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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trek to Prabalgad & Kalavantindurg....

The word ‘
Prabal’ comes from the ‘Devnagari’ script which means strong. It means strenuous, vehement, an intense desire to achieve a target, marked by great energy or exertion, and boy…….Didn’t we all experience that or what?  In this trek to ‘Prabalgad and Kalavantindurg’ the two beautiful peaks located in ‘Shedung’ village in Raigad district, some 14 kms from Panvel ST Stand which is on NH4 in Maharashtra.

Prabalgad from Prabalmachi

As the name of the fort goes it was a real test of our desire to complete the challenge of reaching at least one of the peaks as 5 months back in June 2011 we had made an effort to reach the top in a single day but in vain. We could only manage to reach the plateau which is a village place called ‘Prabalmachi’ around 1500 ft above sea level, with some 8 to 10 houses of the natives. Back in the monsoon the forests were dense enough for us to get lost and a day trek proved too short for us to make it to the top.
It was 27th November 2011, and this time we had targeted both peaks. So we had decided to meet at the Panvel ST Stand at 7.30 a.m. but managed to do so at 9.00 a.m., about 1.5 hrs behind schedule.  One can get State Transport (ST) buses from Dadar T T which drop you to Panvel in 50 minutes for a sum of 25 odd rupees. There are trains also but the first train from Andheri Station is at 7.30 am so we thought ST Bus was a better option for some of my friends who were travelling from western suburbs of Mumbai. I was with one of my friends from Dombivli and we took an ST Bus to reach Panvel ST Stand by 8.30 a.m. We had a friend staying in Khandeshwar, just one Station from Panvel Railway Station so we used his home to freshen up. But if you don’t have such option then Panvel ST stand or restaurants nearby can be the best place for a washroom break as from here on there are no options.
The Journey to the Base Village Thakurwadi’

From the ST Stand a one minute walk towards pune got us to the 6 seater rickshaw stand where we booked a 6 seater to reach the base village Thakurwadi for a sum of 600 Rs for a to and fro trip. There is also an option of taking 10 Rs per seat in the rickshaw till Shedung junction, where NH4 and Panvel Bypass roads meet. But it is advisable for trekkers to go till the base village Thakurwadi which is a good 5 kms from Shedung Junction.

Route from Panvel St Stand to Base village 

 At 9.15 a.m. we started this journey around Panvel on NH4, a mostly commercialized area. Here we gulped in some bananas that we had bought at the stand for some quick energy. Soon our rickshaw reached the Shedung Phata, from where it took a left leaving NH4 and on the village road moving along the green fields, small shops, huts, bungalows. We spotted many cattle grazing in the sun and local kids running around the single road. Soon we reached a couple of very beautiful monument like buildings with lovely architecture, two cone shaped structures one a house and other a temple, the house with a name plate that read ‘The Khanna House’ …

Just as we passed these two structures we could see the two peaks clearly in the sun. I tried to get a glimpse of those on my binoculars, but couldn’t manage much with a 20X lens from that distance. As we got closer and closer the excitement and enthusiasm was getting higher and higher.

  At about 9.40 a.m., the rickshaw dropped us to the base at the gate which read ‘Private Road of Dharap Associates.’

The Trek   
 At 9.45 a.m. we started out trek, beginning on a tar road claimed as a private one by Dharap Associates, which gradually builds altitude as you walk. 

Here we came across leftover of many lizards and frogs. The peaks were now clearly visible to us from here due to the bright sunlight and absolutely no clouds at all.

We took our ritual photo that we take on every trek, pointing at the peak from the base, a sort of tradition of our trek group and set ourselves for this wonderful trek.

About 20 minutes of walk on the road and it started getting narrower. The limit of the maintained road had now finished and we were getting the feel of the terrain with ups and downs little stumbles here and there. The grass was very dry in this winter and very small movements made such sounds that gave us a weird feeling of something present around us. You are alone, only with few of your friends, in the silent sun, at a place never visited before. The anxiety that builds in, the fear that the mind wants to experience, wants to enjoy. That is exhilarating stuff.  

But the ones which we could actually see following us were the beautifully coloured butterflies all along our path.  I tried a lot to capture one of those in my still camera but in vain all times.

At this point we reached a Hume pipe passing through the road. It wasn’t an ordinary pipe. It had a message written on it which was to be a start of a great saga of love; the love of Manisha and Laxman with quotes all along the trail. It was apparent from the first written quote that Manisha had betrayed Laxman and we discovered this all along the path where he had written those sad messages in grief and despair.
 All in all the beautiful encounters with butterflies, not so beautiful salamanders and the twist in the love story of Manisha and Laxman kept us going. But after a few minutes we realized that it was going to be a tough one as not a place till now was covered by any shadow whatsoever.

