Trek to Mahuli

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

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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
On our way to Mahuli

On our way to Mahuli

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.

Yogesh Lotlikar

Its me! On the way to the fort!

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!

Team Mphasis, After reaching the top of the fort

Team Mphasis, After reaching the top of the fort

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.

About Mahuli

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.

The Descend
Rushabh & Bhavik, relaxing in river water

Rushabh & Bhavik, relaxing in river water

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.

Trek To Visapur

Planning for Trek

Last year when I had published my blog “Trek To Lohagad“, I had mentioned it was my ninth visit to Lohagad. On reading that  Praphulla my friend, had suggested me to visit Visapur the next time. According to him, it was beautiful, huge & since it is not as easy as Lohagad, there are very few people visiting this fort. I had decided to visit this fort last year itself, but somehow could not do it.
Finally, this year we had a plan in place. Last month, just while mingling around with my friends, Hemant came up with an idea about trek. I already had Visapur in my mind for quite some time, so based on my suggestion and everybody’s convenience, we agreed for a trek to Visapur on 14th July.

Food mall

A break taken at the food mall on the Mumbai Pune expressway

The Actual Trek

We started at around 5:15 in the morning, with Prasad leaving from his home with his car. Hitesh who stays at andheri, had come to Prasad’s place so as make it easier to leave early in the morning. Both of them left home at around 5:00. Sachin was the first one to be picked. Followed by Anand, Hemant and Me. By 6:30 we had refueled our car and were cruising on the highway. Our next stop was Airoli, where Nilesh was waiting for us, next was Amol at Kharghar. Amol was late by few minutes. After his arrival, we had some sandwiches which I had carried. Usually we take a break for snacks, but this time we wanted to save on time, hence carried some stuff with us.

Starting from Kharghar, our next stop was supposed to be Kumar Resort, Lonavla. Kshamesh and Chetan were coming from Pune, and Kumar Resort was to be the meeting point. We had planned to take the route via Pawna lake to reach the base village for Lohagad/Visapur. But Kshamesh and Chetan were quite late and hence we decided to take the customary Malavli route, since it saves on travel time from Pune.

Visapur Foothills

The Lush green carpet at the foothills of Visapur

We reached Malavli at around 9:15. A little late though, but quickly started our ascend. We had our breakfast before reaching Malavli, but Kshamesh and Chetan who came from Pune, were hungry. We assured them of having Pohe once we reach the foothills of the fort. 🙂 The first half of this trek is common between Lohagad and Visapur. Only after reaching a plateau at Lohgad village, the two go there separate ways. This section of the trek is reasonably easy, but we had some hiccups. Prasad, who is quite used to such walks due to his house in his village, was gasping for air. He was finding it very difficult to breath. We made him rest for some time, and then proceeded further. In monsoon the climate over here is quite pleasant. The lush green grassland seems to have occupied the entire area. Clouds cover the entire area upto the horizon, with occasional holes from where the Sun god peeps in.

We reached the Lohagad village from where we took left leaving behind majority of the crowd. As per our information, we were required to take this left and walk for around 15 mins. There we had to search for the entrance to the fort. We followed the trail accordingly. In between we took a tea break and also garam garam pohe. 🙂 Having Pohe is considered as an important milestone for most of the treks in Sahyadri. The trek doesn’t seem to be complete without this traditional Maharastrian dish :).

Pohe break at visapur

Tea and Pohe break at visapur

Anyways, we continued on our trail looking for the entrance to the fort from the south end. But somehow we missed it. Unlike Lohagad, there are very few people who trek to Visapur. Hence there was hardly anyone whom we could have asked directions for the fort. The trail too was marshy at times, with our feet sunk half foot inside the mud. We realized that almost the entire fort has passed but still there was no sign of the entrance. We saw some people on the fort. We waved our hands asking for direction. They acknowledged by asking us to go on the other side. Apparently telling us that we are on the wrong side. Few of us were getting impatient. But still, we continued. On reaching on the other end of the fort, we saw some huts and children playing around. They told us, there is a small trail which leads us to the fort, but suggested us to take them as guide. We turned down there suggestion and proceeded on our own, this time on the other side of the fort. This decision cost us almost an hour. To our disappointment there was a path after every few meters; and we were not sure which one to take. Assuming that all of them would ultimately lead us to the entrance; but it didn’t. We kept on trying different routes, and each one had a dead end. The forest is quite dense over here. With tree branches covering the paths, sometimes having sharp prickles or cactus. We tried almost for an hour but with no success; to add to our plight, we had exhausted all the water which we had carried . Finally we decided to take help of those kids whom we had met. Fortunately, even after an hour of trying, we were not far away from those huts. 🙂 Hemant went back and got two of those kids with him. The kids had also got another group who had sought there help. Both the group had agreed to pay them fifty bucks each.

