Lohgadh 2014

After missing the Siddhagadh and Gomtara, I again started getting those bubbles in my stomach, Oh dear I am missing something. Well how can I let the monsoon go devoid of treks? Although I could not be regular even in past, this time I had made this conscious decision to get drenched into this monsoon trek carnival as much as I can. I had missed the monsoon during Kaaldurg and wanted to make sure I enjoy those pleasant showers, the drizzle, the pouring thunderous mood of rain and the foggy trails.

Lohagadh being close to Lanavala, as usual, this was a travel at night, reach there early in the morning and grab the untouched morning beauty, plan. When I called a few weeks before, all the 45 seats were taken and I was really on waiting. But I crossed my fingers and kept pinging Darshan Vartak and Siddesh Vartak on Wats App and it did pay well, I got my seat 🙂

After a long wait at Ambadi road police station finally we all were boarded at 1 pm. The cozy, comfortable seats made me sleep quite soon and around 4:30 when I got out of my sleep we were already inside Dudhiware khinda (Tunnel). We were close the fort at 5 and had a nice 1 hour nap until 6.

There was an attempt to get to the base of the fort by our 50 seater bus, but due to near hairpin turn like the ones in Ooty and the lack of expertise on the part of the driver, we decided to start the trek right there. The pleasing morning atmosphere, sweet chirping of birds and the breathtaking view of the Pawana dam, our trek was on the roll. Darshan Vartak from Devale (He shares the name with me as well as the love for trekking. He is an ardent trekker and one of the leaders of VAC) had his Xylo to make few trips and get us to the base of the fort much quickly.

The triangular shaped Pawana dam keeps catching your attention all your way. Aneyeful of look at this lake and the surrounding serenity is bliss. The beautiful setting surrounded by other mountain forts like Tung-Tikona, Lohagadh, Visapur and Korigadh, devoid of any traces of concretization, makes this view quite a scenic and beautiful.

The group was a good combination of few of the new comers, a fix set of VAC trekkers, few VAC leaders and guess what we were blessed, to get guidance from few of the founder members having rich trekking experience of more than 20 years in Sahyadris as well as Himalayas. After usual ritual of standing in a circle, counting and introduction, we got to know few of the experiences and tips from Mr Manoj Vartak, one of the founder members.

The decision to keep bags in our Xylo and come back for lunch, made the things quite easier. Light and fresh with hot tea and Kanda Pohas (Spicy Snack made of Rice Flakes) at the “Tapri” at the base, the VAC stalwarts were soon on their way to capture the fort. Apart from the initial rocky trails, the fort has well preserved steps and admirable fortification. The doors are well maintained and give testimony of their glory days.

The fog was spreading all across the fort and the clear views were mystified by this atmosphere. A few lucky clicks could capture Pawana Dams’ views from the top on our way, but the rain and fog had now made most of us to leave aside the camera’s and enjoy the trek and the misty weather. It was now 9 am and felt as if it’s time for lunch 🙂

The competition to pose against the Bhagava (Organe flag) symbolizing Maratha empire, was getting furious and the showers were making the photography much more difficult. First monument that you see as soon as you have crossed the fortification and crossed all the three doors is a huge mosque, which is quite intact.

At one point the misty foggy atmosphere had taken over the fort and we couls hardly see anything at foot long distance. Generally less sleep and a Kande Pohe for breakfast won’t be sufficient for me to carry on in a day and would start giving headache, but here it did not really matter, the mind is such a beautiful thing, with a potential to let you do things that you would normally feel impossible.

The group reconvened at the Shiva temple and after the Aarti (Prayers)some of the missed fun was compensated by the presence of senior VAC members who made sure the members feel inspired by delivering some of the coveted songs like “Vedat Marathe”, “Shoora Amhi Sardar” and “Shivabachi Talvar” heating up the atmosphere with a flair of patriotism and heroism, taking us back in history for a while. Those songs really have that magic that never fades and I personally get those goose bumps when I hear them. Manoj Vartak and Darshan Vartak jointed by Atish Mhatre were the lead singers and the strong patriotic words of those eternal Mrathi songs reverberated in those valleys.

