Trip to Kankwari Fort 2: The Hike

We began our hike for the Kankwari Fort after arriving in Tehla. Little did we know that it was going to challenge our bodies and will.

We began our hike around 12:50. After walking through Tehla, we took a narrow road to the right and crossed a village or two until we started hearing a loud gurgling sound at a distance. It was the water from the Mangalsar Dam falling into a river. 

Dam Son! (The Mangalsar Dam) Photos: Piyush

People had gathered there to take pictures and getting their feet wet. Some locals were even swimming. We wanted to stay but decided to come back the next day.

We learned from a local that this was the heaviest rainfall recorded in years, and the river was overflowing after many years. Good news right? NO. I will tell you later why.

On our way we found several spots where the river was overflowing the road. The water was deep enough to submerge our ankles and any hiker can tell you that its not a good thing to have wet feet. We crossed several of these overflowing rivers on our way.


After we reached Dabkan (the last village on the ground level), the good road had left us behind and now it was a monstrosity of patchworks that was riddled by random holes and rocks all over the place. The climb to the Neelkanth temple was ahead of us. Sahaj decided to climb the rocks instead of walking on the road. Due to my leg injury and ‘a few extra pounds’ I was lagging behind. Abhay was kind enough to keep me company, while Sahaj and Piyush continued their rock climbing. After an hour or so, we were at the top of the mountain. My lungs were on fire, but the view from the top was breathtaking. 

(Top) View from the mountain, (Bottom) The imposing gate of Sariska Tiger Reserve.

We spent some time resting and chit chatted with a few locals. Throughout our hike, the locals were astonished upon knowing that we were hiking to Kankwari, all the way from Tehla. Maybe this was something that was either very bold or ridiculously stupid. I believe it was a little bit of both. 

On our way, Piyush lost his glasses. My prescription sunglasses gave him some relief, but I doubt he was able to clearly see the beauty of the place. Poor guy!

To understand the topography of Sariska, you will have to imagine it as a valley. Surrounded by the Aravali mountains, Sariska is a valley in the middle of a series of hills that act as natural walls. To enter the Sariska Tiger Reserve, you have to climb a hill and then descend. The local authorities provide safari jeeps on rentals, and guest houses to the tourists

On our way, we kept asking locals about Kankwari and whether we would be able to camp in the fort for the night. We got different answers from everybody we met. Some told us that the fort has a big lock, some told us the place was haunted and so we should turn back, a few told us it wont be possible to camp inside the fort, while a majority of people told us there would be no problem. Many a times we were stopped by the locals and got the offer to stay at their place but we politely refused. 

Local interactions.

Sariska Tiger Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary and so there are no utilities available; which means no electricity or even cellphone reception. Our phones were blank with no bars. But since we have dowloaded the Sariska’s map, we were able to track our movement.

Then came the part where our wet feet started creating problems. Since our shoes were soaking wet, they lost their rigidity and our toes and ankle started cramping out. We took a break after 5 or so kilometres and Abhay pointed out that I had a blister on my let foot. That was the first to come. We rested for around 10 minutes and continued.

As the sun started setting we grew worried, because the map and locals told us that we were still around 8-9 kilometres away from Kankwari. Our legs were cramping and the weight on our backs was making it even worse. And so we ended up taking small breaks at small distances, which only delayed us. And then, we saw a house with A JEEP parked in its porch. 

(L) First blister, (M) Jeep owner's house, (R) Local Berries

Quickly, we all entered the dwelling and asked for the Jeep Owner. The idea was to hitch a ride to Kankwari Fort, because by that time we were feeling no shame in admitting that our bodies were in quite a bad shape.

The owner was away, but his wife graciously invited us into her home. The woman’s mother in law came first to see us, then the kids and some neighbours. While we were on a display on their cot, they treated us with tea and local berries.

After around 15 minutes or so the Jeep Owner arrived and we asked him if he could drop us to Kankwari. But the man told us that there is no road after his village. Though he was ready to take us back to Tehla.

