Dhok pings me and Vaibhav at about 4:00pm to let us know that we may have to get to Muralgad on bikes, as commutation by ST may become a problem. There were about eight of us and we weren’t really sure how many would fancy biking to the base. With all this, Muralgad as this weekend’s destination didn’t sound that interesting! I’m not sure whether it was me or Vaibhav who brought about the idea of changing the plan and getting Abhishek to agree on Torna instead. Couple of minutes later, Dhok sends out a mail to the Deccan Highlander group and by about 06:00pm the count stood at 7. Later, I get to know from Suhas, Dhok received a solid dose from him for changing the plan. I’ll let Vaibhav take that honorable priviledge .
5:00 am as the regular Continental music wakes me up, I’m up in seconds. After the Katraj – Sinhagad trek, this was one of the first monsoon treks that fell in the medium difficulty category and besides, who’d want to miss the oppurtunity of trekking to a place that was approx. 4,600ft above MSL? Ashutosh, Sourabh, Omkar, Vaibhav and I reach Swargate at about 6:30 am. Abhshek Dhok by call, lets us know that he and Abhijeet would be joining us in a couple of minutes. The next bus to Vehli – the base village for Torna, was at 07:30am so we decide to have a quick breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Just as we start moving, Uwaraj and Swarnika pop in from nowhere with their ever smiling faces. Finally we’re 9!
We’re well ahead of time for the 7:30 am bus service. As the bus arrives and people board, we realise they’re not many takers to Vehli. In a way, I’m surprised. Torna is quite a famous destination for weekend treks and today it looks like we’re the only group all set to explore it. The first half of the 65 kms journey goes pretty somber with not much activity from anyone. Soon we hit upon playing Dumb charades and from then the journey gets interesting with people struggling to enact stuff; What with Uwaraj and Swarnika coming with the wierdest movie names!
At about 09:00am, the one and a half hour journey comes to an end and we reach Vehli. Two of Vaibhav’s friends were to join us at the base from Pune. They’d left from Sus road on a bike and were soon expected to reach there. As we wait for them for about fifteen minutes, Vaibhav and Dhok dole out spirit tales of various forts of Shivaji. There’s a belief that the Torna fort is haunted by a Brahmin Spirit who has issues with people staying on the fort overnight. Mythology has it that most of Shivaji’s forts have had human sacrifices to assuage the ‘power’s that may be’ to help them build the fort and maintain them. Before things got murkier and people started concocting wilder stories some noble soul decides to start the trek !
In quest of the spirit
Vaibhav,having trekked this place more than thrice led the group. Right at the base, once you walk across the small village households you come across a small cascade where you get to experience that real rustic atmosphere. The sight of little kids joyously fluttering about in the slimy water takes you back to those carefree golden days! As you move further ahead, the hilly terrain begins and the path that you need to follow is more or less starkly demarcated. From the base the peak stands to your left, so somewhere up there you need to be taking a left and keep following the path. Ashutosh , Abhijeet and I somehow happened to trail behind and at one point realised there was a short cut up to a certain point. Our wild instinct gets the better of us and even before we decide logically, we’re amidst shrubs and bushes. The humus soil and the steep climb up make things quite interesting and we manage to reach a level plain about ten minutes ahead of the remaining folks. Omkar, Vaibhav, Dhok, Sourabh and Uwaraj soon get along while Swarnika leads from behind! A quick break there and we start moving along. There’s this particular spot enroute wherein you get to see the towering hillock right ahead of you, a deep valley just below your feet and a cascade at a far distance away. In a way emoting and reminding, where you scarcely fit in this whole huge maze.
The last thirty minutes of trek uphill is indeed pretty interesting. Though you do have railings to support you in case you miss a foot, you’d do pretty good by just scaling up the rocks without their support . This part would have been a bit risky had it rained. Nevertheless, it isn’t something that is too life threatening. The climb uphill lasted for about three hours and we managed to reach the top by 12:30 pm. About a quarter of an hour is spent in the temple courtyard and then we leave to explore the ramparts of the fort. Thankfully, the climate’s in for a swing and it gets pretty misty. At one end of the forts bulwarks you get to have an panoramic view of the Sahyadris. We literally could experience the clash of two clouds! Who even wants to be on cloud nine when you could as well be at a prospective point of electric discharge? Eh! A bit too far stretched but I bet you wouldn’t have experience this even .
A few steps to that long arm!
There’s this particular spectacular spot wherein you get to have an extended view of the valley ahead of you. But for this, you had to get down a small iron ladder and then down some slippery rocks and walk a few yards around a narrow path to reach that spot. While Dhok and Omkar stood atop the rocks to give support to those of us who had interest to get down ; Abhishek , Vaibhav, Ashutosh and I trailed on the path a bit further only to get back as visibility was close to zero. The climb back to the rocky base and then up the ladder was probably the only risky and exhilarating part of the whole climb uphill.The Machi on the other side of the temple was pretty inviting too. You had to stoop on your knees and get to the other side of the Gaurd post. Probably this was one of the vital strike back point of those days.
At about 02:00pm we started the trek downhill. But for one particular spot which took a while to bypass the remaining stretch just required you to keep yourself on your feet and keep moving. We had a team of 150+ folks from Iflex who’d come to Torna that same day. Sadly, a few among them had dropped the waste after having their packed lunch. Abhijeet and Dhok happened to notice this and almost half way through the organisers of the ICE team had been at the receiving end !
Had a great time sprinting down the second half of the peak. The thrilling experience of not being bothered about the final destination but just being worried of where to keep the next step and deciding everything and orchestrating it to your muscles in nanoseconds is what I guess keeps me on my toes every weekend.
At about 4:00pm we hit the base. We’d arranged for food for the nine of us at a small restaurant at the base before we started our trek. From the restaurant owner we get to know that the next bus to Pune was at 4:30 which was supposed to leave at 4:45pm. So all of us have a quick lunch and we head back to the stop. Surprisingly, Abhijeet and Omkar had just spoken to a Sumo driver to get us to Pune. The nine of us and four others hunch into a Sumo and head back home! I doze off to glory and by the time I get back to my senses, we almost reach Swargate.
Team : 09
Route: Swargate > Old Katraj > Bhor > VelhI village > Torna
Altitude: ~4,600 FT above MSL
Time : Uphill: 3hrs | Downhill:2 hrs [Monsoon]
Transport: Swargate – VelhI [ ST: 06:30am, 07:30am ] | VelhI – Swargate [ ST: 04:30pm, 05:30pm ].
Expenses: Rs 150 Approx.
Stay:One day / Overnight [ Accommodation available in temple – Believe you’ve got to take the keys from the base village]
Best time to visit: Monsoon!
Endurance: low | Difficulty : Medium
Misc. Details: Torna aka Prachandgad is believed to be the first fort conquered by Shivaji after he vowed for swaraj at Raireshwar. The vastness of the fort led to it being named Pranchandgad.