Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fort Kavnai (14.11.2012)

The most disappointing thing we came to know that there is no direct ST available for Kavnai from Igatpuri when we arrived at the ST stand. 

The village Kavnai is situated at about 8 km on the Tryambakeshwar road from Ghoti for which there are jeeps available from Kasara railway station for the Mumbaikars. 

At Ghoti, one has to get into the crowded jeeps which are parked in front of the SBI branch at about half a km away from the ST stand through the market area.

The road to Kavnai is not much in good condition once it bifurcates toward Kavnai. But the view of both Fort Kavnai and the Budhala, known more as Vaaki's hill (Vaakicha Dongar) is fantastic.

The route from the base village - Kapildhara Tirth - is easy to ascend from the Northern spur and leads us to the Eastern col where a permanent iron ladder has been mounted that makes it an effortless attempt to enter the gate. The absence of it would surely have increased the difficulty level to some extent, especially in the monsoon.

There is a rectangular excavation to the right. In monsoon, it might be resembling a water cistern as described in one of the Mr. Pandurang Patankar's books on forts.

After ascending about 35-odd steps, the top of Kavnai gets visible. There is a small lake atop with a temple of Goddess Kavnai along with Shri Ganapati idol.At the banks of this lake, the remains of a house can be seen near a Mahadev pindi.

We could find a big rectangular but non-potable water cistern at the Western bastion. There is one more water tank just behind the Kavnai temple. 

The more joyous moment came when a small, potable water tank was located just ahead. 

Last but not the least, the adjoining pinnacle known as Vaakicha Budhala looks fascinating from every angle. 

One can descend through the Kavnai-Budhala pass to reach Vaaki from where the jeep coming from Kavnai for Ghoti can be obtained.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Asherigad_Khodkane_Manor-Palghar (August 01, 2010)

Travelogue by Sulekh Baikar and Sambhaji Chopdekar
Members: Pranjal Wagh, Sulekh Baikar and Sambhaji Chopdekar.

On Saturday 31st July 2010 after few calls and reviewing lots of options, we finalized Asherigad, which is on the Mumbai Ahmedabad National Highway (NH 8) near Khadkavne stop. We reached Palghar via Virar and took Tata chhota haathi to go to Manor. The same driver was ready to drop us at Mastan Naka on the highway. It was raining continuously and pouring like a hell when we were traveling through the Vaghoba Khind towards Mastan Naka.

From here, we got into another chhota haathi to reach Khadkavne which is about 10 km from the Mastan Naka. While returning in the evening, we made use of the same vehicle as the ST service is not frequent on this highway and alighted at Shirsad Phata to catch the Virar train.

Okay, we reached the base village by 11.30 am. Rain had also stopped by that time. There is another prominent hill on the opposite side of the highway known as 'Adsool'. We were welcomed by the massive Adsool to our right, but our driver was prompt to warn us it won’t be the right thing to think about it as it would have been dangerous in this monsoon. Anyways, it was not our target for that day :-)

However, the driver was helpful to advise us how to reach the base village – Khodkane which is a small pada. We marched towards Asherigad which was visible in the lush green forest. The river of Khodkane village was fully flooded which we crossed with the help of a bridge over it. We soon came across a small tiled temple dedicated to Vagoba, the deity must have been adorable as we found its replica at a certain height on the way to the fort as well.

The atmosphere was full of life due to the flowing streams and the greenery around. The farmers were busy working in their paddies. Even, the fort Asheri was busy looking at his own reflection in the waters confined in the fields.

The route is well guided by the wonderful arrows (rekhi) made by some enthusiastic hikers. But the big mosquitoes proved a big hell while ascending. Still, the march was not painful as we were heading toward the cliff enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and the dense jungle.

The path is easy due to the above mentioned rekhi as well as the visibility of the pass (the U) between Asheri and its adjacent hill. The pass is the junction where the route from Burhanpur meets. From here, the steep climb leads us toward the first set of steps. There is a small tunnel like excavation at the base of these steps but it’s not so long.

