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)