Kalavantin Durgcha tharar…

PROLOGUE –

The Sahyadris are not only a mountain range for the people of Maharashtra.
They are a source of intrigue, magic and mystery. These hills and mountains have a history of their own which is famous as being full of treachery and deceit. Also these hills are the abode to countless forts which are deeply rooted in the colourful history of this amazing state. So this is my experience of conquering another hill fort by the name of Kalavantin Durg.

***

Hello friends, as promised I am back with another trekking adventure, this time near Karjat taluka and the fort in question is not basically a fort, but it is a Watchtower, known by the name Kalavantin Durg, to the adjacent fort complex of Prabhalgad.

So the name of Kalavantin Durg appears in the top 5 of almost all the lists when you type “The most dangerous treks in Maharashtra” on your Google search bar. So as history goes, this watchtower was built for a queen named Kalavantin. Not much is known about it other than the fact mentioned above. This time I had Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya to give me company for this outing. It was going to be our 2nd outing of 2019 after our trip to Goa earlier in June, so we were pretty excited to team up together once again.

From left – Chaitanya, Shardul and Tirath

So strap your backpacks amigos and get ready to dwell in another thrilling and vertigo inducing trekking experience.

***

We reached Panvel station around 6:30 p.m. and joined our trek leader Anurag and the other trekkers. We boarded the cabs and proceeded towards the base village i.e. Thakurwadi. Here in the cab we made a new friend whose name was Ishaan. He had a fair amount of experience with treks as this was his 11th trek!!!

Sharing our experiences with each other, we finally touched down at our starting point around 8:30 p.m, refreshed ourselves a bit and set on course towards the camp site which was approximately a 3 to 4 kilometre night trek with decent incline.Anurag informed us regarding the basic rules (and yes hope you remember 3 basic rules of mine :

1. Help yourself first

2. Use your hands along with your legs

3. Never hesitate to ask for help)and also the things which we could encounter in the wild (majorly concerning snakes🙈🙊) and we began the journey.

Soon the trail was filled with white beams of light emitting from the torches or the flashlights of the mobiles. 29 of us moving through the rocky terrain and helping each other on our way up gave everyone a sense of relief.

***

Ishaan, Shardul and Chaitanya were at the front of the group listening to Anurag’s experiences along with Utkarsh, another trekker. Utkarsh worked at the IARC, Indian Astrobiology Research Centre and we all got along very well along the way. Tirath and I were in the middle, catching up with each other’s gossip and behind us were Sharmistha and Yogita who were medical practitioners. on the way ahead, we stopped at a place where they checked our bagsfor the prohibited items (basically cigarettes, drinks and speakers). After continuing for another 2 hours, we reached the spot where we would be having our dinner.

Our stop for dinner

Both Veg and Non-Veg dinner was available and the group got divided with the Veg dinner being served inside a small hut and the Non-Veg dinner being served outside. Trust me, this was one of the most delicious Maharashtrian meals which I would have tasted till now and we restored the calories which were lost since the start of the trek😂😂

After the dinner, we were relaxing and star gazing when Anurag informed us that he had to go back down to get a group of trekkers who were running late because of certain unfortunate incidents and we all utilized this additional time in getting to know our new friends better, Utkarsh sharing his insights on the Universe and what lay beyond while Shardul, Tirath and I were all ears. Chaitanya and Ishaan decided to relax by taking short naps sitting on the chairs behind us while the other group which consisted of 16 people from Accenture Pune office were busy listening to Bollywood songs on their mobiles.

View from the place where we had dinner

***

Finally after 30 to 35 minutes, Anurag was back along with Simran, Ashish and Yashtika. We waited for some more time while they finished their dinner and then proceeded towards the campsite which was a 15 minute climb.Huffing and puffing, we finally reached a plain area where our tents were lined up at the extreme end in an L shape.

The campsite

In the middle the wooden logs and every other thing which was flammable was set and lit up for us to play antakshari which also resulted in a bonding of sorts.

Ready to battle it out

Sitting on either side of the bonfire, our team which consisted of us 4 along with Simran, Yashtika, Ashish, Utkarsh, Ishaan, Tanmay, Abhishek, Sarthak, Arjun, Saurabh, Sharmistha and Yogita somehow managed to compete with the Accenture guys and we never knew when the clock struck 1. Anurag narrated a ghost story about a road which lay ahead in the forest which created a spooky aura. We were busy engrossed in the tale, enjoying the cool breeze which was ruffling our hair till the time we fathered a yawn and we knew it would be hard to carry on now considering we had to get back on our feet in another 4 hours and get set for the trek. So Tirath, Utkarsh and I proceeded to the 2nd tent which was placed on the right of the tent occupied by Shardul, Chaitanya and Ishaan. Behind us was a gorge where nothing was visible except the few scattered lights which extended in the plains down below. It was pitch black and the weather was not as chilly as expected as we closed our eyes dreaming about the pinnacle that lay in front of our eyes somewhere in the dark, waiting for us to set foot on its head.

***

There was a strange sensation on my wrist which woke me up from my slumber. That’s when I noticed it was my wake up call!!! It was 6 in the morning, the wind had become quite chilly and I grabbed my hoodie and made my way out of the tent to take a short walk.

Early morning walks
Ready for a pic anytime

In another 20 to 25 minutes everyone was on their feet. We could see a hazy vision of the fort in front of us but not clear to click a pic. Tea was served, bottles were filled from a pipe which was lying on the ground and everyone warmed up.

A cup of hot tea and a view like this

That’s when the visibility improved and our mind was not ready to accept what lay in front of our eyes😍

Kalavantin Durg towered ahead in all its glory just about touching the clouds above it which managed to create a mighty aura of its own.

Waking up to this…

We captured some awesome pics as seen below with the fort as a backdrop.

After the mini session was over, we gathered over for a group pic as we were well set to commence this trek.

Avengers, Assemble !

Keeping all the other unwanted items in the tents below, we grabbed 2 back packs between the 4 of us and set forth.The path winded from the midst of the forest and in another few minutes we reached the base village of Thakurwadi. The pathway was rocky, sandy and full of tree stumps and roots jutting out from every possible place.

It was inclined a bit with signboards instructing us to take a left or a right.

We bumped into couple of stalls on the way but decided against taking the rest. The troop moved forward with Anurag assisting us expertly that’s when Shardul slipped in a fact stating Anurag was only 20 or 21 years old!!! We were shocked and confirmed the same from Anurag🙊 Realising we were far behind in terms of trekking expertise we again set our minds on course for the way ahead. Soon afterwards, we halted at a stall to gather our breaths as we had gone almost 45 minutes at a stretch without any rest.Clicking some pics of the natural beauty which lay in front of my eyes, I also tried my hand at video blogs by recording a few videos of our ascent.

***

We reached a point where the path narrowed down and took a left. A point to note here, people generally complete trekking Prabhalgad along with Kalavantin Durg so at this place, there is another rough path to the right which at first isn’t visible to the naked eye (kind of a shortcut to visit Prabhalgad).

The route is in the middle surrounded by yellow grass

This path is too dangerous and you can make out from the pic above as there is absolutely nothing for support on your right side which just steeply slopes down several hundreds of feet below and on your left you just have the rock wall. Anyways, focusing again on the task at hand, we slowly and gradually moved forward taking the left and moving a few metres ahead we noticed a small cave on our right.

The cave opening

However, appearances are deceptive as that 4×4 cave gradually opened into a cave complex that could easily accomodate around 50 to 60 people.Maybe that cave was built to launch an ambush on the enemies who would fail to notice it.Moving forward, we kept on hydrating ourselves at regular intervals, as the climb was getting all the more tricky. Chaitanya sat down for a few minutes to get some rest. Tirath and Shardul proceeded forward along with Chaitanya as I stayed behind to click the view from that spot as seen below.

Realising that the base of the fort was just a few minutes away, I put the phone in my zipper pockets and rushed ahead towards the final checkpoint before we would climb on to the stairs.

***

Soon around 8:15 we reached the base point. I got a glimpse of the exposed rock stairs which inclined at almost a 60 to 70 degree angle which resulted in this trek being termed as dangerous. Not only the angle but also the height of the rock stairs which was almost 2 feet was a problem. And we had to climb up 135 such stairs.

Exposed rock stairs as viewed from the base

Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya were well ahead almost 20 feet above me when I started to navigate through the rugged terrain. Slowly and firmly I started to ascend using the full reach of my hands and legs. The steps were too tall so you need to coordinate your hand and leg movement. Once I got the grip, the rest of the stairs never posed any questions.

However, the ascent is not the difficult part as you are always facing the rock side. What is more important is to keep your cool while you are descending as you will witness the sheer depth of the valley right before you!!!

On my way up, I also bonded with Sarthak and Sharmistha. We stopped on the stairs to click some selfies and further helped each other wherever we faced a difficult stretch.

Sarthak busy clicking one of the many selfies

Continuing ahead, we reached the final turn when I spotted Ishaan and asked him how much further did we have to go.He replied in the affirmative stating the stairs were completed and we heaved a sigh of relief. We had almost reached the top as we took in the sight of the mighty Prabhalgad fort.

Prabhalgad fort as viewed from the base of the rock face

It felt as if the fort was watching us keenly, always recording our next step. I reunited with Shardul, Tirath and Chaitanya as we rested for a while and drank water to rejuvenate ourselves after this tiring climb. Now there lay another challenge in front of us. There was still 15 to 20 feet of vertical rock patch where the local village guides had attached ropes to assist the climbers. Remember that if you are trekking alone, you need to purchase a token of Rs. 50 if you want to climb this rock patch. This fee is charged as a convenience fee from all trekkers who trek without any groups.

The vertical rock face

So there was already a queue ahead and hence Shardul and I stood there. Chaitanya and Tirath made up their mind and were against climbing this patch. So after some failed persuasion, we moved ahead as they relaxed down by clicking some pics and taking in the view.

***

One by one the trekkers started ascending as I was busy observing where the people placed their next step. Shardul went ahead as I shot his video and then it was my turn followed by Sharmistha and Sarthak.I was initially scared as it looked a lot tough when you actually are only a few meters away from performing 🙈 Grabbing the rope and positioning my legs on either side of the rope, I started pulling myself up. There were small crevices where just putting your leg and lunging upwards would easily do the trick. There was a local guide assisting us at the bottom along with Anurag who was standing towards the top left constantly instructing me to pull one last time as I had almost reached the apex. One pull and finally I was greeted to the top.

Yo !!!

Carefully I let go of the ropes and proceeded to witness the spectacle. Once on top, I was amazed to see the view from the top😍

Lush green fields met my gaze for several miles coupled with haze and the sun peeking from between the clouds. It was windy and also the flags at the centre of the apex were fluttering rapidly. Right in front of us, the view of th Prabalghad fort became even more enthralling.

Prabhalgad as viewed from the pinnacle

We were stupefied by the sight of it alone.

Lush green fields

Grabbing my camera, I was busy capturing these moments when I heard Anurag calling us for a group pic. Abhishek grabbed the flag and everyone assembled as someone climbed a rock and clicked some selfies and group pics.

At the top of the World (well, not literally🙊😂)

We even clicked pics with the deep gorge (as seen below) in the backdrop and proceeded ahead.

