‘ALIBAG” – The moment you utter this word to a mumbaikar, his mind will explode with excitement conjuring images of Sea, beaches, seafood,boats,horse-cart,water-sport etc and you can almost hear him humming Lets party all night !!!
However there is another interesting facet to Alibag. This laid back town of Alibag boasts of some of the finest Sea forts like Korlai Fort, Kulaba Fort, twin Fort of Undheri and Khanderi,Revdanda fort Little ahead of Alibag at Murud is the famous Jhangira Fort and last but not the least Sagargad fort which incidentally we are going to trek this Sunday.
|Sagargad Fort and the Vanartok Pinnacle|
This fort is believed to be in existence since ancient times i.e. during the Satvahan dynasty. However if we try to find any reference in history about this fort,then one can find it’s mention in Treaty of Purander (1655 AD)under which Shivaji handed over 33 forts to Moghuls. It is also believed to have been handed over to Angre, naval chief of maratha at latter stage of history so that he don’t part with his support to Shahu Chhatrapati of Satara and remain loyal to them.Later this fort was lost to British in the Mid 19th century, during that period some British Officers built retreat homes on the fort.
|Dil toh pagal hai|
Dil toh Pagal hai :
It’s been more than a month since I had trekked, reason being my aching heels.However when I got this invitation from my friends to do trek to Sagargad ” toh mai khud ko rok na paya’…..Dil toh pagal hai , dil deewana hai.. ( I wanted to say this to the doctor who had suggested bed rest to me).The weekend wanderer spirit of mine was now in forefront “aur majal hai kisi ki ,agar koi usse rok paye” so off I was on my way to Sagargad.
Our trek was supposed to be a Bike cum Night trek whereby we will travel on motorcycle till the base village and from there we will start the trekking during the night.It was decided that everyone will assemble at Panvel ST stand and from there all will drive together to the base village Khandale.
There is many a slip between a cup and a lip:
I was all set to leave my house when my mobile rang and I was informed that my partner with whom I was supposed to ride pillion on the bike has backed out.For a second I was stunned ! I could see my trek plans jumping out of the window, Tick Tick ….. the mind clock was hammering hard. ‘Ab kya karu “ I was desperate to go, but the question was How ? , “Triple seat bike par jana bhi possible nahi” , as it is a long drive.I was adamant that I am not going to cancel my program what may come, so I informed my friends that I will meet them at the base village bike or no bike.
Journey from Panvel to Base Village Khandale:
I took 6.16 pm Panvel Local train from Andheri station and reached Panvel station at 8.00pm. I soon dashed from the station to the Panvel ST stand which is hardly 5 minutes away from the station to catch bus going to Khandale Village (Base Village for Sagargad Trek).Though I was told that the frequency of buses going to Alibag is good, yet here I was waiting for more than 30 minutes at the ST stand for the bus to come aur jab bus aayi toh dil bola oouch!! because the bus which had just arrived was fully packed already as it was coming from Borivali.I was in two minds that should I wait for the bus starting from Panvel or just get into it. Lekin bus aur ladki ka kya bhrosa, kab phir doosri aaye, ab jo mil rahi hai usi ke sath ho lo mere bhai 😛
and when the bus stopped I realised that half the mumbai wants to get into that bus ” Arre bhai Sachin Tendulkar nahi ja raha use bus me ” Somehow I managed to get into the bus. This bus journey was really a big pain for me “Ek toh mai akela upar se murge ki tarah ek tang per Khada “, yes with hardly a toe to keep on the floor of the bus I was dangling, I mean literally dangling with the rod, hardly able to breathe (Kyo ki saans liya nahi puri mumbai ke paseene ki khushboo mujhe behosh kar deti )
imagine to travel like this for 2.5 hrs and upon that my still paining heels.Sach me Dil toh pagal hai.
|Khandale Village signboard, take left from the board|
Khandale Village to Siddheshwer temple:
It was 11.00 at night when I reached Khandale Village. Most buses going to Alibag stop here but you will have to inform the conducter.One cannot miss the bus stop because there is a signboard.If you are coming from Panvel or Pen via Vadkhal naka then take left turn from this signboard to start your trek.This is a motor-able road which goes through the Khandale village and it could be somewhere around 3-4 kms till the end of the village.So if you are coming by ST bus then you may have to walk this road or can take an autoriksha if available.(because raat me jab mai utara tha toh goan ke kutto ko chodkar aur koi nahi tha). Another option to reach Khandale Village is that one can come to gateway of India take a early morning 6.30 launch to Mandwa Jetty and from there the launch service have a connecting bus service which will drop you to Alibag. One can hire a auto till the end of Khandale village and can also negotiate with them for the return journey.I was lucky that my biker friends were there at the Khandale bus stop and with them triple seated I reached the end of the village where we parked our bikes at a village house.