After few misty photography sessions we were off to visit the caves and “Vinchukada”.The caves are much well preserved and I guess one can plan to stay here overnight. There are two major caves with around 40 by 40 ft space inside. The Visapoor fort from here was calling us and the clearer weather gave us wonderful view of the valley down, as well as the fort on the left.

Vinchu kada was a miss and we could not even have a distant view of this most sought after spot and made us really sad. It has a typical shape of a scorpion tail (Vinchu Kada)and is 1500 meter long and 30 meter wide part of the mountain. My nephew Keval got lucky in there and he got few nice clicks of this spot.I could remember my last Lohgadh trek in 2007 when I was left behind and a giant monkey was blocking my way up this Vinchu Kada. I was so scared and praying all the knownGods to get that beast out of my way. Somebody probably noticed it and came to my recue, by throwing few stones at the monkey and shooed him away.

The view of Visapoor Fort on one side and serene, tranquil Pawana dam keeps you glued as they appear in different angles from Loahgadh. The fortification is strong and really true to its name Lohgadh, it stands there as a testimony of the glorious days this fort would have seen in it’s history during Maratha rule. The fort is said to be strong like iron and derived name Lahgadh from this background. (Loha is Iron in Marathi).Shivaji Maharaj had hidden his loot from Surat here.

The misty atmosphere, the hide and seek with the sun and the showers and the missed Vinchukada reminded me of my Naaneghat trek, when the heavy showers had made the views and photographyalmost impossible. Those especially with expensive camera’s ready to zoom into the distant beauty of Tung-Tikana, Visapoor and Pawana Lake were a bit disappointed. But then the rain God was a bit lenient and we did get few spans of bright sunlight and clear atmosphere to catch few of the wonderful moments and distant landscapes as well as caves and architecture of the fort. One of my favorites is the top view of the fortificationwalls that form artistic curvatures.

Although VAC does not allow any loose behavior or Masti during the trek to maintain discipline the atmosphere was more of a picnic and college fun on our way back with Antakshari and competing song selection giving us a treat of few of the wonderful old songs. It was like Mehfilin the bus and a treat for thosemusic lovers who loved varied variety of music right from old melodious Hindi songs, to Marathi Bhavageete,to few of the “Dhinchak” dance numbers, it was all there.

The 50+ member team itself makes it a rich experience with people coming from varied background, getting together as a group and sharing their experiences, connecting with others and adding to the vibrancy of the entire group. The values that we take back to our homes are not less than a 3 day corporate motivational workshop all packaged in one with lot more practical experiences, with addition of freshness of natural setting and pumped in oxygen in our lungs. It’s all about team work, helping each other, enjoying the hard work, appreciating the beauty and becoming more passionate towards life. This is a chance to be a kid again and the inhibitions are long gone and you can’t really make out the ages as the elders seemto be enjoying more.

A little information about VAC:
Vijay Chaudhari, Manoj Vartak, Parshuram Patil and Raju Deshmukh have developed and grown this initiative with passion and love during the times when trekking was not much of an accepted sport in vasai region. Currently Darshan Vartak spearheads this organization with the help of few of the stalwarts like Suhas Patil, Kuldeep Chaudhari, Siddesh Vartak, Yogesh Patil etc. The passion is overpowering and the kind of organization and effort put into to make these treks enjoyable and at the same time disciplined and safe is remarkable. Hats off to their love for this initiative. The money that they charge is generally the transport cost and few miscellaneous costs like tea and breakfast and take no extra money for this classy organization and streamlined execution, leave around the great package of knowledge that they impart.

Darshan Vartak seems to have passed on his trekking DNA to his entire family and made sure his wife, son and thee year old daughter enjoy this trip. Met few of the old buddies like Kalpesh Mhatre and made few new friends as well. Suhas was meticulous in his instructions and vibrant in his mood, he kept the singing drive alive for the entire returnjourney and got few veterans like Manoj Vartak to present few of the master pieces for us.

Misty, rainy, fun and feast would be a trek to remember.

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