We have a big, enthusiastic group of trekkers in our office. After our trek to Naneghat last year, many people have been asking me about having a trek this year too. I had also noticed that a lot of first timers were eager to experience a trek. I was looking for a destination which had some challenges, but was quite doable for the uninitiated.
Initially, I thought that Peth (Kothaligad) would be a great destination. It is small, sufficiently easy and quite novel, since you go on top of the pinnacle, through a rock cut staircase from inside. However the experienced, enthusiastic trekkers from our office had just done that trek a few days ago. So they suggested Tikona. After some deliberations, all of us agreed to go there on 6th October. Soon, 40 people registered and we were all ready to go.
We were to start from the office at 7 AM on 6th. People started arriving at 6.45 and by 7.30, just 30 minutes after the scheduled time, everyone, who was to start from the office, was assembled. This was much better than all our earlier office outings.
Finally, with a loud गणपती बाप्पा मोरया! we started. A few people joined on the way and at Kalamboli, just before we joined the express highway, our quorum was full. Our headcount was 44.
We were supposed to take the 2nd exit at Lonavala, but all of us were so busy singing, that we realized too late, that the driver took the first exit. Fortunately, the roads were not yet crowded, and we didn’t lose much time. Soon we entered Kamshet. We knew that we had to leave the highway here, and take a right turn, but were not sure exactly where to turn. So we stopped at the first fork, and asked around. We were at the correct junction.
Another 20 kilometers on a very narrow road would take us to Tikona Wadi. This part of the road is very picturesque, particularly after we crossed the Pawna Dam. The whole landscape was full of rugged mountains decorated with so many shades of green. Even from the bus, we could spot numerous butterflies and dragon flies all around us. We could see the Pawna lake water on our right, as our bus laboriously climbed up the hill. There was one particular bungalow at a beautiful spot overlooking the lake. I momentarily envied the owner.
And then we saw the board indicating that we were at Tikona Wadi, the base village of the Tikona fort. We stopped the bus at a small road side hotel. Asked him to keep our lunch ready and took the bus to a parking spot near the temple. Soon, all of us were ready with our nap sacks, with our packed food, all ready to go.
After a small briefing, we started walking.
Initially, for about a kilometer, the route is plain. Since it has been raining, the route was muddy. There were tractor tracks in the mud, and in the beginning, people were trying to save their shoes from getting muddied. Soon, they saw the futility of doing it and just started enjoying the walk.
Just outside the village, there is a ridge that seems to lead to the fort. There is a way over that ridge too. But an easier, and more common route is to go to the far ridge, which is much more gentle and start climbing from there. The spot where the ridge climb begins is well marked.
To reach the ridge, one needs to do a little steep climb, but the route is very well marked. The route climbs through thick foliage and one gains height quite fast. As one gains height, the scene around is quite beautiful. At some point in time, you start seeing the Pawna lake in the distance, and the majestic Tung fort becomes visible, poking the sky with it’s sharp top.
Soon you are on the ridge. The ridge is grassy and about 15 feet wide in most places. The route winds from left to right to left again, and soon you are at the भुयारी दरवाजा (Tunnel gate). This is an entrance carved out of rock. Inside the carved door is a place to sit and a water cistern.
Then you reach the वेताळ दरवाजा (Vetal gate). At some point in time, this must have been a magnificent arch way. Now it’s completely in ruins, except the side walls. There is an overhanging tree here. You can sit on that tree, with your feet dangling in the valley. What fun. Almost each one of us sat on that tree.
At his feet is a she demon, panvati, the bad luck, whom he seems to be pushing in the ground.
A little distance ahead, you see 5 rock cut caves. These are Hindu caves, not Buddhist. One of the caves has a Bhavani Temple. In fact this whole area is known for a lot of cave clusters like Karla, Bhaja & Bedse.
In front of these caves, there is a big rock cut cistern, filled with water. The water is very cool. It feels refreshing to wash one’s face and hands with this water.
After this, there is a huge grinding wheel (चुना घाणी), used to make the plaster (चुना) for building structures, many of which still stand after such a long time. It took four of us to actually move the grinding wheel.
Some of the steps are almost 2 feet in height, and just about 4 inches wide. On top of that, they were wet and covered with moss. For the first timers, it was their worst nightmare come true. . However, Shivaji Trail, an organization working for fort restoration, has put up some wire ropes on the rock walls on the side. That was a great moral booster and a life saver. Slowly, we went up the steps and reached the fort top. The faster people reached there in about an hour and half. The rear guard (me) took about an hour and fifty minutes.
The top of the fort is very small. It has a Shiva Temple (त्रंबकेश्वर). At the highest point, there is a flag staff (ध्वज स्तंभ). The views all around were beautiful and very rewarding. The most captivating was the Tung fort standing in the middle of Pawna Lake.
We spent about an hour on the fort and started back. There were other groups on the fort too. As we were coming back, the steps slowed us down. There was virtually a traffic jam at the steps.
Once at the base, the kilometer long walk to the bus seemed to take for ever. We reached the hotel and had a late lunch of झुणका भाकर immediately followed by tea, and then exactly at 5, we started back.
Some of us were still disappointed. We didn’t have a chance to get wet. We drove for about 5 minutes, and saw a mini bus, carrying one of the hiking groups, parked by the road. They had been to the lake. No sooner we realized this, we stopped the bus and started walking to the lake.
Soon, we reached the banks of the lake. It was beautiful. Tung looked even more majestic from here. It seemed as if a submarine had emerged from the water. It was cool, clouded & windy. Soon, it started raining. We rushed to the bus and around 5.35, we started back.
The journey back home was full of energy. We were shouting and singing all the way to Navi Mumbai. It was 8.30 by the time we reached.
Based on the feedback I received so far, I can say everyone enjoyed the hike immensely. One sure sign of that, they want to know where we are going next and when.
(Photographs courtesy Makarand Karkare, Vikrant Bodkhe)