Hiking around in these monsoon-wet hills, as an activity, is probably as old as Stone Age humans in the Sahyadris. As a recreation, it’s a bit different though. The slippery foliage, the bugs, the jungle sounds—it’s a welcome, therapeutic package of everything that’s the opposite of the City, its cacophony and robotic frenzy. Mumbai has always had hiking clubs, people who would hit the hills with just a water bottle, a cap, a towel, a taste for the wild. Over the years, the activity has become more organised, even corporatised. What better than to have an outbound training programme, with a bit of adventure thrown in?
Deepa Randhava, 42, had not been for a trek for several years now. When she and her friend Sonali did decide to take one, they found the options of a day-trek had got way better. “It was very well organised and managed,” she says. “Usually there are very few trainers, but on this trek someone from the organising team was always around to help. That helped us climb down to safety without getting bruised on the slippery paths. Not to mention yummy food and tents for changing into dry clothes.” The trek started near Duke’s Nose, a famous landmark for climbers, traced the path taken by Shivaji’s guerrilla warriors through Umberkhind (khind is a pass) and finally reached a village called Chavni. Numerous waterfalls, brooks to cross, lush green hills, clouds, slippery stones, some beautiful mountain flowers were just a few of the takeaways.
Participants on the day trek to Umberkhind, near Lonavla. (Photograph by Apoorva Salkade)
Countryside India, Wild Escapes and Outbound Adventure are some of the firms that cater not just to individuals and children, but also have packages for corporates and customised expeditions. Of course, these are more expensive than a traditional DIY adventure, which continues to thrive. A trek to Umberkhind may cost as little as Rs 200 and/or go up to Rs 1,600. “But there’s value in what we do,” says Milind Bhide, director, Countryside India. “We have more trainers with a group, which ensures their safety. They are trained in first-aid, carry kits.” The organisation expanded to Himalayan expeditions and corporate management programmes simultaneously.
For, the trek is not a picnic, the adventure involves some risk. The hill-slopes are extremely slippery during the rains; and a heavy downpour can cause minor landslides. “People have to be made aware of the plan, challenges and routes,” says Andre Morris, director, Outbound Adventure. “They need to train and read up as well. Soft adventure outings are increasing and it is a good thing, it allows people who otherwise wouldn’t manage to get in touch with nature. But all the same, at the heart of an adventure, there will always be calculated risks.” And that’s what makes it an important team-building exercise; how a unit reacts when put in an unfamiliar situation. “I have seen a complete change in attitudes of CEO-level people after being in a forest for five days. If you give such programmes enough time, you can see results,” says Arun Nabar, who takes corporate groups for such training. He’s cautious about cramming too much into a tour. What’s encouraging is that youth are turning to alternative courses apart from basic and advance mountaineering. There is a lot to explore at all levels. The starting point could easily be the day-long trek Deepa now swears by.
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