The fort didnt really crumble around us, if you’re imagining scenes from Prince of Persia. There just isnt much of it left, save a few walls and ramparts here and there.
So Sarasgad was to be my first fort this monsoon. Atleast, whatever part of the monsoon has reached us.
It looked good on paper. The base village, Pali, was a couple of hours away from Thane railway station. The fort was a medium-grade trek for three hours or so each way. Having absolutely nothing to do since we had just finished our exams, me and a couple of friends from college set out on an early weekend morning to join a trekking group called Trek It Easy who had organized a trek there.
So it was the 4.28 local from Borivali and the 5.21 from Dadar to reach Thane by the specified 6.15 time. We reached earlier than we expected, and a hot cuppa later, we were ready to leave. The guys from Trek It Easy had booked an ST bus for the journey from Thane to Pali. I’m sure anyone who has travelled in an ST bus will sympathize with us here. Our butts must have felt every pothole from Thane to Pali, and there wasnt a single moment of the way that I wasnt thankful to my iPod for taking my mind off, umm, things. I will not linger on this part of the day, needless to say it wasnt the most enjoyable part.
On reaching Pali, we were introduced to Pradeep Kelkar, who’s this awesome character who has been organizing treks for more than 30 years now. He gave us a few instructions so the first-timers were not caught unawares, and then we were all ready to leave.
To begin with, we found ourselves trekking through a dense forest region. The walk, while not easy, was manageable, consisting of mainly medium sized rocks and slippery mud. While there wasnt much climbing involved, what was there was steep! It wouldn’t have been a problem if the weather was on our side, but the rains seemed to be in a playful mood, coming out in torrents for a couple of minutes, leaving us all scrambling for our windcheaters, only to disappear as soon as we had them on, making the atmosphere a whole lot muggier and hotter in the process.
The heat was getting to a lot of people, but with sips of water every 10 minutes, we didnt have too many problems making it through. It took some time, since there must have been approximately 50 people in the group, and the trail we were following was not made for more than one to walk through at a time.
The jungle was followed by the easiest part of the trek – a vast green flatland at a moderate height. A few people stopped here to rest – the breezes were getting stronger the higher we climbed, and at this part, the heat was less of a factor because of the strong winds.
Doing little more than walking now, we crossed the plateau to come to the first moderately challenging part of the trek – the rock patch.
The rocks were in small stretches, each one higher than the rest. Most required us to use our hands to climb up to the next one, but it was cool because of the winds, and the intermittent drizzles made it almost a cakewalk.
The people who crossed it first took a break at the top. The winds were crazy here, and a few people lost their hats due to them being blown off. The view from the top was awesome, with loads of villages and forests being stretched out below us. This stretch took a bit longer than the others, and many people needed a hand from the guides in some particularly tricky places.
The fort consists of two massive rock formations that can be seen from afar. At first glance, it looks impossible to get to the top because the sides are more or less vertical rock faces, but there is a staircase between the two rock structures that you would never know about till you actually were standing between them. After having climbed the rock stretch, we were now ready to attempt this staircase.
Ah, my old enemy – Stairs
So, after having trekked through forests and rocks, you’d think stairs would be a breeze, right? Not so. The mistake you are making is comparing these stairs to the ones in your building. Imagine if the stairs in your building were half the width, twice the height, narrow, open on one side with mossy rocks on the other, and were as slippery as oil. Now multiply this by a number between 10 and 20 and now you’re closer to what these stairs feel like.
Hanging on with our hands for dear life, we went up the steps slowly, taking one at a time. Things began to get frisky when a snake appeared out of nowhere and landed on a girl’s head, but after some panic control, everyone managed to get the stairs out of the way. The view from the top was awesome, and it had started drizzling by now, and with the winds still going strong, the rest of the short trek up to the top was not really a problem for anyone.
Inside the fort now, the grassy knolls and wide open spaces were soothing after the long walk up, and we all sat down with our lunchboxes. It was no surprise that everyone was starving and the food wouldn’t have taken much time if it wasnt for the rains playing spoilsport and coming down in torrents, forcing us to seek shelter. However, it didn’t last long, and soon everyone was done with lunch and walking around clicking photographs or just resting.
The organisers decided that we would all sit together and have a few impromptu performances, so we sat ourselves down and watched some powerful theatre and singing from the unlikeliest of people. (At least, I think they were powerful, they were in Marathi you see, so I was lost pretty early on).
After that was done, it was time for some exploring of the fort. It had deep caves that are supposed to fit close to a hundred people and were supposedly used by soldiers to stay in. The caves have ponds of fresh water from the mountains, so it must have been a pretty self-sufficient place to stay in. Too bad about food though.
The torrential downpour I was talking about had made the stairs and the rock patch even more slippery than they were, so we took our time coming down. This gave me time to spot some interesting characters, like these two.
This was around the time it started pouring in earnest again, and we were soon drenched. The walk back to the bus seemed longer than it should have been, but we got there eventually. Most of the bus was asleep on the way back to Thane, and another ST bus from Thane and 45 minutes later I was back home itching for more.
All in all, not the toughest trek I will go on, but definitely a memorable one.