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Karnala Fort Trek

Monday, November 28, 2011

My colleagues and I, along with some former colleagues, planned to see Karnala Fort.

Karnala Fort is located at a distance of 55 km from Mumbai in Panvel at the base of Karnala Bird Sanctuary.

We decided to go by train to Panvel and from there board an ST bus to the fort.
Group Photo, starting from right Vickas, Porus, Viren, Lennart, Inder and Me
We boarded the 6:44 am local at Andheri and alighted at Wadala junction on the Harbour Line. From there we boarded another connecting train to Panvel. After 2½ hours, we reached Panvel station, where we waited for1½ hour for Vikas, a colleague who lives just 30 minutes away from Panvel. He finally showed up without a rucksack. We politely told him that it was a trek and he had to bring water and snacks.

There was more waiting to be done. At the ST bus depot, we waited for 30 minutes for the bus. These buses are usually crowded so one must cooperate with the locals in the bus. As there are no direct buses to Karnala Fort, one needs to board a bus going to Pen, Alibag or Roha to reach Karnala.

Always check with the bus conductor if the bus will be halting at Karnala. Rickshaws will also take you there, but they will bore a huge hole in your pocket, so the ST bus is preferable. Thirty minutes later, we were at the entrance of Karnala Bird Sanctuary.
Map of the Karnala Bird Sanctuary
A light rain began, and stayed until we reached the top. Unfortunately, we could not catch sight of any birds. The rain had sent them hurrying for cover. We did spot a few caged birds and rabbits though. Later we decided to take the rocky path to Karnala Fort.

Now the climb was getting steep and we were getting tired. We could not make out the scenery on the way up as it was raining heavily. The entire area was covered with fog so thick that you could not see a person standing 10 feet away.

When we reached the entrance of the fort, we could not make out anything because of the fog. After some time the fog started clearing out and we were able to see the most breathtaking view. We felt as though we were walking in the clouds.
The pinnacle in the Fog
The fort was very small and the entrance was via a steep staircase with a shaky metal railing on the left-hand side. We were afraid but we still climbed up.

Strangely, it took us 2 hours to reach the fort, 45 minutes to see it, and 1½ hour to return to the entrance of Karnala.

Viren, one of my colleagues, had brought a packet of Maggi Noodles along. But the heavy rains prevented us from cooking and we had to make do with the dry snacks which we had carried. 
Other trekking groups atop the Fort
Atop the fort there is a pinnacle which is inaccessible to the general public. Only those who possess mountain climbing skills are allowed there. There are a few houses there and a number of water tanks. The place is also home to monkeys who wait for an opportunity to steal your food.

The view, from up here, is amazing. I was glad to see plenty of trekkers who had come there to spend a day at the fort. Sadly I could not get a glimpse of any cannons there. :(

We finally decided to make our way down. What goes up has to come down. The climb looked easy but the descent would not be so.
Caves and Water tanks
The staircase was steep so we came down as slowly as we could. This was the most difficult part of the journey. The rest was a walk in the park in comparison. By 3:00 pm, we were at the entrance of Karnala. From there, we boarded a tum tum to Panvel station.
Monkeys atop the fort
The tum tum driver insisted on charging us Rs 100 per person. Since we were six of us, it would have taken the damages to Rs 600. Hearing his demand, Viren refused. The driver immediately agreed to accept Rs 100 for the six of us. After this, I learned to respect Viren’s bargaining skills.

We then boarded a train to Andheri and headed home.

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Chinchoti Waterfall in Vasai (E)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It was Hithakshi who suggested that we visit Chinchoti Waterfalls in Vasai. I checked out the place on the Internet and decided that a one-day trip to the place may prove to be a good outing. 

The blogs I had checked had warned that the approach roads were rather rough. One wrong move and you are bound to get lost in the forest hills, they had said. And that is exactly what happened to us. Read on to find out more about our lost expedition.

