Karan Chawda chose this trek as his 50th trek in the Sahyadris and he decided to begin documenting his treks as well! So here it is – the Kavnai Fort Trek.
And so it begins
The trek starts from the village of Kavnai, which is situated in Igatpuri in Nashik. My co-trekkers for Kavnai were Subhash – who was apprehensive that I was tricking him into a difficult trek again – and Deepak, who was excited for his first trek ever! I wanted to make this one a little different, considering it was my 50th trek. So we decided to go on a night journey so that we could start the trek in the wee hours of morning and enjoy the first streaks of the sun from the mountain top.
We decided to sit near the temple till we found someone to guide us to the starting point. Luckily, after 10 minutes we came across a local villager who was going for an early morning jog. He guided us to the starting point of the trek. The trail climbed uphill for ten minutes, passing through the village. Then the path started to descend. I stopped there and realized that we had lost our way. This was a proper exploratory trek! I went a little ahead to see where the road was leading. As I took few steps ahead, a dog started barking at me loudly! Obviously he was on duty. Immediately, a door opened, an old man came out and silenced the dog. I asked him the way to the fort. He was so kind that he came with us along with his torch till the first small plateau, where the actual trail begins. It was 6:25 and it was still dark. Chand Bhai, as I learnt his name was, suggested that we wait 15 more minutes, for the sky to turn blue so that the path could be visible. I thanked him profusely for coming with us. We decided to move slowly along the path. After 20 minutes, it was turning from dark to light and we reached the actual first plateau. The first rays of the sun began touching the earth around us. I was so happy that I was able to see what I dreamed of. On the east, we could see the sunrise and in the north, there was a beautiful view of the Mukane lake. After this plateau, it was a steep slope till to second plateau. It took around 20 minutes to get there. The lake glistened in golden light. The village lay peacefully asleep in the light, looking fairy-talesque!
We began our ascent upwards from there. The thing about this fort is that, unless you are on the trail, you won’t know that there is a trail to the fort – such was the architecture of the fort to mislead enemies! Local villagers have put an iron ladder for going up which makes the patch easy, otherwise without ladder, it would be very difficult to climb up. Slowly, we climbed up and reached the fort by 8 am.
The ladder is connected to the entrance of the fort, upon passing through which, there is a cave on the right that can hold 4-5 people. The first thing that catches the eye on top is the lake. We walked along the mountaintop, taking in the magnificent view. There is a temple of Goddess Parvati along with Lord Ganesha.
- The Lake atop Kanvai Fort
We met an old saint who stays in the temple; he was happy to show us the small vegetable farm he had cultivated there. As we neared the lake, I couldn’t resist the urge to jump in for a swim. I checked with the saint about the depth of the lake, and he said he had never stepped in and hence had no clue. I sat at the edge and started to freshen up. Meanwhile, the saint took out a bag of kurmuras from his jhola and as soon as he threw some of it into the lake, big fishes appeared on the surface, out to grab a bite! Of course, I dropped the idea of jumping in!
We saw an assortment of things like the Shivling, Nandi, a trishul, a pot, a shankh (conch) and shringa (a musical organ played for warriors to signal the start of war). I played the shankh and tried to play the shringa too but could not, as it requires sound knowledge and technique.
Getting back down
Breakfast time! On the menu was thepla, dates and bread-and-butter. The only thing missing was tea, but we did just fine with an energizing glass of Glucon-D. After taking rest for about 15 minutes, we decided to start our descent. As soon as we began the descent, the fort completely vanished from sight, but for some walls. 15-20 minutes is the estimated time taken to cover the entire top area. We had to take the same route and we began to descend slowly, starting with the ladder. Getting down was becoming a little difficult as there was dry soil because of which we could not get proper grip at many places. We came down in an hour and five minutes.
When we entered the village, we saw some villagers who were at work, cutting wood and separating crops. I still remember the genuine and warm smile of the old man, he offered me his white cap while we were getting photos clicked. Finally we reached the temple where we started from in the morning. It was only 10.30 am! It was definitely a ‘Wow’ moment for me that it was just 10:30 am and trek was completed. We excitedly congratulated one another on this one! As one of the villagers suggested, we set out to visit Kapildhara ashram which is just 300 metres away from the village towards Ghoti. Kapildhara has a temple of Lord Shiva and a holy pond inside it’s premises. It is said that prior to going for Kumbh Mela in Nashik, many saints come to Kapildhara to pray to Lord Shiva and to take a bath in this holy pond. It is a very peaceful place, where we jumped in for a quick swim.
