Monday, March 24, 2014

Sarasgad - First Hike of Year 2014

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." -- John Muir

2013! What an incredible year! Hiking almost each weekend; exploring more than 20 new forts ; discovering a writer inside me; learning basics of photography.

2014! A start of new year! Still many forts to conquer; many peaks to summit; many regions of wilderness to explore. Onus to carry the same momentum, set new goals and continue living a non-trivial life!

I intended to embark on my first hike in the year 2014 on an auspicious note and zeroed in on the land of Ballaleshwar Ganesh – Pali which hosts a beautiful fort, Sarasgad.

As I was going to lead this hike, I researched information of the fort on the Internet, called up few friends who had recently visited this fort and finalized the plan for the hike on 11th Jan. With few facebook and whatsapp messages, I was able to gather four more trek-mates – Sandeepak Phadke, Ajay Deshpande, Chinmay Kirtane and Vishwanath Amonkar. As Sandeepak and Ajay had scheduled Chadar (Frozen River) trek in Leh-Ladakh region in the first week of February, this trek was kind of little rehearsal for them to prepare themselves for the grueling challenges ahead. 

Everyone assembled at my place around 6.30 a.m.. As I needed a break from my regular duty as a chauffeur, Sandeepak took over the responsibility and brought his car. We started our drive towards Pali on a beautiful winter morning. We reached to Khopoil after driving for more than an hour on Pune-Mumbai expressway along the way enjoying the sights of Tung-Tikona, Lohagad-Visapur, Manaranjan and Srivarshan citadels of Rajmachi. We indulged in a nice breakfast before resuming our journey to Pali.

After reaching to Pali, we parked our vehicles in the parking area of temple premises. As we entered the temple premises, we were thronged by vendors selling garlands, flowers, coconuts and puja thali to please Lord Ganesha.We ignored their pleadings and entered the temple. It seemed to be off-season for pilgrims as temple was almost empty and without any waiting in the long queue, we were quickly ushered inside the temple and after offering our prayers, we came outside within 10 minutes. 

We were guided by the locals to reach to the starting point of trail. It was quintessential late morning in Konkan – warm and humid when we started our hike. Trail starts from the wheat flour mill and passes through few small houses and after a while, it turns right and takes you further in the direction of a small plateau.

Plateau wore a carpet of burnt grass – probably recently burnt. It added to the dry and rugged look of all the terrain devoid of any greenery. Sarasgad was looking very intriguing, inviting yet intimidating from this plateau. There is a small shack on this plateau which seemed to be deserted at the time of our visit. Dirt trail was looking very clear amid the burnt grass. We stopped for a while, exhausted with humidity more than a climb, sipped some water and proceeded on the dirt trail. 

Shortly, we reached to a small, slanting rock patch with tiny steps engraved in the rock. These steps become very slippery in the monsoon and pose challenge to hikers. We didn't face much of a difficulty while negotiating this patch. Only reaching to the first step requires some stretching; rest of the patch is easy.

Shortly, you reach to a small cave like structure. This cave is said to be spacious from inside but you need to crawl inside it. As it was very dark inside and we were not carrying any torch, we just peaked inside and returned back to join the flight of steps carved in the col between the two bastions. 

Ascending these stairs was exhausting because of all humidity and we were soon drenched in the sweat.

Dindi Darwaja (Main Entrance) welcomes you once you negotiate these steps. 

There are some devdi as you enter through the gate.

After crossing the gate, you come across a small plateau.

On the left after entering the gate, there is a water cistern.

After climbing few more steps, you come across many caves carved at the bottom of the gigantic rock of the citadel . One of the caves hosts a small Shiva-ling. Other cave hosts a small shrine.

Caves carved at the bottom of the rock:

A small water cistern:

Shiv-linga inside one of the caves:

There is a small tomb named "Shahapeer Tomb" inside one of the caves. On Vaishakh Poornima (full moon day), the villagers celebrate the festival of Shahapeer. (Info source: Trekshitiz)

After visiting the caves, we started our climb towards citadel (balekilla). You need to traverse the length of the citadel to start the climb. We witnessed hornet’s nest with many flies around it and it was a bit scary considering many past instances on different forts where flies stung trekkers injuring them seriously. Fortunately, we passed them without any untoward incident. Shortly, a group of college girls and boys passed us making a lot of noise. Few of them seemed to be pranksters and I warned them not to stir hornet’s nest, waited till they went out of sight.

