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I had never imagined the New Year party to be so different than all that I had earlier. As planned, I did not want to celebrate the New Year party within the city limits or any kind of civilization. Been planning on how to do it for a while, I happen to visit the TrekMates blog, and I had my answer. My friends at TMI had plans for a trek to Kulang on the 31st of December. As my local friends asked me about my plans, I returned them the same answer which made most of them unhappy. But as I think of it now, it was a real good decision to go for the trek rather than to be in the city, spend a lot of money and still hurry up for things without any satisfaction. This was a mindboggling experience for me and one of my best treks.
I happen to call up Nilesh and Vikram, letting them know about me joining in for the trek. As for the celebrations, I promised Vikram that I’d be carrying my guitar with me for the trek, which would add to the excitement. I also called up rest of my TMI friends, and surprisingly many of them joined in along with some new names I already knew about. We had a bus hired to take us to Ambewadi which was the bas village. I met the TMI gang at Swaminarayan Temple in Dadar from where we were supposed to board the bus, and to my surprise I found that for a total we were 53 trekkers in all. Now it was 53 people, 1 bus and the highest climb from base. It was going to be a whole lot of fun.
For the group, it was me, Nilesh, Vikram, Niraj, Manoj, Adhaar, Bharat, Shweta, Shraddha (chiuu taee), Nakul, Vishal, Vinayak, Renuka (o ya ya ya!!), Jaal, Mahen bhai, Kaustubh and Manish (to name a few common names) and many more who made up for the trek. A grand total of “53”.
We started at around 11:30 pm on the 30th in the bus to meet the rest of the Thane friends. As we stopped at Thane, we welcomed the rest of the gang with the “Aa oO!!”, it sounds funny but (its funny actually!! J ). All set and we head towards our destination. Just as the bus moved, then started the singing session that went on and on throughout the journey. Stopped in at a Dhaba around 2am in the Kasara ghat for some tea, the feeling was just awesome, the chilling cold and a hot cup of tea, what else could someone ask for. The life at a road side Dhaba after the midnight is simply wonderful; you have to experience it to feel it. Barged back into our bus and reached Ambewadi around 4am, till when the songs still continued throughoutJ. The night at Ambewadi is always so beautiful. This was my second trip to the place and the star lit sky leaves me almost astonished. The cool and clean air in the surroundings, the breeze going through the plantation makes the feeling just beautiful.
We all got out of the bus and got some rest, some in the bus and some out on the village road in the darkness and I knew it was time to take my guitar out as most of us were sitting out and chatting their way to glory. Now it was the cool breeze, some good friends and good acoustic music playing on the guitar as we sang through the dawn. That was an amazing feeling appreciated by all. An hour later, the surroundings got lightened up as it was sunrise and we had to get ready for the trek.
Packed our sacks and got into our attire, we all were ready and it was time for some introduction to all. And then, there came the qualifications, whereabouts, lifestyles and passion people had in them along with the knowledge about trekking and the mountain. We had a new friend who was the birthday boy for that day, what a surprise; we even had a cake to be feasted uponJ. It was the birthday of my new found trek mate on the 31st, what a date to celebrate birthdayJ. Followed by the b’day bumps we had our piece of the cake. Some jokes and chatting and we started our journey towards ‘Kulang-gad’.
We started around 7am. Got divided into two groups, one led by Vikram to reach the top first, and other who followed slowly and had the most of fun (the fun groupJ). We travelled through diverse traverse, through beautiful landscapes and farmlands. The start is quite a walk for an hour or so before we reach the thick plantation across the farmlands. The route then is a rugged one of steep slopes of land and stones. It was quite a tiring walk but we managed to move on with our chats going on and on. The songs still continued. In some 2 hours or so, we all got divided into leaders and followers. The leaders went way too far for us to catch up with them, so we decided to take it slow and steady without any hurry and enjoy the trek. I guess we’d stopped for many a break whilst climbing. At a certain tough patch, it was I and Nilesh directing and helping out Kalyani with the climb as it would have been too tough for her to do it alone. But helping fellow mates is quite an adventure in itself (& our teachers did teach us “sharing”J). It took us around an hour or so to complete a distance of some 500ft. That was one hell of a climb. At a certain point of height the leaders and the followers met to catch up with some rest. It was somewhere halfway the mountain where we’d halted. The place was the last place where water was available amidst the jungle. That place would be a lovely location in the rainy season, wit the water flowing over the huge rocks and falling down into the valley. The imagination itself was so wonderful; I’ll surely try to visit it in the monsoon. We drank the water settled on the rocky surface just the way animals didJ (that’s something you don’t try everydayJ). Filling out bottles with the water and having some snacks we resumed our journey with the leaders leading againJ.
