It was a season of heavy showers, the group united to set out on a trek. This time it was decided to go out of Karnataka. It was time to trek in Lonavala, Maharashtra. Visiting a new place, meeting people, experiencing a different culture, language, food always a refresher and provides a break from daily routine.
As always there are few rituals for executing a trek plan, which is done nearly a month or two before the trek date. First, get the trekkers onboard, sometimes need to pull people out of their busy working schedules. The good thing is all are based out in Bangalore.
If the trek destination is far away, there are two options for travel either take a flight or a train. The budget trekking expeditions are done by train travel. This requires advance booking of tickets and this completes the first ritual. Now moving on to the next one accommodation has to be done a month before the trek date.
It seemed a heavy downpour across the country, the trek plan had to be made flexible so that it has minimum impact due to uncertainty owing to bad weather conditions.
For weeks together following the weather reports, the forecast for the trek dates was good. Most parts of Maharashtra were flooded as per news reports and some railway tracks were blocked and services suspended. This is a common situation during the monsoons.
Lonavala, is the place to visit to during monsoons. This is time when it brings out the best of the nature.
Just a week before the trek date, ensure everyone has all the gears for the trek. The places to visit being finalized and a plan in place.
On the travel day, everything was as per the plan. There was a meetup of the group at the Bangalore Railway station, some people reaching late just before the train is about to depart from the station. All the drama, fun and set out for a journey of around 22 hours to reach Lonavala.
The sequence of places to visit was decided and visiting it as per the plans. There was not much change in the plans as the monsoons had retreated to some extent by then.
The fort is constructed along the hills. One needs to climb the stairs to reach the top of the fort. Heavy rains poured in when we started to ascend the stairs. After some time everyone drenched in rains and it was cold.
It was an elegant fort and not that difficult to climb but one needs to be cautious about the slippery surfaces.
Trekking along the reverse path to the water flow to get to the top. A lot of big stones along the trail and the beginners might find it difficult to trek though the distance to the top is not much. At the top, it was open ground with a view of the valley beneath. Again there were showers, a lot of crabs were spotted along with their numerous dwelling holes. Just wonder how the crabs made it to the top! Hope so they also trekked to reach here.
The old caves built by Buddhist monks. This has received contributions from King Ashoka as per the guide here. It had a Stupa, with the unique sculptures on every pillar. This was one of the largest cave in Lonavala considering other smaller caves around the place.
Rajmachi Night Trek
Rajmachi was the main spot intended in the plan to create an opportunity to stay closer to nature. The night trek begins from the Lonavala Railway station in the evening. A jeep took us to the starting point of the trek. It was sunset as we were curling along the trails to reach the base. Besides us, there was another group of people.
By the time the trek started, it was late and dark. The torches came in handy and the trail was muddy and slippery due to continuous rainfall in the region for a week. The rhythm of the night trek was broken for a tea break by a Dhaba midway to the Rajmachi Village. Reached the Rajmachi village around 7 pm. The hosts showered hospitality and a traditional Maharashtrian dinner was served. The village had no electricity and torches came in handy.
The next day early morning it was a journey to the top of the Rajmachi fort. An interesting tale was narrated by the guide about its name being Rajmachi. From the top, it was mostly cloudy and sometimes the clouds would clear out to show the majestic view of the valley beneath where the herd was grazing in the lush green fields.
Downtrek was a different trail towards Kajrat. Soon we completed the down trek and a delicious lunch arranged in one of the homes. An Auto Rickshaw dropped us to the Kajrat railway station and we boarded a local train to Lonavala. Collected our luggage in Lonavala Railway Station which was deposited in the cloakroom. It was a tiring day and had a good dinner at Lonavala before we boarded a train to Bangalore which was a journey of around 22 hours.
Considering the long journey time, spending time on the train was a big challenge. In such cases, a big group is always an advantage. The playing cards and a group of people make a good combo to kill time. The time ran so fast and the cards were played all along the journey with small breaks for food and water. Finally, the destination station Bangalore was reached, people greeted, dispersed and soon would turn up for one more journey.
The trip was spent wearing raincoats almost 80% of the time. There were occasional breaks to it. Probably the first trek when the Raincoats came so handy!
Food was amazing, obviously something new for the taste buds. Misal Pav, Mutton Malvani curry, Vada Pav, Bhakri — a bread/Roti that is popular in this part are some of the notable ones that were found in Lonavala. Chikkis are famous here and there are many Chikki shops all around the place.
Watch a short video about the trek here,
It was an awesome trip to Lonavala. If one does not worry about getting drenched, then this is the place to visit during the monsoons. Lonavala was derived from Sanskrit word Lonavli which means caves. There are numerous forts and caves spread across the green cover of the Western Ghats.
Photo Credits — Rakesh Rao, Video Credits — Sandesh Nayak