The Sahyadris are not only a mountain range for the people of Maharashtra.
They are a source of intrigue, magic and mystery. These hills and mountains have a history of their own which is famous as being full of treachery and deceit. Also these hills are the abode to countless forts which are deeply rooted in the colourful history of this amazing state. So this is my experience of conquering another hill fort by the name of Kalavantin Durg.
Hello friends, as promised I am back with another trekking adventure, this time near Karjat taluka and the fort in question is not basically a fort, but it is a Watchtower, known by the name Kalavantin Durg, to the adjacent fort complex of Prabhalgad.
So the name of Kalavantin Durg appears in the top 5 of almost all the lists when you type “The most dangerous treks in Maharashtra” on your Google search bar. So as history goes, this watchtower was built for a queen named Kalavantin. Not much is known about it other than the fact mentioned above. This time I had Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya to give me company for this outing. It was going to be our 2nd outing of 2019 after our trip to Goa earlier in June, so we were pretty excited to team up together once again.
So strap your backpacks amigos and get ready to dwell in another thrilling and vertigo inducing trekking experience.
We reached Panvel station around 6:30 p.m. and joined our trek leader Anurag and the other trekkers. We boarded the cabs and proceeded towards the base village i.e. Thakurwadi. Here in the cab we made a new friend whose name was Ishaan. He had a fair amount of experience with treks as this was his 11th trek!!!
Sharing our experiences with each other, we finally touched down at our starting point around 8:30 p.m, refreshed ourselves a bit and set on course towards the camp site which was approximately a 3 to 4 kilometre night trek with decent incline.Anurag informed us regarding the basic rules (and yes hope you remember 3 basic rules of mine :
1. Help yourself first
2. Use your hands along with your legs
3. Never hesitate to ask for help)and also the things which we could encounter in the wild (majorly concerning snakes🙈🙊) and we began the journey.
Soon the trail was filled with white beams of light emitting from the torches or the flashlights of the mobiles. 29 of us moving through the rocky terrain and helping each other on our way up gave everyone a sense of relief.
Ishaan, Shardul and Chaitanya were at the front of the group listening to Anurag’s experiences along with Utkarsh, another trekker. Utkarsh worked at the IARC, Indian Astrobiology Research Centre and we all got along very well along the way. Tirath and I were in the middle, catching up with each other’s gossip and behind us were Sharmistha and Yogita who were medical practitioners. on the way ahead, we stopped at a place where they checked our bagsfor the prohibited items (basically cigarettes, drinks and speakers). After continuing for another 2 hours, we reached the spot where we would be having our dinner.
Both Veg and Non-Veg dinner was available and the group got divided with the Veg dinner being served inside a small hut and the Non-Veg dinner being served outside. Trust me, this was one of the most delicious Maharashtrian meals which I would have tasted till now and we restored the calories which were lost since the start of the trek😂😂
After the dinner, we were relaxing and star gazing when Anurag informed us that he had to go back down to get a group of trekkers who were running late because of certain unfortunate incidents and we all utilized this additional time in getting to know our new friends better, Utkarsh sharing his insights on the Universe and what lay beyond while Shardul, Tirath and I were all ears. Chaitanya and Ishaan decided to relax by taking short naps sitting on the chairs behind us while the other group which consisted of 16 people from Accenture Pune office were busy listening to Bollywood songs on their mobiles.
Finally after 30 to 35 minutes, Anurag was back along with Simran, Ashish and Yashtika. We waited for some more time while they finished their dinner and then proceeded towards the campsite which was a 15 minute climb.Huffing and puffing, we finally reached a plain area where our tents were lined up at the extreme end in an L shape.
In the middle the wooden logs and every other thing which was flammable was set and lit up for us to play antakshari which also resulted in a bonding of sorts.
