Treks are not my thing. never have been. The only one day trek I'd been to, I ended up paralysed in the legs for a week and sick with fatigue. Since then I decided I'd trek when I physically get stronger. A year later, my friend self planned this Matheran trek and forced me to tag along. A lot of time had passed since the last trek, I felt stronger now (okay, maybe just fatter) and I decided to give it a try, see how far I've come in a year. The worst that can happen is I wouldn't finish it.
So at 7.26 on a weekend morning we boarded a fast Karjat train from platform 3 from Mulund. After reaching Karjat we crossed two tracks and started to walk through a narrow lane with dirt road that smelt of dried fish. It ended a few feet away at an auto stand. The climate was hot, but breezy if you stood at one place for long enough to let that soft breeze brush your skin. We didn’t.
The auto people were ready to take us to Borgaon village for 200 bucks which felt like a little too much. We asked a bus driver if they were going that way. He said not, but there would come a bus that would travel the side we wanted to go. Since he hadn’t any clue for how long we’d need to wait, we started to walk to the left, up the road until we found a man.
As we started to ask him, a six-seater Tum Tum pulled up. The driver was ready to take us on. So we sat in his spacious ride and he dropped us to the start point of Borgoan for 100 bucks. The drive up that road was probably the most pleasant one. Now the wind really ruffled our hair and made its presence felt. We passed misty mountains and the road was well paved. We had officially started our trek, was my first thought.
We got down before a narrow lane leading up the way to Borgoan village with a man selling roasted corn at the entrance of it and a bungalow on the other side of the road. We made our way up, passing many houses, pretty bungalows with protective compounds, big, round rocks that were perfect for a quick photography halt. When the road tilted downwards, we spread our arms wide and ran down the road, bouncing and tasting freedom. I was tempted to ride a bicycle there and almost imagined myself doing so.
The residences were unevenly spread throughout our route. We found a few huts and brick houses here and pretty modern bungalows with people that owned cars and bikes, a typical village school there. At one point we had to pee so we asked a woman living in one such bungalow if we could use her toilet. She was kind and seemed educated.
Her son (or so I assumed) washed his bike and the girl, seemingly younger than him, wearing a knee length jeans and a top combed her curly hair. The bungalows were closely built and the one beside where we halted had a man talking to another across the road. Both of them owned hunchback cars parked in their compounds.
On our way ahead, there were small shops that sold items for as little as 25 paise, something I assumed wasn't in use anymore. A lot of cars and bikes and scooties passed us. We were met by greenery, tiny water bodies, a few people— especially two women and a dog lounging on a huge rock watching their buffaloes graze under semi-clear clouds— and men who helped us find our way up to Matheran Mountain.
At one point we lost our way and on asking, realized we needed to walk on the trail of dirt road to our left. That path seemed far from where we stood and the shortest way was to climb down the steep rocks, pass a long stream with somewhat strong current, and climb up the not-so-steep way.
That was where my friend lost her shoe sole (which is an important turn of event, probably the gravest) and I scraped my shin and ball of a foot.
Getting down the steep rock was the toughest because there were scores of loose stones and broken glass. With one move we could send all those tumbling down, mostly on the person in front of us. I almost told my friend (who lost her sole) that she would soon create a land slide if she didn’t control her movements. But at the time, all she wanted was to live and get down safely, much like what I wanted.
I sat and crawled down, nudging every stone before either putting my feet on it or grabbing it for support with our hand. Then there was this jump. I threw my bag down, took one look at the ground which was well below my feet and the narrow cut in the rock that would break my fall in the middle. I put pressure on my arms (that are still a little sore) and jumped, and jumped twice in quick succession.
It didn’t end there. I flung my bag on my arms and this was the tricky part; sliding down on those loose stones mixed with pieces of brown broken glass everywhere. Somehow I successfully crossed it without hurting myself. My friend, though, scraped her elbow and lost her sole (soul, as she puts it).
Next came the stream and that was where I injured myself. The water was about three-four feet deep, cool and tempting. I took off my shoes and socks, pulled my track pants up to my knees and tried to immerse my legs in the shallow but slippery water. I jumped the first current rock-to-rock but in the second one, I slipped on the slime under the water and... OUCH.
My friend though, with lost sole, couldn’t bring herself to cross it like we others did. So she went ahead, and ahead, walking along the edge of the stream but never really crossing it. We sat there, watching her as she paused after every ten steps, contemplated if she could cross now, deciding she can’t and went a few steps father. I sat nursing my scraped leg, the others sat to take a breath while our hero on the other end too far for our voices to reach her, found the simplest way to reach to us.
After a long time while I enjoyed the breeze on my bums and pants that were soaked in water, we saw her finally cross. She explained it later as a near-death experience. Which was really an overstatement. Probably of the decade. I wish I had a picture of us crossing it.
Now we were on right track. Later when I felt my strength starting to give in, we decided to take the road instead of jungle and uneven paths. My friend tried all sorts of remedies to not let her shoe sole break apart. But it finally did. We tied it with a handkerchief, but soon we could see her big toe peeking out of her shoe, followed by all five toes. It was so funny I hadn't laughed so hard since a long time.
But she didn’t break a smile. She said it was the most embarrassing thing that has happened to her. She asked every single person passing us to lend her their shoe. She was even ready to pay. But of course, hardly anyone stopped to entertain us. Plus, nobody really knew what sports shoes were or where to find one in this village.
Another one of our friends offered his umbrella (to be used as a walking stick) for us to walk. I needed it because I was shit tired and my legs were screaming. It was a task just to put one foot ahead of the other and it took all my will power to do so.
But she wanted it too. We fought for it but then she won since her situation was graver than mine. She took it and said she didn’t think the time to walk with the help of a stick would come so soon.
The only thing that kept us going was the thought of having pasta and pohe I carried and cream biscuits she carried for lunch. Finally, we managed to reach the village that stood at the foot of Matheran Mountain. We dropped like autumn leaves and started to take out our lunch when our friend said we should go back from here. Neither of us looked in a position to finish this trek. Hell, we didn’t even look like we could go past this at all. And it shouldn’t so happen that once we start, either of us gives up.
That was when a van pulled up and they were ready to take us down for fifty bucks per seat. And so we sat in the van, hogged on food on our way down like hungry dogs and boarded the train back home.
Thus we touched the foot of the mountain we were supposed to climb, saw the one tree hill that we were supposed to go to if we had the time, clicked a few pictures for memories and returned home with sore everything. Turns out, I haven't come very far within one year.
But flop or not, it was still one of the most memorable and enjoyable expeditions I've had since a long time.