Monday, July 04, 2005

Life still hai

Earlier, I hadn't mentioned the underpreparedness of some of us in facing the elements - three of us were without wind-cheaters. I had a rug sack with spare clothes and bedsheet wrapped in plastic. But all the pelting rain had made it soggy and heavy. I tried to control the amount of wetness with my umbrella, but not much help, was it?
During our brunch break, it was special to see the towering Lohagad fort face broken by miniature waterfalls during the downpour and once the rain subsided, so did the falls. On the way up to Visapur, we decided to take the shorter water route. Basically, it was a gurgling water stream flowing down and we had to climb to the fort up the stream. It wasn't too difficult again, except we found a lot of trekkers on their way down (Infoscions galore looking for 'cheap' thrills ;). So again, in about 30 min we were on the top of the fort. Vishwa rushed under a waterfall, trying to do a Mandakini without the white saree (but with his other clothes on). I tried the same (imagine!), but you couldnt stay long as the water was just too cold. Again the wind was mighty strong splitting the smaller falls, so that the water just sprayed back on the hills. Again difficult to gauge the exact boundaries of the fort coz of the instense fog.

'Life Hai, Life Hai, Life Hai, Life Hai' just became a slogan for the group, something to shout to express the delirious fun we were having. Vishwa the originator. But just because we came back safely doesn't take away what could have been a long ordeal.

We went to a slightly higher grounds just to see what was there. But this time, the wind has just picked up speed and you had to stand with feet wide apart just to be able to hold to the ground. A slight jump and you would land at least a feet away. Some team members were lost and found. Since the conditions started getting extreme, it was time to pack up and climb down. We just wanted to go back the same route we came, but in spite of encircling the whole place twice, we couldn't find it. Visibility was about 10 feet and I needed wiper on my glasses. An old man (later I found his name was Narendra) came rushing at us asking for directions. Sorry Sir, same boat. Soon his companions (Sheshadri and Viji) joined. They had been stranded for more than an hour and had made up their minds to stay the rest of the day and night at the top. They just wanted to go to the Hanuman Mandir, so they could spend the night there. Their guide, Ashok a local guy, himself was lost. A local guy, lost! People were scared.

We decided now to take the longer route, which possibly would be risky, but at least we knew where it was. This was no time for investigation and bravado. Forming a human chain, battling the thunderstorms, we moved to the exit. It was a proper stepped route at the start, but now overrun by gushing water. We started our journey down.

It was important for us to move away from the water-stream, because as we climbed down, the stream was increasing in force and volume rapidly. But there was no way. It was difficult to find a foothold. You didn't know how deep the water was and if your foot would land in the right place. At places, I was waist deep in water, my rug sack dipping in and coming back 1.5 times heavier. At the end of it, I had actually lost my sense of balance (not mental), coz that monkey on my back was weighing about 15 kgs (when I landed in Pune, I just couldn't lift it).

The sides were dense vegetation or slippery red mud, so you had to be in the stream all the time. At one point, we had to cross to the other side. It was were the water jumped 10 feet below and quick. Pankaj managed to find a perfect place to land one's foot on, and guided everyone to the other side. With some effort (damn bag!), I managed to cross. We were close to the foothills and Malavali looked close. But still it was about 45 min that we actually reached the village. The whole ordeal took about 2 hours.

All the while, Pankaj and Vinita, the pro-trekkers were ahed of the lot, but I was surprised that Narendra, age 55, managed to climb down without putting a foot wrong. And he was fast too. Turned out he is an old hand (or should I say leg) in trekking.
He and his companions luckily were on their way to Pune (rest of my gang to Mumbai), so I got a well deserved lift. Byes were bade and we took off. We stopped on the way for some great onion bhajias, Poha, tea, vada pav and a recounting. Narendra took my number, to basically be updated about any new treks!

I live to trek another day.
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