The super-speed blowing wind and the slippery steps were not difficult but it was an interesting combination to negotiate. When we climbed those slippery winding steps, we were welcomed by a big frog like rock (having similarity with a dog – or should I say the combination of both!) at a small plateau.

The plateau bears one more huge rock below which a small Ganesh-pattika has been laid. We wondered it must have borne a gate as the plateau bears remnants of a gate like structure meant for erecting poles. From here the cliff of Asheri looks massive and one can just astonish how the wall of a bastion would have been built at the edge in those days.

The way ahead to the top goes through a col, a small version of Sarasgad. Till December 2009, it had an iron ladder that was helpful to the hikers. The removal of ladder has increased the fear factor to a small extent as it opens up to the valley. However, the blowing wind and the reverse waters from the adjacent cliff didn’t give us any glimpse of thinking about it, the same was realized while returning though :D

After negotiating the col, we were welcomed by the second set of steps. They proved very useful as the monsoon had just become severe and we reached the second plateau within few minutes. Here, we came across the first water cistern near the third set of the steps. The water seemed to be non-potable. When we investigated further we were delighted to find out a very beautiful Portuguese styled scripture indicating a crown.

The monsoon had stopped for a while but we had to climb up more steps to reach the top. On the way, we had entered through a dilapidated gate, some structures lying over there giving its evidence.

After reaching the grassy top, we kept on moving toward the Northern part on a trail negotiating the forceful winds though the tall grass. We were fortunate enough to spot two water cisterns to the Western side which we visited while returning and found one more water cistern nearby.

Soon we reached a remnant giving ample evidence of the then, rain-harvesting system as it had open conduits. The channels must have been used to direct the waters to a suitable place in those days.

From here, we moved toward the Eastern side to find the most amazing thing on this fort – an ancient cave painted in orange, converted into a wonderful villa and having an idol of Ganesh – as if, just waiting for getting converted into a pilgrimage! This cave has been illegally occupied by a man who has acquired the status of a BABA in this small but beautiful world. It was shameful to see such a misuse of the historical place! It was even more painful when the driver of the chhota haathi had advised us to see this BABA who now “looks after” this cave. The locals must have been helpful to this encroacher. How foolish!!

However, we must admit this only shelter gave us the much needed warmth from the dreadful monsoon afterwards. Nevertheless, we thought the modernization of the cave is not a good idea!

Okay, we moved further toward the Eastern end. There is huge crack developed here probably due to earth-quake.

The literature talks about another route from the Eastern side which seemed unconquerable as the path was almost invisible due to thick vegetation. We then moved further toward North-Eastern side to find out two small lakes, most probably formed in the monsoon and some remains of a house.

It was pouring cats and dogs and the cave was the only hope that offered us some breathing space. However, its current condition was too pathetic for us to observe for too long. We resumed our return journey in the pouring itself. While returning we visited the three water cisterns in the Western part, the two of them reminded us of our Sondai hike. It bears similar type of water tanks!

The rains had not stopped and the tick-tock kept on reminding us of the diminishing light. And moreover, the descent through the ladder-less col facing the fully forceful watery stones kept on adding the valuable inputs to the excitement of this unforgettable hike!!!...
Snaps taken using NOKIA 6303!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sondai_Sondewadi_Karjat (July 10, 2010)

Travelogue by Sambhaji Chopdekar and Sulekh Baikar
Wow, the monsoon is in full swing and we are fully geared up to enjoy each and every weekend in the Sahyadris that gives us immense pleasure and joyful memories to cherish for long.

This weekend, as usual, after few calls and online chat by Friday midnight, we decided to visit Sondai near Karjat. Surprisingly, there is hardly any reference of this hill in the usual trekking books except the Maharashtra Gazetteer and a book by Suresh Paranjape*. Besides, an article on it from Maharashtra Times few years back was also informative. It was enough for us.

Sondai is easily accessible from Sondewadi, the base village, which is about 5 km away from the Borgaon phata on the Karjat- Chowk road. One can reach here on bikes also as the tar road is well-constructed and the surroundings are too beautiful due to monsoon.

