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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Karnala with Newbies

The trekking bug was catching on. Facebook contributed in no mean way to the spreading of this bug.

We had more and more people wanting to join V Hikerz. It was a great feeling. Not only about the incremental numbers in our group, but for the fact that most of the joinees were new to trekking. It felt good that my passion was getting more popular.

In order to ensure that more beginners could join the trek, we wanted to plan an easy one. While thinking of where to go, I went back in time and remembered where I had started my trekking life. Karnala. Yes Karnala it would be for the next trek. The advantage of the place was that it was very near to Mumbai. It also was on the Goa highway, so it was easily accessible as well.

The trek was scheduled for a sunday. On thursday we had 13 confirmations so we booked a 17 seater mini bus. However by friday the bus was overflowing and we had to infact decline around 4-5 people from joining us for the trek.

I was really touched by the tremendous response.

We started early as we normally do and after breakfast on the way at Panvel, we started the trek at around 8:15 am. Given the fact that the group was inexperienced, they were quite quick. We had only a couple of breaks on the way and reached the top by around 10:15 am.

On the way a disturbing incident occured. Just when the steps leading to the fort were about to start one trekker from another group, a much older gentleman fell and hurt his shoulder. Some members of our group witnessed this incident. This scared them no end. To add to this the steps leading to the fort are exposed and look quite steep. They are not as difficult as they seem to be. Nevertheless they can be intimidating.

After administering first aid to this person who was an orthopedic doctor, I cajoled our new members into completing the trek by telling them that they could do it and such incidents are really rare and can be avoided if we concentrate while trekking.

Finally we reached the top. We had a nice session of jokes and anecdotes at the top followed by a snack session. We started from the top at around 12:15 and made it back to the base by around 1:30.

We encountered on the way a huge group of girl students who were on a college / school picnic and had to spend a lot of time on the way as we gave them the first use of the beaten path.

We completed the trek and went to Yusuf Meherally Centre Tara village which was around 3-4 km from Karnala.

As we were moving towards Tara for a well deserved meal, my thought went back in time again. The journey from my first night trek to Karnala, my health issues, my resolve in getting back to something that I loved doing and today we again completed Karnala with a group of newbies as enthusiastic as I was during my first trek. It is another matter how many would continue trekking as I did.

But yes Life had come full Circle !! As it so often does

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Nayaks and Khalnayaks

There are several people who make a mark on us. There are some who make a difference. There are some that matter a lot to us. We expect them to be there for us and reciprocate our feelings and emotions. Some people have really made so much of a mark on us that when we think back about what has gone through, we have very fond memories about them.

Then there are some who really dont matter to us. Simply because we dont know them well enough. And maybe because of this we do not expect anything from them. Not a thing. And when we dont expect anything and yet we get so much from anyone, we end up being touched. Touched to the core.

When someone goes out of his way to help you, when it is really not needed, when one has just met someone and just cares for the person for the sake of caring, it touches and touches the core of your being.

In our lives we meet the Nayaks and the Khalnayaks.

The Nayaks are the good guys while the Khalnayaks are the others. Since we encounter the second category more often, the definition of the Nayaks keep changing. We get more liberal with identifying people as Nayaks.

But when someone just cares for you, just for the sake of caring.

When someone helps you, just for the sake of helping.

When someone ends up touching your core, but this time without any intention of touching,

You have just met a true Nayak

Online Trekking

"Who said its tough ? Its a walk " said a friend. I looked at him and started wondering. Either he has been for that trek several times or he is a might accomplished trekker.

I knew he had just started trekking last year. So he hadnt been to that place. And he has trekked with me ever since he started. So I knew how accomplished he was.

Wondering to myself, I asked him "Have you been there ?"

He said no. I read about it on the internet.

Great to know that the friend had done the research. But unfortunately, his assessment of the trek was based on judgements of others who might be much fitter than most in our group. It could also have been written by someone who wants to show that what others find tough, a walk in the woods for him.

Another friend who wanted to join this particular trek asked me. I said I wouldnt encourage beginners to join the trek. But its definitely a beautiful place.

This friend agreed quoting a friend saying "He feels this place is great in the monsoons. But you can also go now"

Thanks for the permission I felt. Also thought to myself. There are so many experts all over !!

On further inquiry the person who expressed this opinion turned out to be a common friend. For one I know that the person who made this judgement was someone who had just been for 3 treks till date and never before been to the place where we were planning to go. But yes he knew that its good to go there in the monsoons, but thank God for small mercies, we could also visit the place now.

