Cold, unmerciful rain battering down upon us, violent gusts of wind trying to knock us down and gravity attempting to gobble us up if we made the slightest misstep these were the conditions which got me wondering, Hey what on earth was I thinking of when I signed up for this! But all that vanished in a trice, once the euphoria of having made it to the top of Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra at 1646 meter 5400 feet kicked in.
It all began on a Saturday night, 25th July, when a motley group of trekking enthusiasts and first-timers gathered at Dadar East to board the bus to Bari village. After a bumpy, tiresome 4-hour ride, we finally arrived at the base village and quickly hit the floor for a short nap.
After some tossing and turning, I stirred to the sound of someone announcing @7.30 in the morning, “Wake up every one! It’s time for the trek.” After a light breakfast of delicious poha and tea, we were all raring to go. Even a torrential downpour was not going to dampen our spirits! After a brief round of introductions, we were all set to scale the peak, under the watchful eye of our guide, Mr. Prashant, from Treks and Trails, India.
The trek had been described as having medium difficulty, and that certainly seemed to be the case. At the outset, we had to cross a rivulet, which morphed into a mini-waterfall a few meters away. Having passed the first obstacle unscathed, we trudged on. The scenery consisted of mainly paddy fields surrounded by lush green foliage with the hills beckoning us in the backdrop.
We made several stops along the way to regroup and recharge our batteries as there were people of varying ages and experience. Many of these points provided amazing panoramic views of the surrounding Sahyadri range. The topography varied from muddy tracks to rocky slopes and slippery steps, with patches of plateaus. There were man-made staircases at several spots to support the ascent. Mentally, I thanked my stars for having purchased proper trekking shoes from Decathlon a few weeks earlier without which it would have been well-nigh impossible to take on this challenge!
Around the 75% completion mark, we came across a stall selling hot tea and onion pakoras, the smell of which sent our shivering group's taste buds into an overdrive. We entered the cozy stall, already jam-packed with other trekkers having similar cravings. While waiting for our snacks, my analyst friend and batchmate Harsha nd I tried to estimate the daily earnings of the chaiwallah. It turned out he pocketed between Rs 2,000-10,000 a day, depending on the season, with monsoon being a busy period.
After a brief but satisfying repast, we covered the last leg of our expedition and reached the top within an hour, around 11 am. Nothing could have prepared me for the scene I witnessed- winds howling and rain lashing down on a large number of people gathered- some were huddled together, too cold to move, while the more adventurous ones moved about carefree. There was a small, quaint mandir to pay respects to Kalsubai devi, whose walls offered some protection from the elements.
We spent about an hour at the summit, taking in the view, sharing stories along with kachori, bhujia and an assortment of namkeens. A mother in the group also jokingly asked for a sip of brandy for her son, who was feeling slightly cold! Having snapped a few pictures of the gorgeous surroundings and with relatively fuller stomachs, we began the descent.
During the ascent, I’d imagined that the return journey would be more arduous as due to gravity, we would have lesser control over our movements. To the contrary, the descent turned out to be much easier and faster. With growing confidence, our speed accelerated and six of us soon managed to outpace the larger group. We touched base within 2 hours, around 2 pm where a hearty meal of roti, mixed beans, zeera aloo, dal and rice was waiting for us, prepared by the village residents. This was followed by suji halwa for dessert.
With our hunger satiated, we decided to change into dry clothes and waited for other members of the trek group, who took another hour to arrive. Once everyone had eaten and had sufficiently recuperated, we departed from the village for Mumbai at 5.30 with fond memories of a day well-spent. My adventure drew to a close, only for another to begin soon.