Sunday, 23 June 2013

Monsoon trek to Lohagad fort

As monsoon begins, many trekkers booked their calendar for treks nearby Pune and Mumbai. I’m also interested to start some trekking activity this monsoon. On late Friday evening, we (My wife & I) decided to go for a trek on Saturday. This time we decided to complete the trek with the help of public transport.

Trekkers for Lohagad were me and my wife Renuka

At Vinchu kata

About Lohagad fort and trek:
              Fort is situated 52km from Pune in western India. It is at an elevation of 3,450 feet (1,052 m).Lohagad village is the base village for the fort. Now Lohagadwadi village is easily accessible by road. Trekker usually starts there trek from Malavali railway station. It is just 9km away from the station. 
             Lohagad has a long history with several dynasties occupying it at different periods of time. Some historical records say, Satavahanas, Chalukyas is the first one to reach this place. Shivaji Maharaj captured this fort in 1648, but he was forced to surrender it to the Mughals in 1665 by the Treaty of Purandar. Shivaji Maharaj recaptured it in 1670 and used it for keeping his treasury. This fort was used to keep the loot from Surat. Later in Peshwa time, Nana Phadanwis used this fort for living for some time.
            There are many places to see on the fort. The first entrance door is known as Ganesh darwaja (Lord Ganesh entrance gate). Other entrance gates in the sequence are Narayan darwaja, Hanuman Darwaja and last entrance gate is known as Maha-Darwaja. The highlight of the fort is Vinchukata (Scorpion's tail) which reminds us of 'SanjeevniMachi 'of Rajgad. It is 1500m long & 30m wide part of the mountain, separated from the main part. Viewing from the fort this portion looks like scorpion’s sting and hence it is called 'Vinchu Kata'. This 'Vinchu Kata' was used for keeping a watch on the nearby area.

             There are 2 ways to start trek to Lohagad fort, one is from Malavali station. After crossing the Express-Highway & reaching Bhaje village we get a straight route to Lohagad. After walking for 1.5 to 2 hours & turning to the right from `Goumukh Khind` we will reach to Lohagad. Turning to left we reach Visapur fort. Another route is from Pawna side which I’m not aware of it. 

22nd June 2013: Trek to Lohagad (1.25 hr. of local train + 2-2.5 hr. total climb):
             On a very short notice, we decided and planned to do the Lohagad trek on Saturday. We woke up early morning and caught 6.30 am a local train from Pune station for Malavali. I was expecting a rush in local but very few seats where occupied by travellers. We reached on Malavali railway station after around 70 min. Without wasting any time, we started our first trek patch. After the 1.5-2km walk we reached Bhaje village. We had some breakfast and then our trek began.

Malavali Railway Station
              The weather was perfectly set for trekking conditions. Sun was busy in hide and seeks game with rainy clouds. After crossing Bhaje village, there are 2 routes, one leads to Bhaje caves and other is to Lohagad fort. There was a route from Bhaje caves to Lohagad but I was not aware so I took the winding path for our trek. We crossed 2-3 waterfalls in route. After crossing 2 bridges (small bridge to bypass waterfall), there is a small route on the left side which is shortcut with sudden height gain. We took that path. It goes through dens small forest.We had to take stop once to rejuvenate ourselves. After walking for some time we reached `Goumukh Khind`.

Route to Goumukh Khind

Visapur fort view from Goumukh Khind

Visapur Fort

               Tar road is newly constructed for last 20-30% patch. From Goumukh Khind, we took a right turn for Lohagad fort. By taking a left turn, you can go to Visapur fort which is very close to the Lohagad fort. After few km walk, we reached fort’s base village named Lohagadwadi. Rain welcomed us when we reached base village. From this point, stone steps are laid till the top. Climb to the top of the fort should take around 45 mins.During the rainy season, water flows on the steps making them a bit slippery. It was raining heavily so we didn't get a chance to click any photo. Fort was surrounded by clouds so we were not able to see anything. Climbing on stone steps was quite an easy task and we reached the top soon. We were walking in clouds and unable to see any natural beauty around the fort. Once you entered by last Darwaja (entrance gate), you can see an old Darga on left. 


Old Darga
             We hardly took a pit stop at the top and marched towards Laxmi Kothi (Laxmi caves). It is a big cave where 50 people can stay. The Kothi has many rooms.This Laxmi Kothi was used to keep the loot from Surat. With the help of a torch, you can explore all rooms of Kothi.  We moved ahead towards Vinchu kata from Laxmi kothi. On the way to Vinchu kata, you can see newly built Dargah. This is the tomb of Sheikh Umar.

