Thursday, December 29, 2011

The 14 Hour Vacation

The Bear
Took a fourteen hour vacation, and a relaxing one at that, starting yesterday evening at Vasant Uncle's factory outhouse. Was speaking to Uncle day before yesterday and the topic of our long-pending hike in the forests of Shivrajpur came up. Lo and behold, Uncle was spending a few days at Halol itself, and we decided, irrespective of it being a weekday, we could take off on Thursday morning. Further, Uncle suggested, that I get over to Halol on Wednesday evening itself; spend some time in his pool, the night there and then we could leave early morning for Shivrajpur. Now, thats a wonderful idea! But, can it so happen that I have low workload the day I decide to take an off? A definite NO.

 So it was not before 7 in the evening that Simba and I left for Halol. A fifty minute drive to Halol and ten more traversing the pot-holes, I land up to a wonderful sight. A nice bon fire and Uncle / Aunty sitting by it. Simba and I jump out of the car, don't know which of us was more excited, but we knew that was the best place to be at that moment. Spent a while sitting around and then comes the gourmet. આલું રિંગના નું શાક, લસુન ની ચટણી અને મકાઈ નો રોટલો. Good authentic gujju food, and the rotlas roasted on an earthen tawa being fired by dry wood. While having dinner, I realised that this was probably the longest I have taken in quite a while to finish my meals. Vasant Uncle reminded me of an anecdote that my Dadaji told him. Eating slowly has an advantage, its only for that time that you can enjoy the taste. :) Anyway, dinner out of the way, and we went to the next course of the evening; a couple of beautiful sufi songs by the Wadali Brothers; and surprise, meetha paan! This ended, and it was just half past ten. But a long tiring day, enjoyable evening and lovely weather meant instant sleep, much in anticipation of the walk next morning. I was dreading if I would be able to drag my lazy bum out of the bed at six. Some readers might remember how I have overslept early morning trains!!

5.55 this morning and the Blackberry Antelope ringtone tries to wake me up. There's no hitting the snooze button this morning. Get up, drink water, loo, get Simba out and 6.25 we are ready to hit the road. Vasant Uncle comes out in the open and then suddenly feels, oops, its cold, I need to get my cap out! :) Yes, it was quite pleasant this morning and warm ears and head is all one needed to head out. Simba still hasn't learnt to jump into the boot of the car, so I help him up. And we are on our way to Shivrajpur. Very little traffic and a steady 70kmph drive passing by Champaner, Pavagadh enroute and listening to Uncle's explanations about the Manganese Mines, the Champaner - Shivrajpur narrow gauge rail line and the weather for a while makes me feel that I can forget the Kumaon Hills' retirement plan and consider this area. Thinking of this, gets us to Shivrajpur chai stall. We were under strict instructions from Shaila Aunty to stop for chai before heading out. So we get two; nah four cups of कम शक्कर chai prepared. Nice chai, local banter at the chai stall regarding the panchayat elections; makes us feel the lack of sugar and we get more sugar put into our chai. Geared up with high sugar content, we are off. A few false turns, an under-construction bridge and a few kilometers of ride gets us to a nice place where we think we can start off on a trail.

Simba jumps out and we consider letting him roam free without the leash. The boy enjoyed himself without the leash, always wanting to be the first one ahead, wandering off, but coming back to a whistle call. This is for the first time. Cliched, but the wilderness was so quiet that we could hear the silence. And hearing the silence is ever so calming. This is a short trail and in a few minutes we are back to where we started. So we decide to move on.

Stop by an old well and irrigation system. We found the well to be very interesting; the catchment well was made into a makeshift dump of used liquor bottles. Two thoughts, the water would have definitely tasted good (no, we didn't try it) and second, do we ever not pollute? The good part though, the pollution and leaving behind was organised; only the well was littered.

We drive further and come near a bridge from where we feel an easterly trail might be good. Here's a pic of where we started from; but taken at the end of the trail since I had conveniently forgotten (good in hindsight) my phone in the car.
Start of the trail
We keep walking in, following the trail, enjoying the views, and spot a wonderful piece of art. Some tribal and carved a 2" x  4" leopard with utmost detail on the trunk of one of the eucalyptus trees along the trail. The camera not being present, I don't mind going back again to get a photo of that tree. We continue along, passing by a settlement of an enterprising tribal family (more about them later) and deeper into the forest. A check dam, a passing stream (in which Simba enjoyed a lot), a mahua distillation site, (quite) a few fallen eucalyptus trees (officially fallen?) oblivious of the time and walking till we needed a break. Sat on one of the fallen trees; had an orange each; some biscuits for Simba and started on our way back.

While on our way back, we stopped over at the tribals house, made some small talk with him; admired his children. They looked like Europeans! And then got walking on our way back. We had just moved a few tens of yards from the enterprising tribal's hutment, that we heard him calling us. Guess what, he had a gift for us. Fruits (very bitter and sour to taste) of kothu, a taste that children enjoy and chutneys are made out of. That's what is called a big heart. He didn't need to do that, but he did that. Do we town people ever think so selflessly? The Material World!!
Kothu Tree
Anyway, we all walked back and Simba got the idea that he's supposed to jump into the boot of the car and started on our way back. Was about quarter past nine. On our way back, we say the board to what used to be Shivrajpur Railway Station. A heritage site with all due respect and look what remains!! There was also a station building; and it was painted. Painted with slogans of political parties!! Hope we do something about it. And by we, I mean, maybe I as a person get an opportunity to engage proactively and do something about it, rather than just wax eloquent on my blog.
Shivrajpur Station (or what remains of it)
We took a long detour through a bypass; an amazing road; cruising at 80kmph and reached Vasant Uncle's factory around ten. After dropping him off, it was all back to the grind and there ended by 14 hour vacation. Back to coordinating things at work; meeting a visitor to the office (I was grossly delayed :( ) and other mundane daily matters. But what an unwind. Mother Nature, blessed we are for you to have given us such immense things like music, forests, seasons, friends. Isn't it a miracle?


Vasant Gala said...

Well written with all the detail, Ujwal. Mother Nature is there, in abundance, for all of us, we have to just breakaway from all the trappings to enjoy. We forget that we are also part of the nature!

Radhika said...

I am really glad you took a 14 hour break! Sounds like you, Simba and Vasant uncle had a great time. I can't believe Simba is so well trained, how did you train him to be so obedient?

Ujwal said...

Radhike!! Oh, yes it was wonderful.

As for Simba's training. God knows. Maybe, sangat ka asar. ;)

Manindra said...


A wonderful, and what is best, well enjoyed holiday; and a pleasure to read write up.

I am so impressed that I hope someday you'll be able to take up free lancing as a side job.Or hobby?


seemat said...

well,i am quite impressed with your elaborate and detailed narration of your so very interesting trip. its almost like being there .i am sure you must have felt thoroughly rejuvenated after the trip.. good going ..