It's that time of the year once again. Monsoons just around the corner. Forests ready to bloom into their own. And Fireflies in their full form. It's time to kick start the Monsoon expedition, and say hello to our old friend - The Sahyadri.
But don't be fooled. It ain't raining still. So why then all this fuss?
Because it's the month of June. The time for the night treks. The time for the Fireflies camps. The time for the pure awesomeness. Last year we kick started with Rajmachi, and this time it was the turn for one of those treks which had been in my wish list since the very start = Kalsubai, the highest peak of Maharashtra.
When you are passionate about what you are doing and excited about the journey more than your destination, you are bound to bump into more of the crazy kinds like you. This time I happened to meet Trek Mates India and 44 other co-passengers along the way. And a night under the stars was reserved for us on 30th of May, at 5,400 ft above the sea level.
It was a late plan to join TMI (thanks to my group who ditched me at the end). Our trek leader was kind enough to let me in, but only after I agreed to pay him double the trek fee. Dadar Semi Fast to Kasara was scheduled for us at 3:56 in the evening. When I say that it was scheduled I meant that the train was scheduled to come at the platform at given time, and we were expected to display our martial skills and get into the red serpent. It being a Saturday, we did not had to hussle a lot to conquer some leg space. And with the initial acquaintance session on the way, we left for Kasara. Around 6 in the evening, around 100 eager feet were thumping all over the Kasara station. Theplas were handed over to us, the trekkers loaded in the jeep, and with the playlist on, we left for our trek base - The Bari Village.
By the way, I was just kidding about the fee. I also paid the same as everyone else :P
So it took us a little over an hour to reach Bari Village. Late in the evening, the environment was particularly quiet, with only the temple lamps and few inquisitive nostrils in the view. The bunch was asked to get done with the dinner, pack everything they needed and set forth towards the peak. As we got ready to start, our group strength had increased by 2 with Titu and Bholu as the newest members to accompany us.
We started at something around 9 and made our way through the village, where everyone was already preparing for their share of dreams - Humans and cattle alike. As we progressed a little outside the range of the village, we were met with our first surprise (A surprise that we were prepared to encounter :D ) - The FireFlies. Everywhere. While some were ecstatic as seeing the fireflies for the first time, others' faces had also lit up with glee at meeting these natural rockstars once again. There is something about these creatures - The instance you see them, everything inside you seems to light up. And everything appears beautiful. Along with the fireflies we continued with out trail to reach our first pit stop - The temple of Shri Ram.
The first stretch of a trek is often the toughest stretch. If you have got past this one, you need not worry about anything else (apart for a potential leopard or snake attack, of course - They won't ask you which stretch of your trek you are in, before doing their bit). A little pause at the Ram Mandir, and the troop went on. A part of the group was already poking our guide with questions - "How far is it now?", "When are we going to stop next", "What exactly Kalsubai means". Another element of the party was taking special pride at seeing his mobile network full and was singing the IIN tune every now and then. And a few were going astray to explore more of the place. This was one happy bunch of people.
We took another pit stop before we reached the last stretch. A stretch which was shimmering in the sun light. An iron ladder which stood their with intense pride. A well at the base of the peak which faked its depth with utmost ease.
Half past 1. We were done with the last step of the ladder. The Kalsubai peak was ours at that moment.
It didn't took us long to settle down and engage in whatever felt like the best to us. An hour or so exploring the peak, and a majority of our warriors were won over by Sleep. A few engaged in story telling, with the spirit of Kalsubai being the protagonist. And another bunch of guys putting their skills to test as they attempted to light up the bonfire amidst the powerful force of the wind.
We sang for some time, lied down and watched stars until we were completely satisfied, made our presentce felt around the Kalsubai temple and gauged the damage it would cause if we attempted a Shaktiman stunt from the top. Slowly, but surely, the hills took all their children into the wonderland of dreams. For those 2 hours, we slept like there was no tomorrow. We slept until few human shaped roosters woke everyone - "Wake up you lazy fools, Sunrise is almost here". Yes! The hero of the story was about to make his entry - The Sun was about to rise.
Seeing Sun daily is one thing. And seeing it rise from such a height is another. That morning was beautiful. That scenery was beautiful. Everything at that time was beautiful.
We rose with the Sun and it was time for both of us to continue with our journey. While Sun went West, we started descending.
You see, the harder the climb, the easier is the descent. We kept sprinting along the slopes before we reached the plateau, and then Ram Mandir. Seeing that majority of the group still had some time to catch up, we did what we do best at such situations. We slept. We slept like no one was watching (Seriously no one was watching us in that forest - Except for a few curious parrots who were busy with the mangoes on a tree nearby).
We reached Bari Village at around 10. The life in the village was up and moving with a pace. The nothingness which was so rampant in the dark was replaced by chirps, greetings and happy voices all around. Our host welcomed us back, fared us a final goodbye and sent us back to Kasara station.
And all the co-passengers went their way, with a promise made. A promise to meet again along the journey, in some form of the other.