I have a monsoon ritual that’s typical of being in love. Regardless of where I am, come monsoons and I start missing the Western Ghats with their cover of a fluorescent green carpet, virgin waterfalls springing up across their hairpin bends and clouds descending down on earth. Nostalgia will be the culprit here if I book a flight to Mumbai tonight as a trek to Lohagad Fort is on my mind now. Though I already did the trek last September with my brother, I want to do this again during the peak of monsoons.
Lohagad Fort is located near Lonavala, and rises to an elevation of 1033 m above sea level. It is connected to the nearby Visapur Fort by ranges of the Western Ghats which divide the basins of the Indrayani and Pavana rivers. Lohagad overlooks the Pavana reservoir, and forms a beautiful base to witness the grandeur of the valley that lies beyond. The hike to Lohagad fort begins from a small village near Malavali, located off the old Mumbai – Pune highway. Malavali seems to be a typical Indian village, laid back and without a care in the world, helping enthusiastic trekkers with directions to the base village for the trek. Just before reaching this picturesque village, a detour leads to Bhaja Caves which are a must-see if you’re visiting Lohagad. These rock cut caves survive to tell beautiful tales of an era long gone, though they are sadly devoid of visitors.
The beginning of the trek to Lohagad is dotted with small eateries and I stopped at one of those because a juicy cucumber caught my attention. We had a few of those before beginning the trek and later realised we should have bought a couple more. With our stomachs full and bodies hydrated, we began the task of climbing uphill. One doesn’t need a guide or a trekking group for this one, the directions are all laid out, besides you just have to keep moving forward. But then views like this one sure slowed my pace down.
My camera sure slowed me down and it took us almost fifty minutes to reach the gates of fort Lohagad. What lay behind those doors is nothing but sheer history which dates back to a time unknown.
Ruins stared at us from everywhere as we stepped inside this once magnificent fort, which had hosted multiple dynasties from Maharashtra from time to time. It is difficult to tell what remains from which era, all of them now blending perfectly into each other. The Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas, Bahamanis, Nizams, Mughals and Marathas – all fought each other to occupy this fort through pages of history, probably because of it’s strategic location. The last occupant being Nana Phadnavis during the Peshwa times, who built several structures around the premises. Walking around, we noticed a few temple structures, a step-well, water tank, a jail, and something that looked like a court.
There’s nothing much left of the grandeur of this fort which held such a special significance in its times. Today, none of those rulers live to tell their tales and Lohagad Fort has become a perfect example of how nature has claimed back, what is rightfully hers. Now, a lush green cover of grass leads to colourful wildflowers which grow as far as the eyes can see. I am sure the flowers are prettier than any fort that would have ever existed here. With Western Ghats as a beautiful backdrop, river Pavana and these wildflowers make a canvas that is picture perfect to say the least.
I spent a good couple of hours walking around these beauties. Even though hungry, I didn’t want to start the descent down to the village because that meant turning my back towards nature’s art. I did not let hunger win this until it was time for lunch and my brother threatened to leave me alone in the wilderness. I walked back, promising myself to return. It’s almost time to fulfill that oath and I hope Mumbai treats me well this time too. Now, that my brother is no longer around town, I have to look for comfortable stay options. Maybe it is time to pamper myself with the Ramada and Grand Hyatt of Mumbai this time, but after a fulfilling trek at Lohagad. I am sure the luxuries would help ward off tiredness of continuous travels and provide me a couple of relaxed days at Mumbai.