Have you ever tried something totally out of your comfort-zone and felt ecstatic, felt like you are on top of the world and the view is breathtaking? Does the memory brings about a smile, sends a jolt through your gut reminding you of the nerve-wrecking fear when you began the journey? Something that made you feel alive and yet you couldn’t ever have been more out of your element ? My first real trek was all that and more. It bought me storm and calm all in a swirl.
A little background, I am a plump introvert with nice black rimmed glasses that shouts ‘leave-me-alone’. My hobbies include reading, watching sitcoms, munching whilst I read and watch, cooking so that I can eat while I read and/or watch! So .. yeah , trekking was totally unlike me.
It all started after my graduation. I had 10 days before my (First Job yay!) and in that short span of time, I had to spend time with family, chill with friends, pack my stuff, prepare for corporate life and relax! Not easy task. The chill with friends took a spin when we came across night trek to Kalsubai (Highest point of Maharashtra/Everest of Maharashtra, 5400 feet altitude) with trekking group called TrekMatesIndia. Slowly the idea took momentum and everyone got super excited. No one said ‘hey shouldn’t we start small or maybe try the day trek at least?’ nope, it was all in. With a 1k fee we decided to go for the kill.
Image Source : Wikipedia
Starting from Dadar station (Mumbai) on 23rd May 2015 we boarded the Mumbai Local at 3:54pm. As luck would have it, the train was awesomely crowded meaning we had to squeeze in with our rucksacks and hang on dear life. The journey to Kasara took 2 hrs. 10 minutes. We did get a seat in the last hour. By this time, cellphone connectivity had started to flicker, the city was left was way-behind and we were plunged into rural wilderness.
We met the organizers and the entire gang at Kasara. From Kasara we were loaded into Taveras and Scorpios and began the 2 hr. journey to the base village. About the ragtag group out to win the peak, we were 10 of us in the weight range of 40 to 95. Yes, that was the lowest and highest body mass of our group. One guy, 5 gals, 4 kids. Age group 13-26. TMI had overall had some 80 trekkers, 5 instructors. At the base, we ate dinner at a villager’s house. An Indigenous way the villagers get earning opportunity. They provided us with basic facilities and a place to leave some of the extra baggage. They provided dinner and lunch after the trek. Symbiosis much?
We all had to carry a good three liters of water with us which on an uphill climb was going to be the toughest challenge. But at that moment we were innocent, unaware of the tough terrain we were set to scale. The smiles on our faces then were very naïve. Apart from that, we had windcheaters, plum-cakes, biscuits, Gatorade and stuff. I can’t over emphasis on this but the scorching May heat had us believing that a hoodie and 2 bed sheets will be more than enough to spend the night on the top. Boy, we were wrong.
We began at 10pm after a deliciously simple diner. The soft footed walk through the village alleys sent tingles down my spine. Even then the tiny voice in my head screamed to run away, towards civilization. The peak towered in front of us, it was huge. The idea of reaching the top was ridiculous. In such a place, the rhythm of marching feet around you just gets you. Once you fall into that stepity-step beat, it’s difficult to stop. Slowly steadily we walked through the fields surrounded by the calls of the night. The owls made their present felt as did the silence of the night. It was bare nature at its best. It was then that we were entirely trapped in the hypnotic spell of the trek.
In the pitch dark, the circle spelled by torch made it pretty easy to keep going. Kalsubai is one of the most climbed peaks in the area. This means that there were steps (made of uneven and rough cut rocks), there was iron railing to support and a skinny ladder with iron steps like the ones on top of a building’s water tank. Such ladders took us across the chasms in the rocks. As there was no light other than the torch, what exactly did we cross never made an impact we knew we won’t fall off far so dying wasn’t a threat. Rest all was manageable. Some of the ladders had a step missing leaving us hanging between huge boulders, in the middle of the night. With torch in the mouth, screaming or rather whimpering was a muffled outlet of the raw fear. But there was something else there, adrenaline. The ‘gotta get there’ was making its presence felt. The person in front of you grinning as you maneuver your way through the ladder, the followers looking at you like ‘If you do it, so will I’ it gets you. And when you cross the dicey zone of rocks, the high-five at the end and thumps on your back makes you feel like being in the best team ever!
As it happens in such a group, we had to take selfies but the dark played the plan popper. No worries, out came the torches, placed on the chin and we had a halloweeny selfies! The entire trek took us 4 hrs. approx. We took 4-5 short breaks on the way. Chocolates, water, juice all came out and we sat, gazed at the oh-so-beautiful clear starry sky and earnestly planned to sleep at rest locations, hoping to tag back when the TMI gang returned. Alas, that didn’t happen and we groaned our way to the top
Climbing up a rock that’s almost to your waist, with a backpack in the night is no easy task. Every rock climbed was a ‘wow’ moment. Every hand extended was a show of true camaraderie. No men left behind, the last 20 minutes were the slowest and the toughest. Here I want to share two things that made the journey slightly easier:
There were two dogs that accompanied us. Street dogs that just followed us all the way up. Wow. They just walked with us, sat with us, and when we got too lazy they gave a resounding bark that got us up and going. They stuck with the last guy and run up-down our little battalion getting their head patted all the time. TMI guys say that these dogs always follow them on every trek in the area. They even carry small container so that they can give dogs water. In one particular rainy-day trek, the dogs couldn’t get to the top due to the slippery rocks. TMI guys carried them in their backpacks for no trek can be complete without them! That is kinda cool!
