Saturday, 2nd August,2008: We woke up to another overcast, wet morning in Mumbai. It was early morning and we were still pretty much sleepy. After our mandatory chores we waited expectantly for our hired Chevrolet Tavera with the driver, supposed to report at 5:00 am. Timeliness is a virtue rarely found in the Indian subcontinent and so when the driver called us at around 5:10 am we were pleasantly surprised. However, soon to our dismay, we realized that the driver was not very direction savvy. It is after 45 minutes that we finally managed to spot him wandering around our society.
And when we saw him we were not quite sure if he was of an eligible age as well. So much so for a good start to the day.
The previous evening my office team(my boss Deepak,Aparna and me) had the spent the evening buying accessories and food. Shorts,shoes,jackets,chocolates,chips,bread,juices and bread spreads formed part of our travel basket. All the food along with the rain gear now formed part of our backpacks.
We had to pick up Aparna from Borivilli. After some struggles with the routes,the accelerator and the gears, we somehow managed to help her aboard.
It was already close to 7’0clock and we had a long drive of atleast 200 kms ahead of us. Telling the driver to speed up seemed futile as the consequences could be fatal. Neither did we know the route,so in essence we were left at the mercy of the driver and the ever helpful Maharashtrian Public.
The driver was an interesting personality in himself.He seemed new to the wheel and the city but would not bend to ask directions from us or the public. This trait of his soon found us racing towards Mumbai on Nashik Road from Thane instead of going the other way towards Kalyan and Igatpuri. If not for the signboards on the highway we would have soon found ourselves outside Victoria Terminus.
After a dose of anger and frustration, our driver seemed meeker and ready to move in a direction which we decided on. And so we were back on the highway,this time racing in the right direction.
One stopover for breakfast and we were back but soon were stuck in a traffic jam that seemed to stretch for miles. The location however was scenic with streams on one side and the railway track on the other. 1 hour and 2 chocolates later the traffic jam seemed to be thawing away.The culprit: an oversized iron part resting on a puny Volvo truck.
We finally reached Igatpuri at around 1:00 pm and took the first detour towards Bhandardhara at a village called Ghoti. A densely populated village, the thick iron spoked umbrellas with spear like extensions were showcased throughout the marketplace.
The route beyond Ghoti remains one of the most enchanting sights. We stopped at multiple points enroute simply to gaze and take some snapshots of the beauty around.
Our destination was Bhari, a village at the base of the majestic Mt Kalsubai. With lots of school children around, our spirits were a bit dampened as the trek seemed to be an easy one. It is later that we realized that generally,people walk till a temple midway to the top.
At 1696m or 5400 feet,Mt Kalsubai has the distinction of being the tallest peak of the Sahyadris. The first few steps involved passing through the slush of mud and goat dung to reach a furiously flowing stream.
After crossing the stream began our trek with each step increasing in complexity and requiring more movement of the muscles.
We moved our way up with the rain slowly gaining momentum. With increasing gradient,the views also just became better.
A look above would reveal some gushing waterfalls and the imposing head of the mountain. “would we manage to reach the summit? and that too before night?” was a thought that started to bother me. However, we kept on moving till Aparna’s muscles said no. Tired and too fatigued to move after some slips and a long tedious walk, Aparna told us to carry on . Two village kids who had been accompanying us stayed back with her while we pressed on.
The incline became steeper and at times it was tough to find a firm footing. We soon reached the base of the stairs that were leading to the summit of the mountain. Climbing was slowly taking its toll on me as well. I was dragging myself with constant breaks in between. Gasping for breath I would at times sit in the mud itself. Deepak,with his regularly exercising frame moved on with me following a few minutes behind.
The stairs gave way to metal ladders where there were straight rock faces.These metal ladders had bars so thin and slippery(owing to the rain) that one wrong step and you could fall into the depths.
It was after a while that we could finally spot the summit. A fresh surge of adrenalin ensured that I climb the final few steps and be amidst the white mist which were known as clouds to the people in the valley. We had finally made it to the summit and the view was well worth it. The waterfalls we had seen in the distance were now flowing besides us and the clouds covered us in a white blanket. We could soon see nothing beneath us but a cloud cover that seemed to extend for miles.
The climb down was another story altogether..We had to hold ourselves from looking down at the valley.The ladder bars made my legs shiver and the slippery terrain made me miss a beat quite a few times.
But we made it and soon we were back with Aparna,happily munching away at sandwiches and wafers.
Another 15-20 minutes and we were back in the village and in our car,hoping that our driver would be safely able to reach us home to Mumbai.
Need some more dope on our trek and the place.Heres Aparna’s post on the same