Trek to Rajmachi Fort and Kondana Caves (1st, Aug. 2009)

With memories of Lohgarh trek just behind back of our heads, we all were really enthusiastic to go on for yet another trek to Sahayadri’s. I know it might seem wTripToRajmachiFortKondanaCavesierd to some people, as to why in the hell are these guys moving to these hills every weekend. But I am sure that anyone who has done a bit of trekking will agree that trekking is like an addiction and when it’s at it’s full blossom then a person can’t help but just carry on with it. It’s like being high on ecstacy and feels just so great. So we decided to move to Kalavantin top near Prabal Garh Fort, but as weekend progressed we kept on changing our plans and as it usually happens, we finally decided to move to Rajmachi fort on Friday morning. And this time we even had Santosh to give us company!

After office, we decided to view Love Aaj kal which was not that a great movie, but I loved character named Harlim Kaur. All the way during the movie, Nipun and Amol kept on passing taunts at me about my age (which is just 29) and despite being a so so movie, all such comments helped in keeping the atmosphere nice and bubbly. As usual after movie, we rushed back to office to catch our stuff and decided to have dinner at a near by Dhaaba. Nipun managed to stuff his stomach with almost 5 paranthas and a butter roti and as we moved to my home, he was already complaining of feeling sleepy.

Santosh had just managed to reach Bandra and there was no sign of our leader aka Saurabh. As I inquired, Nipun told me that he had gone for dinner to one his friend’s house and would be late. Time was passing by and we’d to catch last local train to Karjat from CST station at 12:38 A.M. As clock struck 11:00 P.M. my worries started and we decided to call up Saurabh. First he didn’t pick up the phone and second time he told us that he’d be coming back in 10 min. We immediately knew that he was having drinks with his friends however he managed to return back by 11:30 P.M.

We took a taxi and moved towards CST station. As none of us had paid a visit to newly built Bandra-Worli sealink so we decided to go to CST through it. Taxi and cars are charged at Rs. 50 for passing through this bridge which is built over the sea. The structure is just magnificant and we all enjoyed the 20 min ride over the sea on this bridge. However as were passing through the bridge we all felt that it would’ve been a lot better if we could also see through the side walls and have a glimpse at the sea below us and also have a look at the city. Maybe it’s not considered a good security practice but it would’ve been a great journey if that was so.

We reached CST station by 12:15 A.M. and had a quick bite of Omlette-Pao and coffee. Santosh went to collect tickets (Rs. 18/- per person for second class) and soon we were riding in train to Karjat. The train was almost empty after Kalyan station and we decided to stretch our legs and took a quick nap. As we reached Karjat by 3:20 A.M. we found out that there was plenty of rush at the station, with many groups coming to explore Sahayadri’s. Santosh managed to find a vacant spot and immediately went to sleep and it really took us a lot of effort to persuade him to get up and move to Karjat bus station. Karjat bus station too was filled with many groups and we found it real hard to find a place to settle down. However within half an hour many groups had left the place as they’d moved ahead to their respective destinations. We inquired about the timing of bus to Kondana village and we were told that there is no bus to Kondana but we could get a bus to Khandpe village and Kondana was just few kms away. As the bus was scheduled for 5:45 A.M. we decided to take a quick nap. Post monsoon period is perhaps the most disgusting period to spend time at bus stations due to bugs and mosquitoes everywhere. We just couldn’t get a good sleep as they kept on biting us everywhere. Luckily for us there was a house nearby and owner of that house offered us Poha and Tea.

To Kondana Village

The bus was right on time and it was bus to Sandsi village which would drop us at Khandpe. Ticket was worth Rs. 8/- per person and the bus driver was an expert in driving in that area. He managed to cover the entire journey within no time and by 6:15 A.M. we were at Khandpe village. I slept for almost the entire part of bus ride to Khandpe and I must admit that it feels just heavenly to sleep in bus with cool breeze flowing across the face.
Khandpe is a small village and it’s just wonderful to see the beauty of this place in monsoon with lush green fields stretching to bases of mountains and water streams flowing across them. The journey to Kondana village was an easy stroll and we even managed to find a river flowing besides us. I wanted to take a bath in it but finally decided to let go of the idea. As we were strolling in Kondana village Nipun reminded us that we’d not purchased any edible stuff and we were not sure if something would be available atop Rajmachi. As there were no Departmental stores around, we finally landed up at a house which had a board at it’s entrance stating “Jevan upalabdh aahe” or something like that. Jevan in Marathi refers to food and as we inquired we were welcomed by aunty who cooked us Onion Poha and real tasty cup of Chai (Tea). While relaxing at the house I felt like being back to villages in Uttaranchal. There was no sound of hustle bustle of city life and all we could hear was sound of river flowing infront of us and chirping of birds. Aunty even had hens and soon we were surrounded by a hen who was accompanied by chickens. As we tried to feed the chickens with peanuts that were served to us in Poha, we found that chickens don’t have beaks which are strong enough to break apart the peanuts and it was only when hen struck the peanut and broke it apart, did they fest upon it. It was just wonderful to witness such a small but beautiful incident. After refreshments it was time to move ahead. Though I didn’t want to move as the atmosphere at Aunty’s house was too good to let go off, but it was already 8:00 A.M. and we’d to move a looong distance.

