Monday, December 28, 2009

5 to 6-Dec-2009 Kalawantin Durg (Bastion)

Kalawantin Durg (Bastion) is a small pinnacle adjoining the fort of Prabalgad.

Location and how to get there
This place is very accessible from both Mumbai and Pune. On Mumbai Pune expressway, take Shendung exit. This is nearly 30 kms from Khopoli towards Mumbai. From Shendung, take a left turn towards Thakurwadi. It takes nearly half an hour to reach the base from the expressway. There are state transport buses plying right upto Thakurwadi from Khopoli or Panvel. However, this place is very much accessible and hence it makes more sense to take a private transport.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Kalawantin and Prabalgad - It is impossible to accommodate in one frame

Kalawantin Durg is not a fort. It is a pinnacle right next to Prabalgad, almost equal in height. This pinnacle is very steep. It would have been very difficult to climb but for the steps carved out of the rock. This place is not a watch tower. Prabalgad itself blocks a large portion of the view. And Prabalgad is slightly higher than this pinnacle. This could have posed a challenge for Prabalgad's safety. It is just that since it exists so close to Prabalgad, it had to be fortified so that it does not fall to the enemy.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Entrance of Kalawantin Prabalgad

This pinnacle has rock cut steps in the base. And scree on the upper portion. The last 15-20 feet is a steep rock face. It is better to climb this patch with some rope and expert supervision. The steps are also not very easy. In some places they are steep, narrow and turn sharply.

The top does not contain any construction. But there must be provision for the guards to stay on the fort for some duration.

9:45 PM Started from Pune
We started from Pune at 9:45 PM by a private vehicle. We were at the base of the fort by 11:30 PM. It was pitch dark as there was fog all around. Visibility was limited. Had it been a clear sky, moonlight or starlight would have made the night trek pleasant.

After rearranging the sacks and taking out the torches, we started the trek. We had no clue about where we were heading in the dark.

The base is about 85 meters from the sea level.

After trekking for nearly two and half hours, we reached the machi of the fort. This is nearly 500 meters from the sea level. All through, it was hot and humid even during the winter. We slept on the ground in the open air. That was refreshing.

6:00 AM Wakeup
Before the daybreak, we got up. After our daily chores, we went inside Thakurwadi. This village is untouched by any commercialization. Here, we had our breakfast. The leader distributed packets for lunch. We filled water from one well. There is no water source till the top. Due to hot and humid conditions, one could be thirsty very soon.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Village hut

8:00 AM Started the ascent
We set out of the village leaving our sacks behind in one of the houses. Soon we started on the slopes with a lot of scree and small bushes. Some of these bushes are thorny and hence of no use during climbing. We reached the col in another half an hour. This place is 635 meters from the sea level.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Prabal maachi from Col

The rock cut steps start immediately after the col. All of us rested in the col for some time. The entire team was arranged in a line and we started the further ascent. It must have taken a lot of effort to cut these steps. In places, the steps are narrow and steep. There are no holds.

After the steps, there is another patch with scree. It is difficult to get a foothold. We navigated this patch with the help of one another. Finally we reached a small plain ground. Now only a 15 foot rock patch separates us from the summit. For the experienced climbers, there is no need for ropes. But inexperienced climbers should use ropes under expert supervision.

Finally we reached the summit. This place is 700 meters from the sea level. There is no construction on the top. Due to fog, the visibility was low. Karnala fort and the bird sanctuary are nearby. But due to fog, we could not spot them. Prabalgad dominates a large section of the view.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Prabalgad from Kalawantin

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 Prabalgad from Kalawantin

12:30 PM started the descent
After spending some time and exhausting the water we carried, we started the descent. As always, the descent is more tricky than the ascent. A small mistake can make you fall down till the col. We carefully reached the col. Our leaders drilled some bolts so that people can use ropes to climb the pinnacle even during the rains.

From Trips - Kalawantin Durg Dec 09 A view of Prabal Maachi

By now we were very thirsty. We took a slightly different path to the village. This was covered with trees. Hence it was better. But the scree was very tricky. We almost sat and slid for the most part.

As soon we we reached the village we straight way went to the well. Drank a lot of water. And then sat for lunch.

After having lunch, we rested for some time. By 4:00 PM, we started our descent from machi to the base. We reached the base just after the sunset. By 8:30 PM, we were back in Pune.

This could have been made a two day outing including the Prabalgad fort. Very near yet very far.

Friday, December 4, 2009

28 to 29-Nov-2009 Harishchandra Gad

Harishchandragad is one of the massive forts. It has minimal ramparts constructed. Nothing much of any significance has happened on the fort. The fort and the surrounding area was inhabited for more than a thousand years.

The fort has a lot of greenery. So much that one feels that it drizzled very recently.

Location and getting there

From Shivaji Nagar bus stand in Pune, there are several buses that go via Ale Phata. The journey is about two hours. From Ale Phata, one has to take another bus that goes to Kokan side or take a private vehicle. This section is nearly 35 kms or approximately one hour. If one takes a bus, then some walk might be inevitable from the road till Khireshwar. A distance of about 5 kms. It is advisable to take a private vehicle as it will save some time.

