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My 50th Post — Time for Thanks

Thursday, December 29, 2011

October 4, 2010 — the day I took my first baby steps in the blog world, believing that every journey, no matter how long and perilous, can only be traversed, one step at a time. And so, here I am. Since that day, I have been to so many places with so many friends, shot numerous pictures, and captured it all here on my blog.

Time has flown and already I am writing my 50th post on my blog. Truly a momentous occasion! I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see so many places, shoot so many pictures and blog about it. I have enjoyed every moment of this journey.

Most of my treks so far, no matter how difficult and stressful on my body, have been good except for Mahuli and Kaldurg which took their toll on us. But I am not fazed by that. I know that it is only a matter of time, and that the New Year will see us scaling these forts once again.
I would like to thank many people without whom this journey would not have been made.

I would like to thank Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar (, my sister who has played a vital role on my blog. She is the one who asked me to start a blog on my travel adventures. She also doubles up as the editor of my blog posts.

I would like to thank Mumbai Hikers (, for providing me with technical support for my blog. This support, truly invaluable, has enabled me to add more gadgets and features on my blog and make it more user-friendly.

I must acknowledge the contribution of all my friends who accompanied me on my trips. Their companionship, conversations and laughter made every trip an enjoyable one. Without them, I might not have come this far.

Thanks are in order to all the trekking groups who have their pages on Facebook, who have let me add my blog link to their pages. This has helped my blog gain visibility and increased the readership on my blog.

A big thank you to alI the people who have read my blog posts and commented on them. Here’s hoping that those who have not commented before will take the opportunity to do so. I’d be happy to hear from you.

Finally I would like to thank all the people who have touched my life in some way or the other. I know who they are and so do they. This is something one never forgets.

Unconquered Kaldurg Fort Trek in Palghar

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I had planned to go to Alibag to trek up Kulaba and Sagargad forts. However, just a day before our planned trip, I learned from Hithakshi that The Navy Day Parade was to be held at the Gateway of India from where the ferries ply to Alibag.  Speaking to the ferry operators, I found out that the ferries would leave as usual in the morning but that there would be no return trips to Mumbai in the evening. We would be forced to return by way of road transport which would be overburdened in the absence of the ferries. 
Later Hithakshi suggested that we go to Kaldurg fort, based in Palghar, around 1500 feet above sea level. We had planned to see this fort earlier but things had not worked out then. So we decided to go to Kaldurg.
Sherwin and I met at Andheri railway station and boarded the 6:23 am train to Virar. Hithakshi boarded the same train at Bhayandar. The train was packed with people.  At Virar, we planned to board the Dahanu Shuttle that would take us to Palghar.
We reached Virar at 7:20 am. The train to Dahanu was supposed to leave Virar at 7:40 am. The indicators showed no sign of the train. My clock struck 7:40 hrs and still there was no sign of the train. All of a sudden we became aware that there was an outstation train standing on the adjoining platform.
Kaldurg Fort in a distance
We immediately decided to board this train. Had we taken the foot overbridge, we might not have made it to the train. So, on Sherwin's suggestion, we decided to cross the tracks to board the train.
In hindsight, I realize that that was a wrong thing to do. No matter how hard pressed for time one is, it is never a good idea to cross the train. It is highly dangerous and one can lose one’s life. However, in the heat of the moment, all we could think of was that the train that we had to catch was waiting on another platform and might pull off at any moment.
The coach we boarded was meant for the employees of the railways. So we were informed by the people who were in the train. They warned us to board another compartment or else the TC would penalise us.
I decided against changing compartments and we travelled to Palghar in the same compartment. Finally at Palghar, we alighted from the train, safe and sound.

Group  Photo - Sherwin, Hithakshi and Me
After having vada pav for breakfast, we checked out the various modes of transport that would take us to Kaldurg Fort.
Strangely, you will not find any vehicle to take you to Kaldurg on the eastern side of the railway line, even though Kaldurg is located in the east. On the western side, there are ST buses and tum tums available.
We boarded a tum tum to Wagoba Mandir, the base point from where the trek to Kaldurg starts. The cost of a ticket to Wagoba Mandir by ST is Rs. 7 per head and by tum tum; the fare is Rs.10 per head. It takes around 25 minutes to reach the Temple.
Sitting right behind the driver in the tum tum, I observed that we were bidding farewell to Palghar city and entering the village. The sound that the tum tum made was soothing to my ears and it reminded me of the movies that used to feature on television when I was a kid, in B/W format.

