Vasota Fort or Vyaghragad is one of the most isolated forts in the district of Satara of Maharashtra state and the trek to fort is rated as medium to difficult!
The name seemed strange to me, I had never heard it before. As per the trekking clubs, it is one of the most adventurous jungle treks in Maharashtra. Vasota fort is not easily accessible and government authority keeps it close for 3 months of monsoon.
Trekking this fort fills the bucket list of thousands of trekkers. It was the month of July. Rains had started in Mumbai. And rains means waterfalls, green mountain slopes, trekking, camping.
How to reach Vasota
For Mumbai folks: – There are two options
First, you can catch a Satara bound train from Dadar railway station.
Second, you can get a bus from Elphinstone bus depot in the west, right under the Flyover. Private buses operate regularly for Satara. Private bus operator charges around 250-300 per person. State Transport buses are costly, they charge around 390 rupees per person.
After reaching Satara, you can hire a private taxi which costs around 1500 rupees for Bamnoli village.
Or wait for ST buses in Satara bus depot. First of them starts in the morning at 5:30 AM and second at 7 AM, better confirm with the ST depo for exact timings. Bus ticket from Satara bus depot to Bamnoli village is around 25-30 rupees.
Where to stay
Vasota fort falls in Wild Life Reserve area. Nobody is allowed to stay in the fort or camp in the jungle. Wildlife is quite active in the night.
However, there are a number of hotels in Satara. Also, a basic hotel was newly opened in Bamnoli village right at the entrance.
Here starts my journey
|L to R: Saurabh Shetye, Gaurav Rathod, Amit Mishra (behind), Niraj Yadav (me), Rajkumar Jha (behind), Sachin Joshi|
We were confused whether to catch a train or go by bus. Bus as an option came before us in the very last minute.
I knew it earlier, but somewhere in my mind I wanted to avoid and, therefore, kept it aside (I am afraid of ST buses).
10 minutes to go. Sachin and I decided to have a look at the situation on the platform. The train had arrived some few minutes ago on the platform.
Standing on the midway of the stairs for the platform, a deep look on the platform scared us. Only heads and nothing. We rarely travel using reservations, usually, we get into chalu dabba.
But there was no chance to get in general this time, long queues of men and women made us replan our strategy.
We returned to the ticket counter. The train had left the station when 5th fellow arrived.
We caught the train to Elphinstone Road. Walked some 15 minutes in the west to a place crowded with long private buses on both the side of roads.
We got a deal for Rs. 250 per person in one of the private bus which was scheduled to leave at 11:30 PM. Placed our luggage on the bus and went down to fill our rations. Bought instant noodles which we generally use during night camping, some biscuits, wafers, and jaljira.
Gulping the Falooda
Just as Rajkumar and I ordered two glass of Faluda on the other side of the road, we heard the honk of our bus. Falooda is an item which needs time to enjoy it. We just gulped down our throat almost freezing our teeth 🙂
It was 2:30 AM, the bus stopped for a refreshment near Talegaon. Deep dark night, silence spread all over, cool breeze washing the surrounding and you in the midst of hustle sipping your chai.
|Night break near Talegaon|
Back on the bus, all fell asleep except me. My eyes were fixed in the blind darkness of the night and my face was caressed by cold winds. At 6 AM we were at Satara bus depot, it is 15-20 minutes drive from Satara railway station.
Missed the morning bus from Satara
We could have caught the first bus from Satara to Bamnoli village had the bus was not late by half an hour. Next bus was at 8:30 AM.
I could see things moving out of the plan. Hiring a tum tum or auto was a costly affair. Usually, they charge 1500 from Satara to Bamnoli.
So we had around 2 hours now, we decided to freshen ourselves. Entered toilets at the bus depot and got in the queue. There were around 6 latrines, all were engaged.
To the surprise when I checked none of the toilets had kundi. Next moment Babubhai from Hera Pheri was speaking to us that ‘andar kundi nahi hai re, jaane ka to gaana gaana padta hai’
Scenic route towards Bamnoli:
We were ready for the bus. The bus arrived at the stop 8:25 AM, conductor charged Rs.39/person. We got seats easily, it wasn’t crowded. The fare was much worth than its price. In less than 15 minutes, bricks and iron started changing into wood and grass. To my surprise, the grass was green on both the sides 🙂 We sat and wowed dumb folded every minute of the journey. In 45 minutes, we were in Bamnoli village. The tragedy was to arrive.
|Landscape enroute Bamnoli village|
|Landscape enroute Bamnoli village|
The village, as usual, was calm with slow but eye-catching movements of village folks and animals. It was clean and pretty managed with hospitals, small Dhaba, shops, and public toilet.
Right where the bus stops there is a small Dhaba. We asked a lightly built dark moustache man where we would get the forest department permissions for Vasota fort. Unke jawab ne pura Vasota gira diya hamare sir par. He said Vasota remains closed from July to October.
As said earlier I could see things moving out of the plan. I am not boasting, but my group is somewhat different than others. We don’t give up easily instead hunt for other possibilities.