There are nearly six approaches to the fort.
a) Pachnei - This is the easiest approach. A lot of tourists take this route. It takes about an hour to reach the top without much efforts.
b) Khireshwar - Nedhe
c) Khireshwar - Tolar pass
This approach involves passing through thick vegetation. The climb is moderate. From Tolar pass, it involves climbing two rock patches. During rainy season, one definitely needs holds to clear the patches. There were protective railings installed. But the villegers have removed them time and again. The rock patches might be difficult to clear during summer due to excessive heat.
d) Nalichi wat - This is one of the strenuous approaches. It involves 4-5 rock patches. The Sun is directly on the head mist of the times. And there is not much cover. This route is for the ones with lot of guts.
e) Kokan Cliff - This is one of the most difficult routes. It involves climbing a concave cliff of nearly 2000 feet in vertical height. Technical rock climbing is involved. This is not attempted frequently.

6:30 AM Bus to Ale Phata
From Shivaji Nagar bus stand in Pune, we took a bus to Ale Phata. The bus reached Ale Phata in nearly two hours. We had snacks on the bus stand by the time, a conveyance was arranged for the further journey. The jeeps can be a headache here as they know the travelers have limited options. The journey from Ale Phata to Khireshwar can take nearly one hour.

11:00 AM Khireshwar
Khireshwar village is situated nearly 5 kms off the road. The road towards Khireshwar is made up of a wall constructed for a dam. After reaching Khireshwar, we ordered our lunch for the next day. The leader decided that it will be better to have lunch once we climb up as the trek was very heavy. We immediately set out for the trek after rearranging the sacks. The initial path is straight, without any tree cover. Then we suddenly hit the tree cover. From this place till Tolar pass, the tree cover is thick. During daytime, sunlight does not touch the ground. And nearby we always have massive rock faces of the hills.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09 Tolar Pass as seen from Khireshwar

2:00 PM On the top
After navigating the rock patches, we were on the top by 2 PM. But alas this was not place where we would halt for the night. Now we had to walk for nearly one hour to reach where we wanted to be. There was green grass on the ground. Several wild flowers made the scene very beautiful. Thick forest cover was all around.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09 The Fortress

There are two approaches from this place to the temple and the caves. One goes via the base of the Balekilla and the other goes through seven hills. There is lot of climb and descend involved in the second approach. Since most of us were tired and were to get tired even more, the leaders took us through the first approach.

The Balekilla is inaccessible today because of stiff approaches from all sides. One can approach it only using rock climbing techniques. We silently walked through the thick tree cover and several flowers and crossing several channels.

3:00 PM Reached the caves (1210 meters)
At last, we reached the caves. The ancient temple complex is seen right in front of the caves. The first sight of the temple is amazing. Why would one build such a temple here? For the time being we must attack the food. After walking for nearly four hours we were to rest for some time. We quickly ate the food we had brought from home. This was a good decision to have food after walking so much. There was not much time left to rest as all of us had to rush to the Kokan cliff before the sunset.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

4:45 PM Kokan cliff
From the caves, we rushed towards the Kokan cliff. This is the Western Most part of the fort. And one has to walk for another half an hour to reach there. Now our stomachs were heavy and feet were dragged with so much of walking.

The cliff is concave. It has a vertical height of nearly 2000 feet. To appreciate the beauty of the cliff, one has to go a little ahead towards Nalichi wat. Immediately after the sunset, we returned to the caved.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09 Kokan Cliff

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

In the night we had the dinner prepared by the restaurant there. We had a camp fire. Finally we slept early.

6:30 AM Started for Taramati peak
In the morning, we had to wake early so that we could climb the Taramati peak. This peak is directly above the caves. It is the highest point on the fort. And it is also amongst the highest peaks in the Sahyadri.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09 Taramati Peak

The upper portion has two approaches. One is straight. It has exposure. The other approach traverses the length of the peak and climbs from the other side. This is easier and safe approach. The top has a flag pole and one Shiva linga carved in a stone. One can see Jeevdhan and Naneghat. After spending some time on the top, we descended back to the caves.

8:00 AM Temple
Since the breakfast was not ready, we decided to visit the temple first. The temple is very old and constructed out of stones. It is situated in the bed of a stream. There are exquisite carvings on the temple. It has different shirines. Just outside the temple, there is a tank. On one side of the tank, there are 9 temples. Just below the temple in the stream bed, there is one cave with a massive Shiva ling.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09 Entire temple complex

After having our breakfast, we started our return journey through Seven Hills. On this route, one has to climb and descend the hills. Again we descended through the rock patches and the Tolar pass. This time, we could appreciate the jungle more.

12:30 PM Back to Khireshwar
We attacked the lunch in batches. Some of us went to see a very old Shiva temple just outside Khireshwar village. Currently the temple lies in ruins. It has very beautiful panels carved on the roof. One modern house is constructed just in front of the temple.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

Just near the temples, there is one cave. The facade of the caves is broken. The huge boulders lie in front of the cave. The cave s filled with mud and dust over the years. The cave has one room carved. Probably this was a place for pilgrims to stay.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

Above the ground, there are some rock pillars with some carvings.

From Trips - Harishchandragad Nov 09

After seeing this beautiful but neglicted heritage, we returned to Khireshwar to catch the vehicle to take us back to Ale Phata.

8:00 PM Back in Pune
On any Sunday evening, it is very dificult to get a public transport towards Pune fro Nashik side. We struggled for some time. Finally we jumped in some bus somehow. Most of our journey was standing. By 8:00 PM we were back in Shivaji Nagar.