Mumbai!! Concrete jungle for the quite many associated with this city. Fast paced lifestyle, minute-to-minute connotations of the daily bread earner. In the midst of this mayhem, one just cannot accept the city as a destination for de-stressing oneself over a weekend. City which will make one eat one’s own words when it comes to optimism over pessimism. Amongst all this, there is one place that will make you forget it all. Place that requires not much travelling, but will still captivate you with hope.
‘Sanjay Gandhi National Park’ formerly or more famously known as ‘Borivali National Park’ due to its proximity to the area of Borivali in Mumbai, is one such place. Spread over an area of 40 sq. meters (104 sq. kms), is a place dedicated to the nurturing of various fauna, house to the famed Asiatic Lions and the Leopards. A small hike/ trek was planned by my friends on July 22nd, 2012. Since the venue was within the city, it was an easy one to plan.
An early morning wake up call at 5.00 AM for me since I live in ‘Chembur’ as compared to two of my friends; Clive and Kristopher who live in ‘Malad’ and ‘Borivali’. A direct bus from ‘Sion’ 448 Ltd. dropped me right in front of the national park gate at 8.15 AM. Couple of bottles of water and food for lunch was purchased just opposite the park gate from a restaurant. An entry fee of Rs. 25/- per bike and an entry fee of Rs. 30/- per person was charged. Proceeding inside, we could notice the complete transformation of the venue. Bustling with people who came down for morning walks to families wanting to spend their day and kids hooked onto the toy train ride towards the lion’s enclosure. Our plan was fixed to ride straight towards ‘Kanheri caves’; caves built in the 13th century which is one of the archaeological sites still preserved intact with a view on promoting tourism.
Parking our bikes at the base of the caves with a minimal entry fee of Rs. 5/- for entering the caves section and we were on our way. Proceeding towards the caves, one could not help but notice the hullaballoo and noise created by families. Proceeding to our left, we took a dilapidated bridge to cross over to the other section not frequented by the tourists. Ascending the cliff, we were quite a distance away from the tourists to venture out into the valley and find out the secluded waterfall that Kris had been to earlier. For me, it was reminiscence of visiting the national park after more than two decades. Moving forward, came across lots of weird shaped and coloured mushrooms.
A good trek of 40 minutes and the waterfall as secluded as was in glory. The rains this monsoon weren’t that great for the waterfall, but decent enough for a dip. The rain gods finally decided to open up and heavy drizzle with a not so frequented waterfall was apt. It was peaceful to be amongst nature with nothing to disturb our thoughts. A bird watcher’s paradise. Not my cup of tea at all.
Time moved swiftly with discussions on future treks/ trips planned. We decided to move downwards from the waterfall instead of retreating the way we took to reach the waterfall spot. We reached a place wherein there was a massive jump required into a water hole of 10-15 feet and no side paths visible to move ahead. Situated at a lower height, but similar to the jump from ‘127 hours’ movie. Contemplating, we finally decided to venture back towards the same route that we had taken earlier. At 2.30PM we decided to make a push towards the bikes and to finish this wonderful Sunday well spent. We reached the main gate at 3.30PM and I caught the return bus back home.
Cost per person was tentatively Rs. 250.00 per head considering the food, water and entry ticket cost. Very minimal and a Sunday well spent!
Part Two of our trek in national park was done on August 15th, 2012.
August 15th, 2012, 66th Independence Day festivities in full swing in our country and also Kris’ birthday. A birthday trek again by just the three of us to national park. Since, it was the country’s Independence Day, Entry cost was exempted for all. The only cost being the entry to the caves which was Rs. 5/- we reached the national park gate at 1.00 PM this time around. We decided to park our bikes next to a stream and trek upwards towards the valley to reach the waterfall that we had been to in the previous trek.
Moving rightwards alongside the stream, it was weary trek for the many obstacles that were placed signaling the trekkers not to utilize this route. After a good 45 minute trek, we reached a point where in the water was misty and quite deep. Clive decided to check out the left side of the stream for any possible route to move forward. At that moment, I froze for what I saw will always be exhilarating and scary. Five feet ahead from where I stood, a 6 foot snake lay across on this massive boulder. Hearing our footsteps, it awoke and slid into the water. Shouting out to Clive to stop and retreat who couldn’t understand the excitement in our voices. The snake’s head bobbled out of the water for a second and retreated into the water. None of us were much into studying snakes, so knowing the breed of the snake was a difficult task especially in such a confused moment.
There was no chance of entering the water now nor could we bypass it. Standing there, contemplating, the skies finally opened up. Heavy rain and all we did for the next 5 minutes was look for movement in the water. Sensing none, we decided to venture back the same route. Keeping our eyes peeled with heavy rain was a struggle, but fun. Completely drenched, we took shelter in an abandoned shelter house to gather our thoughts and to munch on some food treated by Kris. After a brief rest of 30 minutes, we went back to the spot where we had parked our bikes and rode towards the caves. A brief rest on top of the cliff and we decided to return back to the gate at 6.00PM.
Awesome experience again, but pity, we couldn’t reach the target of tracking our way to the waterfall. I just hope that the national park throws in a surprise each time one visits for these are completely unscripted.