Laxmi Kothi
            After few min walk, we reach the starting point of Vinchu kata. As I mentioned earlier, it is a 1500m long & 30m wide part of the mountain with a bastion on the end, separated from the main part.We waited till cloud got away and gave us a beautiful view of Vinchu kata point. Soon rain stopped and the sun came out to show us the way. There are 2 ways to go to Vinchu kata. One is by crossing difficult rock patch and other is a very narrow route (with exposed view on the left side). Due to the monsoon, we selected narrow route which was much safer than the rock patch. Better not to try rock patch if it’s raining or the weather is cloudy. After the narrow route patch, there is a simple walk to reach bastion. When we reached bastion on Vinchu kata, the weather was cleared and we enjoyed the beautiful view. We took some rest and after taking some photos, we started with our return journey.

Vinchu Kata

Solid wall of Vinchu kata

Way to Vinchu Kata

              It was 1 in clock and now many trekkers were approaching towards Vinchu kata. We were lucky as we covered all main places within time. By the time we left Vinchu kata, rain shower begins heavily. It was like god paused rain shower for us so we can see the view from Vinchu kata. Now only the place was left was Shiv temple from the fort. We crossed the small lake and reached small temple of Lord Shiva. There is few small lakes nearby temple area. After our fort sight seen, we left the fort and reached the base village.

Shiv Temple from Lohagad Fort

              We started descending at 1.30 pm. While descending the fort, we saw strong massive fortification. Took some photographs and then reached the base village. We were too hungry and ordered Pithle-Bhakri in a local restaurant at the base village, Lohagadwadi. Food was average but as we were hungry, we found delicious. As we wanted to catch local by 4.30 pm, we started with our return journey. Within an hour we reached Bhaje village by 4 pm. We took auto so can easily catch the train.

Fortification of Lohagad

Lohagad Fortification


             When we reached Malavali station, we got to know that there is no local as such between 3.40 pm to 5.30 pm. But then railway staff suggested us to go by a passenger shuttle train and the Local ticket is valid for this journey. We board shuttle train by 4.30 pm and reached Pune station safely ending pleasurable trek in monsoon.

  • Local train ticket: INR 30/- per person (Pune-Malavali return journey)
  • Breakfast at Bhaje village: INR 80/- for both (egg Burji: INR 25/-, Omelet: INR 25/-, Maggi: INR 20/)
  • Pithle-Bhakri at Lunch: INR 50/- per person (Pithle + 2 Bhakri)
  • Double egg burji at lunch: INR 40/- per person
  • Auto (Bhaje to Malavali): INR 50/- (INR 20/- per person on sharing basis)
  • Two wheeler parking at Pune station: INR 10/- for 6 hours
Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy travelling.
Pritesh Kulkarni

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Trip to Kelshi, Velas and Dapoli

               We wanted to visit Konkan area before monsoon begins. We got an invitation of our relative to attend a family function at Dapoli and we thought of attending this function along with a short Konkan trip. Last time we had a trip to Dapoli area but due to lack of time, we were unable to visit Kelshi and Velas area. This time our target was to explore Kelshi and Velas.

About Kelshi and Velas:
              Kelshi is a small sea-side village, Famous for its Mahalaxmi Temple (350 years old temple), Sand hillocks and Yakub baba's dargah (7th Guru of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaja), built during the Peshwa era.Also Beach is very clean and hardly any tourists visit this place. You can feel typically Konkani lifestyle in Kelshi.
             Velas is small village, famous for Olive Ridley turtle population that visits the Velas beach every year and lays their eggs during winter time. Best time to visit Velas is from Jan mid to March end. Bankot Fort is also few km away from Velas.
            Our first halt was at Dapoli so we prefer route as Pune – NH4 – Take right at Bhorphata – Varandhaghat – NH17 – Poladpur – Take right at Bharana Naka, Khed – Dapoli. To reach at Kelshi, You can select route as Dapoli – Harne – Anjarle (You can bypass this place but you will miss beautiful drive along with costal line) –Kelshi.Sign boards are available to guide you. This route was too curvy in Varandha ghat.
            For return journey, we came by Dapoli – Khed – NH17 - Poladpur– Mahad – Mandgaon – Nijampur – Thamhini Ghat – Pune.

Traveller for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Kelshi beach

Day 0: 30th May 2013, Pune to Dapoli (Total Distance traveled: 201 km):
              We didn’t want to waste our holiday morning in travelling so we left Pune on Thursday after office hours. We left early in evening to avoid late night drive through Varandha ghat. We left Pune around 4:45 pm. Without wasting time, we reached Varandha ghat. Ghat road is narrow and too curvy. Driving in this ghat was bit boring considering summer time. We took our first break at the top of Varandha Ghat. There are lots of Food stalls. We were here on weekday so hardly any travelers were there. It was sunset time so we spent time watching different shades of color in sky along with tasty Vada-Pav and cup of coffee. After 30-40 min brake, we moved ahead.

