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Mahuli

Sunday, March 23, 2014


After my last failed attempt in conquering Mahuli Fort, I took a vow that I would be back to conquer it again and so here I am. In my blog about unconquered Mahuli Fort I listed the reason that led to my downfall and so decided not to repeat the same on this trip.

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.

Kintan came up with this plan to conquer Mahuli as he too was eyeing it for the last three years. And as always we spread the word amongst our friends and finally it was just the two of us who originally agreed on it, who ventured out to conquer Mahuli.

We chose the monsoon as the rains has just set in Mumbai and that it would be cooler in Mahuli and that we would not have a problem and heat.

As decided on Whatsapp, I boarded the last local at 0:33 hours local to Kasara from Dadar and Kintan joined me at Mulund Station.
On my way to Mahuli on a foggy morning
Though this was the last train plying on the Kasara line it was comparatively empty in comparison to the last local to Karjat, which is jam packed.

As we crossed Kalyan the weather was quite cool. Though there was no sign of rain and we were enjoying the ride in the train. It was just the two of us in the compartment. All of a sudden Kintan got up from his seat and started turning off the fan switches, when asked he said, “Lets save the Railways some money on the electricity bills” I was impressed. Infact we should all switch off fans when not in use. Now you will ask me why not the lights. We can’t do that as the switch of the lights is located in the motorman’s cabin.

At 2:17 am the train was finally at Asangaon Railway Station. We had planned that we would start trekking in the morning and so we decided to take a short nap on the platform.

There was another group of 3 more trekkers who too came with the intention of conquering Mahuli.

We then roamed on the platform hunting for a place to lay down our sheets for our nap. Most of the best places were already occupied.
Mahuli range in a distance
Finally we got a place. Kintan opened his bag and too my surprise he pulled out a foldable mat and an air blown pillow. I was stunned to see it. As trekkers usually come with sleeping mat and sleeping bags. He at least had that; I didn’t have either but a few sheets of Economic Times.

Wow the big bag accommodates all this, wondering what more surprises come out of it. Reminds me of the magician’s hat.

Now we had 2.5 hours to take a short nap and then head out of the station. As I was about to fall asleep suddenly I heard a noise and it was growing closer and suddenly it honked and in a fraction of a second an outstation train zoomed ahead waking me up.

Never mind that was just one and the last one and I tried to sleep again, when I was attacked by mosquitoes. They were quite irritating so I decided to switch on the Anti Mosquito application on my android phone. To an extent they stopped hovering around me and the effects of the application were short lived and mosquitoes surrounded me again and to top it more and more outstation trains zoomed on either side of the platform making it difficult to sleep. So here I was a nocturnal animal all awake on the station.
Soon Kintan too joined me as he too was not able to sleep. We then decided to walk out of the station to the rickshaw stand. As it was now 4:30 am the crowd was gathering for the first local to arrive at 4:51 for CST. Kintan then inquired with a few locals regarding the rickshaw availability and the cost for the same. We got mixed reactions from the crowd about the rickshaw.

We had tea at an outlet outside the station at the cost of Rs.5 each.
Finally the ladder that takes one atop Mahuli
We finally exited and striked a deal with the rickshaw driver standing there. Rs .250 to take us to Mahuli Temple. The last resort before the Fort. We turned around to see the other group but they had already exited out of the station. So it was just the two of us.

The reason why the cost is so high is because the driver would charge us for the return journey too as he would have to come back empty. We still exercised our option and boarded the rick.
It took us around 30 minutes to reach the Temple. The road was good till Manas Mandir later the condition of the road worsened. It was a bumpy rollercoaster ride. At certain places there was water filled in the road. Kintan had to then check the water level by throwing stones in it and then we moved ahead. The rickshaw driver predicted that it would rain heavily that day. And we were hoping that his predictions turnout to be true.

As we reached the temple we were greeted by the Pujari (Head of the Temple) who asked us if we would like to have some tea. How nice of him to ask us for the same. But as we had, had our tea we started on our journey at 5:55 am.

Mahuli Village is located at a distance of 2 km from the Mahuli Temple.
Kintan and Me atop Mahuli
The temple was full of trekkers who had come the night before and were sleeping in its premises. Good we had not come here earlier or else we wouldn’t get to sleep at all as it was totally congested inside.

There are proper arrows marked on stones so that one doesn’t get lost on the way to Mahuli and religiously followed the arrow marking. A group named Raaje Pratisthan has redone the arrow marking on the trek.

The atmosphere was superb. All cloudy and the peaks covered with dew all over, an amazing site to see.

On the way we were greeted by mosquitoes and other insects that refused to let us go and kept biting us all the way up to the fort. Firstly there was no rain so it was getting hotter; we were sweating and now the insects to add to our agony.

No wind or breeze till we reached half way up. Finally we were greeted by breeze. That was the best feeling so far. We sat down to enjoy the breeze when suddenly the dew started clearing and we could see the pinnacles standing in front of us. Awesome, Truly Awesome.

The climb as steep in certain places full of rocks, loose soil, slippery soil but that didn’t stop us from reaching our summit.

Aeoo Aeoo is the code used by trekkers to communicate with each other as it travels faster the Help and can be easily heard from a distance as per Kintan.


Remnants on the fort
We kept motivating ourselves and took our time to climb up the fort; we crossed three small hill ranges to reach Mahuli. Finally at 8:55 hours after three hours of climbing we were at the ladder that lets us climb up the walls of the fort.

