Rajmachi- A forest of caves, adventurous one day trip for Punekars

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2 July 2019 : No matter what the season is, avid trekkers will always find an opportunity to blaze the trails and explore the outdoors. A couple of years ago, I did this trek to Rajmachi with my gang in monsoon, but the memories are so fresh, they feel like it was just yesterday. Pune was nicely soaking in the June showers and my gang and I headed out to this famous spot near Lonavala. For the uninitiated, Rajmachi is an old fort sitting at 2750 feet on the Sahyadri Mountains and a popular trekking zone. The fort itself is also historically significant. While any season is good to explore this place, I personally find it more exciting in the rains, when the weather is cooler, cloudy, with light showers, and most importantly, the entire area turns green. We were a decent sized group so a car wouldn’t have sufficed. Instead, we availed a tempo traveler on rent in Pune and headed off.

The route

It was only 80 KM and took us nearly two hours to reach via the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. We took the exit towards Gold Valley to reach the Kondhane Village. The treks usually start from this point. We got our tempo parked at a small resort near the village and started the trek. The route we chose was the longer one through Lonavala – Tungarli – Nandgaon – Udhewadi, and was supposed to take three to four hours (each way), of course, depending on our walking speed and the trail condition. There are other routes through Karjat and Della Adventure Park, but this one has better views.

Phase 1

As a regular trekker (although a hobby trekker) I would say, the Rajmachi trek is a medium-level difficulty trek. We started walking along the raw, muddy path, full of puddles created by the overnight shower. But the surrounding view was an absolute delight. I can never get enough of the greenery and the misty views of the Western Ghats in monsoon. On the way, we first saw the Kondhane Caves. There were many other smaller caves within the forests along the trek path, but this was one of the most prominent ones. Most trekkers tend to take shelters in these caves when it starts raining heavily. Along the way, I spotted quite a few waterfalls. Surprisingly, none of these waterfalls seem to exist during the rest of the year and only become visible during the monsoon. The roaring streams cascade down the rocks through the forests and creates an amazing view. We saw some kids enjoying a splash under the torrents. While we couldn’t afford to do that with our phones and bags in tow, it was fun to watch them enjoying nature. In some parts of the trail, the road condition was very bad, making us tread cautiously. We crossed a few more caves en route which were now covered in a velvety layer of moss.

Phase 2

After walking for nearly two hours, with short breaks in between, we made it to the base of the fort. From there to reach the top of the fort was another 45 minutes to an hour. This path was better than the trail we had walked earlier. But before we started the final climb, we another short break and reenergized ourselves with energy bars and a swig of vitamin water.

The last stretch of the Rajmachi trek was the most scenic. The walled steps of the fort wound around the fortress and were covered in fresh moss and grass. The Rajmachi Fort has two peaks – Manoranjan and Srivardhan, separated by a wide plateau. The overall structure of the fort seemed well fortified with ramparts and strongholds. The apex of the fort overlooked the mountain ranges of the Sahyadri, where grey clouds now hung loosely. The color play of green, grey, and brown was incredible. Once we reached the top, it felt like we had conquered a battle. Probably that’s how the soldiers of the Maratha army would have felt in their days.

Downward climb

After resting our legs for a while and breathing the pure, fresh air of the mountains, we started our journey back. We had first thought of camping at the base of the fort near Udhewadi. But it was windy, making it difficult to pitch a tent. So we decided to continue climbing down and head back to our car. We were nearly halfway through when suddenly it started to rain. There were a bunch of other trekkers too on the trail who hurried to find shade. We had crossed a smaller cave and immediately ran back to shelter us from the rains. The inside of the cave was musty and moist, and of course dark. But in a corner, some fireflies were glowing in a bundle. That very scene was like out of an adventure movie.

After another half an hour, the rain stopped and we managed to come back down the slushy roads.

I don’t think I can ever have enough of the green mountains, the sparkling waterfalls, and the adventurous trails. That’s why I’m headed back there this year and experience the thrill of nature all over again!

Travel tips:

  • If you cannot or do not want to trek all the way, rent a car in Pune with an experienced driver and stop at the base of the fort.
  • Always carry snacks and water/glucose since there are no food stops on this route.
  • Wear shoes with proper grips, especially for monsoon treks.