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Old 11th December 2014, 13:12   #1
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Smile Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Once I moved to Mumbai, most of my expeditions were in my bike and later my car. Thanks to TBHP and the regular doses of travelogues, my appetite for exploring our surroundings was always unsatisfied and we have always been travelling / exploring close and far away places every now and then.

On several of our trips, whenever we would head south of mumbai, on the Mumbai - Goa Road, we would always pass Karnala, see the "Thumbs-Up" peak which is visible from the highway and wonder if we can actually get there? On several occasions, we even visited Karnala Sanctuary but I was always restricted to the just the base as my wife is a strict no-no for ANY kind of trekking which will make her sweat. So that essentially ruled out venturing anywhere on foot at least within Maharashtra - and especially more so during the summer months.

I, on the other hand have always been interested in Trekking but never the long or the rigorous kind. For me the ideal Trek should last no more than a couple of days and given my questionable physique it is just as well!

The good thing is that Mumbai and for that matter the entire Konkan Belt comprising of the Sahaydri range offers amateurs trekking enthusiast several opportunities for short duration treks with varying difficulties, from the very simple to some real tough and scary ones. Having seen the Karnala Peak umpteen times, spent way too many useless weekends at home doing nothing, finally decided to go ahead with the Trek with a few friends - of course with due permission from the Home Ministry!!

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The Big

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and The Small

Last edited by PGNarain : 11th December 2014 at 13:16.
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Old 11th December 2014, 14:55   #2
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai - Karnala Bird Sanctuary

Having finalised that I was going to Karnala, I started to scour the web for information, and there was a lot of it. Right from reviews on Tripadvisor to several reviews and trip reports written by people who had visited the place. One review in particular that worried me was by a couple who had been recently robbed while in the sanctuary and had their cameras, money etc been looted. The report had come in the newspaper as well and it seems that the miscreants have been bought to justice. However, this meant that I would not be risking it out alone - so managed to band together a motley bunch of office colleagues who agreed to go with me.

Since then I have completed a total of 3 trip to the Karnala Peak, always with a different group and each time has been fun with new things to discover and see. Therefore, I will outline here a collection of trips rather then any one trek in particular. It is also why some may notice that similar / same surroundings look very different in some photographs.

Karnala Bird Sanctuary - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnala_Bird_Sanctuary

Quote:
The Karnala Bird Sanctuary is located in Panvel Taluka of Raigad District, outside Mumbai, India near Matheran and Karjat. The sanctuary is quite small with an area of 12.11 square kilometres but along with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Tungareshwar sanctuary is one of the few sanctuaries to be within reach of the city of Mumbai.
Early mornings are always a good time to start for any trek as you can avoid hassle of traffic, start when the weather is relatively cooler and also avoid crowds during the trek. Each time that I went to Karnala, we would start at about 0500 - 0530, have breakfast on the way and plan to reach the parking area at the foot of the sanctuary by about 0700.

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On the Goa Road...

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My bike resting in the parking!

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Rusting in pieces

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"No Horne Please??" - This photo probably belongs in the Quirky Photos thread!!

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The park officially open by 0700, but there is nothing to stop you if you do enter earlier. There is nothing more than a wooden barrier at the entrance which you can just see in the background.

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Do carry about Rs. 200-500/- per person in cash and sufficient loose change as Entry tickets + Camera Tickets + Parking Tickets need to be paid upfront at the booth at the entrance. The person manning the booth come at about 7-7,30 and if you do happen to enter before that and dont have tickets on the way up, you may have to buy them once you come down!

Sometime they may also ask for a refundable environment charge - to keep the park clean. Essentially, if you are carrying disposable plastics (chips, bottles etc) you have to declare them at the entrance and if you don't have the empty packs on the way out they will retain the deposit. I have personally never paid this - but have heard it being charged from several people.

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A rough map of the area. There are two trails to the top but it is recommended to use the less steep and well marked trail. It is most frequented and well marked. Total distance to the top is about 2.5 kms from the base.

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And the open road ahead...