 So it was natural that some of us started reaching for the water bottles in our bags. There were times in between where we stopped once we found a shadow place and also clicked some photos.  The peaks were getting closer and now started looking real big.  Again came out the binoculars from my bag, but this time I caught a good sight of the top in that amazingly silent world, with only little chirps of birds and noises of insects in the background.By this time the sun was taking a heavy toll on us and we couldn’t help ourselves but drink a bit of water to get ourselves going.

 After nearly two hours of walk, at about 11.30 a.m. we reached a flat rocky patch of about 15 ft high which was a very breezy spot and had a scenic view of the fields and the trail that we left behind us. So the next thing we do, we put our cameras on work.


Here again on the rocks the love story continued to live. From this place we reached the temple of Lord Ganesha and  Lord Hanuman, both idols carved on a rock with vermilion patched up on it. There was an interesting lamp inside a rock placed in a direction opposite to that of the breeze so as to keep it lit.

 It was noon and we realized that we were way behind schedule so we decided to fasten our speed and reduce the number of halts for 
photos and other breaks. But the beautiful view of the fields behind us made us stop again and again.  Spirally upwards along the rock on which the temple is carved we reached a place developed as a waiting spot with tile and brickwork. It had good view but unfortunately it doesn’t have any shade.

   Here we met fellow trekkers who were returning from the trail and got an understanding of how difficult and distant things were from us at that moment in time. Though we had targeted to visit both peaks on a single day, but unfortunately we had started the trek late and the dry sunny atmosphere unlike the Novembers of the past, wasn’t helping us. By now we had realized that we may not be able to complete both peaks in one day. 

Further from here we reached a place where there was water accumulated and splashed some of it on our faces.  Just a few minutes of transcend from here and we reached our first real target of the ‘Prabalmachi’ plateau, which opened up as a huge flat ground. This is a small village place with about 10 households and small farm fields with protective fencing around those.

  As we had finished most of our water till here, we started looking for homes to refill out bottles with water. Surprisingly we found a board reading ‘Vaibhav General Stores’ and rushed to the direction of the arrow on that board.

But eventually found only a small Hut which was meant to be the stores. Nevertheless, we asked for bottled water and learned it wasn’t available. Then with the normal water that the man at the hut had asked his wife and kid to fill, we put down as much as we could down our dry throats and carried a few bottles filled. There was a washroom place available here and some of us took the break. Meanwhile, I along with my couple of friends started getting information about the 2 peaks its history and significance.

Prabalgad was a watch fort he said, built by the Mughals and conquered by Shivaji Maharaj in mid of the 17th Century, after establishing his powers in the Kalyan-Bhiwandi area. When Shivaji attacked the Fort, the Mughal Sardar and fort Chief Kesar Singh forced himself and the ladies in the Fort to commit suicide in order to save themselves from the Marathas. However, his mother along with her grandchild hid inside the Fort, fearing Shivaji, but not willing to die. Shivaji, known for his greatness, sent them to their village with true respect and dignity on finding them hidden. It is strategically located in a position from where you get a panoramic view of Haji Malang fort, Karnala fort, Irshalgad and Matheran all around different directions. As per the native, the Matheran plateau is a 3 hrs roller coaster walk along 2 hills from Prabalgad
For our options he said Kalavantindurg would take us an hour or so more to reach and Prabalgad would take a couple as the fort is very big and takes time to visit the various points on it.

It was 12.30 p.m. already so we decided unanimously to stick to one peak and that was Kalavantindurg.

We left the stores and offered him a few bucks which he refused to take astounded by the idea of charging someone for water. But his hospitality and helping nature made us feel that we should pay him a small sum, which we did.
The Kalavantindurg

The way from Prabalmachi to the durg is through the local school which has a water tank, but we couldn’t get any water there.
Prabalmachi School

The climb upwards is steep and gets steeper as you rise. There are lot of smaller stones and loose soil here which increase the chance of skidding. But the good thing is that, it is covered with trees that give a shade and shrubs with strong roots of which one can take support while climbing.  One of our team members had by now started crumbling as she had twisted her ankle a couple of times earlier and was making serious efforts to move forward. She was in a good company of friends who were motivating her and skillfully helping her on her way up. But at the base point of that last rocky pinnacle we made a rational decision of asking her to wait and take rest, as the rest of us finish the remaining part. We left our bags and food with her making ourselves lighter.
The Durg has nicely made steps about 1 ft in breadth and 4 ft wide but no supports or railing around. The native had told us that the railing support work was to begin in 15 days time and we saw the bolts fixed inside the rocks as a confirmation of that fact. But without the railing it’s more fun and the view is thrilling from that height.

