25/08/2013: 1-day Sunday TTMM Pilot Trek to Prabalgad near Panvel / Matheran with WanderLust Adventures.
↑ Group strength: 15 ↑
Prabalagad is also known as Morunjan and Pradhangad.
A few technical details & map is shared, before I start the description of our wanderlust.
↑ MAP of our Trek route: (marked in red on the map below) Starting from Thakurwadi - via PrabalMachi - to Prabalgad - till Kalavantin viewing point at Prabalgad & same way backtracked for the return journey ↑
↑ Map of Prabalgad ↑
Distance trekked: 4.21 km single way up & Total distance trekked = 8.42 km.
Time taken for entire trip: 8 am at Panvel railway station to 7 pm back to Panvel railway station (11 hours).
Actual trekking time: 2 hours 30 minutes for climbing up & the same for coming down.
Base station: Panvel.
Base village: Thakurwadi.
Topmost point of trek: Prabalgad.
TTMM = Tu Tera, Mein Mera = All expenses & responsibilities on your own.
Pilot trek = First time visit to an unknown spot for all of us.
8 am: At Panvel railway station.
8:30 am: In the shared tumtum (Rs. 900/- for 13 of us for going & return from Panvel to Thakurwadi) & some of us in their own private car.
The shared tumtum is vehicle in which the driver says 10 people can sit, but 12 can be accommodated if they are all trekkers.
Trekkers are people who come in varying sizes and shapes and fall in different age groups. They are usually fit, but some may have paunches acquired on their non-trekking days. These people will adjust and accommodate their fellow mates during a journey and will take care of each other and even strangers who may need help. They value their bottled water above everything. Even above their packed tiffins! This is because, you can complete a trek on an empty stomach, but not with a parched throat. Water is like air on a trek. If its over, everything’s over. Dehydration is a serious problem, not frequently faced while trekking the lush green mountains of Western Ghats during rainy season. But still every care must be taken to preserve and conserve water as much as possible. I hope this attitude of conservation remains with everybody when we return back to the cities after the trek.
9:15 am: At Thakurwadi.
↑ Kalavantin on the left & Prabalgad on the right, as seen from Thakurwadi ↑
9:30 am: From Thakurwadi the tarred road goes straight ahead and you come across an orange banner on the right side of the road, giving information about history of Prabalgad. Turn right and leave the tarred road at this banner.
↑ Turn right at this banner ↑
This road immediately becomes a jungle path, strewn with rocks and pebbles. Purple flowers in green grass adorn both the sides of this jungle path.
↑ Follow this path ↑ to reach the plateau called PrabalMachi. Machi means plateau in Marathi.
The route is scenic and undisturbed. Very few other trekkers were on this mountain with us. It was quite and raining. The pitter patter of the rains on the jungle canopy is music to my ears. Waterfalls and gurgling streams add to the pleasant orchestra. Mulberry whistling thrush, a bird is singing in the jungle. Its a whistle resembles an idle schoolboy whistling while going to his school.
We continue our gradual uphill climb to reach a large rock.
↑ This rock is like a tiny pinnacle whose summit can be reached by everyone. We climb it and pose for a group photo. ↑
From here, you can see an orange painted rock face.
↑ This is the temple of Lord Ganesh & Lord Hanuman. ↑
Villagers and trekkers pay their respects here, praying for a safe journey and good weather.
11:15 am: We reach Prabalmachi.
↑ View of our trek route from Prabalmachi ↑
A delicious breakfast of warm poha and hot ginger tea awaits us. This place is clean and nicely maintained by the village folks belonging to the family of Bhutanbara.
Well tiled seating arrangement & tables welcome the tired trekkers.
Poha = Rs. 25/- per plate.
Tea = Rs. 10/- per cup.
We ask for a guide here and the Bhutanbaras are glad to provide us with one. His name is Kisan. A polite villager with a smile on his face, knowing the ways of the jungle. We agree to pay him Rs. 350/- as his expertise charges for taking us here from Prabalmachi to Prabalgad sightseeing and back.
The Bhutanbara family also provides overnight accomodation for trekkers in squeaky clean rooms in their lodge. The rooms have sofa and TV too! Not that we are keen to watch the television, when the world around us is so grand.
↑ The lodging provided by Bhutanbara at Prabalmachi ↓
↑ Rooms are available with bedspread sheets at Rs. 500/- for a group of 10 or so staying overnight (with meals included!) ↓
12:15 am: Our brunch is over and we are following Kisan, our guide.
The way bifurcates, one going to the shorter Kalavantin & the other to the taller Prabalgad. We are going to Prabalgad.
↑ We follow the straight path instead of the one going to left, though. ↑
The route becomes narrower and is now even more beautiful. I had enjoyed the music of nature earlier while trekking up. But now its the silence which is blissful. The cloud covered mountains and the walk through fog in this dense forest reminds us of hobbits of the Lord of the Rings, trekking through Shire. The windings narrow jungle path twists and turn, but cannot betray our guide. He is a living compass! Knows exactly where to go, when nothing is seen in the white fog.
