Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” The Helen Keller quote stares right at you no sooner than you log on to the online portal of Mumbai Hikers, an umbrella organisation for trekkers. The portal is where trekking groups from within the state post news of their forthcoming activities to keep trekkers updated on options for the coming weekend.
The website caters to a growing tribe of trekkers for whom hiking is a way of life. Apart from finding pleasure in the journey and destination, this motley crew is also egged on by prospects of wildlife observation, photography and waterfall-spotting.
Kaustubh Upadhye (27) combines pleasure and business on the portal, posting the various trekking programmes offered by his trekking group, Jungle Lore.
Upadhye, who worked as the marketing manager for a shipping company before he quit his job this January to dedicate himself fully to trekking.
“Although I didn’t carry too much work back home, I’d need to unwind over the weekend. Over time I found my calling in being a fulltime trekker, and quit my job,” he recalls.
Each weekend, Upadhye indulges his passion for photography at trek spots such as Manikgad, Gorakhgad and Dhak Bahiri.
At Jungle Lore, Upadhye has started programs such as Breakfast With Butterflies (an early morning trudge through the Karnala bird sanctuary), and Sea Fort trail (exploring forts around Alibag, Naigaon and Murud). “These are all one- and two-day treks that even housewives and senior citizens can go on. So it works well for people of all ages,” says Upadhye.
Not everyone has quit their jobs, though.
What Laxmi Salgaonkar (31) most enjoys about treks is the array of birds she can spot. Salgaonkar is a corporate trainer with People’s Wise and hadn’t incorporated weekend treks in her routine until the last two years.
“Trekking over the weekend is a great stress buster and takes you through the entire following week, invalidating the Monday morning blues,” she says. Trekking is something Salgaonkar wanted to do all her life, and she’s not letting her spondilitis and arthritis deter her from hiking around the Sahyadris. “People who have been trekking since their school and college days are more agile than those who’ve started later on,” she says, “and as a weekend activity, it also makes up for the regular weekday workout.”
A few have been avid trekkers in their college days, but their work no more permits them to go trekking with the same frequency. Yet they’re just as fervent about their passion now as they were back then.
Shubham Mittal (26) goes trekking nearly twice a month. A manager with Tata AIG, Mittal enjoys the quietude that trek locales offer him after a frenetic week in the city. He particularly looks forward to the physical challenge that trekking throws up vis-à-vis the constant mental challenges he faces at work.
“Weekend treks don’t require too much preparation — there’s a generic set of things you carry and a definite means of transport. Plus, treks around Mumbai are innumerable and highly affordable; on my last trek to Peb Fort, I spent only Rs 200 inclusive of food and transport,” Mittal says.
While some may go trekking for the challenges, others do it for creative inspiration.
OJ Nelson (30), a and DJ, has fond memories of melancholy strumming on his guitar inside the Kanheri caves. For a good part of the week, Nelson burns the midnight oil, but there have been occasions when he’s put off work to go on treks. It has been worth it every time, he adds.
“When you’re trekking over short periods of time, the excitement never wears out. The greenery and waterfalls make for a perfect weekend getaway and are a great source of inspiration for my music,” he says.
Which means the only initiative you need is the urge to get away from the city and a couple of hundred rupees in your pocket.
And before you know it, your weekend has gone by pleasurably and the entire following week seems purposeful.
This weekly column examines the diversity of urban communities