Sunday, February 27, 2011

Explore Maharashtra : Rajgad Fort

View of Rajgad Fort from the base of the mountain.
I read about Rajgad fort, while looking for interesting places to visit during my holiday in Pune. Rajgad Fort (which means King of forts), is about 2 hours drive from Pune city (Maharashtra, India). The fort is approximately 4,250 feet above sea level.

There is no direct access to the fort except trekking trails, and the trek can only be described as strenuous. It is definitely not recommended unless you are physically fit. Also, due to the steep and dangerous trails, it is also not recommended for children.

I decided to do the challenge along with my 12-year old son Shawn. Initially, I had some misgivings taking Shawn along with me as I had read about the treacherous trail, but he insisted he is up for the challenge. I thought this would be a great opportunity for some father son bonding and I kept the option of turning back, if I felt that the trail was getting dangerous.

We started off early in the morning from our house in Kondhwa. We wanted to catch the first bus from Swaraj Gate. When we reached the bus station, I had a tough time figuring out which bus to take - and more importantly, when the bus would leave. My lack of knowledge of the local language (Marathi) was not helping me here.

I decided not to waste my time and looked around for other options. There was this guy who was inquiring about people travelling to Rajgad and I figured that he had a private vehicle. He was looking for 10 passengers to cram into his 4x4. I told him that I will pay the cost of all the 10 passengers - and we were off.




Our ride from Pune City to Rajgad Village.
We reached the base of the fort at around 10 am (after a tasty Maharashtra-style breakfast on the way). We were given basic instructions on plastic disposal by the security, and our bags were checked to ensure that there is no alcohol (Alcohol and dangerous trekking don't go hand in hand)

I carried only water and some energy bars in order to keep the weight of the bag down. I also packed only one lens (the superlative Nikkor 17-55 f2.8).

The peak of the fort looks very very distant.
When I first looked at the top of the mountain, my first thought was "How the heck are we going to reach that place in one day?". I knew this was going to be a very challenging trek.

Shawn looks determined to complete the trek.
The trail is steep and slippery. Good trekking shoes are essential.

Local elderly woman selling Limbu Sherbat.
Villagers try to etch out an living by selling food and drink to tired trekkers along the way. This elderly woman was selling Limbu Sherbat (a drink made of lime juice and water).

About half-way point to the fort.
After about 1 hour of laborious walking, we reached what looked like the half-way point. The view was amazing, but the camera could not capture the majesty of the Sayadri mountains range because of all the fog.

The majestic Sayadri Mountains.
We paused here to enjoy the range of colors of the mountains - from the dry yellow grass, to the green carpet of trees to the cloudy blue skies (now filed with fog).

At 1000 meters above sea level.
After some refreshments and water, we carried on. My trusty Casio indicated that we have reached an altitude of 1000 meters.

The dangerous part of the trek.
If the trekking was hard till now, it was about the get harder. The track suddenly becomes almost vertical. Some of the really dangerous locations are fixed with iron railings - but most of them are damaged so you basically climb the steep trek holding on to pieces of rusted iron.

This was the point I had to make a decision whether to carry on with Shawn or return back. Shawn insisted that he could do it. The only catch was that I had to carry his backpack!. So for the remainder of the trek, I was carrying both my camera backpack as well as Shawn's backpack.

Chor Darwaza at Padmavati Machee.
We finally reached the north-end sub-plateau (known as the Machee). The fort has three of these Machees that act as fortification for the main fort which sits in the middle of these 3 Machees. From here, it is about another 200 meters straight up to reach the fort. There is a rest place at the Machee and many trekkers choose to stay overnight here in tents. However, you have to bring all your food and water - as nothing is available here.

Ghod Tale (Horse Lake) at Padmavati Machee.
This small lake collects rain water right on top of the mountain and looks refreshingly cool for a dip. I assume it was used as a source of drinking water during the time when people lived here.

I again asked Shawn whether we should turn back or climb the remaining (almost vertical) 200 meters to reach the top of the fort. He wanted to complete the challenge.

Shawn surveying the vast Sayadris from the top of the Rajgad Fort.
That's it. After more than 2 hours of hard trekking, we finally reached the fort. Surprisingly, we could get clear reception on my mobile (we couldn't get any during the whole trek). Shawn immediately made a call to his Mom to tell her of his achievement.

The altitude at the top of the Rajgad Fort.
View of Suvela Machi
Water Cistern at the top of the fort - Balle Killa (Center)
Beautiful wild grass at the top of the fort.
Honey bee doing its thing at the top of the Rajgad fort.
We took a 15 minutes well-deserved rest and then started retracing our steps back to the base of the mountain. The return journey was harder than going up - because it was slippery and the chance of falling was always there. It actually took us 3 hours for the return journey - where our driver was waiting for us to shuttle us back home.

This was definitely a trek worth remembering.






3 comments:

vaidegi j said...

Looks lovely! Is this the fort, where students go often for their picnics? Dont exactly remember the place, except that it was a steep climb, and there were steps. OR is it the place which is frequented by panthers?
(Was in Pune for 14 yrs before moving to Kuwait)

Cajie said...

I think you are referred to Raigad fort - which is about 2 hours from Mahabaleshwar. Raigad fort has many steps, and is frequented by students.

Rajgad, on the other hand, is not for the faint of heart as it is a 2 hour hard and dangerous trek plus another 2 hours to come down. In addition, if you want to visit the 3 machis, you need to factor in another 2-3 hours.

Omi said...

Rajgad Fort

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Pick an S.T from Swargate (Pune to Gunjawane)

Morning Timings::
6:15am, 7:00am, 8:30am, 9:15am, 10:30am.


Its about 65-70Kms from pune, Public transpot takes about 2hrs to reach Gunjawane gaon

If u r planning by bike or own vehicle the Router is as follows

SWARGATE>>SATARA HIGHWAY>>SHIVAPUR TOLL NAKA>>NASRAPUR>>TURN RIGHT TOWARDS BANESHWAR>>AFTER 15KM COMES THE GUNJAWANE GAON..

TREK STARTS FROM GUNJAWANE GAON TOWARDS GUNJAWANE DARWAJA.

ALMOST 95% OF THE TREK IS EASY..

BEST CLIMATE IS THE WINTER SEASON :: NOV-JAN

IF YOU R PLANNING TO GO IN RAINY SEASON U MUST REACH TO THE TOP AT THE EARLIEST AS THERE R ONLY TWO TEMPLES TO STAY IN. THERE R NO HOTELS TO STAY. CLIMATE IN RAINY SEASON IS HEAVEN N HELL.

HEAVY RAIN WITH HUGE FOG.


Main points of the fort are:
1. Chor darwaja
2. Pali darwaja
3. Gunjavane darwaja
4. Padmavati Machi
5. Padmavati Temple
6. Padmavati Lake and other several lakes.
7. Daru Kothar
8. Sanjivani Machi
9. Suvela Machi
10. Bale Killa