This winter has indeed been a special one for Breakfree Journeys. Starting with the trek to Kalavantin Durg, followed by rappelling at the Duke’s Nose (an exhilarating experience) the trekkers did have an activity-filled season!
On public demand, Rushikesh – the Man-in-charge aka MIC – organized a Republic day trek to Gorakhgad (for the first time Team Breakfree would celebrate Republic Day in the wild, instead of watching the parade on Doordarshan.)
Easily one of the fastest-filled treks (21 confirmations in two days!), Gorakhgad definitely played hard to get from the word go.
My conversation with Rushikesh on Sunday, Jan 20:
Rushikesh: There seems to be a problem. Having difficulty with finding a good 21-seater bus.
Me: Why? What about the one that we usually take?
Rushikesh: He’s already trekking to some other place and it’s a long weekend. So all these buses want to go for an overnight.
Me: Oh no! So what now?
Rushikesh: I’m trying my best to find a way out. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll have to change the location to some place closer home. Then we will have to use public transport. Let’s see.
My joy knew no bounds when I received an SMS from the MIC, which said that a 27-seater bus had finally been booked and Gorakhgad, it was!
The week was spent in mental preparation of the trek that awaited us. A lot of blogs had mentioned that it was a ‘Medium’ grade trek and there was some very tricky rock climbing, too. I was excited..in anticipation of the beautiful day to be spend in Mother Nature’s lap.
Friday came and along with it came the ‘I-don’t-feel-like-working-so-Saturday-please-come-soon’ feeling. With office over and all the packing done at home, all that was left for me, was to set the alarm for 4.30am and a good night’s sleep (That is very important. Nobody wants to be all sleepy and droopy in the bus while everyone else enjoys playing antakshari!!)
The next morning, I woke up at 4.30am (sharp, for a change :P) Soon, I received a call from Rushikesh to confirm that the Breakfree Bus would be leaving on time from Borivli. Having dressed up as fast as I possibly could, I was eagerly awaiting The MIC’s call and was all geared up to leave. The MIC called me up at around 5.40am and said that the Breakfree Bus would be reaching Kalanagar in 15 minutes!
I dashed off the house in no time, and reached Kalanagar by 5.50am (Early mornings are beautiful! No traffic, only the pleasant chirping of numerous birds!)
Five other trekkers were waiting for the Breakfree Bus at Kalanagar junction (You see, Kalanagar is the place to be!) As soon as the Breakfree Bus arrived, we jumped in to get ourselves the best seats. What followed was a series of HIs, hellos, good mornings and other greetings! Even the chilly winter morning couldn’t do much to dampen our enthusiasm. Sion and Thane soon arrived and the bus was filled with enthusiastic trekkers by the Majiwada stop (21 in total.)
Soon, the food packets surfaced (we had four gujjus on board, what else can you expect?) and the chit-chat began in full swing. Jokes, leg-pulling, catching-up with old pals is all a part of the early-morning-travel ritual. The sun-rise was a beautiful vista and had all the trekkers endlessly gazing out of the bus windows. The sunlight sure seemed to have moved out all the morning shivers for the trees stood tall and shiny, the roads clear and bright and birds flew around, chirping happily. After
almost an hour and a half on the road, we started to approach Murbad village – our breakfast halt. Close to the ST bus stand, is Hotel Swami, where we paused to grab a quick bite (The same place where we halted at, on our trek to Naneghat last year). After a delicious breakfast (consisting of steaming hot missal pav, idlis, sheera and tea/coffee) and a quick break to freshen up (the restrooms at the bus stand are extremely clean and definitely a source of relief to many :P) we headed back to the Breakfree Bus. Quickly taking a head-count, we started off on the journey to Dehri (around 22 km from Murbad), the base village of Gorakhgad. The forty minute route was filled with trekker-jabbering and a game of antakshari that had to be stopped as we sighted the peak we were soon going to ascend. How magnificent it looked! The summit was vertical and sent shivers down our spine. We were going to be climbing that peak soon..and at Breakfree, we haven’t heard of failure!
