Off-roading to Rajmachi

Posted: by Pulsurge in Labels: , , , ,

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads...... Anatole France

This was a completely new experience, yes and an exciting one- though by the standards of many people would be just a bumping walk over a rough road. Well it goes like this- Arjun and me had planned to trek the easy though scenic fort of Koraigad in Lonavla. With Arjun backing off at the last moment, I dumped Koraigad plans and shifted attention to Mahuli fort near Aasangaon which would have been a more tougher trek. This too didnt work either as I was lost snoring away at Sanket's place till noon. Going home and lazing out was a more convenient and sensible idea- but I WANTED TO GO SOMEWHERE. With less time on hand, the easy trekkable Koraigad fort would fit the bill. Fuelled up and blazed away towards Lonavla.
Stopped over on JNPT- love clicking this stretch. I wish roads in the city were like this....smooth- both in surface and traffic.
Had nothing for breakfast, hence thought to stopover at Rishabh's for some snacks but gave up coz of time and stopped on the ghats straightaway for some clicks.

Touched Lonavla and could sense Jayaram's (from BN) advice going true (he'd suggested to avoid Lonavla completely on weekends), though still hopeful of reaching Koraigad and starting my trek. Could only cross a few 100 metres in an hours time at start of the Amby stretch – am still hopeful that traffic will clear. A struggle-wriggle for another half an hour bringing a full stop to the plans- it was a complete standstill, actually there was no place for people to even walk. 

Disappointed took a U-turn resolving never to return to Lonavla (at least in the rains). The patience test still wasn't through- it took another hour to come back to the main road via the railway crossing. What now? Varandha came to mind, but would have been very late to return (gave up). Then thought Sudhagad at Pali ..fine will go there I said. Suddenly Rajmachi struck my mind- I remembered Ishtibhai talking about it some years back (funny isnt it)- asked for directions and was able to locate the small downhill road near the "Summer Hill" signboard.
Another left from the fork took me to the start of the adventurous road to Rajmachi. Pushed the bike into the muddy field for some fun with crazy wheelspins.
A few kilometres of roll passing some drunkards dancing with their vehicles by the side, a small right curve takes me right into heaven. Streams rolling down the hills, clouds covering the peaks like a newly wed shy bride hiding her face.

The start of paradise marked the end of tarmac.

This was such a beautiful sight- I couldnt resist taking the bike on the green carpet and clicking the mighty hills in the background (my mobilephone cam doesnt do justice to the beauty).

The twin ends of the hilly range covered with clouds.
This section was lovely- a narrow slippery road with a gorge on the left.
Nothing great, had to stop to let one horde of Gypsies pass by- snap'd once they were all clear.
Not many stretches in a straight line- this was one of the few.
A chill pill to my steed.

Few snapshots of waterfall on the way.

Preparing the little girl for rappling down the fall....even with the safety gear on, I feel the little one has guts- I'll get a cardiac arrest midway. BTW this camp was organised by The Explorers Group (click to go to their website).

The forest roads look exciting- dont they?
I wasnt alone- this LandCruiser came from nowhere- but anyways, my Pulsar was more brisk on its feet than this mighty 4x4 ;)

This stretch came as a shock...but quite encouraging to just go on and on.

This board is a landmark, remember to take left from this fork- the right one would land you nowhere.

 Well, realised how nuts feel in a bowl of chocolate sauce.

Muck to dirty you- streams to wash it off.

Out of the stream, and no way could the bike get over the mossy rocks. Pushed the bike up this section in first gear playing with the clutch and front brakes.

Unfortuantely this marked the end of the ride- saw the LandCruiser too return mid-way. With 4 kms more to go and already 6.30 in the evening- he suggested I head back. Getting stuck in a place like this in dark is plain suicide- and in case a puncture- only god can save you!
Came across lovely fog on the way- the blur image spoiled the beauty.

