Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rajgad Heights - A treasure built with a treasure

Other forts and trekking destinations
Jaigad | Karnala Fort | Korigad | Kothligad | Korlai FortPratapgad | Rajgad | Ratnadurga | Tikona | Torna | Vijaydurg

The wise say, "Where there is a will(s), there is a way..."
The wiser say, "When you puff a Flake of Gold, you tend to get bold...."
Nahi samjha to rehne do....

After a long hiatus, the heart of a mountain goat bleated for a return to the hills. Initially, a bigger number; the group was shortened controversially between the drinkers and the non-drinkers and the passionate drinkers decided to stay back. My and Anands' decision to join in was a last minute one. Kaushal awoke from his torpid state and decided to join us. A part of the group was going on bikes, and the rest by car.
Leaving office by 6:00 pm, we knew we had to hurry up to get home and then on this fresh expedition, but that didn't deter Anand and me from lifting our glasses at Military Cafe...3 warm beers in 30 minutes - WARM?? ya, sure we'r crazy...SO??

Just when I thought Sharmaji was not gonna turn up, he called to say that he'd left home and so should I.  The traffic jam buttered away time as AS reached Thane by 10:30 and zoom we flew to pick Mr.Kaushal Silent Sharma (yet another Sharma) on our way at Juinagar. Though we had missed him, rushed ahead and had to come back; he didn't miss us as he claimed to have emptied an entire KHAMBA of whiskey at the bus stop in about an hour...not a peg, not two, not a quarter, but a full bottle...well, HE claimed !!! And, to top it all, he hadn't slept for 15 days...

And then Silent Sharma sat silent for the entire drive....why did you burst out laughing?? am I joking??
But then someone HAD to tell stories of glory!! Dunno who it was as all I did was listen to Gulzar Saabs lyrical best on the radio.

Speeding on the Mumbai Expressway, our stomachs reminded us of its presence and we halted for a quick vada pav and some chai.  No more halts and a good many hours later, around 5:00 am, we reached Nasrapur. You have to look out for the right bend to Nasrapur on the Satara route after you have entered Pune and left the Mumbai Pune Expressway behind. Andy was overworked, driving straight for 7-8 hours and we were lucky that he didn't doze off behind the wheel with no streetlights and with all the 'ghanghor kaala andhera'. We called everybody from the 'monkey gang', rightly named by Andy, but nobody bothered to pick up and some even having the nerve to switch off their mobiles (with all their tall claims of "Sakali sharp 6:00 la trekking chalu karuya")...Nonsense!!

We decided to wait for some more time, till sunrise. So Andy dozed off in the car and SS found some villager 'Veeru' to tell about his 'Dhano' tales and I chose the scenery to talk to. Photography ain't easy my boy, at least for an amateur like me. Got some good bird pictures though. With sunrise, we decided to wait no more and took off for Gunjawane, the base village for our trek to Rajgad. En route, as the sun had risen, so had the village and between golden haystacks and green fields and long forgotten hand pumps, the children, dressed pretty, left for their schools. At Gunjawane, there is a small and beautiful Ganesh temple.
We hungry souls had a tasty helping of 'pohe' and 'omelettes' and some 'mast chai'. We three Charlies Devils finally started our trek at 8:15. The initial 20 mins itself spoke of the arduous trek that lay ahead and I started huffing and puffing. I say 'I' because SS is a born trekker (...again you are smiling!!) and AS seemed okay.
School time

Ganpati Bappa Mourya

SS and AS (The Sharmas)

Destination Rajgad

Yunhi chala chal raahi...

Tired Me
Rajgad - King of forts!!

 Stopping after every 50 steps to catch my breath, I yet again made those useless and worthless promises to myself:
  • Ye new year ko happy banaonga aur cigarette chhod doonga
  • Roz jogging karoonga
  • 10 kilos loose karunga
  • will keep a check on my diet

The trek is entirely uphill with hardly a flat patch. Though a short duration trek than the ones we had done earlier, it does test your endurance. The scenery opens up as you keep moving ahead, nearer to the clouds and needless to say its a beautiful scatter of colours. All along the trek, you never lose sight of the fort, and sitting tiny on the top, its Balle Killa. You can see Torna in the distance to your right and Rajgads' Suvela Maachi to your left. For the trek to Rajgad, it's nearly impossible to lose your way as it is pretty straight. The last part does have small rock patches. Though the experienced ones would hardly bother to notice, its better to watch your step and not look down. I am sure there are other routes to the fort as well. The final steps cut in the rock led us to one of the entrances to the fort and like thieves we entered the fort through the 'Chor Darwaza'. Aaaaah!!! What a sense of relief and accomplishment. yet another fort, yet another successful trek.
And SS was quite all along....stop laughing!!
"Yunki, Ramgarh chalna hai, Ramgarh chalo,
Rajgad chalna hai, Rajgad chalo...Basanti tum jaise civilians ko Rajgad ke dus chakar lagvake le aayegi..."

