Kalavantin Durg: The Unplanned Day Trek in The Sahayadris

We never venture out without doing proper research. Our love for research is so great that we may equate the happiness we get out of it with the happiness while doing the actual travel. But, our journey to the Kalavantin Durg was different. It was spontaneous, and we had very little idea what to expect!

Where is Kalavantin Durg?

Panvel is a suburb of Mumbai, India. It is well connected with Mumbai through local trains. The trail to Kalavantin Durg starts from a village named Thakurwadi. Thakurwadi is about 45 minutes away from Panvel. Auto-rickshaws from Panvel railway station charge near about INR 300 for a one way trip. The same auto can be re-hired for a return trip, provided you note down the driver’s phone number and give him a call for a pick up.

Alternatively, there are MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) buses which are often loosely referred to as ST (State transport) buses which leave Panvel MSRTC bus stand for Thakurwadi village hourly. It costs INR 17 for a one way trip.

The last bus leaving Thakurwadi for Panvel is at 5.30 PM.

Although referred to as Kalavantin Durg (Durg means fort), there is no fortification. It is just a high hill with a watchtower on top.

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Fire in The Oil Tanker

The plan was to go on the Irshalgarh trail. I had scrolled through the photos on Instagram and read the sparse literature which existed on google. When we arrived at Panvel railway station all we had was a handpainted rough map of the trail on a piece of paper. The auto driver was clueless about Irshalgarh and tried hard to convince us to take up his favourite – the Kalavantin Durg trail. We politely rejected his offer.

We were looking at the hills on both the sides of the highway. My hair was blissfully dancing to the tune of the breeze. This dance, however, was shortlived. The police had blocked the road ahead and the highway suddenly looked like a choked alley in the old neighbourhoods of Mumbai.

“The industry ahead has caught fire,” spoke a stranger.

“A resort is burning ahead,” an old woman muttered in broken Hindi.

“An oil tanker ahead has caught fire, the road will remain blocked for about an hour or two more at least,” the police personnel explained.

We preferred believing the oil tanker theory.

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Thakurwadi Village – Kalavantin Here We Come

We made up our mind. We asked the auto to take us to his favourite trail – the Kalavantin Durg. He took a U-turn and soon we left the highway and entered into a side track.

The narrow path through which the three-wheeler passed had paddy fields on both sides. The hills overlooking the village appeared to be its guardian. The villagers were busy with their daily business.

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Thakurwadi Village

Plunging waterfalls throughout the lush valley and tufts of clouds floating by, this is what a typical Maharashtrian village looks like during monsoon.

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Thakurwadi Village
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Thakurwadi Village

Some of the houses in the village appeared to be remarkably well-off. I was also surprised by the number of houses in the village with private cars parked in front of them.

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Thakurwadi Village
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Thakurwadi Village

Dressed in light shades of green, pink, blue and orange, the village temple complemented the moody lush beauty of the valley. The homes of the average villagers are clustered near the temple zone.

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Temple of Thakurwadi Village
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Thakurwadi Village

There was a riot of red and yellows in front of the institute of NOTI which deals with offshore vessel anchor handling.

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Thakurwadi Village
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Thakurwadi Village

Trek to the Base camp of Kalavantin Durg

“One, two, three, jump!”

Click. Click. Click.

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That’s how our trek started.

Whenever we go to a new place, I (Tania) jump as soon as we find a desolate stretch with no one to laugh at us.

The dirt path was lined on both sides by bushes. On that particular monsoon day, the Sun was brighter than usual.

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Once in a while we caught glimpse of some rare bird sitting on the branches of the trees on the slope.

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For the initial 45 minutes, I felt obsessed with the waterfalls cascading down the hills in front. I made the husband stop every now and then to try and grab an artistic photo of me with the waterfalls. I was gleaming under the abundant sunshine. Profusely sweating and panting.

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A carpet of pebbles made up most of the path. When there is a rainfall, I could very well imagine streams gushing down the slope on which we were walking. The rest of the stretch would be knee deep in mud.

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The Sun shining brightly worked in our favour.

Makeshift shacks selling chips, lemon water, tea, cucumber for the trekkers gave occasional appearances on the way.

We stopped at scenic spots once in a while to enjoy the moment.

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About a month before coming on this hike, we accidentally came across a Youtube video on Kalavantin and what we saw gave us goosebumps . At the bottom of our hearts sat a deep rooted fear, the source of which was that Youtube video.