Gave lift to a local who was pillion on another bike which got a puncture. Maybe he was a bad luck sign- no sooner did he get off my bike and I hit the expressway- my rear tyre gave up :(

Pushed the bike 8 kms till Khopoli- kept it running in first gear which eased off the efforts. There wasn't a grain of food in my stomach except a few sips of sweet water from the streams- was dead hungry by now. Till the tyre was fixed- I dragged myself to a snack outlet and had a plate of potato wada and masala tea. Was all recharged for ride back home- stopped over at Revel's place, showed him the pics on the larger screen. Reached home- had a hot bath and swallowed dinner like a demon.
On the bed with a small regret of not having made it till Rajmachi- but an adventurous experience it was. I should thank for the traffic jam at Lonavla, else I dont know if I ever would have rode to Rajmachi. And as far as the regret goes- its just a week's time before I'll be heading again, this time it'll be all the way to the top.
Enjoy a few pics HERE
Please excuse for not so good quality, clicked from a phone cam- plus with the rains and fog, quite of mist forming on the lens. Better pics would be up when I'll be back at Rajmachi a week later.

Trekking the fort of Kohoj

Posted: by Pulsurge in Labels: , , ,

It's the journey toward doing these harder climbs that really gives value to the whole activity of climbing..... Alex Lowe

After a very long time went out somewhere- 2 months to be precise, not including the frequent Saturday night outings to Lonavla, Karnala, Charoti etc with friends. Sweltering summer heat on the highways and added financial constraints curtailed any possibilities to ride out far- hence for the time being lying in the crunch decided to explore nearby surroundings, especially till the lovely monsoons are here. Resolved to trek as many forts and some off-beat places to my maximum ability. The rain gods very pleased with the western belt of Maharashtra have been generously leaving the heavenly tap open, washing off the slushy roads, waking up the greenery all around transforming even the most ordinary barren landscapes into green carpets.
Kick start to the season began with a trek with Arjun to the supposed 800 year old fort of Kohoj situated off Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway (NH8) on the Manor-Wada Road. The fort can be easily recognised from very far owing to the two adjoining peaks which resemble two people standing on top. Around 3200 feet high and the difficulty is classified as "MEDIUM" by professional trekkers, whereas the tallest peak in Maharashtra "Kalsubai' is classified as "SIMPLE"- hence by standards of a person like me who hasn't trekked much and with tummy on a daily bulge- it wasn't going to be a cakewalk (though I realised that later). After our last trek failure in April 2007- thanks to a few guys who were dehydrating faster than a dosa on a griddle, I wanted to be on the top of this- whatever it takes.
We were already running behind schedule as Vinod and Salil joined it at the last moment. Via Western Express Highway onto NH8 taking right from Manor Naka to Waghote village our base camp, it was already 2.15 in the afternoon. Parked our bikes outside a villager’s house and got our feet moving at 2.30. People on the way were surprised as to the timing of our trek. It was a lovely experience of passing through the muddy walls in between the paddy fields.

Stopped over at the lake for a click- actually a reservoir for field irrigation with the mighty Kohoj looking down upon it in the background.

15 minutes of walk brings us to the base of the fort. Hey this is an easy trek, we should be up there quite soon I thought. A gross under-estimation that- no sooner we were through with the easier sections, our calf muscles were put to the task. Though it was a bit vertically challenging- the path was still visible and we're on our way up. Salil was sweating like a wet sponge on the squeeze- we needed a breather too and stopped for a recharge.

Passing through thick tree cover was fun- a jungle trek this.

