Out group of more than a hundred people had reached Kalsubai at about 4 in the morning in two buses. Another small group from Pune was to arrive shortly. The organizers had allowed us about an hour of rest before we had breakfast and started climbing. I had been with the group of Maxim and his friends, Lakshika and Nishant. If you ever want to see a person with boundless energy, you have to meet Maxim. We had been awake the entire night, disturbing everyone in the bus, most of whom wanted to sleep. I am sure we didn’t win any new friends on that bus!
So, after a sleepless spent in the bus, we weren’t about to sleep at the base village. We found a spot to sit and continued our chatter. I walked away alone for some time, exploring the surroundings in the dark. Following the sound of flowing water, I also found a stream. If there is one thing that amazes me while trekking, it is how easily we can find streams and rivers just by following the sound of flowing water. You are unlikely to get lost on any hill or mountain where there is a stream.
We couldn’t figure out which of the visible peaks we would be scaling soon. What none of us imagined, however, was that the peak we would be scaling was not visible at that time. It was only after we had had breakfast that we managed to catch a glimpse of our destination.
The fog does wonderful things. Where it was thick, it seemed as if the hill was covered in snow. Where it was thin, it seemed like a stream flowing gently down the incline. As we walked into it later, it almost seemed like a dust storm blowing across initially, prompting me to cover my eyes, before the cool breeze hit me and made me realize it was actually a welcome wind, not a dust storm.
We started out climb to the peak at about 6:15 in the morning, hoping to get there by noon. After the initial few hundred meters, we were walking blindly into the fog. No matter how high or how long we climbed, the peak never seemed to be visible. The steep incline would disappear into the fog, seemingly endless. Fortunately, there were plenty of steel railings and ladders along the way to make it easy for us. Sure, a more challenging climb would have been more fun, but it would have been unlikely that the entire group of more than 100 people would have made it up in time, if at all.
The first group of climbers, including me, reached the top a little before 10, ending a three and half hour climb. It was an exhilarating experience to be at the highest point in Maharashtra, even above the clouds. Disappointingly, we could see nothing at all from the top. Anywhere we looked, all we saw was a white emptiness staring back at us. We figured the best thing we could do was lie down and get some rest. Thankfully, after a while, the clouds below us started to part and we could see some land. We still couldn’t see the much talked about peaks in the distance, but something, as they say, was better than nothing. The view was amazing, with lush green land in every direction, only broken by streams or lakes.
After some rest and lunch, we started descending. It was an eventless experience, with people stopping for pictures plenty of time along the way. Me and a friend I had made during my first trek to Bhairavgad – Imran, did our bit for nature by picking up as much plastic along the way as we could. There was more plastic on the hill than we could possibly collect even if we made 10 trips to Kalsubai. I had never thought trekkers to be capable of such blatant disrespect for nature.
While descending, we reached a plateau. Now, since it was a big group, it is understandable that some people reached before the others. But what was surprising was that even after the punishing day we had had, some people found the strength to play games. Physically demanding games! And the players were actually giving it everything, not just playing for the sake of it. Not convinced? Take a look at the picture below!
On the way down, Priti, one of the organizers, led us to a waterfall. That just might have been the most fun experience of the whole trek. The water flowed gently down a rocky slope. The base was shallow enough for us to sit with just our necks above water. We sat below the waterfall and allowed the falling water to massage our head and shoulders. At one time, the water suddenly stopped flowing. It was intriguing, until I learned that some of the trekkers had figured out a way to sit at the top of the waterfall and block the water!
By the time we got down, everyone was understandably exhausted. Spending a sleepless night followed by about 4000 metres of climbing and descending is enough to get anyone tired. Unlike on the way to Kalsubai, everyone slept quietly on the way back. When we stopped for refreshments at a dhaba, barely anyone felt like waking up and getting down for food.
People were listless on the rest of the journey. Again, it was Maxim who surprisingly regained his energy after a cup of tea and got people to play some games. He and his friends, Saurabh and Manish, seemed to be human repositories of games one could play anywhere. Eventually, Maxim, too, gave up and everyone went back to sleep.