When Sahyadri Comes Alive…..!!
It is said that Sahyadri’s of Maharashtra are queer than Himalayan Ranges. When you are in Sahyadri you need to watch every step otherwise you may get lost and end up nowhere far from the place you are supposed to be. But that doesn’t take away the beauty of it. Sahyadri ranges personify beauty in monsoon. They are covered up with lush green trees and waterfalls falling at every turn. The Scenic beauty is picturesque, as if someone has painted it on canvas. Thus our journey began in these great ranges of Sahyadri on the two Forts built by great King Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. These two forts actually began his journey of establishing Swarajya against Adilashi and Mughals. The two forts were very first to be captured by King Shivaji and his companions for life called Mavale.
Ascend to Rajgad.
So Our Trek started from base village Gunjavane of Rajgad. We had a nice hot meal there, villagers provide homecooked meals at reasonable rate. Trek from here takes you to Chor (Thief) Darwaja (Gate) of Rajgad. This route is little difficult as there are steep patches in between, but if you are up for adventure then go for it.
As we started climbing we were already in dense forest. Trees were all there alongside us and nothing else. Wherever we looked we had a sense of wonder. As we climbed up, we were surrounded by dense fog, fog that sometimes even makes person in front of you invisible. Somewhere as we were climbing the fog cleared and it was surprising to realize how much height we had covered. From there the huts in villages looked like tiny pieces, and the water that is flowing like a line.
There are railings constructed at some very steep rocks, so it helps you to climb. The spot of railings tells that you are closer to fort. A little further, or say a little higher and the Chor (Thief) Darwaja (Gate) came into sight. It is built exactly as it says, very small in height, we had to duck to enter it. The purpose of it was to escape if enemy attacks on the fort. Also one other purpose was; the informers of King used to come through this door. Thus we entered the fort and as we walked into it a beautiful lake built by King Shivaji came into view ‘Padmavati Lake’. The lake is always filled with fresh water and is never dried out. It is well constructed and has rectangular shape also it has steps to descend and fetch water. It is advised not to jump into lake as it is deep also water is very cold.
Stay at Rajgad.
There was dense fog on the fort. As we crossed the lake we came across few stonewall rooms which were built in those days. They might be living rooms or storage rooms, purpose is not known. There is temple of ‘Padmavati Devi’ in front of these stonewall rooms.
The temple was also built by Shivaji Maharaj. Straight in front of temple is Saibai, Shivaji’s first and most beloved wife’s Samadhi. We had started around 3 pm and reached the fort around 6 pm. It was heavily raining. The temple can accommodate around 60 people, also the rooms built in temple can accommodate people for staying overnight but they leak and are not maintained properly in rainy season. We stayed in temple for the night. It was tempting to go outside for a walk on the fort as it is so greatly built but because of dense fog and heavy raining the group that led us advised us to stay in temple only. Although we had fun in temple, we did aarti in the evening at around 7 pm, shared ghost stories which really scared hell out of some people :P, some also had deep conversation about King Shivaji and his times, it is hard not speak about him when you are trekking on his fort and staying there. There are some beautiful paintings hanged on the wooden columns of temple and Marathi shlokas about King Shivaji and his first son Sambhaji are written on it. Again the villagers provided us dinner, and after that we immediately slept as next day a long trek was to be done. So we slept in biting cold, at least I did; forgot to pack my shawl. Next day we got up at 5 in the morning had hot tea, warm breakfast and packed up to enjoy best part of the trek. There is a Well besides temple with fresh water in it, we filled our water bottles from there. Wow imagine the resources that were planned in those days..!
Rajgad to Torna. So now comes the most exciting part of the trek Rajgad to Torna….!! In morning around 6 we started onwards Torna. Whilst walking we got to watch remains of Sanjeevani Maachi, and from that door you exit Rajgad.
This trek is full of adventures, there’s rock climbing, descending, steep slopes, zigzag ways, narrow pathways and sometimes you slip on muddy earth Oops..!!. It became difficult as we moved forward, but we had great organizers with us; guiding all the way through. As we started descending Rajgad there are remains of big rock walls guarding the Fort. As we descended further there were steep rock patches and the view in front was awesome. You are in midst of Sahyadri ranges with mountains on every side, waterfalls falling from them some from very high altitude. After descending Rajgad you come across a tar road that separates two mountain ranges on which forts are built. Now we started ascending for Torna, but to reach Torna we had to cross 15 to 20 hills till we reached Torna,
there was ascension and descension, again and again. While trekking here we saw endless variety of plants and trees, on some of which flowers were blossoming, some having thorns, some plants had so strong branches that we used to hold them and climb. We came across few straight ridges on some of the hills, the wind on these ridges blew so hard they we were not able to stand steady, and the rains slammed us across, because you are not walking under the clouds, but besides them, right through them.
