The last time I went to Prabalgad was in December. I went alone back then, and lost my way. This time around, however, there was a proper plan and a group. However, things got a little messed up. The most interesting part of the trek was actually getting to the base village of Thakurvadi. The Village is about an hour's drive away from Panvel. I got up at four in the morning, intending to catch the four forty train from Thane to Kurla, and then back to Panvel. The first Thane-Vashi train is at six thirty, which makes the rather roundabout travel necessary. However, I reached Thane station at four thirty, and didn't have enough time to go purchase a ticket and get into the train. So, I had the smart idea of catching a Thana-Panvel bus. Which, I was sure, would be easy to get.
Unfortunately, the bus stop for the Thana-Panvel buses had been changed. Instead of the depot next to the station, which still handles some locations such as Borivili, the Panvel/Vashi buses ply from Cidco. So I walked to Cidco, and asked a conductor when the first bus to Panvel was. He said it was at five, which was a lie that I found out at five. So I catch a Vashi bus, still cutting my travelling to half. Now the Vashi bus goes to Sanpada, and I could have gotten down and caught a train to Panvel. Do I do that? NO. I had to let the bus take me to Vashi. Now Vashi station is ten minutes away from Sanpada station, but the bus takes a detour all the way to Vashi bus depot and back again. I call up the organisers, and learn that they are apporaching Vashi. So I go to Vashi station, purchase a return ticket to Panvel, and go to the platform, to realise the indicators are empty. I had missed the train. So I walk back to Vashi node, catch a bus to Panvel, and reach the bus stop at six thirty, well in time for the six fifty bus to Thakurvadi.
However, the god damn group is still late, and haven't reached, because they are waiting for someone to come by the next train. I have a smoke, and a cup of tea, make some purchases and wait. Then I get into the bus, and reach the base village, debating all the time whether or not to start the trek on my own.
Eventually, they show up, and we start, a little late.
The road to the top is simple, but curves like crazy. The adventerous can choose more difficult paths, one of them being the villager's expressway which cuts down the trekking time by half, but you won't spot the path unless it is pointed out to you. It is this steep trail running right up the hill, scarier than those vertical ass slides at water parks, and more slippery. With a few breaks on the way, we reach the plateau. This takes about an hour from the start, and is actually a small trek. The plateau offers some great points for those who want to get dramatic photos for their profiles on social networking sites, but we had none of those amateur models this time around, so we passed by with little more than our eyeballs to bear testement.
This was the patch where there is a steep incline, with a rock patch, that people can choose to navigate if they want a little added fun. A while later, we came to the village. Now, the newbies had all got full tiffins, but the greedy experts had none, so we had to arrange food at the village, which we did. Some of us relaxed, had a smoke, played marbles with the local kids etc.
Then we started the trek to Prabalgad. From the village, there are two paths, one going to Kalavantin, and the other to Prabalgad. The village itself is called Prabal Machi, which basically means Village at Prabal. This time around, because of the heat, the cows and goats were within sheds, and the dogs were sleeping and lazing about instead of gambolling all over the place, and following us to the top. We had to get kids to show us the way to the top. Our little guides came with us for a while, showed us the right path, and went away happy with their "fees" of a chocolate each. Note to myself: next time take along some marbles.
The vegetation was lush and green, but the air was a bit stiffling. I was surprised when I recognized individual stones and trees, and familiar signs that saved my day when I was lost. There is also a path from the base of the Kalavantin pinnacle to Prabalgad, but this one I don't reccomend for anyone. There is another plateau on the top, and you have to walk along it to get to Prabalgad. The forest round about here was in the process of being burnt down. The newbies didn't understand that there was a logic to this, and it kept the forest healthy. They were swearing at the villagers for burning down the trees.
We walked on, spotting a number of landmarks on the way, including this small icon of a goat or a dog, cannot figure out which one.
On the way, we met a group of around fifteen youngsters, who were travelling through the hills on a vacation, making their own food. One of them, that we termed "bandli-wala" or "vessel-man" was carrying on his head, like a large hat, two tin vessels, one inside the other. The rest of the laughing group began to call him that as well, and the name stuck. Once, while navigating a tight corner, they fell off with a loud clang, which made everyone giggle like girls for some reason. Walked behind the groups for a while.
Eventually, we reached the clearing. It came upon us suddenly, and was like a breath of fresh air - which it was.
That is the point from where Kalavantin can be seen in all its glory. Fortunately, this time around, there were no people on top of the pinnacle, offering us one of those rare few moments when the structure can be photographed in its natural state. The heat was totally worth it. We gazed downwards...
... and the spectacular pinnacle was below us.
Prabalgad is located between Matheran and Karnala. So, from Parabalgad, you can see Matheran, Peb Fort, and Karnala all around. Explaining where what was, and how to spot it, took some time to the first timers.
After that, we snacked at the top. The newbies understood how greedy we all were over good. Trekking makes you shit hungry, so we ate like crazy. Anything that showed up on our table, which was a couple of spread out newspapers, disappeared faster than they were put up. Bear in mind that this was just a snack, our lunch awaited us at the village.
We started back eventually, some of us went away from the path to look for water. Usually, the water hereabouts, or on any of the tanks in the hundreds of trekking points in the Sahiyadiris and the Nilgiris, are perfectly safe to drink as long as they have some kind of life in them. This tank, however, was very dirty, and we could not drink it. It tasted horrible, and moreover, we did not have any chlorine with us. So we let go, and walked back. Three guys however, went ahead, and the rest of us had no idea where they had gone. We came back to the village in a liesurely manner, and they had still not showed up. So I went ahead, scouted around for about an hour, and came back, knowing they had not gone ahead to catch the bus. There is a point from where you can see the entire route to the top, and this is where I noticed the trail to the bottom that the villagers took, a steep path. The others showed up eventually, after a failed attempt to get water. We had lunch, the villagers gave us more water than we could drink, and we started back to the base to get the six o clock bus.
Two of us took the steep trail, letting the others go ahead. It was difficult, and challenging, a feeling in my kneecaps that I hadn't felt since I began trekking. We came down, and two of us went ahead, mindful of the bus timings. Over the last hundred feet of the trail, we heard the bus coming. We hurried forward, and a slow guy and two others who were helping him were left behind. Two of us, and a married couple managed to get onto the road. The bus came, and the two of us left, leaving the others behind. The next bus was at eight thirty, which was something none of us could afford.
Sometimes one guy can screw up a trip.