At some point of our lives we desperately want to escape from the not-so-meaningful activities of our everyday lives. It can be an escape either from endless studies that we do now- a-days to stay in the competition or from our bosses in the office or simply a time out from the never ending thoughts that occupy our minds. However, not many of us actually give it a serious thought; And just take life the way it comes, which is not a bad thing though. In order to break away the monotony, I made a solo trek to a ruined fort situated 20-25 km away from Vasai, Takmak fort.
Takmak fort was built in the 12th century, at a height of nearly 2000 ft. above sea level. It is surrounded by thick forests from all the sides which are a challenge to the trekkers, especially in the monsoons.
As usual, it was a Sunday morning when I left early so that I could make the best use of the pleasant weather. After reaching Vasai station, I took a lift in a mini pick-up vehicle which dropped me near the base village. This was the first time that I ever took a lift in the middle of a highway.
From there it was nearly 30 minutes walk to Sakwar village (base village). When I enquired with the local people about the route to the mountain fort, they were surprised and quite amused to see that I was going to climb all alone. According to them, it was nearly impossible to reach at the top of the mountain fort, without guidance (owing to the dense forests). Reluctantly, I agreed to take the company of two men. Trust me that was the best decision that I made on this journey. It was indeed very difficult to navigate the right path through the never ending stretch of trees and bushes.
It all looked the same. Finding a way out in these places can be a risky affair. However, one of the men was carrying a sickle with him which he used to make way for us.
There have been countless moments when I thought of giving up in mid way and returning back home. But the village duo was the real source of inspiration for me to get going.
There were all sorts of possible terrain in that one trek; flat plains, long stretches of marshy land, steep rocky path, dense bushes, picturesque plains with beautiful flowers, etc. I was not able to look at the peak which was covered with dark clouds which gave a strange eerie to the entire journey.
But the duo insisted to keep on walking. On the way they shared about their lives, their occupation, etc. They shared stories of hunting wild boars few years back that had entered into their village. According to them, even today, there were few places in the jungle which had people cut off from the city and the modern lifestyle. They are governed by their own laws and customs. Surprisingly, none of them were wearing any shoes. For them, it was more comfortable to walk bare feet. It made them feel more ‘closer’ to the earth.
One of the worst mistakes that I made was not to carry food and water (#Lesson: always carry food and water right from the beginning of the journey). The forest is kind enough if we learn to hear and see with our ears and eyes open. On the way, we came across few plants which were quite unique. These plants grew only during the monsoons and in that particular region. Immediately, my guides offered me some by carefully plucking them out of the stoned walls of the mountains.
I was deeply scared of trying something of this sort for the first time. Having no other option, I grabbed and ate it without thinking much. That was perhaps the most fresh and ‘natural’ thing I have had in my life. It was a mix of sweet and sour taste which kind of melted as soon as I tried to chew it. My taste buds were craving for more of it. This time I myself plucked some and ate them.
We were almost near the top of the peak. By that time I was dead thirsty. But I must say, if you have the right kind of skill set, you can somehow survive even in the jungles (we all have seen Bear Grylls on the discovery channel and Tom Hanks in Cast Away movie).I was lucky enough to have these men around me who were aware of the dos and don’ts of such a place. And guess what? At the top there was a small rock cut tank filled with water.
Again, I was in a dicey situation whether to have that water or not. However, when they mentioned that ‘recently ’it has been cleaned by a group of hikers, I breathed a sigh of relief. I drank as much water as I could. Later on when I asked about the cleaning of the tank, they said it was cleaned 1 month back!! I was taken aback when I heard “one month”. However, I chose to ignore that and started to have it again. We rested for nearly an hour. There was an old cannon barrel lying around in a dilapidated condition. It must surely have been over 100 kg in weight (yes! We all tried to lift it). After exploring the place for a while, I reached a spot which was entirely covered by beautiful flowers and well manicured bushes. Winds swept across them making it a perfect location for a bollywood scene.
I never really had such a feeling ever in my life. Everything was so calm and quite. Not a sound from anywhere. Silently, the wind was blowing across my face. High above us there were two eagles flying, perhaps in search of food. It was like I was watching time fleeting by.
I stood frozen in time mesmerized by the sheer beauty of these majestic mountains. These are the moments when you feel like completely surrendering yourself to nature. One thing you realize is that you are nothing but a tiny speck in this world. These mountains make you feel very insignificant. Their timeless nature makes you realize that we spend our lives running behind the ‘material’ aspects whereas the true beauty
lies elsewhere. I feel lucky that I have been able to see such beauty by myself. Mr. John Steinbeck had rightly said…”People Don’t Take Trips, Trips Take People”…..
For a moment, I dreamed of spending my entire life in such a place. However, the very next moment I realized the pending work that I was supposed to do the previous night. Slowly, all my rosy dreams of ‘settling’ in the woods began to fade away. Also, the guides had other work to do in their farms. Reluctantly, I started to descend towards the same old monotonous life which was waiting for me.
Somehow I was not as gloomy as I used to be whenever such a journey comes to an end. May be because, there were many things that I was taking back with me in terms of lessons, new guide-cum -friends and never ending beautiful memories…..