However, we decided to choose Wavarle as our starting point as described in Paranjape’s book. It’s a small village just before the Borgaon phata from Karjat. When we reached there some of the villagers, out of concern, advised us to go to Sondewadi as the route to Sondai from Wavarle goes through thick jungle due to monsoon and they felt we might get lost there as the path is not so well-guided. Nevertheless, we politely refused their advice assuring them that we would not take unnecessary risks on the way.

Wavarle is really a heaven! The villagers have built a small dam that confines the waters coming from the Sondai and adjacent hills in the monsoon and thus have made their lives wonderful. Our decision to go via Wavarle proved right as the atmosphere was superb and on our way, we came across a beautiful waterfall which is formed due to the overflow from the dam. We had our breakfast there and continued our journey further.

Sondai can be easily located from here and the route goes from the left side of the dam. This is best known as the route from the ‘Vagishwaracha dongar’. This route takes us to the pass to Sondewadi. However, we did exactly opposite. We kept on walking keeping the dam to the left and reached a well-built well for the Thakurwadi. Some boys were busy fishing in the flowing springs. 

Soon we reached the edge of the valley from where the path literally descends in the valley. We did the same and crossed the same stream that is the backbone of the Wavarle dam. However, this option may not be viable during the peak of the monsoon as the stream may be in full swing.

From here, Sondai looks amazing! The route is quite clear – one should try to reach that pass to Sondewadi from here. After enjoying the waters in the stream, we resumed our journey. It was pleasant walk through the jungle. We had to cross the stream twice and came across one more equally beautiful waterfall. Soon, we reached a plateau from where the Wavarle dam and the surrounding jungle inclusive of Irshalgad look simply gorgeous.

So far, it was just drizzling in between, but after reaching the plateau, it started raining heavily. Sondai and its adjacent hills along with ‘Gavhari’ ** disappeared in the thick clouds and it made our task a bit difficult as it was not easy to locate the direction to the Sondewadi pass. But fortunately, we came across a 'katkari fellow’ who confirmed that we had taken the right route and guided us to go straight through the jungle till we reach to a mango tree from where we should traverse to the right and climb the main mountain of Sondai.

We entered the jungle and kept moving ahead as the rain-God kept himself busy showering heavily. It was quite dense forest which we negotiated for about 15 minutes and then came out mid way. It was still raining and that made our task difficult as the cliff of Sondai was not visible.

Soon we reached the big mango tree mentioned by that Katkari. The track from the Vagishwaracha dongar meets here which we realized later on when we reached the top. From this mango tree, the route descends through that pass to reach Sondewadi that we utilized while returning while the route to Sondai goes to the right from here. However, due to heavy rains we couldn’t realize it and kept on moving down the pass ahead in search of a traverse to the right. That was really a mistake. We were helplessly looking at the slightly visible Sondai cliff in search of the traverse mentioned in the book. We saw some farmers working in rice-field at Sondewadi who were kind enough to offer their help.

After understanding the approach and a warning about not to try the final climb from them, we recommenced negotiating the jungle and a gentle climb. We were delighted to find some paavtya (small carved out steps) on the way and thanked the villagers for the advice. Now the skies became slightly clear and it was heartening to find out the beautiful track that we had followed from Wavarle.

The cliff of Sondai was clearly visible and by now, it had become clear in our mind the next route – We were heading toward the Southern end by taking the traverse to the right. 

But to our misfortune, the traverse was blocked by a herd of cows at one point. To avoid them, we took a different approach descending slightly. However, we reached a path which we felt was leading us to the deep valley. We were clueless what to do next, when suddenly, two members of the herd appeared in the upper part of the traverse. We waited till they joined their family members. Now, everything was  crystal-clear, we breathed again and reached that part.

We then had the final traverse and reached the Southern part of the Sondai cliff. We were welcomed by two water cisterns and that was it, we had reached on the fort. 