Wagoba Mandir
Near the temple there is a small refreshment store serving cold drinks and dry snack items. If you haven’t picked up food and water for the trek, then this is the last place where you can do so. 
The temple is infested with monkeys. They are all over the place. On our way here we had not caught a glimpse of a single monkey, and all of a sudden there were too many to count here.
Behind the temple, there is a water hand pump. That is the landmark from where the actual trek to Kaldurg begins.
Hithakshi had checked out some internet sites which had claimed that we would reach the top in 45 minutes. Forty-five minutes meant that this would be an easy trek. That is what I told myself and we planned to see Kohoj too as it was nearby. So if it took only 45 minutes to see the forty, we should be able to make good time. Due to the thick forest, we were unable to see the fort.

Water Hand Pump
The owner of the refreshment shop also said that the uphill climb would take 45 minutes. Now villagers are not to be relied upon for their timings. What seems to take them 15 minutes will take us upwards of an hour. So their calculations on time should not be taken into consideration.

We started climbing via the narrow trails up to the fort. As none of us had any idea about the fort, trial and error was the only method to be followed to reach the top. Wherever we came across multiple trails we decided to follow each of them for 5 minutes to see where it led. Also, as we couldn’t locate any directions or markings on the trail, we began looking out for wrappers as many people have a habit of eating on the way and throwing the wrappers right there.
Whenever you go out for treks or outings, please do not dispose of waste wrappers up on the hills. Take them home with you and dispose them in the dustbin.
We trekked through the thick forests and balanced ourselves on the narrow trails. At one spot where we were standing, there was an ant hill, home to millions of red ants. Unknowingly, I stepped on it and the ants attacked me; they were all over my pants. Now I didnt notice it but Sherwin did and he told me, "Merwyn, ants on your pants." I said, "What? Where?" I tried to get them off me and finally after a long battle of 10 minutes I managed to get them off me.
Ant Hill
We found many such ant hills on the way. So if you ever go along this trail, stay away from those ant hills. Or else you’ll pay for it the way I did.

We finally landed up on a huge rock patch in the middle of nowhere and decided to rest there for a few minutes. Now this place is quite high up. The entire city of Palghar can be seen in the distance from here.
From here, we saw the fortification of Kaldurg fort in the distance with a flag right on top. I immediately told Sherwin and Hithakshi about it and that we needed to reach there. It took us around 1½ hours to reach the rock surface and to trek to the fort. I figured that it would take us another two hours to get there. I wonder how the villagers manage to reach anywhere in 45 minutes. It is truly a mystery.
We then started on our trek again via the dense forest and kept walking along the narrow trails.
After walking for 30 minutes, we thought we were lost up in the hills. We were trying to find a way to go up the fort and finally we managed to find one and...
Red Ants on the Plant

Hithakshi's legs gave in. I guess she was scared and was afraid of falling off the cliff. Her legs trembled. Looking at her plight, we decided to take a quick call as to whether we should go up or not.
We then reached a mutual understanding and decided to head back as we didnt want to take any risks. We could surely do this fort another time, if not today.
We reached the same rock patch and had our snacks and water there. We later shared our travel experiences with each other and decided to head back to the base.
Again our speed was slowed down because Hithakshi was afraid to go down the hills. On the way down we noticed silver coloured foils wrapped around the twigs of the trees.
We rested at the small shop near the temple and had some refreshments there. There is a big crowd of monkeys and even a bigger crowd of people there to feed them. No wonder they all flock there. 
Cob Webs
The lady too said that it would take around 45 minutes to reach the top. Maybe we followed the wrong path and got lost. God alone knows. We then boarded an ST bus to Palghar station.
From there we boarded a passenger train to Virar station. Now the train was packed and the only place we managed to get ourselves a place to stand was next to the loo. The loos stink badly, and even though instructions are put on the doors of the stalls, warning passengers not to use them when the train is stationary, people will still go ahead and use them. The smell of pee is awful and suffocating.
I was near the exit door so the stink didn’t affect me much as compared to what Hithakshi and Sherwin had to go through. Finally at Virar we boarded a Churchgate local and headed home.
We could not scale Kaldurg fort this time, but we’re going to be back. And next time, we will definitely make it.

