This write-up of our Lohagad Visapur trek by my ever so de#$% friend Kapil Naik.
History tells Columbus wanted to discover India. In the process he landed in Caribbean islands. First he thought it was India. It was only when he realised that it wasn’t India, but a group of islands in the continent of America itself, islands were named as west Indies.
Why am I telling this story, we all suppose to know? Soon you will get the answer.
Everything was roughly planned for a trek to LOHGHAD, a fort near the malawali station, which is some kilometers away from lonavala and the same was conveyed to sanjay, mangesh, rutu, arvind, sid and hrishti by me and irfan. But little did everyone know that one of the person who planned it was in a mess, just a few hours before we were supposed to leave on Saturday night
I was given some (actually many) ssc papers for correction by one class in borivali. It was on urgent basis so I couldn’t dare say no. At 1.30 p.m. on Saturday (day we leave for trek) I started to realise that job was out of control and possibly I will not be able to join my friends for the trek. I let this knew to irfan and guess what I came across one of the most surprising gesture I could ever come across. “Any help? Shall I come down to your place to assist you?” was the reply.
Just imagine a fellow was coming to my place only to assist me in my job after travelling more than 2 hrs so that I myself do not miss the trek. Thanks a lot irfan. Without thinking for a second I said yes. I requested (actually ordered) sanjay to join us. So there you are, three of us struggling to finish the job so that we could leave in time. Others were asked not to leave their residence unless we call them up after finishing the job. I will tell you for 3-4 hrs, it was so neck to neck that many times I asked the 2 visitors to leave for trek without me. But I was not destined to miss the upcoming drama.
Thanks to a brilliant irfan-idea that we were able to some how finish the job before 9 p.m. We couldn’t finish late than that, as the last train to pune was at 11.40 p.m. from VT As I packed my bag, irfan and sanjay called up everyone to meet at bandra station so that we could at least catch the last train. I tell you from my past experiences of trek that, engineers really can think fast in a crunch situation. We plnned, conveyed it and executed all at one time.
Arvind decided not to join us as he thought he would be deprived of some sleep by leaving so late. Yaar, arvind I do respect your thought that you need a bit of rests as Monday is working day. But I will tell you no matter how early you leave some nuts in our group will not let anyone sleep. (Rutu and I can promise you that.) Any way we all duly respect your decision and hope for your presence for the next outing. We did miss you.
And yes how on earth I forget this? Sanjay and irfan had a cup of tea each at my house. Bastardos didn’t pay for it. They thought it was fukat (free of cost). I suppose, ye sub mangesh ki sangat ka asar hai.
So finally we left my residence with a great satisfaction that trek was on. Smartly sanjay did not forget to take camera from his house as we halted the rickshaw for a few minutes at his residence. Money, camera, eatables, personal gearing against winter season, did we forget anything? Yes we certainly did. And we would realise it later on how important was the thing we forgot to take with us.
I myself, irfan, sanjay, mangesh, rutu arrived in time at bandra station. Only one fellow was missing as Sid decided not to come at 11th hour. Mr. Hrishikesh brid, the person who is believed to some how evade our plans many times in the past. After a few anxious moments finally he arrived. I will tell you hrishi on a trek is a thing to be kept in museum. He wears apparels as if he is going to Everest. He always has a dadaji’s cap on and a huge bag as well. That magical bag, I promise contains food and other necessary things for everyone. Very nice of him.
Now after me it was irfan’s turn to add some spice to our trek. He told us that one of his classmate in MBA college named ***** (I forgot her name) was about to leave for south by some other train around that time. So I suppose as all of us were at dadar station waiting for a train bound to v.t, this fellow was talking to *****. Knowingly or unknowingly he kind of got lost on dadar station only to force us leave a few VT bound trains. We were getting late. Already irritated sanju baba recommended that we take the next upcoming train to VT and wait for irfan at VT terminus. We thought we would keep in touch with irfan on his mobile.