I have been to this place during monsoons as well as the winters. It so happens that the sunset is the most beautiful sight from this fort. And in the monsoons though it is beautiful, its much more beautiful when the sky is clear.

I started wondering, what made the person get this impression. I confronted him and asked him the logic behind this opinion. He said he had read it somewhere on the internet.

I have been trekking since 1993 and have never made judgements about trekking routes and destinations.

I have observed that on a particular day when our energies are low (in my case it happens mostly when I have had dialysis on the previous day), the easiest of treks become very tough and vice versa. It is about our mental frame. Its about how well hydrated we are. Its about how well rested we are.

It definitely depends on how tricky the rock patches or routes are. It depends on the distance.

But it definitely does not depend upon what some Johny has written on the internet

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


After Sudhagad and the wonderful pictures that we put up on facebook, we were getting lot of inquiries to join us for our next trek. The word of mouth was also spreading.

When I started trekking, it was not such a popular hobby. Today with the advent of digital cameras and the internet, lot more people have a desire to see the natural beauty of these places themselves. Today more and more people find the hill stations that are already tourist destinations very crowded and hardly provide the peace that they would give a few years back.

The membership of V Hikerz started growing by leaps and bounds.

Also after the strain of having lost our way on the return at Sudhagad, we desired to do an easy trek. An easy trek was also the demand of the hour as there were a lot of first timers who wanted to trek just for the natural beauty part of it. They were not sure how much of physical strain they could take.

Korigad is located very near to Amby Valley which is an exclusive township off Lonavala. In fact one of the routes starts from Ambavane village which was the original name of Amby Valley.

We got some 21 confirmations. Most of them were courtesy my friend Varun whose entire childhood group joined us. It was a very vivacious group and it was a fun journey.

The route that we took was from Peth Shahapur just 3 km before Ambavane village. It was an easy route that took us to a stone staircase that took us straight to the top of the fort.

There were a few small lakes at the top. But the view from the top in all directions is breathtaking. This was one of the best views that one could get in the Sahyadris with such less effort.

This is an ideal trek for first timers.

We looked around the fort and had tons of fun in the lakes.

We had some snacks and started our way back.

On the way back we stopped at a restaurant at Khandala and had a very late but sumptuous lunch.

However, it was one of the most enjoyable treks that I have ever had. Thanks to all the lovely people who we trekked with that day.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


We have all played games when we were kids. All kinds of games. I used to love playing catching cook, with marbles, with tops, (Dont see such games being played nowadays.) .Dumb Charades, Truth or Dare and antakshari were some other games that we used to enjoy. One of the most interesting games was Chinese whispers.

Some friends used to sit in a circle and someone would start. The starter would whisper something into the ear of the person sitting next to him / her.

This would then continue with this person whispering what he/she heard to the next person. Finally when the last person in the circle heard it, the sentence was supposed to be announced. In all likelihood, the sentence would be distorted and mostly distorted beyond recognition.

As we grow up we remember these games fondly. We also try to replicate some of these in real life.

We talk about people we know in a lighter vein or loosely. And then the whisper continues. And this happens in full public gaze.

In this case the whisper is not within the group but spread from one to many and then to further many more.

This is a dangerous game. Even though we might be doing things innocently without any malice, it hurts.

In this case the whisper has spread far and wide and the distortion is not only beyond recognition, its beyond repair.

Have we really grown up ?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Image and Reality

A camera has been something that has always held my attention. When I was a kid I remember my father taking snaps of me and my sister in his click IV camera. I guess that brand is extinct now. It was a black and white camera and we used to be overawed by seeing our own imaages on a piece of paper. They were in black and white but they were pictures nevertheless.

For a while my dad used a Yashica. This was when I clicked my first photograph.

I instantly loved doing that. Capturing what I see and keeping it for posterity.

When my uncle got a Canon AE-1 I was so fascinated by it. The way the objects in the lens came so close when we zoomed it. It needed a photo roll to be used and hence it was an expensive proposition. I learnt the basics of apertures and shutter speeds with this one and the play of light and the images that were captured therein. The prints were the only output then.

The next generation was the digital camera though it was an expensive proposition in the beginning.We would see through a bigger window what we were about to capture on camera. Also the photo roll was eliminated and pictures became more and more true to life.

The better the camera the better the output. It was really a great experience. The advent of social media signalled the age of sharing. And the camera that could shoot videos became a means to meeting this objective. I carry my Sony Cybershot everywhere now. I trek regularly. Despite all my health problems one thing that I have not given up is the love of photography.

I still am amazed by the replication of reality into a photograph. I cant stop being amazed.

But I also think sometimes.

An image is an image and reality is reality !

