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Feature - Rajmachi

Rajmachi!
The word acts like magic, and churns a sea of nostalgic memories. It almost feels as if a video clip is playing in the minds・eye. It has been more than 5 years and 20 other treks now, but the memory still is as new as a 1-day old baby.
Why? Read on・

We were a group of 7, 5 guys and 2 gals, who decided to go to Lonavala on a one-day trip. The time was mid-August. We expected to catch some nice showers of rain in Lonavala. Four of us further decided that when the gals turn back to Pune, we will go ahead to Rajmachi, stay there overnight, and return the following day.
So we set out early next day, took the Lonavala local and reached Lonavala. A disgusting atmosphere welcomed us there. Above us, there was no cloud in sight. However, we were as optimistic as the Indian cricket fans, and cheerfully started to go towards bhushi dam on foot. Even the early morning sun was beating down on us, and the crowd there told us that going to the dam was not at all worth it. We dropped the idea.


By 1 in the afternoon, we were totally famished. The walk and the sun together took all the energy out of us, so much so that we cut of one-day trip short. The gals decided to return at 1 in the afternoon!


But we 4 still decided to go to Rajmachi. So we set off towards Rajmachi, four of us, under the scorching heat of the sun. We were thoroughly ill equipped against rain, we had no waterproof bags, no rain-jackets, nothing. Since it wasn稚 raining anyway, we did not bother to take any plastic bags.


On our way, got some wada-pavs parceled so that we could eat them on the way. We had potatoes and maggi and pohe with us, but with wada-pavs available, we would not have to waste time cooking en-route.
The funny thing about Rajmachi is that when you start towards it, it is right in front of you. In-fact, the distance is so small that you estimate you値l be there within 2 hours, 3 at the most. But that is not the case at all, and that for a reason. In between the mountains that form Lonavala and the Rajmachi fort, there is a very large and steep valley. This is the valley that falls on your right when traveling form Pune to Mumbai. To reach Rajmachi, you have to take a route that leads you along the northern edge of this valley. The route forms a shape like this ・#062;・ You start from one end, and can see the other end, but cannot head for it directly. What痴 more, when you reach the corner of this ・#062;・path, you can no longer see the fort since the view is obstructed by some other hills in between.
We did not know anything about the route, and estimated we壇 reach there with 2 hours. 
In a village by the path, there were some small kids playing and fooling around. We asked them whether we were on the right path. They said yes, and kept giggling. We did not understand why the giggled, but we did not bother either. We marched on.
We could see that the path took a right turn, away from the direction of the fort. We left the path and started walking towards the fort. Soon enough, we came across the inevitable. The valley stared right into our faces as if daring us to take it on.
Not wanting to 電o the dew・ we backtracked, and like school kids who receive a bashing for not following orders, took the path again, albeit sulking all the way.
One hour on the trail, and still no cloud in sight. Due to the monsoon season, humidity was very high and we were sweating profusely.
Frustration began to take over. 


To cheer ourselves, we rain-danced. That is to say, we did a sort of cabaret-dance and belly dance together, inviting the rain god to shower us with watery blessings. Or, at least provide some cloud cover. Then we had 1 wada-pav each, and set off again.
One hour more, and we were cursing us for having rain-danced.
The reason was simple:
No sooner had we started again than some clouds came in. We were relived at first, because clouds meant an escape from the sun. The clouds were not black enough on our head, but at the horizon we could see a really thick black and mean group of clouds gathering, as if to ambush Lonavala. And they were coming in our direction. We heard some sounds of dry grass being ruffled. Initially, we thought it was the breeze going through the grass that created the noise. We were dead wrong! The noise was created was large water droplets hitting the ground!!! It was the first time in my life I saw drops of such huge size. We could see the rain coming, first at the horizon, but rapidly advancing towards us. In a matter of minutes, the dark clouds settled over the entire sky, and began lashing out torrents at us. 


The steady downpour lasted three hours. It filled the whole countryside with water. Small brooks, already flowing with some water accumulated by rain over the past few weeks, were now swollen and exceed their meager capacity. The path that took us to Rajmachi was soon drowned under water. At some points where a brook cut the path, the water level used to be knee-high!! It used to flow with such force that we used to catch each other for extra support. Our shoes were filled with water, making them heavy. Our bags that had some clothes and bed-sheets too were full of water, and that increased the weight by 3 kilograms at least. Needless to say, we were rain-soaked inside out.
When it rains so much, all mud-holes get filled with water. That brings all the crabs out in the open. And there they were, in all colors and sizes. We were thrilled looking at them. So far we had seen only the standard black-brown ones you get on the beaches. But here, things were different. The crabs were in a variety of different colors. Yellow, bright red, brown, black, beige, maroon・ a vast spectrum of colors in them too, All walking the clumsy crab-walk, sideways, with their fangs ready to grab whatever they thought dangerous or tasty.
We left them alone, and thankfully the feeling was mutual. They too didn稚 bother us.
The brooks and streams were making the way downhill, and creating a lot of noise while doing so. That noise seems so melodic and soothing!!! No path can be without hindrances, and the rule applies to the streams too. There used to be an occasional steep slope, and there the streams used to fall as beautiful and scenic waterfalls. On the way to Rajmachi, if it is raining heavily, you get to see dozens of such waterfalls, small and large. One among them is really big and majestic, as you can see in the photographs along this document. A picture is worth a thousand words, and anyway no words can ever describe the magnificence of this waterfall. Such is the force when the water falls on the black stone below, that it has created a crater the size of a small pond there. With a strong breeze, white foam rises into the air and creates rainbows in combination sunrays when the cloud cover gives way for some. 


This waterfall is a two-step fall, the first is shorter and the second much longer.
What痴 more, you can this waterfall from all angles. You can stand at its source, and see it banging on the rock directly below you with all its might. However, you can only see the first half from here. When you go to the other side of the curve that is the route, you can see it face to face. But the truly rewarding sight is from the top of the fort itself, where you get the really big picture.
On the way, we came across one waterfall, and found it too good to resist. We put our bags away, stripped, and made a dash for it. We were already fully soaked in rain, but that did not stop us from dong what we did! The water was ice-cold, and it beat on us like tiny needles pricking our body. We could not stand under the current for more than a few seconds at a time!!!
As they say, youth is a fountain of adrenaline. Impulsive and stupid looking acts are sometimes perfectly justified in youth.

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