Trek to Harihar!

Harihar Fort 0
Manish sits in the Mahadarwaza of Fort Harihar

Trek # 23

When: December ‘16
Where:
Harihar fort aka Harshgad/ Harsh Killa
GPS Coordinates: 
19°54’15.17″N,  73°28’20.57″E
Base Village:
Nirgudpada aka Take Harsha
Range:
Trimbakeshwar
District:
Nashik, Maharashtra
Nearest railway stations:

1. Igatpuri: 43 km via Ghoti Vaitarna road
2. Kasara: 51 km via Khodala-Take Harsha road
3. Nashik Road railway station: 55 km via NH 848

USP: ~200 ft of nearly vertical rock cut steps!
Best time to visit: All year round
Food and Water: Couple of stalls on the ridge to Harihar sell packed stuff and bottled water. Unfortunately the numerous water cisterns on the fort do not hold potable water anymore.
Accomodation: Villager’s may provide accomodation in emergencies or there’s a Kothi on top of the fort but beware! It leaks in Monsoon!
Approx. expenses: Less than 500 Rs/head including food.

Difficulty: Medium
Endurance: 3
Risk Factor: Medium (What do these gradings indicate? Find out here!)

Total Distance: 7.8 km
Time: 6-8 hours
Max Elevation of trek: 
1016 m (approx. 3350 ft) as per GPS data
Total Elevation Gain & Loss:
357 m/1172 ft each.

Maps:
1. Annotated Terrain Map:
Harihar Fort 1-0
2. Fort Map:
Harihar Fort 3-3

Route: Kasara-Khodala-Nirgudpada-Harihar-Nirgudpada-Khodala-Kasara

Description: Alight at Kasara railway station and hire a sharing/direct Jeep for Nirgudpada from Kasara East. The trail to Harihar originates from Kotamwadi, a small hamlet about 100 metres south-east of Nirgudpada aka Take Harsha. The broad trail cuts through a kilometre of paddy fields before gaining elevation steadily. Climb to the col on the left of Harihar and turn right onto the fort’s ridge. Another easier, shorter trail for Harihar originating from Harshewadi joins the ridge at this point. Traverse a small mound on the ridge to arrive at the base of the famed staircase. The Mahadarwaza opens to a rock cut passage with sheer drop on the left which eventually leads to another twisting flight of rock cut steps. Head towards the South-East tip of the fort to visit Kothi and turn back to climb the peak by negotiating an easy rock patch. Return by the same path.

GPS trail: Click here to view GPS trail on Wikiloc -> Harihar Trail GPS log

Other Transport options:

A. For reaching Harihar fort:

  1. From Igatpuri: Travel overnight by any express and take the first MSRTC bus for Trimbakeshwar and alight at Nirgudpada.
    1a. Via Ghoti: Board a sharing Tum-Tum to Ghoti bus stand and from there, you’ll get sharing jeeps to either Pahine or to Nirgudpada.

B. For returning from Harihar:

  1. For Igatpuri: Board a bus for Ghoti (last buses are 3.30 pm & 4.30 pm) or Board a sharing jeep for Devgaon followed by another jeep for Ghoti. Plenty of transport options available for Khodala/Igatpuri/Nashik from Ghoti.
  2. For Kasara: Board a sharing jeep to Khodala and from there, another for Kasara.

NOTE: The most convenient and frequent mode of transportation for Mumbai folks is via Kasara-Khodala-Nirgudpada, either by sharing jeeps or by hiring a jeep altogether for the round trip to Nirgudpada.

Other Trails:
1. From Harshewadi (Difficulty: Easy, Endurance: Low): The easiest route to Harihar, an hour’s hike from the base village leads one to the ridge. Recommended if you are travelling by a private vehicle.
2. From Trimbak Fata (Difficulty: Medium, Endurance: Medium): This is the trail you‘ll notice on Google Maps. It originates from Trimbak Fata (about 3 kms from Nirgudpada on the way to Igatpuri) and joins the ridge from the southern direction after passing underneath the Scottish Kada. Not recommended though as it’s longer, more tiring and doesn’t provide anything unique in terms of experience as compared to the shorter route from Nirgudpada.

