It was the dawn of 13th July, 2013. As planned Abhash, Ninad, Atul met me at Dadar station at 6.15 AM. Bhavesh, Suresh and Manoj were supposed to board the loacl train from Mankhurd station. Tarun called us to inform that he'll be joining us at Nerul station. Everything went as per our timetable and all were in the same train. We reached Panvel (पनवेल) station at 7.30 AM after having boarded the 6.35 AM local train from Kurla station.
Note: Before you start, check out my latest visit to Manikgad too. It has lot of info which I couldn't cover here. Click here.
We walked to Panvel ST bus stop, which falls at a distance of 10/15 minutes. The trek to Manikgad (माणिकगड) fort begins form Washivali (वाशिवली) village We boarded the 7.45 AM ST bus to Lohop village (लोहोप), a village after Washivali. The bus was crowded but still we managed to find ourselves some seats. The bus left as per the scheduled time. The charges till Washivali were 20 ₹ per head. When we were outside the Panvel city the bus broke down, unable to start again. Luckily there was another ST bus behind us, but sadly it was going to some different village. It dropped us at a junction named Siddheshvar (सिद्धेश्वर), from which Washivali village falls at a distance of 20 minutes. From there we caught an Auto that took us to Washivali village for 10 ₹ per seat.
The Route :
From Washivali, two routes originate from the main road. The first right proceeds via Katarwadi (कातरवाडी). The second right goes via Dhangarwadi (धनगरवाडी). Then both routes meet ahead after about an hour. We took the second route.
We started towards Vadgaon (वडगाव) village. We came across a big temple (to our right hand side), and we took a right turn there and entered a village (from behind the temple) and proceed to Dhangarwadi. This route has a full green cover throughout, till the route from katarwadi meets this one. So we started walking at 9.00 AM from Washivali village and reached Dhangarwadi at 10.15 AM. Dhangarwadi lies a few steps away from main route to Manikgad Fort. This is the last shelter and there are no houses nor huts after this point.
Tip: No need to go all the way to Vadgaon village. This saved a lot of our time. People with cars usually go till Vadgaon village. We travel by state transport, and if you are also planning to visit by a state transport or similar, then I would recommend you to start your hike from Washivali village. Its easy, safe and you will meet people on the way. Just ask for way to Killa (fort) and the villager will point out to you.
The long traverse:
The next level of the trek was the long & tiring traverse till the Hanuman temple. The route till this location was a straight forward, but the places near waterfall had completely gobbled-up the route and hence left us on a wild goose chase. Every time we encountered a small waterfall, the route following it had disappeared, eaten up by huge boulders. So, many times we found ourselves lost amidst thick forest, with no route visible ahead of us but only thorny bushes and irksome mosquitoes. But thanks to our team work, we were able to bring the horses back on the track.
Somehow we managed to reach the Hanuman temple and started walking straight ahead. And this is where we made our first mistake, the mistake of the day, which costed us our precious 45 minutes and Suresh's hope to reach the top.
The miasma of despair:
Well, the fort was not actually a fort, it was more like a vestige of a few standing structures. The first door to the fort (महा दरवाझा) was completely destroyed. The second door, was atleast, looking like a door, and had a sculpture of lord Ganesha (गणेश) inscribed on it. There are more than four water tanks, two on the way, and the rest on the top, with the one tank resembling the size of a huge swimming pool. There was a small temple on the top, unfortunately, with no deity inside. The God/Goddess idol was probably stolen by invaders. Beside the temple, there was a (चुन्याचा घाणा). We spent like 45 minutes on the top. We had our lunch while enjoying the fog. The clouds had completely blocked the visibility, so we were unable to enjoy the valley, but we enjoyed the thrill of having our lunch on the very edge of the fort.
Now that we had accomplished our purpose of coming here, we had all the time in the world to start the descend. After the prolonged photo session, we started the climb down at 2.00 PM. When we were midway near the Mashyachi Khind col, the sky had started clearing, exposing the magnificent view of the valley. We even came across two odd groups, probably amateurs, accompanied by a guide from nearby village, while we were navigating the forest patch. They looked enervated and had gloomy faces. They must have had a tough time walking the stretch of 12 Kms. But we were happy we successfully climbed the fort without any guide or something.
Now we were heading for a mini-waterfall which we had encountered on our way earlier. We spent complete 30 minutes, 3.15 PM to 3.45 PM, enjoying the moment to the fullest. The rain was, as usual, making his intermittent display throughout the trek, which kept us lively at every moment.
As we approached the village, we made slight changes in the plan, and decided to progress via Katarwadi village, instead of the route via Dhangarwadi. The route was a bit untidy as it went through the village, but somewhat similar to the earlier route we took.
We reached Washivali village at 5.30 PM. We were waiting for the ST bus to arrive, when Atul, Manoj, Suresh were searching for a secondary mode of transport. A TATA Magic guy promised us to drop at Panvel station for 40 ₹ per head. We reached Panvel station, right on time to catch the ~6.30 PM local train.
For newbies, I would recommend you take a guide with you (don't rely on any map). This was my second time here and I have almost learnt the route by-heart now.
Thanks to Atul Mallya (and his HTC Phone camera), we were able to preserve the Manikgad adventure in the form of photographs. All these snaps were captured from his camera.
Update: Click here to read my November 2014 visit to Manikgad.