This region consists of those mountains which are accessed by local trains going from Mumbai CST (Mumbai VT) to Karjat. The first train to Karjat leaves Mumbai CST at 4:17am, and the last train at 12:45am. It takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to reach Karjat by a slow local. Karjat is 100km from Mumbai.
This area comprises the valley of the Ulhas river. Trains going from Mumbai to Pune climb along this valley from Karjat in the Konkan to Khandala at the edge of the Deccan plateau. Khandala is at a height of 550m. The road route (Mumbai-Pune national highway) climbs from Khopoli to Khandala instead, as it is a shorter albeit steeper climb. In fact, the Khopoli-Khandala road is along the Bhor Ghat, which was an ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel, etc. on the Konkan coast and the hinterland on the Deccan plateau. The railway from Mumbai to Pune was constructed at a later stage in the 19th century , for which a different route in the Ghats section from Karjat to Khandala via Palasdari was carved out. Khandala is 25km from Karjat by train and 11km from Khopoli by road.
The base villages for treks in this area are Khandpe, Sandshi and Kondiwade. This area is well connected by State Transport bus services from Karjat to Kondiwade and from Karjat to Sandshi, both of which pass through the village Khandpe. All these villages are about 15km from Karjat. The Ulhas valley is a beautiful sight, particularly in the monsoon, when there are a lot of waterfalls gushing their way down. From Kondiwade or Sandshi the valley looks like three-fourths of a circle, and one can see trains climbing the valley, passing through tunnels, at regular intervals.
For a trek to Bahiri and Kondheshwar temple one should reach Sandshi. For climbing up to Dhak Plateau one has to get to the village Moolgaon on Khandpe-Sandshi road. For visiting Kondhane caves, Fort Rajmachi or the up-stream area (which is known as Kataldara) of Ulhas river, one must reach Kondiwade.
There used to be a bus at 8:00am from Karjat to Kondiwade. But these days, since buses to Kondiwade from Karjat seem to be cancelled, one can take a bus going to Sandshi and get off at Khandpe. It takes 10-15 minutes to walk to Kondiwade from Khandpe. But instead of relying on buses, one can take those 8 seater sharing basis auto rickshaws (called Vikram locally) from Dahivali railway bridge at Karjat (about 15 minutes walk from Karjat Rly. Station) to Kondiwade. This is a more convenient and frequent mode of transport from Karjat to Khandpe and Kondiwade. Sometimes one finds Vikrams plying from Karjat bus stop to Kondiwade and Khandpe.
Another entry route to the Ulhas valley is from Station Thakurwadi on the Karjat-Khandala section on the Central Railway. Station Thakurwadi at 112 km from Mumbai is a compulsory technical halt (as a safety measure) for all trains coming down the Ghats from Khandala to Karjat. A few trains like the Deccan Express in the morning, Sinhagad Express in the evening and Sddheshwar Express in the night halt at Station Thakurwadi (for the convenience of the railway employees working in the Ghats section), while climbing the Ghats from Karjat to Khandala. From Station Thakurwadi there are pathways descending down to Kondhane and also to the hamlet Mundhyachi Thakurwadi, both of which are on the banks of Ulhas river. For visiting Kondhane caves and Rajmachi fort this route from Thakurwadi station is sometimes more convenient.
These are a group of 4 ancient Buddhist caves situated on the lower part of the western slope of Rajmachi, at a height of about 60m above the Ulhas valley below.
Rajmachi is a twin peaked fort overlooking the Ulhas valley and the Bhor Ghat. It has good views of the surrounding countryside, and is a beautiful place to visit, particularly in the monsoons, when there are a lot of waterfalls and streams all around. The most popular approach is to hike from Lonavala. It is a 15km mostly flat walk to a small plateau, at the base of the twin peaks, passing through Walwan village, though the straight line distance from Lonavala would be about 10km. This walk is very beautiful in the monsoon. There are is a village called Udhewadi at the plateau right at the base of the twin peaks, where one can get plain, hot and tasty Maharashtrian food. Rented accomodation is also available there. The plateau is at a height of about 700m. The taller of the twin peaks is about 130m higher than the plateau, whereas the other one is about 80m higher. They are called Shreevardhan and Manoranjan respectively. Both of them are easy to climb from Udhewadi. A temple is situated on a col between the two peaks. Broad steps lead up Shreevardhan from the col. The steps can be a bit slippery to climb in the monsoon, and one or two stretches of the route are slightly exposed. One can see water tanks, storerooms and ruins of the fort on the way. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the highest point of Shreevardhan from Udhewadi. A flagpole is situated here.
