It all started with our incessant talks of treks. Me and Vijay always trying to find a Saturday, Sunday home amongst the lovely Sahyadris. And fortunately those who were interested in our talks and plans were the HR. From HR, Gauri who is an experienced climber was assited with Mukti, the ever excited, chirppy girl. All leading only to one result, a big unofficial company trek.
The first aim after 4 of us were in the plan were to gather more guys for the trek, and astonishingly most of the Engg. guys agreed with a few exceptions. Almost 12 guys from the company and another friend of ours Ankush raised the roster count to 13. Now that the enthusiasts were ready, what about the venue, the location, … ? Since most of us were first-timers, it was decided by HR that the trek must be for a beginner. There was a lot of chat, contradictions, etc after visiting http://deepabhi.tripod.com , a very helpful site for as#$% like us. finally the plan was pointing towards Sudhagad, Pali. Gauri had been there once, and said it was a straight-forward trek, good for beginners. !!! HR’s word is final.
While we were trying to figure out the transportation, Gauri had an idea,
Why not hire a tempo-traveller or bus like that.
The idea didn’t go well with Vijay, which made us feel we were planning a picnic, instead of a trek. Official trek transportation is State Transport(S.T.) and Local Trains, and Bus #11. But then finally most of us managed to get Vijay on the Tempo-traveller plan. Gauri, resourcefully arranged for the vehicle and the plan was set, Sat 6 January, 2007, 0500 hrs, Andheri station, the bus shall start for Pali.
Friday night sleep wasn’t that great, I had a different thread inheriting a Clock class, which kept running all the night. I woke up @ 2.00 am in the night, just to check what time it was, I had to get up @ 3.30. Finally when I woke up again it was close to 3.30 and the alarm was off, I was brushing when it finally did go up. Thanks to evolution for making the Human Brain’s kernel use multiple threads. At 4.00 I left for Khar Station, got a ticket for Andheri, and boarded the 4.18 train. When I got down at Andheri I heard my stomach crying for food, I had to feed it something, so I got some biscuits. While walking down the SV road, I was not amazed to see many call center guys with their 150cc bikes having tea with all early morning vendors at the tapri. Smell of tea was another thing that I couldn’t resisit, But I did for a small period. I met Sudani, Amol and Neeraj at the BEST stop.
Few minutes later I saw almost whole of the troop come, Vijay leading the way with Santhosh, Awdesh, Mukti, Danny, and others following. After all hi, hellos, good mornings, etc, I couldn’t resist my Tea and took Danny, Ashok and others at the tapri where we had a nice cuppa flavoured with गवती चहा. We returned back at the stop with Danny unable to have a sip, thanks to the stupid tapriwala who cared for everything else except the customers. It was almost 4.45, and Arvind and Gauri had not yet showed up. I was almost certain that Arvind was gonna give us a टांग. Mukti called Gauri only to find her just awaking, thankfully Gauri did make it in another 10 minutes. And… she was another candidate of early morning dope of a hot tea. While having another sip, we spotted the Tempo-traveller making a Pin bend at the corner, Gauri pointed the driver-cleaner towards the Bus stop, at first he was confused, but I think on second thought he must have realized that @ 5.00 am guys at a tapri are not drunk, and probably form the payload.
At the stop everybody was boarding the bus, when I asked Vijay (VJ) to call Ankush to be there at the Vashi bus stop in another 1/2 hr. Awdesh’s call to Arvind had confirmed my doubt, that he was still asleep. And the bus moved in the early morning’s cool mist, creating a turbulence behind on the highway.
Almost @ 5.45 were at the ST stop in Vashi, Vj called Ankush who was on the way. We waited at the stop and had a few snaps, while some of us who wanted to be too close to the nature… had nature calling 😉
Ankush came on a friends bike, he is a true biker, has a bike always under his ass. … and we moved the next stop, Pali. The highway was a nice comfortable one, even on the Panvel exit. Only place where the road took a knocking was at the Pali exit. A typical unmaintained highway. Vj, Mukti tried to get the early sun rays troubling the aperture’s sleep.
We cruised along till we finally reached a village, no other than Pali. Where Gauri had to eat a वडा पाव. Not many could curtail their urges of having a fresh, hot one. I denied, Vijay had a Saturday fast, god knows for what reasons. Mukti had some answer, which I shall keep it for her to respond. Everybody was having the hot vada, when my Mumbaikar soul couldn’t control the view of everybody having the staple Mumbai food. At last, I too had it.
While we were having our stomachs working… Vijay’s extrovert nature had him talking with the गााव वाले. He found out the nearest base for Sudhagad was some village Dhodse or something, I don’t remember. And that specific trail was a bit exciting as well. So the next stop was the village, where we had to move on a road whose’s width could hold only 1 vehicle. We managed to reach the village somehow even after missing a turn. It was around 8.45 when we reached to a spot where we saw a board bearing the name of the village, a spot to park the vehicle and a definite trail… This was it.
