Life has become so hectic nowadays. People like me, staying in suburbs of a Mega city like Mumbai, spend most of their time either in their office or while traveling. They hardly get any time to spend with their family and friends. Well, I am no different. So, a break from the daily schedule is always welcome.
Last Friday my friend Hemant called me asking my plans for Saturday, he was thinking of an outing on Saturday. Since I had nothing else planned, I conveyed my availability. We first thought of Kelve beach, which is around 60kms from Vasai. We called up others in our group, but most of them had their plans. Expecting everybody to come at such a short notice would be asking for too much. Finally we were just four of us. Hems, Sachin, Anand & Me.
We had a conference amongst four of us late in the evening and concluded that going to Kelve beach for four of us would be a bit boring. Meanwhile Sachin came up with an idea to go to Lonavla. His grand parents stay in a small village named Karla over there. His grandfather has put in a lot of effort on his mango garden. Sachin said it would be worth a visit. On top of that I suggested a small trek to Koraigad. So now, we had a long drive plus a small trek plus a visit to the Mango garden as an option! The decision was simple. We decided on Lonavla. This would be the first trek for this season!
We had to start as early as possible. But Anand had some important work in the morning. So we decided to start at 7:00 am in Hemant’s car. Hems, Sachin and Andy came to my place by 7:40.
The Long Drive:
As always, we started our journey with the groups favorite slogon – “Ganpati Bappa, Moriyaaa…. Undir mama ki jai“. This was the first time we were going for a long drive in Hemant’s car. He has good control on the car. But has a habit of driving a bit too fast. It needs a bit of effort to keep his Peppy car, the A-Star to run on lower speed though :). We all, including Kaka-kaki, had told Hemant to avoid over speeding. His conscious effort to keep the speed in check was quite visible.
We refueled our car on the Ahmedabad highway. After a while we were on Ghodbunder road. The small ghat section followed by the road aligned with the creek, looks more beautiful at early morning. We took the Thane-Belapur route via kalwa as it avoids two road tolls. None of us had a proper breakfast while leaving in the morning. By the time we had crossed into Navi Mumbai, every body of us was feeling hungry. We were looking for a road side tapri for a quick chat-patta breakfast, but ended up at McDonalds just before the Mumbai – Pune Expressway.
McDonalds, need a special mention over here. Coz, this made me nostalgic thinking of the old college days outings with this group. With limited pocket money, our entire picnic budget use to be bit more than what we spent here at the Mcdonalds for a single breakfast. Then it was the great Indian burger – Wada Pav which was our staple food. Good or bad I am not sure, but the wada pav is much more tastier than this videshi khana.
We took the Express-way and reached Lonavla in around 40 mins. We were heading towards Koraigad. Very few people are aware of this place. It is around 20 kms from Lonavla, near a hamlet named Peth-Shahapur. The road is very curvy and has steep turns. With dense forest on one side and valley on the other, the experience was overwhelming. We made a quick halt at one such curve. The blowing wind from the valley was too strong making it difficult to stand on the edge to view the valley. We left this place soon to reach Peth shahapur by around 11:30.
First Trek of The Season – Koraigad:
Before writing about the trek here is some information about the fort:
Korigad (also called Koraigad, Koarigad or Kumwarigad) is a fort located about 20 km away from Lonavla in Pune district, Maharashtra, India. Its date of construction is not known but likely predates 1500. It is about 929 m above sea level. The closest village is Peth Shahpur.
Fascinating Spots : Koraigad appears like a wall from Peth Shahpur. On the top of the fort is a huge plateau. The ramparts on this fort are around 1 ½ kms in length. While coming up from the Peth-Shahpur route, we come across many caves, some cisterns and an idol of lord Ganesh.
Now because of the Mulshi dam, a lake has formed close to the base of the hill on which Korigad stands. There are two lakes on the top of the fort. A temple to its patron goddess Koraidevi also exists along with several smaller temples to dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva. The former has been recently renovated and has a 3 foot high Deepmala(tower of lamps).The interesting part of the fort is that its wall is completely intact and one can walk along its entire perimeter(about 2 km). Its massive gate is also intact. Several ruins of older structures within the fort still exist. It has six cannons – the largest of which called the Laxmi Toph is located near the Korai devi temple.