Along the way, we got great views of the adjacent mountains. On a clear day, you can spot many forts - Tailbaila, Ghangad, Korigad, Sudhagard. Unfortunately all the forts were barely visible because of all the haze around. After a lot of concentration though, we could spot faint looking Tailbaila at a distance. Its faint glimpse was enough to make us elated.

Another water cistern at the start of climb to citadel:

You need to negotiate few rock patches (Grade: Easy) in order to reach on top of citadel. 

View after reaching on top of citadel:

You need to follow a dirt path on the right side which will take you to Kedareshwar temple situated on the banks of a lake swarmed with beautiful lotus flowers. There was not a soul around except five of us and we experienced some moments of solitude inside the temple.

Trail leading to Kedareshwar Temple:

Kedareshwar temple and a lake:

Resting outside the temple:

Inside the temple:

It was post 12 in the afternoon and had become very hot. As we did not have the packed lunch with us, we wanted to get down by our lunch time so as to have lunch in some restaurant in Pali. We had the option of following the same route for our descent but we wanted to explore the alternate route from the North side; so we started our descent from the North side entrance of the fort. Because of the ill-maintenance of the fort, Northern entrance is almost hidden amid the tall grass and different plants.

The route to descend was steep; going through a lot of boulders.  At some stretches, there were few grooves carved in the rocks to help you descend.

You come across a large cistern as you descend.

Soon, we were half way down. It was becoming hotter and hotter and there came a sudden realization that descending route was taking us farther and farther from the Pali village.

We were incredibly famished by the time we reached to the half of our descent and we spotted a short-cut which was entering the woods which seemed to have taken us close to Pali village. We took our chance with the shortcut and ventured into the woods. This short-cut seemed to be the route for the cattle and not frequented by humans. Still, we continued to trudge along the same route. As the route was going through the thicket, we were not able to see anything but the trees. Only consolation was that the route was not coming to an end and it was leading us closer to Pali village. Finally, we were relieved when the route though the thicket was over. Still, we were not sure where this route would take us further.

There was a cricket match being played in the ground below and we were able to hear a lot of cheer.

Finally, the route joined to the plateau from where we had ascended and we heaved a sigh of relief. We had taken the unusual route and had traversed the whole length of the fort for more than an hour. We came across few villagers and told them the route that we had taken and they just laughed about our ignorance of the terrain and confirmed that we really had taken the unusual route. Well, we were not complaining and a thought of coming out of the unusual route successfully provided a sense of achievement.  In hindsight, we had taken a calculated risk that came off. 

As we descended and passed though little houses, some of the villagers were resting in the cart.

We were incredibly hungry as it was past 2 p.m. We asked few shop owners regarding the best restaurant in Pali and proceeded towards it. Restaurant owner took great care of us after hearing that we were back from Sarasgad hike and served us great food. Finally, after feeding ourselves squarely, we returned back to Pune carrying a lot of sweet memories of the hike.

Overall, Sarasgad was a great addition to the forts I had visited. First hike of 2014, warm and humid weather during the hike, great sights of the rugged mountains from the top and unusual traverse taken while descending made the hike worthwhile. I would love to repeat this hike in monsoon to experience the greenery and wet rock patches.

Perched on the holy land of Lord Ballaleshwar Ganesh, though offbeat in nature, Sarasgad offers a great escape from the mundane life.

Tips for the hikers
  • Grade of hike: Medium in monsoon; easy in winter/summer
  • No food facility available on the fort
  • Stay can be made inside the caves at the base of citadel.
  • Carrying your own water is advisable.Water in the cistern near the Shahapeer tomb can be used for drinking purpose in case you are not carrying your own water.
  • For long hikers, this hike can be combined with nearby Sudhagad.
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Happy hiking!

Appeal: No litter; no plastic; no wrappers; keep the mother nature clean!


  1. Language is like borned author .Reader left with no option but to read till the end , your blog is surely of quality to inspire many more to take interest in hiking trekking