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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Change and Learning

There have been many ups and downs in life. So much so that the mind has got trained to view any incident as just an incident and not an up or down. This is because even if it is a down in the short term sense of the word, the learning from it is very high. So in a way a "down" is not a down but an "up"

We keep moving from one incident to another, one course to another, from one set of people to another, from one situation to another, from one job to another. We might keep changing internally as well, as they say change is the only constant. Change is irreversible and cant be resisted. The most successful people in my opinion are those who can accept change more easily and learn from each cycle of change that they go through.

Change is truly inevitable. One needs to remember this all the time, and in fact internalise this reality. Nothing lasts for ever.

In my short but full life, I have seen so much change, so much uncertainly, each incident introducing a totally new set of variables, making life a much more interesting and complete experience. Its time for one more change and yes to thank all those who have supported and nourished my learning in this phase.

So in a way change is not the only constant. It has a partner that makes the process of change worthwhile and much richer. Learning...........

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Peb a.k.a Vikatgad

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.


V Hikerz was a very active group. We had been to our regular trekking destinations. Our new members were now more or less accustomed to what trekking was. It was maybe the right time to take to uncharted territory. We thought of going to some place where we had not been before. Sagargad was one such place. It was known as Sagargad due to the wonderful view of the Arabian Sea from its ramparts. Sagar means Sea.

The trek started from Khandale village near Alibag and was around a couple of hours duration. We crossed a stream and then few of us went uphill. Some others waited for a couple of groupies who were to join us from Alibag. It was a wonderful trek. Quite easy and with beautiful scenery. There were no tricky stretches neither were there any dangerous patches. The path was well defined. Also though it was very humid the river towards the middle of the trek was a great relief. We frolicked in the waters for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We took 3 and a half hours to reach the top. The view from the top was also awesome, specially the Vanar Tok which is a pinnacle adjacent to Sagargad. We sat here and had a superb mimicry session by Rama. Rama and myself go back a long way and know each other from almost 18 years. It was the first time in years that I saw him play the mimic. We came back and took the same bus back to Mumbai. Since it was already quite late, we had dinner on the way back.

A trek that was meant to be a couple of hours durations one way (around 5-6 hours totally) took us around 8 hours. It was not the amount of time spent that counted actually. The time was spent in enjoying nature, in frolicking in the flowing waters, in breathing the fresh air that the place had to offer, in getting immersed in the wonderful scenery around the place, in checking out the nooks and corners of the fort. In fact while checking one of the corners, we saw some flowing water coming out of a funnel that was shaped like a cows mouth. This was called the Gow mukh (Cows mouth).

We filled our empty water bottles with this water. It was so sweet, so refreshing so rejuvenating and quite the right temperature (wasnt too chilled nor warm). I am sure it had a huge load of natural minerals (not added artificially as in bottled water)

Bottled Mountain water costs around Rs.25/- a litre in Mumbai on an average.

This one was unlimited and we got it FREE !!

Bharat Bandh - A Memorable Trek

The prices of fossil fuels in India are monitored by the government. In fact all the petrol/diesel prices are determined by them. And whenever these prices increase, all transportation rates go up and leads to an overall inflation. The prices start pinching us all the more.

To protest against the unprecedented rise in fuel prices, the entire opposition had called for a protest strike on a monday. Our trek planned for sunday had just been called off due to lack of participation. However, those who had confirmed were a bit upset due to the cancellation as they were looking forward to the trek.

On sunday night, I received a text message from one of my colleagues that monday was a declared off at work due to the impending strike. This happened at around 930 pm. This was also exactly the opportunity that we were waiting for. We wanted to trek badly. It was more than 2 weeks since I had trekked.

I called up a couple of regulars who readily agreed. It was like the old days. I felt so nostalgic. In the 90s when we were trekking we used to meet at Dadar station at around 1030 pm start making calls to our regulars and set out by the last train that went to Karjat. This train left CST (terminus at Mumbai) at around 1245 am.

This was the plan that we thought of following. All those who had confirmed for the cancelled plan were contacted by priority. The others contacted were those whom we know are passionate about treks. We were able to collect a crowd of 4 in about an hour.

We set out by the train and like old times decided on the train that we would go to Kondana Caves. The caves are Buddhist Caves with nice carvings as a wonderful waterfall makes a natural curtain to those caves.

The train took us to Karjat at around 3 am and then we took a walk to a junction in Karjat from where we were lucky to get a ricksha to the base point. We know a place called Van Vihar ( a forest lodge) in this place. We woke up the owners at around 530 am. We had a change of clothes freshened up and started the trek.

We were up at the caves by around 830 am. We took several breaks along the way. yet we had completed the trek in no time. The waterfall was empty, maybe due to the bandh. It was like our private waterfall. It was such a wonderful feeling. Enjoying the water with no one to disturb us. Specially the kind of crowds who come to the waterfall to consume alcohol and end up creating a scene.

The caves were wonderful. Though I had been here once before, I was unable to enjoy the pristine beauty of the carvings and the splendidly serene environment due to the crowds. The birds were chirping away to glory. The waters were flowing. The air was as pure as ever. Whatever needed to refresh us was there and there were no crowds.

Maybe because nature didnt depend on fossil fuels to survive and just being themselves !!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Introduction to Trekking

Lohagad is a very easy trek. In fact its one of the easiest ones. Hence it is a very popular trekking destination and has also become almost a picnic spot.

There are a few members in V Hikerz who do not enjoy going to Lohagad. The crowds there make it a very noisy place. But the beauty of the place is unquestionable.

Also since it is an easy trek, it becomes a great advertisement for trekking as a hobby. A means to get urbanites to appreciate nature. I have seen so many friends starting off with Lohagad and taking to trekking as if they are a fish in water.

Hence we always have a trek to Lohagad in our itenerary at V Hikerz. This is double important as there is a nice waterfall towards the end of the trek which refreshes the tired limbs.

This year too we planned Lohagad towards the beginning of the season.

We had a whopping number (32 to be precise) for this trek. This was the second trek this season where we had 30 + participants.

It was great fun overall. After my experience at Naneghat I was also very circumspect. I was not sure whether I would be able to trek.

I have been a founding member of V Hikerz and also happen to be one of the most experienced trekkers in the group. I know the routes. If I end up getting cramps or something its an awkward situation to be. I should be the one supporting others who might get tired or develop some problem. Fortunately for me, our group is very understanding. They adjust to my limitations and dont make me feel left out. This was weighing heavily on my mind.

But this time I didnt leave anything to chance. Post dialysis I slept well on saturday, I had lots of water and had hydrated myself enough for the outing.

Luckily I didnt face any issue.

We had a great trek. Though there was no water in the waterfall, the awesome view from the top made up for it. The clouds passing by showing us with a drizzle were the crowning glory. A few inew members really enjoyed the trek.

Maybe there was no rain, maybe there was no water in the falls, maybe it got quite hot at times, but there was a silver lining to the cloud.

A few more people were now introduced to appreciating nature, to the wonderful hobby of trekking........