Secondly, the 5 instructors had divided the entire troop among themselves, groups of 15-20. In every 10 minutes the first would call aiiiee-ooooo. The second would respond the same way, then third, fourth and finally ours (yes we were the last ones, but two girls had forfeited the trek halfway so technically, we weren’t the last ones). When our instructor had to respond, we would all shout out together and giggle like loons. Sometimes we would call among ourselves with all 10 of us going aiee-ooo, irritating the entire gang. They did want to punch us by the end but hey, night treks does funny things to a human’s humor.
And then finally, we made it to the top and it was brutally cold. There was one measly tent-ish structure to sleep in and was quickly taken by those who arrived before us. We found a patch that could accommodate 8 of us. The guy and one kid took off to find some other sleeping place. The bonfire was started and everyone was told to get some sleep for we were to watch the sunrise and descend back by 12pm. Now when I say it was cold, it was painfully cold. Our feet were sore and hence shoes had to be removed, we all carried spare socks but the stinky socks were worn over the fresh ones for brrrrrr it was cold. I did fall asleep but I dreamt that if I moved an inch, my toe would fall off. A friend of mine and her cousin-kids couldn’t sleep at all. They sat by the bonfire and in her words ‘the bonfire smoke was god-sent!’ whatever that means.
When the sun was about to come up we had to hike for 10 minutes, climb some 20 steps to reach the ‘sunrise spot’. Some of the group gave up, some were too sweet on sleep t0 even think about walking anymore but not us. 7 of us and 20 others went to the top and ahhh! The feeling was beyond words. The clouds flew by, the river looked so serene way down at the foot and small village settlements were seen at a distance. Sun cast a riot of sunrise colors. We were all tired, sans makeup, hair was undone and yet the smiles ensured that we captured some of the best pictures of our lives. It was there that I knew that this moment will always be with me, whenever someone tell me that ‘you can’t possibly do this’ I will be like ‘dude I climbed up Kalsubai at night, back off!’ (I have used this line to go on other treks since and it works like a charm’)
After a quick round of breakfast, pep-talk and promise of food at the end of trek, we began the return journey around 8am. Now came the downfall, descend, the pin to our happy bubble. When you climb up, the torch only shows a small section of path. It is like blinders for the horse, keeping the cliff edge out of view. Now in the bright daylight we could see the whole way down. The rocks looked jagged, grass looked thorny and the way down looked impossible. Added to that there were monkeys who looked mean and kind of like thugs from black-n-white movie. We moved slowly.
Then began the series of accidents. Not major ones but when you descend, it’s either a controlled run or a slant-footed walk. A klutz like me couldn’t run downhill for I knew that just the thought of it made my leg wobble. I was slow and yes I didn’t fall a single time (Yayee Mee). The same couldn’t be said about my gang though. They slipped, took their partner in tow. Someone laughed at them and sure, fell down the same spot in the same way. We met a lemonade seller on the way, going up to set shop for the town folks and trekkers. We drained his supplies and he had to return with us to replenish in the first hour of his days-work. While the dogs warded of the monkeys, we sneaked with sticks in our hand. The iron ladders looked way to flimsy to support us and we could swear the village shifted away few km. overnight. One kid had a mishap, he just couldn’t walk and the strong instructor cajoled him and took him in tow all the way down. Another one had a shoe accident. The sole came off. We were aghast for the rocks made their presence felt through the shoe and walking without them was impossible. The instructor took a thick pair of sock and made the kid wear it over the shoe. Problem solved!
We made it back. In the hall where all our stuff was kept, we just sat. No one spoke. Only the threat of running out of lunch packs had us moving. In the journey back to Kasara Station, we slept like logs, falling over each other but who cares! In the train (this was empty or I no one would have boarded) we slept, we got down at Thane, took a bus home (2 hrs. in state transport bus ensured that every tiny bone of my body was screaming).
A hot shower, delicious home cooked food, roll-on pain free and my bed was all I wanted and I got just that. Here is a picture of how I looked when I got home.
I slept for 9hrs straight and that was the deepest sleep till date. I would have smiled in my sleep but ouch, my whole body ached! This was my weekend, doing something out of ordinary. We bonded, went out in fresh air, got closer to nature, tested ourselves and found solace all in a weekend. Sure we raze on the one who had the idea in the first place but secretly we are happy it happened!
Be back soon with the story of my trek to Dudhsagar waterfall. It has railway tracks, jungle trek, water crossing where My nexus became a sacrificial goat and lot more!