Go trekking at Bhimashankar, Peth Fort andKondona Caves to experience nature, one stepat a time

Trekking and Hiking have always been popular ways to break away from a routine. In Maharashtra, between one urban jungle to another lie vast untouched locations and it is these beautiful places that invite enthusiasts from all over to explore and rejuvenate. The Marathas that once ruled over the area built awe inspiring forts.

Around these forts, in due course of time, man-made tracks were created which serve perfectly as modern day trekking paths in the state. Plenty of rainfall keep the trekking areas green and cool throughout the year. Although dangerous, trekking during the monsoon is the most picturesque.

This trekking hotspot is situated in the village of Bhavagiri. One of the twelve Jytotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India, Bhimashankar has always been a special place. Dense forests, lofty peaks and a plethora of animal life characterize this beautiful getaway.

How to get there
Take a train from Mumbai city to Karjat station. After the 90 km journey, you can hire a taxi, tumtum or use bus transportation (ST buses) to reach Khandas village which is roughly 40 km away.

Once there, tourists have the option to trek by the Ganesh Ghat route or Shidi Route to reach Bhimashankar.

The trek
Both Ganesh Ghat and Shidi are scenic and challenging routes. Around 3 – 4km from Khandas village, you can reach Ganesh Ghat route by turning right from the main bridge.

This trek is long but less challenging than the Shidi route. After an hour’s trek, you will reach Ganesh Temple and also the base of Padar Killa. If you wish to continue further, hire the services of a tour guide who will help you tackle the terrain of this route. En route you will find endless number of tea stalls and small eateries. After a few hours into the Padar Killa route you will arrive at the plateau of Bhimashankar.

The Shidi route is a more challenging route to reach the Ganesh Temple. To explore this track, turn left from the main bridge in Khandas village. The steep natural staircase makes this trek shorter but also more dangerous (especially during monsoons). After a series of such staircases, the Ganesh Ghat and Shidi route merge. Attempting the Padar Killa trek after the Shidi route is not advisable for amateur trekkers.

Like most trekking areas in Maharashtra, nature always provides a challenging path as well as an easier path to reach a destination.

Kondana caves 
Kondana is home to eight ancient Buddhist caves which were built in circa 200 BC. The sculptures, carvings and stupas are marvellous. Since these caves are situated at a height, trekking and rock climbing are fun ways to spend the day.

How to get there
From the Karjat railway station, one can hire a rickshaw or take a bus to Kondivalle village, a 100 rupee ride away. From here, one can walk to the opposite side of Kharvandi village to begin the trek towards these magnificent caves.

The trek
The trek is fast and simple. An earthquake in the early 1900s has damaged the cave temples considerably. Due to this, one will come across numerous relics and ruins along the way. The edges of the cliff on which the temple rests are hosts to rappelling and cliff climbing activities. The best way to spend the day is to trek for around an hour to one of the faces of the cliff and from there on climb up to the temple. Many locals conduct these cliff climbing and rappelling activities by charging a reasonable amount. The temple as mentioned before is marvellous. Remember to capture an image of the beautiful Chatiya that welcomes you inside. During the monsoon, water gushes down the cliff making this ancient abode incredibly scenic. Trekking inMaharashtra is enjoyable but also dangerous.

Every year a number of people suffer serious injuries sustained during such adventures. A simple map, water and basic medical supplies should always be carried as precaution. Trekking during the monsoons may be prohibited in some areas, do check before-hand.

Peth fort 
Peth or Kothaligad is another scenic option for the avid trekker. This trek provides a glimpse into the past. Throughout the journey one is exposed to Maratha architecture and relics adding more value to the already power packed terrain. Built during Sambhaji’s era, this fort like most other Maratha forts is timeless and challenging to reach.

How to get there
Similar to Bhimashankar, take a train from Mumbai to Karjat station. Karjat is the gateway to most treks around Mumbai and the trek to Peth Fort is no different. Once at Karjat station, hire a tumtum (a six-seater rickshaw) to Ambivli village which is roughly an hour’s drive away. Ambivli is the starting point for the trek and is approximately 120 km from Mumbai.

The trek
The trek may seem easy initially but it gets tougher eventually. Post Ambivli dense forests take over and trekking through the thick growth could be challenging. In an hour or so you will reach the foot hills of the Peth fort. From here on, an option of two routes come forth – a steep and faster climb or a leisurely longer one. Either way, reaching the top does not take much time. At the fort you will find the Bhairoba cave, home to the idol to of Lord Bhairoba. The cave is clean and safe. Trekking back to the main road is easy once you understand the route. Avoid trekking here during the monsoons as the rocks and tracks could get extremely slippery.