Sondai Fort – Range Trek Part 1

This post is the first of a two-part series.
Part I describes our monsoon trek to Sondai fort & part II chronicles
our trek to Matheran via Rambaug point, attempted later that day.

#52: Complete guide to Sondai fort trek and Matheran via Rambaug point

We had been climbing at a good pace after the clearing and left the crowd some way behind. The trail, now traversing the south west face of Sondai fort, had narrowed down to barely a foot wide. On our left, the hill rose sharply while the valley on our right, disappeared just as rapidly into the nothingness of fog. We decided to take a breather. Right then, a strong gust of wind blew across the hill.

The blanket of fog surrounding us promptly parted to reveal a lush green Katwan valley, shimmering in the diffused morning light. A little distance ahead, multiple bright beams of sunlight were streaking through the clouds to illuminate the brilliant blue stream. To its left, the majestic Morbe reservoir, tranquil as always, completed the spectacle by gently blending into the pastel blue sky at the horizon. And we stood there mesmerized.

How often does one come across a landscape so beautiful that no word or gadget could possibly do justice to it?
In the Sahyadris, turns out, quite often!

Come along as I take you through another beautiful trek from the archives of ‘A Season of Mountains’ Sondai fort and Matheran via Rambaug Point!

person standing on Sondai fort
Tejas looks down from the precipice of Sondai Fort.

Table Of Contents

Essential Information about Sondai fort & Matheran via Rambaug point
How to reach Sondai fort
GPX file
Backstory of the trek
Trek day!
Additional reading

Know before you go for the Sondai fort & Matheran via Rambaug Point treks

Where: Sondai fort & Matheran via Rambaug Point
Type: Hill trek
Base village:
Sondewadi–  18°56’53.34″N, 73°17’20.44″E;
Pokharwadi–  18°56’25.53″N, 73°16’44.52″E
Range: Matheran
Region: Karjat
Nearest railway stations: Karjat rly. station (Central railway)- 12.5 km &
Panvel rly. station (Harbour railway)- 30 km

Best time to visit: Monsoon (June-September) & Winter (November-February)
USP: 1. Sondai fort: Beginner-friendly trek near Karjat;
2. Matheran via Rambaug point: One of the lesser known trails to Matheran.

Difficulty: Moderate+ (prior experience of Moderate grade treks is recommended.)
Endurance: 4 (long distance trek with considerable elevation gain/loss.)
Risk Factor: Low

Note: Read more about the Grades.

Our Route: Karjat – Sondewadi – Sondai fort – Sondewadi – Pokharwadi – Burujwadi – Rambaug pt.-Matheran – Neral

Matheran region map
A map created specifically for Sondai fort & Matheran via Rambaug Point range trek.

GPS trail link: You can also download the GPX files of the treks from my Wikiloc & Ramblr profiles.
Total distance: Approx. 15.5 km
Total time: 9.5 hours
Total active time: 6.45 hours
Max. Elevation of the trek: 2637 ft. / 804 m above MSL
Min. Elevation of the trek: 276 ft. / 84 m above MSL
Total Elevation Gain: Approx. 4200 ft.
Total Elevation Loss: Approx. 2300 ft.

How to reach Sondewadi/Pokharwadi using Public transport:

  • From Mumbai, board any Karjat/Khopoli-bound local train and alight at Karjat. You can also travel by any Pune-bound Express scheduled to halt at Karjat.
  • From Karjat ST depot, board any ST bus passing through Chowk (Panvel, Chowk, Rasayani or Murbad) or hop into a shared TumTum and alight at Borgaon phata. Either mode of transport will cost you ₹15 per seat. From Borgaon Phata, it’s a 4 km walk to Pokharwadi & 6 km to Sondewadi along the metalled road.
  • Alternatively, groups of 3 or more trekkers can hire an entire cab or 6-seater auto (locally known as TumTum) for the base village. One way fare is usually between ₹ 250 to 400 depending on the day of the week (weekends see greater footfall and consequently, higher fares) & your bargaining skills. This will save you an hour of walking before the trek.  
    Note: There is no direct ST bus service for Sondewadi/Pokharwadi village from Karjat ST stand.

Directions from base villages:

1. Sondai fort trek from Sondewadi: From Sondewadi, turn right along a kuchcha road heading in the fort’s direction. About 300 m from the hamlet, look out for a broad trail forking out from the right side of the road. This trail climbs up a gentle plateau before turning left towards the fort. An easy rock patch is followed by a slightly exposed traverse across the western face of the fort. A U-turn after the traverse leads to the shoulder of the hill. Two sturdy ladders installed over tricky rock patches near the top make this is an ideal trek for beginners. Descend by the same path.

2. Matheran via Rambaug point trek from Pokharwadi: From Pokharwadi, walk past the concrete bridge over Katwan stream and climb up a trail on your right side. This trail merges with a kuccha road that extends to Burujwadi. A trail originates from the paddy fields opposite wadi and joins the trail from Borichi Gaani (Dhangarwada) at the base of Rambaug spur. Turn left and climb along the spur to reach Chowki, a tiled bench on the periphery of Rambaug forest. From Chowki, the trail cuts through dense forest to gently climb up the cliff and end at the Rambaug point viewing gallery. You can board a narrow gauge train for Aman Lodge from Matheran or walk all the way to Dasturi Naka (approx. 5 km) from Rambaug Point.

