Kalsubai Peak Trek in August 2017

Author: 
Mahesh Bhushan Vijh

Mahesh Bhushan Vijh was born in 1964 in a defense officer's family. His childhood was spent on various Air Force station camps in India. After his father's retirement, the family took up residence in Delhi and effectively has been resident in the National Capital Region (NCR) for the last 42 years.

In 1989 Mahesh wed Ruma, an art teacher in a reputed school. Mahesh and Ruma were blessed with a daughter who is a qualified jewelry designer, and a son who once played cricket for state of Delhi and is now pursuing his career in travel and tourism.

Being in a respectable government job allowed Mahesh to pursue his passion for Vedic Jyotish and then teach the subject for 5 yrs. Later on, he started doing marathons, walkathons and trekking.

Mahesh feels that life today is at an exciting stage and he strives to live it to its fullest.

In the journey of my life of 56 years, I feel privileged to have lived my life to pursue my interests fully.

I have many stories to share about my treks to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, Tarsar Marsar in Kashmir, Igatpuri in Maharashtra, and Leh-Ladakh in the Himalayas, not to mention various marathons and 100 km walkathons.

In my life, I have been guided and motivated by Dr. D. D. Rishi. I am a proud member of a Facebook group founded by him, christened 'Anand Sabha'.

The Anand Sabha group, amongst other things, organizes treks at various locations in the country. Many members of Anand Sabha and friends and family join these adventure outings. As my wife Ruma and I love walking and adventure, we often join these group treks. It’s so much fun moving along with fellow trekkers and having fun too.

This story is about our trek in August 2017 to Kalsubai Peak in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.

It was an amazing experience with memories still vivid and fresh. Looking back, I thank providence for looking after me in severe weather conditions and particularly while returning in near darkness.

I reminiscence about how I fell into place to be able to join the trek and was able to complete this wonderful trek in some dark moments: like the help that arrived out of the blue; like how all events got sequentially arranged and connected to enable me complete the trek without which there was a high risk of getting seriously injured and also go missing in the jungles in the darkness of the night.

On the morning of 14th August, 2017 the base camp was filled with the usual excitement. Everyone’s face was glowing with eagerness and anticipation. The weather conditions looked highly enjoyable but almost none of us had any real idea about the ground realities
All we trekkers knew was that it was a steep climb to the highest peak in Maharashtra.

Packed in four vehicles, we reached the village close to the trek route and hired a local guide for us to follow the correct route. We were informed that it would take nearly three hours to reach the peak and about two hours to descend. Thus, all in all, we needed clear 6 hours sunlight to reach our goal.

 
The group has just crossed the water barrier here and everyone is quickly getting ready for the trek into the dense jungle.

The group has just crossed the water barrier here and everyone is quickly getting ready for the trek into the dense jungle.

 

However, the likelihood was that it would take more time as the ground was wet due to continuous rains. By the time we reached the base it was already around 12:30 in the afternoon.

We needed to have our lunch. Thus, after walking for a little while we came upon a lush green patch suitable for eating our lunch. The time was already touching 1:30 pm.

Some serious trekkers (7 of them) did not stop for lunch and moved ahead with the guide. Ruma and I along with few others stopped for lunch, looking to spend time having fun rather than opting to push themselves on this difficult trek ahead.

Dressed in my usual trek attire with protective gear, I was in no mood to stop myself anywhere short of the peak but I did not say much due to the prevalent mood of the group.

Time was slipping away, a few moved further but soon seeing the extremely slippery conditions, they decided to stay back. Finally, the group getting further ahead was reduced to me, Ruma and Aarti Doshi ji but after few steps, walking became like ice skating.

We saw some youngsters returning from the peak and they looked as if they had wrestled in the slime and slush. They nodded silently to us, conveying they couldn’t go much further.

My wife Ruma and Arti ji too withdrew. I was left alone to carry on climbing via the slippery route.

 
Tea break near the temple at the base of the mountain

Tea break near the temple at the base of the mountain before I decided to move alone. My wife Ruma and Mrs. Aarti Doshi accompanied me for few steps and then retreated due to extremely slippery ground conditions.

