Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kotligad Trek Notes

First rains of 2013 and the planning of my outings started. Trekking, being on the top of the agenda had to be appetizer of the upcoming season. Couple of days and discussion with friends, ‘Kotligad’ was zeroed upon. Relatively close to Mumbai city in the vicinity of Karjat and the reach of the local train till Karjat were all factors that helped in finalizing this destination.

                  An early morning wakeup call at 6am on 15th June, 13 and a train from Kurla station to Thane to join two of my friends Kris and Kevin who were meeting me there. A quick exchange of pleasantries, we proceeded further towards at Karjat; alighting at 8am. ST buses are available from Karjat ST bus stand until ‘Chowk’; a major junction from where rickshaws on share basis would be available. Purchases of snacks, bread and the basic necessity of water and we were off to the base village ‘Ambivali’ from ‘Chowk’. The route to ‘Ambivali’ was quite scenic and pleasant. Excited about the first trek of this year’s monsoons; enthusiasm was high.

                   We reached the village by 9.45am and wasting no time, started the trek around 10am. Kotligad is an easy trek of 2.5-3 hours to the summit. It’s a gradual muddy/stony trail to ‘Peth’ village. This would be ideal for an amateur cause of the gradual climb of 6kms to Peth village. This climb takes on an average 1.5- 2 hours on an average. Kotligad is frequented by a lot of avid trekkers for its easy climb and the views that it has to offer of the north konkan region. The views and the greenery were beauty at its grandest. Dehydration was minimal, partly because it was a gradual climb and more importantly it was a cloudy day. Taking breaks every 40 minutes, we made good time to reach the village of ‘Peth’. The walls of the fort are easily visible from this village. Kotligad is also known as ‘Peth cha Killa’ (Marathi for Peth’s fort) for the village that is at the base of this fort. There are two routes to the top; one being a difficult one, though doable, but we didn’t opt for it. The other being the easier and more frequented one. A quick confirmation from the villager and we proceeded towards the right path. Due to excessive rains, just at the entrance of the village, there is an area of slush which is of ankle depth that one just cannot avoid. There is no general stores kind of shop at this village. The village relies on stocking up their monthly requirements from ‘Ambivali’ which they ferry it up in a bullock cart pulled by two bulls. The stock is just too heavily loaded for the two bulls to keep momentum on a constant climb. On our return, there was section where the bulls just couldn’t move and we lent a helping hand to the two villagers by pushing the cart. It took nearly 25mins to make any sort of headway before we continued down our path.

The speciality of Kotligad fort is the entrance to the fort which is a funnel carved through the inside of a rock that opens up on the top of the fort. This is one of its kind. I haven’t come across a trek with this funnel type creation, as yet. The summit or the funnel is easily visible from various sections as one starts the trek. Climbing this funnel makes for the most exciting part as one must watch out for loose rocks on the steps and constant dripping of rain water ensured the rocks were quite slippery. Please ensure only one person climbs this at a time; if not ample space between people. The view just before one enters this funnel like structure is very beautiful. This fort was used more as a watchtower for the advancing enemy and the foresightedness and engineering should be marveled at. The odd cannon is still present, not preserved, at the summit ensuring one remembers a piece of history and the purpose served. Slight drizzle through the entire trek proved a boon and the panoramic view from the summit as clouds parted ways gave a stupendous view of the valley.

There are a couple of caves with a temple at the entrance of the fort on the left side. The locals from Peth village regularly offer their prayers to this goddess for their safety and well being. This provides a nice spot for trekkers to take a break before the final climb through the funnel entrance. We reached the summit at 1pm with couple of breaks in between for capturing the views that the place had to offer. We spent 1 hour on top, relaxing and munching our sandwiches that we prepared at the summit. Generally, as every return back to the base is filled with a heavy heart, this was no different. A dog from the village kept us company all the way to the base village ‘Ambivali’. We reached the base at our own leisurely pace at 5.45pm only to realize that the last bus from the village had already departed towards ‘Chowk’ area. There was another group of 6 trekkers who were facing the same issue and at the mercy of the rickshaw drivers from the village who charged an exorbitant sum of Rs. 700.00 to ferry us to Karjat station. They weren’t ready to reduce the fee since they had the upper hand then.

We requested the rickshaw driver to ferry all 9 of us to Karjat station and he agreed. This cost of Rs. 80.00 per head could have been avoided if one had reached in time for the last ST bus of the day. Lesson well learnt for all of us. The last ST bus via ‘Ambivali’ passes the village at about 5.30pm, as intimated to me by one of the villagers, and one must ensure that they come back down by that time in order to catch the bus. Heavy rains on our return towards Karjat in a rickshaw that had only 1 headlight in working condition and no wipers to ensure a clear view of the road was tricky and exciting, but also scary. The passengers who were sitting in the front next to the driver had to keep their vigil and communicate to the driver on the road state for potholes and oncoming traffic. With darkness engulfing by 6.30pm, vehicles on the highway would normally assume a single headlight vehicle to be that of a bike until it’s too late to realize.

Thankfully, everyone reached Karjat station safely at 8 pm. Boarding the train back to Mumbai with wonderful memories of a day trek to Kotligad. This trek is a must do for everyone, simply because its easy and it’s a day trek, close to Mumbai.

Costing (per head):
Return train ticket to Karjat from Kurla/ Thaneà Rs. 40.00
ST bus ticket from Karjat to Chowk junctionà Rs. 22.00
Share rickshaw from Chowk junctionto Ambivali villageà Rs. 25.00
Food, Waterà as per requirement
Rickshaw from Ambivali back to Karjatà Rs. 80.00

      Overall, the trek was done within Rs. 250-300.00 approximately on the top side.
      Please do not litter the environment and ensure plastic waste is carried back by you back to the city for
      proper disposal.

      Note (Imp.): Last bus leaves Ambivali village stop at 5.30 pm. The rickshaw guy will charge a big fee
      for however small your group is and considering the time of the day, one is at the mercy of them to ferry
      you. One must stock up on food, water and basic necessities from ‘Chowk’ junction itself.

      Twitter Handles:
      Kris: @krist0ph3r
      Narayanan: @MeanderinTravel


Derek4Real said...

Sounds like a great day trek :) Appreciate the tips on transportation as well. Always handy to know the bus schedule so as not to be stuck at the mercy of local transportation options.

Prash said...

Yea..a good day trek.. :) Thanx Derek.. :)