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Day trips/drives from Pune - The great forts!

By: Rajaram Sethuraman
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Tikona fort

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona fort, also known as Vitandgad, is one of the easier forts to climb and would be a good introductory, yet interesting trek. The fort is close to Pavana Dam. The fort is on top of a ~3500 foot hill and offers unhindered views of the entire region including the forts of Tung, Lohagad and Visapur.

Tikona Fort Trek

How to go to Tikona Fort from Pune (Magarpatta): Go towards Swargate, then tilak Road, karve Road and then Paud Road which will take you to Chandni Chowk. Then go in the direction of Mulshi/Tamhini. You will first cross Pirangut (Ghat) and then reach Paud Village. You have to take a right towards Pawna dam in this village. There are signs marked as Tikona/Pavana for this turn. After this, it is one long straight road until you start seeing Pavana dam on your left. Here you will see signboards for Tikona. You have to take a right towards Tikona Peth, the base village. the distance is approx 70 kms and should take you approx 2 hrs to reach there. Other alternate route is through NH4-Kamshet-Pavana-Tikona.

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There are 2 paths to trek up. One starts right behind the houses in Tikona Peth. This is the slightly tougher, but shorter, one and can be avoided if you have newbies in the crowd. To reach the other path, you have to go ahead of the village on the dusty road for around 0.5 km and you will reach a clearly marked parking spot. From this place, a path goes in the direction opposite to the one where you see the fort. It is because this path is a gradual switchback which goes up and turns 180 and then stedily climbs towards the fort.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

This is an easy trek because of many factors. One is the presence of a clearly marked trail. The other is the presence of many shelters/small caves after you are halfway up on the trail. Once you go up the initial slope and turn towards the fort, you are on a ledge with valleys on either side. You keep walking on this ledge for quite a while before you reach the base of the hill on which the actual fort resides.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

At one point, you will enter a darwaza(gate). There is an overhanging tree next to it. This makes for an excellent photo stop.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Around the halfway point, you will see a shall shrine and also a cave. If you had taken the other path, you would have reached this place. After this, the paths converge. There is also the remnant of a stone grinder, the kind pulled around by animals. From this point, the final (and a little steep) ascent to the top begins.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

The final stretch called "Shivaji Trail" has recently been restored and hand railings have been added on the steep sections. The steps are split into 2 sections. There is a viewpoint at the end of the first stretch. If you wander to the sides, you can see small caves which are again good photo spots with Tung Fort in the background.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

The stairs are steep, no denying that. Each step is much bigger than a regular step and it is broken at many places. But, the good part is that the entire stretch is in shade and is not more than 15-20 steps. This part would easily be the talking point when you get back home. There are steel ropes attached at the sides to help you climb. Do not hold on to them! if you do, you will get your knuckles scraped against the rough stone walls. Instead, just put your palms on the stone walls for support. Again, a photographically beautiful place. We spent a lot of time in crossing this as everyone wanted photos in all sorts of poses. Check out the video to get a better idea of the difficulty/ease of the stairs.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

 

There is not much of the fort remaining except a few walls and gates here and there. Once you reach the top of the plateau, the view is amazing. It should be pretty cold in the winter months as there is nothing around the plateau and the wind is pretty strong. From here, you get an excellent view of Tung Fort with Pavana dam in the foreground. One can also see Lohagad and Visapur forts from the top.

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

The way down was much faster and of course, we stopped for more photos on the steps :-) An enjoyable trek with colleagues!

Tikona Fort Trek

Tikona Fort Trek

 

 

Lohagad fort

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

A beautiful fort in a beautiful location, good roads to the base and an easy climb make Lohagad fort one of the more popular destinations to visit close to Pune. But thankfully, it has survived the commercialisation and the mess that Sinhagad fort has been subjected to. The fort is still in a good condition and relatively clean. Many of the structures on the fort are still intact and climbing the fort would give you the feeling of actually climbing a fort rather than walk on "made in 21st century" concrete steps!