To read about conquered Kaldurg Fort.

Alibag Watertrip (Kulaba Fort)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alibag is known for its beaches, but very few know that it is home to around six forts, most of them being sea forts.

So I sat down and designed an itinerary to visit Khanderi and Undheri Forts in Alibag. I had been here before, but the re-visit was for the benefit of Alhad Patil, who I had met via my blog. He had shown keen interest in visiting these forts. To our misfortune, we could not see these forts as the boat service had been booked for the entire day. So we decided to visit Kulaba Fort and Sagargad Fort instead.
Kulaba Fort
Kulaba Fort is a sea fort close to the town of Alibag. It is 3 km away from the shore and can be visited only when the tide is low, that too either on foot or on a horse cart. I had been here before around 6 years ago when I didn’t even know what blogs were. Sagargad, on the other hand, is a Hill Fort from where one can see all of Alibag. This was the first time I was visiting a hill fort in Alibag.

I had put up my plans on FB, hoping that some more people would join me on my water trips. Nine agreed to come, but only three actually made it. Hithakshi and Urvashi, who had accompanied me to Chinchoti Waterfalls, also joined me on this trip. 
Group Photo - Allhad, Urvashi, Hithakshi and Me, on the ferry to Mandwa Jetty

We met at 6.45 am at the Gateway of India. Alhad had arrived much earlier. He was very excited to visit these forts and was equipped with his camera. Alhad is a very good photographer. I had checked out some of his close shots and I was amazed at the quality of his work. 
There was a generation gap between us and Alhad, who we called Uncle. I wondering how we would get along as our mindsets would differ. 
We on the Boat to Kulaba Fort, with the Fort in the background