From left – Shardul, Saurabh, Tanmay, Sharmistha, Yogita and Abhishek

Abhishek took out his DSLR and was busy clicking some stunning pics of the fort and us.

Abhishek doing what he does best while Shardul and Anurag attempt the selfie
Utkarsh gets a perfect display pic
2 of our new friends, Yogita and Sharmistha
Ishaan can literally sleep anywhere
Yashtika, its not my fault that Abhishek photobombed😂
New friends❤

Shardul and I were sitting whereby we let our minds go blank to take in this stunning visual. Its safe to say that the essence of a hard climb is worth the view which it offers from the top😉✌ You simply cannot get enough of this thing. Shardul and I were busy discussing about the people at the base who were proceeding to Prabhalgad when we were joined by Tanmay and Saurabh. Both of them were pursuing engineering from Pune. Within a few seconds the discussion had reached towards the Himalayan treks and also the famous Chadar Trek in the north. Tanmay aaked me for some other trekking destinations which were good for amateur trekkers and I recommended Kalsubai and Harishchandragadh (via Pachnai route) to them. We were also joined by Yashtika who was also keen to listen to the topic which was going on. Busy clicking pics and sharing our experiences on the top, I felt my phone vibrate and was shocked to see that almost at a height of 2100 feet there was FULL NETWORK OF VODAFONE 4G😱🥺 My Mom had called me up and it was just wonderful to have a small talk with her from such an height.

***

After spending nearly an hour at the top, it was time we descended. There was a long queue again at the time of descent and once it was my turn to get down, I realised climbing up with the rope was easier than this.

I was scared stiff in the middle of the rock patch and was starting to feel embarrassed as many people were stuck because I couldn’t make it down fast enough. But its alright, prevention is better than cure. Finally I set my foot on the ground and turned around to see Sarthak who had taken a video of me climbing down🙈😂Now was the time which we all were fearing, climbing down the steps.

Shardul is all smiles as we climb down

Shardul along with Tirath started at the front whereas Chaitanya and I were at the back.

So the basic step to avoid fear was to move down sideways and take support of the rock face. This way you wouldn’t be able to see how deep was the gorge.

Taking one step at a time, we were descending at a decent pace. To be honest, the descent wasn’t as tough or fearful as it was being shown on various other Youtube Video blogs of other trekkers. You just need to keep your entire focus on the task at hand for that 30 to 45 minutes. Once that task was negotiated, we were faced with some congestion near the cave which we had noticed during our ascent.

Traffic Jams will never leave us😂

Almost 25 people were stuck at that particular juncture because the road was narrow and people who were climbing up were far greater in number than the people descending. We had to wait for around 15 minutes for the situation to diffuse. Well and we did utilise those 15 minutes to the fullest. Tirath, Abhishek and Saurabh posed in the cave and had their pics clicked.

From left – Abhishek, Saurabh, Tirath and Ishaan

I wasn’t the one to be left behind so even I proceeded with Tirath at the mouth of the cave and got clicked.

Finally getting a good pic with Tirath🙈

Till that time the situation was better and we started our descent further. It was then that we realised that a few trekkers wanted to take the route for Prabhalgad and that was the main reason for the congestion.We stopped at the stall which was there near the diversion and bought some water bottles to refill our stock which was almost on the verge of stockout.

One of the many stalls

***

After that short break, we proceeded at a rapid pace as the heat had gradually started to intensify. Going down that twisted path, we reached the campsite where we collected our bags from the tents and equipped ourselves for the other half of the trek.

Armed and Ready

Still we had to reach the spot where we had dinner the previous night and we were already running late by an hour or so. We gradually reached the site where we stopped for having breakfast when we were supposed to have lunch, so let’s make it brunch😂So there was maggi and kanda poha on offer. We had some kanda poha which filled our tummies after which I went out of the hut to catch a glimpse of the view which we couldn’t witness in the pitch black darkness which had engulfed us during the night. After having the breakfast, we started to move down again as still we had to cover almost 6 to 7 kilometers more.Stopping at a place where there was a gorge and far ahead was a mountain made for a nice background for getting a new display pic.

Once again the path threw twists at every corner as I witnessed a snake which quickly slithered across the steps and into the dense foliage on the other side!!!

***

Soon enough I rejoined the group where Tanmay, Saurabh and I spent the next 30 minutes chatting and getting to know each other better.

With the Science geeks, Tanmay and Saurabh

We discussed everything from Science, CA, treks and what not. Clicking some more pics on the way, I proceeded ahead where I again started a small video blog about the descent. The road ahead was dusty with tall green grass on either side.

Nature trails

There was no one visible in this stretch so I made my way lazily to the spot where they had checked our bags the previous night and I regrouped with Tirath, Shardul, Abhishek, Chaitanya, Ishaan and Utkarsh who didn’t wait for me to take a rest and straightaway we were back on the route almost nearing the end of this arduous hike. The natural beauty just did not seem to stop as we were left to marvel the site of Kalavantin durg and Prabhalgad when we turned around, which looked miniscule from the distance.

We were almost out of gas as the descent was getting tiresome with the sun wandering right over our heads. As I was moving ahead, busy witnessing the landscape, a trekker ahead of me shrieked. That’s when I realised that a snake which was lurking by, stealthily crossed the road which the girl ahead of me had seen and let out a scream. So catching a glimpse of 2 snakes in a matter of 60 minutes sounds pretty awesomeee😍 The path was getting dusty and was scattered with rocks and pebbles which was making it difficult to get a grip. That’s where good trekking shoes like Woodland or running shoes like Skechers (as recommended by Anurag) come in handy. The path had meandered around the corner where we could finally see the cars and jeeps which were parked.

The end of the journey

Yes friends, the trek had come to an end. 7 hours of breathtaking views, difficult paths, steep exposed stairs, climbing with a rope support, watching snakes and greenery which makes you want all of these things more was finally over.We bid adieu to the new friends which we had made and thanked Anurag for what had become one of my personal favourites out of the 3 treks❤ Looking back at the Watchtower guarding the fort for one final time, I closed my eyes and thanked them for what was an enthralling experience✌😄

***

EPILOGUE

Completing this trek which was touted as one of the difficult ones in Maharashtra, notched my confidence up by a couple of levels. This was one of the most emotionally challenging treks for me as my friends know. This trek was not made special by the location, but by the amazing group which had accompanied me in this expedition❤😘 Anurag as the leader was extremely friendly and caring, exactly how a leader should be.

One with the Leader, Anurag Baraskar (2nd from left)

Also the food was delicious compared to the other places I had trekked before. Made some new friends sharing the same love for trekking as well which was the best part of this trip. Finally this trip would have been incomplete if not for my buddies Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya – this wasn’t the last trek for this group, hopefully we can plan the next one sooner.

SQUAD

Also you, the reader, who has constantly motivated me to improve everytime, A big THANK YOU to you as well!!!

I will be back with a better experience to share sooner. Hopefully in a few years time, you will also read my blog on my Everest base camp trek which is my dream😉✌

One more in the kitty

***

Everest of Maharashtra…

Prologue :

So finally guys, I am back.

And this time I am summiting the highest peak in Maharashtra i.e. Kalsubai.

Kalsubai is named after a Koli girl named Kalsu who ran away to the top of the mountain because the family, where she took up service made her perform tasks like cleaning pots and sweeping and she stayed at the top till her demise.

As exciting as it sounds, this trek would surely put forward new challenges and obstacles which I am excited to face.

This trek initially started with 2 people i.e Pruthvi and me and immediately extended to 10 people within a matter of 2 days.

The excitement for this trek was already on cloud 9 as this was going to be a night trek😍

So the other 9 people in the trek were Pruthvi, Harshin, Jay, Raj, Hrutvik, Ashish, Yash, Shreya and Sakshi.

P.C. Ashish
From left – Shreya, Jay, Hrutvik, Sakshi, Yash, Harshin, me, Pruthvi, Raj

So let’s begin the trek friends.

How’s the Josh?😂😂

But, but but, wait….

Before commencing, I hope you remember the 3 basic rules of trekking which I had mentioned in my previous blog, let me remind all of you :

1. Help Yourself First

2. Your Hands are as Important as your Legs

3. Dont Hesitate to ask for Help

***

We met Ashwin our trek leader at CST station and boarded the 8:50 p.m. train and in another 2.5 hours we got down at Kasara station, the meeting point of our trek.We all boarded the jeeps stationed outside the station and proceeded to reach the base village which was another 2 hour drive from Kasara station.Once we reached the village and freshened up, Ashwin conducted the introductory session and we commenced the trek straightaway. There were 2 other trek leaders, Kishor and Suhas. So armed with our torches, we commenced the trek filled with uncertainty and excitement at the same time🙈

***

My watch showed 2:35 a.m. when we commenced the trek from the most popular route which is from the eastern mountain face starting off from Village Bari, 35 minutes late than the scheduled time. We had to reach the peak before 6:45 a.m. which was the main reason for this trek – The Sunrise😍

So 47 people started the trek with Suhas at the front of the group, Kishor at the centre and Ashwin at the end.

The trek followed a naturally made path which gradually became narrower and led us to the base of the moutain. Keeping the torches lit, we proceeded deeper into the forest that covered the entire mountain.

We had one dog accompanying us like the one I found at Harishchandragadh.

The farther we went, the incline gradually increased which exhausted us even more.We all had a great understanding between us as we rotated the backpacks amongst ourselves at regular intervals.

The temperature was dipping as we climbed higher and higher leading to a chilling sensation. Ashwin, our trek leader had informed us that during our ascent, we would encounter 4 plateaus which would act as a spot to take short and quick 5 minute breaks. So we had hardly reached a fourth of the mountain when we reached the first plateau and stopped to gather our breaths, have some nimbu pani or some tasty cucumber. We clicked some pics and drank water to rejuvenate us for the other part of the journey.

Our 2 minute breaks

Soon enough, we were ready to explore the unchartered territory that lay within our sights.

***

The incline had reached the max level and the route had posed new challenges as it was getting rougher by the minute. Loose rocks, rocks thrice the size of a football, broken steps, wet soil at certain places all greeted us during this patch of the trek.

Looking up we could see countless stars in the pitch black sky, a sight which is almost invisible in Mumbai due to the City Lights.

One of the utmost important things in such situations is keeping your cool and taking your time by placing your foot and taking proper support of the objects in your surrounding. The charm of trekking doesn’t lie in how fast you reach the peak, it lies in how well do you respect the challenges thrown at you and how do you counter them.

So we were proceeding at a good pace considering the people who had taken up trekking for the first time and that is when Sakshi was feeling breathless and we all decided to rest at a stall which we sighted further ahead. We rested for around 10 minutes. Harshin offered her Tang while Ashish and Jay ordered Nimbu pani for her to have. Pruthvi, Ashish, Harshin and I were constantly trying to motivate her that the view on top would be worth this struggle, but she told us that it wont be possible for her to continue further😔☹ Ashish stayed back with her with the hope that after some rest they would be able to continue again and rejoin us later (It was really a grateful gesture by Ashish there, kudos Buddy😉✌). We felt sad as we didn’t want to leave one of our group members behind, but safety comes first. So bidding adieu to Ashish and Sakshi, we proceeded further.

