Never keep a goal incomplete. I was very excited about the Balwantgad trek. Just a week ago, I had completed Kavnai Fort trek. Since we had started at early hours of dawn for Kavnai, I had planned to complete Balwantgad as well the same day. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it. So Balwantgad got added to my “Treks to Complete” list. Balwantgad is situated in Kasara region. Prashant Deshmukh, Raj Thakkar and my wife Shivani Shah were my co-trekkers for this trek.
➤ Short Itinerary
- With spectacular views of Kalasubai peak, the railway track and curving roadways – Balwantgad fort is akin to a watchtower of the area.
- Karan Chawda documents his experience on the trail and various mishaps on the way: missing the train, getting lost and finding his way back while hanging on the side of a Jeep.
➤ Trail Information
With spectacular views of Kalasubai peak, the railway track and curving roadways – Balwantgad fort is akin to a watchtower of the area. Karan Chawda documents his experience on the trail and various mishaps on the way: missing the train, getting lost and finding his way back while hanging on the side of a Jeep.
As this trek was easy, I planned to start little late. I had planned to catch 7:19 AM local for Kasara from Ghatkopar which reaches Kasara at 9:08 am. Unfortunately, we missed the train. Except for Prashant, none of us had reached the Ghatkopar station on time. What I found amusing was that Prashant ,who lived far away reached the station before any of us! We did a quick enquiry about the next train timings and decided to catch 9:00 AM local train to Kasara from Ghatkopar. Since we had sufficient time till our next train, we decided to have our breakfast at Bharat cafe hotel, which is exactly opposite to Ghatkopar station (west). We couldn’t afford to miss the next train, so we wrapped up quickly. We boarded the 9:00 AM train and reached Kasara at 10:46 AM. There were lines of taxi drivers eager to give us a ride. Taxi drivers were charging Rs.500 for Balwantgad- one way. That was way too much for a 10 km drive! So we came out of the station to look for other options.
Shivani poses for a quick photo in between
As per the suggestion of a shopkeeper outside Kasara station, we caught a local shared Jeep going towards Khodala by paying Rs 30 per head. This was the local stand from where one can get sharing taxi/Jeep for Khodala, Vihigaon and Mal village. The Jeep driver dropped us at Mal phata and showed the way towards Balwantgad. From what I had gathered, the base for Balwantgad was Vihigaon. However, Vihigaon is approximately 3 km away from Balwantgad and not a great place to start the trek.We took a left from Mal Phata, where we saw a small school at the start. This is where you start the trek. We started walking towards Mal village on the Relax Country road. We had asked villagers for the directions and they told us to walk 1.5 km on the same road. The left after that leads you towards Balwantgad. We missed the left and walked ahead for 2.2 km. We realised our mistake when there were no mountains around us.We decided to wait for some local who can guide us. After waiting for some 15 minutes, we found a shared Jeep returning from Mal towards Kasara. The Jeep driver told us that we had come almost 700 meters ahead of the left turn. He dropped us till the start point of the trek. We didn’t really sit in his Jeep, we hung onto it! Local style! Feeling the open air in a Jeep was exhilarating!
A memorable ride!
I was able to see first view of fort and wall from the starting point. The trail is not clearly visible so while walking on this road, look out for glimpses of the fort, so you don’t miss the left turn to Balwantgad. If you want to go directly to the starting point of trek, catch shared Jeep for Mal or Relax Country road from Kasara station and ask driver to drop at the starting point.
A small repreive
Finally, we started our trek and reached top in just 45 minutes and started exploring the fort. This fort was made specially for keeping an eye on the road. We saw an empty water cistern and a sculpture of goddess. We got a fantastic view of the railway tracks; it was fun to watch train disappear into the tunnel and come out the other side. One can see clearly the peak of Kalasubai from the top.At 2 pm, we unpacked our delicious lunch. It is always wonderful to do adabbaparty on top of the mountain. We were havingsabudana khichdi,parantha,curd and vegetables in main course along with biscuits and oranges for dessert.After a long photo session, we started our descent. We were back on the road at starting point in just 20 minutes. As soon as we came down, we chanced upon a passing Jeep moving towards Kasara. We asked for a lift. Luckily for us, he was the same driver who had given us a lift earlier that day. We caught the Jeep and came to Kasara for just Rs 20 per head. This time, we satinside the Jeep. We were back at the station at 3:45 pm.We had a tea at Kasara and started towards the station to catch a train. We took a 4:25 PM CST train, which reached Ghatkopar at 6:11 pm. We celebrated the end of our trek by raising a toast with Jaljeera soda glasses at Ghatkopar station.
Short summary of the route:
- Mumbai → Kasara station (By Train 30 Rs. / head)
- Kasara Station → Mal Phata ( By local sharing Jeep Rs.30/Head) and start walking till starting point of trek
- Kasara Station → Starting point of Trek (By local sharing Jeep going towards MAL village Rs.30/Head).
- 2. Tell driver to drop you at starting point.
➤ How to Get Fit for Balwantgad Trek
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
➤ What to Take on Your Trek
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.
Author: Karan Chawda