As you might be knowing, I am tracing my trekking experiences over the years, in the series of blogs. Today, I am looking back at year of 2002-my fifth year of some serious and regular trekking affair. Most of trekking is confined to various forts, peaks in Sahyadri range as I live in Pune which is at the base of Sahyadri range. This was the year of bang on my personal level as far as trekking is concerned-hence this blog is going to be a long one, so be warned!
I did not have to wait for long for the first trek in the year, unlike earlier years. January Republic Day long weekend brought opportunity for first long trek covering 4 forts. We visited forts of Salher, Mulher, Mora, and Salota. All of them in north-west Maharashtra area bordering Gujarat. This area has been referred as Baglan(बागलाण) where Marathi language takes a form of Ahirani(अहिरणी) dialect which has elements of Gujarati language in it. We also got to participate in flag hoisting function at the school, on the morning of Jan 26 when we were at the base village. It was beautiful experience, in the cold morning that day, being with school children, and eating freshly made jalebi which was being distributed for the event. Salher is highest fort in Maharashtra. As I am writing this blog today, I read about specialty of Dasara festival at Salher where villagers and tribal folks around worship Ravan(BTW, I had written on similar topic here).
In February, I visited Shivneri and Sangramdurg. It was more of a family trip than a trek. There is easy way up there on Shivneri which is a birthplace of Shivaji. The land fort of Sangramdurg is on the way near the town of Chakan. This fort was in shackles and hardly anything left to see around.
In the month of March, I trekked the fort called Kothalidad(also called पेठचा किल्ला) with my trekker buddies. It was easy one day trek. The fort has unique shape, of funnel upside down which is on the steep hill. There are steps carved out inside through which one reached the top. This fort is near Karjat town on the way towards Mumbai from Pune.
In April, we visited fort of Pratapgad which is situated towards south of Pune about 100 km in deep forest. This fort has a historic significance in Maratha history as Shivaji tactfully killed Adilshah general Afazalkhan.
I visited sea fort of Sindhudurg in month of May. It was personal vacation for me, I did not loose opportunity to visit the fort even though it was vacation time for me. This fort is also significant as it was built by Shivaji, who also owned a naval force. The intention, of course, was to command the seas with help of this fort. The Maratha Navy became formidable force, after Shivaji era, under the leadership of Kanhoji Angre. Currently, I am reading a Marathi translation(by Pu La Deshpande) of biography written by Manohar Malgaonkar, but more on that later. Later in May itself, I made a trip Sajjangad and Ajinkyatara, both near Satara town. Sajjangad is place where Samarth Ramdas Swami lived his last days. Ajinkyatara is a massive fort right in the middle of the Satara town, but having motorable road all the way up.
The highlight trek of this year came in August when I did a long trek of Bhimashankar to Karjat. This did not involve trek to any fort though. It was a walk in rains during monsoon season which is about 60 km. It was beautiful, full of adventure, and got the real raw experience. It was interesting experience dealing with leeches during the trek. We crossed the Sahyadri range using pass called shidichi vaat(शिडीची वाट) to reach Khandas village near Karjat.
Later in September, I happened to visit Koraigad first and later to Gorakhgadh, Sidhdhagad. The month of September is the time when Sahyadri is full of wild flowers bloom. Koraigad was no exception. It was very beautiful out there. One can see Amby Valley(of Sahara group) at the backdrop of this fort.
The twin forts of Gorakhgadh and Sidhdhagad are towards west of Pune off town of Karjat. We camped in the school at the Siddhagad’s base village called Bhise.
In Oct, I visited tiny fort of Malhargad near Saswad(~40 km from Pune). This fort is near a village called Sonori. This is in pretty good condition, most probably, due to the fact that it was built in later years of Maratha empire.
Later in Nov, I went for Mumbai trip with family, during which I visited sea fort of Arnala and land fort of Vasai which was built by Portuguese rulers. Few years later, I got to see the bell which was taken away by Marathas after defeating Portuguese during battle of Vasai, during my trip to Wai.
In Dec, we visited Bhairavgad, off Koyna dam. On the way, visited Ramghal(cave) where Samarth Ramdas Swami spent some time. This fort is situated deep inside forest and is right on the edge of Sahyadri. We stayed in the temple for the night.
All in all, this year, as said, was blockbuster for me, in terms of treks and enriched me with varied experiences of geology, people, wild life, forts, history. You may be interested in other blogs where I have written about earlier years of trekking.