when I came to Pune almost 6 months back people were telling me about the beauty of trekking in the monsoons and how the clubs organize those treks. Monsoons arrived and suddenly the brown hued hills around pune came alive in green. I decided on embarking on a trek with a club called vadventure1 on Sunday, the 9th of July, 2006.
I have never been to a trek before and I was apprehensive about it. I started working out and made it a point to walk atleast 4 kms everyday in the morning since the last 3 weeks. I woke up at 5 AM in the morning, got ready, had noodles and coffee for breakfast, packed my back pack with lunch, water, camera and torch and I was off to the bus stop by 6 AM to catch a bus to Swargate, our meeting point.
I still don't get it why they write the bus number only in Marathi (or use Devanagari script) instead of the regular Roman numerals. I don't know Marathi neither am I conversant with the numerals. I waited for a bus to show up, just saw if Swargate was written on it and just hopped in. I have used PMT bus for travel only once and even there I didn't sit in the last row. This time I had no chance to sit towards the front of the bus as it was full. I eased myself into the last row only to find that it was very difficult to remain in seat as the driver was speeding and the potholes in Pune roads made me jump up and down in the seat. I was relieved when I finally
arrived at Swargate bus stop.
Drive to Jawan village
We took the ST bus to Jawan village near Pawana dam. The drive was very scenic and it was a hint of the things to come. It started raining while the bus was edging its way towards our destination. We got off at the village. There were about 40 people ready for the trek now. We had breakfast of Idli-Chutney at a loacl hut there. The icing on the cake was the hot tea served while it was drizzling outside. Wind cheaters up, Cameras locked and loaded, ready for the trek we made a circle and introduced ourselves to the group. We then started to the foot of the hill.
Walk across the paddy fields
The walk towards the foot of the hill was through paddy fields. At first I was worried about all the mud that was getting stuck to my shoes. Then suddenly I slipped and I was in ankle deep mud. My brand new Adidas changed from dark grey to dark brown. Now I was no longer worried. Just continued walking while clicking snaps in between. All around me were small waterfalls about 3-6 feet in height. It was intermittently raining with bursts of sunshine in between. The hill tops were covered in fog but oddly our target - Tikona fort or Vitandgad was clearly visible from the foot of the hill.
On higher grounds
The walk across the fields lead us to our first resting point a little above the fields. After that the walk was through bushes we came to the second resting point at a temple. A Gurudwara was also nearby. After resting for a while we started on the most difficult and terrifying part of the climb. Of all the things that I weighed before I embarked on the trek, I overlooked one thing - My morbid fear of heights (acrophobia). I overlooked it because it was lying dormant for several years and I haven't been to great heights in recent times. The steep incline, the valley on
either sides, the height all made life difficult for me and time and again I thought of quitting the trail and sitting it out while the rest climbed up. I was only able to complete the trek owing to the psychological push given by my friend Vijaypal and the organizer Nitin. If not for them I would have missed the view from the top.
While going up right at the base of the fort there was huge stone carving of Hanuman. Nitin told me that people still come here from the village below to pay their respects to him. I too pad my respects and took a snap of the God in his cute red avatar.
Why steps are high in forts?
Nitin gave me an explanation as to why steps are high in forts - to prevent animals both domestic and wild from climbing up. If the ascent is steep then if the enemy starts climbing up the steps they just need to dislodge the top one and send him down and the rest will all tumble down. He also told us that Shivaji made good use of these forts which were built by the Satavahanas. When I questioned the logic behind constructing these forts on the hill tops when the actual city and money are in the valley below he said that the fort was for the protection of persons and not the property.
Theory of Relativity
Climbing up from the base of the fort the steps became steeper and the height of the steps was about a foot and a half each. I was getting worried about the possibility of slipping. It was a little over 90 minutes since I started walking and already I was feeling like I had been walking since five hours. When I told the same to Nitin some trekker climbing ahead of me shouted down "Theory of Relativity"!
Crawling, Pushing, Hanging and hauling myself up, I made it to the top of the steps. There was this guy who was smoking wearing a red T-shirt with a Cheguvera print on it who remarked that I would die if I had been to the BhimaShankar trek. He was arguing with an odd sense of
logic when he said that he would drop his plastic water bottle on the road so that it would get picked up and get recycled rather than in the dustbin where it might not get recycled at all. While all this discussion was raging I was trying to go to the top most point of the fort. Incidentally there was a huge step on the way and that was the only place when Nitin had gladly accepted to give me a hand and pull me up to my relief (I was worried that my weight might pull him down).
Jeans are bad
Through this experience I learnt that jeans are bad for hill climbing treks. I walked towards the end of the top most point in the fort. The breeze was cool and soothing. Suddenly it started raining and we all decided to start the climb down to the base of the fort where there was a man-made cave to have lunch. That was when I noticed that Cheguvera was going into the temple of Lord Shiva present at the top of the fort with out removing his footwear and smoking a cigarette. I heard him say that God wouldn't mind.
Trek down was uneventful, it wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be because of the constant support and enthusiasm given by Vijaypal and Nitin. Finally I made it to the point where we took rest for second time while we were climbing up. After that I took a close up snap of a flower which I have never seen before - Nitin told me that it is used while worshipping lord Ganesh. We visited Chota Himkund, a gurudwara which was a replica of the Himkund gurudwara in the Himalayas. We were treated to wonderful tea by the master of the house which takes care of that gurudwara. It started raining like cats and dogs when we reached the foot of the hill and I missed several good shots because I couldn't get the camera out for the fear of rain water spoiling my lens.
The aftermath of the trek
We finally got on to the bus that brought us back to Pune. I alighted at Karve Road only to find that there were some riots going on at Deccan Gymkhana and there were no autos or buses available. I was finally able to coax an auto driver into taking me to Aundh but he charged me double the normal rate. I was home - all muddy and wet. It took me about 20 mins to clean my shoe while it took me another 20 mins to get cleaned up myself. There is no such refresher as a hot water bath after a hard day's toil to soothe your muscles.
I wouldn't have been able to complete this trek without the enthusiasm and help of Vijaypal and Nitin.