Sunday, February 8, 2009

Prabalgad - Sayadris

There had been a storm warning declared in Bombay the day we visited Prabalgad two years ago; incessant heavy rain had caused flooding during the preceding days and even more rain was expected. As we left early in the morning, we looked at the grey overcast skies and felt like brave adventurers. “I may be a corporate slave chained to a desk from Monday to Friday, but just take a look at what daring death-defying deeds I attempt over the weekend !” One would think we were climbing Everest without oxygen or crossing the ocean in a coracle from the frissons of excitement running through some of us.

Thankfully, Prabalgad is a great trek and does not disappoint charged-up weekend trekkers. It has lush, green, refreshing vegetation – the number of trees and bushes and their varying shades of deep green somehow seem better than many of the other routes in the Sahayadris. There are hills playing hide-and-seek in the mist and streams to splash across on the route. As bonus points to your enthusiastic spirit, halfway up, there is a nice grassy meadow that makes a natural break-for-lunch spot. It is really picturesque as the center patch is grassy and surrounded by a perimeter of trees that sway gently in even a mild breeze.

The climb is pitched at just the right level of difficulty, it does not feel easy but is not too tough either - even a family with a kid did it. Best of all, the first 15 to 20 minutes walk is over a flat area, which gives sufficient time for all one’s muscles to stretch and limber up in preparation for the climb ahead. Given that it is a bit of a long and strenuous trek , such a beginning is a blessing. I definitely prefer such treks to ones, albeit easier climbs, where you begin climbing right at the start. The Prabalgad way, in the beginning, your enjoyment of the scenery and the surroundings is unhindered by panting or wondering when it will end and why you punish yourself like this on a regular basis. On the contrary, in Prabalgad you are raring to go and fully charged when the long climb begins.

Apart from the thicker, more lush vegetation and the conveniently arranged topography, there is definitely something else that is strange about Prabalgad – it’s the very atmosphere. It’s the only trek where five people among the group ended up with the soles of their shoes ripped off, and it isn’t even one of those treks that have uneven terrain and sharp rocks. It’s the only trek I have been on where we were accompanied by two local villagers who disturbed the peace and quiet with squabbles over the correct route throughout and held a diametrically opposite viewpoint on every twist and turn of the path. Not only was each obstinate about establishing that he, and only he, knew the correct path, they were resolute about ‘guiding’ us and refused to go away.

It is also is the only trek I have been on twice, but not made it to the top even once. The first time in Prabalgad, we got lost, came across a lovely waterfall in the afternoon and called a halt there. Away to one end, there was a kind of broad shelf where one could stand with the water pouring over – a lot of people washed their tiredness away by standing under the waterfall and getting a good back massage. The second time in Prabalgad we had almost reached the top, but the last bit of the path had been washed away due to incessant rain. Both times, however, we thoroughly enjoyed the trek and didn’t regret not completing it.


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