We came out from Kapildhara and had a tea and snacks at a nearby refreshment centre. We boarded a Jeep to Ghoti and reached Ghoti Chowk in just 20 minutes, at 12:30 PM, at a nominal Rs.15 per head. Deepak and Subhash were interested to see the Vipassana Meditation center, so we decided to go to Igatpuri. It had been five years since I completed my 10-day Vipassana course, so it was rejuvenating to experience the serene environment there. We spent a good 90 minutes at the centre, post which we came to the station and finished lunch. Our journey back consisted of a share-taxi ride to Kasara by paying (Rs.40 per head), and a Thane local train ride. Since we reached early, we had the rest of the evening to ourselves to relax and take ample rest.
Author: Karan Chawda
- Kavnai Fort is a hidden beauty in Nashik waiting to be explored
- With a commanding view of the surrounding villages and also a lake on top, it’s a well-rounded trek, that can satisfy your thirst for weekend travel!
- The view of the Mukane Lake from the trail is especially beautiful during sunrise!
- It’s a fairly easy trek for anyone who wants to trek for the first time.
- The hidden trail can make the trek quite adventurous!
Summary of the route in short
From Mumbai to Ghoti Petrol Pump Mumbai → Kasara (By Train Rs.30 / head) → Igatpuri (By share taxi after 7 am Rs. 40 / head) → Ghoti Petrol Pump (By share auto after 7:30 am Rs.15 / head) OR Mumbai → Igatpuri (By any mail or express) → Ghoti Petrol Pump (By share auto after 7:30 am Rs.15 / head) From Ghoti Petrol Pump to Kavnai Ghoti Petrol Pump → Kavnai Village (By local Jeep after 8.00 am at Rs.20/ head) OR (By private Auto by paying Rs.150 at most for 4 person)
Getting to Kavnai Village – Part 1
Ghatkopar → Kasara → Ghoti
We had two options: either to catch the mail train from Thane at 1:04 am and travel in the general coach, which would reach Igatpuri at 3:35 AM, or to take the last Kasara local from Ghatkopar at 12:44 am, which would reach Kasara at 2:45 am. We decided to take the Kasara local with the thought that we will at least get a seat till Kasara. As our good luck would have it, we actually got a place to sleep! As we reached Kasara at 3 am, we received a 9 degree Celsius welcome.
We came out of the station looking for shared cabs to Ghoti or Igatpuri, but of course, there it was 3 am and we were definitely not likely to find shared cabs! As informed by a local Jeep driver, shared cabs to Igatpuri start at 7 am and the cost per seat is Rs. 40. We decided to board a Jeep going to Nashik instead and get off at Ghoti Bridge. This actually costs Rs. 150 per head but we bargained and made a deal for Rs.100 per head.
Getting to Kavnai village – Part 2
Ghoti → Kavnai
After getting down at Ghoti Bridge on the highway, we crossed the road and entered Ghoti village and walked towards the Chowk. We reached the Chowk at around 4.30 am. As informed by the Jeep driver, we hoped to catch a Jeep or an auto to Kavnai from here. We waited for 20 minutes but to our dismay, there was no vehicle apart from a milk van and a goods carrier. Impatient and cold, we began looking for a tea stall instead, eager to drink some garam chai.
As we were looking, we found an empty Jeep. According to the driver, the local transport for Kavnai would be available only after 7:30 am. He was ready to drop us at Kavnai for Rs.350. Paying that much for just 7 km didn’t seem worth it, so we refused and proceeded for tea. As we reached the market, we saw the same driver at the tea stall. After some garam chai pe charcha, he agreed to help us out by dropping us till the Ghoti petrol pump, from where there were chances of getting some transportation for Kavnai. We didn’t have much time left and I was keen on seeing the sunrise from above. I found myself grumbling and wishing I had more help.
After chai, as we were getting out of the mark, we chanced upon an auto that had just reached there. The discussion with the Jeep driver paid off because he convinced the auto driver to take us there for Rs.150.
After moving ahead for 500 meters towards Nashik, we took a left from Ghoti petrol pump heading towards Trumbak road/Upper vaitarna road. Very rarely would you find ST buses running on this route, which would drop you at Waki junction from Igatpuri. We took a right turn for Kavnai from Waki junction, which is approx. 4 km away. One would be able to see a green board confirming the correct way. We finally reached Kavnai village at 5:50 am and I was partly celebrating because it was still dark.
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How much fitness do you need for the Kavnai Fort 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.
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
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
What should you pack for the Kavnai Fort Trek?
The Kavnai fort trek is a short one day trek. But it is quite far away from civilisation. So you’ll need a very few things.
- A small 20L backpack
- A good pair of shoes
- Two one litre bottles
- Snacks or packed lunch for the afternoon
- Basic first aid kit
- A poncho if you’re trekking during monsoon