After sometime the fog cleared and we felt as if nature had come alive Sahyadris have come alive, a breath taking beauty that leaves you speechless. We felt as if nature was in conversation with us, telling us tales of its existence over the years and inviting us to experience it. The Sahyadris you realize are not mountain ranges that throw you off the cliff, but are built as if to guide you and take you in its arms to give you sense of wonder. While looking at its great beauty I realized how much time I have spent worrying about unnecessary things and how much can be achieved in life without such qualms and how much nature is left to be explored and understood.
We were tired after such long trek but this ridge boosted our energy and the further hills were calling us to complete our journey, to explore them and give them a chance to show their wonders. And so we continued. Every hill showed us a spectacular view of Sahyadri Ranges.
Ascend to Torna.
Finally the watch tower (Buruj) of Torna came into sight, the surface is flat at the base of watch tower.
We thought adventure was over, but it wasn’t; now came the real thrilling part of our trek. The rope that our organizer were carrying was to be utilised and that time had come. We walked further the tower and there comes one rock patch which need to be climbed.
Actually it can be climbed without rope if you are a good trekker but our organizers did not wanted to take any chances. So the rope was put and one by one we climbed it. As we climbed the rope we had to further climb the rocks and at one point we were standing literally on a narrow point. This exercise was done one at a time, and up ahead we stood on another watch tower. But the trek was still not over yet. We passed the lush green fields of plants planted on the mountain, walked further and arrived at yet another rock patch. Again with use of rope we climbed and stood on a very narrow ridge. As we were standing the view from up was unimaginable, the river was flowing; cutting across the ranges at the base and going into the villages. It looked exactly like we drew the picture of mountain and river as school kids. Finally Darwaja (Gate) of Fort came into view from the misty fogs. Entering it we walked further to reach the temple of Torna Devi. We had started at 6 in the morning and reached Torna at 5.30 in the evening.
Descend from Torna.
We had our meal in the temple again provided by villager’s who carry it up to the fort. Torna is the highest fort in Pune region and in 2nd highest in Maharashtra, it was chilling outside also the rains were slashing hard. Immediately we started descending as we had to reach before getting dark. While descending we came across water tanks, built from those days filled our bottles and started climbing down. There were railings constructed on rock patches, it becomes easy to descend. After the rock patch descend is quite easy mostly walking down. But there are 2 crossroads where, one could take wrong route and end up somewhere else. Same thing happened with us at the last crossroad me and my friend actually went on right route, as we had seen on of the group leaders going from there. But few people took the other route ended on a constructed cement road, they thought as they have reached road they are right so they signalled us with torch as it was already becoming dark. We then again went back. It was a confusing situation. But the group leaders in the back arrived and then it was decided that some will take cement route and some will follow other as both routes intersect further at the base village. Finally we reached the base village Velhe. It was end to a lifetime experience….!
We were 37 of us lead by 5 people of organizers and it was amazing effort put by every one of us to make this trek a wonderful and adventurous experience. In the group two girls were first time trekkers and the trek is actually not recommended for first time trekkers. But with the amazing encouragement shown by everyone and especially by the organizers they were moving forward; also the climate and the all around beauty of mountains inspired them to carry on and accomplished the trek successfully. At the end they were happy about coming to the trek and experiencing it with all of us. Truly if one can accomplish such a difficult trek in first go; it would feel easy to expedite on other such treks.
Organizers – Small Steps
The group of ‘Small Steps’ consisting of five individuals(Sagar, Yogendra, Prashant, Ravi and Sushant) are like five fingers of hand, palm when closed becomes fist leaving no gap in between, beholding the trekkers with them all the time. One leads in front, one at the very back and three in between, interchanging their positions as and when required. They guide on every step and are not some sort of high handed experts that pretend to know everything; but interact with you as friends and make the experience of trek most enjoyable. Also they boost your confidence and encourage you. In my various treks with them; they have befriended me and now consider me as their part. They constantly take feedback from the trekkers to improve upon if anything needs to be. At the end you feel; you have enjoyed, got thrilled, had an adventure and finally had a sense of accomplishment.
Technical details of Trek:
Cost of trek with Small Steps: 1800 per person (included bus from Panvel to Rajgad and back to Panvel from Torna, 3 meals of both the time and 1 breakfast) Rajgad: 1318 meters above sea level (4250 feet)
Torna: 1405 meters above sea level (4600 feet)
Gunjavane Village (base village at Rajgad): 60 km from Pune. Velhe Village (base village at Torna): 45 km from Pune.
Rajgad to Torna Stretch: Approximately 12 km.