Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Waterfall Rapelling at Diksal, Bhivpuri....

While having your feet firmly entrenched on the ground, or terra firma , as they fashionably put it,  is an admirable quality for a person, sometimes it helps to fly.

I once did that in a paragliding trip near Kaamshet . That involved people pushing you off a cliff as you remained hanging below a parachute, and then  sailed in the air above hills and valleys .  This was, of course, done with the help of trained instructors.

Another possibility is something called waterfall rapelling or abseiling , where you descend across a vertical mountain face , all by yourself (with a rope control person at the peak), sliding on a rope (with hand controls) , with a waterfall torrentially descending around you. 

The IIT Bombay adventure club announced a waterfall rapelling trip, and suffice it to say that registrations went on way past midnight.  There was a training and familiarization program a day before at the Student Activity Centre, which lent itself to descending from heights on ropes anchored above. 

I attended this event .  And as they say, learnt the ropes. Or so I thought. 

There was much more to learn and experience at the actual Waterfalls.

5 am on September 27th, saw a bus leaving from campus for the Diksal Waterfalls, at Bhivpuri, near Karjat.  The trip involved leaving the bus near civilization, and trekking in and around at least four hills/mountains to reach the Diksal Waterfalls.  By 9 am we were at the Falls.

Almost 50 people, mostly first timers at rapelling,   to be guided by the experts,  down a vertical drop of roughly 130 feet, with a waterfall roaring down around you,  and we were finally able to leave just before sunset.

The bus was parked , we disembarked and made our way through the base village of Diksal. Everyone was briefed on what to bring , how much to bring and what not to bring.  Trekking shoes, floaters, change of clothes, food , and at least 2 litres of water.

We proceed on what looks like the main thoroughfare , with consulting rooms of physicians and surgeons, as the sign on the right says. Very clearly, villages are undergoing a change.

Nothing stops the locals from getting on with the most important work of the day: fetching drinking water from a distance. The lady makes her way.

The scenic route took us past lakes formed by the backwaters of the Thokarwadi Dam in the vicinity, amidst  lots of small mountains and hills.

Very clearly,  boating and possibly fishing seems popular  in these lakes. We skirted up and around at least 4 hills/mountains on our way to the falls.

The group making its way to the falls, stopping for a photo opportunity and yes, a cell phone opportunity. 

Almost a painting , and we were the lucky ones to walk in it.

Folks proceeding along well worn paths , skirting the lake , and into the hills

Picture perfect, weather perfect, and the water reflecting it all. This must have been around 8 am or so.

This time the clouds photo bombed the picture.

Some other types, dragonfly (or is it a damselfly ?)  on a trek of their own. Thankfully, they fly, and unlike us, do not need to rapell down with ropes and stuff.

Finally at the Falls .  Some rush to get wet, others contemplate the height. Many others just take a decent breather.

That's me , cooling off in the pool area below the waterfall.

It was very sunny then, and fairly hot.  And this was the preferred mode of cooling off.  The climb to the top of the Falls was yet to happen.

Away from the cascading water,  there were these big rocks, which were dry and were almost like an observation arena for those watching others rappel, and awaiting their turn.

That's me, in harness  and just starting to rapell down . You need to control the ropes with your hands really well, and carefully, letting go really slow, touching base ever so often.   You dont realize it then, but this gives your muscles a huge workout, as i realized after i got home.

My defining picture ! Me midway down the rapelling. There were experts situated and monitoring the rope stuff from the top,  and another person standing in the pool of water below , ensuring that you proceed properly and safely.

Finally completed the rapelling. ! Notice the gloves in my hand. We need to wear these as we slide down and hold and handle the ropes.  The person on the right is the expert who helped us get the harness off after we landed .  Helmets were provided for those who rapelled.

A side view, as it were , of the waterfall, through the grasses growing in the rocks. Everything was green post monsoon.

The same click as above, but tried it at 1/1000 sec. Turns out, it gives the waterfall a Bokeh look.

Folks hanging around awaiting their turn and watching others do their rapelling.

This was just a hand held long exposure shot.  Waiting for my turn i had a lot of time to experiment around with the camera.

We always use an expression like "wish i was a fly on the wall where xxxx happened".  I wonder what this "creature on the rock wall"  thought, as it sat around looking at the human commotion around the rocks.

The typical flora of the place.

It was close to sunset when we started the trek back, and there was this amazing shadow play.

A last look back at the Falls, and the last of the rappelers doing their stuff.

Dark and beautiful ,  at sunset, on a day when a lunar eclipse was to start at 8:45 pm, on the fourteenth day in the waxing fortnight of the Moon, in the Indian month of Bhadrapad. The day Ganpati Bappa returns home.

Memories of Kaas,  but couldn't resist clicking these pretty flowers on our way back to the village and the bus.

I was so lucky to get this capture of the Blue Moon or Blood Moon as it is called.  The moon was heading into an eclipse, as visible in Mumbai from 8:45 pm onwards till midnight, and although I would not be able to capture that,  this capture was a special gift of nature.

just in case you wish to see a 2 minute video about me rapelling down the rock face, the surrounding excitement, and the encouraging applause at the end , click below.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Two Wheels to Karnala ......

