Vasota Fort stands on a remote outpost in Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary within the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, and getting to the views it promises is half the brilliance of this journey. It is important to remember that this is a fairly challenging trek and best suited to fit and serious trekkers.
Surrounded by steep hills, you can only access this fort from the water. You take a boat from the riverside village of Tapola to cruise leisurely down the Koyna River’s backwaters. In the shadow of the fort, the dense green forest conceals and reveals distinctive flora and fauna; you may spot sloth bears, bison, boar and hyenas, and, if you’re really lucky, even tigers.
Once the boat is moored at the base of Vasota Fort, you start on the winding three-kilometre-long trekking route through thick shrubs and tall trees. Your boatman will usually serve as your trekking guide; a guard at the base checks your bags as well, but do carry as little as you can to help reduce the strain on yourself.
Pace yourself as you climb ever upwards past spring-fed streams tumbling over smooth stones to the accompaniment of birdsong and the fluttering of endemic butterflies around you. You will find that the trail is steep but broad and you will work up a good appetite for the lunch you’ve carried to eat at the summit of the military outpost.
But let us warn you: once you get atop the mountain, you may forget about food for a while, as you get your breath back around the crumbling moss-covered stone jail, in which Maratha rulers allegedly stashed their political prisoners. Still, spread your mat down among the yellow and purple wildflowers and take in the panorama: you will be at a height of about 3,800 feet, and the views of the valleys and hills around are stunning.
The fort itself comes with an uncertain history: some say it was originally built by Raja Bhoj of Panhala in the 12th century, others that it belonged to the Shilahar dynasty, and of course, there is the Chhatrapati Shivaji connection. From one side of the fort, you can look out at the Nageshwar Temple in the far distance, while the other side, locally called Babukada, is like an echo point. You can call out and hear your shout ring out over the surrounding hills. Finally, a trek to Vasota is the most popular jungle trek in Maharashtra. The blue-green expanse of Koyna backwaters, the evergreen forests of Koyna wildlife sanctuary, Vasota fort hidden in thick jungle, the spectacular view from top of the fort along with the beauty and serenity of the place leaves one spellbound.
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