A weekend trekking adventure to Rajmachi fort near Lonavla almost turned into a nightmare for six engineering students and a senior citizen when they could not find their way out of the forest in Lonavala on Sunday.
A search and rescue team found the trekkers nine hours after they went missing, from a spot that was about 8-km from the main road in the wee hours of yesterday. The search operation was carried out by an NGO along with the local police.
“We received a distress call from the trekkers at 5.30 pm on Sunday. Since they had ventured deep in to the forest, they were unable to share their precise location. We then asked them to send their GPS location through a mobile phone, and with the help of that information, we launched a rescue operation with the police,” said Ajay Raut, chairperson of Shivdurga Mitra, a Lonavala based NGO.“We started the operation at 6 pm, and at around 3.30 am we spotted and rescued all of them. The operation got delayed, as the students changed their location without intimating us,” said Raut. “They were hungry, and didn’t even carry water bottles with them. They had come trekking for the first time,” said Raut.
The six students who study at a reputed engineering college in the city decided to go on a day-trek to Rajmachi. The distance between Lonavala railway station and Rajmachi fort is around 15-km. When they reached Tungarli dam, which is about three-km from Lonavala, they met Shivaji Mohite (60), a regular trekker. Mohite advised them that since the distance to Rajmachi cannot be traversed within the limited hours, as it was late in the afternoon and they would not be able to get back in time, he asked the students to join him to see a beautiful cliff. After crossing a valley, the group lost their way in the dense forest, as they were unfamiliar with the area. Later in the evening, they realised they were lost.
Swapnil Sanjay Kamble (20), Vikas Kisanrao Andegaonkar (21), Shivshankar Jagdish Biradar (20), Nilesh Devram Adhav (21), Nandkumar Bahiri Todmal (21), Mayur Manik Navsupe (20) and Shivaji Sahdev Mohite (60), were the names of the rescued trekkers. All are safe and returned to city yesterday. Lonavla police sub inspector Sandeep Bhonsle , constable Santosh Shelke, Raju Kurne initiated the rescue operation along with members of Shivdurga Mitra.