Solo-tripping across Sikkim!

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Earlier this year, I decided to embark upon a new adventure – a solo trip to Sikkim!
My 15 day journey involved hopping in and out of shared jeeps, switching multiple trains, living in home-stays and budget accommodations, experiencing nature in all its glory, meeting the most amazing people and gorging on the most delicious food! To call the experience exhilarating would be an understatement.

I would be lying if I said that I was not apprehensive about travelling alone. But having successfully managed to complete the trip all by myself, I am filled with a sense of liberty and independence! Travelling alone has filled me with a sense of empowerment and also helped me connect with myself in so many ways. I took so many decisions that I never thought I could take, and discovered the courage that I never thought I could possess. Most importantly, travelling alone helped me truly appreciate the significance and culture of the place.

Needless to say, I will be writing extensively about my experiences in Sikkim. However, to begin with, I would like to share with you a brief interview that Breakfree Journeys conducted with me to know more about my experience as a female solo-traveller. It gave me a great platform to share (a part of) my experience, apprehensions, preparation and thoughts at the time of travel; And I would love to share it with you!
So here’s the link:

http://breakfreejourneys.com/conversation-kalindi-manek-travelling-solo-sikkim/#

Will soon update this space with more stories from visit to Sikkim 🙂

 

Lost my heart in Himachal Pradesh!

This gallery contains 40 photos.

Caution: Long blog post ahead! Well, travel is an enriching experience. For me, travel is meditation. It is the best kind of therapy. Travel is not about going away from home. It is about making another one! Which is why, I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to the mystic land […]

Satluj

Having just returned from a fulfilling trip across the eastern regions of Himachal Pradesh, I am filled with memories, awestruck by it’s beauty and gripped with nostalgia even as I write.
A detailed post outlining our adventures in the mighty Himalayas is very much in order. However, there is something that I would like to share with you before that. Something that was symbolic of the entire trip, to me.
Most of us have our best and worst moments after every journey. But there is more to that. We also have this one thing- an experience or an object or a person- that becomes symbolic of the trip for us.
For me, that was river Satluj (Sutlej) and her tributaries.
The river managed to capture my heart as flawlessly as she changed her form – first as the mighty Satluj, then in the form of the beautiful Baspa, then as the serene Spiti and ultimately in the form of Pin. The virtuous river had so many roles to play and yet, she played each of them with unrealistic ease!
For me, the Satluj was the epitome of determination. Delicate, yet strong. She had made a place for herself in the mighty Himalayas..or rather through the mighty Himalayas, hadn’t she?
So even as I flip through the pages of a magnificent Himalayan experience, I cannot help but pen down the awe I feel for Satluj.

 

 

She appeared, almost out of nowhere
Chaste and clear, Blue and bare
She saw, she observed
She looked like she had her doubts
But faith was all we had.

She swerved, and we followed
She curved, and we wallowed
She turned, and we blundered
She danced along, and we only wondered.

She changed her form with celerity
She tiptoed away, with grace unparalleled
She returned when she felt like, with a mystic air
She touched us, almost
and then she left again with a teasing stare.

She ran at first, but then slowed down
She was fierce at first, but then she wore a mellow brown
She wavered at first, but then she never left our side
She was aloof at first, but then she also kissed goodnight.

She called us, with one flirtatious stare
She made us follow her, with a promise unsaid
She advanced slowly at first, and then all at once
She had befriended the mountains and the clouds
and also the glistening rays of the sun.

She kept her word and our hand she held
She stayed with us, right until the end
At the end of our sojourn, she stopped in her track
And then she took the final turn and never looked back.

spiti river

The glorious river!

 

PS: Detailed post coming soon!

Santa on Wheels!

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“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” – Barbara Bush This year, I had been waiting for Santa on Wheels (SoW) since October. Having missed it in all the previous years, I just knew for a fact […]

Trek to TakMakGad!

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Hello All! Here are a few photos from my recent trek to TakMakGad, in the Sahyadris. To call it beautiful would be an understatement. I started travelling with Breakfree Journeys a couple of years back, and my first trek was to TakMakGad. Having travelled to TakMakGad again (my tenth trek this time!), I must say […]

Gorakhgad – The road to defy gravity

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.
Monday…Tuesday…Wednesday…Thursday…Friday!!
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!

CST. 0445 hrs.

CST. 0445 hrs.

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

The first rays of light.

The first rays of light.

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!

The first glimpse.

The first glimpse.

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

Chale chalo.

Chale chalo.

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.

The mountain with a face.

The mountain with a face.

The board displaying the route.

The board displaying the route.

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.

Climbing to the cave.

Climbing to the cave.

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!

Playing with fire :P

Playing with fire 😛

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!

Monkeys!

Monkeys!

