Sunday 22 October 2017 News Updated at 11:10 AM IST
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Star-struck - Deccan Herald
Star-struck
Poorvi Bose,
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Kalsubai
I had an LED torch in my hand with only its beam showing me the next step in the absolute darkness. The only available natural light was from thousands of stars.

There was a high-speed wind blowing, but I could only hear my breathing and the thud-thud of my heart. I was climbing a rickety iron ladder placed precariously over a boulder on the highest peak in Maharashtra, Kalsubai.

A part of the Western Ghats, this 'Everest of Maharashtra’ has its summit at 5,400 ft. It also offers good trekking trails to both amateur and professional trekkers.

We chose the night trek during the period when the days in Mumbai can be scorching and the nights pleasant. It was a two-hour local-train ride to Kasara, and from there, a jeep ride for 12 of us to Bari, a village. Two professional trekkers had organised this adventure, and had even arranged dinner in a villager’s home.

Our trek was to begin at 1 am; so we decided to nap for an hour. By then, the temperature dropped significantly to make us wear jackets.

At the decided time, we packed our bags, got our torches out and began the walk and very soon, the climb. Ten minutes into the climb and all of us began shedding our jackets.

Know the terrain

At first, the climb was more like a steep walk - along a pathway with small stones and slippery mud. It being my third trek in life, I was already huffing and puffing!

We reached our first base and rested for about 10 minutes. After that began the actual trek. With rocks as steep as 90 degrees, we had to crouch and climb so we wouldn’t slip. After every 20 minutes of the climb, we came across small shops selling water and other refreshments on small patches of plateaus found along the cliff. On majority of these flat surfaces, a lone village woman sold water, chips and biscuits all through the night!

We just sat here and looked up at the sky filled with millions of stars, which also prompted me to sing 'City of stars’ from La La Land. Being an astronomy nerd, I enjoyed explaining different constellations and the Greek stories behind some of them to my group.

There were small iron ladders to climb over some boulders. And believe me when I say that I was glad that I couldn’t see them in the dark.

Holding the torch in one hand and the railing with the other, one ought to be cautious while climbing the rungs.

Taking slow steps and making sure I had a firm grip on the railing, I tried not to look back and downward. But when I did, I could just see the shapes of trees and rocks, and way below you tiny dots of the street lights in the village. I was awed and scared at the same time.

After four hours of climbing, we reached the top base. There were small tin-roofed huts and shelters where trekkers could rest and even have hot chai and Maggi noodles that the shopkeepers prepared.

So we decided to rest for a few minutes before climbing the last few feet to witness the majestic sunrise.

The picture that the early sunrays create in the sky is something that can’t be described in words.

A combination of blue, orange and yellow in straight lines, and above it, only the dark sky: this was a view worth all the body pain we endured to reach this place.

There is Kalsubai Temple, named after a housemaid who disappeared near the mountain after escaping from her employer’s torment, as the local legend says.

Devotees from around the state visit this temple during Navaratri. From the peak, the Sahyadri Range and Bhandardara Lake together provide an extremely beautiful view at dawn.

Standing here, with the cold and strong wind blowing, and with a view of the rising sun, was just magical. The silence and peace felt here was like a therapy.

After spending more than an hour there, we climbed down to the top base for breakfast. Having eaten the ever-famous kande pohe of Maharashtra, we were full and decided to trek down at 8 am.

By then the sun had climbed up in the sky and so we shielded ourselves with caps and sunglasses to avoid sunstroke.

The descent

The climb down was even more adventurous for us, because we could see how steep and slippery the rocks were, and how dangerous the iron ladders were! But it was also fun, as we could see trees and birds of the forest amongst us, and even monkeys looking at us curiously.

We were back to the base village within three hours and washed up using the water from handpumps there. After resting for a few minutes, we called up a jeep, and were on our way back home.

If you need a combination of adventure, beauty and danger, away from your hectic life, the Kalsubai trek, especially at nighttime, is something I would highly recommend.


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