Friday, August 26, 2016

River Rafting in Kundalika river, Kolad

It was there on our wish list for a couple of years, but the fact that it is available only during monsoon months made it difficult to make it possible earlier. But this time, we were determined more than ever to go for River rafting in Kundalika river near Kolad before the monsoon ends.

We chose weekdays to avoid the rush, only to realise that it was a mistake. We found out that not many of the guest house/hotel/farm house owners accept bookings for weekdays. One of the guest house owners told us, that there are power cuts and it is not affordable for them to run a power generator only for 2 people. They can afford it on weekends when they have more people.

Finally, after searching and talking to many people, we found a place a bit far from the starting point of River rafting, who welcomed us during weekdays. It being a last minute booking, we didn't get a chance to check the place thoroughly or read reviews about it. But it turned out to be a surprise package. The place was called Doctor's farm, and it was situated approx 7 KMs off the Mumbai-Goa Highway. The journey to the farm house was indeed a bumpy one, but in the end, it was all worth it. It was right next to the river, giving a picturesque view from the dining area. Nestled in the trees, away from any civilisation, it was very quiet and enjoyable.

Doctor's farm -,73.2370701,16z?hl=en

View from the dining area
We started for our adventure in the river, early next morning. We had seen the condition of the road previous evening but didn't expect heavy traffic of trucks so early in the morning. The directions we had got from the farm house owner didn't specify the distance, and we made another mistake of underestimating the distance. We realised that we wouldn't be able to make it in time as soon as we had a word with the person from River rafting company for detailed directions. We were struggling with the potholes ridden road and trucks, to be there in time. Missing the start time would have meant missing the adventure altogether. But what was worrying me more than the pain of traveling all the way there for nothing if we missed it, was my secret fear. I had been afraid of water for a while owing to a water slide went wrong in one of the water parks. Making this journey all the way to Kolad was difficult for me as it involved a constant struggle with myself and my fear. But Kedar was determined to make every possible attempt to get rid of my fear of water. All the time he was searching for accommodation options, I was secretly hoping that we wouldn't get one. Ultimately when it came to the day itself, I was pretty nervous about it. Traveling all the way there had taken a lot of mental efforts on my side. Missing it would have meant, probably I would not be able to do it the second time. Struggling with myself once was possible, but I wasn't sure it was possible second time.

River rafting starting point -,73.3467786,16z?hl=en

Again, Kedar left no stone unturned to reach the starting point just 2 minutes before the start time. We were exactly in time, as the leader was about to start with the safety instructions. Looking at the water, I felt the familiar fear slowly spreading through my body. The safety jacket was giving me a bit of safety assurance. As the leader started briefing, it sounded more fun than risky. He also told us that if we fall in water, then all we need to do is lie on our back, with feet downstream. He said, "Don't panic or shout, just relax yourself, float on water and we will come and get you", that helped my nerves calm down. After the briefing session, we found out that we were put up in a raft with 5-6 life guards (as the company wasn't able to get any more bookings to accompany us). It was reassuring to know that there were going to be 5-6 people to save me if something goes wrong. From time to time Kedar assured me that it was going to be OK and he was there if anything goes wrong.

Can you see the shadow over my face? No.... well it's nervousness
To my horror, they put us right in front of the raft. So we were going to be the first ones to see waves coming and face it. But it was much easier than I had thought it would be, to get into the water. Once the raft started moving slowly with the flow of the river, enjoyment took over the initial skepticism within few seconds. I had always dreamed of being able to fly on my own (without a flight or any other machine/equipment between me and the clouds). This was much similar to flowing with the river without any machine/equipment between me and river (yeah being in the front had a role to play there). Kedar had been comfortable with water and was thrilled since the moment we decided to go for it. Once he saw the tension evaporating from my face, he was able to enjoy it better. I must say it was a fun ride. All the hills covered in post monsoon greenery, clouds playing hide & seek with the mountains, light drizzle in between, pleasant wind and the waves hitting us from time to time, it made us forget all our worries. Ummm.... well not exactly, for a split second, we did worry about how will we be able to go to work next day and sit in front of our computers after all this, but it was momentary.

The first time we saw turbulence, our leader instructed to row faster and I kind of forgot everything but kept staring at it. The leader shouted the instruction again, and I got back to rowing. Going through the turbulence was most enjoyable as waves hit us on the face while rocking the raft. In fact, I thought we should just stop rowing and let the turbulence take us ahead. Later when we asked leader about rowing faster in turbulence, unintentionally he gave us a life lesson "When you hit turbulence, you got to row faster to get past it quickly. You don't want it to throw you out of the raft, pull you in it or turn your raft upside down".

