The monsoons are upon us offering a much needed respite from the heat. This is the time to put on your steady shoes and set exploring in the pleasant weather and lush greenery. Maharashtra, especially the Sahyadri region, is a trekker’s delight with ample trek routes for amateurs and advanced trekkers.
If you do just one trek this season, it has to be to Rajmachi. Located at an altitude of 2,700 feet, there are two different routes that lead up to this point catering to both, first-timers and regular trekkers. Aside from the view at and from the top, the journey itself is a bewitching. During the monsoons you will be delighted with several impromptu waterfalls and streams along the way making the walk even more pleasurable. Moreover, it is conveniently located near Lonavala keeping it within an easy reach from Mumbai and Pune.
In its hey days, Rajmachi Fort, apart from being an important trade route, was a strategic fort to control Bhor ghat (the mountain pass between Khopoli and Khandala). It consists of 2 fortifications – Shrivardhan and Manaranjan Forts, and has a wide plateau on all sides, making it quite unique. It was originally built by the Satavahanas and later captured by Shivaji. Eventually, in 1818 after the downfall of the Marathas, the British gained control of all their territories, including forts such as Rajmachi.
The view from the top will leave you spell bound. Try and identify the Dukes Nose, Karanala, Mahuli, Bhimashankar, Matheran and the Ulhas River. Be warned though, your view might get clouded by heavy fog during the rains – but that will just add to the effect of being on top of the world and walking in the clouds.
The trek is a historical treasure trove. Explore the fort’s mighty ramparts, secret gates, residential spaces, and water reservoirs. The Kal Bhairavnath temple, ancient Shiva temple built in the Hemdpanti style tells a story of the people of a bygone era. If you are walking from the Karjat side, then make a stop at the Buddhist caves (also known as the Kondana Caves) and feel the tranquillity that still abides here.
If you’re getting tempted to try this trek, look no further. We tell you all you need to know on how to plan your quest.
Route 1 – Difficulty Level: Easy
From Lonavala, take an auto rickshaw and get dropped at Tungarli or near the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (near Gurukul High School) as the route till here is mostly cityscape and not scenic. This route from Lonavala and is a gentle walk of about 12 km to Udhewadi. It will take you approximately 4 to 5 hours to cover this route. From here, it is a little climb up to the temple, and the two forts are on its either sides a little walk away. En route, you can pause at Tungarli village to refresh yourself near the Tungarli Dam.
Route 2 – Difficulty Level: Moderate
From Karjat railway station, take an auto and get off at Kondivade Village near Karjat and start your trek. This might be a shorter distance but involves a significant climb which takes about 5 hours to complete. The route is just over 6 kilometres via Kondana Village where you can stop to marvel at the ancient Buddhist caves.
If you’re asking for directions from the locals, make sure you ask specifically for Rajmachi Fort as there is another place called Rajmachi which is a viewing point at Khandala.
If you have 2 days to spare, then why not do an overnight trip? Start your trek from Lonavala, camp at Rajmachi, and then descend via the Karjat route the next day.
Stay Arrangements: There are two caves at the fort that can accommodate up to 40 people and other camping grounds nearby to pitch your tent. Another stay option is to roll out your sleeping bag at the Kal Bhairavnath temple. The NGO Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme also has two dormitories that provide camping facilities for trekkers.
Food Arrangements: The local villagers are very tourist-friendly. You can request them for homemade food (for a price of course). There are also vendors selling refreshing buttermilk and lemon water to help you revitalize yourself after a long walk. If you are going to be returning on the same route, you could also ask them to keep something ready at a particular time so you have hot, fresh, authentic food to replenish your energy levels. The local favourites are vegetable or chicken curries with Bhakri or something simpler like instant noodles. Remember to carry plenty of water with you or stock up when you are crossing through the villages on the way.
- A backpack with a plastic bag cover, or wrap your clothes and other items in individual plastic bags before packing them in the bag to avoid rainwater seeping through
- A complete spare set of clothes and socks
- A poncho/windcheater for yourself in case it rains (an umbrella will hinder your experience and won’t work well in thicker forests or in clearings when there’s strong winds)
- A water bottle of at least 2 litre capacity
- Light eatables like biscuits and energy bars
- Electral or Glucon-D energizers
- A basic first aid kit for cuts and bruises
- Good trekking shoes
- A sleeping bag and/or tent if you plan an overnight trek
- A torch with an extra set of batteries
- Camera and/or a pair of binoculars (optional)
To book a guided group trek to Rajmachi via Lonavala, visit ByeByeCity