I am someone who finds it difficult to wake up even as late as 10 AM. But after the fun filled Fireflies Trek and camping under the stars with the fireflies of Rajmachi, I somehow ended up waking up at 5AM, completely refreshed!
Packing up my tent and getting ready took me hardly 10 minutes – after all, it was time to conquer the Manoranjan Balekilla of the Rajmachi fort 😎. In addition, it being May, it was imperative that I complete the trek and descend before noon in order to avoid the Sun’s wrath. In addition, I deposited my heavy backpack at the only shop in Udhewadi – I sure as hell did not want to carry it all the way to the top of the fort!
So, every fort has at least one balekilla (Marathi: the high towers of a fort). The Rajmachi fort has 2 balekillas – the smaller and easier Shreevardhan Balekilla and the higher and challenging Manoranjan Balekilla. This day, I had planned on conquering the latter. But before that, I had a smaller excursion in mind 😉.
Around a kilometer from the Udhewadi village is a viewpoint that people flock to and fall in love with in the monsoons – the Kataldhaar Waterfall or the Horseshoe waterfall view point. A beautiful lush green valley with a massive waterfall.
However, few know that the same place, in summers, can give one the fright of their life when they look at the vast emptiness from the dry land’s edge – my little side trip 😜.
On one side of the viewpoint is the waterfall and the valley. On the other side, rises the Manoranjan Balekilla in all its glory.
Once I spent a decent amount of time gazing into the vast emptiness, I was on my way to the Manoranjan Balekilla. The path starts off as a gradually ascending stone paved path interspersed with stone steps. This lulled me into the false sense of comfort – I assumed that the entire trek was going to be this way. Little did I know what lay ahead.
The entire ascent took me a good 3 hours. The stone paved path transformed into a extremely steep dusty trail strewn over with rocks and boulders. There were moments when I had to get down on all fours to climb up. And in some places, there was no trail – it was purely a dangerous act of jumping from one boulder to another, at an altitude of over 2500 feet. An unsure footing during the ascent was out of question – I would have ended up falling 2500 feet into the valley – a death trap.
The hill was absolutely dry and brown – covered in dried up grass. A single spark would be more than sufficient to set off the whole hill in a blaze – a risky proposition, considering that so many trekkers indulge in a cigarette during the climbing breaks.
Once I reached the top, at around 9AM, completely out of breath and with a wet t-shirt clinging to my body, I should have just flopped down with exhaustion. But, there I was, jumping around with exhilaration!
The Manoranjan Balekilla offers an amazing panoramic view of the Western Ghats in the Lonavala area and its twin, the Shreevardhan Balekilla. The Kataldhara Falls look much stunning from up here. It takes a couple of hours to explore the entire top area. There are also a few tunnels that lead to the outer side of the fort walls – one would end up on the slippery slopes of the hill crawling along the hills with literally no safety whatsoever – something that made my day 😃
The descent was more of a “the faster you get down, the faster you can relax your tired leg muscles”. I clambered down like a mountain goat jumping from one rock to another, thankful that I started my trek so early.
All in all, this was one of the most memorable trips I had had. An experience that set up my expectations for the many more treks and trips I was yet to encounter! Of course, the trip back to Mumbai was a massive pain in the backside after those excruciating hours of trekking. But nonetheless, it was a happy pain 😁