tried to end Nijamshahi. In the year 1635-36, in difficult circumstances Shahaji Raje transferred himself with Jijabai and Shivaji to Mahuli. Khan Jaman, son of Mahabat Khan beleaguered this fort. Shahaji Raje asked for help to Portuguese. They refused and Shahaji Raje surrendered himself.
Shivaji Raje took this fort from Mughals on 8 Jan 1658. In treaty of Purandar, in 1665, Marathas lost these forts again. On 16 June 1670, after two months, Moropant Pingle conquered the forts and Mahuli, Bhandargad and Palasgad became part of Swarajya.
Usually it takes less than half the time it takes to climb any fort. But at Mahuli it was not that easy. The ladder at the top allowed just 2 people to either climb or descend at a time, thus creating a kind of bottleneck. It was raining erratically, making things a bit difficult for us. The trail had become quite slippery. But apart from 2-3 incidents of slipping and falling down, no one else was hurt. Before getting back to the bus, we had some fun in the stream. After all the physical exertion we had been through since morning,this was a welcome break for us. Anyways, this is how we completed our trek. For me, it was a kind of personal score which had to be settled.