We waited, waited and waited at VT terminus. Irfan did not arise nor he stopped speaking to ***** on mobile. It was engaged. We were caught in odd situation as neither we could take tickets for malawali nor the last train at 11.40 p.m. was going to delay its departure for a few engineers. I could see our plan collapsing.
But I have already told you that engineers work best under pressure. Rutu sanjay and I myself came up with a cracker of idea. We set fielding like sourav ganguly sets on a cricket ground. Sanjay stood at the local train terminus, rutu stood at the terminus of through trains and I stood near the ticket window with 150 rupees (for 6 persons) ready in my hand. Idea was that the moment sanjay spots irfan getting down from local train, he would signal to rutu who in turn would signal to me at the window to take the tickets. Again we waited, waited and waited. There was no signal to me from rutu, which obviously meant sanjay had not spotted irfan. Finally it happened what we feared. The siren of the train went on. It was 11.40 p.m. sharp. The train started to leave before our eyes.
But I told you I was not destined to miss the trek from the beginning. He was spotted by sanjay. Came the signal to me via rutu.
“Six malawali station” I shouted. It didn’t matter much to man behind the glass. “Are train to nikal gayi, abhi konsa ticket” was the reply from him. “ are aap dedo bus, hamari chinta chodo” I yelled. Very slowly, showing no signs of panic he typed details and gave me the ticket (he was probably an engineer, you see he did not panic). I ran with all my heart with tickets firmly in my hand. Others also started to run towards train as they probably spotted me coming in. And guess what, 5 Bastardos got inside one compartment without giving me prior indication. I got perplexed thinking in which bogie they must be in. I was running along with very slowly moving train. “ Abe idher” one of them shouted from the door of the next bogie (which was last but one). I could easily catch the bogie, as the train was yet to catch the speed. Finally all six of us were in a train bound to malawali safe and sound. Hushhhh the trek was on.
Irfan and I myself once again agreed that, in every trek, some how we are able to come through situations which were hopeless.
We settled down on an upper birth. Sanjay and mangesh got a seat on lower birth. It was a passenger train. No reservations. Everything on first come basis. Luckily all of us got a seat. Sanjay got a nice company also. A bewada. I fail to understand why on earth these bewadas catch sanjay first in any safar. Sanjay do reply to this. I guess in our 1st trek also a bewada sat besides you. (Remember dev babu). Any way stars were not that bad for sanjay, a cute village girl replaced bewada very soon. Now sanjay could afford to smile a little.
Now you must be thinking what Mr. Vertak has been doing all so long. How come his name is not cropped up so far. I will tell you, a supposedly called couple was doing a little bit unparliamentary activities before our upper birth. And rutu was getting a little annoyed. You see, he is having same problematic stars like me. Come may what we will never be able to have a girlfriend, before marriage. So both of us were a little upset with our stars.
No one could sleep as seats were not at all comfortable (what else you will get in Rs 25). We got down at malawali station. It was a well-maintained station but was absolutely lonely. Probably we were the first ones to get down since its existence. A funny thing happened on the station. Rutu and I myself decided to use ladies toilet just to see how different it is from male toilets. As we were about to enter it, lights went off and we had a laugh saying there is some bhutataki or a system, which identifies male intruders.
It was 3.30 in the moring. Mangesh, sanjay and irfan decided to have a nap. Others were uneasy, as they wanted to create some pressure inside stomach for early morning call. I have mentioned earlier that we forgot something important. It was bottles of water. Most important part of any trek. We did miss it during both types of uses of water. We had to manage with a small bottle of water throughout the trek.
At about 5.30 a.m. in the morning we decided to formally begin the trek which was already full of unexpected things. After some time walking towards the fort we came across the steps of visapur caves (visapur is another fort near our supposed destination of lohghad). As it was too dark we all had consent that it is not advisable to start a trek because we will not be able to come across the beauty of the nature. Finally arvind, we got it, a nice sound sleep on the wide steps of caves. It was small but sufficient enough to make us energetic again. It was a lovely experience to sleep in a pin drop silence, in cold, under the clear blue sky with constellation of stars blinking at us. I will cherish these moments and times I spent with my friends for all my life. Who knows we all may not get such time again in our life as we friends become focussed on our duties and family in the future?