***

The time was 3:45 a.m. when we overcame another obstacle in front of us – First of the 3 ladders.

I switched off my torch and put it back in my jacket as I didn’t want to focus my mind on 2 things at that very moment. So the ladder was around 20 feet in height and people were ascending it sequentially. Jay went up the ladder first followed by Shreya and Harshin. I proceeded next followed by Hrutvik, Raj, Yash and Pruthvi.The ladder had 48 rungs and the railings on the side were moving a bit. The entire ladder was stable but at certain places, the top railing was absent or broken which we had to keep in mind while ascending.

Another thing which trekking teaches us is to be alert and observant at all times!!!

After 15 minutes, all of us had successfully ascended and were heading straight ahead to Plateau No 2. Hrutvik and I started gathering pace hence we moved at the front of the group constantly assisting each other with the terrain that lay ahead. We took a break on the second plateau where we had some cool cucumber and I popped some almonds and walnuts in my mouth (dry fruits are your friends while trekking, they keep you warm and also provide you with the necessary amount of energy required by your body to survive in the acrimonius environment).

Hrutvik and I commenced our journey after that short break as we tried to cover up some lost ground. And that’s when an incident occured where fortunately, none of us got injured! So Hrutvik was behind me when we were navigating a tricky tract when suddenly we heard the sound of a rock falling from above. It hit the railing on the side and missed Hrutvik’s face by inches.

We looked above and that’s when we realised the rock might have come tumbling down because of a group of trekkers on the route above us. A close encounter, but lucky that he didn’t get hurt because I didn’t want another of my friend to stay back.

***

The entire group had gathered again and we had slowed down a bit as it was getting too tough for us to continue with this steep incline. Hence, in this patch, we had taken ample of breaks which relaxed us but also cooled down our bodies which wasn’t the ideal scenario for us as we still had to cover a considerable amount of distance in 1.5 hours. The watch showed 4:35 a.m. when we approached the second ladder and the longest of the 3. This ladder extended upto 50 feet after which it took a right and extended further up to 20 feet.

We started climbing carefully as there was a long queue of trekkers already on the ladder. After 20 minutes of navigating the queue and counting the rungs (178 in total🙈) and the climb, we reached the top where we witnessed a stretch of land where the incline had declined a bit. This patch was comparatively easier to maneuver than the ones we had already confronted earlier.

It was already 5:15 a.m. by the time we stopped for another quick break and that’s when Ashwin Sir finally cautioned us that we were in a spot of bother as we might miss the sunrise if we continue at this pace because all other members of the trekking group were miles ahead of us already.

That’s when the sense of urgency took over us and we went all out for the final leg of the trek. No matter what, we weren’t gonna miss the Sunrise guys🙈 and its a human tendency to push yourselves harder when you are faced with trepidation. Well lets find out whether we reached the peak in time for Mother Nature’s Marvel!!!

***

So Ashish rejoined us for the final leg by covering up the lost ground quite comfortably. Unfortunately for us Sakshi couldn’t join us back😞.

So Hrutvik, Ashish and Jay led the pack with Harshin, Raj, Shreya, Yash and Pruthvi in the middle followed by me at the back. To be honest, I was feeling too exhausted till the time the last leg started and was moving at a snail’s pace.

Well, I had made up my mind to reach the top before sunrise so I pushed myself a bit more as this sight cannot be spotted on a regular basis.

And we finally reached the last checkpoint before the 3rd and final ladder which were the stalls where we could have some food and tea. Yash and Shreya had a cup of tea each whereas the others drank some water and proceeded forward. Hrutvik was brisk in the final 45 minutes till we reached the top.

View from the last checkpoint before the summit – the lights are from the torches of the trekkers

***

So it was around 6 a.m. when we reached the base of the final ladder and when we looked behind us, the faintest of orange line could be visible in the sky which had turned a deep shade of blue, which was the sign of the sun coming up.

We hurried up the last ladder which consisted of approx 78 rungs but managed to ascend it in 15 minutes. After the ladder, there were some steps which needed to be climed to reach the pinnacle.

The wind was chilly and the temperature might have been something between 10-15 degrees. It was a really breathtaking experience finally after 4 hours of constant climbing, struggle and exhaustion, we set foot on the Kalsubai Peak around 6:25 a.m. 😍🤩

Celebrating the feat with a pic

The view from 5,400 feet was mesmerising.

Just imagine the view something like this :

Wind blowing right onto your face, and when you look ahead you see the orange in the sky is getting brighter by the minute, the hills which are ahead are covered by clouds, on your right there is the Arthur Lake but you can barely see it and on your left, there is a yawning drop and further to your left are hills lower in height but still covered by clouds😍

Isn’t the view amazing?

If it sounds this exciting, imagine how it would have been if you would have experienced it altogether!!!

Ek group pic toh banta hai Boss!!!

So we started clicking pics, wide angled ones, groupfies, portraits, closeups, candids and fake candids and what not.

Ashwin took out his DSLR and we had a hell of a time getting our pics clicked.

Around 7 a.m. finally we saw the upper curve of the Sun just peeking above the clouds and trust me that was just the beginning.

The moment for which we had climbed this peak was finally here!!! And in its full glory, coloured in a deep shade of reddish orange, the sun rose gradually and to be honest, it felt as if the time had stopped in that very moment.

All of us were left gasping in awe at the different colours this sunrise was producing and soon after another 5 minutes or so, that event was over. Just for a matter of 5 minutes, you might miss this awesome view🙈🙈🙈

Ashish and Harshin in a celebratory hug

And after viewing the Sun regaining its position as the King in the sky, we took blessings in the Temple which is present the top of the peak silently praying for our countless wishes to come true.

Temple of a local deity

At that point you feel as if you are closer to God and he might listen to your prayers conscientiously.After spending close to 40 minutes at the top, it was time for the second side of the coin which was the Decsent.

So amigos, tie your shoelaces, pull up your socks and take some deep breaths.

Why???

Because now you will be able to see the view unfold right in front of your eyes as you will descend😱.

One step here or there and its….

Well let’s not mention it.

So are you guys ready??

***

Well the route was the same, and descending after a night trek is a treat to the eyes in itself, because you get to witness the natural beauty that you missed while climbing in the dark.Starting the ‘Walking’ activity on my Amazfit Bip I noted the time when we began and this would continue to monitor the total kilometres we had trekked downwards and also the time taken.

Just to inform you guys, descending during monsoons and during the season when the sun is out is a completely different ball game. During monsoons you dont feel the need to quench your thirst often while the same reverses during the dry seasons.

So first came the ladder where we encountered a long queue as people were climbing up and down at the same time. Harshin and I descended facing the view in front of us unlike the other people who kept their back facing the view. Trust me it was too easy to get down in that manner and you also get to see the mountains all around you (well if you are suffering from vertigo, then not a good option😂😂).We started around 7:20 or 7:30 a.m. and reached the base stall where we had some tea, kanda poha and kanda bhujiya. This filled our stomachs for at least the majority part of the trek.We replenished our water stocks and set course for the base village again.

The main thing to keep in mind while descending is to descend sideways. This gives your feet better grip and also reduces the risk of falling as when you move sideways, your centre of gravity is towards the back and not at the front like when you descend by walking normally. Also by putting one foot forward, you can judge whether you have got hold of a better grip or not which is not the case when you put both your feet on a rock hoping it won’t tumble. Another way to counter the threat of falling is descending on all fours, yes you heard me right!!! To be completely safe, sit down and gently using your hands and legs in coordination, move down.

***

It was already 8:30 and now the sun was shining in all its glory. The heat was getting to us as we found out that we had just completed 1 kilometre in 1 hour🙈

We kept on hydrating ourselves whenever we got the chance. Finally when we halted at another stop to have some cucumber, the Trek Guide announced that moving forward, we would witness some monkeys so it was better to clear the side pockets of the bags and not to eat food also.It wasn’t until we reached the longest ladder, the 2nd one, that we witnessed the monkeys sitting on the rocks beside the ladder. Ashwin was right behind me telling me how he had been to many different treks when suddenly his walkie-talkie slipped down.He handed over his DSLR bag and also the backpack and proceeded to fetch his walkie-talkie. Once he got his walkie-talkie back, we exchanged the bags at the bottom of the ladder. The thing why I mentioned this incident was that we had to exchange the bags in the middle of the ladder and that was one hell of a task considering one slip up could have led to a bigger mishap.

***

It was around 9:30 a.m. when all of us took a rest at the last stop before we would meet Sakshi again.

Jay and I sat on the steps leading down to the final ladder, clicking some selfies while the others feasted on the cucumbers on offer.

With Jay Tawde

There were treacherous rocky outcrops that overlooked the valley below us.

Descending with a group has its advantages, if you slip up there is someone to watch your back and provide assistance immediately, motivational talks, holding the hands when you are caught up in a tight spot and more importantly it kills the loneliness which I had experienced while descending from Harishchandragadh peak.

Pruthvi and Hrutvik during the descent

Finally we reached the last ladder and climbed down in a jiffy and continued with our journey to Bari Village.We took occasional breaks in order to appreciate the splendid view that was on offer. We also came across a flat land where there were railings on the border. Beyond the railings we saw a valley which plummeted several feet down. Ashish and Shreya stopped there to capture some memories and we joined them to click some groupfies. This entire route had a charm in itself, good backdrops for pics, deceitful rocky patches, smooth and easy to descend slopes and plenty of greenery which was considerably low due to withdrawal of the monsoon season.

***

It was finally 10 a.m. and we reunited with Sakshi and were glad to see that she was feeling a lot better than the last time we had seen her😁

The route down felt extremely lengthy than while climbing up. Our mind was playing tricks on us maybe🙈

The eyes were met with miles and miles of hills which gave you a feeling that you were being watched upon by those hills and rocky mountains with occasional fields resting amidst them. It was worth giving a thought how the denizens managed to live in such a confronting environment!!!

Finally around 11 a.m. we reached what we thought was the base village but it wasn’t to be. Ashwin clicked a groupfie with his GoPro cam with us and assured us that the village was just another 20 minute trek from the spot where we were standing. Well we were just hoping he was correct this time around😂😂

Anyways, we didn’t have any option, so it was get, set, go again!!!

On the way down on this final stretch where there were green fields on either side of the narrow route on which we were walking, Yash was extremely drained out which resulted in him slipping a couple of times.

It was completely normal considering even I slipped a couple of times on my first trek.

Fortunately we had ample water left with us which helped Yash recover a bit. It was commendable that he was joking despite his situation that this would be his first and last trek😂😂

I do hope he changes his view later🙈😉

***

After 3 hours and 25 minutes of descending, covering an approx distance of 3.15 kilometres, we finally reached the Endgame – the point from where it had all begun.

Trust me this sight was so soothing but deep down there was sorrow as we had to rejoin our mundane lives from the very next day. We turned back to look just how far up we had been. The peak along with the flag looked minuscule in nature.

The bulge in the centre is the Peak, view from Bari village

We ourselves were shocked that we had traversed this long. The important feat was that everyone enjoyed the trek, there were no injuries of any sort, Harshin had the best time of his life😂😂 and everyone felt proud on completing the trek as it provided us with a new zeal and already we started preparing plans for the next trek.

