Some places have a charm of their own and this charm does enough to leave you spell bound. That’s exactly what happened as we explored a relatively lesser known fort right under the nose of one of India’s famous hill stations. Here’s all you need to know regarding one day trek to Peb-Vikatgadh fort in Raigadh District of Maharashtra.
The onset of monsoon turns the places near Mumbai and Pune to a lush green paradise. The western ghats and the Konkan belt ooze beauty its every nook and corner. So on a fine Sunday, with a little bit of rain and lots of clouds, we set for exploring Peb Fort, a place we had never heard of before we visited it.
The base or the start point of the trek is around 12-15 km from Neral Station. Neral is well connected by local trains bound to Karjat & CST. We took an early train, around 6:00 AM and reached Neral by 8:30 AM. From Neral, post hogging on Vada Pav & Poha, a shared Kali-Peeli dropped us off at a point known as “Three-Fourth”, from where the trek was to begin.
The Trek Experience
The first view of the base and we fell in love with the place. The starting few kilometers are on the railway tracks of the Neral-Matheran Toy Train. A narrow gauge track that emerges out of a canopy of lush green foliage makes a pretty spot for clicking photographs.
As you make a move forward, you are greeted with even better surprises and better views. You walk on the beautiful path, with light showers adding excitement to the trek. There’s a high mountain on one side and deep valley on the other, and you just wonder how minuscule and diminutive you are in front of the nature.
As you absorb the beauty of the place within your memories, you stumble across refreshing cisterns and small waterfalls, and believe you us, you will be tempted to take a dip in that refreshing cool waters. Carrying on the path you get the first view of the summit and your adrenaline will start pumping as the real thing is about to start.
The simple part of the trek ends at the place shown above. That’s the entry to the Ganpati Mandir and the trekkers and locals believe you must toll the bell before you make the start. It is good omen and the best part is when you toll the bell and the valley responds to the sound by echoing back. Such lovely feeling.
We would classify this trek grade to be of easy to moderate, and is best suited for first time trekkers and amateurs. The trek would require basic hiking, walking/ascending in a single file and ridge walking. It is very safe however everyone must exercise extreme caution while on the trek.
As you near the summit, you inch closer towards the clouds and at some point in the trek you are supposed to be surrounded by them. The panoramic views from these points are breathtaking and the images speak for themselves.
For final ascend to summit you need to climb through an iron ladder, again, a place of caution as it gets slippery when it rains. Just as we were standing at the base of the summit, there was a mad rush of clouds and the cross winds were so strong, it felt we might be hovering over the mountains in some time.
As the winds subsided, we made it to the summit, 2.5 hours post starting from the base village. There’s a small shrine dedicated to Pebi Devi at the top, but the atmosphere up there is absolutely electrifying.
It feels like you are sitting in a room that is air cooled to 16℃ for the past 1 hour and the fans are running at full speed. Amazingly chilly it was, our poncho was the saving grace!
When the clouds clear, you get to see lovely views of Matheran, a sweet little hill station just 10 km from the spot. On other side of the valley, there’s picturesque Dhom Lake which looks equally enchanting and dramatic with the clouds hovering over it.
No amount of time is good enough to absorb the beauty of this wonderful place, but as all good things come to end, so does this. You make the descend from the same route and follow the toy train tracks all the way to Amar Lodge, which is the base point of Matheran enjoying the scenic views on either sides of the track.
Once at Matheran, you hop on to a taxi and head back to Neral, reminiscing the eventful day you had and longing to return to the same place in future.
Words of Wisdom
Nearest Station to Peb is Neral, which is well connected to CST and Karjat on central railway local line. From Neral, you get shared cabs running for Matheran to reach at “Three-Fourths”
Total time of the trek is around 5-5.5 hours. However if weather conditions are bad, it may take more than that.
Best time to visit is during August-September, when the rains have receded and green bloom is at its very best.
The trek is not difficult, however in rains, you must exercise utmost caution while walking, you must use shoes with good grip.
You are visiting a natural heritage, hence it is of utmost importance to maintain the sanctity of the place. Do not litter around, carry your waste with you.
Lastly, enjoy the beauty of the place that is lost in the rich history of our beautiful country.