After a sultry summer we rejoiced over the pitter-patter of the raindrops. The summer was a long one and the rains came as a welcome relief. Before long, all our Facebook walls were dotted with photos of various shades of green. All my friends, it seemed, were trekking in various parts of the country. It didn’t take long for us to get struck by wanderlust. Also Read - Mohena Kumari Singh And 6 Family Members Test Positive For COVID-19, All Hospitalised

Kalavantin

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal



Thanks to its location, Mumbai has several monsoon getaways that are just a drive away. A few hours is all it takes for you to put the bustle of the city behind you and soon you are staring at lush green hills and gushing waterfalls. How can you not resist that eh?  One such monsoon getaway from Mumbai is Kalavantin. This dangerously steep mountain with its rock-cut steps without any railings had always intrigued me. The more I read about it the more I was interested in seeing it up close. So when an invitation came along for a trek to Kalavantin Durg and Prabalgad Fort, I grabbed it with both hands. This was my first ever trekking experience and I was nervous, excited and scared, all at the same time. Also Read - 12-Year-Old Noida Girl Books Flight For Three Migrant Workers From Her Savings, Jharkhand CM Thanks Her

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Located around 25 km south of Panvel, Kalavantin Durg (or Kalavantin Fort) is nestled in the Western Ghats and stands at an elevation of 500m. Kalavantin Durg is located at the north end of Prabalmachi or the Prabal Plateau. The peak of Kalavantin is visible from Lion Heads Point in Matheran. Thanks to its elevatiom Kalavanti Durg also offers unrestricted views of the landscape surrounding it. And so you can see the forts of Chanderi, Karnala, Peb and Ershal forts.

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Kalavantin fort can be accessed by the rock-cut steps. These steps have no railings or ropes, making the climb dangerous but exciting. Kalavantin Durg is also known as the ‘Climb to Heaven’. Not much is known about the history of Kalavantin Fort, but according to a legend, the fort was constructed for a queen, whose name was Kalavantin. The more prominent Prabalgad Fort, located at an elevation of 766 meters on Prabalmachi or Prabal plateau, lies to the south of Kalavantin. Prabalmachi has a small village, which is located at the height of 390 meters above sea level and serves as the base camp for the trek to the Prabalgad Fort and Kalavantin Fort.

HISTORY OF PRABALGAD FORT

prabalgad1

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

Prabalgad was built to keep a watch on the forts of Kalyan and Panvel during the Bahmani Sultanate. In 1657, Shivaji captured Prabalgad from the Mughals. During the time of attack a Mughal Sardar, Kesar Singh was governing the fort and he died in the battle. As an act of kindness, Shivaji allowed Singh’s mother and her grandchild to safely return to their village.

HOW TO REACH KALAVANTIN

The journey to Kalavantin Durg started from Panvel at 7am . We took a tum-tum or a six-seater auto rickshaw from Panvel railway station to Thakurvadi, some 25km away. If you are driving down, take the old NH4, Mumbai-Pune highway up to Shedung phata then turn left and reach Vardoli. From Vardoli take right to reach Thakurwadi. You can also take a state transport bus till Shedung phata and from there take a rickshaw to reach Thakurwadi. The winding roads till Thakurwadi will remind you of Goa. From Thakurwadi, you will have to trek to Kalavantin and Prabalgad.

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THE TREK BEGINS

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

We reached Thakurwadi at 7.30 and were welcomed by the amazing view of mountains covered in mist. This view was enough to charge us up and take the first step towards the beautiful mountain. Each one of us carried a bag stuffed with energy bars, glucose drink, snacks and water to keep us refreshed. The slight drizzle only added to the charm of the place. Lazily walking on the road, we soaked in the view and inhaled the crisp clean air saturated with the sweet smell of earth. The sound of rain, the bees and birds whistling at a distance accompanied us. The clouds slowly cleared to give us a glimpse of the beautiful Prabalmachi with many small waterfalls. We decided to reach Kalavantin first and then head to Prabalgad.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

There is small tea stall on this route after which the trail becomes steeper. The well-laid tar road soon changed to rocky trail. We passed two more tea stalls on this route. Even though the trail zigzagged through thick vegetation and was strewn with small rocks, it was not very difficult to walk on. Soon enough, the trail got tougher with bigger stones.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

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After an hour of trekking, we reached the breakfast point. It is located on the lower plateau of Prabalmachi. We filled our water bottles and took a 20-minute break. There is small restaurant where you will get snacks and breakfast. We promptly ate our breakfast and settled down to take in the beautiful sight of the valley and the Prabal plateau. The drifting cloud played hide-and-seek with the mountain and we were part of this game. This plateau is covered in velvety green grass and is great for a picnic. It also offered a stunning view of Kalavantin Durg.

Breakfast point

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

The view of Kalavanti enticed us to resume our trek. We passed a village little ahead of the restaurant. One of the houses had the radio on. The restaurant at the breakfast point was managed by the people in this village. This time the trail got steeper and the trek tougher. The trail got slippery due to the rain and roots of the tree and few rocks were the only things we could hold on to.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

At some tricky places, we had to use our hand to crawl up. We reached to an open space and there only way to move ahead was climbing the rock in front of us. The rock had few depressions and a small crack (no rope or railing). With the help of professional trekkers we climbed the rock by carefully placing one foot after another on the depressions and the crack. The trek does not end here. This is the start of the steps that will lead us to the summit.

