Have your ever felt like you were walking on a cloud? It is the best feeling in the world. Well, driving on a cloud just as good, even better than that. The clouds were so thick that we couldn’t even see the road. We could see no more than two feet of the way forward amidst the thick mist of clouds.
To me the monsoon is my fondest memory growing up in Pune. Year after year, as the clouds kiss the earth, the mountains turn into emerald green all draped in fluffy white clouds, we set out on long drives. Singing old hindi songs with family, humming tunes that we had forgotten. It is the best time of the year. Truly, it is the season of love even if you aren’t one of those couples walking hand in hand in the rain.
Around the rains and the Ganesh Mahostav the city of Pune turns into a gorgeous bride, bright, youthful and lush. If you are just visiting then even the outskirts of the city will mesmerize you and make you want to stay back forever. If you already live here, you will find all the weekend treasures the city has been hiding through the touch summer.
This year, over all others has been so rich in long weekends, and seems like Punekars have been blessed with an opportunity to discover all the weekend getaways around the city.
I have already visited Mulshi Dam, Khadakvasla lake, Pavna Dam Picnic spots a zillion times. Bhushi Dam with the water staircase in Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani have always been on the monsoon-to-do list. The best weekend getaway is always the ride and trek up to the Sinhgad fort during the monsoon. You work up an appetite and then have the most extravagant and surprisingly cheap monsoon feast up there.
There is romance in enjoying hot bhutta (corn) cooked on coal and sprinked with masala, sipping steaming cutting chai on a hilltop and savoring the oh-so-comforting wada pav and kanda bhajiyas on a damp, chilly day in Pune.
Many little travel, adventure and experiential tour travel websites and operators have popped up in Mumbai and Pune in the past few years. These websites have opened up a lot of weekend experience and homestay options. After spending over two decades enjoying monsoon treks, picnics and zunka-bhakar with thecha on Sinhgad fort, this year dad and I decided to do something different this year. We found out about a group trip from “The Western Routes” a Kothrud based travel community going for Kundalika River for White Water Rafting this Sunday.
Dad and I enjoy the adrenaline rush so we decided to book our rafting tickets right away. We found that the weekday trips were cheaper and since dad loves driving on hills during the monsoon we decided to drive down to Kundalika river for rafting two days earlier than the community trip (which by the way is great for solo travellers).
We had to leave by 5.30am because it is a 100km drive from Pune and the rafting trip goes only once a day starting at 8.00am. The rafting season is restricted to the monsoon months, the heavier the monsoon the better the rapids in the water for rafting. If you go at the peak of monsoon or during the last spell you are likely to get a good speedy water flow. The rafting vouchers costed us Rs 1035 for weekday (Rs1445 on Bank holidays & weekends). We did not opt for the dining hall lunch, which was priced at Rs 350 for a vegetarian spread.
Even though the driving directions were pretty clear (if you set your odometer correctly on zero at Chandni Chowk) , we detoured about 5 km on another downslope road, and reach technically reached the start point before the office. We only got to the Mercury Himalayan Explorers rafting office (www.mhe.co.in) at 8.45am after we found our way back. The guides had come on contract from the Himalayas and were well trained and practiced in rough waters, so even if you don’t know how swim, with the gear provided and the guides, you will survive this voyage.
Before our adventure began we enjoyed some chai, wada pav and batata bhajiyas at a little tapri next to the Mercury office. It was the perfect setting for a great day. The raining was lovely and pouring down, pattering on the thatched metal roof, it was chilly and our hearts were racing with excitement. That sukha mirchi, peanut, coconut and garlic chutney was doing wonders to those garlicky steamed and warm potatoes with curry leaves in that crispy wada. You can never have enough wada-pav. Wherever I go in the world, no matter what fine foods I eat, I will always come back home to wada-pav, it is just that kind of love.
Finally with a short introduction on “How to save your life while rafting” we were in the river. Our nerves had already picked up pace before we actually hit our first rapid. The raft tossed, and turned from side to side, but luckily for us it did not topple. The first rapid came as a shock; we weren’t prepared and drank up a lot of the water. By the second rapid we were ready to fight the waters and make our way forward. In fact we were ready for more rapids, going farther into the water and towards that frothy white wave.
After several minutes of tireless rafting, we made into a patch of slightly calmer waters, and I decided to just jump inside the water. With a thumping heart, I just went ahead and jumped. It was fabulous, I haven’t felt so alive in such a long time. The water was cold and the soft rapids were slowly coming towards us, the rescue kayak was right behind me. First big wave hit, and I went straight into the water. Drank a lot of it as well. By the time we hit the second wave, the water was still in my lungs, but I did not panic, just sneezed it out.
Then another rapid came and this time I was not in the boat but not unequipped in the water, my body was just flowing into the rapid. I did not struggle or fight this time, just went with the flow and enjoyed every turn.
Ten kilometers of rafting and 3 kilometers of swimming later, I felt lighter, like a different person, and like I was the only person left in the world. It was a moment when I really felt like I am alive, feeling my life on this planet; I didn’t care for the boat, or the sounds I had left behind me. I just felt ecstatic, just extremely happy to be there.
White water rafting in Kundalika River is a safe sport and a rich experience. I’m glad that I finally decided to just go for it, it had been my dream for many years and I think I would love to venture into the Himalayan waters sometime soon for a more bold white water rafting trip.
On the way back we drove through an even denser fog of clouds. It was a picturesque drive. Every two meters that we drove there was cheerful waterfall gushing down the mountains. Along a stretch of 40 kilometers we were driving alongside a mountain range with a string of waterfalls, like a picture frame.
We made a pit stop at Mulshi for some bhurji-pav and chai at a tapri still hung over on the awesome experience we had. Our shoulders were aching with the crazy arm activity in the rafting. I slept for three hours straight after waking up at 5 am followed by a tiring day. If you want to feel exhilarated, tired and refreshed all at once you should try this too.
There are a bunch of Travel and Tour operators for short and adventurous weekend trips and treks. In my opinion, these are some of the ones that I have tried and trust for safety.
- Western Routes
- Infinite Journeys
- Empower Camps & Z-Bac Adventure are right next to Kundalika Rafting sight
- Nature Trails
- India Adventure Curry
- Breakaway – Experiential Tours