Ratangad Fort Trek

Ratangad Fort: An Expedition Through Time and Nature

Dec 16, 2003. 1800 hours. We descended Kalsubai with a sense of accomplishment. Our minds were full of joy and our hearts swelled with pride. Mt. Kalsubai (5400 ft), the highest peak in Maharashtra, and Ratangad Fort (4255 ft), the jewel of Sahyadris – we (Saket & I) had scaled both these summits in a single day!

The late evening start

This trek had been on the cards for a long time but materialized only on Dec 15, when Saket – the so-called busy bee, finally agreed to get free from the office earlier than routine. He came over to my place around 5ish and we set off almost immediately. Bhandardara was the direction we were riding in, following the route Narayangaon – Ale Phata – Bramhanwada – Kotul – Rajur and finally Shendi.

We hit the Nasik highway and enjoyed the smooth joyride. The thoroughfare being finer it took us merely an hour to cross the 65 km distance to reach Narayangaon. We decided to break for dinner and hunted down a restaurant called “Hotel Anand” which served dinner in a typical thali system. The food was nice and scrumptious and for 60 bucks a thali, it was a steal!

We rode on another 12 km up to Ale Phata and realized that the excitement of riding on the highway was pretty short-lived! We diverted from the highway to hit Brahmanwada, a wee settlement around 8 km from the highway. The road after this was fiddly. It was pitch dark and 9 pm would mean midnight for the village en route. We found not a single soul on the streets after we crossed Brahmanwada thus making it even more difficult to know we were on the right track. We ensured we checked every milestone on the way to be doubly assured we would surely reach our destination!

reaching Bhandardara

We finally reached Bhandardara around midnight. Initially, the plan was to reach Ratanwadi – the village at the foothills of Ratangad and lodge ourselves at the Amruteshwar temple. It was a mere 14 km from here and we were well-equipped with camping gear! But a villager seemed to appear from nowhere and suggested we not be over adventurous to bike up to Ratanwadi at that weird hour. He also suggested heading towards the government rest house to be put up for the night. We managed to get a room for 200 bucks, which was actually a pilfer for a decent room like that! We settled down, freshened up, and hit the bed. The 5-hour-long ride had been tiring and it took us no time to start snoring!

It was 7 am when we woke up. We were quickly done with our morning rituals and breakfast and started off for Ratanwadi. It was an hour’s ride before we reached here and the beautiful carvings of Amruteshwar temple caught our attention. We were tempted to check it out first, but somehow resisted and started walking towards Ratangad – the jewel of the Sahyadri.

Trek to Ratangad Fort

They were farmlands we were walking on. Neatly defined … confined by shrubs … with some plantations seen on few of them. After traversing these, our path was blocked by the still waters of river Pravra. On careful observation, we saw a small pathway that took us across. We had to cross the waters several times before we actually started the ascend towards the fort. A 45 min pleasant hike through the woods before we reached the fort entrance. We had to clamber a couple of iron ladders, placed at the rock patches climbing which was no common man’s task.

Ratangad Fort Mahadarwaja

Ratangad – Mahadarwaja

Atop Ratangad Fort

We set off for site seeing on the Ratangad Fort. Ranicha Huda, Katrabai cliffs, water cisterns, Nedha, Trimbak Darwja, Khutta pinnacle, rock cut caves – on offer were all these and more. The breathtaking views of the cliffs of Katrabai Peak and the others left us spellbound. Nedha – a needle hole formed in the lofty rock due to wind erosion; a wonderful place it was to chitchat and spend time forgetting oneself. A calm breeze blew here soothing the senses and we raised a toast with a glass of fresh lime juice. Cheers!

