Saturday, 29 April 2017

S - STANDING IN THE MIDST OF CLOUDS

Midnight was long gone; 'it was probably 02:00 a.m. now' Subodh thought to himself, too tired to bother using his flashlight to illuminate his wristwatch. Besides, he had to make sure the batteries were fully charged for the rest of the journey. As expected, this had been a cold winter night; not the kind ordinary citizens would encounter in the comfort of their homes. The location and terrain was very different here, somewhere high up the Western Ghats in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Up here, winters usually mean layers of thermal wear, monkey-caps and gloves to beat the bone-chilling winds blowing across the landscape, and very often, even these don't yield satisfactory results.

But the cold was the last thing on Subodh's mind. After all, a long-cherished dream was about to come true in a few hours from now. And he had everything he needed to make this dream happen - his camera, and his knack of getting the perfect shot.

Subodh had heard about Harishchandragad many many years ago, probably when he was still a college going teenager. He hadn't given it much thought then. But then, one day, about five years ago, his friend Tej had shown him a photograph that had suddenly given him a new-found passion...nay...an obsession. It was the photograph of a grassy cliff, engulfed in what looked like a mile-wide carpet of white and fluffy clouds. "Taramati Peak", Tej had said excitedly, "Isn't it amazing? It's the third highest peak in Maharashtra. I was there last week". Subodh remembered he had gone completely mute for almost a minute then, lost in amazement.

And ever since then, Subodh had wanted to be there and capture the surreal scene for eternity...on his camera. In the past five years, he had gone on various trips across the 'countless' forts dotting the state of Maharashtra. With every successive trek, he had built up both his climbing skills as well as his collection of amazing clicks. He become so good that his friends and family swore by he had made plans a number of times to make this trip, but somehow, work and the pressures of daily life always played spoilsport.

Today, however, nothing was going to stop him.

It had been a tiring 5 hour climb for Subodh and his friends Mandar and Reuben to get to Konkan Kada. Konkan Kada itself had been a marvel to watch and experience for the group -  the overhang cliff is concave and almost looks like the hood of a cobra. You could also imagine a slab of icecream that has been scooped at the longer edge with a round spoon - that's how the cliff would look like from a distance. The sights from the cliff were both enthralling and scary at the same time. After soaking in the visuals and daring to go closer to the edge of the cliff to get pictures of the topography below, the group moved a little ahead to set up camp for the night. This was necessary so that they would be able to get to the Taramati peak at the right time - just before sun rise. So they had pitched their tents at a decent spot around 7 pm, and decided to wake up around 4 a.m. to resume the final 1.5 hour trek towards the summit. As planned, Mandar and Reuben were making best use of the time to rest their weary bodies and wake up refreshed for the final lap.

Subodh, however, found himself unable to sleep. 'Perhaps that's what accomplishments that are just around the corner do to us', he thought to himself.

At 3:45 am, he woke his friends up. It was finally time to begin the final phase of their trip.

Here's a thing about the Taramati peak though. If you check out the distance between Konkan Kada and Taramati Peak on Google Maps, you will see that it is a 2.6 kilometre stretch that would take around 45 minutes to traverse. The images will also tell you that the terrain is tricky and requires you to walk through rocky and inclined terrain, and also through thick forest cover. What the map will not tell you is that since the place is more than 4,600 feet above sea level, there is thick fog and cloud cover, and therefore it is very easy to get diverted from the path. Also, certain stretches of the path comprise nothing but a 10-foot wide rock-laden paths, with only the wind and free falls to offer cover on either side.


Walking in such tough terrain would be a great challenge, especially in the wee hours. Nevertheless, Subodh and his friends were aware of the risks and had done a lot of research about the route. Confident and armed with their flashlights, and assured that they had the luxury of 2 hours to sun rise, set out slowly and steadily on their sojourn.

The first half of the journey was pretty simple, thanks to tracks (and trash) left behind by trekkers over the years. The latter half, however, was extremely difficult. One a couple of occasions, the sight of the seemingly endless forest cover made them think they were on the wrong path. Fortunately, however, they encountered another group of hikers who guided them. They decided to be wise and hang around the senior-looking group.

As luck would have it, about an hour and many tricky climbs later, they reached the final rocky patch before the peak. The challenge at this juncture was that the patch was steeply inclined - 50 or 60 degrees, they couldn't tell. The patch had a few crevices and grooves that could serve as footholds, Subodh and his friends had read that this stretch was only 600 metres long, but would take at least 45 minutes to traverse. Although the strong winds made the weather beautiful, they also made the climb even more difficult. True to their expectations, the trio took about 55 minutes to complete this final stretch. The sun had by now just begun to rise in the cloud-filled sky.

And when the patch was traversed, the trio stood on the expansive plateau that formed part of the peak. The sun was now high enough to illuminate the entire landscape. It was time.

Mandar had almost immediately forgotten that he was in a group and had gone into selfie mode. Subodh took his back-pack off of his back and yanked out his Sony A7M2 DSLR camera. Then he turned towards Reuben and handed the camera to him. Both of them exchanged a knowing nod and Subodh dashed off towards the farthest point of the cliff, while Reuben stood his ground.

A blanket of clouds floated along the hemline of the cliff, looking like waves of snow lashing against a shoreline. Although the sun was now shining bright, the cloud cover made it impossible to see the valleys below the cliff.

Subodh looked down at the clouds with tears in his eyes. This was a dream come true.

He didn't even need to ask Reuben to click. Reuben took just one shot.

And it was PERFECT.



Please feel free to leave comments, whether or not you liked what you read. It's a great way to start a conversation or a dialogue. I might be pretty boring in real life, but I promise I'm a lot more fun in this avatar.

Today's image is almost surreal. It is the pic of the Taramati peak, which is the third highest point in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It happens to be one of the two peaks in the area surrounding the Harshchandragad fort in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, at around 4,695 feet above sea level. The sheer beauty of the place offers a great trekking experience for amateurs and experts alike. A big thank you to Subodh Panchal for the amazing pics. Subodh is a professional photographer based in Mumbai. He and a friend of his came together to start a photography studio named 'Life on Pics'. You can have a look at their amazing work on www.lifeonpics.com. Subodh's Instagram URL is www.instagram.com/subodh_panchal

Previous posts in the A to Z Challenge - April 2017:-

A - All Apologies (Poem)
B - Baptism (Poem)
C - Chains (Short Story)
D - Door To My House (Short Story / Sentimental / Philosophy / Wisdom)
E - Evil Eye Deliverance (Short Story)
F - Flight of the Lonely Raven (Poem)
G - Girl With The Rings (Weird Story)
H - Hills Beckon (Poem)
I - Idyllic Sky (Short Story)
J - Judging Yasmin (Short Story)
K - Kiss of Death (Poem)
L - Lady of a Perpetual Sucker (Poem)
M - Mosaic You (Poem)
N - Nevermind (Weird Story / Short Story)
O - Office-ial Stance (Short Story)
P - Pretender (Poem)
Q - Queen (Poem)
R - Ramparts (Poem)

5 comments:

  1. just stopped by and I loved your profile. Still a lot to read here.
    Keep up the great work

    /Jasmeet
    GirlWhoWrites

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel honoured. Thank you so much. Do visit again :)

      Delete

TYPE YOUR COMMENT IN THE BOX BELOW AND CLICK THE "POST COMMENT" BUTTON

Popular Posts