It was comforting when we saw children and aged people hiking on this trail alongside us.
“So the video must have been an exaggerated propaganda to attract eyeballs,” we discussed among ourselves.
Little did we know that soon we would be facing some of the scariest moments of our lives.

Like a wolf waiting for a prey, sitting on a rock, I was waiting for a trekker on his homeward journey. I pounced on the first person. Well, from him we came to know –
1. Thakurwadi is not the last village on the Kalavantin Durg trail.
2. There is a real base camp on top with tents. People can choose to stay there overnight.

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The good news was that we were close to the base camp.

We enjoyed some calm moments of solitude with cucumbers in hand by the side of a waterfall flowing into a stream.

A narrow strip of land connects the two shores of the stream. The velvety grass on the other shore was too inviting to ignore.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

“What an uncanny resemblance it bears with Mordor of Lord of the Rings,” I exclaimed.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

I was referring to the eerily black coloured hill which abruptly rises from one end of the plateau that happens to be the base camp.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

 

The base camp was a huge meadow on a hilltop. In terms of beauty it was in no way less than the Himalayan sites. Close your eyes and imagine any Himalayan meadow sans the snow peaks — well, the Kalavantin Durg base camp had a similar charm.

The vibrant pop of blue here and there on the green attracted our attention. Tents were not the only accommodation available. An entire concrete shelter with rooms was built on that meadow.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail
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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

The owner is a local named Nilesh Bhutambara who is “the only graduate resident of the village Prabalmachi”- the last village before the no-man and no-woman’s land.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

People were merrily sitting, chatting and having a good time on the grassy plateau floor. I saw the kids and some oldies hanging around. The dining space in the concrete structure was packed.

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Base Camp of Kalavantin Durg Trail

Discovering Prabalmachi

It was not an easy discovery. Since leaving the base camp, we befriended a group of native language speakers and followed a thin trail. It was clear a large number of visitors never venture farther than the base camp. This time we were completely on our own and we could have ended up lost in the forests beyond Panvel.

For one thing, I knew these forests are home to leopards.

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We were unsure of our next move when a woman appeared from the bushes. She was wearing a blouse and saree. The saree was draped in dhoti-like fashion, typical to Maharashtra(or Konkan) area. On one hand was a dagger, her other hand was free. On her head was a basket. A nose-ring was dangling from the separation of her nostrils.

She gave us directions of the trail to Kalavantin Durg in Marathi. What she said was incomprehensible to us, we followed the natives.

We were indeed going the wrong way and if not for her, we may have found ourselves somewhere lost in the forests.

This stretch was daunting. We were deep in a forest. The trees and leaves blocked out the light and made the path quite dark even during daytime. It was a wild mess of trunks, branches and roots .We were placing our feet very carefully in the minor gaps among these. It was not a flat land but an uphill rise. We grabbed the trunks and branches for support. At some point our knee started paining.

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A blind dog came to welcome us. In a forest clearing we saw little huts rising up. Through the open doors of the huts we saw people living in abject poverty. They had very little belongings. A little girl passed us, hens clucked, the kids with eyes full of playfulness were running around barefoot.

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Prabalmachi Village
Kalavantin Durg - Huawei 13 - Prabalmachi - Maharashtra India - Azure Sky Follows
Prabalmachi Village

At that moment we understood the true power of Nilesh Bhutambara’s achievement. We felt proud of him.

The village had proper provision of feeding the weary trekkers. Vegetarian and chicken meals were available.

Last Leg of the Trek – The Most Dangerous Stretch

A little ahead from Prabalmachi, the summit and the way to it was clearly visible. There were no more trees or forests to block our sight. There was nothing but a gigantic perpendicular rock.

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Rock cut steps with very narrow footspace were carved out of that hill. There were no handrails of any sorts. Since it was monsoon season, most of the stretch was wet and slippery.

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From the solo lemon water shack at the base of this hill, we observed the plight of the people climbing up and down. It was a hard decision to make, but we finally made it.

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In order to reach the perpendicular rock, we needed to cross a roundish rock with cracks and fissures. The round shape of the rock and the mosses thriving on it made this stretch extremely dangerous. A fall meant almost certain death.

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As I am writing this, my hands are shaking at the thought of it. The climb up was nothing compared to the petrifying climb down.

We placed our legs oddly in the fissures and cracks of the rock and successfully avoided stepping over the mossy rock surfaces. With our hands we grabbed the safe holds in the rock. We were waging a different war in our minds. We fought hard to push aside all negative thoughts and kept on believing ‘WE CAN’.

