I’m quite surprised! I seem to be the last person to wake up this time! Ideally Suhas was to drop by my house at around 3:30 am after his night shift. When my alarm hoots at 4:45 am, I sense the first drop out for the trek. I anxiously dial his number only to hear that he’d be reaching my house in a few minutes. The routine starts again. The next person on the roll was Rahul- someone well known in our group to doze in mighty glory when his presense is really required. Quite surprisingly, today he picks the call right at the first ring and he pretty much sounded alert enough. So i move on to the next person – Amrita. The call goes on but no one picks. A few minutes later she calls back telling me that even she was very much awake. Ashutosh too was almost set and he’d be reaching Parihar chowk in a couple of minutes.We’d to reach Shivaji Nagar Stn. by around 6:00 am to board the train to Karjat.
At about 05:35am Ashutosh, Suhas, and I meet Amrita at Parihar Chowk and we pick a rick. to Kadki stn. Suhas suggested, that would be closer and that the Sinhagad express would stop there as well. We happen to reach well before time . The train would tentatively reach Kadki at about 06:20am. Rahul and a couple of folks would be boarding the train at Shivaji Nagar and a few others would be joining enroute. Later as Bhavana boards the train we get wind of an interesting episode. Pragya Joshi had overslept and Abhijeet too had to miss the train – For ten minutes Abhijeet’s been at the door of Pragya’s house trying to wake her up while Bhavana was seated in a rick below. One of the tickets were on Bhavana’s name, so she had to make it to the station at any cost. And she did, as Rahul describes later – The ‘Jab we met style !
This time the final count was 13. Rahul, Bhavana, Kajal, Abhilasha, Trupti, Suhas, Amrita, Ashutosh, Uwaraj, Swarnika, Abhijeet, Pragya, and I. At about 08:15am we reach Karjat.The latest update of Abhijeet and Pragya was from Amritha – They’d boarded a ST and would be reaching a BIT late. We decide to move further and wait at Ambivali for the two. To reach the trek base one needs to reach Ambivalli and from there walk some distance to the Peth Village.
Start of the trek
A five minute walk to the Karjat bus stand and we get to the know the next service to Ambivalli would be at 08:30am. The following service would be at 09:45am.But again you would have to get down at Kasheli and get hold of a TumTum to reach Ambivilli. We get some VadaPav’s packed and simultaneously inform the details of the bus timings to Abhijeet.In about an hour we happen to reach Ambivalli. The best identification mark for this stop is a small school to the left side,right at the starting of the Ambivalli village. A cement path to the right takes you to the Peth village.
A few other groups had also arrived by then and were sort of relaxing at the tea shop. The latest status quo from Abhijeet was that they’d got down at Khopoli and had picked another service to Ambivalli. A few minutes later we get a call from him telling us that they’d just got down at Ambivalli village and were standing right in front of a school – the irony being that, we were standing in front of a school too but we couldn’t trace them out. A deeper analysis by Rahul reveals that from Khopoli they’d actually caught a bus to Amboli village and not Ambivalli village . How better can things get ?
We decide to move on, reach Peth village and wait for them. Ideally the walk is about an hours quick sprint. In our case though, we took a sweet two hours to reach the village – thanks to the stop over at one of the viewpoints and the quick pace of most of us . Nevertheless, it was a beautiful start; what with us trying out all possible short cuts, avoiding the regular route. Also we had a heavy downpour for a few minutes as we reached the village – a much deserved respite post the humid weather.
First sighting of the fort
Once you cover about half of the distance from the Ambivalli village you get to see the Kothaligad fort from the breath taking viewspot . You need to take an escalated embankement path to the left, a couple of minutes after you start from the Ambivilli village. Once here, it’s only about following the well laid kutcha path and reaching the Peth village. Oh and If you’re looking for a couple of short cuts – they’re plenty. It’s all up to you to use your brains and instincts to concort a path from the wilderness!
Somewhere when we were still on our way to Peth, my cell manages to catch the signal and a message is delivered – Abhikeet and Pragya are on their way to Mumbai . Getting to Ambivalli from Amboli was something that they decided against. Quite reasonable a decision!
We reach the Peth village base at about 12:30pm. There’s a small hotel types place here wherein you can have a brief stop over for a light snack or tea. Uwaraj and Swarnika catch up with us here at this spot. We get to know that they’d not taken the left and instead moved further into the village right at the beginning ! Each of us have a shot of hot diluted masala tea and start moving towards the Kothaligad fort. Our pace was pretty fast from here – probably the masala tea did the trick on the drenched nuts ! The villagers directed us at a certain point and from there the trek up was all a quickly guessed out route. We did have a loyal dog to guide us to a certain distance but soon even he ditched us once another doggie wagged her tail!
