Showing posts from 2011

10 things you must have on a short trek/hike in the wilderness

Wet wipes – though they a add a little to the weight, they are incredibly handy in a lot of situations from wiping hands clean, to sanitizing the area around wounds and soothing itchy skin.
Spare water bottle – If you have a shake or an energy drink to mix, keep one with you besides your hydration system that will hold the bulk of your water.
Energy bars/chocolate/Glucose mix/Snacks/nuts – you might be sure you have it all, but weather on treks, especially heat my sap your energy drastically. A energy bar goes a long way to give you the energy till you are back in civilization. Also for emergencies carry some snacks, they’ll keep you alive till help reaches. This is besides your main food items that you/your team may be carrying. If all goes well, you can polish the snacks off. Else they are an necssary weight.
Head torch – hands remain free and you can use it in various battery saving modes. Keep one with you even though you might be planning a day trek/hike. It’s weight may be worth yo…

Moonlit nights

On those moonlit nights, your tiger yearns for you…where is my pretty lady of the deep dark stripes, the beauty that I call mine? As I close my eyes on yet another day, I wonder where I shall rest my head, if not on your lap?
The days are tough, the hours are long and the nights brim with expectancy. How I look forward to the time when one hunt ends and the next one begins. The hunt for a great time to spend, a hunt for pleasing conversations, and for intimate escapes of the mind. A look that scorches the soul, equally loving at the same time. Profound touches and alighted senses that make life livable, one day at a time, one memory at a time, one moment at a time…..

Bhairavgad(Moroshi) trek - Up the rock wall.

Of all the various forts located in the Junnar, Malshej Ghat region, within Pune or thane districts, Bhairavgad near Moroshi might be the least known. Shivneri, Hadsar are well known. Harishchandragad, AMK, Ajooba, Naphta etc, dominate the landscape to the west of the valley. Not that there is much to see on Bhairavgad, except a few abandoned huts and 4 huge bulls who graze about (Valus). They are really huge, often seen grazing together. We were warned at the village, not to make too much noise or attract their attention. I can imagine only image our fate, if we indeed had them on our tails. A scramble downhill at breakneck speed – one speed record we never want to break.

The distinctive feature though is a huge rock wall that stands up between the peak and the approach ridges. It is a vertical structure, without leaning anywhere. On its face on the peak side, were rock cut steps, once upon a time. Some of them still exist up a distance as we begin an ascent, but after that it is a …

Korigad Trek

Korigad is one of the easiest for to climb in the Lonavala region. It is popularly clubbed with Ghanagad, another fort to the south. A marathon trek weekend can include visits to Korigad, Ghangad, Tel Bailya, Sudhagad and Sarasgad – all in 2 days. The fort affords a great view of the Aamby valley set up. I’ve seen many a planes take off from the runway inside that facility. You can also club this trek with a half a days’ visit to the adventure centre in Aamby valley –19 Degree latitude. Pre booking is apparently required.

How to reach and back:

While using a public transport from Pune, you can take the local or ST bus to Lonavala and further an ST bus that takes you to Aamby valley and beyond. From Lonavala you need to be on the bus that goes to Bhamburde, Ambavne, or Salter. You will need to alight before the turn for Aamby valley at a place called Peth Shahapur, a small village at the foothills of the fort. Bhamburde is the base village for Ghanagad and some distance further is the T…

Core expedition equipment

In this piece, I’ll be listing the core equipment we took along, with its pros – cons and my observations. Some of this equipment is specific to our kind of expedition and is in part generic for all expeditions.
Ultra light day sack – I had taken along my a Deuter 33L sack. I could have done with a smaller capacity sack, but I noticed that when I packed in less items in mine, there was no significant weight difference between my sack and smaller backpacks carried my some of my team mates. This pack accommodated my 2L hydration pack in a special pouch of the sack, my camera + spare batteries, wet wipes, a small medicine box, rain wear, scarf, hydration salt sachets, a water bottle and a small bag of snacks. With all this in it, there was space left over. It is a good size and comfortable backpack. There is a well designed wind mesh on the surface where the sack hugs the back and loops at helpful points along the straps. A small pocket at the botto…

Tikona Trek

Tikona is one of the easier and quick to access forts in the Lonavala region. It has scenic and has sweeping views of the Pavana valley, the lake ahead and a few forts in the same region, prominently Tung.

How to reach and back: From Pune, take the morning 6.30 AM local from Pune station to Kamshet. You will reach there in about 80 minutes. From Kamshet station, take the road that goes straight to the market place. This is apparent by the jeeps and buses standing there. Hop on a jeep taking you to Pavana village. That is not all though. A new jeep will take you from Pavana to Tikona Peth, the base village.

While coming back, you can wait at the village bus stop for any bus that takes you to either Pavana or directly to Kamshet. Else, the jeeps are your best bet. Same route back to Kamshet station and there are trains every 45 min to Pune Station.

The alternative to jeeps is the state transport bus. Not too much information exists on their timings though and the locals may mislead you to …

Choosing an expedition - some guidelines

After I was back from the Gobi, I had one of my closest friends come over to meet me. He is a veteran of high altitude expeditions, an A grader from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. If there was anyone I'd always listened to it was him. I was all excited about what I had just completed and was already moving on to my next. We got talking about long duration expeditions in general and I asked him about typical expeditions - the planning, leading, logistics, support. On popular request, captured below are snippets from our conversation. 
Hear about people leaving managers and not the company? Well, don't be surprised if it is the same for expeditions. Besides choosing an expedition, it is choosing who is leading it. Here are some guideline that my friend suggested to follow when you come down to the final choice between a couple of expeditions you like. Before you pick one, apply these criteria and choose wisely.