I circulated an email among my colleagues, hoping to drum up some enthusiasm for the trip. Only 3 people, including me, volunteered to go. The others backed out, fearing the heavy rains.
Group Photo, From Left: Vijay, Sanjay, Ashutosh, Me, Hithakshi and Urvashi
We planned to board the 6:23 am train from Andheri to Vasai and hire a rickshaw there to take us to the base village from where we were supposed to trek up to the top.

Later Hithakshi called me to say that it would be better if we trekked from Naigaon instead of Vasai, and we modified the plan accordingly. Ashutosh and I were supposed to board the train at Andheri and Hithakshi was to board at Bhayandar, two stops before Naigoan.

It turned out that our tribe was increasing. Ashutosh said that three others would be joining us on this trip, namely, Sanjay from Bandra, Vijay from Goregaon and Urvashi from Borivali.
Water gushing down the waterfall
Ashutosh and I waited on platform No 1 at Andheri station as we thought that the train was a slow train. The 6:20 am train had just left and the 6:29 am train was expected. We wondered if the 6:23 am train had been cancelled.

My sixth sense told me to check the indicator and to my surprise the 6:23 am train to Virar was expected to arrive on platform No 4. We raced up the foot overbridge and were lucky to reach the platform just as the train pulled in.

Our predicament seemed to set the stage for a day of unusual excitement. At Goregaon, Vijay was supposed to board the train. Sanjay was already in the train in another compartment.
From Left: Ashutosh, Vijay and Sanjay on the rocks
Vijay made the same assumption that we did, and waited on Platform no 1 for the train. When the train arrived on platform no 3, Ashutosh yelled out to him and I watched horrified as Vijay crossed the tracks to board the train. That was a most unwise thing to do. Vijay was very lucky as there was no train passing by as he rushed to board the train. My dear readers, I plead with you. ALWAYS use the foot overbridge. NEVER cross the tracks as it can kill you.

Meanwhile, Sanjay, who had made a few phone calls to Ashutosh and Vijay, misunderstood the plan and got down at Goregaon to board the train. He ended up arriving two trains later, after we alighted at Naigaon.

Urvashi boarded the train at Borivali without any confusion, followed by Hithakshi who boarded at Bhayandar.
From Right: Urvashi, Hithakshi and Me on the rocks
It was around 8 am by this time and raining heavily. The platform was deserted. We marched off to the east side of the station to hire a rickshaw to Chinchoti Waterfalls. At the rickshaw stand, the drivers warned us not to go to the falls, as it had been raining very heavily and many areas there were submerged under water. They advised us to cancel our plans and go home.

Having gone through so much trouble to get here, none of us were in the mood to return. A rickshaw driver volunteered to take us there for a price of Rs 15 per seat to which we readily agreed.

Six of us, one driver and one small rickshaw, capable of carrying three passengers. The six of us, however, managed to squeeze in.Wonder how? Read on...Ashutosh, Urvashi, Hithakshi and Vijay sat on the back seat. Sanjay and I sat on either side of the driver on the edge of the seat. I can still remember the pain of managing my weight on that thin edge of the seat. Sitting in that cramped position for around 30 minutes, we were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached. On the way, we could see less of land and more of water, thanks to the rains. Schools and houses were flooded.
Scenic view
Near the Bhiwandi highway, the driver announced that he would go no further as the highway was flooded with vehicles. We alighted there and began trekking towards the waterfall.

We had some tea at a tapri, a small corner joint next to the highway, where Ashutosh served us his Complan biscuits. We had never heard of Complan biscuits before and we ate them unenthusiastically, not knowing when we would be able to eat our next meal.

It was so cold here that Hithakshi could actually see vapour coming out of my mouth when I spoke, and the droplets of rain on my head looked like snowflakes from a distance.
Another scenic view
After taking directions from the locals, we decided to continue on our journey in search of Chinchoti Waterfalls. We walked for about 1½ hour to the base village.

The village was totally green in colour. Some parts of it were submerged under water. It was beautiful but I could not click photographs because of the heavy rains. :(

The flow of the water was very strong as it was coming down the mountains. Again the villagers warned us to go home. But we refused to pay heed and went ahead anyway.
Water from the Waterfall in the Village
We walked on, without directions, and got lost. We started walking through paddy fields in knee-deep muddy water. My suede trekking shoes were thoroughly soaked. On seeing us in the distance tramping through their fields, the farmers came rushing towards us, furious.