Ascending quickly to the base, we formed the traditional circle of introduction (we really ought to trademark these terms now). Quick instructions from the MIC and a few moments of silence (again, traditional) later, the trek had finally begun at around 10am! Crossing the large temple at the base, we walked ahead through the muddy path. A trail was marked for the convenience of trekkers and we kept
following it. Arrows dotted the rocks, and they seemed to be recently painted. Soon, the trekkers disintegrated into various sub-groups and steadily walked up the muddy path. The path and vegetation were very dry, thanks to the blazing sun and water bottles were surfaced out at various intervals. The morning chill had long disappeared and it looked like the Gorakhgad heat was trying to play all sorts of mind games with us! (As Rushikesh later joked – “This is as good as a summer trek. The winter-trek feeling comes only till the pick-up points.” So true!)
A good 45 minutes of walking on the muddy terrain led us to a rocky clearing. The sight was beautiful! A marvelously gigantic mountain stood overlooking us, at the end of the cliff. Who knows how many enthusiastic trekkers the mountain might have seen in its lifetime? A good few pictures were clicked at this spot (The Breakfree photographers are always on the prowl for excellent shots like that).
At the end of the mud clearing were a couple of boards displaying the Gorakhgad trekking route. The boards marked the beginning of another chapter in the trek – the gravel route and rock climbing. Up till now, the path was easy, but long. It was more of a test of endurance, which was not tricky to climb.
As we climbed up the rocky way, our immediate goal was to reach the orange (shendoor) painted gate. One batch of trekkers had already climbed ahead of the others, and green-signaled the route. The route may have looked scary from where we were standing. But while climbing up, we realized that it wasn’t that difficult after all. The rocks had dents to provide a good grip and the rocks were evenly positioned, providing enough space to climb up.
Within no time, the remaining trekkers reached the first cave. Having reached the first milestone, we quickly walked ahead to catch up with the first batch of trekkers.
Our second stop was to be another set of caves – our not so final ‘resting place’. That was to be our ‘rest-place’.
On our way to the caves, plenty of photographs were clicked and jokes cracked! We reached a clearing before another rocky patch. We sat there for a while, sharing our experiences of the trek, randomly chit-chatting and trying to make fire by focusing the magnifying glass!
After resting there for around 15-20 minutes, we decided to head to the caves. That is when we called Rushikesh to ask him about the further Plan of Action. When we called him up at around 11.30am, he mentioned that the first batch of trekkers had already reached the peak. Whoa! That was something! That’s when we decided to walk faster to reach the caves, so that we could reach the peak, too! Another 15 minutes of walking later, we reached the caves. The place was filled with monkeys and a few other trekkers who were planning to spend the night in the caves. The cameras were out in no time and the trekkers were certainly having a good time chilling by the cave and enjoying the glorious views!
We called the MIC again, to ask if we could continue walking to the peak. As climbing to the peak was left to the option of trekkers, we were told that one of the trekkers from the first batch that had already reached the peak would come to the caves to to lead us to the top. We indulged in some random small-talk until one of the trekkers came to show us the way to the peak.
As we headed to the peak, I realized that most of the blogs describing Gorakhgad had over-rated the final ascent on the rock cut steps. There was just one patch in the beginning of the last leg that was tricky. It was tricky, but not dangerous. With a little help from the fellow trekkers, one-by-one, we managed to climb the tricky part to reach the stone steps that led to the summit.
By 12.30pm, we had reached the peak. It was a mini-reunion with the others who were already there. After the initial chit-chatting, anecdote sharing and biscuit-eating (naturally, were hungry after the long climb!) the cameras were out and the photo-sessions had commenced! The peak was beautiful! Surrounding us were the beautiful Machindragad and Siddhagad peaks! On the peak was beautifully serene Shiva temple. We were told that hordes of villagers would climb all the way up to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva. The MIC was trailing with a bunch of six other trekkers. As he reached the peak, we got to know that four of the trekkers had decided to stay back at the caves as they weren’t sure about climbing to the peak. By 1pm, everybody had managed to reach the peak. More pictures followed along with admiring the panoramic views from the Gorakhgad peak and some random introspection (as usual) and philosophy sharing! Mountain peaks make one so philosophical! They’re almost therapeutically meditative!
