So, it all starts with a college reunion. It was a Friday night and after office few of my close college friends met after almost 3 years and celebrated happiness. Beers and beers and more beers were ordered and we did not leave the bar until 3 in the morning. I reached home and as soon as I saw my lovely bed I crashed to sleep. I woke up at around 6.30 in the morning and was surprised to see my phone flashing 7 missed calls and some texts on watsapp. I then realised that, I had to catch a train to reach the base village for a trek that was proposed by me to my trekking group and I was too late for it. I called back one of them and was informed that they left already as I wasn’t reachable. I asked them at what time they will reach the lonavala station (base village for the trek) I was happy to know that they have taken a slow local train which will take them atleast 1.5 hours to reach to the base village. I jumped out of my bed, and within 10 minutes I was out of my house, set for the trek. I took an auto till railway station and checked at the enquiry counter for trains. Luckily there was an express train which could take me there in 30 mins time. I took the ticket and boarded the train. I reached Lonavala and called Jay. They had already reached and were waiting for me which they had their breakfast.
I rushed to the place and felt happy that I made it, finally. Phew....I took my breakfast 2 idlis and relied on that was around a 13 kms walk to Valvande village. (it’s not on Google maps as well huh) For the first 2 kms its a tarmac road, and after that the road is full of small stones and its uneven. We finally reached Valvande which is a place with some 10 straw houses. There were no shops, and no place where we could take tea. But the best thing about villagers is that they are very good at hospitality. A villager offered us tea and gave four packs of glucose biscuits.
We ate and then started the real adventure. Now we are off to a road which has no trail, the entire place was covered with grass and no trail was visible. That villager though told us to take a left from Aamba (Mango Tree) but we realised there were some 20 mango trees around the place. So we just walked trusting our assumptions. After 20 mins of walk in the woods we found a waterfall ahead of us and the only way we could see to go ahead was a tunnel. We entered the tunnel where we were first welcomed by tadpoles and frogs jumping here and there. After we crossed half of the tunnel we were further welcomed by bats. We had no choice but to cross it because going back was not a good option anyway. So we crossed it somehow using our torches and covering our faces. It is said that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, but here the case was different. There was no way ahead of us, no trail, no road no grass but mountains. So we thought of climbing a mountain which was covered with grass, bushes, small plants which had thorns. The sun wasn’t in favour either. After an hour and half of cuts, bruises, insects and what not, we crossed the mountain and saw a farmer family near a farm, so we climbed down to ask for the next pit stop. But, when we asked them, they told us the biggest setback. The Valvande village is just 5 minutes away from there (remind you, it’s the same village where we stopped for tea.
We again went back to the same place where we had tea and this time without crossing the tunnel we climbed the hill over the tunnel (we were supposed to actually go over the waterfall and then may be follow it, but we kept going uphill, crossed a mountain, then we were back in woods, scary as hell they were, noises, chirping of birds and what not could be heard, Dense it was so again gave us more bruises, we were all bleeding, but we had to find a way. So we crossed the mountain and the woods and then again another mountain. We were now thinking that we found a way, when we saw another mountain in front of us. :( This was steep, straight climb with nothing to hold (tree or grass or any bushes), we still took a start and halfway through we realized there is nothing to hold on to. We couldn't go down anyway coz one step back and straight down without breaks. Now the climb has to be made so our Irish friend Emmett Mullaney somehow dared to climb it. He slipped but managed to climb somehow. Now it was my turn so I waited for the other two to come up, so that I have some support, Now Anadkat Jaykumar came like a hero; I kept one leg in a gap that I managed to find and the other one on Jay's palm and managed up. Vishwas was scared as hell to climb and he was the last to climb it. We had to literally pull him up. Anyway, All of us now were happy that this is probably the last mountain of this range and we have climbed it, but this wasn't it. We walked another mile uphill and saw a small stream, so we filled some water in our water reservoir (mind you, no mineral water can beat the flowing stream water when you trekking). We walked further and a saw a nice view of Valvande village, since it was already 4 pm and sun started to going down, it looked scenic. We went up to the last hill and saw a plateau with crab holes at every inch distance and knee long grass. Now we were sure that this is an untouched land because there is no mark of human out there. We were scared now, because we didn't have a place to camp, and it was already 5 PM. So we headed to all sides of the mountain just to see, if there is a village down there. But luck was not with us that day and we were stuck. So we dared to camp, as it was already getting dark and we didn’t want to run up to the woods. So we cleaned the campsite and arranged our tents. Now we were hungry so we asked if anyone is carrying food, actually we thought of eating the food at Kondeshwar, which was supposed to be the village that we were trying to locate. Here is the next set back. All of us answered "We thought we would find village so we didn’t carry any extras" Only one of us was carrying 100 grams of peanuts and 100 grams dryfruits. Now this has to be saved because, all we had was those 200 grams of food. At least till the next day until we find a village. So we ate the pack of peanuts and some dry fruits and it was 6 already.
The evening was an amazing experience which I will always cherish for life. We were stranded at a place where the only sign of humanity were the aeroplanes flying over us. The sunset looked amazing and the amazing music of birds chirping, wind and insects was soothing to ears. We were all very tired so we all went in one tent. Emmett then told has that he has to catch a flight from Mumbai on Monday morning so we have to reach early next day to Pune or he misses his flight and a lot more problems will arise. Around 8 pm, when the noises became louder and scarier we decided to just see how night looks out here and get back into the tents. So we came out and it was dark and noisy, we were able to see nothing but the sky. It was clear sky and it seemed like we are looking at the entire galaxy.
After some time we just came in the tents and slept. The whole night every other voice woke us up. We had nightmares and sometimes felt something moving under our tents. We were sure of crabs though, because the plateau was full of them. This turned out to be one of the scariest night ever spent.
We woke up at around 7 in the morning and the sun was smiling at us :) We now had to pack our tents and find a way home. So we packed, completed nature calls and then had some breakfast (the remaining dry fruits) The adventure started again as we went to one side of the hill that we didn’t check the last night, and found a dense forest, somehow managed to cross it (this time the noises were louder) and no sunlight in the woods. We found a hill, going straight down after we crossed the woods and then Waalllaaaaaaa, there was nothing down except a dense jungle. So we came back to the camp and tried the last side that we could. We thought we would walk the same way we came from but the problem was that we came from woods after a waterfall and at every 200 metres distance a similar scene was found. Woods & waterfall, woods & waterfall. And straight down we could see the village (but that’s two mountains down ) :( We kept walking along the edge of the mountains, crossed several dense woods, got cuts all over and itching everywhere, hopes were going all down when Emmett saw a big waterfall, we have to climb down from the mountain to reach the waterfall now, so we went through long bushes, which we realized later was full of cactus plants. Slipped, managed to catch a bush, and got down somehow, as we go along with the waterfall, we saw big crabs, fishes and what not. After hours of walk, we reached at the top of a waterfall, now from here we could see the tunnel so we were pretty sure that we came the right way and all we have to do is to climb down the waterfall. A there was no way we could do it. So we went up to the cliff along with the waterfall and then thought of finding a way down. Finally we found a trial down and we came in 15 mins or so :) We were very happy to come back, went to the same village and had tea (no biscuits they had this time) Now there was a 13 kms walk back to Lonavala. So we started walking and on the way we saw a lot of big spider webs all over the trees, and finally we found a open truck which helped us on the way back to lonavala and the rain then welcomed us on the way:) We were all silent and smiling, because all of us knew it wasn't easy way up or down. It was one heck of a trek and a never to forget experience :) And that’s what a trek is all about. To Explore the Unexplored :)