Range trek:
Utwad- Basgad (Bhaskargad)- Harihar- Trimbakgad (Brahmagiri)- Bhandardurg forts can be attempted together as part of an exhilarating Multi-Day trek in the Trimbak range.
Harihar Fort 4-0

Our Itinerary:
0500 hrs- Local Train to Kasara
0745 hrs- Reached Kasara
0800 hrs- Hired a direct cab for Nirgudpada
1010 hrs- Reached Nirgudpada
1030 hrs- Started from bridge near Kotamwadi
1315 hrs- Crossed Mahadarwaza & Lunch
1410 hrs- Reached Peak
1435 hrs- Started Descending
1720 hrs- Reached Nirgudpada
1745 hrs- Started return journey by Cab
1945 hrs- Reached Kasara after a small break at Khodala for snacks
2017 hrs- Boarded fast train for CST

NOTE:

  1. All the pictures used in this post have been clicked by me or my friends, unless stated otherwise.
  2. The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore, strictly at your own risk. For full Disclaimer and Content (including Images) Policy, click here -> Terms of Use.

Account of the trek:

We had been going through our usual list of nearby forts when Mansi suggested doing Harihar. Located in the Upper Vaitarna range, I was sceptical whether it can be attempted in a day from Mumbai using public transport but after going a little deep into the abyss called trek blogs, it was on! Harihar, being a popular trekking destination attracts a large crowd on weekends leading to a queue of sorts at the rock cut steps. Hence, we decided to go on a weekday. Below is an account of the amazing trek and the crazy events leading to it!
The Gang:  Abhishek, Anupama, Krunal, Manish, Mansi, Shardul & Me


The best way to reach Harihar? By your own Car/Bike. Period. Google the route and you are done! 😃

BUT if you are relying on public transport like us, you are in for a rough ride. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the best way to reach Harihar and most people prefer travelling overnight to Igatpuri and then proceed to Nirgudpada by the first bus in the morning. It wasn’t possible for us to travel overnight leaving us in a fix but we soon figured out that our best bet to pull it off in a day was to catch the 5 am CST-Kasara local train (since the next train to Kasara was at 6.55 am) and proceed via shared jeeps to Nirgudpada (via Khodala). But as always, there was a catch! 😛


Prologue

After the trek to Mahuli-Bhandargad with a supersized gang of 16 friends, we wanted to do this trek with a smaller group of people. Initially planned for 9, it came down to 7 as Tejas and Darshana opted out due to other commitments. Even the ones who made it to the trek had to do a fair bit of juggling to take a weekday off. Anupama nearly pulled off an all-nighter cooking lunch for us gluttons straight after office while Krunal and Manish slept at Abhi’s place to cut down on morning travel. Similarly Mansi travelled to her Aunt’s place but it was Shardul who took the cake here when it comes to taking pains to make it to the trek!

He was in his hometown (near Kankavli) in Konkan for the weekend and couldn’t leave before Monday evening which happened to be the day before our trek. Now the logical, sane thing would have been to skip the trek and take a day off after a gruelling weekend. Oh wait… Did I say ‘sane’? That’s definitely not us! 😛

And so we made a Master Plan-

Harihar Fort 2-0
Andaaz Apna Apna! 😉 PC: filmykeeday.com

Which was this-
Thane railway station is the first common halt for CST-Kasara and Kankavli-CST routes and in order to make it in time to Thane to board the local train @5.50am, he had two options-

Harihar Fort 2-01
Comparison of the train’s schedules

So we decided Shardul should board the KK express, alight at Thane and hop into the Kasara local. Clockwork Perfect! 😉 Except we were well aware of the Indian Railways’ penchant for delay and so we kept alternate plans ready 😉


Chapter 1: Konkan Kanya (KK) vs RajyaRani (RR)

MONDAY

As planned, Shardul reached Kankavali railway station (KKW) around 7.30 pm but to his dimay, found out that the KK Express was running 45 mins behind schedule. And to complicate the matters, Tutari (RajyaRani aka RR) express chugged into the station at the scheduled time! So he had to make a decision and make it quick- whether wait for the KK express and hope it makes up for the delay OR board the RR express and risk cutting it very close to the local train’s ETA (expected time of arrival) at Thane. Now if this wasn’t a dilemma, I don’t know what is! 😀

As soon as Shardul called up to let us know about the problem, we sprung into action- I checked the last 5 running instances of both the trains and found out that the RR is routinely delayed by half an hour in the passage after Panvel and hence reaches Thane more than an hour behind its schedule whereas the KK is rarely delayed at Thane even if it departs the Konkan belt later than its schedule times. I conveyed this to Shardul and he decided to bank on KK.

