On Sunday, 22nd November 2020, Green Works Trust had organised a nature trek for a bunch of enthusiastic kids from Panvel. A trek to Lohagad fort was planned as a ‘perfect-unlock-outing’ for the lazy-muscles from a 6-month-long lockdown. Just about 65 kms from Panvel, Lohagad fort is an excellent example of ancient architecture and has beautiful, scenic surroundings of the Western Ghats. More importantly, the ascent is quite an easy one and the upward climb can be completed in an hour. But… Destiny had something ELSE planned for us. The already-unlocked-Lohagad was again (temporarily) locked for the weekend to avoid too many weekend visitors. At once, we changed our destination to the neighbouring Visapur fort. The fort of Visapur lies at a short distance from Lohagad — however, the summit is at a higher elevation and with a much more difficult ascent than Lohagad. There is a famous saying — ‘The fool didn’t know it was impossible; so he did it’. In our case, ‘Our children didn’t know it was difficult and they DID IT!’ Kudos to their never-ending enthusiasm and our experienced trekking mentors Nikhil Bhopale and Jagrut Patil who carefully guided the energetic bunch of kids through a steady ascent till the top.
The victorious team reached the top and celebrated their accomplishment as Nikhil Bhopale paid tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj with the inspiring war cries of “Har Har Mahadev” and “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji”. The children filled their lungs with pride as Nikhil Bhopale saluted the Great Ruler of Maharashtra with the glorious recital of “प्रौढ प्रताप पुरंदर, क्षत्रिय कुलावतंस, सिंहासनाधीश्वर, महाराजाधिराज महाराज श्री छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज की जय”.
But this outing was NOT JUST about reaching the top. It was not ‘just-any-other-trek’… It was a ‘Nature Trek’. Here, the idea was to not just reach the destination, but also to enjoy the journey and experience nature on the way. Rightly so, the children observed the blooming flowers and the bugs, beetles and spiders along the way. As we climbed higher, the children walked alongside flying birds — swifts, martins and falcons, too. The children explored the expanse of the fort which is a wide-spread plateau with temples, water tanks, old ruins of structures and olden equipment, all encompassed by a fortification wall with bastions.
After the hungry stomachs stocked up on some yummy home-made snacks from everyone’s tiffins, all of us teamed up for a group photo under the saffron flag standing tall on the windy plateau of Visapur fort.
And that’s not the end! The Green Works Trust team had interesting activities and games lined up for the children. Some taught team-building, strategy and planning. Some taught species names and interesting trivia about birds. Everyone had a good time learning, playing and bonding with one another.
By now, the Sun was shining bright over our heads. The group packed-up quickly and started the descend into the shady, green pathway to the base, while taking a bird’s eye view of the Pawana lake and watching the forts of Tikona and Tung far in the distant ranges. We also took a quick halt to buy lemon sarbat sold by a brother-duo, who were locals from Paatan (a village at the base of the fort). The descend was tougher than the ascent, but the team skilfully and safely descended under the able guidance of Nikhil and Jagrut.
The children reached the base of the fort with hearts full of pride and happiness. We huddled together as we munched on some refreshing snacks — cool kaakdis, yummy kairis and again… some lemon sarbat! Before the teams could head back to Panvel, the children were given a booklet titled ‘Birds of Maharashtra’ and sticker sheets of wildlife photos.
The exhilarated children returned to their homes with a promise to meet for many more such ‘nature treks’ with the Green Works Trust team.
Report prepared by Green Works Trust on 24th November 2020.