The year 2020 was the biggest challenge for all of us. With the world going into a lockdown due to the corona pandemic, most of us were confined to the four walls of our home with no contact outside. With the threat of pandemics looming large, the lifeline of Mumbai – the local trains were out of bounds for the common public. With no means of getting around, my blogging came to a standstill.
This continued for the entire stretch of 2020 but in early February 2021, the trains were finally open to common people. With the good part of 2020 spent inside confinement, I decided that it was time to step out and explore the world once again and see for myself how the world had changed post the pandemic.
I had travelled extensively within the city, so this time I was on the lookout for a new place and that’s when I came across Kothligad in Karjat. After a little research on google, I decided to set out on my first adventure after lockdown.
Kothligad Fort – Karjat
Kothaligad (also called Kotligad/ Kothligad/Peth) is a small fort (3100 ft) situated to the east of Karjat near Karjat-Murbad Road in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is a famous trek in the Karjat area, because of its small height and easy climbing. It is also known as the Fort of Peth because of its vicinity to Peth village at its base.
The fort is located in Karjat. You can take a train to Karjat station. From there, buses are available which will drop you at Ambivili Village. From here, you need to trek to the base village, Peth and then start your climb to the fort from there. If you are using two-wheelers, then there is a road that goes all the way to Peth. This ensures that you do not waste your energy in trekking to Peth from Ambivili village. The distance to Peth from Ambiviliis around 4 km and involves some arduous climb through mountain roads. Also, the condition of the roads are not good and one needs to be extra careful while driving.
I took the 6 am Karjat local which dropped me at Karjat station at 8 am. I got a bus at 8.30 am and proceeded en route to Ambivili village.
From Karjat station, it takes around an hour to reach Ambivili Village by bus, I reached Ambe village by 9.30 am. There are shops near the bus stop where you can have breakfast. You can also pre-order your lunch which you can have while returning from the trek. After a quick pitstop for breakfast, I moved onwards towards Peth
From Ambivili Village to Peth – Stage 1 of the trek.
The distance between Ambivili and Peth is around 4 km. There is a muddy road that leads to the Peth village. With some of the most beautiful views on one side and a steep climb on the other, the trek was memorable for many reasons. You have to pay Rs 50 to the forest department for entry. Once you proceed after the check post, you are all alone. Sometimes you may find people – the villagers or the trekkers but most of the time, you are all alone. This gives you a creepy feeling as you are walking alone in the forest area with no one in sight.
As you move further, the concrete roads vanish and are replaced by the dust road, Also the climb slowly starts getting difficult.
I reached Peth at around 11 am and stopped for some rest. The walk from Ambivili to Peth had completely drained me out so it was time to sit down for a while and relax before the second stage of the trek.
Peth to Kothligad – Stage 2 of the trek.
If I thought that the hard part of the trek was over, then I was terribly mistaken. The trek from Peth to the fort involved some difficult climbing through the mountain trails. At some point there were no path at all and you had to use your judgement and bare hands to climb the slope.
I have always had this fear of heights. This is so acute that I get severe panic attacks even when looking out of the window of our third floor flat. However, over the period of time, I had learnt to control the anxiety and overcome this fear. Little did I know that the fear would be back with 100 times the intensity and would challenge me in every bit possible.
At Peth, you can experience the rustic village life thats gone missing from our lives now a days. These people are helpful and will guide you if you ever get lost. The village itself is quaint and calm. You will see mud houses and bullock carts that have typically vanished from our villages in our race to the future.
Walk down the path for a while. The path comes to an end at a village square where you will find a board which gives you the information about the fort. The trek begins right from here.
The upward climb
From this point, you are in the forest area. At some places, the path is clearly defined but at some it is not. You will need to use your hands to climb. It’s easy to get lost as there are no signs guiding you but at regular intervals, you will find villagers selling buttermilk and other snack items. Follow them and you will be on the right track.
The upward climb from Peth to Kothligad lasts for 45 mins. But for me, it last for almost two hours. This was because, as I started the climb, I panicked due to the heights. I had to take unscheduled rests in between. As you can see from the pictures above, due to the difficult terrain, it was really tiring and exhausting to continue non-stop. At some point during the climb, the thought of giving up came to my mind. But I decided to continue. And, once I reached the top, I realised that it was the best decision that I had ever made.
Kothligad Fort was primarily used as a watchtower & ammunition depot by the ruling armies. The strategic location of the hill provides a commanding view of Padargad, Malanggad, Siddhagad, Chanderi fort, Bhimashankar & Matheran plateau in clear weather. The fort structure is like that of a thumb. The unique feature about the fort is the hidden stairway to the top. This stairway starts from the inside of the fort and goes all the way to the upper levels giving it the name – Kothligad. Kothli- Belly or an intestine.
Inside the fort..
There’s a temple dedicated to Bahiroba inside the caves adorned with intricate carvings. Multiple caves are connected to this cave. The fort also has water cisterns. I could also see some canons on the entrance.
After spending sometime resting and enjoying the beauty of the nature, it was time to return. The return journey was more eventful as I was extremely conscious about the height, which in turn triggered severe vertigo. Slowly and steadily, I made my way down. Unfortunately, by the time I reached Peth village, it was 4pm. I had already ordered my lunch. This meant that I had to wait back and finish my lunch before I could move from Peth to Ambivili. The last bus to Karjat from Ambivili leaves at 5 pm and there was no way I could make it on time.
Luckily , I met a family from Ambernath who were gracious enough to drop me at Neral Station. Those were the times when entry to the locals for common public were restricted to certain slots. Common people could use the train between 5 to 9 in the morning, 3 to 7 in the evening and again from 9.30 till the last train in night. On arriving at the station, I realised that I had missed both the slots and would have to wait for another two hours before I could catch a train. So I took a rickshaw to Badlapur and hailed an Ola cab from there. Finally reached home by 11 pm.
The next 2 days were spent nursing a sore thigh and back from the arduous climb. But it was fun all the way and when I was transferring the pics to the laptop, I realised that eventually it was a job well done, considering the fact that I had scaled the heights by overcoming the fear.
Pretty soon, life settled in to a normal rhythm of work from home. But the wanderlust in me refused to be satisfied. And a month later, I was back on the roads. This time on another trip to the hills. More about that later.
Please read and comment. Will be back soon.