The KK finally reached Kankavli at 9.23 pm, still 40 mins behind schedule and Shardul, travelling without a confirmed ticket thanks to our last minute plan (Or Pilaan. Whatever! 😝), made himself comfortable in one of the crowded sleeper coaches and thus began his 8 hour long sleepless vigil to Thane!

Harihar Fort 2-1
Running status of Konkan Kanya at 10.45 pm, Monday

Abhi and I, as it usually happens the night before a trek, were not feeling even remotely sleepy and so we decided to keep Shardul virtual company while keeping tabs on KK’s official running status through the night.

TUESDAY (Trek day)

As it turned out, *drumroll* we were right! 😀

Anupama first boarded the train followed by Mansi, Manish, Abhi & Krunal while Konkan Kanya passed RajyaRani somewhere between Mangaon- Panvel to reach Thane 15 minutes behind schedule (@5.07 am) but early enough for Shardul to hop into the Local train!

Harihar Fort 2-2
The elation when your gamble pays off!

Ladies and Gentlemen- This is how the Trek began! 😀


Chapter 2: The Local Journey

Ruskin Bond’s tales have resonated with me as far back as I can remember and that is partly down to our common love for the Railways and Mountains 🙂 As anyone who has travelled the Ghats in a train can attest, soaking in the early morning sun while the train glides over the varied landscape of alluring plains, towering hills and deep gorges is a singular feeling that can’t be put in words!

harihar-1
Top Left: Train rolling into the station at 0537 hrs; Top-Right: Foggy morning near Asangaon; Bottom Right: Manish & Shardul catch some sleep; Bottom Left: Mansi taking in the views as the train reaches Kasara

One of the trade-offs of such an early start is not having a proper breakfast unless of course, you wish to have the breakfast so early that it almost coincides with the time of sane people’s dinner! 😉

But when there’s Mansi, fear not! 😃 Her Chocolate and Chutney sandwiches have become a staple fare of our treks and this time was no different!  Two huge tiffins absolutely stuffed with sandwiches were wiped clean in no time! Burrp! Err… Sorry 😀


Chapter 3: Hiring the Cab

Our train reached Kasara at 7.45 am and no sooner had we crossed over to the East side that we were hounded by cabbies! Unfortunately (or fortunately), they were looking for passengers for Nashik while we were on the lookout for sharing cabs to Khodala. And while enquiring for the same, Milind Bhau came forward and offered to ferry us to and fro all the way to Nirgudpada for a block fare of 2000 Rs.

Harihar Fort 4
Kasara station

Now a word about our Travel plan: We were planning to board a sharing cab to Khodala, a distance of 28 kms from Kasara for 50 Rs/ head. Khodala is a sort of junction from where you can get another sharing cab to Nirgudpada, again for 50 Rs/head. And this was going to be our routine for the return journey as well- A total of 200 Rs/ head for the round trip. Considering that very few cabs head to Kasara/Khodala from Nirgudpada in the evening after 5 pm (take a look at this blogger’s post who narrated his ordeal at Nirgudpada), 2k for a group of 7 people meant a cost of 285 Rs/head, which wasn’t a bad deal considering the fact that we would have an assured ride back to Kasara waiting for us. And so after a quick round of discussion, we agreed to hire Milind Bhau’s cab for the entire journey.

NOTE: A friend of mine later went to Harihar with her gang of 6 friends and they bargained with the cabbie to eventually settle at 1600 Rs for the round trip. So the price is negotiable- Don’t settle for the price they quote at first.

We started from Kasara at exact 8 o clock. Barely a kilometre must have been covered when we started craving Tea (Coffee for me! 😀 ) & asked Milind Bhau to stop at any good eatery on the way.


