Coming from the advertising industry, I never really got an opportunity to indulge in a 9-5 work schedule. I kind of always work (given Mumbai’s hectic work-life), burning either the midnight oil or slogging in the early hours of the day. And if I get lucky (the industry has really made me sarcastic), I even dedicate my weekends to my humble clients. The relief point? It isn’t just me, this is the story of many out there. And as a result, we end up getting exhausted while keeping up with the pace. To take a break from the monotony or the rushed life, people treat themselves with weekend getaways, parties, long drives etc. When it comes to me, I prefer to scale new heights. I prefer to trek the peaks of Maharashtra.
Idea To Visit Karnala Fort
A few weekends ago, I decided to climb up the Karnala Fort, one of the many forts near the urban jungle that is Mumbai and check out this piece of history. A couple of my friends (who dropped down from the city of Dhokla, Surat) tagged along. Since they wanted a pinch of adventure during their visit to Mumbai, I thought what better way than trekking. Given my friends’ sedentary lifestyle, I chose this particular hill because scaling it wasn’t really tough. Avid trekkers like me call it an ‘easy grade’.
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I met my friends near Panvel Station at around 10.30 am. After a quick ‘Hello’, we took a tum tum (a six-eight sitter rickshaw) to reach our destination which was around 13 km from Panvel, located on the Mumbai – Goa National Highway (NH-17). Just to mention, we hired the entire tum tum just for the three of us to add a little comfort on-the-way before a long day’s adventure. We stopped at a restaurant on the way, and gorged on misal pav, vada pav, poha, and masala chai. Yes, we are bhukkads (hungry Indians).
Well to give you a brief background Karnala Fort lies inside what is today the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. It was an important fort in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. The Wiki knowledge says that it has been conquered by prominent rulers dating from the 1200s right until 1818. The Tughlaq rulers, Nizam Shah, Shivaji Maharaj, Aurangzeb, Peshwas and the British have all ruled this fort at one point in time (That’s why I was referring it as a piece of history). This fort was of great strategic importance as it overlooked the Bor Pass which was the main trade route between the Konkan and the Vidharba region during that time. On our way, we saw the fort from the distance and we were determined to conquer the peak.
We reached, bought entry tickets and entered the sanctuary. The sanctuary is said to be home to more than 100 species of birds including rare ones but we spotted none. Instead, we witnessed some caged rabbits, parrots and peacocks at the starting point. After a short walk, we hit the KarnalaFort trail. The trek started with an easy inclination which made us think, we are going to get there in record speed by beating the estimated time of 1.5 hours. But slowly, we came across stretches of steep climbs, slippery moss covered rocks, wild grasses and loose mud. We had climbed for more than 30 minutes and that’s when we came across few enthusiasts climbing down. My friend panting hard curiously asked them, “How much longer to the top?” “You have a long way to go. You guys are not even half-way,” said one of them while they continued downwards. Seeing my friend’s disheartened reaction, I walked up to him and said with an encouraging tone, “Don’t think much. Breathe and move on.”
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Caged beauty at the Bird Sanctuary of Karnala Fort
After climbing for say another 20 minutes, we came to a point where we saw a stream making its way between the rocks while rolling several feet down. We took a halt, took out our camera and went ‘click, click’. My friends enthusiastically washed their faces with the water to kind of feel close to nature. After a little play up we headed further up.
A significant point
An hour of several halts at significant points, overcoming the steep stretches and slipping on the loose mud, we were within sight of the basalt pillar (looks like a thumb) that towered at the fort. Where we reached now was the final point, before climbing the steps of the fort. The greenery around and the site of the sanctuary that we have left several feet down was so mesmerizing that my friends decided to move no further. But how an enthusiastic nerd like me could let that happen. Twenty minutes later, having negotiated some steep steps and one narrow stretch where a slip could mean a fall to 50 feet below, we reached the Fort. Yippee!
The amazing view
The Basalt pillar of the fort was once believed to be a watch-tower. Below that pillar is a water cistern that is believed to have a yearlong supply of freshwater. There are also a few caves to take shelter. We sat down on a restored bit of wall and took in the view. The fort extended on all sides and Panvel stretched out way below in the distance. A strong breeze threatened to push us off the ledge, we held on. Sometimes later we realised, it was time to make a move.
Steps leading to the top
For my friends, it couldn’t have been a better adventure than this. For me, it was ‘yet another height achieved’. Back to sea-level, we came across a NimbuPaanistall. We grabbed one glasses each and raised a toast to the fun-filled day.
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- Start early so you can enjoy longer. If you are lucky, you can even locate some rare species of birds.
- Besides, there are two trails: Karnala Fort Trail and a Nature Trail. If you start early, you can do both.
- Carry sufficient water. Once you start the trek there is no water available.
- Transport isn’t an issue. You can drive down with your vehicle or hire one. You can rely on public transport as well.
- Wear proper trekking or closed shoes. Slippers, floaters are an absolute no.
- As a safety measure, take the contact number of the ticket counter, if possible.
- And the most crucial point, do not litter.