— Sayantan Sharma
I have been visiting the Sahyadris regularly for four years now and I thought that I should share my experiences with you all. It is a difficult job though; it is like writing about your best friend whose company you enjoy so much. There are so many nice memories associated with him that you would inevitably be at a loss for words to pen them properly. I too have so many sweet memories associated with the Sahyadris and as I am sitting to pen them down, I am finding it difficult to express my emotions in proper words.
I was born and brought up in the City of Joy, Kolkata, which is far away from the hills. It is nestled by the serene and calm Ganges which cuddles around the city. So, only occasionally, during my vacations did I visit the mountains, the Himalayas. It is said that you need to get a call from the mountains – only then can you visit them. In the bustle and din of the city life, this call often gets lost in the sounds around us.
When I was coming to Mumbai on a wet morning, I got the first glimpse of the Sahyadris draped in green and all drenched in the morning rains. There were clouds all around trying to hide them from me, but I still stared at them from my train window. As the train trundled through the ghats near Igatpuri, I could see silvery waterfalls running down through the greenery amidst the rain and clouds. I liked them very much. But when I reached Mumbai and settled there, I lost touch with them … maybe, they called me again and again, but I could not hear them through the sounds of the metropolis.
Suddenly on one fine lazy winter morning, I was woken up by two of my friends for a visit to the Sahyadris. The trip was a short and a sweet one … it was to Karnala Fort. It was more like a survey trip. We were planning to take our juniors to a memorable picnic, which would be exciting, but not too taxing. Karnala was an ideal place that satisfied all our criteria; it was not too far from the city and the route to it was a fairly simple one that went through the virgin forests. The fort was like a chimney jutting out of the greenery around; a natural rock structure formed by the whimsies of the winds lashing on the hills. The scene from the top was spectacular; we could see the busy highway and a train moving slowly all looking like toys. We were so near to the modern world yet so far away. We were quite tired after the climb and we spent an amazing time under the mild morning sun with an eagle lazing around in the blue sky above us, leaving the busy world far below us.
After initial inhibitions, I became more familiar with Sahyadris. Like best friends, our bonding grew with time. I started visiting them more frequently. I have seen them very closely; their beauty at different times of the day and in different seasons. During winters, they stand calm and serene with a shawl of mist spread on them. During the spring and the summers, they are recluse and detached, basking under the beaming sun. During the rains, they are young and lively with a splurge of greenery all around them – braving the rains they stand teeming with new life and glory. I have spent some nights on them – sleeping on their dusty hue under the moonlit sky with the sky staring at me; to be woken up by the chilly winds and the first faint rays of the sun. There is a strong sense of familiarity and belonging that I have developed with them with the trips I made through all these years. Whenever I am tired and depleted, I just visit them – nowadays without even waiting for their call.
In the summer, spending nights on the Sahyadris is a real adventure – in moving through the eerie forested surroundings and rustling trees, in losing our way in the darkness, in finding our way out, and, finally, reaching the top. The final reward comes with the beautiful sunrise that we can see after reaching the top. The monsoon is the best time to visit them. They are draped in green with water gushing down through them with great vigour. They look fresh and lively and at the same time somewhat mysterious, shrouded in the clouds and mist. We have to make our way through the numerous streams and rivulets and the forests to reach the top. We have to negotiate the mossy boulders and rocks which sometimes becomes scary.
In the process, we often get drenched all over, again and again, and are then dried by the winds and cared for by the occasional streaks of sun-rays. In the end, we get spectacular views of the paddy fields, silvery streams and the familiar peaks peeping out of the clouds and mist. After the tiresome day, it is really refreshing to enjoy a steaming cup of tea in the village in the warmth and company of my trekking mates.
Trekking in the Sahyadris reminds me of the struggles of our everyday life. Most of the time, the route is not known and you have to find your way out to the summit through the dense forests and boulders. Sometimes it seems unachievable, but then suddenly things become exciting on finding the right trail. Occasionally, we get help from a kind villager, who leads us to the correct path. Sometimes we reach some other place, which was not planned earlier or return disappointed. But these very uncertainties and challenges make the journeys more enjoyable. Going to the Sahyadris, I got to know some fantastic people with whom I can share the hardships of the journey as well as the enjoyment of reaching the destination. The call from the Sahyadris is like a reunion for all of us, one that we wait for with bated breath.