Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mahuli Fort Trek - 22 June, 2013

We have formed this small trekking group in office which keeps on increasing with every trek that we undertake. This time we planned a trek to Mahuli Fort which is near Asangaon. Asangaon is on the Mumbai-Nashik highway, about 91 kms from Mumbai. At 2815 ft., Mahuli Fort is the highest point in Thane district and a popular trekking destination. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj won the fort from the Moghuls in 1658, lost it to them in the 1665 Purandar Treaty and won it back in 1670. Till 1817, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's dynasty owned the fort but later on it came under the control of the British Raj.

A day before 22nd June, the scheduled date of the trek, I got the mobile number of a local person Vilas Thakre (+919209526268) from Mumbaihikers.net. We called him up and placed our order for breakfast and asked him to get our lunch ready by 9:00 am. We never go on treks without a local guide. Vilas helped us arrange a Guide (for Rs. 300) and also a vehicle (Rs. 400 one way) to pick us up and drop us back to Asangaon Railway station. He told us that the vehicle will be waiting for us at a 5-minutes walking distance from the railway station since the local Rickshaw-wallahs at the railway station don't allow tourists to board any other tourist vehicle in order to protect their business.

We boarded the first Asangaon local train that was scheduled to reach Asangaon at 7:20 am. The idea was to start the trek before other trekking groups who generally arrive by the local train that reaches Asangaon at 8:16 am. 5 of us boarded the train at Dadar at 5:32 am and the remaining 4 of us joined at Kanjurmarg (5:57 am), Bhandup (6:00 am), Thane (6:10 am) and Kalyan (6:41 am).

L-R (clockwise): Nitin Achrekar, Sandeep Nair, Mukul Kumar Sharma, Salil Mahadik,
Ishan Manjrekar, Amit Baliga, Piyush Roongta, Vishal Ubhare, Shreyas Shah

We reached Asangaon 10 minutes late i.e. at 7:30 am only to realise that the pick-up vehicle hadn't arrived and Vilas' phone was unreachable.

Asangaon

We waited for about half an hour and 2 of us went to the Rickshaw stand to arrange 3 Rickshaws to take us up to the base Mahuli village which is about 5 kms from the railway station. In the meanwhile, we got a local person to take us to Mahuli village in his Jeep for Rs. 350. We had to pay Rs. 50 each to the Rickshaw-wallahs because we broke their queue.

The ride to Mahuli village was uneventful except for a few bad patches on the road. One can even do a small detour on the way and visit the Manas Mandir (Jain Temple). There are a lot of trekkers who prefer to walk this 5 km (about 1.5 hours) distance enjoying mother nature. But since I was warned by a friend of mine about thefts that have occurred on this route, especially during the night, I decided not to take any chances. We reached Mahuli village at about 8:30 am to find Vilas who was there to welcome us.



Vilas Thakre's house along with a few other houses and a Shiv Mandir are the only structures we could see there. There was a small board hung up on a tree warning us of leopards who might wander off from the nearby Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Vilas Thakre's House

By the time we started eating our breakfast [Kanda Pohe (Rs. 25 per plate), Omlette Pav (Rs. 30 per plate) and Tea (Rs. 6 per cup)], other trekking groups started swarming in. It so happened that though we were the first ones to arrive there, we probably became the last ones to start the trek. At least 10 other groups had decided to do the trek on the same day.


Vilas packed our lunch (Rs. 150 for non-veg and Rs. 100 for veg) in a bag which he gave to our guide Ankush Baraf to carry and we started the trek at 9:30 am after taking the blessings of Lord Shiva. The fort wasn't visible at this time due to the thick fog covering it. In about 5 minutes, we could see a stream running on our right hand side. In about 10 minutes, we crossed the stream and started the uphill climb.



There were white arrows marks on stones all along the way to guide us.



In about half an hour, we reached a small flat area where we took our first rest. After about 5 minutes, we continued our climb clicking photos and having fun on the way.



To our relief, the rain started pouring down on us after about 1:15 hours of climb and took all our tiredness away making our remaining climb a pleasant one but for occasional bites from blood-sucking flies locally called as 'Pokli'. It's advisable to wear full sleeves t-shirt and track pants to avoid these insect bites.

After 2:20 hours of climb, we arrived at a point where we could see the prominent multiple finger-like pinnacles adjacent to the Mahuli mountain hidden in the fog along with Bhandargad on the right and Mahuli Chanderi mountain on the left. In fact, the fort plateau is a complex of 3 mountains - Bhandargad, Mahuli and Palasgad along with multiple pinnacles [named Navraa (Bride Groom), Navri (Bride) and Bhatji (Priest)] separating them from the Mahuli Chanderi mountain. We could also see several waterfalls cascading along the Mahuli mountain.


And when we suddenly came around a curve, the imposing Mahuli Fort with its multiple bastions was looking upon us!

Mahuli Fort

In about half an hour's time more, we reached the start of the famous ridge that we had to maneuver to reach the fort. On the right hand side, we could see Palasgad.


There's a steep crevice that we have to climb to reach a point on the ridge from where we need to take a left turn to continue on our trek. At that point, on the right hand side, there's a small part of the ridge (from where the ridge actually starts) where we stopped to pose for a few snaps.


At 12:30 pm, we started our journey up the ridge. It was a thrilling experience with valleys on both side of the ridge and steep climbs in between. We were going close to the fort and the fog was engulfing us.




The climb was steeper when we were at the base of the fort. Finally we landed up below an iron ladder that's strategically placed over a tricky rock patch just below the fort walls.


From the ladder, we could see the ochre flag of the Maratha empire fluttering majestically on top of the fort. We climbed the ladder and at 1:30 pm, after 4 hours of trekking, we were on top of the fort! Jai Bhavani! Jai Shivaji! Har Har Mahadev!


