The old saying goes ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. But is the apple sufficient today for people living in over populated, polluted cities? Don’t you just yearn to be in the lap of Mother Nature? And where better to breathe clean fresh air than in the hills of Goa? Goa, the land of fields orchards and forests wears an almost regal green cloak with slivers of shimmer after the onset of the monsoons.
The longing to enjoy Goa in this state combined with the spirit of adventure brought 79 ‘young at heart’ enthusiasts together on the 29th of June 2008. A day on which we all experienced much more than one had ever imagined.
On this day, the Youth Hostel of India, Margao Unit had organized a trek to Kuskem Waterfalls, nestled in the hills of the Cotigao Reserved Forests. The excitement was such that none of realized that the approx capacity (50 people) of the KTC bus that was hired for the trip was overruled and we were nearly double the number of people. Yes we were infact, 80 people in total. Anyway, we started off and after an hour and a half, disembarked at the scheduled starting point of the trek After the initial round of introductions and each of us getting a ‘roll’ number (just as in school), we were informed of the plan for the day. We were to trek for a 14 km stretch to reach the waterfall and the entire distance was to be covered by 3:30 pm or latest 4:00 pm.
Full of enthusiasm and bubbling with energy we commenced our trek by plodding through fields and through a small village. The amateur photographers kept clicking away whilst the serpentine line of trekkers went ahead slowly and surely. The first heavy shower did not deter us a bit and after pausing for a bit to don our raingear, we splashed on. A guide from Youth Hostel lead the line and one brought up the rear with the 79 nature lovers and four local guides sandwiched between.
The first couple of hours went well as the enthusiasm was on. We trekked and trekked uphill and down, crossing streams of various widths, admiring nature’s beauty with awe. It was enjoyable! Though we were forewarned of the leeches, none had anticipated the large numbers that greeted us. Packets and tubs of salt were passed back and forth to ward off the ever-hungry creatures. And yet we trekked on.
We realized it was way past lunch time only thanks to our rumbling tummies. 3 hours and time kept ticking and there was no sign of a halt. We longed to rest our tired feet and fill our tummies. It was only after 3:00pm that we got out of the forest and into bright sunshine. We were close to a tiny village tucked away between forests. A tiny spring gushing out clear water enabled us to freshen up before tucking into our lunch. It was more than four hours into the trek and more than eight hours since we had left home. We were already tired and longing to see the waterfall to relax and then head back home.
‘When in doubt, ask’ is a phrase that is often repeated!!! So we asked our guides ‘how much longer?’ Another 30 to 45 minutes was the prompt answer they gave us. We believed them and were relieved that we had finally reached the destination and that too on schedule. Despite our tiredness, we trekked on after lunch with the thought that we were nearly done for the day. After about twenty minutes or so, the local guide leading us made us stop. He then took off for a bit and on returning made us all retrace our steps and then detour on another route. We were apparently being led the wrong way. Hoping that we were now on the right path, we plodded on. All we could do was follow the guide. We had considered that the organizers knew the path, so none of us had carried a compass or had even bothered to ask which direction we were heading in.
We knew that we would now be delayed in reaching the falls, but when even at 5:30pm there was no sign of the falls, we realized WE WERE LOST!!! By now, because of varying degrees of tiredness, the group was already in three or four parts. None of us were sure of where we were going, how many groups we were nor whether anyone had reached the falls. The question that we kept asking ourselves was ‘will we get out before dark?’ No such luck. Time ticked on and by 7:00 we were straining to see the path we tread. The hills we were ascending and descending were steep and the rain had made the path slushy. We just kept pushing ahead, dragging our feet over rock and root and through the streams. We couldn’t be bothered about the leeches. They must have been having a feast. Our feet were too numb to know. The guides kept us going by saying that we would be out in fifteen minutes.
The scheduled time that we were to reach Margao was 6:00 pm. More than an hour later and we were still in the forest. Anticipating worried folks at home and being fortunate enough to get range at that point, a few of us made quick calls just to reassure those back home that we were okay. A little before eight o’clock we found the group ahead of us waiting in a clearing in the forest. They had decided to wait for the rest so that the group would be together. We were truly LOST! All we could do was pray! From this point on, the entire group walked in a single file holding hands so that none would get separated. The few who had cell phones used those to light up the path and instructions of the presence of rocks and roots were passed on verbally. Yes it was good team spirit that held us together and ensured no major casualties.
Thanks to some brave young guys who came back in search of us that we all made it back. Till we came across them we were all plodding along not knowing where we were going. Yes, we finally did get out of the forest at 9:00 pm. I guess it was a classic case of ‘Better late than never’ and we were all indeed thankful that the trek was finally over.
This particular incident in our lives sure taught us a lot about team spirit, endurance and helping one another. We also learned that for a summer trek, long trousers are good, but for a monsoon trek, shorts are the best. We presume shorts are the best as after wading through the seasonal streams, one is not left with clingy trousers. The shorts also leave bare skin on which it is easier to spot equally clingy leeches. But at the end of the day ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Perhaps oil or salt applied around the ankles may have helped in keeping the leeches at bay.
It was only on reaching Margao we got to know that instead of a 14-15 km stretch as originally planned, we had in fact done a 22 km trek. An additional 7 kilometres was no child’s play.
The irony of the entire trek was we traveled for nearly three hours by bus each way to walk 22 kilometres amidst nature. We walked through fields, over hills, rocks and roots and through streams in anticipation of a waterfall which we ultimately never set eyes on.
|comments: 3 comments or Leave a comment|