Hithakshi had a calf injury on her right leg, but she had made up her mind to visit this place. Her love for trekking caused her to ignore the pain from her injury.
Urvashi had joined us because she wanted an outing. But she was not dressed for the occasion at all. She carried a jhola on her shoulder and wore chappals. I wondered if she would be able to climb the hills at Sagargad Fort. 
Extension to Kulaba Fort
Nevertheless, we carried on with our plans and boarded the 7 am ferry to Alibag. We made it just in time. The ferry took off as soon as we stepped in.
 There are three ferry service providers whose services one can avail of to reach Alibag. These are Ajanta, Maldar and PNP. Ajanta is the cheapest whereas PNP, with its AC coaches, is the most expensive. We boarded the Ajanta ferry that departed from Gateway at 7 am. The cost of the ticket was Rs 75 each. The ferry was a double decker boat with seating arrangement on both levels. We rushed to the upper deck to get an open air view of the place around. 
At around 8.45 am, we were in Alibag. We spent our time in the ferry clicking photos of ships, boats, trawlers. The lovely sunrise offered us amazing pictures. We asked the locals on board which fort we should go to first. We had no idea how much time Sagargad Fort would take.
We got mixed answers from the people around, so we decided to have breakfast at an eatery at Alibag first and then check the tides at Kulaba Fort which was at a distance of around 20 minutes on foot.
Two Men with Two Fishing Rods
On the way, we picked up some oranges and some Indian berries. (I am not sure if berries is the right word. They are called bor in Hindi.) Urvashi picked up a pair or fluorescent yellow chappals with blue straps at Rs 40 a pair. She immediately changed to her yellow chappals and headed off to see the fort.
 Around 10 am, we were at the beach. I noted that the locals had started a boat service to take visitors to the fort, irrespective of the tides. The cost of the ride is Rs 100 for a return journey, but if you have a big group you can bargain on the rates too.
The Bone
During my last trip here, I had walked through waist-deep water, that too during the low tide, to reach the fort. It had taken us around 1½ hours to reach the fort. The ferry service took us there in 20 minutes. Since we had planned to see two forts in a day, we had to save time. The boatman told us that he would return in an hour to receive us. We readily agreed.
 Without wasting any time, we got busy with our photo session on the fort. The water levels were going down in the meantime. The low tide was setting in. 
One More Group Photo
A visit to the fort calls for an entry fee of Rs 5. I misheard the ticket vendor and assumed that the fee was Rs 500. I was taken aback. When he corrected me, I heaved a sigh of relief. 
We got our tickets and walked away. Just a few steps away, there is a skeleton of a huge fish kept on display. No information is provided. 
Fort from the inside
On the fort, there are stone tablets recounting the history of the fort in English, Hindi and Marathi. There are many temples on the fort. There is a sweet water well too. I wondered how sweet the water might be. After all, we were surrounded by salty water.
 There are many bastions on this fort but only three are in good condition. There are two entrances to the fort, one via Alibag beach and the other via the sea.
Two Cannons
The entire fort can be viewed by walking over the walls of the fort. There are two cannons on wheels on the fort and many without wheels too. We tried to pick one up. They were really heavy. I could shake it in its position but could not move it.
The locals stay in the fort. The fort houses a shop that sells refreshments, for the benefit of those who forget to carry any. We had carried out quota of food and water, but we were so busy in exploring the fort that we forgot to eat and drink. Strange, but true.
Ruins on the Fort
There is a big temple on the fort, beautifully carved on the outside, with a small pond. The day being very sunny, some guys were enjoying a nice swim in it. After spending three hours to see the fort in its entirety, we decided to depart for Sagargad.
From Kulaba Fort, Sagargad can be seen on a hillock in a distance.
We called the boatman to come and pick us up. After making us wait for around 40 minutes, he arrived to take us back to Alibag city.
In order to board the ferry, we needed to walk through knee-deep water. I saw a guy roll up his pants but he didn’t seem to think too highly of his shoes because he didn’t take them off. How silly is that!
A Boat in the Sea
Finally after 20 minutes we were onshore again. Since Urvashi had worn chappals, she had sand all over her pants, and she immediately got to work, cleaning up her pants.
We decided to have lunch at one of the Pure Veg joints near the beach. Alhad and I feasted on the Punjabi thalis that we had ordered, Hithakshi ate some tomato uttappa and Urvashi had some Jain Vegetable biryani. 
Temple premises
After filling our tummies, we decided to go to Sagargad Fort. We hired a rickshaw at the Rickshaw stand near the ST bus depot. The rickshaw driver told us that it would take around 30 minutes to reach there and 3 hours to climb it. Since it was already 3 pm, it didn’t make sense to go ahead with our plan. But we didn’t want to return to Mumbai so early either.
We made enquiries about the last Alibag to Mumbai ferry. We didn’t want to miss it. Anyone who has been caught in a traffic jam while travelling by road will surely understand our anxiety in this regard.  
The Sun Effect
We then got our tickets via Ajanta ferry and decided to take the bus to Mandwa beach from Alibag City and spend some time on the beach there.

We had golas on the beach. Urvashi and Hithakshi had the lemon flavored ones, Alhad and I had the Kala Kutta (Cola) ones, which made our tongues red in color. This encouraged us to shoot pictures of ourselves. We looked like Draculas there. After enjoying our golas, we headed straight to the beach.

That's Me
On Mandwa beach, there are banana boat rides and other water activities, but the fee quoted was Rs 350 per head, non- negotiable. So instead of wasting our money on it we decided to do something new, something I had never done on any of my trips.
We wrote our names on the sand and stood next to it for photo sessions. After that we headed to the water to wet our feet a little bit, then went to the jetty to board the 5.15 pm ferry to Mumbai. 
Feet in the Sand
Onboard the ferry, we were met by seagulls. They flocked all over the place. Urvashi and Hithakshi started feeding them. After about 30 minutes, the seagulls stopped following us. Maybe they had had their full or maybe their territory ended there.
We then sat on the open air deck, enjoying the sunset and the rise of the yellow coloured full moon. It was the day of the eclipse, and the effects had started to show by the time we reached the Gateway of India.