We said our silent goodbyes to the mountain and thanked it for the experience which it had provided us.

Now was the time to refresh ourselves.Jay and I along with Harshin and Yash changed into a fresh pair of clothes and washed our face in the cool water multiple times. The splash of water on our tired looking and somewhat grubby faces sent us into Nirvana😂 and we just couldnt resist parting away from that refreshing water.

As we waited for our jeep to arrive, clicking some selfies and pics with Ashwin, I realised that although this trek was challenging enough, I can safely quote Ashish again who said that once you trek Kalsubai, no other trek is difficult for you!!!

With the Trek Leader, Mr. Ashwin Khadtare

***

Epilogue :

We can conclude saying that this trek is a test to your stamina rather than a test of your mountaineering skills. It was a 12 hour ordeal, but every minute was worth it. The descent was as enjoyable as the ascent. Although some people might opine that what is there in treks? Just mountains and a different view of the surroundings, but every trek has its own bag of tricks which we need to negotiate.I hope even you, the reader would be able to differentiate how my previous trek to Harishchandragadh and this trek to Kalsubai were miles apart.

Let’s see where my next trek would be, haven’t finalised any particular destination yet. But I will return soon, another journey, a bag full of emotions and another memorable ride for you guys. Let me leave you with this for the time being :

“Travelling the road will tell you more about the road than Google will tell you about the road”

– Amit Kalantri

***

P.S :

1. Special thanks to Ashwin, Kishor and Suhas who head The Greenworld Explorers trekking organisation. They made sure that this experience would have been possible for us by taking utmost care and providing the first timers with help and motivation.

From left – Suhas, Ashwin and Kishor

2. A special mention to all my friends who had accompanied me to this trek, it was a fun journey but without you guys, it would have been a bit less enjoyable😉❤

With the ones who made it special❤
Facing the challenges with a Smile😄

VERTIGO !!!

Prologue

Good evening friends, yes I am back. Hope you all are eager to accompany me to Harishchandragad, a hill fort located in Ahmednagar district near Malshej Ghat.
Folks it is going to be my first climbing trek (previously have been to treks at Thekkady in Kerala, but those involved going on a trail through the Periyar Wildlife Reserve)
So hope you all have a good time accompanying me to the fort😉

*****

22:45 P.M.

30 minutes had already passed since I had reached the entrance of the Footprint Crossfit Studio. Sitting on a bench there with my Mom, I watched as some boys were playing a game of football at the Turf just besides the studio. For a moment even I was enticed to take to the turf and attempt a few shots but soon reality struck me😂
This trek was going to be pretty special for me as the trek difficulty level was going to be moderate and this trek is particularly in every list of ‘Top 5 treks in Maharashtra’.
The fort is accessible via 3 routes :
1. Pachnai Route (Easy)
2. Khireshwar Route (Moderate)
3. Nalichi Vaat (Tough)
The Pachnai route derives its name from the 5 (Paach) waterfalls which are visible from the starting point of that route. This is the simplest route which is good for a beginner attempting a trek.
The Khireshwar route is named after the base village Khireshwar. This route offers the best scenic view for all trek lovers and fortunately, this was the route which we had selected for our ascent.
Nalichi Vaat is tough as it is a host to difficult routes, boulders, rock climbing and what not🙈
So I had researched about this trek as soon as I had enrolled for it. Basically, I have a knack that I should know the place which I am visiting. That is, I should be familiar with some names or places which I would be visiting there.
People started gathering near the studio and started exchanging pleasantries as most of the trekkers were members of this studio. Seeing my fellow colleagues sharing a laugh with their friends made me reminisce about my friends who couldn’t accompany me unfortunately due to some or the other reason. But well, there is always an opportunity to make new friends right? And that’s why I was excited!!!
I wasn’t all alone as along with me there was my neighbour Darshan uncle.

Soon, Suranjana Mam, the one who runs the studio called us out for clicking a group picture before we commenced with the journey. There were people of all ages, some jovial, some serious, some living in the moment and some like me, the non members, looking forward to strike up a conversation and have a good time ahead.
The group pic was followed by a Boomerang and finally the Tshirt distribution as everyone awaited the arrival of the conveyance – the Bus.

23:10 P.M.

Finally we heard the honking and we turned around to find the bus which was white in colour waiting for us at the gate. Everyone scampered with their bags to catch their desired seat. I got the window seat with another empty beside me (well it did feel lonely) and everyone settled with their groups as the bus began its journey to reach its next pickup point and I immersed myself in writing this blog, waiting for the sun to rise again as tomorrow was definitely going to be mesmerising.
Good Night folks, an adventurous morning awaits all of us😉✌️

*****

2:00 A.M

I felt a jerk and was woken up from my sleep.
The bus had stopped near the entrance to Malshej Ghat. As I had just woken up, I couldn’t understand what Suranjana Mam and the driver were discussing. But in bits and pieces we came to know that due to excessive rain fall, the entrance to the Ghat was closed down. That meant the route we were going to take to reach the fort was closed and we wouldn’t be able to reach Harishchandragad ☹️ So Suranjana Mam was explaining the Plan B to us which would involve trekking to Kohoj fort in Palghar. To be honest, no one was excited to go trekking at Kohoj fort as Harishchandragad is one of the best treks in Maharashtra. But soon, the driver along with Manish and Suranjana Mam decided to travel to Harishchandragad via another route. So yes Plan A was still on and everyone looked relieved and got back to sleep.

*****

6:15 A.M.

Manish woke us up and told us to get ready with windcheaters as it was raining heavily. And when I got down from the bus, I was taken aback!!! The view before me was out of this world.

There were mountains on three sides and a road leading us towards them. Further the peaks and plateaus of the mountains were invisible as they were covered by dense fog

. From the base village only we could view upto 8 waterfalls😍 So I had some pretty positive vibes for what the trek had in store for us.
Okay so first Manish (one of the guides) started off with a few warmups and we followed him. After the warmups, we clicked a group pic with all of them eagerly waiting to start this physically demanding trek.

So before you warm up and join me in this trek, there are 3 golden rules every trekker should be aware of :

1. HELP YOURSELF & THEN HELP OTHERS
Every trekker should first help themselves and get into a proper position before he proceeds to help his fellow trekker so as to not put both of their lives in jeopardy.

2. HANDS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS LEGS
Trekking is not only about walking on your legs. Your hands can be as valuable as your legs. Your hand and leg coordination will determine how successful will you be in your trek. Hands can be used for grabbing on a rock or a tree to use them as a support while ascent or descent.

3. DON’T HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP
This is the most important rule!!! Never ever hesitate to ask for help. Its better to ask for help rather than regret later. And helping each other is the main essence of a group trek. It shows how supportive you and your fellow trekkers are. And sometimes support is all what a trekker needs to cross a difficult patch in the middle of a trek. So ask for help and also be prepared to help (but after having a look at Rule 1😉)

We took to the brown coloured road with water logged fields on either side.

This road continued for another 100 metres as there arrived an incline where the road reached its end. Then started the natural trail which curved along the hill side as we gradually started to ascend the first hill. To reach the fort, we needed to cross 7 hills and 4 plateaus. The guides had insisted that the first timers had to be ahead of the other experienced trekkers as we all had to set the pace of the trek. So here I was at the head of the pack with another dozen first timers and with a sense of responsibility considering the people behind who would be following us.
30 minutes had passed as we were navigating our way through the treacherous terrain. That’s when we halted for a couple of minutes and someone asked, did we reach halfway?😂😂😂 The guide replied in a jovial tone that we had still reached only 10% of the first hill and we were like OKAY😂😑

Once again we resumed the trek, and this time it started raining heavily. It was a horrible feeling as the raindrops kept on lashing at us and at that height, raindrops felt like gunshots. But we continued our ascent towards the top. Further ahead we came across a small hut which was selling refreshments in the form of lemon juice, drinking water and maggi. We halted for 10 minutes to gather our strength back, refilled our bottles and set on course once again. We were surrounded by dense green forests as we followed the trail and soon the fog took over and the visibility reduced drastically till the moment we couldn’t look ahead for more than 5 metres.

The difficulty was increasing as we were carrying 3 litres of water in our backpacks and moving against the gravity. The fog was not in a mood to lighten and hence we were beginning to experience a chilly climate. And then friends came the most difficult and mentally testing part of the trek – a 600 feet vertical rock patch which we had to cross with virtually no safety ropes or railings affixed to the rocks🙈🙁

I was waiting for the guides to tell us we would be taking another route but well, the only route to the top lay right in front of my eyes. To be honest, I was shit scared on climbing that rock face as it was steep and one wrong footing anywhere and you would slip straight into the gorge below😲
So one by one slowly the others started ascending. And to make matters worse the rain was completely blinding us during our ascent. Gathering the courage, (as it was better to climb and reach the top rather than stay down there without anyone for help🙈) I put one foot on the crevice in the rocks and slowly after assuring myself that I was in a comfortable position to put my next leg on the rock face, I started my ascent. There was no option to turn around and look how much I had progressed as that would mean gazing directly at the gorge below. So keeping my face towards the rock patch, I slowly started moving up. After 25 minutes I reached halfway where a small waterfall was bisecting my route. I cursed my luck and moved forward very slowly as the rocks were quite slippery and as the old saying goes, ‘Better Late Than Never🙈’
I ventured ahead as a guide was standing there and I asked him for holding my hand. He obliged and in a matter of few seconds I was on the other side, safe and sound. I let out a sigh on seeing the second hut just a few metres away and also many people of my group were already resting there. Rain started once again and I rushed in to relax myself. Once the rest was over, I took in the scenery around me and gradually proceeded towards the next checkpoint. The groups got divided and we 15 people were moving at a quick pace. After climbing for another 30 minutes, I rested for 5 minutes with the guide Hanwant who himself was not feeling that well still he went ahead with the trek🙌 I was glad to know that we had almost reached halfway and now in another 2 hours we will be at the top. It was then that Hanwant
advised me to start moving ahead and not to cool down my body as I would again feel exhausted. He also told me to follow the trail slowly and I would reach the next checkpoint. So this was going to be the most amazing part of my trek as I was literally alone in an unfamiliar territory and had to face anything that would be thrown at me with my wit and knowledge🙈

I was simply following the trail not caring about anything for the next 30 odd minutes. Then came the point where I thought for the first time I am lost. Why? Because the trail had diverted into one going towards my left whereas the other went down to the right. I did not want to take a risk by just guessing which way to go as there were no arrows which were visible. So I waited for someone to show up and guess what, after another 5 minutes two people showed up. Rohit, who was a CA and Sonali who was a Physician (so if anything happened to any of us, we had a doctor with us). So after scratching our brains we deduced that we had to take the right.
Moving forward and chatting we stopped near a stream which was flowing. We washed our hands and rested for sometime. The fog was at its peak and that sight was too good to jot down in words. And again after reaching some distance further, we seemed lost as the trail ended and there were only big black rocks everywhere. We waited and waited till someone arrived. And there came Hanvant and Sarvesh and we soon continued on the route which they created out of nowhere.