Though the weather was dewy there was not a drop of rain, but the soil was still moist.

We had a few foto sessions and then headed off atop a cliff to have our breakfast in the form of chakklis and biscuits. From atop there we could not see any other hill range nor the valley below because the dew was so strong. It looked like we were walking in the clouds.

The dew droplets accumulated on the green grass was lovely and very refreshing to our eyes. I am guessing that it might have hardly rained and the fort and its surrounding were green all over. In my unconquered trip the grass had turned to hay, golden hay all around. What a shift. Amazing.

Now we had decided that we could descend the fort at 1:00 pm and we had three hours to see the fort in entirety.

Without wasting any time we finished our breakfast and started on our mission. There is very little fortification on the fort. Only near the ladder entrance can we see the fortification.

There are many paths here which can be walked upon to see the fort.
Remnants
We were the first atop the fort that day. There was a water body there filled with water. It had two XX marks near it. Kintan then educated me that, it means that the water is not portable. It is denoted by either a XX sign or a skull and two bones. Danger sign.

We then followed the path and it went straight down and let us to a tree which had a shiv ling places next to it. It had a few caves there and led us to the entrance of the fort via the Kalyan Darwaza.

Kalyan Darwaza had steps all the way up to the fort from the base but it was bombarded by the British and so this way is not access able. But there are a few professional trekkers who come up via this route.

There are a few inscriptions carved on huge stone blocks lying there.

As the Kalyan Darwaza is not access able by all hence alternative route via the ladder was designed to enter the fort. No idea as to who built the metal ladder there. A big thank you to him for the same.

After viewing the ruins and we headed off on the path not knowing where it leads too. We kept walking on it for around 30 minutes. The path was leading somewhere, none of us knew where. The place was a jungle and a good location for shooting spooky films. As we were not heading anywhere we decided to return back. On the way we met some locals there. Around four of them. They were equipped with Catapults’ the moment they saw us approaching the started hiding it. I guess they are up to something I told Kintan. Maybe hunting for birds there. This place is full of exotic birds, flowers and insects. After inquiring with them they told us that this way led to Palasgad. One of the three forts atop here.

They told us that no trekker visits this place as there is nothing to see there, neither fortification nor any ruins.


Steep climb on the way to Palasgad.
But we could view it from where we were standing and decided to head back to the Kalyan Darwaza.

Now we were not alone on the hill. Instead of the rain pouring in people were pouring in. Kintan told me that atleast three trekking groups are planning a trip to Mahuli today so he estimated around 60 other people on the hilltop.

After a few inquiries with the other trekkers we followed another path that would lead us to Bandargad. They told us that if would take us around 45 minutes to reach the end of this hill and from there is a ladder to climb the other hill.

I guess this path is not used much by trekkers as we were the only ones on this path. We saw a few broken structures on the way. Huge stone blocks that had arrows other inscriptions on them. We walked on the path and finally reached the end of Mahuli and saw another hill there. Both the hills were joined by a piece of land and had valleys adjoining them.

A thin path lead to the other cliff. A small rickety staircase and then some rock climbing skills would take you up the fort. As both of us were bad at rock climbing we decided to sit and view it.

A little latter some locals came there equipped with catapults’ hunting for birds. We inquired with them and they told us that, it is the only way to go up the fort. Plus there is another way from the valley up to both the forts but that is used by the villagers as the climb is too difficult.

The villagers told us that atop Bandargad is located another Kalyan Darwaza and some broken monuments. God alone knows how much of it is true.

As we were about to leave we saw three locals atop Bandargad with huge sacks on their head. We were wondering how they would get down with that weight on their head. So we waited, after noticing no movement from there we headed off to the ladder at the entrance to have our lunch as we had to descend at 1:00 pm.

We had lunch in the form of dhokala with chutney and ketchup as add-ons along with chakklis and water to digest it all down.

We had ample water supply with us today, as both of us had carried two litres each, we were left with 2 litres to go.

Now Mahuli was getting packed with trekkers. There were around 100+ trekkers atop the fort. One of the trekking groups had come with 60 trekkers. Out of which some were atop and some far below. Wondering when the guys below would reach the top.

The return journey made me a little bit uneasy as the valleys were scaring me to the core making it difficult for me to trek down, Kintan was there to guide me down the hill and in two hours time we were down at the base.

We refreshed ourselves by bathing in a small stream and then headed off to have a chilled bottle of cold drink to quench our thirst followed by Poha.

We had walked for 9 hours in a row and our knees had suffered from the beating.

There is a refreshment store near the temple; we finally shared a mini man to get a ride to Asangaon station at 100 bucks on our heads.

Finally in 30 minutes time we were at Asangaon station for the 4:00 pm train only to find the train arrive at 4:15 pm. We got window seats.

We finally managed to conquer Mahuli and its neighbouring forts being Bandargad and Palasgad. Three for the price of one. Eeeeeehaaaaa.

We had a great time in Rs.275 per head.

Damages in the form of leg pains I will know tomorrow


What Next?

2 comments:

Siddharth Kaushik said...

I have been to this part of Maharashtra but never got a chance to trek at Mahuli Fort. Thanks for share this blog, Merwyn. I will surely check it out in my next visit. Keep posting because I had a great time reading your this post.

Merwyn Rodrigues said...

siddharth Kaushik: this is a good place to trek, lot more to come so do stay tuned

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