As with most of the Deccan Highlander treks, At about 3:30 pm , Rahul sent out a final mailer having details of the almost finalised list of people who’d be joining us for the trek from Pune the next day. Rahul, Vishal, Uwaraj, Ashutosh kumar, Deepak, Nikunj, Amrapali and Ashutosh Dhobhal had been with us for a couple of previous treks. Sneha , Sumitra, Sourabh and Sandilya were the new ones to the group. From HydVentura, we had six folks – Hemant, Varaprasad, Abhishek, Raghu, Deepthi and Khushal who’d be pitching in early in the morning the next day. Santosh was traveling all the way from Bangalore ( a cool 16hrs! ) for this trek. This was going to be our first ever night camping trek for this monsoon season and we had 20 people aready!
Santosh wakes me up at about 05:45 am by a call telling me that he’d already reached Swargate and would be at Parihar chowk in a few minutes. The Hyd folks arrive at my place at about 07:05 am. The moment they put a foot in my house, I get behind their back prodding them to get ready quickly as we had a bus service to Mahad at 08:00am. Abhishek, Khushal, Santosh and Varaprasad leave as soon as they get ready. Soon Hemant, Raghu, Deepthi and I leave at about 8:00am. We’d just missed the 08:15 bus too and I could sense fumes out of Rahul’s ears as he kept calling, enquiring the status quo every five minutes. I prefer two positions while trekking – either the lead or the sweep. Most of the times, I end up being the sweep and this time I was sweeping even before we boarded the bus! I was the last one to arrive at Swargate and you could guess the emotions on people’s faces as I gave that royal entry .
To reach Raigad, one has to reach the Pachad village which is about 20kms from the easily accessible Mahad Village. Mahad is about 120kms from Pune ( Swargate ). Fortunately we had the next bus at about 09:00am. After a four hour long scenic journey through the Katraj-Bhor-Varandha route we reach Mahad at about 01:30pm. The next bus to Pachad was at about 2:00pm. Monsoon and high altitude, makes this route all the more beautiful with cascades at almost every bend and the ghat road adds to the breathtaking view of the Sahyadris. At 3:00pm we reach Pachad and from there manage to reach the base of Raigad in about 10 minutes. Nikunj and Rahul had been to this place before and they’d managed to find an awesome cave right behind the shop a bit up the hill. At that spot you would feel as if you’re inside a skull of a demon which was overlooking the village. Gusty winds whining through the two holes of the cave and exiting from the other side sort of revitalizes you. Indeed a beautiful spot and is a must visit if you ever plan to be to Raigad. The climb up the Raigad hill is just a climb up a flight of about 1500 steps, with a few long stretches here and there.
The Climb uphill
We had planned for lunch at a shop at the base but were compelled to be satisfied with Misal Pav. For some reason he wasn’t serving Thalli’s that day. At about 03:45pm we start the climb. The estimated time for the climb as put in various blogs and sites was about three hours. So right from the base we tried our best in keeping people on their toes all the time . Little did we know that, that timing was put for a dry season trek. An old woman sells sherbat and lemon juice at about 200feet from the base and you do have stalls which would probably be open during Summer. Half way up the hill you have a stupendous waterfall towering at about twenty five feet. We spend quite some time here and then move up to the peak. As you climb up the steps , you gain ascent very quickly and the look of the valley with the winding roads and mist filled atmosphere only gets more panoramic with every step.The visibility margin fades as you reach the peak and you can hardly look beyond a few feets ahead. Even before we realise that we’re reached the top , in about close to two hours we manage to reach the shed that has been constructed by MTDC for visitors. You do have a couple of guest houses but this would do good as much. We junk our bags here and leave to explore the fort.