From then on we were on the correct track. In fact after a while, we noticed that at regular intervals, someone had marked the rocks along the path with directions to proceed towards the fort. In another half an hour, we had reached the steps to the fort. By 3:30 we were on the top. 🙂 Finally!!

About the Fort

After resting for few minutes, we proceeded along the forts perimeter. The fort is huge, with the plateau almost double the size of lohagad. Not much has been written about this fort, but this fort did exists during the Nizamshah reign. It kept changing hands between Nizamshah and Mughals, until Chatrapati Shivaji bought it into swaraj. It was during the Peshwa era that major restoration was carried out. The perimeter walls of the fort were built in the 18th Century. There are quite a few water cisterns on the fort. The perimeter wall is almost entirely intact, with its height and width varying at different places. There are two building like structures, probably a palace or storehouse. Just before the entrance at the north end you will find couple of huge caves. Again this might be used for soldiers to rest or as a store house. There is a huge carving of lord Hanuman; Also, there is a huge manual grinder which is still in good shape. The bastion at the north end has an old gun. One can see the Mumbai-Pune express way from this end.

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We had about an hours time before we start our descend. We started with the northern most bastion, the one facing the Mumbai-Pune expressway. We then moved on to the other end. The view from the south end is breathtaking, The entire Lohagad, at a lower elevation could be seen from here. The fortification of Lohagad with its seven bastions appear more beautiful when seen from Visapur then probably from Lohagad itself. Just left of Lohagad, in the background, one can see the fort Tung, with Pawana lake separating it from Fort Tikona. Since the climate was quite foggy, we were not able to see Korigad from this point, which otherwise could be seen behind fort Tung.

While roaming around on the fort we met two guys, who had taken a different route to climb the fort. Apparently this route appeared to be much shorter than the one we had come from. So while coming down we came along with these guys. The rain god had bestowed mercy on us throughout the day when we were in difficulty. But while descending, it came out with all its guns blazing. Offcourse  it did cause us some inconvenience, but the fact that we had reached the fort had boosted our morale and we made our way down to malavli village in around one and a half hour. Well, this is how one of the most exciting trek of my life was carried out. For so many years I saw Visapur from Lohgad, this was the first time I saw Lohagad from Visapur. 😉

Trek to Visapur

Trek to Sudhagad

Plan for the trek

After our Koraigad trek last month, we had decided that henceforth we will not be planning for treks well in advance. It should be done at the last moment or at the most a week in advance. Since the last time it was just four of us (Hems, Andy, Tara & me), this time we wanted more people with us. Swapnil(Swapya) and Prasad(Po2) were insisting on a trek for quite some time.

So we decided upon a date that is 25th June. The Destination was not to be decided till the very end. On Thursday, two days before the trek we had our conference call amongst the members. On the call were Hems, Sachin, Swapnil, Po2, Andy and me. I suggested Tikona or Naneghat as possible places for trek. Swapya suggested a waterfall somewhere near jawahar. Po2 suggested SudhaGad. Sudhagad, I had never heard of this fort before. Po2 said it is somewhere near Pali(A village near Khopoli, known for one of AshtVinayaks eight famous temples. Lord Ballareshwar is the reigning deity of this village). Po2 insisted about this place saying it is not a very big trek, and would be worth a visit. So we finalised on SudhaGad. The next day we spread the news in our group. By Friday evening we were fifteen of us including five of Po2’s office colleagues. So according to the plan, we were going to start from Vasai. Po2 started from his home. He picked Jayesh, Swapnil & Sachin en-route to Evershine gate. Meanwhile I picked Hemant and Anand from their place and returned to our meeting point at Evershine Gate.