Our Itinerary:

0815 hoursReached Karjat
0900 hoursHired a Cab for Sondewadi
0930 hoursReached Sondewadi
1030 hoursReached top of Sondai fort
1200 hoursDescended back to Sondewadi
1415 hoursReached Burujwadi after lunch break
1620 hoursReached Chowki
1745 hoursReached Rambaug point
1900 hoursReached Dasturi Naka

Our expenses:

Two-way ticket between CSMT & Karjat:₹ 50/head
Breakfast at Karjat:     ₹ 50/head
Cab (Eeco) fare to Sondewadi from Karjat:   ₹ 400/4
Lunch at Pokharwadi:       ₹ 40/head  
Cab fare for Neral: ₹ 80/head
Total       ₹ 320/head

Food and Water: Food and water are available at Pokharwadi, Sondewadi and Matheran. Water cisterns on Sondai fort may or may not have potable water. Note: Always purify water before drinking from natural sources.
Accommodation: Overnight accommodation can be arranged in the schools or houses in Sondewadi, Pokharwadi and Burujwadi. Alternatively, you can stay/camp in Matheran after the trek.

Alternative Routes:
Wavarle gaon to Sondai fort: There exists another slightly longer trail to the fort from Wavarle gaon, 2 km south of Sondai. From the village, walk down to Wavarle dam and continue north to reach Wavarle Thakarwadi. Cross a small hillock and a seasonal stream to reach the clearing where it joins the trail from Sondewadi.[1]


  1. Hyperlinks are highlighted in blue and open in a new tab.
  2. You can also download this section as a PDF for easy offline reference
    2.1 Sondai fort-Information PDF
    Rambaug point trek-Information PDF
  3. All the pictures used in this post have been clicked by my friends or me, unless stated otherwise.
  4. This post is for informational purposes only. Any reliance you place on the information is therefore, strictly at your own risk. For full Disclaimer, Content policy & Copyright information, please read Terms of Use.

After an abrupt end to the 4th Season Of Mountains due to my recurring ACL injury, I took a 6 month-long break from trekking to help my knee recover completely.
A couple of moderate-grade treks into the 5th Season and I was itching to take things a notch above but the question remained — would my troublesome knee ever be able to stand up to the rigours of a demanding trek again?
This two-part series narrates one of the most significant & beautiful range treks of mine; one that laid the foundation for an epic Season down the line — Sondai fort & Matheran via Rambaug point!

The Gang: Abhishek, Manish, Tejas & Me

The Aftermath Of Chanderi Trek

chanderi fort massif photograph
Krunal and I climb a rock patch on our way to Chanderi cave.

On our way back from the Chanderi fort trek, I could barely stand without wincing, such was my knee’s condition. Now trekking with niggles is almost unavoidable, but to trek with a barely healed Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) of the right knee was imprudent, even by my usual foolhardy standards.

The constant fear of aggravating the injury took the very joy out of the experience. That, coupled with the grim realisation that it could cause long-term, irreversible damage made me sit up and take notice. ACL injuries are notorious for their slow healing and recurring nature. However, with the perils of a rushed recovery still fresh in my memory, I decided to focus on the process instead of the timeline and on this note, began the long, arduous journey to complete recovery.

Six Months Of Perseverance

Even before starting my physiotherapy sessions, I knew they were going to be painful but nothing, I repeat, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer torture they actually were! Simple, repetitive motions seem easy until one adds muscle imbalance, a history of injuries and a general lack of flexibility to the mix!

Exercises I struggled to complete a set of, workouts that left me with aching muscles I didn’t even know existed and stretches that made my eyes tear up from sheer discomfort—it was a humbling experience, albeit a necessary one. It made me appreciate the gift that is the human body and how one should not take the simple pleasures of life like walking pain-free, for granted.

After countless sessions over 5 months, my knee was finally strong enough to do most activities without inhibition. The temptation to rush things was strong but I held back. It was May, the peak of summer in Mumbai. “Another month and even the rains would be back. What an experience it would be to trek in monsoons after so long!”, I told myself and kept persevering.

The 5th Season Of Mountains!

A couple of weeks into June, Monsoon finally arrived in the island city and we like the proverbial frogs preparing to come out of hibernation, started looking for a Moderate-grade trek to get the 5th Season Of Mountains going.

Note: Curious about what exactly is ‘A Season of Mountains’? Head over to the ‘About’ page to know me and the blog better!

After careful consideration, we decided on Manikgad, a beautiful fort atop an expansive plateau in the Chowk region. Its unique location, overlooking the strategically important stretch from Karnala to Prabalgad, made it an important stronghold for armies looking to control the region.

Manikgad, partly obscured by clouds, dwarfs my friends during our first trek of the 5th Season Of Mountains in June ’18.

Manikgad trek, at roughly 16 km to and from Washivali, was on the higher side of endurance but my knee wasn’t the least bit sore. Encouraged, I started planning for another one with the Gang and a couple of weeks later, we were off to Takmak fort— a Moderate grade trek in the Palghar region.

The Gang (L-R: Abhi, Bhakti, Harshada, Shardul, Tejas, Manish, Mansi and Akshay) rests during the Takmak fort trek in July ’18.

With a couple of treks under my belt and the knee feeling even better, I was toying with the idea of doing a slightly more challenging trek. A multi-day outing was out of question because of our jam-packed schedules but then there weren’t many higher grade, single-day treks closer home that we hadn’t already attempted.

Note: You can find a non-exhaustive list of treks I have done on the ‘Trek List page.

