So one fine day in college, we saw this pic.
1. Kalavantin Durg and its sister fort Prabalgad stand on this plateau called Prabalmachi,
2.Prabalmachi is an hour’s trek from the base village of Thakurwadi.
3.Thakurwadi is approximately 20-25 kilometres from Panvel.
4.Its one of the toughest treks we could have chosen.
Since it was impossible to find anyone who’d been to the place before, we set off on our own one morning, catching the first local from Andheri to Panvel. A rickshaw from Panvel later, we were at Thakurwadi, beginning an easy stroll up into the mountains. The awesome cloud cover meant nothing that remotely looked like Kalavantin Durg was visible, but it made for some beautiful photos!
To start with, the walk up to Prabalmachi was pretty easy, with a broad, well-defined trail, though none of us really expected that to last long. Sure enough,it soon got a lot steeper and denser,but it was still a comparatively manageable trek. The weather was holding up well, being windy and cool without any rain. We made good distance for the first hour or so, but then the rains decided to compensate for the calm by coming down in torrents. This slowed us down a bit, but because of the comparative ease of the path, we were not unduly bothered.
We were well and truly in the clouds, and visibility was an issue because we still had no sight of our destination, so there wasn’t much encouragement coming our way. Nevertheless, we stuck to the path (not that we had too many options), our only major stop being at this beautiful waterfall we came across.
Due to the clouds, it was quite a surprise to us when we eventually landed up on Prabalmachi itself (machi=plateau). It is basically this huge stretch of flat land, with both Prabalgad and Kalavantin Durg sitting on it. In normal weather, now we’d be sitting pretty, because we’d only have to head towards the funny-shaped structure we’d seen in the pics. However, with visibility being little more than 30 feet or so because of the clouds, we had no idea which direction to head in, because the plateau is covered with a regular maze of tracks, with each one splitting up into two or three more.
We rode our luck a little here, going with whatever paths seemed more likable. Suddenly, we stopped, having definitely heard a rooster crow. With accusations and counter-accusations of hallucinations and ghosts, we proceeded, only to stand there with our jaws on the floor as a whole village suddenly opened up before us. Because of the clouds, we hadn’t seen it until we were almost on the doorsteps of the first house.
Relieved, we stopped at a house and asked for directions. We were pointed out the correct route going through the village, and we proceeded, before having second thoughts and asking a village boy to accompany us.
We stepped over wooden fences and fallen branches in the village, and were soon out through a back route, heading higher up towards Kalavantin Durg. The trek got a lot tougher here, with ascents being very steep and very slippery, and we were forced to use our hands and to crawl up some tricky patches. Using tree roots and rocks to pull ourselves up, we continued, taking a little diversion on the way to check out a little cave, that our guide told us used to lead to a tunnel that would take us to Prabalgad, but which was now blocked.
After a tiring and difficult hour, we reached this place that was open on two sides, with a vertical rock on one side, and on the other side, there was this –
See those small depressions in the rock? Would you guess those were for climbing up? Right, nor did we. Hearts in our mouth, we watched as Deepak, our guide, leaped from rock to rock, slipping a couple of times in the process. After a few disbelieving looks at each other, we followed him. It was as bad as it looked, and it wasn’t a short climb by any stretch of the imagination. We rested a couple of times wherever we could find a place that we could stand in. Soon, the rock shaped depressions gave way to fully formed stairs, that were no less scary by virtue of having around 6 inches to keep your foot on, and covered with moss.
However, soon we were at a flattish place, with just one vertical rock face separating us from the pinnacle. Exhausted but excited, we ditched our bags, and somehow got to the top, finding footholds and gaps in the rock where none were visible. Delirious with joy at finally reaching the top, we ran around like idiots screaming our heads off (okay maybe we didn’t, but we felt like doing it). The clouds had us completely enveloped, and it was that top of the world feeling all over again that makes the whole climb worth it. After a quick photosession in the clouds with the flag at the peak being the centre of attraction, we finished the food in the one bag we had carried with us, before doing the vertical rock again.
At the more sheltered flat place, we decided to open the remaining lunches, but we were stopped by such a torrential downpour that we were forced to scramble for what small shelter was offered by the rockface. None of us were very happy about attempting the stairs in that kind of rain, so we decided to wait till it got better. The conversation soon shifted to what makes us makes us attempt these things, and what our parents would do if they found the details.
Lots of shivering laughter later, we decided that the rain was just getting heavier, and started our slow descent, taking our time to cross the stairs and the scary rocks, only to notice with dismay that a huge group of around 50 people had assembled there. Their leader/guide was treating it as the pinnacle, with evidently no plans to proceed further. Just as we appeared around the rocks, he was telling the others “Today for the first time, I felt like I did an actual trek”. We burst out laughing at the look on his face when we showed up from above, and I couldn’t resist muttering “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost” as I passed him. They started moving back down crestfallen, and we decided to finish our luches before overtaking them and reaching the base, enjoying the views we had missed on our way up.
Thanks fellow trekkers, for being the fastest, bravest trekking team I’ve had the pleasure of accompanying. And the people who pestered me till I wrote this post. Owe you.