Have you ever Googled the number of historical forts in India?? I have and was astonished to find that nearly half of them were right here in my home state of Maharashtra!! No wonder we see so many trekkers, thanks to these mighty old structures. I have been on a few such treks, but the most memorable one so far has been the journey to the Torna Fort. It is said to be one of the highest and largest fortress in the Pune district. And also, the most difficult. Thankfully, with rock climbing and marathon practices, I am well attuned with treading tough terrains. After having explored other smaller forts around Pune, my weekend trek buddies and I thought of giving the Torna Fort a try. A good idea for a weekend trip from Pune. It was towards the end of the rainy season, and peak season for trekkers in these areas. We decided to opt for a comfortable and cheap Pune taxi service and luckily found one.
For the uninitiated, here is a little background of the fort. It is one of the largest and most prominent forts of Maharashtra and occupies a significant place in the history of the region and its place. It is said that when Shivaji was only 16 years old, he overthrew a battalion of Mughal Army, who were seated in this fort. After defeating the Mughals, the young Maratha ruler captured the entire fortress and turned it into an important center of the Maratha Empire.
The Start :
Torna fort sits near the Velhe village, 50 km away from the Pune city. In fact, Velhe is the base village or point, from where the trek to Torna Fort begins. So our destination, by the taxi, was this village. It took us almost two hours on the highway and down the muddy dirt roads through the villages to reach the base point. The route from Velhe was a little less complicated and good for a day trek.
We drove through Velhe for about 10 minutes and reached the newly built parking space from where we started our journey on foot. It was an adventurous route till the parking area too. But we were glad to have availed a reliable Pune car rental with an expert driver, who knew the roads very well.
According to the indication in Google Map, the further journey to reach the top of the fort was of about two hours walk. But slippery slopes and rain puddles with tiredness along the way might restrict our speed and enlarge our time to reach the top.
It all started with easy hiking on the flat roads and gradually becoming difficult with the uphill. The route was simple and straight with no curves or turns, or sudden cliffs. But as we gained height, it started getting steeper and tough.
Gradually we got used to with the terrain and started enjoying the surrounding views. Flanked on mountains on both sides, the views enroute were amazing. The rains brighten the views of hills and the valleys. Peaks became more prominent. To add to the vistas, the weather was equally wonderful, preventing us from extreme exhaustion. We took a short break after covering almost 70 percent of the route, as from that point, the trail was harder and steeper. which required more energy and stamina. There were guardrails on the edges for safety, but we still need to be careful with the slopes. This trek is not recommended for the beginners, especially during the rainy season.
Finally after two and a half hours, we reached the fort premises. It sat atop a steep cliff, looming over the villages below.
A quick glance at the fort explained why this is so important to the region. In simpler words, it was massive with breath-taking views of Sahyadris. A huge stone wall snaked through the mountain ridges on either sides and protected the main fortress.
Some of the old stone gateways and bastions had still managed to survive through the struggles of time and tide. The most prominent things to see were the Kothi Darwaja, Hanuman Bastion and Zunjar Machi (stronghold of the fort).
We spent some time enjoying the spectacular views from the top and soon started our walk back to the base.
The downhill walk felt more difficult since we had to be extra careful of the slippery patches and jutting rocks.
After doing so many treks across the state, I might say that my experience of Torna Fort was not only incredible, but also the most difficult for a hobby trekker.
Trekking Tips for Torna Fort:
- If you want to make your trip to Torna Fort much more adventurous, take the route through Raigad. It takes two days and overnight camping from there to reach. But not recommended for beginners.
- The best time to camp at Torna is during the winter months. Make sure to carry all your camping and related stuffs with you. Since you will not find anything en route (not even water once you cross the village areas).
- Also, you can save some trek time and energy, if you start from Velhe village parking instead of the Velhe Police Outpost.