All in all, we had added one more breathtaking experience to our lives and grown one day older. Yeah if you count your life by the moments which took your breath away, then this was certainly an addition to our age, and we are proud of it.

Here is a video of our ride.

Some tips if you are planning River rafting in Kundalika

1) Book your stay in advance. Many places offering stay, don't cater to guests during weekdays. If possible, opt for one nearby the starting or end point of the river rafting

2) Most of the owners of guest houses/farm houses have tied up with the companies arranging river rafting. But just in case you want to get in touch with the rafting organisers directly, here is a no. of the company we did it with - 09421942730

3) It's OK even if you are not a big group. We were only 2, and the organising company put 5-6 of their people on the raft with us to balance it. (the total capacity of a raft is about 10-12 people, depending on the size of the raft, which has to be filled to maintain the balance)

4) We didn't have any prior experience of rowing or boating, we did just fine

5) To be able to swim is not mandatory, but an advantage. They give a life jacket and helmet each for safety anyway

6) The starting point is about 20-25 km away from Kolad. The road has a lot of trucks causing slow traffic even early morning (the condition of the road adds to the travel time). So make sure you keep enough traveling time to the starting location (We just made it in time)

7) The road from Kolad to the starting point also has a railway crossing, which means you can be stuck for any amount of time once the crossing gates are closed. So factor in this part in journey time as well (you guessed it right, we didn't know this bit, and spent about 10 minutes at the gate waiting for the train to pass)

8) Wear suitable clothes (read suitable for a dip in water, not flowy, no scarves). You don't want to be worrying about your clothes (or rather them getting in the way or even worse flowing away with a wave). I would recommend a comfortable T-shirt (Nylon or some fast drying fabric) and a Capri or track pant (again the ones which will dry quickly, Decathlon has some really good options for quick drying clothes). Shorts are fine too, but there are a good amount of mosquitoes in the area where you wait before starting your ride

9) Prefer not to carry too many things with you (we kept our money in a plastic bag, and it did get wet). They let you swim (with life jackets) and play in the last 2 km patch of the river. You don't want to miss out on that fun worrying about valuables you are carrying

10) Go for a waterproof camera or mobile if you must. But some companies also offer video recording of your journey, check with them while making your booking. The one we did with, offers video recording & photos for an additional cost

11) Don't eat too much just before the ride. Have breakfast at least an hour before you start the ride. If there are a lot of waves or turbulence, you may feel sick

12) Feel free to take your cars to the starting point. The rafting organisers can arrange your travel from end point to the starting point or they also arrange for someone to bring your car to the end point for additional charge. That will save a lot of time for you. It may not be easy to catch an auto on your own as the starting and end points are away from nearby villages, and there is not much traffic on the road there

13) Once it starts, forget everything and enjoy it to the fullest!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Midnight cycling

We have decided to celebrate our birthdays & wedding anniversaries in some different way every year. While looking out for new destinations & activities for this year's anniversary, I came across an event on Facebook, published by Some Place Else - Midnight cycling trail from Bandra to Worli and back to Bandra. The attraction was to cycle through 3 lovely promenades of the city - Bandstand, Carter Road & Worli Seaface.

We were apprehensive about our stamina to cycle such a long distance. I had cycled for 11 km once and that was the longest I had cycled in one go my entire life. Kedar had never cycled even that long. However we had to start at some point and this sounded exciting. It was a night trail, so the weather was going to be pleasant & there was no need to worry about traffic. Apart from our stamina, the other worry on our mind was rain. It pours like crazy in Mumbai during monsoon. Given a choice people wouldn't prefer to leave their houses during 3 months of monsoon. It is difficult to even walk for few meters without getting wet even with an umbrella. Cycling in such rain was certainly going to be demanding. It sounded crazy yet exciting.

The weather couldn't be more appalling for our feat. It was pouring since morning of the trail, without a single break. By the evening, news had started coming in about water logging in many streets of Mumbai. Now we were not even sure about making it to the starting point, as we had to drive for 35+ km to reach there.

I had started cycling about 6 km once a week over last 1-2 months and it had given me confidence that I could stretch myself up to 10 km. We were worried what would we do if we can't complete the trail. How would we take the cycles back to the starting point. Its funny how our brain limits us. We tell ourselves that 'we can't', even before we try it. We worry about various things that may go wrong and what will we do, if things indeed go wrong. Each one of us has fears and apprehensions. I had decided to at least reach the starting point even if I think I can't cycle for even 1 km.

