What does Rajmachi means This was the first ice breaker talk, between us, a group of enthusiastic trekkers, marching in our jeep on the way to Udhewadi – the base of Rajmachi.
We, 22 overexcited and bored-of-routine-life ones had gathered at Khopoli station at 8 in the night of 10th June,16. Our trek lead from Mumbai rangers, Swapnil & Girish introduced us about the plan of action with the dos and donts and we all immediately hopped into the 3 jeeps waiting for us. In my jeep, were a bunch of engineering students, all curious and excited about the adventure. A family of 8 members got into another jeep & immediately was busy with family selfies. The gang in 3rd jeep was a mix of few newcomers and few experienced trekkers.
What does Rajmachi means the questions started popping in. Our trek lead, Swapnil explained us how Rajmachi was a fort used to keep watch on the trade on Mumbai-Pune route, since centuries. The word ‘Machi’ in Marathi means ‘Plateau’ and this Rajmachi plateau is at a height of almost 2710 feet Rajmachi can be reached by 2 ways, the tougher route is from Kondivade village near Karjat & other is easier but longer route from Lonavala. We had chosen the Lonavala way!
Just when we were enriching our geo-historical information,our jeeps came to a halt. We were in for a visual treat. Hundreds of fireflies wereglowing onthe trees on both sides of the road. A perfect welcome for us! It was a marvellous sight to watch the fireflies twinkling likeChristmas lights or in a pattern like a Mexican wave. No camera could capture that beautiful sight perfectly, except our eyes!
Overwhelmed with the natures beauty, we proceeded in our jeeps towards the village with our Trek leads sharing more information about fireflies. Fireflies glow during their mating season and this season is only for few weeks before monsoon. Thats the reason why we have so many fireflies trek in May-June,explained Swapnil The knowledge about the fireflies seemed interesting but we were also hungry to the core. Finally the bumpy road came to an end and we entered Udhewadi.
Udhewadi was a quiet village with few traditional rural houses. Most of them double up as hotels for the tourists & adventure lovers visiting Rajmachi. We could see the village was well lit with street lights powered by solar panels and had properly constructed toilets outside every house. The urbanization of the village, though on a small scale, came as a surprise to me when compared to my last visit to Rajmachi few years ago. We were put up in a place called Hotel Atul which appeared to be a well-built house of all other houses. After freshening up, we had a warm homemade dinner served to us. The satiating dinner made us lazy and then we rested for a while after unpacking our stuff.
Few moments of rest & the super energetic trek leads pulled us out for a small walk to a lake nearby. The sound of leaves rustling & crickets chirping all the way and the freshness of the nature in air infused a new energy in us. After reaching the lake, we sat down experiencing the calm, with few frogs jumping out every now and then from the water. Gossip gave away that the lake was earlier haunted but no one knew what happened to the ghosts later. A short break at the lake and we proceeded to explore the Shiv Temple near the Lake. Captivated by the calmness and the chill in the surroundings, we made our way back to the village.
We were allotted place on the terrace of the house which also had 2 rooms to rest inside. Few members decided to call it a night and made their sleeping arrangements, while others preferred chit chatting or going for a stroll nearby. The kids from the family sat on a smaller terrace above, sharing ghost stories. I was just lying down on the terrace, gazing at the stars, taking in some cool air on my face and smiling for no reason.
But this serenity was short-lived. All of a sudden it started raining. We hurried down before we were all drenched and lied down in the terrace below watching the rain. What began as a drizzle, eventually turned into a heavy downpour. Some seemed worried about the trek next day while some over enthusiastic ones were happy to wander off in rains at that very moment. Few hours passed and eventually everyone dozed off.
We were all awake with the breaking dawn. The rains had stopped by then. Equipped with water proofing for camera & mobiles, we all were ready to leave for the fort. After ascending few stone steps, we reached the Kalbhairav temple. The temple looked quite simple on the inside. In front of the temple were the Nandi, the tortoise, few idols and pillars, all carved out from stone. It all seemed more like the remains of what must have been a beautiful stone temple earlier.
Rajmachi has 2 forts, Shrivardhan fort and Manaranjan fort. One way from that point lead to Manranjan fort on the west while other on the east lead to Shrivardhan fort. We took the path to Srivardhan fort, which is bigger of the two and began trekking. The route was all stony and bit slippery because of the rains. We saw few manmade caves and stone structures on the way. As we climbed higher, the air got cooler. After reaching mid-way, we were in for a pleasant surprise.
The entire stretch was covered with fog. The valleys below were all misty and clouds had covered all the hills nearby. It was an extraordinary experience, quite a maddening one for an over enthusiastic person like me. I was clicking pictures crazily, trying to capture it as much as I can. Our trek lead kept reminding us to keep walking, so as to reach the top in time. Still we had multiple photogenic breaks on the way and finally reached the top of the fort.
The view from the top was breath taking. The fog had subsided by then and we could see the entire Rajmachi fort, Udhewadi village, the lake and the temple. After resting for a while and clicking some group pictures, we decided to descend. On the way back, we came down to another border of the fort. The structural design with huge stone walls here was quite mesmerizing. The honking of the railways on Mumbai-Pune route could be heard at a distance. Clouds had begun to gather again in the skies. To avoid the rains, we quickly climbed down the last mile of the fort and returned back to the village.
A hot breakfast of Poha and tea awaited us, which we gulped down hungrily. Meanwhile, our jeeps were ready to take us back. Packing our stuff and grouping ourselves in the jeeps, we began the return journey. The return path now seemed totally different than the earlier night. The fireflies had gone and the road had become muddier. At a point, we came across the huge Kataldhara waterfall, but with no waters. Leaving behind the natural beauties, we had arrived in Lonavala and finally at Khopoli station. We all thanked the trek leads for the wonderful experience we had with them and bid each other goodbyes, hoping to meet each other for some other trek. As for me, I was all content, beaming with happiness and looking forward to a peaceful sleep back home.