We parked our car near the village and started the trek. It was summer time, but fortunately the atmosphere was a bit cloudy. This spared us, to some extent, from the harsh heat we would have had to face otherwise. The main entrance is from the left side of the fort. It takes around 20 minutes of walk through the forest before we reach the steps that lead to the fort. Despite the summer the jungle had a lot of greenery. As usual, Sachin and Anand were plucking fruits like karwand, jambool etc,. The final stretch before the foothill had thick cover of shrubs and tree branches. Every year trees and shrubs grow and encroach the path when it is not used much. Since the trekking season is yet to begin, probably we were amongst the initial groups visiting the fort. The route will become clear when the actual season begins. We made our way through the forest to reach the steps. In the next 45 minutes we were at the Ganesh Darwaza. There were some caves en route the ganesh darwaja. Since this was our first trek of the season and the summer heat, we had got a bit tired. We took some rest at the Darwaza before roaming around on the fort. We were the only group on the fort at that time.
The entrance leads us to the center of the large plateau on the fort. Standing at the center you can easily see both the ends of the fort. The temple of goddess Koraistands very close to the entrance. There are two lakes on the fort separated my thin land mass. Surprisingly both of them had ample of water even in this season. The area surrounding the lake has a carpet of green grass, which is quite soothing for eyes. The entire Fort perimeter has wall which is still intact.
We started walking on the wall from the Mulshi river end. The Sahara Amby valley covers the fort from three sides. A dam has been built on the mulshi river. This has created a very large reservoir which is adjacent to the Amby valley. We kept walking on the wall to reach the Peth-Shahpur End of the Fort. This is one of the main machi (Bastion) of the fort. The road from lonavla to Peth-shahapur is visible from here. As we moved towards the other end of the fort, we could see the private runway of the Sahara Amby valley. A helicopter was landing on the runway.
The edge of the fort on this side is uneven compared to the other side. We found Cannons mounted on its support structure along with the wall. As we reached the other end, below we saw the main section of the Amby valley. A huge super premium colony of bungalows, separated by lush green lawns, swimming pools, golf course, club house and much more.It was beautiful, no doubt. But this man made beauty pales when you compare it with what nature has given us. The structure on which we were standing has stood there for more than thousand years without any one to maintain it. The forest around it is not cultivated by any human. Yet it makes you forget your day to day concerns. This is the way I perceive it. Different people might have different opinions. From here we started our journey back from the fort. We were back to our car within 30 minutes.
The Mango Garden:
It was around 3:30 by now. Our next destination was Sachins native place. We took lunch in a dhaba, on our way to Karla. Sachin was eager to take us to his grandpa’s farm. He had visited the farm just a couple of weeks back and was very impressed with the effort his grandpa had put into the farm. On reaching there we were offered a traditional maharastrian cold beverage called Panha(made of boiled raw mangoes). After an exciting but tiring drive and trek, we couldn’t have expected anything better to drink. We then proceeded to his grandpa’s farm just behind his home.
His Grandpa had always dreamt of having a Mango Garden of his own and that is how he started his research on kalam(A process where the trees roots and bottom stem is of an ordinary mango tree and joining it with a branch of a good variety of mango tree) mango plantation. He succeeded after 3-4 attempts.
His grandpa is 82 yrs old but still takes care of the mango farm himself. He started cultivating these trees around 10 years ago. At an age when most of us would probably even find it difficult to walk around, if at all we survive till then. And again, for people of his generation, it is not that easy to get information and do research. For most of us, information means getting to the nearby computer and searching on the internet. But for him, it was a difficult journey. He himself had to roam around places like Ratnagiri, Malvan and Goa etc, to get good quality plants. As most of us must be aware, Mango trees are more commonly found in the coastal areas. The atmosphere there is more conducive for the fruit to grow. The temperature near lonavla is comparatively quite high. Grandpa had to protect his trees with shades when they are small. This along with many other small issues like, time it takes before harvesting, fertilizers, pesticides etc, are part of his research. There are around 10-15 mango trees in the garden. There are around 4-5 types of mangoes, namely, Hapus (Alphonso), Ratna, Kesar, Bitti, Goa Manhurd and so on.
There are some other plants like cashew nut, jaam, jambhul (java plum), avala (Indian gooseberry), etc. Grandpa shared with us some of his experiments. His latest being on how to grow 2-3 different varieties of mangoes on one single tree. He is working on getting hapus, kesar and ratna grow on one single tree.
Looking at his energy level, enthusiasm, dedication and excitement to learn at this age, certainly deserves a salute from us.
It was worth spending time there. We started our journey back reaching home by 9:30. What a fruitful day it was. Physically tiring, but gave us all the much needed break. With time utilized so efficiently, I can certainly say, it was a Saturday, well spent!