I had to stop.
And not just because I had trekked 2 K’s uphill with my pack and guitar after a 42-hour journey from the southern Indian state of Karnateka to the Western Ghats in Maharashtra.
A journey spanning just over a thousand kilometers on two trains, sleeping on the floor of the waiting room of the Igatpuri train station surrounded by snoring police officers at 01:00 and a bus that planted me in the sleepy village of Bhandardara (Shendi) at five in the AM.
I had to stop because as I stood on the plateau and looked around while the rising sun painted the day with light, I simply could not believe that I was where I was.
The Western Ghats of Maharashtra (just under 200 km from the state’s capital, Mumbai) are home to the state’s highest peak, Kalsubai, rising up to 1,646 meters above sea level to keep watch across the vast valley where the Pravara River cuts through with the Randha Waterfall, the H20 feeding into Arthur Lake and ending at Wilson Dam.
The planet-waking orange orb that slowly came up behind a peak like the parting of heavy curtains began to warm up the day so I de-robed myself of the blanket I was wrapped in.
It was still early and the sleepy village of Murshet, sitting on a Table Top in the heart of the Sahyadri Hills, was just stirring awake. A foggy mist bedded the valley below as I walked through a small forest along the unsealed road.
I had been invited by Prat Chi to spend a few days at his eco-house appropriately named the Chi House.
Chi is the 22nd letter in the Greek alphabet. It’s also the 22nd star in a constellation. But more importantly, it’s the Chinese word for ‘life-force’ or prana.
Chi House is a small, round home with a fully utenislised kitchen, a double bed, toilet and shower and a flat roof sporting a vista of the kind you have to constantly rub your eyes to make sure that you are seeing what you are currently seeing – an endless valley bordered by rising hills with agriculture fields dotting the Pravara River.
The house is care-taken by the family living next door. If you should so please, they’ll cook all your meals for you but it’s best to have a little bit of Hindu in your backpocket as the family doesn’t speak English.
I had arrived after two weeks of detoxing, healing from a shattered heart and was four days from the planet’s biggest party – New Year’s that would end 2017 and present 2018 to a world that was constantly on edge with questionable global leaders making decisions that, well, need to be questioned.
Things I wouldn’t know about having been disconnected from everything up here in the hills. The family had just stirred awake as I arrived and had to clean up a bit so I headed up to the roof and meditated in this new, fresh surroundings before I practiced yoga.
I was presented with breakfast of beaten rice with lentils and curry leaves and then headed down to Shendi village to stock up on supplies. I hadn’t cooked in a long time and I was going to utilise my time here to do just that. Especially with a pressure cooker being made available.
The residents of Shendi are quite friendly although very few that I encountered spoke English. All the tourists I came across were domestic. And as it was coming up to New Year’s, colourful pop-up tents were being pitched around Arthur Lake with the tourists coming to house them slowly spilling in over the coming days.
The weekend saw Shendi come to life, like it had been charged with an electrical current after flat-lining. Hundreds of people descended on the village to take advantage of the markets. The streets lined with vegetable stalls, fish mongers and small shack-like restaurants serving chai and pakodas (deep-fried onions).
I explored the lake-side but the amount of people put me off and I returned to Murshet Table Top to simply breathe in the fresh air of the mountains, cook, meditate, practice yoga and make sure my jaw didn’t drop to often due to the astounding views.
On New Year’s Day I awoke in a tent, having had to move due to the house being booked by Prat’s friends to celebrate the end and beginning of the year (there are beds and blankets to accommodate up to 15-20 people) .
I stood with them, watching the sunrise as I had done what now seemed like a lifetime ago when I had arrived. I collected my pack and guitar, bid them a happy New Year, and headed down to the sleepy village of Shendi for a 36-hour journey back to Goa, my chi vitalised and stocked up for 2018.