Ever heard of a Cliff pointed like a Hooded snake and resembling with nose of Duke Wellington? Well, there is Nagphani hill (popularly called as Duke’s Nose) which is the best place for 360-degree panoramic views of Lonavala and Khandala Valleys surrounding Sahyadri Mountains. A visit to nearby Karla Caves which are prehistoric Buddhist caves dating back to 2nd B.C. can also be blended with this to make a perfect getaway.
I started my trail to hike Duke’s Nose when Monsoon was at verge of reviving entire Western Ghats with lush greenery. Moreover, you can go there on any time round the year but should avoid extreme summer and monsoons due to obvious reasons of heat and rains respectively.
The first thing before starting this trail was to decide the trekking route out of two possible options. The easier one starts from a village called as Kurvande which is nearly 7 kms from famous town of Lonavala taking nearly 1.5 hrs (2 kms) to reach top. The other passage is relatively difficult taking 3-4 hrs (6 kms) to reach pinnacle starting from Khandala Railway Station.
I chose the former trail and started my ride accompanied by wife Akansha, and friends Pratik & Ravi. We were driving on Old Pune-Mumbai highway through serene natural surroundings wishing to have pleasant foggy atmosphere at Nagphani, but before that we halted to capture some pictures and yes, to have Breakfast 😉
Soon, we were on curvy roads of Lonavala heading towards base village Kurvande. This small motorable pathway through tiny villages and Indian Naval Station, INS Shivaji, ultimately ended at Kurvande. It is sparsely populated village, with a huge ground at center, and deep well on its one side.
And now we’re super excited to begin our climb to the hill, which was barely visible from base due to clouds it was veiled into. Upon enquiring the starting point for the trail, we marched towards it and grabbed some chips from a nearby Tea-shop. You can also pre-order lunch to them for your return journey.
This trail leading to top passes through forests with a simple hike even suitable for a beginner. Although there were couple of steep patches, but can be easily scaled up. If visited during peak monsoons, several waterfalls gushing down these hills can be seen. You can either directly hop to the top or take pit-stops to fill in your stomach and Memory Cards 😊
After climbing almost 3200 ft. we could see a small Mahadev Temple atop and it was a symbol to tell that we are on peak. One interesting thing about such pinnacles is that, Whenever I trek to such peak, I always find an edifice of human faith. And it seems to be the source of that mystical energy which continuously gives strength to overcome all our difficulties throughout our journey.
Duke’s Nose proves to be a wonderful vantage point to see magnificent architecture of Mumbai-Pune road and rail corridors infested with Tunnels. The top is flat and one can easily roam around in whizzing winds gazing at stunning valleys. This peak is especially popular among adventure enthusiasts for thrilling activities.
It was time to descend after spending some revivifying moments atop feeling the breeze and fog playing hide and seek. In no time we’re back at Kurvande and time was just the noon which was turning out to be a beautiful sunny day.
Right at this moment, the idea to explore Karla caves popped up in my mind, which was en-route our way back to Pune. The passage to caves is motorable, till half way. But we thought of parking our bikes at the base to avoid visible snarling traffic on mountain. Little did we know that it will turn out to be another hike of 400+ stairs!
These 2nd Century BC caves are famous for “Grand Chaitya” which is “the largest and most completely preserved” chaitya hall of the period! These caves are also home to a Buddhist monastery dating back to same period with two 15-meter grand pillars outside the chaitya. Unfortunately, now only one of these remains. The other space is occupied by a temple dedicated to worship the goddess Ekvira. This temple is believed to be a major place of worship for the People of Aagri-Koli community.
There was a huge queue for the temple and it took 1+ hrs for us to get blessed with the sight of prime deity at temple. Once I stepped into these caves, I got to see the intricate architecture. It was a dingy sight, but still I managed to capture some shots of it. When looked closely you’ll find these sculptures speaking itself about the history these are beholding.
We spent rest of the evening roaming around these caves and started descending in shower of rain. There was a huge series of shops selling local stuffs including Pedha sweet and Boiled Peanuts. Our taste-buds started wriggling to take a bite, so we grabbed some while descending to parking.
Now, it was time to head back to home after an escapade day. Reaching to any pinnacle is never easy, but always worth the efforts!
Which hike was your best trail, tell me in comments!