Friday, December 16, 2005

The Katraj - Sinhagad trek, 2003

"Where there is a hill, there better be a way!" would be an apt way to describe this trek in a one-liner. Factors like scorching heat, long distance, strenous route, were all won over by enthusiasm and sheer will power. After an exciting and challenging 'Dhak chi Bahiri' trek, VxTrekkers (VERITAS Adventure Unlimited Trekking Gang) set their next target as Sinhagad, to be approached from the Katraj side. This was to be the last summer trek of 2003.

The Sinhagad fort stands about 25 kms from Pune and is one of the important Maratha forts having a colourful history linked with it. The fort was formerly known as Kondhana, its literal translation is the "Fortress of the Lion". In 1670 Shivaji's General, Tanaji Malusare, led a force of men who scaled the steep hillside in the dark and defeated the unprepared forces of Bijapur. There are monuments at the spot where Tanaji died, and also at the place where he lost his left hand before his death. There is also a historic bungalow up there, where Gandhiji met the freedom fighter, Tilak, in 1915.

The aim of this trek was not solely to climb the fort Sinhagad, but to enjoy the trek en route. We first travelled to the Katraj tunnel top in a bus that we boarded from Swargate. The group was a mixed bag of VxTrekking regulars as well as newbies. It was fun though, there were quite a few enthusiasts present.

We got atop the first small hillock and were able to see the path that we had to cover. Or thats what we thought. A couple of hillocks more and we had to cover a slightly tricky way. We had to cover a hillock by walking along its edge where there was no proper path to walk along. People somehow managed to get through there, and then another drama followed. While walking along the mountain edge, we had a couple of people sliding along the way, luckily to be saved by fellow mates. It was an interesting part that we covered, and a short break followed before we moved ahead.

Time was slipping by quite fast. To put it in other words, we were not maintaining the required pace. No one was exactly sure as to how much was left ahead, since after crossing every hillock, Sinhagad appeared equally far. Apparently, there were just a couple of hills to cross before we would hit the base of Sinhagad fort. As we progressed, there was a huge gap that was created amongst certain of us. Some of us managed to descend the next hill pretty fast, and got atop the one after it, while some others were trailing on the previous descent. A common trend observed when a large group goes for a trek.

It was already getting dark, and we all were now atop a hill from where Sinhagad top was clearly visible. And a bit closer this time. Ostensibly again, there was only one hill that stood between us and Sinhagad. We waited for all to regroup, and got all set to cover the "last" hill in the way. Now that we had covered so many hills, rather than follow the same trend of descend - ascend, we decided to walk around the next hill to reach the other side. It would be a trifle longer, but less tiring, as it seemed to the genius who suggested it and the others who followed suit.

As a result of taking this 'shortcut', we came to realise after some time that we had reached a dead-end. Backtracking would be too far-fetched an idea, so we decided to get atop the hill along the slope with a comparitively higher incline and amidst bushes. It was really a risky thing to do: We knew by sense of direction that we were heading in the correct way, but there were two fears that I had at this point - a) We could reach another dead-end from where backtracking would be the only option, and b) there could be another small valley that we might have to cover before reaching the hill top. I took the chance, told the gang to wait till I went ahead and checked if the way we were going to take was correct. Five minutes later, the entire gang was treading along the mountain side. There were dense bushes as mentioned before. At one point, there was a steep route that seemingly led to the mountain top, though it was slippery, covered with gravel. We managed to get over it, with the way being guided by torches. After a 10 minute steep climb, we had finally hit the correct path again! It gave a tremendous sense of relief to all.

It was a mixed feeling after some time. We had hit correct path, only to realise that there was yet another hill that we had to cross. And by now, everyone realised that there could very well be some more as well, as we were deceived for the umpteenth time now. But willpower to reach destination again pumped up some energy into all of us, and we started our journey again. We were way past the scheduled time, but we had no better option than to carry on. After getting past another couple of hills we were clearly seeing Sinhagad road on either side of the hill on which we were (one was the road that comes from Pune, the other was the one that joins from Khed Shivapur).

We knew that we were there, but the estimated time to go on after this, would be another couple of hours to reach our final destination - the MTDC resort atop Sinhagad fort. And it was past midnight now. Given the physical and mental condition of the group, it was a unanimous decision to halt right then and there. And that was atop a hill, with some bushes around, in chilly weather. Though it was summer, nights happen to be quite cold, and it is especially too windy on open regions - like the hill we were on. We were badly in need of fuel (read food), and having it past midnight after going through normally unimaginable circumstances, was quite an experience. That's part of the trekking experience though, a common thing that generally happens when trekkers happen to lose their way at odd hours.

A chilly night's stay in which very few of us actually were able to "sleep", we proceeded on to cover the part that we missed out last night. There was hardly anything left to cover, but given the amount of trekking that we'd done last night, we probably were short on the psychological front to cover the remaining part, rather than the physical energy required. Anyhow, once we reached the Sinhagad Road, reaching which 15 minutes of what looked like 2 hours the previous night, we were lucky enough to get a jeep that took us atop Sinhagad fort. After refreshing and refuelling, we "completed" the trek in the true sense of the term, by climbing down Sinhagad on foot! It was fun altogether, a nice experience - that was a real test of strength and character I would say. Sahyadri treks are indeed great ones, but Katraj - Sinhagad has its own charm.

Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji !!!


At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats a good write dude...
I wish you could also narrate some specific events as well :)


At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to try this one.

At 2:00 AM, Anonymous Everest Base Camp Trek said...

your article is really interesting...

At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Sudarshan Bhat said...

Check photos of Katraj to Sinhagad trek.

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writeup was very refreshing. After a long time, I enjoyed reading something!

At 2:31 AM, Blogger TouristSafari said...

Sinhagad Fort is really amassing place. Find more information about Sinhagad Fort at


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