Now the route was full of steep ascend through loose mud and stones. I wonder how the first timers walked their way, never wondering what kind of trouble I had while climbing. None of my hands were free while the climb. I had a very heavy 25l sack packed over its limits, a guitar attached on the right side and my SLR through my neck, leaving none of my hands free (it really was a hectic job to take care of the two things I loved, my camera and the guitar). Besides taking care of all these things I had to take care of the land where I placed my foot and acquire proper balance (I’d advice not to try such things, unless you have the MADNESS in youJ). Anyways, madness is like a cosmic feeling that drives you towards attaining something extraordinary.
The group resumes the trek after this short break. The later part was followed by thorny shrubs & tall plants that covered the so called ‘path’. We had to move our body in all possible ways to maneuver through this patch, which lasted for nearly 2 hours. Most of my mates took a long time. And once again, the leaders (Vikram & regimentJ) were nowhere to b foundJ. I just imagined what the rest of the group was thinking while trekking this patch. Still we moved on slow & steadily. A few minutes later, it was just I Nilesh & Renuka (ya ya ya!!J). We three halted at all the possible spots till the rest of the group barged into us. Our friend Renuka would sure remember each time the 2 Patil’s talked about running all over the patch and leaving her behindJ (but as responsible TMI members, we stayed with her and covered the patch at turtle speedsJ (and surely! Singing the “o ya ya ya!!J). It was fun!! Joining and rejoining again with the rest of the group we climbed up to the part which leads to the stairs in another hour or so. A long break and the ‘turant shaktidayak koi nahi aisa, glucon-D jaisa” we resumed the climb through the steeply ascending stairs with nothing for our support. Once again back to turtle speeds we covered that patch in another half an hour or so and finally touched the summit.
The feeling at the summit was so beautiful, I’d never had thought of it. The feeling was like a mixture of beauty and satisfaction, beauty of the nature that surrounded me and satisfaction of trekking on of the toughest trails in Maharashtra. These feeling gelled just perfectly with the presence of so many friends. I vas in love with the ambience around that place for a while (which subsided just as one of my friends called meJ). Just as I dropped my sack off my back, I felt so relaxed, I could have just wished for a massageJ. After a short chat with the rest of the gang & the ‘hi, hello!!’ it was time for FOOD. All I could have wished for was some good chicken curry, and there it was. Nilesh took out the chicken curry which he had got already prepared a day before. Along with it opened all other lunch boxes, all spreading different aromas, but still the winner was ‘Chicken Curry’J.
A long feast and a long chatting session exploring the different experiences on the trek was just a beautiful feeling in itself & still having the chicken in front of us was just amazingJ.enjoying each bite of food with pleasure we feasted towards gloryJ. Some of us rested while others explored the surroundings. While everybody else had explored and rested (the leaders) it was time for us to roam around in the wilderness.
The fortification at the top of Kulang has broken to pieces with the lapse of time & weather. Most of it had fallen apart into huge stones that occupied the land. There are water tanks (cisterns) on the top filled with water from the monsoon season. Some distance ahead and there were another 4 water tanks which were much deep. The cave is a place that could accommodate around 30 people. The rest of the fortification was just ruins of the history that took place on Kulang-Gad.