The tar road in the above photo leads to the base of the trail, which houses a small zoo of kind - with rabbits, eagles, peacocks. during my earliest visits - motorcycles were allowed right till the zoo but now only staff is allowed, haven't seen it being used by visitors.

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A map displaying the trails - IMHO it isn't of much help at all!!

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Steadily trudging on!!

On the way we saw several of the local inhabitant out for the morning ablutions - I guess!!

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Crabs!!

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A little closer...

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A little more closer... This one didn't run away and held his ground!

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Some others were more content keeping away from prying eyes.
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Old 11th December 2014, 16:19   #3
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai - Karnala: Towards the Top

The Climb to the peak begins almost right after the tar road ends.

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And keeps moving further into the forest.

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Saw more inhabitants... who seemed not to be too bothered.

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And more joined in for the show.

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Kept stopping to rest and that gave opened up new vistas.

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Most of the photos are of the time I went just after the recent monsoons and the forest was lush green with lots of undergrowth!

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and looking even closer...

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From a small clearing saw our ultimate destination.

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and here my friend tries to strike a stoic pose!!

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Post monsoon - the forest floor was littered with crabs of all shapes and size and even colors!!

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Tried clicking a few more pics before the bugger hid itself again

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There are was humid and due to the thick foliage there is no wind or breeze at all. So you will perspire a LOT!!

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Pushing on further into the forest!

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and Looking back...

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and looking ahead...

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Once we had scaled the western ridge... we could look out over the mountains beyond!

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Perhaps should have mentioned it before, I would rate the Karnala Trek as below:

Duration: Very Short (3-6 hrs)
Stamina: Easy-Moderate
Skill: Novice - no skill required

The climb can be broken down into 3 stages or 3 major climbs. In the first stage you scale the mountain's western ridge and get to the top or the "back" of the ridge - the place we are at right now in the narrative. This is the longest section - in terms of distance covered.

From here there is another vertical climb along the "back" of the ridge in the southerly direction. This is the steepest section.

Then the final ascent onto the fort at the base of the Thumb's Up Peak. This last section is very short and not too hard!!

Back to the photos...

I am not much of a bird watcher and on all my trips to Karnala saw didn't really pay attention to snapping the avian race. However, other than crabs and monkeys - there are spiders galore at Karnala.

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Moving forward up the "back" of the ridge.

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And upwards

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At times the ground levelled out giving us some respite from the climb.

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Some flowers and such!!

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A chopped down tree...

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and a disused anthill...

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and we keep moving further on!

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Last edited by PGNarain : 11th December 2014 at 16:23.
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Old 11th December 2014, 17:14   #4
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai - Karnala Fort

Once the 2nd stage of the climb is finished there is a small covered canopy which can be used for a a few precious moments of rest and to stock up on water. By this time - rest assured you will be streaming with sweat, more so if you happen to go during or just before or after the monsoons.

We did just that and rested for a few minutes.

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In the meantime, this bumblebee too thought to take a break and I shot it!

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Captured a few more beautiful vistas around!!

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... and it was time for he last push towards the peak!

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On the way through a clearing, took another shot of the hills over the eastern side. The fog covering them gave lovely depth to the scene.

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Passed this small temple lies on the way.

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And also several stones with strange white pock marks??

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Catching our breath and looking back where we came from.

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Wild flowers

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The final push!!

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Almost there...

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Met this butterfly perched tenderly on the railing leading up the last steps to the fort.

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I thought it would be more at home among flowers here...

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The last few steps have support from some steel railings, which I guess are helpful during monsoons but otherwise do not inspire much confidence, though they are a source of comfort and are useful when climbing down.

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View from the entrance of the fort over the path we have come along.

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And in the front - finally the peak and the dilapidated ramparts of what once was a thriving lookout point.

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A group who had come from Pune and was with us more or less most of the way.

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Looking out and beyond...

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Old 11th December 2014, 18:03   #5
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai - Looking around the Fort!!

Once we reached the top, refreshed ourselves, took a bathroom break! and proceeded to explore the fort. Wait - not before we check our emails and send sms to our better halves that we are all ok!

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A small insect.

