About eighteen of us had blocked our slots for the June 14th river rafting batch at Kundalika almost two weeks back. Monsoon had just set in here at Pune and this was one of the best times to give this a shot.
I manage to complete my work by 9:00pm and rush to board the 9:15pm service to Shivaji Nagar. This was were we were supposed to board the bus arranged by the organizers of this event. I reach well before time and am actually surprised to find quite a few people already waiting there for sometime now! Soon Rahul chips in. In the team of 18 or so, he was the only one I’d met before. Remaining folks pitch in soon and to add spice to the event, we also have about fifteen foreigners joining us. For apparent reasons the bus leaves the spot at about 23:15hrs, Four other folks join us enroute and we finally manage to reach Pune outskirts by about 00:15hrs.
Things get peppy in the bus, thanks to an Anthakshari between the other half of the team – a couple of L&T folks and their foreigner counterparts and us. Soon most of us give in ( Or should I say, the other half gave up ! ). Agreed my prowess over Hindi songs is pathetic, but then who cares; I was a part of the winning team! At about 02:00hrs we reach the camp base. One step into the area reminds me of the backwaters in Kerala. The location had been perfectly selected with scores of coconut trees spread out over a vast area of land .
Arun Sir ( The co-facilitator for the event) had already propped up all the tents by the time we reached. So all that we had to do was to divide ourselves into groups of six and hit the beds ( Read plain ground with plastic mounted sheets ). Rahul, Jagdeesh, Sunil, Murali ,KP and I pitch into one of the tents. Rahul had fortunately got his sleeping bag and one of us ( not me obviously !) had brought a thick mattress. All set, we hit the bed in a few moments. I was at the receiving end a few times at night, thanks to Rahul and Murali using their damned wonderful feet! Nevertheless, compromises had to be made when you’re camping in a tent and it’s raining outside! The team from Mumbai arrive at about 04:30 am.
At about 06:00hrs, I’m up and to take revenge for the nights trouble, I wake everybody up . They do abuse me mentally for spoiling their sleep and finally we come to terms. We walk over to a mini dike that was regulating water to the river body, pull out some water to wash our faces and start speculating if this was going to be the spot where the river rafting was to start. Soon we get back to the camp and join few folks who’d just started playing Volleyball. The rain made things only more interesting and the game went on till about 08:30hrs.
Tea and Poha was provided as breakfast and then started the set of events for the day. Burma bridge to start off was a cake walk. All that was to be done was to climb a tree and walk on a Coconut coired rope tethered at a height of about 10 feet with support provided by two other tethered coirs on either side. Then was the Parallel ropes, wherin one has to walk on a single tethered coired rope with just another coir rope for support at a height of about six feet off the ground. The best event was the Pampered pole wherein one has to climb up an elastic ladder and then bank on to the bark of a tree at a height of about thirty feet. From here all that you had to do was to jump and get hold of a horizontal pole at a distance of about five feet . Safety wasn’t an issue – the person is holstered to propper gear; It’s the height that mattered!
Not many were able to finish these events as we had to start preparing for the rafting. At about 09:30hrs. A brief introduction of the organizing team was done and detailed instructions on what was to be and not to be done while rafting, navigating and possibly drowning was covered. Each raft would have eight folks each with life jackets, helmets and oars and a navigator. Just before the raft was put in water, the Navigators for each raft held a detailed session on the instructuction code et al.
Rahul, Murali, Monica, KP, Sunil , two other folks and I pitched in into one of the rafts. Robin, a veteran Nepali Raftsman was our Navigator. Moments after the briefing, the actual rafting was started and even before we could realise the rapids started. Robin was pretty stern when it came to navigating. He would literally tap on the person’s helmet who was faultering .
The whole rafting distance is about 10kms with about 3kms of swimmable expanse. There were about six specific points wherein the rapids were real good. Robin did mention names for the rapids, but then when you’re amidst such painfully exemplary surroundings, who would even want to give effort to remembering the names? No words can describe the experience that we had in that two hours stint! The pouring rains, the marauding rapids and the panoramic beauty of nature through the Kundalilka river was simply exhilrating! The swimming phase was just as great! Swimming along the flowing currents is something that I’ve never done till this day and today I’ve realised how difficult swimming in a river is! Rahul too had his day staying afloat in the life support jacket all the way through. Robin did his best in making the rafting experience worth remembering – Be it in toppling Monica off the Raft in the swimming section or navigating us through the rapids explaining each part of it vividly. One of the rafts toppled over somewhere mid the swimming section and soon the whole expanse had people floating in their life jackets . I seriously have doubts if this was done by the navigator in reason to make the experience more interesting!
At about 12:30hrs we managed to reach the end of the white water rafting stretch. Post all the packing of the rafts to the TumTum’s and Sumo’s we were asked to walk for about a kilometer to get to the spot where a bus would pick us up. The moment we reached there, we found Aditya serving Hot soup and Poha to everyone. Boy, that’s the best soup I’ve ever had till date! We helped ourselves with one more serving and hunched into the bus.
A couple of L&T folks ,foreigners, Rahul, Kajal and I got on to the ceiling of the bus. Initially the driver didn’t want us to sit atop but then later we( read someone) managed to pursuade him and there we were! It was an absolutely wonderful experience sitting atop the bus on the way back to the base camp. The speed of the bus and the torrential rain brought about the experience of a thousand ants biting us all over! On second thoughts I feel this experience was much better than that during the River rafting .
We reached the Base camp at around 14:30hrs. There was a brief rain dance for a few moments and then people who had not completed the Burma bridge, Pampered pole and Parallel ropes got back to it. After a quick lunch and again some Pampered poles , we started packing up and left for Pune at about 17:00hrs.The scenery on the way back was just fabulous! The streaks of cascading white water falls on the towering mountains, the clouds apparently cuting across them, the splintering rain and the chilly climate made a stuendous panoramic view! Nothing to beat Mother Nature’s recipes.
We reached Pune at around 19:00hrs with stinking pants and bags. At least that was the case with me . One of THE best weekends ever spent in Pune till date in my brief six month stint here. But wait, this weekend’s not yet done! There’s a trek to Rohida planned tomorrow. All depends on how fit I’m at 04:45 am .