A more interesting route to Rajmachi is to climb up from Kondiwade in the Ulhas Valley (see the description of Kondana caves). After reaching the plateau at the level of Kondana caves, instead of turning right, go straight ahead where the path starts climbing again. After climbing for some time, and crossing various small plateaus and a stream, one sees a bifurcation in the route. One track climbs up to a plateau with open fields. The hill seen ahead from this plateau is not Rajmachi, which is hidden from view. This track is hence the wrong choice. Therefore at the bifurcation one should take the other track, at the edge of the mountain. It traverses all around the hill and after some time, one can see the peak of Manoranjan. This traverse is about 2km long and very beautiful, crossing several streams. The route then leads to a nala where one can see arrows, at regular intervals, directing the way. After climbing the nala one has to climb some broad steps (which are slippery in the monsoon) to reach a grassy plateau, with a great view of the Ulhas valley. From the plateau another track climbs steeply and leads to the top plateau through a gap in a fence. From this place the village is visible and one can see the fortifications of Manoranjan clearly. The village is a 15 minute walk from here, through a path which is very muddy in the monsoon. From the village one can climb the two peaks, as described before.
There can be a problem with route finding, on this route, since there are many paths made by woodcutters in the forest. It is easier to find the route while descending than while climbing up. But one normally gets to see a few villagers on the way and one can keep asking them for directions. It takes about three hours in total, to reach the Rajmachi village from Kondiwade, and this route is much more fun than the flat walk from Lonavala.
There are several other ways to the top. One is to just climb the ridge behind the Kondana village, this leads all the way to the top, and is a good choice if you are doing a night trek.
The other note to keep in mind is that if you are heading out from Kondana CAVES to the top, then after about ten or fifteen minutes from the Caves, following the obvious path (with arrows marked), then you will come to a clearing. At this point you should start climbing, to your left — look for a stone with an arrow pointing UP. (There is also a red arrow on another stone pointing to the CAVES).
If you are climbing in the monsoon, remember the route is somewhat slippery and muddy. The forts look fantastic, wreathed with mist and clouds — and the view from the top can be fantastic, if you can get a clear view (worth your while to wait for the clouds/mist to clear).
This is one of the very best treks. It is a difficult trek and should normally be done with an expert who is familiar with the route. It has to be done in winter as there are highly exposed stretches which would be impossible to negotiate in the monsoon. Also it is a long and strenuous trek.
Bahiri cave is a cave about 600m high facing the Ulhas Valley hewn out on the rock face of Dhak. There are two pinnacles nearby, which can be seen from trains climbing the Ulhas valley. From the cave one gets a good view of the Ulhas valley, the Duke’s and Duchess’s nose of Khandala and the pinnacles. There are statues of Bhairav in one of the chambers, and in the other chamber, one can see remains of animal sacrifice. On Chaitra Purnima day, each year, a fair is held in the area, and animal sacrifice is offered in the cave. There is also a water tank in this chamber.
Since Bahiri is a long and strenuous trek, and also because the area does not have frequent bus connections, one has to leave for the trek the night before. One can leave for Karjat by the last local train which is at 12:45am. This train reaches Karjat at about 3:30am. At 4:00am there is a bus leaving Karjat for Sandshi village, which takes 45 minutes to reach Sandshi. Sandshi is in the Ulhas valley and in fact one can climb upto Rajmachi from Sandshi via a prominent ridge. One can see the two Bahiri pinnacles from here and also the massif of Dhak.
A faint and complicated track leads from Sandshi upto the col between the lower of the Bahiri pinnacles and the mountain of Dhak. It can take anything from 4 to 6 hours to reach the col because of route finding difficulty. From the col one has to descend about 50m through a narrow passage between the pinnacle and the Dhak mountain. The track descends at an angle of 45 degrees and the soil is a bit sandy so one has to hold on to both the sides to prevent slipping. After the descent one comes on to the wall of Dhak from where an exposed traverse of about 100m leads one to a position below the cave. Most of the traverse consists of a series of rock cut steps which are just large enough for one foot to rest on. After the traverse are a series of rock cut steps climbing vertically upwards. One has to climb up a set of steps then do an exposed traverse, again climb some steps and again traverse till one reaches a “bichki”. The steps are blown off in this section. A tree trunk (called bichki) has been suspended there by ropes. The branches have been cut off into small stumps to make footholds. Using this bichki one climbs up for about 5m after which there is still about 2m of climb left for reaching the cave, where there is no support of a bichki. But a stem of a creeper has been tied by ropes in this section. Using this stem one can haul oneself up into the cave. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the cave from the col.
To return one has to descend by the same way. One should be very careful while descending down the exposed stretches. After coming back to the col between the Bahiri pinnacle and the mountain of Dhak one can return to Sandshi or on the other hand climb further up to reach the top of Dhak. It takes about one hour from the col to the top of Dhak and the route is clear and quick. The top of Dhak is a plateau, 5km long at a height of 707m. Walking on this plateau leads to a village at its other end from where a good route descends quickly, in about one and a half hours to the Ulhas Valley. The point where one descends is at the junction of Karjat-Kondiwade and Karjat-Sandshi roads and there are more frequent buses available from this place. Hence it is better to end the trek at this point than to go back to Sandshi.
