Monsoon and Treks always went well together. But we decided to do Rajmachi Trek this season before the monsoon. For one thing, we were eager to see the fireflies, which appear only before the monsoon. And also thought we should do it before monsoon to avoid the crowds.
Rajmachi Fort is located near Lonavala, Maharashtra and is one of the forts in Sahyadris. The fort consists of two-rugged fortresses “Shriwardhan Ballekilla” and “Manaranjan Balekilla” (Balekilla means fort). It is said that Shriwardhan was used for official purposes and the Manaranjan Fort was used for leisure and entertainment purposes.
For scaling Rajmachi from Pune side ie. Lonavala, the base is Udhewadi Village which you can reach only by an SUV/Jeep. If you are a good trekker, you can walk all the way, which takes approximately 3 hours. The Lonavala – Udhewadi – Rahmachi is the best way to reach Rajmachi Forts.
The more difficult and challenging, yet beautiful trek is from Mumbai side. That is Karjat – Konadana village – Kondana Caves – Rajmachi.
We decided it would be better to take the SUV all the way. So, as soon as we reached Lonavala on a fine Saturday evening, we took an SUV from Lonavala Railway station and headed towards Udhewadi Village near Rajmachi.
Udewadi Village is nothing but a small group of houses at the foothills of Rajmachi twin forts. It has approximately 22 households. These people offer amazing homestays at some cheap rates. They also agreed to provide us with amazing village food. We reached Udhewadi village after sunset and had our dinner. Unfortunately, some rains had caused the fireflies to turn away, meaning we didn’t get to see any.
Shriwardhan Ballekilla at Rajmachi
The next day we had our breakfast and decided to try the Shriwardhan Fort as it is taller one among this twin-fortresses. The trek is easy as there are stairs halfway to the top. At later stages, where there are no stairs you have to be a bit careful. Make sure to stop and enjoy the views of Rajmachi. There is a resting cave halfway to the top where you sit for a while and watch below into the valley.
Manaranjan Balekilla at Rajmachi
Once you reach the top, there is a “Buruj” circled viewing point. From this point, you can clearly see the Manaranjan Balekilla of Rajmachi below. You can also see deep into the “Ulhas” valley. It is extremely essential to exercise caution here.
Kataldhar Waterfall near Rajmachi Forts
Another thing which can be seen from Shriwardhan Balekilla at Rajmachi is the Kataldhar Waterfall. Its the highest waterfall in Pune district. There is no water here except for the monsoon. If you wish to go near to the waterfall, you have to descend through the dense forest of Ulhas Valley. Only experienced trekker would attempt to go here, as the trek is quite difficult. But in the end, you will experience heaven here.
If you want to reach the falls you will have to take a guide with you who knows the way. Guides are easily available from the Udhewadi Village. Behind the waterfalls is an eye-shaped cave which can easily accommodate a 100 people. When you reach the falls you can see the twin-forts in distance.
Uday Sagar Lake and Shiva temple at Rajmachi
After Shriwardhan Balekilla, our next stop in Rajmachi was Udaysagar Lake located near the Udhewadi Village. This is a very good spot to cool off after the trek. Again, the lake will have water all year round except for heated summers.
Besides the lake, is a quaint and beautiful Shiva temple, which dates long back in time. This temple is the best place to meditate by yourself.
The Descent towards Mumbai from Rajmachi
We headed back to Udhewadi Village for our Lunch. And then started our descent on the other side towards Kondhane Caves.
Kondhane Caves are located near a small village called Kondana near Karjat. This is basically Mumbai-side descent, which we found very challenging as we are not as experienced trekkers. If you have a bad knee or some past issues with your feet it’s definitely a challenge, to descend from here.
As we went below, we seldom met a few trekkers trying to climb the Rajmachi from this side. The way is through the forest and we could have been easily lost if there was no guide with us. But if you are an avid trekker this can be a place where you practised!
On the way, there are a number of waterfalls and mighty sights which we saw but couldn’t shoot due to the difficulty of the trek.
We were almost worn-out after walking through 11 km fro Rajmachi to Kondana Caves. So when the Kondana Caves came in sight, with newfound energy, we made it. Once inside the caves you feel really cool and clam. There is a mighty waterfall which comes out through the caves.
These Buddhist Caves were excavated in the 1st century B.C. and found out in the 19th century. There are various carvings and ancient style sculptures here. It has only one inscription which tells about the donors.
After the Kondana Caves, we headed to the Kondana Village, then took a cab towards Karjat, and headed home with heavy feet and lots of memories.
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