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The highway below as viewed from the top!

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There isn't much to see at the fort itself, and to tell you the truth it wasn't the reason we trekked all the way here. Just a nice break from the daily rigmarole and routine and noise!

During the dry season, saw lots of honeycombs.

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Another view of the path we took.

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Difference between the seasons - the same archway spaced opposing seasons apart.

On 2nd Oct, this year...

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On 29th Dec last year... to be fair the these two photos are not exactly of the same archway, but both are adjacent to each other!!

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On 2nd Oct, this year...

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On 29th Dec last year...

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... again, to be fair the above two photos are not exactly of the same place - but very close by!!

Having had our fill, it was time to start climbing down.

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Somebody left a part of their shoe behind!!

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Descending into the overgrowth on the way down.

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By this time my friend was tired of my constant clicking and refused to pose any further.

You can see him practically running away! But that didn't stop me or slow me down for that matter.

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The path during the post monsoon visit was totally overgrown and thick with foliage.

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As we came down, caught this lone crab making his way across.

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Anthills and beautiful fungus growth!

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Back at the base, tribal-village art.

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and a few more photos...

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Last edited by aah78 : 16th December 2014 at 20:49. Reason: Additional smileys deleted.
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Old 11th December 2014, 18:08   #6
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai - Kalavantin Durg

Wow... now that we were thorough with Karnala Peak and having down it multiple times, started to look for another place to go for trekking. It was then that I stumbled upon - Kalavantin Durg, and boy it was an amazing adventure-trek, just as it promised to be.

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Above photograph has not been taken by me - pulled it off the net for reference purpose only.

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Old 12th December 2014, 16:09   #7
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th December 2014, 17:45   #8
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Kalavantin Durg

As I have already mentioned, I and my friends were on the lookout for some fresh places to explore on foot. As expected, I turned to google to help me out and came up with this article - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/l...w/28638567.cms
Quote:
Want to beat the cold by sweating it out? Why not gear up and go trekking? With plateaus, forts and hill-tops surrounding the city, here's looking at some of the most popular trekking spots around Mumbai.
Wikipedia does not have a page for Kalavantin Durg but has one for the adjacent trek to Prabalgad Fort, which has a brief mention of Kalavantin Peak - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prabalgad

Quote:
Prabalgad Fort is located between Matheran and Panvel in the Indian state of Maharashtra, at an elevation of 2300 feet in the Western Ghats. It was built on a plateau very close to Matheran, but unlike Matheran it does not have a good source of water. It was known as Muranjan until it was taken over and renamed by the Maratha forces under Shivaji's rule.[1] The fort contains a temple to Ganesh and some stone ruins. Its sister fort is Irshalgad.[2]
Also, I wanted to go somewhere which promised to be just a day trip and preferably a half day trip. Immediately, Kalavantin Durg stood out. It was close by, and promised to be not more than a 5-6 hour trek.

Compared to Karnala, there wasn't much information about Kalavantin Durg. Also, most of the posts / blogs were rather contrasting, some mentioned it being really difficult and dangerous and some others said it was easy.

I will rate the Trek as EXCITING. It promised and delivered on it's promise of a fantastic day spent in the hills! So without further ado let me surmise on a few major points and then will let the pics speak for themselves.

The Trek to Kalavantin, located at a height of 2,300ft, begins for most people from the base village of Thakurwadi, near the Shedung Phata (Off the first exit while travelling from Mumbai to Pune on the Expressway). Though the road is largely a narrow one lane road till Thakurvadi - it was in good condition and cars / bikes can easily traverse it till Thakurwadi. ST buses ply to and from Panvel Depot on an hourly basis till Thakurwadi.

The walk / trek begins from Thakurwadi and can be broadly broken down into 3 parts:
1. Walk from Thakurwadi to Machiprabal Village
- Duration: 2-2.5hrs (Total Distance - 4.0 kms)
- Stamina: Easy-Moderate
- Skill: Novice - no skill required

2. Machiprabal to base of stone steps
- Duration: 1.5 - 2.0 hrs
- Stamina: Moderate - The climb to the base of the stone steps is rather steep.
- Skill: Novice - Just be cautious

3. Base of stone steps to the TOP
- Duration: 1.0 hrs
- Stamina: Moderate - going is nice and slow
- Skill: Beginner's level rock climbing. This section can be intimidating for some and requires the utmost caution.

