Hanging On a 10mm Rope

The Past:

     8 years ago I took part in a waterfall rappelling event which was organised by a professional group named ‘Youngsterz’. The event took place in a waterfall near a village ‘Vihigaon’ near Kasara. Everything was going fine. I was having fun watching everyone going down the cliff and disappear into the waterfall, while at the same time waiting for my turn. It had started raining as soon as the event started. We could notice the increasing flow of water but the activity still continued. I was close to my turn by 6:30pm. But then it started raining heavily and the waterfall was flowing with thunderous sound. Just as soon as I was about to wear my harness, the organizers cancelled the event. I came home disappointed and wrote down the experience in my blog. The link of which is mentioned below.

http://pranaymeher.blogspot.in/2008/09/water-fall-rappelling-on-10th-august.html

The last line in my blog read…Organisers had to stop the event and I had to return with disappointed heart. I hope I’ll get to do the rappelling next time.”

 

The Present:

– The Village Lost In Time –

     3:35 am, 4th September, 2016. My phone’s alarm rang. I bolted from the bed. Got ready, booked an Uber and in no time reached Borivali at my elder brother Milind’s place. Me Milind and his wife/my sister-in-law Meeta sat in our car, picked up Meeta’s colleague Jasmine on the way and then drove towards Panvel.

     It was Meeta who had made the reservations for all of us. Since past couple of years Milind-Meeta and me have been doing many adventure activities. Milind-Meeta’s 9 year old daughter, my sweet niece Tanaya has inherited their adventure genes quite well. I’m sure she would have loved to come for this adventure, but since the activity was dangerous, Milind-Meeta decided not to take her along. They both regretted it pretty soon when they met Arshia. More about that later.

     We took a first halt at Mc’Donalds, Panvel. It was crowded and there was only one guy at the counter for taking orders. Things were moving so slowly that I thought if I stand in the queue for breakfast, it would be delivered by lunch time. We moved on from there and decided to have a breakfast in any local restaurant we find on the way. We realized the mishap pretty soon. The diversion we took towards the Dodhani village (which was the meeting point for the event) was entirely deserted. The road snaked through small localities which had very few houses in the vicinity. The organizers were going to provide the breakfast anyways, so we left our hopes of finding any eatery on the route. Our food searching attention was soon diverted to the beauty along the road we were driving on. The road was playing hide-n-seek with a lagoon or may be it was a river. But the view was amazing. We forgot the fact that we were hungry. We reached the end of the road and the meeting point for the activity, Dodhani village.

     We got down from the car. We were the first one to reach there. It was 7:45am. Everyone was asked to assemble at the meeting point at 8:30am. So we had ample amount of time at hand. I took a good look around at the village. It was as if the time had stopped here 10 years ago. I was observing every villager passing by. The only glimpses of modern time I found here were smartphones and funky hairstyles of some young boys who were showing off on their Yamaha FZ16.

     Most of the houses were built with a traditional styles with veranda in front of the doors. Women were carrying clothes in the buckets. I assumed they were going at the river to wash the clothes. Little kids were playing joyful games of their own. A hen and her chicks were strolling in the open ground with their rhythmic neck movements. Men were reading newspapers and bunch of them were indulged in a discussion. Meeta went around for a walk while rest of us sat near a village temple. Meeta came back in some time. She and Jasmine wanted a cup of tea. We looked around and saw a small shop that looked like a tea stall. A mid aged guy soon came and opened the shop. Jasmine went ahead and asked if we would get a tea. She was told that tea was not served in the shop. We looked again at the guy from distance and observed him taking a bowl, slicer and potatoes. He started making slices of the potatoes, clearly for making pakodas. We were surprised how a pakoda shop does not sell tea, as both are considered as the best combination. Clearly, the shop owner had all the the equipment for making tea but the only ingredient lacking was his intention to make it. I was amusingly noticing the disappointment on Meeta and Jasmine’s face. Our tummy was sinking in. We needed something to eat. My empty stomach was making gurgling noises. Our phones were buzzing with Whatsapp notifications. All the members participating in the event today, were posting their commute status on the Whatsapp group. Messages were like – So and so has boarded the train, So and so has reached the Panvel station.. etc.

