“We don’t stop hiking because we grow old
We grow old because we stop Hiking”
Karnala Fort(also called Funnel hill) is a hill in Raigad District about 10 km from Panvel city.Curently it is a protected place lying within the “Karnala Bird Sanctuary”. It was a fort of strategic importance as it overlooked the Bor Pass which connected the Konkan coast to the interior Maharashtra(Deccan Plateau) and was the main trade route between these areas. Karnala Fort consists of two forts one at a higher level and the other lower. At the centre of the higher level is a 125 ft high basalt pillar.It is also called Pandu’s tower.This structure was used as a watch tower when the fort was occupied however now it is a ruined structure.
The meeting point of our group for the trek was Panvel station.Panvel is on the harbour line of Mumbai rail network.Those coming from western suburbs need to change at Wadala and those coming from the Central suburbs need to change at Kurla.This was my second trek with Darkgreen Adventures. From the assembly point at Panvel station, we proceeded to the ST Bus stand which is about a km away and took us about 10 minutes to reach. You can also take a Tumtum(8 seater auto rickshaw) to Karnala.The fare varies and is around Rs 200 per person. We hopped onto a bus which took about 20 minutes to reach Karnala and the fare was only Rs 15 per person.
On reaching Karnala, we took some photographs outside the Bird Sanctuary and thereafter commenced the customary intro session as most of us were meeting for the first time. The intro session was followed by a light breakfast after which we commenced our trek to the Fort from the base of the bird sanctuary.
We trekked down the cemented road lined with lush green trees on both sides which formed a thick canopy and we did not get wet even though it was raining heavily. On the way, the chirping and chattering of birds kept us entertained.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary is home to around 147 species of resident and another 37 species of migratory birds which visit the sanctuary during winters. Among the birds frequently seen are paradise fly catcher, magpie robin, malabar whistling trush, racket-tailed drongo, golden backed woodpecker, crested serpent eagle etc. Two rare birds i.e. Ashy Minimet and Spotted heart woodpeckers have also been sighted.
This sanctuary is also home to monkeys, hares, foxes, mongoose, monitor lizards and rare boars along with few other small animals. Trees of Neem, Karvanda, Jamoon, mango, fig and crocodile bark form the bulk of various shades of green seen here.
Enroute we had a minor problem as one of the first time trekker was finding it difficult to walk ,he being not appropriately dressed – wearing heavy jeans and a jacket. With assistance from other fellow trekkers, he was made to change into shorts and we continued with our trek. This individual is now a veteran of treks.
Along our route, we could see many Bird cages on our right and beautiful Guest houses on our left. After a while we could also see a mini Dam after which the narrow path led us into a jungle also known as the hariyali way.
The initial ascend to the Fort is through a dirt path made of roots of the trees. The path has some sheds and also leads to a narrow stream which can be crossed without much difficulty.
The path between shed1 and shed2 is a rocky ascend.
This part of the trek is the most difficult part, the track being stoney leading to a tough ascend. It does not require rock climbing skills but one must have good stamina and wear a good pair of trekking shoes.
After crossing shed 1, we came across a big fallen tree on which We took some rest, quenched our thirst and took some photographs.
The path between shed2 and shed 3 was less rocky
This part of the route has a mixture of flat dusty trails as well as rocky ascends, but is simpler than the previous leg. There are some multiple trail options but most of them join together ahead so it is o.k. to take any trail.
The track between shed 3 and shed 4 is the simplest leg – a flat trail with no forest cover giving a good view on both sides of the hill.
The last Shed(#4) is opposite a temple and the fort entrance is a little ahead.
“ When everything feels like an uphill struggle
Just think of the view from the top.”
The entrance to the Fort is via a steep climb of stairs with water trickling down and is somewhat tricky to climb. some of the trekkers had to take help of the trek leader to climb up the wet stairs. The railing is also missing at some places one has to be very careful. There stairs lead to a narrow entrance to the fort.
On entering the fort, we could see the pinnacle also known as the green thumb. It took us about 2 hours to reach the fort where we shared some fruits, dryfruits and dates carried by the trekkers before setting out to explore the place. The Pinnacle requires expertise of rock climbing and it is not advisable to attempt to climb the pinnacle during monsoons. The fort has many wild flowers and good greenery all around.
From the top, you can get a good view of Prabalgad, Matheran, Chanderi, Dronagiri fort, and Rajmachi.
After spending an hour and half exploring the fort and its surroundings, we commenced our descend.
The descend was a much more difficult as due to the rains, the path had become very slippery and topped with loose mud. All of us however managed a safe and smooth descend. We took about an Hour and a half to descend and being very hungry we headed to a dhaba opposite the sanctuary for a bite.
After lunch, It was time to say goodbye and depart for our destinations. I found this the most difficult part of the trek as we met so many strangers, made a few good friends and soon had to part with their company as this was one group in which all of us bonded very well helping each other, clicking pictures and having fun together. On our return journey, we found the ST bus timing was not suitable and therefore hired a tumtum to Panvel Railway station which cost us 100 bucks each. From Panvel, I returned home in a train.
The experience was exhilarating, the Monsoon is here and the lush green hills are just waiting to be explored !!! Hurry.
Some more photographs
How to get there
1) Take a train to Panvel station(its the last station on the harbour line of Mumbai”s Local train network.
2) Take a ST Bus from Panvel Bus depot .Ask for buses going to Alibagh via Karnala.Alternatively you can take a Tumtum . Fare around 200 per head.Try to bargain for a lower price.
By Road : Use the GPS. There are detailed driving directions on the net. It takes about 2 hours depending from where you start. There is ample parking available and cost about Rs 100. Entry fee of 35/- and professional camera 100/-.
Best time to visit is October – April. But Trekking in the Monsoon is very exhilarating as you get to see the rainwashed hills as if they just had a fresh shower.
Tips for the Trek
- Wear track pants/shorts or similar attire with comfortable T-shirt/shirt
- Carry 2 litres of water ,dry snacks, fruits
- Raincoat or similar(Umbrellas hinder while walking your hands should be free
- Sun glasses and sunscreen
- A cap
- Camera for good photos
- A haversack/backpack to carry your belongings