I was at my wits end. Everyone was doing their bit and suggesting treks one after the other but none seemed feasible or exciting enough.

Sasta Ghajini

Frustrated, I was scanning through my archives for a potential trek we might have overlooked when I came across a decade-old video at Rambaug point from my very first trip to Matheran!

Damn! How did I forget the Rambaug point trek? It was there in plain sight! Maybe it was there in plain sight!  Maybe it’s time to get the trek names tattooed on my body…

Err.. maybe not such a good idea after all…

The Matheran Quest

Matheran was first explored in 1850 by Hugh Poyntz Malet, then District Collector of Thane (Thana, back then) [2a] and was subsequently developed as a hill station. The name is supposedly derived from how the tribals described it to Malet— ‘Mathe par Raan hai’ (There’s Jungle at the Top) [2b].

I first visited Matheran in the winter of ’10-’11 with Hitesh and Sudarshan. Back then, Aman Lodge had only one platform, most hotels were only a couple of storeys high and one could still walk around the hill station without bumping into someone for hours on end.

two person standing at Aman lodge station
Hitesh (right) & I pose near Aman Lodge station during our first trip to Matheran in 2010.

As I kept returning to Matheran over the years, the swelling crowds pushed me away from the mainland and towards the isolated trails on the periphery, commonly used by native people from the valleys. The more I explored these trails with my friends, the more I fell in love with them, ultimately leading to what has now become ‘The Matheran Quest’. 

There are over 30 designated viewpoints all over the hill station, of which about a dozen-odd have non-technical trails connecting them with the valleys. Each of these trails serves a different purpose— the gentler ones like Dodhani-Sunset pt. trail are used to haul up goods from the villages; the steeper ones (Umbernewadi-Pisarnath ladder trail) provide a quicker way to reach the hill station while some others (Postman’s shortcut) have extensive history behind them.

Rambaug pt., located on the eastern cliff of mainland Matheran, is famous for providing a splendid view of Garbett plateau at sunrise. The Rambaug trail, originating from Pokharwadi in the Katwan valley, was one of the handful non-technical Matheran trails I hadn’t ever attempted, until then.

But there was a caveat— while tracing the route on Google Earth, I realised that the trail from Pokharwadi to Dasturi Naka is barely 11 km long. The 3000 ft. of elevation gain put this on par with Manikgad trek in terms of endurance and I was looking for something slightly more testing. I voiced this dilemma to the Gang and Mansi almost instinctively suggested combining it with Sondai fort!

Sondai fort, situated in the same valley, rises to 1601 ft. above MSL and was used as a watchtower by the armies to keep an eye over the region along with Irshalgad. The distance between base villages & the trail to and fro Sondai would add another 5 km and 1000 ft. of elevation gain and loss to the overall stats. Bingo! We had another range trek on our hands. 😀

Madiha and I climb up the Alexander spur with Rambaug Spur and Sondai fort in the background.

I worked out the finer details after going through a couple of books[3] and blogposts and the following Sunday was agreed upon for the trek. A couple of friends had to back out due to personal commitments, leaving four of us (Abhi, Manish, Tejas & me) in the final lineup for the trek while Shardul was going to be the all-important backup*.

Regular readers of the blog would already be familiar with these crazy fellows, having featured earlier in the Gambhirnath caves trek & Garbett pt. trek posts . If you are a new visitor, head over to ‘Meet the Gang’ page to get a quick lowdown on them.

*Backup– A person not part of the trekking team but well versed with the region and the tentative schedule of the trek.

(L-R: Tejas, Abhi, Me & Manish) One of the few non-trek pictures of ours, clicked at Marine Drive, Mumbai.


The evening before the trek, I went about my usual routine— creating a trail map, packing enough food to last an Apocalypse, jotting down emergency contacts and explaining our schedule in minute detail to Shardul, before hitting the bed that night.

The typical pre-trek excitement had me up till late and I don’t exactly remember when I fell asleep, but I sure as hell remember waking up to a clear sky in the morning— always a good omen when it comes to treks! 😀

Manish, unlike other times when he would stay over at Abhi’s place before a trek, was going to travel all the way from Vasai. If he missed his train in the morning, the entire plan would go askew. So the first thing I did was to check if he was up and about.

He answered my call in a low tone and for a second, I feared if he was still sleeping. Far from it, in fact! He was trying to reach the rly. station without waking up the ferocious packs of dogs who are always on the prowl to attack anyone who dares step out at ungodly hours.

Aah, that’s all?” I said, relieved.
“And here I was worried you would sleep through the alarms and not make it to the trek on time! See you in the train.” and hung up. Yeah, that’s how our conversations usually go. 😛

With that out of the way, I packed up and left my place grooving to 90s Indipop songs around half past 6. By then, Manish and Abhi had already boarded our usual coach— second from the CSMT side, of the Karjat-bound local from Dadar & Ghatkopar, respectively.

The train was fairly crowded when I boarded it and I just about managed to find myself some space to stand while we caught up with the developments after Takmak fort trek. Over on the other side of the city, Tejas had already boarded a bus for Karjat from Panvel ST depot. Clockwork perfect!

The crowd thinned out gradually and I grabbed one of the coveted window seats as the train curved round the green landscape of Neral. I looked out of the window and saw the familiar hills passing by— hills I had called home over the last 5 years, the Five Seasons Of Mountains 🙂  

The extension of Matheran range, as seen from the train near Karjat rly. station.