I felt sorry for them but the damage done by us out of our ignorance could not be undone. They shouted at us and we apologised. Later they showed us the way to the waterfalls.

The way up was via a stream coming down the hill. Once again we had to wade through ankle-deep water.
One more scenic view
After losing our way more than once, we asked another group of trekkers for directions and were finally put on the right track.

We could hear the water gushing down the rocks towards the left but could not see it due to the thick green cover. Suddenly we saw the water gushing down madly. I slipped and was about to go down. Fortunately, Vijay, who was right behind me, pulled me up just in time.

Worse, I slipped at the very same place on our way back from the waterfall.

We stopped for a while in the water to relax and recoup our energies. We managed to stay afloat amid the rocks, but we could feel the pressure of the water rising. I could see the water coming down from the hillside dashing against the rocks. It would be foolhardy to stay in the water any longer. Having regained our strength, we decided to return to the village.

By the time we reached the base village, it had stopped raining. So I took out my camera and began shooting.

We then boarded a rickshaw to Naigaon station, and took a train to Bhayandar station where we got off to have our lunch. We ate to our hearts’ content and then dispersed.

Tungareshwar is also located in the same hill range.

Other waterfalls I have visited are Jawahar- Dabhosa Waterfall, Zenith Waterfall, Kalote Waterfall. 

Chota Kashmir and OP Lake in Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai (Goregaon East)

Monday, November 21, 2011

One gets so used to the idea of exploring distant places that one forgets that often there are gems to be seen in our own backyard, namely Mumbai. It was with the intention of exploring our own city that Shailesh, a friend and former colleague, and I decided to set aside a day for the same.

We decided to visit Nalgiri Niwara Parishad, a hillock behind the Dindoshi Bus Depot in Goregaon (E). Neither of us had been there before.

We planned to meet at around 9 am at the bus depot. As always I was on time. Shailesh showed up 20 minutes later.
View of OP Lake
We boarded a BEST bus and bought a travel-all-you-can-in-a-day ticket for Rs 25. This ticket is valid until midnight each day. Sadly, the ticket has been withdrawn by BEST.

We waited for almost an hour for an empty bus to take us to the hillock and then decided to go visit Chota Kashmir in Aarey Milk Colony, a few minutes away from Dindoshi.

We boarded the No. 341 bus to epMulund from Dindoshi Bus Dot which would go via Aarey Milk Colony to Mulund. As always, the bus was packed. Luckily we found place to stand. Soon it was time to alight at the Aarey police station bus stop.

Ducks at OP Lake
The place was beautiful. There was greenery all around. The sight of coconut trees and other plants was pleasing to the eyes. Sadly the roads were very bad. Away in the distance we saw the Borivali National Park hillock. These splendid sights are just a few minutes away from the Western Express Highway. Shailesh was quite amazed with the slow pace of life here.

We visited the OP Lake on the way to Mulund on the Aarey Road. The lake is surrounded by all kinds of trees. Sadly I cannot name the trees as I know very little about plants. There is a boating service available at the lake along with some other entertainment for children. We also saw some cute ducks around. They reminded of the ducks I saw in Murud. To view writeup on Murud roadtrip visit

Some people had come there to immerse the idol of Ganpati in the water. Ganesh Chaturthi is an 11-day festival wherein Ganesh idols are installed in colourfully decorated homes as well as at specially erected structures, known as pandals, in numerous localities. These idols are then immersed in the sea or lake amid a lot of fanfare.
Chota Kashmir
Tens of thousands of people turn up to view this final procession as numerous Ganesh idols are taken for the immersion. Traffic in Mumbai comes to a near-halt. (Stay connected to my blog to read about my Ganpati writeup).

We then headed to see Chota Kashmir on the other side of the road. After walking for about 15 minutes, we were at the entrance of the Chota Kashmir garden. We bought tickets, priced at Rs 10 for us and another Rs 20 for the camera.

