Monday, August 20, 2012

Peth Fort (Kothligad) - The Funnel Shaped Fort

Other forts and trekking destinations
Other weekend getaways

07th July 2012

          There’s something about Ratangad and me. This is the second time I couldn't traverse and embrace the fort. Out of frustration, I booked a train ticket for Lonavala and decided to take the Lohagad trek all alone. I made Nagesh feel so bad ;) with all my taunts that the guy came up with the idea to go to Peth on Saturday. I obliged, since any trek is fine with me as long as it’s not too scary – not that much of a daredevil, you see!!

          So, Peth it was!! The trek to Peth, also known as Kothligad, begins from a village called Ambivali, which is around 30 kms. from Karjat. I missed the 6:14 am train from Thane and finally caught the 6:35 am train to Karjat. Nagesh and Siddhesh joined me in Dombivali in the helicopter dabba. The journey from Karjat to Thane takes around 1 ½ hrs. and during that time, ‘The Times of India’ painted in black & white the story of a dam, planned in the 1980’s with a budget of around 380 crores, being built for the so called benefit of the villagers, was still  being built even in 2012 and our efficient politicians, contractors and whoever could have laid their hands on DID lay their hands on and siphoned off arounf 7000 crores. This is our tax money the money that WE pay to the Government. Politicians!! What would we have done without them? It reminds me of the movie Deewar where Amitabh refuses to pay ‘hafta’, wish all of us taxpayers would do something similar one day.

          You can get stuffed like a chicken in a tum tum (a big rickshaw) as the driver literally accommodates as many bums as it can, leaving no seat surface area wasted or you can take an ST(State Transport bus) to Amibivali. The ST stand is a 2 minute walk away from Karjat East. We took the bus.
Where it all began - ST Depot, Karjat East
          Looking out of the rattling windows of the bus, we caught glimpses of the running paddy fields; the rice crop at some places, just grown to knee height, at others yet to be seen; the bullocks tethered to the ploughs, straining at their necks, going round and round in the fields amidst the shout of the farmer; the scattered whiteness of the cattle egrets, who took you by surprise with their sudden flight; the blackening sky with the rain clouds promising us rain and ensuring a good trek; the mountains keeping pace, now there, now hidden in the curtains of the clouds; the gurgling of the forced rivulets formed by the rains, a surreal experience.

          We reached Ambivali by 9:15 am, the bus taking a little more than an hour. The bus halts near a small house, which acts as a hotel as well. The trek to Peth starts from here. The trek is actually divided into 2 parts, the trek to the Peth village being the first, which takes around 2 hrs, and the second one being the trek to the fort from the village.
Start of trek
On the turning away...
          Almost at the beginning of the trek, one comes across a fork in the road. Take the left one. The walk to the Peth village is like driving through any of the ghats, all twists and turns. The walk through the muddy scree does take the breath out of you. At every turn and with every step, you hope and wish for a flat path, but the end of the turn discloses just another uphill. The entire trek is up, up and away. It would make you wonder why anyone would want to stay at such a height, so far away from actual civilization and you will have no answers, but am sure the villagers do!! Walking though the mountainous forests is as close as you can get to nature and enjoy the greenery, the tall swaying trees, the invisible teasing and whistling of the birds, the loud buzz of the insects coaxes you to go on.

A hidden waterfall
          We took our first halt at a waterfall created by the recent rains. We just saw and heard it from a distance as it was not accessible. From this scenic place, you can see the sliced peak of Padargad; I say sliced because that is how it looked from the distance - layered. After around 1 ½ hours of arduous walking we came to a flat plateau, a grassland and the scenery awaiting us was simply breathtaking. You need to see to believe! Every trek has its’ highlights and this plateau was definitely the one for this trek. I would suggest that even if one doesn’t want to take the entire trek to the fort, reaching and enjoying this view would be just fine. The entire erect and vertical rock surface of the Peth mountain, reminding you of Harishcandragads' Konkan kada, stretching to quite some length, with the inverted funnel shaped fort to the left, marked by numerous waterfalls and the huge and mighty mountain of Bhimashankar in front and the tiny villages below and the landscape spread as far as the eye could see are not something to be written about, they are to be seen, the moment is to be cherished, the greed to capture it all in your eyes is to be strongly felt. It was windy, a relief from the scorching heat we faced till now, the rains still being elusive. This is an ideal spot to pitch your tent and watch the stars or just enjoy the wind. Some village boys were selling corn, nimbu paani, chai in a small open hut. We took bites of the sweet corn while enjoying the panoramic scenery. 2 dogs gave us company and watched our ecstasy without much excitement. We continued on our journey and a few minutes later we were on another plateau which was marked with freshly grown grass everywhere and tiny lakes of clear water. We took turns to cool our faces with this water as the heat had nearly drained us of all our energy. Not a drop of rain till now! ‘Kaale megha, kale megha, Paani to barsao’
The huge rock face like Konkan Kada

