Sahyadris were the center of Shivaji maharajah’s guerrilla warfare against the British and so we have a fort built at every peak and now Sahyadri’s are the most active trekking spots in southern India. So it was time for some monsoon madness in the lush green Sahyadris with Great Hyderabad Adventure Club.
The aim was to go to the top of Rajgad from gunjavane village and then trek 15 km to torna top and descend from there to velhe village in some 30 hours.
So we reached gunjavane by a 2 hour bus ride from pune. The frequency of bus is very low but one starts at 9 am in the morning from swar gate bus stand. Reaching the place only we realized that the trek is going to be a beauty.
So after a nice breakfast of pohe and vada paavs the GHAC team was ready to have a heck of a trek. The team :
standing (left to right) : Rama Raju, Arun, Shiva teja, Jaideep, Majid, Shoaib, Pramod, Shehzad and Karlene.
sitting (left to right) : Vishwam, Tarun, Mohit(me), Sunanda and Ismat.
So everybody started the trek in high spirits with the aim to reach chor darwaza in three hours. The trek to the chor darwaza was simple and straight on the path nicely laid. The only problem faced was the scorching heat in the humid environment.
Due to the sun we had to take breaks and keep ourselves hydrated regularly. But after ascending half the altitude, the weather changed for the best and little drizzle started. Then there was nothing stopping us to the top of rajgad.
Finally we entered the lush green part and now the fort was right there in front of us, full covered in green. The trail was well laid with railings on the steep slopes to help the trekkers reach the chor darwaza.
After the slopes, comes a small entrance to the fort called chor darwaza as earlier it was used for the backdoor exit from the fort. Now its the main entrance to the fort for the general trekkers.
After getting in from the chor darwaza you find yourselves on the first fort walls and can witness the amazing sahayadris at their best. In the picture above you can see our destination for the next day i.e torna fort (lost in the clouds behind). We had to trek the whole way from here along the ridges and to climb up the torna fort from the left and reach the velhe village at the right. But this was all for the next day, the time was to savor the moment.
Everybody was so excited to reach there and the weather increased our happiness manifolds. Everything except us was lush green and heaven seemed to have come at the place. The padmavati lake there seemed so tempting to have a dip but as the water there was used to drink, my wish to have a dip is still a wish.
So what, if we cant have a bath in the lake we still can a group pic besides the lake. Rajgad for has 4 parts – padmavati machi, suvella machi, sanjeevani machi and ballekila. Padmavati machi is the side of padmavati lake, suvella and sanjeevani machi the other two entrances of the fort, balekila is at the top most point of the fort.
The next check point was at the top of balekilla – the top most point of the fort. balekilla is straight up in front of the padmavatimachi. the track splits into three parts, the straight one going up to balekilla, the left one going towards suvellamachi and the right going to the sanjeevanimachi.
The primary target was to reach the top of balekilla and hen come back and exit the fort via sanjeevanimachi. the route to balekilla was again very steep, for each of us having big bags at our backs it seemed a bit tiring. The route to the top is somewhat slippery too, but with the support of railings put along the task was comparatively easy. On your way up you can also face monkeys stealing your food.
At last we were there at the top, no matter how much tired we were every step we had taken was worth. We kept on gaining altitude wherever possible and finally reached the top where Shoaib took this video.
The video shows the excitement levels of everybody even when they were climbing a hill for continuous 4 hours. The views from up there were breathtaking and it felt like to spend most of the time there only. But the final destination Torna fort was a long way to go and we already were falling short on time. So we tried to make the most out of the moment and getting back on the route to torna fort.
We came out of the rajgad fort from sanjeevanimachi, the group had a tough time struggling on the slippery surfaces and steep descends. The plan was to cover the most of the descend before it gets dark as it was indeed steep and slippery. Moreover one can’t see where he is going until the very end. We crossed most of the slippery part before sunset, had our supposed lunch (The fort was full of monkeys to eat and after wards we had our priorities) and then again set on our way which was supposedly going towards torna fort.
Next one hour was nothing but walking on a straight trail and we reached our camp site for dinner. The delicious dinner of curd and rice was served. A two hour break and we were all set for the night trek to the base of torna fort. The guy who gave us the dinner said route was straight and we had to follow the trail. But somehow we managed to loose the track somewhere and decided to camp for the day at 11 in the night and start early next morning.
Adding to our problems we found out that out of the 4 tents I got only 2 were in working condition and 2 could not be pitched. “Okay, I am so tired, I only need a clean and flat surface to crash in my sleeping bag” was the thought in our minds and we dozed off to sleep at 12 and 4 was the wake up call.
No, it was not the end to our problems at the moment, it was 1 in the night and I started to feel rain drops on my face and heard somebody saying “it started raining.” Guess what, nobody sleeping outside in the open gave a damn and kept on sleeping whether it was raining or not. Everybody tried to manage something for themselves without getting out of the sleeping bags.
Morning 4 everybody was up, drenched in water, stranded in the middle of nowhere, no idea of where to go. But still as we were at the top of the hill, we were not lost. We packed up everything and again started on the way the we thought was going to torna. After an hour or so of trek we reached the place where we had been the earlier night. This was the time everybody in the group was shocked, everything happened the previous night was a waste and we were back to square zero with very less time left in our hands. The confidence levels decreased drastically. That was the point to take the call, either to take the route one more time and put in all our efforts to reach torna fort, or to let go and go back pune.
For me, letting it go was not an option and my team was very cooperative to my autocratic orders. We had our breakfast of milk at 8 am and set out to reach the torna fort by 12 pm. Sunanda and Pramod left the group and went to pune. After that the group started on the track and there was no looking back or unnecessary photo breaks. We crossed countless number of hills, walked on the ridges for about 14 kilometers to reach the base of torna from buddla machi.
The trail you see was the trail we followed for 4 continuous hours. It demanded a short break before the climb to buddla machi of torna fort.
To climb up the buddlamachi there are three rock patches to climb. The first two are comparatively easy for any person knowing the basic scrambling.
The third patch is a little bit scary specially when you have 20 kilos of backpack on your shoulders and the first rock you hold breaks off and falls in the deep valley. There is one more spot after the third patch where a staircase has been put. And there we are at buddlamachi.
It was about 1 pm, hunger started to strike and we seemed still far from the center of torna fort. A few more ridges were there to cross and to finally reach the entry gate of the torna fort.
The guy at temple in the fort served chai and poha, Siva got some ready to eat materials and everybody had whatever was available. Well water is available for drinking near the temple. After the lunch we took a break for about an hour before starting on our way back to the base of torna.
The way back to velhe village was comparatively an easy task, the route down is actually longer than it looks. The descend is initially steep then a flat land comes and again the steep descend starts. We managed to reach velhe by 4.30 in the evening.
The first thing to do while at velhe was to eat whatever we can find, everything we had was tasty enough to make hog like anything.
From vehle we took the local jeeps to some phata on the pune -bangalore highway. and from the highway the buses are easily available to swar gate bus stand.
Pic courtesy : Rama Raju, Shoaib Mohhamed Kirmani
Video : Shoaib Mohhamed Kirmani