I woke up to the sound of a knock on my door by my friend. It was 4.45 am and we had to get out by 5.30 and join the others. It was dark and it was raining. .. I had a beautiful window towards my bed side and I blearily woke up and stuck my head out and it was pouring hard!
What a start to the day..
I freshened up and met my friend with my backpack in the living room and we were set to go. We just dumped the bags in his car and drove across rain and roads.
Mumbai was so different at this time.. Silent, bright warm streetlights,a few cars and my friend speeding fast. We would be picking up Vishwanath and then go to Babu Bhai’s place in Andheri West.
Finally I got to see the man himself. A tall fit man in his mid to late 40’s friendly yet reserved in his own way. Pankaj and Vishwanath had a long association for decades. Pankaj’s other friend Mayank would join us midway, he was driving from Pune.
Finally we reached Babu Bhai’s place and loaded all our stuff in his huge SUV. And he was particular as my friend Pankaj laughingly mentioned, only he would drive his car! Well who knew all that would change in today’s series of events!
Finally we were set to drive all the way to Lonavala, well almost with no concrete plan. I dozed sometimes but mostly wide eyed as I looked at the rain drenched city. There was a huge rush at the toll gate as most of the Bombayites were getting out of town.
Finally we reached a spot to have breakfast where Mayank was waiting for us. All three friends knowing each other for decades! It was so wonderful to see them at ease. I only wished in my heart I should have such friends in later years to do the stuff they do now!
Over a delicious local Maharashtrian breakfast of Talipeet with sweet curd( Must have I say!) and Sabudana Khichdi each one was making their case for a particular trek 🙂
While the others were talking about Rajmachi fort, Vishwanath was not at all interested. It was not challenging and even though he agreed, Pankaj knew this wasn’t adventurous for him.
For me honestly it was all Greek & Latin! Having no clue about any region it was exciting and that’s the thing you see, venturing into something unknown is fun and it was good to go with the flow. And being with Pankaj was always fun because all I had to do was to go with the flow and travel with him. Only surprises there!
Finally it was decided we would trek to Visapur Fort and finally made our way to the last parking lot where the trek would start. I need to remind you that through this time it was raining, like constant raining with no respite and that didn’t deter anyone, it was a Monsoon trek after all.
With the weekend, there were hordes of people ready to walk/trek/whatever, from students to families to couples to friends and I was wondering where does this happen in my city Hyderabad? Yup we have no such places..
I was also wondering how can this be a trek surrounded by crowds, this would become a freaking pilgrimage! I was proved ten thousand times wrong by the way!
We put on our rain ponchos with a very light day pack as all of them were carrying snacks with water bottles and we were off. We crossed a huge waterfall again crowded and started walking up the steps. I was in my head like STEPS? STEPS? and then just like that Vishwanath takes off!
And when I say take off, I mean really take off! 10 minutes into the wide huge steps, he goes off track and says let’s get moving this side. I was like What side?? There is no side!
Sure was! A teeny tiny trail that looks more like a path used by goats, dogs, any animal except human beings! My instant reaction was WOW! and nope I didn’t get to say it either because all we could hear was Vishwanath’s voice with him in the front saying COME COME, so we WENT like a flock of sheep and no talking for sometime. Especially for me, it was a shocker. A pure adrenalin rush!
Let me explain. A crevasse on the other side surrounded deceptively by bushes,shrubs and thorny cactus plants that makes you believe that there is space on one side and the other side yup more thorny bushes, plants on the other side and the trekking route is filled with rainy slippery mud, rocks and all we had to do was walk, right? Wrong! I realized an hour into it that we were climbing not trekking really 🙂
In fact I might dare to say this, there was absolutely NO PATH, it was Vishwanath who was making paths in his own way. This simple confident man with his day pack, a plastic bag AND holding an Umbrella NOT a rain poncho was goading us on! No trekking poles, no paraphernalia, no stopping, nothing. It was on and on and on. It was pure faith. His faith in his ability and our total faith in him.
Words fail me and I shake my head when I think about how we trekked/climbed that day! It was almost kind of an inhuman effort and if you think am exaggerating I kid you not. If only I could show you a visual about how we went through this.
