Memories of a hill station, trekking and a good trip
We’ve travelled so much that we rarely remember our first trips, if your family had a penchant for travel, then you’ve visited many but if not, the few are as good as gold. While the most obvious place for Goans to go to travel to is Goa, I went there when I was seven and nine years old, respectively but my memory from those trips are hazy. So, one of earliest memories of travel trace back to when I was a 14-year-old in school, not a picnic but a so-called ‘Spiritual Trip’ by the Brothers of St. Augustine’s School, the school I studied in.
It was in the November of 2006, winter had just set in, and 16 boys were selected from our school to travel to Mount Abu in Rajasthan. We were a mischievous bunch but we had to live up to the ‘spiritual trip’ tag, it ended up being little of what we expected. It turned out to be one my earliest treks and a good one at that. We travelled by train, it was a sponsored trip and we were going to stay in the students hostel of St Mary’s School, the Christian and Irish Brothers branch in the north Indian state of India. We had hardly packed for the five day trip and clearly didn’t know what to expect. We reached early next morning and had to travel by jeep before we reached the school which was situated atop the ghats, since it was early November, it was really cold and though there was a swimming pool, we would be able to swim, which we thought we could because of Mumbai’s sweltering heat.
Most of the boarders had gone home as it was Diwali vacations but some who stayed to far were yet in the hostel. We were assigned a large dormitory that we shared with the students. We were to sleep in rows of iron cots with thin mattresses and were given thick blankets to escape the cold. We were really excited for the next day and why not, we were in for a surprise. We were briefed about the next day; Breakfast at 7 am, Lunch at 12pm and Dinner at 7pm, we couldn’t miss any of them. There was a common bathroom, where all of us had to bathe by taking water through tubs from a drum kept in the corner. We were living like boarders and it was exciting. Over the next few days we trekked through various hills called by different names by the boarders – Plummey (don’t remember the origin), Spongy (because it had pores like a sponge) and Toad Rock (shaped like a Toad) overlooking the main city market. We also climbed down 886 steps to Gow Mukh (marble cow head) through which water flowed into a small open tank. They say the source of water was unknown and so many believed that wishes come true there too. It was Aldo the first time we saw big scary Langur’s (a species of monkeys). It was only at the end of the day when we reached the dormitory that we realised we couldn’t walk at all. The ascending and descending of the steps to see How Mukh had left us almost crippled and we couldn’t feel our legs at all.
The best part of the trip turned out to be on the night before our last day, we went crab catching, in a flowing stream. And the best part? We went in the night! As the surrounding area was forest land and bears and panthers were said to be spotted, we took the school dogs for safety. While we learnt how to literally fish crabs, as we used leftover chicken bones to get palm-sized crabs that we were going to eat the next day. Suddenly the dogs started barking and we were told that they had sighted a panther around the area, we were quite astonished and excited at the fact that a wild cat was in close proximity but soon it was gone and we carried we our night crab-catching and took back a bucket full of crabs to end the trip on a high note.
P.S. – Pictures are plenty but sadly none are digital.