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Unconquered Mahuli Fort Trek

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mahuli fort is around 2815 ft above sea level. It is located at Asangaon, around 91 km from Mumbai on the Central Railway Line on the Kasara side. This is the highest point in the Thane District. The forest around Mahuli Fort is a Sanctuary.  Alternatively by road, it is on the Mumbai-Nashik Highway. Manas Mandir is located very close to Mahuli Base Village.


I had been to Mahuli on two occasions, five years ago. But at that time, I had neither a blog nor a camera. So I decided to climb the fort again for the sake of my blog.
Not much is known about this fort other than the fact that it was ruled by many a Kings.
Mahuli was a difficult fort to trek up, compared to the other forts under my belt. I had been there twice, once in the winter and the second time in the rains. The first time, we had landed atop the fort, the second time on a hill range near the fort.
Bread Pakoda - our breakfast
I had spread the word about my Mahuli plans among my trekking buddies, but no one volunteered to join me. Then Dominic, a colleague of mine, agreed to come along on the trek.

We boarded the Asangaon local train from Dadar on the Central Railway Line at 6:28 am. It reached Asangaon at 8:14 am, as per schedule. 
Alighting at Asangaon, we decided to have some snacks there as we had not had our breakfast. Outside the station, there were a few hotels serving fast foods, omelettes and tea. We had bread pakoda and special tea at the hotel. Bread pakoda is a dish made up of two slices of bread which are stuffed with a mixture of potato, turmeric and chillies cooked together. The pakoda is then dipped into a gram flour batter and deep-fried in hot oil. Eat it when it is hot and you are in for a treat. 
Special tea is another name for tea which is flavored with ginger and a special tea masala.
After having a heavy breakfast, we bought some bananas, tomatoes and cucumber — handy and nutritious food for a trek. 
Polka dotted Oxen
We again headed back to the railways, crossed the bridge (highway) on the way to Kasara, turned left and started on the trek. There are proper directions to Mahuli village.

On the way to the village is the Manas Mandir, a famous temple in this area. Thanks to the temple, the roads have been treated with a coat of tar and vehicles ply on them.
There is an ST bus which takes you to Mahuli base village but the frequency of this bus is pretty bad. I guess it plies just three times a day. The first bus is at 7:15 am from Asangaon station to Mahuli village; the ticket is priced at Rs 7. Alternatively there are rickshaws that take you to the village at a charge of Rs 200 to and fro. 
Many trekkers leave for Mahuli at night by the last train to Kasara and then board the first bus or rickshaw to Mahuli village.
The roads are good as far as the diversion of Manas mandir. From thereon, they worsen and become dangerously narrow all the way to Mahuli base village.


Miniature Waterfall
We walked to the village instead of taking a rickshaw or bus. It took us around two hours and we got there only at 11:00 am. This was the first time that the villagers had guided us properly as to how much time we would take to walk to the village.
On the way to the village, the view of the pinnacles of Mahuli was truly amazing. One of the pinnacles looked like the face of a woman. Dominic insisted it was my imagination.
We saw a number of streams along the way. We took some good shots of the streams, of the dragonflies flying about and some flowers. Once again I didn’t know the names of the flowers. I think it is high time I started taking an interest in flowers so as to provide some details.
 I also noticed a couple of polka dotted oxen on the way. The bodies of the oxen were painted with pink, blue and green dots. The caretaker of the oxen said he had painted them just like that, for no particular reason.
Finally after walking on the dusty roads beyond Manas mandir, we finally reached Mahuli base village. We rested there for some time and then headed off to see the fort.


Mahuli in a distance
On the way to the fort we first came across Mahuli village, and then came up to Mahuli temple, 10 minutes later.
Vilas Thackeray has a small tea shop which supplies light snacks, tea and cold drinks. This is the only food stall there. Vilas will also guide you on the way up via his phone. We took instructions from him but later on failed to read the arrow indicators on the rocks below and travelled in the wilderness for two hours.
Everything around us in the jungle appeared to be the same. Soon we realized that we were heading nowhere. What to do was the question? Should we head back to Mahuli temple? Or keep going along this way? I convinced Dominic to head back to the village.
Finally we headed back to meet Vilas and had a few cold drinks there. Now be warned. His prices his goods higher than the MRP, but he gets away with it as he is the only one doing business there. Consumers have no choice but to give in to his demands.
Guys, please confirm the bus timings to Asangaon. There are three buses that leave for Asangaon from here, at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Rickshaws charge you around Rs 200.


Manas Mandir
If you alight here in the middle of the night, Vilas can make arrangements for the return journey to Asangaon but the costs would be exorbitant. So please keep the deadline in mind when climbing the fort.
 Once again, we began to climb, based on Vilas’ instructions, this time reading the arrow marks on the rocks below our feet. The climb got steeper as we headed up the hills. The sun too was getting piercingly hotter.
 We had to take a number of breaks because of the heat. Worse, there was no breeze around. Everything was still. It was a bad situation.


Mahuli Temple at the Base
This took its toll on me. My lips turned white, my throat dry, and no saliva in my mouth. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. And then suddenly...
Blackout!
 My legs gave way. I prayed, "Oh God, please don’t let me down on the hills. If you can’t help me reach the top, at least help me get down.” 
The place where I was stranded was very close to the Entrance to the Fort that too via an Old Metal rusted ladder from where one entered Mahuli. So close yet so far. 
I was seriously dehydrated. I rested in the wilderness for an hour, lying there as if paralysed. 
Dominic had brought a mat along. I have gone on numerous treks. Never had I thought of carrying a mat along. This was new to me. Later I rested on his mat, until I felt better. We then decided to head back to the base as it was around 4:00 pm. We had to get down or else we would be stuck in the middle.


Miniature Fort replica created by children
Finally at 6:00 pm, we were back at the hotel. We had refreshments there and waited for the bus to Asangaon station. The bus arrived after a delay of 15 minutes. It was not headed to Asangaon station but to Shahapur, so we had to get off at the highway and make our way to the station. 
We passed many houses along the way. Since it was Diwali, most of the houses that we passed had made small replicas of forts. The forts were beautifully done and had small statues of prominent characters positioned on them. We clicked a few photos and headed to Asangaon Station.
 In the train, we spoke about the factors that had prevented us from conquering Mahuli. The following led to our downfall:
1. We should have taken the night train to Asangaon instead of the morning train.
2. We should have taken a rickshaw to Mahuli temple instead of walking.
3. We should have read the arrow signs instead of just loitering in the wilderness.
4. We should have climbed early in the morning instead of climbing in the afternoon.
5. According to Dominic, will power is all that was needed for us to do this. Somehow I lacked will power on this trek.
Disappointed with how the day had panned out, I promised myself that I would return and succeeded in trekking up Mahuli fort.


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4 comments:

Laxman said...

Your observation points are good.
Next time that will help you.
Good keep it up.

Hema s.v said...

nicely explained as well as guided. Keep on writing blogs.

Merwyn Rodrigues said...

Thanks Hema

Prabhudesai Ss said...

It's a different flavor of trekking blog. Overall nice ....

You have pinned the aspects which may have had resulted in the failed trek.

However , one observation from our group is worth mentioning... A trek which gets seamlessly executed as per plan becomes just another trek which feds in memory in a year or two. ..... It takes a trek where you slog ruthlessly to make it to a memorable trek. :)

So great going.... Keep trekking and blogging.

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