This time I went on a one-day 120 kilometer cycling expedition to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Fort, with the IIT Bombay Adventure Club.

The Karnala Fort lies within what is the Karnala Bird Sanctuary , on the Bombay -Goa highway , off Panvel, about 50 kms from Mumbai. In the old days, this Fort was of strategic importance, as it overlooked the Bor Pass (Bor Ghat today) , which was a main connection for folks traveling up the Ghats, from the Konkan Coast to the internal areas.  Supposed to be constructed in the 15th century, its ownership has shifted variously from the Gujarat Sultans, Nizams, Portuguese, Shivaji, Aurangzeb, Peshwas, and the British East India Company in 1818.

The Bird Sanctuary of the same name lies 12 kms from Panvel,and occupies, roughly 12 sq kms of land. and is home to roughly 150 species of resident birds and 37 species of migratory birds, and several varieties of trees and plants.

This was primarily a cycling trip over a distance I had not yet attempted in a single day.    A day before the trip, the adventure club held a briefing to check out the cycles, and emphasize the stuff we needed to carry with us, as well as the riding discipline.

5.00 am on a Saturday morning, saw a group of 15 of us riding out of the Institute Gates, eastwards,  down the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link road , towards the Thane Creek. We would be crossing the Thane Creek at Vashi and proceeding along the Palm Beach Road , before crossing Panvel and getting on to NH66 .

These are the 14 other people I rode with from IIT Bombay .  This has been clicked at the Student Activity Centre(SAC) after we returned.  A strenuous  day trip of 120 kms, interspersed with traffic, rain , and hungry breaks.  This photo earns the pride of place here at the top, to commemorate the lovely ride .  Me, second from right, in case you cannot tell.... 

This is Palm Beach Road,  which we followed from Vashi (Navi Mumbai)  onwards towards Panvel. A relatively new , wide, multi lane two way road, it looks empty because of the very early morning . Else a very heavily used thoroughfare for vehicles heading in and out of Mumbai.

A long cycle trips needs a bunch of breaks, and here we are , 14 boys and me , stopping for one such. While I click.    Still on Palm Beach Road.

Some more folks up and about so early in the morning, and all busy with breakfast of sorts.

The pleasures of an early morning dhaba  Lassi to fortify me for the next many kilometres.

And we reach !  The entrance and parking at the  Karnala Bird Sanctuary, which is a very densely forested area . 

My cycle, with its paraphernalia , like toolbox, lights, blinkers, bell , and of course, my helmet .I must put it on record, that the cycle performed flawlessly throughout the trip.

The beauties of Karnala ----1

The beauties of Karnala ----2

A slightly tired and hurt beauty of Karnala -----3

And some , who cannot keep away from them, and visit the beauties for nectar...

A  view of the Karnala Fort peak, with the inverted funnel type structure at the top. Climbing to the peak, was actually not part of the ride plans, since we had to ride back approximately 60 kms, in monsoon weather.  But you cannot put down a bunch of enthu folks, and so a climb was initiated .

A typical pathway on the climb to the fort through a fairly heavy wooded area. And there were plenty of places to take a breather.

A view from part of the way up.  I decided not to climb way up to the peak, in order to preserve my energies for the 60 km ride back , at this point, and I rested , while the rest of the group, continued and returned  about an hour later, having reached the top .

Somewhere along the track, there were nurseries, selling various plants, medicinal plants and traditional herbs.  This colorful click from the nursery grounds.

Then there were the birds. While I consciously did not do any birdwatching (fairly unforgivable in a Bird Sanctuary) , I did get an opportunity to click the female counterpart of our National Bird : a pea hen. 

I don't know who this guy is, but he seems to be all stressed out . Don't blame him, though, with all the various visitors traipsing through his territory the whole day.

Local food is always the high point of my treks, and this has to rank as the best Omelette that I have ever had;  fresh of the griddle,  brilliantly tasty, well spiced, and simply great accompanied by 2 home style local chapatis. 

The aforementioned nursery , with sections for kitchen gardens and medicinal plants. Thanks to several NGO's functioning in the vicinity, and the training imparted to the locals, this is now a great source of livelihood for the locals, and a informative source of knowledge for us.

I need someone to identify this flower . The entire composition and structure of the flower, is like a great advertisement for the joint family in society, something we rarely see anymore.  So many members of different sizes and functions, with even snail visitors on the scene.

Decorative ferns and leaves in hanging plants  at the nursery.

With the Ganpati festival in progress, it is only fitting that a flower favorite of Ganpati blooms brilliantly there.  The red hibiscus or jaswandi .

Some more jaswandis en route to making an appearance on the Karnala World Stage.

A cactus

I need someone to identify this plant for me. 

This was the day the monsoon returned back to Mumbai,  like a special appearance during Ganpati, before completely withdrawing   from the season.  We had faced heavy rain on our way to Karnala, and we faced similar situations on the way back.

Our ride back was done with stops for refreshments on road side dhabas. Keeping the entire flock of 15 together meant those ahead would occasionally slow down and stop and wait for them to catch up.   We reached back around 10 pm at the Student Activity Centre of IIT , and this was followed by a bit of cooling down and relaxing exercises.

9 hours and 120 kilometres, is the longest distance in a day, that I have done so far, and this has been an exciting experience.