|Bullock cart / Dirt road begins|
Just ahead of the motor-able road the bullock cart / Dirt road begins, You should start walking on it, this path will take you through the fields,open clearing, and forest.
This 20 minutes of walk will lead you to the stone stairs. During monsoon season a stream is flowing just before this, however as we were doing this trek in winter the stream had dried up.Basically the true climb on this trek starts from this point.
|The stone stairs from where the actually climb starts|
Climbing only few steps you will notice that there is a small diversion on right side just after the cemented steps. This diversion takes you to Dhondana Waterfall.
|Just ahead of this cemented steps diversion on right side for waterfall|
This is a wonderful waterfall of over 100 feets drop. During monsoon one can see the waterfall from this point itself. one needs to descend for over 20 minutes to reach the base of this waterfall.
The water from behind the Siddheshwar temple is kind of feeder to this waterfall.
|Sagargad waterfall (Dhondana Waterfall)|
As we were going to Sagargad so we ignored this and kept climbing straight.Its a 45 mins-1 hr climb on this stone stairs to the Siddheshwar temple /Asham. these stone steps are regular kind some where and at some places its just a kind of natural elevation.
|Uneven Stone stairs|
The rough mental count that I took of these step were roughly around 350.As we were doing this trek during the night and the temperature was very cool we didn’t feel the tiredness much, but if you are climbing this steps during the day time in winter/summer it could be tiring for the beginners.
This 1 hour climb brings you to the mid point of the trek and that is Siddheshwar Temple and Ashram.The trek till siddheshwar temple is pretty straight forward with no chance of losing your way,as the steps are well mark.Just before the Siddheshwar temple there is a foot trail moving towards the left which is the way to Sagargad.
|Left from here takes you to Sagargad and straight towards Siddheshwar Temple|
But as we wanted to visit the Temple first so we left this detour and moved little forward straight and on our right side descending few steps is Siddheshwar Temple.It is a Shiva God’s Temple, where the people of nearby village come to offer prayers. Trekkers often rest here before proceeding to Sagargad machi. As the temple offers shade and can accommodate more than 25 people.One can also refill there water bottles.
|Side view of Siddeshwar Temple|
Behind the Siddheshwar Temple there is a ashram and a well. Moving little behind the Siddheshwar temple one come across a small waterfall,as we were trekking in winter so there was just a pool of water to show for waterfall.In monsoon people enjoy the smaller water fall here. Matter of fact this flowing water ultimately flows toward the bigger waterfall , thus acting as a feeder to Dhondana waterfall.
|Stream behind the Ashram|
After offering our prayers we retraced our steps back till that diversion which we had earlier bypassed and started our climb further to Sagargad machi. the climb from here is hardly for 5 minutes and then the trek reduces to plain walking for the around 10 minutes and you will find yourself at the Sagargad Machi /village.
The landmark to this village is that just before you reach this village on your left side you will notice a big well.The villagers collect water from this well till the beginning of summer because later this well gets dried and for the rest of the period villagers collect water from the well at ashram.
|Well before the Sagargad machi|
It was a full moon night so trekking was more enjoyable, We were able to see Sagargad village in horizon and we started moving towards it. as we were trekking at night the time being around 1.30 when we entered the village. seeing 12 people with bags on their back all the dogs of the village started barking on us but we kept walking straight from the the direction we entered the village and reached the end of the village where one can see a small Village anganwadi/school.
just to the right of this school but little adjacent there is a dirt track which goes ahead so keep following this route and walking straight
|Dirt road at the end of the village|
Little walk from here will bring you to a large a large clearing, keep walking straight further, there is full possibility that you may get confused here because from the clearing you may not find any route further but straight walking will bring you to the point where you will see large vegetation growth but enter into it ( this entry point is kind of almost hidden due to bushy growth).
|Trail hidden by bushy growth|
Keep trekking through this forested portion and follow the trail and you will reach a point whereby you can see Sagargad Fort Wall and Vanertok perched on your right side.Please remember this section of trek requires you to traverse talking left turn . The gradient it is very easy her. once you cross the village there is literally no climbing at all. So for a beginner it is a paradise.
|While traversing you can see Sagargad Fort on right side|
Once the traverse is complete, walking little further (all this time Sagargad Fort will be there at your right side)you will suddenly come across fort wall.
