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Old 24th November 2015, 12:06   #1
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Default Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Trekking 100kms.
In less than 48 hours.

Yeah! How hard can it be?

This is the story of my own experience with 100Kms walk/trek.
It all started about one and half years back. I had never heard of "Oxfam" or "Trailwalker" till then. One fine day, a senior guy - Durgaprasad - from my office told me about it. This is what I understood:
- Oxfam is an international NGO working on many social causes relevant to India.
- Trailwalker is a team challenge. A fund raising event + a walkathon. 100kms | Teams of 4 | 48 Hours.

Durga: "Four of us participated last year. Completed the challenge in 37:xx hours. This year we are short by one, as one guy is currently overseas. Would you like to join instead?"

I blurted out a "YES" without even thinking for a moment. I enjoy treks (http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-naneghat.html (Photologue: 5 BHPians conquer the Naneghat)) and general walking. The default 1 hr goal on Google Fit is met almost everyday. During the 2006 flooding in Mumbai, I walked the entire JVLR road, a distance of 11kms in about 2.5 hrs. Before cycling, brisk walking was my favorite way to keep weight under check. All of that had possibly made me believe subconsciously that 100kms can be done. As Jeremy Clarkson would say - How hard can it be?

But slowly it started to dawn on me. Doubts started creeping in. Except the one-off 11kms during the 2006 Mumbai-floods and a few treks, I don't really have any long-distance walking experience. I cycle fair amount of distance regularly, but would that really help me in a 100kms walk? Legs have the strongest muscles in the body, but what about the rest of the body? I am 40+, would my back take that kind of strain? What about stamina? I can't really run due to poor stamina and have given up Marathon dreams long back. Walking is lower intensity as compared to jogging/running, but still would I have the stamina to do 100kms?

Last edited by SDP : 30th November 2015 at 23:58.
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Old 24th November 2015, 13:55   #2
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

One thing was certain, I need to prepare. The actual event dates were 5th and 6th Dec (2014) and I had couple of months. The team decided to squeeze in 2 practice treks of 25-30kms before the actual event. I missed the first practice in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, but managed to attend the 2nd practice with the rest of the team on 22nd Nov.

We did almost 30kms that day in about 6-6.5 hrs. From Sanjay Gandhi National Park gate to Kanheri caves and back .. twice. The first 15 odd kms were fine, but my feet started hurting bad after that. After a brief discussion with a team-mate, I realized that my shoes have very thinned out sole and that's why lot of impact is getting transferred to the foot inside. I need better shoes. New shoes. With the actual event less than 15 days away, it was quite risky getting a new pair of shoes. But with the current ones, it would have been practically impossible to do the 100kms. Quite a dilemma!

Read up on internet and came across 'pronation of foot' and Asics. Consulted a TBHPian friend Dodge_Viper who has a lot of experience with treks and he suggested picking up Quechua Forclaz from Decathlon. A quick trip to Decathlon and got Forclaz500 and 2 pairs of blister-preventing socks. One good thing about the shoes is that they are proper trekking boots with good ankle support. I tend to twist my ankles often, so good ankle support was a boon. We have to trek after sunset as well. Got busy in month-end activities at work and got to actually try those shoes barely a week before the event. Was planning a 10kms practice walk near my place. Did 4kms and realized that the right shoe was rubbing at one point near the ankle and I got a small blister there. After some time, the pain from the blister became unbearable. Abandoned the attempt and went home. By the time I reached home, the blister had burst. I let it heal for next 2 days. Somehow managed a few more short walks with the new shoes.

Since its a trek and not a walk, a head-torch is preferred over a hand-held one. Never used one. Borrowed it from Dodge_Viper (Thanks once again, KD). What else do I need? Started researching on google. Bought bandages, some basic medicines, lots of flavored Electral/Enerzal and Tang. A site suggested applying liberal amount of Vaseline petroleum jelly to the feet to keep them dry. So got that as well. Lots of dry-fruit (trail-mix) to munch on. Had a lot of dry-fit clothes already which I use during cycling, so did not buy anything new. To avoid chafing (skin becoming sore due to constant rubbing against clothes), dry-fit tight undergarments are advised. I had those already or at least I believed so (more about that later). A lot of people use hiking hat and a walking stick. I dismissed that as fad and opted to carry just normal cap/buffs and no walking stick. Seemed like I am all set from 'accessories' perspective, but the doubt remained - accessories are OK, has the engine (heart) and the drivetrain (legs) got enough grunt to go the whole hog? I became more and more restless as the day approached.

