13th century construction: Karnala Fort, Maharashtra
About 10 kms away from Panvel city lies Karnala Fort which is a hill fort in Raigad district in the state of Maharashtra. The fort lies within the premises of the Karnala bird Sanctuary. The best way to reach Panvel is by train. One will have to board a harbour line train to Panvel. Vadala is the main junction where one can change over from both the western and central railway line and get into a harbour line train to Panvel. It is about a one hour train ride from Vadala to Panvel.
Once in Panvel one has to exit the railway station heading to the East and walk about five minutes to the ST bus stand which is also near the rickshaw stand. To reach the base of Karnala Fort which is the Bird Sanctuary one has multiple options to get there from Panvel, ranging from a private rickshaw to a ST bus. But the fastest and the most economical way to get there is by sharing a Tuk-Tuk from the main junction. It takes about 35 – 40 minutes to reach the base of the fort.
As one enters the Bird Sanctuary at Karnala one has to pay the registration fee to enter. The money collected is used for maintaining the Sanctuary. Bags are also checked here as carrying alcohol and cigarettes is strictly prohibited. Before one starts this trek it is advisable to have at least a minimum of 1.5 litres of water in their backpack, as there is no source of water at any point along the trek.
The trek begins with one having to walk through small rubble of fairly big rocks. One will then have to walk through a thick forest area which has plenty of tall trees and if one stops to take rest one should be vary of small white rock crabs that are there in plenty all through the forest area. After one hikes through the forest one will reach a small plateau which is about two kilometres in length from here one can easily get a glimpse of the fort at a distance.
At the end of the plateau one will notice a small temple; this is an ideal place for one to take some rest as there is bench to sit. After the temple one will have to start the actual ascend where in a bit of rock-climbing skills will be needed to get around a huge bolder.
Karnala Fort stands as a specimen of the 13th century constructions. The fort was sparingly used by the Karnala rulers including the Angres, Mudhan and Peshwas until 1818, by which time British rulers have taken over the grand old for.
The Karnala Fort stands on a steep rock in the midst of greenery and has been a challenge to many adventurous trekkers all through the past and continues to be a great attraction among the fans of hiking. The fort door way has carvings of elephants and tigers. One will find water reservoirs developed naturally in the rocks.
The trek back down takes about an hour. The best time for one to hike to Karnala is during the monsoon or winter. It is advisable to avoid hiking here during the summers since the extreme heat and lack of water facilities can leave one as an easy prey for a heat stroke. The cool surroundings and the beautiful landscapes make this region a place worth visiting to experience calm weekends.
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