Friday, January 29, 2021

A trail around the Rajmachi mountains to Shirota lake

Shirota lake

A change in the destination just before we embarked on our journey! Two days prior and till my friend got in the car, we were to go to Peth (Kothligad fort) near Karjat. I had trekked to Peth many times. So we decided to try out a new place on the list. I recently had watched videos of Shirota lake and that’s where we decided to head.

To reach Shirota, you need to take the first exit to Lonavala on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and soon after a few kilometers, there’s another sharp left with boards of ‘Della Adventure Resort & Camp’. As we drove, we saw a few buses of ‘Della Adventure’ filled with staff and tourists; it seems to be a popular place for adventure activities and stay. As you drive towards Shirota, you’ll be amazed at the huge bungalows that line up on both sides. A chat with a chaiwalla en-route revealed that a few of them are available to be hired for a day or weekend. The chaiwalla also gave us a doubtful look when we asked him how far Shirota was; he said the road is bad and in most likelihood, we’ll have to park our car somewhere far from the dam and walk from there. We thanked him and headed in the direction anyway.

After we crossed the bungalows, came the massive entrance of ‘Della Adventure’ to the right and what we were able to glimpse from the entrance looked like an entire well planned and lavish township altogether. The parking space outside itself was huge. As you cross it, the off-roading almost immediately begins and keeps getting worse; I’m sure the word ‘worse’ would be contradictory for bikers who love difficult and dirt tracks. We saw many geared bikers heading in the direction. I have a Maruti Swift and the track indeed proved to be a challenge with loose rocks and gravel all the way. After braving for quite a distance, we stopped at a spot, about 4.5 kms. from the dam (as indicated by Google maps) and decided to walk it out. We had come to enjoy the trail anyway.

Only after a few minutes of sauntering, we could see the peaks and ramparts of the twin forts (Manoranjan and Srivardhan) of Rajmachi to our left. What a sight they are; they reminded me of the time we had trekked to Rajmachi and had camped on Srivardhan fort for the night. The forest began after a while and the weather was still cool. We were the only two walking on the trail except for groups of bikers that we met at intervals. All of them were heading to Rajmachi. It’s only when we hiked quite a distance, that we realized that the road wasn’t worse than what we had already covered by car but walking was much better. A gentle breeze hit us every now and then. Huge magnificent mountains surrounded us, the chatter or monkeys and chirping of birds, the clean air, the pebbled path surrounded by dense vegetation, tiny lavender coloured flowers scattered like small carpets at places, a quaint bridge surprising you with its appearance, sharing of travel stories and making future travel plans – all of this was a welcome respite.

After a while you’ll see a fork in the road, the left one leading to Rajmachi and the other one to the Shirota dam. We were really doubtful if we were on the correct path at a point when the graveled path made way for a cemented one. We thought we were just getting down on the other side of the mountain and then a small opening appeared and we could see our destination. We came to a small village and an another15-20 minute of walking down a slope leads you to the lake. We saw the presence of Della Adventure here too as a vessel brought back a few of their tourists back to the shore. The dam or lake is actually a private TATA property. There was no-one at the lake after the tourists had left and we enjoyed the quiet and the expanse of the lake watching cormorants and herons glide past it and taking that occasional dip. I did go a little further and it looked like you can walk the length of the lake, at least for some distance. The forest was right behind us.

I don’t know if one can pitch tents here since it’s a private property but there were spots along the way that looked conducive and alluring for camping if you can manage water. I really don’t know how safe it would be though.

We chattered away to glory and were ready to leave as it started getting hotter. I’m sure the trail to the lake would be nicer in the monsoons. The only thing worrying me was the drive back through that graveled road but we made it. It was an enjoyable day trip. Thank you Mary for making it happen.

Happy traveling folks. Cheers!

Trail to the lake

Duke's Nose / Nagphani