Last edited by SDP : 30th November 2015 at 11:01.
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Old 24th November 2015, 16:25   #3
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Structure of the trek
  • The trail starts from Garudmaachi in Tamhini Ghat and ends at Cloud 9 resort at Lonavala near the Amby Valley.
  • Most of the trail is through trek-paths, village mud roads, fields, rocky patches, forests, grass-lands and dried-up stream-crossings. Lots of uphill and downhill. Don't remember where I read it, but the Mumbai trailwalker event trail is supposed to be one of the tougher trails among the Oxfam trails across the globe.
  • The 100kms are divided into 10 unequal sections and there is a checkpoint (CP) at the end of each section. Besides check-in/check-out entry, the checkpoint provides shade, rest-area, access to toilets, water/ORS, basic medical facilities and physiotherapy
  • Having a support vehicle and a good support team is crucial. There are no restaurants or even wada-pav stalls anywhere nearby. So meals have to be managed by the support team or you have an option to pre-book meals with the event organizers.
  • The event starts at 6am on Friday morning and you are supposed to finish the 100kms before 6am on Sunday morning
  • Team of 4 needs to check-in and check-out together at each checkpoint.
  • Since the event starts at 6am on Friday, and the starting point is minimum 4 hours from Mumbai, most teams choose to stay in a hotel/resort near the starting point for Thursday night.
  • At the end of day-1, you can rest/sleep at checkpoint-5 (temporary pandal) or checkpoint-6 (school dormitory).
  • The trail is marked with white arrows and orange ribbons. There are reflective tapes also so as to help navigate the trail at night. At the end of each km, you would find a board which says how many total kms you have covered till that point.

Here's the trail-map:
Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?-p_20151126_073900.jpg

A little bit of detail about the various sections, distances and checkpoints:
Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?-p_20151126_073917.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 26th November 2015 at 22:09.
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Old 24th November 2015, 22:00   #4
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Last year: 5th Dec 2014

We had not managed to get any accommodation near the starting point. So we had to book a place at the Cloud 9 Hill Resort instead (the end point of the trail). That meant doing a dry-run on 4th Dec evening to understand how much time a car would take from Cloud-9 to Garudmaachi. The car took 1.5 hrs. That meant waking up that much early on the next day.

During the dry-run on 4th, we saw this interesting rock formation - something that looks like Buddha's head.
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We also witnessed a glorious sunset.
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D-day. Everybody got up at 3am, got ready, got in the car by 4am and reached the trail starting point Garudmaachi at 5:30am.

Registration done. Bibs. A cup of tea. Stretches. All set at the flag-off point.
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Flag off by Milind Soman and Rahul Bose - two respected names in the fitness community.
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After covering first 4 kms, the first real challenge was literally in front us. Yes, we have to cross that hill.
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A closeup of the white-dots at the center of the previous pic.
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The hill-climb does get pretty steep in some sections.
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The beautiful vistas all around provide a relief from the strain of the climb.
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Finally at top after 25 minutes of climb.
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We climb down the other side of the hill...through a small clearing in the forest. A nice natural canopy.
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We reach grass fields soon and the sun peeks from the top of the small hill on the right. Beautiful golden sun rays make everything look so warm and welcoming.
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A small bridge.
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Posing with the team. (L to R) Sanjay, Aparna, Sunil, Durga.
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Passing through the sleepy Tamhini village.
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In the first section, gap between most of the participating crowd is quite less. So a long solid line of trekkers is formed.
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8:30am. Two and half hours since start. We reach the first checkpoint. The Vinzaidevi high-school at Tamhini Village.
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After a quick breakfast and some rest to the feet, we push forward.
Beautiful green hills on the way to checkpoint 2.
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12 noon: A little bit of celebration on reaching checkpoint-2. 23 kms done since morning.
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A scene at checkpoint-6, next day early morning. An imposing hill in the immediate background.
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Met a friend Sameer (sameervg on TBHP). He was part of the support team for a couple of teams.
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Breakfast time. The one on the right is Harsha, who was providing support to our team. I can not emphasize the importance of the support team enough. Hats off to guys like Harsha and Sameer.
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Sometime during the second day.
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Finished 100kms at 8:38pm on the 2nd day. That's 38 hrs and 38 minutes.
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Really tired faces on the podium.
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With certificates and medals. Our moment of glory.
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BTW, two teams from Indian Army participated. The pic below shows super-humans from 26th Maratha Light Infantry, team Gladiators, who finished the 100kms in an astonishing 13:02 hrs!!
Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?-oxfam-army1.jpg
In the same pic, you can see the team from Rajputana Rifles just behind the Gladiators.

Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2015 at 00:07.
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Old 25th November 2015, 18:04   #5
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Quite a few of you must be wondering - there are 20 odd snaps till CP1 (i.e checkpoint-1) , just 2-3 snaps from CP1 to CP2 and then nothing till a early morning pic of CP6. What happened in between? Also the next day, except a couple of pics from the official photographer, there is directly a poor quality pic of the Finish line. Why? What happened there?

As I explain that, you will get the answer to the original question of "How hard can it be?"

If you are wearing wrong shoes and have not practiced, pain in the feet starts pretty early, as early as 5-6kms in the trail. For me, with right shoes and fair bit of practice, the toes started hurting a bit around 15kms. Then the sole area (between the toes and the arch) and the heels started to pain. With every step I took, these were the areas taking the beating. As I kept at it, the arch joined in due to the continuous stretching of the Plantar Fascia ligament. Tendons around knees, calves, hip-joints came next. With every new pain area, I started discovering a new muscle/ligament/tendon in my lower body. The tendons around the knees and the ankles...I had never ever experienced pain in those areas in my entire life. During the day, while you are still walking, popping a generic off-the-shelf painkiller does not help as the affected areas are still under continuous strain. We still kept walking, but slowly the pain starts taking a toll on my mood, motivation and will power.

Going downhill means increased strain on the knees. For some time, its OK. But after that, a walking/trekking stick does help. The trekking hat provides cover for the back of your neck when the sun is beating down on you. So walking sticks and trekking hats are not fads after all. If you have the right shoes, that does not mean there wont be any pain. Pain is a given. With good shoes it just sets in later. What good shoes do is to protect you from injuries. The shoes must be perfect fitting, so that the foot does not move inside the shoe. Every movement of the foot relative to the shoe causes friction, heat generation, build up of pressure... which eventually leads to blisters. Luckily my shoes were good and except a couple of very small blisters, I didn't really had any trouble with the blisters. Don't want to share pics, but let's just say not everyone was as lucky.

Although I had experienced chafing due to poor-quality/poor-fitting clothes in the past, I had never really encountered the specific word - chafing. Chafing injuries are very painful. They sting with every step and soon your walking stance gets compromised. After about 35-40kms, I got chafing in the perineum area. Don't want to gross you out with the details. Just remember, if you are trying something similar, carry some soothing skin cream and cotton. Made a note to self - need to get even better undergarments if I am crazy enough to attempt it next year.

The trek is grueling and we had to keep on feeding the body regularly. Just like a marathon, you can actually eat a lot and get away with it. But its tricky. You have to strike a balance. You eat something in fair bit of quantity in one go and digestion would take away the energy from rest of body making you dull and sluggish. Small portions of foods which are concentrated in calories are the best. Energy bars, chocolates, dry fruits. Many energy bars look as if some glue has fallen on mixed grain and solidified. They also taste awful. As the sun keeps rising in the sky, temperatures soar quickly. I anyways sweat a lot. During the trek I was sweating profusely. Re-hydrating the body and replenishing the salts is absolutely critical. Kept on sipping on normal water and electral/enerzal solution. Its ok initially. But soon gulping down regular temperate water becomes nauseating. The flavoured versions of enerzal provide a relief from the monotony of the plain water, but even that gets irritating after a few hours. I carried about 2 liters of water+ORS during most long sections, but lugging around that much additional weight was also troublesome. Oranges do help a lot.

As exhaustion sets in and the feet really start to hurt, the mood becomes somber. Whatever little chit-chat and small talk that was going on between the team-members slowly stops. After slipping on loose gravel, tripping over a rock or twisting your ankle a couple of times, you learn to keep your head down and focus on just the trail. You are in no mood to appreciate the scenery around you anymore and slowly but steadily you start questioning yourself whether it is all worth it.

