“Leave the Road and take the Trails”
Prabalgad lies on the Prabal Plateau between Matheran and Panvel and can be seen from the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.The Ulhas river flows to the east.The Gadhi river,the Chanderi and the Peb forts are to the west.To the south is the Patalganga river and to the north is the karnala Fort.
I joined Happymates for this trek and we were to assemble at Panvel station at 6pm.As a stickler for timing,I arrived there on time as also quite a few other members but as usual had to wait for more than an hour for the late comers and we finally moved into Tumtums at 07 30 pm to take us to Thakurwadi.Tumtums are a larger version of autorickshaws in which eight persons can sit but ten of us managed to squeeze in.It is 14 km from Panvel which took us about 40 mins to reach.The road follows the Old Mumbai-Pune road upto Shedungphata (9km), from where we turned left for Shedung, Belavli andVardoli and thereafter taking a right we reached Thakurwadi. In Thakurwadi there is a research-cum-recreational centre called ‘Apollo Nusi Research Centre’ built in the year 2001. From here we turned left. On the right we saw a beautiful private bungalow. We had to get down from the Tumtum a little before the end of the tar road as the driver refused to take us further ahead. From here we walked down the tar road till a bifurcation where we turned left. From here, a broad cart track leads to the top.
It was 8.30 pm by the time we assembled(22 members in the group)and at about 9pm we commenced our trek to Prabalmachi– our destination for the night.Good music,the twinkling stars and the moon light gave us company !What more one could ask? An absolute joy for nature geeks like me.It was pitch dark but that did not prevent us from clicking some group photos.
The trek was not difficult but we had some freshers in the group who slowed down the trek speed a bit and it was midnight by the time we reached Goma’shouse -the only homestay in the plateau.It took about 3 hours to reach our destination which usually takes about 1 ½ hours
What we did not expect on reaching the homestay to see is that they would wait for our arrival to prepare hot chappatis and bhakris (Indian Breads).The food was delicious, the chicken curry being one of the tastiest I had ever had, but was a bit spicy for our fellow British trekker who with his nose and eyes running, did not give up and continued to relish it.
Enjoying the Bonfire
After a delicious dinner, we lit a bonfire and followed same with some melodious numbers belted out by a fellow trekker Sapna- an artist in the making who sang some very melodious Assamese, English and Hindi numbers.It was fun dancing and singing in the wilderness. We noticed another group pitched tents and I really envied them ! .
At about 4 in the morning,we called it a day and all of us tried to shut our eyes for some time. Some members rested in the open under the stars.We were provided rooms with bedding.
I got up at 5.30 am and could witness the spectacular sunrise, took some beautiful shots and soon it was time to commence our trek to Prabalgad.The scheduled time to start our trek was 6 am but it was 7.30 am by the time we started, after having a fullsome breakfast of egg bhurji and pav /poha /tea. Ashish the Trek Leader took a local guide along without whose help it would have been difficult for us to reach our destination.
Trek through the thick Forest
As we entered the thick jungles, I noticed that there were numerous trails leading in multiple directions. We could have easily got lost in it. The route to Prabalgad is not direct. One has to trek towards extreme right (south), trek up and then walk towards left (north).
As we trekked towards the right path, the route got suddenly steep. The path was strewn with huge rocks.
The Rocky Path
After about an hour we turned left and climbed through a gully. When we saw the fort from the lower plateau, we never imagined that this would be the route. In fact the route was not noticeable as the rocky walls are almost straight. After a while, we could see the rocky formations on our right which are very inviting for a rock-climber. In fact this can be a good place to practice rock-climbing.The route in some places is marked with white painted arrows.All of us found it quite difficult with each one struggling at his/her own pace.The guide would stop whenever someone was left behind.
The sun soon began shinning relentlessly and we had to take short breaks to sip from our water bottles.But we managed to climb up with the local guide helping us all get to the top. Thereafter we began walking towards the extreme north of the fort – It is not a short walk.
On reaching the north end, we were overwhelmed by the spectacular views all around. We could see the long pinnacle of KalavantinDurg standing right in front dressed in green.There was a strong cold breeze blowing. The expanse of greenery was as far as the eyes could reach.
We trekked upto a water tank, the water was however not drinkable.After a bit of rest, we began exploring the place.We went north towards to the edge of the fort. In front we could see the Kalavanteendurg with its steep rock-cut steps. The top of this hill is very small and open from all sides. On our right (east) we could see the Matheran range of hills from Haji Malang (Malanggad) to Matheran. The series of hills are as follows:- Malanggad (2595 feet); Tavli (2594 feet); Badlapur hill (2420 feet); Navra-Navri (2011 feet); Mhasmal (2339 feet); Chanderi (2592 feet); Nakhind (2311 feet); Peb / Bikatgad (1554 feet); Matheran (2516 feet). In fact Matheran is parallel to Prabalgad, but very huge comparatively.We reached the top at about 10.30 am
After spending an hour at the place we started descending at 11.30.
By 1 pm we were back at the homestay where we were greeted with chilled lime juice which was very refreshing indeed ! Lunch was ready but we decided to rest and freshen up before lunch.We had lunch at about 2 pm and were treated to a delicious vegetarian lunch.We commenced descending at about 5 pm. By about 6.30 pm we arrived at the tar road where the Tumtums were supposed to have picked us up, but they ditched and we had to walk for about 15 mins to the Apollo Nusi Centre and the bungalow – the ST Bus stop to Panvel. There being no sight of the bus and none of us having the energy to stand and wait,we took shelter in the bungalow where the watchman told us the timing of the bus and was also kind enough to give us a few chairs to sit.Soon the bus chugged in and we were relieved to sit in it which took 20 minutes to reach Panvel station.Before we parted ways, we stopped at a tea stall to have tea and vada pav after which we bid adieu and went our own ways.I reached home around 8.30 pm with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
“Every Mountain top is within reach,if you just keep climbing”