Lohagad Fort : Mumbai to Lohagad | Horn please, OK?

Lohagad Fort : Mumbai to Lohagad

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The Route :
Day 1 : Mumbai -> Lohagad -> Mumbai

When : July 2014 | How far : 89 kms | How long : 1 Day

The route map

The monsoons played truant this June putting paid to our plans of driving through lush green countryside.  July was a whole different story and also the reason we chose to make a trip to Lohagad Fort. 

Are we Human? No, we're Drivers

If you live in Pune or Mumbai and have an adventurous bone in your body chances are you've already done this; A 2 hour hike to Lohagad from Malawali near Lonavala. We were a little late to the party. 

Hiking can be fun but driving is better. 
In most cases.  Not if you have to drive through Lonavala. 
In the monsoons. 

Bad Haiku?

To get to Lohagad, take the Mumbai Pune expressway and turn into Lonavala at the first exit. Drive on till you cross Fariyaas Hotel and take the right on to MG road. Follow the road through the town of Lonavala. It passes under the Mumbai Pune expressway at two points and continues straight on to Lohagadwadi, the village at the base of the fort.

There was a sluggish trail of cars and people oozing in to Lonavala with traffic trickling through the main arterial road. It took us double the time anticipated to reach Lohagadwadi. There was a constant drizzle and we drove in and out of patches of floating cloudy mist. The weather was perfect, making up for the terrible traffic.

We had had the foresight to buy ourselves wind cheaters at Lonavala. This paid *huge* dividends later.

A Brief History of One Thing

The Lohagad (or Iron) Fort was ruled by many kings and dynasties including Shivaji, the Mughals and the British. It served as Shivaji's treasury and was said to have housed all the gold taken by him from Surat.

What? We said it would be brief.  

Lohagadwadi at 11 am was choc a block with mini vans and people. Enthusiastic folks getting ready to climb, exhausted ones returning from the fort and drenched, out of breath hikers who stuck to their guns and completed the 2 hour hike. Group leaders were encouraging the troops with shouts of 'Jai Shivaji' and a handful of shacks were serving up hot tea and onion bhajjis to hungry, soaked customers.

Travel tip : The best time for a solitary climb up the fort is at 7 am. It gives you enough time to look around and get back to the village by 10 pm which is when the rest of the world discovers Lohagad

Step by Step

The walk up was not taxing, just squelchy. Stone steps vaguely define the path and naturally formed narrow ledges are conveniently located to let climbers catch their breath. We caught a day that was particularly misty with bad visibility. The views from those ledges on any other day would be stunning. 

Like so many of our other monuments, there was no sign board or information desk to tell us anything about the fort. The internet had to be relied on yet again. 

The stony path passes through 4 arched gateways, Ganesh Darwaja, Narayan Darwaja, Hanuman Darwaja and Maha Darwaja, all part of the fort. The steps leading to the second gate were hidden under a waterfall that had sprung from the rain. We used all fours make our way up. 

At the end of the climb we passed through the final gate (Maha Darwaja) and walked on to a flat plateau like land. It had a mosque, a temple, a tank, tons of fantastic views but no fort.

The first thing that hit us was the wind. Smacked us right in the face. It was so strong that we had to clutch on to each other and turn our sides to the direction of flow so as to offer least resistance.  

Travel tip : Carry a wind cheater. An umbrella will have you flying around the fort like Mary Poppins 

We skipped inspecting the moss covered decrepit mosque in front of us and walked along the edge of the flat top admiring views of the Pavana Dam 

And a breathtaking view of the steps we'd just climbed to make it to the top. The path looked like an emerald encrusted serpent. 

A small stream runs across the hill top and falls off one of the edges turning into a waterfall. The shape of the surrounding hills channels the wind making it blow up from the valley in the opposite direction of the waterfall. The locals call these reverse waterfalls. It looks and feels like a friendly burst from a water cannon.

Travel tip : There isn't any food or water available at the top of the hill. Carry your own. There aren't any dustbins either, so make sure you carry your garbage back with you. 

We shuffled along trying to maintain our balance against the howling winds and passed a water tank and a temple. Neither were of much interest except for the fact that a huge bunch of college kids were gathered around watching their friends dive in to the tank and splash around in the water. It looked like fun but Shivaji would not have approved. 

The Scorpion King

The Scorpion's Tail or Vinchukata is a long fingerlike structure, ostensibly a still-standing fort wall extending out of the hill.  Its a precarious hike to the end of the tail. 

We had covered half of it, stepping gingerly over slippery moss covered stones, when the path dropped abruptly. The only way to move forward was to retrace our steps a few feet and climb down to a lower level of fort wall.  

An hour or so later we descended from the fort into Lohagadwadi village. The air smelt of Maggi and we followed our noses to the closest shack with an empty table. 

In our attempts to capture the unliveable shades of green all around we sent our iPhone to the grave. It was well worth it, we think. No?

Travel tip : If you plan to visit during the monsoons, carry a set of dry clothes and a towel. And a plastic cover for your iPhone.
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