This week, The Musafir Stories speaks to Saurabh from Mumbai, who authors the blog A season of Mountains under the handle www.nomadosauras.wordpress.com. Sit back and enjoy as we find out where Saurabh is taking us to today!
Today's destination: Harihar Fort
Nearest Airport: Ozar airport, Nashik or Mumbai Airport
Nearest Railway Station: Kasara railway station or Nashik railway station
Prerequisites - Medium level of fitness, make sure you're not acrophobic!
Packing - Trekking shoes and gear, water for hydration, caps and energy bars. It's advisable to carry ones own food, but food is available at shacks outside the fort.
Time of the year - December
Length of the itinerary: 1 day
You can start early from a nearby station (Mumbai/Pune/Nasik) to reach the Kasara railway station. Once at Kasara, you can take a shared cab to Nirgudpada/Nirgudwadi - the base village for the trek.
Saurabh sheds some light on the history of this 800-1000 yr old fort and its strategic location overlooking the ancient trade route between Gujarat and Maharashtra. The fort has changed hands between the Yadavas, Moghuls, Marathas and finally acceeded to the British.
The journey starts off with a few nail-biting moments as the connecting trains were running late but Saurabh and group are re-united at Thane from where they head off the Kasara and reach the station at 7:30AM.
The group manage to find a cab to the base village round-trip but the journey is not without some adventure. After the suspense and some 'bollywood'esque moments in the Maruti Omni - the official kidnapping vehicle of bollywood!
After some comic relief, the group finally reaches Nirgudpada at 10AM and the cabbie agrees to return back for a pickup at 5PM.
The group is now looking at the majestic Harihar mountain and fort. In the vicinity, one can also see other peaks such as PhaniDhongar, Uttwad, Bhaskargad, Bhrahma hill, Brahmagiri Bhandardurg etc which are a part of the Trimbakeshwar mountain range.
A 1-2km walk from Nirgudpada passing through Kotewadi leads you to the Harihar fort, staring at the iconic rock-cut vertical stairway.
The 80 degree incline of the staircase and height of about 60m or 200ft, and steps that are almost 2ft hight, can take one about 2-20 mins depending on the fitness and skill level of the individual.
First stop at the Maha-Darwaza or Main Gate, a semi-circular door to the fort, and a view of PhaniDhongar, Uttwad and Bhasgad mountains and the valley beneath. The group enjoy lunch with a view at the Maha-darwaza, in the passage way with a beautiful breeze, overlooking the mountain range!
The group then proceeds to a helical staircase, with a sheer rock on the right makes for an adrenaline rush while ascending! There are also a number of trap doors, capable of holding off an entire army with just 5 soldiers! There are also escape doors, in case the fort is compromised by the enemy.
The passageway leads you to the plateau of the fort that has a Hanuman Mandir, a pond, a few water cisterns and a Shiv Ling (Shiva statue). One can get a view of the Brahma hill as well and a clear view of the peak of the Harihar hill with the Bhagwa Jhenda (Saffron flag) which is symbolic of the Maratha King Shivaji Maharaj.
A five minute trail leads you to the peak of the fort and one can enjoy a panoramic view from top of the fort, as well as a view of the base villages! After spending some time at the top, the group decides to start their descent back to the base village in order to make it in time for the 5PM pick up.
THe group runs into a jam on the staircase, a nightmare given that they were up against a 5PM deadline!
After all the adventure, the group makes it back to the base village in time for the pickup and end a memorable trek to an end!