Coming Soon : Bhimashankar, Starring Nagesh and Siddesh

The beautiful plateau - a window to the scenery
          A little ahead, we encountered farmers working with their bullocks in the paddy fields. 10 mins later we were in the village of Peth. The village of Peth is nothing but a cluster of few huts and fields. We came across some cute giggling kids below a fully bloomed Jaswand tree and they posed for a photo. The rain gave a short visit and then disappeared, leaving us unquenched. There is a hotel in Peth where you can have your tea, snacks, lunch and buy food for your trek. We started our trek and in the initial lap itself, got to know what an ordeal we had on our hands, rather legs. After the first 5-10 mins you come to a spot where you get to see the whole rock face of the mountain and you are at a loss at how you will climb it. It is a bit scary and jittery and needs self convincing and a lot of prodding to go on. From here, there is no visible path to be seen and it seems that the entire trek would be a rock climbing affair, but it isn’t so. Though it is just an hour long trek, it might feel like eternity as it is completely uphill. Won’t lie, I did feel like giving up and needed some encouragement from my associates to go on. The absence of showers and the heat was impeding the climb. There are two tricky rock patches out there, the moss making it slippery. One of them definitely is the path of a waterfall and would be very dangerous and difficult to traverse when the rains are in full force. One slip of the foot and you will tumble all your way to the base in no time, with a promised bunch of broken bones and torn flesh. Midway, you are most likely to take a wrong path. Wrong as in, not a different route but a difficult one missing the usual route. It’s always better to be accompanied by a localite. A small carefree kid showed us the right path. The last stretch has a few steps cut in the rock surface. There was another guy like me, who was having a very hard time and needed a lot of push from his friends to carry on. Staggering behind, we took our own sweet time and lots of rest before we waddled our next few steps. Phew!! Finally there!
Farmer of Peth - Kothligad in the background
          Kothligad is not much of a fort, but feels more like a watch tower. At the entrance itself, as you put your head through the opening in the wall, you see rocky steps leading to the summit. Below that is a cistern of water called a ‘taake’. The temple of Lord Bhairoba is to the left of it and next to it is a cave, good enough to accommodate at least 40 people. There is another idol of Goddess Janai with a bell hanging from the roof of the cave. The cave has engraved pillars, giving a glimpse of the Buddhist architecture and few windows opening up to the delight of the scenery below. At the further end of the cave, you can might see bats hanging from the roof. To the right of the rocky stairs, is a small flat plateau having a small canon and needless to say the sight from here was nothing short of a beautifully and creatively crafted dream sequence. We saw the dancing of the clouds like never before, the windmills of Bhandardara and Ghoti in the distance, their blades rotating lazily, the robust peak of Bhimashankar visible when the clouds were done with their embrace. We could see the path we had taken.
Temple of Lord Bhairoba
Cave on the fort
Rock stairs to the pinnacle
The pinnacle of Kothligad
          The crowds were coming in swarms. The inflow never stopped while we were there and kept coming when we were descending as well. I was a little shaken thinking about those 2 rock patches but with help from my friends managed well and am here to tell you the tale. As usual, it took much less time to descend. At the top, while descending and while we were having lunch, we came across a few know all irritating, hectoring, loud ladies from different groups telling not only their group members, but needlessly trying to instruct others as well and as a result were averted by everyone…Baithe kyun ho, chalo abhi bahut timepaas ho gaya, do this, don’t do that, sit here, stand there, whats for lunch, ye kiya toh wo hoga, woh kiya to ye hoga, what's wrong with you, itna kyu kha rahe ho, itna kam kyu kha rahe ho…inke bhais ko anda maru!! - Reminded us of aunty.

          We had lunch at the hotel in the village. A thali of rice bhaakris, a tasty bhaji of mixed vegetables, daal, papad, achar and kanda. We were too hungry and feasted on it (Thali cost – INR 80). As we continued on our journey post lunch, finally it started raining! At the flat plateau, some guys ahead of us were taking a different route and we followed them and it turned out to be a shorter route saving at least 15-20 mins of walk – just walk along the flat plateau, keeping to the left.

          We were lucky to get a tum-tum and didn’t have to wait for the ST.

A nice trip, a beautiful memory!!