The view was awesome surrounded by Wavarle dam, Morbe dam, Irshalgad, Matheran range and deep valley. Sahyadry is simply superb! We were of-course  delighted.

The book mentions the existence of a small cave after traversing more and climbing from the East side. We tried the same and entered a wonderful col from the Eastern side but it seemed no way upward. 

We returned back to the Southern part again and had our lunch on rock dinning enjoying the beautiful valleys and the small pinnacle to the Eastern side, better known as Sondai’s brother or Gavhaari.

The rains had stopped and the paavtya on the Southern cliff seemed to be inviting us. Someone has requested to abandon the footwear at the base as it’s the abode of the Goddess, Sondai. We did respect the feeling however, it was not possible to climb up barefooted as it involves risky rock-climbing. The farmers had already warned us not to go for it as it would be slippery.

After reviewing the paavtya, we resumed and moved up a bit. There was a reward waiting for us - one more water tank! One more bonus point in this wonderful hike!! But when we traversed a little bit ahead, we realized the gravity of warning given by the villagers. The path to the top seemed narrow and full of scree and hence dangerous. We took the right decision not to take any unnecessary risk further and returned back, keeping in mind – we can come back here again!!

*Sahali Ek Divasaachya, Aaspaas Mumbaichya Suresh Paranjpe, Snehal Prakashan, page 193-194
** Gavhari – a small pinnacle, known as Sondai’s brother

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prabalgad (January 26, 2010)

Members: Vishal Chaughule, Jitendra Sutar, Mahesh Raut and Sambhaji Chopdekar

As usual we reached Panvel late at about 7.30 a.m. and missed the ST for Thakoorwadi. However, it didn’t cause a problem to go up to Shedung phata as the MumbaiPune old highway is always crowded with many ST buses plying between Panvel and the neighborhood villages. There are some rickshaws that can take us to the Dharap Estate at Thakoorwadi from Shedung phata. The route from the Dharap Estate up to the upper Thakarwadi which is situated at the Prabalmachi, has now become quite familiar to the trekkers and offers beautiful views of the Kalyan-Badlapur range.

