The Endless Journey…

Traveling was my jugular vein right from my childhood days. Some habits stay there with you for too long. Vying for that elusive window seat and pouncing on the seat when the opportunity presents itself remained with me even today. I enjoy the strange solitude from fellow travelers sitting there besides window.  Somehow, one dissolves with the elements when one engrosses oneself with the fast moving scenes outside that window seat.

Trekking came accidentally, my first trek was awfully risky and would never recommend anyone to be that daring.  But, the wilds of Bhimashankar is such that once you fathom those, you cannot resist visiting the jungles, again and again, and again…

So, this was one more opportunity for me to go with my friends from a group.  All was geared up, rains were pouring cats and dogs and we were scheduled to leave at around 10.30 pm in the night. Looking at the rains, we nearly canceled the trip, the phone started ringing and one friend after the other started seeking excuses citing a reason or two. We were now just three or four friends who did not wish the trips to get canceled. Suddenly, our prayers got answered and another set of friends ranged to inquire whether they could join us. So now, the trip was on, I said to myself. 

We were just half an hour behind planned schedule and we met at Kalyan in the night at around 11.30, boarded 11.56 train for Karjat. It was still pouring outside, and it was pouring pretty heavily. We reached Karjat station at 2 am in the night. We waited for about half an hour in the hope that the rain would recede. But, it did not. Somehow, we got out of the station, we were wearing rain gear but still heavy showers ensured that we would not be left dry. 

Karjat is a small town by any standards even in the day time, at night, it is a reclusive one.  Local trains arrive after fixed interval of one or two hours in the night. In the intermittent period, the shopkeepers down their shutters go to sleep. As soon as the train arrives, the shops, the tea vendors, the smoking joints all light up all of a sudden. The deserted roads suddenly come to life with autorickshaws reaching the stands. All happens in a matter of minutes. The sleepy town suddenly comes to life. We hailed one autorickshaw and boarded it to Khandas, the base point of Bhimashankar hills.  Khandas is about 30 km away from Karjat station. The ride in the night in that rainy on the curvy mountainous road was a long one. The exit of the autorickshaw was covered with a makeshift door to protect travelers from the rain. Anyways, it was a dark night and one could not see anything out of the vehicle. We were tired and were dozing off on shoulders of one another.

At around 4 am in the morning we reached Khandas. Khandas is etched in my memory for many a reason, I first visited this place during my school days with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS) team on a social mission to do some repair works in the Ashramshala (residential school for the tribals).  Then again in my first trek, we had been here. Khandas remained the same with little or no trace of development. The primary health center, the hamlets remained the same.  

Here too in Khandas, just like in Karjat, the villagers woke up to the sound of approaching vehicles and hastily the villagers would lit their lamps and burn their stoves to prepare tea in their verandah.  We went inside one such house and rested there and ordered some tea and biscuits. There were other trekkers too. By 5.30 in the morning, our trek began.

One finds short of words to describe the beauty of Bhimashankar hills. I have been to mountains in the Sahyadris, the Aravalis, the Nilgiris and the Himalayas. Each one of them has their own unique force that compels the traveler to come again. Barring the Himalayan ranges, no other mountain attracted me so much. Himalayan mountains more for its spiritual value than the beauty part of it though. Bhimashankar is a thick and dense tropical evergreen type of forest. It is a natural wildlife sanctuary, which flourished due to one superstition. It is believed by the tribals and the locals here that if one cuts the living tree in the forest, a family member dies. This superstition ensured that there was no deforestation. The trees and the shrubs surrounding them are so thick that one has to force his way to move ahead. All kind of flora & fauna flourish. The trek is a tiresome one as one has to continuously ascend the mountain to reach the plateau on the top of it, where the ancient temple of Bhimashankar lies near the mouth of river Bhima, which originates here.

At around, 2.30 in the afternoon, after a trek of around 8 hours we reached the mountain top. Bhimashankar town is a small town, unplanned and unkempt. There is no order as such and it has become a booming town thanks to the visiting crowd during auspicious Shravan month. It was still raining and the fog was densely present making visibility a challenge, resulting in a traffic jam. We got one dingy room on rent to rest and to freshen up. Tired and hungry that we were, we lumped to whatever that was served. We had planned our return journey by the bus which departed at 5.30 pm. The drama unfolded from here.

We reached the bus depot and found that the Bus was jam packed, the distance from Bhimashankar to Mumbai was more than 200 km. The whole day and the night before, we were tired and exhausted and it was beyond our physical means to travel standing. The girls in the group would have never acceded to this idea anyways. The bus left at 5.30 and we were left at the bus depot clueless, for the next bus departing from the stop was in the morning the next day.  We then decided to find an alternative travel option and hired a jeep that would take us to a small village Ghodegaon somewhere downwards the Bhimashankar mountain. No wonder the private vehicle operators fleeced the hapless travelers of their hard earned money. We were no exception to the rule. Time was an important factor for us, as it was Sunday and all of us had to report to our offices on Monday. A dim ray of hope arose when the driver assured us that we would get the bus which departed Ghodegaon at 8 pm. The Jeep left at 6 after overloading itself with much more passengers than it is allowed. We protested to the deaf ears of the driver. The fog which covered the entire mountain had resulted in a huge traffic jam and it took quite a bit for the driver to find his way out. By the time 

By the time we reached Ghodegaon, the bus scheduled to leave for Mumbai had already left. Now we were beginning to get worried. Ghodegaon was a small town and had no travel options. We inquired with the locals, who reassuringly told us to reach Manchar where we will find a bus leaving for Mumbai at 11.00 pm. We had few hours between us and the bus and so we decided to have our dinner in the hotel nearby. We were tired and now a bit worried but the mood was not somber any bit. It was jovial and fun laced, though inertly patiently prayed for that elusive mode of transport to reach our destinations.

At 11.00 the bus for Mumbai arrived, it was Kumbh Mela in Nashik and devotees would visit Bhimashankar after visiting Nashik, which resulted in crowded buses, we were told. The bus was so jam packed that the conductor would not open the door. The bus for Mumbai had now gone in front of us, alongwith it the hope to reach Mumbai early. Again the routine inquiry to find an alternative mode of travel. We were now told to somehow reach Chakan Dudh Naka, from where the milk tempos plied to Mumbai during the night. So we hailed one passing truck and paid the driver Rs.50/- per person to drop us to Dudh Naka in Chakan. The drive was not long and we reached Dudh Naka at around 1.00 am in the night. That road was a busy road with vehicles zooming past. We hailed few trucks and finally, one truck stopped and we all eight of us entered and sat behind driver’s seat. The entire ride was smoother, we may conclude, as we were not aware how the ride was, for we slept as soon as we sat in the truck. The whole night before we were awake and were drenched in rain and tired of the strenous trek. The driver dropped us 

The driver dropped us at Nerul station early that morning at around 4.30 am. Somehow, we reached our respective destinations, tired to the core. 

So many years passed, but the entire chain of events is etched in memory as if it has happened just recently. The entire travel was a memorable one though, for the simple fact that we had accepted the consequences, we were comfortable with the fact that we had missed our buses and were destined to reach late. Once you accept what is going you tend to enjoy the flow and do not resist it 

Once you accept what is going you tend to enjoy the flow and do not resist it.