Walking 10-12kms on a nature-trail is not the same as doing the same distance on a tar road. Casual walking in the city, be it on roads or in jogger parks/tracks, is mostly on flat well-paved grounds. So, your average speeds are easily 5-6Kms per hour. On the contrary, this trail is through lot of fields, mud-paths, forests and rocky patches. So you have to watch your step. The frequent ascents and descents also eat into your average speed. We averaged 4kms per hour on day 1 and the average dropped to 3.5 and even 3km/hr on day 2 as exhaustion and injuries caught up. Chafing and blisters mean more frequent breaks and longer rest at CP, which elongates the torture by a few more hours.

I had covered this Tamhini ghat area in last monsoon and its heavenly. I carried my DSLR to the trail and saw some amused expressions from fellow trekkers. I did click a lot of pics in section-1 from start point to CP-1. But soon I realized that carrying a proper DSLR in hand or lugging it around the neck is not practical as the terrain is tricky and you have to maintain your balance. Carrying it in the backpack does not help as just taking it out of the backpack for one shot becomes cumbersome. The additional weight in the backpack is also inconvenient and slows you down. Slowly I started clicking lesser and lesser pics. Mid-way through the second section, I finally took a call to leave the DSLR and handed it back to the support guy Harsha at a crossing.

I was carrying a good many things in a large backpack. The large bag and the broad straps soon started becoming uncomfortable as I started sweating. Bandages, medicines, trail-mix, additional tee shirt, additional hankies/buffs, multiple bottles of water, sunglasses, cellphones. Yes, all those are logically the right things to carry in your backpack and I was pretty sure that I am well-prepared for the trail. But I realized soon that there is a bigger logic than 'being prepared for eventualities' ... and that is 'walk REAL light'. Suddenly it started making sense why most others (including two from my team) were walking with just a half-liter water bottle and a waist-pouch.

For 90% of the trail, there is no mobile reception. So slowly you have to get used to not being able to post live updates on whatsapp/facebook and not being able to reach your loved ones for hours together. The lack of reception just ensured that the mobile battery got discharged in first few hours and after that I gave the mobile to Harsha for charging in the rented Innova. So couldn't even take mobile snaps from then on. In a way, it was a humbling experience. I kept on discarding one material possession after another, till I was left with just the bare essentials, clothes, water and something small to eat. No clicking memories. No contact with family and friends for hours together. Passing through beautiful locales, but the burden of the challenge bearing down on me. I was already well beyond the point where the trail was enjoyable. Then the mind games started. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting my body through this torture? What am I trying to prove... that I am tough...that I am fit? Would it make any difference to anyone if I complete this challenge or not? Physically exhausted and in great pain, the thought of giving up kept playing hide-and-seek with the mind. Now suddenly "why you need a team of 4? and why all of them need to check-in and check-out together?" made perfect sense. I believe, given the state of mind and the physically grueling nature of the trail, it would be near impossible for an individual to complete the challenge alone. While the sun is beating down on you and you are dragging the tired feet forward, the only thing that keeps you going is the sight of your team-mates who are still at it.

I recollect a discussion with the team during one of the practice runs. Lot of teams tend to have a 'strategy' about how to tackle the challenge. Running through the flat stretches could be one strategy, so that you improve your average speed and thereby complete the challenge faster. Not sleeping on that Friday night and instead taking advantage of the cooler temperatures at night to finish earlier could be another strategy. There could be any number of different strategies. I had asked our team-lead (Durga) - What is our strategy? and the response was epic - "Our strategy is ... left foot forward, then the right foot forward, then the left foot forward ...". And we did just that, kept the heads down, taking one step at a time, till we crossed the finish line!

I was limping badly for last 20 odd kms. There were crepe and compression bandages on both knees. The chafing was hurting real bad even after applying skin-cream and cotton. The head was reeling from exhaustion and the feverish body was just waiting for the ordeal to get over. I remember very little from that time. At the end of it all, it was a very mixed bag of feelings. Of course, I was happy and proud about completing the challenge, but the physical pain & exhaustion along with the difficult questions in mind took away quite a bit of that happiness. I had made a lot of mistakes while preparing for the trek and during the trek. May be if I make lesser mistakes, I would enjoy it more next time.