Chapter 4: The Dilapidated Structure

About 15 minutes into the ride, the car suddenly turned left onto a kuchcha road beside a Dhaba. My first thought obviously was that we were stopping at the Dhaba for Tea but he continued driving on the kuchcha road well past the Dhaba!

Before we could ask him what was happening, he braked hard and stopped behind what seemed like a partially demolished house and ran off saying “I ‘ll be back in two minutes!”

Now if you are a quasi-optimist like me (I assume the worst case scenario at the outset and then work my way to the best one), you‘ll know what went through my mind at that instant. Add the fact that the car we were travelling in, the Maruti Omni, is (in)famous in Indian cinema for a very specific purpose-

Harihar Fort 4-1
The Official Kidnapping Car of Bollywood! 😛  PC: Minimal Bollywood Posters. Website: https://minimalbollywood.com

We must have been less than 200m from the Dhaba but the structure meant we were not in line of sight of the people passing through the Highway and on the other side of the car was an extensive field flanked by mountains at the farther end.

With not a soul in sight, my mind went in overdrive. I rummaged through my bag to grab my Kada (a solid steel bracelet considered holy by the Sikhs) and an S-shaped steel hook (People who travel frequently by the Suburban railway would know this very well 😀 For the uninitiated, this hook is used to hang backpacks/carry bags when the luggage racks are packed).

Quickly positioning the Kada in my closed fist, I handed over the hook to Manish, who was sitting by the other sliding door. And guess what did he do with the hook?

Without speaking a word, he took the hook from me and very calmly attached his backpack to one end and hung it on the door’s hand rest!! Dude! It’s true what they say- You can take a Mumbaikar out of Mumbai but can’t take the Railway out of him! 😛

Explaining that the hook was for self-defence, I motioned him to come out with me and asked the rest of them to stay close to the car.

The two of us entered the decaying structure to find a room half filled with piles of what looked like crumbling bricks and furniture covered with jute cloth. We turned to the second room and a couple of steps in, were greeted by the sight of the Dhaba, visible courtesy the missing wall on the other end of the structure. Perplexed, we went back to the car and just as the rest of the gang was discussing where on Earth had he went, we saw Milind Bhau running in from the Dhaba, clutching a few notes in his fist.

We must have been looking at him with question marks writ large on our faces cos as soon as he came within earshot, he answered them himself: ‘Gas bharaychi aahe’ (I have to refuel the car).

With that statement, he jogged past us into the structure and brought out a CNG cylinder, attached it to a machine kept in a dark corner of the room and started refilling! Unable to comprehend the place from where he had conjured up the cylinder, we went back in to take a look and saw the jute cloth lying on the floor, next to a horizontal stack of CNG cylinders! Damn!

Harihar Fort 5
Top:The car was parked behind this structure; Bottom: Anupama and Mansi with the Dhaba and Highway in the background

The rising incidents of theft, etc. happening with trekkers in the past couple of years has turned us a little cynical and we often tend to jump to negative conclusions. Experiences like these though, allay those fears to some extent 🙂

As Milind Bhau went about refilling the car’s cylinder, we went to the Dhaba and had a good laugh over the comical incident. But the Dhaba had a few guests of its own! A man sipping tea had brought along a basket full of young chicks who looked very eager to explore their surroundings and we were more than happy to ferry them around till the car got back running.

Harihar Fort 6
Top: One of the cute chicks 😀 ; Bottom: A tunnel on the way

Chapter 5: Middle Vaitarna Dam

Harihar Fort 7
Middle Vaitarna Reservoir

We left the Dhaba around 8.30 am and soon reached a bridge over the Middle Vaitarna Dam reservoir. I don’t remember asking Milind Bhau to stop but we must have been salivating at the sight of the beautiful place cos he voluntarily offered to park the car in the middle of the bridge for a small photo session! 😀

The Middle Vaitarna Dam is one of the tallest in the state at 102 m and central to the administration’s plan of tackling the city’s water woes. A lone dead tree stands in the middle of the reservoir as if signifying the cost at which we are fulfilling our needs 😦

Harihar Fort 8
Top Left: Dancing on the bridge; Top Right: Perfect frame ke liye kuch bhi karega!; Bottom: First sight of Harihar

We wrapped up our little break in 15 mins and finally reached Nirgudpada aka Take Harsha bus stop, a little after the clock had struck 10.