Sitting on either side of the bonfire, our team which consisted of us 4 along with Simran, Yashtika, Ashish, Utkarsh, Ishaan, Tanmay, Abhishek, Sarthak, Arjun, Saurabh, Sharmistha and Yogita somehow managed to compete with the Accenture guys and we never knew when the clock struck 1. Anurag narrated a ghost story about a road which lay ahead in the forest which created a spooky aura. We were busy engrossed in the tale, enjoying the cool breeze which was ruffling our hair till the time we fathered a yawn and we knew it would be hard to carry on now considering we had to get back on our feet in another 4 hours and get set for the trek. So Tirath, Utkarsh and I proceeded to the 2nd tent which was placed on the right of the tent occupied by Shardul, Chaitanya and Ishaan. Behind us was a gorge where nothing was visible except the few scattered lights which extended in the plains down below. It was pitch black and the weather was not as chilly as expected as we closed our eyes dreaming about the pinnacle that lay in front of our eyes somewhere in the dark, waiting for us to set foot on its head.
There was a strange sensation on my wrist which woke me up from my slumber. That’s when I noticed it was my wake up call!!! It was 6 in the morning, the wind had become quite chilly and I grabbed my hoodie and made my way out of the tent to take a short walk.
In another 20 to 25 minutes everyone was on their feet. We could see a hazy vision of the fort in front of us but not clear to click a pic. Tea was served, bottles were filled from a pipe which was lying on the ground and everyone warmed up.
That’s when the visibility improved and our mind was not ready to accept what lay in front of our eyes😍
Kalavantin Durg towered ahead in all its glory just about touching the clouds above it which managed to create a mighty aura of its own.
We captured some awesome pics as seen below with the fort as a backdrop.
After the mini session was over, we gathered over for a group pic as we were well set to commence this trek.
Keeping all the other unwanted items in the tents below, we grabbed 2 back packs between the 4 of us and set forth.The path winded from the midst of the forest and in another few minutes we reached the base village of Thakurwadi. The pathway was rocky, sandy and full of tree stumps and roots jutting out from every possible place.
It was inclined a bit with signboards instructing us to take a left or a right.
We bumped into couple of stalls on the way but decided against taking the rest. The troop moved forward with Anurag assisting us expertly that’s when Shardul slipped in a fact stating Anurag was only 20 or 21 years old!!! We were shocked and confirmed the same from Anurag🙊 Realising we were far behind in terms of trekking expertise we again set our minds on course for the way ahead. Soon afterwards, we halted at a stall to gather our breaths as we had gone almost 45 minutes at a stretch without any rest.Clicking some pics of the natural beauty which lay in front of my eyes, I also tried my hand at video blogs by recording a few videos of our ascent.
We reached a point where the path narrowed down and took a left. A point to note here, people generally complete trekking Prabhalgad along with Kalavantin Durg so at this place, there is another rough path to the right which at first isn’t visible to the naked eye (kind of a shortcut to visit Prabhalgad).
This path is too dangerous and you can make out from the pic above as there is absolutely nothing for support on your right side which just steeply slopes down several hundreds of feet below and on your left you just have the rock wall. Anyways, focusing again on the task at hand, we slowly and gradually moved forward taking the left and moving a few metres ahead we noticed a small cave on our right.
However, appearances are deceptive as that 4×4 cave gradually opened into a cave complex that could easily accomodate around 50 to 60 people.Maybe that cave was built to launch an ambush on the enemies who would fail to notice it.Moving forward, we kept on hydrating ourselves at regular intervals, as the climb was getting all the more tricky. Chaitanya sat down for a few minutes to get some rest. Tirath and Shardul proceeded forward along with Chaitanya as I stayed behind to click the view from that spot as seen below.
Realising that the base of the fort was just a few minutes away, I put the phone in my zipper pockets and rushed ahead towards the final checkpoint before we would climb on to the stairs.
Soon around 8:15 we reached the base point. I got a glimpse of the exposed rock stairs which inclined at almost a 60 to 70 degree angle which resulted in this trek being termed as dangerous. Not only the angle but also the height of the rock stairs which was almost 2 feet was a problem. And we had to climb up 135 such stairs.
Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya were well ahead almost 20 feet above me when I started to navigate through the rugged terrain. Slowly and firmly I started to ascend using the full reach of my hands and legs. The steps were too tall so you need to coordinate your hand and leg movement. Once I got the grip, the rest of the stairs never posed any questions.
However, the ascent is not the difficult part as you are always facing the rock side. What is more important is to keep your cool while you are descending as you will witness the sheer depth of the valley right before you!!!
On my way up, I also bonded with Sarthak and Sharmistha. We stopped on the stairs to click some selfies and further helped each other wherever we faced a difficult stretch.