Our names Engraved in the Sand

Another Group Photo

Sea Gulls
After alighting there, we headed off to the Mafco store near Gateway to celebrate our enjoyable trip by having a round of rose milkshake.
After that, we headed back home. We had all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, even though we had not been able to see Sagargad Fort. Anyway, there’s always another time.
I had clicked 350 photos and one video on this trip. Despite the age difference, we had all got along very well. We had fun and that is all that matters.

Other sea forts I have visited are Murud Janjira, Arnala Fort and Sindhudurg in Malvan

Madh Fort, Erangal Village and Mandapeshwar Caves

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I had set my alarm clock to wake me up at 5.45 am. I wanted to start the day early. 

However, I woke up even before the alarm clock went off by the sound of a BEST bus screeching to a halt on the main road. I woke up with a start, thinking I had overslept. But a glance at the clock revealed that it was just 5.40 am. 
I freshened up, filled my rucksack with a water bottle and left. I was to connect with Dominic, my colleague who had accompanied me to Unconquered Mahuli, and Shawn, an old college friend.

Madh Fort from the Air Force Station Madh barricade
Dominic and I had planned to see Madh Fort and Mandapeshwar Caves on Sunday. I met Shawn online on Saturday on FB, and he readily agreed to join us even though he had been on the night shift the previous night. He told me that he would meet me at 7 am at Malad railway station on the western side. 