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sudhagad - The Descent

We had just 2 litres of water left. The water that the local family (there is one family living on the top) pointed out to us as potable was brown in colour. (exhibiting the sad state of affairs of our natural resources)

We set out for the route to Dhondse. On the way we found a cistern where there was water with some small fish in it. One of us bent down to fill the water in one of the empty bottles. By the grace of God it was clear and potable. (Mountain water sells at Rs.25 a litre in cities)

We filled the rest of the bottles. On the way we felt hungry so had the fruit and biscuits that we had been carrying. Till we reached the hanuman temple. The hanuman temple was supposed to be the end of the tough part and the village Dhondse was very near. We met another group who were trekking uphill and they directed us to move in a certain direction. Apparently they were themselves quite lost and we went in a route that was never ending. But now there was no going back. We kept moving as there was a beaten path. (Normally beaten paths lead to some civilisation)

We walked for more than 2 and a half hours from here and finally could see a village in the distance. On inquiry we realised that we had reached Pacchapur !!

We could not pin point where we had lost the way, but these things are part and parcel of treks.

Luckily and again by the grace of God there was a rickshawala waiting here to ferry us to Pali from where we got another transport to return to Mumbai. He charged a bomb, but we had no choice. We were too tired to walk the additional 6-7 km to the phata. So much for commercialisation.

It was a great weekend. A wonderful journey and a memorable trek.

Well in hindsight, I just realised that it was the mountain water that helped us get till here.

We got it free!!

Sudhagad - The Stay

We were quite tired. We needed to rest our bodies for a while. But we also needed to cook the food. We were also feeling hungry. Also we had planned to move out of the wada at around 430 to look around the fort, the temples etc and then catch the sunset.

Two of us rested while the remaining two cooked maggi noodles. The water that the villagers said was potable was brown in colour and we were scared to fill our water bottles with that. It just seemed like dust at the bottom but nevertheless it was scary.

We decided to use it for our cooking though. After cooking and lunch we set out to look around the fort. The Shiva Temple there was so nice. The Bhorai Devi temple was shut from outside. But it was not locked.

We opened it and prayed inside. The vibrations in this temple were so powerful. You have to experience it to believe it. We could feel the divine presence there.

We did some photo shoots and then moved to an area where we thought we would be able to get the best view of the sunset. We kept walking in the direction of the sun. It was a never ending walk. Well almost. Finally after around 45 minutes of walk we reached the end of the plain and we could see the valley from there.

We took so many photographs. It was quite an unbelievable sight. Something that had again to be seen to be believed.

After the sunset, I was in a daze as we walked back to the Wada. I was getting lot of cramps in my stomach as I was fresh from dialysis the previous day. I was really tired and my body was demanding rest. I requested the other members to take care of the cooking for the night as I needed to rest for a while.

After dinner we were chatting away into the night and the next thing I remember was that I was awake at around 6 am. One of the group members was also awake. We tried to wake up the others but maybe they were not destined to see the beauty of sunrise.

We set out and after a stop over in the denseness for defecation we reached the sunrise point.

We also did a rece for the route to go to Dhondse. We found it and we came back by which time the other two had woken up to rue their missed chance.

Well after seeing the photos I am sure they would come back once more

Just to see the sunrise.............

Sudhagad Overnight - Ascent

Sudhagad was one of the most beautiful places that I have been to. The scenery was so beautiful and there was a valley sighting in all directions.

It would have been brilliant to capture sunset and sunrise at this place. Imagine sunset with one set of mountains in the background and sunrise with another. I could only imagine. But I wanted to check it out myself. In the monsoon it would have been tough as the whole area is like walking in the clouds. However winter seemed to be the best time to do so.

And yes we had to go overnight. So we had to carry provisions for cooking, vessels and the like. I knew that there were some implements available at the wada at the top, but was not sure whether they were in good condition.

We were four of us. One of my friends came to stay over at my place. And we started early in the morning. In order to be able to take the right ST bus we went to the ST stand at night and were told that the first bus to Pali was at 7 am and to Wakan phata was at 630

I remembered though that there were plenty of buses going to Ratnagiri/ Deccan via Mahad that would have gone via Wakan Phata. To the risk of my group feeling let down if there was no bus that early, we assembled at the Mumbai Central ST stand at 445 am

And yes there was a bus waiting for us as well. This was the Indapur ST and would take us to Wakan. We got into it.

On the way we had some piping hot bhajias and chai at Pen ST stand and got off at Wakan. We took a ricksha to the base point Thakurwadi at Pacchapur and started the trek after posing for a couple of photos.

