Travelling is a lot like growing up. At the outset you’re kind of taking baby steps into a wholly unknown journey, with no hacks up your sleeve to bail you out of a fix. You start young into a journey with nothing but an obscenely inappropriate fervour for making it to the airport or to the sunrise-point and making it through immigration or through the itinerary. You walk because you can, because that’s the most involuntary reflex of a healthy pair of hind limbs. Soon after taking off you gradually get a growingly intense hang of it, you keep checking into hotels and checking things off the list. Then paranoia sets in and you react to hurdles, delayed departures and drying supplies like a hormonal teenager would, passionately. On the way you gather pace, people and pictures that you never knew existed and staple Polaroid shots to your journal as a reminder of your life and your times. By the time you hit the last stop, the proverbial peak or the return ticket, it’s no longer about making it big but about making it through.
The Matheran trek taught me a lot about what makes up life, smooth highways that run into the sunset and rough patches through dark forest trails, going without food for an insane number of hours and simple hearty meals that make up for it.
We started out of Thane, Maharashtra just as the sun came out of obscurity. It was around 5 in the morning and this was supposed to be a walking trek to One Tree Hill. Also, remaining a hundred percent honest to the demands of wanderlust, we’d chosen the road less taken.
An hour and a half later we reached Karjat and fed ourselves enough to see us through for a few more hours. As fate would have it, we’d already made our way past a lake, something that we were about to regret at the soonest. Armed with a bottle each of water, truly the elixir of life, we carried on a while.
The plan was to walk in expectation of a tribal village and to refill as well as to restock ourselves there. But within minutes of reaching said theatre of immense expectation, we were informed that the whole village goes kaput on weddings. No Chulha burns anywhere but at the household of the wedding party.
The customs of the tribe had all eateries in the area closed on weddings. To add to that there was absolutely no availability of water. Packets of rapidly diminishing processed food in the kitty, the mid-summer sun at its scorching best and parched throats to make everything worse, we walked half-dead.
With the need for water simply elevating to the point of desperation, we soon reached a point when the entire team shut off like a electrical device running on low battery. One trekker with a withstanding North Indian built went uphill to find any possible source of water, found a local and sent it over.
Somewhat replenished, we made our way to the top to find ourselves staring at the rude jokes of nature. Turned out, the water he’d fetched for us came from a well that had remained stagnant since the rains last monsoon and obviously, infested with tadpoles and other suspicious cellular organisms.
It took us a while to process the unkind shock in our individual nervous and immune systems. But like I’ve always maintained, travelling for pleasure teaches you enough to brush aside the discomforts of the night before in sheer anticipation of the morning after. In no time we found ourselves processing the water, bringing it to a boil and completing other distillation routine so we could carry some on our way back to Karjat. As we sat on top of the hill looking at the last treasured rays of a retiring sun, sharp, clean silhouettes dark against the rosy backdrop, we could hardly be bothered anymore by what had come upon us on the way building up to that moment. In fact, it all seemed worth our while.