It’s the October of 2007. I have been tagged. There is a bit of a history to the tag, but it seems I have delivered the tag pretty well. I start the tag with:
It’s a calming view.
The mountains and the faraway sea are deeply in love, quietly courting each other. The late afternoon sun gleams wide over the sea, spreading its warmth all over. The valley is a shade card of all the green and hay that you will ever see in your life. Little sparkling silver streams line the ridges of the mountains, playful and eager to trek downhill. The leaves on the tall trees that line the mountain walls are a lush green, fresh, wet from a recent rain. You are driving through the road, angle-sliced on the mountain’s slope, in your car, cruising at a comfortable uniform speed along the locus, lost in happy peaceful thoughts, one with yourself and with the world that allows you to be such. One hand on the steering wheel, the other resting on the window, elbow sneaking out just that little bit, feeling the moist misty breeze. You almost don’t need to pay attention to the many curves, the slight turn on the steering comes to you naturally. The tag, as such, had nothing to do with travel, or driving, it was about writing. However, I did start off the way I did.
Two years and four months later, this piece of fiction becomes reality. Almost. There was no rain. But the experience was intact. And in that, there was no transmission loss between the thought above and the experience I had, a couple of weeks ago.
We took a couple of days off and coupled them with a long weekend. Off to Chiplun for a couple of days and then to Panchgani for a couple and back to Mumbai via the NH4. While the entire journey was one of the most memorable, the highlight of this trip, was the crossing of the Kumbharli Ghat. Which, interestingly led us to the discovery that there isn’t a single-word equivalent in English, for Ghat. The closest you can say is – mountain road. You take the first left towards Karad when you enter Chiplun’s biggest cross-road island – Ambedkar Circle. For a while this road meanders through the town, and soon you are faced with a lofty soldier of the Sahyadri range that you immediately begin to climb on a good quality road, not like how I remember it from many years ago. The amazing views from here appear as if in slow motion and after a few minutes reach a breathtaking crescendo. You’d be tempted to stop, as I did, at the first possible option to breathe in as much of the freshness of the view that you can. You’d make the same mistake that I did. Not because what your eyes will see is disappointing, but because you will have to stop again, later. After you have travelled a third of this approximately 85 km stretch across the Sahyadris from Chiplun to Umbraj, you come at the most basic and most strategi-touristically located hotel and you will stop for tea. The tea is good too. At over 2,300 feet, tea does taste good, no matter what.
Hotel Valley View, ~ 2300ft, Kumbharli Ghat
After you have finished the tea, and reluctantly drag yourself back to the car, thinking it is now going to be all downhill any way (pun intended), there begins a bigger surprise. The rest of the road to Karad is bordered with beautiful farms and lovely trees bearing flowers in every shade of pink and red. With wonderful friends in the car, willing to enjoy as much of the drive as you, if not more, and stop as many times as you want, the flowers begin to look more colourful, the road becomes smoother, and the sun turns the dial to just about the right temperature of warm. It is an enchanting movie with varying landscape fleeting by you of mountains, hills, farms and flowers.
But this is it.
This is as much I can achieve as a travel-writer. I could write the piece above better, if I started questioning the raison d’être of every word and imagined the ride more dreamy and poured every possible diabetically romantic adjective in my cauldron in the travelogue.
But then, I wouldn’t be telling you the truth. And space-filling facts, I have none.
Because I hardly ever travel with a plan. Even to get the distances and the heights, I consulted Google Earth. I am of those that cannot enjoy travel if they know where they are going and when they are going to get there. I usually like to know that I have a place to sleep, somewhere on the way, though, there have been times, when I haven’t bothered about that either. This makes it difficult to travel with most folks. People have a plan in their mind – people decide what, how, when and where they are going to enjoy. Living the week with an agenda suffices my need to be in control. More than. And that is why, this peregrination was such a pleasure. All four of us were thinking alike (which means, we weren’t quite bothered about stuff). I have travelled with folks who have been so bothered with the destination, that they never did experience a journey. Some have slept through it. For some, like me, the journey is the destination.
Sunflowers, near Helwak
This blog’s slug is “Travel, life, thoughts, ideas, wish-lists, and everything else”. I have hardly written about travel, though. And it seems, with good reason. I am a rubbish travel writer. As an afterthought, I added “Thoughts, mostly.” Which is good, because I travel a lot in my mind and I can write about those travels. And, what I write, has the potential to be true, even if it is two years later.
And when such a thing happens, it is a wondrous experience!