This range starts at Haji Malang in the north-northwest, continues to Tavli in the north, and then runs south and finally terminates at Bhivpuri Hill. Strictly speaking, this range is not a part of the Sahyadri, but rather runs parallel to the Badlapur-Karjat railway line to its west. The Sahyadris proper run parallel to the same railway line but to its east. Badlapur is 68km from Mumbai by train and is the starting point for treks to Tavli, Badlapur Hill and Navra-Navri. Vangani is 78km from Mumbai, and is the starting point for treks to Nakhind and Chanderi. Neral is 85km from Mumbai and is the starting point for treks to Nakhind, Peb fort and Matheran. Matheran is the most famous mountain in this range and a popular hill station. For the treks in this region, one usually walks to the base of the mountain from the corresponding railway station. But sometimes one can avail of autorickshaws, or in the case of Matheran, taxis, which are available from around 7am till 7pm.
This is a popular hill station, accessed from Neral either by road (11km) or by toy train (21km). It is 767m high at its highest point. The top is a plateau running for 13km in the north-south direction, thickly forested, but nowadays highly commercialised with a lot of hotels, ghodawallas etc. It takes 25 minutes to reach Matheran from Neral by taxi and 2 hours by toy train. But the train route is far more picturesque and winds all the way around the mountain. No motor vehicles are allowed inside Matheran.
The most popular places in Matheran are the “points”, which are places on the plateau from where one gets a good view of surrounding mountains and the Konkar plains. These places have sharp drops to the Konkan below. There are many such points in Matheran, all along its length.
There are many possible trekking routes to Matheran. The simplest one would be to walk along the road or the railway line. But other, more unconventional routes exist too.
Matheran is a popular place, both for the tourists and the trekkers. There are many routes to Matheran, other than the road or rail route from Neral. For example, one can climb up the Bhivpuri Hill from Bhivpuri station and go on to the Garbat plateau of Matheran.. One can also climb up the Shivaji Ladder point of Matheran, which can be approached from Panvel-Chowk-Varosa. But probably the most interesting route to Matheran is to climb Peb fort and then traverse to Matheran. This route goes all around Peb fort and then on to the saddle between Peb fort and Matheran, and then after a 6m rock climb, which can be quite slippery in the monsoon, one reaches the railway line from Neral to Matheran, under Panorama Point. From there one can walk on the railway line towards Panorama Point.
There are many popular “points” on Matheran. Some of them are the Echo Point, Louisa Point, Sunset Point, Monkey Point, Panorama Point and the One Tree Hill. The road from Neral to Matheran goes upto the car park area of Matheran. Beyond that motor vehicles are not allowed. From there the main railway station and the bazaar area (called Bazaar Peth) is 2.5km away in the south. Echo and Louisa Point are 3 and 4km respectively from Bazaar Peth, and One Tree Hill is a further 1km away from Louisa Point. All these points are south of Bazaar Peth. Panorama Point is on the northern tip of the Matheran, about 4km from the car park and 6.5km from Bazaar Peth. It gives a great view of the surrounding mountains. The entire north-south length of Matheran plateau is about 13km.
This is a popular trekking spot situated just north of Matheran, 474m, high. It takes about three hours to trek to Peb fort from Neral. One reaches a cave with a statue of Shivaji, which is below the actual fort. To climb into the fort, one has to walk further ahead to a wall about 10m high where large nails are stuck in. Climbing up the wall using these nails or by climbing a chimney nearby, one can enter the ruins of the fort. But it would be more interesting if instead of climbing the wall, one traverses ahead along a narrow and sometimes exposed path, to the railway line of Matheran.
Peb fort is a popular place to hike to from Neral railway station. To climb Peb fort, walk north from Neral station on the west side parallel to the railway line for 1km. From here a road leads west. The road finally goes to Matheran but at some point, before turning off towards Matheran, one has to cut across some fields and start climbing up towards the saddle between Peb fort and a hump to its north. There are two humps between Peb fort and Nakhind. Sometimes one has climb up some nala if one misses the actual route. The actual route passes below some electric power lines and climbs up to the saddle where there is a power transmission tower. From the saddle turn left for Peb fort and right for Nakhind. In fact one can climb up Nakhind first (thru another route) and traverse to Peb fort meeting the usual route at the saddle. After a short ridge climb from the saddle there is an easy rock climb which leads, after a short traverse (which can be wet and slippery in the monsoon), to the cave with the statue of Shivaji. The cave is west of the mountain, and cannot be seen from Neral. One can see Haji Malang and Chanderi, in the north, from the cave. To the west, one can see the plains of Konkan.
