I remember the first time I attended Toastmaster session. When asked to introduced myself, I started with my work experience, my educational background and certifications I had completed. I paused for a second as I realized, that I was at a Toastmasters Club meeting, and not for a job interview. So I changed subjects to talk about why I was at the club and what I expected to get out of the club. I also talked about my hobbies. Cricket, music and mountains are my passion. Ever since that day, I have never missed a chance to get on stage and talk about mountains and my trekking experiences. And as I spoke, I have seen some eyebrows raised, doubting the credibility of my stories. I know it’s hard to believe a visibly unfit guy like me talk about mountaineering. So I thought to take this opportunity to substantiate my stories with photographic evidence.
So let me jump straight to my presentation, where I’ll show you photographs of three my favourite treks.
1. Alang – Kulang – Madan
Before I tell you about this trek, I want to ask everyone; Which was you most memorable New Year’s Eve? I am sure most would have stories of an epic party with friends at a bar or a pub, or may be a club. For me this particular trek stands out. My friends and I planned to do something different that year. So the moment someone of us muttered Alang – Kulang – Madan, we all agreed in unison. Alang- Kulang – Madan are three most isolate and remote forts in Maharashtra. Very few venture out to these forts, due to its sheer inaccessibility. We drove overnight to the base of the forts, then trekked through thick forests for good six to seven hours, with heavy sacks on our backs; only to face a huge rock wall smooth as a slate. With sun hurrying towards the horizon, we had to muster up as much strength as we could to anchor the ropes and climb the wall that stood before us. Our exhaustion was more than compensated for by the amazing view from the top. We setup a small camp fire and slept next to it gazing at millions of shimmering stars in the clear night sky. At the stroke of midnight the horizon on either side of the forts light up with fireworks set from the towns below.
Raigad, the capital of the Maratha Empire. A perfect specimen of a formidable fortified fort. I have visited this fort many times, and each time the fort has surprised me with something new. By the way luck never seems to favor me when at this fort though. This one time, I broke my shoes and had to walk bare foot in the mountains on a hot summer afternoon. The other time I broke my toes and had to limp all through the trek. Most memorably, I remember, it rained so heavily that there was about three inches of water in our tent, I had to sleep sitting on our sack.
Just like Alang, this fort too is one of the most remote places in Maharashtra. Fort Vasota is located in the back waters of the Koyna river. This fort marks the border of rain shadow region. Thick forest and large back waters of the Koyna river on one side and a complete barren landscape on the other side. One can clearly see the stark contrast between the two landscapes during summers. Due to its inaccessibility, Marathas used this fort as prison. Most dreaded convicts of their times were locked up here. Though this fort is heavily fortified, it has never been part of any famous battles. It exchanged hands only through treaties signed between kingdoms. Only story of a battle that I know was between Marathas and British. This too was a token fight, cause it is said that the British fired only three cannon balls at this fort and the fort was surrendered.
Today, I shared only a few of my experiences with you all. My wife hasn’t been this fortunate. One day when I told her about one of my trekking experiences; she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Trekking twenty miles, with a twenty pound sack on your back, all day under the sun in the mountains is not a definition of a fun activity.That’s manual labour. Why would you do such a thing?”. To answer her question I showed her this photo.
That’s me fast asleep on the floor of Satara Bus Depot after a long trek. But on a serious note my answer to ‘Why do I do it?’ is for three main reasons.
1. Self Actualization
With each trek I have a new realization of my capabilities. Capabilities that I knew I had and the one I didnt. Like the capabilities, I also have the realization of my limitations. With each trek I challenge myself and discover how far I can physically and mentally push myself.
Every window has a different perspective. History is not dull and depressing as it is in our text books, and its definitely not as glamorous as shown in the movies. To really understand history you have to visit these forts and mountains. They give you a chance to visualize how things must have transpired in the past.
3. I am a Storyteller
I love to tell stories. The most vivid stories are only possible if you have had the opportunity to travel, explore, see and experience things first hand. With a large bag full of experiences that I have, make for some really exciting stories to tell.