Thane – Belapur road

On our way to Sudhagad (Location on Wikimapia)

According to the plan, we set out from Vasai-Virar in two cars. We picked Nilesh at Airoli. Po2’s office colleagues were coming in the third car from Mumbai. We  met them at Belapur. Pranit, who works in night shift these days was going to meet us at belapur. But due to some personal issue, he could not join us.

We reached khopoli by 9:00 where Amit, the only member of todays team from Pune on his bike, had reached far earlier. We proceeded towards Pali, reaching the temple by in around an hour. After a quick darshan, we moved on towards our destination which was still 12 kms ahead. We lost some time in between coz, Casper, Po2’s colleague had lost his way in between. After a brief search operation by Amit and Swappy, we found them. 🙂  and reached a small hamlet named Pachapur.

Mission Sudhagad

The fort appeared to be huge from the base.  As we left the village behind on our way to the fort, the mud hutments of the villagers were getting replaced by trees. After a while we were actually in a very dense patch of the forest. Since the location of this fort is somewhat remote, and it is not known to many people, there were not many people around us.
This is in sharp contrast to other famous forts like Lohgad or Raigad which always have large number of visitors. Lonely though, but we were enjoying every moment of our trek. The pristine beauty of this place is still intact. After around 20 mins of climbing we reached the first amongst the four hillocks. Local authorities have built a ladder like structure to get over this obstacle. A local guy told us there is a small temple of Lord Shiva on the fort. Every year large number of people from the surrounding area visit this temple during Jatra. This ladder was built for their convenience.

Going ahead we crossed one hill after the other. Each one was different from the previous one. There were plains covered with lush green grass cover. Various types of seasonal flowers were adding to its beauty. The perimeter of the fort is very well fortified with its formidable walls still in reasonably good shape. The path which we had taken was actually the rear side of the fort. The main entrance is not very accessible. After about an hour or so, we came across steps which were leading to a huge Darwaza (Gate), covered by two bastions of the fort around 150-200 meters away. The bastion is built in such a strategic fashion that if enemy is trying to intrude inside, he can be fiercely  defended. There are vents to pour  boiling oil on the enemy, places from where archers can hit enemy troops. Standing on the bastions edge, one could see almost half of the forts perimeter. It also gives a very wide view of horizon, whereby a watch can be kept on approaching army. Such minute things were thought at a time when there were no cranes or vehicles to carry construction material, no advanced communication mechanism, no computer to design a blue print of the structure. Those great minds who envisioned it and the strong hands which built it, certainly deserve a manacha mujra (Salute).

Bastions at Pachapur darwaza

After spending some time over the bastion, we proceeded towards the main fort which was still half an hour away. Nilesh, amongst us was very exhausted. But like all of us he made it to the top.

The perimeter of this fort is quite big. The fort is spread across 55 acres. There are many lakes on the fort. There is a palace of Pant Sachiv on the fort, where 50 people can stay comfortably. Also there is a temple of Bhorai Devi, where 25-30 persons can be accommodated. Different kind of medicinal plants and trees can be seen in the surrounding forest. The entrance from where we had come is called Pachapur Darwaza. Another fort named Tella-baila can be seen from one end of the fort.

On top of Pachapur darwaza

Twin forts : Tella- Baila can be seen in the background

Many aspects of this fort match with those of Raigad. Like Raigad, sudhagad also has a machi called Tak-mak-tok. The main entrance called the Dindi darwaza is very much similar to Maha Darwaza at Raigad. Like raigad, sudhagad has ample supply of water. Because of these similarities, Sudhagad is called a Replica of Raigad. Legend says that Sudhagad was one of the few forts shortlisted by Shivaji Maharaj for his capital. But he selected Raigad due to its proximity to Arabian sea.

We had some snacks which we had carried with us. But we had exhausted all water we had on our way up the fort. There were couple of streams which we came across. But the water didn’t appear to be potable enough. The lakes on top had water, but it was quite murky. A villager took us to a place behind the Pant Sachiv palace. There was a small water stream flowing. This place was kept clean by the local people. It is their source of water in monsoon. Water from this stream was crystal clean.

