Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kondana - Waterfall Rappelling

Aug 17 (2 days ago)

from Amit Thaker
to Ashish Tewari - Back in Bombay
date Aug 17, 2007 11:49 AM
subject waterfall rapelling

you up for waterfall rappelling this saturday?


And so it begins.

Kondana is a small village near Rajmachi, pretty much like any other in the Sahyadris - small, anonymous, out in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by virulent green lushness for three months a years and blistering brown the rest, with the chief distinguishing feature of having the Kondana caves within an hour's trek.
The caves are Buddhist, and pretty basic - around eight Viharas, a giant Chaitya with octagonal pillars (which means it's around 200-100 BC) and a water tank. The whole thing is under the overhang of a 70-foot waterfall.

Amit is an online mediaperson who also, among other things, tortures the unsuspecting with 'easy, fun, fifteen-minute trek' outings that in some cases still cause nightmares.
I am, among other things, the cackling Igor who sometimes lures the abovementioned unsuspecting victims to him.

Started around seven from Dadar TT (a loosely defined location which may be, depending on circumstances, the real Dadar TT, Dadar Station exit, the overbridge, inside the train at Matunga, Mahim, or any point in between depending on how late you are - as examplified by the "Ya, I'm at Dadar only, just reaching, see you in five minutes" variety)

Had a good entertaining start when T, while labouring to open the bus window, pushed so hard that the entire frame and rubber coaming came off and fell out on the road, leaving him with a giant gaping picture window four feet wide. The driver gave him a look that the Buddha himself would have been proud of - exasperation, weariness, disgust, and an overall forgiveness for he knoweth not what he doth.

Stopped at a dhaba before the village, where Amit formally rejected R from being a member of the Gujrati community, and I got a nice shot of a spider breakfasting on a fly - full NatGeo ishtyle, ya. This is definitely one of the snaps I shall be extra proud of.

Headed off to Kondana past a giant bus that managed to get stuck in the village road, and had a horrified moment when we reached the village and found not one, but three similar buses parked; apparently some large-scale outing was in progress. Quickly got out and headed up, where we came across the contents of the giant bus, a giant group of giant aunties & uncles who, though definitely enjoying themselves hugely, were equally prone to getting stuck in the trail-slush as their mighty steed had been in the narrow lanes; also had a slightly surreal moment when we passed what appeared to be an emu farm.

Why would anyone raise emus? is there some top-secret black market for the rarest of rare delicacies, emu eggs? Or drumsticks two feet long for specialty chinese restaurants? Or feathers? Or even some sadistic petting zoo where toddlers are brought to grow into a lifelong terror of giant beady-eyed birds like wooly velociraptors that can peck you hard enough to break a bone, with a smug expression all the while they do it?

Waterfall rappelling, in case you don't know or haven't guessed by now, means rappelling down a waterfall. You lower a rope, put on a harness, attach the descender, and abseil down through the water. How much fun it is, depends a lot on the height and volume of the fall - if there's a lot of water, it knocks you off your feet, hangs you upside-down in the air and drowns you, and lands on your head like rocks. Or it can be a gentle pitter-patter like soft rain. The toughest bit isn't the actual going down, but the lead-up to it; maintaining your footing, going over the edge, not peeing in fright when you look down for the first time from the edge - when it's too late to back out - and seeing the water falling off into what looks like certain death.

Amidst much hilarity (when someone else was going down) and gritted teeth, shaking legs, prayers to God, shrieks of panic and tearful protestations (when you yourself were) all fifteen of us finished it; I was the second-last one down, so I missed the admiring oohs and aahs of the beautiful young women of J&J who had come for an office outing and miscellaneous other picnickers, but what I did have instead, after being in fairly cold water and the stress of hanging in space as well, was some hot chai and a cig -
Mmmm -
...And the stories of how everyone felt, both coming down and watching the others come down.
The caves are beautiful at the first glance, a little oasis of serenity and order in the middle of the jungle - later you see the graffiti and the plastic bags and rubbish that are sadly becoming the epitaph of so many beautiful places not only in the Sahyadris, but all over the world.

Waterfall Rappelling at Kondana, a little photoessay.

T attempts to decipher the mysteries of a banana -

- and succeeds.

The rappelling first-timers - the 'before' photo

R takes a look down

Ah, the variety of expressions that happen, the entire range of human emotion covered in two phases -
The first, when you're excited, charged up, happy, brave, proud of yourself, ready for adventure, ready to take on anything.
The second, just after you've looked down.

Applause for the first sacrifice


Amit going down

Amit, the video

This is fun!


How high is it anyway?


Let him live, says Caesar.

What have I done to deserve this?

Somebody slips, and the audience reacts.

This harness is too tight!

I mean, really tight!

And damn, it's getting tighter!

It won't cut off the blood supply, right?

Yay! My turn at last!

Look into my eyes...

T gets ready

Kondana caves

The group under the overhang

The falls

Prehistoric domestic violence?

Stinky the scratching dog

Pretty Sahyadri scenery

Shades of green

My water-wrinkled foot.

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