Outdoors in the monsoon
Avril- Ann Braganza
With the monsoon in full swing, rivers and waterfalls are at their fullest making it the right time to try your hand at a number of adventure sports specially fitted for the monsoons. After the long, hot, dry summer months experienced in most parts of the country, trekking and exploring is a fulfilling experience in the monsoons as the weather this time of the year is cooler and pleasant. Trekking trails are picturesque with waterfalls and rivers swollen with the arrival of the rains, lush green valleys and plains, wild flowers and unique insects which can be particularly spotted during the monsoon.
With the rains, several waterfalls sprout out, providing fantastic opportunities for waterfall rappelling among other adventure sports. “It may look scary to begin with but it’s one of the most thrilling activities where you descend a vertical rock face harnessed to a rope amidst gushing waterfalls” says Tapan Madkikar (34), a television and film industry freelancer and photographer. “You have to be careful of hurting your knees as most of the weight falls on your knees. There are several other precautions that should be taken but with a good adventure group you can be quite safe,” he adds. Ayush Singh (28), the CEO of Jungle Lore, a company organising adventure trips says, “there are certain gaps in the rocks where the water gushes into your face so care must be taken at these spots.” Waterfall rappelling can be tried at Bekare in Karjat, Vihigaon and Naghotne as well as in Kolad and Bhivpuri in Maharashtra.
Another adventure sport that can be tried out during the monsoons is canyoning. While canyoning is similar to waterfall rappelling, there is a slight difference wherein it involves scaling down an entire mountain from the top while waterfall rappelling is done mainly from a height of 100 feet. While in waterfall rappelling, you descend the rock attached to a harness, there are times in canyoning when you can slide down the rope. M. Asif director and CEO of Nature Knights, describes canyoning, “Adventure Canyoning or canyoneering can be a combined water and rock activity. Canyoning is a spectrum of activities some of which are mostly rock activities and some of which are mostly water activities. Canyoning is one of the best high adrenaline activities you can do.”
Canyoning can be attempted at the Sandan Valley in the Bhandardara region and Ulhas Valley in the Karjat region of Maharashtra.
Imagine yourself attached to a harness, and with the force of gravity getting pulled across from a higher point to a lower one, by a pulley attached to the harness. And then imagine doing that across a waterfall. While you can attempt flying fox anytime in the year, during the monsoons, zipping across a waterfall is a unique experience. Flying Fox can be done at Bhivpuri.
Kayaking is the use of a Kayak for moving across water. A Kayak is a small, narrow boat which seats one or two persons, and is manually navigated by means of a double bladed paddle. There are generally two forms of Kayaking; white water kayaking which is not recommended for beginners and still water kayaking. The backwaters of Tarkarli are a relatively new option for Kayaking.
White Water Rafting
White water rafting is a challenging adventure sport which, makes use of an inflatable raft to navigate a ride on a river. During the monsoons, the weather is better and the powerful flow of the river makes the experience an exhilarating one. There are differently graded rapids from one to six ranging from simple to very dangerous.
Monsoon Cycling is another must try this monsoon. The fresh air and beautiful scenery make cycling in the rains an invigorating experience. “We travel daily by bus and cars and we never get to experience the rain on our face. The greenery around and interesting weather changes from heavy downpours to light drizzles, frogs and insects all around is a refreshing experience, “ said Craig Fonseca (26), a copywriter from Bandra.Some of the interesting routes to go cycling in the monsoons is the South Mumbai Coastal Route; Portugese Trail which includes the Versova - MadhIsland, Marve - Manori stretch and the Konkan Countryside and Heritage Stretch (Alibaug - Revdanda - Murud).
Trekking in the Monsoons
In the state of Uttarakhand, situated in the Rudraprayag district lies Chopta. At an altitude of 2600 meters above sea level, it is one of the most picturesque spots. One of the simple reasons to head to Chopta this monsoon is that it is not very crowded and is an offbeat, relatively unexplored destination. For those who enjoy trekking , you can trek four kilometers up to Tungnath Temple. “The view of the Chandrashila peak from the top is simply majestic” said. Nikhil Varghese, (27) an assistant manager from Bangalore. The trek is easy to moderate, not very steep and there are rock cut steps to help you on the way. “It is advisable to have one of the locals with you on the trek as sometimes the place is deserted for quite a stretch. Guides can be easily available if you inquire at the place where you are staying, added Varghese.
