Reality Checks

My family loved to travel and my cousins loved trekking. I was lucky to go for a trek as early as 2nd grade, to Bhimashankar. Throughout the school years, sports were encouraged, but adventure sports were off-limits till 12th grade when I decided to register “Xtreme Trekkers”.

The name seemed apt for the fire in my belly. Till then, most guided treks were with middle-aged leaders and rigorous exercise as the objective. I wanted fun dimensions – rappelling, ziplining, rock climbing, valley crossing while keeping it safe! Nature as my playground and under the watchful eyes of wild animals, rugged peaks, verdant forests unfolded my journey! 

One of my intense experiences was a 2-day trek to ALANG MADAN KULANG FORTS. Rappelling/Rock climbing, the deafening sound of waterfalls; the overnight stay in the cave, sleeping under millions of stars, the inexplicable serenity I experienced is priceless. Even mentioning it makes me want to rush back right this minute! After 10 years in the field, I’m equally enchanted by the people I’ve been lucky to guide and the diversity of learning on a day-to-day basis. 

When we think of the Western Ghats, we think of green mountains, monsoons, waterfalls, heart-racing treks up peaks, forts, and temples, brilliant sunsets, treasured wildlife sanctuaries, and National Parks! 

Imagine our surprise when we recently learnt about a natural slot canyon – Sandhan Valley (aka Valley of Shadows) in the Kalsubai range of Sahyadris!  Rising 3000 feet above sea level, the valley is situated on a geological faultline. Surrounded by AMK Forts, Ratnagad, Ajoba Hills, Harsichandragad, and Kalsubai Peak, they say it’s hard to pick out which view is the best from atop here! 

Traversing through the 1500 ft deep slot canyon is a trekkers thrill and yet largely unexplored – it’s not an easy route! To reach the floor of the canyon you would have to trek, wade through shallow to deep water pools, rappel, and navigate through boulders. The rewards? Catch glimpses of sunrays that barely reach through the dark walls, experience waterfalls, pitch a camp, enjoy the quiet and trek back into civilization after 2-3 days!

My best learnings have been not only of accomplishments but also of humility. The raw elements are BEAUTIFUL and TREACHEROUS at the same time; and the power to bring everyone to a common ground, quickly – In nature, no one is more superior or inferior to the other. It’s a reality check! 

Contributed by: Prateek Khardekar, Xtreme Trekkers | Location: Western Ghats, India | Picture credits: Prateek Khardekar, XtremeTrekkers

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