Take a look at the quaint Kavnai fort near Igatpuri, as I hike up to catch the first rays of the sun from atop this historic fort


 

We stop by a roadside dhaba for some tea and coffee to keep the sleep monster away. It’s a little after 2:00 am in the night. I’m somewhere near Kasara with a group of fellow trekkers headed on a night expedition to Kavnai fort. The air is electric with the chatter of trekkers itching for the climb. I’m hoping the trek is good way for me to kick in the 2017 trekking calendar.

Kavnai fort is a little fort situated at the height of about 2,500 feet above sea level. The fort was built by the Mughals and was ceded to the Peshwas in the Battle of Udgir (1760). The fort was finally captured by the British along with about fifteen other forts in the region.

Our jeeps finally enter the base village in the dead of the night. The village is asleep and there is not a soul in sight. We disembark and begin moving towards the start of the trail. The trail begins climbing almost immediately, but is a relatively easy climb up. After about 30 minutes we are up the hill that we were climbing and begin our hike towards the entrance of the fort.

Now the trail leading to the fort and the entrance is designed such that potential invaders are not able to see the fort till they are almost upon it. In a short while, we finally come to the last ascent up some rock cut steps to a ladder that enters into the fort. The fort entrance is well preserved and we also realize that there is a brand new metal gate to the fort with a big huge lock on it.

The way into the fort is "hidden" and not easily seen off-trail
The way into the fort is “hidden” and not easily seen off-trail
A ladder marks the end of the trek and entrance into the fort
A ladder marks the end of the trek and entrance into the fort

Locked out of the fort, we resign ourselves to seeing the sunrise from where we are rather than from atop the fort. But our trek leader manages to enter the fort somehow and wakes up the sadhu living in the fort. He opens the gates, letting us into the fort.

The stars are still out as we wait for dawn
The stars are still out as we wait for dawn

It is not yet dawn and the stars are still out. To pass the time and to evade the chill that has crept into our bones we make a makeshift bonfire on the hilltop. With a small fire started, the group huddles around the fire.

The group huddles around the bonfire
The group huddles around the bonfire
The Sadhu, who lives atop the fort, warms himself by the fire
The Sadhu, who lives atop the fort, warms himself by the fire

The dawn steals into sight across the horizon, lighting up the hills in the distance. We catch the sunrise and then go on to explore the remainder of the fort. The rays of the morning sun makes the hills around the fort shine with a golden hue.

First rays of the sun dawn on the new day
First rays of the sun dawn on the new day
Golden rays light up the countryside
Golden rays light up the countryside

The fort does not have much left other than a few intact ramparts and the main door. The ramparts offer a breathtaking view of the valley and hills all round the fort. The fort would have served as an excellent way to watch around the area in the past.

We move on to explore the fort
We move on to explore the fort
The lake and temple atop the fort
The lake and temple atop the fort

A lake on top of the fort invites us in with it’s cool waters, but the sadhu warns us from entering into the lake as it is deceptively deep.

View of the backwaters on the way back down
View of the backwaters on the way back down
The group of successful trekkers atop the fort. Can you spot me? (Pic Courtesy: Sayantani Saha)
The group of successful trekkers atop the fort. Can you spot me? (Pic Courtesy: Sayantani Saha)

After posing for group photographs, we begin the short hike back to civilization. Along the way we are treated to breathtaking views of the backwaters around the fort and are happy at having made the time to take this walk back into history.


More Information

Getting There

The fort lies in the Igatpuri region near the village Kavanai. You could either drive there or hire a jeep from Kasara station on the central line. I joined a group trek by Tattva adventures which made logistics of getting there simpler. Other groups like Some Place Else also organize regular treks to this spot post the monsoons.

 

When to Visit

The fort is accessible all year round, though the summers make the hike up only bearable during the early mornings. The surrounding areas are wonderfully green just after the monsoons.

Route Map

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