We started from Bangalore on Thursday afternoon in the train towards Pune. After 19 hours in the train, we arrived there with little delay. The big delay then happened on the bus ride to the forest. Instead of the scheduled 4 hours it took 10 hours. Obviously, the driver was inexperienced and therefore slow. But in addition, a land slide and the flooding of a road due to the opening of a damn didn't help either.
Thus it happened that we could not hike up Ratangad fort as originally planned. Instead, we were forced to spend the night with little food in some village, where we found a dry spot on what seems to have been the porch of a school.
Next morning, after a "breakfast" of three chocolate bars, we drove a bit further with the bus and finally hit the trail.
As it was monsoon season, we had non-stop rain throughout the day. But on the positive side, the forest was lush green. And we saw waterfalls galore. Naturally, these waterfalls form creeks. And through quite a few creeks we had to wade through. I still remember thinking at the first such creek whether I should take the hiking boots off to keep them dry. A funny thought in retrospect, as we encountered such a creek about every 10 minutes at least. And on the way up the mountain a large part of the track had actually converted into a creek. Thus, we were effectively hiking within a creek.
Our first goal of the day was Katrabai Pass. Up and over we went as the leaders of the hike were pressing on - a long trail was still ahead of us. Now, a few explanations of the make-up of the group is in order. These were in fact three separate groups that had decided to hike together. One was from Bangalore, one from Hyderbad and one from Pune. Originally, more than 40 people had signed up for the trail. But because it was clear that it would be tough, only somewhat experienced hikers were permitted to join. And with that all the confusion started (very uncharacteristic, as usually these hikes are well organized). For with all the cancellations it was uncertain for a long time exactly who would be joining the trail. Also, with three groups it was unclear who would bring which equipment. And it turned out that it was food that was forgotten (or so we thought, see below).
Thus it came about that "breakfast", "lunch" and "tea time" consisted of nothing more than a few chocolate bars. And the trail was long. If one counts 4 hours pure walking time up and down the mountain at 3 km per hour plus 4 hours pure walking time in the plain at 5 km per hour, one arrives at a total distance of 32 km. And that's for sure a conservative estimate.
A further challenge were the two larger rivers we had to cross. Fortunately, a large rope had been brought along, which helped very much in getting everyone across.
When we finally arrived at the tribal village where we intended to sleep, it was already night. A villager took us into his hut, where we were able to warm us at a little fire. The hut was tiny, and two thirds was in fact a barn occupied by two cows. And the floor was simple earth. His wife cooked a delicious meal. It took a while to prepare, as first the rice had to be cleaned from any pebbles. I was told that it's name is kudi, which is rice with some sauce. It may not have been spiced all that much, but after that long trail, it tasted delicious (we paid for the food, and for sure it was worth every Rupee that was given).
After the meal we were then allowed to spend the night in the village temple. The temple was nothing more than a concrete platform with a roof and walls on three sides, and the relief of a god in the middle. But it was a dry place. And I think it was very generous of the villagers to allow us to sleep there.
In the morning we needed to establish a phone link to the bus driver so that he would pick us up. That's not any easy task in such a remote area. Following the advice of the villagers we hiked down the road and at one spot someone went up a hill a bit. There we finally got the connection.
Eventually, the bus picked us up. As we did not want to risk missing the train from Pune, we decided not to do any further trekking on that day. In the evening we thus arrived in Pune by bus, had some dinner, and then waited for the train at 1 am that finally took us back to Bangalore. All along on Sunday we ate whenever the opportunity came up - no surprise after such a long trail without any real food. But the strangest thing was: We were able to start this feeding frenzy right in the bus. For there it turned out that some people had brought food all along. But for some for mere mortals incomprehensible reasons they had decided to "save" it for when it was really needed.
So what's the summary of this trip? Stunning landscape, waterfalls everywhere, a really nice experience at a tribal's home. And an uncharacteristic organizational chaos.