We went with a lot of hope and at least for a couple of days before it, a lot of bitching. By being elitist we thought we were doing the right thing, obviously, we weren’t, we were only leading ourselves further and further down a completely wrong path. However we somehow did make it back, there were still enough bread crumbs to give us the chance to make a recovery. And after that it was smooth sailing, and what a trip it was. We left early in the morning on the 29th of March from BITS.
We had our breakfast in a small restaurant(can’t even call it that actually, maybe a tiny dhaba?). And while the food wasn’t exceptional, this was a great beginning. As we passed through the Ghats section of our trip we couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty spread out all around us. Nature was at her glorious best with the sunlight making sure we got an exquisite view. We saw valleys of green and foggy mountains, we passed by a dam, and we smelt the wonderful freshness of the forest. It was truly rejuvenating.
We were in Dandeli after around 4 hours. There our trip managers(I’m not entirely sure who all this consisted of actually) figured out exactly how we’d manage rafting and our stay. After a brief discussion, it was decided that we would go rafting and then in the evening we would go camping and have a barbeque! That sounded like a terrific idea and all of us went with it.
Rafting required us to submit forms that said we were responsible for anything that happened to us. Signing off liability is always a scary feeling, it’s like choosing to let go of your lifeline saying “It’s ok, I’ll swim back to the boat on my own”. Nonetheless, it was done and we headed out.
Rafting required me to take off my spectacles and wear a life jacket. Not a promising start. However things soon got better. Immediately after we paddled out from shore we were asked by our guide to jump into the water, after a few moments of hesitation, I let myself fall backwards into the water. I love that feeling, those few moments when you’re in the air and you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Then the water rushes into and past you and come up for air. We all loved it. We stayed in the water for as long as we could, but as we were getting close to the rapids we had to get back in.
The first set of rapids actually turned out to be the most exciting because of all the anticipation of experiencing a rapid for the first time. And I screamed my lungs out. And loved every single moment of it. There was a photographer out on the rocks near the rapids, he’s caught me opening my mouth as wide as it can go and shouting as hard as I possibly can. Every single one of us was in that state of exhilaration. As with all good things, the rapids ended far too soon. We paddled on as a team to the next set of rapids, screamed like crazy, then paddled to the next one and then did it again. After the third set, the guide was slightly embittered towards me for drowning out any commands he might give us while we’re in the rapids. The way the paddling worked was, if he said forward, we forward paddled, if he said back ,we back paddled, and similarly for right and left(one side forward, the other side back). So if he couldn’t get himself heard during the rapids we could rapidly fall into trouble, so I concurred and toned down my decibels. To be fair, I was just enjoying myself.
While the last set of rapids were the best – I loved all of the rapids, especially a moment in between when half the raft was on a rock. After passing through them what we had to do was steer the boat right back into the rapids and thanks to some expert steering by the guide we would go headfirst into the rapids. That was a crazy adrenaline rush, nothing else had made me feel so alive, and more than a little crazy. We would plow into the water and the raft would dip upwards because of the concentration of weight in front and the people sitting in front would be drenched by the torrents of water trying to forcibly move past us. That was truly exhilarating. When we watched the guides steer the water from the sidelines, we couldn’t help but be amazed at the strength, coordination and deft touches they used to make sure everyone in the boat got completely drenched. We did this several times following all possible permutations of who sat in the front and got the full blast of the water. In one of these sessions, Sid got hit so hard he fell over, luckily however he was holding the rope that is there at the side of the raft so he didn’t just float away. We pulled him back once we were out of the rapids and luckily, he was fine.
We had been told earlier that there were crocodiles in the river, by an unknown source. The guide had realised that Monal was especially paranoid about sighting one. So as we went through a rivulet that was shaded by trees on either side he made us concentrate on one shoreline and broke the silence by smacking the water really hard with his paddle. Monal was thoroughly frightened and shrieked so loudly that the people behind us probably heard her. We all had a good laugh at it later, but at that moment I’m guessing she felt pure, unadulterated fear. Well, nothing is more cleansing that that.
The whole rafting experience was unbelievable to say the least. We had all come together and enjoyed it as a group. We just couldn’t stop talking about it – how Natesh had put in the bare minimum of effort, how Sid had fallen off our raft when we were on the last set of rapids, how Monal got freaked out. We had LOVED it. Bobbing about on the water and paddling our hands off had given us a crazy appetite, so the moment we came back to the hotel we had dumped our luggage in, we went to the downstairs restaurant and cleaned up his stock of mirchi bajji and gobi manchurian. After a few quick baths we were taken to our campsite. We had been informed that if we chose to we could barbeque on the bonfire so we had brought an assortment of vegetables and seasoning and immediately proceeded to cut and place it on a grill. After many many rounds of trial and error, we finally got a few passably cooked vegetables. By this point we were all engaged in different activities, some of us were dancing, some just sitting , some cooking and some exploring the place. This campsite was not very camp-like, except for the fact that we had to sleep in tents – everything was very well organised and we even got dinner. We thought we were going to barbeque our dinner – if we had we might’ve gone hungry.
In the night we all started hearing something odd. A bird with a very peculiar call went on incessantly. That coupled with the camp head telling us not to head out searching for it made us very anxious, and some of us rather paranoid. Theories started floating around that it was a recorded tone, set to make us feel we were in nature, maybe someone was imitating it, maybe there was no bird. Regardless we went on with our business and slowly forgot about the bird. We never ended up sighting it actually.