The climb becomes steeper and more rocky as we leave the plateau of Prabalmachi. Karvi plants on both sides enclose the narrow jungle path. The rains are heavier. But we move on at a steady pace, overcoming the boulders and small waterfalls.
1:30 pm: The Karvi plants are in full blossom. The speciality of Karvi plants is that, they flower once in 7 years. I always wondered while wandering through these Karvi covered mountains, that when will I get to see the blossom of Karvi flowers. I had heard from veterans that the blossom is beautiful & special trips to see them are arranged. And here, as we are reaching the top, they are in full blossom. White buds on green shrubs in the clouds.
↑ Karvi in blossom ↑
Karvi plants have straight stems growing up on mountain slopes. When in blossom this shrub, not taller than 6 feet is laden with small flowers, white at the base with pink or violet petals. The whole shrub looks as if decorated with festoons and small lights for Christmas celebrations. Not one, but all of the Karvi plants at the top of Prabalgad were in full blossom. If they have a fragrance, I could not get its whiff. May be the rains had washed their fragrance, but made them looking very fresh with rain drops on them. Every trekker must have walked through Karvi laden forests, but walking through a full-blossomed Karvi laden forest is a beautiful experience.
↑ Karvi flowers, which blossom once in 7 years! ↓
↑ The untouched pristine forest atop Prabalagad - this is how Matheran was, when the British scouting for a hill station, found Prabalgad. Due to water shortage at Prabalgad, they scouted more and found Matheran later. ↓
↑ Luxuriant growth of lichen on trees at Prabalgad, indicating absence of pollution here. ↑
Kisan led us to the mountain’s edge from where the Kalavantin peak can be viewed. Emerging our from the Karvi forest, we find a small plateau with a water cistern. From this plateau, which I call as ‘Kalavantin viewing point of Prabalgad’, the conical shaped mountain of Kalavantin can be seen. But we are in clouds and everything is white. The valley and the surroundings are white. There is no sense of depth from here. We are hopeful that clouds will part and we will be treated to a grand finale at the top of Prabalgad. So we make this as our lunch point hoping that with time, the clouds will pass. And they really parted. Unidirectional wind blowing towards Matheran helped to take the clouds away from the valley immediately below and Kalavantin was revealed. Shouts of joy and a photography session followed. I always wondered how did people click photos that showed Kalavantin peak from the top. A helicopter, may be. But then so many photos and so many aerial photographers seemed a distant prospect. But now I have let the cat out of the bag for the explorer within you. Go here and watch this beautiful mountain of Kalavantin from the top of Prabalgad. You can enjoy this view all year round. But I think we got the best photos. Though I have come across many Kalavantin aerial shots, I didn’t find a single one like this!
↑ Kalavantin seen from Prabalgad. ↓
↑ Close-up of Kalavantin, showing the steps leading to the top and 2 water cisterns enroute ↓
↑ These steps of Kalavantin are slippery during monsoon & become heated up by Sun in summer. So best time to trek Kalavantin is in winter. (Note there are no trees on Kalavantin to provide shade). ↑
↑ View of topography from Prabalgad top ↓
↑ Map showing peaks around Prabalgad ↓
↑ View from Prabalagad top ↓
3 pm: We start our return journey, fully content with the view, atmosphere, Karvi flowers after our short lunch break. We are going to backtrack the same route. Though the route is same, its very easy to get lost in the jungle. Everything looks the same and beautiful.
↑Found this while roaming at the top of Prabalgad ↑
↑ The beautiful forest floor at Prabalgad top ↑
I actually went in a circle and thought that I came to a new spot and then Kisan tells me that this is the point where we entered Prabalgad! Glad to have him as our guide. He showed us a tunnel / cave that has a rectangular entrance and is in disuse now. It may be, once upon a time this secret entrance down at the base of Prabalgad led to the top.
↑ The secret tunnel ↑
As we climbed down he also pointed to a rock-carved temple. It was small and the carvings of the deities were unfamiliar to us.
↑ An unidentified ancient temple carved in the mountain rock ↑
4:30 pm: We are back to Kisan’s village at Prabalmachi and high tea followed, literally.
5:15 pm: We continue trekking down to reach base village Thakurwadi by 6:15 pm.
6:30 pm: Our tumtum was waiting for us to drop us back to Panvel station.
7:00 pm: We are at Panvel station. Hale and happy on exploring a new unknown place that none of us had ever visited earlier. All done safely and together, as a team.
As we shook hands and bade farewell to each other, each one of us was eager to explore another new spot on the coming Sunday!
Facebook Album of our Prabalgad trek, showcasing more photos of flora and fauna that we found http://on.fb.me/17mGaRN