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

How to go to Lohagad fort from Pune: There are multiple approach routes to go to Lohagad fort, each of them unique in what the route presents. Though Malvali Village/Bhaja Caves: This is the route taken by all the trekking groups and the one which doesnt need the use of a personal vehicle. Go to lonavala by the local train. Take another local to go to Malvali village. From Malvali village station, it is a walk of around 2 kms to Bhaja village, the base village for Bhaja caves. An upward path (stairs) would take you to Bhaja caves, but if you follow the winding path (wide enough for a car) next to the stairs, it would take you to the village of Lohagadwadi, the base village for Lohagad fort. This route is around 5-7 kms long and would take around 2-2.5 hrs on foot. But, if you have a vehicle, you can drive on this road (unless the rains have been very heavy) and go close (not exactly to) the base village. If you want to drive to Bhaja village, check out the direction in the other post of Bhaja caves. Through the Mumbai-Pune Expressway: This is the fastest way to reach the base village. Go on the expressway from Pune. When the Sinhagad institute appears on the side of the highway, look out for an exit from the road. This is not very obvious though. Get off the exit, go under the highway and enter into a village. If you are doubtful as to whether this could be the route through the village, then you are on the right track! Once you cross the narrows lanes of the village, take a right onto the main road and travel 5-6 kms until you reach a junction where there are lot of tea shops. if in doubt, ask anyone for the route to Lohagad. if you have Google earth, download this kmz file, this will show you the route from the village to the junction. At this junction, take left to go to the base village. Through Pavna Dam and Dudhiware Khind: This is the route i took when i went to Lohagad. I returned through the 2nd option(highway). This was one of the greenest routes i have ever driven on. Pavna dam and Tung fort in the background (separate post) were a sight to behold. Go to Chandi Chowk. Then cross Pirangut. Once you reach Paud, you will see a junction. On this junction, turn right towards Pavana dam or ask anyone in Paud for directions to Pavna dam. This is one straight road and you cannot get lost. You will drive through pristine villages and there is greenery all around (during monsoons!). The climb down to Pavna dam is awesome. Once you cross Pavna dam, you will come to a T-junction. Taking the right will take you back to Kamshet and Nh4. Take the left and climb up towards Lohagad. On this road, you will cross Dudhiware Khind, a pass cut through the mountains. It is eerie as well as amazing to drive through this pass, particularly when it rains. Given below is a snapshot of the route i took.

route to lohagad fort

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

The climb to the top of the fort should take around 20-25 minutes without any photo-stop. But, you just cannot pass by such scenery without stopping. So, allow anywhere from 45mins - 1 hr to reach the top. There are steps for most of the way, but they are of stone and pretty big and sometimes uneven. But, this is what adds to the fun. Also, during the rainy season, water flows on the steps making them a bit slippery.

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

The adjoining Visapur fort is visible for most part of the climb. There are panoromic views at many points on the way up. You get to see the pavna dam backwaters and even the tung fort at many places.

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Akshara enjoyed the walk up as it was also slightly drizzling throughout. Only concern was her constant wish to go/see "keezha" (downwards). She wasn't ready to move from many viewpoints until she got a first-hand look of what was below!

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

The top of the fort is quite expansive and offers uninterrupted views in all directions. The highlight of Lohagad is its Vinchukata fortification (resembling a scorpion's tail). This structure juts out from the main section of the fort and requires an additional 15-20 mins of walking to reach the edge. We didnt go for this as were pressed for time, but you can see in the last-but-one pic below (taken from the bottom), people walking on a narrow ledge towards this structure. The last pic is from google earth showing this feature (the shaded region)

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

Lohagad Fort trek, near Lonavala

lohagad-scorpion-tail-Vinchukata

Purandar fort

Purandar fort near Saswad/Narayanpur is one of the easier hill forts to trek to. It takes around 45 minutes to 1 hr to get to the top of the plateau and a further 30 min walk would take you to the remnants of the fort. It was monsoon time and one saturday morning, we (Parthipan, Rajesh and I) decided to go to this fort. Though it was drizzling, we started from Pune at around 5.30 in the morning.

How to go to Purandar fort from Pune(Magarpatta): The route is pretty straightforward. Go towards hadapsar. Take a left on the Solapur road. Go to the side of the flyover. At one point, you will see the bus stand on the right. Here, you have to go on the wrong side (legally), then come around the bus stand. This will take you to the road to Saswad. Keep going on this road until you reach Saswad. At Saswad, take a right towards Narayanpur. Once you are on this narrow (but smooth) road for some time, you will see a hill prominently on the left. There will be a small lane (marked by a board in Marathi with Shivaji's photo). This is the road towards Purandar fort. It doesnt take more than an hour to reach Purandar from Pune (even under regular traffic conditions). Once you cross Hadapsar, the road to Saswad is relatively traffic free.
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When we reached there, we were only ones at the base of the trail. There is a 7 km long kuchcha road which you can take to reach the plateau (to avoid the 1 hr climb). Since it was drizzling, we were standing at the base thinking of which option to choose. Then a couple came in a Pajero and started preparing to trek up. Then i told them that i was thinking as it looked like it would rain heavily. The guy cheerfully said "So what? if it rains, get wet and enjoy!" Hats off to this attitude. Maharashtrians do really love getting wet in the rain as i saw in Lonavala and at Bushi dam. So, my decision was made, we were to trek up. But, i had a camera to protect too. So, in the pretext of protecting the camera, i borrowed the raincoat from Rajesh. So, i was all packed up while Rajesh and Parthi were exposed to the elements. But, they enjoyed it.

