Going home is like a holiday. No morning rush hour, no pile of work waiting at the office desk, no managing bank accounts, bills, maid, dhobi. Everything magically gets taken care of.
Last time I visited home in December (Yes, this post is that late), the mother and I made a plan to go trekking. The idea of vegetating at home was very temping, but I needed to break away from the Del-Bom-Del circuit and we needed to do some fun, physical activity together to break away from the daily routine.
A short 3 day trip away from the city was planned and Igatpuri was the chosen destination. Unlike the previous times we visited Igatpuri, this time we drove down. A good decision since the Mumbai-Nashik road is just great-broad, smooth, and fortunately for us, with very little traffic.
We checked into a resort called the Manas Resort. Reputed to be the best Igatpuri town can offer, the hotel offered decent lodging facilities, but the food was just terrible and the staff slow and disinterested. Instead of pleasing us (and other guests) by focusing on their service and giving their restaurant a complete overhaul (included hiring a new chef), the resort focused on offering New Year/Christmas delights- Dandiya night and Bhangra night. Nights we were not the least bit interested in. What we were interested in – decent food, responsive staff- was not on the resort management’s radar. My aunt visited the very same resort a long time ago and her experience was a lot better than our’s. Obviously, this place has seen a decline in the last couple of years.
Anyway our stay was short and we kept our focus on the trek overseeing the shortcomings of our temporary residence. A short distance away from Igatpuri is Kalsubai- at 5500 ft the the highest mountain in Maharashtra and as per Wikipedia the 10th highest peak in the Western Ghats. On the evening of the day we landed at Igatpuri, we explored the area and found the motorable route to the base of the mountain.It took about a quarter of an hour to get the to Bari village, the starting point for the trek. The weather was clear and there was a mild winter chill in the air- just the right weather for an outdoor activity.
We set out early next morning with all the requisite gear- sturdy shoes, backpacks, caps, food and water. 30 minutes of driving and we met the most unexpected twist of nature- fog. Thick, white fog. So thick that visibility was restricted to the extent of making driving almost impossible. This is the Ghats, the sea isnt far away, who expects fog in a location like this? Everyone warned us of how cold it will be (and it wasnt), no one even mentioned fog. There is really no way you can predict nature- you can only submit to its power, request cooperation and pray you get it.
So pray we did, and driving at 10kmph with the indicator lamps blinking, we cleared the worst of the fog. Once we moved away from the Bhandardara lake area, the fog cleared considerably and by the time we reached Bari village, it was all gone!
Bari is a beautiful village. Green fields, farmers, cattle, children running around, hens all over the place.Truly rural. Bari -is the starting point for the trek- is a very small village and doesnt provide much. Its therefore best to come prepared with all your trekking supplies -food, water and walking stick. You can, however, stop for a small meal at one of the tiny restaurants (if you arent too picky about where you eat), and buy some tidbits to eat along the trek. If you take your own vehicle all the way to Bari you can park it at the village school if the school is not in session, or at the large clearing just at the entrance of the main village. People are friendly and will guide you to the parking space, the restaurants and the trek path. You can also hire a guide but you dont really need one. The route is well treaded and easy to identify, plus you will encounter a lot of villagers going up and down the mountain, happy to point you in the right direction. If its holiday season you will also meet groups of school and college kids.
Most people will tell you it takes 3 hours to trek up to the top of the mountain. May be they are right, but it took us longer and we didnt complete the last leg of the trek. That could be because we stopped often, took a lot pictures, chatted with children and paid our respects at the tiny temple situated half way up the mountain. Our focus was not only to trek, but to also enjoy the nature and absorb the peace and tranquility of a place far,far away from the maddening city.
Unlike the mountains we see in Himachal that are very green, the mountains in this part of the Sahayadaris here are quite bare. The trek itself is quite steep. The mountain is rough, rocky and rugged and to climb it you need to take steps of unpredictable and varying height, straining on your knees on your climb up and your calves on your climb down. The loose pebbles and stones roll away unexpectedly under your weight and unless you are as sure footed as a goat, you are sure to roll away with them a time or two! The last bit of the trek gets very steep-the rocky steps get harder to climb and there are some old iron ladders that one has to pass. The ladders were one reason we decided to not go right to the top. The other was that it had become very hot- an absolute contrast to the morning temperature. We’d trekked for over 4 hours and that was good enough for us!
At the top of the mountain is a small temple of Kalsubai and a 360 degree view of the entire area. Both of which we missed. But we weren’t disappointed. The father was, of course, a little surprised that we hadn’t pushed to climb the entire mountain.The mother is usually known for her determination and it is rare that she leaves a task unfinished. I, on the other hand, am not known for any such great characteristics, but I do lend full support to any task or project that the family takes up. But on this particular trek, we didn’t feel the need to reach the summit- that wasn’t really our goal. We wanted to engage in some physical activity, spend time amidst untouched nature, practice photography. And all that we accomplished.
If you ever want to trek up Kalsubai, here are some tips:
- Weather: Avoid the trek in summers-its just too hot. In winters too try to finish the upward climb in the morning before 12 o’clock.
- Equipment: Any study shoes are good for this trek. If you have the kind of shoes Woodland makes, that great. Else you can also manager with regular shoes. You don’t really need a stick to walk up, but if you like you can use if for additional support. A cap and sunglasses are a must.
Carry a camera. There will be many sights that you would like to capture.
- Food and water: Is best to carry both with you. It adds to the weight you have to carry, but there isnt any other choice. There is no source of potable water on the route. You will have some villagers selling nimbu paani, but that’s avoidable. Ditto for food. Eat a good breakfast before setting out and carry energy bars, fruits, chocolate to eat on the way.
- Company: Treks are time taking and physically taxing, take along non-fussy, chilled out, like-minded enthu cutlets!
The day after the trek we headed back home making a stopping over at Nashik to visit Trimbakeshwar temple. The line in front of the temple was ten miles long. It was as if all of India had chosen to visit Nashik that day. Christmas holidays are a terrible time to travel! We said our prayers from outside the temple and headed back home. We will have to make another trip to visit the temple.
And that, my friends, was how I spent my December holidays this time. One holiday over and I am already ready for the next one.