Chapter 6: The Trek

Harihar Fort 9
Take Harsha bus stop at Nirgudpada

We knew it ‘ll take us about 7 hours to come back, so we paid Milind Bhau 700 out of the agreed fare of 2000 and asked him to return to Nirgudpada by 5.30 pm even if we couldn’t get through to him.

NOTE: During our trek, none of us got network coverage except Manish, who was the only one using an Idea simcard. Therefore, it’s better to decide a pickup time with your cabbie before starting the trek.

Everyone had had a rough night with little sleep but as soon as we saw the mighty Harihar with its perfectly vertical south-western face, popularly known as ‘Scottish Kada’ (so named after the famous mountaineer, Douglas Scott who climbed it in 1986) standing in front of us, we shook off the lethargy and started moving towards Kotamwadi.

harihar-0-0
View of the Scottish Kada of Fort Harihar

If one stands facing Harihar, the road on the left forks into two after some distance with the upper road going to Basgad aka Bhaskargad while lower goes to Kasara. To your right is the road that leads to Trimbak Fata and you‘ll find a small cluster of houses nestled between fields just north of this road- Kotamwadi.

The trail marked in the map at the top of this page is the broad trail passing through the hamlet but us being us, we cut into the fields by turning left from a small bridge just before Kotamwadi and followed one of the numerous trails after speaking to a couple of villagers 😀

Harihar Fort 10
Top: Starting the Trek;  Bottom: The bridge before Kotamwadi

Even though it was close to 11 by then, the weather was blissfully cool and we walked the initial flat trail at an easy pace before joining the broad trail coming from Kotamwadi near a huge tree where Abhi decided to test his climbing skills 😉

Harihar Fort 11
The flat walk through the fields
Harihar Fort 12
Left: Abhi; Right: Shardul checks out the map during a break

Chapter 7: The Steep Climb

The Tree also marks the end of the level trail with the route ahead climbing steeply through dense forest. A dry stream bed greeted us in the initial section of the climb which again reminded us of the acute shortage of water in this region 😦

Harihar Fort 14S (2)
The dry Stream bed

There’s little chance of missing the route if you know the general direction, which happens to be the col between the ridge of Harihar and the small hill on your left. Also, Arrows have been painted on rocks at irregular distances so keep an eye out for them to confirm that you are treading on the correct path.

Harihar Fort 13
An arrow on the way

NOTE: Preferably wear shoes with a thick, hard sole. Abhishek & I learnt this the hard way after plucking out a couple of super-strong thorns which had pierced our footwear during the climb 😛

Harihar Fort 15
Top: Krunal takes a selfie while Abhi gets some first aid; Bottom: The rocky trail near the col

The main trail forks into multiple little trails once you reach a point just below the col and since all of them went in Harihar’s direction, each took the one that seemed most convenient to them.

Harihar Fort 18
Anupama climbs a steep gully to the ridge

I followed a grassy trail that went a little further in the col’s direction while Abhi and Manish took a thin scree trail that hugged the edge of the ridge and the rest climbed up a small gully which must have been a mini-stream in monsoon.

Harihar Fort 19
Top: Looking on at Fani Dongar from the grassy trails; Bottom: Abhi takes a scree trail to the ridge

We reunited at the start of the ridge near a shack selling packaged snacks & lemonade.

Harihar Fort 20
Top: Abhi & Krunal pass the first shack; Bottom: Reaching the Shiv Linga

The narrow trail climbing from Harshewadi joins the ridge at this point and we saw a few people climbing from that end despite it being a weekday. A saffron flag (symbol of the erstwhile Maratha Empire of the 18th century) flies high over a 5 metre pole erected beside a small Shivling surrounded by a circle of neatly arranged rocks in the middle of the ridge.

Harihar Fort 22-1
Left: Shiv Linga; Right: On our way to the final patch

Another set of shacks greeted us before the final rock patch to the steps and I struck up a conversation with its owner while the rest of the gang took refuge in its shade. He told us that not many people visit the fort on weekdays but a group of 50 kids had arrived very early in the morning with a commercial group.

