The past three years had gone by without a single trek. All my trek buddies were out of station, and I was missing a good trek with them. Could have ventured out with a trekking group but was too lazy to do that. Fortunately, Yogesh was to come down from Turkey this monsoon and Mayur and Santosh were also in for this one. We planned it almost a month ago, but could not zero down on a location. With options ranging from Tikona – to Peb – to Peth again – Ratangad – Kalsubai etc etc … we finally settled for Mahuli, the fort near Asangaon. and the highest point in Thane district at approx. 2800 ft.
We planned for an early start so that there is no delay due to any unknowns. It’s always best to plan for an early climb so that the descend is not in the dark. But things at office were taking a wrong-turn, and we were asked to stay back for the weekend. I excused myself since I had already committed for this trek and apart from my boss being pissed off with me, there were no other hurdles. By Friday night, we were all set for the trek. Packed my backpack with essentials and requested my friends to get some stuff to eat, since I couldn’t have carried any food this time around, apart from bananas.
The morning of the trek was eventful for me as it is on every trek. Missed the alarm :), and rushed myself to get ready. Walked to the gate only to find no rickshaws, panicked as usual, as if I missed the train, it was an hour’s wait for others. I thanked my stars when a bus arrived, but had to make a last 100m dash to catch the train on time. Met Santosh @ Thane and the others @ Kalyan and we were on our way. A lot of catch up to do, we chatted all the way to Asangaon and didn’t realise when we reached the station.
All of us were pretty hungry and started hunting for something outside the station, but this looked like a sleepy town with nothing open even @ 8 am. So, we hopped into the first rickshaw at the stand and agreed for a return fare of Rs 500 (they have a fixed rate) to Mahuli trek starting point. Luckily, there is a small shop out there that caters to hungry and thirsty trekkers. But, please note, this is the last place where you will find something to eat or drink, so stock up here. They serve yummy poha and vada pav and can also arrange for lunch meals on request – both veg and non-veg. However, if you expect popular branded bottled water, please stock up from elsewhere.
We had a plate of poha and set off on our trek by 8:45. There are mainly two places visited here, a waterfall at the base itself, and the fort. We soon came across a fork in the road, the left takes you to the waterfall and the straight road takes you over a small bridge over a river. Beyond this, there is a small chowky that collects entry fee to get into the forest. From here began our gradual climb towards the fort. We could see the peak at a far distance and had no idea what it would take to reach there, considering we are now almost 40 year olds, but the enthusiasm to scale the peak was still intact.
The first half of the trek is mainly stone steps at gradual intervals, so it is a steady yet steep climb, which we realised only while descending :). It took us an hour and a half to reach the first clearing after this climb. We caught our breath here and finished off the bananas which were now close to pulp in my sack with the water bottles in there. The sky was thankfully cloudy and the weather was pleasant, so we weren’t getting too dehydrated.
Yet, all of us were drained off strength, but the sight of the peak encouraged us. More than that, what encouraged us was a young girl who had come alone for this trek and was tirelessly moving along – true inspiration (a decent one – not the mischievous kind) for us to carry on. It was wonderfully green all over and it seemed as if the clouds had descended on the mountains. It truely felt like a walk in the floating clouds.
The final stretch had a couple of tricky rocky patches, but the final one was a huge rock patch, which would have been impossible to scale if not for the iron ladder placed there by I don’t know who. It had begun to rain by now and our windcheaters were out. The base of this ladder was a shaky one and it was a narrow ladder that could allow just one person to ascend or descend at a time. To add to the complication, a dog hesitating to climb it was making it difficult for Santosh to get on to it. Somehow, all four of us managed to climb it and we could see a small group at the distance on the peak where the flag was hoisted.
We gave this peak a miss for now and moved further into the fort to look for a cave, as we were terribly hungry. It had takes us slightly more than 2 and half hours to scale the peak from the base. A short stroll later we reached the cave and the Kalyan Darwaza. Not much to see here. The door arch is broken in the centre and there is a small water tank here. The caves are only big enough to house a group of maybe 10-15 people.
We settled down here and out came the yummy lunch these guys had carried all the way. Lunch (irrespective of what you eat) on a trek will, any day, beat a lunch at a fine-dine, and any trekker will bet on that, I’m sure. It was a sumptuous lunch and we had a good one hours rest at the cave. It was just us reminiscing on memories of past treks and catching up on the last 3 years. We moved out @ 12:30 pm, for a final stop at the flagged peak before the descend.
By the time we reached it, a lot of groups had come in and it had become a decent crowd. We had to wait for sometime for it to clear so that me and Santosh could go over for a memory snap. Getting down the ladder now delayed us since it had become even more shaky and the crowd gathered at both ends had to wait for one person to cross it at a time. This point probably needs another ladder or a better option.
Soon, we were on our descend. It had started to rain again. We waited for sometime to catch a glimpse of the miniature peaks named Navra, Navri, Bhatoba, but the clouds did not clear enough. Some of the rocky patches we encountered on our way up were slippery by now and it was a small challenge negotiating them, but once we had crossed them it was a smooth descent. The last 30 minutes through the steps was a testing time, as legs had given way by then. Knees were hurting and maintaining balance was getting difficult. But we somehow made it to the base.
Had a hot Vada snack before calling our rickshaw driver to pick us up. Bid each other goodbye during the short ride to Asangaon and then a train ride back to Mulund. A day very well spent in the lap of mother nature bursting in pleasant greens. Wish I had more of such treks ….