Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kaldurg fort - A lesser known but beautiful jungle trek

It had been almost a couple of months since I had joined Dr Ajay's Wanderlust adventures TTMM trek. I had missed trek to Ajoba gad last week as I didn't wake up in morning. It was one waste Sunday for me. So when I got the invite for Kaldurg fort trek, I was all prepared one day before and was awake 5.30am even though it was decided to catch Dahanu local from Borivali at 7.57am.

Kaldurg fort : Its one of those not so famous treks which can be done in one day. It lies on Palghar - Manor road. The starting point of the trek starts from famous "Waghoba temple" on Manor road. It comes under easy category and it takes only around 1hr 30min to go up and around 1hr to come down. Kaldurg is around 1547 feet above sea level. The fort doesn't have any fortification but there are two water cisterns to collect water at the top. Not much is known about its history but 360deg view of surrounding region one gets from the top surely points to strategic importance of this fort.
My Trek: It was Sunday morning and we had decided to meet at Borivali station to catch Dahanu local at 7.57am. Our destination was Palghar station which is approx one hour train ride from Borivali by train. Dr.Ajay had confirmed that it was a pilot trek as none of us had been there. Only information we had about the trek was available from blogs of people who has been here before and our GPS device. Pilot treks have there own charm and excitement and its fun to try but surely would not suggest to do at all places. lol !!!!   So here we were group of 7 on our way to explore a new place. All excited we got down at Palghar around 9am and found that bus to Manor was waiting just outside the station. Buses going towards Manor would drop you at Waghoba temple which was our destination. It took approx 20minutes from Palghar to reach Waghoba temple.

Its quite a famous temple of a deity worshipped by adivasis and other communities in the region. Also it was interesting to see that people would stop their cars by the temple and would offer fruits to monkeys nearby. There is only one shop selling temple offerings and also tea & biscuits, lady running the shop gave us the details of how to reach the top. The road to the top is right behind the temple.

The route to the top passes through some dense forest and thick under growth. It had been raining on and off in the morning but when we started our trek, Rains had stopped completely. So as we climbed our way to the top, it was quite humid, I was sweating a lot. I was also doing a trek after couple of days which was another reason it was taking a toll on me. We were taking our time and trying to explore as much as possible on the way, Dr Ajay with his hawk eye, spotting all creepy creatures and with his interest in Biology, taking pics from all angles !!!!!

On our way, we spotted wild turmeric shrubs,mushrooms, harvester ant nest, pagoda ant nest.... It all indicated that the forest was rich in Flora and Fauna, since its ongoing monsoon so the place was a treasure trove in spotting various creepy crawlies !!!! Crabs were very common and could be found running here n there.

After ascending walk of about an hour, we came across basalt rock plateau from where we got the first glimpse of our destination, a flying flag atop Kaldurg !!!!! It was still quite a distance we had to cover. On other side we could clearly spot Devkhop lake, another destination worth a visit in winters when blue sky turns the lake water blue in colour.

It started drizzling and temperature dipped as we moved up and by the time we reached the col also called Waghoba khind, there was cold breeze blowing which was welcome relief from humidity and dehydration. After the col, on the way there were two diversions, we took the one to the right hoping that it would lead to our destination, don't know where the left one lead to. Our decision did turn out to be correct. We were now walking on a narrow path with Karvy like plants growing in abundance. One nice thing about the trek was the route was clear even though we were in middle of dense forest. Finally after 2hr, 15min we finally saw first water tank or cistern and had reached our destination. There is rock plateau which gives amazing view of Surya river and on clear sky, one can clearly see the coconut plantation and Arabian sea.

As we moved up, there was another water cistern and the flying flag. This was the highest point of Kaldurg and we had reached our destination. Moment we reached top, it started raining heavily and clouds covered surrounding hills and valleys. We were on top of clouds literally !!!!!!.  This is exactly the moment which all trekkers would want to experience on all the treks. We spend quite sometime waiting for clouds to clear so that we could click some pictures but rains were threatening and about to disappoint us. We decided to spend some more time in hope that we would  get clear view.

Finally after around 15-20 minutes, rains stopped and clouds got cleared. Lucky we....... We were able to capture our moments at the top of Kaldurg. After spending almost an hour or more at the top and eating our brunch that we were carrying, We started our descend. Ashwini and me had a slip as path was muddy and slippery but no casualties and we were able to descend in 1hr and 30min.

Another moment of the trek was when Avani managed to stop a empty tempo who agreed on Dr Ajay's request to drop us to Palghar. It was another tempo joy ride and one of many rides I have experienced since I started trekking. Overall it was amazing experience to explore a new place completely and we all were happy to have accomplished our pilot trek successfully.

Kaldurg fort is an easy trek and probably a half a day gateway away from Mumbai. Definitely worth a visit especially in monsoons.

Hoping to be on another trek and another adventure in coming weekends, Till then Au revoir !!!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Avchitgad - Simple trek in dense forest

I am writing this blog may be after one month of my visit but place and experience is still fresh in my mind. Also in monsoons, Sahyadri mountains has completely different face and where ever you go, its always going be lush greenery, dense forest, flora & fauna and to top it all experience of being on top of clouds. After Kalsubai, I wanted to do some trek which would be easy in grade and endurance. With TMI group organising easy trek to Avchitgad near Roha on Saturday, this best suited me as would get time to relax on Sundays.

