After planning for years to trek the Heritage Walk of Kumbhalgarh Fort Wall, the moment came last week, when we decided – let us do it now. Monsoon is beating the retreat, but a few clouds are still visible. Forecast says rain, but we cannot wait for ever. If a full Monsoon trek across the wall is warranted, then no better time than this. We wanted to do it solo, and that too in Monsoon, when the weather is conducive but the trail is not.
An Awesome cocktail of…History – Nature – Photography – Friendship – Emotion – defines The Kumbalgarh Wall Trek!!
We started for the base village of Kelwada, at 3pm, armed with hope, enthusiasm and trekking kits. A busy route in the post monsoon and winter months, our journey from Udaipur to the Fort town was heavenly as the last of the monsoon showers chose to free themselves from the shackles of the dark clouds overhead.
Roads through a major part of the route were damaged and we rocked in our already rocking vehicle – shaking of body in car was close to 5 on Richter Scale. We drove leisurely enjoying rains and the road trip which takes nearly 2.5hrs, took us 4hrs as we stopped midway to take in the beauty of the scenic tiny lakes, anikats and small waterfalls, which were inviting a visit and some clicks to store as memories.
Driving through Iswal (which has got some great Phaphda-Mirchi joints), we reached Kathar (Khudagawah fame), spent some time at the river and drove onto Kelwada,. The local market in the small village town of Kelwada had all on offer – chips, biscuits, medicine, bottled mineral water – all of which we bought for the trek. Enroute there were little lakes and small dams overflowing – a rare sight in Rajasthan.
Our Man Friday & eco-guide Shankar advised us that we leave for the trek at 8am instead of 6am, as the rains had dampened the ground. This would cause snakes in the forest to crawl towards the wall steps and moss plus morning dew on the vegetation growing on the stairs would make it riskier as the steps were steep.
Reaching our small village resort at 7pm and chose to spend the evening in the lawns with a few small eats, and good conversation to spend quality time before dinner and signing off. Dinner, consisting of hot Dal fry and Sev Tamatar with hot chapatti and rice was good enough to make us drowsy , although we had enough conversation before finally snoring.
The morning began with Aloo Parantha for a quick breakfast and packed a few pieces to count for lunch while at the trek. We ensured enough water as the 6hr trek could take longer, considering the weather and thick vegetation on the stairs due to monsoon showers and heavy rains this time in the region – the highest recorded over the last 6 decades. Our water reserve was soon to end, for the moment we thought we need to conserve water, each of us needed another gulp.
We entered Kumbhalgarh fort from the main gate, parking our vehicles in the external parking lot. Trek began as we crossed the auditorium which is right opposite the palace.
Stairs as wide as 6 feet and as narrow as 12inches line the entire Wall of the Kumbhalgarh fort. The inner wall of the fort, which is the trail zone, is approximately 11km. The average time taken to complete the walk from end to end is around 6hrs.
Hence, strolling along, we took in the beauty of the surroundings, the view of the huge palace from a distance and admired the architecture, engineering and labor that must have gone into constructing this marvel. No doubt that the Mughals and Rajputs have given India the best of architecture that is incomparable globally.
Kumbhalgarh Fort Wall trek is a favorite among foreign tourists and they come in large groups to walk across the massive circumference that is lined with forest – trees, shrubs and some exclusive flora like the Monkey Salad, Mahendi color flower, bio gas fruit plant, etc that are unique to the Aravali forests.
Our guide Shankar was carrying a sickle and leading the way, clearing large shrubs and branches on the way so that we could place our feet firmly without slipping or tripping on the steps, which could be as narrow as 6 inches. He explained that he needed to carry an Axe as well, when the monsoon was not rich. A rich monsoon ensures that the water bodies in the forest and jungle near the fort are full of water and the wild animals do not venture anywhere farther from the water bodies and the risk of encountering a wild animal – hyena, jackal, panther, bear, etc on the route is near negligible.
However, in case the water bodies are dried out, then the animals venture across, in search of water and food. This is when it becomes risky and an Axe is handy. He further explained that the cats are generally a shy lot, but if we venture anywhere near caves or rock formations where cubs and new born are being bred, then the female cat is bound to attack and needs to be feared. This is when an experienced eco-guard comes handy. All we saw though was the sight of a fleeting mongoose once in a while and buffaloes resting in muddy ponds staring at us – wondering what us humans were doing walking in the heat.
The wall is set around the natural terrain and curvature of the mountains without any part of the mountain being damaged for want of convenience. Hence the stairs are steeper and wider most part of the route. This meant that there were long routes of steep uphill as well as downhill steps, nearly vertical, which needed crisp maneuvering and foothold. Exhausting and not moderate but ranked between moderate to difficult. Advised conditioned legs and stamina needed to complete this trail, as it is not recommended to turn around after you reach the portion that has significant vertical climbs and descent.
One must carry at least 2-3 three litres of water at the beginning of the trek, assuming no availability of water enroute.
After lunch break, we continued our tryst with the wall. At certain places, where age had damaged the wall, we needed to take a detour by entering the jungle. This is where we found a large and beautiful waterfall, that had fresh water.
As it happens in forest or mountain treks, clouds appear from nowhere – and so it happened here.
Rain cover was imminent and we were carrying rain wear with us. Entire scenery – the sky and surrounding mirrored from beautiful to awesom when it rained and the wall which was now really wet, was glowing. The rain splashed down on us making the trek difficult as fresh water on the moss and jungle weed and on the stone of the steps made it slippery and visibility was affected. Albeit slowly, we trudged along enjoying what nature had to offer.
The entire walled campus consists of 360 odd temples and a few Dargahs
Towards the end of the trail, the rains disappeared and twilight setin and darkness approached. Time for us to hurry across and complete the trek. The last 500 meters of the wall and the most difficult one, was covered in very dense vegetation and we were advised not to take that section, and instead enter the valley… which was once again a blessing as we entered the area where small streams were running.
Finding our way across, led us to a huge water reservoir in the middle of the ancient village. We were told that this reservoir and many other smaller ones around the area were the major sources of water while the fort and wall was being constructed. The culmination of the rain and the setting sun bought about the natural phenomenon of the rainbow – a sight worth relishing when in such a surrounding.
Our trek ended on the foothills of the village and we were again in the midst of regular terrain of the Fort area from where we walked up towards our parking. Shoes and clothes damp and soiled, we removed the boots and put on slippers and drove towards the nearest restaurant that was ready to serve us a nice warm pre dinner Rajasthani meal of Daal Batti and Churma with garlic paste. Mission Accomplished. We are back to Udaipur . Pahadi Bidu, now have another trek done and dusted on our name as a team and this time in Our Hometown Our Aravali Our Mewar …Khamma Gani Sa!
For information on Trek routes and planning in Udaipur and around the Aravalis or across the Himalayas, Sahayadris you may connect with us on <PAHADIBIDU@GMAIL.COM>