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Kalavantin steps

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

Carved into the sides of the mountain, the steps were as impressive as they were dangerous. There are no side railings or rope to hold on. Each step taunted and challenged us. We were forced to use our hand to pull ourselves up the stairs. We climbed each step with utmost precaution and took a break wherever we could find space to stand properly. Also, it is very windy at this height, so we were asked to always hold on to the rocks. The steps vary in height with little twist and turns. These steps will make you wonder about how it was built at a time. The steps have a weathered look but are sturdy. The climb was made difficult with small waterfall cascading from the steps. Thankfully the steps were not covered in moss making it slippery.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

The steps ended with a rough trail ahead. Carefully we walked, judging where to keep our next step, holding on to the side of the mountain. This rocky patch led us to the summit of Kalavanti Durg. One look at the panoramic view and we forgot about the tough climb. The mist covered Prabalmachi next to Kalavantin looked surreal. We climbed on top of Kalavantin fort to get the 180 degree view of the surrounding and were not disappointed by it. We could see Prabalgad, Chanderi and Peb forts and a small part of Matheran. We could also see high rises of the city at a distance. The top most part of the fort has a flag with Shivaji’s face on it. The excitement of reaching the summit is something which cannot be expressed in words.

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

We had some snacks and decided to descend. This is the most challenging part of the trek, descending from the summit. We had to be extra cautious of the slippery route, rocks and stones. After getting down the rock with some depressions, we took a left and were on the narrow trail towards Prabalgad.

Prabalgad2

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

The first thing that we encountered on this route was a secret passage. It is said that the passage leads to Prabalgad Fort but is now closed. The clean cut of the passage on the rock will again make you realise that our ancestors were far more advanced than we realise. The trail became narrower and was interrupted by tiny waterfalls. The water trickled down like a string of pearls which glistened in sunlight. It was a heady feeling when we realised that these waterfalls were the same that we viewed from the base. The trail was made of small and sharp rocks of the mountain.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu

The path is used by experienced trekkers and is not recommended to take this route without a professional. The area is also known for snakes. The rocks on this route were not stable and we had to find our footing before we proceeded. At one point, we had to jump over a gap. This was the scariest part of the trek. Clinging to the mountain side, we moved ahead.

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

After reaching flat area with few streams, we took a break. The sound of small stream trickling down the mountain refreshed us. Some butterflies curiously flew by, a crab peeked from his hole in the mountain and a centipede managed scare few of us. We chatted for a while, inhaled the clear air and prepared for the last leg of the trek: Prabalgad fort. The fort was just an hour away and, although tired, we were excited to reach the summit of the plateau. The route to Prabalgad Fort was again strewn with huge stones. However, after reaching Kalavantin, this trek seemed easy enough.

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Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

What awaited us at the top of the plateau was something that you would see in movies. The flat land covered in grass, with the clouds floating in was magical. The effort, sweat and of course the pain in reaching this place was worth it. Even after trekking for more than half a day, each one of us was thrilled after reaching the summit. The clouds covered us in a fluffy blanket. The tiredness vanished and we were no longer hungry. Some of us just stood there in awe of the natural beauty of the place and some started exploring. We relaxed and soaked in this spectacular view.  Soon it was time to return to base, so we had lunch and prepared to descend. Like earlier, descending was the tricky part.

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

Photograph courtesy: EDAS/Shyamal

We climbed down the rocks and reached the clearing where we took a break. From there we took another route to the base. Through the forest, we walked, climbed down rocks, jumped over some muddy patch, held whenever anybody slipped and reached a flat area. It was bliss to walk on that flat grassy land after walking so long on the rocks. Small streams from the mountain running down the plains amused us. After crossing few small streams, we came upon a slightly bigger stream covered by thick trees.

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

Photograph courtesy: Avinash Bhanu/Creative Commons

The gurgling sound of the stream invited us. We dropped our bags and ran to the stream. Splashing our face with ice cold water of the stream was the exactly what we wanted. We continued to the breakfast point. Reaching this point and looking back at the peak we realised that we covered two beautiful summits in a day. The feeling took a while to sink in. For everyone, this was a major achievement. Leisurely, we strolled down from the breakfast point to the base, Thakurvadi, stealing a look at the peaks now and then. We all had a smile on our face while returning to the base.

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After reaching Thakurvadi, we said our farewells to each other and promised to meet again for another trek. The drive back to Panvel station was in silence, each in their thoughts about the trek. The trek was arranged by a trekking group called EightyDegree Adventure Sports (EDAS). It is a registered adventure company with well trained group of people who love outdoor adventures. These guys believe in keeping the nature clean and leaving only your footprints behind. Call Sharath Raj (+91 8898909062 / +91 8879783890) for more details.

PLACES TO EAT DURING THE TREK TO KALAVANTIN AND PRABALGAD

There are no proper restaurants near the mountains, but you can have snacks/breakfast at a small eatery near Prabalmachi village on the lower plateau of the mountain. There are also few small stalls that serve tea, biscuits, lemonade and chips. You can have proper meal at one of the restaurants that line the Mumbai-Pune express highway.

PLACES TO STAY DURING THE TREK TO KALAVANTIN ANS PRABALGAD

If you are planning for an overnight trek, you can stay in Prabalmachi village where you can rent a room for a night. Call Nilesh (08056186321) for stay and food. Most of the hotels are located on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway.

nature-and-wildlife

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