 On those curved steps it only took us 20 minutes to reach a spot where one can freely move and relax. We thought we had reached the top, but it wasn’t over yet. Soon we realized that there was a way up as we could still see a rock at the top. 

I started looking for a way to climb and found one and finally reached the topmost point of the peak where there was supposed to be the flag, but it wasn’t there at that time unfortunately.  

Top most point on Kalavantindurg

Soon I was joined by my other friends and we had a ball in this windy place, looking straight up in the blue sky with the clouds which appeared as fine as cotton and in articulated shapes too. This moment really deserved a capture and we stood on the stone to take pictures on the highest point on the Durg. I also recorded a video of the panoramic view where we could see the Karnala Fort in the South-West direction, the Haji Malang Fort in the North,   Prabalgad in near South, Irshalgad in South-East and Beautiful Matheran Hills towards the East. What a view!!!It is really a trekker’s paradise.

 This point was some 1,750 ft. above mean sea level and talking of levels so were our adrenalin levels - high and pumping. The excitement made us yell, shout out, expressing the freedom and the thrill of making it to the top.

 A few more minutes of freaking out we realized that it was 2.30 p. m. already and we still had to stop for lunch plus a 2.5 hrs of journey back to the base.
So we decided to start our descend. Our first target was to reach the base of the rock where our friend was waiting for us. Climbing maybe physically tiring, but is mentally easier than descending down, as during descending one keeps looking into the deep valleys time and again.

One has to be careful as the wind really picks up suddenly out of the blue, in between challenging your balance and hence at some twists and turns, you have to literally crawl. This was in November so we could get a good grip of the rock, must be really dicey in the monsoon.
Within 20 minutes we reached the base point of the rocky pinnacle, quickly gathered ourselves with our bags and moved faster to the village where we had initially decided to stop for lunch. We refilled our water bottles yet again and left the village on our way downwards to a place which had a small water source, where we broke for lunch. 
Most of us weren’t hungry at all, but we had a good ground to make so we gobbled the light food that we were carrying. After a 15-20 minutes lunch break we lied flat on the rocks looking into the sky soothing ourselves. The hard rocks felt like cushion to our strained muscles and we had thoughts of staying back. But we had to go and got ourselves up and moved faster to a nonstop walk through the remaining slightly easier part of the trek. It was 4.30 p.m. and I called the 6 seater rickshaw driver as we had decided earlier. We were facing westwards and saw the sun was on the way to set.

 This part of every one day trek is a race between the sun and you, as it starts to set and you try to make way out before it gets dark. It certainly helps as it gets cooler but it also gets darker at the same time.

At about 6.00 p.m. we reached the Dharap road when I got a call from the rickshaw driver who had reached the base village Thakurwadi. 15 minutes more and we reached the base point where the Auto had left us in the morning. All our muscles were put to some real hard work on this day.  Without wasting much time we got into the auto which was to drop us to Panvel ST Stand.

 I managed to catch the sight of the peak which we visited and all of sudden realized that all colors had become darker………..the bodies were tired.


 But the minds not quite, yet freshly filled with an experience of its kind. We thought we would do both peaks last time and didn’t manage even one in a day. We thought we would do both this time but could only manage one. So that’s the some progress for us.

All in all I have read and heard people say that ‘In our life the path to reach the top is often more difficult than we think ……’ this is the biggest take-away for me from this trek, an experience I will always treasure….…
At a Glance
Trek – Kalavantindurg & Prabalgad
Height above mean sea level – 1750 ft for Kalavantindurg & 2240 ft for Prabalgad
Base Village – Thakurwadi
Plateau in the way- Prabalmachi 1500ft above mean sea level
Transport- Dadar T.T. to Panvel ST Stand by bus, Panvel ST Stand to Base village Thakurwadi by 6 Seater Rickshaw
Time to reach the top :
From Base till Prabalmachi Plateau – 2 hrs
From Prabalmachi to Kalavantindurg – 1 hr
From Prabalmachi to Prabalgad- 2 hrs (as per the natives)
Shelter – Homes, water and food on order available at Prabalmachi

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