We soon took his leave and negotiated a 5-metre high gully (there are two ways to climb to the steps-The gully and an easy rock patch with slits carved for foothold. We took the rock patch while descending) to finally reach the centre d’attraction of our trek- The nearly 200 ft. high flight of rock cut steps! 😀

Harihar Fort 23
Top: Mansi & I climb the gully to the steps; Bottom: Krunal on top of the rocky projection opposite the steps

Trivia: One of the strategies adopted by the British to thwart the possibility of a rebellion by the Maratha forces was destroying the stairs/steps to the main entrance of the forts they seiged. But Harihar is one of the few forts to have escaped this treatment thanks to a certain Capt. Briggs, an officer in the British Army who was assigned the task of destroying the stairs using cannons but refused to do so after being mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of the architecture! Some story that! 😀


Chapter 8: The Staircase to Heaven… Literally!

Despite the generous gesture of Capt. Briggs, the steps have not escaped the wrath of time and a few steps, especially the initial ones, have broken off at a few places due to natural processes. The steps cover little horizontal distance as compared to the elevation gain and hence, notches have been carved on either sides of the steps to help climbers.

Harihar Fort 24
Top Left: Abhi & Anupama on the steps; Top Right: Manish climbing the steps; Bottom: A finger hold carved in one of the steps

The steps lead to a recently painted door, which is the main entrance to the fort and therefore called Mahadarwaza. If you think the thrill of the steps is the sole reason behind climbing to the door, then you are mistaken, my friend!

Harihar Fort 26
The dreadful steepness of the steps as seen from top of the Mahadarwaza

The view from the door is no less remarkable with the Utwad and Basgad mountains dominating the distant skyline and Fani Dongar adorning the lower ranges with its unique projection!

Harihar Fort 25
Top: Inside view of the Mahadarwaza; Bottom: View from the Mahadarwaza

The Mahadarwaza is quite sturdy despite its crumbling sides and leads to a tube-like passage carved out of sheer rock.

Harihar Fort 27
Left: Flag on top of the door; Right: The passage

The sole open side of the passage overlooks a sheer drop of 500 feet into the valley on left and even has a firetorch holder, carved out of rock from the passage’s roof!

Harihar Fort 28
View of Harshewadi from the Passage

The passage was surprisingly cooler than the surroundings and even though we had planned on having lunch on top of the fort, the shade afforded by the passage and the lack of visitors enticed us into satiating our hunger then and there! 😀

Harihar Fort 29
Top Left: Paapi pet ki pooja in the passage!; Top Right: The torch holder; Bottom: Krunal ducks the roof of the 5 feet high passage

The passage leads to a second, winding flight of stairs which passes through a trap door and is often thought to be the more difficult of the two.

Harihar Fort 30
The second flight of steps

I personally found both of them challenging enough to enjoy the experience without fearing for my life- but this doesn’t mean the danger should be underestimated at any point of time, especially during monsoons.

Harihar Fort 31
Top: The risky turn of the second flight of steps with direct exposure to the valley below; Bottom: We strike a pose!

Another door, partly reconstructed using bricks, greets you at the end of the passage and voila! You are on the fort’s plateau!

Harihar Fort 32
The Second Door!

Chapter 9: Exploring Harihar

A singular trail originates from the second door and heads east but if you look closely to your left, you‘ll notice a groove not unlike the second staircase on the northern edge of the fort. This is the ‘Gupt’ (secret) Darwaza which was used as an escape route but is currently inaccessible due to rocks blocking its approach. A magnificent sight nonetheless!

harihar-19
The now inaccessible ‘Gupt’ (secret) door

The trail traverses along the northern edge and passes a small cave (for 3-4 people) situated on the right side.

Harihar Fort 33-2
Top:  Entering the fort; Bottom: The small cave

We reached a Hanuman Mandir in front of a large pond besides which is a small, open Shiv temple with a Trishul, Shiva Lingam and a statue of the Nandi Bull.