Fortunately the rain took a break couple of hours before we started from home. We had not expected so many people would turn up in spite of the heavy rains. As promised the trail leaders kept it slow paced to accommodate even amateurs like us. The goal was to enjoy the journey rather than reaching the destination. Rains somehow favored us. There were light drizzles, on and off, but no heavy rain. As we reached Band stand, we felt that all the efforts to overcome our fears and apprehensions were worthwhile, it was lovely to be there. It hardly felt like past midnight as there were many other people enjoying the rain at Band stand, some were busy taking selfies outside 'Mannat' the bunglow of bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan. As we started chatting with other members of the group, we realised that we were not the only ones in doubt about our capacities. It was good to meet other 'crazy' people like us, crazy enough to cycle through night. ;)

When we moved to Mumbai 4.5 years ago, we had decided to explore Mumbai city as much as possible. Keeping up with that promise to ourselves, we had been to many parts of the city including the graffiti lanes in Bandra & 400 years old St. Andrews church. While cycling along the lanes and St. Andrews church, all those lovely memories came back to us. We both had heard about some area names in Mumbai, but had never been to those, Carter Road was one of them. Being a non mumbaite, I hardly knew the significance of these places till couple of years ago. Discovering the city I once despised  of, has been completely different kind of experience. Once I thought that there was nothing more to this city than rush, crowd and earning money. But visiting many places during last 4 years has proved every bit of my opinions about this city wrong.

By the time we passed Lilavati hospital Bandra and started cycling towards Dadar, we were more than enjoying our ride. Mumbai truly is a city which never sleeps. On many occasion I have experienced this fact, and yet every single time I find it amusing. There was hardly any time without people, taxis and cars on the roads. People are always on the move here. Being the month of Ramazan there were many people roaming around visiting food stalls in the city, giving a feeling of late evening. I wouldn't have believed it was past midnight if I wasn't wearing a watch.

By the time, we reached Siddhivinayak temple (about 18-19 km ride since we started), I was completely tired. My knees & legs were aching and I was feeling fatigued. I couldn't carry on anymore. Though initially the trail leader had told us that any moment when we want to give up, we can hail a taxi and carry the cycle on top of it back to starting point, they offered me a ride in their safety vehicle till the Worli Seaface. Kedar carried on his ride with rest of the group. Reaching Worli Seaface was the highest point of our journey. Sitting at the promenade at 3.30 early morning, listening to the sea waves & rain, enjoying well deserved snacks and coffee, the memory is etched in my mind for lifetime. No amount of money, luxury resort stay, expensive gifts could have matched this unique experience. Our anniversary had truly become unique for us. No wonder we can easily count and remember each anniversary and birthday together, each one of it is unforgettable and unique like this one.

We both had thought that probably we will be tired even before we leave Bandra, but surprisingly we sustained for much longer. While I stopped riding after 18-19 km at Siddhivinayak temple, Kedar completed the complete trail of about 27 km. He got best of the both worlds. As we enjoyed riding together till Siddhivinayak temple, he rode alongside other people and made some new friends after I retired. We had both pleasantly surprised ourselves. It reminded me of a TV program where they had showed that we perform much lesser than the actual capacity of our muscles when it comes to exercise or any other physical activity, as brain instructs us to give up much earlier than the actual capacity.

It truly was an anniversary to remember for lifetime.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hello there

Old age used to kick in after a person turned 60 in ancient times, not anymore!

The first time I heard it from my college friend "Our days are over now. We live our life for our child now. We want him to enjoy his life to the fullest and not sacrifice his happiness the way did!!". It felt like sitting in a Sr. citizens club or a Nana Nani park. 

Next came from my school friend "Oh we have already crossed 30. I can already feel the age firming its fingers around me. It only few years to turn 40 and we will be 60 before we blink. What is left in life for us. The only focus of our life to watch our little one grow up."

Next came from our general physician when she asked my husband whether he has any of heart trouble, blood sugar, cholesterol, Blood pressure problem or any other vital organ probelm and she was shocked to hear a 'No' for each one of them. We felt as if we should start looking for old age homes.

We are thirty something Indian couple and observing that people already think crossing thirty means there is nothing left in life but to pay off that housing loan, car loan, bills, aim for a bigger house, aim for a bigger car and watch kids grow up. People think that thirty something is our best days are behind us. We are here to prove them all wrong.