Friday, September 7, 2007

Monsoon Trek

The packing was done...I had taken my borrowed windcheater, extra pair of socks, clothes, thin towel, water and of course my camera. It was 6:50 AM...time to be at the stop where a bus would pick me up to a self-sponsored company trekking (?!) to kotlighad fort. I was at the pickup point sharp at 6:45 expecting all my colleagues from various branches in Mumbai to be present but was not surprised to see only one person present there and that too of the female species. I asked her the reason (I already knew it ...but it was the question using which I could start a conversation).The answer was simple...The mail had said 6:50 AM IST and IST meant INDIAN STANDARD I could not expect anyone till 7:15.So we waited till others came. As expected by 7:20 everyone were ready with the same set of things I mentioned in my first sentence. The "Khatara" bus came and we were into the bus in a jiffy.

It sped across various pickup points in Mumbai collecting "Associates" on the way. Now just when we were getting out of Mumbai we were stopped by a traffic police. (I don’t know the reason why he chose our bus to stop but guessed that he wanted to know how could a khatara bus like ours was able to move...let alone run).But he had hit the bulls eye as he found out that our driver did not have a license, bus did not have permit outside Mumbai and to add salt to injury he was a 3 star police (which meant more money would flow under the table). Overcoming this minor obstacle we moved on...No one was yet ready to launch themselves due to lack of fuel from morning which then came in the form of our south Indian special for all seasons. was in...what abt water ?? I had brought very little water and was needed for trekking. So now me and my friend had no option but to beg, borrow or steal or...?? wait a min..we had a idea.. The fun was just starting and the first game was dumb charades. It was a game for everyone else but not for me and amit.For us it was a means for getting water. For every word they guessed...we guessed only one thing ...paani in Hindi (for thumbs down signal) and water in English (for thumbs up signal).And for everyone’s kind info the thumbs signal itself is used for water!!! ..We kept guessing weird films names/words that included water so that anyone would listen to us and give us water…. but as the atmosphere was getting more fun-filled no one noticed us. We continued irritating with guesses like baarish, nadi, boondein, water, paani, pyaasa, nahana, peena, etc and finally one person shouted “Arre koi inko paani pilao yaar!! #$#$@$ " ..And thus we succeded.We were back to normal mode and the games was anthakshari which continued until we reached the bottom of the hill at around 11:45.

The sun was scorching and we had already starting cursing our HR for organizing a "MONSOON TREK" without monsoon showers. And again we were told to bring wind cheaters but since there was no wind too...we felt cheated, ironically, by the wind!!We were introduced to the trekking instructors. (It only meant, if U want to try any stunts on the mountains...DONT DO IN FRONT OF THEM).We were told to climb the hill and get down by 2:00 PM to have our food.Hmm quite easy. Some of the instructors went early to ensure that the ropes were tied properly in our path. Our only concern was someone had to be here to ensure that our food too was prepared in time for us :-)

OK time to trek...We started climbing...Nothing much has to be told about this. It was a normal upward walk over the hill along with some known friends and making new friends on the way. After some 30 min walk we reached a spot where we had to cross a risky 100 m distance holding a small rope for support. Some were worried thinking what could be done if a snake came form somewhere...well It was not a problem as I planned to leave the rope and catch the snake. For if I leave the rope I MAY fall, but if I leave the snake I WILL fall .But god is great and so is that small rope ,nothing unfortunate happened, we reached the other side to reach a magnificent(bolna padtha hai..samjha karo) water fall. We spent 15 min there, getting wet under the falls and giving poses for photographs as a proof that we were here. Then we started to climb again .By this time a big group of 108 members was split to many small groups. After climbing for around 45 min we reached a place from where we could have a breath taking view of the greenery all around. That moment I felt that my purpose of coming to this trek was fulfilled. After staying in a polluted concrete jungle like Mumbai, it is always good to be in midst of some greenery and when it at this scale it makes it more fulfilling. We spent another 10-15 min capturing this spectacular scenery through 3 lenses: My spectacles, my retina and my camera. I can still see that picture from my photographic memory. Thank god I had reel filled in my brain then, as it’s usually empty.

But this was not the end .We nearly fainted when we came to know that our destination was the top of the hill we could see very far away from here. We had 2 go or not to go.Coz it was so far that we were sure we would not be able to make it...and so Y make the effort at all. Also it was already 1:30 and our lunch would be waiting for us. Then we thought since we had so far, we can give a try and could turnaround any time. By the time we made this decision and got up to start second innings, we came to know we were surrounded by big horned cows/buffaloes all looking at us with angry eyes as if we had not given their salary this month. I suddenly remembered the scene from "APARICHIT" and thought of all the mistakes I had done (Hey... not wrong coding and bug fixes) and all the weird names this punishment would be called in garudpuran...kumbhapakam, papakumbhamm. But due to my good work (punya) done 3.5 janmas (births) back they left us alone. So I was not run out in the first ball and started my second round of climbing...We had by now emptied my water bottle ,finished cursing our HR, and started cursing the king who built a fort at such a height--1550 ft above sea level!! due to whom we-the AC accustomed ppl were made to climb like this for no mistake of ours. After a long climb we reached a small village at the base of the hillock that housed the fort.

We had some well made lemon juice in some local canteen (or was it somebody's house) and then prepared for our third innings of hill climbing. By this time it started raining...Now we knew Y we had to bring windcheaters, extra socks and clothings.We took back whatever we had cursed our HR and started praising them for warning us well in advance. But since we had left everything in the bus, we had no option but to drench ourselves happily and climb.

Now this was a real "MONSOON TREK”. The environment was perfect. The climate cool, it was raining, we were tired and were climbing the last and most difficult part of the hill to reach the top to see the fort, caves and a pond supposedly at the top. We put our last bit of energy to work and climbed and climbed a never-ending hill which every person returning back would tell “Oh ...just 5 min from here"... That 5 min came after nearly an hour. Finally we reached the caves the top of hill. Still a climb of 5 more min would take us to the top of the mountain. We climbed that bit to and lo...we were at the top of the mountain...but wait.... "WHERE THE HELL IS THE FORT??????" .There was, of course, a pool of water at the top of this mountain which we could call as a pond...but where was the fort...KOTLIGHAD FORT?? All I could see was a big stick planted by a fellow trekker as a mark of truimph.But nonetheless...this place was a 100 times better that the place we were a few hours before .There was absolute greenery everywhere..wonderful mountains all around and of course the light drizzle. A perfect moment to be on the top of the hill. Next few minutes went in absorbing the environment completely and a small photo session...but..where is the FORT??..After a small research we found that the last few min we climbed to reach the top were actually man made steps, it was a inverted funnel shaped structure which consisted of caves, a small temple, pond and since it was at such a great height, soldiers could easily keep a watch on the happenings below and thus unconquerable. A perfect combination for a fort.

Now time to return. We had expected, since it had rained and the place was much more slippery, it would take more time to get down but it was not as difficult as we had imagined. We quickly got down and rushed to the place where our bus was...we were totally tired, drenched, hungry, thirsty but jubilant from inside. A delicious lunch (the time was around 6:30 so it can be called an early dinner) was still waiting for us which we finished in not time. I had a tough time finding out which bus out of 3 would take me home or at least tell me whether they were willing to take me or not? Yes they were...

I felt, yep, this was the end of a wonderful trek...but there was more to come...The backbenchers in our bus were still in terrific mood and were just unstoppable. I am happy to announce that I too was a participant which kept on shouting, singing, cheering all the way back. I still smile at the way that "Apne to apne hote hai" and "shaka lakalakalakalaka boom boom" songs were repeated every 3 min, the way we sang all the serials title songs from the rona-dhona KKSBKBT,kumkum,kasauthi zindagi ki to shaktimaan to chandrakanta to jungle book.
Other slogans that were making rounds were “Preethi Sabarwaal aage bado, hum tumhare peeche hai" and” Simon go back, Mrs Simon come back" and much more. A perfect icing on the cake...Ohhh I was just getting nostalgic about my college days.

I reached home by 10:30. It was one of those days which I felt was really worth living. I thank all those who made this trek possible, I thank my friends amit and sanjay who were excellent companions during the trek and around 30 of the friends I made during this trek whose name I still don’t know :-)