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Get your trekking shoes on
The monsoon months are the best time to head out on a trek in or around Mumbai. Of course fitness enthusiasts or hardcore trekkers may say that the winter months are the best but most of us city folks are not avid trekkers. When I say trek I mean head out into the countryside for a day of fresh air, pretty landscapes dotted with waterfalls, trees washed clean, puddles and streams, insects and birds; and of course a delicious picnic to round it all up. I don’t mind if the trek does not involve uphill routes especially if the group has children who are likely to complain about the climb. Fortunately our son and dog love walking and running irrespective of the terrain. All the trekking routes are suitable to try out with family as long as you are flexible about it. If you need to; go with a company that organises treks. Ideally get a group of friends together and ask the trekking company to customise a trek for you keeping in mind the ages of the trekkers. When you create a trip for yourself, you always have the flexibility to stop wherever you like, and turn back when you think you have had enough. Yes, this might make the trip a little more expensive than the regular planned treks but it may just be worth the experience.
Few things to keep in mind include:
Consider starting with destinations that are not so far such as the waterfall locations around the city. Sometimes getting closer to the waterfalls can be considered a trek for novice trekkers and kids.
Locality: Borivali National Park
Right in the heart of the city, the hilly Kanheri caves area takes on a charm of a different kind during the rains. Park your car at the base of the hill and walk up the green route to the caves area to enjoy many waterfalls of varying sizes. The view of Mumbai city from the top of the caves is spectacular if it’s not misted over.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary
Locality: Karnala near Panvel
The trek to Karnala Fort is a little bit tricky in parts as the route can get narrow, steep and slippery. However if you are happy to walk the bird watching trails then you will not be disappointed as this area has pretty flowers, butterflies and birds. At the base of the trail beware of monkeys who will try to get any food from you. Don’t encourage them by feeding them.
Tungareshwar and Chinchoti
Along the western route not far from the main bustling city lies the famous Tungareshwar Temple. Located in a dense wooded area, Tungareshwar is an interesting destination to head to in the monsoons as there are several waterfalls, streams and rivers. There even is a reservoir behind the main temple. The famous waterfall in the area is Chinchoti waterfall which is easily accessed via Naigaon. This waterfall has three different stages that are at varied heights with each offering a different kind of experience and view.
Locality: Kharghar, Navi Mumbai
This plunge waterfall is stated to be about 107 metres and is a popular picnic spot for Mumbaikars due to its proximity to the city. Apparently Pandavkada comes under the jurisdiction of the forest department and picnickers are reminded to be careful while approaching the falls and also that they can visit the site at their own risk. Latest reports say that there is no entry charge as existed previously and that policemen do patrol the area to keep a check on things. Remember that this spot is likely to be very, very crowded over the weekends and this season there are a few food and beverage stalls that have mushroomed around the area. If you cannot go searching for the quieter waterfalls; want to enjoy large expanses of green and experience walking past a small dam to get to the falls, then this one might be the one to head to. If you cannot go on any other day but Saturday or Sunday then I would recommend going really early morning to beat the rush.
Locality: Digha, Navi Mumbai
Along the Thane Belapur road is the Gavlideo hill waterfall with a temple at the top of the falls. While the biggest waterfall is located just before the temple, there are many small falls and streams in the entire area which is also a popular trekking route. Most families hang out near the temple picnic spot which tends to be crowded and littered.
Slightly further away from Mumbai
Locality: Approached via Asangaon station
The trek up to Mahuli Fort is quite strenuous but very exciting. There is a lovely stream near the start of the climb which makes an ideal picnic spot location. There are a few steep sections along the route but if you make it all the way to the top you will see amazing views, a water body and a waterfall. This area is also the highest point in the Thane district. You could decide to picnic at any stage and this is a very beautiful area at which you can visit a Shiva temple, old historically important sites and see a few caves.
Three waterfalls meet to create the majestic Bhivpuri falls. Located about a 20 minute walk away from the Bhivpuri Railway Station, these falls are said to be very beautiful even when viewed from the top. For that you will need to trek up the mountain and ideally with a local guide. This waterfall is a very popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts as waterfall rappelling is often conducted here. These tend to be pre-scheduled events for which you need to register in advance.
Locality: Vangani, 22 kms from Karjat
Vangani town is a well known destination for amateur astronomers who head there to look into clear skies all the other months barring the monsoons. During the rainy season, it’s the trekkers and waterfall chasers who head here. The Bhagirath waterfall is situated east of the railway station and an interesting trekking route goes from the Shankar Temple past a wadi to the Chanderi hill top. When in the area try the local speciality masalas and look around for the plant nurseries that Vangani is famous for. This waterfall is less known and therefore not as crowded as some of the other popular picnic spots.
Matheran, Mahableshwar, and Panchgani
A trip to Matheran can be considered a trek in itself as no traffic is allowed in at all. However there are scenic routes that will take you through dense forests to points that will present the most breathtaking views. Other hill stations like Mahableshwar and Panchgani too are lush and full of waterfalls in this season. Mahableshwar gets a heavier monsoon and can sometimes be too wet and misty to trek the trails but Panchgani is lovely and often you may see huge expanses that sprout small wild flowers starting September.
Also known as Prabalgad fort, this trek route is located on a plateau between Matheran and Panvel. The steps carved out of rock look amazing and are good to try out with older children in the non monsoon months. Do not attempt the steps in the rainy season.
Locality: Near Murbad
In the Malshej Ghat area which is famous for amazing waterfalls is the Naneghat trek route. This route goes along the thumb shape that you can see as you move from Murbad towards Malshej Ghat. Parts of this trek can be slippery and tricky so take a call based on the ability and enthusiasm of your group.
Also called Peb fort, Vikatgad fort is at a height of 2100 metres above sea level. It’s near Matheran and ideal for a day trek. The view from the top of is very pretty and enroute you can visit a temple and check out a few caves.
From Badlapur or Vangani railway station you need to head towards Chincholi from where the trek to the base of the fort should be good enough for young trekkers. To get to the fort you will need to trek uphill.
Locality: Near Alibaug
The trek to the Sagargadh Fort will take you past a beautiful waterfall that crashes over a cave. Sections of the route are steep and parts of it also have steps. The plateau in the fort is extensive and has a small pinnacle just off the fort.
From Bari village this medium difficulty trek can be done in about three hours by a regular trekker. At the top most point is the Kalsubai temple that plays host to a special mela and pooja during the Navratri period. Being a popular pilgrimage destination, the route is well marked and there are also ladders along the way where the path may otherwise be tricky to handle. Once you get to the peak expect strong winds and amazing views of the forts in the vicinity as well as the Bhandardara Dam. In September you may even see carpets of wild flowers.