Trek To Visapur

Planning for Trek

Last year when I had published my blog “Trek To Lohagad“, I had mentioned it was my ninth visit to Lohagad. On reading that  Praphulla my friend, had suggested me to visit Visapur the next time. According to him, it was beautiful, huge & since it is not as easy as Lohagad, there are very few people visiting this fort. I had decided to visit this fort last year itself, but somehow could not do it.
Finally, this year we had a plan in place. Last month, just while mingling around with my friends, Hemant came up with an idea about trek. I already had Visapur in my mind for quite some time, so based on my suggestion and everybody’s convenience, we agreed for a trek to Visapur on 14th July.

Food mall

A break taken at the food mall on the Mumbai Pune expressway

The Actual Trek

We started at around 5:15 in the morning, with Prasad leaving from his home with his car. Hitesh who stays at andheri, had come to Prasad’s place so as make it easier to leave early in the morning. Both of them left home at around 5:00. Sachin was the first one to be picked. Followed by Anand, Hemant and Me. By 6:30 we had refueled our car and were cruising on the highway. Our next stop was Airoli, where Nilesh was waiting for us, next was Amol at Kharghar. Amol was late by few minutes. After his arrival, we had some sandwiches which I had carried. Usually we take a break for snacks, but this time we wanted to save on time, hence carried some stuff with us.

Starting from Kharghar, our next stop was supposed to be Kumar Resort, Lonavla. Kshamesh and Chetan were coming from Pune, and Kumar Resort was to be the meeting point. We had planned to take the route via Pawna lake to reach the base village for Lohagad/Visapur. But Kshamesh and Chetan were quite late and hence we decided to take the customary Malavli route, since it saves on travel time from Pune.

Visapur Foothills

The Lush green carpet at the foothills of Visapur

We reached Malavli at around 9:15. A little late though, but quickly started our ascend. We had our breakfast before reaching Malavli, but Kshamesh and Chetan who came from Pune, were hungry. We assured them of having Pohe once we reach the foothills of the fort. 🙂 The first half of this trek is common between Lohagad and Visapur. Only after reaching a plateau at Lohgad village, the two go there separate ways. This section of the trek is reasonably easy, but we had some hiccups. Prasad, who is quite used to such walks due to his house in his village, was gasping for air. He was finding it very difficult to breath. We made him rest for some time, and then proceeded further. In monsoon the climate over here is quite pleasant. The lush green grassland seems to have occupied the entire area. Clouds cover the entire area upto the horizon, with occasional holes from where the Sun god peeps in.

We reached the Lohagad village from where we took left leaving behind majority of the crowd. As per our information, we were required to take this left and walk for around 15 mins. There we had to search for the entrance to the fort. We followed the trail accordingly. In between we took a tea break and also garam garam pohe. 🙂 Having Pohe is considered as an important milestone for most of the treks in Sahyadri. The trek doesn’t seem to be complete without this traditional Maharastrian dish :).

Pohe break at visapur

Tea and Pohe break at visapur

Anyways, we continued on our trail looking for the entrance to the fort from the south end. But somehow we missed it. Unlike Lohagad, there are very few people who trek to Visapur. Hence there was hardly anyone whom we could have asked directions for the fort. The trail too was marshy at times, with our feet sunk half foot inside the mud. We realized that almost the entire fort has passed but still there was no sign of the entrance. We saw some people on the fort. We waved our hands asking for direction. They acknowledged by asking us to go on the other side. Apparently telling us that we are on the wrong side. Few of us were getting impatient. But still, we continued. On reaching on the other end of the fort, we saw some huts and children playing around. They told us, there is a small trail which leads us to the fort, but suggested us to take them as guide. We turned down there suggestion and proceeded on our own, this time on the other side of the fort. This decision cost us almost an hour. To our disappointment there was a path after every few meters; and we were not sure which one to take. Assuming that all of them would ultimately lead us to the entrance; but it didn’t. We kept on trying different routes, and each one had a dead end. The forest is quite dense over here. With tree branches covering the paths, sometimes having sharp prickles or cactus. We tried almost for an hour but with no success; to add to our plight, we had exhausted all the water which we had carried . Finally we decided to take help of those kids whom we had met. Fortunately, even after an hour of trying, we were not far away from those huts. 🙂 Hemant went back and got two of those kids with him. The kids had also got another group who had sought there help. Both the group had agreed to pay them fifty bucks each.

From then on we were on the correct track. In fact after a while, we noticed that at regular intervals, someone had marked the rocks along the path with directions to proceed towards the fort. In another half an hour, we had reached the steps to the fort. By 3:30 we were on the top. 🙂 Finally!!

About the Fort

After resting for few minutes, we proceeded along the forts perimeter. The fort is huge, with the plateau almost double the size of lohagad. Not much has been written about this fort, but this fort did exists during the Nizamshah reign. It kept changing hands between Nizamshah and Mughals, until Chatrapati Shivaji bought it into swaraj. It was during the Peshwa era that major restoration was carried out. The perimeter walls of the fort were built in the 18th Century. There are quite a few water cisterns on the fort. The perimeter wall is almost entirely intact, with its height and width varying at different places. There are two building like structures, probably a palace or storehouse. Just before the entrance at the north end you will find couple of huge caves. Again this might be used for soldiers to rest or as a store house. There is a huge carving of lord Hanuman; Also, there is a huge manual grinder which is still in good shape. The bastion at the north end has an old gun. One can see the Mumbai-Pune express way from this end.

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We had about an hours time before we start our descend. We started with the northern most bastion, the one facing the Mumbai-Pune expressway. We then moved on to the other end. The view from the south end is breathtaking, The entire Lohagad, at a lower elevation could be seen from here. The fortification of Lohagad with its seven bastions appear more beautiful when seen from Visapur then probably from Lohagad itself. Just left of Lohagad, in the background, one can see the fort Tung, with Pawana lake separating it from Fort Tikona. Since the climate was quite foggy, we were not able to see Korigad from this point, which otherwise could be seen behind fort Tung.

While roaming around on the fort we met two guys, who had taken a different route to climb the fort. Apparently this route appeared to be much shorter than the one we had come from. So while coming down we came along with these guys. The rain god had bestowed mercy on us throughout the day when we were in difficulty. But while descending, it came out with all its guns blazing. Offcourse  it did cause us some inconvenience, but the fact that we had reached the fort had boosted our morale and we made our way down to malavli village in around one and a half hour. Well, this is how one of the most exciting trek of my life was carried out. For so many years I saw Visapur from Lohgad, this was the first time I saw Lohagad from Visapur. 😉

Trek to Visapur

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A Saturday, well spent!

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.

Korigad

At the Ganesh Darwaja

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.

On the highway near Panvel

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.

A view of the valley ahead of tiger’s leap

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.

Almost the entire fort is visible

History: This fort was incorporated into swarajya by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj along with the forts of Lohagad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona in 1657.

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.

A cave, Must have been used as a store house.

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.

The steps leading to the fort

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.

A view from the main machi

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.

Steps on the perimeter wall of the fort

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.

Grandpa, with one of his tree

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!