Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ambling in the sahyadri woods

Kartik is 18 years old, energetic, college going person who is on the lookout for an outlet to his excess energies that does not find expression in the otherwise stifling city-life with its movies and malls. Deepti, 21 years has just started working in uptown Mumbai and has begun to love the small freedom that earning money has given her. She wants to explore her independent spirit further. Her friend’s approach to going for shopping regularly or eat-out is often a tad bit expensive & unhealthy for her taste and does nothing to enhance her independent spirit. Karnik 35, is a disgruntled corporate person tired of routine working & lifestyle that Mumbai offers. While he has no complaints on the pay, his inability to get a good long vacation break is making him irritable. Kajal 36 is suddenly feeling claustrophobic in her own home in Mumbai. She needs an avenue to be by herself and rearrange her priorities in life. Nisha 29 is unmarried and missing her friend circle who are all married and settled elsewhere. Several such people with similar need for a break, break their heads to find the right cure in vain; until they all hit upon trekking in Sahyadris!

Sahyadris - a mountain range that extends from Kerala to Maharashtra offers “just what good doctors would advise” kind of break for many living in the urban and concrete confines of Mumbai city. Being as close as 2-3 hours drive to the Mumbai outskirts, it makes the right weekend break for the city dwellers. A teenager, Kartik can get gung-ho on climbing it’s peak & find positive release for his excess energy. The independent spirit of a Deepti like women can find outlet to mental shackles and restriction through small treks and in unison also help her keep fit and healthy. The bored outlook from Karnik like people can get replaced with inexhaustible joy in trekking on weekends (There is no issue of obtaining vacation time here). For women like Kajal, weekend treks offer the time and solitude for a little soul-searching away from family & the maddening crowds with the calm therapeutic effect of nature bringing in a warm glow while people like Nisha find themselves a new hobby that ushers new friends.

Trekking in Sahyadri can be very seductive as several answers to city living problem gets automatically addressed ambling along the trials of Sahyadri peaks. While resorts and hill stations also are in the lap of nature, these avenues do not satisfy the inner core. The raw & harsh nature that one faces while trekking along the Sahyadri peak ends up bringing the feel good factor. As one struggles to overcome the harshness of nature in terms of terrain and weather, on reaching the destination one is overwhelmed with the sense of an immensely satisfying accomplishment that hits the core of being. During monsoon, the green overcoat offers regalia to the entire Sahyadri belt that is very pleasing to the eyes and the camera (if you possess one). Innumerable waterfalls along the trail make one as gay as a child. Post monsoon, the blooming of flowers along all trials, gladden and raise the spirit of the hiker making all worldly man-made objects of pleasure insignificant. The chilly winter mist makes one revere the warmth of the sun that shines everyday in the Sahyadri range. Similarly in summer, one appreciates the mild coolness of the night as one is able to easily sleep in the open, staring at the starlit-skies (there is no pollution to darken this vision).  The rural lifestyle that one is introduced to, makes one value basics (like food, water, shelter, electricity) taken for granted in city.

Truly, when one explores Sahyadri and is ready to go through the hardship (of trekking), nature opens up to let you in on her secrets places that leaves you enthralled and in rapture. Your city worries no more become the bone of contention for another trek, as it becomes irreversibly replaced by an innate craving for being nature’s favourite child.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Experiences on a typical Moonlight Trek

End of last workday for the weekend & there is this sweet anticipation in the mind for the night ahead. I am off for a moonlight trek to Peb near Matheran. 7 PM-Sitting inside the car (there are 2 of them this time) heading for Peb, several others inside the car chatter away in anticipation as well as reliving old times together. The fresh faces lap up every word of the senior discussing on treks while trying to contribute to the conversation in any small way and position themselves in the group. Around 9 pm, closer to our destination, we stop for our food. An hour later, we are staring into the clear skies lighted beautifully by the moon at the base point. This is start for our moon-light trek

The torch becomes most important tool for our night rendezvous with the mountain. A newcomer might ask “should I remove my torch?” This is seemingly unnecessary as the moonlight makes it easy for us to place our steps carefully at right places even when there is no other manmade source of light. Yet, the presence of torch offers reassurance to the modern day trekker used to street lights. Again, even in the moonlight, due to presence of trees & its shadows some areas appear dark, while the path remains uneven & the torchlight helps.

Trekking in the night is way different from trekking in the daytime. I have always looked forward more to the night treks than the daytime trekking in the Sahyadris. The reason for this partiality is not far. During the night time, it is always more pleasant & definitely more cool than in daytime. This makes the arduous plodding more bearable than when the sun is beating down on us. While sweating on treks is common, the sweat offers a coolness in night every-time we take a break. The tiredness of limbs that becomes acute in daytime trek, does not reflect most of times on a night trek. How is this possible, you might ask or think? When hiking in the night, owing to peculiar nature of night & darkness, people tend to walk carefully & as gently as possible to avoid accidents. The rhythm in hike exists, yet this rhythm is softer during night treks making it gentle on the limbs. Thus one can get more human mileage if required during the night trail!

Another wonderful aspect of the night trek is that unlike day treks when the group tends to split into multiple faction based on trekking speed & vision of destination, in the night trek, the distance between marching people is very little. There exists a physical proximity of group members to avoid getting lost. The proximity is also necessary wherein the leading person directs the following members to avoid mishaps due to sudden depression or rise along the uneven surface of the treacherous path followed. Owing to this closeness of members, every person automatically feels equal to the challenge of reaching summit. Again, due to this temporary bonding, every person co-operates and helps the person next or behind to him or her and thus finds joy in feeling powerful.

It has also been my experience that fresh trekkers who tend to lose heart about reaching summit during daytime owing to the vision of distance or seeming difficulty in trail, find themselves amazed the next day on their way back from the night trek. It is always hilarious to see the expression of wonder that questions ”Hey! Did “I” climb all that way up?? How did I manage to do it?” Trails that otherwise seems to suggest signs of difficulty & long distance to the newcomer due to it’s visibility in daytime are easily & safely completed in night time. Owing to person’s unique culture in city life, the mind gives a negative signal of impossibility to the newcomer sometimes. Yet the same person realizes on the way back from a night trek that it was not so difficult after all. I also believe that a fresher who does his 1st trek in the night and later treks in the daytime always ends up feeling that night treks are far better off!

Lastly on reaching the summit in the middle of the night, there is always an excitement on reaching the shelter place that despite it being otherwise the normal time for sleep, one tends to feel more content in just feeling the coolness in the air and the sweetness of offering well deserved rest to the limbs for long time before falling asleep. For the enthusiastic group members, it is also tea time or soup time at 12 pm sometimes. For these people there is a joy in preparing tea and getting warmth from the fire as well as the hot beverage prepared. Chitchat becomes very meaningful on such occasion. There exists a true joy in small things. The tea becomes heavenly (especially when one is also faced with the panoramic view down below through moonlight)

All in all, the otherwise troubled mind obsessed with routine work and family related chatter finds release & freshness in the following morning of the night trek that remains in his heart for a long time (It is always the prelude for the next trek)