Anuk, Burange, Rashmi, Seema, Arvind and myself, all six twenty something characters, decided to do a night trek, in a place called Rajmachi near Lonavala, in the first weekend of March. The idea behind such a decision was probably to go for a night trek in an unfancied and not much known location. Am not completely aware of the brainstorm before the decision was made but i pretty much jumped into action without a hint of the geographies of the location or the extent of trekking that had to be accomplished, only to shockingly realize that no one had much of a hint of what we were about to do.
Incredible!!! And we are yet to begin the journey.
Rajmachi is basically an abandoned fort on top of a hill and about 20 kms from the Tungarli Lake, which happened to be our starting point. There is nothing great about the path in the dry forest that leads to the fort or the fort, the incredible stuff rest upon the trek itself, no one seem to question the feasibility of walking 40 kms at a single stretch that too in the middle of the night. Even the much inspired Gandhi with his 75 compatriots walked just about 16 kms a day in his march to Saifee Vila, Dandi but we were made of a different mettle and not to be compared with the mortals of the yesteryear.
There were many more unanswered questions that sprung up as we tread upon the journey, our wisdom to venture into such a trek can definitely be questioned but it goes without saying that the gems of wisdom that we picked up after the trek was simply invaluable and timeless.
At about 7:30 pm, after we having an early dinner, we begun our trek with roughly 8 bottles of water, couple of bread loaves and a few more eatables. We had to pass through a tiny Thakurwadi village before getting onto the real trek path but since we were not aware of the direction that leads to the fort, we decided to employ a local villager who can act as a guide. The verbal agreement was casted in the air of trust for a paltry payment of Rs. 500 to walk the entire night with us.
The first part of the trek went about without much of an excitement as we were trekking on the plains and could be easily done without much of concentrated effort. We simply broke into groups of two or three and got into serious discussions on seemingly irrelevant and arbitrary stuff. No one could feel much of discomfort and simply went through the motions until we reached the point where we had to make a decision to climb the hill to see the fort or simply cut short the journey at this point and return.
This was a critical decision in a lot of ways, it was 11:30 pm and we had already walked for about 4 hours, in short we were beginning to test our endurance at this point. The decision to climb needed to be a group decision as even a single strong ‘no’ from anyone meant a ‘no’ for everyone but as there were two or three strong ‘yes’, the decision was pushed over with the remaining weak ‘yes’.
The fort was placed on top of a hill at about 100 feet from the current point, the path was steep and rough and definitely not advisable for people on the heavier side. Luckily, no one was of that build and we set about conquering the fort with all our grit. Almost all of us begun to pant by this time as the climb was sapping us of all the energy but we ventured on and reached the fort in about 40 minutes.
If the climb sapped a part of my energy then the site of the fort sucked up the remaining. I simply couldn’t comprehend the rationality of expending all my energy and effort to reach such an insignificant spot. The place appeared more of a large sized rat hole and gave not even a faint impression of a fort.
Anyhow, all of us were happy to reach the destination and opted for the much needed rest under the cover of the stars. The rest after such an arduous journey was pleasant and we munched up most of the food, hoarding a little portion for the remaining journey.
Just as Anuk and myself were beginning to feel the soothing effect of the cool night on top of the hill, Rashmi got charged up and started pushing everyone to begin our return back home. It was already midnight and another dreadful 20 kms to cover coupled with the drive to Mumbai from Lonavala. But i had neither the mood nor the energy to begin such a taxing task; frankly, it had already taxed me enough for the night. I strongly felt the need for at least 3 to 4 hours of sleep to get the energy back into my system.
However, such inherent expression of thoughts could have never been explained to Rashmi, who was still a distant friend to me at that point in time. Moreover, i couldn’t comprehend Burange’s decision to workout a 40 km night trek, when he had a 3 hour FRM class to be taken the next day. After all, Rashmi was just trying to be that loyal wife and back up her husband’s sense of commitment to the hilt. So, I simply was left with no choice but to fall in line and exhibit that unwilling sense of cooperation.
At precisely 12:45 pm, we began disembarking down the hill, i would say that it was a bit risky considering the rough path combined with soaking tiredness. We carefully got down step by step and finally reached the plains in about 40 minutes without much of a fuss and strangely avoided filling up our water cans, citing unnecessary risk from a group of people who had camped at the basement. Sometimes rationality in decisions exhibited by humans are pretty complex to understand, we overlooked the risk of getting cramps due to dehydration but felt it riskier to fill up water from a group of innocuous people.
With still 20 more kilometres to walk and another 100 odd kilometres to drive, the task was certainly looming large in front of us. The next 5 hours of trek probably formed the most incredulous part of the whole trip, we were left with no fall-safe options, the compulsion to keep walking despite the slight niggles that was cropping up, pain at the end of the toes due to sustained pressure over the last 6 hours, signs of cramps in a few, fatigue and lastly no exit option (common we were all finance professionals). At this juncture, we had already tested our endurance and were touching the limits of our physical ability.
We pushed forward the trek, taking short breaks every half an hour or so and were able to walk through for the next 3 hours but the final one hour or so was truly killing. I was finding it tough walk with the shoes on as the ends of the toes were getting squashed by the corners of the shoe, Anuk started walking in small steps as he started feeling the cramps and so were the remaining members who felt different niggles and pain at different parts of the body.
Till this point, it was our physical ability at work but from now on the mental aspect of the trek started to surface. Rashmi had started cribbing at this senseless decision to trek, Arvind and Seema went into a discussion on who could have possibly made this trek a bit more worse, i was urging everyone to sing some song or crack some jokes, Anuk was reticent all through and Burange was probably praying that all of us let him off the hook for enforcing on a nonstop full night trek.
Just at that point in time, we were confronted with the path splitting into two directions and it was exactly for this particular junction did we actually employ a guide. Had we taken a wrong path then it would have further more added to the woes, compounding with the existing serious problems that we were facing. That identification of the right path, in that moment was worth much more than 500 bucks, in fact it was priceless.
We huffed and puffed but were able to reach our hotel at about 5:30 am, a journey that had begun at 7:30 pm the previous night, enduring tough condition and testing our physical limits that lasted 10 hours.
In the entire episode, there was a key nugget of wisdom waiting to be picked up, when you set to achieve any tough goal with a definite time frame and without an exit option, you invariably achieve it.
Courtesy: Nikhil Burange