Unlike in other parts of the world, where people run for cover when it rains, in the Western Ghats, people head out on hikes when the monsoon arrives. The rains bring the scorched hills back to life: the aroma of parched earth slaking its thirst, the sound of gushing streams and thundering waterfalls, and the sight of a sea of green paddy fields. Spending the weekend hiking can be invigorating, but it also calls for a certain amount of caution and planning ahead.
On weekends there are always other people on the trails, but this may not be the case on weekdays. Many trails are marked with white arrows painted on trees and rocks, but these can be washed out or obscured by moss, and lichen. Contrary to what you may be told by locals, it’s very easy for a city person to get lost or take a wrong turn, and in the monsoon this can be particularly dangerous. GPS and Google maps won’t really help (not to mention what the rain will do to your smartphone).
If you have doubts about your ability to read trail signs and manoeuvre your way through the fields and forests, it is advisable to engage the services of a local villager (₹200 to ₹300 approximately for a few hours) who will not only guide you, but will also be able to share a wealth of knowledge on local legend, culture, flora and fauna, escape routes, and the dangers of changing weather patterns. This is also a good way to put some money into the local economy and ensure your safety.
If all of this seems like too much work, there are hiking and adventure outfits that organise and run monsoon ventures in Maharashtra. Every year people do get lost, and have fatal accidents, so if you’re unsure it is best to go with the experts.
Whether you hire a guide, or decide to hit the trail solo or with a group of friends, ensure you have this essential of items with you.
● Good walking shoes
● Water bottle (at least 1 litre)
● Whistle (in case you get lost)
● Pen knife
● A section of rope (6 m)
● Waterproof your phone, wallet, money etc (ziplock or dry bag)
● First aid kit
● A set of dry clothes (waterproofed)
● Snacks and emergency rations
● Walking pole or stick
● Raincoat, rain poncho, or windcheater
● Warm top or jacket (waterproof)
Appeared in the August 2013 issue as “Walking in the Rain”.
Inspired to head out? Our list of DIY treks near Mumbai is a great way to spend the weekend.