I have been quite inspired by my adrenaline junkie cousin who had been to a trek to Rupin Pass in the Himalayas recently. Though I really wanted to join him, I couldn’t as my physical fitness wasn’t up to the mark. I decided to take small steps to the real thing – by trying to trek in the city limits first. On googling about the trekking groups in Mumbai I came across one called NatureKnights. They had a trek scheduled on June 30th in Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
I was pretty impressed by the “First Monsoon Trek”, as it gave me a chance to explore something beyond the malls and the beaches this city has to offer. Though I have lived in Mumbai a majority of my life, I am sad that I didn’t make much of an attempt to explore the place earlier. Well, that’s gonna change from now onwards.
I couldn’t really sleep the night before the trek. I was very excited about it and when my alarm rang it 5.30am, I literally jumped off the bed. My dad and sis joined me in the adventure. The biggest hurdle we faced was that not one of us was in the ideal condition for trekking. Dad had a slight fever, my sis had an injured shin, and I had a swollen ankle (due to the generosity of the fire ants a couple of days ago) but this didn’t affect our spirits.
We left for the national park at 7.20am, after packing a nice lunch of Nutella sandwiches. We reached the park at about 7.45 and waited for our trek leader Asif uncle to begin. Mumbai monsoons are mesmerizingly beautiful. Cool breeze, a light drizzle and a very mild weather were my expectations (which were dashed eventually). After all the members arrived near Kanheri caves, we had a mini intro session and then a headcount. We were about 45 members in total. The people in the group were really pleasant and jovial, cracking jokes and laughing all along. Most of them had had many treks and I really envy them for that. There were quite a few children in the group and this added to the fun element. I found a new friend in the fellow trekkers – Jenal.
The national park is an amazing place – an actual jungle in contrast to the concrete jungle. We were instructed to not go ahead of our camp leader (though we messed up quite a bit…). I am used to walking 5 km at a stretch but on the trek I was sweating profusely within the first hour itself. The trek proved to be really taxing for the first-timers as we had practically no idea about what we were getting into. I was more than thrilled when Asif uncle announced the five minute first pit stop – a small flat area. I resented the fact that I did not apply Odomos earlier as mosquitoes had been feasting on my blood. I helped myself to generous amount of Odomos and the mosquito problem didn’t plague me for the next couple of hours. The view from this place was beautiful – a green valley and only a couple of buildings of Borivali. We could just see the golden pagoda far away.
Asif uncle informed us that we were to climb a hill and let us choose how we wanted to do it – the easy way or with ‘stunts’. My sister was quick to answer: Easy way with stunts! We saw a lot many plants and small creatures, the first of which were wild mushrooms.
We resumed our walk. After a while we saw that there was a stream cutting our path. After that we saw a waterfall. It was a real treat to the eyes as I felt that the greenery was becoming monotonous. Though waterfall crossing wasn’t in the itinerary I was one of the more adventurous people who tried to cross it and succeeded. I tried to keep my shoes and socks dry, but finally gave up.
We saw this unusual plant which had flowers looking like cups and saucers. We soon faced another rare opportunity: climbing steep and slippery rocks. I didn’t want to miss this chance.
After another tiresome hour we took a relatively longer break. The view from this place was magnificent. We could identify some buildings in Thakur village now. The pagoda was more identifiable than before. After a Nutella sandwich, I just didn’t want to get up. This half-an-hour break rejuvenated all of us.
Our canine friend joined us here and remained with us for the remainder of the trek. I found it interesting that the dog was always a couple of steps ahead of me.
As I was one of the last members to leave the plateau, I assumed that Asif uncle would be leading and followed. We had walked about 400 metres when we heard a voice asking us to stop. I groaned. We returned to where we initially started and after a headcount, we started off in the opposite direction compared to the one we had taken earlier. The effect of Odomos was now slowly starting to wear off. We saw a wider range of insects now. The most intriguing one was an inch-long red insect.
After another hour long of ascending the slope we finally reached the point. My toes hurt badly as I was unaccustomed to walking so much. I was utterly shocked when I heard someone calling this a baby-trek, for it had completely worn me out.The scenery from the top, though, was breathtaking. We could see the three major lakes in Mumbai – Tulsi, Vihar and Powai. There was a slight fog which made the scenery even more magical.
I got rid of my wet shoes and socks and climbed the watchpost. What I saw was indescribably beautiful. After eating the remainder of the Nutella sandwiches and a little bit of photography it was time to leave. We left for Gaumukh at about 2pm. This may sound trivial, but I saw one of the most delicate and beautiful anthills on the way back.
The journey downwards was relatively easier. We took only half the time we took to reach there from the plateau. We visited Gaumukh first. In the front of the temple is a small pond filled with tadpoles. We rested there a short while and left for the plateau. The sun overhead was playing a game of hide-and-seek. I sat down enjoying moments of solitude and bliss. Jinal came and sat beside me. We spoke for some time. Jinal and I share similar opinion regarding most of the topics we discussed. Before long, we both had fallen asleep.
We woke up from our siesta just as the group was about to leave for the waterfall. The path to the fall was lined with really slippery stones. Reaching the place had been an adventure in itself. After another forty five minutes playing in the water and sitting under the waterfall we had the best time of the day. The people who enjoyed the most were the kids – splasing water on practically everybody present. It became almost impossible to get them out of the water.
We got to see a variety of insects on the way back. My teacher once told me in that nature has endless ways of fascinating us. The only thing we need to do is look carefully and be patient. The smallest of insects managed to amaze me with their sheer beauty. In a matter of hours, the way I perceived the world around me had changed drastically.
We finally started the last part of the trek: the walk back to Kanheri Caves, where we would have our evening snacks before we left. I was completely exhausted. Kanheri caves were a part of the tour but by the time we reached there, the security personnel were directing the people to leave. Our car was parked about 700 metres away from the canteen and it was a long walk there. After bidding Jenal and Asif uncle goodbye we left. I couldn’t help but feel proud at what I had accomplished.
For the first time trekkers, here are a few of the things I recommend before I conclude:
- Regular exercise for atleast a couple of weeks prior to the trek. Walking for an hour without stopping would be the best.
- Adequate sleep the night before the trek
- Carrying adequate water to the trek (Roughly 1.5 to 2 litres per person per day)
- Never forget Odomos, sanitizer and a small hand-towel.
- Keep an extra set of clothes and shoes, just in case.
Here is another important thing to remember – your body is going to be sore for 2-3 days as you are not accustomed to trekking. So ideally, trek should be on Saturdays (you get the Sunday to rest).
P.S: Photo Courtesy – my sister