Continuing ahead, we reached the final turn when I spotted Ishaan and asked him how much further did we have to go.He replied in the affirmative stating the stairs were completed and we heaved a sigh of relief. We had almost reached the top as we took in the sight of the mighty Prabhalgad fort.
It felt as if the fort was watching us keenly, always recording our next step. I reunited with Shardul, Tirath and Chaitanya as we rested for a while and drank water to rejuvenate ourselves after this tiring climb. Now there lay another challenge in front of us. There was still 15 to 20 feet of vertical rock patch where the local village guides had attached ropes to assist the climbers. Remember that if you are trekking alone, you need to purchase a token of Rs. 50 if you want to climb this rock patch. This fee is charged as a convenience fee from all trekkers who trek without any groups.
So there was already a queue ahead and hence Shardul and I stood there. Chaitanya and Tirath made up their mind and were against climbing this patch. So after some failed persuasion, we moved ahead as they relaxed down by clicking some pics and taking in the view.
One by one the trekkers started ascending as I was busy observing where the people placed their next step. Shardul went ahead as I shot his video and then it was my turn followed by Sharmistha and Sarthak.I was initially scared as it looked a lot tough when you actually are only a few meters away from performing 🙈 Grabbing the rope and positioning my legs on either side of the rope, I started pulling myself up. There were small crevices where just putting your leg and lunging upwards would easily do the trick. There was a local guide assisting us at the bottom along with Anurag who was standing towards the top left constantly instructing me to pull one last time as I had almost reached the apex. One pull and finally I was greeted to the top.
Carefully I let go of the ropes and proceeded to witness the spectacle. Once on top, I was amazed to see the view from the top😍
Lush green fields met my gaze for several miles coupled with haze and the sun peeking from between the clouds. It was windy and also the flags at the centre of the apex were fluttering rapidly. Right in front of us, the view of th Prabalghad fort became even more enthralling.
We were stupefied by the sight of it alone.
Grabbing my camera, I was busy capturing these moments when I heard Anurag calling us for a group pic. Abhishek grabbed the flag and everyone assembled as someone climbed a rock and clicked some selfies and group pics.
We even clicked pics with the deep gorge (as seen below) in the backdrop and proceeded ahead.
Abhishek took out his DSLR and was busy clicking some stunning pics of the fort and us.
Shardul and I were sitting whereby we let our minds go blank to take in this stunning visual. Its safe to say that the essence of a hard climb is worth the view which it offers from the top😉✌ You simply cannot get enough of this thing. Shardul and I were busy discussing about the people at the base who were proceeding to Prabhalgad when we were joined by Tanmay and Saurabh. Both of them were pursuing engineering from Pune. Within a few seconds the discussion had reached towards the Himalayan treks and also the famous Chadar Trek in the north. Tanmay aaked me for some other trekking destinations which were good for amateur trekkers and I recommended Kalsubai and Harishchandragadh (via Pachnai route) to them. We were also joined by Yashtika who was also keen to listen to the topic which was going on. Busy clicking pics and sharing our experiences on the top, I felt my phone vibrate and was shocked to see that almost at a height of 2100 feet there was FULL NETWORK OF VODAFONE 4G😱🥺 My Mom had called me up and it was just wonderful to have a small talk with her from such an height.
After spending nearly an hour at the top, it was time we descended. There was a long queue again at the time of descent and once it was my turn to get down, I realised climbing up with the rope was easier than this.
I was scared stiff in the middle of the rock patch and was starting to feel embarrassed as many people were stuck because I couldn’t make it down fast enough. But its alright, prevention is better than cure. Finally I set my foot on the ground and turned around to see Sarthak who had taken a video of me climbing down🙈😂Now was the time which we all were fearing, climbing down the steps.
Shardul along with Tirath started at the front whereas Chaitanya and I were at the back.
So the basic step to avoid fear was to move down sideways and take support of the rock face. This way you wouldn’t be able to see how deep was the gorge.
Taking one step at a time, we were descending at a decent pace. To be honest, the descent wasn’t as tough or fearful as it was being shown on various other Youtube Video blogs of other trekkers. You just need to keep your entire focus on the task at hand for that 30 to 45 minutes. Once that task was negotiated, we were faced with some congestion near the cave which we had noticed during our ascent.