I asked the Sarpanch if not Vasota what are the other options for us. I struck him right. He said although launches i.e. boats are not allowed for passengers he can arrange one which will take to adjoining forest actually farther than Vasota. Boat will wait for 4 hours and bring us back to the village. Total he said it would cost Rs 2500 for all.
We accepted it and got ready. Towards the lake, another group from Navi Mumbai was there with the same plan. We asked them if they want to join us. They agreed. Total 12 people for all Rs 2500 including to and fro. All of us settled in the boat. It was a diesel engine boat. With the nice speed, we went farther and farther enjoying the splendid view of the lake and hills on all side. It took around 2 hours before we were at
All of us settled in the boat. It was a diesel engine boat. With the nice speed, we went farther and farther enjoying the splendid view of the lake and hills on all side. It took around 2 hours before we were at the lakeside.
|Landscape from the hill we climbed|
|Fishermen in Vasota lake|
|View of the lake|
Now, we didn’t have any destination. So where to go? Selected one hill and started climbing. We took 1.5 hours to reach the top of the hill. Another group from Navi Mumbai started from somewhere else but soon took our route. Started descending which is difficult if the terrain is slippery.
Lunch in Bamnoli:
We were back to the boat and our return journey started. In another 1.5 hours of boat ride we are at Bamnoli village. We went straight to sarpanch hotel and ordered our 3 veg and 3 non-veg thali. Veg thali had 2 rice bhakri, rice, dal, achar, papad and one very spicy mutter sing nariyal sabji. The food was nice and non-veg people had gaavti kombdi and rest the veg materials.
|Veg meal at sarpanch’s hotel|
|Ducks walking near Sarpanch hotel in Bamnoli|
Now it was 5 PM, we asked sarpanch if he can lend a room in his small 2 BHK hotel for bathing and refreshing ourselves. He agreed for Rs 100. The room was clean and it was pretty close on the other side of the road. Cold bath brought us back to life. Gaurav aka Kandi and Saurabh aka Inu had to return to Mumbai same day. They caught the last bus from Bamnoli to Satara at 5:30 pm
Camping in Bamnoli:
It seemed that I would catch fever by night, so I was resting. Meanwhile Amit, Rajkumar and Sachin went out to look for a camping spot. They got an extremely flat and soft land for camping. Returned room keys and went out for camping.We had half an hour for setting up camp and settling down before the place becomes dark. Also, we had to bring wood and stones for fire and cooking our meal. Luckily setting up our tent didn’t take much time meanwhile two people brought nice dry tree branches enough to cook our meal.
|Wonderful dusk view clicked from our camp site|
|Tent ready 🙂|
Placed our bag in the tent and started efforts to light the fire. Placed three stones in a circular formation to make a stove. Placed the Kadhai on top of the stones. Slid soft leaves and thin branches which would catch fire easily. Used lighter for setting up the fire. Poured water with instant noodles in the kadhai. In 15 minutes, our meal was ready.
Apart from noodles, we had placed 6-7 pieces of potato and 3 onions in the burning wood. It was all dark there and it is suggested to keep a check around the place for snakes and scorpions. Who cares when your stomach is empty finished noodles, potatoes, and onions which were as heavenly as usual. Cleaned up the fire and went inside our tents.
|Cooking our meal in the wild|
|Cooking our meal in the wild|
|Cooking our meal in the wild|
|bhune hue aloo aur pyaj slurrrp|
My fever was rising so took a Paracetamol and placed myself in the corner of the tent. Time was passing hard.
Clear whispering winds roughing with our tents sometimes gave us a feel of some animals roaming around our tent. The dark night was making it scarier. After the first round of sleep, all woke up and were surprised to check that it was only 12 AM. Whole night was ahead.
We came out of the tent to take a feel of the lonely night. We could see bright stars in the sky gazing at us. Small river stream next to our tent rushing with soul satisfying sound. It seemed as the whole world had wrapped itself in a black blanket. Went back in the tent and rest of the night passed peacefully. It was 6 AM we went with bottles to clean our bowels in the wild. After some photo sessions, we started packing up.
Review of our camping:
It is quite safe to camp near Bamnoli village. Just watch for reptiles. Villagers are quite a helpful approach them for any problem. Basic provision stores are present in the village.
If you do not have a tent, there is a big godown like structure just after the public toilet. The verandah was quite big and I feel it’s safe to stay there. Just inform the Sarpanch he is very approachable. Parking of personal vehicles is not a problem there.
|Morning view from our camping site|
We made sure everything was clean from our camping spot. My fever was still there. We went back to the sarpanch hotel. Drank two cup chai, it was wow. Next bus was at 10:30 AM. In Satara, I visited an old retired doctor. He syringed me with his old shaking hands 🙂 Mind it, it’s difficult to find a doctor in Satara.
What to bring from Satara:
Kandi pede is a speciality of Satara. I found it very nice. One can purchase kandi pede from shops near the bus depot. Private bus from Satara runs only in the night and the next State Transport bus was at 1:30 PM. ST bus is costly they charged 390 per person. It’s always in our priority that the journey ends safe and we were back home after a nice trek and night camping.
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