To Kondana Caves

As we passed Kondana village, we soon reached a point where the path diverged into two. A group ahead of us followed a path, but as we were deciding upon which path to choose, we saw that an uncle who was running a tea stall signal to us. As we reached the tea stall, uncle told us that the right path was up the hill and not the path that the other group had followed. It was really nice of him and after inquiring about the entire path, we started our ascent. The ascent to Kondana and Rajmachi is not easy and monsoon makes it lot more difficult as the paths are slippery and muddy. The ascent is still okey but descent on such slopes is lot more difficult. As we were passing every hike, my fears of climbing down were increasing bit by bit. It was only until we reached a small waterfall. This was kind of place that we all were looking after. Immediately everyone was in bathroom attire and we’d a great time bathing and posing at this waterfall. Santosh was our favourite model at this waterfall and we almost spent half n hour there. In the meantime we found another group of some guys and gals pass by and it was nice to see some human souls in this vicinity. After nice bath we moved forward and soon we were at Kondana caves. And once you see this place, the only word that comes out is “Awesome!”. I mean we are deep inside jungle with no human populatation near by and here it is a cave which has been beautifully decorated and along the sides of the caves architectural structures have been laid down. And to add to the beauty is the fact that there is waterfall which just comes down infront of the caves and give it an all together different look. We also the group who had passed us at waterfall at this place and we all (except maybe Santu) were pretty happy and excited to see some females getting drenched in the waterfall 🙂 After spending some time at the caves and shooting some photographs we decided to move ahead.

Hike to Rajmachi

As we were moving ahead, soon we reached a place where we were not able to find out the path ahead. Now we’d read in some blogs earlier about how people can easily get lost in Jungles in Sahayadri’s and there was this post about one guy who went missing for 52 days in Ulhaas Valley and he was finally found in a very terrible situation. The memories of these incidents were good enough to bring down a tickle of fear and once you get into grip of it, the journey ahead becomes lot more difficult. However luckily for us, a group of 3 guys and 2 gals came right behind us and they decided to just climb up the hill. Though it seemed like a bad idea but we too decided to follow them. And once we had reached a certain height, Saurabh looked around and was able to trace down a path which looked like going up to Rajmachi. The only problem now was that this path was some distance below us and we’d not climbed up a regular path, so coming down was going to be all that much more difficult. Anyhow, we decided to take our chances and slowly slowly started to descent. We reached a point where there was a water stream flowing over a rock patch. Nipun was already standing there and I was last one behind. As I put my feet on the rock and decided to move ahead, Bang ! I was down and while going down I managed to pull Nipun along with me as well. Though none of us got hurt but it really scared us a bit. However soon we reached the path and started to follow it. And very soon we reached a place where the group whom we’d left at Kondana caves was also resting. There was a shop there as well where a kid was selling sweet corn. We decided to have a bit of corn and also inquired about the path ahead. From now on it was a steep climb up to the top and I don’t know why but this time I didn’t feel exhaustion creeping in. The only problem that I was worried about was, “How am I going to come down?” The ascent was pretty steep and slippery, muddy soil was making the job all that much more difficult. As we were climbing up the hill we reached a place which looked very much different from all other places that we’d looked upon so far during course of the journey. This place had a vast patch of mountain covered in thick deep green grass and as wind was blowing, the grass was giving an impression of waves forming over it. It was just so beautiful and dangerous at the same time, as these grasses could be hiding some of the most dangerous creatures like snakes, crabs, etc. We even managed to find a large crab who was quite camera shy at base of a foot step. Soon we reached a spot which was like a meadow and we found 2 groups who had moved ahead of us, resting over there. It was already 12:00 and one of the groups was already rethinking about moving ahead. However we had absolutely no doubts in our heads and we decided to carry on with our journey. After resting for few minutes we moved ahead. The journey ahead was same old story with a steep hike on muddy and slippery soil. Any how we managed to reach the top by 1:00 P.M. There was a tea shop right at the entrance and we took luxury of replenishing our tired body with some hot tea, Parle G biscuits and Chikki. Just sitting there on a rock looking down into the valley, with cool breeze flowing across the face, is a feeling which I can’t describe in words. Now we could see Rajmachi fort just ahead of us. However to reach there we would have to walk a bit quicker to reach Rajmachi village and from there it was going to be another climb till we reach the fort. So we started to walk quickly towards the direction as told to us by uncle owning the tea shop. Soon we managed to reach Rajmachi village. The village is a small village like any other village in Maharashtra, but I don’t know why but I kind of loved the atmosphere here more then anywhere else. The village was filled with many trekking groups and some of them had even come from Lonavala [There is another route which is a motor road to Lonavala (distance = 20kms)]. We inquired about the route to fort and also asked a local resident about availability of food. Food and shelter is easily available and some of the local people even allow trekkers to share their home. With assurance about easy availability of food, we decided to visit the fort first and moved ahead. We must have walked for few min. when we found the school which has been setup by some trekkers. This was perhaps one of the best things that I’ve heard of. I don’t know why we haven’t ever done such a thing, but surely we’ll think of doing such a social work in near future. The journey to fort is again a hike and soon we reached the point where the routes to two forts diverge. We decided to have a look at Sri Vardhan fort and went along in it’s direction. All along our walk we were able to see some trekkers coming down from top and by way of their walking we easily guessed that the path wasn’t as easy as it looked. As we came close to fort, we found the reasons too. There was a small patch where one had to pass a rock and down below was the deep cliff. The worst part was that rock had become slippery due to continuous rainfalls. Santosh and me went off first but as Nipun was crossing the patch, he slipped. For once we all were shocked, Nipun was terrified as well, but after a while things normalized and we all finally made it to the top.