Accordingly, Sean and I showed up at the agreed time of 7 am. At that hour, the trains were empty. Dominic arrived after 20 minutes.
We went to MM Mithaiwala, opposite the railway station, for our breakfast. We had Vada Pav and bhajiya pav. Vada is a spicy potato patty, dipped in a gram flour batter and deep fried in oil; a pav is a loaf of bread. The vada is sandwiched inside the bread and served with a sweet-spicy chutney. Bhajiya Pav is a variation on the vada pav theme. Here the potato is sliced, coated with the batter and deep fried, then served in a loaf of bread with the sweet-spicy chutney.
A Big Fat Pig
After having our breakfast, we bought some snacks for our trip, had some tea and started off.
We boarded the 271 no bus from Malad station on the western side. The bus was crowded. By the time we were able to get a seat, the bus was just a minute away from the last stop, Madh Jetty. 
As we alighted, we saw a few fishing boats in the sea. The very air smelled of fish here.
Fishermen cleaning their nets
We then headed to the jetty to board a ferry to Madh Island. The cost of the ferry is Rs 6 for a return journey. 
Our ferry, packed with people and bikes, floated through the sewage and the polluted waters. This ferry was similar to the one I had boarded at Manori; only the water was much cleaner there. :) But this journey lasted about a minute. Soon we were on the other side. There is no proper jetty here so the people have to alight via the planks which act as the connectors between the land and the ferry.
There is one tendency that I have observed among people travelling by buses, trains and ferries in Mumbai. People jump off before the vehicle comes to a standstill. It sometimes makes me wonder, "Why are people always in a hurry?" "What will happen if they are a minute late?" These questions always stand unanswered. But that is the way life moves on in Mumbai or maybe all over the world. Sometimes I wonder what these people are going to do with all the time they save.
Over Crowded Ferry
The island was rather congested. I saw a couple of fisherman cleaning their nets. Some others were offloading their catch into containers. 
We walked on the island only to find that the roads were very narrow and the houses were built very close to each other. So close that, I am sure, the neighbours could hear your conversations without straining too hard. So if you have a secret to tell someone, maybe about a treasure you found, you need to find a different way of communicating the same. Otherwise the entire island will come to know about it.
 We boarded a ferry again to land on the mainland. The locals directed us to Madh Fort. We had to walk for 30 minutes to reach the Madh Mandir bus stop from where the road to the fort starts.
From Right - Dom, Sean and Me
Madh Fort, also known as Versova Fort, was built by the Portuguese. This fort offers a strategic view of the sea. Maybe it was used as a watchtower then. The walls of the fort looked quite good. This fort is under the control of the Indian Air Force. Now Sean and I were aware of this as we had read about it on the Internet. 
This led me to wonder whether it was better to read up on a place beforehand or figure things out for ourselves when we actually go to the place. Personally, I prefer to lose myself rather than know everything beforehand. I feel that this is the right way of getting to know a place. What do you think? Drop me a line in the comments section and let me know.
Madh is a fishing village, so all around you will see blue fishing nets, even on the roads. Unlike in Manori where most of the residents were Christians, here there are people of all faiths. 
Stock on the boat
The guards at the entrance to the fort told us that we would need to get permission from their HQ if we wanted to see the fort. It is a matter of National Security, said one of the guards. 
Have you ever noticed how restrictions in the name of national security apply only to us citizens? Terrorists roam about freely, doing all the damage they want to. But we did not argue with the guards. They were only doing their job. 
We then moved on to see the Killeshwar Temple behind the fort. From here one can get a panoramic view of Mumbai city. Killeshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Methinks that it got the name simply because it was near the fort.
The Killeshwar temple at the base of the Fort
Near the temple premises there is an open ground where fish is hung out to dry on thin bamboo sticks. It made a lovely picture.
We saw a small sea snake here. Shawn was the first to spot it. He initially thought the snake was dead, lying there in shallow water. After spending a few minutes observing the snake, we noticed that it was moving a bit. When Shawn asked the locals about it, we were told that the snake had been caught in the net along with the fishes on the previous day. How stupid of the fishermen to take the fishes out and leave the snake to die on the shore. We then moved the snake near the water. Immediately it disappeared in the water. Thank God, we were able to save a life today! 
We then decided to explore the fort from the other side after having been denied permission on the front side. We climbed the rocks near the fort. There were some nice formations to be seen there, as a result of the tidal activity on the rocks. Sean found a couple of crabs which led to a photo session. He later found crabs that live in conical shells. 
Dried Fish on Hangers
We then started climbing up and reached the wall of the fort. This was not the main wall but another small wall next to the main wall. From there we saw a few locals who were fishing in the distance. We thought of walking there but then changed our minds as this area is under the governance of the Indian Air Force. 
We could have easily entered this fort from the back entrance. But we chose to be responsible and not trespass in an area that was out of bounds for us.
The watch guards had made a big show about national security. But if this was the level of security offered by the guards, imagine how easy it would be for terrorists to enter. The guards man only the main entrance of the fort, leaving the walls open for intrusion. This is the security we boast of.
We later headed back to Madh Mandir bus stop, where we had a few refreshments. Later we headed to Erangal, about 15 minutes away from the Madh Fort. We had not planned to go to this place, but Shawn suggested that we go there and we agreed as it was on our way. 
Along the way we saw a church, Our Lady of the Sea (Daria Mata Church in Hindi). This was an old structure with a painting of Mother Mary at the sea positioned at the entrance of the church.
After alighting at Erangal, we headed off to see Erangal Church, also known as St Bonaventure Church. This is another old structure built in the 15th century. The walls of this church are made of mud. Sean informed us that even the floor was caked with mud and that people used to sit on the floor for prayers. Apparently he had come here for a picnic during his schooldays, around 10 years ago. Now there are benches put in the church; the walls have been tiled on the inside while the roof has been fit with asbestos sheets. Inside the church, one can read the history of the church in English and Marathi on marble tablets on the walls on marble tabs on the walls. 
St.Bonaventure Church
The church faces the sea. I don’t know why this is so. Maybe St Bonaventure arrived from the sea. There is no beach in front of the church — just rocks which are submerged during high tides. 