Another flirt with the nature and we started moving along the trail where we reached a split. where we inquired a man about the right way to Sudhagad and he advised us to get a guide who’d charge around Rs.100 and he’d be useful to navigate through tricky splits that were around. A small discussion and we “OKeyd” for the guide. we sat there for a while, Vj spotted a cut spherical rock, probably twice the size of a canon ball, and tried lifting it… Even Vj the strongest man ( did I say heaviest.. 😉 ) in our team couldn’t lift it. Within few minutes, the same guy now draped in a shirt came with a scythe. He spotted the ball, and promptly lifted it from the middle of the road and put it on the other side and pushed it away. we had some jokes on Vj for that. Mukti saw the “weapon” in the guide (mama)’s hand and wondered about stories which Vj had fed, about localites looting the trekkers. But that was not the case and he moved swiftly past us, leading us.
We moved along till we came what we thought was a river bed. Some of our lads thought it was right time to have a “dry bath” ! And most of us managed to get in the frame.
…and the trek actually started, with less no. of stops, more of climbing, more of exertion, more of adventure, and finally and not the least less of a picnic.
I was at the back, with all the back-benchers, Vj was somewhere ahead of us, mama was leading with all the new recruits, like Rajoba, Neeraj, Awdesh trailing him. Ankush kept migrating from front to back. Mukti was at the back as well, and she was the one adding fuel to jokes on herself. We reached a point where we saw everybody waiting for the last comers. Mama had a question.
इकडून कठीण वाट आहे, आणि सरळ वाट इकडून
Vj was firm on the difficult route, I too was interested in it, Mama was not confident whether Mukti could make it through the difficult path, he advised the easier one, “which even the elders can take”. Mukti, ever so excited, was offended… Throw some Attitude… “Lets take the hard one”, … bravo…
Now mama showed why he carried the “weapon”, cutting the leaves, branches along, making a way through the hills. While everybody now started to feel the difficulty, it was still normal going for Ankush, me and Vijay, since we do this almost every month or so. But not for all.
Another hr., we moved slowly, climbing the rocks, over loose soil and rock combination, as the time moved ahead, the distance between the skillfull climbers and others increased, with me still at the last after the slow climbers. I had Mukti, Neeraj in front of me. Neeraj had some weird shoes, which he was not comfortable in climbing, adding to his misery was a very heavy bag on his shoulders. Mukti was doing good, but at her own pace. Vijay and Ankush kept moving to and fro in the long file.
Mukti was fun to be around with, she has some sort of disorder which makes her laugh suddenly, which can go on for minutes together till she finally releases the details. Later Ankush, Gauri and almost all confirmed “isko daure aaten hain”.
Further ahead, we had to climb a steeper rock, which everybody managed to deal with a little difficulty, but with a positive result. Neeraj, Mukti and myself were the last, till we came a point where I saw Vj, Rajoba, Ashok and Ankush near a cistern in a small cave. I tried climbing from a very awkward rock cliff, which I couldn’t but then I circumnavigated it to reach the place, even Neeraj swiftly came behind, however I was holding his bag now.
Mukti stood there alone trying to figure out where should she move next, towards the cave or towards the other route where everybody were pushing ahead. She stood there. We asked her to move along the right side along a simple climb where we all joined her after descending that cave.
Another 15 mins took us to the peak, where there was just a fort wall, where we sat and quenched ourselves. I saw a small opening in the wall, into which was a steep climbing staircase, it reminded me of the air columns(pipes) in the Pyramids, thanks to NGC. I quickly moved into it and climbed … At the top, I saw some roots, at left there were some more of these roots. finally I came out of that air pipe, to the top, the top of the fort. I ran to the wall where I could see everybody sitting down. Ankush followed me as well.
At the top, Anksush asked me if I saw the creatures. I was unaware. I hadn’t seen any. But then Ankush reminded me of the Roots, which were moving, probably due to air currents or something. They were not plants, they were Spiders, with a body of 1mm3, but legs at least 5-10cm long. All creeping over each other.. in 1000s, no wonder they looked like some roots (moving ones). Eeaww… ! I climbed down swiftly trying to keep myself apart from them, Ankush followed down as well, but as soon Ankush climbed down of the stairs, suddenly 10 -20 spiders fell from the roof top on the stairs… That was a close call for Ankush. Mukti shrieked to her hearts extent.
Bad news for Mukti, we had to climb the stairs, to reach the top. But as sporting she was from the start, she did manage to get herself at the top.
Once at the top, the sun was on its full. Enough light, enough heat! Mama showed us a temple, where everybody got into to escape the heat and the sun. I went to the shadow of the temple, took a rock under my head and layed on the ground with another guy to my side, the temple Dog !
Sometime later, all came out, and I was the first one to express my need for food, and everybody was hungry as well. We decided to go to a hut, which was donated by the locals. Probably meant for people coming to Sudhagad, who can rest, have their food etc. And we had opened our bags, to get the food out. Bread was having a major stake in our diet this noon, more than 70%.
At lunch we all were eating bread, jam and butter. Few were having something else, Some had got some std. gujju snacks and mukti had got the traditional thepla. Most of us could control the extra bread intake, except for Danny, he was ON after having that extra bread. He was dancing… singing… weirdly, none of us had seen Mr. Route Nat this way. We tried to calm him down with whatever we had, some offered water, juice, etc. I tried to calm him down with the traditional way, I threw my shoes at him, but to no avail. He kept on going … We offered the caretaker some food, and Rs.20 to which he agreed to show us the takmaktok, the place from where traitors, prisoners were killed by pushing them into the deep valley.
The caretaker, danny, ashok and neeraj moved ahead quickly, while I was trying to find Vj and Santhosh, who’d probably gone to capture something. We roamed around till we saw a deep square dry well. So many adjectives… One more … creepy, this well was full with those spiders, in thousands. we threw a rock the bunch till they moved and Vj probably got that in the Video. Finally we decided its time to catch up with danny and others who’d gone ahead. But still we managed to wait and take snaps…
Finally the photo session was over and we moved into the sun, searching danny and others, but they were nowhere to be seen. While I and Santhosh found some interesting, tibia and fibia of some animal mostly cattle category.. handled it, tried to break it by banging on the rock. The excitement ended almost instantly when we found that the bone was from a kind of fresh carcass. At first we thought the thing is totally dry, but as we closed … it was stenching badly… we moved quickly toward the other group, who’d wisely moved away from the carcass.
Further ahead we heard voices that I thought were that of Danny, but it was some loudspeaker in the valley ! the voice was coming clean and clear. It was some puja, but not Danny’s voice. Luckily we saw Sudani come from the distance. Who asked us to go further ahead towards the takmaktok. We reached there, Ankush was the first one and bravest of all to go till the cliff’s end and take peek, I too tried, which ushered an unknown feeling in my guts. We sat there and took more snaps.
Some of the guys hesitated to come near the cliff, but it was their wish. As we finished the cliff session, we moved on towards the final descent, towards the “Big dwaar”, which was the route mama had offered to take while climbing. The Door was a gigantic one, with standard hard-bound rock walls. This fort had a circular entrance, which is difficult to attack than a standard straight one. We had some water over there and thanks to Vj, more photos.
From there on, the next stop was straight at the Base village, with some small stops for water, etc. We had good time descending, with even Gauri joining the laughter club, the topics didn’t go any far. All stayed around danny’s lunch show, which was still on, and Vj’s jokes (we need a different category for Vj’s jokes) and Mukti.
At the base Vj, me, Amol and danny had a nice bath (almost) at the hand pump, drank water till our bladders bloated. We decided to visit Pali’s Ashtavinayak. The temple was full of devotees, the line was a long one, it was out of question for anyone of us to be in there, so Gauri decided she shall have a quick look and come back, so did everybody.
After satisfying the auspicious God with bows, namaskars and all, it was time to Satisfy the Mr. Stomach. Ankush and Gauri again had to eat a vada pav, I settled for a “Kokam sharbat” (which tastes like Breezer – Mukti) in the nearby hotel, where everybody just sat wherever they could. Then there was chaos all over, with everybody wanting something, but later deciding to go with what the other had ordered, the waiter-uncle somehow managed to stay calm and astonishingly got the right no. of dishes for everybody (after all its his job to satisfy idiots like us)
Stomachs calmed down… now was the time for the trip back to Mumbai which seemed like months before we had been there. Luckily the tempo-traveller was booked to make us feel Mumbai a little closer. Unfortunately it was nowhere to be seen. I, Vj and Ankush moved ahead to search the vehicle to find it parked under a Banyan tree.
The vehicle moved amidst the busy small lane of Pali, and guess what, in the one-way. There were other S.T.s, vehicles coming in that lane, but our driver somehow managed to keep a face that stated “I’m right, they are wrong”. The driver was on some kind of ecstasy drug or something of that sort, atleast everybody felt that. He always took the wrong turn in the wrong lane and was very rash. Obviously he didn’t escape the teacher’s scolding.
Once on the highway, the Cleaner put some compilation CD which everybody in the bus applauded for and sang the songs. Sleep, tiredness, more jokes (jocks) came along.. till we reached Vashi where Ankush leaped off … and so on, Rajoba got down at Bandra and myself at Santacruz, after that… I guess everybody reached home safely and dozed off till the next day.