Harihar Fort 34
Top: The Hanuman Mandir; Bottom: The pond with Brahma Parvat in the background

The beautiful pond has steps carved out of its rock bed on the western and northern edges to help one descend to the water body. It must be a mystical sight during the Monsoons when the skies clear up- Imagine the crystal clear pond surrounded by green foliage, set against the blue sky! Pure bliss!

NOTE: There have been reports of snake sightings around this particular pond so one should be careful treading the overgrowth surrounding it.

The peak was now clearly visible from the pond and we decided to explore the fort a little more before climbing it. There are two ways to reach the peak from the pond- a shorter one going straight up through the shrubs & a longer one that goes through the only intact structure on the fort-the Kothi near the easternmost point, before double backing to the peak.

The trail to the Kothi is flanked by numerous water tanks and if you go through older blogs, you‘ll get an idea about the perils of being an increasingly popular trekking destination- Ten years back, some water tanks had potable water, which was down to one by the end of 2013 and is now ZERO in 2016. It is a sickening sight to see plastic wrappers and other filth floating around in the water tank.

Harihar Fort 34-1
Pitiful condition of the water cisterns

Please enjoy responsibly- Respect the Nature and do not litter.

The Kothi has been divided into two sections by a partition with enough room for a group 8-10 people. While I was exploring its interiors, Krunal & Shardul, the Animagus folks (Harry Potter readers will get the drift) of our group switched on their monkey-like traits and swiftly climbed on to the top of the Kothi while Anupama and Mansi shot their Bollywood style slo-mo vids of running in the grasslands 😉 😛

Harihar Fort 35
Left: Manish channeling his inner Daler Mehndi on the way to the Kothi; Right: Abhi enters the inner section of the Kothi

The easternmost point provides a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding range.

Harihar Fort 36 (2)S
Shardul and Manish take a breather near the southern face of the fort

There’s Brahma Parvat across the chasm and beyond it stands the famous pair of Brahmagiri & DurgBhandar forts.

Harihar Fort 41
Top: The surrounding range as seen from the fort; Bottom inset: A temple on Brahma Parvat

We left for the peak soon after and a 10 minute walk took us to the base of the rock patch.

Harihar Fort 38
Top: On our way to the peak; Bottom: Another group on top of the peak

It may look intimidating at first but it’s fairly easy.

Harihar Fort 44
Shardul climbs the peak

We spent half an hour all alone on the peak, taking in the splendid view of the Upper Vaitarna reservoir before descending to the Shiva mandir using the steep trail through the bushes.

Harihar Fort 39
A selfie at the peak!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
View of the Pond from Peak

We quickly retraced our path from the pond to the second door-

Harihar Fort 46S
Krunal points towards the direct trail to peak from the pond as Abhi & Mansi continue to the entrance

Where we were confronted by our worst nightmare: JAM ON THE STAIRS!


Chapter 10: The Considerate Group Lead!

There was a group of 50 kids descending the stairs with their Team leader at the back, making sure no kid was left behind. This meant we descended the twisting flight of stairs VERY VERY SLOWLY :-/

Harihar Fort 47
Jam!

The kids had come to Harihar as part of a summer camp organised by ‘GETOUT’. We were conversing with the leader while the kids were descending and when he came to know that we were going to travel all the way to Mumbai by train, he graciously asked the Jr. leads at the front of the group to gather the kids in the passage so as to let us pass on to the first flight of stairs before them 🙂

This gesture of his saved us at least half an hour, if not more and Abhi thanked the leader once again before descending.


Chapter 11: The Descent

We negotiated the small rock patch beneath the steps to reach the first shack by 3.45 pm. By the time I looked back to catch a last glimpse of the entire flight of steps, the junior instructors of GETOUT had already laid a rope over the steep steps to help the kids descend. Felt nice to see the kids being introduced to the outdoors safely 🙂

Harihar Fort 49-1
Left: Abhi poses against the fort; Right: A closer view of the kids descending the steps with the help of rope

The descent was fairly easy despite scree on some portions of the trail. Abhi managed to slip on one such section which resulted in a deep gash on his palm and another first aid session followed before continuing our march to the col.

Harihar Fort 50
Left: Descending to the ridge; Right: The mound where Abhi took a fall on the scree trail

As mentioned earlier, lots of trails join the ridge near col which resulted in some confusion before we identified the correct path for Nirgudpada.

