We rode out in the morning, reaching the ferry after only one wrong turn. The ferry is a doubtful looking boat with room for four cars and as many scooters and people as can cram on. (Many.)
The jungle is still lush, after the monsoon. We passed glimpses of river that flashed blue under our eyelids. We drove over roads that rattled us. A couple of times I thought we were lost, but then a temple or large house would reveal us to be on the right road, a familiar shape to a bend, the way the asphalt crumbled on the turn. Children yelled "Hello!" as children always do. We only come here a couple of times a year, so finding it is always an adventure in memory. No road signs, just narrow lanes.
We turned down the last road, jounced and bumped along, until we reached the ends. We reached for our keys and shut off our engines. It was silent. We had passed the state line and left the noise behind us. We picked up our picnic and wound up the overgrown trail. Chinua told the kids that the friends we brought had never been here.
"Don't tell them everything," he said. "Just let them see it."
We passed the first tower and stepped up to the old cistern. I grabbed Solo's hand reflexively. One mango tree grew up from the bottom of the huge pit. It had not widened, it was the thinnest mango tree I had ever seen, only reaching for light, not bothering to spread and shake out its branches.
The tower was crumbling. No one had kept watch for over a hundred years.
We came to the large gateway and climbed up the old steps. It was hard to imagine what it once looked like. And easy, too, if you squinted the right way. Now the vines grew through the rocks, the trees reached down and lifted pieces of the wall away, the branches of banyans digging into the walls and grasping windows. The jungle was reclaiming its own.
We walked through room after room, tall and vaulted with incredible trees. We found the one pillar with plaster still attached, the design easy to see. We saw the huge courtyard in the center, now filled with foliage. Young banana trees were scattered everywhere, as were spiderwebs with huge, stick-like spiders. The kids wanted to run and run, but we kept them close. Chinua and Kid A climbed a banyan tree that had taken a wall for its own, along with our friend Mike. I pulled out the picnic, after looking dubiously at the critter-strewn floor, I decided to risk it. I threw down the sheet, pulled out the crackers and cheese and hummus. We peeled oranges. We left before the ants found us.
It was hot in the fort, with no roof and no breeze coming through the walls. Incredible humid, our clothes stuck to us like sheets on a hot night. A man turned up to simultaneously try to guide us and hurry us along. We tried to let him know that we needed neither a guide, nor to be hurried, but he didn't take the hint. He was our new friend.
The old fort, the walls, the heat, the plants, the langurs that we often see here... It is like a fairytale. We love coming here, love bringing new friends and avoiding spiders in these ruins.
Redi was built by the Marathas in the sixteenth century and was later captured by the Portuguese in 1746. The previous citadel holders, the Sawant clan of Maharashtra, were desperate to regain the fort because of its valuable strategic position on the coast. An attempt to recapture Redi fort was preceded by poisoning the Portuguese garrison's fish supply, but the attack was unsuccessful. Redi was eventually returned to the Sawants following a peace treaty, but the success was short lived - in 1765 the fort was captured by the British who later sold the land to local people in 1890 while retaining ownership of the fort walls.