Looking at the tanks, it could be foolish not to have a bath after a tiring day. I and a couple of mates took no time to reach the tanks and jump into the water. I could have never imagined the water to be so cold, it shivered every part of my body, but the feeling as I came out was total relaxing. Oh! What a feeling it was. Out of the chill feel and into the normal world, we rested near the tanks with out bodies laid down. It was sheer relaxation. One should really try something like this. A few minutes later, the rest of our gang, which had come out of hibernation from the cave were out to witness the sunset. For a while, looking at the whole group coming, it felt as if they had all come up like touristsJ, and then after Nilesh giving all some knowledge about the fort and surrounding peaks it was time for some games. And then followed Nilesh’s games. This time it was mathematical games which I and many others preferred to stay out of (knowing our mathematical capabilitiesJ).
Experiencing the last rays of the year from the sun reaching the mountain top and spreading different hues of colors was just a magnificent view. The feeling itself, of thinking about the completion of yet another year and still living to experience a whole lot of life to come was a much different one than I’d thought of. Celebrating this moment at such a height was extraordinary in itself. One should really try celebrating in such a way. Then came up the cameramen, all equipped with their SLR’s and freezing all those lovely moments. The scenario there was too beautiful, that can only be experienced. All gathered around posing in their own funny ways and basking up in glory of the coming new year. I had a whole lot of beautiful photographs. The colorful sky up above was fantastically beautiful. Still the songs and the chat continued, and we all had a jolly good time.
With the sun now setting, it was time for us to reach our cave and start with the dinner preparations. Thanks to Shweta, Nilesh, Niraj, Vikram, and Shraddha for preparing the good food that we had, and thanks to Nakul, Vishal, Aniket as we watched patiently the process. Preparing food is also an adventure sometimesJ, and that too at such a height in an uncivilized infrastructure. However the food was, it felt too good. We had some hot soup, good biryani, papad's (which eventually got mixed with all that we had for tasteJ). The food felt perfectly satisfactory. Still the songs and cats continued.
All charged up for the night to come, we rested for a while, till when it was time for the celebrations. We all started singing songs to the 'dafli' beat with the dancers coming out of all. I remember Shweta dancing all the way from the beginningJ. The Gujarati’s danced to the 'garbha' while the rest dance to our ‘Maiboli Gaani’. And who could have missed the ‘baghtoy rickshaw wala’ and ‘retiwala nawra’ girl, Renuka. After a couple of songs, these songs HAD to be repeated followed with a dance from her and me (the Agri guyJ). The dancing and singing continued till the stroke of midnight, (when the rest world was celebrating too) and there it was. We welcomed the New Year with all the joy and cheerfulness, all happy and without worries about tomorrow. That was the best New Year celebration I ever had. It really was a jolly good time. With the moon as the witness and the nature as the place, we basked towards glory into the night.
Wishing all the greetings to all my friends, I some how managed to wish my good friend Austin a very Happy Birthday. What a lucky guy to have a birthday on the New Year’s EveJ. A guess till that moment of wishing and cheering, everybody was awaiting the moment when they could listen to the guitar that somebody had brought up for the trek. And then we all settled down around the camp fire to listen to some good acoustic music on the guitar. And there I was, playing the guitar since hen for over an hour, continuously, with everybody joining in for the chorus as well as the lead. All sang pretty well with all the feelings. For an hour full of singing to the guitar, most of us fell asleep.
And then, none could have imagined what went trough one of our friends. I witnessed a proposal by my good friend to his lady love (pssst… know him??J). What a perfect ambience and mood it was for such a thing. The cool breeze, the dropping temperatures aroused by the camp fire, the sweet vibrations from the guitar, a bunch of roses & the ‘first three final words’. I wish…!! That was a moment my friend would remember for his lifetime, I guess!! Oh! What a moment! And we still sang for their love as the rest slept into the night. That was a moment I’d remember too, me being the facilitator for the event. Bless you my friendsJ.
