Monsoon Trek - Lohagad and Bhaja Caves
Arrival of monsoon in the month of June inaugurates Punekar's (and Mumbaikar's) one of the favorite activity - scenic drives and trekking. With number of forts and hills in close vicinity, this is one of the most satisfying experience one can have in this season.
Lohagad means 'the iron fort'. Historically Lohagad was one of the many forts of Maratha empire. It is located in close to a larger Visapur fort.
- It is an 90 minute road drive from Pune to Malvali town on the foothills of Lohagad (and Visapur) along the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway. There is another road that comes via Pavana Dam.
Before we reach Lohagad from Malvali, there are Buddhist caves on the way that one must explore. A small trek up the hill steps, Bhaja caves were one of the oldest Buddhist religious centers in the Deccan. There are scenic waterfalls on the either sides of Bhaja caves.
The 5 km drive from Bhaja cave to Lohagad base is along the steep mountain roads with number of sharp turns. While major part of this road is quite good, there are slopes with potholes which makes driving up/down the hill a bit tricky. We preferred parking our vehicle along the way, and trekked rest of the path. Advantage of this was enjoying delicious kanda bhajji and pitala bhakhri in the road side huts on this road. There are also number of waterfalls along this route.
Lohagad has well maintained steps to climb, and it takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the top from the base. In monsoon, there will be water flowing along the steps. While this gives a nice rustic feeling, be careful with your footsteps. The trek along the steps is also accompanied by monkeys, and be mindful of them if you are carrying food items.
The top of the fort is mostly covered with clouds during rainy season, and visibility reduces to few meters. The rush of wind instantly refreshes the body after a decent hike. Like most hills and forts, there is a temple (Mahadev Temple) on top of Lohagad , along with few other monuments. The fort overlooks Pavana reservoir on the southern side which provides an excellent view during clear weather.
Lohagad is quite a good for a day outing from Pune/Mumbai, and is normally very crowded during weekends.