Almost 25 people were stuck at that particular juncture because the road was narrow and people who were climbing up were far greater in number than the people descending. We had to wait for around 15 minutes for the situation to diffuse. Well and we did utilise those 15 minutes to the fullest. Tirath, Abhishek and Saurabh posed in the cave and had their pics clicked.
I wasn’t the one to be left behind so even I proceeded with Tirath at the mouth of the cave and got clicked.
Till that time the situation was better and we started our descent further. It was then that we realised that a few trekkers wanted to take the route for Prabhalgad and that was the main reason for the congestion.We stopped at the stall which was there near the diversion and bought some water bottles to refill our stock which was almost on the verge of stockout.
After that short break, we proceeded at a rapid pace as the heat had gradually started to intensify. Going down that twisted path, we reached the campsite where we collected our bags from the tents and equipped ourselves for the other half of the trek.
Still we had to reach the spot where we had dinner the previous night and we were already running late by an hour or so. We gradually reached the site where we stopped for having breakfast when we were supposed to have lunch, so let’s make it brunch😂So there was maggi and kanda poha on offer. We had some kanda poha which filled our tummies after which I went out of the hut to catch a glimpse of the view which we couldn’t witness in the pitch black darkness which had engulfed us during the night. After having the breakfast, we started to move down again as still we had to cover almost 6 to 7 kilometers more.Stopping at a place where there was a gorge and far ahead was a mountain made for a nice background for getting a new display pic.
Once again the path threw twists at every corner as I witnessed a snake which quickly slithered across the steps and into the dense foliage on the other side!!!
Soon enough I rejoined the group where Tanmay, Saurabh and I spent the next 30 minutes chatting and getting to know each other better.
We discussed everything from Science, CA, treks and what not. Clicking some more pics on the way, I proceeded ahead where I again started a small video blog about the descent. The road ahead was dusty with tall green grass on either side.
There was no one visible in this stretch so I made my way lazily to the spot where they had checked our bags the previous night and I regrouped with Tirath, Shardul, Abhishek, Chaitanya, Ishaan and Utkarsh who didn’t wait for me to take a rest and straightaway we were back on the route almost nearing the end of this arduous hike. The natural beauty just did not seem to stop as we were left to marvel the site of Kalavantin durg and Prabhalgad when we turned around, which looked miniscule from the distance.
We were almost out of gas as the descent was getting tiresome with the sun wandering right over our heads. As I was moving ahead, busy witnessing the landscape, a trekker ahead of me shrieked. That’s when I realised that a snake which was lurking by, stealthily crossed the road which the girl ahead of me had seen and let out a scream. So catching a glimpse of 2 snakes in a matter of 60 minutes sounds pretty awesomeee😍 The path was getting dusty and was scattered with rocks and pebbles which was making it difficult to get a grip. That’s where good trekking shoes like Woodland or running shoes like Skechers (as recommended by Anurag) come in handy. The path had meandered around the corner where we could finally see the cars and jeeps which were parked.
Yes friends, the trek had come to an end. 7 hours of breathtaking views, difficult paths, steep exposed stairs, climbing with a rope support, watching snakes and greenery which makes you want all of these things more was finally over.We bid adieu to the new friends which we had made and thanked Anurag for what had become one of my personal favourites out of the 3 treks❤ Looking back at the Watchtower guarding the fort for one final time, I closed my eyes and thanked them for what was an enthralling experience✌😄
Completing this trek which was touted as one of the difficult ones in Maharashtra, notched my confidence up by a couple of levels. This was one of the most emotionally challenging treks for me as my friends know. This trek was not made special by the location, but by the amazing group which had accompanied me in this expedition❤😘 Anurag as the leader was extremely friendly and caring, exactly how a leader should be.
Also the food was delicious compared to the other places I had trekked before. Made some new friends sharing the same love for trekking as well which was the best part of this trip. Finally this trip would have been incomplete if not for my buddies Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya – this wasn’t the last trek for this group, hopefully we can plan the next one sooner.
Also you, the reader, who has constantly motivated me to improve everytime, A big THANK YOU to you as well!!!
I will be back with a better experience to share sooner. Hopefully in a few years time, you will also read my blog on my Everest base camp trek which is my dream😉✌