It generally takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the top, but since we had a group member, Nitin Achrekar, who hadn't done a trek for many years, we took more time. He did want to quit in about an hour's trek initially, but showed great determination to complete the entire trek. Bravo, Nitin!

Nitin climbing the ladder

In about 5 more minutes, we were dipping our tired feet in a man-made pond.

Shreyas and Sandeep dipping their feet in the pond

In another 10 minutes, we reached a couple of caves. A group of trekkers had already made one of the caves their home and were planning to stay there over-night.


Under a tree above the caves, there was a Shiv-Ling along with idols of Lord Hanuman and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and another ochre Maratha flag. From this tree we could see the fortification walls around the mountain.


We had our lunch sitting near these idols. Vilas had prepared some great Chicken for non-vegetarians and Chawli (Black Eyed Beans or Cow Peas or Lobia) vegetable along with Zunka (a dry preparation of gram flour which is a traditional Maharashtrian main dish) for vegetarians. We savoured these dishes with Bhakri (a traditional Maharashtrian bread generally made of rice) and rice and daal (preparation of pulses). Post lunch, we washed our hands with water from a nearby water cistern that was supposed to be potable.


Most important, we collected all the waste (including the thermocol plates, glasses, water bottles) in a plastic bag and took the bag along with us to be given to Vilas who can then dispose it off appropriately. This is a great contribution we can make towards an eco-friendly environment instead of scattering the waste, polluting the environment and dishonouring our historic monuments.

Originally, we had planned to explore the plateau, go towards Bhandargad to see the Kalyan Mahadarwaza along with the multiple pinnacles and towards Palasgad to view the Tansa Lake, but we were so tired and had less time left before sunset since it was 3:00 pm already that we decided to start our descend. Also, it was raining heavily and our guide advised us to go down as quickly as possible since he feared the rainwater would flood the stream below making it difficult for us to cross it. In about 2 hours, we managed to get a clearer view of the multiple pinnacles behind us.




The rain had subsided and we reached the stream at about 5:45 pm to find it gushing with water but not to the point that made it uncrossable. It had become a natural jacuzzi and we all loved taking a dip in it to relax our tired bodies. After spending about half an hour in the stream, we reached Vilas' house at 6:30 pm.


We dried ourselves, changed our clothes and had Kanda Pohe and tea for snacks.

Ishan, Piyush, Amit and Shreyas having snacks at Vilas Thakre's House

Our vehicle was ready to drop us back to Asangaon railway station with the only hitch that it was a Maruti Omni and the 9 of us had to squeeze in for the 20-minute ride. To add to this, the car broke down in between where the water from an adjacent river was overflowing on the road and we had to get down to push the car for it to start. We finally reached the station and boarded the 8:37 pm Mumbai CST fast train. A few of us who hadn't slept the previous night dozed off immediately. Just consider the sheer enthusiasm of these guys who didn't sleep so that they don't miss the trek by not getting up on time!



Overall, it was an exciting, adventurous trek that pushed us to our limits physically. One of our group members, Amit Baliga, was even promoting a noble cause by wearing a T-Shirt advertising World For All/Save The Helpless Animals Of Mumbai's campaign - Adopt a Stray Cat or Dog! Amit, we are proud of you!

Amit promoting World For All's 'Save The Helpless Animals of Mumbai' campaign

Useful Links:
- Mahuli Fort Maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3

17 comments:

  1. Sallu! Great blog! What are the safety gears you carry? REST I THING WAS PERFECT. THE PICS WERE AWESOME AND NITIN's determination was a lesson for me too. Take care and also watch 127 hours!

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  2. Chatty, thank you for the compliments. I have just tried to give all the details over here which would be helpful for fellow trekkers who want to scale this magnificent Fort. Yes, Nitin was really determined to complete the trek and it was this determination that led him to success! You don't need special safety gears for such treks. Just ensure that you wear a full sleeve t-shirt and a track pant. Also, carry a towel to cover your face in case of a rare bee attack. I did carry a camping knife and a rope as well. I did watch the movie '127 hours' and it's awesome! You take care as well.

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  3. Salil Sir! Great Blog! Accurate descriptions! It was a great trek. Here's hoping for many more to come in the near future :D

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  4. Thank you, Mukul! The idea is to give all the details about this trek to fellow trekkers. Yes, it was a great trek and looking forward to a lot of such treks going forward.

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  5. Brilliantly written Salil Sir !!! Memories relieved once again :)

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  6. Thank you, Amit! We will cherish these memories for a long time to come!

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  7. Gautam K6:44 pm

    Nice Information and Photos !!!

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  8. Good Trek report ! thanks for sharing your office groups experience

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your compliment, Moombai Hyker!

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  9. Hello Salil, Can this trek be (6-8 people) possible without a guide?? if No, can you give me the number of any good guide residing in mahuli?? what are the charges??
    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Amit, I think this trek can be done without a guide (since the other groups hadn't taken a guide, but maybe they would have done the trek before as well). I strongly recommend hiring a guide however simple the trek might be because one wrong turn and you might get lost. The guide charges are reasonable as well (in the range of Rs. 300 to Rs. 500; our guide charged us Rs. 300). Just call up Vilas Thakre (+919209526268) and he will help arrange a guide for you. Wish you all the very best for your trek.

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  10. Hi Salil,
    we are planning our monsson trek to the same location. I need to know if there is any possible location you observed where bus can be parked, as we will be hiring a bus for a group of 20-30 people?
    please let me know.

    Thanks

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  11. Your bus can go right till Vilas Thakre's house in Mahuli village from where you start the trek. The last part of the road that leads to the village is a little rough, but then ST buses also ply on this road.

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  12. Nice informative post. will help a lot of trekkers. thanks for sharing

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