The garden was green and beautiful. It was hard to imagine such a place in the concrete jungle that Mumbai has become. 
Another View of Chota Kashmir
There were various types of trees planted. Sadly, there were no signboards mentioning the names of the trees. We took plenty of pictures at this place, then took shelter at a shade built right in the middle of the garden.

This place was infested with couples when we arrived there but that did not dampen our spirits. We explored the garden and clicked some amazing pictures. Later, we had some refreshments at the entrance of Chota Kashmir and then decided to head home.

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The Gateway of India in Mumbai

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Gateway of India is located on the waterfront at Apollo Bunder in South Mumbai. It is surrounded by a lot of historic structures, including the spectacular Taj Mahal Hotel.

The Gateway was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. It was opened to the public in December 1924.

The Gateway fo India
It was designed by the Scotsman George Wittet (1878-1926), who helped popularise the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture that combined Gothic-like flamboyance with Muslim-Indian architectural features. Built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete, the structure stands 85 feet high.

From the Gateway, there are ferries plying to Elephanta Caves and Mandwa, the pit stop on the way to Alibag by sea.

The Gateway fo India
The Gateway is visited by people throughout the year by Indians and foreign nationals alike. You can also get a photo of yourself, with the Gateway of India in the background, clicked by a professional photographer for a price.

The Gateway of India is truly an imposing structure.

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Bandra Fort

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bandra Fort is located at Lands End in Bandra. The trip from Bandra railway station to the fort takes around 20 minutes if you hire a rickshaw or a private vehicle.

This fort, also known as Castella de Aguada, was built by the Portuguese in 1640. This turned out to be another watchtower.
Entry to the Fort
This fort, though small, is very well maintained. It takes around 30 minutes to see this fort. This fort is usually infested by couples and college students who come here to view the sea. The sea link is very easily visible from here.

After spending some time here we decided to head back home.

View of the Sea from the Fort
On our second urban trek, we intend to visit Dongri, Sewri, Sion, Rewa and Mazagaon forts. So stay tuned.

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Mahim Fort

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If you travel by train, you need to alight at Mahim station in order to see this fort. From the railway station, it would take you around 30 minutes to get here.

The fort is very close to St Michael Church, also called Mahim Church. It is located in the Mahim bay, and overlooks the Worli and Bandra forts.

Entry to the Fort
Not much is known about who built this fort. It is currently occupied illegally by slum dwellers. The approach road has been taken over by them. Tidal erosion has led to the fort being torn apart. You can actually see two huge cracks in the walls of the fort.
Fortification with two huge cracks in d walls
Although this is a heritage site, not much is being done to maintain this fort. Shame on our government for ruining such a good historic site. We were not able to view this fort from the inside thanks to the illegal slums on the fort.

Disgusted, we set out for Bandra Fort, the last fort on our agenda.

Forts in Mumbai are Sewri FortBandra FortMahim FortMadh FortSion FortWorli Fort

Caves in and around Mumbai are Mahakali CavesJogeshwari CavesMandapeshwar CavesKanheri Caves and Elephanta Caves

Worli Fort

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We decided to have some refreshments before heading to Worli Fort. We headed to a Tibbs Frankie outlet at Shivaji Park in Dadar for refreshments, before visiting the fort. Worli Fort is located in Worli village.
To reach the fort we have to pass through the tiny bylanes of the village. On the way, you will see the fisherfolk cleaning their nets. The smell of fish pervades the entire place. 
Worli Sea Link from the Fort
This fort, built by the British in 1675, looks more like a watchtower than a fort. The entire place can be viewed in 10 minutes flat. It is in very good condition and houses a gym and a temple. It was constructed to keep a watch on enemy ships.
Entry to the Fort 
The view from here is amazing. You can see small fishing boats, the Bandra Worli sea link and a row of skyscrapers in the distance. After Worli Fort, it was time to see Mahim Fort.