Once this part was done, another challenge presented itself.

One set of rock cut steps abruptly ended. The next set of rock cut steps was to the right of the previous one. There was a considerable gap in between them. The gap was a 90 degree rock wall. Extreme stretching of legs without losing balance is required to reach from one set to another. The taller you are the better.

At this point I almost gave up and was ready to return back. But I didn’t. I did the stretching and survived.

The next part included just climbing up the stairs without slipping and falling. It was definitely easier than the two challenging stretches which we had already covered. Once in a while we stood still and looked back, rather down. Strangely, it didn’t scare us much.

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We saw a flag fluttering on the hill opposite to us. It’s summit was higher. It is Prabalgad Fort- the twin of Kalavantin Durg.

The climb continued for about 20 minutes. The steepness of the stairs and our paranoid nature made us use all four limbs.

Kalavantin Durg Summit

The summit had panoramic views of the surroundings. Matheran, Karnala and many other places are said to be visible from the summit. Though we saw many a place, green valleys and water bodies, we have no idea how to distinguish between Matheran and Karnala. Again, one of the disadvantages of inadequate, or in this case zero, research.

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The summit of Prabalgard Fort was in front of us on the opposite hill. May be we watch way too many fantasy movies, but we almost felt an evil vibe radiating from that mountain. It looked like Mordor from Lord of the Rings more than ever.

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Soon we were under the blissful cloak of clouds. The surroundings grew surreal. We saw a waterfall plunging down through the clouds on the slope of another mountain.

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A downpour started. We sat on a rock under an umbrella. In the worst weather conditions, on top of a treacherous mountain we found our moment of solitude and bliss.

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We were finally living our dream of travelling together in offbeat places, doing things which scare us and living a fulfilling life.

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Some loosely fit boulders made up the steps of the tower built on the summit. Infinite leg stretching was required in order to scale it. Since we were just two people and conditions were already adverse with the rain and clouds drenching us, we decided not to try it out.

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Climbing Down – The Horror and New Friends

We started our downward journey as soon as the rain stopped. Fortunately, our lack of expertise was spotted by a hiking expert. He taught us some proper techniques of climbing down.

As we descended, we befriended another expert who was busy helping a man with cramped leg climb down.

If on our own, the descent would have terrified us. The downpour had made the path more slippery and life threatening. But, the company of our new found friends supplied us with loads of courage and confidence to overcome the fear.

The descent down the round rock numbed me of my senses. I spent so much time in taking that first step that I must have created a queue behind me.

I couldn’t believe both of us made down to the bottom of the rock unharmed.

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Walking down the rest of the trail till the base village of Thakurwadi was a breeze. We were no more just a group of two persons but a group of around ten people. New friendships were formed, interesting stories were exchanged.

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This daytrip was traumatizing and freeing at the same time! I couldn’t sleep that night. The thought of the magnitude of the notorious terrain we had just managed to climb and get down safely tormented me throughout the night.

Do’s and Dont’s In Kalavantin Durg Summit Expedition – Learn From Our Mistakes

  1. Anyone with average amount of body fitness can reach till Kalavantin Durg’s base camp.
  2. Scaling Kalavantin Durg’s summit is no joke. Don’t go farther than the base camp if you are an amateur.
  3. It is best to go for the summit with a group including an experienced (mountain climbing) person to guide you.
  4. Don’t panic at any moment. You have to keep your mind under control and think clearly if you want to scale a vertical rock and come back alive.
  5. Wear very good shoes with excellent gripping.
  6. Throughout the trail there are shacks selling drinking water, the last shop is at the base of the vertical rock.
  7. Don’t get overexcited and shock your muscles by jumping on the summit. It may result in leg muscle cramp.
  8. Avoid monsoon season. If you can’t, then at least go for the trek on a non-rainy day.
  9. Carry extra pair of trousers as the one you are wearing may get torn up due to friction with the rocks while climbing up or down.

Have you been here? Do you plan to go here and need more information? Comment below and let me know!

