Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route

Tripoto
29th Sep 2019
Day 1

Ever felt a fear grip you so tight to make you feel that you are not going to make it back home, to see the people you love? Exactly that and much more intense was my experience while trekking the infamous Rajmachi trek in Raigad district of Maharashtra.

The Inception

One fine evening, while randomly scrolling through Instagram feed, I happened to speak to Vijaya, a like minded traveller in many ways and as the wandering soul that she is, she told me about her upcoming trek to Rajmachi. In next 10mins, we both had decided and chalked out a rough plan to trek Rajmachi, which then felt like a piece of cake.

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

History Lesson
Not many know that Rajamachi citadel was built by the Satvahanas but captured and maintained by the great warrior of Raigad, India, who was also crowned as Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Rajmachi consisted of the village and two fortresses, Shriwardhan Balekilla and Manaranjan Balekilla which were used and maintained by Shivaji Maharaj. Unfortunately, after the demise of this warrior in 1680, this fort was captured by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. However he couldn’t taste the victory for long and the next year it was captured by the Marathas. Marathas, the farmers and artisans brought to unity by Shivaji Maharaj to fight against the oppression imposed by Muslim rulers in India. Rajmachi flourished as the trade route connecting the now Mumbai and Pune during the 18th Century. However with the takeover of British in the 19th Century, the great history of Rajmachi came to an end. Today, in the Independent India, Rajmachi is declared as a ‘Protected Monument’.

Journey Begins

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Took the 2nd train of the day from Ghatkopar to Karjat starting at 6:35am. The 90 minutes in the train passed like a breeze. Vijaya, met me at Karjat station. Though we were acquaintances, Vijaya and me bonded over the Omlette-pav and tea we shared in a 90’s styled Railway canteen. Just outside the station, though aware about the sharing autos, we were lured into the luxury of non-sharing Auto ride for Rs.220 to the Kondhane Village, a 30 mins ride approximately.

The Ascend

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Around 10 am, We passed through the cute smiles of the village kids and caring villagers asking us to be safe while maintaining a good pace to reach the fort. This village is also known as Kondhe Wadi.As we started the climb, we were greeted by a family of four on their journey back from the Kondhane Caves. After the simple exchange of pleasantries, we were boosted with excitement to witness the beauty of Kondhane Caves.

Kondhane Caves

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Also known as Kondhane Leni (caves), was built for the Buddhist monks. Later the caves were excavated in the first century BC and today it is a good spot for History and Architecture lovers. After a leisurely 45minutes to an hour’s trek and crossing a beautiful waterfall, we reached the Kondhane Caves. I was marvelled by the beautiful architecture of rock carving displayed in between the mountains led by carefully measured and chiselled rock starecase. The ruins of the monument still had its charm but what had our attention mostly was the heavy flow of waterfall cutting through the cave rocks. This waterfall, added to the cave’s beauty and refreshed us for our journey into the forest.

Into the Forest

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

The path to and from Kondhane Caves was carved and simple, however it was only after we left the caves 20 minutes behind us that we realised, there is no one way to reach the fort. For most of the self carved route, we relied only on our instincts. Another 30mins of trekking in the forest and the fear of getting lost in that dangerous situation started to haunt us. In between looking helplessly for trail and trying to save ourselves from the mosquito menace, we heard a peculiar whistle, which to us sounded like a ray of hope to get help. We screamed our lungs out but got no reply to our ‘hellos’, ‘who is there?’ and ‘can you help us?’ (Of course all in Hindi, assuming it was a local).

The Light Game

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Now, the forest got denser and the natural light started to fade a little. We had been trekking for what felt like hours but it was just 2pm in the afternoon. The whistling, continued in intervals which started to creep us out. Being fear stricken about all the possibilities that could go wrong with two girls lonely in a less travelled jungle route on a WEEKDAY, I suggested Vijaya that no matter where we reach, we would start our descend at 4pm. Minutes added to hours and the trekking continued. Climbing through steep mountain cut rocks, struggling our way through small but fierce waterfalls, being beaten insistently by mosquitos to swell and turn red, half drenched due to non-stop rain, avoiding stepping on mud crabs, suppressing our hunger pangs with homemade protein ladoos and granola bars we continued our trek.

Rajmachi Village

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

As we neared our destination, we were joined by a happy and inquisitive dog. He gave us company for a few minutes only to be lost in the wild again. At the hour of thirty past three, we could see the peak of the Rajmachi Fort, which filled our body with instant energy and a sense of pride to have trekked this far. We trekked with double enthusiasm now and soon found a trail that had us reaching for the much awaited Rajmachi Village. The village was surprisingly quiet with not a soul lurking outside. Luckily we found a shop serving warm maggie and hot tea on order. The old couple at the shop, informed us that the rest of the villagers where taking their mid-day nap, a common practice even in Pune. This is where we met our now dear friend, Raghav, a decent fellow from from Delhi, completing an MBA in Mumbai and on his first trek ever. With only 1 easy option available to return to Mumbai, we three decided to go back together.