After a short nap we decided to head to the village at the base for a cup of tea. The people in the village were nice to us. (Villagers are usually very nice to visitors) One of them showed us the right direction to the base, which is common to LOHGHAD fort and VISAPUR fort.
It was a lovely morning with decently low temperature and light. We kept heading towards the common base through dried fields. A few poses for photos would halt our proceedings. We did notice one exceptional thing happening around us. Mr. Brid was leading the pack. Usually he is supposedly a bit slow climber. But this time he was all determined and was heading the pack, showing us the shortcuts like a professional raju guide would do.
As we started to climb towards the base which is common to the 2 forts, light started to enhance and so the temperature. Early morning rays of the sun god kissing the cliffs were worth taking the photographs. We reached the common base. We ourselves decided which one is visapur and which one is the other one. Sometimes you know, engineers do stupid things. Remember I started of with a story of Columbus reaching some unknowing destination supposing it was India. We did the same thing by starting to climb visapur thinking it was lohghad. Believe it or not even after walking for more than one hour we did not realise it was visapur. We simply kept walking along a dusty road, which was going parallel to the fort. We were seeing no end. I shouted in frustration,” koi hai”. Came the reply” koi hai, koi hai”. An echo. Wow, everyone started screaming. What they shouted is again unparliamentary, I can not mention here. Rutu was at his best (you see he will never become an MP). Some joy on an aimless walk. After a while we came across a shortcut.” Often shortcuts turn out to be long cuts” wise words came from one of us (don’t remember the person). And how true it was. We continued only to realise that we are descending, so a wrong way. We had to leg the same path but in reverse direction.
As mentioned above each time we are in hopeless situation we manage to get through. We came across a villager (god must have sent him, remember the band of drunkards at mahuli) who informed us that this is visapur and not lohghad. We were annoyed at our mistake. We had no option but to continue. We decided to climb lohghad after we complete visapur trek in the afternoon. Interestingly the same villager showed us one path (which did not look like a path) and said this way you can go to visapur. It will take 45 minutes.
Let me explain this, it was a pawoolvat (Marathi, path created by trespassers), which was narrower than narrow. And to our disbelief grass as tall as 1.5 times of human being was to the both sides of the pawoolvat. We all really first doubted the villager as it was impossible to look beyond one meter due to tall grass. We all had to kind of brush it aside with both hands to move forward. A photo was mandatory here.
This was exciting. A real manly job, you know. Having a glass of wine close to beautiful lake can be cool but isn’t quite manly. Now do not open a debate, opinion is personal without having disrespect against anyone.
We kept heading. After a while tall grass started to disappear. Have you seen the film ek duje ke liye starring kamala hasan? In the film hasan sits on a coconut tree which almost horizontally had grown by nature. We came across similar kind of a branch of a tree, which was horizontal. We all did a kamal hasan. Now everyone was having a stick in their hands. We would use it as if we were shivaji maharaja.
As soon as the tall grass ended we came across thick vegetation, almost a jungle. We did not know which way to go. Again it was hrishi who suggested the direction saying that a path going upward has to be the one. The path led us to a dry riverbed, which would take us to the top of the mountain, visapur fort. Rivers in kokan region run out of water after rainy season as they exist only because of rain. Like rivers of north (which are brimful water throughout the year) rivers in kokan area do not get flooded with water because of melting of snow. These dried and arid beds of rivers are nothing but big rocks which turn round and smooth due to water flowing over them for ages. Climbing through such type of bed of river was a nice experience.
The end of the riverbed led us to the top of the mountain. Just before the entrance we came across a small cave. With impending fear of bats we entered the cave. Apart from an old reservoir of water (pretty dirty) there was nothing interesting. Now finally we were at the top of mountain, the visapur fort, possibly more than 3500 feet.
