Sometimes the only reason behind a trip is a promise that has to be kept. With this motivation, there was nothing in particular that I was expecting from Pune except for the much spoken about them feels. That it will turn out to be a trip marked by sleep deprivation and a test of endurance was completely unexpected. After a series of laid-back and invigorating trips, this was as tiring a trip as tiring can get! But sweet is the fruit of labour. The views that awaited us after all the effort of trekking were worth it. And Naturals of course!
The joy of making a friend, who hates history, go through the trauma of visiting a historical site is unparalleled! The release of Bajirao Mastani had sealed my friend’s fate. On the very first day in Pune, Shanivar Wada was on the agenda. That the place is disappointing is a truism. However, when two friends meet and head to a place against the wishes of one, even disappointment gets surrounded by a golden aura! Moreover, there wasn’t a lot of time to stay disappointed because we had to head to S.P. College for our trek to Harishchandragad.
Given my love for trekking, my friend went ahead and booked a trek to Harishchandragad. The trek was being organised by Explorers, a treks and tours organiser. In his enthusiasm, our man forgot about his own competencies and booked a trek which required immense endurance. The itinerary for the trek involved boarding a bus to Khireshwar (the base village) at 11:00 p.m. and returning at the same time 24 hours later. We reached Khireshwar at 3:00 a.m and started our night trek at 3:30 a.m. after a brief round of introductions.
The night trek, with the accompanying cool breeze and ubiquitous moonlight that bathed the entire landscape in silver, was a pleasant experience. With intermittent halts and people whining about their fatigue, the ascent seemed less arduous than it actually was. By the time we reached the Temple of Harishchandreshwar it was broad daylight. After a breakfast of poha and sev, the option of trekking to Taramati peak, the highest point was given to us. Never to say no to such things, I, along with a smaller cohort of enthusiasts continued the climb to Taramati. Since childhood I was told that the view from the top is always the best and this adage echoes everytime I reach the summit during a trek. 360 degree view of the surrounding hills and valleys along with a glimpse of Naneghat was the reward for all the effort we had put in.
From Taramati peak we hiked to the beautiful Konkan Kada. The precipitous slope, the cool wind and the view of Konkan is a rewarding end to the day’s efforts. This was followed by lunch cooked by local villagers. After an hour’s rest we started our descent to the base village followed by our bus journey back to Pune. After two sleepless nights and a very involving trek, I slept like a pig through my well-deserved 10 hours.
The next day (beginning at 3 p.m.!) we listlessly drove around Pune, from nowhere to nowhere. Post dinner we headed off to Pune’s Chandni Chowk, a 24*7 CCD being the vortex for youngsters. What struck me was the sense of comfort and safety exhibited by the girls at 2 a.m. (Reality Check: I live in Gurgaon.)
We finally headed off towards Sinhagad. The view of Pune from Sinhagad is a sight to behold. We had reached the top before sunrise and realised that reaching Sinhagad at that hour is indeed the perfect time. The diamond-like city-lights below and the twinkling stars above are gradually replaced by the golden orb. Beyond the parking enclosure towards the east is a hiking trail to a peak that takes one sufficiently far from the crowd to enjoy the sunrise in all its glory and have the moment all to oneself. Luckily for me, no other soul ventured forth. That the moment was pristine would be an understatement. The memory of the emotions and thoughts that went rushing through my head and the promises I made to myself at that moment, standing alone atop that easternmost peak, with nothing but the valley between me and the rising sun is the moment I will forever remember Pune for.
On our way back we stopped at the Khadakvasla dam which boasted a rich avifauna. A few hours of sleep followed by lunch at Chaitanya (opposite Fergusson College) and an evening walk through the lovely campus of the Agriculture College ended the day and prepared me for another sleepless night (thanks to a late night flight to Delhi).