Walk along this fort wall on your left side till you find opening of stone steps leading into the fort and from there to the Sagargad top.
|View of the entry gate of the Sagargad Fort|
As you pass through this entrance take right turn and keep walking, initial walk will be through overgrown vegetation and you may get a feel of walking through the forest.
|Walking through the forest|
Keeping your basic trekking instinct in mind keep walking towards the Vanatok. Just a 5 minutes walk through this thick forested region will bring you to the Shiva temple on the top of the Sagargad fort.
|Shiva Temple on Sagargad Top|
This Shiva temple has few relics, Nandi idol,Shiv Ling, Ganpati Idol. The Temple is not very well maintained.If any one wants to stay can do so. but the ground is not well kept. This temple can house 3-4 people.
If you are facing the temple then moving towards to your left and getting down few steps you will see a watertank. The water in this tank is potable.
The noticeable thing about this water-tank is that there is a water coming into it from a tube which is of the shape of cow’s mouth. This water-tank is therefore also called as Gaumukh. I was informed by a villager that water is available in this tank till most part of summer.(But my advise would be better refill your bottles at Ashram or at Sagargad Machi. Standing at this watertank with your back toward the Shiva Temple you may not be able to see Vanartok but don’t worry its the contours of the mountain that’s hiding it.Keep walking towards the direction of Vanartok, little left first and then right till you come across ruins of british quarters . One can see gigantic plateau which offers a fantastic sight.
|British quarters ruins|
It was 3 am when we reached the Sagargad Top. The breeze was blowing at a very good speed and the view on the top under the full moon looked simply mind blowing. We all squatted on the ground and took out our bed sheets and prepared to spend the night on the plateau in open. Man what a feeling it was. Lying on the ground ,chill setting in and watching the stars above will the ever bright light full moon above. ( Life ho toh aise )
|Sleeping under the sky ( Life ho toh aise )|
Next morning we got up at 6.00 am with sun coming out from the horizon the skyline bathed in orange.
|Orange sky line|
Its time to explore the top Plateau of Sagargad now.
What to see on the Sagargad Top.
1. Vanartok: Its on the southern side of the fort.This Pinnacle is independent of the sagargad plateau.Professional climbers climb it.The only problem of climbing this pinnacle is that it is not bolted therefore the lead climber has to risk his life to climb and anchor. In-fact our group members scaled this pinnacle today.
2. Goumukh: The Watertank as explained above.
3.Water Pond : On the sagargad Top one finds a big pond.The water is very muddy. Don’t try to take a dip in the pond because we were informed by local villager that there are snakes in it.
|Muddy Water Pond on Sagargad Top|
4. Fortification :
a) Not much fortification is left most of it has been destroyed except the walls on the northern side. However one can notice overgrowth of vegetation along the walls of the fort.
|Walls of the fort.|
b) Ruins of the British Quarters
5.Standing on the top one can have beauitful views of manikgad ,Karnala,Mirgad on the Eastern side.Arabian sea, Revdanda Fort on the Western side.One can see glimpses of Kundalika river on far horizon.
After completion of fort exploration and Pinnacle climb we made our way back to the base.
I have to again struggle to get the bus back to Panvel,but managed to get a seat this time , so shut my eyes and had a good nap till Panvel . Another fantastic trek comes to end and lets get ready for the next weekend wandering.
BASE VILLAGE : Khandale , Tal.Alibag, Dist. Raigad
TYPE: Hill Fort
ALTITUDE : 415 Mtrs
RAIL HEAD: Panvel or Pen
ROAD HEAD: Panvel, Pen
TREK ITINERARY : One day trek
BEST SEASON : Monsoon ( because one can enjoy Dhodhane water fall ) and winter
ALTERNATE TREK ROUTES:
1) Sagargad Trek can also be done from Bamangoan Route.
2) Second route is from Waghote Village but both these routes less frequented.