The thereabouts of Pune are swarming with all sorts of treks and jungles. The city sits on a throne of hillocks and crests while fortified all around by picturesque waterfalls, hills and forts which creates a semblance of the Shire setting from The Lord of the Rings.
One such trek is the Purandar fort which supposedly is the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The objective ahead of us was to scale the distance from Pune to Purandar fort – on a bicycle!
We started early in the morning at 4 and set out at 5:00 AM. It was a contingent of around twenty-five bicyclists headed by Retd. Col. K. E. Vijayan aided by a camper.
The first leg of the journey consisted mainly of level roads which were mostly empty at the hour. All geared up, we bicycled fast and our first brief halt came at National War Memorial, Southern Command HQ, Pune.
The second brief halt at Hadapsar training ground gave us time to check our direction and by the time we reached the end of the first leg of our journey, we had covered 27 kilometres in two hours and were standing at the foot of Saswad plateau.
Ahead of us stood the task of scaling 25 kilometres uphill. We soothed our muscles and began steadily but the wearing came soon as the slope wears you down soon enough on a bicycle. This was where differences became evident and gaps appeared between the cyclists.
Bicycling teaches you a lot of endurance and pressing-on. Col. K.E. Vijayan advised us not to exert ourselves in case our bodies gave way. Some students (we were all engineering students) had to walk their way, some even had to climb the camper.
After a while, the hill cleared up and level road showed itself again which was quite a necessary respite. I urged some of my companions to drink soda to boost their energies like I was doing, the idea being founded upon some intuitive gut feeling rather than fact.
We started once all were together and covered the level road in quick time. after about fifteen minutes of cycling came the topsy-turvy road peppered with slopes every now and then. This went on for quite a while, quite a long long while and this was the part which wore most of us off.
Subsequent to this, we reached the foot of the hill itself – ‘The Hill’. The Hill was a monster of a climb which, by the mere sight of it made many of us shit our pants. We cycled for about twenty seconds and were very promptly brought to our senses by the precipitous elevation of the hill. The strategy thereafter changed to ‘walk while its steep and cycle for all the flat you find’. After a little over half an hour of cycling and hauling our cycles, we were there at the gates of Purandhar fort area maintained under the care of Indian Army and National Cadet Corps Academy. Entering the army grounds we met the ones who had chosen the bus as the method of transport. there were hordes of those folks, amounting to about three buses full.
The cycles were parked and after a quick breakfast and some dilly-dallying we set off on foot to reach atop the hill.
The path to the pinnacle of the hill-fort has a substantial accumulation of burnt down houses and churches which still stand there as relics of some ancient devotion.
The trail was not a very difficult one and stretches to about three kilometres in a single way. On the way up one comes across many a picturesque spot where, if one looks up, he finds the serpentine trail leading to the apex which, obscured by the mist and clouds, looks as if leading to heaven, and upon gazing down one beholds the vast spread of land and hills which lies beneath us and which we have just surpassed(and feel proud of it).
A pond or two, a hazardous step or two and a wearisome series of stone steps finally brought us to the summit where is situated an old temple dedicated to the deity Shiva. There were monkeys around and Oh! have I not mentioned the hundreds of kids who had come to visit the temple the very day? they certainly made our climb a mess but were a very cute topping upon the blissful clime.
We did not consider scurrying around the temple though and left off after a brief rest(and a nap for some). The climb down the trek was again kid-infested and upon reaching all were treated with Biryani.
Soon we were off again swooshing down the slope. This part was the most fun. I had a broken gear system and therefore could not paddle as it became jammed but a paddle was of barely any use on the downward slope. It, however, came into use once the slope ended and that was where I held my hands aloft and stood midway the road. The camper vehicle loaded my cycle and took me in. The rest of the way was a dream come true – no more pedals to be thrust, no more heat to be borne. The total distance covered accounted for 55×2 = 110 kilometres.
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