How do you define risk? Risk is a possibility of incurring misfortune or danger. Safety is the most important factor in traveling, but to find adventure, you need to take your chances. Yaseen hung on to my chest while my right hand grasping firmly on a thin metal rail. Sadik was down below me, and the destination was only 3 meters away. The problem? We aligned vertically on the cliff, 4,300 ft. above sea level!
I tried to find a way to take you along this virtual journey as veridical as possible. This is going to be a long journey, and hopefully, you’ll find an inspiration from this trip as much as we did.
Rajgad Fort is a King of all Forts in Maharashtra state of India. It’s situated at 4,324 ft. (the tallest and toughest trek we did so far) above sea level. It was the capital of the Maratha Kingdom where Chhatrapati Shivaji occupied and ruled for 26 years.
How to get there
Rajgad Fort is about 42 km from Pune. Start early to avoid traffic. Head toward Pune-Bangalore highway NH4, pass Khed and continue until Nasarapur. At Nasarapur, turn right to SH65-Velhe Road. The road here is pretty good, but there are a few rough patches that you need to be careful. Drive straight to Sokor and turn right to Gunjavene Village, one of the base villages of Rajgad Fort. From here, it’s about 3 hours trek up to Chore Dharwaja entry of Rajgad Fort.
There are various trekking routes to Rajgad Fort. Pali Village is the longest and easiest route to the fort. To get to Pali base village, do not turn at Sokor but go straight. Pali base village is about 20 minutes drive from Sokor. At Pali base village, the trek could take more than 3 hours up to Pali Dharwaja entry of Rajgad Fort.
*** when we planned the route, taking difficulty and safety into consideration, we actually decided to take Pali trekking route, but our poor communication with the locals led us to Gunjavene route, which is one of the toughest trails to the fort. Now you see, we had no idea what we got ourselves into!
It’s Saturday morning, a day before the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan. We still had time for the last adventure of the month before undergoing fasting for 30 days. First of all, we didn’t plan this trip in advance. It’s a spontaneous thing my husband and I came up with in the morning. We looked for the information on the internet, laid our route, packed some food, and headed toward the highway.
We were quite late. At 11 am we reached the base village. This meant the schedule needed to be very tight, and there would be no place for error. 3 hours up and 3 hours down, leaving us less than 1 hour to spend on the fort if we wanted to get out of the juggle before sun down. We parked the car at Gunjavane base village thinking it was the route toward Pali trekking trail. Unknown to us this trek was going to be the toughest walk we had to do.
The trek didn’t start out as smoothly as we had planed. The trail was quite rough and steep. Overnight rain also plough into the soil, making the whole trail muddy and slippery.
Since our last unsuccessful trek to Visapur Fort earlier, this time we had every essential thing in our bags; rain coats, umbrellas, food, water, first aid kit, etc. Having these items in my backpack also made it difficult to climb up the steep path. I was exhausted and ran out of energy at very first 30 minutes.
Less than an hour later, we arrived at a small plateau. We decided to take a break and had early lunch here. We needed all energy we could get if we wanted to get to the top. Since it was a spontaneous trip, I only packed some sandwiches, nuggets, sausages and some fruits. Food becomes so tasty when you really need it.
After quick lunch, we continued walking. It was slightly cloudy that day, but we were lucky that it wasn’t rain. We were surrounded by nature, greens and moisture everywhere. From this point, we got a great mental boost to go on.
On the far end of the plateau, there is a small hut selling tea and snack. This is the last shop on the trail. From here it’s just nature and you. Behind that hut, you had a glimpse of Rajgad Fort. It looked beyond our reach, but we determined to get there.
One of the great thing about this trip was Yaseen (my 3 years old) walked by himself most of the journey. He was very happy and cheerful that day, making us believe that, somehow, we’re going to make it.
But trekking with kid was never easy. Yaseen needed many schedule the rest-stops through out the trail. We also had to make sure that he hydrated and good to go.
The trail is flourished with beautiful vegetation at this time of the year. We had a great time teaching Yaseen about the wild along the trek.
After an exhausted climb, we reached the second plateau. It was breath taking. It was another shade of green, the freshest green you could say. We spent a few minutes here taking pictures and roaming around the green carpet.
The air on top was so fresh and cool. Yaseen had a great time skipping and hopping throughout the trail.
The tree sprouted new leaves and green grass covered the sides. It was isolated and peaceful. We only met few groups trekking up since the starting of the journey. It was like we had the whole paradise to ourselves.
After we left the plateau, the trail became narrow and stiff. With one wrong step, the worst could happen. We needed to keep eyes on Yaseen the entire time.
Looking up, we saw a group of people coming down. Then we realized that there was a long, hard way to go.
One the top, that was where we had to go. Dense bushes covered the trail. Some parts were almost impossible to climb with kids, but somehow we found our ways. Now, we started to wonder if this was really the easy route?
There was a lot of places we had to stop and think . We were so high above, a single mistake could ruin everything.
And here we held our breath and paused for the longest time. The people who were climbing down told us that this last 15 meters was the toughest path of the journey. Slippery stone on the steep slope embraced the empty air. There was nothing below except 4,000 ft of frantic fear. There was no place to safely stand. Water drifted and leaked out of the rocks.
I looked at my husband and we had our serious discussion. Could we go on? But you see, the fort was only 15 meters away. Our 3 hours trek was to be for nothing if we couldn’t reach the plateau above us. Going down didn’t seem to be a good option either. We were out of energy and to climb the steep mountain downward, we needed both mental and physical strength.
Only a slim, doubtful, metal rail on one side offered as safety. Sadik was very tense and almost panic so I needed to take control of the situation. “We will move one step at the time. Be calm, punctual and confident. We can do it!” That’s what I told him. I crouched over Yaseen and clasped his back to my chest. “Up! Up! Up!” I told them, and they moved synchronously to my calling.
Only when yaseen reached a solid surface, we could breath again. We got to the fort through a small door. Everybody was safe!
It’s a big win. We conquered the majestic Rajgad Fort with a 3 years old kid. When we made it through the door, we realized that people were staring at us. They looked stunned by how we made it with a little kid. There was no children on the fort that day. In fact, we weren’t sure that it was a place people supposed to take kids there. In our case, we couldn’t make it anywhere without Yaseen. It would be like leaving your heart at home. We also came to find out that we didn’t travel along the Pali trail, which said to be eaiest route. It revealed at the top where my husband noticed that we, in fact, had arrived at Chore Dharwaja, the gate once used to execute thieves by throwing them off the fort.
Dark cloud moved in, and we realized that we didn’t have a second to spare. We needed to get back to the base village before sun set, and that we needed to find the easier way to trek down.
How do you identify risk when future cannot be measured? What we did was risky, but if we took every step with full conscious and confident, we could eliminate the mishaps. We can’t possibly withdraw into safety zone forever if we wanted to search the world and conquer something. We were so proud of ourselves to get to where we thought almost impossible. Getting down wasn’t easy either… so stay tune to find out how we made it out alive 🙂
Update: The continue of the trekking of Rajgad Fort Part II (Descend) is here now…