A picture of Chanderi from the cave of Peb is shown below.
There is a narrow and sometimes exposed route which leads further on, from the cave, towards the south. There can be some wet rocks and slippery stretches in the monsoon on this track. It traverses around the mountain of Peb and leads on to the saddle between Peb fort and Panorama Point of Matheran. The track continues after the saddle, running along the western side of the mountain of Matheran, and leads on to a 6m rock climb. The climb is somewhat exposed and can be quite slippery and difficult in the monsoon. It takes about two hours to reach this climb from the cave of Peb fort. From the top of this climb, in about fifteen more minutes, one can reach the Neral-Matheran railway line along an easy path. This place is below the Panorama Point of Matheran. Turning left here leads in about 45 minutes to the Neral-Matheran road from where one can walk back to Neral in about one and a half hours. Or else one can turn right and walk along the railway line for about 90 minutes to reach the Panorama Point of Matheran, from where the car park is a further 4km. From the car park one can take a taxi, or walk down the road to Neral.
Nakhind is a hill, 704m high, situated north of Peb fort. The top is a narrow forested ridge, running in the north-south direction. It can be identified by a hole at its northern end, which is visible even from trains travelling to Karjat. The highest point of the ridge is in its centre. Towards the south, the ridge descends to meet a hump forming a saddle at the junction. To the south of this hump, is another hump, and to its south lies Peb fort. Electric power lines cross the Matheran range at the above-mentioned saddle from Neral to Panvel and there is a transmission tower here. The saddle can be approached from Neral, following essentially the same route to climb Peb fort. It can also be approached from Panvel side. Turning left at the junction leads to Peb fort, and turning right leads to Nakhind. The route to Nakhind climbs steeply and leads onto the highest point in the centre of the ridge. A good view of Chanderi and Konkan plains on both east and west can be got during the climb. It takes about three hours to reach the top of Nakhind from Neral. For more information about Nakhind,
A more interesting trek to Nakhind would be to traverse the top of Nakhind from its northern end to its southern end (Peb fort hump junction) passing right in front of the hole. This is a great trek in the monsoon or in the winter. One can approach the northern end of Nakhind from Vangani station. Turning west from Vangani station, one can walk to Vangani village and from there after walking across some fields, an easy route climbs up to reach a plateau at a height of 300m. A small village is situated there. In the monsoon one passes across a few waterfalls on the way. From the village a track climbs, a bit steeply at times, up the mountain approaching the northern end of its top ridge. The track reaches the northern tip of the top ridge. It takes about three hours to climb to this point from Vangani station. From here one can start walking south for the traverse. After walking for about fifteen minutes one reaches the hole. It is a grand sight, standing in the hole, with a view of Konkan both to the east and the west. Also the wind blows extra strong in the hole. Traversing ahead from the hole leads in about fifteen minutes to a 4m high rock climb. This rocky patch cannot be climbed from the ridge end. Instead one has to go around to its east from where one can climb it. But this side is a bit exposed and it would be advisable to use ropes, particularly in the monsoon. The highest part of the climb involves a tricky exposed move around a big rock.
After negotiating the climb, the route continues south on the top ridge. One or two easy rocky patches have to be climbed initially, but after that it is a gentle ridge walk. The ridge climbs up to its highest point and descends to meet the hump near Peb fort. The route passes through forested stretches and is great fun in the monsoon with strong winds blowing. At some point the route suddenly turns left (east direction) and descends rather steeply along the east side of the mountain to lead onto the hump near Peb fort, from where one can descend to Neral. It takes about one and a half hours to reach the hump from the rock climb, and about two hours to reach Neral from the hump.
