Trekking is no easy task. It takes a hell lot of stamina especially for non-trekkers like me. But the sweet joy once you reach the pinnacle after putting yourself through all that pain, exertion and dehydration more than compensates for your efforts; of course, memories is a bonus 🙂
The moment I had completed my first ever trek to the Karnala fort in November 2013, I knew this was something I’d want to do again……… and again…… and again. So, I looked up the internet to check which could be the next mountain I could conquer?
I was casually referred the Haji Malang Dargah and the nearby Malangadd fort by a work colleague. Not that my colleague did the Malangadd fort trek, but he was a frequent goer to the Haji Malang Dargah as an ardent devotee.
Soon after, 2 of us (a friend, Vishal and myself) decided to do the trek to this mountainous location in Kalyan around 60 km from Mumbai. We net-searched the route and concluded that driving down would be a lot more convenient. It would help save our time and conserve our energy for the climb to the dargah followed by the trek to the Malangadd fort.
We started at 7 am from Andheri and reached the location at 9:30 am. The drive was fairly good and the landscape, especially, nearing the Malangadd base camp was quite nice. This particular stretch consisted of a single winding road, mountains and barren land making for a scenic drive.
The climb from the base camp to the Haji Malang dargah is around 2 ½ to 3 hours. Along the journey, both sides of the route are filled with shops selling soft drinks, snacks, full meals and also religious items.
A shop selling religious items
WARNING: If you prefer quieter environments and treks that are not inhabited by many humans then Malangadd Fort is the trek to SKIP.
Throughout the Haji Malang dargah climb, you are in the company of devotees which could be a turn off for trekkers who don’t like crowd and also for those who aren’t very religious. Another major turn off is the commercialization in the name of religion and pushy shopkeepers who lure you to the point of annoyance to buy their items on sale.
Two major stops along the route are for the 2 small dargahs called the Pehli Salami and the Doosri Salami (although, we skipped both these visits and concentrated on the main Haji Malang dargah). Another interesting sight is that of a Hindu temple on your route towards the dargah.
The third dargah is the main Haji Malang dargah. This is the final base for all Muslim devotees and is crowded at given time of the day. The place of worship is surrounded by restaurants, flower shops and dormitories for visitors to spend the night if they wish.
Our offerings to the dargah were done by around 12:30 pm. We weren’t hungry as yet since we had had breakfast (Tea and a local dish called Misal Pav) at the base camp before starting the trek. So we decided to continue our journey towards the Malangadd fort. The entrance route to the Malangadd fort is a small lane near the main dargah and it can easily miss the eye since the lane is hidden among shops and houses. You need to head 100 meters backwards from the dargah to find this lane that goes towards the mountain fort.
Honestly, this is where the actual trek begins. While the route to the dargah was about climbing concrete stairways, the route to the Malangadd fort is all about climbing rocks and mountains. There are narrow rock-cut steps that lead you to the summit. The climb is absolutely thrilling and the reward for climbing these rock-cut stairs is the picture below………
While we were happy to reach this spot and were soaking up the view, the trek was not complete as yet. Reaching the fort was still another 20 – 30 minutes of mountain climb. As you keep moving forward, there is a route along the side that leads you towards the Malangadd fort.
The climb here onwards gets steep and adventurous and at one particular junction you need to harness yourself and walk on a narrow pipe to cross a small section of the mountain. There is a man who sits there between 10:30 am and 5 pm (not sure about the exact timings) who helps you with the harnessing and takes you across to the other point on the mountain. He charges you around Rs 20 for this service.
Once on the other side, you continue your trek towards the fort. There are ropes and chains that mark your way as well as aid while climbing. On the mountain top, there is limited fortification and barely any remains of the fort although there are some water cisterns with fresh water.
Around 3:30 pm, we started our descent towards the base camp. The route is the same as the one you took to reach here which means you do the thrilling pipe walk once again.
Once we reached the area near the main dargah, we had exerted our body enough to suffer hunger pangs. After a quick lunch in a restaurant near the dargah, we moved for our journey back to the base-camp. It was around 6:30 pm and nearing sunset when we reached the parking lot at the base camp,
We drove back home thereafter and reached Andheri by 8:30 pm. It was an extremely tiring trek and we were happy that the next day was Holi (Indian festival of colors), and so a public holiday which means we could rest, instead of worrying about returning to our 9 to 5 job.
Background of Malangadd:
There was no mention of information pertaining to the history of this location. So, I searched the net for any information I could possibly find. Here are my findings……..
During the Maurya Dynasty around 7th century, a king named Naladev built a fort in Malangadd. Much later, the fort came under the Maratha rule and was later captured by British in 1780. After the Anglo-Maratha treaty in 1781, the British had to leave the fort, however they regained their control after the Peshwas rule weakened post 1817. As for the dargah, in the 12th century, Haji Abdur Rahaman, a Sufi saint from Yemen chanced upon this hill and made this place his base. It is believed that the hill was originally thrice its size but was magically scaled by the saint. In his memory, devotees built a shrine known as the Haji Malang dargah which is a popular pilgrimage site today.
Quick details about the Trek:
- Trek grade – Medium to Difficult (the climb is challenging for amateurs)
- Water intake – Apart from a bottle of Gatorade, 6 bottles of water were consumed among the two of us. The good news is that one can buy water anytime since there are innumerable shops along the way. Even the water from the cisterns at the fort is consumable.
- Be thick skinned. Shopkeepers will literally follow you, comment, block your way and coax you into buying their stuff. Even beggars will keep pestering you along the way. You need to simply avoid them and walk like a horse with blinders.
- Bargain. If you wish to purchase any religious offerings don’t hesitate to bargain. Although these may be religious offerings, the shopkeepers fleece visitors by charging exuberant prices.
- If you bring your car, they have ample car parking space available but their car park charges are expensive (around Rs. 200). In our case, the parking in-charge staff cum shopkeeper struck a deal wherein if we bought a religious offering worth Rs. 250, the car parking would be free.
On a Final note:
In retrospect, I thought of giving up on the trek more than a dozen times. As an amateur, this trek was really demanding and tested your stamina. In fact, even after I had completed the trek, I told myself that I will not do such a trek again. But I guess these are impulsive talks one does when your body undergoes temporary but extreme pain. Once the pain subsides, you actually feel amazed and proud of what you have accomplished.
The Haji Malang dargah and the Malangadd fort trek is a mix of religion and adventure. Particularly, the latter part of the hike towards the Malangadd fort is everything a trek must be – adventurous, thrilling, and scenic. This is one of those treks which when accomplished; you have amazing stories to tell folks. Of course, Pictures add to the glory.
My friend who joined me on the trek suggested the title for this blog “From Sunrise to Sunset”.
(Note: The figures mentioned in this blog were correct at the time of publishing this blog)