At Sri Vardhan Fort

The fort is not in a very good shape and most of the structures have fallen off due to rains and other natural factors. However this doesn’t downsize the architectural capabilities of people of the era in which it was built. I mean who would believe a building of today to withstand all forces of nature and still remain intact for periods as long as 300-400 years. The entrance to the fort is magnificent and one can only admire the hugeness of the fort once one reaches here. The fort is quite large and one needs quite some time to travel to every section of the fort. There is even a water reservoir which is filled up during rains and I think that people in those days used to use this water for rest of the year. After crossing the reservoir, we first decided to get to Burj (the place where flag is hosted). It is the highest point of the fort and one can see beautiful Sahayadri’s all around. As we were climbing up to Burj we saw a huge waterfall down in front on a mountain and the view was just mesmerizing. We spent some time on Burj, taking photographs, Santu found all this nonsensical and decided to take a nap instead. We must have spent 20 min at Burj when another group with some females came up. Immediately both the females were chosen as peers by everyone :). It was now time to leave the Burj and descend to another spot from where we could get nice view of the waterfall. As we moved to the spot, we were welcomed by a huge patch of mountain, covered in green grass. The grass was forming patterns of waves as winding was gushing across. All this was too good and we even managed to shoot a video. Soon we reached the spot and wowwwwwww!!! the scene that we saw was just phenomenol. It was perhaps one of the biggest waterfalls, I’ve seen in Sahayadri hills and as wind was blowing, the water was spreading across like fumes and was giving the entire surroundings a magical look. We just sat there enjoying the view for next 45 min. before the group with females came to the spot. It was time to leave as we also had to get back for lunch before descending down.

Return to Karjat

The descend was an easy one and we reached Rajmachi village in 20 min. As we inquired about lunch, we were invited by a local to his house and we were served with Wheat chapati, rice, dal and lobia (I don’t know what do they call it in English). The food was nice and was served in typical marathi fashion. As we finished the lunch, it was 3:30 P.M. and we decided to leave immediately. I am always afraid of descending down steep slopes and as this was time of monsoon and rocks are slippery so things seemed pretty hard.

However we managed to get down pretty comfortably except for a place where I managed to hurt my knee by scratching it against a rock. By 5:00 P.M. we were down at Kondana village and it was time to search for an auto rickshaw and ride back to Karjat. The auto rickshaw is not easily accessible and one has to wait for some time. Also the rickshaw aren’t available at Kondana village itself, instead one has to walk some distance towards Khandpe village. As one crosses the bridge near Kondana village, we found a rickshaw. He too Rs. 150/- for ride to Karjat and it was a nice end to a yet another wonderful trip to Sahayadri’s.

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4 thoughts on “Trek to Rajmachi Fort and Kondana Caves (1st, Aug. 2009)

  1. It was a memorable trek… and the fact that most of the group that we crossed during the ascend part of the journey were to tired to make it to the top ..makes it more memorable ….

  2. nice story with full descriptive experience, good writing coming this Sunday on October 25, 2009 we are heading to Rajmachi same route as you did and I guess this information indeed is pretty useful for us. Thank you for sharing.

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