Saturday, July 24: an unforgettable day. A day to be remembered for all things that went wrong for good. Ten of us, most meeting each other for the first time, trekked together on an unknown route, facing adventures that we had never dreamt of.
It all started on Saturday morning. The sequence of misadventures and thrills started at Dadar station, when we were waiting on platform 4 and saw the Karjat local leaving from platform 1. That was the first time during the day that the presence of mind was needed to board the Indrayani and change to Karjat local at Kalyan. The day is as good as it begins and this day had quite an interesting start. The process of missing the plans and finding alternative had started here.
We reached Bhivpuri at 8:00 am as planned (so far on track as per schedule) and had a regular Maharashtrian breakfast: Wada-Pav and cutting chai. We asked for directions as we were having breakfast and we got more routes than we could count, including one that suggested we take a rick back to Neral and taxi thereon.
One of the routes mentioned of a dam. So we decided to take that route. An hour of walking and we were near the dam. Pali dam is dam that is currently under-construction. The canals are still to be cemented and the walls of the dam are still being built. The dam faces the Matheran mountains and the view from here was spellbinding. The magnificent mountains with lush greenery, gushing waterfalls and a crown of clouds was an absorbing view. While the view was good, there seemed to be no road ahead.
We met a couple of guys who suggested we walk to Bhekre and from here we could find the route to Matheran. As we were walking, we found a road that went around the dam. Some kids passing by told us that the road leads to Aasalgaon. Since it looked like the road went to the base of the mountains, we thought of taking that route. The route that we had planned was Garbett point via Thakurwadi. So we checked about Thakurwadi and the kids told us it is beyond the village on the hill behind. We were supposed to go via Bhekre and we were going through Aasalgaon and we were happy that we had saved a 2 km walk to Bhekre. What we did not realize was that almost every village has its own Thakurwadi and we probably weren't on the right path!
Whether we were on the correct path or not, did not bother us as the view all around was too scenic for us to be bothered about anything else. On the way to Thakurwadi, we came across some obstacles. The first rock climbing that we did on the route. Not too tough, but it required 'hand'ful of efforts. Now we were at a considerable height, we could look down upon a few waterfalls. Some breath-taking views they were! It had been raining throughout and hence the camera was in for most of the time. And every time, it stopped raining for minute, I was happy clicking.
The Thakurwadi village had quite some fields. While walking through the fields, we were wondering if we had actually climbed up a hill or were we still at the base. At a place when we had heaved to reach, the villagers there had well plowed fields with crops growing. Incredible India...what else! As we passed by the village (asking for directions), the kids gathered around as if we were some cartoon characters. It was pouring continuously with variations of heavy and medium rains. As we were walking through the treaded path, we realized that there are multiple paths, going in various directions and with the grass covering every bit of ground, it was even more confusing. Had even trekked on this same spot before, we still would not have been able to trace ourselves.
The mountain was in front of us and the thought that was running in our mind was that we need to get on top to reach Matheran. For that we decided to take any route that leads upwards. As we were climbing up, grip was becoming difficult due to the wet out-field. At one stage, it was so slippery (there was no risk of slipping downhill, it was just difficult to climb up) that we were on all fours, pulling up ourselves. Here Akshay decided to help Komal by passing her bag to Kedar. Unfortunately, the bag landed before Kedar and out of his reach...and it went tumbling down. That was one moment all of us were glued to only one thing...the rolling bag and it landed at the bottom on the slope in a pool of water. The bag was rescued and we continued the uphill trek.
As we kept walking, we reached a point where the path lead into a waterfalls. Finding no route further, we started finding another route (guessing about which could be the route). In the finding (and guessing), we saw a route that went around the hill. Not knowing where that went to, but seeing that was the only route visible, we "thought" of taking that route. It involved crossing a waterfalls (a small stream flowing downhill its own path). As we were crossing it, we realized that it was a point-of-no-return. Essentially, if there was no route further, we could not cross this path in the reverse direction. And as fate was to happen, the route ended up at another waterfalls and all that we could see above was a rock-solid stone not suitable for climbing. Now was the challenge to find the return route.
Determination never fails and will finds its way. So it was...we found another path to cross back to where we were. Having lost our way a couple of times and the clock sounding close to 3:00 PM (already 6.5 hrs of trekking), we were wondering on "What next!" One of the options that we had kept handy (and the basis of our confidence) was Thakurwadi, from where villagers commuted to Matheran n-times a day. Eventually (and thanks to Tanvi), we met a villager and cajoled him to lead us to Matheran. The adventure of losing routes ended here, but the thrill of the trek continued as we crossed a couple of water-paths, climbed a few more rocks, walked a single-person path of which some had land-slid. None of these were very risky...so much that the regular commuters walked on slippers and with as ease as we walk on in office (rest of the places in Mumbai are not so much ease to walk on). But the thrill and adventure can only be experienced not described. And we experienced it!
Thanks to our guide (I forgot his name!), we finally made it to Matheran. After about 10 hours, the eventful trek finally ended. Along with the guide, we had another unnamed companion who deserves a mention. A black pariah dog with golden spots. He accompanied us from Bhivpuri station, all the way to Matheran. We walked with us on all the wrong routes and all the adventurous paths. After we reached Matheran, he mixed with some of the locals and disappeared.
I had never dreamt that I would do such a trek and had it not been for such a wonderful company, it would not have been possible. So just as I end this blog, a big "Thank you" to all those who made this trek such a memorable experience. For me, this trek has boosted the confidence in saying "Never say die" and I am sure it has affected all those who were with me in a positive way.