Birds and bees
Hillocks and mounds
Ancient fort walls
Away from the city noise
And traffic that annoys
We went not too far
Just a little drive by car
Onto fort Karnala
For the first soak in monsoons gala
Office to home, home to office, traffic woes, malls and movie shows had me bored. Finally, the heavens opened up and a collective sigh sounded across the heat oppressed city of Mumbai. No matter how ugly the rains make everything in the city after a month or two, the first rains are always lovingly welcomed with anticipation of hot chai and fried ‘pakodas’. Travellers start conjuring images of verdant road trips and planning weekend getaways in the monsoon months.
We started our 2012 monsoons with a short but refreshing trip to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary and the lesser known fort on the hill inside it. At just 10 kms away from the suburb of Panvel, Karnala would be one of the closest ‘green’ destinations for the tree deprived Mumbaikars. This fort and the hill can even be seen from the highway afar as a Thumb sticking up on the ‘funnel hill’.
We started off bright and early and reached Karnala at 8 a.m. Revived by scalding tea and a heavy breakfast at Kamat around the corner from Karnala, we started off our foray.
The DON’T TRASH directive deserves a special mention that mandates keeping the forest as pristine as possible by having visitors deposit Rs 200 with security and return with all the disposable stuff (which is ALL counted). Applause for the idea!
And away we go..
‘Two roads diverged in the wood’ and we opted for the more difficult trail to the summit of Fort Karnala. A few minutes of clambering over rocks and leaves and branches, later we the not so fit city folk, started huffing and puffing,( this indeed was a great work out) on this moderate trek. A gentle zephyr revived us as we continued our ascent on the trail. This trail was supposed to be 6 kms and we made good time as we reached the peak after about 1.5 hours. The heavens rewarded us by opening up and drenching us in cooling fresh water.
We reached the fort Karnala, and explored the gateways, vantage points, water reservoirs and found the perfect spot for a well-deserved picnic.
Coming down is usually the hard part though most people think it is easier. With the rocks being more slippery, we had to be very careful finding the right toe holds. The whole trek lasted around 3-4 hours and the time we spent at the summit.
Summits take all the time in the world to climb, but once there, the satisfaction of having gone up all the hard way is immense. Lush green panoramas and cool winds awarded to climbers are sweeter and the aching muscles later even pleasurable.
And we enter Karnala
He tried to run but could not hide
Stairway to heaven
Karnala Fort History
The Karnala fort predates 1400 AD and can be seen as a Thumb from afar. It was conquered and passed around by several rulers from under the Devagiri Yadavas, Tughlaq rulers, Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar, the Portugese, Chattrapati Shivaji, Aurangzeb and finally the Peshwas of Pune.
- Take the Mumbai-Pune old highway and then get on to the Mumbai-Goa highway. Several ‘dhabas’ (roadside eateries) later, the Karnala bird sanctuary lies on the left.
- One can also reach Panvel by a local train and then take an autorickshaw from Panvel to Karnala (will cost around Rs 200-300).
- Parking is available right outside the sanctuary.
- Rs 20 per adult was the ticket
- Several restaurants are around Karnala on the highway. Food is permitted inside, but there are no vendors/hotels inside the sanctuary. The best option would be to carry a picnic lunch inside.
- Carry plenty of water along on the trek (at least 1 bottle per person). Believe me, a parched throat on a climb near the summit is not what you would like!
What to wear
Wear trekking shoes and comfortable clothes if you plan to climb up the hill. There is little else to do actually apart from the trekking there. Hats off to the bravehearts on the way who were attempting the climb wearing party shoes or slippers or barefoot, but I would not recommend it. If you are visiting in monsoon, wear a raincoat instead of carrying an umbrella if you don’t want to get wet (although getting wet was the best part of all!).
If you were expecting to see birds in monsoon in the afternoon in the bird sanctuary, you will be able to see them in cages (a couple of peacocks, and parrots) and on the sign boards! If birds in the wild are what you want to see, the right time would be from October-April early in the morning.
Go on, make that monsoon trek happen. It takes just a few hours to get away from the hullaballoo of the city to sink into verdant rolling hills and fresh air at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary.