This is a guest-post from Prasad Np, who writes at Desi Traveler. All photographs are by the author.
While I have never been a very serious trekker, I had my share of treks in Himalayas and also in Panchmadi in Madhya Pradesh. But as time passed I thought what the hell; let me give some competition to Maradona if in nothing else, then in waist size.
Now a days I rarely rough it out and focus on travel with my kids and wife, but when our adventure club organized a hike to KoilKonda fort in Mahbubnagar district, I could not resist and decided to join the same.
We reached Mahbubnagar around 1:30 pm in the afternoon and had a heavy lunch of Chilli Biryani (the amount of chilies must have been equal to the amount or rice, ok I exaggerate, but you get the gist). What a mistake it was, I realized after about an hour when I was halfway in the trek.
There was only one autowallah willing to go to the remote fort and we all packed in it, making a sardine can look like spacious Mughal Gardens. The Koilkonda Fort, once an outpost of Warangal Kakatiyas, remains hidden in the dense jungle till you reach the base of the hill. The autowallah dumped us at the base, from where the climb did not look very formidable. I became complacent, totally forgetting that “looks are deceiving”.
We passed by a few cowherds returning with their cows and buffaloes as we began the climb, but after that, the path appeared empty. The fort is so desolate that there is no guard or security and the lower parts are used for grazing. From the bottom, only a part of the fort wall is visible and it does not appear very high. But the path actually winds up through many small hills, and at some places there is only a narrow ledge to walk on. A misstep would mean a steep fall with little chance of survival.
It did not long to realize the difficulties of the climb. It was only 10 minutes of climb when I was panting and my lungs were struggling to pump oxygen to my heart. Legs became magnetic and attached themselves to the ground, refusing to move ahead. What my 6th grade teacher failed to teach me about Sir Isaac’s discovery, the hidden fort of Koilkonda taught me in 10 minutes. All the regular hikers moved ahead with only one guy staying back with me, as the first and foremost rule of the trek is never to leave the slowest person behind. I succumbed to gravity and crashed on a hot rock without waiting to move in shade. Nothing mattered to me at this time, neither the rock frying my bottom, nor the sun burning my head. All I wanted to do was stop. Chandu, one of the regular trekkers with me gave me some water and asked me to rest for as long as I wanted. This routine continued for next hour and half. I walked for ten minutes and rested for the next ten, while everybody else had reached the top and were cheering for me. Slowly and steadily, I reached till I was only about 100 meters from the top and now came the biggest leap of faith. The pinnacle of the fort is on a standalone hillock and only way to reach it is climb down a bit and then jump across a 2 feet wide gap in the rock. I prayed to Pavan Putra Hanuman and took the leap of faith safely landing on the other side; a miss would have not only meant missing the summit but also missing my own funeral as nothing can be retrieved from that narrow crevice.
Everybody cheered for my tattered body but triumphant spirit. Soon I was lost in the beautiful views and wondered how I made it to the top. We gazed at the clear sky for most of the night and then dozed off one by one under the open sky. Later, in the morning, I told the trek leader that I thought the trek was going to be easy but it was one of the toughest treks of my life. She just smiled and said “Sir, the trek is easy, you are out of shape and that is the problem. Let me take you through an easier route while going down, if you so wish”. I agreed, missing the mischievous smile in her eyes.
We started our decent not from the path we came from but through a breach in the wall of the fort that takes you down below to the Koilsagar reservoir across the Peddavagu, a minor tributary of the Krishna River. We stopped for a dip in the reservoir before starting our journey back to Hyderabad, stopping only to have a cup of tea in a small shop in the village nearby.
How to reach Koilkonda Fort: Nearest town is Mahbubnagar, take shared auto or jeep from there to the base of the fort. Follow this Google map for route map from Hyderabad to the hidden fort of Koilkonda. Carry enough water and food as there is nothing available at the fort.