The Rendezvous At Karjat

The train ambled into Karjat railway station at a quarter past 8 and we alighted on platform 2, only to be hypnotised by the aroma of spicy coconut chutney and batata vada of Karjat. Tejas joined us 5 minutes later and the gluttons that we are, breakfast in the railway canteen was a foregone conclusion!

A short while later, we walked out of the station from the east side and were immediately swarmed by drivers trying to almost manhandle us into their cabs. Barely 100 metres from the Khopoli-side exit, there’s a taxi stand lined with Autorickshaws, TumTums (6-seater autorickshaws) and Cabs.

Karjat being a hotbed for trekkers, drivers often quote exorbitant rates, especially on weekend mornings. Based on our previous travels, the fare for the 11 km drive to Sondewadi is usually between ₹ 250 to 400, depending on the vehicle and day of the week. That day being a Sunday, we had to settle at the higher end of that range and at exactly 9 o clock, we were zooming past the traffic in a Maruti Eeco.

The route to Sondewadi passes through the Karjat-Murbad road and turns right at Borgaon Phata. Barely 300 metres from the phata, the road climbs up to pass over a short bridge. If you are a RailFan like me, you just cannot afford to miss this sight— a single track of the Karjat-Panvel railway line cuts through the terrain & under the road bridge, creating an amazing frame! Every time we pass through this stretch, we try and get down for a minute or two to capture the sight.

I look down on the Karjat-Panvel railway line during one of my previous treks.

Once we passed Borgaon, the Matheran range, draped in clouds, started rising above the landscape. The metalled road passes very close to the Morbe Dam reservoir at a number of places and at such one turn, we were so smitten by the sight in front of us that we asked driver kaka to stop the cab right there. The tires mustn’t have even skidded to a halt when Manish slid open the door and the two of us bolted out before Abhi and Tejas could even comprehend what was happening!

Maybe it was the patch of green stretching into the blue waters or the hills mirrored in the reservoir or maybe it was just plain ol’ craziness which doesn’t have a rhyme or reason, but the next instant, two nutheads could be seen streaking across the grassland, towards the edge untilwe realised that our shoes were sinking deeper in the soil with every stride!

Underneath the striking green grass, was a shallow marsh and it required tremendous coordination from our ungainly limbs to somehow make it to the solid ground near reservoir. We looked back at the patch but there was no way we could have known there was a marsh without running into it. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. Our backsides, from neck down, were completely covered in mud, leaving us looking more like hippos than humans, albeit happy ones! 😉

Left in a fix as neither of us had a spare set of clothes to change into (lesson learnt), we went full desi and walked over to the shallow edges of the reservoir to clean our tees and trackpants!

That’s me washing the tee & trying to hide my face from the stream of passing vehicles 😛

And just when we were admiring the mess we had got ourselves into, appeared Tejas like one of those actors from the Tide Detergent ads with his sparkling white tee. Having seen us kick up a storm of mud, he carefully avoided the marsh and very innocently asked us to click a picture of him. *facepalm!*

Clouds wrap Matheran as Tejas poses at the edge of Morbe Dam reservoir.

Nevertheless, armed with another interesting tale to recount, we walked back smiling to the cab where Abhi, who had stayed put in the cab along with driver kaka, shook his head in resigned amusement as we clambered into the back seats with soaking wet clothes.

A short distance before Pokharwadi, the metalled road splits into two— the straight one proceeds to Ambewadi, base of the One Tree hill trek while the right one climbs uphill to Sondewadi at an elevation of 650 ft. The cab turned right and grunted up the steep winding road to reach the wadi surrounded by towering hills.

photo of sondewadi
Sondewadi, base of Sondai fort, captured later that day.

We usually plan and choose our treks to avoid huge crowds— which basically rules out popular treks on weekends. Unfortunately left with no alternative this time round, we had braced ourselves for a bit of a crowd but nothing like what we actually saw at Sondewadi that day! A group of 20-odd people standing right next to the cab was just one of the several commercial groups waiting in the wadi.

A little dejected, we got off the cab, paid ₹ 400 to driver kaka and thanked him for being patient with our antics during the drive. Determined not to be bogged down, we looked up at our destination for the first half of the day— Sondai Fort and started the trek.

Climb On!

A kuchcha road turns right from Sondewadi and proceeds east towards the fort. The initial stretch was flat and we started off with a good pace, weaving in and out of large groups walking leisurely towards the fort.

About 5 minutes from the wadi, the road took a gentle U-turn to the left. On our right side was a broad, rocky trail climbing up the plateau. This rocky trail turns into a mini stream of sorts during heavy rainfall and the jagged rocks can be a handful during slippery conditions, hence caution is advised.

photo of sondai fort trek route
Top: The kuchcha road from Sondewadi; Bottom: A rocky trail forks out near the U-turn.

The trail is lined on either side by a dense stretch of trees that eventually gives way to a big clearing with an unimpeded view of the Sondai fort. At the centre of the clearing stands a tall tree and the trail from Wavarle gaon merges here with the Sondewadi trail.

The Wavarle gaon trail joins Sondewadi trail near the tree in the clearing.

It had started drizzling lightly by the time we reached the clearing. Considering the number of trekkers behind us, we thought it best not to spend too much time there and quickly turned left towards the fort.

The trail climbs up sharply through a thin forest section and disappears into a steep, smooth slab of rock with footholds. These footholds are what remains of the rock cut steps that must have been carved into the hill during its yesteryears. The rock patch is easy but flexible shoes with a soft, lugged outsole (Trekking shoes by Action & Coasters, for example) would be an asset on this section of the trek.

The group in front of us was fairly large in number and from what I could make out, a little apprehensive, given the conditions. If we had waited for our turn, it would have taken another 15-odd minutes at the minimum, so we started climbing up slightly away from the main trail, using the natural notches and tiny crimps in the rock instead.

Top: A large group of trekkers wait their turn at the easy rock patch of Sondai fort; Bottom: Manish walks past an arrow drawn near the trail.

The rock patch was followed by a steep mud trail with earthen steps on steep sections made specifically for monsoons, when increased footfall deteriorates the trail quickly. The trail continued to climb straight up the hill before turning right to traverse the western face.

The View

We had been climbing at a fast clip all this while and as soon as the trail levelled out, stopped to take a breather.

An instant later, strong winds started blowing across the face. The fog around us cleared out to reveal the lush green valley below, coated by a fresh layer of dew, shimmering in the diffused light while a bright beam of sunlight illuminated a tiny patch of the brilliant blue waters. The reservoir, resembling the South American continent, looked like it was blending into the sky at the horizon.

We savoured the magical sight for a fleeting second before dark clouds moved back in from the left, slowly eclipsing the window in the sky and a short while later, the valley itself.

A humble attempt at capturing the scene, moments after ‘The View’.

A distant chatter interrupted the silence around us. We looked back and saw a few trekkers appear round the corner— this was our cue to start moving again.

The trail continues along the face to reach the southernmost edge of the hill, where a sharp U-turn over an easy rock patch leads to the shoulder. On the left of the rock patch is another sign of fortification— water cisterns. It is said that the locals used to fetch water from these cisterns during peak summer before Morbe Dam was built.

water cistern on sondai fort
Top: The easy rock patch near shoulder; Bottom: Manish stands near the twin water cisterns.

The Ladder Saga

I looked up from the rock patch; a horde of trekkers was bustling around the narrow shoulder of the hill and beyond them, were the famous orange ladders of the fort. 

Manish, Abhi & Tejas near the twin ladders of Sondai

Now, I’d like to address something slightly controversial here— in recent times, many treks have been permanently altered by the installation of ladders by authorities. Don’t misunderstand me— I have absolutely no objection to making trails safer but what pains me is seeing a number of ladders installed on benign, easy rock patches— the kind where the only thing that can get hurt is someone’s ego! :/

We have already lost some beautiful, challenging treks to this inane safety drive and if more discretion is not used while making these trails safer, we’ll be saddled by treks with no diversity and a generation of trekkers who never got an opportunity to learn elementary rock climbing.

Route across the western face of Sondai fort; Inset: Cross-sectional view of the first ladder.

With this thought in mind, I went around the first ladder to take a look at the rock patch underneath. The uneven holds and steep incline would have been a handful for anyone during descents, especially during monsoons— a rare, happy instance where the ladder was a necessity! 😀

Ecstatic, we climbed up the first ladder and over to a small ledge on its right. A couple of steps over the ledge stands the second ladder, which is actually two ladders joined midway to work around different inclines of the patch.

Left: Abhi poses on the second ladder; Right: A POV capture of the second ladder.

The second ladder leads to a vertical slab of rock with two caves carved into it. The cave on the right is relatively small, most probably used as an overnight shelter by guards manning the fort during its heydays. It is separated from the other cave, a water cistern supported by rock columns, by a thin rock wall. There’s a hole and thin slit carved into the wall, which must have been used to hold mashaals (wooden torches).

water cistern on sondai fort
The column-supported water cistern

The trail continues on the left and climbs up parallel to the western precipice of the hill. A short, easy walk later, and exactly an hour after starting from Sondewadi, we were at the top of Sondai fort!

sondai fort trekking route map
Top: Satellite imagery of the Sondai fort trek route; Bottom: Elevation graph of the trail from Sondewadi to fort and back.

The top of Sondai fort has a lone tree, under the canopy of which numerous idols have been placed. One of these idols is of Sondai devi, after whom the hill is named. The tree is considered holy by the locals and in accordance with their beliefs, it’s advised to remove one’s footwear before paying respects to the Goddess.

sondai devi at sondai fort
Idol of Sondai devi at the top of fort.

We took a walk around the tiny hilltop and then sat down by the edge overlooking the col it shares with the taller Bhivpuri hill. Shortly afterwards, it started raining and we spent a few moments enjoying the muffled patter of raindrops as more trekkers streamed in.  

A selfie to mark the moment; notice the crowd behind us.

The Whiteout

It was a quarter to 11 when we started descending. A railing (and a shaky one at that) has been placed on the short exposed stretch of the trail along the precipice. Right below the railing is a flat, stable rock overlooking the valley. It made for a great frame and Tejas gladly volunteered to pose while Manish and I clicked pictures, fervently praying he doesn’t go tumbling down the valley. 😛

The rainfall meanwhile picked up in intensity again and we were soon in the midst of a whiteout. Big, fat raindrops carried by strong winds needled us as we descended the ladders and further down to the trail.

Top: Tejas & Manish descend the first ladder; Bottom: I negotiate the slippery trail during the whiteout.

