A Cycling Trek: Sarasgad to Raigad and Back


As I sat in the cargo dabba of the Khopoli train (KP1) on the morning of Saturday, the 12th March, I had mixed feelings…. I was glad that I was ultimately going on the route I had planned a long time ago, but also uncertain of the route and whether we could complete it in the heat. Kaushal had joined me at Dombivli and we were headed towards a road between Pali and Raigad, which seemingly no one had heard of. It was there on the road map that I had, but then the map also showed several other roads, which I knew, didn't exist. Soon all the tentativeness was gone as we started cycling from Khopoli at 7.20 a.m. We wanted to make as much distance as we could before it became too hot. Taking the left turn just before Madh, we went past the Pali-35 milestone. Cycling in the fresh early morning was fun and we breezed along to take our first halt 17km from Pali, at 8.30, to take tea. The road was very good with few climbs. …mostly it was flat. I reached Pali at 9.30 , Kaushal came along 15 minutes later. He had had cramps in his thighs and needed a break . Since we had had nothing solid since morning, we took a quick breakfast . I asked Kaushal if he would stay back at Pali or climb Sarasgad with me . He decided to give it a try. Sarasgad is a small, elegant fort, which looms large behind Pali . The route is very clear, can be called a ‘Rajmarga' and climbs up steeply and quickly . The staircase near the top is very smart work and a great piece of mountain architecture. Kaushal waited under a tree just after the staircase while I climbed to the top of the Balekilla after traversing around the cliffs . It had taken around 45 min to climb to the top from Pali. Taking a look around, I got good views of the peaks around, most of which I couldn't identify . We then hurried back down to reach Pali at the stroke of noon . We then had an excellent lunch (our photos just after the lunch show that we relished it). Making enquiries about the road to Raigad , via Boravali and Channata , we got negative response from several people near the temple . They didn’t know of any such road. Next we tried at the ST stand, but with same result . One conductor declared that the only way to reach Raigad was via Mahad. One other fellow knew of the trek route between Sarasgad and Raigad, but not the road. It was 12.30 now and we had to decide quickly what was to be done . Kaushal was feeling tired and needed rest. Taking this into account, we decided to take a bus to Mahad. Changing the bus at Nagothane on the way, we reached Mahad at 4.15 p.m. Here Kaushal took a U-turn by deciding to go back home that same day. I probably didn’t realize the extent of his tiredness when we had started from Pali. I thought that 2-3hrs' rest would do him good. The heavy rush in the bus didn’t help either. I decided to continue alone to Raigad . The first 17 of the 24 km from Mahad to Raigad were perfectly flat and I covered them in just over an hour. It took another hour to do the last 7 km from Kolzhar to Pachad. That climb was very steep and my legs were already tired till then. I kept spinning in the first gear of my dear Hero Thunder. Just when I felt I was stretching it too far I saw Pachad. Having snacks at Hotel Deshmukh, I started climbing up Raigad. I knew it wasn't much of a height after the 1000ft or so I had gained in the ghat from Kolzar to Pachad. According to my expectations I reached Raigad top at 8 p.m., that is, in an hour or so from Pachad. The MTDC resort was full, but luckily a double room was available at the Ropeway guesthouse. They also gave me excellent food. A short walk in the beautiful starry night ended the day for me. I lay flat on the bed and fell far asleep. Early morning I had to make a choice - whether to see Raigad fort and then pedal down to Mahad, or go and explore 'the other road' to Raigad from Mangaon and see if it could get me to Pali. Doing both didn’t seem possible as I didn’t know how long that other road would take . I chose to explore that road, then I can come and see Raigad sometime again. Speeding down to Pachad in 30mins, I had some quick snacks, packed some food and started pedaling at 7. I had been told that the road to Jijamata Samadhi continues to Mangaon (24km). Soon the road lost tar, and slowly changed from a stony track to a dirt track. It traversed the main Raigad Mountain and took a U-turn to come on a mountain, which can be seen, from the Bombay-Goa highway. The complex nature of the Sahyadris in this part fascinated me. In comparison to the 'main range and cliffs’ structure I had seen elsewhere, these mountains were totally different. All the mountains I was crossing now ( including Raigad ) were disjointed from the main range and yet were 3000ft tall. The road got down into the plains where there was a small village and a much needed tar road. I came to a fork, with one road going to Mangaon, and other to Nizampur (both were at almost the same distance ). I reached Nizampur around 9. Here I asked for Boravali, and was directed towards a rough looking road. The 12 km (45min) ride to Boravali was mostly flat but rough. Here people told me that the road to Pali is under construction, but cyclable and estimated to be another 25 km. The patch between Boravali and a village called Amboli was horrible. The road was stony, dusty, up and down and it was extremely hot. I kept spinning till a sweet tar road greeted me at Amboli. This patch was particularly bad not only due to the physical condition (of the roads, the cycle and myself ), but also due to the desertedness. I didn’t cross any vehicle except for a bullock cart in those two hours between Nizampur and Amboli. I reached Pali breezing through the last 12 km in about 45 min. The lunch at Pali was most satisfying experience. I was lucky that my cycle didn’t cause any problem during the entire trip. I was even luckier when I got lift in a tempo from Pali to the Jogeshwari link-road junction on the Eastern expressway, hardly 2 km from IIT, where my sweet dirty room, and two buckets of hot water awaited me ……..

Sameer Kelkar