Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Recent Adventures

I'm not sure where to begin. With my Dahanu trip on August 8th I guess. My first trip to the area. A one day trip involving a train ride to Vangaon with a friend who owns property there, drinking coconut water, visits to his relatives, a scooter ride to Vangaon beach, travelling to Dahanu in 3 (or was it 4 rickshaws?), using the 6th seat for the first time, eating a sumptuous lunch, mixing naan and noddles, hitching a ride to Dahanu station in a tractor. So many firsts. I'm glad I had experienced company. He turned every instance into an adventure. A trip here is recommended in the rains when it's cool and breezy, though there's not much to do except travel around.

Followed this with a road trip to Vikramgad & Jawhar on the 22nd. The last time I went there was 2006 with PrV and the gang. A different gang this time. One I brought together. A good mix. A car with four people, a calming drive along the highway, green hills, open sky, climbing up, changing topography, greenery everywhere, low grass and black rock, a hill station minus the crowds. 

Taking funny pics with friends, deep stone quarries filled with rainwater, a friend takes a dip, jokes, hunger, a restaurant with tasty filling food and low prices, a palace to explore, a beautiful view from its backyard, 360 panoramic photography, hairy caterpillars, a lookout point, tiredness creeping in, driving back to the city at 120 km/hr on the highway, photographing clouds, going to Vijay Sales, looking for cameras, decide to meet on Sunday to buy some. 

And finally, a trip to Lohagad fort in Malavli on Saturday. I had to visit a fort this monsoon. The previous attempt at Rajmachi was rained out. With the adventures from the last two trips, I didn't think I'd be having any more. I was wrong.

And so we meet again on Saturday, five of us this time, and drive to Khandala first, to Kune mission, where we take photos. I have never been to a place with better views of the valley. We drive to Lonavala next, to get money, fudge and alcohol. Drive on to Malavli after that, asking for directions to Lohagad. Come to Pavana Dam, take more photos, realise we've taken a wrong turn and should have taken a left before turning onto the Pavana dam road.

Turn back, go left, drive slowly up the rocky road to Lohagad village, very slowly. Trek up the hundreds of stairs (with caves along the way) leading to the top of the fort, a well maintained fort, enjoying every bit of it. So many levels, so many interesting sections of the fort to see along the way, experimenting with photography.

The climb to the top takes us into raincloud and we're literally walking among the clouds. No description suffices. You have to be there to feel it. I've only seen this twice before - in Malshej Ghat (2004) and Karnala (2008) - and only felt the same magic feeling once. The Himalayas may be majestic but the Western Ghats in the monsoon are magical. It's worth waiting an entire year for. It's something to see before you die. There is absolutely nothing like a hill fort in the rains.

We descend, slowly down slippery steps, it begins to rain, we drive back to Khandala, stop for a late lunch at a place riddled with menu misspellings that takes even longer to prepare it, and head to Buffallo falls, the third time this monsoon. It's raining so the water's muddy. A friend dunks his head under one. This is his moment. This is what he came for. He's enjoying it.

We go back to Kune to dry off. Watch darkness descend. RV regales us with poetry and then almost looses his phone along with a box of empty beer bottles on the way out. That's why you shouldn't litter. It's a sign from above. The others think that's our last adventure of the day. In my mind I just know there's more.

Five minutes later I'm proved correct. We get onto the highway and realise we can't see anything. It's covered with fog. Our lights are not very helpful. We're scared. RV's working from memory. We connect with the main freeway and other vehicles and the situation improves. Traffic increases as we cross over from Navi Mumbai into Mumbai. I doze off till we reach Andheri. We bid farewell to RV and HS and drive home, our last adventure of the day being the stop for dinner at a dhabba at Kandivli for brain rice and chicken tikka.



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