“Climb the mountain and get their good tidings.Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.The wind will flow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, while the cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
True to what “John of the Mountains”- A great American author,naturalist, adventurer, philosopher and explorer used to say Nature never fails to amaze anyone irrespective of age, color, creed, race and religion.
And his words hold true in every corner of Western Ghats. For people of Mumbai and Pune, its a treasure hidden in their backyard waiting to be explored with its lush green meadows, roaring waterfalls, mighty hills, dancing clouds and gentle wind.
Ratangard fort is one such place.It is a fort in the Ratanwadi village of Maharashtra located near Bandardhara. “Ratan” in Hindi actually means jewel and true to its name,this place is actually a jewel in the crown of Western Ghats with the mesmerizing vistas.
Visiting Ratangarh was an instant plan like all other travel plans . We started our trip at around 4 a.m from Mumbai.As soon as we left Mumbai, the city of dreams as people call it, I lowered the car window pane to let the cold and gentle breeze caress my hair and greeted the sun peeping from behind the hills.We followed the trail of the drifting clouds. After frequent pauses on the way to appreciate the beautiful landscapes, we reached Bandardhara after a drive of around 5 hours.
The view of the lake formed at Bandardhara dam called the Arthur lake was a sight to behold. Few kms from Bandardhara is the beautiful and tiny Ratanwadi village which is no less than a paradise. Small mud huts, a river meandering through the village, lush green paddy fields, magical hills of Western Ghats and the lovely people-All that a person seeking nature’s bounties could ask for.
At Ratanwadi, we had our brunch at a small hotel and we were ready for our trek.After inquiring the villagers,we were informed that it will take around 3 hrs to reach Ratangard fort. We were already late due to our frequent stops on the way,so we just hurried to start off the journey to the fort.From the village, Ratangarh fort was nowhere to be seen. As we started our trek, we realized that without a guide,we will not be able to reach there on time. We returned to the village and requested a village resident to accompany us to the fort to which he agreed after the negotiation on the charges. He was a lean fellow with the strength of an athlete although treading in slippers. He was faster than anyone of us and would show no sign of fatigue even after continuous hiking.
As we moved towards our destination,the roar of the waterfall, the soothing sound of water gushing down towards Ratanwadi village, the carpet of colorful wild flowers, shady forests and the musical chirping of birds greeted us. After around 1 and half hour, we were delighted to have the first view of the hill that houses the fort overlooking the other nearby hills. And we were now more determined to reach the fort.
Some were gasping for breathe, for some it was sore in their feet which was making moving forward difficult and some of us were completely drenched in sweat.But at halfway we could see the entire valley, we took a pause and the view was awe-inspiring. And that view was enough for us to forget all the pain we went through to reach there. That satisfaction on everyone’s face was worth the toil and discussion started among us about how most of the people and ourselves these days have forgotten admiring nature and spending time with it as everyone is in a mad rush to earn more, advance their career , pay bills and please the society. We have forgotten to live our life. These conversations reminded me of what His Holiness the Dalai Lama says “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”While all these discussions were ongoing, the guide reminded us that we are already late.
We resumed, trekked for another hour to find ourself at the base of the Ratangarh fort and to reach the fort, there was a stair made out of iron rods which had the support of the steep hill. There were 3 such stairs-one after another and then narrow steep stairs made on the hills which was slippery due to the formation of moss in this rainy season.Climbing these stairs to reach the fort was risky as a slight slip of feet would make you fall in a deep gorge.
The guide assured us that he will help us reach the fort and with his help and our own determination and enthusiasm, we reached the fort which was covered with beautiful wild flowers. Completely untouched and undisturbed, this place was a paradise. We were screaming and whooping with joy at the vistas and were jumping tirelessly. Though we were tired, but our happiness and sense of satisfaction and achievement knew no limits. We met few other people who had reached hours back and were ready to return with big smiles on their faces.
Within few minutes of our arrival, clouds covered the fort completely like a blanket decreasing our visibility of the other peaks of Sahyadri hills. We waited for the clouds to clear so that we can have view of the entire area but the clouds had some other intention.It seemed as if the clouds were showing off its power and we had no choice but to bow down.There were some ancient structures and small wells on the fort which usually remains filled with water. This fort is believed to be 2000 years old.It is said that forts like Harishchadragarh, Kulang and Ajoba can be easily seen from here but for us clouds made it completely impossible.But Ratangarh fort itself is a trekkers Paradise.
Dusk was falling, we had to descent back to Ratanwadi village after crossing the most scariest stairways to the base of the fort.The guide reminded us that if it started raining, descending will be risky and it would consume lot of time. With his help, we safely reached the base of the fort and started our descent back to Ratanwadi village with an overwhelming sense of achievement and happiness.After around 2 and half hours, we reached Ratanwadi village completely exhausted, body completely drenched in sweat and legs no more in condition to support. We took rest at the small hotel where we had breakfast. We had an authentic local dish of Bhakri,dal,rice and vegetables. With a happy stomach, a satisfied soul, a happy mind and overwhelming heart, we headed back to Mumbai discussing all the way that we will go for frequent such trips.
But that was the only trip they accompanied me and till date this trip is the most memorable among all the other hikes in the Sahyadris.
Attractions nearby are Mount Kalsubai/Harishchadragarh fort, Amruteshwar temple at the base villlage which has some ancient rock carvings.
Distance from Mumbai-Around 180 km
Best time to visit-Monsoon (July to November).
The best way to visit is to take a cab from Mumbai or take train till Igatpuri and hire a taxi from there.One can take a boat from Arthur lake in Bandardhara to the Ratanwadi village.
One special picture of our guide who made this trek possible for us.