Finally there !!
Valley below
Gunjawane Darwaza or Chor Darwaza

Like hungry cats, AS and SS slurped the salty/sweet 'taak' and I licked my glass clean of the 'nimbu paani' that the young local boys and girls were selling. Just ahead of the 'Chor Darwaza' is the 'Padmavati Talao', not meant for swimming though. As you cross the Padmavati Talao, you see the Padmavati temple and a guest room adjacent to it. Drinking water tanks are nearby and a few steps ahead lies the 'Kacheri' which we were lucky to find available and booked for all of us. The entire fort seemed to be booked by a group called 'Nature Lovers' as they got busy setting and settling their tents. This group (around 150 -200 kids, teenagers, uncles, aunties, ajjobas, aajjis) comes every year to do a 'Pradakshina' - walking the circumference of the fort and this was the 26th year.

We ordered the caretaker 'Mama' for some 'Aamti bhaat' and ventured to have a wash at the luring lake. The water was cold and refreshing. We lay down on the rocks and rested. Hunger pulled us again to our room. Just as Mama served us our Amti Bhaat, we jumped on it. AS wanted a spoon and was scorned at by the caretaker. The caretaker, like a good host, gave all the recent updates on Rajgad - about the 'Nature Lovers' group coming every year, about how a group of 3 drunkards lost 1 of them and found his body in the pond recently, how he had stopped various fights. He was from the base village Gunjawane. As we were filling our tummies, we heard sounds from the rest of the group. So, they finally reached, so what if not at 8 am, but at 2 pm...

Padmavati Talav
  After greeting each other with the normal pleasantries, our group got down to their maggi preparation. Nitin, as always did a good job and everyone now had their fill. Some dozed while others went to fill the bottles with water from the 'taake'. Pravin made his best efforts to purify the water and instead of putting 1 drop of the purifying liquid in about 5 litres of water, maybe put 1 drop of water in the small bottle of liquid. We have all the smart guys in the world. Then there was this heated discussion on the chemical contents of the purifying liquid. It was Sodium hydrochloride for some, potassium to others, chlorine to some. Pravin put his foot down and rejected the 'Chlorine' guys saying "Chlorine to swimming pool me SUSU saaf karneke liye hota hai".

Around 4, after our gappa goshtis and short naps, we ventured out to Suvela Maachi. The sun still shone brightly as we kadam kadam badhaye went through the edge of the mountain towards the maachi. The valley below showed the Painters strokes of light and dark green with the old burnt golden grass thrown in between. There is a small 'Hanuman' Mandir en route.  Almost towards the Suvela Maachi, you can see a huge rock standing tall, but wait till you see the same rock from the maachi. Ahead lies the 'Nedhe', a huge hole in the rock. While everyone wondered about this geological wonder, SS already knew the answer...
"Yunki, mai 15 din se soya nahi hun aur ye to hawa se hi hua hai". Maybe someone was cleaning the rock and overwashed it.....
Balle KIlla

Suvela Maachi

Click click click
Standing tall !!

Having some fun !!

Elephant pulling the mountain

Smile please...
At the summit of Suvela Maachi
A beautiful sunrise !!
Rise of the Sun God !!

As I said, the big rock looks like a huge elephant with a mahout on top, ready for a hunting expedition and pulling the entire fort. It's a spectacular view. As we sat at the tip of the cliff to celebrate and rest a bit, the panoramic view below and ahead gave us the pleasure of a lifetime. A bird tweeted and flew above like a flying fish. AS saw a sweet little insect sitting on the hood of my pullover. Balle killa was the next destination for most as Andy, Pravin and me decided to go back to the Kacheri. We got some wood for the evening 'Shekoti' and dinner. Some came back half way, while others did go to the Balle Killa under the ultimate leadership of SS....
"Yunki, mai 15 din se soya nahi hun aur ye dhano, ghodi hoke taanga chala sakti hai, to tum aadmi hoke Balle Killa nahi chad sakte??"

As it got dark and most of them returned, Nitin, our official cook got down to making some delicious pulav as others got busy filling water, cleaning up the vegetables, room or just doing nothing. We captured a scenic spot on the edge of the fort which gave us the gleaming lights of the valley below and more stupendously gave us a view of the entire star studded sky above. A cold wind blew. It was a moonless night and the sky was filled with stars. You have to see it to believe it. Reminded me of Torna where we had gorged on a similar starlit sky. Everyone took turns at testing their astronomical skills, spotting the SaptRishi, the Hunter, the planets. It was surprising to see trekkers still walk in...night trekkers, have to say...gutsy guys.
Reminded me of the Floyd song 'Astronomy Domine'
Lime and limpid green
a second scene,
A fight between the blue
you once knew.
Floating down the sound resounds
Around the icy waters underground
Jupiter and Saturn
Oberon Miranda and Titania
Neptune Titan
Stars can frighten
Blinding signs flap flicker flicker flicker
Blam pow pow
Stairway scare Dan Dare,who's there?
SS showed of his powerfull flashlight and flashed it on Torna. Somebody from Torna also shared the same exitement and flashed his light towards us. We had a hearty time discussing previous experiences and laughing aloud.

