Monday, June 23, 2014
I am happy to proclaim that I have partaken in my first trek. My previous ‘adventurous’ trips were basically tourist-y trips and did not include trekking in actuality, just walking. This however was completely different and involved climbing up a mountain and along a very, very steep flight of stairs. Maharashtra has a lot of trek worthy forts, which has added to my wanderlust, and I hope to do as many as possible during my stay here. One thing I would like to point out is that it is wise to go in a big group if you are looking forward to trek any of the forts. Our destination was Tikona Fort in Lonavala and we were a part of a huge group of 40.
Our day began at 4 in the morning as we had to reach the boarding point by 6. We reached our boarding point well before 6 and met up with our team leader, who seemed a nice, warm guy. Trust me, during any trek, the first gut feeling about your team leader is very important. Because you have to trust him wholeheartedly, sometimes even with your life. The bus journey to Tikona Peth was uneventful, mainly because most of us slept through the ride. It was a good thing, because we had no idea the amount of exhaustion that awaited us. We reached the village base at 9 and were hosted by a family in the village. They opened up their portico to us and served us breakfast. The experience in its entirety was very quaint.
After breakfast, everyone gathered in a nearby field and introduced ourselves; I don’t remember all of their names but I do remember their faces. In retrospect I figured out that the one place where you can depend on a stranger’s kindness, where they will help you out, like a comrade in arms is on a trek. Because that is what happened. I had been helped by these strangers on more than one occasion during the trek, when the going got rough. So the world is not coming to an end. At least not just yet.
The trek officially started at 10 and our leader told us that we would reach the top at around noon. This is what we were aiming to conquer in 2 hours.
I wouldn’t lie, for the first 30 minutes of out trek, I would look up and then freak out to my friend – “I don’t think I can make it to the top! I don’t think I can make it! There’s no freaking way I can do this!” She kept on reminding me, cross the bridge when you get there; no need to panic from this far off. Another reason why I started freaking out was because I was lagging behind everyone even before the trek had begun. To reach the foot of the behind, we had to walk down this kilometer long road and I was last one. I was slow, and sluggish, out of breath and sweating profusely; since the start was this bad, I was positive that I would never make it to the top.
I lagged behind for the next hour; I was a part of the laggards in the group. But I realized that I was getting used to the terrain and the altitude slowly and I picked up my pace. I am happy to report that my friend and I were part of the middle group, who reached the top. The terrain wasn’t treacherous throughout, but yes there were a few curves when I held on to the side of the mountain, or plants for dear life and said a quick good-bye to my loved ones in my mind. The drop wasn’t a great one, but it was scary enough for a first timer like me.
But the most scariest and ominous part of the trek – a flight of steep staircase cut out crudely, almost at an awkward angle of 120 degrees. And this is where a gang of strangers united and came together and helped each other out. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of the staircase because I was very scared to let go of the make shift wire railing and take a picture. Looking down was not an option, but looking up also gave me vertigo; instead I chose to focus on the immediate step that I had to climb. I am not ashamed to admit – the last few steps I actually crawled up, because the make shift railing ceased to exist and I just had to hold on to something.
The entire group made it to the top at half past noon; we had taken a little more than the approximated time, but the main thing was that all of us made it. The view from the top was breathtaking and it made the climb worth every bit of the drama and the tension and the pain. We spent a blissful 75 minutes on the top, enjoying the breeze and the drizzle.
The climb down took us surprise as we did it in really quick time; but the dangers didn’t cease to exist. On more than one occasion I slipped and skidded on the loose gravels and my trek mates/ strangers behind and in front of me offered out their hands in support. My friend too held on to my bag, just in case I decided to topple down the hill. But you know what the best part was?! My friend and I were one of first people to get back to the village base! Yes I am proud of that accomplishment! I know, I know, it was a trek not a race but it still felt really good. To have started off on somewhat of a negative note and to have been able to turn it around in the end, it felt good.
The bus ride back into the city was a hot and dusty one, but I couldn’t care less because I slept through all of it. My limbs are still sore from the climb, but I assure you this is just the beginning and nothing is going to stop me from going on more of these treks.