We are featuring a guest post by Ankit Jaini. He writes about his travels at AlienAdv with a mission to inspire readers to get off the couch and get going on lifetime experiences.
My adventure started on a train from Mumbai to the base village in the valley. I knew only 3 of the 15 people going. It was a friendly group, the kind that wants to know every detail of your past travels, offers you plenty of home-made food and doesn’t let you sleep because, well it’s adventure time. I was surprised by how well prepared they were. These travelers had appropriately-sized backpacks with plenty of water and layers of clothing. They obviously were not beginners. This is something I haven’t seen a lot in India. It saves hassle and pain when trekking. I’ve written a post here about what to take care of as a beginner before hitting the trails.
The Konkan Kada, a unique formation in the Sahyadri Mountain range on the west coast of India, is unlike anything I had seen before. The landscape includes a semi-circular, smooth wall of about 2,000 ft. followed by 1,000 ft. of rocky slopes. The cliff faces west and looks down upon the breathtaking views of the surrounding Konkan region. It’s perfect for rappelling. It’s not just vertical, but an overhang like a spitting cobra’s hood. For the uninitiated, rappelling or abseiling (derived from the German word ‘abseilen’ which translates ‘to rope down’) is a technique of descending down vertical drops in a controlled manner using a rope.
We started our trek from the village at 4 a.m. under the bright cold moonlight and stars you could fall asleep counting. One thing I love about Indian hills is the chance to take a dip in the ‘bawdi’ or natural spring water collected to makeshift a public bath. Not very hygienic but very cold and a lot of fun. That’s the first thing we saw when we reached the top. The surrounding grandeur and beauty of the plains and the mountains left us spellbound. The Konkan Kada is one of the highest direct fall cliffs found in the Western Ghats of India.
The instructors were kind enough to help us practice off smaller hillocks to get a hang of it which helped us develop the proper technique and confidence. The evening was spent exploring around the plateau hill top, saying hello to the mountain goats and enjoying a small bar-b-que discussing mountain songs. As one in our group had no sleeping bag or tent (again highlighting the lack of preparedness in Indian hikers) we decided it would help if we sleep inside a group of caves huddled together to keep warm. It was chilly and the strong winds outside made it feel at least a few degrees colder than it was. It was pitch black inside the caves and I worried about mosquitos. A neat hack I’d learned came in handy. You can use sage leaves in the campfire to drive the blasted things away. Some other camping hacks can be found in this comprehensive article. We turned in early and decided to rappel first thing the next morning.
The night was deafeningly quiet and I wanted to just sit and stare at the dark valleys below us. We were among the first of the lot to rappel down in the morning. The moment when you are harnessed and you let go of everything except the rope, it is frightening – especially the first few steps. That is the scariest bit.
I must have skipped more than a few heartbeats before I made it even 5 steps down. The most scary and the most beautiful part of experience was that the wall was hollow beneath your feet. There is a spot where there is no mountain side for you to put your feet, just a rope to hang by. I started swinging around which was an incredibly terrifying moment. It was a combination of thrill and bliss that every true adventurer would say ‘Yes!’ to.
It was naive of me to think traversing the wall was the hard part. The actual adventure started after the rappelling was over. We had to trek down big boulders and slippery slopes bare-handed to reach back to the base village. There was a limited water supply and we were too eager to get down and ended up losing our way. We lost precious time as the sun was setting fast and it would’ve been extremely difficult to find our way back in the dark. As is the way of the mountains, the trail led us to a group of people midway who shared their water supply and helped down the right path.
Imagine again the ‘C’-shaped mountain wall 2,000 ft. tall but with torrential rains. Incredible views of the lush green valley and monsoon rains making you wet to your bones as you rappel down the waterfall off that cliff. I know where I’m heading next monsoon.