Ratangad Harishchandragad Trek, Maharashtra
Both these forts, Ratangad and Harishchandragad are fascinating treks by themselves. One a small and rugged fort in comparison to the other, which impresses all by its massive size and beautiful caves & temples. Trekking from one fort to the other is what makes this trek all the more interesting. Not only do you get to see the remarkable features both these forts are famous for, this longer hike also takes you through dense forests, old villages and a short, thrilling climb to the rarely trekked Kaladgad fort. The Amruteshwar Temple at Ratanwadi; Nedhe and Konkan Darwaja atop Ratangad; the Harishchandreshwar temple, Kedareshwar Caves and Konkan Kada of Harishchandragad remain a part of the trekking agenda as is always the case with a trek to these forts.
Trek Route: Ratanwadi – Ratangad – Katrabai Khind – Kumshet – Pethechi Wadi – Kaladgad – Panchnai – Harishchandragad – Tolar Khind – Khireshwar
Day 1: Drive from Pune to Ratanwadi via Ale Phata / Rajur (6-8 hour drive), Trek to Ratangad (2 -3 hour trek)
Boarding a state transport bus early in the morning, we depart from Shivaji Nagar bus stand in Pune to pass through Ale Phata and hop on to another bus heading to Rajur. From Rajur, the village of Shendi (Bhandardara) is the next stop where trekkers can stock up on supplies for the 4 days ahead.
Ratanwadi is a small village, around 20 kms from Shendi. Ratanwadi can be reached by road – a 15-20 minute drive in jeeps which ply between Shendi and Ratanwadi. Or one can also take an enjoyable boat ride for the same duration that starts from the MTDC Guest House at Bhandardara. The jeeps or boats are not very frequent however, and one needs to plan well and in advance to arrange for transport to reach the base of Ratangad.
The main attraction at Ratanwadi is an old stone-carved Amruteshwar temple. Well-maintained with neat & tidy surroundings, the large courtyard of the temple can serve as place for the trekkers to stay for a night upon a delayed arrival at Ratangad owing to the infrequent transport options.
Once at Ratanwadi, we immediately start our trek towards Ratangad on the trail passing through the village. The old trail leading up to the fort moved along the river, criss-crossing streams along the way. A trail now starts directly opposite the Ratandwadi temple and leads up directly to a newly constructed dam 15-20 minutes hike up from the village. This then joins the old trekking trail and continues up towards the fort. The trek to Ratanwadi is mostly a gradual climb all along for 2 hours, with a couple of ladders thrown in near the top of the fort to add to the thrill. The ladders enable trekkers to negotiate the steep, broken down fort walls safely – beware of the troublesome monkeys lurking around though!
Day 2: Trek from Ratangad fort to Pethechi Wadi (7 to 8 hours)
We take a short tour around the Ratangad fort in the morning before proceeding to our destination for Day 2, Peth village, where we camp for the night.
We walk up to the far side of the fort where a distinct formation – a cavity formed in a rock wall atop the fort, known as 'Nedhe' or ‘eye of a needle’ can be seen. The fort has four gates Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan and Tryambak Darwajas; the view from Konkan Darwaja into the Sandhan Valley is mesmerising and a thrilling route for all trekkers descending through this gate into the valley.
To proceed towards Harishchandragad, we first descend along the same route used to trek up to Ratangad fort the previous day. Once we get down the iron ladders, a diversion in the main trail, from a large clearing in the forest, leads towards the Katrabai Khind, the route which we now proceed upon. The trail hereafter is tricky, through a dense forest and it is easy for one to veer off the main trail and lose their way.
Proceeding with caution we first ascend steadily to the top of Katrabai Khind. A small Hanuman Temple in a clearing atop the Khind marks the highest point along this trail. We then descend into the valley on the other side of the Khind for about an hour to get to reach a number of farms that stretch out on either side of the trail up to Kumshet village.
A brief halt at Kumshet for a refill of drinking water and then we trek further towards Pethechi Wadi. Half an hour ahead of Kumshet, the trail descends to the riverbed and continues along the river for about an hour thereafter. A short steep hike up from the riverbed then brings us to the houses of Pethechi Wadi. Like Ratanwadi and Kumshet, Pethechi Wadi too is a small farming village. We walk through the main road to the other end of the village and choose a comfortable camping spot for the night.
Day 3: Trek from Pethechi Wadi to Harishchandragad (6 to 7 hours)
After a quick breakfast, we first head out to explore the fort of Kaladgad – a short trek up for an hour from our camping site to a temple atop the fort. Short it may be, but the trek to Kaladgad involves a tricky section over a steep rock face. Plenty of early morning thrills for the trekkers in store!
Descending down from Kaladgad, we take the broad road leading to Pachhnai. Although motorable, this broad road winds through a forested area which is sparsely populated. Apart from encountering the odd two-wheeler, it is an enjoyable hour’s walk on this road which brings us to the trail going up to Harishchandragad. This trail starts just before the village of Pachhnai and is considered to be the easiest of trekking routes leading to the top of Harishchandragad fort. The trek up to the fort should not take more than 2 hours, and the trail leads directly to the central caves and temple.
Harishchandragad is a large fort, spread out on all sides from the caves area or the main temple located in the central part of the fort. A visit to the Konkan Kada is a must for all trekkers. Viewing the sun set from above the massive rock face is a sight that is sure to stay etched in one’s memory for a lifetime. Another thrilling but difficult route to the top of the fort – the Nalichi Vaat can also be seen at one end of the Konkan Kada from a viewpoint here.
Day 4: Trek from Harishchandragad to Khireshwar (6 to 7 hours)
We have time to explore the fort before we start the descent to Khireshwar. A 45 minute hike up to Taramati, the highest point of the fort is worthwhile to enjoy the view of the valley on the other side. From Taramati we begin the long hike towards Tolar Khind – well known to regular trekkers here for its tiring series of ups and downs passing over a number of hills.
Tolar Khind is a rock face with a narrow trail cut into the side of the rocky face that needs to be negotiated carefully. The descent thereafter is straightforward: a broad trail that leads down to the village of Khireshwar. Khireshwar, believed to be as old as the fort of Harishchandragad itself, is a small settlement at the end of a stone dam wall built on the Pushpavati river.
From Khireshwar, trekkers can either choose to trek for about an hour along the wall of the dam and reach the highway at Khubi Phata which connects Ale-Phata to Kalyan via Malshej Ghat. Or rest at Khireshwar and enjoy snacks served by the small hotels nearby before boarding a 5 p.m. bus that starts here and drives to the Ale-Phata junction.
From Ale-Phata we take the next available bus for Pune and end our journey after about 2 hours at the Shivaji Nagar Bus Stand.
- Tents (on triple sharing basis) and light weight, good quality sleeping bags will be provided to all trekkers. Trekkers are expected to trek carrying their own backpack and sleeping bag.
- All vegetarian meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for the trek duration, after trekkers reach Ratangad and till trekkers reach Khireshwar
- Experienced, qualified WildBoots Trek Leader and guide, helpers as may be required
- Safety equipment – first aid kit, safety rope and other equipment as necessary
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