It has been two months now that I have been following the same trail every day. From Room No 205 to the mess to the academic block and then back by the evening. Same corridor, same food, same friends, I think I deserve a break.
You need to meet the right people who can lead you in the right direction and, it doesn’t really happen. It was during one of those conversations over lunch, that I met Nimish and we talked about our favorite topic; Trekking. It’s a rare opportunity for a trekker to find someone like himself in his vicinity and hence should not be wasted. Ten days post that discussion, both of us were ready to pack our bags and run away from the hostel.
Nimish is already a member of a trekking community in Mumbai called “Trek Mates India” which conducts treks across Sahayadri’s.The state of Maharashtra provides infinite options for monsoon treks and this time “Ratangarh” was the chosen one. It was not only my first trek in Maharashtra, but also my first monsoon trek.
Excited & thrilled, we left the campus on the Friday afternoon, boarded the Deccan express from Pune railway station and reached Thane, from where we were to meet other group members and finally start our journey.
At midnight the bus arrived and 50 odd people pulled off with the slogan “Ganpati Bappa Morya!”.It was a very traditional bus journey, all the bathroom singers got together to set the mood and play Antakshri. It went on and on until each and every Bollywood song was given a chance to be served on the plate, until everyone was full and saturated by the singing skills of the singers.
The road was dark and the way was lonely. No other vehicle apart from our bus was there on the road. The curves of the road were very sharp and even the deep valley was invisible in the dark.
Ratangarh is located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra at a height of 4255 ft above sea level. It is a 400 years old fort, built by Chatrapati Shivaji. ‘Ratan’ meaning jewel, this spot is located in the Ajoba Ranges in the Sahaydri’s.
Once we reached the base village,Ratanwadi, it was only greens that we could see all across. The clouds densely covered the tip of the mountains and the breeze brushed through the paddy fields. And in the middle of all this we were served hot tea and Poha as the breakfast, delightful and satisfying.
In Ratanwadi itself, there is an ancient Lord Shiva temple which has been restored in its original style. After a sleepless night in the bus, we started to ascend towards the fort. Though the raincoats were on, it had ceased to help in some time . Deep into the jungles, we moved on and on, and soon we realized that we were walking through the clouds. The rains kept on pouring, the winds became stronger and the mist covered everything around. We crossed a lot of water points or rather a lot of waterfalls that were replenished during monsoons. There was no time and no option to remove the shoes to cross those points. So they were soon drenched into the mud water.Anyways, it was raining, so any effort to save the skin from water was futile. Above all, it was a monsoon trek, so anyone who did not get completely soaked and who did not play under the waterfalls did not completely enjoy the place.
We also carried along a rope, in case the flow of water was too strong to be crossed, but thankfully, we used it only while clicking photographs and not for its actual purpose. On the way, we had lots of munching from chakli to fruits, all of us had something to eat.
Midway, we reached a platform or a table land which was exactly in the middle of the valley and on a 360 degree view, all I could see were tall standing mountains with several waterfalls flowing from several different water points but all of it was faintly visible as all of it was completely covered by the dense clouds. The only thing that I could see was the land on which I was standing right next to us. Otherwise, we were all in the sky, floating high.
Moving further, the slope became steeper and the endurance level had to be increased. After covering the last one kilometer, non stop, there came proper, man made ladders, to reach the fort. Risky and scary are the only two words that came to my mind when I saw them. It was taking us to the top but no body knew where that top was.
Moreover, due to the presence of clouds, we could not see the depth of the valley. Precisely, we did not know that if we fall, where do we land, because never did we feel that we were walking on the land, we were almost in the sky. Fortunately, all of us reached safe, and saw a huge cave where everyone sat and had lunch.
It appeared as if people had stuffed their bags with food . Chicken, ham, bread, cheese, biscuits, thepla, bhujia, alu puri, name almost any variety of food and it was available in that black dark huge cave. The cave could easily accommodate 25 people at one time. It took us almost 3 to 4 hours, to reach up and after resting and relaxing about an hour, it was time to descend. By now , the rains and the winds had become harsh on us, and all of it was happening endlessly.
Descend according to me is always riskier as compared to the ascend. Even though it takes less time, it requires careful fixing of the foot between the rocks, avoid slipping down and focus even more on the path. Coming down those ladders was equally risky, another group was going up at the same time.
A lot many people slipped a lot many times, but it was not as hilarious as when I slipped flawlessly, on a rock, like butter slipping on a hot parantha, and Austin, Nimish and Shweta, went rolling on the floor laughing. It was as if everyone was waiting for me to fall off!
Finally, we reached the base village at around 4. Each and every camera was flooded with the photos. Each of us were completely drenched in water and all of us were famished again.
A day spent like this actually makes us realize what monsoons are worth for. The effort that I had put in to spend a day in Sahayadri’s became completely worthy in terms of what experience I gained from doing the task. A stress free mind and a lot of beautiful memories was what I was taking back home.