Forts in Mumbai are Sewri Fort, Bandra Fort, Mahim Fort, Madh Fort. Sion Fort

Caves in and around Mumbai are Mahakali Caves, Jogeshwari Caves, Mandapeshwar Caves, Kanheri Caves and Elephanta Caves

Mahakali Caves

Saturday, November 5, 2011

As soon as we reached Mahakali Caves, Hitesh’s motorbike came to a grinding halt. Oh, no, I moaned. If the bike did not rally around, we would have to put off our plan for the day. I hoped that by the time we finished inspecting the caves, the bike would change its mind and decide to go ahead with the trip. There was no way we could carry on without the bike.
BEST buses ply between Andheri Railway Station (East) and the Caves. If you travel by bus, you need to board bus no 333. The Caves are a 10-minute walk from the nearest bus stop. They can also be reached by rickshaws and private vehicles. It took us around 20 minutes to reach the Caves from Andheri Station.

More Caves
These caves were formerly known as Kondivita Caves. No prizes for guessing that these were built by Buddhists 2000 years ago. They are located in the Udayagiri hills and are carved out of black basalt rock. On the map they can be located somewhere between Andheri, Jogeshwari and Vikhroli.
Sculptures in the Caves
The good thing here was that these caves were free of encroachments. It took us an hour to see the caves. There are a few carvings in one of the caves. The structure of each cave is different. There are around 15 caves in all.
Stupa in the Caves
A few water tanks, now completely dry, are used as garbage bins by irresponsible visitors. Our civic sense is truly pathetic. When will people learn to respect our heritage? I wish the authorities had erected dustbins to collect the trash. At least some people would have used them and refrained from littering the place.
Some More Caves
We finished touring the caves and returned to where Hitesh had parked his bike. God answered our prayers because the bike actually started. At this point, Hitesh suggested that we should take the bike to the service centre for a wash; that way it would function smoothly. I found this funny but clearly Hitesh knows his bike well. We did as he said, and the bike did run well.

Our next pit stop was Worli Fort.

Forts in Mumbai are Sewri FortBandra FortMahim FortMadh FortSion Fort. Worli Fort

Caves in and around Mumbai are Mahakali CavesJogeshwari CavesMandapeshwar CavesKanheri Caves and Elephanta Caves

Jogeshwari Caves

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mumbai, the fast-paced city of dreams, the financial capital of India and the political capital of Maharashtra, is also home to nine forts and four caves. This piece of news is something that most folks find hard to believe. It is still true though, and I can vouch for it as these pages will soon reveal.

This was my first urban trek so I asked Hitesh to accompany me. For those who came in late, Hitesh is an old friend of mine and an avid trekker. Those who have read my blog before will remember that he had joined me on my visit to Arnala Fort.

Temple in the Cave
Hitesh and I decided to visit these caves on his motorbike as we had more than one place on our agenda. We planned to pay a visit to Jogeshwari Caves, Mahakali Caves, Worli Fort, Mahim Fort and Bandra Fort, all in a single day.

Jogeshwari Caves are located in Jogeshwari in Mumbai. But, obviously. If you travel by train, Jogeshwari is the next railway station after Andheri on the Western line.

Cave premises
One can reach Jogeshwari Caves by boarding a rickshaw from Jogeshwari station on the east. Alternatively it can be reached from the Western Express Highway and the Jogeshwari Vikroli Link Road

These caves are very small and are surrounded by encroachments. Even on reaching the caves, you find yourself wondering, are these the caves? There are two temples in the caves which are currently in use.

Pillars carved in the rock surface, atop enroachments atop the Caves
It took us around 30 minutes to see the caves and to conduct a photo shoot. We saw a few students who had come there to study. A long time ago, monks used to meditate here and now students come here to study.  History certainly does repeat itself. It is only the characters that change.

A point to note here is that the caves are infested with bats, so one has to be careful not to disturb them.

After viewing these caves, we decided to head for Mahakali Caves, the next pit stop on our agenda.

Forts in Mumbai are Sewri FortBandra FortMahim FortMadh FortSion FortWorli Fort

Caves in and around Mumbai are Mahakali CavesJogeshwari CavesMandapeshwar CavesKanheri Caves and Elephanta Caves

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