It was last year and by this time trekking was done on a frequent basis, this time we thought of visiting Lohaghad fort which is close by to Lonavala. The trip was for a day wherein early morning we had to leave and by late night we would be back at our place. We were 3 of us and decided to travel by car; it was mid-monsoon season and a "Sunday".
The reason I have highlighted the day is for you all to make a note of it. We started our journey and were having a good time; the road trip in itself was refreshing, also it was the first time that for a trek, we preferred taking our vehicle as while returning it is difficult to drive so never opted for it.
Around 7 am we met and started our small "Dil Chahta Hai" journey, the destination was obviously different but feelings and wilderness were of the same level when it is compared with the movie. Rocking to Bollywood songs, laughing out loud to college memories and getting serious about current issues of our country, were our time killers in the car.
Later, we took a stopover at the local dhaba on the highway, sometimes it feels as if it is mandatory to stop at these places while we go towards Lonavala or Pune, but trust me it is amazing fun, trying those local foods like poha, misal pav, vada pav and some south Indian dishes. It's a kind of small feast that goes on throughout the day and people are bound to experience the best out of it.
We were about to reach Khandala and it started drizzling, it was amazing weather, we stopped again and stood by a small waterfall. It seemed like the mini Bushi dam waterfall, but with no tourists and no dam. Our journey was then directly stopped at the base of Lohaghad fort, while we were heading there; we saw lots of fellow travellers as it was a weekend. The parking lot was almost full; we somehow managed to get some space enough for our vehicle.
The local food stalls at these places are so tempting that we again kept our stomach busy and started what we do best that is eating, we were almost done. Sometimes it seems as if someone should pay us for eating, but that someone is not yet found. Adjacent to the fort, there was one more option for a trek which was Visapur fort. We were very sceptical as to which one should we try, one which we initially decided or the one which seems more interesting as people did mention about the trek to Visapur was more difficult than Lohaghad. But we opted for the one which we decided earlier and started heading there.
Now comes the part where I need to tell you that why I mentioned the day initially, it was because the "population" that were gathered at the base was tremendous. Kindly note I have changed how I used to address these people from tourist to population. The place was too crowded and made us realised why we took this day, but due to our schedule, there was no other day when all of us were free. The sight made me realised how populated India is, though we never backed out of the situation, but kept going.
With some regret already in our head, we were later calmed down by Mother Nature. It started pouring heavily, windcheaters and ponchos were removed and there we were, forgot everything and got lost in the beauty of the mystic fort. This blissful experience was periodically disturbed by constantly searching each other within the crowd, as still, we were close by but the common colour of the windcheaters which is black and too much crowd made it difficult to track each other.
We finally reached the top, all the while I was wondering as to how can these material used for construction were moved up and then constructed into this epic fort. The top of the fort was almost like a plateau with few small temples, few hidden spots underground and grass patches all around. One interesting thing which we noticed was that there was a very small Muslim dargah and we were stunned. I had heard that Shivaji Maharaj had few people working under him which were Muslims, I was a bit surprised as nowadays there are so many communal riots conducted in the name of religion, but I guess the era back then was different.
It was indeed a time reversal where in feeling that time frame as to how these warriors used to guard the borders with extreme climatic conditions, dwelling on dangerous nature front. Being at the same spot makes you wonder that this was the place where the warriors were trained to fight, guard, conquer nature and live in harmony irrespective of caste and religion. It was the same place where even Shivaji Maharaj might have had ruled and displayed his immense leadership skills. It was one the moments which takes you back in time increasing your imagination skills and pushes you in the ocean of possibilities where you swim with the water of history.
Few minutes after gazing, our deep thoughts were then broken by the gushing winds; the speed of those winds was far more then what we feel normally, it cannot be mentioned in terms of units. Since we were at the top and it was drizzling, we experienced this amazing phenomenon; I almost lost my cell phone while capturing this rare occurrence, but was able to somehow manage it. The fort takes you back in time, those huge doors, few ruins, huge stones with inscriptions, flags with slogans and the overall spirit and greatness of the reign during Shivaji Maharaj was highly displayed and cherished.
We took some time at the top and then decided to leave, descending the fort was one hell of a task, the same problem of huge crowd, I should not say this as even I am a part of this but trust me along the staircase you will see only people wearing black windcheaters that's it. Even stepping down few stairs would take 15mins or more, such as the situation where some tourists who were ascending, kind of blocked midway, halted and then went ahead.
Reaching the base was such a relief, there we again had some snacks, all these were worth consuming as the weather was making it more mandatory for anyone to munch and munch again. It was around 4 pm and we were heading towards the parking space, looking at the site itself we knew that the drive back home will be very hectic.
Just outside the parking lot we had traffic, we assumed it to get over within a few minutes, but we were wrong. We were in a standstill situation for about 2hrs, we, in a relaxed mode were chilled with the situation as we knew this will happen. Post this, traffic was slow moving and within sometime we reached the express highway. On the way, we discovered that there were few locals who drove on the wrong way just to reach the fort early than others due to which traffic had occurred. The thing with locals is that even if someone who is not local tries to explain or argue with them of what they were doing was wrong, they deny it and continue doing the same.
Heading home all 3 of us were a bit tired and that reflected in our communication, but I was busy drying up the mobile battery by switching on the fan mode of the car. This was because I had taken a few shots with my cell phone which are mentioned above in the midst of drizzling in spite of the fact that my cell phone was not water resistant. This is my routine activity while returning home from a trek, high time I need to buy a new phone.
The Lohaghad trip overall was quite good it was like switching time from 21st century to 16th century, the time when we reached the base and were ascending the fort, more we were closer to the fort, more the time was rewind. Also, one more time switch was observed while coming out of 16th century and returning back to the 21st century, this was when we started descending and saw the modern life, more we descended, more we were back to reality. All these coupled with good friends was my one great experience.