After the scorching summer, the monsoons are heartily welcomed by nature lovers and trekkers in Maharashtra. While these trekking trails may be thoroughly explored by avid trekkers, they remain yet to be discovered for many. Amidst lush green forests the trek to Chinchoti waterfalls in Vasai, Mumbai, is a beautiful route which passes through dense forests, streams and smaller waterfalls on either sides. The waterfall flows continuously during the monsoons and is approximately 100 feet high and 20 feet broad.
“The waterfall is located in the middle of a forest and is beautiful and scenic. There are crabs and spiders on the way and provides several opportunities for photographers to capture nature in all its glory. If it rains heavily and the force is too much cops are stationed at the waterfall to see that no one dives in. It can be dangerous when people drink and dive in as there have been incidents,” says Bertram Fonseca, partner of Travel Master Gogo.
The moderate trek to Vanar Tok, a pinnacle in Sagargad (on the way to Alibag) is an interesting trek for nature lovers and photographers. En route to the top, you can experience a fantastic phenomenon known as the `Ulta Waterfall` where due to the wind; the waterfall defies gravity and shoots up almost 20 feet in the air. On reaching the top of the fort, there is a fantastic view of the coastline. Gauri Vipat (31) a resident of Vile Parle recalls, “I went during monsoons and it is an excellent weekend getaway.It’s a great stress- buster from daily life. Nature welcomes you with different shades of green, butterflies and insects along the way.”
In the Thane district, Jawahar is another interesting location where you can go on a trek through the famous waterfall trail. An area which has remained relatively unexplored as compared to Karjat, the best of Jawahar is brought out during the monsoons where several unnamed waterfalls can be sighted and treks to these waterfall points can be made. Along with the trekking experience, Jawahar is also well known for its Warli tribes and you can interact with the tribals and learn about their art.
A walk in the clouds
Trekking up Kalsubai, the highest peak of Maharashtra at 1646 meters above sea level can be an experience in itself. While this trek is graded medium difficult, the effort put in to get to the top will be worth it especially in the monsoons when you will be trekking in the clouds. An approximately five kilometer trek, it takes nearly three hoursto get to the top at a steady pace and once there, the wind is strong enough to make you want to hold on to the railing real tight.
Trekking in the south of India is different as compared to the north; in the north you are surrounded by mountains, while in the south the experience is different wherein you will be trekking through jungles facing the danger of wild animals and where permission is needed from forest officials. A few places that are interesting trekking locations include Ooty, Coonoor, Kotagiri and Valapari. Vargese who has great experience trekking in South India said that many of the treks can be undertaken only with permission from forest officials. There are no defined paths as it is all within the jungle. “There are plenty of wild animals including elephants, bison, tigers and leopards; it’s better to have a forest guard accompanying you,” recommends Vargese. During the monsoons a walk through a stream will end up with your boots full of leeches. “It is a good place to go in the monsoon although you can’t predict the weather conditions,” suggests Vargese.
Makurthi peak is another peak in the Nilgiris, surrounded bydense vegetation, grass lands and pine forests. The Makurthi trek is a full day trek wherein if you leave at eight in the morning you can return by five in the evening. The tourist department can help you get the required permission to go trekking in the South but contacting trekking associations is recommended. Apart from the trek, you can stay in a cabin lodge at the jungle and can fish in the lake.
Picture Captions and Photo Credits in order of appearance
-The arrival of the monsoons, and nature in all its glory make trekking and exploring a fulfilling experience. Image Courtesy: Jungle Lore
-Although it may look scary, rappelling is one of the most thrilling activities to attempt during the monsoons. Image Courtesy:
-While flying fox can be attempted any time of the year, the monsoons bring a unique experience. Image Courtesy:
- Give kayaking a go at Kolad. Image Courtesy: Jungle Lore
- The view from Sagargad makes the trek worth it. Image Courtesy: Tapan Madkikar