“It is not the Mountain
We conquer, But Ourselves”.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Kohoj is a medieval military fortification located near Palghar in Palghar district of Maharashtra. The fort is said to be about 800 years old and finds a mention in the Purandhar treaty along with 22 other forts which were surrendered by Shivaji to the Mughals on 11 June 1665. Kohoj Fort is presently in a dilapidated state and has remained abandoned for centuries. Kohoj has a moderately difficult gradient and it takes about two and a half hours to reach the main plateau from Vaghote village which is situated at the base of the fort.
Kohoj is located about 104 kms from Mumbai off the Mumbai – Ahemdabad Highway. Upon reaching Manor, take a right turn under a newly built flyover and follow the Manor – Wada road. It is approximately 10 kms from the right turn. After a few minutes drive on this road, one can see Kohoj fort on the right. At the bottom of the fort is lake Pazhar. The Fort stands at an elevation of 3200 ft.
I first thought of trekking to Kohoj Fort when I spotted it from the highway while driving back from Lonar and identified the fort with aid from Google.
“Roses are Red, Dirt is brown
Let us go Trekking, And out of town”
On receiving news of a night trek to Kohoj from Darkgreen Adventures, I decided to join in. The meeting point of the group was at Panvel station(The last station on Harbour Line of Mumbai’s Suburban rail network) from where we were to board the Panvel – Dahanu Passenger train for Palghar. I left home well in time and reached Panvel Station platform no 5 from where the train departs where I met other fellow trekkers, introduced ourselves and spent some time chatting awaiting arrival of the train. The train being unreserved, a few boys of our group had to jump in to ensure the remainder of the group get a place to sit. We spent the three hours of train journey playing Dumb Charade. I being not much of an actor, participated in the game only to help identify the film’s name. Some of the other passengers in the train also joined in and we did not realise how the journey time passed and we reached our destination Palghar at about 8.30 pm. From Palghar station, we proceeded to the base village Vaghote in jeeps which took about an hour. Our group consisted of 29 trekkers including the trek leader Krishna.
After walking a short distance from Vaghote, we reached Pazhar lake from where the trek to the fort begins. The track leads along the perimeter of the lake into the forest. Since it was dark, the Trek Leader advised that we enjoy the beauty of the lake next morning on our return journey.
“And into the Forest I go,
To Lose my Mind,
And Find my Soul”
Traversing the jungle during the night amidst nocturnal sounds was a thrilling experience. We walked in a single column constantly keeping track of each other in the dark. I had some problem with my flash light which refused to glow even though the battery was fully charged, but a fellow trekker promptly assisted me by illuminating the path ahead of me with his torch. On spotting any uneven patch on the path or a ditch, the concerned trekker would promptly warn the other members of the impending danger and need for exercising caution. The members readily assisted those who needed help during the climb.
After trekking for about half an hour, the climb becomes a bit steep so we took a short break to enjoy some juicy oranges, quench our thirst and capture some photographs. Since it was a night trek, the journey was quite pleasant and not very tiring. After about three hours of trek, we reached the plateau where we decided to rest for the night.
Since the surface was rocky, the foldable tents carried by some trekkers could not be pitched. I had carried a sleeping bag in my backpack and snuggled into it trying to make myself comfortable against the cool strong breeze on the hard rocky bottom while enjoying the clear sky above full of brightly lit stars – a rare sight in Mumbai.
“I know nothing, With any certainty
But the sight of the stars makes me dream”
I felt an inner peace, enjoyed the solitude, marvelled at nature and fulfilling my dream of sleeping under a clear sky full of stars, I soon dozed off. While a few others also tried catching some rest, some members of the group did not want to sleep, gathered some wood, lit a bonfire and spent the night playing Antakshari and Dumb Charade.
At the break of dawn, all of us asleep were jolted out of sleep with loud music being played next to our ears as it was time to resume our trek to the top which would take about 30 minutes and we had intended to reach there before sunrise. We reached the top in time and witnessed a spectacular sunrise with different hues of colour – the blue strands, then pink and then orange. I captured some shots of the beautiful sunrise in my camera.
Every Sunrise is an invitation to brighten someone’s Day
The approach to the top has a few standing remains of the fortification. The top of the fort is a large surface and a man-shaped pinnacle created due to wind erosion is one of the best natural sites on this fort. Different shapes of this pinnacle are evident when viewed from various directions.
There is a Hanuman temple and a temple of Lord Krishna along the route. After exploring the place, taking some photographs and enjoying the cool breeze, we commenced our return journey to the plateau. Enroute, we had a problem with one of our fellow trekkers suffering a sprained ankle. Although a spray of “Move” did reduce her pain but she was unable to walk and we had to assist her down taking turns. On the plateau we prayed at the Shiva temple which we could not visit during the previous night.
After trekking down for some time, we were surprised to locate two cisterns of potable water and halted at a spot for freshening up, having our morning tea and Breakfast. Two makeshift chulhas were prepared with stones and firewood gathered from the forest. I was impressed with Krishna’s planning who had carried all essential items required for preparing an appetising Maggie breakfast – shelled Green peas, carrots, onions and tomatoes(which were chopped fresh) . The Yummy noodles with ginger tea was an excellent combination. Cooking a meal in a forest was a new experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tea and Maggie Preparations in the morning
We collected all the trash and carried them down with us to dispose them off in waste bins at the base village. Our descend to the lake was slow due to the ankle injury suffered by one of our colleagues. At the lake, most of the trekkers opted for a refreshing swim in its cool waters. After spending about an hour savouring the beautiful surroundings of the lake.
We resumed our trek to the base village and arrived there at lunch time. Lunch for the group was pre arranged at the Village Sarpanch’s home and we had a tummy full of simple but delicious local village food. We also freshened up here and hopped into the waiting Jeeps to ferry us back to Palghar station. The departure time of the train was at 6.30 pm requiring a waiting time of two and half hours. In order to avoid wastage of time, I decided to take a local to Virar, then to Bandra, to Wadala and Nerul. I had to change trains a number of times but managed to reach home by around 7 pm.
Some more shots of the Sunrise
The trek was well organised by the trek leader and we were all well looked after. There was no instance of any trekker getting separated from the group in the forest and getting lost at night. Kudos to the Trek Leader – Krishna.
“I have a Therapist, Her name is Nature”
How to get there:
From Mumbai : There are a number of trains from Mumbai Central/Bandra Terminus for Palghar.
From Palghar either take a Jeep, Tumtum or a ST Bus. The distance to the base village Vaghote is about 32 Kms. Assistance of a local villager can be obtained to accompany and guide the trek team.
- Clothes – Track pants and comfortable T– shirt/top. Avoid denims
- Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Cap. If you are trekking at night, carry a Flash light.
- Two litres of water.
- Carry floaters/slippers. it is very comfortable after the trek to get out of your shoes.
- If trekking at night, carry a sleeping bag/ bed sheet/ light quilt as It gets cold at night.
- Good Trekking Shoes
- A wind cheater to protect you from rain and cold
- A back pack to put all your stuff in.