Continuous rainfall, coupled with the tremendous footfall since morning had nearly wiped off the grippy top layer of the soil; the sections we had breezed through while ascending, were now demanding utmost caution. We carefully negotiated this stretch by leaning on the hill to brace against strong winds.

About halfway through the descent, the weather improved and we sat down on the trail to play with the numerous trickles running down the hill. Meanwhile, a few trekkers climbing up at that rather late hour and visibly struggling with the humidity, approached us and popped the universal trekker question- “Aur kitna time lagega?” (How far to the top?)

We looked at each other. Every seasoned trekker worth his salt knows that there’s only one answer to this question, no matter where it is asked. “Bas 5 min aur!”, I lied through my teeth.

Rejuvenated, off they went up the hill with a newfound zeal; one that I was sure, would last for all of 5 minutes! 😉

The trekkers very well knew the top wasn’t 5 minutes away but they chose to believe it nonetheless. The interaction made me wonder if we wilfully choose to believe lies? Not because the truth is too harsh to handle but because life, is sometimes more bearable without it? Sigh. We’ll never know. Or we perhaps we will and choose not to believe that as well!

Anyways, back to the trek! With the trail to ourselves and no rain to impede us anymore, we literally ran down all the way to the tree in the clearing.

Tejas rests under the tree in the clearing.

From there, it was just a simple stroll to Sondewadi, where we reached at the stroke of noon.  

The sky was overcast and a gentle breeze was blowing through the wadi but it wore a deserted look, save for a few kids playing amongst themselves.  

I opened the note app on my phone— so far, we were keeping up with the planned schedule and more importantly, my knee was feeling good. But we had barely done 3 km. Dasturi Naka was another 13 km from there.

I looked back at Sondai fort, standing sentinel over the wadi.
Across the valley stood Matheran, enveloped in clouds.

Top: Sondai fort looms over the trail; Bottom: Rambaug spur glistens in the sunlight as clouds envelop Matheran.

I did a quick stretch.
One down. One more to go.

Read part II of the seriesTrek to Matheran via Rambaug Point.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trek to Sondai fort. Do let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

If you liked the post, please subscribe to ‘A Season Of Mountains‘ by entering your email ID in the box below and get notified every time I publish a post!

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If you have questions about the trek or just want to say hello, feel free to get in touch with me using the Contact form. 🙂

Keep Trekking!

Trekshitiz website
Illustrated Handbook to Matheran, Dabake V.B, 1924
Trek The Sahyadris, Kapadia Harish, 6th Edition, 2018
Matheran — A Mountaineering Manual, Dr. Mehta, Mrs. Mehta, Ms. Mahajan, 2017

All rights reserved © 2016 – present Nomadosauras.
Content (including images) not for reproduction in any form, partial or otherwise.

77 Comments Add yours

  1. debduttapaul says:

    This kind of rigour is unimaginable in today’s content! I am simply spellbound. Had a lot of fun and awe while reading, and the pictures made me feel so afresh…and made me want to go back to the places I so dearly miss…man…….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      I can feel you, Debdutta! The times are difficult but hold on for a little longer. As a wise man said once, “The mountains will always be there, the trick is make sure you are too”. To better times and getting lost in the lap of Sahyadris again- Cheers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Siva Bandaru says:

    Hey 👋 Buddy,
    By just going through glance of this,,, Wow 😱.
    You are not like “Giving money to a kid 👦 and saying, buy an apple 🍎and eat 😃 “.
    You are like “buying on your own and cutting into pieces 🍴 and then putting by yourself into his mouth”.
    I do no, I explained it properly or not, I hope you got my context 🍴.
    I meant to, you elaborate each and every trek 🚶‍♂️.
    Keep going.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Siva! Good to hear from you again 🙂
      Thank you so much for your constant enrcouragement. I really appreciate it!
      Hope you and your family is doing well. Stay safe and keep trekking (after the Pandemic is over! 😉 ).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Avi Shah says:

    Loaded with information like always. This monsoon we can’t trek but we can at least read such blogs and watch videos.
    You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Avi! Thank you for paying a visit to the blog and the high praise. Means a lot 🙂
      Your blog post on Sondai is really interesting too! Do get back to blogging again.
      Looking forward to reading more content from you soon!
      Stay safe and take care! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shalini says:

    Woohoo brilliant trek.
    Few points
    No umbrella lost. Kudos to you
    What’s that I hear, trek tattoo in chest. So painful.. Not the needle when your girlfriend thumps you for the stupidity.
    Hippos instead of humans – oh my great transformation

    What I loved was bas 5 min and the smile on your faces
    I got to see you for the first time in pic
    Beautiful prose I got to experience it with you. Loved the entire journey from the comfort of my couch

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Shalini. Not only for the beautiful comment but for being such a wonderful support through the years!
      And so glad to know you enjoyed the writeup. Means a lot! Thank you again 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. AshishG says:

    Wow! This is quite a travelogue. Good images. Fantastic write-up. Thanks for putting in as much effort.
    Much respect.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for dropping in and the lovely comment, Ashish 🙂
      Being thorough and detailed is the only way I could have done justice to the experience as well as the purpose of creating the blog in the first place! Thank you again.
      Cheers & stay safe 🙂


  6. Mona says:

    WRITE A BOOK! I feel guilty to read these comprehensive accounts of your treks for free. Listen to me, write a damn book!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Yikes! Theek hai theek hai! I’ll and send you a copy as well! 😀
      Meanwhile, thank you for all the help & motivation to get me back to writing. Means a lot.
      Stay safe and happy 🙂


  7. By your standards I barely walk, but stuck at home in the monsoon, I’m pining for the Sahyadris. I hope you are able to cope

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you for your kind words, sir.
      The lockdown has been tough, especially monsoon because it marks a new Season Of Mountains for me every year. This would have been the 7th one.
      Revisiting the experience and penning this blog did make up for it in a small way though. Hoping it does for the readers as well.
      I wish all of us soon get an opportunity to experience the magic of Sahyadris again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pia Majumdar says:

    Welcome back to blogging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you, Pia! Glad to see you around too! 🙂


  9. Indira says:

    Wonderful landscape and pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you, ma’am!