Group members (from left to right): Verinder Singh, Mahesh Vijh, Niraj Srivastava, Meena Niraj Srivastava, Ruma Vijh, Sandhya Verinder Singh, Vibha Bhasin and Aarti Doshi.

 

It was 2:30 pm already, with a good 3 hours of trek still ahead. Without much thought to how far I would be able to manage, I moved further all by myself. I walked ahead carefully, choosing to step on or sidestep the slushy, watery patches.

I managed somehow to cover some distance, but it was time consuming. It was some relief to see some solid ground in between.

Climbing alone in late hours under continuous drizzle was risky but it didn't hamper my spirit.

Climbing alone in late hours under continuous drizzle was risky but it didn't hamper my spirit.

Time was slipping away and I still had a long distance to cover. Mobile network connection was no longer available. The dreaded thoughts of returning through the same slippery track after sunset was constantly on my mind. I still had 2 hours of onward trek left and I was completely drenched.

It would have been an easy option for me to return but that would have left me with a defeated feeling, which was unacceptable to me. Another point of worry was being unable to send any message back that I was safe and moving well. Though some youngsters were seen descending, none barring a few local villagers were moving upwards at that time.

Half the distance was covered and finally I met Ganesh, a local boy who was returning barefoot with his mother. For a prize earning of Rs. 300/- he decided to be with me for rest of the trek. He had some last-minute chat in Marathi with his mother and joined me.

I felt little better now that someone would be with me on return when darkness enveloped the jungle. After some time, the iron ladders were found which too were wet and slippery and good enough to break anyone’s bones if God forbid anyone slips.

The climb on wet iron ladders with mud swamped shoes was no less risky as any slip could have caused serious bone injuries.

The climb on wet iron ladders with mud swamped shoes was no less risky as any slip could have caused serious bone injuries.

Three such ladders were found on the way and without putting much thought on the fact that climbing down would be even more dangerous I just kept moving forward. On the way kept asking Ganesh “Abhi aur kitna ooper hai? (How much further?)“

Ek ghanta aur hai. (One more hour.),” he replied, though he was himself did not sound too sure.

Two-thirds of distance were covered, and it was turning very windy. I enjoyed freshness of pure air and even heard some pleasant music as if someone was playing flute nearby.

I could hear the flute continuously, but I couldn’t spot the player, so the only inference I could derive was that music was getting created by movement of winds but it was amazing how nature created such soothing and pleasant music.

Then, lo and behold! I was finally able to spot some of my fellow trekkers! I felt lot of relief at sight of 3 of our group members Prafulla Sharma ji, Rajesh Kumar ji and Kumar Ranganathan returning downhill. They were shocked to see me climbing alone. I also felt somewhat relieved that now they could convey the message of my whereabouts and well-being back to the family. Time was ticking away, and the peak was still half an hour away.

I kept moving ahead. The soothing music continued moving along with me. After about 20 minutes I saw another trio, Bharatprakash ji, Dharmender Upadhyay ji and Manoj Kumar ji, coming down. Seeing me climbing alone Manoj was ecstatic “Sir, I knew you would be coming,“ he cried.

I asked them to wait at a tea stall 200 meters below while I kept walking to the peak. In the continuous drizzle bodies were wet and tired and I was worried how I would take on the long descend with my knee issues. Finally, around 5:30 pm I touched the peak, removed my shoes and bowed down at Kalsubai Mata temple, prayed before the deity for giving me continued strength to reach back to my group.

Into the clouds at the peak. Nature in its purest form. Music was heard in the air.

Into the clouds at the peak. Nature in its purest form. Music was heard in the air.

After 5 minutes I started to move down carefully stepping on wet and slippery rocks. Descending was proving to be tougher. So, whenever there were side railings, I held on to them and got down with a side-ward movement. I continued to hear the music, but I couldn’t figure out the source.

I reached the tea stall and saw 3 of my fellow group members waiting for me along with the other local boy hired in the beginning. We were shivering in our wet clothes. Ee took off our shirts to squeeze out the water, warmed up ourselves with tea and took good five minutes rest.

While 2 members and the first local guy moved on, Manoj chose to be with me. Here I would say that if the prayers meant something, Manoj proved to be my first lifeline because without his company I couldn’t have reached back.