We reached several huts on another hill top and we soon realized that we had reached the Kedareshwar temple (though we couldn’t see the Mandir Shikhara due to the fog🙈😂) We asked a few fellow trekkers where is the temple and they pointed out virtually at nothing. Then soon the fog receded and there it was!!!

We could finally see the Temple Shikhara and as we went near we realised it was one medium temple complex. We removed our shoes and proceeded forward into the temple. We rang the bell and took blessings of Mahadev.

On the left was an idol of Ganesh and facing it were many rock cut caves (which were filled with water)

It was time for us to move out and we found Sarvesh going down where lay the main cave of Kedareshwar. Descending a steep slope and crossing the gushing river water, we reached on the other side where there were many people already assembled. So basically the shiv linga is at the centre of the cave which is filled with water.

One has to swim through those chest filled water to reach the linga surrounded by 4 pillars (of which only 2.5 remain erect). Legend has it that the world will come to an end when the last pillar falls down!!! I hoped this moment did not come soon. We decided against going inside the cave and took blessings for our journey back and regrouped with the others near the temple. Suranjana Mam instructed us that lunch was being served in the Ganesh Gufa (cave) which was a 5 min walk from the temple entrance. Fighting the fog, we reached the cave which was pretty big to accomodate upto 60 people easily. There at the entrance was a 6 feet tall and equally wide Saffron colored Ganesh idol.

Chanting Ganapati Bappa Mory in our minds, we proceded with the simple yet tasty lunch which was being served. They were using a solar panel to generate heat and electricity which was commendable.
After everyone was done, all of us came together and decided that as the weather was harsh and not to risk the safety of everyone, we would start our descent and skip going to the Konkan Kada.

Konkan Kada is the second highest point at Harishchandragad after Taramati Peak. It is surrounded by mountains on both sides and it caves in appearing as the Hood of a King Cobra, hence the name Konkan Kada!!!
Yes I was a bit disappointed and so was Rohit, but yes, SAFETY FIRST ALWAYS. With a heavy heart, we started the journey back home. Being in the middle of the group, there was a sense of security as if we get lost anyway, there would be some people behind who would know about it. So carefully treading along the same path, we moved along. The trail had gotten slippery because of the lashing rain and so Manish had instructed us to descent sideways as it would improve our grip. Executing those basic skills, I was confident that we would be down in less than 2 hours. Little did I know, the journey back would throw some surprises!!!🙈
So being in the middle of the pack, we 15 people had trailed off to another path unmistakenly. After reaching a certain distance, the path separated and we saw one road going to the left with a deep valley covered in fog to its right and another path ascended off to the right with one tree dangling out of the rocks above. Half of them remembered the tree whereas the other half were clueless about where to go. That’s when reality struck us!!! We had separated from the group🙁😕😟 We shouted our guides name but to no avail. Then by luck, the guide who was behind had realised we were lost and had told his group to wait till he finds us and luckily he did!!! We felt a bit embarrassed but that’s the fun in trekking, gathering the spirit again after a mistake and moving forward.
This time we stayed put in the middle at a distance from where we could see where the person ahead of us was going (no use of getting lost again🙊🙈😂).Soon we realised that this was the same route which we had taken while climbing up and not another route which Hanvant had promised us we would take to go down when we were talking during our ascent (That’s bad Hanvant😑)

So our worst fears were going to come true as soon we would reach the 600ft vertical rock patch and this time we would be directly looking down at the gorge. It did not sound so good. But we had to reach back to Mumbai and this was the only route available 😔😓😪 On the way towards the rock patch, couple of people slipped and everyone was alert to help and avert a tragedy.

*****

So guys, we have arrived at the Rock Patch now. Dense fog and heavy rains greeted us as if they were waiting just for us to arrive.
Slowly one by one the group started to descend.

Then came my turn and I was shit scared to be honest🙈 But looking at the 12 year old girl climbing down easily without any fear encouraged me to start. Slowly I found the natural cuts present in the rocks to put my foot on and constantly I was touching the wall to ensure it wasn’t slippery. Doing that a few more times, I completed the first part. Then came a small waterfall between us and the next patch. Yes nature was throwing everything it had in store at us maybe to test our resolve. Cautiously I crossed the waterfall and proceeded to see the biggest patch between me and the trail down. Almost a 100 feet were separating me from the ground below. Well I sat down and went on all fours as it was much safer. And in another 20 minutes I was finally down (Kudos to the guides who handled this situation and were always ready to give a hand👏👏👏) As I moved ahead I looked up to find that many of the people were yet to cross the first patch itself and it was already 16:30. I knew it would still take me another 1.5 hrs to descend. Moving forward, I met Suranjana Mam and her group of 5. They were resting and along with Suranjana Mam, I started the final part of the trek.

Mam was continuously talking and helping me like put your foot here and hold this for support which helped a lot. We were passing through streams and huge rocks which made the descent even more difficult. Now my fellow trekkers, we had reached the point where a huge waterfall had formed due to the rains and the falls were in full force. To our right was the drop which was pretty deep and we were keen to cross the falls and get over with this final part of the trek. Mam went first as I watched closely how to dodge this obstacle. She crossed the falls in no time and now it was my turn. I was hesitant to go ahead as one mistake and it was RIP. However, there came Lakshya (a Manchester United fan with whom I had bonded over the trip) and he held my hand as we crossed the falls together. The feeling of all the water falling over your body actually was surreal as it shook me up. Then once we were done with the crossing, Suranjana Mam explained how this acted as a massage to soothe my nerves. So from 2 trekkers we had increased to 3.

It was fun considering that the route was so beautiful and also 3 like minded people doing the thing which they like the most. We reached a spot which greeted us to possibly the best view in the entire trek.

We stopped there for 5 minutes to admire the view.

But soon the rain didn’t tire down and we soon had to commence our descent through the dense route covered with green foliage all along. The path was curving down with water dunning through our feet. And behold!!! One more waterfall and this one was the biggest of them all😍 And we had to cross almost 20 feet to get to the other side. Distance wasn’t a big deal. The main problem was the current. If you ventured alone in such a current you would have been swept off your feet. So we formed a human chain holding our hands with Lakshya leading from the front and me at the back. And to help us there was a local villager who had set up his stall near the waterfall where he used to sell ‘Bhutta’. Treading carefully, crossed the waterfall and with that our descent was almost over. A hard earned victory you could say that but still the end was some distance away. We continued following the trail for another 25 minutes before we finally reached the route where the muddy brown trail got converted into one filled with gravel and tar. We had reached the very spot from where we began our trek 11 hours ago. The trek had actually exhausted us and we were looking forward eagerly to change into a fresh pair of clothes and soundly sleep in the bus while it took us back to our mundane life. The others reached around an hour later when we had proceeded to have some local food. Seeing the village life where there was no electricity during monsoons and they had to heat everything with thw help of candles really took me into a deep thought like how lucky were we with all facilities available to us and still we regret all those things which we cannot buy.
And just like that the trek got over. But maybe it was the aura of that place which made the goodbye look so emotional. With the fort perched 4500 feet above us amidst the clouds, I bade farewell to it for teaching me many new things and also for providing me with new found resolve, that being to encounter any new problem with a calm mind.

*****

Epilogue :

So my first trek had pretty much everything which I had expected it to be.

From majestic views of the mountains to unparalleled beauty of nature, from the innumerable waterfalls which we encountered to the curving path which we followed, from being lonely at the start of the trek to making new friends, it surely was an experience which falls short of words.
In my opinion every person should at least try trekking once in their lifetime as it sets a new challenge out of the ordinary ones which we face in our boring work life and provides us with the adrenaline for the future ahead😉
And a very big THANK YOU to the entire family of Footprint Studio for making this trek a success and to be honest, as soon as I reached the bus, there was only one question on my mind, ” When is the next trek?”

Yes the next trek would be at Garbett Plateau at Diksal which is near Matheran in the last week of august.

Will be back soon😄✌️

P.S :

SORRY IF I HAVE MISSED OUT ON A FEW PEOPLE WHO HAD HELPED ME ON MY TREK AND WITHOUT WHOM THIS TRIP WOULD BE A BIT LESS MEMORABLE😉

GO GOA GONE !!!

13th JUNE 2019

20:35 P.M.

Well I finally reached Platform No 1 of Borivali station, the very same platform which was an integral part of my life just 6 months ago ! It was all nostalgia. The indicators had been upgraded (with all the LED’s working🙈), there were new brighter tubelights and blah blah blah. None of that mattered at that very moment, because there was only one thing on my mind – GOA 😍
And why wouldn’t it be? It was going to be the first trip of 4 friends together inspite of watching each other’s backs for 5 long years.
They say that if you have been friends with someone for 7 years well then in that case they are actually your family. But that fails in my case. My case is like that 0.1% germs which remain alive in the dettol advertisement 😂 Well I found my 2nd family in them in a pretty short time !!! We started this journey together way back in 2014 and now we are standing here. Back then we were just friends who never knew how close they would get in the years to come. Just like Modi has stuck in strongly since 2014, so has our bond – The Fevicol ka Jod😉
Okay so coming back to platform no 1 Borivali station….
I saw Tirath dragging his purple Safari trolley bag behind him and moving at a leisurely pace. We all had sacrificed some or the other thing for the last 3 years, well many things in the last 6 months actually, just imagine sitting in a room for 14 to 15 hours and coming out only for lunch and dinner, it feels like the once Home Sweet Home has become your prison!!!
So I called him out and in that typical way in which only Tirath responds, he turned around.
There were still 5 minutes left for the train to arrive and Tirath and I, to be honest had not much to catch upon.
Slowly the train rolled onto the station, and out came the commuters, hustling out after a tiring day at work. And then it struck me, I would soon be on this same train starting next week🙈 But I had one full week to enjoy because yes I deserve it.
After the train left Borivali guess what happened? It halted at Thambivali😂 well some things never change and that’s the beauty of this City, all the things in which this metropolis is imperfect actually leave a desiring impact deep in the heart. This is actually the addiction to which every Mumbaikar is drawn.
Soon thereafter came one of the busiest stations on this route – PUDHIL STATION ANDHERI !!!! On a busy weekday, this line would have sent a shrill down your spine. Its a mini battle for every commuter, the first task in his daily To Do list being ‘Surviving the onslaught at Andheri station’
Once you have safely passed this test, then trust me you can survive even in extreme temperatures in the Himalayas.
Okay Kidding, lets get back on track!!!
Next stop was our destination and the location of my Ex College (Well the only Ex in my life till now😂😂😂) – VILE PARLE.
So we were about to exit Vile Parle when my shoes gave in and I slipped with a 12 kg bag in my hand🙈 Yes I felt a bit embarrassed but its alright, IT HAPPENS😂

21:30 P.M.

Soon enough we were on our way to the Terminal 1 of Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Once there, we went through the boarding and security check procedured with ease.
There were still a good 2 hours which we had to spend at the Terminal as our flight was already delayed by an hour or so.
We took a seat, played PES on the cell, updated our status on Insta, Snap and whatsapp, again played PES, roamed around – In short, WE WERE BOREEEEEDDDDDD !!!😑😑😑

23:30 P.M.