When we reached there, we were fascinated by some enthusiastic hikers enjoying valley crossing between Prabalgad and Kalavanteen Durg. The Nisargamitra from Panvel and Jidd magazine had jointly organized this famous event. For this, they had carried out the white painted rekhi on the complete route. Thakarwadi is a small hamlet from which we can see two prominent “V”s: the left one joins Prabalgad and Kalavanteen Durg whereas the other “V” indicates the route to reach the top of Prabalgad through a gully.
The straight way to the left ‘V’ leads us to the Kalavanteen Durg which resembles like Shivpindi and bears carved steps to reach the top. During our last visit, we had tried to go toward Prabalgad from the ridge that originates from the “V”. However, the villagers had prevented us from doing so as this route has now become completely inaccessible due to thick bushes. When we descended Kalavanteen Durg and reached Prabalmachi, we were told that for Prabalgad, one should walk some distance accompanying the electricity poles. Thereafter, the route rushes to the left toward the second ‘V’. Thanks to the Nisargmitra and Jidd, the entire route was fully guided by the above mentioned rekhi. Here, on the way, they had put up tents in an open ground for the valley crossing hikers with enough facilities.
We were not interested in valley crossing as it involved reaching Prabalgad and descending from Kalavanteen Durg after doing the valley crossing. Our aim was specific: explore Prabalgad as much as possible! Hence, we politely refused their offer and moved further utilizing their free services of rekhi. The route was quite enchanting as we could see the superbly carved-out steps of Kalavanteen Durg and the constantly moving descending hikers.
Soon we reached the “V” after about 1 hr of hiking through the woods. The scenic view of Thakarwadi is really beautiful from here. Thereafter, the route to the top goes though a gully. After about another hour, we reached the devastated gate, which can only be imagined from the stone structure present over there. Still we had not reached the top though. However we were not feeling tired due to the wonderful weather and the much needed shadow offered by the thick bushes on the way. After about half an hour hiking, we reached the top.
It was easier to decide what should be done first: to experience the beautiful view of Kalavanteen Durg! It can be seen from the North end of Prabalgad. En route, we came across a small elephant carved structure and a water cistern. From here, one can easily locate three bastions in the Eastern part of Prabalgad.
The North end is a small plateau where the valley crossing equipment was installed. The event had come to its final stage when we reached there. However, the experience must have been superb, given the depth of the valley and the adventure associated with it. A large pit has been created at this plateau, may be due to the dreadful monsoon. However, the view of the Badlapur range is fantastic from here.
We returned back to the water cistern but as the water seemed non-potable we moved forward and had our lunch in the nearby shadow.We then decided to visit the dilapidated Ganesh temple which is on the way to the South end. Initially, we had to struggle a little bit as the route had been blocked by thick vegetation. But soon, we were successful in finding out rekhi that led us to the Ganesh temple. This journey is worth visiting as the entire route goes through thick woods where you can rarely see the full sky. One can easily locate some ruined structures on the way.
After about an hour, we reached the roofless Ganesh temple which is now in really terrible conditions. We could find out a living stream nearby. We refilled our bottles and marched ahead towards the South end. Again, the route goes through the jungle and is really frightening at some points. But the rekhi – the only evidence of human presence offers the confidence to go further. On the way, we came across a big yard, possibly a lake, which is now completely dried up.
At last, we reached the Southern part, from where the view of Matheran and the Morbe backwaters is marvelous. We saw lots of rocks lying, may be of some buildings. Some of them are still standing, of-course in the dilapidated state. The main attraction is the view of Irshalgad from the South end. The ridge adjoining Irshalwadi with Prabalgad is equally breathtaking.
The Southern plateau bears less number of trees compared to the other parts of the fort. Besides, there are two water cisterns and both are drinkable. Therefore, this place may be an ideal spot for the night-stay.
We were really happy as we had achieved what we had struggled for in the month of September (2009). Both Vishal and I recollected our last unsuccessful visits: the first from Poyanje village up to the Prabalmachi and the second attempt when we had tried to visit Prabalgad from the “V” of the Kalavanteen Durg. The return journey toward the Ganesh temple took less than an hour in that joyful mood.
Here, a trekking group who was having rest, advised us to go the Eastern side where a combined tomb of four trekkers and hunters viz., late Sahdev Ramchandra Sawant, Dama Namdev Malusare, Ramchandra Pilaji Malusare alias Chander Patil and Arjun Kisan Shinde has been erected.
The joy of visiting Prabalgad with most of its somewhat inaccessible places was overwhelming. The full credit goes to the Nisargmitra, Panvel, as the rekhi not only guided us in the proper direction but also saved our valuable time that we could devote for exploration of Prabalgad. Thanks guys! We would like to come here again. Saayonara!
Snaps of this trek:

Do enjoy!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fort Sankshi (October 18, 2009)

Members: Vishal Chaughule and Sambhaji Chopdekar.

We reached Panvel at about 9.00 am as we both woke up late as usual. The ST stand was crowded as most of the Mumbaikars were eager to celebrate the Diwali vacation with their near and dear ones at their respective native places. Fortunately enough there were three Alibuag bound STs and we got into the least crowded one. Our destination was Balavali phata which is just ahead of village Jite on the Panvel-Pen highway (NH17). From here, one can easily locate Karnala, Manikgad and Sankshi.
We started toward the Badruddin Dargah which is about 5 km away from this phata. The tar road leads us through the beautiful Balavali village which has a spacious temple. The road accompanies us up to the school, thereafter a wide trail starts that goes to Nidhavali village. After about a 1.5 hr walk we reached the newly reconstructed Baddruddin Durgah.

We were told to go side by side of the pipeline that carries water from one of the water tanks of the fort to this Dargah. The route to the fort from the Dargah, is easy, but we had to struggle a bit as it was quite difficult to find out the pipeline which was not easily visible due to the thick plantation. Actually, it is in front of the old domed tomb which is just nearby the Dargah. But once the pipeline was seen, we were through and reached the wall of the fort bearing over-hangs.

