It’s amazing how the statement “Make your own way” literally applies to this trek.
We were a group of three girls who decided to have a little adventure of ourselves. We are a bit skeptic in the beginning, whether to go to Karnala or not. Rains and trek seems like a good combination, but trust me they are not. It will scare you out.
We packed our bags. Light travelling was our moto. We decided a color. It’s this childish thing of ours, we match our outfits before leaving. It was black for Karnala. Light snacks, which mostly included chips and biscuits. And water bottles. Some cash. And we were done.
We live in Nerul, Navi Mumbai. Yes it’s a place. We had a rough idea of how to reach Karnala, but not the exact route. We never know the exact route. Ever. So we left around 7am in the morning. Took a local train towards Panvel. Took a rickshaw towards the bus depot. Enquired about the busses which go to Karnala hesitatingly. Because everytime we asked someone something, they would reply back in Marathi. None of us knew marathi.
That was the part which actually got on to our nerves. So we gradually found out that any bus which goes to Penn or Alibaug halts at Karnala. We took a bus and the journey began.
People tend to scare you a lot. When asked about Karnala some said it’s a long way, some said you don’t find any transport on your way back. Well that was another blow to my own skeptic mind. Was this a good plan? Anyhow, the bus was all ready. It went along the road. We asked the conductor to let us know when Karnala comes. We expected the drive to be atleast 2 hours long. Because duh!! People scared us. And you won’t believe when I say, it took us a maximum 30 minutes to reach there. Yes! Panvel to Karnala is a smooth, traffic free, 30 minutes drive, by an effing bus. To all those people who think I am joking, I will come with you and show you the way and you pay me for letting the truth out. Amen to that.
We got down at Karnala. They drop you right outside the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. We got to the ticket counter just outside the sanctuary. It was around 35 Rs. per head. And if you carry your own vehicle it will be extra parking charges for that. We were happy to reach our destination. We had no idea what awaited us that day. There was a police officer at the ticket counter. We asked him the directions towards the fort. He looked at us and I remember his precise words were, “Are you only three people?” We said yes. “So you want to go to the fort?” We nodded. “It’s that way up, you will find the directions. Be careful. It’s slippery” We said okay and went ahead.
Now all we could see was a straight road. We were happy. ‘Come on how hard can it be’, we thought. There was this wooden gate as we entered. All more adding to the not so difficult aura.
There was just one more group ahead of us.We and that group in Karnala, and moreover that group didn’t even reach half the way, before it backed out. That’s another part which I will get to later.
At the very beginning of the sanctuary you will find different species of birds.. from owls to peacocks to blue pigeons.
As we went further, we found a way towards Karnala Fort. Now the actual fear factor initiated. We didn’t know how long it was gonna take us. Even though the weather was cold, we were all sweaty. I was wearing a hoodie which I had to take out and that was the worst mistake I would have done. The mosquitos were so impatient that as soon as I took that hoodie off they feasted on my hands. Oh God. Cringe worthy it was. And upon that we needed pictures. Of ours with that tree, on that tree, under that tree, selfies and what not.
It took us almost half an hour to reach the first point. And there were almost 6 points as far as I can remember. At times there were places we crawled and climbed and then there were places which seemed liked dead ends. There were times when we felt lost. Don’t get scared, it was all fun though. There wasn’t any sign of rains until we met the group which was heading back. They were so scared of going up that they decided to back out. But we were tough nuts to crack. As soon as that group left it started raining. We did carry umbrellas, which we shouldn’t have. Another lesson learnt.
The rains made it slippery to climb. We had to halt at every shed for the rains to stop. Yes there were sheds at every point. You will also find crabs, lots of them. Be aware of monkeys, they did scare the sh!t out of us. Then there were times when we thought we finally reached but we were far away from our destination. The final shed we reached had a temple in front of it. That was like, finally we would climb up and reach the fort. Finally. It took us a whopping 3 hours to reach there and yet we were still not there yet.
We again climbed another 20 minutes to reach towards the fort. The rains made it dangerous. There were parts of that fort which were exposed. One slip and you were down. Not down on a rock or in the grass around, but down in the depth of the ditch. If you are afraid of heights like I am you wouldn’t have looked back like I did.
At one specific spot, it was a really narrow pass. Only one of your foot could fit there. And on the other side of it was a deep valley. And it was slippery as hell. One of my friends got scared and the other one had to go down to get her up. Then again came a spot where the fort was visible but the way to it was broken. Broken stairs, broken railings and moss all over. But we had to go there. One of our friend who got scared prior, didn’t join us. She halted there. And we two proceeded. That was the best decision I have ever made. Because what came next was an elixir to my soul. The fort, from where your voice echoed back and the realisation that we overcame our fear was a moment of calm for us. Just us and no one else.
We were lucky to reach there. A great escape for us. The way down was more painful yet less time consuming. Our legs were sore. We reached back towards the entrance at 4pm. Had a hot cup of tea. Headed back to the exit. And took a bus. Getting a bus back was easy as a pie. It was a great experience. We will surely go there once again, or not.
Directions To Karnala Fort.
Reach Panvel. Wherever you stay, reach Panvel bus depot.
Take a bus to Alibaug or Penn.
Get down at Karnala.
Simple? Isn’t it?
Things To Remember
Carry mosquito repellent.
Glucose if possible.
Water. Lots of it.
Covered yet light clothes.
Total Cost of the whole trip- Less than 300 Rs.
Timings of the fort. 9 am to 6 pm