There was a phase in my corporate life, when I was part of a group that went to some great treks near Pune & Mumbai. This group used to go for treks with good frequency.
So one fine evening in monsoons of year 2008, 4 of us decided to go for a trek of Ratangarh. These 4 were – Me, Abhinav, Ali & Moiz.
We started early morning on Saturday by taking bus from Pune. After couple of bus changes, we reached Ratanwadi, the base village from where the trek starts. Journey took much longer than we had anticipated and hence were in hurry to get started with trekking. Monsoon clouds & rains were already making it look darker. This didn’t gave us time to appreciate Ratanwadi, a small & beautiful village situated on river bank. It also boasts of beautiful and ancient shiva temple. But we had not much time, so we ate our snacks hurriedly while searching for some local guide who can take us to Ratangarh.
After some search, Ali came up with our guide – a small child of 10-12 years. “This chotu will take us to the top?? No way, find some adult!!” yelled Abhinav. “There is no other option. I searched a lot. Lets go with this chap, he looks small but is smart” quipped Ali.
So we four & half men started with our mission to Ratangarh. It was raining profusely but the path was very beautiful and exciting. Most of the way is via a deep jungle. Suddenly we were faced with a river to cross. Little scared, we all 5 formed a human chain and crossed it steadily. With dark atmosphere, forest cover & continuos downpour, I was suddenly feeling as if we are traveling in a amazon rain forest. It was a thrilling experience. But little did I know, actual thrill is still waiting to blow our minds at end of the journey.
While we were crossing some rocks, Moiz’s shoe gave up. It had a tear which made it impossible for Moiz to negotiate rocky path. I was carrying a pair of floaters, so offered him to use my floaters. But he requested me to wear the floaters and give him my shoes, as he was finding it very difficult on slippery rocks. Little reluctant, considering rocks weren’t too kind to me either, I gave him my shoes.
As we were moving higher up the trek, jungle was giving way to a more hard and slippery terrain. It was getting dark, rainy and difficult with each passing step. Rain had soaked all our clothes, shoes and bags, making everything much heavier. Extra weight had made us extra exhausted.
After around 2 km of tough climb, suddenly Moiz shouted “Here come the ladders!”. Suddenly I remembered Ali had told me that one has to climb 2 ladders just before reaching Ratangarh top. First of ladder is easy, but second one is bit dangerous. He had also told a story about tourist, who had died while crossing that ladder last year. Brushing aside these thoughts, I continued.
We faced first ladder. It was steep and had a height of around 15 meters. With everything completely dark, and ladder feeling slippery, we all slowly climbed it. After completing it, there as a little rocky patch leading to second ladder. Second ladder started with a rock, and was placed along a deep deep ridge. You slip, you are gone into deep unknown. With strong winds, rain and slippery rocks, it looked scary. Climbing the second ladder along the overlooking ridge was just a small part of equation, actually the platform to which second ladder leads to, was broken. One can only place his foot on the edges of platform, as center of platform had a hole, through which dark 4000 feet deep valley was visible. Via platform, one had to go through a very narrow pathway leading to rock with enough space to rest. Right side of that narrow pathway was deep valley, and left side was slippery rocks with water flowing down. This was first time in whole trek when I wasn’t confident about moving ahead. Main reason was my slippery floaters. There was no margin of error while moving on that narrow path, you slip, you die. I took a long breath and started moving on that narrow path while trying to hold some rocks with left hand. Fortunately for me, rocks were algae free and gave decent grip in-spite of flowing water. As soon as I crossed this narrow path, felt some sense of relief.
Slowly and carefully, Abhinav, Ali & Moiz too crossed the path. Riskiness of the situation had created little sense of tension in all of us. Kid was quieter compared to usual. Only thing he kept murmuring was – “Jaldi chalo, andhera ho gaya hai (move fast, it’s dark)”. Though we had got a resting space on the rock, difficult part was still not over. Ahead of us, was a slanted vertical rock that needed to be climbed to reach destination. And duct like shape of that rock had allowed to pass enough amount of water through it to make it effectively a waterfall. Our task was to climb 5-8 meters up against this waterfall.
We started making this climb one by one. First to go were me & Abhinav. Though tougher, this climb was less nervy compared to second ladder because there wasn’t the danger of freely falling in 4000 feet deep valley. After we both completed, Ali started his climb, but got exhausted mid-way in the climb and got stuck. It was heart-warming to see the 12 year old kid pushing from behind to move this 90 kg grown up, but that wasn’t working. Suddenly Ali decided to let go of his backpack, and with 15 kg of extra burden gone, he had enough energy to climb up the rock. Moiz too followed the same trick. Backpacks were separately picked up once we had more energy and help from kid.
This final effort had took us to top! The climb of Ratangarh was over :-). Although badly exhausted, there was big sense of relief to reach the top. A sudden thought occurred to remind me about going back via same risky route tomorrow, but I brushed it aside for time being and thought of enjoying this moment.
To be continued…