Rajmachi Fort

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Raghav chose to wait for us while Vijaya and myself set out to finally soak our eyes with the beauty of the Rajmachi Fort. The well built stone steps took us to the entrance to the Fort. After dodging a couple of slippery stones, we made it! Yes, we reached the fort, high-fived each other and stood in silence to breath in the fresh air and feel the calm. We walked around, took some pictures and sat there just being thankful for this experience. As the day started to lose its light, it dawned on us how important it is to start our journey back home before it gets dark.

Lost in the Jungle

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Delighted to find Raghav still waiting for us, we started to walk towards the meeting point for our cab to Lonavala. One the way, we witnessed the gorgeous and magnificent ‘Kataldhaar’ waterfall. To admire the serene view of the waterfall and keep ourselves warm after being drenched in rain, we took a quick break for hot tea. Another 60 mins of trudging down the mountains and we reached the meeting spot but found no car. We called the driver and was told to walk another 60 minutes to reach the cab. Now its was around 7 in the evening and though the sunset looked beautiful, we were losing daylight with every passing minute. We started to fear our encounter with wild animals and reptiles. With our phone batteries draining, we hastily bounced towards the cab. 10 mins in the jungle and it was pitch dark with only 2 phone torches guiding the three of us.

Journey back home.

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Just when the fear was taking over us, a good Samaritan riding towards the village, informed us about our driver waiting for us. Now almost running towards the cab, we caught our breath to find our driver walking towards us with a torch. We thanked him and other three trekkers who were waiting for us. Reached Lonavala Bus Station in about 30 mins and took the next bus to Panvel. Although clothes were still damp and boots wet with mud, our immediate action was to eat a wholesome dinner and treat ourselves to survive this adventurous day. After the warm supper and tired body, all we wanted was to reach home, enjoy a warm shower and hug our beds. While Vijaya and Raghav decided to fetch a transportation to their destinations, I took a local train from Panvel. Reached home and thanked my mom for supporting me in this exciting life that I live! All said and done, yet I’d like to add that trekking Rajmachi Fort was an experience that I would cherish all my life. Thank you for reading through and being a part of my Journey!

Just when the fear was taking over us, a good Samaritan riding towards the village, informed us about our driver waiting for us. Now almost running towards the cab, we caught our breath to find our driver walking towards us with a torch. We thanked him and other three trekkers who were waiting for us. Reached Lonavala Bus Station in about 30 mins and took the next bus to Panvel. Although clothes were still damp and boots wet with mud, our immediate action was to eat a wholesome dinner and treat ourselves to survive this adventurous day. After the warm supper and tired body, all we wanted was to reach home, enjoy a warm shower and hug our beds. While Vijaya and Raghav decided to fetch a transportation to their destinations, I took a local train from Panvel. Reached home and thanked my mom for supporting me in this exciting life that I live!

All said and done, yet I’d like to add that trekking Rajmachi Fort was an experience that I would cherish all my life.

Thank you for reading through and being a part of my Journey!

Photo of Rajmachi- A Trek Through the Ancient Trade Route by Asmita Nikalje

Your Takeaways:
*Most important*- Apply mosquito repellent before starting the trek and whenever needed.
Shoes with good grip (Decathalon has good and affordable variety).
Beware of reptiles and mud crabs at every step. (I fell and hurt my knee while dodging one).
Though rare but watch out for the direction boards nailed to a few trees in red.
Pack 2 liters of water and healthy homemade snacks (to boost energy and void plastic waste).
Raincoat for yourself and for the bag. Start early and take less breaks.
DO NOT TREK ALONE for safety reasons.
Cab to Lonavala could cost around Rs.250 - 300 depending how many travelers are sharing the cab. (Number to reach cab driver : +91 9049948335).
State busses from Lonavala Bus Station towards Mumbai and Pune are best for budget and fast travel.
Maggie and tea cost approximately Rs.50.
Stay at the village homestays could cost Rs.500 depending on the availability.

Your Takeaways: *Most important*- Apply mosquito repellent before starting the trek and whenever needed. Shoes with good grip (Decathalon has good and affordable variety) Beware of reptiles and mud crabs at every step. (I fell and hurt my knee while dodging one) Though rare but watch out for the direction boards nailed to a few trees in red. Pack 2 liters of water and healthy homemade snacks (to boost energy and void plastic waste). Raincoat for yourself and for the bag. Start early and take less breaks. DO NOT TREK ALONE for safety reasons. Cab to Lonavala could cost around Rs.250 - 300 depending how many travelers are sharing the cab. (Number to reach cab driver : +91 9049948335) State busses from Lonavala Bus Station towards Mumbai and Pune are best for budget and fast travel. Maggie and tea cost approximately Rs.50. Stay at the village homestays could cost Rs.500 depending on the availability.

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