After waiting for 2 hours, which seemed longer at that point than the 6 months which had just passed by, the Boarding process for our flight G8 384 began and we were sitting in our alloted seats in another fifteen minutes. Finally we took off at around midnight, surprisingly this was quick as there was no waiting in line for our Airbus A320 neo and in no time we were surrounded by clouds. The on flight serving began and soon we found sleep taking over us. After around 35 minutes the Captain announced that as the weather in Goa was inappropriate for landing due to lack of visibility, we had to roam around for another 25 odd minutes right above the Goa Airport at around 25,000 feet. Sounds exciting right?😍😒

1:00 A.M.

After a gruelling aerial session, it was time for us to get back down to earth. We landed at Dabolim International Airport and soon started hunting for our baggages at the 3rd conveyor belt. Once we got them back in our possession, we headed for the exit and soon encountered a long queue for hiring taxis.
So basically there are 2 types of cab service providers in Goa :
1. Prepaid taxi drivers
2. Govt app based taxi drivers
The fares for those differ slightly and the prices for day and night travel have almost a
25% difference. Soon we found out our allocated taxi driver and started our 42 km journey towards our hotel. After about 20 minutes, Tirath felt uncomfortable and asked the driver to stop aside as he wanted to throw up. The driver was a bit irritated by the fact of stopping in between as he wanted to just drop us off as quickly as possible so he could go back and grab another passenger. Nevertheless, he stopped, Tirath vomitted, had some water and pulse candy and we were good to resume once again.
So the place where we were halting in our trip was The Treebo Suvian Baga Hotel which provided us with all those necessary survival facilities needed by us at a price which didnt burn a hole in our pockets.
As soon as the driver stopped around 2:35 A.M. and we removed our luggage, the heavens opened up !!! A loud thunderous spell of rain followed which lead us to run carrying our bags and also our handbags till the reception. Once there after completing the formalities we went to our room to finally call it a day at around 3 A.M.😂😂

******

14th JUNE 2019

8:00 A.M.

So just last night we had messaged Shardul that a room was available for him to keep his belongings and rest and strictly told him not to wake us up because we had slept late.
So Shardul and Chaitanya landed around 7 and reached the hotel around 8, kept their bags and guess whatttttt?
Shardul did exactly what we told him not to😒😑
Coming to our room 112, he rang the bell N number of times… Tirath went red with anger because sleep is bae for him and shardul had snatched away the post CA FINAL sleep from him just like thattttt😑
Tirath opened the door only to find Shardul smiling at him😂😂😂(I was fast asleep🙈)
Suddenly I heard someone shouting at someone and I woke up to find Shardul laughing as Tirath was on the verge of exploding. I got up and teamed up with Tirath (although my sleep was over😂😂) to hurl a few words at Shardul😂
Yes he was outnumbered but well that’s the fun😎
After that short war of words, we got ready for starting our tour.
We booked a car from our hotel itself and commenced our North Goa journey.
It was going to start with the Condolim beach which was a quiet beach with hardly any living souls around. The weather was pleasant which further allowed us to spend some more time than what was alloted to that beach. We went towards the waves longing for them to caress our feet and once they did, it was an altogether different experience. That was probably after 2 years when I had visited a beach and let the waves do their magic🙈 And the waves did actually have a soft spot for me😂 while I was soaking my feet in the cool water, a slightly larger wave came along and before I knew, I was separated from my sandals😂😂😂 one stuck to my feet and the other was floating away at a rapid pace. I tried to catch hold of the floating one but soon realised it was worthless. And then with another huge wave, there came my sandal towards the shore. I quickly caught hold of it before there were any other mishaps🙈 meanwhile Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya had a hearty laugh witnessing the entire episode unfold before their eyes !!!
Soon we were back in the car after spending around 20 to 25 minutes at Condolim beach and proceeded to the Calangute Beach.
This beach was slightly crowded with alert lifeguards. The same routine followed here also, we soaked our feet, clicked selfies, portraits, solo pics and again the ocean displayed its love for me🙈 Once again my sandal was on the verge of losing its partner but it got averted. At that moment I resolved that I will try and lose my sandal on every beach thereafter😂😂😂
Once we finished enjoying the 2 beaches, our tummies started rumbling. Yes we were damn hungry !!! So the driver took us to a restaurant nearby our hotel for lunch. After 30 minutes, we were glad that we survived that horrendous thing which they were serving us. Besides the restaurant, there was a general store from where we ate ice cream to get us back to normalcy🙈
After that near escapade from the jaws of death (okay I hyperboled it😂😂😂), we were all set for the second half of the journey which included the ‘Dil Chahta Hai Fort’ a.k.a Chapora Fort, the Anjuna Beach and the Vagator Beach.
Chapora fort is basically situated on a hill with breathtaking views but little did I know this fort would not hold good memories for me as it had done for Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan. So we reached the foot of the hill on which the fort was situated and commenced our ascent towards the fort. The entrance of the fort. The view from the fort was mind blowing😍 The Arabian Sea in the distance along with the beach indeed made for a photo that would have been every photographer’s dream snap. We didn’t waste much time and enjoyed the fort from every accessible point which was up for grabs and Shardul did what he always does the best – Captured some amazing moments with his lens😍 We clicked some beautiful group photos and also solo pics. But the sun was shining fiercely and that was not a good sign for me🙈 well the sun took a hattrick. This was the third sunburn which I had experienced and the moment that I looked at my hand, I knew I was screwed☹️ I was starting to feel uncomfortable. But soon we descended to proceed to our next stop – VAGATOR BEACH.
Vagator Beach is in the vicinity of the fort so it was a short ride. Vagator beach is more of a point than a beach as you are almost 10 to 15 metres above the sea, so effectively you will witness some splendid moments and even the windspeed was good enough to make your caps fly off your heads. We again clicked some cool pics and posed with the hat which I had bought at Chapora fort.
After spending around 25 to 30 minutes at Vagator Beach we moved forward to Anjuna Beach also known as the Sunset point.
Anjuna beach is actually a Rocky beach with many rock formations strutting out of the sea.
But in my opinion this one beach was the riskiest of all of them as one slip here and there and you would surely not see the light of the day ever again. So we were waiting for the waves to crash against our feet. We clicked some videos and while clicking one we also saw many crabs there moving on the rocks, which scared me. Well the waves there were huge and once they crashed onto those rocks, they sprayed directly on the eyes. Sitting on a rock a few metres aside, Tirath was busy resting his feet after a tiring day. We 3 went besides Tirath and clicked a few photos. Just when I was ready to capture another shot, a big wave came crashing and Tirath was drenched from his waist down😂😂😂 That’s when we thought lets get out of here before the waves worsen.
Soon we were back in our car making our way back to our hotel and no sooner did we reach the hotel, I was shocked to find the sunburn worsen and I silently cursed the weather for tricking us😑 Chaitanya ordered the dinner through Swiggy and we ate to our heart’s fill. Post dinner we played some card games and after about an hour we started to yawn but but but…. We still had to watch Detective Pikachu😍 Chaitu planned to get some sleep while we were watching the movie on my tab. I yawned and even slept for a 5 min period when Charizard was preparing to battle Pikachu and Shardul literally kicked and woke me up when I asked him what just happened😂😂😂 The movie was extremely good and we being Pokemon fans just made it even more merrier for us. Tirath and I returned back to our rooms as it was almost 12 and we needed some sleep after the day’s events. Well we didnt sleep for the next hour or so busy searching memes and cracking jokes and sharing our views on some serious topics and what not😂

*****

15th JUNE 2019

9:30 A.M.

