I couldn’t help but smile, for I have just shaken hands with King Shivaji and Afzal Khan. After all, how many people would have seen them in friendship?
The next halt was at Raigad. I rode back to Vile, and took the newly constructed MIDC road. After travelling on bumpy roads, this smooth road comes as a surprise to unsuspecting traveler.
Then from Nizampur, there is a left to Raigad via Pachad. There seemed a road as per Google map, and it was confirmed by the locals too. From here, Raigad is about 31 kilometers. The path is very scenic, and passes through rustic villages that seem distant from present time.
The last few kilometers on this road are in horrible condition. It is a wonder that I didn’t fall off at any turn. At one time, the road is only of red sand, no stones. So all you have to do is to glide and slide along the slippery path. It becomes damn difficult on a 150kg bike laden with luggage. I braced myself for a fall, but luckily didn’t have any.
I had already booked a room on Raigad top from Pune. From there, I had come to know that the ropeway timings are from 8.00 A.M. to 5.30 P.M. I was racing against time to catch the 5.30 P.M. deadline, and thus was taking quite a beating. Luckily, I reached about 5.25 P.M., to find a lot of vehicles and tourists already present at the rope way base. Seems they have now changed their timings till 7 P.M. at least on weekends. This ropeway has proved to be a boon to travelers, especially the elderly or the lazy ones like me. By foot, one has to climb up 1500 odd stairs to reach Raigad. By this ropeway, one reaches the top in 4 minutes. This has greatly increased the number of tourists and thus have improved the economy of the local villages.
I parked Vesta in a secure parking spot, bought the Rs.170 ticket, and queued up for the rope way ride. You have to take a token number, and wait till it gets announced, to take your turn for the rope way ride. One capsule takes four, and there are four such capsules operating. Each takes 4 minutes to go up, and same to come down. So each 16 people batch takes about 10 minutes of refill. But no one seemed to believe in the system, including the watchman who was looking over the rope way operations.
I waited for half an hour seeing the crowd get dispersed, because there seemed many types of visitors that were interesting to observe. There were groups of trekkers in their t-shirts and bermudas, with a bag weighing almost equal to them, the family men with bulging belling and crying children, the romantic couples who didn’t notice anything else, a full set of actors along with theatrical props like swords and spears; waiting at Raigad ropeway is never a uninteresting. When I got bored, simply went near an empty capsule and got myself in for the ride.
As I was carrying considerable amount of luggage, I was helped by two actors of that drama group, and we introduced ourselves in capsule. One of them said:
‘We are coming for performing a drama based on King Shivaji’s life. I am Afzal Khan, and this is King Shivaji.’
I couldn’t help but smile. So many people travelling in the ropeway, and I end up sharing the cube with Shivaji and Afzal khan! What luck! The actors were nice fellows, and in fact Afzal Khan was contrary to his character, chatting and laughing.
View from the rope way cube
We arrived at the top station, and got out of the rope way premises. I looked up, and stopped in my tracks.
There were still a lot of stairs to climb, and my luggage was cutting me by weight, now that it was pretty wet by the ride. Seeing my despair, both Shivaji and Afzal ran to my rescue, grabbed my bags, and helped me carry them to top. When we reached the top, me panting heavily, I thanked them, and started looking for my room. After a brief search, I started to suspect that my room would be down at the rope way station only! I had no energy to go there just to ask whether the rooms are there or up on the fort. But then what to do?
Then I saw a couple going down the fort. I ran to them, and requested to find out at the enquiry below. We decided on the signal that if the hotels are not there, then the man would raise one hand, and if they are indeed there, then he would raise two! I kept on watching them as the climbed down the stairs, becoming smaller and smaller and increasingly harder to spot. I lost the sight of them in the onslaught of incoming tourists. [I]Damn[/I]! Now what?
But then I saw two hands up! That good man had asked the enquiry, unfortunately my hotel was down there. So I picked up the luggage myself – with no Shivaji or Afzal to help this time, as they had already checked in their rooms – and started climbing down slowly.
I passed a lot of Policemen going up. They too were panting and resting, and in fact one suggested there should be a mini rope way from the rope way top station to actual gadh top! As expected, the enthusiastic manager had already given the room to someone else. So I was allocated a different room, whose owner would be adjusted elsewhere. It was too deep a track to follow, so I left it at that.
The room is totally not worth the money at all. You get to have a company of insects that are attracted to anything shiny, and have constant music of the rope way operating machines. If you are going to Raigad in hope of rest or calm, forget the rope way rooms and go for MTDC ones on top of the fort. But then you will get killed carrying up your luggage.
There are some tiny nuisances. The order for night’s dinner has to be given in advance, because it comes from the base the fort, and thus can’t be decided on the spot. If you forget to order, you don’t eat, simple.
But despite of the dirty room and sloppy rules of dinner, it was okay, for I was tired as hell. A city dweller, suddenly finding him kayaking and river crossing and climbing up the fort with heavy luggage, is bound to be dead tired by the day end.