Boy, Oh Boy! For the past two and a half months, I’ve been pampering hard ground every weekend ; but believe me, I’ve never been this satisfied as I am today after the trek. It’s been an adventure in the real sense! Walking through the dense vegetation with no idea where, when or how we’re going to turn up, not even remotely bothered of what could have been happening in the cities out there; losing paths and realising it after you’ve covered two or three kms;Tramping the 40+ kms in the splintering rain stopping just for nourishment en-route right from 09:00am all through till 09:00pm; taking respite in those scores of waterfalls rejuvenating our muscles and senses; crossing knee deep torrential streams just to find another just a few kms away; Groping to find directions in the dark.Phew! Indeed been one of THE best treks I’ve covered till date during my brief stay here in Pune.
Even at about, 3:00pm the count for this weekend trip stood at four. Blame us for not planning things ahead. Dhok! Abhijeet and Rahul were pre-occupied with personal work. Just as I’m about to drop plans to have a trek this weekend and plan to head for mumbai, Suhas calls and says he’s game for the weekend, come what may. In moments we decide to head for Rajmachi and drop a mail to the DH group and the Infy BB. Surprisingly and thankfully we do not have many takers this weekend. Neither of us had been here before and all we had was blogs and posts elsewhere to guide us till the end; so but for Ashutosh we did not consistently prod anyone to join us. Besides, Dhok had mentioned the plan that i’d sketched was a bit too far-stretched and we’d have to run against time if we had to get back to Pune that very day.
Suhas calls me sometime at night tells me that the trek route that I’d decided upon would be a bit strenuous and we should consider the Lonavala side instead. Bet he’s still accusing me for not having payed any heed to his advice .
Post his night shift, Suhas gives me a call at around 04:30am letting me know that he’d be at my house in ten minutes and damn! he’s right on time at my doorstep. Gaurav drops a message that he and a friend of his wouldn’t be joining us. Vishal, probably deep in slumber, doesn’t even pick up my wake up call. The final count ends at five – Akhilesh, Sunil, Suhas, Ashutosh and I.
We’d to board the 6:12 Sahyadri passenger to Karjat. Akhilesh boards it at Shivaji nagar, while the remaining four of us board at Khadki. I spend the two hour journey deep in sleep while others enjoy the sahayadris at Lonavala. We reach Karjat at 08:15 am, hit on vada pav’s for breakfast and head quickly to the Karjat bus depot only to realise that we’d just missed the 08:15 service to Khandpe. The next bus was at 09:45am. It didn’t make much sense to waste time there so we pick a rick. to a popular place called ‘Bridge’ and from there move over to the Khandpe village in a Tum-Tum. The driver suggested he would drop us at Kondane but we decide to get down at Kondivane and trek from there.
The road less taken huh!
We’re at Kondivide at about 09:30am – right as planned. The villagers guide us in the right directions; fortunately, we had Suhas who could help us out with Marathi. Nature seemed to hint that we’re in for some trouble right at the moment we set our foot at Kondane village. We reach a Y forked road and decide to take the right arm and move ahead. A few more enquiries and we seem to be on the right path. At about 10:00am we manage to reach a place which remotely looked as the base point of the actual trek. It’s been raining heavily for the past few hours and there are no signs of it subsiding any time soon. Just to re-confirm we ask a few people if it was reasonable enough to climb to Rajmachi in this climate. They’re not really affirmative and suggest taking one of the villagers as a guide. But thanks to our eccentric minds we decide to take the final call and move on without a guide.
We’re invited to the dense foliage by murky waters. We had to climb uphill, so by logic we decided to follow the downstreams upwards whenever possible just to keep track of our path. This did help us definitely to a large extent and we soon manage to reach a tableland. A villager was selling corn by the side. That just gave us the much needed energy for the path ahead. We’re then directed to the right path again and then in a few moments trouble looms in again. We again seemed to be heading to nowhere.
Who even wants to be at Kuttralam?