     Soon a blue colored car appeared. A family- husband, wife and their daughter got down from the car. We had a little while ago read a message from Hemang Nansee saying that he was reaching the meeting point. I assumed it was him. He looked at us and walked where we sat. I stood up and asked, “Hemang?”. He said “Yes”. I introduced myself and rest of us. This family was very talkative and in no time we started conversing like old friends meeting after a long time. Hemang’s wife Kinnary told us about how Arshia, their 10 year old daughter, forced them to come for the Waterfall Rappelling event. Hemang had to take permission from the organizers to allow a 10 year old to attend this activity. Arshia, was sweet little kid and was little shy in the beginning. She and Meeta became friends quickly. Arshia took car keys from her father and fetched a mobile phone from the car just to show her photographs to Meeta. Then she opened an app which lets you make a cartoon pictures of anyone just by taking photograph of the face. Arshia insisted Meeta to pose for the camera. Meeta hesitated. But in a battle between a little kids’ insistence and a grown up women’s hesitance, the little kids’ insistence had won. After learning how interested Arshia was in the rappelling event, Meeta felt sorry for not getting Tanaya (her daughter) along. I’m quite sure that Arshia and Tanaya would found good friends in each other.

     Few villagers had gather around at the open ground right before the temple. It was the last stop for ST (State Transport Bus). Some were holding heavy zholas while some had heavy baskets carefully balanced on their head. Soon a bus arrived. The remaining members of our group were in the bus. As soon as the bus stopped, the door opened and the villagers, instead of letting the passengers get down first, started forcefully entering the bus to secure their seat. It was as if the whether department had issued a tornado warning and the bus was the only safe place for the villagers to take refuge. Our group members remained inside the bus and got down only after the last villager took his/her seat. No one was interested to fight in the mini ‘Pawan Khind’ of the bus.

     First one to get down from the bus was Ms. Vishakha, our team lead for the day. She had asked us to call her Vishu. We all soon assembled in the temple’s veranda. We had our introduction round. Everyone was asked to introduce themselves, what they do and what’s the craziest thing they have done so far. We were also introduced to Harshal, our co-lead for the day. It was great to meet people from different walks of life and knowing that the common thing that has pulled them all there on the day was a passion for adventure. It was 18 of us in total. We were given forms to fill up our details and after that we had our breakfast. The breakfast was served in the veranda of a house adjacent to the temple. The lady who had cooked our breakfast (Pohe) was serving it in dishes with a cup of tea. After all these refreshments, we commenced on our trek. Vishu had briefly told us the precautions to be taken on the trek.


– The Trek –

     We walked though the small alleys of the village with the great waterfall in our sight. The blowing wind was keeping the falling water from touching the ground. It was getting blown and disintegrated in mid air. From such a long distance, the water appeared to fall in slow motion, as if it refused to adhere to newton’s gravitational constant. We soon found ourselves out of the village and in an open pasture. Our trail went through countless water streams and small farms. Villagers had marked the territory of their beautiful farms with wooden sticks. The path turned narrow and the ascend began. We made our way through knee deep water streams. At the top of our ascend as we took a turn, the rappelling site came into view. Three members of the organizer team were already setting up the rappelling gears.

     One by one all eighteen of us gathered at the rappelling site after about 45 minutes of trek. Vishu introduced us to Hemant sir, who gave us a demonstration on how to perform the rappelling activity. From his demonstration it was pretty evident that he had done this many times. He told us everything about rappelling in every minute details. All of us had gathered around him in a semi circle while he tied a rope to a nearby tree and showed us the foot positions and body postures to follow during the activity. After this demo, we all were taken into the waterfall in a safe zone. The first six members were summoned and were getting hooked up to their harness.

     Harshal and I were already having a conversation and were sharing our travel experiences. He asked me to come and sit with other members of the group while the first batch performs their rappelling activity. We sat on boulders nearby where I got a chance to interact with other members. I met Aniket and Dipti (a couple from Mumbai), Ankita and Vijaya.


