WITHDRAWAL symptoms kept hitting me occasionally as I made strong efforts to put my Himalayan trek experiences behind me and focus on what others call ‘LIFE’. The lethal 9 to 5 or precisely 9 to infinity work schedules of being confined to a claustrophobic cubicle called workplace equipped with backlit TFT screens throwing data and information that can rapidly alter thinking, mind state and thereby behavior called LIFE. I had been dragging myself reluctantly to work looking at hills as I drove by them with a changed perspective. Just about that time my phone rang. It was Shrirang, my tent mate from our trek in the Himalayas. (Read here)
“We are going on a trek and you are joining us” were his words. My eyes litup. I stopped doing everything else that I was and began listening as the smile on my face turned into a grin. “We are not going without you, for sure.” he continued “10 & 11 June, a trek to Rajmachi to watch Fireflies”. Rajmachi a peak in the nearby Sahyadri ranges was a very popular destination for trekkers. One for its vicinity to Pune and Mumbai and two for being more of a flat trek with negligible climbing involved. To add to the flavor, the trek is best done at night and is completely safe. “I confirm” was my instant reply “Let me check with Aarti and Trupti” I said before hanging up. Aarti and Trupti were trekmates and good friends from Pune who had been eager to go on a trek locally.
The best part about a trek for me is to be able to enjoy the journey with old friends and new equally. The final count was 19 which included kids which sounded like fun. Mukta by then had swung into action planning the logistics, food, stay, route, timing and everything any other person would miss. Exquisite planning happened with every ‘t’ being crossed and ‘i’ being dotted as we set out to our common meeting point in Lonavala. Trupti had made it while Aarti decided to skip the trek in view of a family function.
The trek began at the base of the Tungarli dam. The road initially tar, quickly changed into a rough trail. Rocky patches sweet with fresh rain from the previous night made the usually uninteresting sector jump with life. Crabs and all forms of miniature wildlife began making their appearance. We strode along the path at a steady pace. The others had taken a head start and by this time had a long lead on us.
Kids were doing well as they enjoyed the huge rock mountains that flanked us as we continued our trek. However, it didn’t take us long to realize that we weren’t the only ones who were planning to enjoy natures treat on offer. Car after car, the crowd began flowing in. At one end it was relatively pleasing to see trekking find recognition among the younger crowd but at the other end the demeanor was left wanting.
Awareness is key which was aptly demonstrated by the ones who took this passion seriously. As we covered some good ground we got to hear bird calls so melodious that we were reminded of melodies from A.R. Rahman and the likes. Singing songs we marched ahead till the sun began to wrap up its days duty and began setting behind the Sahyadri ranges leaving us with a Picasso equivalent in the skies.
Darkness fell and bird sounds got replaced with sounds of the forest. Crickets, croaking frogs and insect sounds never heard before. An eerie feeling filled the air but got soon wiped off as the crowds came in hoards. In the next few minutes we came to a small bridge over a brook and I saw something shimmering in the distance. That was my first encounter with fireflies.
The entire tree was covered with fireflies. The sight left us in awe. Nature had its ways of letting us know it was in true command. Spellbound with the sights on display I forgot to pull out my camera and capture the sight. On second thoughts a thought crossed my mind which made me fold my hands and let my eyes do the capturing. Not everything in this world can be captured through the lens on the camera, some are best captured by the lens and stored in the memory banks god provided us. For the next few hours we were provided with captivating display of lights by these miniature marvels of the world. ‘Aahs’ and ‘Oohs’ filled the air as the group ahead of us passed turns on the trails and came up with tree after tree full of fireflies…millions of them.
Enthralled with views from the evening we pulled ourselves to the small village of Udhewadi which is a small village at the base of two beautiful forts. Rajmachi Fort (Killa) consists of two twin fortresses Shriwardhan Ballekilla and Manoranjan Balekilla. The village is about 25 households large with no electricity or direct water supply. The villagers make a living by allowing trekkers to camp in their courtyards and provide them with food and water in exchange of a negligible sum. We stayed there for the night before waking up at dawn and setting out to climb the Manoranjan fort. The view from up there was worth the effort we made. Views all across the fort just blew us away. Trains rolling out of the mountains looked like a scene straight out of a Hollywood animation film. A distant hold of dam backwater lit up the horizon adding beauty to the falling suns rays.
We hurried back half way on foot and half way on a much awaited pick up ride to our hotel where we had parked our cars. Plucking berries from trees and singing songs louder than before we arrived at our Hotel. A quick wash and a scrumptious lunch later we headed back to our own cities with memories and new friends for a lifetime.
Special thanks to all who made it to the trek :
Ajinkya, Radhika with Aadia and Aarav were tagged along by Jia. Visakha and Mansi, both dentists who loved to call themselves Oral Maxillofacial surgeons to further complicate matters. Good friends Shrirang and Mukta with Malhar. Kedar and Mukta (R) with Radhika and Mihika and finally Ashish and Yogini with Anushka and Trupti. A special and huge thanks to Mr. Vare for hosting us and thirty others.
This would be incomplete without a special mention that goes out to Mukta for taking all the efforts and planning the trek with such precision. Kudos !
How to get there:
- Lonavala is the major town that leads to the start point of this trek. Well connected from Mumbai and Pune by train (central railway) and road it offers multiple options of transit.
Where to Stay:
- Lot of options at Udhewadi. The Vares offer their homes to all trekkers with dinner and breakfast.
- This is a night trek and is safe when done in a group. Carry torches but refrain from using them while you are amidst fireflies. C
- Carry enough water to last for 15 odd kilometers. Also carry mosquito repellent cream for a sound sleep at night.
Pictures a property of the author unless mentioned.