Everything turns into a lovely shade of green during Monsoon in India. I feel fortunate to live in Pune. It was the heart of Maratha Empire when it was at its pinnacle.
Pune has a lot of forts perched on top of hills which are good for trekking during monsoon. There are also nearby ghats (hills) which shed their paling faces and flourish with green carpets when the monsoon arrives. It’s a pleasant trip to the ghats with a backdrop of gray clouds, green surrounds, and surreal waterfalls.
So, after the onset of monsoon, it was an obvious choice to go for a trek for a weekend. It’s been ages since I had gone for a trek and so my friends and I thought of going to an offbeat and easy trek to Shivneri fort. And since it was a long weekend, we clubbed it with a stay at a resort near the scenic Malshej Ghat.
Shivneri Fort is in Junnar village near Pune, around a 100 Km drive. Shivneri fort has a historical importance as Shivaji Maharaj of Maratha Empire was born on this fort. We drove from Pune to Junnar and it took us around 2.5 hours – 3 hours (including a short break for breakfast).
We left out house at around 5:30 am and reached the foot of the fort around 8:30 am. There are two ways to climb the fort. One that takes you to a parking lot where you can park your vehicle and climb up the steps. Climbing the steps takes close to half an hour to reach the top.
Trek enthusiasts can take the other route, there are small trails, behind Chhatrapati Shivaji College of Junnar village which you can take to hike up to the fort. Hiking up takes close to an hours time.
We had first reached the steps route and were disappointed as we were geared up for trekking. However, a local near the parking lot told us about the other route near the college. It was nearly 2 Km away from the parking. We drove down and parked our vehicle near the trail. There are empty plots where you can park your vehicle safely.
Hike from the trail is moderately taxing offering lovely views to the Junnar village below. It took us a little over an hour to reach the top. Our first view from the top of the hill was like a picture-postcard.
There are a lot of caves carved into the hill when you climb from the trail side of the fort. The caves were musty and smelly, however, it did not stop us from exploring the area.
There is a short climb further to reach the actual fort. Later, we found that it is called “The Chain Gate” and rightly so. There is a steep rock you need to climb holding chains to reach the fort gate. The fall is not fatal but brutal enough to break your bones. However, the chains are sturdy and provide a good hold for climbing. When we were hiking, thankfully, it wasn’t raining. You need to be careful while climbing if it’s raining as the rock face would get quite slippery.
Further, down the way, there is a Shivai Temple – Temple of goddess Shivai after whom Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was named. The top of the fort has a pathway dotted with local flowering plants, giving you the feel of walking in a garden. The Fort area is clean and not much crowded.
There is also an Ambarkhana – a food storage area. It is a huge space and is said that it was used to store food for more than a year. Even now the ground floor of the structure stands tall, the first floor is partly broken.
It’s pleasant and breezy at the top. You can spend some time exploring the fort. There are some stalls offering tea, lime and kokam juice and butter milk. There aren’t any food stalls either at the top of the fort or on your way up on the trail. It’s better to carry food and water along with you for the hike.
To add fun to our trek, it finally started raining when we were exploring the fort. We decided to climb down via the steps route near Ambarkhana. It took us close to half an hour to climb down the steps and another 15-20 minutes to walk to our car.
After that, we headed for our next destination near Malshej Ghat – Malshej Agro Tourism And Farm. We wanted to book MTDC Malshej Resort, however, all the bookings were full. We had checked it almost 2 months prior to our visit!
Malshej Agro Tourism And Farm is a small resort around 21 Km from the fort. It took us around 40-50 minutes to reach there. The resort is surrounded by farm land and hillocks offering a pleasant view of the surroundings.
We had some time for our lunch to be served, so we explored the resort
After lunch, we wanted to head to the nearby Pimpalgaon-Joga Dam (approximately 15 Km), but it was raining heavily and the parking lot was so muddy that by the time we could reach our car, I was an inch taller because of the mud sticking to my flip-flops. An attempt was given to move the car out of the parking lot, but then we were afraid that our car would turn into a monster truck, what with the mud sticking to the tires.
After scraping the mud for some time we gave up on our plan of going out and went over to dip in the swimming pool in the resort. The water was clear and it was raining! Ball game in cold water with rain pouring is something you don’t do every day! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
It was still pouring outside so we decided to kill our time by playing cards and sipping hot tea. I think there is nothing like hot tea, cold weather, pouring rain, and friends! We had a late dinner at around 9 PM and later turned in for the night. Next day, after breakfast, we checked-out and decide to go to the dam and Malshej Ghat and then head for home. Thankfully, the mud had settled in the parking lot and we could get our car out.
Pimpalgaon Joga dam is constructed on Ar River, a tributary of Kukadi River. You are not allowed on the dam wall, however, you can visit the lake formed due to the back waters. The lake has a backdrop of Malshej Ghat and is scenic during monsoon. However, the path to the bank is very muddy, making it difficult to walk to the bank of the lake.
Next stop was Malshej Ghat. It is said to be a home for waterfalls during monsoon. On our way we crossed MTDC Resort, it was so cloudy there that apart from the Resort Name board we couldn’t see anything! It would have been a lovely stay there!
Further along the road, we found just one waterfall, it was just the onset of monsoon, I guess, we were too early for waterfalls. However, there were food and tea stalls and we enjoyed hot tea and noodles with mist swirling around us!
Tips and Learning:
- Carry food and water when you go for a trek to Shivneri Fort
- Better to drive in your own vehicle than going via local transport
- Try and get a booking at MTDC Resort as there are fewer options for stay in Malshej and MTDC Resort is considered to be the best
- Visit Malshej in mid monsoon around July end, August beginning, for enjoying the waterfalls