Now it was time to move around the fort. First we moved towards eastern outer wall of the fort. A nasty looking deep valley just beyond the outer wall of the castle trying to swallow everything that falls into it gave us the sense of achievement. After all this is what we strive for. This is where we want to reach. Height, height and more height. The moment you reach there, I mean the top, all pain and cramps in muscles take a back seat and we end up doing nothing but punching the air in excitement. Mission accomplished.
We kept on moving along the outer wall of the castle. These outer walls would have opening for canons to fire those bombshells. As we moved towards the western outer wall of the castle, we came across a Plato. It was really a massive Plato. Looking at the mountain cliffs from the base one would fail to imagine the kind of flat surface that exists at the top. This Plato must be a mute witness to the past 300 years of history including rise and fall of Marartha Empire. Old reservoir of water, old days manually operated grinder of wheat, and an old days kolu ka bail (if any one knows the right word, let us know, in Marathi we call it telacha Ghana) took us back to days we couldn’t witness. The water in the reservoir was so ugly looking that we people living in urban areas wouldn’t even wash our hands with it let alone drinking. But you know we have a character who would do a thing which normally other boys in the group wouldn’t do, mangesh. He did drink that water. He is different. Remember he was the only one who had a bath in the well in previous trek (mahuli.)
The view from the Western Wall of the castle was something I truly fail to describe in words. In the outer wall of this side there are three medium sized openings at two different places. The wind was very much strong at this place. With the sinking view of a hostile valley and Mumbai-pune express highway, which looked like a pawoolvat from that height, we decided to have lunch. Lunch consisting of parathas, parathas and parathas. Probably hrishi had some puris with him in his magical bag. But heavens curse us, we had forgot to take any water. And I do not know about others but I was certainly running out of water. My mouth was drying out quickly and I could feel pain to the left of my stomach. I wouldn’t be concerned if another trek of lohghad was not impending. I really started to doubt my ability to have a go at lohghad after descending visapur. After the lunch we started to descend. It was least difficult with some really good advice from rutu about how we should tackle descending. As I was literally dragging myself to the common base from where we could go to lohghad after a little break. I was desperate for water and I could see irfan and hrishi also feeling the same. Hrishi was back to his old days. Now he was last in the pack. Sanjay and rutu had the will to go onto lohghad even if in case we fail to get some water at the common base. Mangesh, well he is different. He can go for a week without water I guess.
At the common base we had two options.1) to drink water available (had frogs in it) or 2) start climbing lohghad without any water. Irfan, hrishi and I myself were not ready for both. We chose to descend completely from common base to where we started in the morning. We had a difference of opinion with sanjay and mangesh. Sanjay was of the opinion that the amount of energy we spent in coming down from the common base to the village was same as that would take to climb the lohghad from the common base. Three of us disagreed. I do not understand how going up from the common base and coming down to village could be same as to going down from common base to village. Purely going by the distance to be travelled there is no similarity, whatsoever. Any way the crux of the matter is that we should have carried water with us. And yes we all those who did not want to go to lohghad do apologize to sanjay for not backing his ambition. But you know it is better not to mix you abilities with your ambitions.
So finally amidst all arguments we reached the base village. A few more parathas with shrikhand was truly delicious. A little bit of rest and we started to climb the steps of bhaje caves. These were the same steps, which we turned them into our beds early in the morning. Bhaje caves are the ancient caves belonging to the era of samrat ashok. Allas there was some greenery. A family had arrived to visit the caves. I must say the daughter was really and extremely good looking. Guess what? Rutu felt the same (you know our stars). I guess hrishi was the most impressed. We were not too much interested in caves, as we did not understand the purpose behind it. They were simply caves with no murtis. Any way the visit was made fruitful by the presence of someone really as good as a murti.
So there ended the journey of modern day Columbus. We came back to mumbai via lonavala. Many people would wrongly call it a failed attempt to lohghad. But let me mention the reaction of a rickshaw-wala (base village to lonavala) when we told him that we have been to visapur fort just now.
“ Are sab visapur, to koi jyada jata nahi. Poora Jungle hai. Sub trekkers lohghad jate hai. Wo easy hai”