Click here for map of Ratangad. Cost of the trek : Rs 900.
Grade : Moderate. Height : 1297m/ 4255 feet.
The trek to Ratangad fort(The Jewel of Sahyadris) along with visit to Bhandardara dam had been on my agenda for past year, ever since I visited Kalsubai peak. Ratangad falls in the same range of peaks, which offer the finest views in the Sahyadri
mountains. The road between Shendi and Ratanwadi is 22 km long and offers the best views of the surrounding peaks like Muda, Ghanchakker, Kalsubai, Ratangad and the AMK mountains. You can also view the bhandardara dam and umbrella waterfall when the gates are opened.
My journey began on 5th Feb 2015 at 6:00 am from borivali, I boarded the Kasara local from Dadar at 7.08 am, reached Kasara at 9.45 am, from there I took a shared jeep to Shendi which cost me Rs 100, reached shendi at around 11.00 am. From Shendi to Ratanwadi there is no proper mode of transport, be ready to spend couple of hours or more to goto Ratanwadi the
base village for the trek. In the meantime one can visit the Bhandardara Dam, which offers the view of the Ratangad too. The dam is one of the oldest catchment area in India. Meantime I had lunch, and waited till the jeep got full, and finally began our journey to Ratanwadi at 1.30 am. In the jeep I met a guy (pintya) who was working on some dam project in the area, he offered me room to stay with him and also helped me with food and other stuff, he was really helpful, without him my trip could have been far more difficult. My initial plan was to reach the fort on the same day itself and stay in the cave at the top. As it was getting late and I was not carrying enough food and water I decided to postpone the trip to the fort to the next day. We reached ratanwadi at 2.30 pm. Here I went to his cottage, there had a chat with him, he
prepared food and had nice lunch and then decided to visit the Amruteshwar Temple in the village itself. The temple is more than 1000 years old, it is built-in Hemadpanti style of architecture(8th century). Also, visited the adjoining temple of the goddess which is quite interesting, in the sense it has a well/tank in-between surrounded with various idols and the villagers still use the water from this well/tank. After visit to the temple, I brought 3 litres of water from the village, went back to the cottage, his room-mate had arrived (mukesh), had chat with him, had my dinner early and went to bed. Next day I woke up at 6.30 am which was a bit late and then started my trek with pintya from 7.30 am onwards. The friend of mine accompanied me till the first table top mountain. Here we had food together, he went downhill and I went ahead with my journey. Ratangad trek is the one where till this point(1st table top), the need of the guide is very much required, you end up crossing the Parvara river multiple times, it’s very easy to get lost in the woods. After crossing the first table top, the route is pretty much straight forward, there is a bifurcation to goto Harischandragad at some distance ahead, but there is clear board with sign on it. Also, there are lots of other signs in the form of white arrows and red ribbons tied to tree to guide one to the destination.
The climb is mostly steep, there are hardly any flat tracks till you reach the fort. One should climb according to
ones comfort level. The terrain is mud with all size of rocks in between. The good thing is that there is an ample amount of tree cover to shield one from the sun. The jungle is well-known for wild animals, mostly wild boars. I reached the ladder section at 9.30 am, from there you climb the steel ladders and you enter the fort through the Ganesh Dwar, there is a cave temple just before that, where one can stay. There are multiple caves in the fort premises, though I was only able to find this one. After climbing the ladders and visiting the Ganesh cave, I finally reached the fort at 9.45 am, there are some remains of rani mahal, as soon as you enter. There is
some fortification towards the Katarbai peak. Surprisingly there is little fortification elsewhere near the Ganesh Dwar. One need to walk right across to the other side of the mountain to find the Tryambak Darwaja. It used to be the main entrance to the fort, now one can enter here by travelling from the village Samrad or Ghatgar. Before that there is a natural orifice in the mountain commonly called Nedhe in Marathi, which offers breathtaking views on both sides of the fort, it used to be the watch tower of the Marathas. One of the favourite fort of the great Maratha King Chatrapati Shivaji was Ratangad. Ratan means jewels and gad means fort, so it’s the jewel among all the forts of Chatrapati Shivaji. There are lots of water tanks spread across the fort, though the water didn’t looked portable. The Pravara river originates from this fort.
From Ganesh Dwar side one can see Katarbai fort, little ahead is the Ajoba fort. One can see Ghanchakar and Muda fort towards east. The backwaters of Bhandardara dam are visible throughout the fort ridge. From the Tryambak Darwaja side one can see AMK mountain, Kalsubai peak (tallest peak in Sahyadri). I was at the fort for 90 minutes, was able to see mostly the ghat side of the fort, I didn’t visit the Konkan side, didnt had a fort map, so missed on the views from that side. I also met couple of trekkers from Mumbai who had trekked various forts for past 5 days in the region and Ratangad was last on their destination. These guys had spent the night on the fort itself. Had a chat with
them, took some guidance. My descent started from 11.15 am, was able to descend the ladders safely. There are a couple of points where one needs to be extra careful, one being crossing the ladders and other being climbing towards the Nedhe. The ladders don’t have proper railings and also they shake when one is climbing and there is constant wind from the valley below. The route towards Nedhe is slippery, there is a lot of gravels in the path.
Apart from that the route seemed safe to me. I was able to descend quickly, able to reach the ratangad harischandragad junction in 45 mins, then reached the cottage by 12.30 pm, so the whole descend was completed in 1 hour and 15 min. While descending I lost my way towards the end and had to figure it out, was lucky to find the right path. One thing I learnt during the trek is that if you get lost in the trail, look for the trash on your path, if you find any wrappers then most likely that is going to be the right track. I had brief chat with my friends, then immediately left for home, luckily I got a mode of transport till Shendi immediately, was able to photograph the picturesque road trip from the vehicle itself. Reached Shendi, had some food, then got into jeep to Ghoti, from Ghoti went to the highway and got a bus to Thane, from Thane came back to borivali by state transport bus. All in all it was quite a memorable experience, Ratangad is a moderate trek, which required couple of hours of climb for ascent and somewhat less time than that for descend. The views from the top are mesmerizing. I would recommend taking a guide for this route.