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.

The tricky part.

The tricky part.

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.

Climbing the stone steps.

Climbing the stone steps.

The beautiful temple.

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!

Carefully climbing down.

Carefully climbing down.

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 Hungry!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!

The river.

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

Sunset.

Sunset.

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.

Moonrise.

Moonrise.

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.

Bonfire.

Bonfire.

“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.

The victorious trekkers.

The victorious trekkers.

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! 🙂

Climbing to the heavens – at Kalavantin Durg

Yun hi chala chal raahi, Yun hi chala chal raahi
Kitni haseen hai yeh duniya
Phool saare jamele, dekh phoolon ke mele
Badi rangeen hai yeh duniya … 

Trekking, for me, has never merely been about conquering the peak. It is all about being one with Mother nature, about feeling the wind, about introspection, about rediscovering myself, about making new friends, about enjoying freedom and about breaking free.
So when I read about a fellow trekker’s experience at Kalavantin (read here), I knew in my heart that this was one place I had to visit..and visit soon!
After almost a year of Kalavantin being on my wishlist, I jumped with joy (yes, literally) when Rushikesh (Our Man in-charge a.k.a. MIC) informed me that the next trek was going to be to Kalavantin Durg! So after a week of restless planning, excited phone calls to Rushikesh to inquire about when the event would be updated on FB, and asking friends to join in..December 15 finally arrived!

morning

Mumbai. 0445 hours.

After setting off the alarm (and the other six alarms that I had set – to be on the safer side, you know) I was finally awake at 4.30am on a cold December morning! Dressing up as fast as I could (Of course, all the food, water and snacks had been packed on the night before!), I waited for a heads up on whether or not the Breakfree Bus was leaving on time (We have a lot of these nocturnal species as our trek mates. So the early morning calls to the MIC are customary.) Rushikesh confirmed that the bus was very much on time and I’d be picked up from the Kalanagar bus stop at 5.30am (yes, this was supposed to be one of the earliest starting treks.)
So I reached Kalanagar just in time for the Breakfree bus at around 5.40am (Thank god for that! You don’t want enthusiastic trekkers cursing you that early in the morning for being late and delaying the most eagerly awaited trek!!)
Once into the bus, began the usual search for the best window seat and eager HIs, hellos & wassups. We had set out on our journey to Thakurwadi – the base village of Kalavantin – at a distance of around 15-20km from Panvel (and around 60km from Mumbai) . Yes, the journey to one of the apparently toughest and most memorable treks had begun on an extremely vibrant and positive note!

Yeh raasta hai keh raha ab mujhse
Milne ko hai koi kahin ab tujhse
Dil ko hai kyun yeh betaabi
Kis se mulaakat honi hai
Jis ka kabse armaan tha
Shaayad wahi baat honi hai

The morning was cold & beautiful..and the next stop was at Sion. Now Sion is known to be the place where most of the trekkers..sorry..punctual trekkers board the bus at. At Chembur, the bus was almost full with trekkers (three more were going to join us – from Vashi and Panvel. Like I’ve mentioned in all my earlier posts, you *will* find us everywhere!)

sai prasad

Enjoying the banter and the falling dew drops.

Once everyone was in, the Breakfree bus was buzzing with energy and chit chat! The misty morning only contributed to the trekkers’ enthusiasm and made us even more eager about the path that lay ahead of us! A quick break at the McDonalds outlet of Kalamboli (located just before the Pune expressway) awaited us (at around 6.45am), for that was where another trekker was going to join us at. After breathing in some cool and fresh morning air, we headed for our next destination – The breakfast place!!
Thanks to Mr. Sawardekar’s (the bus owner and adventure lover who was driving us to Kalavantin that day) exceptional driving skills, we reached Hotel Sai Prasad (on NH17: The Mumbai-Goa highway) in no time! Quickly getting off the bus, the hungry trekkers took no time in choosing heir breakfast menu from Kanda poha and misal pav. While the breakfast was under preparation, we couldn’t help but notice the fog coming out our mouth as we spoke! Also, the fresh dew drops falling off the gigantic tree right outside the hotel made us feel divine! Random jokes were being cracked among the endless cackling of farm hens kept at the hotel.

The chai/coffee and Kanda poha/misal pav were relished quickly by the enthusiastic trekkers (by around 7.30am). The filled stomach only added to our zest and made us even more enthusiastic about the trek that awaited us. Why not? Wasn’t this supposed to be our first winter trek? Wasn’t this supposed to be our first trek after a very long time? Didn’t we have every right to excitedly look forward to it? 🙂

Post breakfast, we rushed into the bus again. Panoramic views greeted us on our way to Thakurwadi. After another 45 minutes of travel on the highway, the Breakfree bus finally approached the base village. One shout from Rushikesh, and all eyes looked outside to catch the first glimpse of Kalavantin Durg – the beautiful sister fort of Prabalgad. The MIC explained to us the structure of the peak and thought aloud about where we would break for lunch and some much needed rest.

kalvantin

The first glimpse.

