“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Since childhood I have loved to explore but sadly couldn’t do much because my folks aren’t the adventurous kind and most of my friends a different idea about travelling and adventure than mine. Also, being a girl, I was expected not to venture out alone and I won’t deny the fact that the world is quite unsafe. If you are lucky you stay safe but you can never predict when that luck will rub off you. So I was often just left by myself sulking about how I don’t have enough money to go somewhere or I don’t have any company!

My last trek was during my scouts and guide trip to Matheran which was 9 years ago. After that I have gone for leisure trips only. Somehow adventure had still not called me into their wilderness. Finally, last February an adventure fanatic friend shared a night trek itinerary on our Whatsapp group. The trek was conducted by Mumbai Rangers on the 21st of February 2016 and the fee per head was INR 500 and it was a rated as a medium grade hilly trek to the Fort of Irshalgad. Travelling to the trekking point was easy as we had to commute via a taxi & then a train. I had company & the overall expense was dirt cheap so I had no reason to say no!

I was in my last week of work but didn’t want to stay back again this time. I asked my friend to confirm my spot and I made the online transaction for the fee. I told my parents I am going for a night trek and as concerned parents they wanted to clear their doubts about things and so I did by assuring them it is safe and we are quite a few known girls going together. They stayed reluctant but I packed my bags and set off on a Saturday night after a tiring day at work. (Yes, my job expected me to work on a Saturday full eight hours)

My friends and I met at a chosen spot, halted a taxi and were driven to Dadar railway station from Bandra. We had to catch the Karjat local train which would arrive at 11:30pm. We met our trek leader Nishant Sir at Dadar station and he asked to climb into the ladies compartment when the train arrived and so we did. It was a 2.5 hours journey approximately by train. We were the last one’s to get off the train at 2am in Karjat.

We formed a circle and were instructed by Jatinder Sir & Nishant Sir, our two trek leaders to be cautious on this trek as last year a professional trekker had slipped and passed away. We all sensed the fear but breathed it out when they assured we won’t be trekking that path. They were only asking us not to be over-confident! There was a short introduction where we learned that most of us were on our first or second trek, it was a young spirited group!

We started trekking after our 45 minutes rickshaw ride from the railway station to the trekking point. It was way too dark outside to see a single creature or thing. As we arrived into the village area we saw beautiful handmade huts and the rustic look was authentic to the core. The feeling of being a tourist crept in and I felt I was out from my vicinity – exploring!

Under the moonlight, 20 young souls, set on an adventure they would always remember.

4 by 4 cmWe flashed our torches and started trekking on an unknown path one behind the other. The guys headed up faster like wild animals who already knew their way into the wild while we girls took our steps cautiously. Although it was really sad over-hearing sexist comments from some guys such as “Let’s walk ahead, these GIRLS will slow us down” & “Hey, dude hurry up or you will be in the second group” (which was refered to our girl gang). Maybe for their silly minds such statements are cool and funny  but to us they were just men trying hard to prove the “superiority” of their gender. It was funny how uneducated the educated actually are! We girls climbed the same heights as them and came down the same path as them. The only difference was that we were a little afraid of falling so we took our time! #BetterSafeThanSorry [It was too dark to identify those sexist faces but if you are reading this, you know what you said!]
It was pitch dark & humid. As for me, I was falling short of breath after a point so had to take short breaks in between. I confess, I have not exercised one bit since I left school. However, I wasn’t in a very bad condition and got onto my feet and kept hiking upwards till we reached our base camp named Machi.

Under that shelter is where we relaxed and played.

Three of us had carried sleeping bags although we had no intentions to sleep. We used that to sit comfortably on the ground which was otherwise filled with cow dung around the shelter. We got comfortable, ate some snacks and gulped down a lot of water. Nishant Sir suggested we play a game of MAFIA at 3:30ish at night and so we did because there was no better way to pass our time. It was quite some fun by the end of it! I was one of the prime targets in each game. Guess being quite rises more doubts! When we got up to stretch we looked up and saw so many stars as the sky had cleared. Someday I want to solely star-gaze! When the clock stuck 5:45am we were served some Poha and Tea (neither of that did I consume) after which we packed our bags and set of into the village up onto our final destination – Irshalgad Fort.

The entire night journey of trekking was similar to walking on a blindfolded path while the other half from sunrise was breathtakingly beautiful as though we opened our eyes for the first time. The chirping of birds, the sun’s warmth, the beautiful shades in the sky and the gorgeous thick white clouds formed a scenery that would leave a soul spellbound.

By 7ish early morning, we were at the top. The view from there was marvelous all around. I felt so happy from within. There is something about nature’s beauty, you feel inner peace. I was so uncertain of how would I get up there and then get back down the slippery slopes but I did it both. Nishant Sir was a real support all along and so were the other trekkers who would lend their hands when there were chances of falling. We all clicked pictures with the majestic view around us while being careful of not going out of our way and risking our lives for a selfie!

Captured with my Micromax Canvas A255
Captured with Micromax A255
Captured with Micromax Canvas A255
Captured with Micromax Canvas A255
Captured with Micromax Canvas A255

Our face to our finger nails were all filled with dirt. We were sweating terribly because we wore warm clothes expecting the night to be cold but it was humid. The morning sun was a hot beauty! We were sleepy and I was awfully hungry but all that was not even given priority to as we were so happy right where we stood – at the top!

The one with everyone! #MumbaiRangers

While getting down we finally saw where we walked on last night and were flabbergasted to see the narrow path with deep valleys on both side. I learned how one’s fear is based on the things we see. Until we don’t see what is around us we don’t even fear the deepest of valleys! One of our companions whose name was also Zainab and was a doctor by profession, spotted two ladies who were climbing up in sarees and rubber slippers with POLIO AID BOXES! She highly appreciated them for what they were doing for the kids to get their polio dosage. I on the other hand felt really proud for the two women who literally trekked all the way up the hilly path in the harsh sun just to make sure the kids at Machi got “do boondh zindagi ke.”(Two drops for life.) I would never be able to do this, specially not in a saree and slippers!

Salute to these women!

As we got down, we were really tired due to sleep deprivation. I washed my hands & face with water and we got into our rickshaw ride backt to the railway station. As we didn’t want to swtich trains we bid half the group goodbye and waited at the station for the next train. We ate Vada Pav at Karjat station and waited eagerly for our train to arrive so we could just shut our eyes and try to sleep! We thankfully got place as it was the first station, we got comfortable and all of us fell asleep. I have a habit of replaying my journeys on the way back and I found myself dreaming about it all – at the top, on a rock, gazing at the infinite sky!IMG-20160221-WA0042

To trek, cycle or tour with Mumbai Rangers click here and get details on their future adventures! 🙂 Their guidance was needed for newbies like myself and it was truly helpful. So if you are looking for some adventure in life, pick one of their itenaries and be adventourous!

-Zainab Attari