After finishing the last paper of our final year in college in Nagpur, Pihu, my friend, and I came across a poster on the college gallery’s notice board. It was from an adventure club, inviting the students to take part in the trekking expedition in Pachmarhi.
From the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra, it’s a distance of 258 kilometers by road, reachable in about 6 hours 15 minutes through meandering hilly roads towards Pachmarhi.
“Wow…this seems to be so exciting. I’ve so far only heard about this place, but never got a chance to visit there.” I exclaimed with glee.
“Yes, same here, and this is a golden opportunity for us to have fun and adventure in this beautiful place.” Pihu agreed with me.
Pachmarhi is a renowned hill station, at an elevation of 1,067 meters in the M.P state, since the British days. It is crowded with tourists throughout the year. On the destined day of the midsummer May 1996, some 25 years ago, we girls, a total of 30 in number, boarded a bus from Nagpur, in the morning.
Along with us came five adventure club members, all of the men, two cooks, two assistants, and the group leader Atul sir, to guide and supervise each one of us.
As soon as we all reached Pachmarhi late in the evening, crossing mild hilly terrains, we headed straight to the Bharat Scout & Guides camping ground. Students from all over the country report here first, before heading to the jungle trek or for different adventure activities here. After freshening up we all took dinner and halted there for a night.
The next early morning, our whole group of 35 people walked towards the nearby Jatashankar stalagmites caves, by crossing the township. From here began the trek through the semi-dense forest.
Atul sir had planned out a seven days excursion, in which a tent was provided to every five girls, occupying one single tent. Thirty girls were divided into six, to occupy a polyester tent, which was portable enough to carry in our rucksacks, provided by the club. Emergency essentials were also packed by each one of us.
From the Jatashankar caves, we didn’t go much far, towards an open ground, and before the sunset, each group was supposed to erect its tent. Atul sir had demonstrated how to fix it by putting up his tent first, to be occupied by the other four male members.
After the sunset, a small bonfire was arranged in front of the tents, where all of us relaxed, shared jokes, did storytelling, and played ‘antakshari’.
The cooks had brought in the small gas cylinder with some cereal grains and dry veggies, to last till a week. After early dinner, everyone headed to sleep. Of course, Pihu and I were in the same tent along with three other girls.
(With my friend, I’m in black leggings.)
By getting up early for the morning rituals, each group packed up its tent. And after breakfast, we trekked in the forest towards a direction guided by Atul sir.
We were supposed to trek for at least 15 kilometers each day till noon. By finding an open area anywhere, we would pitch in our tents, for the night stay. While the cooks remained busy preparing lunch and dinner for all.
The same storytelling session and singing in front of the bonfire was carried out here too, to be repeated till the last day, for our daily evening relaxation.
This day we headed to a steeply elevated stony area, where we were about to catch a glimpse of 10,000 years old cave paintings on the stones. That was an exhilarating experience.
Even normal tourists don’t get to see them, as they are deep in the forests. On the way, some of the girls including me captured the beautiful landscape everywhere, in our cameras.
On this day, we had crossed several streams and short waterfalls, before finding a place to put up our tents.
It must be mentioned that each group of five girls was directed to stay awake and guard for an hour, for all the tents the whole night till 5 a.m.
My group came out of the tent at the allotted 1 a.m almost half asleep. It was a bit scary for Pihu and me, deep in the jungle there was total darkness. Though each one of us had carried a torch to look around.
Just half an hour had passed, when all five of us could distinctly hear a terrible growl. We flashed our torchlight all around and alarmingly shouted at Atul sir to come out.
One of his assistants Gopi sir came out, with a burning stick on one hand and a dagger, on the other hand. He bravely moved in the direction we heard an animal’s growl.
Within 5 minutes he came back, safe and sound. Gopi sir said that he had observed a standing bear, quite close to the tents. But seeing the fire, the bear fled back into the bushes. We all heaved a sigh of relief together.
This day we had trekked down up to a kilometer in a deep gorge to see the magnificent Duchess falls. After reaching there, Atul Sir allowed us to frolic for some time under the waterfall.
The experience and effort were worth it as we all forgot about the exhausting journey, from way down, to the way up during our return. Somewhere along, we also got a view of Bees falls and Silver falls, from a far-off distance.
That was the last day of the expedition, carrying our rucksack. Atul sir informed us that we were circling the town of Pachmarhi all the while, trekking through the forests and hillocks.
On this day we had reached Chauragarh, where a Shiva temple is located on top of a steep hill, reachable by climbing more than 1000 steps.
After the darshan and stepping down, the entire group now walked back to Pachmarhi, via the road route. Our tents were ready in advance at the Bharat Scout & Guides ground. We took a bath, scrubbing ourselves hard, as we had missed out on proper bathing during the trip.
At the crack of dawn, Atul sir took us to the most beautiful spot here known as Dhupgarh. We had trekked minus the rucksack from the town, to have a breathtaking view of the sunrise point.
Dhupgarh (1352 meters) is the highest elevation point in the Satpura range of hills where Pachmarhi is located. Sunset point is also located close by.
In the afternoon, in a relaxed mood by strolling through the market we finally went to a major tourist attraction, Pandav Gufa. It’s believed that during the Mahabharata times, the Pandavas were in exile in these caves, for several years.
That was the end of the unforgettable trekking expedition. The next morning, everyone with their baggage reached the Pachmarhi bus stand, to return to Nagpur. Indeed, we girls had brought back beautiful memories of our lifetime.
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