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Dronagiri Fort in Uran

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dronagiri - The Delayed Trip
The Dronagiri Hill on which the fort is located, sadly the fortification can't be seen from here

Now you would be curious to know, why I am saying so. Read on.

The temperature was rising by the day so wanted to do a easy trek. I started my research on Google for the same. I came across a fort named Dronagiri in Uran. There is not much information available on it. A blog on Dronagiri by Ashutosh Bijoor helped me with directions to visit this fort.

As always I didn't put the event on Facebook, I like travelling in a small group, so I ask my friends. Manohar Chari volunteered to join me.

Manohar is an avid trekker who has been trekking the Sahayadri's for the last 20 years.

We decided to take the services of the train and ST bus to visit Dronagiri.

I decided to board the harbour line train to Panvel from Andheri. As there is no direct train to Panvel in the morning, I had to switch trains at Vadala Station. I boarded the 6:05 AM train to Vadala Station from Andheri, to reach Vadala Station at 6:34 AM.

I was on time at Vadala Station, but the harbour line trains were delayed by 10 minutes. I was to board the 6:38 AM train to Panvel. Manohar was to board the same train at Chembur at 6:53 AM.

Fortification and Entrance to Dronagiri Fort
Now there was another train scheduled for Panvel at 6:42 AM from Vadala Station. As the trains were running late, the Station Master made an announcement that, the 6:42 AM train will depart first. The moment he finished with the announcement the train had already left the station.  

How stupid on the part of the motorman, at least he should wait for one to two minutes, so that the people on the other platforms can make it on time. I went running over the bridge from platform no.1 to platform no.2. But before I could alight on platform no.2 the train had already left. First count of delay. Grrr.

This was the start of the delayed effect. Before I could convey my train status to Manohar, he had already boarded the train to Panvel. So we decided to meet at Panvel. The train I was in, reached Panvel at 7:44 AM.

We finally met, face to face at Panvel. Without wasting any time, we headed off to the ST bus stand as we had to board the bus to Uran.

Panvel ST Bus Stand is a crazy place. Always full of people as there are buses plying to various places across Maharashra from there. It is a prime junction.

We made inquiries at the reception in regards to the bus to Uran and as to where it is going to depart. The time was now 8 AM on my watch.
Church like structure in the fort premises
The crowd was gathering, but there was no sign of the bus.  The time was 8:45 AM on my watch, the bus finally arrived, people rushed to board the bus. Looking at the crowd outside and the crowd inside we had to take a decision, whether to board the bus or not. We exercised our decision to board the bus as we were not sure when the next bus would come. Second instance of delay.  There was not much crowd inside the bus and we managed to get a place to stand and later a place to sit.

As we were unaware as to where to alight we decided
to ask the bus conductor, for the closest stop to the fort. He too was unaware about it, but later asked the people around and told us to a light at the Uran Bus Stand. The hill next to it was the Drongiri Fort hill. The ticket cost us Rs. 60 for two.

Manohar was suggesting travelling by car to Uran. Five of us would have made the journey economical and saved time. As it was just the two of us, we traveled by ST bus.

I got the window seat, The view was nice. The first thing I noticed was the blue sky. I could find no trace of clouds. The next thing I noticed was the container trucks. They were all over the place.  The JNPT port is nearby hence the population of the trucks was on the rise. In a distance we could see huge go-downs where most of the trucks were heading.

The area around Uran has been taken up by CIDCO, who is looking into the development of this place. The quality of the roads is good and they have erected bus stops all over the place. The bus stops were crowded with people.

The driver as always rode the bus as if he was driving a Formula One Car making it difficult to take photos as we were swaying in all directions. Finally we reached the Bus Stand at Uran at 9:25 AM.

View of Uran and Mumbai City in a distance from atop the fort
The area we were in is called Dronagiri. Though we were near it, we could see no fortification.

We had snacks in the form of Masala Dosa and Sada Dosa. Sugarcane juice to beat the heat. The breakfast expenses came up to Rs. 60.

We inquired with the locals for directions to the fort. They all gave the same instructions. We crossed the base village and in a matter of ten minutes we were climbing up the hill. The time was now 9:50 AM on my watch.

There are no indicators for directions uphill. Most of the time we were walking on the edge of the hill. The walking path was a feet wide but comprised of loose soil or mud or rocky patch. The climb was not steep but was steadily rising. We were circling the hill as we were climbing up. Termed as "pai wat" by the villagers.

