Let’s begin at the end. As I sat on the ground and took off my shoes I did not feel a sense of accomplishment at completing a trek so grueling and intense. I could not feel much actually, because my body had been pushed to its limits and if it meant I had to walk a few more kilometers just for the heck of it, I would have been ready. That’s what a mountain can do to you. It can belittle your every effort and show you how inept and inadequate you are to take it on. And it can also dig deep inside you and squeeze out every last drop of perseverance you’ve got, so that in time you begin to understand that doubting your willpower is the only mountain that’s holding you back.
Sleeping under the stars sounds romantic, but for someone who has never done it before it can be a formidable experience. I agreed to give it a go because I had already accepted the fact that this was meant to be a camping experience in the wild. Keep in mind that our trek leader had very casually informed us that “black leopards” had been spotted in the surrounding forest. So, there we are, five of us guys and three other trekkers from another group, all spread out on a small hillock beside the gorgeous Bandaje Falls. The background score of the rushing water and the setting of celestial bodies twinkling light years away was not easy to dismiss. If my body wasn’t so sore after trekking all day to get to the waterfall, I might have stayed up and basked in the beauty of the universe. On the contrary, the only remedy I knew for a pounding headache from walking in the sun was to get some shut-eye.
Water. Rationing water. I carried three liters of water in my 50 liter backpack and managed to measure out just what was necessary so it lasted for the whole trek. In hindsight, two liters a day would have been more suitable for my water-guzzling ways. As a result when I was down to my last bottle of water I could not help imagining how much I could drink once we reached civilization. That kind of unquenchable thirst is something new to me. It made me realize how important it is to be aware of what my body needs. If there ever is a next trek, and chances are more than likely, water will be given first priority. Or maybe get myself a water filtering device or even a kettle.
The Western Ghats are a treat. Unspoilt forests and natural wonders that can ignite the passions of any outdoor enthusiast. I am not a keen follower of geography, or for that matter any of the sciences. I find beauty in the mystery of not knowing how things work and what purpose they serve. If possible, I want to merge into my surroundings so I can gain a better understanding of how the soil, the water, the wind, the trees, the rocks and the grass interact with each other to form a masterpiece that no human mind could design.
A mountain can be leveled in no time in this day and age. They are not invincible. But to those who crave the brutal honesty that only unbridled nature can provide, a mass of land rising to the heavens, split open by life-giving streams, is not something to climb and conquer, but a gift we give ourselves by baring all.