June 5, 2020

A Trip For The Mind

A much needed break to refresh the mind and body had us plan a one-day hike to the nearby Maratha watch tower Kalavanthin Durg. Just off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the picturesque Kalavanthin and it’s fort Prabhalgad rises at 3200 ft above sea-level. A few of my friends from the office had been there before. The pictures and first-hand tales of the trip had enamored us with the idea of someday experiencing the same. It was physically taxing, they confirmed, and looked way too tricky, especially for someone like me who could hardly climb up to the sixth floor of the office building without almost collapsing due to a pounding heart beat and breathlessness. From the pictures we know that the only way to get to the very top was a single stone stairway facing a steep fall on one side. Still, the gang of us four girls (over ambitious first timers) and two of the boys who had been there before geared up for this trip. We gathered as much information from our friends who had made the trip about a year ago and the internet so as to prepare ourselves for the undertaking.

My survival partly depended on these.
My survival partly depended on these.

I bought new shoes too!  I shall come back to the shoes a little later on how they stood the test of upward and downward steep climbs, moss covered rocks, and slippery soil and stones. With all the preparations done we took off on what would turn out to be a memorable trip for us six friends. We reached the base at 10:30 am. As we gazed upon the fog covered Kalavanthin Durg and the adjoining fort, we tried to think about all the reasons as to why we decided to do this and whether in fact we will be able to get up to the very top. With hopes still positive and excitement intact we started off on the path towards the base village.

Here we are already gasping for breathe! You see the guy in the blue t-shirt, that’s my dad. Yes, he joined us too. Maybe because he was a little worried to let me off on my own or maybe because he just too cool and my friends love his company. Also, the boys needed a bit of support handling us fragile and weak girls.

As it turned out, and as you can see he was always way ahead of us along with our friendly neighborhood driver, Kevin, laughing at us being all tired with a small walk out in the nature in our ripe youth. Poor us! We were almost collapsing. Guess what we haven’t even yet reached the base village which would mark us halfway there to the top. Finally! The base village on the Prabhal plateau. That’s me by the way, the one in the blue collapsed on the floor. Don’t you dare judge me! it was my first time undertaking such a physical activity.

The only canteen atop the Prabhal plateau

This is where we placed the order for lunch. It’s the only little canteen on the plateau. They have a couple of rooms and washrooms available. Let me note that they are well kept. There is no menu available. Just a basic Veg Thali at Rs. 100 (mixed vegetable, dal, rice, chapatti, bhakri, pithla) and a Non-Veg Thali at Rs. 130 (Chicken curry, rice, chapatti, bhakri). And, it’s unlimited. Yes! Too good for the price. After relaxing for a while we decided to get back on foot. We had mutually reconsidered going up to Kalavanthin Durg. The two boys who attempted the same last year, informed us that they had not actually completed it due to the last tricky bit with the stairway. Given our performance with the climb upto the base village, we decided to go up to Prabhalgad fort instead assuming it would be easier. Please note that this was the best and worst decision of the trip in itself. Keep reading and you shall see why.

To the extreme left is the sweet old who helped us on our way.
To the extreme left is the sweet old who helped us on our way.

As we moved towards the fort, we couldn’t find a way to take. No path, no trail. Searching for the same, we asked an ajee (grandmother) for directions. She politely informed us that we were lost and had come way ahead. She happily guided us to the path upwards and gave us enough instructions to follow. She informed us that there is a foot trail to follow, the only one to get to the top. From that point forward till the very top, there was no path to walk upon, it was just a rocky, slippery, moss covered, stony, steep upward climb. We couldn’t even see where we were going to upto a few meters. The trail was way too steep and winding. Using our hands and feet to test a proper footing we made our way up the fort. There were other groups like us who were on their way up. Just like us they too kept thinking in their minds and sometimes out loud as to, “Why? Why? Why?” Remember I said worst decision, this is why. I was just thinking if this is how it is going upwards, think about coming back down. The boys confirmed that the path upto Kalavanthin Durg was a little easier than this. This trail was unexpectedly difficult. I have gone up to other forts before. They have a proper path or steps at least to go up. This one, nothing. Lucky for us it didn’t rain much, just a few drizzles. I cannot imagine going up in pouring rain.

The rocky trail upwards

The climb was never ending. It was up…up…a little more further…and up again. One turn after another just a steep climb all in all and then finally! We hit flat ground. It was covered in trees and we couldn’t see an edge. “Have we reached the top yet?” “Is it the top?” “Why is there no edge?” “Please let it be the top!” we all exclaimed. Searching for an edge finally the trees cleared for a view that made us feel more excited and calm at the same time. Yes! We had done it! We accomplished it! Starting from the base village at 12 noon we reached the top of the fort at around 2:30 p.m. The same smile and feeling of pure triumph was seen on every face atop the fort. The view was amazing, serene and fulfilling.

View of Kalavanthin Durg from Prabhalgad fort

Fearing that the climb downwards would be more difficult, we rested on the top a little and then started back down. As it turned out the climb downwards was more tricky and my shoes, oh my new shoes couldn’t perform as well as I had anticipated. I hadn’t read the description thoroughly. The shoes were meant for dry hikes only. They slipped miserably on the moss covered stones. I must say the boys really helped us a lot. Using their hands for support we were able to slowly make our way down. Slipping, sliding, sometimes falling (by ourselves and with others supporting us), laughing at others and ourselves we reached the base village at 5 p.m.

Hot and tasty lunch was waiting for us here! It refreshed us definitely! Everything tasted so fresh and full of flavor especially the rice. It was like nothing I had tasted before. Even with such a well cooked chicken curry, the flavor of the rice shown through. After the replenishing lunch and tea we started the final climb down to the base where car was waiting for us to crash into. Taking as many breaks as we could going as slow as we could we kept telling ourselves just a little bit more. For some of us this bit was the most testing. As it the sun set it started getting spooky a little, and insects and flies came out to feast on us. This is where my dad being with us helped a lot. He was an added support for the boys and he kept encouraging us forward. Finally we reached the car at 8:30 p.m. The climb did test us mentally and physically, but we still shared many jokes, laughs and small conversations that made it all worth the while. Ancy my dear friend who accomplished this under flu and fever remarked that this trip has only bonded our friendship more closer. It was an experience to remember. That’s why going up to Prabhalgad was the worst and best decision in itself…actually more the best. Last year when my friends made this trip, I had opted out because a year ago or even a week ago I wouldn’t be able to imagine myself undertake and complete such a trip. I am physically weak and more so lazy with sprains and stiffness being a part of my daily happenings. But, with this small trip I learnt a lot about myself. Gained confidence in myself and in my friends among the many other things. I would recommend anyone reading this to push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone so you can see what you are really made of.

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