Manoj, who has gift of the gab, eased off the mounting pressure to a great extent. Now I was not alone. Manoj trailed behind me like true Lakshmana and continued chatting. We carefully covered the slippery descent and then those three iron ladders too.

On the way suddenly Manoj broached the question which was ringing in my mind too. “Sir, ye music aapko bhi sunai de raha hai? Kahan se aa raha hai? (Can you also hear this music? From where is it coming?)” As he also heard it, it was clear that it was not illusionary.

Continuous twists and turns of the body had started causing pain in my ribs too. After about one hour of descent we again stopped at another tea shop for applying pain relief spray.

"Bhaoo" as the locals would call him, the shopkeeper, was washing utensils indicating that shop was about to be closed for the day. Incidentally while going up on the trek Manoj had borrowed a danda (long stick) from him for using as a support. He now requested Bhaoo to allow him to keep it and that he shall hand it over to Ganesh back in the village. Bhaoo agreed and also served us tea.

Thick darkness was descending fast and engulfing the jungle. We realized that in few minutes it would be a total blackout. We quickened our pace. Suddenly Manoj noticed that it was not the same route which was taken on the way upwards

Sir yeh paddy fields tou aayee nahi thee. (These paddy fields were not there.)” He was right: Ganesh had put us on different route. “Jayega, Jayega …ye mandir ko jayega. (This path will go to the temple.)” he conveyed to us in his broken Hindi. (This was the Kalsudevi Mandir at the base where the group had tea).

We had no choice but to follow him as it was already 7 pm and we had to walk down for nearly one more hour. Taking us down through the steps, Ganesh kept on going but after about 20 minutes he stopped at a thatched roof hut and refused to go further.

“What! Ganesh hamey aagey kon le ke jayega? (Ganesh, who will take us forward?)“ But he coolly stood mum and indifferent to our anxieties and asked for the money. All our efforts to convince him did not work.

Darkness had engulfed the area and it was impossible for us to move further. Just then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Kya hua, saeeb? (What's happened?)” Bhaoo was standing behind us! I felt goose bumps all over. How would I ever thank God for sending him to us as help?

Arrrrey Bhaooo aap kahan se aa gaye? (Oh Bhaooo from where have you come?)“ I stood with my mouth open.

Bhaoo became angry with the boy. He talked to Ganesh in local Marathi dialect which we couldn’t figure out. “Chalo Saeeb, mein le ke chalta hai, ye nai jayega woh darta hai. (Come on, I will take you. He won't go because he's scared.”

Bhaoo appeared like a God to us. “Bhaoo tum Bhagwan hai. (Bhaooo, you are like God.),” were my words almost choked with emotions.

Manoj too was feeling the same. Bhaoo held my hand while Manoj held mine and we both were walking like visually challenged guys on the track.

Saaeeb, woh gaon ka ladka nahi hai. Woh bahar se aaya thaa. Woh darta hai. Mere ko koi dar nahi hai. Koi nahi aa sakta mere pas. (He is not from the village. He came from some place else. He is scared. I have no fear. No one can touch me.)“

His words were shaking us. What kind of fear did he mean? Was the route so dangerous?

Anxiety gripped our minds. It was pitch dark.

In the meanwhile Bhaoo continued talking. “Saeeb mujhe batao aapka gadi kidhar hai? Idhar peir dalo. Idhar chhodo. (Tell me where your car is. Put your foot here. Don't put your foot there.)“

We were awestruck as to how he was able to see the ground in that darkness; though we were holding each others’ hands but still unable to see each other.

Ek minute ruko Saeeb. (Wait a minute.),“ saying this he took out a weak small torch and gave it to me “Isko pakdo aur peir dekhna Saeeb (Hold this and watch your step.)”

I was badly missing my headlamp which I had forgotten to carry along. Bhaoo then instructed me to walk by placing my step on his foot. By pointing the torch at his right foot we kept walking. It was enough for us to understand that it was impossible for us to take on the route without external help. All my body cells were saying that all that was happening was in no way less than a miracle, as if God was with us all the time.

