I never thought that I would get a chance to go out on a monsoon nature trip in 2020 considering the travel restrictions imposed due to current Pandemic situation. Luckily, Maharashtra State Government lifted the travel restrictions from September 2, and I wasted no time in planning for a quick short trip. As the number of covid cases are increasing day-by-day in Pune district, we planned a trip to Torna Fort (a.k.a. Prachandgad), a nearby location to Pune, rather than planning a long-distance trip. The main focus was to observe and photograph some wild flowers during the peak Monsoon season.
This time, Parag could not make it as he had to travel to native on a parental duty. So I teamed up with a friend, Mayuresh. I started early morning at 6:00 am, picked up Mayuresh enroute and continued our drive towards Torna Fort, Velhe. The drive from Nasarapur to Velhe was amazing as it was full of fog. We reached the spot at around 7:30 am and immediately began to ascend. I was doing Torna trek for the first time. As compared to Sinhgad, it was quite a climb. Even after reaching to the elevation of 900m (from sea level), we were not able to see the top of the fort due to dense clouds.
Gunjawani Dam backwater view from Torna trek
Torna fort with a cloud cover
For this trip, we did not plan to do the trek to reach the top of the fort. We were actually hoping to see one particular species of Habenaria orchid half way through. Unfortunately, luck did not favour us this time as we could not find it. But we could observe few insects, wild flowers (including few endemic ones).
Flemingia rollae (View)
Malabar Hill Borage, Cynoglossum malabaricum (View)
Malabar Spotted Flat butterfly on flower of Pin Cushion Plant, Neuracanthus sphaerostachyus (View)
Spreading Flowered Habenaria, Habenaria rariflora (View)
Dalzell's Yellow Balsam, Impatiens dalzellii (View)
Greater Cat Ears, Cyanotis tuberosa (View)
Some kind of Weevil insect
Bicolor Persian Violet, Exacum tetragonum (View)
Forest Ghost Flower, Aeginetia indica (View)
During our ascend, I was lucky to see a beautiful looking mushroom named Shuttlecock Mushroom. The mushroom gets its name because of its shape which looks like a shuttle cock. It is member of a fungus family named, Stinkhorn. But, unlike its other relatives, it does not emit foul odour.
Shuttlecock Mushroom, Clathrus delicatus
How can I not mention about my favorite flowers, Ceropegia. We could observe 3 species of Ceropegia, i.e. C. maccannii, C. sahyadrica and C. oculata. These were not lifer for me as I have seen these in the past but I still like these so much that I could not resist myself from mentioning these.
An insect trapped inside Sahyadri Ceropegia, Ceropegia sahyadrica (View)
Peacock Ceropegia, Ceropegia oculata (View)
Maccani Ceropegia, Ceropegia maccannii (View)
After spending little over 4hrs (including ascend + descend), we decided to head back. We did not observe what we intended for but still overall it was an amazingly refreshing experience to go out in nature after being locked down at home for almost half of 2020. Hopefully, things will be better in coming days/months, which will allow me to enjoy the nature more. Looking forward to that!