About Avchitgad : This fort is located near Roha in Raigad district in Sahyadri mountain range. There are different routes to go to Avchitgad but the best and most common of them is from the base village of Medha. History says that this fort was built by Shilahar kings and subsequently used by Nizams of Ahmednagar. Our Maratha king Shivaji is also said to have reconstructed the fort. The work was carried out in hurry and hence the name Avchit - means hurry and gad - means fort. The fort was won over by British from Peshwas in 1818. The approximate height of the fort is 977feet, its not a huge fort but still worth a visit. From atop of the fort one can see neighbouring forts of Telbaila, Sarasgad, Dhangad, Sudhagad, Raigad and Savashnagad.  The fort has dodecagonal shaped cistern and 6 other small cisterns on the fort. A temple dedicated to Pingalsai goddess and Lord Shiva is situated at the top.

How to visit : There are 3 routes to Avchitgad, Pengalsai, Medha and Padam villages, all are accessible from Roha by bus and shared tum-tums. 1) Pengalsai village is around 5kms from Roha and from here it takes one hr to reach the top. 2) Medha village is 7.5kms from Mumbai - Roha highway and it takes one hr to reach at the top. 3) Padam village: There is old factory beyond which is the way to the top. It takes 2hrs to reach the southern entrance of the fort.

About my Trek : We started for this trek from Dadar east near Pritam hotel at 6am. It was Saturday and it was raining cats and dogs. More heavily it rained more we were determined to go on the trek. It was a small group of around 30. As our bus picked up people from Chembur, Deonar and moved on Mumbai - Goa highway, it seemed clear that reaching the our base village was going to be a task as roads were filled with potholes and also it seems that everyone in Mumbai was following us on the Goa route, top it up some heavy rains. I had done last night shift at work on Friday and so was eager to catch up some sleep, With others in the group playing Mafia, I was off to sleep in no time. I woke up when we stopped for breakfast in a typical Keralite hotel serving one of the best misal pav - Hotel Konkan Palace. Funny listings on the menu of this hotel was its "SOULKADI" "SWEAT LASSI" "SPECIAL TEE"" NES COFFEE"... Lol. I didn't want to try any of these nor i think any one tried anything else. Manoj our leader on the trek was a worried lot. It was already 11.30am, our expected time to reach base village but due to road condition and slow moving traffic we still had another 1hr 30min more to reach the base.

Finally after another two hours, we reached Medha base village which lies on Roha - Nagothane road. It was around 1.30pm when we finally got down from the bus. It took 7hrs for us to reach this place ... whoops !!!!!

Serene forest surroundings, mountains covered with clouds and sleepy little village - such surreal atmosphere immediately charged us all and we were ready for the trek. Gathering in a school compound, we had our customary introduction round. Amidst our group was a tiny todd - Reeva, who not only introduced herself but also introduced her parents and also their profession. Chirpy little Reeva.

Manoj also got one of the local villagers as our guide. At the start of trek, we were welcomed by beautiful waterfall. Its was going to be easy trek as maximum time one can take to reach up was 2hrs. There are two wells near the base and road to the top is right behind the well. The fort is surrounded by some thick forest and one has to climb up through this dense forest. From the base itself, we encountered some dense and thick vegetation. we literally had to make our way through muddy path with trees and shrubs with sharp thorns. Luckily I was wearing full sleeves Tshirt and also covered with windcheater. While ascending, the fort is always to your right and route goes through the forest on the neighbouring mountains. We came across a plateau after some climb which gave scenic view of paddy fields at Medha village. After some more climb we reached a col where our guide informed that road to the left leads to a tribal village while one to the right would lead us to our destination. Our youngest and smallest trekker - Reeva was most energetic, she wanted to climb first and would want everyone to stop so that she can lead the way. In her quest to be first, she was most of the times climbing with everyone else than her parents !!!!!

On the way as we followed our guide, we came across a dead end, due to landslide the road leading to the fort was blocked. Back tracking we followed another route and finally we reached the main entrance of the fort in 1hr and 30min. The entrance was in pretty good condition and on the fortified wall on the left, close to the entrance lies a stone carved with some animal just like UNICORN. As we moved in to explore the fort, first thing that we came across was water cistern and clouds covered scenic view of opposite mountains. We spend some time here.

Moving forward, we reached the buruj, from here one can get panoramic view of the entire region. It was fantastic. We also came across a canon which though was lying in neglected state but sure had a rich past. Manoj - our leader decided this place to be our resting place for having packed lunch before we start our descend.

Our guide suggested that we see other attractions of the fort, while everyone decided to stay, Kaustubh, Kalpana and me decided to check out the fort. On other side of the fort lies a man made pond. It was huge pond but water I am sure was not potable. Moving ahead we came across a small Shiv temple which had some neatly carved stones of Lord Ganesh. Behind the temple there was seven tanks called "Saptakund". Designed in such a way that overflowing water from the top tanks would get collected in all the other tanks. It was tempting to have a swim but I resisted. There was also some rock carvings of Gods and Goddess but they were again lying in neglected state. There were two doors on the each side of the tanks, Our guide informed one would lead to Roha directly and other one would lead us back to buruj. Kalpana, Kaustubh and me had some photo session before we moved back to join others. The fort though in neglected state was still in good condition.

After spending some time at the fort, we decided to move back as it was already 4pm. It was getting dark and rains had also started. Descending was again not easy due to muddy path and loose rocks. Thorny shrubs and dense forest making it difficult but nevertheless we were able to descend within one hour. Jaal was the only one to take a dip in the well at the base while others decided to move back to the bus. As we walked past the village road, we got the feel of village life with small houses, schools and anganwadis, gram panchayat office, temples and pond outside the village.

We started our journey back at around 5.30pm with halt for tea and snacks at some highway hotel, Again our journey back to Dadar was no less irritating with bumpy potholes ride and traffic, I reached Dadar back at around 11.30pm. Apart from to and fro travelling to Medha base village, the trek was simple yet interesting and nice. But Avchitgad is definitely worth as a one day trek especially in Monsoons.