This majestic massif, 790m high, stands out as one approaches Vangani station on the way from Badlapur to Karjat by train. Joined to Chanderi by a col, are a group of four pinnacles called Mhasmal. The Chanderi-Mhasmal duo is very prominent and can be seen from far-away peaks in the Sahyadris. In the monsoons, one can do a one-day trek to a cave at the base of the Chanderi massif. The cave is on the side opposite to the railway line (Panvel side). One has to first climb upto the col between Chanderi and Mhasmal. The climb is mostly up a nala, and very beautiful. From the col, one can turn left and climb up a ridge to reach a short exposed traverse which leads to the cave. There is a water tank near the cave. In the dry season, there is scree on this traverse, so one should be very careful here. Also while coming down the nala, one should be careful as the rocks tend to be slippery in the monsoon. For a full description of the route, pictures and stories of our treks,
To reach Chanderi one has to alight at the north end of Vangani station and reach the intersection with the Badlapur-Karjat road (see the section on Nakhind). The problem here is that between this point and Chanderi there are several ridges and valleys, so taking a straight line from Vangani to Chanderi is not a good idea. It is better to walk north on this road towards Badlapur for some 4 km, until one finds on the right a place called “Chanderi Hotel”. Exactly opposite, on the left, there is a road, perpendicular to the main road. It leads to a big temple or ashram. Leave the temple on your left. This road is not very straight, but at least it is good and broad. It goes through one or two villages, and there are some bifurcations, but Chanderi is probably visible in the horizon, so it should be clear which one to take. One can also confirm the direction from the villages en route. This road leads one to a valley that runs in a north-south direction, on the north side of Chanderi. On this valley there are two villages. Now, one has to go south towards Chanderi. The first village is on the right side of the valley. The second is a little ahead, and is on the left side. But one does not have to go to the second village. Right at the back of the first village there is a path, climbing to the right side of the valley and entering in the forest. This path goes in a very straight south-southwest direction and is very well defined. It continues in this direction until it gets to the nala that climbs to the col between Mhasmal and Chanderi. At the intersetion of the nala and the path there are some arrows painted on the rocks. While coming back one has to be careful not to miss the beginning of the path. Once one is in the nala it is easy to get to the col. One should be careful not to go too much to the left, because the nala has a bifurcation some distance up, and if one takes the left (that points directly towards Chanderi), one will get to a point were one cannot go any further. If this happens, then just move towards the right. From the col, the path to the cave of Chanderi is to the left and easy to find.
Though reaching the cave of Chanderi is a good monsoon trek, it is not the best thing about this mountain. The real juice is to go from the cave to the top of the massif. This complete Chanderi trek can only be done in the winter. It is physically demanding and technically challenging. It also takes a lot of time, so it is preferable to leave the night before, by the last train, and reach the base village before sunrise, so that one can start at the crack of dawn. The route from the cave to the top of the massif passes through exposed rock climbs, exposed traverses and (the most difficult of all) exposed scree slopes. It should only be done with an expert in the middle of winter when the scree would have settled a bit and there will still be water in the tanks. Since only one person can move on this route at a time, the group should be small, not more than four or five.
This is a conical shaped mountain at the northern end of the Matheran range 790m high. It can be approached from Badlapur station or by traversing from the lower plateau of Haji Malang. The approach from Haji Malang is easy and leads to the saddle between Tavli and Badlapur Hill (another conical shaped hill south of Tavli of similar height). The approach from Badlapur is more tricky and there can be a problem finding the correct route in the midst of thick forest. To find out more about Tavli,
Tavli is one of the northern most peaks on the Matheran range of mountains. The usual trekking routes to Tavli begin from Badlapur station. Tavli is to the west of Badlapur station. Almost all the routes for climbing Tavli from the Badlapur side are along the many ridges and nalas coming down from Tavli towards Badlapur station. But because of the undulating terrain between Badlapur station and Tavli with lots of small hillocks, and thick forest along all the ridges and nalas, there are a lot of route finding problems along all the routes from Badlapur station to Tavli. In what follows, we shall try to treat the Tavli trek as an algorithm. We shall indicate the various important stopping points in the algorithm, and the various options to reach the next stopping point from the current stopping point.
Note: The name Tavli is not well known for many villagers on the Badlapur side. This adds to the route finding problems. There is no water anywhere on this mountain except at the top. So one should carry a lot of water if one is attempting it in the dry season. In the monsoon, the route finding difficulties increase, and there are mosquitoes in the forested parts.
From Badlapur station, the main Tavli peak is mostly hidden from view. What one sees instead, are three pinnacles, almost the same height as the main peak. We shall call these pinnacles as tbe Tavli pinnacles. There is a saddle between the main Tavli peak, and another peak to its south called the Badlapur hill. We shall call this as the SADDLE.
The most important stopping point for almost 90% of the routes to Tavli from Badlapur side, is a small grassy meadow 650m high, right at the base of the Tavli pinnacles. Henceforth, we shall call this the MEADOW. The MEADOW is at the northeast end of the Tavli pinnacles. Most of the ridges climbing from Badlapur side to Tavli reach some point on the MEADOW. An exception is a ridge from Kakuli lake (a lake north-northwest of Tavli, approachable by auto/bus from Ambernath station) climbing directly to the Tavli pinnacles, on their northwestern end. One can climb the Kakuli ridge without much diffculty, reach the base of the Tavli pinnacles, turn left, traverse to the MEADOW, and join the usual route from the MEADOW to Tavli top described below. However, in the rest of the article, we shall concentrate on the more interesting routes from Badlapur station to the MEADOW.