Another day, another beginning to enjoy Goa once more.
Tirath told me that breakfast was served downstairs, so we called up Shardul and Chaitanya as they woke up early and had proceeded for breakfast already.
Upon calling up Shardul was of the opinion that there was omellete and some bread with coffee and tea. Tirath and I decided to skip breakfast but before freshening up I told Tirath that we really need to get a lotion for my sunburn as it became severe. So we put on our footwear and started our hunt for the medical store in that seemingly unknown territory. We asked some locals where was the shop located and they said just take a right after walking for 5 mins. We didnt know that the medical shop was actually 25 minutes away and the sun was beating down on us in its entire ferocity. My arms were burning because of the direct exposure to the scorching sun and I had to cover them up with my kerchief. We had walked for around 10 minutes still there was no sign of the medical store. Tirath looked it up on the Maps but somehow we werent getting any closer. On asking another local, we came to know that the right which they are talking about is surely further away. Well we continued for another 10 minutes and then we were greeted to the Green Plus symbol which was like finding an oasis in the vast desert. We rushed in, got the lotion and started with our return journey which was going to be too long. Little did we know that if we took a right from our hotel, there the 4th or 5th shop was the medical store, well that we would realise on our last day here🙈
On our way we inquired regarding the activas which were available for rent. So almost everywhere the rate was fixed i.e. 300 for the Activa and 400 for the Fascino for 24 hours.
Struggling, we reached our hotel and the first thing I did was to take a bath. To my horror the time was already 11:00 and the water was hot, not cold🙁 Even in Shardul’s room, the scene was the same. Well I had to improvise and somehow I just managed to survive that 15 minutes. Well Shardul and Chaitanya wanted to visit Bagga beach that morning but due to our unexpected visit at the medical store and my worsening condition, we had to abort that plan. We were deciding which places should we visit after having lunch considering the status of my hands. Initially I was against travelling in the hot afternoon sun as it would just worsen my condition. But then Chaitu produced his full sleeve shirt for me to try on. I was hesitant to put it on at first as I knew that even the slightest of touches against that shirt and my skin would burn. Nevertheless, not wanting to spoil the mood further, I put on the shirt and faced the consequences. But after a while all was well and we agreed to leave for lunch shortly. We hired the activas present in the hotel itself, Shardul and Chaitu riding the grey coloured one while Tirath and I rode the blue one. Firstly we had to fill some petrol and to our surprise near the corner, some vendors were selling petrol in 1 litre bottles which is not illegal as it is in Mumbai. We filled half litre each so as to reach the petrol pump where we filled in around 2.00 litres more which would aide us enough even for the next day. We then decided to have lunch at a good North Indian hotel which went by the name of Pind Balluchi. To be honest that place served some amazing Punjabi dishes and based on Shardul’s review, I can vouch that the non veg was also finger licking good. Just besides Pind Balluchi was a shop from where Shardul and Chaitu bought some dryfruits for themselves and their relatives. And once we completed with lunch, we were all set to commence onwards to Fort Aguada which was around 45 minutes from our hotel and we had reached almost halfway till Pind Balluchi. Armed with the full sleeve shirt which Chaitu had given me and which acted as the armour shielding my skin from the blazing afternoon sun. After riding through one of the most spectacular roads I have ever driven on which was complete with lush green trees on either sides, the road gently inclined upwards and then there was a period whereby there was no vehicle in front of us, looked as if we owned the road😍 It wasnt complete yet as then came the hairpin bend, trust me if you like driving a vehicle then you should surely drive on a hairpin bend, the feeling cannot be expressed in words. After another 10 minutes, we sighted the long outer periphery of the fort. The facade was made up of brown and red coloured stones complete with a moat (which was obviously dried up) surrounding the outer periphery from the higher inner walls. The entrance was further ahead where it was hidden between the outer periphery and the inner wall. Once you enter, in front of you will be the stairs which you take up to the top of Lighthouse 1 but the entrance was closed during our visit. On your right is a tunnel like way which leads you to the inner courtyard of the fort which was as big as a football field. So once you move around the inner lighthouse, you will reach the outer fortification wall which overlooks the Arabian Sea. So Fort Aguada literally means a water restoration fort which used to house 23,76,000 gallons of freshwater to supply to the passing ships. The fort was built in 1612 and is very well maintained which proves how sturdy the fort is. So once in the inner courtyard, along the walls are lined arc like caves which would have probably been used for storing gun powder. Further ahead, there is a slope, climbing which we would be walking almost 15 feet above the courtyard on the side of the main wall overlooking the outer peripheral wall as well as the arabian sea. The stone clad walkway is too smooth and one step here or there my friend and you would fall down 15 feet maybe with a few broken bones if you are lucky🙈 Lazily walking around, clicking pics and taking a panoramic view of the entire inner courtyard along with the lighthouse, we stopped at a particular spot where the walls parted away to leave a gap with enough place for one person to sit and behind him was a drop about 20 metres below in the dense forest which was surrounding the fort. We clicked a groupfie there and prepared to visit Lighthouse 2 which was situated 5 minutes ahead from the parking area. On exiting the fort, we refreshed ourselves with some lemonade and progressed ahead to our tryst with the lighthouse. There is an entry fee at this lighthouse where they charge Rs 10 without any camera equipment and Rs. 15 for you DSLR folks. At first the lighthouse appeared too high to climb after that strenuous fort trip. But once inside, we had to ascend around 3 to 4 floors in a circling stairway which was straight out of a Dan Brown book. On reaching the upper level, we had to climb a ladder to further reach the apex of the lighthouse. Now the ladder had room at the top for only one person to ascend at a time. So we started ascending helping each other. Once everyone was at the watch deck, we went outside and were left awestruck !!! Well the sight was one to savour as on our left we could watch the entire Aguada Fort Complex and on the other three sides we were surrounded by the pristine waters of the Arabian Sea. And the breeze was strong due to which we never felt the exhaustion. Initially it was supposed to be a 15-20 minutes stop at the top of the lighthouse but once we sat there, we made up our mind to spend some more time and cherish this feeling (well because we never know when we will find a new lighthouse😉🙈) Tirath and Chaitu tried video calling their parents so that even they can take in this view. Shardul was busy clicking a perfect picture of the setting sun aligning itself above another telecommunication tower a few metres away. And me? Well I was relaxing. Soaking in the feeling. Clicking candids for Shardul and happily clicking groupfies. There was a brief spell in between where I was completely overwhelmed looking at the vast expanse of water right in front of my eyes. It seemed like all my worries had been washed away by the waves the Sea was generating. After that spell, well I also tried video calling my Mom but to my badluck the connection wasn’t that strong. There in front of the lighthouse, was a huge radar tower, the blades of which rotated periodically, looking at which one would surely go into a state of trance. And then all of a sudden, Tirath and Chaitu noticed that in the middle of the sea, in that particular patch it had become misty, foggy and we could hear the sound of water crashing against water. After a few minutes we realised that it was raining only in that particular patch and what a sight that was to see😍 I was calling out Shardul to take a picture of that, because who knows where we would see that again. But our mobile camera lenses weren’t as good as the DSLR which was held by 3 guys to our right. We looked through their photos and saw that they had captured the sight beautifully. That’s when Chaitu called out that before we encounter that rain cloud, we should commence our descent. After 10 minutes of climbing down, we were greeted to the particular smell of damp soil. This was the first proper encounter of us with the rain after the night when we landed in Goa. Till that time it was all sunny (remember my sunburn?😣😑) We got to our scooters and began our return journey to our hotel. On the way, we were planning to visit a club but constant yes no yes no lead us to lazily sit in our rooms having dinner and watching the match between West Indies and England where Chris Woakes was sent at no 3 and surprisingly he played a good role as an anchor and won the match for England.
After the match ended, it was time to watch a new movie.Shardul suggested we watch Avengers Endgame and just like that we started with the movie. Before the movie commenced, we decided that tomorrow we would wake up early and then visit Bagga Beach which was just a 500 mtrs walk from our hotel and then after having lunch we would be visiting Dona Paula Jetty where one scene was shot from the famous movie Singham where Bajirao goes AATA MAJHI SATAKLI😍 Then hardly 20 minutes into the movie, when Thor beheads Thanos, Tirath and I decided to call it a day. Shardul continued watching the movie (with relief, because now I wasn’t there to blurt out the spoilers😂😂) Tirath and I again went through some memes and slept after a tiring day.

*****

16th JUNE 2019

10:00 A.M.

Well well well! Good Morning folks. We woke up pretty late and when we checked our mobile, we came to know Shardul and Chaitu had already visited Bagga Beach and had proceeded to have breakfast. We too moved to have some hot aaloo parathas as it was going to be a long day ahead. During breakfast, we were excited because it was the biggest match in Cricket World Cup history, arch rivals India taking on Pakistan at Old Trafford in Manchester just 800 metres near the famous Theatre of Dreams of Football folklore. We were discussing who would be the player of the match, how much runs will Kohli score, will Pakistan finally win a match against India in World Cups (just kidding😂) when Shardul’s message popped up on screen. The message was to remind us that it was getting late and we had to leave soon because first we would have lunch and then proceed to Dona Paula. Just like that, our day promised too much and we were hoping everything would go as planned.

13:30 P.M.

I had suggested this hotel Navratna for having lunch. It is a really good hotel for having some delicious North Indian food. And here, finally after 2 days we got to eat a better version of Dosa as per Goan standards 😂 We ordered a punjabi dish and complemented that with naans and butter rotis (so many calories shit!!!😂) We lapped up the sabji and roti pretty quickly and ventured out towards our parked activas. Shardul was to be our navigator while sitting behind Chaitu and Tirath was to be the navigator on the return trip. It was going to be around 25 kms of travelling and this was going to be the first time I would be riding my scooter at a stretch for 25 kms. So yeah, it was surely going to be exciting🔥 Majority of the journey Chaitu and my scooter was running neck to neck. Shardul was busy filming us and the scenic beauty around. After riding for around 30 minutes, we came across the Zuari Bridge and over that there was another bridge called as the New Zuari Bridge. This architectural marvel was taller in height and the design was much like the Millau Viaduct Bridge in France with yellow coloured steel cables holding the bridge together. But sadly we had to ride on the Zuari Bridge and not the new one😣 We descended and took a left which continued till we reached the right side of the road which passed underneath both bridges. And guys, that was a beautiful sight😍 To our right was the river with many boats anchored in the harbour. And further ahead, there was the boat which housed the Deltin Royale Casino and another outrageously designed boat which was the home to The Deltin Jaqk Casino. Now looking at that marvel in front of our eyes, one question pondered inn my mind. Why were these casinos in the middle of a river in a boat or a yacht and not on land ? The answer to this question was revealed by my senior at office after around 20 days when we returned back to Mumbai. According to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 casinos can be set up only at five star hotels or offshore vessels with the prior permission of the government. Yes, I always had this misconception that casinos can be found at every nook and corner of Goa🙈 The road ahead was even more stunning. Trees covering both the sides of the road arching and creating a tunnel like view. Tirath let out a huge WOAHHHH!!! Everything else seemed to fade away during that moment. Although we didn’t have drinks which is the custom while you visit Goa, but travelling on these roads easily makes up for that❤️

16:00 P.M.

We reached the famous Dona Paula Jetty.
Just when we were entering, we watched people jet skiing and instantly calculated the perceived price which we were ready to pay in our minds (CA brain you see😂😂 and that too 4 of them together😍) Firstly we reached the paved way which was around 10 metres wide with steps going down on our right side. Down there, we saw some rocks which formed a small cove where the sea water gradually lapped the rocks and on the sand which had accumulated there, there sat 4 to 5 dogs sleeping lazily. We removed our weapons (our mobiles😂) armed with 16 to 18 megapixels and started shooting pictures. As usual I was wearing my hat and my glares. The pics came out really well. The place where the movie scene of Singham was shot was inaccessible as there were some barriers which read “Structurally Unsafe”. So we were content with what was there on offer. Then we remembered that we were thinking of Jet Skiing. When we inquired about the price we were shocked. He had just said it would cost us 350 bucks per person when we were expecting something around 150 bucks😲. We quickly turned around, had some lemonade (I bought an Appy Fizz bottle so at least the colour looked as if I had been to Goa and had tried a hard drink😂😂😂 KHELO DIMAAG SE) Now Tirath was to be the navigator back on the return journey so we were riding ahead of Shardul and Chaitu. The road was so beautiful that you simply wouldn’t want to leave. But alas! All good things come to an end, but gladly memories dont😉. So our bags felt heavy with a bit more of this precious treasure. While on our way back, Tirath looked up the score on Cricbuzz and to my surprise, Rohit Sharma was batting aggressively so as to not put KL Rahul, who was playing his first game as an opener in this World Cup, under pressure. My spirits lifted when I came to know Rohit had raced away in to the 90s. And after a few minutes I finally heard that Rohit had scored his 2nd 100 of the Word Cup😍 Deep down everyone was expecting him to thump Pakistan with his 4th Double Hundred in ODI’s but he gifted his wicket away, just when he was getting in the groove. And that happened as soon as we parked our activa in our hotel premise expecting some fireworks in the last 10 overs. However, it started raining and play was halted. That’s when we planned that instead of sitting idle, it would be better to visit Bagga beach. So again taking out our activas, we reached Bagga beach in 5 minutes, paid the Rs. 20 parking fee and set out with the tennis ball. My first reaction on seeing Bagga Beach was WOOOOOOW😍 The beach was long, was crowded and the waves were gentle. I slipped out of my sandals and felt my toes touching the fresh wet sand of the beach. I looked up at the heavens and let out a deep sigh. Finally I was free. That feeling at that exact moment cannot be expressed in words. You need to experience it yourself (Step 1 : enroll in CA course, Step 2 : Reach CA final and Step 3 : Lock yourself in your room for around 5 months with your books🙈😂) I heard Tirath and Chaitu calling out to me and threw the ball towards me. Well I underestimated the throw and fell a few steps short from grabbing the ball. Okay, so I had dropped a catch in my first attempt only😂🙈(hope you got the pun) Then we spread out in 3 corners and were looking for Shardul but he was busy clicking pictures😑(and then he be like my phone memory is full) All four of us played catch catch for 20 odd minutes. Chaitu was standing against the wind flow, so it was really hard for me to throw the ball towards him. Except a couple of times, my throw landed well short of him😂😂😂. Soon we got bored and I desired to go near the water which was gradually dying while reaching the shore. Removing my sandals I ventured further towards the next approaching wave. Soon Tirath joined me and we were walking along the beach and then suddenly a big wave came from the side, that’s when the lifeguard sounded the warning whistle that the sea was getting rough and we had to come out of the cold water.
Trudging slowly towards Shardul and Chaitu, we stopped for a moment and looked at the score on Cricbuzz and we realised India was back on the field to bat. Quickly we removed our activas, stopped just a few yards before the hotel and purchased two 2 litre mineral water bottles to refill our fresh water stock, reached the hotel, parked our activas and scampered towards Chaitu’s room. Switching on the TV we saw India struggling to apply that finishing touch. India ended with a below par 336-5 which should have easily been 370 or 380. In the innings break, we placed our order on Swiggy. We were going to order cheese dripping Pizzas from Dominos along with garlic breadsticks and two choco lava cakes. Just before the 30 minutes deadline, Chaitu’s mobile rang and we directed the delivery boy from the reception area till our room. The fresh baked dough and the aroma of the cheese and various toppings surely made for an irresistible sight.