The above picture is the start of the trail to the top of the hill. Since this was our first time in Purandar, we had no idea of how long it would take or how difficult/easy it would be. There are actually multiple routes up the hill. As long as you keep going up and your orientation is ok, you should manage to reach the plateau. Our climb up the hill was pretty slow as i would stop every other minute to say the conventional "wow"s about the scenery about us. This was the first time i had ever trekked in the rain (apart from being caught in an expected cloudburst on the Kalidonia waterfalls train in Cyprus) and i loved every minute of it. it was tricky trying to get photos fast enough so as to not wet the lens. You can also see my Xylo (and the other Pajero) parked at the base of the hill.

We got lost somewhere mid-way and started drifting towards the left and going on pretty narrow tracks. Then we met a villager coming down and he asked us stick on to the rocky sections and keep following the trail. With the rain causing a continuos cascade of water on the trail, it was pretty slippery at times, but it was fun. At the end of the trek, my clothes were a slushy mess! At one point, the trail goes through a thick maze of shrubs, which was pretty cool.

The villager asked to keep going ahead until we hit a wall. At this point, we had to turn left to reach the plateau. As we neared the wall, structures started becoming visible through the heavy mist.

Once you take the left from the wall, it is a steady climb to the top. This path is full of rocks and can be quite difficult in the rain. It was particularly slippery with the flow of the water. We still didnt know where we were heading as the mist was quite thick. There is also a small waterfall on this route where you can get wet if you feel that rainwater is not enough.

Once you climb the last stretch of rocks, you reach the top of the plateau and enter through a door called the Dilli Darwaza. You can actually drive up to this point by taking the road, but it definitely is more fun to walk up.

Once on the plateau, you will find an abandoned church and lot of other structures. The end of the road is actually a place maintained by the army.

You will also see a small temple dedicated to Purandeshwar deity, after which the fort/hill takes it name. We spent some time walking around the temple and photographing the awesome "green". You have to climb the steps and then go beyond the temple to actually go to the fort. it is a another 30 min walk from here. Due to some time constraint, we decided to turn back and decided to visit the fort some other day.

On our way back, when we reached the wall, we were surprised to see dozens of people starting the trek. There were few organised groups, few individuals and even a family with a small boy. It is really fascinating to see the interest in trekking in this part of India. We spent a total of around 4 hours on this trip and it was worth every minute of it. If you have never been on a trek before, this is a good place for that "first" trek.

Tikona fort

sinhagad_lion_fort_pune_35

This was the first outing after the rains had started. Having seen the "wet green" in photographs of the western ghats, my expectations were very high. Sinhagad lived up to these expectations. It was drizzling and most of the fort was covered in mist. The sun was peeping through small gaps in te clouds making the whole scene ethereal.

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This was also the first "long" trip for the Xylo. Yeah 25 kms qualifies as a long trip in Pune! The drive was enjoyable and Xylo managed the bad roads pretty well.

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Route from Pune to Sinhagad fort: It took more than an hour to reach the base of Sinhagad from Magarpatta. You have to reach Swargate to catch the Sinhagad road. To go to swargate from magarpatta, go on the solapur highway (big bazaar, krome route ). Keep on going on this road and you will reach Swargate . Keep going until you reach a T-junction. On this junction, turn left and immediately you should see a mahalaxmi temple on the left and a traffic signal right next to it. At this signal , turn right and you are on Sinhagad road. The route to sinhagad passes through Khadakwasla dam. The dam was not overflowing then. Even with less water, the dam was a pretty sight with lot of revelers enjoying the waves and eating corn!

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Even with just a week or so of the rains, the greenery on the way was worth watching. Once we reached the base of Sinhagad, the commercialisation of the place became obvious with so many jeeps vying to offer you a drive to the top, if you didn't want to go by yourself.

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The road to the top of the fort is steep and the condition of the road is also not so good. Particularly, the hairpin bends have been very poorly designed with no provision of any kind of banking. It was a thrilling experience to take the xylo (with 7 adults) to the top. On many turns, i was forced to stop because of some oncoming vehicle and it was tough to start again on the curve and many a time i started to screeching tyres.

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We did make a lot of stops on the way for many photo sessions. Nearing the top of the hill, mist almost covered the entire place. One particular view was amazing. The whole valley was in the shade/mist with the sun showing through only on a small area in the middle. The photo below doesn't do any justice to the actual scene, but it can give you an idea :-) have to start using RAW for all images from now on!

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Once on the top, we had to get Akshara all dressed up, as it was quite chilly. This was our first outing with Akshara in Pune and it took quite a while to get Akshara in the sling. The last time she was in the sling was few months when she was much smaller! We didn't spend long enough on the fort to explore it in its entirety, as we had some party to go to that evening. Anyway, this demo version was good enough to ensure that we visit again. More photos of the fort then.

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