After roaming around on the fort for a couple of hours, we started our way back. It took us around 45 mins to reach the base village. On  our way back, we had some snacks at khopoli after which Amit went his way to Pune. We proceeded towards our home. By 10.00 we were at our home… Tired, but with a sense of accomplishment…

A Saturday, well spent!

Life has become so hectic nowadays. People like me, staying in suburbs of a Mega city like Mumbai, spend most of their time either in their office or while traveling. They hardly get any time to spend with their family and friends. Well, I am no different. So, a break from the daily schedule is always welcome.


At the Ganesh Darwaja

Last Friday my friend Hemant called me asking my plans for Saturday, he was thinking of an outing on Saturday. Since I had nothing else planned, I conveyed my availability. We first thought of Kelve beach, which is around 60kms from Vasai. We called up others in our group, but most of them had their plans. Expecting everybody to come at such a short notice would be asking for too much. Finally we were just four of us. Hems, Sachin, Anand & Me.

On the highway near Panvel

We had a conference amongst four of us late in the evening and concluded that going to Kelve beach for four of us would be a bit boring. Meanwhile Sachin came up with an idea to go to Lonavla. His grand parents stay in a small village named Karla over there. His grandfather has put in a lot of effort on his mango garden. Sachin said it would be worth a visit. On top of that I suggested a small trek to Koraigad. So now, we had a long drive plus a small trek plus a visit to the Mango garden as an option! The decision was simple. We decided on Lonavla. This would be the first trek for this season!

We had to start as early as possible. But Anand had some important work in the morning. So we decided to start at 7:00 am in Hemant’s car. Hems, Sachin and Andy came to my place by 7:40.

The Long Drive:

As always, we started our journey with the groups favorite slogon – “Ganpati Bappa, Moriyaaa…. Undir mama ki jai“.  This was the first time we were going for a long drive in Hemant’s car. He has good control on the car. But has a habit of driving a bit too fast. It needs a bit of effort to keep his Peppy car, the A-Star to run on lower speed though :).  We all, including Kaka-kaki,  had told Hemant to avoid over speeding. His conscious effort to keep the speed in check was quite visible.

A view of the valley ahead of tiger’s leap

We refueled our car on the Ahmedabad highway. After a while we were on Ghodbunder road. The small ghat section followed by the road aligned with the creek, looks more beautiful at early morning.  We took the Thane-Belapur route via kalwa as it avoids two road tolls. None of us had a proper breakfast while leaving in the morning.  By the time we had crossed into Navi Mumbai, every body of us was feeling hungry. We were looking for a road side tapri for a quick chat-patta breakfast, but ended up at McDonalds just before the Mumbai – Pune Expressway.

McDonalds, need a special mention over here. Coz, this made me nostalgic thinking of the old college days outings with this group. With limited pocket money, our entire picnic budget use to be bit more than what we spent here at the Mcdonalds for a single breakfast. Then it was the  great Indian burger – Wada Pav which was our staple food. Good or bad I am not sure, but the wada pav is much more tastier than this videshi khana.

We took the Express-way and reached Lonavla in around 40 mins. We were heading towards Koraigad. Very few people are aware of this place. It is around 20 kms from Lonavla, near a hamlet named Peth-Shahapur. The road is very curvy and has steep turns. With dense forest on one side and valley on the other, the experience was overwhelming. We made a quick halt at one such curve. The blowing wind from the valley was too strong making it difficult to stand on the edge to view the valley. We left this place soon to reach Peth shahapur by around 11:30.

First Trek of The Season – Koraigad:

Before writing about the trek here is some information about the fort:

Korigad (also called Koraigad, Koarigad or Kumwarigad) is a fort located about 20 km away from Lonavla in Pune district, Maharashtra, India. Its date of construction is not known but likely predates 1500. It is about 929 m above sea level. The closest village is Peth Shahpur.

Almost the entire fort is visible

History: This fort was incorporated into swarajya by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj along with the forts of Lohagad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona in 1657.