If the expedition leader considers team safety paramount, then…

The kit list and equipment I - Clothing

There have been a lot of requests to share the kit list and the equipment that we carried, individually and as a team. I am detailing it all out, by category, with observations, pros/cons. Hope it will be of help to future adventurers to any desert region and if you have any questions, leave a comment. Though this is an exhaustive list meant only for warm climate treks/expeditions, but it cannot claim to cover all requirements. 
Clothing: Considering the duration of the trek, 2 months in our case, we could have been easily tempted to carry more of this. More so since washing opportunities were next to nil. But thankfully for our camels, we did not. I laid down simple math-  a change of inner wear every 15 days, a change of outer wear every 30 days. The second thing we had to account for was the weather - both warm and cold, with occasional showers. Layering your clothing is always a good idea instead of wearing one bulky item. If you need to be weight sensitive, always keep more of the …

The Tri - color flies high in the desert..

A flag can come to your rescue in unknown ways.
The team had walked ahead that day, with the van following us later after picking up supplies. By 4.30 pm, there was no sign of the van. We found a good pasture for the camels and set up camp. The much touted satellite phone was not in the van, as the leader claimed. So all we could to was wait for the van to turn up and spot us. A little later, we saw it at last, heading in our general direction, but not particularly towards us. Due to the desert heat, visibility is limited to not more than 2 km over a flat landscape. Out came the tent pole and the flag. I hoisted it high and waved madly to get the van's attention. Needless to say, it worked and we were sipping hot tea soon afterwards.

A leap of imagination

For those of you who have been reading the previous post about the daily twists and turns in the Gobi, take a minute to read a narrative of what I had imagined it would be like here. Some interesting comparisons.

A day in the life this desert nomad…

The rainbow spans the entire horizon ahead of me, to the east. The rain has just abated, though it continues to threaten in the form of dark clouds further north. As I sit at the table, munching biscuits lathered with apricot jam and my book for company, the loneliness and the enormity of the plains I am walking on is brought home to me. There is no one to share the rainbow at the moment; it does not matter. Some things are best enjoyed with self, good food and memories of those I love. And yes, good music, that is missing. Nevermind. Far away to the north, I can see the rain pelting down on the plain and the mountains that rise from it. The wind is beginning to pick up as the sun played hide and seek behind the clouds. It might reach us in the night, maybe not. I am learning to live with the unpredictability, live in the moment. It is time to make a dash back to the tent, keep my book away, and fetch the beanie. Soon we will have dinner.
The walking for the day had halted at 4.30 pm. …

Our ships of the desert

Besides the homo sapiens on our team, we each had an animal counterpart in one double humped Bactrian camel. Like the humans though, they came with colorful and varied personalities and abilities. 
It was the first time for all of us at handling camels. Agii, Albekh, Janka and Wantok were the only folks who had lived and breathed camels all their lives.
On the eve of day one, we met them all from a distance. At the camp by the lakeside they were lined up and roped to a common line. There was even a calf running around in the camp. As far as I know, our team was all males so the calf was probably only a temporary attraction. It was strange to see the small one gallop around and imagine him as a big fully grown camel one day. They really are huge. The family which owned the camels had come to say hello and see which crazy people would now own their livestock.
Faraz was encouraged by the townsfolk who had gathered to greet us to climb and ride a camel. He tried unsuccessfully to get on one…

Expedition Lifeline

Most of the credit for keeping us safe and sound, healthy and on track for the daily grind goes to our support staff. Kobesh Co, an adventure company owned by the much talented and recently married Agii Makhsum is responsible for logistics and support for the expedition. The staff comprised of Agii, himself, Janka who whipped up delicious meals, Wantok who was the handy man and Albekh who had a way with camels. They left us wanting for nothing and were always around for help, each of them gifted in their own ways. Incidentally all of them are Kazhaks by culture and Mongolian by nationality.
Agii, is the backbone of support for the entire team. He had picked excellent crew – human and animal for us. By the time we reach Bulgan to make our start, he had the camp ready and waiting. I first met him on the airport at Khvod. A cheery face, and a happy smile are a permanent feature. I think the fact that he was recently married helped too. He made sure all of us were comfortable in our new sur…

The art of walking...

That is pretty much it...walking....what we are doing here. After all we have 1600 KM to cover. About 8 hours everyday are spent on this activity, focused on covering distance and then there is walking between the tent and the dinning table, tent and a bush, tent and another tent.

I had not giving this art a thought until i realized that it would consume 60 days of my life walking the Gobi. It is an art, mind you, though it comes naturally to all homo sapiens, perhaps even before they can talk coherently. And it take a hell lot of practice to get it right. In fact, if we paid enough attention to correct our walking, we would be free of half our health issues. Well, this may be a tall claim, but you'll see the logic as i explain. And mind you, some of the conclusions here are retrospective too.

When i began my practice, i walked without any load at was all city walking..quite a different b…