  10. kalpitha kudipady says:

    Such great content and I enjoyed reading every bit of it. I applaud all the effort and work you out into this post. Stunning pictures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Kalpitha! Means a lot! 🙂


  11. nikum says:

    It’s a sheer emotion for me to always read your blog. Kya likhe ho dada, it was just that Hit Web Series with pain, fun, information, freshness, ethics and all above love for the season!
    Thank you so much for bringing this blog after so long, and making my time so worth.. that I’m recommending everyone to go through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Nitesh bhai! It means a lot 🙂
      You’ve always been a big support in this blogging journey of mine. Chalte hai kisi din trek par! 😀


  12. At last, another post! Beautiful!! 😀
    The first time I read, I was so taken away into the landscape as if I had been magically lifted into the lap of Sahyadris, I didn’t even care to leave to comment. So here I am, still lost in the foggy mountains, trying to pen down something 🙂
    As usual, you give the reader something so refreshing as a fresh gush of wind to remember the post by, besides the elaborate mapping of the trail. For me, it was the raw rush of youthfulness and love for mountains that draws you neck deep in mud and laughter.
    Amazing efforts!
    Keep inspiring…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Ramya!
      Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement!
      Sigh, such are the times that I can’t even implore you to visit the Sahyadris just yet. But some day soon!
      Until then, I hope these posts will make up, in a tiny way, for the prolonged break from treks and their charms 🙂
      Cheers & keep blogging 😀


  13. Abhishek says:

    Wow, had fun reading this and the write-up is so good that I imagined myself walking in the trail which is so astutely put in words.
    That 5 minute more comment was hilarious, and I did remember a remark on similar lines like “The tough bit is done, it’s easy from here on” being conveyed in a similar situation.
    Keep exploring and spreading the experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Abhishek, thank you so much!
      So glad to know you felt like a part of the gang while reading it 😀
      And yes, ‘5 min aur’ or variations of that are universal lies that you’ll always hear on treks. Just trekking things 😉
      Hope your trek turned out to be a memorable experience. We still have to pull off one near Bangalore! Some day 🙂


  14. Soumya Somani says:

    Wowwwww!! You leave me speechless! And here again, I really appreciate the amount of hardwork and details you put in there for the posts!! These pictures always make me wanna go there once 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Soumya, thank you so much!
      Trying to get more people to explore this amazing range has always been one of the reasons behind this blog. So glad to know it’s fulfilling that. 🙂
      Looking forward to reading more you too! Cheers & keep blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Soumya Somani says:

        Oh of course!! You encourage many people:) sure, I’ll be posting soon too!!


  15. Never I have I read such a detailed post. You should publish your own book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Rimika! As for the book, soon! 😀


  16. NileshRK says:

    Excellent and very informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Nilesh! Glad to know you liked the post 🙂


  17. Suri says:

    Happy to know that you recovered well from your knee injury and that you were able to go on another trek. 🙂
    Loved the way you write about every detail of the trip- this would actually be used as a user guide for the paths to follow for several other enthusiasts!
    And posting this during the lockdown restrictions makes me sad how we cannot travel now, but happy that through your writings, at least we could experience the joy you folks had! 🙌🏼

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Surabhi! I recovered well enough to be able to do quite a few treks in ’18 after this one, including a long cherished trek in the range, often touted as one of the toughest! 😀
      So glad to know I was able to share the joy from our experience through this writeup. Here’s to hoping we tide over these tough times in good health and humour and enjoy the outdoors very soon! Cheers & keep blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow. This was detailed post about a trek I have ever read. Amazing pictures and descriptions.
    Between just checked your blog. Its beautiful. I love mountains and you described them beautifully.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much! I have tried to be as detailed as possible, but I can already see some areas for improvement a month after publishing the post. Hoping to incorporate them in the next one!
      As for the mountains, the bond is difficult to put in words and sometimes they just aren’t enough and one has to let the visual do the talking 🙂
      Thank you again for checking out the blog. You have a beautiful one too! Hoping to read more posts from you.
      Cheers & keep blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. You are critical of your work. I like that. Self criticism is best. But honestly I find the post well informative.
        I am in love with mountains too. So I understand what you are trying to say. There’s something magical about them which can only be felt.
        Have a great weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Good to see you back in action! 😃 Nice and detailed post and beautiful photographs that made even a non trekker like me want to attempt just to see those views! 😃😃😃
    Welcome back! Or rather I visited after long. 😝🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Heya! 😀
      Good to see you around too! Thank you so much. And trekker or not, just give these mountains a chance- you’d be hooked before you know it! That’s how I started off too 😉
      Hoping to see more posts from you too. Cheers & keep blogging! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Nicely written. So much information. I wish there were more opportunities to visit the mountains this season.
    This was a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Vedangee! Well, the season isn’t over yet and fingers crossed, opportunities would present themselves in due time 🙂
      I miss reading about your wanderings too! Solo or not, I would really like to read about them 😀
      Cheers & stay safe 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Great Post. Very well presented and the photographs are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Abhisek! Glad to know you liked the pictures. It’s a beautiful place and trust me, we were too dumbstruck to actually try capture the best scenes! Do visit the range whenever you can. You’ll like it 🙂
      Cheers & keep blogging!


