7 days, 566 km solo tour on my mountain bicycle around 12 (maratha) forts in Sahyadri hills in Pune and Raigarh districts of Maharashtra.Sahyadri hills running for over 1600km form what is called western ghats in India and separate coastal belt called Konkan (in Maharashtra) from Deccan plateau.Maharashtra has around 300 forts, large number of which lie on hills in Sahyadri range and were part of Maratha kingdom. I visited forts like Raigad where Chhatarpati Shivaji started independent Maratha kingdom in 1674 when ancient Indians culture was under threat by Mughal onslaught, to magnificent (ruins) of fort Rajgad which became capital of Marathas. If Sinhgad fort has been compromised by tourism onslaught, forts like Torna stand alone in their desolate glory reminding of a time gone by. I cycled through jungle dirt trail of Rajmachi, a village with no electricity; rode through beautiful roads around Pawna lake and had awesome ride through Nasarpur jungles.
I was pleasantly surprised by quality of roads. Roads, which are smooth, where you are alone, where nature lurks around the corners, or roads where you ride and see lazy, peaceful village life unfolding around. I was touched by hospitality of Maharashtrian people. If elderly lady in Tikonapeth wouldn't take a paisa for dinner she made for me, a villager in Pachad let me sleep in his house for free and a shopkeeper in Vehle wouldn't understand why I was offering him money for safekeeping my cycle as I climbed the fort. 'Gearchi cycle' (cycle with gears) is what I heard most as I rode through villages and as it happens for some reason, a lone cycle rider always gets lots of warmth and attention. My somewhat knowledge of Maratha history had advantages as Shivaji has deep rooted connection with Marathi psyche. Someone in Pali told me "Hum achche logon ke saath acche hain".
I will remember this and so many other memories like antics of a antelope couple in fields in dawn in Rajgarh to a rather heart-stopping meeting with Indian rock python on fort of Sarasgad.