The parched land had dried even further, the sometimes green grass lost all its moisture to turn pale – then brown, the trees had shed their leaves to retain the last drop of sap. The riverbed stands exposed and the lakes vaporised. The birds look for water to quench their thirst, the haggard farmer sits by their home looking at the sun-baked farmland. All skyward facing in hope for the thick grey sheet to cover the blazing sun. This is when the Nimbus arrives. It drains its store to fill all pores. And thus arrives the Monsoon.
The much-awaited monsoon has arrived in Maharashtra. The drought affected state was eagerly waiting for the water laden clouds to bless them with the showers. The surrounding did not wait longer to shed off its pale shade to take on the moist, fresh green. The rains have cast a spell on the landscape. The roads, the hills, the forest and the air has become even more intriguing. On one such rainy morning, we decided to climb the Lohagad fort.
Biking in the rain is all time favourite in Pune. Riding through the rain soaked Mumbai – Pune National Highway is a breathtaking experience. Being on this road is always fascinating, be it any season. But the monsoon has its own different charm. The lush green landscape with the floating heavy clouds above, sometimes releasing its burden to soak us all, beneath. At times the precipitation increases along with it the visibility decreases. Thus forcing us for frequent breaks under some scarce shade, in this highway.
Riding towards Lonavala we took a turn towards Malavali and after few kilometre, we were to the lower parking area in the Bhaje Gaon village. The base village to start the trek to the fort is Lohagadwadi, which is approximately 5 km from here. A motorised road is connected to the base village from Lonavala. Depositing our helmets in a small eatery there we started our trek along with hundreds of other visitors.
A gushing sound of the water grabbed our attention towards a waterfall with numerous people flocked, some in quest of a perfect selfie while others trying out various acrobatic poses balancing on the slippery rocks within the water. We walked on through the ascent on the wet, slippery dirt track. The clouds were blown away by the winds sometimes to make way for the bright light to fall on the tender green and get reflected back to spread it glossy aura around.
As the ascent increased the crowd decreased and at a certain point we were by ourselves. It was a walk through the vegetation and some clear space on the hilly terrain overlooking the water filled village farms, so green so fertile. This is when a thick fat cloud poured on us with great might. Walking in this heavy showers was getting difficult. Even the rainwear did not seem fit for these heavy showers. With no shade to guard us against the rain, we continued.
By then our hungry stomach was indicating us for a refuel. But the rain did not allow us to open our stock. We kept on our walk when we suddenly spotted a shack with a local couple selling ‘kanda poha’ and ‘kanda vaji’. This was a welcome break from the rain so as to our hungry tummy. The plain old ‘poha’ never tasted so delicious. Is is because of the hunger situation or the culinary magic of these people? By then the stormy rain subsided and we were on the track again.
The hills had the view of multiple thin to thick streams of water rushing down. The Karla Caves were also in sight on the other side of a hill. Many people diverged to the cave too, after starting from the same spot. Two school kids walked passed us. Probably on their way to the school from a village within the Greens. This was again a paved road. The Visapur fort was also visible from here but we were towards our destination to Lohagad, which was also in front of us.
A local vendor by the road was selling off his last few pieces of Guavas. While his companion beside was fanning his hearth to roast the Corns. When the pitter patter drops hit the ground again. Then it gained pace. The corn vendor rushed to the shanty shack on the other side of the road to save his goods. We followed. An aged couple was ready to take orders of ‘Junka Bhakri’ (a local food made of Jowar flour and Gram Flour). We placed an order and went on towards the fort. Read about my trek to Rajmachi Fort.
We reached the Lohagadwari village which is the base of the fort. We saw the well-paved road on the other side of the village and presumed it to be the road towards Lonavala. From here steep slippery stairs took us within the mist engulfed moss covered fort. As we climbed and passed the successive doors of Ganesh Darwaja, Narayan Darwaja, Hanuman Darwaja and the Maha Darwaja, we found ourselves at a good altitude to get a view of the surrounding.
The further we climbed the denser was the mist. Then again some drizzle followed by the cover of fog. A lovely hide and seek game. On clear weather, the beautiful structure of the fort would have been visible from this topmost point. Our view was shrouded with the mysterious rain filled clouds and fog. Some cannons, the old Dargah, the Shiv Temple and many water tanks were here. Most of them in their ruins.
On approaching the edge of the fort we could hear the loud gushing sound of a waterfall. The wind was high and the bushes and shrubs were fluttering in the breeze creating a melodious tune. All of a sudden the mist lift its veil to give a glance of the waterfall and then cover it up immediately.
Now we were within the clouds. The rains started pouring again in full force. We started to climb down along with the streams of water through the stairs making it more slippery. Carefully we reached the food shack where we placed the order. The simmering hot ‘Jhunka’ also known as ‘Pithla’ was waiting for us along with the equally hot Bhakri. The food was served in clean stainless steel plates along with an appetising hot and tangy chutney made of garlic and peanuts.
Finishing this sumptuous meal we were on our way back with occasional rain. On one such glistened track I slipped and fell. To get up quickly to avoid the funny sense of embarrassment in front of the other visitors. With a grinning face, I moved on ignoring the pain. Thus enjoying the trip to the fullest with a funny ending.