History & Folklore:
Torna was the first fort won by Shivaji at the tender age of 16. Seeing this huge fort must have prompted Shivaji to name it Prachandgad. Another very noteworthy thing about this fort is that it is one of the highest forts (4610 ft) in Pune District. Legend has it that when Shivaji started restoration work of the fort, he came across a hidden treasure which financed the cost of rebuilding the fort of Rajgard which stands on the hill opposite Murumbdev.
How to Reach:
Pune is the nearest station. As I was coming from Mumbai I took a night train (Pune –Veraval Express ) which reaches Pune station at 4.45am. As our bus to the base village, Velha, was leaving from Swargate ST Stand I took a bus from Pune station to Swargate which took hardly 15-20 minutes.
Aashish Chawla is a wandering soul who loves to travel deep and offbeat, trying to connect with rivers,mountains,wilderness,people and cultures. He loves trekking and lands up on some sahyadri trail almost every weekend. Writing and meeting new people always excites him to no end.
Author’s note: I took a bus from Swargate to Velhe at 7am. Velhe is the Base village for Torna Trek. Another way to travel is to catch the bus which goes to Bhor or towards Satara. We got down at Cheladi/Nasarapur Phata.(Distance from Pune to Nasarapur Phata is around 30 kms).From this Phata we got a shared jeep which took us to Velhe Village (31 kms).
It was almost 9.30am when we reached Velhe Village .Velhe is a small Town which has quite a few hotels where you can have Maharashtrian delicacies viz Poha,Misal, Wadapau etc.. Nowadays due to large trekker traffic Velhe has a lodging and boarding facility too !
Our Trek started from the Velhe village itself on a cemented road trail next to the Police station.
After 200m we took a right turn and came across a small man- made waterfall fed by a stream that we saw ahead on the right.
As we crossed this stream we saw the trail in front of us going up the mountain. We started the climb from here.
Just ahead we saw a large rusted sign board giving details of the torna fort. We stopped here and looked around at the numerous waterfalls all across various mountains. The stream below at the foot of the hill looked serene and magical, with lush green carpets running parallel to it.
The trail going uphill was quite prominent though we had to be careful to avoid some overlapping foot trails which could lead us into the forest nearby. As we were doing this trek in the monsoon climbing the initial portion was a muddy affair. The loose red soil made it very difficult to climb and many people were skidding and gripping at bushes and stones to avoid slipping. This 1 hour climb was pretty stiff for some, after which we reached an easy traverse. This portion was an easy gentle climb of ½ hour till we reached the ridge section.
Walking on the ridge is one of the highpoints of this trek. We could see beautiful valleys on both sides. Left of Torna fort we could see a series of mountains with clouds hanging over them. Numerous waterfalls could be seen on our right and in the backdrop we could see Panshet dam backwaters engulfed by the mist. It was a sight to behold.
As they say Boss break toh banta hai ..well this point is where taking a break is sheer heavenly delight. To add to the experience the vagabond breeze blowing over the ridge was like icing on the cake! Its so fierce that it can sweep you off the ground literally. We had to hold hands to withstand the impact of this wind. ( My suggestion is become a child and enjoy been superman in this wind).Moving from the ridge, the climb got a little tougher because of the two rock patches.
This is about one hour climb from the ridge to the top. Though there is railing along the rock patch section we had to be very careful while climbing as during monsoons it gets tricky. After climbing the first rock patch and a further climb of 15 minutes we come across a waterfall, more than 50 feet high. After drenching ourselves we were ready to encounter the second and last rock patch. It’s a medium level rock patch with stone stairs. Here again there is iron railing which provides support. Once we completed this section we entered the fort through Bini Darwaja.
A little ahead we saw a large water tank and just behind that the Menghai Goddess temple. On the right side of the temple is Budhala Machi and on the left side of the temple, a little further ahead we reached Konkan Darwaja. It is so called because from here the route opens to the Konkan Plateau. As we walked on the Torna Top plateau we came across the famous majestic Zunjar Machi. Reaching the furthest end requires a good amount of skill as there is a rocky patch to overcome.
Here I would like to bring to the attention of the readers that exploring Torna Top during the monsoons becomes difficult due to excessive mist leading to very low visibility. Generally a one day trek is not sufficient to cover the entire Fort (after all it is Prachandgad: the large fort).
Points to be noted:
1.If you want to enjoy the beauty of a Sahyadri Trek then do it in the monsoon .Advantage: Lush greenery, mist and less fatigue while climbing.
2. Disadvantage of doing the trek in the monsoon: Nothing is visible on the top, so you are not able to explore. Getting down is a hell of a problem because the stone stairs and rocky section is quite slippery and the last portion of the descent is through a muddy patch so you keep slipping and falling.
3.Winter is a good time to trek here.
4. If trekking in dry season then carry at least 3 liters of water as there is no water source on top.
5. Jeeps from Velhe to Cheladi are easily available but From Cheladi/Nasarpur phata to Pune getting transport can be difficult.
6. It is better to hire private vehicles till the base village.(This is more relevant for trekkers from Mumbai )
Get trek fit!
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
What to pack?
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.