Before embarking on this trek, we had consulted a few websites dedicated to trekking in the Sahayadris. And whosoever wrote that the climb should not take more than 45 minutes must have either been heavily doped or must have been totally out of his senses. Even if you discount me, there were still 9 others in my group who could not have made it in 45 minutes. To make matters worse, we decided to take the road less travelled. Consequently, we had to take frequent pit stops on our way to the peak. But this also provided us with the time to reflect on the journey and come up with theories to help people who decide to replicate our feat in future. For those with a financial bent of mind, there are small huts at different points along the ascent which sell nimbu-paani (the desi version of a lemonade). The cost of a glass of lemonade is inversely proportional to the height gained. The higher you get, the smaller is the amount of money you need to shell out for a glass. Second tip would be to never ask a local or someone from the NDA the time it would take to get to the top. For them its always a walk in the park. Plus the sarcastic squirm that comes for free with the reply will make the entire effort of coming all the way to the place an excercise in vain.
Once you have reached the top, the view is a spectacular. Its lush green all around and you can feel yourself walking in the clouds. To add to it, the small huts serving home cooked food. I am not a big foodie and i am not particulalry fond of Marathi food. But the marathi dish called jhunka bhakar (correct me if i am wrong) that we ate in one of the huts had a divine taste.
To go along with it was a red hot chatni which might have been fatal if consumed in moderate quantities. We lived on to tell the tale. And before i forget, we also had the pleasure to of tasting a Japanese desert called Okhabe which is made out of Soyabean and rice.The remnants of what once was Tantia Tope's fortress aren't particularly inviting because there is hardly anything left behind. The only consolation is the fact that you are seeing something that shall forever be a part of history text books.
On our return journey, our team was depleted of 4 members who backed out after the strain of getting to the top proved too much for them. This left us with just 6 people. We decided to take the safest route down. And this might sound chauvinist but we decided to follow a newly married couple (they atleast looked like one) in the hope that the lady would take the easiest route. Luckily, our hunch proved correct and we managed to stalk the couple successfully till the very end. Thereafter, the team was depleted of another four members who went off on their mobikes leaving behind me and a friend to fend for ourselves. The journey back from the basecamp to home was more excruciating than the trek itself. Besides having to change three rickshaws on our way, we had to put up with people who only spoke languages that were alien to us (read: marathi, konkani (i am guessing)). Somehow, we managed to use sign language to communicate with them where a slow nod of the head meant that we were ready to accept whatever price they quoted and a vigorous nod indicated that they should quote a price which is even higher. Any other gesture was taken as a sign of hostility. So we decided to go with the financially unviable but physically safe option of a slow nod of the head.
2 hours and 4 autorickshaws later: broken, bruised,tattered but in one piece; we reached our home safe but not sound.