The thrills had already started to take us high on the trek season of this year and we were not ready spare a alternate weekend's trek. Even though with the usual members dropped out of this trek me and Shrikant were determined to have this fort (Peb) in our bags. The added excitement was the inclusion of Mandar, Shrikant's friend who confirmed himself at the last moment.
How to reach: Pune- Lonavala-Khopoli-Karjat-Neral-Peb
Time to travel- 3 hrs max from Pune
Distance from Pune- 140km (approx).
Base village- Neral
Difficulty level: Grade 3,Medium (Hard in mansoon) (3-4 hours climb)
For a change we had decided to travel by public transport, instead of our regular road stunner and tyre-smoking bikes.The choice de-facto was the Sinhgad express which leaves Pune station at 6.05am and we parked the bikes at station parking to grab the tickets and got onboard as soon as possible we can. Fortunately everyone of us got the seat. While I was relishing myself with the window views, Mandar and Shri preferred to take a good nap.
Once we passed Lonavala the scene changed dramatically. Nature had made all arrangements to give us unbelievable experience. The music full on with the whistling flutes of the gusty wind from the valley, misty canvas of the thick fog layer and maughty sunrays escaping from the clouds making the perfect moment like "sounds, lights, action...!!!".
When we reached Karjat station we realised that we haven't taken our breakfast and giving its due respect to our tummies we headed towards a sub-standard raod side उपहार गृह. Usual choice is always a misal-paav followed by a doubbbble tea. Our coffee table partner advised us to take a local train instaed of other vehicle to reach Matheran. The decision to follow his suggestions was unanimous amonst us and we boarded on a Khopoli-CST local train, In that 10 mins journey we got a trailer of what we are going to experience throughout the day, with fog clad mountains and several silverline waterfalls peeping out of them. When we alightened at Neral Jn. a toy train was posing before us with beautiful chicks for few clicks. We left the Neral town with the right turn outside of the railway station and here we made our first mistake. This route made us to loose our route in the basin of a some river. Because of this mistake we had to walk for an extra 3/4kms and landed into very difficult situation where we had to walk through the water filled paddy fields and mud. Finally we reached at the base of the Fort Peb.
Due to the little extra humidity and lack of the rainfall the task seemed to be fairly tough and as we started our climb we realised that 'tough' is not the proper word. It should be 'toughest'. The first lap itself exhausted completely and we felt like its not our day today. We were almost flat on the ground. But once me and Shrikant changed into our comfort wear and had a water splashes on our faces we gathered some courage to walk for another 15 minutes. But only after a 10minutes again we had to stop, as our lungs and hearts were not responding to our needs and we realised that we need a long break and a water shower. We spent almost 20minutes to reorganise our energy levels with the Glucose drinks. After this situation was some what better and we started our climb again. We were actually desparately searching for the landmark waterfall, mentioned in most of the guides we referred. But there were absolutely no signs of the waterfall. May be lack of rainfall had made all waterfalls to dry. After a walk of 30 minutes we reached at the place where a water stream was flowing down the valley and we reloaded our bottles with this water. Also everyone of us got wet with that water so that our bodies could ease with the temperature and we could complete the trek.
After this halt the next lap was a complete pleasure for us as the route went throught the thickest shrubs and vegetation, we have ever seen. On the way I could capture few magical shots with the camera. I left Shrikant and Mandy behind and headed swiftly towards the peak in front of mine. When I reached the difficult rock patch the most awaited rain showered on me. The drama has now begun. The gusty wind flow whistles and rain drops' drumsticks playing in the background while I was delighting my senses with the scenic misty view. Once Shri and Mandy arrived we proceeded further taking a trail almost on the edge of the beautiful valley without a chance of mistake for us. The path was just too slippery and narrow. All this efforts were paid back when we saw a steel ladder on the wall to climb a wall from a distance. Before clembing the ladder we saw a famous caves on Peb fort and a temple. While climbing a ladder we faced few tribal youth who were on the fort to get a core of a banana stems, which we were told that those are ediable as a nutritional valued food and are found in this season.
The road to top from there was not as easy as we thought. The path way which was created due to the frequent trekkers had became slippery because of the rain and wet soil. Someone had thankfully laid a steel cable to help the trekkers out. On the topmost point we could have a look of the valleis surrounding the Peb fort on all sides and the Matheran hill across the valley on North. From there we reached at the small shrine there (samadhi of some Maharaj) with a cow stable. One young man "serving" there provided some useful information about the fort. This fort was used as silos (storage) for the food grain by Shivaji Maharaj, hence the name was Pev (पेव), which later on became Peb (पेब) in British Rule. Also he told us that about the Vikateshwar temple where we can have our lunch with the water available in its purest form to drink. Also one route leads to the Matheran hill from there and we could walk down the track to reach Neral. On the opposite side of the hill we could see the track of the Neral-Matheran toy train. Also a route till there was noticably visible. Considering the fact that this would be a new experience and visual retreat we decided to follow that route. Once again this route involved a couple of dancing ladders to descend down safely (?) and slippery paths with lush green grass coverings. Following these route took us to the point NM-154 (km 15.4) of the rail track. We had a information that we have to walk along the track till point NM-132. Almost 2km of walk. But the numerous waterfalls along the track made our journey enjoyable and click some awesome rail-track pics.
Everyone was tired during the return journey and walking along a tar road after a NM-132 was not pleasant at all after a tiresome 25km trek. Finally we managed to hire a TAXI to reach Neral where our hunger ended with a delicious chicken. Return journey to Karjat and from there to Pune was equally memorable, as Mandy fulfilled his wish to stop the train by pulling an emergency train for a dumbo girl who slipped off her cellphone from the train toilet on Khndala railway station.