21:00 P.M.

After just completing our dinner, which was rather dry as the match had again halted midway into Pakistan’s innings, we took out 2 packs of playing cards and started playing mendicot and Challenge. Well we (Tirath and I) came up just short in mendicot, we trailed Shardul and Chaitu by 2-3🙈🙈🙈 After that I lost both the games which we played in challenge (Well I am a bad liar😂🙈) and that’s when the screen flashed showing Pakistan’s revised target that Pakistan needed 136 runs in 30 balls😂😂😂 Pakistan could add only 47 more to their total and meekly surrendered to a 89 run loss which improved India’s record against Pakistan 7-0 in World Cup History. After the post match formalities ended, we hurried to pack our bags. Because? Well the next day was going to be our last day in Goa😢
Sorry guys, will have to end this day hear itself, because too many things are scattered here and there, see here comes Shardul’s shout telling me that my portable speaker and charger and selfie stick are in his room. So see you tomorrow morning around 8 A.M.😉👋

*****

17th JUNE 2019

8:15 A.M.

I woke up to see Tirath already starting to pack his things up. That invoked a sense of urgency in me, and in a flash I was done with brushing my teeth and I grabbed all the things which belonged to me which I could spot lying in the cupboard, or the chair, or in the washroom. And I couldn’t just dump them in my bag. So now I had to arrange them and by the time I was done, I looked at my Amazfit Bip and was shocked that there were only 10 minutes left till the clock struck 9. I still had to take a bath and have breakfast before the checking out time which was going to be at 10 A.M. I had to be on my toes for the next 1 hour and then after scanning the room twice to ensure we didn’t forget anything, we locked the room for #OneLastTime🙈😂, went to Chaitu’s room and scanned it again till we were pretty sure we had packed everything in our bags. Finally we descended those flight of stairs which had access to these rooms on the first floor. Entering the reception area, we settled the final amount which was due and requested Neelkumar, the receptionist, to keep our luggage there as our flight was at 22:10 P.M.🙈 So wait guys, let me explain how all the mismatch happened. First we decided that on Saturday we would have visited the Dudh Sagar Waterfall, yes the Chennai Express Waterfall. And if time permitted we would have ventured deep into the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary rowing a boat. That way, one day of our trip was sorted. And on Monday i.e. 17th we would have roamed locally or would have gone somewhere like Chapora fort or Fort Aguada and then we would leave for the airport directly. But to our horror, when we were in Goa, we came to know that during the monsoon season, both the falls as well as the bird sanctuary is closed down. We felt the same, what Thanos felt when Thor stabbed his axe deep in Thanos’s chest. Like we had to alter our plans pretty quickly.
So we decided to spend as much time as we could having lunch so that around 15:30 P.M. our driver would pick us up and we had planned that we would visit the Museum as well as Basilica of Bom Jesus, and once we are done with that, we would proceed forward to the Airport.

12:10 P.M.

It was Shardul’s wish to taste Goan Seafood so we went to the hotel directly opposite from where we resided and the name of that was WTF (What The Food😂 before you start interpreting) We ordered some soup and to Shardul’s dismay, seafood wasn’t available there. He slowly gulped down the soup and the chicken lollipops which he had ordered all the while being completely uninterested🙈😂 We sympathised with him and soon around 13:30 P.M. our bellies started rumbling. It was going to be a long walk from WTF till the next available veg restaurant and we had to walk in the afternoon sun (my sunburn still hurt). After walking for 15 minutes, we reached a good looking hotel which went by the name of Sagar Veg Restaurant. We rushed to our seats and before opening the menu, I was gonna order Butter Dosa, but Chaitu said they have paper dosa as well and so we made up our minds and ordered one paper dosa. After devouring the dosa and having some more fast food, we called up the driver who was just 15 minutes away.

15:15 P.M.

The driver came in a Silver Ertiga and we were also surprised that it was going to be an AC car and would cost us just 1,800 Rupees.
Normally it would have cost us 1,300 till airport, but we also wanted to visit these places so 500 extra for that. Off we started on our last road trip in Goa🙈.We passed through N number of green patches which were either fields or mere grasslands. One after another the small towns started drifting past us and we were soon getting over the fact that our trip was finally ending.

16:00 P.M.

We had reached a place where to our left stood the Archaeological Museum along with The Cathedral of St Francis and to our right was the one of the most famous Cathedral in Goa – The Basilica of Bom Jesus.
We were finally here, at our last destination in Goa before departing back to The City of Dreams. Without breaking a sweat, we walked the long roadway which extended to 25 metres and was wide enough for 2 cars to pass simultaneously. After the first 25 metres, there came a roundabout, moving across that the road further extended to another 25 metres. On both the sides of the road was a perfectly manicured bushes along with tall trees standing at a gap of 10 metres. The trees were tall enough and replicated the Christmas Tree🌲 Taking in the beautiful sight, we were finally greeted to the 1800s styled building in front of us (it was actuslly built in 1661 by the Portuguese) which was spread on the vast canvas of grey and green.
On the right was the Convent and Church of St Francis of Assisi. We went there after clicking a few pics with the structure as our background. As we approached the entrance, that’s when we realised the scale of this magnificent structure. It was almost 75 feet tall and the entrance itself extended to 15 feet. There was a board which instructed that one should wear decent clothes while visiting the abode of the Holy One. So no sleeveless allowed and also no shorts were allowed. This was my first visit to a Church and even before I had entered the premises, I was dumbstruck with its beauty❤️
The intricately carved statues as well as the sheer silence which had a voice of its own greeted me. The church looked bigger from the inside as there were so many chambers within. There were a flight of stairs as we moved further ahead on both sides of us.
The benches were laid down and looking at those I predicted the Church could hold around 150 to 200 people when it would be full. Above the tabernacle in the main altar was the statue of Jesus on the cross and also a large statue of St Francis of Assisi. We sat there for 5 minutes taking in the surroundings and the sheer grand stature of the Church. To be honest my first visit to a Church was too good !!!
Slowly we stood up and moved towards the entrance from the right side. There we saw small chambers which housed many different statues and explained the life of those people. And in one of the chambers we saw a pathway which was blocked which would actually lead to an underground chamber of sorts. Though we never got the answer to what lay below, it surely was another Robert Langdonesque feeling. Also we saw many rectangular shaped tiles which maybe representing the coffins. Slowly and steadily we made our exit from this beautiful church. Shardul and I clicked some pics of the Pristine surroundings and also the church. Before proceeding towards the Archaeological museum, we decided to have some fresh lemonade (I ordered the sweet lime soda) and took a break for around 10 minutes.

17:00 P.M.

As soon as we reached the Museum, we found out that the museum was closing down as it was already 5. Well, we posed with the cannons at the museum entrance and filled our mobile memory cards with more pics.Now, it was time to move towards the Basilica of Bom Jesus which literally translates to “The Home of Good Jesus”, was located just across the road which separated both these historically significant monuments. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. So it was a brown coloured structure with the entrance which was sober yet grand and the interiors were pretty much similar to the church of St Francis. The interiors reached upto a towering height which produced an echo like effect whenever you spoke a bit loudly. This was a 400 year old church (414 years to be precise) and it still had not lost its charm even though it had weathered the severe climatic changes. However the main reason why this Church is famous is because of the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier. Once you enter and take a right from the main altar, there on top of a platform at a height of around 15 feet, you can view the casket in which the remains are preserved. Moving further inside the complex labyrinth like structure, we also saw a crib in the middle of a small garden which had a baby Jesus. While walking down one of the pathways, I also happened to notice the Bell tower which bore a striking resemblance to the Hit movie National Treasure part 1 which displays the Liberty Bell. The one thing which intrigued all of us was that surely there might be a secret passageway to the basement which would house some more interesting secrets.After taking enough pics using various filters, we lay down on the garden which was spread across the length of the Church.We knew it was time to call the driver and slowly we started approaching the Road which would lead us to our final destination (no not the movies😂🙈), The place where this entire journey started – The Dabolim Airport. On the way to the Airport, we knew that the flight was already late by an hour so we stopped for having dinner at a nearby Dominos outlet and also visited the Supermarket store in search of refreshing drinks. But to our avail, there weren’t any good ones available.And to top it all the driver was calling us telling that we were consuming too much time and now he would start charging us for the overtime🙈 We scampered back to the car apologising😂 and in another 5 minutes we were at the airport. Getting down and unloading our luggage, we paid the driver who was gracious enough to waive off the overtime charge. We stood on the escalator which got us to the first floor and then taking another escalator, we finally reached the security checking queue of our flight. And to our surprise, we were 2.5 hours early so there were hardly 5 people sitting there. In another 30 minutes the process began and we soon reached the boarding gate. Shardul, Tirath and Chaitanya were busy watching Bangladesh thrashing West Indies with Shakib scoring a superb 100 while I immersed myself to watch the Academy Award winning animation movie ‘Spiderman-Into the Spiderverse’❤️The graphics were as if a comic book had actually come to life.The movie was engrossing and I easily spent 1.5 hours without fathering a yawn. And then came the most awaited announcement, “The Boarding process for flight AI 084 from Goa to Mumbai has commenced”.The entire queue of passengers were soon accomodated into the plane and we soon sat on our seats. Tirath decided to finally watch Endgame (he still has watched only half😑😒), Chaitu started with Detective Pikachu and I began with Netflix’s highly acclaimed live action film Mowgli- Legend of the Jungle. Completely immersed in the movie and also consuming the refreshments which was complimentary with the ticket, we never knew when did the Aircraft enter the CSIA. We had landed at the Terminal 2😍This is one magnanimous piece of architecture which will leave anyone spellbound. We were waiting for ages to collect our bags. And then slowly and steadily our bags started appearing on the belt. Tirath and I collected our bags and booked our Ola only to find that both Shardul and Chaitanya were still waiting for their bags. We exchanged our goodbyes and went to the level 2 parking slot and sat in our cab. Yes in just an hour we will be back sleeping and from next day everything would be back to normal. But part of the journey is the end !

So well we weren’t coming back empty handed, we had memories that would last for a lifetime.

To quote Ibn Battuta,

“TRAVELLING – IT LEAVES YOU SPEECHLESS, THEN TURNS YOU INTO A STORYTELLER”

EPILOGUE:

This would never have been possible without the efforts of Tirath, Shardul and Chaitanya.

They forced me to complete this article soon. Thanks to you guys I got to know about my inner creativity. Thanks for bearing with me whenever I pinged you to ask about the minute details of our trip 🙈

~END~

P.S. My next post will be on my trip to Harishchandragad fort, which will be my first climbing trek. Sharing the pic of the view from the top of the fort.