Without any means of transport to Kankwari, we decided to continue on foot. But we asked the man if he would be available to drop us to Tehla the next day. The man agreed and we promised to come back around 10-11 AM the next day.

We continued our hike, and realised why the man refused. The road soon ended after we exited his village and suddenly, even the trail ended. We were standing before a large pond filled with algae and god knows what. 

I checked the map on my phone and found a small trail around the pond. The weed was as tall as us and the mud was quite shallow. Jumping over potholes we finally flanked the pond and got back to the trail that was quite muddy. We were entering another village and the Sun was already down.

At that point, the map seemed to be messing with us. No matter how far we walked, it showed almost the same remaining distance as earlier. It was like those moments in office when you are just waiting for the time to be over, but it crawls at a snail’s pace.

Soon, it was dark and we found another local who graciously invited us to spend the night at his dwelling. We again politely refused and continued. Another gurgling sound was heard at a distance, and soon we were standing at the bank of a raging river in darkness.

That moment, all of us had given up. We took down our bags and sat. Except for Sahaj and Abhay, who found two locals crossing the river from the other side. They observed how they crossed the river and suggested we follow their tracks. It was time to bring out my lights. 

For the trip, I had brought a headlamp and a flashlight with me. Apparently, nobody else in the group had an idea to take any illumination device. We again divided into two teams; this time I was with Sahaj and Piyush was with Abhay. We marked two spots to cross the river. Sahaj and I started from our spot while Piyush and Abhay were still busy taking off their shoes. 

Imagine crossing this water. Only we did in the darkness of the night.

Sahaj was behind me and the raging water made him panic. The water that was ankle deep near the shore, was above our knees in the middle. Besides the riverbed was filled with jagged rocks. It was difficult to find proper footing in the river, and I was using my monopod as a hiking pole. Abhay and Piyush were struggling because their spot was filled with thorny weeds under water. And suddenly Sahaj lost his footing in the strong current and grabbed my shoulder, but in panic, he pushed me. I fell into the river, and noticed my phone and camera going in the water. It was my mistake that I did not secure my devices by putting them in the bagpack.

I quickly got up and yelled at him for freaking out, but then realised he was still in panic mode. I asked him to grab my monopod and follow me. We reached the other side and collapsed. Abhay and Piyush were struggling on their way to our side. As they crossed the river, we come to know that Piyush had hurt his leg and was going to take some time, so Sahaj and I started on our own. Abhay stayed with Piyush.

The river intersecting the Access road to Kankwari.

I checked my camera, and was relieved to see that it was working. However, my phone was gone. I was in a pretty bad mood and was blaming Sahaj (who was walking beside me). But then it hit me, I was in the middle of nowhere after dark with my friends. We had no idea where we were going to spend the night, or what was waiting for us at the end of this hike. And suddenly, I realised that the waterlogged phone was the least of my worries. As we looked around, we were still surrounded by tall hills. 

It was beautiful !

Our view at the night.

Sahaj and I met a local, who told us that a few kilometers ahead of us was a small village called 'Kaaniyawaas'; where a milk carriage arrives every morning and goes back to Tehla. It filled our feet with a new energy and we decided to check the place out.

After around 40 more minutes, Sahaj and I reached Kaaniyawaas and the men there happily agreed to take us back to Tehla. We were asked to be there by 9:30 in the morning, after which they were to leave without us.

We crossed the last village and were standing in the Kankwari valley. But now no trail was visible. A shepherd earlier suggested us to follow the cattle, but the buffalos were only interested in going to small ponds. While Sahaj and I looked around for a trail, Abhay and Piyush joined us. Abhay used his phone to check the GPS and we got back on the route.

After we crossed two more water crossings, we were looking at a big hill with a Fort atop ahead of us. 

We were there !

And there it was, for our taking

In the next part, we meet Yadav Jee (the forest ranger), who deny us the permission to go to the fort, a cobra enters my bagpack, and we get the sweet reward of the trip.

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