Unknowingly we split
With real low visibility we fail to keep pace and happen to divide into two groups. Rahul, Nikunj, Vishal, Amarpali, Sneha, Sumitra and Uwaraj moved ahead while the rest of us for some reason failed to trail. Hemant, Sandilya, Deepak, Abhishek, Santosh, Raghu, Deepthi, Sourabh, Varaprasad, Ashutosh Kumar, Khushal and I start exploring the various chambers. We spend quite some time in the Queen’s quarters doing all sort of RDB jumps and keep clicking around. Ashutosh Dhobhal finds his way and joins us from nowhere. He’d wandered to the other side but somehow happened to listen to our howls and managed to track us. As we keep walking ahead we reach a dead end. This is when we wonder where the couple who were walking ahead of us vanished all of a sudden. We’d heard rumors of spirits existing up there and thanks to Ashutosh , Deepak and Sandilya things got lot peppier . Fortunately, somewhere near the ropeway we manage to find someone who guided us in the right direction. We find our way back and then enter the ramparts of Shivaji Maharaj’s quarters. Quite close to Shivaji’s Durbar we happen to meet the other group. They’d seen that part of the fort already so we decide to meet at the shed at 09:00pm. Rahul warns us of close to zero visibility near Takmaktok and Nikunj suggested we avoid getting anywhere close to that spot.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
It’s around 07:30pm and there’s still light all around. Soon in a few minutes it gets dark and the lights are switched on. The dense mist makes the light diffuse out totally and all that you are left with is the moonlight and the torches in your hand to guide you. We explore Shivaji’s chamber’s and his durbar. The spread out durbar, the long pathways and the towering entrance to the Durbar with Mist all around gives you a feeling that you’re on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris . Besides this place I’ve heard is also famous for it’s amazing acoustics. Wonder how people in those ages managed to build such magnificent buildings!
We wander through the supposed Bazar of those days and finally reach the Takmak Tok spot ( Execution point) . Sandilya gets ecstatic and reasons out to pay it a visit. We somehow manage to stop him and proceed to the Samadhi of Sivaji. It was about 08:30pm by then and we decide to get back to the Shed. Way back, Deepak and Sandilya plan to get back to Takmak tok at 01:00am .
Camp at base
Rahul and Nikunj had spoken to the attender there to cook food for the twenty of us. Food was ready by the time we hit the spot and after a sumptuous meal we get back to the shed. A huge mattress was provided by the attender at the cost of some self praise and finally after a quick change we hit the floor. To while away time we hit upon Antakshari which went on till about 12:30 am. Not to mention, it was stopped because the manager got pissed real bad listening to us bray with our mighty vocal chords and when he could barely manage anymore we thought it would only be wise to stop .
I wonder what we would have done had we not got this place to rest. It rained cats n dogs all through the night. Sandilya was all the while relating it to bullets in a warzone and we also had one spirited soul who kept snoring away in glory. A dog gave us consistent company and Sr. Pinto on an onsite deputation from HSBC made his way under Santosh and a couple of other folks late at night .
At about 05:30 am I’m woken up by Nikunj and Vishal scurrying around for something. I soon follow steps and explore nature with a bottle of water . Later as we get back to the shed we get to know there were restrooms available a few yards away .
Hemant and Varaprasad had to board their train at 4:30pm from Pune. So we decided to leave for the base as early as possible. Soon we were about 13 of us who decided to trek downhill (?) and and the remaining seven stayed back to explore more of the fort. In about 45 minutes we hit the base. From there we arranged for a Sumo to drop us at Mahad directly. We reached Mahad at about 10:30am and from there boarded a bus to Bhor. The bus was pretty much empty and the 2.5 hr journey was quickly spent with dumb charades. From Bhor another bus got us to Swargate by around 3:00pm. Hemant and Varaprasad left for the Station while the rest of us hit back home.
Rahul and Co. I understand from Vishal , had been to Takmak tok and explored more of the fort. They’d got back at about 5:00pm . Reports from them yet awaited .
A long story cut short – An awesome place to be for a morning climb up the hill. A longer stay up the hill would do good given the long travel that you need to do reach there. And oh yes! Bigger the crowd, better !
Team : 20
Route: Pune > Katraj > Bhor > Vandarvadi > Mahad > Pachad > Raigad
Distance: Raigad: Approx 150kms from Pune. | Mahad : ~120kms from Pune | Pachad: ~20kms from Mahad
Time : Uphill: 1.75hrs | Downhill:0.75 hrs [Monsoon]
Transport: Swargate-Mahad [ ST at 08:00hrs, 08:15hrs, 09:00hrs ] . Mahad – Pachad/Raigad footstep base [ ST / Sumo’s].
Expenses: Rs 400 Approx. [ Pune <-> Raigad – All incl. ]
Stay: Overnight [ Accomodation , Prior booking facility available ]
Best time to visit: Monsoon!
Endurance: low | Difficulty : low