Kalavantin durg is a hill fortress which stands at a hefty height of 700 odd metres about 15 km from Panvel near Mumbai. A relatively less crowded destination to visit but one that attracts adventure enthusiasts who go there for the adrenaline pumping climb and breathtaking views from the top. I had the fortune to do a day climb with a dear friend of mine during the winter of 2017.
Thakurwadi, which is the base village for the trek lies about 50 km away towards the south east of Mumbai. It is less than 2 hours drive if you start early in the morning. If you are taking public transport, you need to head to Panvel railway station and then catch a bus or auto from there to Shedung phata. There are auto available from Shedung phata to thakurwadi village. Be sure to book an auto to get back to Shedung or Panvel station in the evening. The auto will drop you at the parking from where the trek starts. There is paid parking for two (Rs 20) and four wheelers (Rs 50) at the start of the trek.
Trek to Kalavantin
The twin parts of Kalavantin and Prabalgad fort are well visible as you come close to Thakurwadi village. The saffron flag on top of Kalavantin waves with much pride and love for Shivaji. The trek from the base village starts as a gradual walk towards Prabal Machi which is a flat land and village below the twin peaks. The route winds around for half an hour and you find yourself welcomed by carving on lord Hanuman smeared with saffron color on the rocks. This is the easiest part of the trek. You will find many villagers and workers along this path making regular trips to the base for moving construction material or daily needs.
In about an hour after starting, you will find yourself at Prabal Machi which is a flat land at 1500 ft height which has few houses. There is a big hotel by name Jai Hanuman at the beginning which is a good pit stop enroute. The Bhutambara family has been running this hotel for years. You can get poha, maggi and omelette for snacks and can order veg and non veg meals on your return from the peak. A few tents are fixed in front of the hotel make for a good spot to camp for a day if you wish to. A plate of poha and maggi followed by nice adrak chai made for an ideal breakfast before we started the difficult part of the climb.
The route after the village gets difficult and steep with loose mud and small rocks in the pathway. The difference between good and bad hiking shoes is evident from here. There are couple of big rocks which test your flexibility and strength. Another 30 minutes from the hotel, we found ourselves at the fork from where Kalavantin was to the left and Prabalgad to the right. Doing both in a day is a bit of a challenge and we stuck to just doing Kalavantin for that day. The fortress looks huge and imposing from the point where the rock cut stairs start. There is no railing along the way. The climb is undoubtedly steep and thrilling from here. We took a breather at the juice stall enroute. The wind blowing on the hill intensified but added to the excitement of the hike. The rock cut stairs are easily a foot long and uneven at places. You can reach the last but one step with flat ground within 30 minutes.
The last few steps to get to the top are tricky and need you to be agile and alert. There are groups who can help you in case you need help. But the view from the top is mind boggling and breathtaking. It can scare you if you look down. The saffron flag on the peak is huge and flutters with the wind. You can spot the extensive plateau of matheran from here. I sat down underneath the flag and meditated for a while and it was the best feeling that day.
The climb down is not too difficult but the trail is slippery at places and you should be leaning towards the rock and not away from it. In fifteen minutes you can come down to the juice shop climbing down the rocky hill. You can take a left from here and visit Prabalgad if you start early but we decided to do that some other day. The trail down to Prabal Machi is filled with loose rocks and mud and will slip for sure. By 12:45 we were back at the Jai Hanuman hotel where we had ordered food while going up. Food served here is basic veg or non veg cooked on firewood. It is definitely recommended to try the local food served here. We relaxed for a while after lunch and started descending around 2 pm. Although this part is the easiest, it does not feel so if you are full with food. We reached the parking around 3 pm to grab a refreshing glass of chilled lemon juice. There is network available for all of the trek but internet can be intermittent. Your auto should be waiting at the parking if you have informed him in advance.
The twin peaks of Kalavantin durg and Prabalgad are one of the best destinations for a day hike and also if you decide to camp at Prabal Machi for a night. There are enough homestay options available which you can book after you go there. As compared to some other popular treks, this one is definitely less crowded and it feels good. Do give it a try and you will not be disappointed!
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