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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bhimashankar - The trek

We left from Vanvihar at 7 am and reached the base point Khandas at around 8. I was quite nervous as it was known to be a tough trek. And I being a kidney patient was not very confident about whether my body would take it.

To add to the nervousness was the fact that I was the only one who knew the route and it was at my encouragement that we had undertaken this trek in the first place. I had to set challenges for myself.

Bhimashankar has 3 stages. Each stage is a climb with forest walks in between the climbs. The first one passes through a Ganesh temple hence the route is knows as Ganpati ghat. We completed the first phase without much trouble. Yes we were tired as it took us around an hour and an hour of climb can be tiring. It started raining heavily as we moved on to the plateau at the end of this climb.

But we kept going. And the best part was that we didnt keep to the beaten path. We explored areas of the forest which I had not done during my earlier trips to the place.

Some of the views which we saw were truly breathtaking. Awe inspiring. Absolute stunners. The camera could only take in a fraction of the true beauty in its lenses. After all they are mere devices. The real thing was a sight to behold. At such points the phrase about beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder is negated. Beauty is absolute. It cannot be negotiated. Simply ....simply beautiful.

We had our share of glucose powder and water etc. and moved on. The forest was so dense. The suns rays simply refused to reach the ground level and the shadow of the trees created a darkness as well as a shade which had to be experienced.

It was impossible to express the beauty of the forest in words. We spotted a giant malabar squirrel one of the inhabitants of these forests.

Then came the waterfall. This waterfall is roughly the half way mark in the trek and is most refreshing. The waters are so sweet and tasty. The natural coolness in the water makes it an ideal thirst quencher. Water it was. The real thing, without any chlorine or additives to make it "safe" for us.

The trek moved onto a tough part now. There were trecherous rocks. These rocks were slippery due to the scanty rains and one slip would have ended our journey in the valley. It would have been an unfortunate ending to the efforts that one has to make while taking dialysis. Truly unfortunate.

Due to my experience, I was able to negotiate the rocks in a manner that I had to make minimal use of the left hand which had a fistula. However, at one point I had to. I had stepped on the wrong rocks and there was no going back. The only way I had was to haul myself up on another rock and I had to use the fistula hand to do so. I prayed to Lord Bhimashankar to give me the strength to do so without any major issues. Well I did it. But it left an imprint on my mind. I could do much more than what I could imagine. It did give me so much more confidence to face life.

After these tiring episodes we were looking for a break which we got when a local had taken the effort of climbing this much and starting a tea stall. IT was a rustic setting but tea was definitely on the cards.

Along with the tea we had some bread and butter that we had carried with us.

The the trek began again. This was even tougher. I was really tired now. Most of us were. All the trekking groups were taking a break by now. The breaks were becoming more frequent. Then we met a gentleman who was coming downhill. To our surprise we were told that the peak is at least an hour and a half away. Vow and we were spent....almost.

We had three ways out. To go back - this was not possible as we have covered 70% of the distance

To stay put in the jungle - We had seen hoardings at the entrance of the forest to beware of Leopards

To move ahead and complete the trek...............sometimes the toughest options seem to be the best. Most of the times actually.

We kept going. Each sinew in our body was strained. We were puling on with the final reserves in our body. Glucose water kept us going. Finally we saw the opening that was the summit. was around fifteen minutes after we first saw it and after 2 stops we made it. Yes we made it to the top.

It had taken us more than 7 hours.

We had a face wash in one of the streams there and felt refreshed and then kept moving to the temple that was the main point of this place.

We prayed from outside as there was a huge queue and returned to Mumbai. There were so many spots to see here but we kept it for another trip. We came home by bus. This was an adventure in itself, maybe I will cover it in another post.

But I was very happy. I could complete Bhimashankar in one piece. I had taken up a challenge and completed it. I had set new standards for myself

Friday, 18 July 2008


I have been to Bhimashankar a couple of times earlier. Every time it has been a memorable experience. It is quite a tough trek. The route to take in the monsoons is the Ganpati ghat route.

This route is most beautiful with several divine galleries along the way. We get to see what a tropical rain forest is all about. Yes, it is a dense jungle all the way.

The last year we had planned this trek. But because I was not feeling upto the mark, I cancelled my participation. After completing the trek, my friends (definitely in good intention) remarked that the trek was so tough that I would not have been able to complete the same. It was good that I had not joined them. That really hit me where it hurts. It was me who had planned the trek, told them the route and also went to the extent of telling them landmarks in the forest where one had to take turns in order not to lose the way.

It was a challenge to me. Yes I agree that Bhimashankar needed a lot of endurance. There were some stretches which were scary and extremely trecherous. If we miss the route, then we have to climb rock to make it back. And with my fistula it is really tough. But yes, it was not impossible.