In this paragraph, we describe how to reach the main Tavli peak from the MEADOW. Reaching Tavli peak from the MEADOW is relatively straightforward, and does not involve route finding problems. Almost all the route finding difficulty lies in reaching the MEADOW from Badlapur station. The Badlapur station-MEADOW routes are described in the later paragraphs. Looking from the MEADOW, the Tavli peak is hidden behind the Tavli pinnacles. Once you are at the MEADOW, walk towards the Tavli pinnacles. There is a faint trail on the MEADOW approaching towards the Tavli pinnacles which initially descends and then climbs up very steeply bang to the rock face at the base of the first (northernmost) pinnacle. Turning left (south) here, look for the natural caves in the rock face of the first pinnacle. That is where a traverse south to the SADDLE begins. We shall henceforth refer to this as the TRAVERSE. It is important to hit the rock face of the pinnacle and find the caves, so that one starts the TRAVERSE at the proper point, or else one can quickly end up in a scree slope. The TRAVERSE goes around all the three pinnacles and all of the Tavli mountain to get to the SADDLE between Tavli and Badlapur hill. The narrow TRAVERSE brushes along the rock face to the right, and falls steeply away on the left. The TRAVERSE is not quite a trail and you continue along it by faith. There is enough jungle cover on the TRAVERSE to help you aid the walk, by using the roots of the plants as support. It takes about an hour to do the TRAVERSE. Once you get to the SADDLE, it is an easy 20 minutes walk to the top of Tavli peak. You will find a Maulvi (sort of) living in a house at the top, who will give u black tea, and there is a well with fairly clean water. One can also climb Badlapur Hill from the SADDLE.
For descending from Tavli top, it is better to descend on the western side of Tavli, on the Haji Malang side. Get back to the SADDLE between Badlapur hill and Tavli, and descend down gently on the western side of the SADDLE a bit, till you get close to the edge, and then there is a long traverse on a broad and well defined trail heading towards Haji Malang. On this broad traverse one gets some good views of Badlapur hill and Navra-Navri and not to mention the amazing looking pinnacle which one gets very close to called Baman. Continuing on the traverse all the way leads one to the lower plateau of Haji Malang. This is the route to Tavli taken by Haji Malang villagers, and the name Tavli is much more well known here than on Badlapur side. From the lower plateau, one can descend to the base of Haji Malang, and take a bus back to Kalyan. However there is a quicker way to descend and get to Kalyan. After walking on the broad traverse for about half an hour or so, one should look for a well defined trail turning sharply to the right. Take this trail, which descends quickly to a village called Kusuli. From Kusuli, one gets a bus to Kalyan. Of course, one can also go up this way, but it is interesting to rough it out while ascending and then enjoy the (well earned!) smooth descent.
Note: Every route approaching Tavli from the Badlapur side passes initially alongside small hillocks. There are forest covers on some of them, and they block Tavli and the Tavli pinncales from view. There are paths made by woodcutters in the jungles on the hillocks. One should take care not to waste time by going up and down these hillocks too much. One should try to go around and avoid these hillocks and head towards Tavli as efficiently as possible.
In the remaining part of the article, we describe various approaches from Badlapur station to the MEADOW. Henceforth, ridges are described by the direction along which they descend. A very prominent ridge descending from Tavli in the south-north direction actually comes down close to the railway tracks near Badlapur station. We shall call this the MAIN RIDGE. On the west of Badlapur station, there is a main road. Ask the people there how to get to Kulgaon of the Vraddha Ashram (Ashramcha Kulgaon). These days, there might be autorickshaws to take one there, or else it is about 45min. walk by foot. One should take care not to follow the main road for too long, for it finally goes towards Bhoj lake. From Ashramcha Kulgaon, the simplest possibility is to head more or less straight towards the MAIN RIDGE. Try to go around and avoid the small hillocks on the way. There is a low (50m high), long and flat section on the MAIN RIDGE which one can approach directly from Ashramcha Kulgaon. Walking from Ashramcha Kulgaon, one can reach just below the flat section of the MAIN RIDGE in about 30min. From here, there are trails in the forest which climb to the flat section in about 20min. Once you reach the flat section of the MAIN RIDGE, turn left (south) and start climbing the MAIN RIDGE. Notice that the MAIN RIDGE is grassy and does not have forest cover. So climbing it in sunny weather can be a bit exhausting. On the other hand, the route along the MAIN RIDGE is very clear. The MAIN RIDGE climbs to the northern tip of the MEADOW. However, there are long sections on the MAIN RIDGE where the gradient is about 45 degrees, two easy rock climbing patches (one of the patches looks impossible to climb, but traverse to its left a bit, and then do an easy rock climb there), some scree sections etc. So climbing the entire length of the MAIN RIDGE is inefficent, long and tiring (2.5-3 hours). Hence, it is advisable to take one of the alternate routes which to reach the MEADOW, which we describe below. These alternate routes avoid most of the walk on the MAIN RIDGE, and some avoid the MAIN RIDGE completely.