Ratangad Fort

Ranicha Huda


From Ratangad Fort

Katrabai Cliffs

We then walked over to the Trimbak Darwaja, another entrance to the Ratangad Fort if one wants to crawl over to the fort through the ghats. It would definitely mean more time and a stressful walk but the experience is worth the effort. The Darwaja is skillfully hewn out of a lofty rock face, with every step leading to it a foot and a half high. We descended these steps carefully to follow the pathway leading to the Khutta pinnacle. The pinnacle was an impressive piece of projection standing 4000 ft tall. We took some photographs here and started our descend Ratangad Fort to explore a new route this time. It was a less traveled boulevard so thickly populated that sunrays failed to reach the ground despite all attempts! Because of this, it took us no time to walk over to Ratanwadi.

Amruteshwar temple

No sooner did we reach Ratanwadi than we found ourselves gazing at the beautiful carvings at the Amruteshwar temple. It is a temple dedicated to lord Shiva with a sacred sanctum housing a huge Shivlingam.  The temple is decked with intricate statuettes all over itself. These carvings take us back to the era of King Zanj who is said to have built this temple in the early 9th century.

At the foothills of Ratangad Fort

Amruteshwar Temple

Umbrella falls

We were lost in admiring the craftsmanship when our clock struck 12 and we realized we had a long way to go. Our minds were still in Ratanwadi, and my bike transported us to Shendi. We then visited the Wilson Dam and the park developed in its vicinity. The colossal walls of the dam and cascade beside it viz. Umbrella falls left us awestruck. When the gates of the dam are opened the water falls over a dome-shaped rock. The milky waters seem to spill over the umbrella and hence the name. We spent some time here capturing the magnificence and headed off to Bari – at the foothills of Kalsubai, after lunch.

Umbrella Falls in its full glory

En route to Bari our observant eyes read a milestone written “Kalsubai 17 km”. Astonished our thoughts started running errands, but it wasn’t too late before we realized it had been a typo. It was 1.7 km to Bari which we covered in no time. The locals directed us and off we were to trudge to the highest peak in Maharashtra.

All you need to know about Ratangad Fort

Trek to Kalsubai

It was 2 pm when we started to ascend. The scramble after a heavy lunch made things a little difficult. But we had already prayed to Goddess Kalsubai at the temple located at a small elevation near the settlement of Bari. Our prayers were answered in the form of mental and physical strength to scale the towering apex. It was a steep ascend. A couple of iron ladders clambered to reach a small plateau just before the final summit. Here there was a well full of chilled water to quench the trekkers’ thirst. As the water ran down our thirsty gullets we could sense the fatigue fade away. Kalsubai Prasanna! We were just a few meters away from the summit. A long iron ladder just next to the well helped us climb the same.

Ladder at Kalsubai

A pleasant breeze blew atop. It was soothing to be here whilst the magnificent views of the bottomless valleys and lofty mountains surrounded us. We took pride in identifying the peaks of Pabargad, Ratangad, Khutta, Patta, Alang, Kulang, and Madan. We could also very faintly identify Harishchandragad though it was pretty far off. In the valley were the colossal wall of the Wilson dam and the vast expanse of its backwaters.  The glittery waters of river Pravra were spread across until quite a distance.

At Mt. Kalsubai

The summit housed a small shrine of the goddess. Kalsubai, according to a local legend, was a tormented daughter-in-law. She ran away to escape the harassment of her in-laws to seek solace atop this hill. She is said to have performed her tapasya here to attain nirvana. In her memory, the locals built a temple here and name the hill Kalsubai after her. With the legend superseding our thoughts, we bowed in front of the goddess. Blessed by Her we were now geared to get back.

Atop Maharashtra’s Everest – Kalsubai Temple

An hour’s descent got us back to Bari with a sense of accomplishment. We looked back at Mt. Kalsubai with a jumble of emotions – a sense of triumph, our hearts swelled with pride and enormous respect for the legendary mountain.

Back home feeling accomplished

At Bari, my bike was awaiting to bequeath a warm welcome. It was already 6 pm when we got here and we thought it was unwise to delay any further. We immediately hopped on; kickstarted the tandem and disappeared from Bari. It was going to be a long way back and hence when we reached the guesthouse we quickly refreshed and headed back. It was the same tiring 5-hour long ride back and it was midnight when we were back to our home sweet home!

Read about my other trekking adventures here!

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