As a dialysis patient, we see death very frequently. I have seen so many of my fellow patients ending their innings and that has sort of diluted the fear of death in my mind. So the trecherous rock was just another part of the same story.

This time we kept the group very close. We were only four of us. We dissuaded the less fit from joining us (I guess fitness is in the mind otherwise how would I qualify). And we set out...............I had taken the challenge......the challenge to set new benchmarks for myself

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

VanVihar - Your home in the forest


Bhimashankar is a great trek. It is one place that has always held a lot of awe in my mind. According to me the route is one of the most scenic ones in the region. It was also a long trek and hence a test of endurance. It passed through a dense forest and one could get a true taste of the tropical rain forest.

To save on time we stayed at a place called Kondana around 30 km from the base point. This helped us get some well deserved rest after a gruelling week at work.

VanVihar offered us this chance to rest before the trek. At a very reasonable rate, we got to stay in a rustic Indian village kind of environment. The cost of food was also included in the tariff. There was a fearsome dog guarding the place. The floor was smeared with cow dung. The room was clean though the interiors had the feel of an Indian village home. The owner of the place himself took care of all of us.

The food had a limited spread, just like it is at home, it was cooked well without too much spice yet tasty, again the hallmark of home cooked food.

The Gogate's who own this place say that this kind of setting without mobile phones, vehicles and other urban amenities to disturb help in busting stress. Well, we spent a night there and found ourselves quite relaxed for the long trek ahead. It was indeed a home in the forest

The numbers to contact in case you visit this place are 0091 2148 222930 / 226844

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Friday, 4 July 2008

Lohagad beckons


Lohagad was also one of my favourite spots. Basically because it offers a most beautiful view for a next to nothing effort. This was hence an ideal spot for first timers to trekking. Also the monsoons add some glamour to the mountains with its greenery and the moistness.

We were to start very early. The driver of the vehicle that we had booked turned up late and the whole plan went for a huge toss.

We reached Bhaje from where the trek starts and started trekking around 9 am. According to the original plan we were to start trekking at 7 am.

The Bhaje waterfalls were a sight to behold but nothing more than that as we were behind schedule. We had to complete the trek, return home early enough so that we could all work the next day.

The view on either side was beautiful and the awesome twin forts of Lohagad and Visapur were looking majestic in the fog and the rain.

The fields on the mountains were also unique in the way the inclined land was converted into flat strips for cultivation.

We got to see some beautiful flora on the way the best being the flower that I have captured on my camera.

At this time, very stealthily hunger pangs were attacking us. We had had no breakfast. Hema kept asking for the kanda poha that I had told her aboutand it was quite a wait before we reached the joint where I had my best kanda poha ever. We also decided to reduce the weight in our bags by eating some food stuffs that we carried from home along with good old chai.

The steps to the fort were quite high. One of us found the going tough (due to the weight and girth). The rains were blessing us from the skies and the clouds / fog caressing us all over.

The view of the Pawna lake from the steps of Lohagad was breath taking to say the least. Some of the stretches had flowing water which was the only real adventure in this trek.

This time we were carrying lots of glucose and hence glucose water was the drink of choice. One of the trekkers was carrying a bottle of tang which was also very refreshing when we had lost a lot of fluid.

The tricky issue here for me was to determine how much fluid was lost, as it was raining and very foggy and the sweat would have got lost in the rain. I was scared of consuming more fluids lest it add to my intra dialysis weight gain. Whichever way, it was definitely more easy to trek when it was raining rather than when it was sunny.

At one point on the fort, we observed a unique phenomenon. Due to the gusts of wind water from a waterfall was flying upwards when it should have been falling to the base of the fort. It was like a huge natural spray and was most refreshing to get drenched in.

We looked around the fort in extremely poor visibility and intense fog. But I guess it added to the beauty and the ambience.

I was really enjoying myself. Really living life to the fullest. Living 100%. Because I had chosen. Chosen to live!!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A glass half full - the wrong example

I had gone for my friday dialysis. I was very excited as I had a trek scheduled for sunday. That too to a place which was easy to reach, the trek being easy and the scenery at the place being divine and inspirational.

I expressed my state of mind to a fellow patient. Well that was it.

I got a firing of my life after that. Since I was suffering from end stage kidney disease I was not supposed to exert myself. He felt that he himself was not able to climb four storeys to reach his residence. He wondered how I could go trekking. Not to be satisfied by this, he came across and told me about dire conditions I would need to face while going uphill.

The opinion was that since we are having a kidney issue, we should not live life to the maximum. I am of a different opinion. Yes, we need to take care of our diet etc. but why should we stop living

There is a famous example of a half full glass of water that is always cited. Either you take it as half full or half empty. Unfortunately, the same does not hold for life.

Till we are alive we are 100% alive. There is no such thing as half alive. So till we are alive we need to live it 100%

There is nothing called living life 50%

Either we live life or we dont. I choose. I choose to live!