Taking advantage of the 3 day weekend last week, we went for an trek/camping trip to Rajmachi in the Sahyadris. This was our first overnight camping trip as a family and the boys were very excited about it. We started early Saturday morning and drove up to the base village - Kondhivade - in Karjat. We started the trek around 9:30am. Since we had heard that the trek can be treacherous and that it was easy to get lost in the woods, we asked a village boy (Mayur) to accompany us as guide. He readily agreed and was great company. We stopped at the beautiful Kondhane caves and explored them for some time on the way up. The weather was great and there was no-one besides us on the trek which made it even better. Mayur showed us many interesting things along the way - some tasty berries, honeycomb that had been taken out by his brother the previous day, Konkan railway trains passing through tunnels on a distant mountain, his fields way down in the village and so on. The trek itself was a constant climb but the boys did great and we made it to our destination : Rajmachi village in less than 3 hours. We had already contacted Nilesh bhau (a villager who had tagged his home and phone number on Google maps) who had agreed to host us. Geeta tai served us hot home-made lunch of tandul bhakri (rice flour bhakris), black-eyed beans and daal-rice. We rested in their yard for some time and after having our evening tea, headed up the trail to Manranjan fort. This was the boys' third visit to a Shivaji fort and so we had an idea of what to expect. The view of the Sahyadri range was spectacular and we enjoyed exploring the fort thoroughly. The view of the setting sun in the mountains was especially beautiful. We were amongst the very few people up at the top (many others prefering to go up to the more popular Shrivardhan fort instead) and we enjoyed the solitude. The water tanks which are so typical of Shivaji forts was a marvel. In fact, the village Rajmachi still depends on these water tanks for water during winter since the other sources dry out by this time. We came down to the village after sunset. By then the village was brimming with many campers most of whom had come up the more popular and accessible route from Lonavala. It was sad to realise that there isn't much of a hiking culture amongst women and kids in Mumbai (or India for that matter). Other than the locals, we saw barely any women and no children other than our own. The surprise that everyone expressed at knowing that K and A had climbed up the trail from Karjat with us in itself was surprising to us.
Later that night we explored the village a little and walked up to a lake and an ancient Shiva temple which was beautifully lit with diyas all around (the village has no electricity). There was a little chill in the air and many of the campers were starting to light campfires and fire up their grills. We came back to our hosts for another hearty meal of roti, alu-matar and daal-chawal. We all ate hungrily! Nilesh got a tent out for us and gave us a few options for where it could be pitched. We decided to pitch it close to the house in their paddy field. The night was cold without sleeping bags but we all slept well since we were so tired. We woke up early next morning and after our morning tea and biscuits (thanks to Geeta tai!), went up the other trail to explore Shrivardhan fort. The boys were extremely enthusiastic and practically ran up the trail and got to the top in about 45 mins. Again, exploring various tunnels and alleys was fun! We were back in the village by 10 am, had a much-needed breakfast of kande-pohe, bid farewell to our hosts and headed back down. It took us almost the same amount of time to get down. It didn't help that we got lost on the way which caused the kids to panic a little (will we have to live in the forest forever?) but finally made it down to the next village (Mundewadi) and found our way to the car. All in all a fun and adventurous trip! I'm sure we're soon going to have a hard time catching up with the boys on such trails.
Exploring the Kondhane caves
Almost there - with the fort walls visible in the back
Finally in Geeta tai's home in Rajmachi village
Playing with hens
Sunset from Manranjan fort
Camping in Geeta tai's paddy field
Morning hike to Shrivardhan fort
Observing Konkan railway trains passing through the mountains
Saying goodbyes to Geeta tai