Once at the base, the trekkers quickly made ready their bags, food, water, trekking gear, etc. and assembled for the traditional Circle of Introduction.

Post the introductions, at around 8.30am, the trekkers finally set out on the muddy path that lay ahead.
As the morning sun shone, the fog had begun to disappear and the trekkers were awed by the picturesque surrounding. It almost felt as if the mountains were coming out of their hiding place in the clouds to greet us..to wish us good luck for the 2300 ft steep climb that awaited us.

Mountains.

Mountains.

Dekho jidhar bhi in raahon mein
Rang pighalte hai nigaahon mein
Thandi hawa hai thandi chhaon hai
Door woh jaane kiska gaaon hai
Baadal yeh kaisa chhaaya, dil yeh kahaan le aaya
Sapna yeh kya dikhlaaya hai mujhko

What lay ahead, was a long walk on the mud road, followed by a climb on rocky terrain. This was one area that most of the first timers found difficult to climb and put our stamina to test. After almost an hour of brisk walking, we finally reached a small clearing and decided to take a quick break. The water bottles and Gatorade quickly surfaced. The trekkers were already tired for the sun shone on us – as bright as ever. The cameras were out while we waited for those trailing to reach the clearing. The trekkers indulged in random small talk during the wait, but more importantly, we gaped at the beauty of nature of nature from that height.
Soon, the remaining trekkers reached the clearing (evidently exhausted, but most of them were either first timers or were trekking after a very long time. So we can’t blame them, can we?) Once everyone had arrived at the clearing, a small group of trekkers started walking towards the next destination – Nilesh Dhaba – where we had to arrange for our lunch (A dhaba on top of a mountain! Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?) It took us hardly 10 minutes to reach another plateau-like clearing on the top. Nilesh dhaba was located at the end of the clearing. We rushed to the place for that was where we’d be having our lunch and also the place where our guide – ‘Kaka’ – would be joining us at. Soon, the others arrived and Rushikesh quickly arranged for our lunch. The carnivores rejoiced when informed that non vegetarian food would also be available!

The Guide.

The Guide.

This was a defining point in the trek as this was when we decided to form two groups – one that would lead the trek with Kaka (reaching the peak first and enjoying the panoramic is a good bet, no?) and the other that would trail the trek at a modest speed. Needless to say, the first timers decided to trail and so those who wanted to capture the beautiful moments spent with Mother Nature on their cameras! Soon, we restarted our journey to the top with the help of Kaka (the trekkers were in awe of his speed, strength and stamina) as he made way for us by chopping the wild plants with his enormous sickle.
(Please to note: All this while, anecdotes & travel tales were shared, biscuits surfaced and the photographers were in their element!)

Mann apne ko kuch aisa halka paaye
Jaise kandho pe rakha boj hat jaaye
Jaise bhola sa bachpan phirse aaye
Jaise barson mein koi ganga nahaaye

After what felt like ages of walking, we realized that we were finally ascending the steep peak. There was a point during the walk when we had to choose between two routes – the first one long, yet easy AND the other steep and tricky. Needless to say, we chose the latter (yeah, ‘shady’ is our middle name ;)) This part got a little tricky, because the mountain was so steep that were places where we had to crawl our way up.
The path kept changing from muddy to rocky but the trekkers diligently marched ahead. Finally, by around 10.30am, we reached a point on the mountain that had stone steps carved all the way to the top, as if to welcome us to the peak. Looks can be deceptive, it is said. We experienced it. As easy as the steps looked to climb, the trekkers found it extremely difficult to climb the stone steps! The terrain was uneven and steps, high. The ascend to the peak became challenging, thanks to the scorching heat, uneven terrain, steep hill and the continuous climb. It was a stamina test, more than anything else. Beyond a point, even water breaks proved to be of no help. However, the

Steps.
Steps.

trekkers marched ahead in zest. To reach the peak, was the ultimate goal for the day. Soon enough, we noticed the stone steps coming to an end. With renewed vigor, we marched on, waiting to see what the peak looked like! By 10.40am, we had managed to climb the steps and reach the top. However, the joy and excitement had eluded us once again. We hadn’t reached the peak. The last leg of the trek (and the most difficult one) was still pending. Rock climbing. The peak was nothing but giant rocks placed together, with no path to

The last leg.

