Sunday, March 11, 2007

My Travel Chronicles – A Trip to Remember!

11th March, 2007

For quite some time now, I’ve been longing to complete this travel account, and share it here. Once again, it’s about the beauty of the city of Pune, and this one positively tops my list of favourites… Sinhgad & Khadakwasla!!

Sinhgad, situated around 25 kilometres away from the main city of Pune, is a fort. Literally, Sinhgad means “Lion Fort”… It was so named for various historical reasons, none of which I’m about to relate here (I hate history lessons! However, if any of you are interested in the historical significance of the fort, the following websites will help you –
Around Pune and surprisingly enough, Wikipedia!)

On the way to Sinhgad, you have to cross the beautiful lake of Khadakwasla. It is actually a “moderate sized dam”, according to
Wikipedia, built on the river Mutha and takes care of a major chunk of the water supplies to the city of Pune. There, that’s about the history and geography, now getting to the point!

Quite easily accessible from the city, Sinhgad can be reached by various modes of private and public transportation from Swargate. I have had the opportunity of visited the Fort by all sorts of transportations – right from a bike to an Esteem to a Qualis – but the most memorable of all my trips to Sinhgad was the one I undertook with two of my friends, in public transport! This is the trip that I choose to share with you today!

We left pretty early in the morning – 6:30 am, to be precise – riotously happy and in a great picnic mood! Public buses are pretty infrequent in this city, but fortunately enough, we didn’t have to wait long for one that day! The bus was to carry us to Swargate. The trip to Swargate was quite uneventful, so I’ll spare you the details! Anyway, 20-25 minutes later, we found ourselves at the bus stand there, waiting for the bus that was to take us to Khadakwasla.

About 45 minutes later, we were still waiting! The bus was no where to be seen, and our patience was running out! We started exploring other options, and very soon found one – six-seaters! Needless to say, we caught hold of one, haggled and bargained over the bhada, and finally, after three more people had been roped into the vehicle, we moved from Swargate!

It was our first six-seater ride ever, and boy, was it a bumpy one!!! About 45 minutes of bone-breaking ride later, we gingerly got out of the vehicle, and looked out over the vast stretch of a water body that was the Khadakwasla lake!

Like magic, all our pain and frustration vanished, as we looked and looked at the lake!! It wasn’t the beauty of the lake that struck us, it was the serenity… I’ve been to the place a number of times, but the picturesque scenic beauty of the lake captures my heart anew every time I look at it, and the charm of the cool, soft, rustling breeze never fails to amaze me… I have seen Khadakwasla at golden dawns, in cool early hours of the mornings, in hot sultry afternoons, at rainbow sunsets and in the quietness of the nights – and each time, I have gazed at it as if I’m seeing it for the first time… for indeed, Khadakwasla wore a different beauty every time!

All too soon, however, it was time to make a move towards our main destination – Sinhgad! So, reluctantly we moved on towards the nearest jeep, and it promptly made its way through the curving, winding, rocky roads of the Western Ghats, carrying us towards the fort.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have described the terrible journey (we were squashed and nearly suffocated in the jeep, as our driver had, very kindly, decided to carry another family of four with us – there weren’t any more jeeps around, and this family desperately wanted to picnic!) but this is different – because the road to Sinhgad is almost as beautiful as the fort itself!

The roads are narrow, rocky and dusty – typical hilly roads that endlessly wind up and down through numerous hills… at times, you can see the deep slopes of the hills, and you cannot even make out what lies at the bottom… at times, you can see peaks glittering in the sunlight all around you… at times, you feel as if you are making your way into heaven (quite literally, as the roads are scary!!)… at times, small streams and waterfalls attract your attention – as if beckoning you to come closer… And all the time, Sinhgad Fort grows larger and larger in sight ahead of you! The gorgeous beauty of the roads we traveled made the suffering worth it. In fact, we hardly noticed how those 45 uncomfortable minutes passed by, so engrossed we were in appreciating the beauty of Mother Nature!

When we finally got out of the jeep, moving our limbs seemed to be a momentous task, but we managed it – after all, we had the prospect of exploring the Fort to egg us on! And then we stepped into the Fort… the famous Sinhgad Fort, with its beautiful caves, with its grandeurous ruins, with its stunning vastness…

We trekked and trekked and trekked… from one part of the fort, we could see the city before us… from another part, we could see Khadakwasla… from yet another part, it was only the Ghats that greeted us…

Just as with Khadakwasla, the Fort of Sinhgad also appears new to me every time I see it… I’m not talking about history here – nor am I talking about the various historical spots in the fort… I’m talking about the natural beauty of the place… in places it is rough, dry and dusty; in places, it is lush green… at times it is huge and forbidding; yet at times, so friendly and inviting!

The three of us seemed to have regained our childhood! We hopped, skipped and jumped… we explored, we traveled around, we befriended, we got lost and found each other again! We laughed and we talked and we chased each other… we saw, we went and we conquered! And we carried back warm and beautiful memories of the trip!

Late in the afternoon, when we finally made our slow, reluctant way back home, we kept turning back to look at the Fort, now growing smaller and smaller behind us, longing with all our hearts to go back! But soon, fatigue overtook us. By the time we reached Khadakwasla, practical things like food and drinks were on our minds! As we settled down in a small eatery overlooking the lake, I felt a sudden tranquility in my heart – the calm and quiet stillness of the waters, the soft breeze and the light melody of the small waves… all of them seemed to tell me something – that Mother Nature is beautiful, and so are all her creations… and so am I, ’coz I too am a lovely daughter of the same Mother Nature! Khadakwasla has always spoken to me… it almost always says the same thing – but in different ways!!

When we finally got back home at night, tired and exhausted, I realized some time during the day, some where during the trip, I’d twisted my ankle – but such was the influence of the profound beauty of Sinhgad and Khadakwasla that even my pain seemed beautiful, ’cuz it too is a creation of Mother Nature!!! After all, I wouldn’t know the beauty of a healthy limb if I didn’t experience this pain, would I?!