A bit of groping and topographic analysis does help getting us somewhere. Just then the sound of gurgling water happens to surge into our ears and we quickly move in that direction. A small turn to the left and we’re stumped by the force with which water was rising from the rocks after having fallen from a height of about fifty feet. With no second thoughts the five of us head to the falls and spend some mighty good time there. It all looked like a conspiracy by nature to rejuvenate us and guide us along the right path! We’d already been lagging behind schedule so with a heavy mind we leave the falls and move ahead. A bit ahead the path seemed to be a bit laid out and we had reason to believe that we were in the right path at least for sometime. It was indeed difficult to cut short our desires to spend time at the innumerable waterfalls en-route. Every turn ahead had a cascade or a fall!
The Kondane Caves
Totally drenched as we move ahead hoping to find the right path, just another fall invites us. But this was totally different! I remember seeing this particular place in a pic. , as a forward sometime back. A powerful but thin sheet of water falling from a towering height of about 100feet and an architectural splendour in the form of huge caves right behind the falls – Looked like we’d been transmitted over to some time ages before the existence of mankind! These caves had two floors and were very spacious to accommodate about a fifty people easily. This could probably be a wonderful spot to camp at night. Akhilesh and I fancy making the trek an overnight camp but then we decide to leave it as the final option as we weren’t really prepared for it! Later we get to know that these were probably constructed by the Buddhists. The veracity of this is yet to be known though.
Climb up the fort:
Reminded of our final goal and the deadline, we move over with heavy hearts and start climbing. Fortunately from here we manage to find the right path. A bit ahead we encounter Ram Kaka. This old man was from the Rajmachi village that is at the base of the rajmachi hillock and he climbs down to the Kondivide village EVERY day to sell buttermilk! Just a few minutes and we’re into think conversation. In about thirty minutes we reach the base village at Rajmachi. A refreshing Poha with a peppy hot masala tea and we’re all set to head for Rajmachi. All spruced up we head for the fort. We walk for about two kilometers unmindful of the path ahead. The splintering rain, shallow puddles with slimy murky waters kept us way too busy! After about a forty five minute walk, the path bifurcates into two. This is when we’re suddenly reminded that we were supposed to take a left just moments after we leave the village. Damn! We nuts have been walking towards lonawala for the past forty five minutes with absolutely no idea where we were heading to! A quick retreat to the base village and we finally find the path to the fort. Half way up the rajmachi hillock, you come to a temple. From here there are two routes – each one takes you to a different fort – Shrivardan and Manoranjan.
It’s been close to about four years that I’ve visited a temple by interest. For some reason, I walk into it. Even now, I’ve no idea what diety exists in it or for that instance what it’s famous for. As I get out of it and look ahead, the mist suddenly happens to clear up and I get to see the phenomenal height of one of the forts and that meant miles to go before you could drop ! It started raining heavily as we started the ascent. What made things more interesting was that we had streams flowing from the top of the hill. The sound of water rumbling down the hill and the chilled breeze swooning across your ears amidst those dense clouds is something that’ll get you moving even when things look a bit dicey! Surprisingly, climb up the fort wasn’t that difficult as it looked.