Time for sleep and I was the only one who was left to the nature, with just a bed sheet to cover over my clothes and a sheet of plastic to rest my body on. Even in the blistering cold and such low resources, I somehow managed to catch some sleep. I slept like a stoned man in the chilling temperature out in the open. That was sheer adventure, mixed with pleasure and a bit of coldJ. Well sleep, I could still hear Shweta talking most of the time (just cant let others sleepJ). I listened to some psybient music as a slept away.
Wake up time: it was around 6am when a few of us woke up to witness the rising sun on the first day of the New Year. The beauty of the morning glory was simply awesome. I guess the pictures can explain what I felt. As time passed and the sun rose, all of s woke up and then again started the photography sessions. A need to freshen up, and some daredevils like me, Vishal, Manish, Jaal, Kaustubh, Bharat decided to head for the water tanks for a nice dip. But what welcomed us was thoroughly chilling. The water in the tanks had reached freezing temperatures that could take the crap out of us. Slowly and deciding for a while, we all finally jumped into the water. The water just free zed our bodies for the time we dipped into it, and we had to get out of it a.s.a.pJ. That feat was one hell of an adventure. One should try this too. I still remember the expressions on our faces after coming out of the waterJ.
All freshened up, and rested, we head towards the caves where a hot cuppa tea was awaiting us. We had the all-time hit ‘Maggie’ for breakfast and tea. Sipping to some hot tea on the top of the mountain was a different feeling in itself. Done with the routine daily chores, it was time to pack our bags for the descent and bid a farewell. An hour later it was time for a photo session and group photos. We all cheered as the moment free zed in my camera. What a lovely photograph it is.
The descent: as Vikram led the first group; Nilesh, me and a handful of friends decided to wait and follow later on. A small guitar session by Adhaar, Nilesh and Aniket, we bid a very good farewell to the place. What an experience it was! The only two girls remaining were Renuka (ya ya ya!!) and Shraddha (our chiuu taeeJ). Slowly and steadily we descended through the stairs. And then came the “_____Dash” songs era. That was a jolly good time we spent singing those Dash songs along with the ‘ya ya ya’ & ‘baghtoy rikshawala’J. We laughed and laughed as we took each step down the mountain. I’d never forget that descent. Thanks to Vinayak & Kaustubh for adding to the compositions with the Marathi songs (remixed our styleJ). It took us around 3 hours to reach more than a halfway down the mountain, added with the breaks. The songs, jokes and the chatting is the one thing that remains continuous throughout the trekJ.
Surprise surprise: As we reached the base, we were walking this patch of land which was all covered with dried up grass up to a foot high. When suddenly someone among us screams, ‘saap, saap’, and there it was, a beautifully designed brown ‘Russell's Viper’ popping out ahead from Nilesh’s feet, and all ran in panic (just as the snake didJ). We somehow managed to stay away from it in the panicky moment, though safe, the snake wasn’t far away. It just entered into a thick plantation. While the others moved away safely, I and Nilesh tried to venture in for the snake. But the snake had already camouflaged. But for surprise, due to my fast photography skills, I some how managed to shoot the viper through my camera. Although not clear, it’s a proof that we came across one of the deadliest things on earth. But for that panicky moment, I felt of the snake to be a very beautiful creation. After searching for a while for the snake, we decided to move on. And that was the place where we’d taken the other route towards Ambewadi. Out on the open tarmac, we knew we had missed a turn, and now we were wandering for directions (things like these happen, its called adventureJ). After inquiring with a few villagers, we set a foot on the right path. Another hour or so and we come across Vikram & Manoj, who’d come searching for us. A walking discussion about our adventure and we reached Ambewadi 3 hours behind scheduleL. But the adventure was totally worth experiencing. We reached Ambewadi at around 5:30 in the evening. All freshened up, we had some good rice & ‘pithle’ with pleasure at Lakhan’s place. Thus the trek came to a lovely end as we all barged into the bus back home.
This trek to Kulang is the most memorable trek I’d ever done. All the words, and all the joy and just be felt by experiencing it. All the things that happened over the night just gel up so beautifully, that would leave nothing to be wished for. Do trek this route once.
Nimish S Patil
(livin up the Divine Moments of Truth)