Just like charity begins at home, travel must begin from home too. Its easier and cheaper. These days, home for me is Mumbai, often dubbed as the New York of India by some, although I can’t say if I agree since I have not been there. Regardless, I have made up my mind to see as much as possible, both in and around the city.

So this weekend a friend and I decided to trek to a place called Karnala Fort, armed with very little knowledge, except that it is supposed to be an ‘easy trek’. It’s close to Panvel and is just two hours away from Mumbai. A friend who had been there told me a lot of share autos ply from the station to the Karnala bird sanctuary and that one has to buy a ticket to the sanctuary and trek to the fort from its premises.

So we took a train to Panvel but we could not find an auto that would take us to the sanctuary, although a share auto took us to a nearby village for fifteen bucks per head and from there we found another auto to Karnala. Had we been a bigger group, the first auto would have taken us to the Sanctuary.

We had been forewarned by friends that there was nothing in the bird sanctuary, which was quite the truth. There were a few caged birds, that is all and it was just a terrible sight to see.

“The birds are just sitting, look at the enclosure, it is so small, they probably don’t even know how to fly anymore”, I told my friend as we looked at the birds.

We just decided to take the trek path and then began our two hour uphill climb, which was not very easy because the sun was fierce, it was super hot and we were perspiring a lot. So the first hour was a task. I just stopped in between to hug a tree that was cold and nice. There had also been some iron seats on the way but I preferred an embrace from the tree.

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Someone going downhill after finishing the trek asked us if there was anybody selling water on the way. “No”, I said. “How long till we find a shop?”, the guy asked. “You will only get it at the base, it will take another hour”, I informed him. There was a girl with him whose face fell in depression at my response. As they trudged ahead, my friend reprimanded me, “you should be encouraging, you should have told them it is close by”. We climbed on for another ten minutes and then I asked someone who was coming back about how long would it take for us to reach the fort that was at the top of the hill. “At least one and a half hour more, it is very difficult, lot of rocks, go back if you don’t have water with you”. I thanked them for the advice.

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“That was very encouraging”, I told my friend after they were out of our sight. We laughed and then continued upwards. We passed a bunch of friends and overheard a girl exclaiming “Let’s go back please, I can’t do this anymore”. “We’ve come so far, how can we go back now”, another responded. “Is this not the best birthday gift ever”, another said in sarcasm. We just grinned at their conversation and walked on.

After some time I just slept on the grass for ten minutes to get a ‘power nap’, leaning against the earth felt soooo nice, because it was cold. Although it was hot, the surrounding was beautiful, green hills, lot of trees and a lovely sky. The nap helped. So we trekked non-stop and on the way crossed a little ancient temple.

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While the little complex is obviously not as ancient, there were ancient rock sculptures surrounding it. Excited, we clicked a few picture and then continued to walk along the rocky path, with the gorgeous western ghats enclosing us from all the sight. I could hear the clouds roaring and hoped it would rain. “Garajte baadal, baraste nahi”, I told my friend, which literally means – “Clouds that roar, do not pour” (nailed it with the rhyme, yay!). But hoped it would rain anyway.

As we trekked on, we came across some even stretch and I ran with glee across the terrain. Minutes later we were staring at broken stairs that would take up to the ancient rocky fort.

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A few more pictures and quick steps later – we were at the peak and an orange flag fluttering in the Breeze greeted up. We had made it to the top, with just three sips of water! Oh and by the way, if you ever decide to go here, buy lots of water and pack a lot of food. We were just over prudent.

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Oh and the breeze here was so bloody amazing! It was heaven after all the heat the plagued us en-route the fort. And as we stared at the vast hills, it went from amazing to being heavenly – it began to rain!

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And it never stopped, so the almost two hour trek downhill was extremely pleasant and fun, I kept running and hopping and smiling. It is actually a pretty easy trek, provided the weather is great and I promise you will love every minute!

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