– The Rappelling Experience –

     Even though I was engaged in a conversation with Aniket, Dipti, Ankita, Vijaya and Harshal I was throwing quick glances at the members performing the activity. First one to go were the Nansee family, followed by Jasmine, Meeta and Milind. I was recording it on my camera. Hemant sir informed us that Meeta followed his instructions correctly and made a smooth descend down the cliff. All of us who were having conversation were called up near the cliff. It was going to be our turn next. We grabbed a tied rope and slid down the slippery rock where Hemant sir and rest of the organizers stood. We sat on the edge of the waterfall in a chilling water. One by one we saw everyone going down the cliff.

     Now it was my turn. I went near Hemant sir. He tied me with the harness, gave me gloves and helmet to wear. I wore the helmet and then strapped the camera over it. Made sure that the recording was on. I didn’t want to miss this moment. This literally was the ‘next time’ I had mentioned in my blog about the missed opportunity of the waterfall rappelling. This ‘next time’ had taken 8 years to arrive. Thanks to Meeta otherwise it may have taken even longer.

     I was hooked up to the system which was designed to let a 10mm rope slide through it in such a way that the user can control the sliding. Hemant sir corrected my hand positions. I started my descend. With every footstep backwards, I was getting closer to the cliff. I could feel my brain going in hyperactive mode to capture every tiny detail of this experience. I soon found my both feet planet on the edge of the cliff. Adrenaline was gushing through my veins at a force higher than the water in the waterfall. I let go of the edge of the cliff and took a step down. Took a quick glance down below. I saw the curved rope going through the frothy water and appear in view again. The end of the rope was held by Vishu, who was standing at the bottom to assist the descend of every individual. I found myself horizontal to the ground as I planted my feet on the vertical wall of the cliff. After few steps further down, I was immersed in the complete flow of the waterfall. The falling water on my helmet was making a deafening sound. It reminded me of a very cruel game me and my school friends played. Whenever any of us would get a haircut, he had to shout the word ‘taaji’. If he fails to do it in time, then he would find himself at the receiving end of  countless slaps on head from all the friends. We would even hide after seeing our friend with a new haircut from a long distance, and before he knew, we would assault from our hiding position and rain slaps on his head. As we grew older we realized how dangerous this game was. One hard slap on head could have resulted in death as well. Luckily, me and all my school friends are still alive. Well, the point was that I was at the receiving end of such ‘slaps on my head’ as I was hanging on a 10mm rope right beneath the flowing water of the waterfall. I had never received so many head slaps even from my school friends during my entire school life. After a while there was no wall to plant my feet on. I heard a whistle blow through the loud noise of the water. I guess someone on the cliff or Vishu was instructing me to let go of the rope. They were going to control my descend from the top until I get to plant my feet on the rock again. It was hard to keep eyes open in the waterfall. Once I felt rock again beneath my feet, I took control of the rope again. I was letting the rope slip from the right hand while keeping a soft grip on rope above my body. Soon, the noise of the falling water became soft. I could open my eyes again. I looked above at the point where I started my descend from. Finally, the adventure was finished. I had done it. I decided to write a new blog about the experience. Vishu pulled me out of the waterfall with the rope she had in her hand and helped me remove the harness. I could see Aniket had already started with his descend. Milind, Meeta and Jasmine were having snacks nearby. I munched on some snacks too.

   The Nansee family had gone already. We also decided to make a move from there. We took directions from Vishu for our way back. By the time we started moving Aniket was down and Dipti was descending. We waved good bye to Aniket and Vishu and started walking back to the village.

     I was going through the experience all over again in my mind. I truly loved and enjoyed the experience. Thanks to the Mumbai Travelers team for great support. Thanks Vishu, Thanks Harshal, Thanks Hemant Sir and everyone involved in the event.

     Hemant Sir had already informed us about the rappelling event at the Konkan Kada which was a mighty 1500 ft descend. My fingers were already twitching to hold the 10mm rope again at the height of 1500 feet.


Here’s the video that I made on the entire experience…

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