Off the beaten track
There is more to a trek than meets the eye. Like a drop of several hundred feet that you need to cross or a waterfall you need to go down. Dhamini Ratnam tells more.health and fitness Updated: Oct 12, 2009 19:48 IST
Nothing offers a break from daily routine quite like a trek does — green mountain trails, a nip in the air and the promise of sun-soaked landscapes. But even veterans of the hiking trail need to add some spice to their familiar adventure trip. For some, hitting a deep ravine at the end of their path may signal the end of the trek. But what if we told you that the fun has just begun?
For Parag Gandhi, 29, hitting a ravine means there’s only one way to go — over it. Valley crossing involves pulling yourself across the ravine by clinging to a rope horizontally. The beginning is easy, as your weight propels you towards the centre of the rope. It’s when you reach the middle of the valley that the fun truly begins, since you then have to heave your own weight with your hands, making sure that your feet don’t lose their grip over the rope either. Don’t worry — if your hands tire, you won’t fall down, as you are harnessed to several ropes.
Gandhi, who organises adventure camps, finds the valley between Peb Fort and Matheran — a 1,000 feet deep ravine that took a 500 feet long rope to cross — the most challenging one he’s done till date.
Do this at: Duke’s Nose (near Khandala), Bhimachi Kathi (Raigad district), Mori (western Gharwal region).
If you head up to Malshej Ghat (near Mumbai) or Tiger Falls (at Chakrata), you’ll find yourself at the edge of a waterfall gushing down an almost vertical rockface. There’s only one thing to do then — buckle up. With the aid of long ropes thrown down the edge of the waterfall, you climb down slowly, making sure you don’t slip on the wet rocks that are more often than not covered with moss. Heena Shah, a student of Class 12, thinks of waterfall rappelling as the “most amazing” thing about a trek. “The higher,” she adds, “the better”.
As you descend with measured steps, a steady spray falls over you and every other sound is drowned out by the incessant noise of the waterfall. The only thing you are left feeling is a bit wet, a bit quiet, and tremendously grateful you took the plunge.
Do this at: Naneghat (Pune district), Konkan Kada (in the Sahyadris, near Harishchandragad), Chakrata (Uttaranchal).
There’s something about the night that amplifies every croak, every rustle, every whisper in the woods. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so quiet. Perhaps it’s the fact that since you can’t see your path as you would during the day, you begin to rely on other senses. You sniff for the river, you strain to hear the sound of the owl, and you sense the occasional mongoose that flashes past you. If you’re lucky, a posse of fireflies might decide to be benevolent and gently illuminate your path for a while. But we’d suggest you take a torch along, and several batteries too, for you know how capricious nature can be. To know more about the sheer adventure of a night trek, and how to go for one, read ‘Don’t be chicken, take a walk on the dark side.’
Do it at: Ratangad (near Nashik), Ukhimath (en route to Kedarnath) and Dev Prayog (Uttaranchal).
Exploring caves and ruins
Nothing adds to the mystery of a place more than fort ruins and deep, dark caves that seem to hold untold stories waiting to be heard. Arun Sawant, a veteran trekker and spelunker, began exploring caves and forts back in the ’80s. A trek up to the Ratnadurg fort in Ratnagiri led him to discover caves beneath the fort, carved by high tides. One was almost 200 feet deep. He has also explored the cave beneath the Devigiri Fort in Aurangabad, which, he says, was home to crocodiles a century ago, and was called “maut ka kuan” (well of death) by the local populace. “Now the moat’s dry, the crocodiles are gone, and the cave is barely visited,” says Sawant.
Do this at: Revdanda fort, Alibag, Harishchandragad, Shuru (Manali), Masrur temple (Kangra).
River crossing: Watch your footing and grab your buddy tight while crossing the river at Harishchandragad
Waterfall rappelling: Buckle up tight for a wet climb down a waterfall at Malshej Ghat, 154 km from Mumbai
Ruin exploration: The ruins of the Harishchandragad Fort in Shivneri, Shivaji’s birthplace, will appeal to history junkies
Rockface rappelling: Can’t find a way down? How about a rope? Rappel down a rockface at Malshej Ghat