The following photos will cover each of the above sections separately.

We were a group of 5 guys and as usual planned an early morning start. Met up with a friend who joined us at panvel on his bike and reached Thakurwadi by about 0700 - half an hour behind schedule.

Parked the Linea next to the Hanuman Mandir, gobbled up a bkfast of sandwiches and we were ready to hit the trail.

All pumped up. The yellow coloured building in the background is the Hanuman Mandir and the pointed peak to the extreme left in the far background is where we were headed to!!

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These dogs got attached to us and accompanied us all the way to Machiprabal.

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Off the beaten track.

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The sun coming up behind the ghats!!

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The younger (and fitter) members kept a good pace.

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Beginning of the kaccha trail, which breaks off from the tar road seen earlier.

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Though most of the vegetation had started to dry up, there was still colour about.

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As we pressed on, a lot of the trail was broken looked like it had been subjected to torrential rains, washing away a major part of the road!

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Stopping to admire the landscapes and the rising sun.

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Caught this butterfly in the morning sun.

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and these earthworm mounds among burned grass.

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and a dead snake - some bird's meal gone misplaced!!

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Some stretches the trail was severely damaged but nothing that caused too much trouble.

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Parts of dried vegetation all burned down.

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Stopped for a photo....

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And kept moving ahead.

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The path is well marked and you can't get lost or go astray. The same cannot be said for the trail after Machiprabal.

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The sun breaking over the mountains!

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The village Thakurwadi seen as a small cluster in the distance.

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Looking closely.

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The surrounding peaks!!

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Last edited by PGNarain : 15th December 2014 at 17:50.
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Old 15th December 2014, 21:08   #9
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Let me be the first to congratulate you for the great trekking-logue.
There are more photos of crabs and dogs in the bird sanctuary.

Please do the justice to the birds' sanctuary and post some more photos of birds.

Thanks
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Old 16th December 2014, 15:50   #10
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Kalavantin Durg

Continuing with the Trek...

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The path through that we took seen from the distance.

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More photo ops.

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Passed this small Hanuman Shrine on the way the way to Machiprabal - It marks the last leg before we arrive at the village of Machiprabal.

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Catching a closer glimpse of the peak

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The sun begins to break through.

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Evidence of a landslide earlier in the season

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The path curving to the plateau on which rests the village of Machiprabal

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The board outside the dhaba, which is right at the entrance of the village and also where we had our breakfast and lunch!!

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Breakfast is basic Maharashtrian fare of Poha, Upma, Omelette and Tea. Since it is cooked over a wood fired stove it takes time and in the meanwhile our group decided to click some more photographs of the surroundings.

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Peering over the precipice.

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Inside the dhaba

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and just outside...

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Panoramas just outside the dhaba

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Last edited by PGNarain : 16th December 2014 at 16:12.
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Old 16th December 2014, 16:56   #11
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Kalavantin Durg - Climb to the Peak

Our group was so famished after almost 2.5hrs of trekking from Thakurwadi till Machiprabal that whatever food was served was gobbled up without thought. We also stocked up on Nimbu-Pani (which was essential for the rest of the Trek).

Before leaving snapped a few photographs of where we were headed and started the climb to the peak!!

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A closer look... you can just faintly make out the saffron coloured flag right at the top!! Thats where we had to reach...

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Passing through the village.

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Emerging from the back where the rough trail begins and diverges between Prabalgadh and Kalavantin!

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Asked these boys for the route and got on our way...

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Pics along the way!

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After leaving the village, the trail really broke down and at times we found it difficult to determine where we had to go. Another group who was with us, lost their way temporarily.

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The climb was getting increasingly steep and the path was completely overrun with broken stones, loose soil and boulders. I eventually had to holster my camera in the bag otherwise it would get damaged. Managed to take photos only when we stopped to take a breather now and then!!

