Lohagad fort trek

Lohagad Fort: A Beginner’s tale of Thrills and spills

The hobby of mountaineering
cherish I will
For I like the sun, the wild woods,
and the air so chill!

… was the promise I made to myself while returning home from my very first trek to the mighty Lohagad Fort!

I always loved wandering in the woods… taking the path less traveled… being lost in nature, and hence trekking! But it was a distant dream until a bunch of college buddies & I made it to Lohagad on November 3, 1997.

The preparation and the journey

We managed to pack our bags somehow stuffing some eatables, bedding, and essentials, and boarded the 3:30 pm local train from Pune! (Yes, though we a crazy bunch of guys who stayed at Chinchwad went all the way to Pune station, to get a comfy place to sit for the entire group and come together with some friends who were to join from Pune) Excited about the very first escapade of ours we were singing, dancing, shouting aloud and making merry… we made the world around us go crazy in that hour and half train journey to Malavali – the foothills of Lohagad.

We got off the train, full of energy and enthusiasm which doubled when we could see our destination, right in front of us. We set afoot and half an hour’s walk got us to the base village Bhaje. It was a small village – calm and serene. So near to the concrete jungles yet far away from advancements! It had preserved an identity of its own. It housed a few hutments of the farmers, a couple of temples dedicated to the local deities, and of course some farmlands.

Bhaje Caves

In the hillock nearby were the Bhaje caves, which attracted our attention. We thought we should visit but it was about to get dark and hence refrained and took the pathway leading to the fort. It was a pleasant walk, not very strenuous as we were hiking during sunset. The weather was calm and a cool breeze blew to refresh us as we walked. And then there was the zeal within us that never wore us out!

at the base village

It took us another half an hour to reach Lohagadwadi another tiny hamlet, in the pass between Visapur and Lohagad Fort – called the Gaikhind. It was dark when we reached here. There was silence around as if no one inhibited the place. But we were wrong. As we entered the village we were welcomed by a horde of enthusiastic and over-friendly folks. We soon got talking to them & they narrated to us some stories of the past which were really entertaining. They also claimed to have spotted a tiger here a few days back! While most of us didn’t believe it, some thought it could be true.

We rested for a while before we headed towards the fort again. It was dark but the moon showed us the way. It also showered light on the ramparts and as we clambered up the grandeur left us awestruck. The steps hewn out of rock were a foot and a half high and the fortification was strong and intact even now. This was the only way in and out of the fort and it meant going through three or four entrance gates (viz. Ganesh Darwja, Narayan, Hanuman & Maha Darwaja) and a series of several battlements, ramparts, and steep walls. A 20-minute tour through this historic defense got us atop the fort. Jai Bhavani! Jai Shivaji!! We had finally conquered the very first fort!

at The cave atop the fort

With a sense of accomplishment, we headed towards the Lomeshrishi cave, unburdened ourselves from of the haversacks we were carrying, and lodged ourselves. Apparently, the great saint Lomeshrishi is said to have meditated here and hence the cave got his name. The cave was huge enough to accommodate around a hundred trekkers. Fortunately, we were the only ones to be there that day, so we had a whole lot of it for ourselves!

We were extremely hungry by now. So we unpacked and shared the food we all had got from our homes. There was a variety of spread, from roties to rice and chutney to chicken… and everything was so yummy! (Really? Wasn’t it too cold?) It was here we realized the meaning of the old saying “Any food tastes great when you are tired and weary”. After satiating our hunger we chatted, played antakshari, and after being tired went off to bed.

Exploring the fort

Good Morning Lohagad Fort! The chill in the early morning air woke us up almost at the crack of dawn. We all had a great sleep (probably the nicest ones of all) and were fresh as never before. We all caught a glimpse of the rising sun – an experience that enthralled one and all. It was now time to set out for site seeing on the fort. The fort houses some water cisterns, a huge well, a durgah, and many other small monuments which are in ruins.

Lohagad Fort was built during the Satvahan era or even earlier. Malik Ahmed – the Nizam ruler conquered the fort in 1491, which eventually went into the hands of Adilshah. Shivaji subjugated it in 1657 but eventually lost it to the Mughals during the Treaty of Purndar. It befell in the Hindvi Swarajya on May 13, 1670, when the Marathas strategically won it back. However, like all other forts, it went into British hands in 1818. Another important anecdote in history talks about Lohagad Fort when Shivaji looted Surat. On His journey back, Shivaji stopped at Lohagad Fort for rest and kept the loot there!

Wikipedia page on Lohagad Fort

the crab hunt

With these instances from the books of history superseding our thoughts we were taking a stroll over the fort. It was an amazing feeling to be here with a cool breeze blowing beauty all around. While walking beside the durgah were some marshlands where Tony (a fellow trekker) found some crabs. He and some folks got busy looking for those crabs and caught quite a few of them. These were going to be cooked for our lunch.

the detour

We had planned to visit the neighboring fort viz. Visapur too. Hence we started the descent pretty early. But as we were descending, the vast expanse of the backwaters of the Pawna dam allured us with all their charm. All of us developed a strong desire to take a dip in those alluring waters and hence everyone without any second thoughts started towards the Pawna dam. The villagers of Lohagadwadi gave us directions to reach Ambewadi, a small village near the dam. Excited we started walking. The destination was right in front of us – the cool waters of Pawna & our excitement was at its peak!

Visapur as seen from Lohagad Fort’s Darwaja

It was a narrow path, plantations all around, and hence pretty shady. We quite enjoyed it, but alas – the enjoyment was pretty short-lived. We got into thick woods and shrubs and we could see no further. There was no way we could find our way down. We tried all possible small pathways but in vain. It was noon and the sun was right on our heads. It was pretty hot and we were tired and hungry. We found a small stream and settled beside that for some rest. We then decided to have food before we proceed. So some of them gathered some firewood and others got too serious business – cooking! The crabs came out and took the form of delectable curry which definitely was the dish of the day. My mouth still waters with the thought of that yummy preparation.

the disappointment

With good food going down the throat and tummies full, the exhilaration reappeared out of nowhere. We packed our bags and soon were off to Ambewadi. We were still struggling to find the lost track, but no luck. So we decided to get into the bushes and only aim to get down and that’s what we did. It was quite a descent and took almost 2-3 hours to get to the village of Ambewadi. We had finally reached where we wanted to be! Unfortunately, it was evening and there was very little time to get dark. Also, the last bus out of the village was about to leave in the next 10 minutes. So with a heavy heart, we boarded the bus and returned to Kamshet from where we took the local train back to our homes.

A dip in the Pawna Dam waters has been an unfulfilled wish since then. But then the trekking continued! This was just the beginning…

Read my other trek experiences here!

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