Half way through the way up the hillock and half the fuses are out. This was Amritha’s first ever trek and she was already cursing all of us mentally for having moved up with that pace. Abhilasha and Swarnika were more of less in the same thought process probably! They definitely did test our motivation skills at aone point of time ! Finally we made it to a plateau and now all that was left was to climb up the final part of the fort. This did look a bit steep. Suhas , Uwaraj and Ashutosh tried exploring the possibilities on one side and Rahul and I on the other side. There was no way up! Damn and the way down for us was far worse. We somehow managed to get back to the plateau and rested there for a while. Intermittent showers and the haily winds kept the spirits up though. We started our down trek in about fifteen minutes and by around 3:00pm we reaached the Village.
And we thought we were there!
From there, as we turned back and looked at the height we’d covered and the spot that we’d got stuck up, a major disappointment loomed on our faces. We’d not even reached the base of the Kothaligad fort. All that we’d covered was the base foundation of the fort. The chap from the hotel then told us that we’d chosen the wrong path at a spot – Instead of taking a left we morons had moved rightwards. This is when Uwaraj, Swarnika and Ashutosh suggested we give the trek another shot. We quickly had a poll on who’d like to move up again and after having got a 50:50 status decided to split. Rahul would accompany Bhavna, Kajal, Abjilasha,Trupti and Amrita back to Karjat and Suhas, Ashutosh,Uwaraj, Swarnika and I would give the Kothaligad another shot again. The only dicey thing was that we’ll have to make it QUICK! If we had to target boarding the 6:30 train at Karjat, we’d have to scoop all our energy and move fast, real fast. The return bus to Karjat from Ambivalli would leave at 5:30pm. We hit up on reaching the peak in 1 hour. Swarnika led the group all the way to the top! This time we took the left turn at the right spot and we had two kids and our ever faithful dog to show us the path. The way up was real good. You had to reach the first plateau and from there take a flight of stairs up the caves to reach the forts bulwarks.This path was pretty much simple and the caves part of the trek upwards was stupendous. Thanks to the constant chitter chatter of Swarnika, we managed to hit the top of the fort in flat 45 minutes. At the caves you have an old woman selling Lemon juice. I bet you wouldn’t want to miss this! We stayed on top for a while and to inform the first team that we’d reached the peak, messaged them. A brief photo session and we started our trek downwards. This was done in a jiffy – A sweet 15minute run down the mill .A quick lunch here and at about 04:30pm started our trek down to the Ambivalli village. The dog led us all the way down to Ambivalli! Also we had Suhas to entertain us with his sliding on the brief cascades and oh yes, did I not tell you – he lost the strands of his shorts somewhere way down and had a Charlie chaplin run down the way ? Now Suhas, We do have a video to prove that, NOM .
We did manage to reach the Ambivalli base point right on time: 05:28pm. The 05:30 service was right on time and fortunately he dropped us right ahead of the Karjat station. The first team had been waiting there for a while and we managed to be right on time again to catch the 06:30 Deccan Queen way back to Pune. Once we reached Pune we decided to have dinner at a pretty famous restaurant at JM Road . A sumptuous dinner with people checking out all sorts of Maharashtrian delicacies. I tasted a yummyDosa types dish made of grounded grains. Well, I dont really remember the name of the dishes as Trupti was the one who ordered it and the Marathi jargon only complicated things !
The Kothaligad trek has indeed been challenging. Not because of the endurance but because we had to redo it again! The strict deadlines made it all the more interesting. Probably this place needs a second visit sometime later; now that we know where to take a right left turn !
Trek:1 day trek
Route: Karjat-Ambivali-Peth village base-Kothaligad.
Best season: Monsoon / Winter
Approximate Time : Karjat to Ambivalli – 45mins; Ambivalli to Peth village trek – 1 hr quick sprint; Peth base to Kothaligad peak – 1hr ( Subject to the climate )
Difficulty: Easy-Medium ( Based on route chosen)
Bus timings: 08:30 am – Karjat bus stand to Ambivalli; 05:30pm – Ambivalli to Karjat
Train timings: Sinhagad Express : 06:00am ( Pune Station ) ; Deccan Queen : 06:30pm ( Karjat Station )
Stick to schedules: Connectivity to and from the Peth village is pretty bleak.
FOLLOW THE DOG: Atleast in this trek rely on the dog’s instinct. Believe me, It really helps!