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The other group which was just behind us and proved to be most helpful.

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Beginning of the stone steps. From this point the Trek got a bit scary. On one side is a sheer rock face and on the other a straight drop all the way down. Thought the steps are wide, they are narrow and some very tall, which will force you to get down on all your limbs to climb.

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I don't feel embarrassed admitting that at this point I seriously considered backing out and not going any further!! The steps offered some comfort but not nearly enough. Though none of our group backed out, some persons from other groups did back out and stayed put at the last landing!! If anyone has vertigo or is scared of heights - they will not be able to climb this last stretch.

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Had to keep the camera back in the bag as it was impossible to have it dangling around my neck. Also, looking through the lens and/or zooming caused me vertigo once and I felt I was falling . That was the last straw, the camera had to go!!

We finally reached the top, thirsty and very tired. The very last bit also involves a bit of rock climb with bare hands to get right to the top (where the flag is hoisted) marking the final destination.

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Actually, we were tired and felt more like this!!!

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Some pics from the top!!

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Last edited by PGNarain : 16th December 2014 at 17:03.
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Old 16th December 2014, 17:41   #12
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Kalavantin Durg - The climb down!

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Our entire group. We had the fortune of meeting Mr. Jain (the elderly guy). He is 64, has trekked to the Everest Base Camp - twice, and had come here all on his own. While we were tired, thirsty and sweating profusely - he seemed to be as fresh as we were when we had started in the morning. Also, he was carrying with him a days's supply of water and food and sleeping arrangements - coz his plan was to stay the day and camp at the top for the night - All alone!!

We were in awe of this guy and yet he was most humble, truly an honour meeting him.

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The climb down was a bit tricky and took its own sweet time!!

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Back at the landing... and looking back up. At different levels you can see people descending slowly!!

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Encountered this cave on the way down. It is supposed to be a direct route from Kalavantin all the way to the Prabalgadh Fort. Don't know if this is true or not, but it is now blocked, which is perhaps better!

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Back at the dhaba, we waited eagerly for our lunch and meanwhile snapped this boy having a ball all by himself.

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Lunch being prepared, and consisted of simple Maharashtrian fare of curry, salad, Bhakri / Roti / Rice.

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The house cat waiting for its turn.

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Thoroughly refreshed we started back but not without a final good bye!

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The sun was out in its full glory and beat down harshly but the climb down was quick and easy - especially after all we had been through.

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Clicked some random pics on the way down!!

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This rusted board marks the beginning of the kaccha trail, perhaps should have posted this earlier.

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and the tar road to Thakurwadi, back the way we came in the morning.

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The final snap of the day!!

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As I mentioned at the start, the trek to Kalavantin was EXCITING and delivered on all that we expected it to be. Being so close to Mumbai meant that we were home by 1530 with aching bones and muscles and the promise of cold beer later in the evening!!

All in all a lovely day, well spent. Will add more treks to this thread as I keep completing them.
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Old 16th December 2014, 18:09   #13
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Very well detailed trekologue! Beautiful pics. Had been to Kalavantin way back in 2008. Good to see a dhaba being started.
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Old 17th December 2014, 09:40   #14
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Nice pics and a well-detailed post. Thanks for sharing. On first look of the peak it looked difficult, but the way you trekked up is good. I'll probably try that next monsoon.
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Old 17th December 2014, 10:18   #15
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Default Re: Treks around Mumbai: Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Kalavantin Durg

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLS View Post
Let me be the first to congratulate you for the great trekking-logue.
There are more photos of crabs and dogs in the bird sanctuary.
Please do the justice to the birds' sanctuary and post some more photos of birds.
Thanks JLS. I am not much of a bird watcher and the only photos I have are of birds at Karnala which were in their cages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodge_Viper View Post
Very well detailed trekologue! Beautiful pics. Had been to Kalavantin way back in 2008. Good to see a dhaba being started.
Thanks Dodge. Good to hear that you too have been to Kalavantin. We plan to go to the adjoining Prabalgadh Fort as well in some time and if you want you can join us perhaps!
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