Let me pen it before I forget it.
There couldn’t have been a more beautiful and an appropriate night than a Kartikey Poornima to head for a night hike up to Rajmachi. Yup, Rajmachi was the year’s second hike and my first night hike with the Podar Hikers’ Club.
The morning of 24th was very gloomy as I was taken to bed due to ill health. And I had second thoughts if I’ll be able to carry myself through the hike. But by late afternoon I was back to my normal self all high spirited packing my haversack. (Overnight hikes always give you ample time to prepare.)
It was around 8 pm than I and Swati reached college after treating ourselves with toast sandwich and pani puri from Pankaj’s. Inspite 8 being the official time to assemble the public (read fellow hikers) didn’t stop pouring in until 9 pm. We boarded the bus at 9.30 pm after a brief set of instructions from Phadke Sir and hit the roads by 9.45 pm. Right from the time the engine turned on so did our vocal cords. The very next instance all were singing and dancing to the tunes of bollywood numbers till the very time that we reached the base.
Rajmachi is near Lonavala and it didn’t take more than 2 hours to reach the base. And it was surprising to many of my fellow hiker that we reached without getting misplaced anywhere. After warming up our bodies to the chilly winds and getting freshened up in one of the villagers house (read visiting the loo) we started our trail. As always Sir guided the trail from behind and designated the experienced “committee” members to be in the front and middle order. We were lead by a villager all the way up. At around 12.30 am we kicked off. I and Swati were somewhere in the middle order but tried to overtake a few in front of us when we heard them discussing about OSO and Sawariyya on such a beautiful night ;) and then we found ourselves in the company of Krish and Mahesh were we spoke about Khoya Khoya Chand ;) Btw did I tell you we were 52 of us.
The starting 15 mins were nothing but plain land crossing the fields. We mocked that if the whole trail is something like this then forget it! But what lay ahead was a total surprise and in no time were we breathless and panting. The over enthusiastic crowd had to halt many a times to keep pace with rest. At one point of time the puffing souls lay flat on the ground on our way up. We were quite tired and lay still for more than half an hour. That place was one heck of a beauty. A grassy patch of small plain land with wild ajwain growing on it, mountains surrounding its circumference, star studded sky, and the radiant moon in its full bloom. Splendid.
The walk up to Rajmachi seemed endless and breathless more so cos the serene was so breathtaking ;) we rarely needed to turn our torches on cos the moon lit our pathway brilliantly. It was almost 4.30 am when we reached Rajmachi. We fell flat as soon as we got a place to rest. We took shelter at the X Sarpanch’s house. Around 10-15 guys slept it the opan varanda and the remaining of us cramped inside. But that wasn’t a problem cos we were so tired that we fell asleep right then. More over by 6.30 am we were back on our foot. By 7 am most of us were ready and had our morning tea and steaming poha served by the house. By then a few others had already walked up to a nearby lake and returned.
We were to climb the Manoranjan Fort and Shreevardhan Fort. Manoranjan was a comparatively short climb. We were among the first once to start the climb. Me, Swati, Archana, Sagar, Krish, Mahesh. The view from the top was breathtaking. We took quite a few snaps and turned a deaf ear to what our “internal guide” Chinmay was saying. After a while we headed down to climb Shreevardhan Fort. These guys just blew like a wind and were soon out of sight. We tried to be on the right track first down the Manoranjan Fort and then up to the Shreewardhan Fort. Shreevardhan was a bit longer and strenuous. But the reward was equally fruitful. It was higher than the earlier one. The gushing winds would have surely taken me with them if I had let go! I can proudly flaunt that I was the first amongst girls to reach the top. We stayed here longer. Posed for snaps. Took a few shots. Saw Parin in various poses not cos he was in front of the camera but cos he was behind the camera. He is famous for his camera stunts. After a while we came down and had a refreshing glass of Kokam sharbat. (By the colour of it no one would agree with me.)
From here we split. The 10 of us, Archana, Swati, myself, Krish, Chinmay, Mahesh, Aman, uncle, Sagar and Mohit, went to explore the forest. It seemed that I followed these guys to a place which seemed to lead no where but we landed up to the right place. A locked bungalow. We spent some time there taking a few more photographs and chatting up all the ‘way’.
It was 12 pm by the time we reached the Sarpanch’s house and had Phithla Bhakri for lunch. Later we had a small talk with the retired manager of RBI (whose name I fail to recall) who is an enthusiastic trekker himself and a member of an NGO how has helped develop Rajmachi. After the talk we hit the down hill to reach the base.
Now this was the fun part, the best part, the last part. I and Swati were all pumped up to keep pace with Sagar, Krish and Mahesh who could fly with the wind. Their target time was to reach within 1 hour what we had climbed in 4 hours. These guys were in sight for some time but we lost their link sooner than we expected. Swati too slowed down cos the loose stones were making her loose balance. After sometime I found myself to be with Mayank and Mohit and had lost both the links in front and behind me.
We were on track as we followed the arrows made on the stones. Each one of us took the lead to make it down the hill. But within some time we had lost the arrows. We found ourselves to be in the middle of nowhere. There were diversions and we didn’t know which one to take. After putting some thought we took one path and yet again found ourselves on another diversion. We had thoughts of waiting for the others but they were way too behind and we took some path only because the path we found lead us somewhere down. We had messed up our ways and that’s for sure cos of two reasons, firstly because we had lost the arrows and secondly because we passed a 200 mt stretch filled with more than 1000 brown-black BUTTERFILES! We walked through them, literally. It was a magnificent sight. But at the same time my mind was on the path cos we didn’t know where it led us. But it was an amazingly wonderful sight. All I knew was that I have to reach down there be it anyway. Once I spotted a small village we knew we weren’t in much trouble. It took us exactly 1 and half hours to reach the base and I was more that elated to see our bus standing there. By that time the first group had already reached and freshened up. After all the seven of us – Krish, Mahesh, Sagar, Pratik, myself, Mohit, Mayank had freshened up we went to have some refreshing cola. Pepsi, Fanta, Limca and of course the local drink ‘Treet’ is all that we drank. The next group arrived only an hour later. It was only at around 6.30 pm that all 52 were at the base. By 7.30 pm we hit the road leading Mumbai. A few dead souls slept through the journey, the rest sang like a radio being played in the background and a few of us chatted up in the foreground.
It was at 10.30 pm on the 25th of Nov that I reached my home in Thane. It was an amazing experience with a hell lot of fun and falling.
26th Nov 07.
PS: I’ll post the pics as soon I get them.