Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Madhu Makrangad trek through Javli forest from Hatlot Village

Trek : Madhu Makrangad
Type : Fort
Height : 4056 feet
Region : Satara
Base : Hatlot village
Route : Mumbai - Goa highway - Take Poladpur - Mahabaleshwar route after Mangoan - Take turn for Hatlot village some 1.5 kms after Pratapgad.
Base to Top time : 2 hrs to ascend and 40 min to descend.

History : The Madhu peak and Makrangad fort are situated side by side near Mahabaleshwar above the village of Hatlot. Not much is documented about the history of the place but the fort could have been built to protect Wai before Pratapgad came into existence after which it became redundant.Also other version says it was watch tower to keep an eye on movements in Hatlot pass and nearby areas. The fort does not have any fortification and there is temple of Bhairoba at the top which is taken care by local villagers of Ghonuspur. There is water tank on eastern side of the fort.

Mythological story : They say that during the exile of Pandavas, they have stayed at this place. They dug 6 tanks out of which only one of them was filled with water which is today called Pandav water tank, which is located on eastern side of the fort. Also story goes that nobody has been able to find the depth of the tank and water is filled in the cistern throughout the year though its not potable.

Getting there : There are few routes to reach the fort. Most common is from base village of Hatlot, ST buses ply from Mahabaleshwar to Hatlot though the frequency is not very good. From Hatlot one can reach the Northern side of the fort passing through Javli forest. Other route is from Chaturbet village, from here the route is kaccha road to Ghonuspur village on southern side of the fort. One can get bike all the way up to Ghonuspur village from where its a climb of 20 minutes.

My Trek : This was my 3rd back to back trek on weekend after my stint with Jaundice and out of trek circuit for nearly 3 months. But now back with bang !!!! Hoping to cover the lost ground of not been able to trek in last quarter of 2013. ;-). After my Rajgad - Torna range trek, I was looking for some easy trek as didn't want to stretch myself to a limit. I also wanted to explore a new place and the trek to Madhu Makrangad by Shikharvedh was one that fit my requirement.

We were group of 13 including our leader Jagdish Patil. We started from Dadar east around 11.30 pm. It was overnight bus ride to the base village of Hatlot and our trek was to start in morning after breakfast. I was off to sleep as soon as we started and I am sure others would also have squeezed some sleep as when I woke up around  5 pm we were on the curvy hill road to village of Hatlot. With Mumbai experiencing rain in winters after a long time on day before, it was already cold and chilly in Mumbai and when we reached the base village, no body had guts to open the bus window. It was still dark and we decided to be in cozy comfort of our closed bus than be in cold outside till first rays of Sun. By first rays of Sun we all were out to experience the bone chilling weather of Mahabaleshwar region. In no time, our group was ready with bon-fire and after morning chorus had our breakfast of delicious poha and hot chai at villagers home.

Around 7.30 am we started our trek to saddle-back shaped mountain peak of Madhu Makrangad. At the start of the trek one has to pass through fields and then one has to cross iron bridge over a dried stream. One noticeable thing about the Hatlot village houses were that they had huge verandah. As soon as we crossed the bridge, it was now a gradual ascend through dense forest. Its a proper route to the top and very less chance of one loosing the trek.

With winter chill in the air and shade of the forest cover didn't pinch while doing the ascend. Also its a small trek with ascend doesn't take more than 2 - 2.30 hrs so we were also climbing at slow pace with occasionally stopping for a break and photo session.

After a climb of almost an hour, we came across a small plateau from where one can get a fabulous view of Mahabaleshwar and its surrounding mountain range. With first rays of sun adding to the beauty of the mountains. One just cannot stop but fall in love with Sahyadris !!!! So picture perfect .....

Also the view of Hatlot village with its small houses and surrounding fields make it a perfect desktop wallpaper click. From the plateau it was normal walk for sometime through the forest after which we came at Bhairoba temple outside Ghonaspur village. Its a typical village temple but it was neat and clean with small lit diya. Maintained by villagers of Ghonaspur. Outside the temple they have made covered platform which can be used by trekkers for night stay. We had reached here by 9 am and had ample time in our hand so we spend some time munching on snacks that everyone was carrying.

From the temple the climb to the top takes approx 20-30 minutes but it doesn't have any shade. Also the climb is through a ridge and then some steps to reach the eastern side of the fort.

There is cave filled with water. Though the water is not potable. The brief history mentioned on the board nearby said that this was built by Pandavas during their stay in exile and no one has yet been able to locate how deep this cave is. It mentioned that this is only one cave out of 6 built by Pandavas which has water.

From the cave one has to climb steps to reach the top which though not that difficult is little steep. But it was easily managed by everyone and finally at around 10 am we were at the to of Makrangad. At the top again there is small temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Statue of Nandi and Shivling carved out of stone is placed outside the temple. The surroundings of the temple is covered with tall grass which was dried.

Inside the temple, the walls were lined with stone carved statues of different gods and goddess. The statues indicated the place was part of our rich history. From the top the panoramic view of surrounding peak and mountains was mesmerizing. One can see Pratapgad towards North west, Koyna backwaters to the South east, Mahabaleshwar on North east, Mahitpatgad, Rasalgad, Sumargad on the west.

Madhu peak is connected with Makrangad by very narrow ridge and one has to climb down and then climb up which was quite risky and no one from the group attempted it. The top of the fort has sufficient space and we settled under a shade of a small tree. It was time for munching and photo session.

Outside the temple there is small tree that was full of red berries with some ripe ones were in black color. Some of my trek mates enjoyed eating them. After spending some time at the top, we descended from western side of the fort. The climb down from here is much simpler but one has to be careful as route is full of scree and we had some slips in the group though nothing serious.

Back again at Ghonaspur temple, we now decided to move to the village where our lunch was waiting for us. The village of Ghonaspur is situated on a plateau with handful of houses and fields. We reached one villagers house which was our destination for lunch, We settled outside the house which had a huge shaded verandah.

Our lunch was simple roti, dal and rice with some really hot dry chutney. The villagers still cook food on wood collected from the forest and food had a unique taste and was most tastiest food I had ever eaten. After lunch one of our trek colleague Suhas Sawant entertained us with some Marathi songs. It seems that he was duet singer and was working with celebrity singers of Bollywood. We also met one old villager who claimed to be 110 years old and still was going strong.

We started our return journey around 1.30 pm. The descend was pretty fast and we were back at the base village of Hatlot in almost 45 minutes.

We freshened up at village tank and after some more photo-shoot at the iron bridge we started our return journey around 3.30 pm bidding adios to Hatlot village and Madhu Makrangad.

On the way we decided to visit the smarak of Tanaji Malasure in village of Umrat. One has to drive approx 10 kms from main Poladpur - Mahabaleshwar road after Pratapgad. It was worth a visit to one of greatest warriors of Hindu - Maratha empire. We started our return journey to Mumbai after stopping at Poladpur for some amazing evening snack of Missal pav and hot chai. The return journey was again a dark sore in our entire trip as due to road construction and traffic on Mumbai - Goa road we managed to reach Dadar only at 11.30 pm but it was one wonderful trek in dense Javli forest and one can get to view the village life from close quarters. I plan to be back here again hopefully combine the trip with another well known and famous fort of Pratapgad.

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