Another half an hour passed in no time and by 1.30pm, we were urged by the MIC to start descending to area where the board displaying the trek-route stood. But before that, the young trekkers decided to sing the national anthem atop the hill. Pin drop silence. Even the locals who were visiting the temple joined us in singing the anthem. What a proud moment that was! We felt on top of the world..literally!
Once the national anthem was sung, we slowly started descending down the stone steps. Slowlly, but steadily and very cautiously, we climbed down. Again, it was only tricky to climb down the steps, but not dangerous. Soon, with some help from the fellow trekkers, we managed to climb down the summit. We were asked by the MIC to dispatch in groups, for lunch would be waiting for us at the clearing after the small cave. Descending, and crossing the panoramic views, we mentally bade adieu to the peak and headed to where our lunch was going to be served. By 2.15pm, around fifteen of us had managed to reach the clearing and were eagerly awaiting our meal! The lunch was organized and prepared by Amit Patil, a resident of the base village. He is known to arrange food for the numerous trekkers visiting Gorakhgad at reasonable rates. The hungry trekkers soon rushed to grab their plates! It goes without saying that the local fare (consisting of rice rotis, sabzi, dal, rice and onions) was delicious and had the trekkers licking their fingers! It took the MIC a lot of effort to get everyone to start moving again!
The trek had been a long one..and tiring, because we were falling very short of water! We asked Amit ji if there was any dam or water body in the village..where we could go and take a dip and light a bonfire in the evening. To our surprise (and good fortune) there was a dam not too far away in the village! Amit ji confirmed that we could certainly go and take a dip in the cool river waters! Only the mention of ‘river’ was enough to refresh the tired trekkers and get them to speed to the base! The descent was pretty much uneventful, excepting a few thuds and falls (bad shoes, they complained!).
By 5 pm, all the trekkers had managed to reach the base. After a quick refreshment break, we hopped into the Breakfree to go to the next destination – the river!
We reached the river by around 5.15pm and quickly started collecting twigs and broken branches for the bonfire enroute the end of the river bank. On the way, a couple of us met up with a few villagers who were carrying firewood on their heads. For a small sum, they parted with a big bunch of twigs and we soon had enough for a decent sized bonfire! As soon as we reached the water’s edge, forgetting all inhibitions, the trekkers happily jumped into the cool, serene waters! What followed was an hour of swimming, chilling and splashing water on each other! The trekkers had conveniently transformed into water babies in no time! The sun had begun setting while we were still in the water and what a sight it was! To call
it beautiful would be an understatement! By around 6.15pm, the MIC was seen dragging us out of the water. We had a bonfire to light, didn’t we? The bonfire was lit and all the trekkers were out of the water (now shivering in the cold!).
We spent around 45minutes at the bonfire, sharing our best and worst experiences of the day, warming ourselves well and just enjoying the moment – Sunset and moonrise.
I cannot express through words how beautiful that moment was. Nobody can. It was a moment to experience.
By 7pm, the bonfire had reduced to glowing embers, and we were ready to walk back to the bus, with torches in our hands. But the moonlight was enough and we soon switched them off. As the waters of the dam glimmered under the full moon, a disparate group of individuals with varied backgrounds walked together, bound by a common love for nature and adventure. Once at the bus, we quickly changed and got the food boxes out in no time! Swimming does make one feel hungry, doesn’t it? What followed was plenty of fun and an endless game of antakshari.
We had finally set out on our journey to return to normalcy. To return to the city. To return to monotony.
“Haan yahi rasta hai tera..tune ab jaana hai. Haan yahi sapna hai tera..tune pehchaana hai.
Tujhe ab yeh dikhaana hai..
Roke tujhko aandhiyaan, ya zameen aur aasman..paayega jo lakshya hai tera…
Lakshya toh har haal mein paana hai..”
– Title track of the movie Lakshya, Shankar Mahadevan.
A big thank-you to Abhay, Athira, Nitin, Abhishek, Mahesh, Mihir, Siddhesh and Vinay for the beautiful pictures! We owe you one!
Thankyou, Breakfree Journeys and Rushikesh. We had a wonderful time..as always! 🙂