The last leg.

climb. There were a few cracks and dents on the stones that we thought we could use to climb up the peak. So while one of the enthusiastic trekkers climbed up to check how feasible it was, the rest of us looked on with bated breath. All of us collectively heaved a sigh of relief when the fellow trekker safely managed to climb up the peak. Slowly, by 11am, each one of us climbed up the rock and with a little help from the others who were already up the peak and Sawarderkar sir (yes, he was looking forward to trek to Kalavantin, too and he managed to climb faster than all of us put together!) all of us (from the leading group) managed to reach the peak. Words cannot describe the feeling of elation on reaching the peak. The orange flag..the surrounding mountains..the blowing wind..all just too perfect to be true.
What followed was quick resurfacing of water bottles, cameras and a flurry of photographs! (Everybody wants to remember the wonderful time spent on the peak!)
While we sat there, enjoying the magnificent beauty from the peak, plenty of travel experiences were shared, jokes cracked, photos clicked and philosophy discussed. Mountain peaks do make one contemplate! We realized that it would take quite some time for the trailers to arrive and so the time spent up there on the peak proved to be a major ice breaker for most of us.

Yunhi chala chal raahi, yunhi chala chal raahi
Kaun yeh mujhko pukaare
Nadiyaan, pahad, jheel aur jharne jangal aur vaadi
In mein hai kiske ishaare 

By around 11.45am, the remaining trekkers finally reached the peak (Thumbs up to them! They endured major cramps, extreme fatigue, nausea and the steep hills to finally make it to the top. For first timers, it was a commendable effort!) What followed was a long photo session (multiple group photos included), catching up, sharing of experiences, some great fun and banter!

The mountains looked upon us lovingly.

The mountains looked upon us lovingly.

As always, time flies while you’re on the peak! Even before we knew it, it was 12.30pm and the MIC called for everyone to start descending.
Slowly, one by one, the trekkers started climbing down the tricky rocks. With a little help from the others, the trekkers were able to climb down safely.

Helping hand.

Helping hand.

Soon, the trekkers disintegrated into small groups and started on their journey to Nilesh Dhaba (Read: hunger pangs and survival of the fittest!)
The journey to Nilesh Dhaba was more or less uneventful, except for the beautiful scenery and the fact that we almost lost our way and the other trekkers. Making our way through the wilderness, we reached the dhaba by 2.15pm. A few minutes later, a couple of  fellow trekkers reached there, too. After one whole minute of debating about whether or not we should start eating our meal, we mutually concluded that it would make more sense to start eating in lots.

Lunch included some delicious bhaaji, rice rotis, papad, achaar, dal and rice. What completed the meal was some deliciously chilled nibu paani! The hungry (obviously!) trekkers finished eating in to time! The remaining trekkers arrived soon, and relished the delicious meal.

FOOD!!

FOOD!!

magnificence

Magnificence.

Amidst some much required rest at the dhaba and plans for the next trek, we finally started to descend from the dhaba at 3.30pm. Descents are always quicker than the climb. They’re a wonderful opportunity for introspection, and give us some good time to spend with ourselves. We were familiar with the mountain by now, so climbing down wasn’t as difficult. That probably explains why we managed to touch down to the base by 5pm.
Awaiting the others’ return, we had a good time chit chatting, joking and discussing other trek experiences. Soon, the remaining trekkers arrived and we jumped into the Breakfree bus. We took a small halt at a chai tapari in Kalamboli at 6pm for some evening snacks. Before we knew it, it was time to return to the monotony of our city life.

I’d refuse to say we ‘conquered’ Kalavantin Durg. We, at Breakfree, don’t believe in conquering peaks. Kalavantin was an experience..a unique one at that! It was one more beautiful mountain that we were fortunate enough to visit and it was a day well spent in Mother Nature’s lap.
Trekking is not so much about reaching the peak as it is about enjoying and feeling happy about every moment spent in freedom.
At Kalavantin, we crossed all barriers, pushed ourselves to the limit, introspected, contemplated, hugged the wind, saluted the mountains, touched the clouds, experienced heaven, felt Mother Nature’s loving care. At Kalavantin, we did break free. That is probably what differentiates us from the rest.

Yun hi chala chal raahi, Yun hi chala chal raahi
Kitni haseen hai yeh duniya
Phool saare jamele, dekh phoolon ke mele
Badi rangeen hai yeh duniya … 

BREAKING FREE!!!

BREAKING FREE!!!

A big thank-you to Ameya, Abhay, Abhishek, Swagata, Rajiv, Nitin, Vipul, Aishwarya for capturing the beautiful memories on camera! We owe you one! 🙂
You can check the pictures out here.

Thank you, Breakfree Journeys and Rushikesh. We had a wonderful time!

A.R. Rahman’s composition – Yun Hi Chala – from the movie Swades was stuck in my head throughout the trek. I thought including it here would be a nice way to remember how I kept humming it in my head during the trek! 😉