Monday, July 04, 2005

Life Hai, Life Hai, Life Hai, Life Hai

Saturday was the most terrific and terrifying trek I have ever been too. Not that I have been to many. Its is a sad leitmotif that accompanies my life - Not done enough treks. It's almost like I am playing catch-up and desperately want to scale as many mountains and forts as possible, before I am over the hill. Important decisions in life are also being made, post which, treks generally become a thing of the past.
It turned out that there were two treks in the pipeline - Lohagad on Saturday and Rajgad on Sunday, by two separate teams. My fitness is decent these days thanks to the daily jog and in my greed to make the most of this time, I decided to enlist for both. I didn't know what was in store at Lohagad and Visapur (combined trek)
Anyway, we decided to leave on Friday night (Pandharpur - Mumbai Passenger 11.05 pm Pune). Pankaj, the veteran trekker joined me at Khadki. The rest of the guys would arrive from Mumbai. We reached Lonavla at about 1 am. And back to Malavali by the Mumbai-Pandharpur down train. There met all of the star trek crew - Vinita, the leader, Vishwa, my interlocutor, Surinder Suniel Shetty, Shabbir and Prem. This was the first time that I had met these people and what a lively group it turned to be. Actually, Mumbaikars in general are a pretty cool lot , very animated and it's difficult not to bond immediately.
The plan was to catch a few winks till break of day, but with cold night rains, that was difficult. We were able just able to rest a while, and it was 6 am. Time to move. Reached Baaja, a tiny hamlet at the foothills of Lohagad and Visapur. Had a light breakfast and marched on for the trek. Surinder and Vishwa wanted to frolic under the first waterfall that they saw. But, most disagreed, so we kept on. The starting patch to Lohagad is almost a motorable road. At times, when the fog cleared you could get a glimpse of the towering Lohagad fort. From Lohawadi, it is a proper trek with steps. Soon we were at the top. The main entrance is just too spectacular. Gives almost a 270 degree view of the surrounding. All the fortress walls are intact. Even the straight steps at Ganesh Darwaaza, that lead up to the fort from there have an air of royalty. You have the normal essentials like hidden entrance with wavy walls (making it uncomfortable to use a ram on the door), chor darwaza, hidden spaces for mavlas to attach the enemy, double tatbandi (fort walls). Here is an excellent site about Lohagad. It was difficult to make out the entire structure because of the intense fog, but still you know that it is not a small fort. On the top, you had at least two water sources (a well the size of a pond, which we dared not go to). There was a Shiv temple and a dargah at the top which was the only protection against the rain. On the top, the rain was pelting like thousand needles from all directions except the top. The wind was a swirling mass, pushing the rain upwards and sideways, it was as if we were in a wind tunnel on an overdrive. It was nature at its bestial. The craziest water ride, still would be no match for what we experienced at the Shiv temple.
We decided we wanted to go back alive, so lugged our bags and were back on our way down. At the foothills (Lohawadi?) we had extended eating brunch gorging on besan-heavy onion bhajjis, poha, tea, coffee (spectacular), bread and biscuits. It was 12.00 pm and the other groups were just starting their climb up. Worked great for us coz we had lesser crowds at the top of the fort as well as at the tapari. Call was taken if we wanted to go to Visapur, Junta had doubts as the weather was still vicious. Still most of the people were game (Shabbir remarked that it was game over for him, but he was joking too).
We didnt know how dangerous our decision to go Visapur way would be.
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