We 18 were in the clouds when the rest were way below. It was a sense of achievement, challenging our own limits and testing ourselves to the core, we had overcome everything. Hence were in Cloud 18. There is a myth that trekking needs good physique, stamina and a lot more. We proved it wrong. What is needed is perseverance, attitude and a rocking gang.
It all started over a coffee meet when we thought of doing something different. Trek was then, just a suggestion and it gradually shaped to Rajmachi. All experienced trekkers suggested this was not a first timers trek, but then we always stick to our commitment. As planned, we all met at CST for the Chennai Mail. (Yes, we preferred Chennai Mail to Chennai Express). At 2:14, when we got off at Lonavala, the entire General compartment would have heaved a sigh of relief. But then we can't control our energy and enthusiasm.
Before we proceed to the trek, a quick word that most of us met for the first time at CST. That did not matter much, as in this group, anyone who joins, just merges in. This attitude makes everyone comfortable...so much that we spent 2 hours at Lonavala depot as if we were all in our backyard chatting with friends. We will come back to this comfort making attitude again at a later stage. We began our trek at 5:00 am, walking thru the dark in the drizzling rains. Rains have something common with us, they love us so much that thru the entire route they stayed with us, pouring their love all the way. While that made the journey well drenched and drained energy in shivering and trudging with heavily soaked shoes, it also gave us some explicit views of nature and overflowing waterfalls.
As we moved on enjoying the nature, we enjoyed at every spot. Crossing streams, getting drenched at every waterfalls even when it was raining heavily and yet enjoying that. And with all this, we all never missed out on our own safety and safety of our colleagues. It generally is a very rare combination that you see uncontrolled masti going along hand-in-hand with a sense of responsibility. For that matter, the group was quite a diverse in age with difference varying to 15 years. When it was fun time, everyone made joked around as kids of the same age and when it came to guidance, everyone took on matured responsibility. Seniors helped, juniors supported...overall a cohesive act of unity.
Eventually, we reached Rajmachi at 2:00 PM after some maggis, a few cups of tea, some chips, a dabba of yummy dhoklas and corn. The journey to Rajmachi had drained us physically, more as we were not used to such exertion. Oh well, we were just physically drained, mentally we were still quite fresh. The place where were to put up for the night was a nice village house at Udhewadi, the village at Rajmachi. Quite spacious, natural light passing thru the roof and good ventilation even when there weren't any windows open. It is a good point to wonder when we had such good eco-friendly technology sine primitive ages, where did we loose it? While we were freshening up on these thoughts, we had a call for lunch...and that was all we needed. A perfect lunch with bhakri, chole, batata and dal-rice with thecha gave a good reason to cancel the afternoon plans of trekking further to Shriwardhan gad. While some preferred to catch up a nap, the rest were busy with "Fuzzy duck" (more details when we meet) and capturing expressions (again something better not explained here). We spent the rest of the day at our Rajmachi home. We had made ourselves so comfortable with the family there that even they believed that we were a part of their family and no guests. This emphasizes the point on our attitude on making everyone comfortable with us. Next day, was a lazy Sunday. After an extended Saturday, we woke-up later than expected and had to skip the first part of trek to Manaranjan gad. We did a quick visit to the nearby Udaysagar lake and Godhaneshwar temple. The quick visit lasted two hours and spending energy there (except for some lovely dhoklas, carry-forwarded from Saturday), we were quite hungry and headed straight to the breakfast location. The breakfast of us 18 included 12 plates poha, 16 plates missal, 6 omelettes and 18 cups of tea. Done with all this and we were good to leave. Our stay at the beautiful home was done for this visit...and as we moved, we clicked this last pic for good memories (the home owners are a part of this pic, try identifying them)
We had trekked 21 kms in pouring rain the previous day and we were told that the return journey from Rajmachi to Karjat is not even half of that and complete downhill. With all that we had experience the previous day, the return journey would be a piece of cake. Rather we thought so. The normal start time is during the first half of the day and we were already at 3:00 PM when we begun. The start was good till we reached a spot where we could see what lies ahead. Surely a few of us had lump in the throat while the others easily skipped a few beats. In such scenarios, most mouths go shut (and some pants go wet), but we were different. We started joking, singing and enjoying so much that could put the serious trekkers to wonder whether the route was really a tasking one. As most of us were first timers, we were a tad slow at pace. By the time we reach Kondana caves, the sun had set and darkness was gradually taking over. At this point in time, as were just about confident that we are on the right track, we missed a turn and realized that we were on the wrong path about 30 mins later. Surprisingly and thankfully, at that point in time, no one panicked. We met a 3 other guys from a different group who had missed on the same route. Taking their advice, we walked back to Kondana caved and took the correct route to reach Kondivade, the base village and from there to Karjat station.
Through the adventure (and a bit of misadventure), every moment was a lifetime memory. We carried home some mud, some pain, some aches and sore foots...all those would fade away, and what would remain are the memories. And that is all that mattered. We have tried to share some bit of our experience, however the memories that we have are our forever. All those who have been for the trek vouch to one word that would have to say had they missed out this event "Regret" and one word for being at the trek "Cloud 18".
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