Fascinating Spots : Koraigad appears like a wall from Peth Shahpur. On the top of the fort is a huge plateau. The ramparts on this fort are around 1 ½ kms in length. While coming up from the Peth-Shahpur route, we come across many caves, some cisterns and an idol of lord Ganesh.

A cave, Must have been used as a store house.

Now because of the Mulshi dam, a lake has formed close to the base of the hill on which Korigad stands. There are two lakes on the top of the fort. A temple to its patron goddess Koraidevi also exists along with several smaller temples to dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva. The former has been recently renovated and has a 3 foot high Deepmala(tower of lamps).The interesting part of the fort is that its wall is completely intact and one can walk along its entire perimeter(about 2 km). Its massive gate is also intact. Several ruins of older structures within the fort still exist. It has six cannons – the largest of which called the Laxmi Toph is located near the Korai devi temple.

The steps leading to the fort

We parked our car near the village and started the trek. It was summer time, but fortunately the atmosphere was a bit cloudy. This spared us, to some extent, from the harsh heat we would have had to face otherwise. The main entrance is from the left side of the fort. It takes around 20 minutes of walk through the forest before we reach the steps that lead to the fort. Despite the summer the jungle had a lot of greenery. As usual, Sachin and Anand were plucking fruits like karwand, jambool etc,. The final stretch before the foothill had thick cover of shrubs and tree branches. Every year trees and shrubs grow and encroach the path when it is not used much. Since the trekking season is yet to begin,  probably we were amongst the initial groups visiting the fort.  The route will become clear when the actual season begins. We made our way through the forest to reach the steps. In the next 45 minutes we were at the Ganesh Darwaza. There were some caves en route the ganesh darwaja. Since this was our first trek of the season and the summer heat, we had got a bit tired. We took some rest at the Darwaza before roaming around on the fort. We were the only group on the fort at that time.

A view from the main machi

The entrance leads us to the center of the large plateau on the fort. Standing at the center you can easily see both the ends of the fort. The temple of goddess Koraistands very close to the entrance. There are two lakes on the fort separated my thin land mass. Surprisingly both of them had ample of water even in this season. The area surrounding the lake has a carpet of green grass, which is quite soothing for eyes. The entire Fort perimeter has wall which is still intact.

Steps on the perimeter wall of the fort

We started walking on the wall from the Mulshi river end.  The Sahara Amby valley covers the fort from three sides. A dam has been built on the mulshi river. This has created a very large reservoir which is adjacent to the Amby valley. We kept walking on the wall to reach the Peth-Shahpur End of the Fort. This is one of the main machi (Bastion) of the fort. The road from lonavla to Peth-shahapur is visible from here. As we moved towards the other end of the fort, we could see the private runway of the Sahara Amby valley. A helicopter was landing on the runway.

The edge of the fort on this side is uneven compared to the other side. We found Cannons mounted on its support structure along with the wall. As we reached the other end, below we saw the main section of the Amby valley. A huge super premium colony of bungalows, separated by lush green lawns, swimming pools, golf course, club house and much more.It was beautiful, no doubt. But this man made beauty pales when you compare it with what nature has given us. The structure on which we were standing has stood there for more than thousand years without any one to maintain it. The forest around it is not cultivated by any human. Yet it makes you forget your day to day concerns. This is the way I perceive it. Different people might have different opinions. From here we started our journey back from the fort. We were back to our car within 30 minutes.

The Mango Garden:

It was around 3:30 by now. Our next destination was Sachins native place. We took lunch in a dhaba, on our way to Karla. Sachin was eager to take us to his grandpa’s farm. He had visited the farm just a couple of weeks back and was very impressed with the effort his grandpa had put into the farm. On reaching there we were offered a traditional maharastrian cold beverage called Panha(made of boiled raw mangoes). After an exciting but tiring drive and trek, we couldn’t have expected anything better to drink. We then proceeded to his grandpa’s farm just behind his home.

His Grandpa had always dreamt of having a Mango Garden of his own and that is how he started his research on kalam(A process where the trees roots and bottom stem is of an ordinary mango tree and joining it with a branch of a good variety of mango tree) mango plantation. He succeeded after 3-4 attempts.