Varandha Ghat

               Without any other break, we reached Dapoli by 9.30 pm. We stayed at our relative’s place and we decided to move to Kelshi by tomorrow.
  • Car Petrol: INR 2400/- (approx. 34 Lit @ INR 72/- i.e. Car average was 17.6km per lit)
  • Toll on NH4: INR 75/- (One way)
  • Snacks at Varandha ghat: INR 50/- (3 Vada-Pav + 2 coffee)

Day 1: 31st May 2013, Dapoli – Asud - Kelshi (Total Distance traveled: 52 km):
             We woke up by 8.30 am in morning and after breakfast, went to visit few relatives from Dapoli. We left Dapoli by 11 am for further trip. Our first destination was Asud’s Ancient Keshavraj temples. It is hardly few km away from Dapoli. A Keshavraj temple is in the midst of scenic hills. Way to Keshavraj is a small trek passing through coconut, betel nut, Mango, Jackfruit, White Jambu fruit (Jam in Marathi) and cashew trees. We enjoyed our small trek and ate lots of fruits while trekking. Keshavraj Temple is built by Pandavas meaning that it has its origin more than 1000 years ago. Temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu and its main attraction is the Goumukh from where water flows throughout the year.Originating of fresh water is from a tree trunk.

Way to Keshavraj temple, Asud

Way to Keshavraj Temple, Asud

Keshavraj Temple, Asud

               After spending lot of time on scenic hill and in Temple, we went to Karde for lunch break. We had lunch at New Swapna Sagar Nivas. We took rest till 4 in Karde and went for Harne’s fish market to buy some fish for dinner. Harne fish market is assumed to be one of the largest suppliers of fish to Maharashtra and also Export.There is an Auction carried on daily basis on the beach.We saw some auction and then purchased Pomfret and Surmai (King fish) fish for Dinner. You need to bargain a lot before buying any fish. Simple formula can be, ask for the half price rate and then add few bucks to settle the final deal. We purchased 4 large sized Pomfret and 1 medium sized King fish.

Harne Fish market

               By 5 pm, we left for our final destination Kelshi. Kelshi is typically kokani village and takes you to old time Konkan village. Our relative already told us where to stay and we straight away went there. We stayed at Homestay hotel name “Surabhi”. Room was bigger, clean and within our budget. After putting bags in room, we immediately went on beach for sunset. Due to cloudy weather, we missed sunset but we enjoyed lovely and lonely beach. There were hardly 5-6 tourists including us. Beach is not a sandy but is in bit dark brown color. Flow of tourists ismainly in Karde, Murud or in Anjarle beach so Kelshi beach is quite lonely.We spend some time on beach rather than entering in water for swimming and then came back on room to get ready for dinner.

Sunset at Kelshi...

               For dinner, we went at different home named Pawar. As per my wish they prepared Pomfret, Surmai fry and Surmai rassa. Food was delicious. After Dinner we went for rest in room. Our day ends with tasty sea food. Tomorrow we have to cover some local sightseen along with Beach and Velas village before heading to Dapoli.

Fish meal at Kashid

Veg meal at kelshi

  • Karde Entry fee: INR 20/- per car (Valid for 24 hours)
  • Pomfret meal (Thali) at Karde: INR 200/-
  • Veg meal at Karde: INR 100/-
  • Harne entry fee: INR 20/- per car (Valid for 24 hours)
  • Pomfret fish: INR 350/- for 4 large pieces (Original prices was 700/- for 4 pics.)
  • Surmai/King Fish: INR 250/- for medium size (Original prices was 350/-)
  • Veg meal at Kelshi: INR 80/- per Thali
  • Fish Thali Making charges: INR 80/- for Thali
  • Fry fish making charges: INR 100/- for 4 Pomfret + Half Surmai Fish
  • Cold drink: INR 35/- for 500ml

Day 2: 1stJune 2013, Kelshi – Velas - Dapoli (Total Distance traveled: 105 km):
               We woke up early morning by 7 AM. We decided to go on the beach for swimming.Kelshi has a long, scenic, unexplored beach.Only we were on the beachwith only the sea waves for company and it was like we were on our private beach. We spent around one hour and then returned to our room. We had “Kaju-Upama” in breakfast which was delicious.

Kelshi beach

              In today’s journey, our first destination was Mahalaxmi Temple. It was built during the Peshwa regime. It also houses the idols of Lord Ganpati and Lord Shiva.The temple lies beneath two huge domes.The famous Yakub Baba dargah is located at a distance of about one kilometer from the Mahalaxmi temple. This was our second destination.

