Maharashtra, being a unique blend of contours, is home to numerous hill stations, biosphere reserves, lakes palaces and owing to its much-adorned martial glory, home to a lot of many forts. Especially in the Western Ghats region, where lies the beautiful-yet-breathtaking Konkan trail, you may find trek destinations by the dozen.
It was on the day of ‘Maha-Shiva-Ratri’ , the night of Shiva the hermit, that I left with a group in the morning, to scale the fort of Sinhagarh, translated as ‘fort
of the lion’, which was inhabited years ago by the Chatra-pati Shivaji Maharaj Bhosle.
We started early in the wee hours and got ourselves ready, had breakfast, packed our bags and left. After having rented a bicycle each, the eight of us left off ripping the wind through.
The city of Pune has a lot but well-directed traffic at all times of the day and it didn’t go bad with us. The distance to cover was thirty-eight kilometres so we chop-chopped until we couldn’t. There came to be some minor problem with one of the bicycles and we had to get it repaired.
Meanwhile, we rejuvenated ourselves with lemonade and jaljeera, cucumbers and I sneaked off for some junk too. That being fixed, we set off again and then began the difficult part: we started losing sight of each other when we were at the mercy of ‘google maps’.
Strategy discussion ensued and soon we came to the part of the city where there were wavy expressways which were very hard to climb. Some of us, the street-smart, began resorting to all unheard forms of hitch-hiking.
The next stop came at a provisions store where we ate a little and packed some. Glucose came in handy all along the way and a guava vendor made a bounty too. On we rode until finally, we reached a town-ish clime. A hint of a slope showed up and we slowed down a little. A little while later, we were alongside the Khadakwasla dam.
There was a little bazaar of sorts around the dam. The water was clear and you could see the moss on the bed. We tarried a while, eating what I eat best: bhutta, or the grilled and salted corncob. A little of street food, a little of frolicking around in the water, and then we were off, for harder times.
Ahead of Khadakwasla, the slope started to steepen and we still pressed on. Noteworthy here is that we became a bit wiser: leave the seat for a while and your bottom will hurt like a stabbed Caesar the next time you set it on. What we couldn’t get the hang of was the gear combination and nevertheless decided on ‘3 on the front and 7 on the back’. After a while we started getting off the bicycles and walking them along; that is when we began losing sight of each other.
I held on with one hand to the rear of a government bus, and it led me the wrong way: I hadn’t read on the board where the bus was off to. Fortunately, it wasn’t late and I came back to where the roads forked. There on began the difficult slope. The terrain was soaked with heat and all around was a yellow dead parched forest.
We climbed onto the cycles wherever the slope seemed to concede a little, though it wasn’t much. We got separated into three subgroups and mine was the last with one guy along.
A little while later we reached a ghastly place called ‘Fairy’s Farm… and Viky’s Farm’. The gates were chained and there was a puppy and a cart in sight, apart from the mansion.
The rest is a sordid tale of sweat, give-uppery, and betrayal.
After a long-long while we found out we were the foremost when surprisingly, the rest called back at us from behind. This gave us the impetus for a quick disposal of unneeded fluids because beware! When you’re climbing a mountain, the pee in your bladder too is a dead weight.
Jeeps were coming down the hill every few minutes. One of them was full of girls, out hiking perhaps. They waved at us, and we waved back. Thereon began the game of hitch-hiking. Every passing by motorbike was called upon for help, and one by one all bicyclists fell prey to greed until it was only the two of us left…. and then we fell prey too.
Having arranged a hike for my companion, I bid him goodbye and then sought one for myself. We stopped at a hut, all of us. The view was a goading one.
Further, we relied solely on hitch-hiking though we had sworn not to do it again. The nine kilometre extreme slope was an austerity and we somehow walked our way through it. Bikers became increasingly treacherous and wouldn’t wait for you once you left the hand.
One of us earned our respects by hitch-hiking a Jeep while carrying the cycle with the hands, holding it aloft in the air outside the door of the Jeep.
We reached the place, and what a disappointment it turned out to be! The fort was just a run-of-the-mill stone ruin with battlements and walls. It wasn’t at all worth the effort, more so because the eateries just outside it looted us with their horrible food and tried to charge more than what we had eaten. One of us lost his phone and they wouldn’t say anything about it. Moreover they didn’t even speak any language other than Marathi.
Within ten minutes, we left and what a downhill ride it was! With our hands on the brakes all the time, the holes on the road made us feel as if our bottoms had withered away by the time we reached down. Down, we passed the dam on the way and took a little break. Reaching Pune, I along with one of the mates went my separate way, and later, we got separated too. Before reaching, some South Indian dishes saved the day.
P.S: I lost too many nice pictures somehow, and that still grieves me while writing this post.
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