Grandpa, with one of his tree

His grandpa is 82 yrs old but still takes care of the mango farm himself. He started cultivating these trees around 10 years ago. At an age when most of us would probably even find it difficult to walk around, if at all we survive till then. And again, for people of his generation, it is not that easy to get information and do research. For most of us, information means getting to the nearby computer and searching on the internet. But for him, it was a difficult journey. He himself had to roam around places like Ratnagiri, Malvan and Goa etc, to get good quality plants. As most of us must be aware, Mango trees are more commonly found in the coastal areas. The atmosphere there is more conducive for the fruit to grow. The temperature near lonavla is comparatively quite high. Grandpa had to protect his trees with shades when they are small. This along with many other small issues like, time it takes before harvesting, fertilizers, pesticides etc, are part of his research. There are around 10-15 mango trees in the garden. There are around 4-5 types of mangoes, namely, Hapus (Alphonso), Ratna, Kesar, Bitti, Goa Manhurd and so on.

There are some other plants like cashew nut, jaam, jambhul (java plum), avala (Indian gooseberry), etc. Grandpa shared with us some of his experiments. His latest being on how to grow 2-3 different varieties of mangoes on one single tree. He is working on getting hapus, kesar and ratna grow on one single tree.

Looking at his energy level, enthusiasm, dedication and excitement to learn at this age, certainly deserves a salute from us.

It was worth spending time there. We started our journey back  reaching home by 9:30. What a fruitful day it was. Physically tiring, but gave us all the much needed break. With time utilized so efficiently, I can certainly say, it was a Saturday, well spent!

Trek to Vikat gad (Peb)

“You are not feeling well, you can’t go tomorrow”- my parents were insisting on me canceling the trek plan.  I had canceled the Prev trek to “Peth” due to some unavoidable reason. Not this time.

We had decided to meet at Dadar Stn @ 6:30 in the morning. I left home @ 5:20, but still could reach only by 7:00! 😉 . But Mandy was still late, so I was not in the line of fire! :). We got a local to Kalyan. Sanchi n Mukesh joined us @ Thane. Stations went by one after the other, as we were busy chating, discussing. The topic of discussion was as usual, NDS! The days spent there, current state etc. Everybody is bound to get Nostalgic. After all NDS is the place where we came together as a group. We can spend days, without getting bored; discussing the time we spent @ NDS. But no discussion amongst this group can ever be termed as complete unless we abuse this one  guy, we hate so much! The one and only, Kaka! @#$%&! (Cant get more specific on a public forum).  Finally we reached Neral @ 10:00.

We took taxi to the dasturi point. This was the actual start to what turned out to be one of the most adventures and successful trek by Team NDS so far! Unlike our previous outings, there was not much of climbing in this trek. we were at higher altitude and were supposed to descend down the fort to Neral.  The route through the dense forest was awesome, there were trees which had fallen on the rails, but then there was light at the end of the tunnel. 😉 

There is a small gate on the left side after walking for around half hour along the rails.  This is where we leave the rail route and start walking on mountain edge. The mountain slope was lush green and the breeze was spreading the typical fragrance of wet soil! Mukesh as usual was leading our way.  We had to cross a couple of ladders. The meeting point of the Matheran hill was amazing. When viewed from some distance it appeared like a “V” like structure. A ridge of around 100 meters connects these two mountains. Crossing this ridge was a thrilling experience, with wind blowing, and having deep valley on either sides.

Vikat GadPeb

There were a couple of ladders more which we had to climb before we reached the fort. The fort as such is not much maintained. There are few walls here n there. There is this Bastion facing Matheran which is in reasonably good shape.  Despite the heavy fog, view from the bastion was breathtaking!  There is one ashram on the fort, the volunteers over here do the basic maintainence. As we went further up to the pinnacle, it was getting difficult to even stand still without holding onto anything. The Pinnacle i.e. the highest point of peb, gives you a 360 degree view of the fort and its surrounding area.

