Trek to Korlai Fort

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on March 14, 2011 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs. The original post had a gallery of pics, I have replaced that with one representative picture.

In January, I finally got my membership for the Youth Hostels Association of India for two years. I was looking out for a way to utilise the membership but no opportunity presented itself till March 6, 2011 when the Mumbai unit went on a trek to Korlai Fort. It has been a long time since I went trekking and I did not want to do a trek labelled “hard” by the trekkers themselves. I therefore chose a “medium” trek.

I learnt from Ganesh that they were travelling by ST bus and that I could come along. I immediately flagged it to Pranav’s attention. After a few rounds of conversation, I decided to head down to Parel ST Bus Depot while Pranav decided to catch up with us at Korlai on the next day. I packed a bag that was just heavy and was filled with stuff I never would have used. I packed a 1.5 liter water bottle and managed to alternately over-hydrate and under-hydrate myself. Well, I am happy that it was a simple enough trek so I didn’t have to think about too many things at the same time. There also seemed to be a malfunction in my camera’s battery indicator which showed that the battery was full when it was really drained. I read up about Korlai Fort on Wikipedia and found out that the article on Korlai itself was speedily deleted by someone.

Dad insisted on dropping me at Parel ST Stand which is very oddly situated. It was because I informed the YHAI guys only on the previous day that I had to travel there. Else, I could think about joining them at Chembur. The ST depots in Maharashtra are not as good as the ones in Kerala or Tamil Nadu but are much better than my last experience of them. The buses were more of a surprise for me. The travel was particularily smooth and the journey was particularly pleasant. We had wada pav at Alibaug and then proceeded to Revdanda and then crossed the river to Korlai reaching the bus stop at 10:30 in the morning. We then walked through the small village of Korlai as we headed towards the hill on which the fort was built.

We per-ordered lunch at a small hotel before the climb and then walked through open pans were fish were left to dry and walked up a tar path to the base of the hill. We then rested a bit at the bottom and then walked up the road that went along a side of the fort. The road had a small beach to one side and the hill slope on the other. Ahead we saw the Korlai Fort Lighthouse. A manager at the gate offered a paid tour of the interior of the lighthouse. We had to pay extra to take pictures. I thought it wise to conserve battery (and by now I got the hang of Pranav’s insatiable desire for getting himself photographed). I like the scenery a bit more. Hence, I passed by the offer and went to take a look inside the light house.

The manager explained that the lighthouse was automated and it pretty much took care of itself. The workers on site were mostly there to do maintenance work and to check the instrumentation once or twice a day. We passed through two narrow holes in the ceiling to reach the top of the light house. The manager explained how the lighthouse worked, how it was now mostly used by fishermen more than anyone else and the presence of modern technology stuff like transmitters and satellite dishes that one really did not see in a lighthouse. The structure did not need to be big because of the kind of boats it helped. It helped fishermen go deeper into the sea and get better and a variety of catch. There were even solar panels that charged the battery during the day for when there would be power cuts.

We left the manager and climbed a steep set of steps to the fort. I took quite a few number of breaks in between. Learnt that pacing yourself isn’t as easy as saying, “You have to pace yourself.” After walking around the fort, we left out through the other gate. I also felt the afternoon high sun taking a toll on me and then had a hard time getting to the base of the hill. We steadily went down one of the wings of the fortress that touched the sea and then had a round of introductions and took group photos. We then went to the side in through a nice tunnel with a pleasant breeze and sat for a while. We began the slow ascent, a walk through the main corridor and reached the main fort area.

We’d heard of a water source that was fresh inside of the fortress and we were interested in tasting some. We also had group members discuss the history of the fort and we had a nice time chatting about the forts of the Siddis known to have resided in the area of Alibaug during the reign of Shivaji and Sambhaji. We saw a temple and a broken down church and signs of the restoration work that was being carried out by Archaeological Survey of India. There were many cement packs in the fort and we joked that these were uncovered along with the rest of the fort. The water in that natural tank was quite good and very refreshing after that long ascent.

We had lunch at the hotel where we had pre-ordered the food and took a big auto all the way back to Alibaug. I hung around on the beach as the rest of the group went to visit Alibaug Fort. On the beach, the others got to leave their bags and I got to have a gola which I’ve not had in a very long time. I had a fun time just resting without the hiking shoes and even though the early evening sun was hot, the sitting down helped a lot.

After the others returned, we walked back to the Alibaug ST bus stand and from there, we headed back home in a ST bus. The driver was happy enough to let us sleep and switch off the lights. At night I was not able to see the roads and didn’t understand much of the route until we reached Panvel at night. A bit of a heavy dinner at night meant that I got sound sleep.

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