To read about the Erangal Jatra held outside St. Bonaventure Church
We sat in the church for some time. We felt very calm and relaxed. Life in this village is rather laidback. The shops are closed in the afternoon since that is the time when people sleep. It reminded me of life in Goa, where I hail from. Sitting in a shack at the beach, on a hot afternoon, enjoying a pint of ice-cold beer, what could be better?
There was a group of bikers there who had also come to see the church. They were wearing similar black T-shirts and driving around on Enfield motorbikes. Our very own biker gang, like the Harley Davidson biker gangs in the US.
Mandapeshwar Caves
We had the snacks which we had picked up in the morning and later headed off to see the last place on our itinerary, Mandapeshwar Caves. We went to Malad station, the starting point of our journey. From here we were supposed to go to Mandapeshwar Caves.
We managed to doze off for a while in the bus. At Malad, we boarded a rickshaw to Mandapeshwar Caves.
Shawn who had been here before told me that the caves were below the graveyard of Immaculate Conception Church. Within 15 minutes, we were at the caves. These caves were the smallest I have ever seen. There is a ground in front where children play. 
These caves were built around 1500 to 1600 years ago. There are sculptures of Buddha carved on most of the pillars and one of the walls of the main cave. There is a Shiva temple here. There were two caves here side-by-side. What caught my eye was that a Cross had been carved there. I could not understand how a Cross had come to be carved in Buddhist caves. I had never seen anything like this before.
Online research revealed that the Portuguese had converted these caves into a monastery and established the Immaculate Conception Church above these caves. That solved the mystery of the Cross in the caves. The graveyard of the church rests above the Caves.
The caves are guarded by policemen 24*7. I wondered why as none of the other caves are manned by the police, I decided to ask them why. They first told me not to take any snaps of the premises as the property was under dispute. 
Cross engraved on the cave walls
They realised that I was taking pictures only after I switched on the flash in my camera. The pictures I had taken before that had gone unnoticed.
We then headed out and inquired with the children playing cricket about the walls atop the caves and if there was anything interesting to see there. One of them replied, "Yes, a graveyard." Huh? A graveyard? When did that become a place worth visiting?
 We then moved out and entered the Church premises and then onto the graveyard. We rested in the church compound for some time and then headed home.
Sculptured Pillars
In today’s outing, I travelled by train, bus, ferry, rickshaw and my feet. In all, I used five different modes of transport to get around.
Although it was tiring to travel in the hot sun, the journey was interesting. The air force guards with their stupid concepts of national security and the policemen in the caves with their talks on photography provided some amusing moments. 
I had an amazing time checking out our city with Dom and Sean. Until next time, readers, take care, and remember — The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. 

Sewree Fort

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I alighted at Sewree station on the harbour line in Mumbai to see this fort.

On the platform, I walked towards Wadala Road station. I alighted on the western side of the platform only to find that there were more shops selling Chinese handsets here than food and beverage shops. Looks like the people of Sewree have a fetish for Chinese cell phones. I made enquiries with a few locals. But no clear directions were offered to me. None of the people I asked had even heard of Sewree fort.
Entrance to the Dargah and the Fort

I then crossed over to the eastern side via the level crossing for the vehicles, and it was there that someone gave me directions to the fort.
 As instructed, I walked on straight from the level crossing. I was told that I would meet another road ahead. A the joining of these two roads is the entrance to the Dargah.
Sewree Mangroves

This area had a very rustic look to it. I climbed up the stairs to reach the top, where I saw the Dargah but no sign of the fort.
The road was jammed with trucks. I guessed that it was probably an industrial area. In 10 minutes, I was at the entrance of the Dargah. There were building around but they were no habited and were on the verge of breaking down.
Entrance to the Fort
I then asked a boy sitting under a coconut tree. He told me that this was the Dargah (Dargah of Hazrat Jalal Shah and Murad Shah) and the one next to it was the fort. I was surprised to hear his words. The structure looked brand new to term.
 The Sewree Fort was built by the British in 1680 with the purpose of watching over the land. A watch tower, to be precise. Built for defense, it had high walls and was built on a cliff surrounded by land on three sides. 
In the Fort premises children playing cricket

In the Fort premises children playing cricket, another snap also featuring the fortification of the Fort

The walls of the Fort are intact
The inside of the fort was a studio for graffiti artists. I was told by the boy (Azhar Khan) that the place was being taken care of by the Maharashtra State Department of Archaeology and Museums. I was pleased to learn that the government has woken up to a sense of its own responsibility.
My guide, Azhar Khan
I then visited the Dargah which had been renovated. I sat on the terrace near the Dargah for some time. I was completely cut off from the noisy city of Mumbai. I sat there for a long time, watching the mangroves of Sewree and the water lashing on them. In the distance, I could see Navi Mumbai. 
The walls covered with graffiti, Hey dont mistake my copyright to be one of it


Life is so silent and peaceful here. No worries, no tensions, maybe I should come here often. After all, it is just 45 minutes away from my house.  

Forts in Mumbai are Bandra FortMahim FortMadh FortSion FortWorli Fort

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