Mahalaxmi Temple, Kelshi

             Yakub baba's dargah is a great example of Hindu Muslim unity in India. He had given advice to Shivaji Maharaja during attack on Dabhol. Later on Shivaji Maharaja – The King of Hindu Empire expressed his wish to build a Dargah & awarded land measuring 653 acres. The work on the Dargah of Yakub baba was started by Shivaji Maharaja and later continued by SambhajiRaje but somehow it was never completed. Later Bajirao-I tried to take the work to its fruition. Every year people celebrate Urus on 6th December. The tradition to begin this Urus by Hindu people is practiced even today. From this place, you can see scenic Kelshi beach view and large number of coconut trees.

Yakub baba's dargah

Kelshi beach view from dargah

              Next location of Kelshi was Sand hillocks. Naturally formed Sand Hill is at the northern part of Kelshi. As per the historical records and evidences the said Sand Dune is actually a result of Tsunami hit which was formed around the time of Vasco da Gama's visit to India somewhere in 15th century. Local people don’tbelieve on this story. Due to sand hill, construction of Kelshi Bridge(a part of the Coastal Highway) was stopped. This bridge will save around 45 min of journey to Velas but now stopped due to tourist attraction.

Sand hillocks

            After Kelshi sight seen, we left of Bankot fort. Route to reach Bankot fort is not in good shape. After 45 min drive we reached the fort. Parking space for car is not available so better to park vehicle on T-junction road close to Fort. Bankot creek was a major sea trade route; hence fort was an important as a watch tower for trade route. References of this fort is found in Greek traveller Pliny’s works in first century AD, where he refers to this fort as Mandargiri or Mandgor.In 1548, Portuguese won this fort from Adilshah. Later KanhojiAngre captured this fort. In 1818, Commander James captured the fort and named it as Fort Victoria.
          Main entrance of this small fort is intact. You can see water tanks, Basement room and bastion on fort. Fort is too small that it takes hardly 15-20 min to see entire fort. From here we can have a glimpse of Savitri River and the surrounding region. Bankot fort has an interesting connection with Sir Arthur Mallet of the Arthur seat point fame at Mahabaleshwar.  He lost his wife and 32 days old daughter in a tragic ferry mishap at the creek.

Main entrance of Fort

View from Fort

             We took our lunch at Velas which is 3 km ahead of Bankot fort. Velas is enclosed by mountains on three sides and open to the sea on the fourth. It is famous due to Turtle Festival. Velas is also one of the popular breeding sites of Olive Ridley, which is an endangered species of turtle. Season to visit Velas for Turtle Festival is from January till March. We had lunch at Nijsure and then got to know that this family plays important role to conduct Turtle Festival and to take care of environment for turtles. We got lot of information from them and we promised him to visit Velas again to help them for turtle festival rather than visiting as tourist during Turtle Festival.

Way to Velas

           By 4 pm, we started with our return journey to Dapoli. We took small break between Anjarle and Harne for Sunset. There is a point from where you can see entire village name Pajpandhari which is located very close to sea. Typically Konkani village located very close to sea, Suvarnadurg fort and Anjarle beach on right side – it gives you breathtaking view. This is our favorite point on this route. After sunset we reach Dapoli by 8 pm at relatives place.

Sunset point, pajpandhari


Colors after sunset

We, The travelers

  • Room rent at Kelshi: INR 700/- for a room
  • Breakfast: INR 60/- for 2 (Kaju-Upama)
  • Veg meal/Thali at Velas: INR 90/- per person
  • Water bottle: INR 20/- per bottle
  • Jackfruit chips: INR 400/- per Kg.

Day 3: 2ndJune 2013, Dapoli – Pune via Thamhini ghat (Total Distance traveled: 224 km):
             We attended a family function in morning and left Dapoli after having a lunch. We left Dapoli by around 4.30 pm. This time we decided to come via Thamhini ghat. Weather became cloudy and heavy rainfall welcomed us in Thamhini ghat. This was our first encounter with rain after hot summer. Rainfall made our driving more pleasant. We reach home safely by 9.30 pm.
  • Snacks in evening at ghat: INR 60/- (Vada-Pav + coffee)
  • Savitri river bridge toll on NH17: INR 05/- for car
Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Home stay Hotel Surabhi, Kelshi (Naresh Vartak): 02358-287240 / 9623113162 / 9820441985.
  • Kokan Bhojanalay at Kelshi (V Pavar): 02358-287379 / 9604104380 / 9850398893.
  • For Lunch and Dinner at Velas(Milind Nijsure): 02350-220629 / 9421188487.
  • Turtle Festival at Velas (Mohan Upadhe): 8983767388 / 8975622778 (Between 9 am to 2.30 pm)
  • Sea Sanhyadri hote (Amol naravankar): 9923485792 / 9637695539.

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni