In our attempt to explore new places for trekking, we decided to go to Peb. I had heard that it was a difficult one, but one of our groupies was very keen to go there. So we decided to do the pre-Ganesh festival trek to Peb. One of the advantages was that it was accessible by local train and hence cost would be less. Also we could do this trek in a single day, that made it an attractive proposition.
This fort known as Vikatgad was the mountain adjacent to Matheran. We set out from Neral at around 8 am, reached the base point at 830 and after a round of introductions set out on the trek at around 845 am. At the onset there was a small stream that needed to be crossed. Some members were so interested in not getting their shoes and clothes wet, that we lost at least half an hour there. This was a great beginning to a most memorable trek.
The route kept getting steeper. There were rocks, steep climbs, rocks to be negotiated against flowing water, and so on. The route was tricky. There was a dense vegetation on the way making even the half a foot path barely visible and hence we had to be careful that we were not stepping on any creeping animals. We were moving rapidly.
During my previous dialysis, I had wanted to experiment. Normally I keep the sodium levels at 138 and whenever I have done so, I have not had any trouble while trekking. However, this time I had requested them to keep the sodium controls at 136 to understand how my body would be able to take it.
It made a difference. At a certain point, I developed lot of cramps in my stomach. This could well have been due to the pressure I sustained while stepping on those huge steep rocks. Hence i am not able to say for sure whether the cramps were on account of keeping a low sodium or due to the terrain in general.
Then there was a rock patch to be climbed. My friend Rameshwar was a star. He led the way and helped all of us (more experienced trekkers) to climb this patch. His enthusiasim was exemplary and his idea of getting a unique birthday gift for Ananth. The gift was a Banana flower that is used to cook curry in a typically saraswat fashion. It is quite a delicacy indeed.
When we reached the top it was quite a relief. This relief however was shortlived. We soon realised that we had to get back. We felt it was safer to take a route to Kalyan Darwaja of Matheran and take a transportation from there to the base.
After a snack, we started moving to the summit and the route got quite slippery. There was a ladder that took us to the top. The view from the top was breathtaking. Simply awe inspiring. However due to the tough terrain and heavy rains, I didnt have the heart to get my camera out and take pictures. Those scenes would have to be etched in my memory I guess.
At a point, we had to choose between 3 paths moving in different directions. We were lost. We didnt know which direction to take. At the same time, we had to move fast. We had to reach Matheran (or some semblance of civilisation) before it got dark. At one time, I am sure it crossed everyone's mind where we would get to stay the night just in case we needed to. This would have been the first time it happened in my so many years of trekking experience.
The route to Matheran was found. We had to get down to a ridge using some steep ladders. The ridge again had some breathtaking scenery. The path was around a foot in width and a cliff on both sides. Rain and fog meant very poor visibility and one was not able to see beyond a few feet. The path was very slippery and had to be covered carefully. however compromising on speed was not possible as we were already beyond 530 and had to reach Matheran before it got dark. We were so relieved when we reached the railway tracks on way to Matheran.
Suddenly I realised that I was hungry and started gorging on whatever I could get my hand on. This was such a relief. We walked to the Dasturi (from where cabs were available ) to take us to Karjat from where we took a train back to Mumbai.
This was one of the toughest treks that I had undertaken. When I went on dialysis, I never imagine that I would be able to complete such a trek. It was aptly named Vikatgad.
Life teaches us so many things. So does trekking. There are so many twists and turns in life. Similiarly for this trek. Any kind of experience we gain is only a stepping stone to the ultimate learning. In fact I guess there is no ultimate learning. We keep encountering incidents that are unique and need s special way to navigate through. Similarly for Vikatgad.
This trek Peb is like a crash course in facing life.