But the scene and the landscape.. Oh my God… Just OMG… The beautiful Sahyadris beckoning you, surrounding you.. Lush green, that mist and that fog enveloping the entire region and you felt you were in some other ethereal dimension.
Still raining, sometimes pouring sometimes drizzling as we climbed, slipped, fell, crawled , laughed spoke, panted but the scene OMG… We felt breathless both by the trek as well as seeing what Nature gave us.. Who would ever have the heart to deny or destroy it’s beauty?
Further ahead we came across a group of students who were returning back dejected and Vishwanath asked them if they had reached the summit of the fort. They nodded a big No saying it was too slippery and they were worried about getting lost. Vishwanath immediately perked them up saying just keep on the route and we will take you.
But the best advice I saw was this from him to the students. When he saw 3-4 guys striding ahead, he said firmly You Guys are fit so you are going ahead but what about the others? Others are not as fit and you need to wait for your team. Don’t abandon them. Two of the fittest guys should be at the back and the other two in the front. Lead and support properly.
This my friends is Trekking, not a Competition.The biggest lesson I learnt on trekking, because the bloody ego in us wants to stride, move ahead, be ahead of the pack but can we be more empathetic towards the group we are with? To be together? Truer words were never said..
We came across a beautiful Bhugyal (meadow). The sheer expansiveness of it was dazzling.. I looked up and felt as if the clouds were closing in on us, giving us a hug. That beautiful rain now seemed so welcoming as we stopped for a snack break and laughing about it all. Now that rain was a part of our journey, in us, inside us.. Sometimes I felt I was in a delirium, truly in some sort of delirium and I didn’t want to get out of it..
I also realized thanks to Vishwanath with his experience and his straight forwardness where all I was going wrong with my so called trekking skills.
Right from walking over mud to water to stone to positioning myself against a stone and climbing up, sometimes using just hands to climb up, I had a long way to go before I could be even one tenth like him. It was just amazing.. so amazing..
My balancing was wrong so every step he would set me straight. I would struggle and look around and no help no sir, he would not lend a hand but show me how to traverse through slippery stones and need I mention we climbed up through waterfalls?? This would be one of the many climbs through many waterfalls.
Slippery stones, waterfall gushing as we climbed through it and it was so breathtaking I tell you. Sometimes I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. He called, we went wherever he took us, absolutely no complaints at all.
He shouted, he goaded, he never made us stop nor stand still, even now I can still hear his voice COME COME! KEEP GOING! KEEP WALKING! 🙂 I would slip a step and he would point out where I went wrong. I would never get a trekking experience like this seriously..
Vishwanath fell through slippery mud and got up a couple of times, Pankaj fell and got up and I fell and got up and we were all muddy and yup now I knew this is what is trekking. Pankaj said once you fall, you know how to fall the right way too and it’s true.
It was not like I was fearless, I had many moments of panic and fear but the collective energy of the group held me on especially when I saw Vishwanath and Pankaj.
The banter between all of us spurred us on. We were laughing loud to giggling big time. And this is the thing, when I felt true fear I turned to my friend Pankaj and he encouraged me. I had almost lost fear of heights but this was true trekking, to get rid of those innermost fears or at best to confront it head on.
I remember that moment when Vishwanath told us to wait at this narrow path and all we saw ahead was really thorny plants on either side nicely meeting and forming a shelter of thorns
I looked at Pankaj and asked You think he will actually tell us to go through that?? And sure enough we heard a voice ahead COME COME. CRAWL BEND AND BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE THORNS.
Thorns that could pierce your eyes or cut badly into your arms and legs with one bad move. We crawled, we bent avoiding as much as possible the pricks through pounding rain. I guess we all had some scratch,cut or the other on us as a lovely reminder. My heart was pulsating, it was sheer excitement knowing we were doing this.
And we finally reached almost halfway point at another waterfall. The moment we saw it, Pankaj and I tossed our bags and poncho aside and went under the waterfall. So heavenly it was getting soaking wet! And Right under that was a small cave, not at all deep and we could stand. We became little children getting drenched under the strong current of the waterfall 🙂
We knew we had to utilize this time before the student trekkers would catch up with us.
What an experience and it was just starting!