Some useful information:
The forest of Peth

Resting for a while

Peth ke aage peyt

Nippu and me

My favourite pic of this trek

Snack time...sweet corn, nimbu paani

Lake peaceful


Reaching the base village

Nageshs' Acropolis

Cutey cutey

Sitting pretty

Natural emboss
Dancing clouds
Cotton balls in the sky

Entrance to the fort

Goddess Janai
Striking a pose

Beautiful !!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Korigad - A walk in the clouds!!

Other forts and trekking destinations
Other weekend getaways

The trekkers

               This was the first time I was to be on a trek with unknown people, a new group called Trekshitiz ( So I chose a relatively easier one and Anand was good enough to join me.  Trekshitiz is a trekkers group from Dombivali who are avid trekkers and organize treks for fellow travelers. They have also taken up a new project to conserve, clean and restore the Sudhagad fort. Great work guys!!

                We were told to gather at 5:45 am at Dombivali. However, the bus finally left at around 6:30 am. Andy had a hard time and spent unnecessary money reaching from Borivali and finally took a rickshaw to Ghatkopar and then a train to Dombivali. He could have taken the normal route had he known the flexibility of timings. There were a total of 45 people on the bus to Lonavala and everybody had a merry time singing songs, pulling each others legs, tying friendship bands and gazing at the scenery outside.

                As we neared Lonavala, a misty octopus started stretching his tentacles all over. The trees were engulfed as they swayed to breathe from its hold, the mountains were covered, the roads disappeared and you could practically see nothing beyond a few metres. The bus driver did a great job driving in such conditions. I had never seen so much of fog or mist before, it just refused to go!! We reached our destination, Peth Shahpur which was the base village for the trek and had breakfast of idli chatni and tea, and the introduction and instruction session was kicked off by our trek leader for the day, Swati. It was good to get acquainted with people from different walks of life. There were 2 kids in the group too!

The Korigad trek is a very simple one, the easiest trek I have experienced till now. The initial 15-20 minutes is through a forest and you get to see the peak of the fort on your right while you walk. Criss-crossing bamboo trees, falling on each other as if in love, little streams formed by the rain water, the sloshing mud and the runway clouds high up above capture your attention. In the middle of the forest, suddenly, out of nowhere appear steps which lead to the fort. Halfway across the steps, you come to an open space with a cave on the right side, a Hanumanji temple and beautiful landscape to your left. A little ahead is another small cave and then comes the Darwaza to the fort. There are around 5 ‘Tofs’ on the fort, the biggest one called Lakshmi Tof and 2 temples, one of them being of Goddess Koraidevi. As we started the parikrama of the fort along its edges, we could hardly see the valley below; in fact everything was covered by the clouds. A mere 4-5 seconds disappearance of the sheet of clouds exposed the beautiful surrounding of the Amby valley and the entire landscape. Am sure on a less cloudy day, the scenery would be worth gazing at for hours and hours. There are 2 good enough lakes and some people were having a gala time in them. In the blinding mist, the sound of the waves formed by the lake seem like you are near to an ocean and since on the other side, all you can see is white foam, it literally gives you a feeling that you are walking the length of a bridge on a wide ocean. We had fun at a waterfall from a cave like formation and Andy started shivering like a leaf after getting drenched in the waterfall. It was fun walking the entire circumference of the fort. The wind whipped us with all its might and wouldn’t stop and made it difficult to balance and take your next stride. The mighty force of the wind reminded me of the Paranthampura or Eagle Rock mountain of Kerala near Thekkady where a light weighted person can literally be carried off his legs by the powerful wind.
And then it was lunch time. Like nomads, we had our lunch near one of the temples and lakes, without shelter in the pouring rain and the blowing wind. It was fun and a different experience!
Post lunch we started our descent and were down in no time. The group wanted to take their next halt at Tiger hills in Lonavala. The mist just refused to lift and the place was crowded and buzzing with activity as weekenders had come in flocks to enjoy the rains and waterfalls.
We finally reached back to Dombivali station at around 9:30 pm. A day well spent!!

History of the Fort
          This fort was incorporated into his kingdom by Chhatrapati Shivaji along with the forts of Lohagad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona in 1657. On March 11, 1818, Col. Prother tried to take over this fort but even after a prolonged siege could not make any headway. Finally on 14 March, by igniting the stored ammunition by means of a loose cannon ball he succeeded and this fort went to the British (Source :

Andy and the rest of the group

Celebrating the glory!!

Steps to the top, Hanuman Mandir and Taake

Cave and Taake

On cloud nine!!

The floating clouds
The peak of Korigad covered by clouds

Kadam kadam badhaye jaa...

Posing in the mist


The lake on Korigad - looking like the Lonar crater

Laxmi Tof