Bhaoo then told us that he too worked as guide in his childhood days and has been to the top at Kalsubai Mandir for more than three and half thousand times so far.

Chota thaa. Koi paanch rupya deta thaa, koi nahi deta thaa. Main tou raat mein kabhi bhi ooper chala jata hoon. Mere ko koi dar nahi hai. (I was young. Some used to give me 5 rupees, some would give nothing. I trek to the peak any time at night. I have no fear.)“ He kept amazing us, ahhh!

I just thought why not ask that ringing question which was still a mystery. “Bhaoo ye baansuri ka awaaz sunai deta raha haein. Ye kon bajata hai? (Bhaoo, I can hear the flute all the time. Who is playing it?)“

Aapko sunai diya kya? Wo kisi kisi ko sunai deta hai. Iska matlab devi prasann hai. Aapke sath bohot achchaa hoga. (Oh, you can hear it? Only a few can hear it It means that the goddess is happy with you. Good things will happen to you.)”

I had never experienced such situation before so was unable to comment on it but the way Bhaoo arrived as helping us was as if some prayers had been heard. It was not just my prayers but of all those who were anxiously waiting and silently praying for my and dear Manoj’s safe return.

Soon we started seeing those lights in houses of village and then shortly we arrived at Bhaoo‘s house. He went inside in a flash and brought out a big and powerful torch “Chalo Saeeb, aap aage chalo (Let's go. You walk in front)”. I expressed a big sigh of relief as we were able to see a lot better.

My watch was showing 8pm and now we were close to the village. We knew the water barrier was also close by and we would have to remove our shoes to cross that knee-deep water body.

In about 15 minutes time we reached the water barrier and as we were talking about removing our shoes Bhaoo had other ideas. ”Joota mat utaaro saeeb. Mei le ke jaoonga. Bas mere ooper aa jao. (Don't take off your shoes. I will take you. Just climb on me.)”

It was unbelievable! That 5 feet tall man lifted us one by one on his back (like riding ‘pitthoo‘) and ferried us across!

I like bowed before him in gratefulness. We were back, all that anxiety and fatigue was forgotten. I was just anxious to meet waiting people to end their difficult time as well.

Rishi Sir, who in spite of not being in best of health had refused to leave, found Ruma holding tears, anxious faces of Aarti ji and Rajiv ji in one car while Bharatprakash ji, Dharmender Upadhyay ji, Atith in the other were also waiting. Others who had just left were worried too as they were enquiring about us on phone.

It was time for us to thank Bhaoo, though no money was enough to repay our gratitude for what all he did for us. I hugged him tightly and could hardly speak but my emotions appeared to have been well received. He was smiling, ”Phir aana Saeeb. (Come again.)”.

Back in the car as I was narrating this experience, all had suggested to share it on group for everyone. All was over but, on the way, back I was thinking that the sequence of events looked so connected as if they were specially been designed. I knew I just had gone through this amazing experience of a “divine intervention” which will remain embedded in my memory for long.

I remain indebted for this amazing life experience.

Comments

A great adventure indeed. I wish I too could do such a trek.

Sir that's very modest of you. You have yourself faced many tough situations on treks. We draw lot of inspiration from your experience.

I know your determination, brother. You were lucky to complete the trek. Since I was the trek leader and I had my responsibility towards welfare and safety of each member, I had to stay back and couldn't go for it. But I am going to make it, probably this year.

Thanks Rajiv ji. You were superb as trek leader, kept your cool despite some tough moments given by me. I look forward for a repeat visit to this place with you.

Hard to believe - but true.

Yes Sir, Bhao was a divine help.

what an adventure; thanks for sharing...

Thanks for liking it.

Sir what a narration it was, for a moment it seemed as I was myself experiencing the trek. Anyways for me the divine intervention was there which helped u reach up to the Devi Mandir and brought u back to safety. I also salute your grit and mental toughness because I do believe that half battle is won by mindset and half by efforts. You exhibited a perfect combination of mindset and physical efforts. All the best for your coming Treks and hope u keep us posted.

Thanks for the compliments. I too feel the divine help came one after the other as Ganesh, then Manoj and finally as Bhau to make me pass through the dark dense jungle

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