Occasionally looking back at the places left behind on the way. 
Knowing that we are already late, we upped the ante and got quicker on our feet. That was too much for Salil who finally decided to give up the trek. Though he tried his best later, but we were too quick from him to catch up. This was the last time I saw him.
A group of seriously sweating trekkers passed by carrying ropes and trekking equipment, leaving me wondering if the trek was that difficult. One of them suggested that we abandon the trek as it would be a risky task. I nodded my head to his suggestion, but in my mind I was like "Why the hell did you go then if it was for the risk?" We carried on at a relative brisk pace and one rocky corner of the top was visible. I was excited of having almost made it before one gentleman making his way down said "40% of what you trekked till here still to go". He was kind enough to suggest pointers as there was no path up there. Vinod was in a full mood to abandon the trek, but not Arjun and me. Arjun suggested we keep trekking till 5, if we cannot make it anywhere near, we return. We continued and faced the toughest part of the trek- no visible path, thick tree cover, slippery rocks, fallen trees which we had to crawl through- tiring but seriously exciting with repeated reminders on phone from Salil that he wants the camera asap.
Here comes the second retirement- Vinod couldn't carry further and with his ailing knees jangling like a tail of a rattlesnake, we had to bid tata to him as well. We two carried on at the same pace for another half an hour and finally..finally finally finally....we are on the top. "Congrats Arjunbhau I say, but where is the fort?" There it is, still half an hour's of trek remaining. Arjun was in a full mood to camp overnight- we had the required eatables in our bags to take care of a night's meal and raincoats that would keep us safe from the deadly junglee mosquitoes. That was the extreme and last resort in case we weren't able to make our way back. Also handing back Salil's camera was an added pressure to return back.

It was 5.30 and returning just from the table top sighting only the Lord Shiva temple would have been a waste of the entire effort.
We carry on and meet up with a group making their way down the fort. Request them to wait for us as we were sure of losing our way in dark.

Water cisterns- lots of them on the way up.

A last small slippery crawl and there we were, on the highest point of Kohoj- all the stiffness and pain suddenly disappeared or rather we forgot about it.
That's a hypocritic smiling thumbs up...I was all scared ;)

We had cuppa noodles, sugar, tea bags, cups in the bags- but guess what, not even a single matchstick :P Arjun didn't want to let the effort carrying the stuff go waste- he pulled out a cup, poured cold water, dipped the tea bag and some sugar and had his share of cold tea at this point. If not for the cuppa noodles, at least the tea- his wish was fulfilled. One of the advantages of this place is full cell network coverage- even at this topmost point got a call from Glen asking our whereabouts. We hurried our way down to catch up with the other gang, who had already disappeared. 

Arjun poses for a couple of pics, in the meanwhile I tank up the bottles from the streams.

 We catch hold of the guys from a distance who surprisingly were getting down at crawling pace. As we near the spot, we realise why. The slippery section, who's got the guts to blaze away. Also one guy from their group escaped a bid on his life slipping over the rocks and luckily came out with injuries. Poor guy was still walking- well he didn’t have any option either.
Me getting stuck at a point.
That was the only difficult trek of the section, rest was a tiring but comparatively convenient trek. BTW we were descending to the other side of the fort to Nane village which was 9 kms away from Waghote where Vinod and Salil were awaiting us. No way could we have made our way back via the track we came up.
Heartiest thanks to Patilsaheb, who guided us safely down the fort- without him it would have been a difficult task reaching base.
With another odd 2 hours of walking, slipping and stumbling on our tired feet, we make it to Nane village in dark.

The group was kind enough to drop us till the Manor Wada Road. Further after a lot of failed requests for lift till Waghote- hopped onto a trailer which dropped us for a reunion with the retired guys. Got onto our bikes and road to Hotel Sarovar for hot Aloo Parathas, Paneer Rolls and refreshing masala tea. After a terrible bumpy ride on NH8 till Ghodbunder, we split for our homes.
A tiring trek it was, but thrilling and exciting as well. Never had a trek like this before- even Ratangad was relatively much easier. Being dead scared of heights myself- thankfully I did manage to kill some of it on this trek. I'll be a lesser jolted cat on my next trek. Thanks to Arjun, Vinod and Salil for the company.
Snapshots of the memories HERE