Harihar Fort 51
Top: Manish emerges from the trail, notice the arrow on the left stone; Bottom: The steep descent from ridge

Once we descended the steep rocky section, we quickened our pace and stopped only after reaching the paddy fields at 4.45 pm. The time before sunset is my favourite for it bathes everything in a golden hue and the Mountains especially, assume a different character altogether at this time of the day.

Harihar Fort 52
Top: Manish surveys the route one last time; Bottom: Beautiful light as we cross the fields to Nirgudpada

Shardul and Manish managed to click quite a few interesting frames while we dragged ourselves to Kotamwadi.


Chapter 12: The Sprint

We finally reached Nirgudpada at 5.20pm and called up Milind Bhau using Manish’s Idea sim card to let him know we had reached. He told us he ‘ll be there in 20 mins aur bas! People slumped right there on the road and started a photo session! An Igatpuri bound ST bus passed us while we waited for our cab and Krunal & Abhishek went for their customary post-trek 100m dash. The winner? Let that remain a secret! 😀

We even got a canine friend to give us company till Milind Bhau arrived with Bollywood’s Kidnapping car aka “Omni” 😉

Harihar Fort 53
Top: Anupama pets our canine friend; Bottom right: Waiting for the cab; Bottom Left: Abhi & Krunal return from their sprint

We stopped at Khodala on the way for a quick snack before reaching Kasara at 7.45 pm.

Harihar Fort 54
Manish & Abhi catch their hard earned 40 winks in the cab on our way to Khodala

The recent demonetization had everyone scrambling for change but we managed to find enough small denomination notes to pay the remaining amount of 1300 Rs and thanked him for ferrying us safely to the fort and back 🙂

We boarded one of the sparsely occupied coaches of the 8.17 pm CST fast and dozed off soon after exchanging the day’s pictures.


Chapter 13: The Conclusion

If you are planning to visit Harihar fort, by all means do so! The thrill of the vertical rock cut steps is itself enough to merit a visit but make sure you have great company too ‘cos even when the destination is good, it’s your friends who’ll make the journey great! 😀

Harihar Fort 55
“Happiness is as exclusive as a butterfly, and you must never pursue it. If you stay very still, it may come and settle on your hand. But only briefly. Savour those moments, for they will not come in your way very often”
Ruskin Bond, A Little Book of Happiness


All rights reserved © 2016 Nomadosauras.
Please seek permission before reproducing the published material.

Cheers!
Keep Trekking

 

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello Nomadosauras, First of all, great post! Keep it up! Nice detailed explanation as always and very nice useful information for trekkers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much!

      Like

  2. travelerinme says:

    You write well 👌 and pics go so well with it. I agree to your statement on the unkempt pond….. There are plenty of them in that category. Ultimately all narrows down to “swachhta” or cleanliness ☺, right!?!?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nomadosauras says:

      Thanks a lot! 🙂 And yes, I agree it ultimately comes down to cleanliness but I have seen the hygiene conscious, sanitizer wielding people throwing litter in the wild without a second thought. Such an irony!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. travelerinme says:

        Oh yes!!! True education down the drain 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  3. joshi daniel says:

    This looks excellent 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      Like

    1. nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much 🙂

      Like

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. priyanshu gupta says:

    can u give me the phone no. of tempo wala…

    Like

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hi Priyanshu! Unfortunately I lost his number few months back. But Kasara is a hub for Cabs/Omni going to Nashik/Khodala and you won’t even be able to take a step outside the station before being mobbed by them! Anything between 1500-2000 is a good figure for a round trip to Nirgudpada and they ‘ll be more than willing to take on a confirmed fare for the day instead of waiting for sharing passengers. A few things though- Make sure you pre-decide a pickup time with the cabbie cos network is frankly pathetic there. Also, pay only 100/person after reaching Nirgudpada and the rest after alighting at Kasara in the night- that way you wont feel shortchanged in the unlikely scenario of him not turning up (he ‘ll come cos you haven’t paid more than half the fare). And lastly, keep on google maps to make sure he isn’t taking some weird route to the fort.
      Stay safe and happy trekking!

      Like

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