The journey back from the fort was even more exciting. We were not sure how the route will be. I had pain in my knees, which was getting severe. Some trekkers whom we met on our way back told us about a ladder and a rope using which we had to descend. This kinda made us rethink on our return journey! But then we decided to carry on. While climbing down the ladder was an experience which could give any amusement park a run for its money. Heavy rain, blowing wind, shaking ladder and water splashing on your face from below. It was too good. A few minutes later we came to the point where we had to descend taking support of a rope. It was definitely not as tough as it was made out to be. But that should not take away credit from Mukya, Mandy and Deva! These guys were the first one to descend and made sure everybody amongst us could get through safely.  The descend through the forest can be best resembled with a Hollywood movie scene shot in dense Amazon forest. With severe pain in knees, Making your own path, through waterfalls, bushes. Avoiding the shrubs. Taking support of the weeds. Balancing ur weight on mud, loose rocks and tree branches. It was simply Aamazzinggg…..

Participants: Steve, Vishal, Sidd, Sanchi, Mandy, Dev, Sneha, Mukya, Iqbal, Wilson & Yogi!

Trek To Raigad!

Finally the date was finalized. 17th July! This was a long overdue Trek for me with my college frenz! Po2(Prasad) & Kesto(Ketan) had done all the arrangements. I received a call @ 4:00 in the morning. It was Tara(Sachin), he said the car would be coming to my place in 15mins and it did! ….. and thus begins an exciting journey to Raigad!

The Journey Begins

The First car started from NalaSopara from Swapya’s (Swapnil) home, they picked Tara & Tari(Yugandhara) and came to our place. Me (Panga) and Pangi(Sangeeta) were late a bit ;). But we did start at 4:30!

Po2 with his car picked Babu (Nikhil), Andya (Anand) and Chingya (Hems)!

We refueled our cars and our first halt was at Thane. Kesto and Nilu(Nilesh) were waiting for us. We took our next halt near Panvel, where we had Misal Pav. After many small halts for photo sessions n all we finally reached the base of the fort @ 1:00 in the afternoon. We had to wait for our other frenz to come from Pune.

During a break @ Panvel

About Raigad

We started the trek @ 2:00.  Before going any further, let me just brief u bout Fort Raigad! It was Chatrapti Shivaji Maharaj‘s Rajdhani (Capital) from 1674! The amazing fort is at the height of 2700ft. The total area on the fort is more than 100 acres. It is star shaped with three machis. One is known as Hirkani’s machi. second Tak-Mak-Tok. Third is towards Fort Torana.

The Trek

SHivaji maharaj's Statue in front of the bazaar peth @ Raigad

Going up to the fort is quite easy on normal days. But today it was raining like nything. we were hardly able to c 10 feets ahead and as we were going higher it was getting colder! After around an hours walk, we reached the Maha Darwaza We reached the top in @ around 4:00. Visibility was nex to nothin. we made our way to the Darbar. It is a huge hall which people say was decorated with gold and silver. But the british took everything away. They torched the roof. Here we saw Maharaj’s Sinhasan.

Then we went to Bajaar Peth. Its a huge area with shop like structures on both the sides. Behind is the area where horses n other animals were kept. From there we went to Tak-Mak Tok. It is a cliff from where criminals and thieves were thrown down in the valley. The valley below was not visible. n we were required to hold on to the railings as the wind was too strong.

Shiv Ling at the temple on Raigad

From there we went to the third machi i.e. towards Maharaj’s Samadhi. there is a Temple of God Shiva near the Samadhi. Just behind the temple is the Samadhi. Opposite the samadhi is the samadhi of Maharaj’s Pet dog. Legend says that he jumped into Maharaj’s cheeta and sacrificed his life..

Megdambri- Shiv samadhi near the wagh darwaza at Raigad

We could not go further down towards Wagh Darwaja as it was getting late. So we started our way back. Though we were not able to c the entire fort, the effort for going up there, so close to nature and shaking hands with our rich history, was worth it. While coming back few of us came back in on the Rope Way. Swapya, due to some miscommunication came down the fort alone. 😦 The rest of us came back taking the same route. We came back to our rooms.
Everyone of us was tired. But we had this feeling of Fulfilment. Mission Complete. 🙂 Har har Mahadev!