After dinner we sat together and tried to narrate horror stories around the fire. Thanks to the paucity of horror story knowledge, that died out very quickly and we degraded into small groups managing their own discussions. I ended up in a particularly interesting one where we discussed how most of science turned out to be empirical and through trial and error we ended up at a state of six sigma where the discoveries that were made were 99.99% correct. Another thought was that maybe in between these discoveries and the actual truth of nature we could see God, maybe that was our bridge. The others discussed poems and a menagerie of other topics. The rafting took it’s toll on me and I waddled off to sleep.
The morning turned out to be really beautiful and clear. We had been promised a morning trek and as soon as we woke we headed out on what turned out to be more of a walk. But it was serene and peaceful so walking around itself was a wonderful thing to do. We walked till the riverside where we stood and took pictures for a while before returning to camp where we ate breakfast.
Right after, Shreyas, Monal and I went out in search of a peacock that Shreyas had sighted. We walked through the woods randomly hoping to see something – maybe even that weird bird with the excessively well timed calls. I was desperately hoping to catch a sight of it. While our walk turned out to be fruitless in finding interesting birds, we somehow walked into a family of langurs who proceeded to take offence at our unwelcome visit and advertised their unhappiness. They threw stuff at us and we walked away very quickly. After returning to camp we made the final preparations, paid our bill and walked out a happy bunch, excited about our next adventure. There was a small caveat to our happiness – Akshay R K had gotten hurt when he’d climbed a tree on our morning walk so we had to figure out where he could be checked up to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. We decided to drive to Kaiga and work it out there.
On our way there we stopped at Syntheri rocks. Syntheri rocks is this beautiful monolith built by years of the rock being worn down by the river. This towering structure is covered in beehives and at the bottom there was a cavernous area where bats lived, possibly in the millions. These bats perennially chose to defecate on the rocks on which we had to walk or so we believed. We walked around and marveled at how beautiful the place was. Apparently the area was rather fatal because of whirlpools so we tried to find a shallow area upstream where we could enter the water. We found a path around the rocks and rested peacefully in that place until we were told we could wait no longer. Akshay couldn’t walk down the steps so he’d remained in the car this whole time, so we needed to hurry up and get back. After what felt like far too short a time we headed back to our cabs and on to Kaiga.
The way there was slightly nauseating and tiring but we got there eventually. However by now it was 4 and most of us were starving so after a cursory lookover of our rooms we got out and went hunting for a restaurant that was still open. Shreyas, Pravinya and I decided to go out searching first and if we found something we would come back and tell the others. I had gotten pretty cranky by now thanks to the lack of food however some bananas put a temporary rest to it. While we were walking ahead, the rest of our motley crew, inspired by hunger I imagine had walked ahead nearly till where we were and then caught autos to a hotel Ankita nearby that was said to be open. Once we saw that, we thought we would walk till the hotel. However our cab came by(this was actually the root of all evil here, since it was the lack of the cab drivers that was forcing us to walk) and we first took Akshay R K to the nearby hospital where a nurse applied a cold pad and sent us back saying he should get it x-ray’d soon. We came back and ate lunch at Hotel Ankita before heading back to the hostel we were staying at in Kaiga.
In the evening we headed out to Kadra dam where we all just walked around, the water turned out to be too dirty for us to get into and we weren’t allowed access to the dam so we were stuck to taking pictures and talking. After exploring all we could we headed back to the hostel. We spent the night talking about anything and everything and had a great time at it, finally sleeping just as Monal woke up at 4. Monal had, in the afternoon gotten a headache and wasn’t feeling well, though by 4 in the mornign she said she was fine, but sadly, that was just when all of us chose to go and get some rest. I wonder how long she stayed up after that.
The next morning we got up early, ate at Ankita and headed out to Palolem, the plan being that those of us who wanted to go to Palolem stayed in one cab and the other one headed back to campus. We split up a few kilometers out from Palolem. Those of us who went to Palolem went on to do some kayaking. Kayaking felt wonderful. However thanks to my rather pathetic eyesight, going alone was not an option, so I went doubles with Sachin. Monal gave going solo a shot but somehow her kayak just refused to move so she decided to join Akshay. The most interesting point of the kayaking was when the kayak Akshay and Monal were on capsized. After laughing at them a bit, we helped them out and all of us headed back to shore. Palolem beach has great waters and sand but the only deterrent is how excessively salty the water is. That gets tiring really quickly.
We had a lavish lunch at Cafe Del Mar and just talked. But right after eating Francis realised that he hadn’t found his wallet. After a great deal of searching, talking to lifeguards and walking up and down the beach we were forced to conclude that it was lost. We’d all put our wallets and phones into a camera bag, but thanks to an overflow of them, Francis’ had somehow, somewhere on transit, fallen out. There was a slightly happy end to that story in that he ended up getting it back later thanks to someone having found it. While the money was gone, he was saved the trouble of reapplying for the essential “cards”.
Around 4 we headed back to campus. We were back at BITS Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus by 6 and proceeded to have our final photography session, doing some crazy things that everyone stared at us for. It was worth it. Totally.
Well that was SUPPOSED to be DANDELI. But it didn’t really work out. Who cares ;)
That was us, from left to right – Sam, Natesh, Anand, Sachin, Nishant, Anirudh(Me!),Francis, Sid, Mihir, Akshay S, (right to left)Shreyas, Monal, Shashank, Preetam, Akshay R K,(left to right again) Aditi, Madhu and Pravinya.