In the chilly month of December, during the Christmas weekend, I decided to join our group of wanderers on their trek to Rajgadh. While the group is adept at trekking, having scaled many peaks of medium to high difficulty, this was gonna be my very first real trek. And I was super excited!
After office on Friday (yes, after a full day’s work!), I headed home to pick up the bag that had been packed the previous night (by wifey – packing the bag when returning will have to be done by poor me!), and took the car. Had to pick up two equally enthusiastic, but seasoned, colleagues mid way and then the trio headed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. While it was well past mid night, we stopped at the food mall for a quick bite of chai and vada pav and continued onwards to Pune. We did not enter the Pune city and proceeded in the direction of Satara on the Bangalore road (NH 4). Once on the Bangalore road, you need to keep an eye for the McDonald’s on the left side of the road, since the right turn to Nasrapur is not far from there (there is a road sign on the left side indicating Nasrapur). Once having taken right for Nasrapur, head straight (through very curvy single-laned roads to the village of Gunjavane. This is a very small village, and you would proceed to the Rajgadh hamlet which is your base for starting the trek. Here we parked the car (yes, there’s a paid car park managed by the locals), freshened up, had our breakfast of kande poha, omlette and chai and, after some taking some snaps of the small agrarian hamlet (which itself was a novelty for all of us) we proceeded on our trek.
Hardly 15 mins into the trek, all of us had to take off our winter wears due to the effort of the trek, and the thankfully shining sun.
The trek, my experienced fellow trekkers, told me is of a ‘medium’ difficulty level, which I would agree. There were many muddy slopes to negotiate, some level walk through the woods, and a non-trivial rock patch (but with steps that have been created over the years of public assault on the Rajgadh fort) at the final ascend. While the trek itself can take from 90 to 120 minutes, the entry to the Rajgadh fort, through the Chor Darwaza is a special experience…you actually need to stoop down to your knees to actually make an entry into the fort. Too much for a majestic entry
Once you enter the fort through the Chor Darwaza, you would most likely sit on the parapet soaking in the scenery of the surrounding hills (shown above), and will be greeted with friendly locals ever-ready to offer you your dose of taak (sweetened or salted – better clarify beforehand – buttermilk), and nimbu pani (sweetened lemon drink).
Once at the fort, you would need to find a place for yourself to spend the night at. The kachehari (the office) or the taak and nimbu pani sellers, would be a good place to start asking (and on very busy days they may even let you stay inside the kachehari, like they did for us!).Having taken care of the place you are going to lie down in the night, now is the time to figure what you are gonna eat. While the real trekker’s thing would be to get some dry wood together, work up a decent fire and cook noodles or rice, you can also ask a local to provide food to you – the only real choices are amti-bhat or bhakri and some curry.
The night at the fort is a different ball game altogether – there’s no electricity to speak of, and the nearest lights you will see are at the small hamlets below. Gazing at the star lit sky is a cathartic experience for the crowd and stress tormented soul of a typical Mumbaikar. While chatting late in the night with friends, while cuddled up in my winter wear sounded like a great idea, it downed upon us that we also need to get up quite early the next day to enjoy the spectacular sun-rise.
The sun rise the next day was the stuff dreams are made of. The ball of fire rose from afar, and the moment left us speechless for what seemed like eternity, until it became too bright to continue gazing at.
While the rest of the trekkers had gathered at various heights to take a clear look at the sun rise and take great photos they can boast of when they are back home, some of them were still snuggled up in their tents and wondering where will their morning shot of tea come from! That would however be their struggle alone. Also, our trekking party too split into two here and one headed for another arduous trek to Torna fort, while a small party, including me, headed back down to the Gunjavane village, and return home from there.
For my first trekking experience, Rajgadh was a wonderful, adventurous and eye opening experience. Not only did it open the wonders and challenges of a trek, but also showed that not all physical activities are alike – running a half marathon year on year requires a different kind of training, while a trek through constant inclines and rocky patches requires altogether a different level of fitness! If you don’t realize, wait till next morning, and your legs muscles will tell you!
Highlights: Good ponds, many machis – Suvela machi (may be so called due to the breathtaking sun rise views), Sanjivani machi (enroute to Torna fort), and Padmavati Machi(closest to chor darwaja).
Cons: winter chill, no potable water (two almost open wells to draw water from, filter using a handkerchief or alum or chlorine), no electricity
Pros: simple carb rich food, simple basic accommodation (carry your own sleeping bag or mats and blankets), camping facilities, bon fire facilities (look for your own dry wood)