The first alternate route we describe, avoids 75% of the walk on the MAIN RIDGE. The aim of this route is to reach a point on the MAIN RIDGE, which we shall henceforth call the CUT POINT. The CUT POINT is distinguishable by the fact that to the south of it, the MAIN RIDGE climbs very steeply towards Tavli, and to the north of it, the MAIN RIDGE climbs a little before it starts descending slowly. There is a route starting behind the Vradha Ashram of Kulgaon, going next to some hillocks, approaching perpendicularly towards the MAIN RIDGE (but aiming at a point south of the flat section described above). The route goes thru some Adivasi wadis on the hillocks and one should confirm the route from the people there. From these wadis, the route climbs thru jungle, along a small spur, approaching the MAIN RIDGE perpendicularly. One might have to cut thru the jungle at a few places, unless the Adivasi villagers have burnt shrubs to mark the route. Soon, the route meets a prominent bullock cart track, and following the bullock cart track, one initially turns right (north) and then the track takes a U-turn and quickly approaches very close to the wall of the MAIN RIDGE. After this, the track turns south and keeps going parallel to the wall of the MAIN RIDGE, almost brushing it. Continue along the bullock cart track to reach a position just below the CUT POINT. Here there is a nala climbing to the CUT POINT in about 20min. The CUT POINT is 40m above the track here. Reaching this point from the Vradha Ashram takes about 2 hrs, because of the intial jungle cutting and hillock negotiating that one might have to do. From the CUT POINT, turn left (north) and climb the MAIN RIDGE (one has to do the two rock climbs mentioned above, and some steep walking) to reach the MEADOW. It takes about 45min. to reach the MEADOW from the CUT POINT.
The alternate routes we now describe, avoid the MAIN RIDGE totally. The second alternate route starts from Ashramcha Kulgaon, but goes in a south west direction, alongside small hillocks. It soon climbs up along a small nala between the hillocks and Tavli to reach a plateau. Reaching the plateau takes about 1-1.5 hrs, because of the initial route finding difficulties. Here one finds that there is a reasonably well defined trail traversing from north to south and this trail goes all the way to Chanderi. Walk south on this trail for about 10 minutes and notice that there is a faint ridge descending approx. in the west-east direction. One has to some how notice this ridge (it is not easy!) and scramble up it using the plants as holds. This ridge reaches the MEADOW directly. Even if one misses this ridge, one can traverse further south on the trail for about half an hour and look for another faint ridge in the west-east direction. And a similar climb on the ridge leads one directly to the MEADOW. Actually there are many west-east ridges here, and they all climb to some part of the MEADOW. From the plateau, all these ridges take about 1.5-2 hrs to climb, because they involve jungle cutting, scrambling up using plants as holds etc.
The third alternate route is to continue on this trail even more (about 1-1.5 hrs.), and then one gets to places where there are nalas coming down from the Tavli pinnacles, or from the SADDLE between Tavli and Badlapur hill. Some of these nalas are climbable, and get you to the base of the pinnacles, where one can join the TRAVERSE mentioned above. Some others take you directly to the SADDLE. In fact, there is a prominent nala from the western end of Bhoj lake (approachable by bus/auto from Badlapur station), which climbs to the base of the Tavli pinnacles.
Because of route finding difficulties, all of the above routes take something like four hours to reach the MEADOW from Ashramcha Kulgaon.
This area is part of the Sahyadris proper and actually forms the southern limit of the Malshej Ghat region. But they are included in the Karjat region as treks to this area start from base villages accessed by bus from Karjat. Bhimashankar, Padar Killa, Tungi and Peth are the popular trekking spots in this area. The base villages here are served by buses plying from Karjat to Khaandas, or sometimes Neral to Khaandas. Khaandas is about 36km from Karjat and takes 90 minutes to reach by bus from Karjat. There is a bus which leaves Karjat at 7:15am for Khaandas. Nowadays, there are tempos too, going to Khaandas from Karjat. The last bus back to Karjat from Khaandas is at 4:30pm, but tempos and autorickshaws are available till 7pm. Another another important village in this area is Kaashele (26km from Karjat), which is on the Karjat-Khaandas route. There are more buses and tempos available from Kaashele, so sometimes one might be required to change transport at Kaashele. Tempos to Karjat or Neral are available till 7pm from Kaashele. It takes about 45min to reach Karjat or Neral by bus from Kaashele.
Bhimashankar is a huge massif 1005m high. At the top of this massif, there is a huge plateau where the Bhimashankar town and the Bhimashankar temple is situated. The area near the top is thickly forested. The forest is a reserve forest, and is a great place to visit in the monsoon. Bhimashankar is a popular pilgrimage spot, since the temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. The highest point of the massif is about 50m higher than the top plateau and is called Nagphani, because it looks like the hood of a cobra from a distance. The Bhima river originates from here and flows down towards the Deccan plateau. Nagphani gives a great view of the southern Malshej Ghat mountains and the mountains near Lonavla, and the sunrise and sunset there is fabulous.
