Earlier this month we had some friends from San Francisco visit us and along with the usual city sights we took a day trip to Fort Sinhagad, about 40km outside of town. Monsoon was very late this year, so unfortunately it wasn't as green as I had hoped, but it was still a solid way to spend a day.
We left after dropping Marc off at work around 9 and spent the first 30 minutes in heavily congested traffic getting out of the city since it was rush hour. In hindsight, if we had had the luxury of two cars that day it would have probably been wise to leave around 7:30am. Once we were on Sinhagad Road traffic thinned out and gave way to foothills, villages, and some pretty great views of the Kadakwasla Dam, which in my opinion would be a nice day trip in itself with all the snack vendors and space for lounging/picnicking.
I've heard that one can hike (or "trek" as it is more popularly called here) from the base of the mountain, but since we didn't really have all the time or anyone that knew the trail, we opted to just drive up. After paying a very reasonable entry of Rs. 50 (under 1 USD), we passed through the gate and made our way up the mountain, passing some homes, cows, and a few pretty scenic overlook points. The roads were in decent shape, mostly paved and newly so it seems, although the final ascent was kind of steep and tricky to navigate as it was unpaved and riddled with potholes; definitely happy we had the trusty old Safari ;-)
At the end of the road there is a big parking lot lined with snack shacks and tea stalls, an ice cream truck, and a restroom facility (though no toilet paper which is fine as I've gotten used to carrying my own). The view from the parking lot was lovely, looking over Pune and onto the hills. The entrance to the trail was clearly marked with a big sign in Devanagari.
The walk to the top only took about 45 minutes and the park services have done a really nice job of keeping the steps through the fort in good repair. About 1/3 of the way up, there's a tea stall which also has mango and some other tidbits for sale. There was an elderly lady with a weathered face and a friendly smile who was making tea that day; she spoke almost no English but very sweetly tolerated my infantile attempt to order tea in Hindi for me and my friends.
Almost everything along the way can be explored. We climbed the steep, precarious steps to lookout stations with impressive views of the city, and went into large rooms made entirely of stone that were used hundreds of years ago by the fort's defenders. It was a ton of fun and having access to everything really adds to the experience. It must have been an incredible structure in its working days.
At the end of the trail, there is an expansive, rolling hill that offers almost 360 degree views of the surrounding area, and what looks like a small village. It's a really lovely place to relax, probably even more so if one has taken the "real" trail from the bottom! The way back to the car was all downhill, thankfully, since it got a little hot during the day while walking up.
On the way home we stopped at the Aquarius Resort on the recommendation of our driver (he always knows the best places!) for some really great (and really affordable) Indian food and some surprisingly well-made cocktails. We sat outdoors on a covered patio on the edge of the Kadakwasla Dam, a nice change from my usual view of buildings, and enjoyed watching ducks, birds, and the flow of the water while we ate.
Our day ended just in time to pick up Marc from work around 6, and though he was a little envious of our jaunt without him, I'm secretly happy because it means we can go again and see what it's like now that monsoon has finally arrived!