It was quite hot. The cold that we had felt at Pen had disappeared as we started going uphill. We were also carrying a lot of load and we were not used to it. The valley on both the sides was also breathtaking and the view of the tak mak point of Sudhagad was beautiful.

There was no habitation on the way. It was a continuous slope though there were no tricky parts to it. It was a very simple gradient. We were passing through a jungle with valley on the left and the huge motif of the fort on the right. Then suddenly to the right we saw a staircase of the Pacchapur Darwaja. As soon as you complete the staircase the view on the right hand side is again very nice. Some things have to be seen to be believed.

We were also tired here. So the packets of glucose came out and the water. We had some 8 litres of water. We were told that there was potable water at the top but we had to conserve it as much as possible. We had the water with the glucose. Then we resumed the climb and started moving towards the fort. On the way we stopped to get another nice view of Tel Baila and the river passing by in between. We took our own time to reach the top.

Other trekkers would have taken about 2 - 2 and a half hours to reach the top. We took around an hour more. But it was a very enjoyable trek. Amazing scenery in all directions. Something that is so rare.

We reached the top and stopped to take a breath. We had lots of water here, thinking that we would get potable water on the top.

We started out towards the wada and found it after a huge walk. The surface area of the fort is quite huge and no wonder Shivaji Maharaj had shortlisted it as one of the places to build the capital city of Hindavi Swarajya.

We got into the wada and settled down. There was a choolha there that was freshly used. There was a room we were told where utensils etc were kept along with the mats.

The best part was a solar powered lamp that got lit automatically as the sun set and would stay lit till around 1 am

It was a nice place and much better than we had anticipated

Thursday, 11 February 2010


After V Hikerz was formed, we badly wanted to go trekking. We were all excited that we now had a group to identify ourselves with.

All the time we had been trekking in the areas around places that the central railway line in Mumbai took us to. I had heard of a fort near Virar called Tandulwadi. This was quite near from Mumbai and hence we decided to visit this place.

We took a slow train early in the morning for Virar. From Virar we left for Saphale. We had planned in such a way that we would get a connecting shuttle train to Saphale. From here we took a ricksha to the base point. The name of the village was also Tandulwadi. There was a huge police contingent in the village that day as there were some local elections being conducted.

We started the trek and kept going. At a certain point we were unsure as to which direction we should start moving in. We looked around and my instinct took me to a path on the left extreme of a huge plateau.

We were on our way. It was a continuous climb and it was getting very hot. We met a local on the way who was coming down with firewood. He gave us a huge sense of hope saying that we were more than half way up. We rested for a while and then started going again.

Suddenly the wrong things started happening. The sole of one of our friend's shoes gave way. There was no way with which she could trek. But the poor thing being so enthusiastic was somehow managing. But yes we slowed down. My friend who was leading the way suddenly stopped. He had reached a point from where he didnt know how to negotiate the rock. Yes it was quite steep there. Some of us caught up with him and guided him on the rock face.

The question marks had started arising in our minds. To facilitate dialysis, I had a AV fistula in my left hand which I need to protect at all costs. It also means that I cannot do proper rock climbs as I have to put pressure on the fistula and it is dangerous.

The heat was sapping. I was also losing a lot of sweat. I had also forgotten my cap at home so I was having practically no protection against the sun. I started feeling weak. Also started seeing black spots in my eyes. I realised my BP was going low.

The rocks were not so tough. I have climbed tougher rock patches before. However I was feeling weak this time. The others were also losing their morale and the fact that one of us was walking with torn shoes also contributed in taking a decision that we should return. So after having completed around 90% of the trek we took the tough decision to return from there itself. We stopped for a break of snacks.

The view from here was breathtaking. The confluence of the Surya and Vaitarna rivers was awesome. I could only imagine how beautiful this would be in the monsoons.

The rock faces of the mountain had this bare beauty. It was a really strong and robust rock face. Breathtaking.

The rocks really give me a feeling of strength. The strength that stands tall in the onslaught of the rivers, the rain, the sun and all the other natural elements.

The rock that can face the wind that emanates from the sea. The rock that stands tall as trekkers like us climb its surface and proclaim victory. The rock who is a witness to all our empty talks. Yet it stands tall, unmoved, unaffected and undeterred.

On our way back the hands were burning as this same rock had gone hot due to the sun.

We somehow reached the base by around 4 pm. We took a vehicle to reach Saphale station again and come home.

Just when we were about to board the vehicle at the base point, I looked back at the huge rock that was standing.

Unmoved, un affected and unfazed.

Maybe thats the reason they built a fort on its top.