Trek one: Scene from Tikona
Fort Tikona, near Lonavala is the ideal launch pad if your closet trekker avatar yearns for a wake-up call, to shake you out of your urbane lethargy and hit the rugged, scenic path amid the Sahyadri range
It’s a given — Fort Tikona — also known as Vitangad — is bound to earn brownie points from amateur trekkers. For one, it makes for the perfect one-day getaway for jaded city-dwellers. Also, it serves as a relatively easy trek for most of us who are more accustomed to whirring around on our office chairs rather than globetrotting with a rucksack.
For a group like ours that included a hyperactive pup that couldn’t be left behind in a lonely home, Tikona got us everything, from breathtaking overhead views to getting us tired enough to crash on our beds without being able to get out it, next morning, to its steep steps in the patch that makes for the final ascent.
Up, up and away
The pyramidal Fort Tikona gets its name from its triangular structure — is a little ahead of Lonavala where we have often found ourselves when in need of a respite. Almost 3,500 feet high, the hill makes for an easy trek, thanks to the existence of a pre-defined route to climb to its pinnacle. Park your cars at its base, near the temple, and start the climb by negotiating a path that starts off as mucky when it rains. Wear shoes that fit well, and make sure you don’t land yourself in a pile, freshly offloaded by cattle that graze in these parts.
Stuffed after having tucked into vada pav and masala chai from a roadside stall, nearby, we began our climb just before noon. It took us nearly 90 minutes to reach the summit. Climbing the well-marked trail took us past caves, cisterns that held rainwater, large doors cut into the rock surface and a massive vermillion Hanuman cut into the rocks with Panvati, the devil, under his feet.
The final ascent took us through steep steps. This patch saw us negotiate a narrow pathway that cut into the rocks, with steps that were almost half the height of a couple of us. By the sides were steel ropes to hold on to, but be careful so that you don’t cut yourself on the rocks’ sharp edges. As you pause in between the climb, to catch one’s breath or allow trekkers on the descent to pass by, soak in the gorgeous valley below. This last stretch, called the Shivaji Trail, has a bastion from where one gets spectacular bird’s-eye views.
Sadly, there is not much of the fort to discover. A few ruins of the fort along an algae-filled pond and a temple dedicated to Trimbakeshwar Mahadev mean that you will be done with scouring the fort in fifteen minutes. But what make up for this disappointment are the spectacular views. On a clear day, you can spot the nearby forts of Tung, Lohagad and Visapur.
The day we were at Tikona, we were shrouded in cottony tufts of clouds, which meant that even the Pawna dam below us was often lost in a mass of white. While heading home, and if it’s on the same day, start the descent a couple of hours before sunset. The friendly dogs along the pathway will follow you downhill, and the same roadside stall will make for an inviting stopover for another round of chai and vada pav. Congratulations, you are now ready to be dubbed a non-certified, amateur trekker.
Though little is known of the history of this fort, the vihara on the fort can be dated to circa seventh-eight century AD. The fort was initially part of the Nizam Empire in 1585. In 1657, it came under the rule of the Maratha Emperor, Shivaji Maharaj when he conquered the entire Konkan territory and all the other forts in its vicinity. During the Maratha reign, it served as a watchtower. In 1665, Tikona was surrendered to Mughal warrior, Kubadkhan, only to be recaptured by the Marathas.
How to get there
>> The main route to the fort is from the village of Tikona Peth
>> To reach this village, alight at / drive to Kamshet, which is a bit ahead of Lonavala on the Mumbai-Pune rail route
>> From Kamshet railway station, you can board a bus / shared private vehicle to Kale colony
>> You will pass Pawna dam
>> Get to the Tikona Peth nearby from where you can start
WHAT TO CARRY
>> Sturdy trekking footwear
>> Waterproof jacket (during the monsoon)
>> Plenty of water
>> Breakfast/ lunch depending on when you intend to start your trek
>> Binoculars, camera, flashlight
>> Sleeping bag and tent, if you wish to stay over the night
>> Sunscreen / waterproof windcheater depending on the weather