The way toward the right seemed to be lost in the thick bushes, so we took the left path and soon found two water tanks carved out on the cliff. Thanks to the Sony Cybershot, we were able to see the paavtya (small steps) near the left water-tank. But initially, the problem was we could not find the way to reach the wall that bears them, due to the thick bushes at the base of those steps. However, after a short struggle, we made up our minds and rushed into the thick bushes and with the help of the fallen rocks (they provided the much needed support!),we could actually see the small steps. It was an enjoyable moment for us and after clicking some snaps, we started upward.

We reached the left water-tank but didn’t dare to go to the right one as the path seemed slippery and open to fall. Nevertheless a big flat rock there gave ample opportunity to us to have the photo session. Just above the left tank there is a small rectangular shaped excavation which might have borne the Jagai Mata. History says, she had committed suicide after her father, the king Saank, was killed by the ruler of Karnala.

From here the route upward provided a small practice session for rock-climbing and soon we reached the potable water cistern. It was almost 01.00 pm and hence, we finished our lunch enjoying the beautiful views of Karnala, Manikgad and the tiny looking dargah and tomb. It was time to relax and we just roamed the ridge keeping the cliff to our left to find out two more water tanks. The first one had water having yellow surface. The reason may be the presence of phytoplanktons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoplankton). The second one was unique bearing two carved out idols which are now disappeared.

We left these three water cisterns and moved upward to reach the top in just 5 minutes. We were welcomed by a rectangular shaped carving, the purpose of it was not understood. We moved to the eastern part and thrilled to see a complex of four water cisterns, only one of them had water but non-potable. The most astonishing fact is that the top has lots of small craters (you cannot even measure them unless you have been given a task). The next amazing thing is they are joined to each other at some places with cut-patterns (char). According to me, they might have been dug out to have the rain water percolate inside the kaatal.

The western part has four water cisterns but due to the thick grass it was quite difficult to find out what was described in the literature as the easiest route. It was almost 04.00 pm, and hence we abandoned our attempt to find it out and came back to our initial route from where we had climbed up. Going down was really fun but I was equally fearful while going down through the thick bushes (you know the reason - Vishal was advising me to have some knowledge on the first-aid in case any serpent bites us. You can realize it now!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Khanderi-Korlai (March 10, 2009)

Members: Sulekh Baikar, Pranjal Wagh and Sambhaji Chopdekar

We visited this wonderful sea-fort on the day of Holi along with three Punekars viz., Vikas Konduskar, Amey Patankar and Nitin Joshi.

In the afternoon, we went to korlai fort and enjoyed the wonderful sea-beach over there!

Snaps of only Khanderi fort are uploaded at: http://good-times.webshots.com/album/570488074LcjjXm

All are taken with NOKIA 6600!
Do enjoy!

Nageshwar-Vasota (Feb 28 & March 01, 2009)

It was done with Green Carpet!...we first visited Nageshwar through the dried stream from Met Indavali. The next day, the new Vasota was visited!!...In all, it was really an enjoyable trek!...

Snaps are taken with the help of NOKIA 6600 and Canon BF-80

Do enjoy!!

Birwadi aka Chanera fort (February 08, 2009)

A bike trek to the Birwadi and Avachitgad forts. we had an enjoyable night stay at the Avachitgad!!

Do enjoy!

Gorakh-Siddhagad (November 22-23, 2008)

An enjoyable weekend spent with Prasad Mayekar n Ramdas Salunkhe at the famous duo-Gorakh n Siddha!...After visiting Gorakhgad, we descended the valley toward Uchale with the help of a localite and then proceeded further to the Siddhagad paada...had a wonderful stay at the Siddhagad machi.

But the only regret was that the villagers are not aware about some health precautions. Most of them were seen spitting in their own homes and it was quite disgusting!...

Still the visit to the Siddhagad fort was wonderful!!

Snaps taken by Prasad n Sambhaji.
Do enjoy!!

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