It seems like most of my weekends are meant to be spent in the hills and the mountains of Sahyadri(Updates of the trek previous to this one will come up after this post)..
So when i got a call from one of my trekker acquaintances(Suresh kaka),asking me if I would want to join his group for a day’s hike to Rajgad fort,it took me only 3 seconds to think before replying in the affirmative..
The next morning,I was up and about by 5.30 a.m. and our mini-bus started its journey at around half past 6..
i entered the bus,looking for a couple of familiar faces whom i had met on my previous hikes ..looking for them,I reached the rear seats and since the faces were still amiss,finally took the last window seat..
After settling in my seat,I noticed the folks around me..It seemed like an assorted set of 16-17 people..4 school going kids in the front seats,around 8-9 20 somethings(who,as i learned a while later, were working for the teach for india initiative) and the rest of the group real adults(?!)(i.e.age between 35-43 odd)..I was pleasantly surprised to find an 80 year old ajoba(grandfather) in the group too..
i didn’t know anybody except Suresh kaka..Just as I was wondering whether these guys would find me nice/friendly enough or whether i would find them likewise,The landscape outside the window began changing..
It was 6.30 in the morning and the fog was quite thick by general standards..It seemed like a misty morning when the bus took a stop to fill in fuel..
Rajgad is a very important fort in the Maratha history..Chhatrapati Shivaji spent a lot of time on this fort,the fort being the capital of his ‘swarajya’ for 26 years..It is located in Velhe taluka,at 1.5 hours of driving distance from Pune..
We were ascending the ghats now..the ground level around started rising and falling in the shape of the mountains..green of the vegetation and clouds in the valleys are always an eye-pleasing sight..A few minutes after we passed an Emu-farm,it became imperative to take a photographers’ break..The just risen sun had rendered a warm color to the surroundings..
suresh kaka’s keen eye had noticed a baby snake that had unfortunately come under the wheels of the bus..After taking the stop,we had a look at the dead slytherin..I somehow managed to overcome my phobia for reptiles and handled the snake for a few seconds..
Kids were much braver..
We resumed our bumpy ride and by the end of next half hour,we had reached ‘Gunjavne’-the base village of Rajgad..
A quick breakfast and an introductions’ session later,we were up on our way to the top of the fort…..The gradient of the trail was easy..The initial path passed through bushy deciduous forest,later on leading to the ridge line..The range housing the fort was constantly visible ahead of us …we were supposed to climb the fort from north,by climbing the ridge leading to Padmavati machi…
Around half way up,we reached a flattish kind of area for a while..Balekilla i.e.the citadel of the fort was right in the face from this point..tried to capture the 2 eagles that were soaring in the valley in the front of balekilla,but wasn’t successful for want of a better tele lens..
As it happened,there were 2-3 other photography enthusiasts too in the group..we (so called)photographers have the liberty to walk at our (slow)own pace,usually forming the rear end of the climbing group…so me and Andy(Aniruddha) were taking our time enjoying the environment,discussing photography and clicking pictures from various angles..The path was beautified by the presence of all those typical sahyadri flowers..yellows,purples,whites,blues..Fort Torna was visible to the east(i dont take the responsibility for the accuracy of the stated directions..) ..
The entire climb up was very easy.even with all the timepass along the way,all of us were on top-the Padmavati machi at 11.30..Only the last segment of the patch can be called a bit tricky becoz it involves climbing a rock patch..but even that has become very safe now,thanks to the railing constructed on it..
The first thing that catches your eye on Padmavati machi is the padmavati lake..There’s a temple of the same name beside the lake and 2 water cisterns lie behind it..Fortunately,the weather was neither hot nor rainy..it had been good for the climb..We refilled our water bottles in the cisterns and took some rest n food in the temple…
With petpooja taken care of,we were ready to explore the fort..Rajgad is a fabulous representation of the architectural genius of the Maratha times..It has 3 machisi.e.sub-plateaux-Padmavati machi(to the north),sanjivani machi(to the west) and suvela machi(so called becoz it lies to the east) with balekilla(citadel),actually a volcanic plug, in the centre..the double fortification walls and a few buruj(watch towers) are still intact though remains of the main mahal,where rajah used to stay are negligible..Looking at the fortification walls winding curvatiously along the machis,our respect for raja shivajji and his mavle(shivaji’s native soldiers) was doubled..its hard to imagine how these people carried out such feats of construction in such treacherous terrain..
We came across one more kund(cistern)on the way and spent some time enjoying the wind and the water..
Climbing up the steps and route leading to the balekilla top,we rejoiced in the green,colorful vista around us..a broad valley was stretching on 3 sides and our way was passing through flowery meadows..Umbarkhana(place for the elephants) seemed like a good place for a group photo and so a picture was snapped..
From balekilla,one can see sanjivani machi stretching in the west..the whole depth of the sight around you awes you..
Our luch time was decided to be at around 2.30..so we came back to padmavati machi,had a satisfying lunch prepared by the villagers in the temple and after some rest,started going towards suvela machi…we were keen on visiting the nedha-a naturally formed hole in the mountain cliff wall ..The run up to the machi was relatively flat..on the right hand side to the south,one can see raigad,lingana and backwaters of Bhatghar Dam..
..we had to climb a tricky rock patch again to go into the heart of the nedha..sitting in the was a bit scary..on one side,there’s a direct vertical drop of around1600 feet..such a nedha also exists on ratangad..someday,i want to go there too..
Nedha was the last point of exploration..but i and Andy wanted to go ahead till the end of the machi..so we,along with Saurabh,ran along till the end..there’s something called ‘chilkhati tatbandi’ here..Meant as a trap for the soldiers of the enemy,there lies a ‘khandak’ between two fortification walls..because of the growth of the very tall grasses,
called elephant grasses as they are tall enough to hide an elephant(no exaggeration..even we cudnt see each other walking among these grasses..),the area was a bit dangerous for the ignorant..Boy,i could have fallen into the khandak myself had i not heard about them from Andy in advance..Here are those pictures of the end of the machi,..
We returned to padmavati machi hurriedly as we wanted to reach the base before darkness..we packed the stuff,took a head count and started the descend..reached the base by 6.30,just a bit after the sunset..the sky crowned the fort with its soothing orange colors..
A day spent in the vicinity of the mountains..i had ample opportunities to use my camera and do my usual antics when rocks or any other climbable structures are to be found..i really liked the people i was with..i had fun time with the kids..in andy,i found my another photography guru..all kakas-rajput kaka,girish kaka,aajoba were wonderful to talk to..On the way back down,Anoop told me a lot may things about ‘Teach For India’ and whats that supposed to mean..some of the things i knew from earlier..but some i didnt and i was glad to hear all that he was talking about..Suresh kaka,the team leader was in his form,as usual..
Loved the hike!Hope u liked the pictures..
Find the complete album here.