September 16, 2019
Monsoon isn’t a great time to trek, some may say considering the inconvenience that comes with trekking in heavy rains. However, for avid trekkers and nature lover’s monsoon can be the best time to satiate their thirst to wander around the fresh smelling green blanketed lands, forests and milky waterfalls when it pours heavily. The very idea of soaking in the monsoon rains in the natural beauty of the enchanting hinterlands of Goa’s was quite an exhilarating. It was with this intention I had booked by tickets in March itself for Goa Monsoon Trekking Expedition 2019 held in the month of July this year.
My friends Charu from Varanasi and Radhakrishna from Chennai also booked the tickets for the camp III so that we could be together. There were 6 batches of trekkers spread over the entire month of July and spilled over to the first week of August. It was our good fortune that the monsoon fury that caused havoc in Karnataka-Goa apart from other states spared us during our 6 day trek starting from July 16, 2019.
My friends wanted to see Karwar and adjoining places having travelled all the way to Karnataka-Goa before embarking on our trekking expedition. We spent two days in Uttara Kannada before taking the train to Madgaon and then to Goa. Our base camp was arranged at Thane, in Dongurli Panchayat Building in Sateri Wada, about 50 kms from Panaji. But for the benefit of trekkers descending from different parts of India we were asked to report in a transit camp in the Old Secretariat Building, Panaji before 2 pm on July 16. Youth Hostel Goa had arranged a special two special buses to take us to the base camp. After a heavy lunch of traditional Goan fish taali we were in the bus at 3 pm.
The bus passed through some of the forested area it started raining heavily. Those sitting inside could feel the rain as the bus roof began to leak. It was then I noticed that the driver of the old bus was driving without the wiper despite raining heavily. We thought the rains were a good omen for our trek as we were expecting heavy showers to get a feast to our senses. We were ready at Sateri base camp for the evening coffee.
The two huge halls of the Panchayat building were allotted for YHAI trek and we loved the base camp for its bucolic setting. Food arrangement was made in an adjoining old building that belongs to the panchayat.
There were 94 in our batch who had arrived from different parts of India - from West Bengal, Rajasthan, UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu apart from a sizeable number of Kannadigas. Though online application said limit was restricted to 50 for online registration we were surprised to have such a big number in each group. Managing a big group despite guides is quite a challenging job and that too in the rainy season.
There was a briefing by the camp leader on the places we were scheduled to visit. Unlike most other treks, participants had to carry only water and lunch box for the day’s training which meant we were spared from carrying a heavy backpack. It was a six day trek including the day of arrival and departure which means we had full four days of programme in Goa. In all the four days the final destination was to waterfalls traversing through some thick vegetation.
The actual trekking began on the second day and the group was taken to Hivre Khurd trekking via Morchacho Vazar. We had guides both in the front and rear to keep the group together during all the 4 days of actual trek. 'Vazar' is a Portuguese word meaning to ooze out and in this context it meant waterfall. We were taken by two buses for about 3 kms and from there we began to trek towards the waterfalls walking through steeps ups and downs through cashew plantations. The breathtaking panoramic view of Mahadei Wildlife Sanctuary where the waterfalls are located was like a windfall.
There wasn’t much of a downpour during the second days trek and we had to depend on the waterfalls to satiate our hunger for water. Having spent enough time in both the waterfalls we had our lunch and began our journey back. In the process we covered 10 kms of arduous to and fro journey. Again a walk of 3 kms amidst the lush greenery took us back to the base camp.
On return to the base camp some of the trekkers (vegetarians) began a futile search for curds in the nearby shops which wasn’t part of the menu provided by the Youth Hostel. Finally we asked a nearby shopkeeper to keep some stock for the next day which he promptly did for the remaining days. Some of the trekkers went around the city to get a feel of the surrounding area where the base camp was located.
On the third day we were scheduled to visit Pali waterfalls, trekking a distance of about 10 kms. There were two waterfalls in Pali and we had to trek through the lush green forests. The Pali waterfall was quite a beauty with voluble water falling down on a rock as if it was giving it a nice shower. The water that splashed on the rock was so powerful and was like an Aquatic therapy. One of trekkers almost lost balance in the gushing water and hit a hard rock below but was timely saved by a fellow trekker. Fortunately nothing untoward happened. Despite spending a considerable time we were reluctant to leave the place but had to return with a heavy heart.
On the way back I took a big stick and felled a ripe jackfruit from the tree in the middle of the forest. A fellow trekker had a small knife and we ripped it open and the small group that had come in the front enjoyed the fruit. The fun of eating in an unconventional way has its own share of fun. On return to the base camp we went around to see the bucolic beauty of Satteri village though it rained in the evenings.
The group was scheduled to go Shelop Badruk village a trek of 8 plus 8 kms to Sulsulo on the 4th day where we were to visit 4 waterfalls. We passed through some of the picturesque rural milieu enroute. Though these waterfalls were relatively small they did provide a soothing impact to the water hungry trekkers. It was during this trail our friend Radhakrishna was hurt on the forehead when he slipped in an attempt to climb a rock in the waterfall. It was quite a deep cut and at the moment the only option was to put a band aid and take rest. Once we returned to the base camp he went to a nearby clinic to get a ‘T T injection’ after much prodding. Of course this T T injection episode had its hilarious moments and it is clearly etched in our memories.
The after-dinner gathering which is a must in all YHAI conducted treks and we all witnessed a cultural fiesta when the large group of trekkers from Gujarath entertained us with their graceful dance performances. In no time the group choreographed a traditional Gujarati dance on popular demand.
On the 5th day we went to Kumthal through a picturesque landscape trekking about 8 kms. The original plan was not to cross the Mahadayi river stream as it would not have been possible to cross it during heavy rains. But there wasn’t much rain and we crossed the stream that had water just above the knees. So the next 3 to 4 hours were spent here in the stream skylarking and enjoying every moment of the fun-filled time. Learning to dive, float and swim with an inexhaustible vitality also was part of the fun. There were one or two incidents of people injuring their knee during such fun and one or two even dropped their phones in the water. Even then, fun continued till we heard the whistle to come out of the water. The return journey was from a different path and in to time we were back in the base camp.
That was our last day in the base camp and just before we reached the base camp it began to rain heavily and it did not stop raining till the next morning. We said goodbye to Satteri.
We packed our bags the same night as the local bus was to leave base camp at 9 am after breakfast. As the old bus was leaking we had a harrowing time travelling back to Panaji. To put it in a positive way we had a ‘monsoon bus journey’ to Panaji. The old secretariat building in Panjim we met the next group of trekkers who were all eager to enjoy the next 6 days of their rendezvous with monsoon.