Hiking back to Lonavala
At about 4:00pm we start our descent to the village and manage to reach Ram Kaka’s place by around 4:30pm. Spicy thali was served almost instantly and after another bout of hot tea we decide to trek down towards lonavala. We could have as well got back to Karjat through the same way we’d come but doing that at dusk would probably be inviting deep trouble. Besides, we had just one torch and getting lost in the dense forest was something we wanted to avoid. Ram kaka was of the opinion that the Rajmachi – lonavala route was just a plain 3.5 hrs stretched out walk. We leave the hotel at about 5:15pm and the walk back looked pretty simple as promised. About an hour into the walk, we get to meet a group of people moving towards Rajmachi. When asked about the time estimate to reach lonavala, they said it would take us about two and a half hours. We walk further. Again after an hour or so , we encounter another small group. To our surprise the time estimate was made three hours! If what they said was right, we thought we could as well pull the brakes and try looking for a spot to rest for the night! Our instincts get us going and we keep meeting people, each one giving his own version! The hike back to lonavala is extremely simple . Just a bit of endurance and you’ll have a beautiful scenic walk. There’s this particular spot wherein you need to cross a gushing river in about knee deep water. The close to freezing water literally removes all the pain in your muscles and gets you moving faster! By about 7:45 pm we finally manage to get sight of the lonavala city. A few yards ahead and just as we’re about to feel a bit relaxed, a Y fort turns up! Damn, these Y junctions! We’ve had enough of descision making all through the day that we finally decide to arbitrarily chose one and try our luck. Later we’d come to know that had we moved in the direction we chose, we’d be reaching Lonavala but would be covering another 14kms extra. A couple of night gaurds fortunately get to us and redirect us in the right path. At about 08:00pm we encounter a couple who had just started their night trek towards Rajmachi. The guy says we’d need to walk twenty or so minutes to reach a village and from there we could get tempos to lonavala. The walk goes on and on. Suhas has sapped all his energy and is in no position to handle any more strain. We finally make it to the village but to our dismay they’re no tum-tum’s visible. With no option left, we continue walking . Round the corner a milkman pops and when asked the distance to lonavala, he says – Bas sab, sirf dus kilometer aagae hai. Akhilesh goes ecstatic with the expression on Suhas’s face All of us are equally tired and totally fatigued! I plug in my neckphone to my ears and keep walking, least bothered about the distance to cover. What other option did we have? The path zigzagged and Suhas sways similarly from one foot to another . In fact looking back now, I guess he was the source of inspiration to all of us. Finally at about 08:50pm we get sight of a tarred road. Few yards ahead we manage to pick a rick to drop us at Lonavala station.
At about 09:25pm we manage to reach the station. The next local was at 09:45 pm so we did have some time to relax. Once in the train as we remove our socks, we get to see the toll that the 40+ kms trek and the incessant rain had on us. Drenched from top to bottom and stinking from every corner as we hit the wooden seats in the train, other way-farers give us a sheepish look. Who cares? All that mattered was that we were in a train back and this time none of us were guiding the others to misguide, There were no more Y forks and the best part was that the lead knew the destination.
Now if you ask me – All this struggle and trouble on a weekend , Was it all worth it ? I’ve no answer to that question. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
Team count : 05
Route: Route1 : Shivaji Nagar > Karjat > Khandpe > Kondividi > Kondane > Rajmachi village > Rajmachi fort [Relatively difficult] | Route 2: Shivaji Nagar > Lonavala station > Tungarli > Pambola village >>Rajmachi
Distance: Route1: Karjat -> Kondividi:~15kms, Kondividi -> Kondana: ~2kms, Kondana->Rajmachi peak : ~14kms [Hill climb] | Route 2: Lonavala -> Rajmachi : ~20kms [Simple]
Altitude: ~2100 FT above MSL
Endurance: Medium | Difficulty : Low / Medium based on route
Time : Karjat-Kondividi : 20mins. [TumTum] , Kondividi – Rajmachi village : 3hrs [Excl. of time spent in Waterfalls n caves enroute], Rajmachi village – Rajmach fort: 0.5 hrs | Rajmachi village – Lonavala station: 3.5hrs.
Transport: Shivaji nagar to Karjat : Train at 6:12 am. Buses at Karjat to kondividi: 8:15am , 9:45am. Or pick a TumTum to ‘Bridge’ from there another TumTum to Kondividi/ Kondane. Lonavala to Shivaji nagar: 9:45 pm, 11:00pm, Vehicles: Bikes / cars may be used to reach Rajmachi village during early monsoon – No tarred path.
Expenses: Rs 200 Approx.
Stay:One day / Overnight [ Accommodation available in base village – rajmachi ]
Suggested route: Simple: Lonavala- Rajmachi village – Rajmachi fort [ Flat path walk with shallow streams en-route to cross. To be careful at one particular spot about 2hrs from lonavala where river flow pace may increase at alarming rates all of a sudden]. Medium: Karjat – Kondividi – Kondane [ Scores of waterfalls and Kondona caves-Must see, Overnight camping possible here]
Best time to visit: Monsoon!
Accomodation / Food at Rajmachi village: Hotel Shirish [ Ram: 9881162648 | Suresh: 9850104191