  22. neelstoria says:

    First of all glad to know that your knee is doing better after all the painful physiotherapy and associated treatments. I am sure nobody can understand what the pain and discomfort was like unless we have faced it ourselves, and I haven’t. I sincerely hope it doesn’t interfere too much with your treks anymore.
    Now for the actual trek description – What a detailed and in-depth description you have here. As always, I am astonished by the amount of effort you put in while writing these posts. Your patience truly is unthinkable. Things like the cross sectional view picture, I can say with certainty that nobody will take so much trouble. Also, the post is complete in all respects. Those that want to plan the same trek and those like me who are here to see it through your experience. The minute details, like having to clean your clothes for a small adventure on the way, then the ladders that are put in to make the climb incident-free but not so many are required, then the standard trek lie of “baas aur 5 min”, and so on. The pictures left me spellbound – no words are enough for them.
    And, glad to have you back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Neel! I always look forward to hearing what you think of the posts 🙂
      The knee is much better now. I have in fact been more active trekking over the past year (before March, at least!) than I had ever been before that! Writing these posts, I am always a little wary of going overboard while recollecting the experience. There are so many thing I’d like to chronicle here but the difficult act of balancing between too little and too much keeps me (somewhat) in check. I’ll try to come out with posts more often!
      And once again, thank you for taking out the time to read the post and leave a lovely comment here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. neelstoria says:

        You do quite a good job of writing your experience in great detail. Still I am sure there must be a ton of things that you simply cannot write, some experiences are inexpressible. Don’t worry about going overboard. Surely some of us love it that way (I should say many of us going the long list of comments you have here :))
        Yet to read Part – 2. I want to read it at leisure as your posts cannot be skimmed through. I want to read in detail. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Yogini says:

    Such details! wow! it’s super helpful, thanks 🙂 great pictures too 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Yogini!
      Glad to know you liked the writeup as well as the pictures 🙂
      You can read the second part of the post here-


      Liked by 1 person

  24. Karan Bhanushali says:

    Woah ♥️ Amazing Write-up Bhai
    Too useful & detailed info ✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Karan bhai!
      I’m glad you found it useful. I hope you use the blog’s information to trek to one of the places and paint your trademark miniatures 🙂

      Cheers & keep trekking!
      P.S. Do consider subscribing to the blog if you’d like to be notified about new posts over email!


  25. You must write a book. So much to read and it’s wonderful 💖
    The pictures are soothing. Everything is available here, why to read something else. If I have any plan to go for a trek, your blogs will be enough for me. Wonderful ✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for reading the post and leaving such a beautiful comment, Rashmi!
      I do hope you get an opportunity to visit these splendid hills very soon. 🙂



  26. cindy knoke says:

    Such powerful photos. Impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time out to leave an appreciative comment, Cindy!
      Cheers! 🙂


  27. Shruba says:

    Argh. Makes me want to go trek. I hate this pandemic. ;-;

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      I swear! This is the longest I have gone without stepping in the hills ever since I started trekking :/
      Anyways, lets hope for the best and do our part in ending this Pandemic soon 🙂


      1. Shruba says:

        Oh yes. Kinda hoping it would disappear in another couple of months because otherwise I’ll have to start tking people down one by one. The type of collateral damage I had not envisioned. So yes, cheers to the end of pandemic!

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Wow! Just woww. This blog has made me want to pack my bags and go for this trek right now! The information you’ve provided in the beginning is quite helpful and can’t wait to use it for my trek 😍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Hey Rajvi! Thank you so much for this lovely comment 🙂
      Aren’t we all wishing for the same thing? 😀
      Hoping things improve and everyone gets an opportunity to be in the lap of Nature very soon!
      In the meantime, take care and stay safe. Cheers!


  29. Dalo 2013 says:

    Beautiful writing ~ makes me miss the time of freedom and exploration 🙂 Looking out for my next adventure, and what you have captured here with your Sondai Fort trek would be out-of-this-world, well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      It was an unforgettable adventure, indeed! I hope that we tide over this Pandemic very soon and that you do get an opportunity to visit these hills and ancient forts in person 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading the post and taking out the time to leave an appreciative comment, Randall!
      Cheers & stay safe!


    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time out to leave an appreciative comment 🙂
      I do hope you visit this beautiful part of the country some day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hope so too. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Nicely Written!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you 🙂


  31. Jyothi says:

    Wonderful write up and beautiful capture! Great sharing, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you for reading the post and the lovely comment, Jyothi! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Rupali says:

    Wnderful post. Great details and images.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you, ma’am! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Mini Raj says:

    Super writeup ! The pictures added enhance the feel and makes it very interesting ..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much ma’am! I am glad you liked the post 🙂


  34. Rahul Gon says:

    This was super informative. Honestly I am not much of a trekking buff, but reading such detailed post has inspired me to try out. Eagerly waiting for part 2 of this epic journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you, Rahul. Part 2 was published on the same day as this post. You can find its link in the last section.


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