*****

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67 thoughts on “Kalavantin Durg: The Unplanned Day Trek in The Sahayadris

  1. Lovely photos and well described account of fascinating trek. Glad you survived a risky experience, having travelled farther than you at first imagined. Sometimes destinations just keep luring you, and sometimes it is too far. Finding places without knowing about them is better than when you know about them, but it is usually wise to research as you say. Occasionally, a spontaneous journey is also needed, and I’m glad yours went well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sahyadris are my favourite. In fact I love them even more than the Himalayas. I have trekked so many times in Sahyadris but somehow missed Kalavantin. I love how treks in Sahyadris come with great views and even local food at times. Lovely pictures and blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful photographs of this area! You provide a lot of good information and tips on hiking. It is true, you should never underestimate a hike or climbing a mountain. Always bring more than the amount of water you think you need. You never know what could happen. Keep up the great posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thakurvadi seems like a perfect monsoon trek. The greens of the place are so refreshing even in your pictures. And I can see you had quite an adventure and a fun time. I should definitely consider this on my visit to Pune, It seems doable from there too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have uncovered a gem in Maharasthra. I never knew about the existence of this place. But really what a picturesque place. I was enamoured looking at the lush green landscapes. Must indeed have been a magical hike to the top of the hll, even though the descent had its own problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow..an unplanned trek that also through the greenery of Sahayadris.. You had such a wonderful time. And no wonder, the day looked just perfect with the clouds overhead. Monsoons definitely add so much charm to the hills , isn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Quite an adventure, I must say .. Never heard about this place. We used to stay in Mumbai for two years and had no clue about such a place exist. It’s a perfect weekend getaway I must say for peeps who are adventurous. I am too lazy when it comes to hiking 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hadn’t heard of Kalavantin even though I have stayed in Mumbai. But the green monsoon scenery of Shayadris look familiar and delightful. A great trail that I would love to do some day. I guess it is hard to trek on a rainy day but it is also true that this region looks the best during the rainy season.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Sahyadri mountain range is home to many trails which are quite popular among monsoon trekkers. The lush greenery is a treat to eyes. Looks like your unplanned detour to Kalavantin durg turned out to be an amazing experience. The trail looks so inviting and equally treacherous. I m really glad I could read about your experience tackling the huge boulders.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Shayadris look so beautiful in the monsoon season. So lush and green. Kudos to you for completing your trek. The photos look so enticing. I love trekking and would love to do this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love how much detail you have shared in your post. This looks like a great trek, although I’m not so sure about sleeping in a tent close to leopards hahaha. I am planning a trip to India in 2019 so this will be helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A really nicely curated post and the pictures captures the different moods accurately. I have never visited this place but seems like this place needs to be found. Have trekked through a few mountains in lower Himalayas, etc. But western ghats is specially beautiful after a fresh shower, I sure hope its still the same. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This unplanned day trek to Kaavantin Durg despite of so many odds coming in between really looks more beautiful trek than the planned ones. You have captured natural pictures of this place. This place is so green and is appealing to me because I always love greenery. The views of forest, mountains, waterfalls and fort from top of the mountains are worth and you have taken nice shots in rain also.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. ” The best views come after the hardest climb!” Wow, you are a rockstar!! Can’t believe you did that. Some amazing pictures you captured. Very brave of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds like a really fun adventure and you two sound so cute together. I love the playful dialogue and the inside jokes. Sounds like you would have fun anywhere you go :).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Spontaneous trips are some of the most memorable trips and I’m glad to hear that you took the auto up on his offer to show you guys his favorite trail in the end. Love how green the trekk route was!

    Like

  17. First of all congratulations on completing the trek and that too with such difficulty. I’m not a trek person so I’m sure I gonna skip this one, but yeah I can go upto the base camp. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow, you are so brave! I would have probably looked at the rocks and then just say no. I am afraid of heights and no matter how much I love hiking I would never climb a vertical rock like that, especially in the wet season. I can’t believe you were so unlucky that the rain came as well while you were up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I haven’t done anything that scares me for a long time, so I thought I wouldn’t let this opportunity go! But the place is really dangerous during monsoon so I think no one should venture to this part of the world in the wet season.

      Like

    1. There was indeed a viral video on this place but I am not sure if that is the same one which you are talking about! It was very scary and the track was slippery. Don’t worry we almost died of fear too 😀 but the experts there helped us overcome our fear! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. This looks like a great trekking experience. I think it’s suitable for someone like me who have little experience, or don’t particularly enjoy trekking! The views are amazing too!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. शानदार यात्रा विवरण
    एक बार तो यहाँ भी जाना ही है देखते है कब मौका लगता है।
    कठिन है तो आनंद और रोमांचक भी रहेगी।

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Taking photos while hiking is so challenging! Not to mention when it rains handling the camera becomes a nuisance! We still don’t have any sports camera like GoPro. Saving up so that we can buy it in future! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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