As there was neither sign of human nor any indicator we kept climbing. Finally we were lost. It was now two hours and it hardly takes around 45 minutes to reach the top. Third instance of delay.

We sat there overlooking the ONGC chemical plant. When suddenly I heard voices. I couldn't see anyone. "I am not hallucinating" I said to myself. After a couple of minutes we could locate people.

When inquired with them, they informed us that we had taken the wrong route.  "Wrong route, then which is the correct route" I asked them. To which one of the guys replied that we need to start climbing uphill and not circling the hill.

Temple created in one of the walls of the fort
Frankly speaking all the pai wat's appeared the same. So we were not sure. I then asked them if they were going uphill to which I got an affirmative answer. "Lay avgad ahe, tumhala nahi zamnar" meaning the route is difficult and that we could not be able to make it to the top. The villagers were cutting trees with axes for firewood.

We again started our journey back to find the place where the road divides into two. We took our chances and decided to climb uphill and finally came across a group of black colored wires going down the hill. We decided to follow the wires and in a matter of 30 minutes we were atop.

We could locate a check post. The checkpost was manned by two CRF jawans who are constantly in touch with the ONGC base. The view from the checkpost was amazing. One can see the ONGC plant, Uran village, the sea and city of Mumbai in a distance.  In earlier days we had a watchtower which is now replaced by checkpost but the prime reason why it was constructed is the same. To keep a watch.

We had a good chat with the jawans and inquired about the places to visit atop the fort. To which they replied that there is a structure that resembles a church and a temple atop it with a few broken down walls around.

The fortification can be seen from the checkpost. There was a small entrance to the fort. In the premises of the fortification I could locate a small church like structure which had graffiti all over it. Still not able to understand what sadistic pleasure people get in writing their names on these structures. The structure was made primarily of stone with a few bricks used in its construction. Again it offered a good view of Uran and the city of Mumbai in a distance. 

We then walked on the walls of the fort to see it. Though there is nothing much to see up here. We then reached the temple which was carved in one of the walls of the fort. A few stairs from there lead to nowhere. We walked for a couple of minutes, a series of pai wat's all over the place. The time was now 1 PM on my watch. We headed back to the church like structure to take our much needed rest before we alight.

As we sat there we discussed, how the city of Mumbai and Uran would have looked had we come here 20 years ago. How I wish to travel back in time to see it then.
The walls of the well that be fooled me to think it is the fortification

The journey downhill was fast. Soon we noticed that the pai wat divided into two. One going straight down and the other wining around the hill. Like always we took the wrong path and walked on. Fourth instance. 

As we were walking I suddenly saw Manohar jump in the valley. The sight of it had my heart racing. I immediately rushed in, he managed to hold on to the branch of a tree. He was surrounded by thorny shrubs and loose rocks which made his climb upwards a bit difficult.

Finally he did come up by himself. I just gave him a helping hand as he was surrounded by cactus and thorny shrubs. He then told me that he didn't deliberately jump in the valley but he was pushing aside a branch of a tree, so that he could pass through but when he let go of it, it bounced back and pushed him off the track. 

We continued with our journey, after a couple of minutes we met up with the same people we had met while we were climbing the cliff. They told us that again we are descending the wrong way. O God. Not again I said to myself. As they were heading back to the village they told us to follow them.

Most of them had a bundles of wooden sticks stacked on their heads. They were bare footed and they walked down the pai wat. They were so fast that we lost track of them. Again we were lost.

Finally we met up with the black colored wires. Refuelled our bodies with food and water and then headed downhill.

For a change, we were on the right track. In a matter of 30 minutes we were at the base of the cliff.

We were enjoying the nice shade of the mango trees and the breeze. In a distance we could locate a stone structure. I thought it is the fortication; we immediately headed off to see it.

To my surprise it was a well. It was very deep and I saw a few village girls drawing water from it. There was no wall around it. So if you taking photos, be careful. 

We then headed off to the ST bus stand to board a bus to Panvel. Now there were two buses there, one plying to Dadar and the other to Panvel. I boarded the one to Panvel while Manohar boarded the one to Dadar as his knees had given up. The time was 4 PM on my watch.

Fifth Instance. The Panvel bound bus, it got stuck in traffic. I was stuck in traffic for around an hour and a half . Finally at 6:15 PM I was at Panvel ST Bus stand. 

Finally in the train to Andheri. Had I not been late on those five instances then I would have been home by now. But it is okay, I have learnt from my mistakes.


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