And then, our dinner was ready - tasty pulav with pappad, 2/3 people sharing their plates - isse pyaar badhta hai. Hats off to Nitin and co. Eating our dinner, the topic for discussion was 'Ghosts'.
'Amavas ke raat 9 baje, dekhna na bhooliya, chikni chudaiil ki prem kahani'
Right from 'Kille ka Rahsya' to 'Honee Anhonee' and 'the Paranormal Activity', everything was discussed. We applauded Nitin for his cooking skills. After our post dinner smoking session, we got into our sleeping bags and dozed off while others still had a lot to discuss, so went out for a chat. In 5 minutes, we were snoring and grunting like pigs.

We all had a good sleep and got up around 6 am. We watched the sun rise as we went through our morning ACTIVITIES. Andy and me returned with my camera to capture the sunrise and the psychedellic colours in the sky combined with the layered shades of the mountains. I hope I did an okay job. After a group photograph, the rest of the group left for the planned Rajgad-torna trek as we started descending down the mountain.
We came down around SSs' various instructions and innumerous stories of heroism and saving the world.
"Yunki, befazool baat karneki to hume aadat hai nahi"
It was a Sunday; Lord Jesuss' birthday and a whole lot of people had decided to enjoy the day by getting to the fort. We saw a lot of groups, right from kids to an uncle aged above 70 to a handicapped person to huffing and puffing aunties...almost everyone was there - a great activity I would say than watching TV at home. Some of the locals were carrying the heavy luggage of these groups. You wonder at their ability to carry such heavy loads and get up this strenuous pathway. We got down in less than an hour and having our breakfast, left for home by 9:40 am.

We enjoyed our drive as Kishore Kumar and Nutan sang "M A D mad, mad mane paagal, B O Y boy, boy mane ladka". The latter part of the drive was intoxicating as we had Pankaj Udhas giving us his dose of maikhanas and saakis. The drive was a pleasant one as we didn't get much traffic and I reached home by around 2:30 pm.

The next day our group told us about their great trek from Rajgad to Torna and how they completed it in 4 and a half hours. Great going guys...keep the adrenalin rush going.......

Happy trekking until next time !!
More photos on :
Our gang - Nikhil and Nagesh are missing...

Some history:
Rajgad, literally meaning King of forts, one of the forts of Maharashtra state is situated in the Pune district, the fort is approximately 1326 meters above sea level. This fort is built on the hill called "Murumb Devacha Dongar" Rajgad boasts the highest number of days stayed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on any fort and the burial of Afzal Khans head in the Mahadarwaja walls of Ballekilla

  • There are buses from Gunjawane to Pune as well.
  • You can enquire at the base village and arrange for your lunch and dinner up at the fort. You can even arrange for the locals to carry your luggage

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kerala travelogue - Day 7 (27th Nov 2011) - The beautiful backwaters of Alleppey

Kerala Toursim
Alleppey | Aymenem | Ernakulam | Fort KochiKalariyapattu | Kumarakom | Paranthampura | Thekkady | Vembanad |
Holiday Destinations in India

No holiday to Kerala is complete without the houseboat experience. The rickshaw from Aymenem to Alleppey finishing point took us a little longer than usual as the roads were in a pretty bad condition and it started raining heavily.
 At the finishing point, our house boat 'Mayura' awaited us. It had an upper deck, like I asked for.The water front was lined with numerous houseboats. There are around 900 houseboats in Alleppey. As the diesel engine roared and we embarked on our journey, the wonderful sights and scenery opened up....let me stop  and let my our boat, the story teller do the talking for a change..... Reminds me of a Pink Floyd Song 'Learning to Fly'
Into the distance
A ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A fatal attraction
that's holding me fast
How can i resist this irresistible grasp
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue tied and twisted
Just an earth bound misfit, I...
That was my journey to 'Gods Own Country'... Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed being there.
Our HouseBoat Mayura

Boat Station

Patharimanal island in the distance


A flight of fancy

  • For the ignorant, even if you have booked the houseboat for the entire night, it travels for around 3 hrs. and then parks by a village side by 5:30 pm, after which they are not allowed to ply. The boat again starts by 8 pm to reach you to the finishing point by 9 pm
  • You can buy exotic fishes at one of the islands the boat stops at and buy fish for cooking in your houseboat.
  • You have options for massaging at the islands which your houseboat person can help you with.