There are huts and dharamshalas near the temple for people to stay in. One gets hot, simple and spicy food at the dhabas near the dharamshalas. In the monsoon the entire area around the temple is covered in clouds and even the road lights can be difficult to see! The temple is very beautiful and serene, and has a huge bell at one end, a relic from Portuguese times.
Buses ply from Mumbai and Pune to the temple. These buses have to approach Bhimashankar from the Deccan plateau side (Khed side). But for trekkers, there are many other routes. For example, one can approach Bhimashankar from Ahupe Ghat in southern Malshej Ghat region. But by far, the most popular trekking approach is to climb up from the Konkan, from Khaandas village. There are two routes from Khaandas to Bhimashankar. To know more about them and for some pictures,
There are two routes from Khandas to Bhimashankar. Both these routes meet at a plateau about 400m high, where a village called Koli village is situated. From the village, by the side of a prominent mango tree, a steep track climbs up the massif of Bhimashankar. It leads to the reserve forest near the top. The track flattens out at the forest and cuts through it for about 4km and finally, starts climbing again to reach onto a road (2km). This road is the Pune-Bhimashankar road and the temple is nearby. One can also climb on to Nagphani from here.
The first route from Khandas to Koli village follows a tar road for 2km and then starts climbing up along a small spur. It is longer but easier than the second route. The first route goes through a thick forest and leads onto the plateau of Koli village near a Ganpati temple. Traversing further for about 3km leads onto Koli village.
The second route is shorter but much steeper and climbs straight to Koli village. It leads from Khandas and soon starts climbing up steeply along rocky boulders. At three places, ladders are kept to help climb these boulders. There is a exposed move just after climbing the first ladder. To negotiate it one has to look out for two good hand holds and, holding onto them, stretch the legs apart to cross from one side to the other. Also one has to be careful while climbing along this route, especially near the ladders since, at times, there is very little space to stand, and the area might be exposed. This route might be a bit tricky in the monsoons, but it is much more fun than the other route, though not much quicker in terms of time
Peth is an interesting conical hill, with a prominent thumb-like pinnacle on its top. It is detached from the main range and is 472m high. The pinnacle actually is a fort, and is known as Kotligad locally. Because of its location, Kotligad commands excellent views of the surrounding Konkan countryside, the wall of the ghats, Bhimashankar, Padar Killa, Tungi, Wandre Khind pass, and (if the visibility is good) the entire Matheran range! It is rare that one gets such amazing views after an easy climb, and so this makes Peth a very special place. One can visit Peth both in monsoon and in winter, but the optimal time is to come just after monsoon, when the visibility is at its best.
The base village is Ambiwali, which is about 10km from Kaashele towards the east. Ambiwali is not on the main Karjat-Khaandas route, and so there are not many direct buses to Ambiwali from Karjat or Neral. So it is a good idea to take the 7:15am Khaandas bus from Karjat, and alight at Kaashele. From Kaashele, there are many tempos available to go to Ambiwali. It takes about 20min. to reach Ambiwali from Kaashele by tempo. To come back to Kaashele from Ambiwali, there are buses till 4:30pm and tempos till 6:00pm.
From Ambiwali village, there is a broad mud path which gently climbs to Peth village at the base of the conical hill (5km, 90 min). The path offers good views of the surrounding valley on both the sides. From Peth village, a route climbs quickly up the conical hill. There is a bifurcation some distance up, but both the parts lead to the base of the Kotligad pinnacle. The right path is shorter and easier to climb. At the base of Kotligad are water tanks, and a huge cave with a temple inside it. There is also a water tank inside the cave with very clean water. In fact, the villagers of Peth draw water from this tank and one can see pipes going down all the way to the village.
To go to the top of Kotligad, one has to enter the cave and climb up a funnel along a staircase carved out in the inside of the pinnacle! This is the most interesting part of this trek, and it is a unique feature amongst the forts in this region. The staircase climbs up steeply, and near the top, it is no longer totally inside the pinnacle. There is a narrow gap in the pinnacle rock face along which it climbs, and here one can enjoy a cool breeze and a great view of the Konkan. The steps soon take one to the top of Kotligad, 20m above the cave. It takes about 45 min. to reach the top from Peth village. The top is circular and quite small. There is a dry water tank here, and one can see remains of fort walls here. It is from the top that one gets the fantastic views mentioned above. From Peth village, another track leads on towards the wall of the ghat, and climbs up pretty steeply. It goes towards the Wandre Khind pass. This track is visible very prominently from the top of Kotligad. The view of the wall of the ghat from Kotligad resembles a giant amphitheatre, since the ghat is about 700m high here, higher than Kotligad.