“Be fearless in the pursuit of what gets your soul on Fire”
Lohagad (Iron Fort) is one of the many hill Forts of Maharastra State in India situated close to the hill station Lonavala and 52 km north west of Pune.Lohagad rises to an elevation of 3,389 ft above sea level.The fort is connected to the neighbouring Visapur fort by a small range.The Fort was under the Maratha empire for the majority of time except for a short period of five years under the Mughal Empire.
Lohagad is part of the Western Ghats and overlooks the Pavana reservoir located to the south of the mountain.The hill extends to the north-west to a fortified spur called Vinchukaata(Scorpion’s tail) because of its resembling shape.The fort has been declared as a protected monument by the government.
I joined Darkgreen Adventures for this trek who had arranged a bus which picked me up along with 4 others from Nerul at 7.45 AM sharp.As I entered the bus and greeted my fellow trekkers, I was happy to locate a comfortable front seat empty which I promptly occupied. During the onward journey, most of the trekkers kept to themselves as we were strangers -meeting for the first time.At about 9 AM, we enjoyed a serving of theplas and vadas for breakfast and arrived Malavali around 9.30 AM where we had a short stoppage of about 10 minutes before proceeding to Bhaje parking lot.
After a quick round of tea, we began the customary introduction session which did not take long, as our group consisted of only 20 members. Thereafter we commenced our trek at 10 am choosing the dirt path instead of the tar road for the sake of its ruggedness, challenge it offered, to explore the lush green country side and to click some good photographs of the beautiful scenery all around.
As anticipated by the trek leader, our group got separated – some going slow clicking photographs while others moving fast and in a hurry to reach the destination.I was moving at a medium pace clicking a few photographs along with the fellow trekkers from Nerul thereby losing track of the remaining group and had to hurry up to find the remaining members who were enjoying a good group game along with the Trek Leader some distance ahead.We quickly joined up so as not to miss the fun and participated with full gusto and enthusiasm interspersed with squeal of laughters from the girls gang. The game finally ended in a tie. Enroute we could see many waterfalls and captured their beauty on camera.Some of us were eager to go to these waterfalls but that was postponed for the return journey.Being rainy season, we had expected a lot of rain but Raingod had other plans.The clouds kept playing hide and seek making us hopeful of rain at times but most of the time the sun kept shining mercilessly on us.
A beautiful fort in a beautiful location, good roads to its base and an easy climb makes Lohagad fort one of the most popular destinations to visit.Being a Saturday, it was teeming with enthusiastic trekkers and made it look like a picnic spot.Walking at a very leisurely pace enjoying the greenery, waterfalls, clicking pictures and having sips of water, we reached village Lohagadwadi at about 11.45AM and headed for the restaurant for freshening up(washroom charges(Rs 10), a glass of Lime juice(Rs 15 ) and placing order for our lunch after taking the preferences of the members so that it would be ready when we return from the Fort hungry and tired.
Ascend to the fort from the village is by about 100 steps.There are five main entrances to the fort namely Narayan darwaza, Ganesh darwaza, Mahadarwaza, Triambakeshwardarwaza& Hanuman darwaza, the latter being the oldest of them all. The main gate is also known as ‘Delhi Gate’. All the Darwazas have some notable carvings which one must not miss. Carving of lord Hanuman at the Hanuman Darwaza is its prominent feature.We commenced our ascend at about 12 noon.
There were bottle necks on each Darwazaa they were very crowded being a weekend(Saturday in Monsoons).We finally reached the top at about 12.45 pm.It normally takes about 20 minutes to climb but due to the heavy rush, we took more time.On reaching the top we visited the Dargah, Octagonal reservoir, few Cannons, other cisterns &enjoyed the panoramic view of Tung-Tikona, Visapur and Pawna Dam.
Without wasting much time we began our approach to Vinchukaata which is at the extreme end of the fort.It is a 1500m long & 30m wide part of the mountain with bastion on the end, separated from the main part.There are 2 routes to Vinchukaata – one is by crossing a difficult rocky patch and other is a very narrow route (with exposed view on left side).However,there is a railing to hold on to. Due to the monsoon season, we selected the narrow route which was safer than the rocky patch. It is advisable not to attempt crossing the rocky patch during rains or cloudy weather.One part of the narrow path has a very sharp descend where our progress got very slow due to the bottle neck owing to heavy rush of visitors and the same path being used for both ascend as well as descend. I was stuck there for more than 30 minutes, it was already 1320 pm and we had been instructed to come down and meet up at the restaurant at 1345 pm. I was therefore worried but helpless and could reach the endpoint of Vinchukaata only at about 1415 pm when I was delighted to find some fellow trekkers waiting along with the Trek leader. After a quick session of photography, we commenced our next leg of the trek. We were able to reach the top in less time with the guidance of our trek leader and hurriedly began our descend as some members of our group who did not venture to Vinchukaata were waiting for us to have lunch.We too were eager to go down fast as we were very hungry but the heavy rush of visitors all along the route slowed us down.
At one of the darwazas, I got separated from my fellow trekkers and once out of the last darwaza, I hurried down to the restaurant by which time it was past 3pm when I learnt that that two more members were yet to arrive. There were quite a few Restaurants but the one we chose was a decent one with the menu being Veg Thali,BhurjiPav,Dal Rice and ZunkaBhakar.We had placed order for all the items and got to taste each of them.The food was however just passable and nothing to write home about.After lunch, we resumed our descend at 1600 hrs and this time chose the tar road since we wanted to reach the waterfall early and spend some time there.We arrived the base at about 1730 hrs and refreshed ourselves with a glass of NimbooPaani before heading for the waterfall.
The fun and frolic under the waterfall was the most enjoyable part of the trek and the happy moments were captured in our cameras and mobiles.We departed from the waterfall at 1830 hrs dripping with water and all of us voted for a hot cup of tea which we enjoyed thoroughly .The tough part was on the return journey when all members who were wet were not permitted to sit but made to stand at the entrance of the bus(rightly so !!) but that was only for a km when we quickly changed into dry clothes at a changing room(30 bucks each). Rain God relented a bit too late and it rained heavily on our way back.We had a fun filled journey playing antakshri with both sides belting out funny forgettable songs.The scene now was very different from the morning as by now we had all become friends and felt sad to bid adieu.I reached Nerul at 1945 hrs and was back home by 2000 hrs with plenty of happy memories and having made a few good friends.The bonhomie and camaredierie within the members is still continuing in our whatsapp group that we had formed for the trek.Trekking helps break barriers and inhibitions and gives one true friends. Some of us are planning to meet again soon.
To conclude: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks” John Muir
Some more photographs
By Train :Go to Lonavala by train. Take a local to Malvali village. From Malvali village station, it is a 2 Kms walk to Bhaja village, the base village for Bhaje caves.
By road: From Mumbai take the Mumbai-Pune Expresway, take the turn to Lonavala, cross Malavali and then travel uphill for about a km to reach Bhaje parking lot.
Tips for the Trek
- Wear track pants/shorts or similar attire with comfortable T-shirt/shirt
- Carry 2 litres of water ,dry snacks, fruits
- Raincoat or similar(Umbrellas hinder your movement as while walking your hands should be free
- Sun glasses and sunscreen
- A cap
- Camera for good photos
- A haversack/backpack to carry your belongings