Last edited by SDP : 27th November 2015 at 17:35.
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Old 26th November 2015, 22:37   #6
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

The "next time" came less than a year from the Dec-2014 100kms. The Oxfam-Tralwalker 2015 event for Mumbai was announced for 20th-21st and 22nd Nov this year.
Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?-11255094_1038644186185633_3852845461352438498_n.png
A higher fund-raising requirement and minor tweaks to the trail and arrangements. Otherwise, mostly unchanged.

Hari - The guy who had participated in the 2013 trek and missed the 2014 trek, was in India this time, but the lady had to drop out as she was recovering from a fractured leg. So it was Hari (team-lead), Durga, Sunil and me this time. Another friend Vikas joined Harsha as part of the support team. Hari and Durga who run full/half marathons regularly are super-fit. Sunil who had a trouble with knees last time was preparing very thoroughly this time. Even I was determined not to repeat any of last year's mistakes and put in a good amount of effort in training.
  • Last time's preparation was mostly generic and not specific to muscles used in trekking uneven terrain. This time I gave up cycling for a couple of months and switched to brisk-walking and climbing stairs.
  • I weighed 76Kg last time and as I mentioned every additional Kilo - be it in the bag or on the body directly - puts that much additional strain on the knees. Switched to healthier diet couple of months before and planned to be in 70Kg range for the actual trek-days. Managed to lose just 2 Kg (diwali times just before the trek). Still better than 76Kg.
  • This time we managed to book accommodation at the starting point Garudmaachi itself. So waking up too early and driving 1.5-2 hours before the trek-start was not needed. (This had an unintended negative effect as well. More about that later.)
  • Used a very small backpack with string-type shoulder-straps. Placed 2 tablets each for every medicine in the bag rather than carrying whole strips. Just carried some 200Rs cash in the bag and left the wallet in the car. Carried just Reli-spray and one type of bandage in the bag.
  • Dropped the DSLR idea completely this time. Left it at home. That's almost 1.5Kg less. Relied completely on mobile for pics.
  • Left the watch also at home. Carried plastic light weight sunglasses (my cycling pair) instead of the metal frame heavy RayBan. Less weight and less irritation while sweating.
  • Spoke to family upfront that I would not be reachable for hours together. Kept the cell phone on aeroplane mode throughout so that it wont drain battery while hunting for the network. The organizers had announced this time that 3 particular checkpoints have good network coverage. Only switched network and data on at those checkpoints and made important calls. Carried a backup cellphone as I knew that charging 6 people's mobile phones in one car is not possible, especially given that on trek-days the car runs very less between checkpoints.
  • Got a proper walking stick and a trekking hat.
  • Got really proper fitting (i.e. super-tight) pair of walking/running tights. So tight that there are no gaps and nothing rubs.
  • Full track pant this time instead of 3/4th. Exposed socks tend to attract small blades of grass and pebbles from the trail. A full pant avoids that.
  • Last time I had missed the detail that on Friday night, we would be staying at checkpoint-6 in a school-dormitory. They provided basic bedding. The temperatures dropped quite a bit after sunset and eventually I ended up sleeping in the Innova without a blanket. It was not comfortable. Carried a thin blanket this time.
  • Applying Vaseline to the feet to keep them dry. Tried it last time. Didn't find much difference. In fact, after Vaseline, I couldn't put the preventative bandages. So dropped Vaseline this time.
  • Last time, I carried 2 liters of water during most sections. One bottle of plain water and another of electral/enerzal. This time carried just one bottle of plain water with me and kept the ORS bottle in the car. We used to come across our car at certain crossings in the trail and at the checkpoints. This time, I used to gulp down electral/enerzal when I bump into the car and then leave the bottle again in the car.
  • Last time we had stopped for physiotherapy and stretches at almost all checkpoints. This time, the team decided that we should get physio only at CP3 & CP5 on day-1 and CP8 on day-2. At all other checkpoints, strictly 15-20 minutes break between check-in and check-out.

Effectively I am one year older than the first attempt, but slightly better trained. Hopefully wiser with all the learning from the last time. Bigger support team. More disciplined rest plan as well.
So, would we as a team do better this time? Would pain and exhaustion overshadow the achievement this time?

Read on!

Last edited by SDP : 29th November 2015 at 18:20.
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Old 27th November 2015, 22:32   #7
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Thursday 19th Nov 2015 - Day before the trek

A few hours before we head out to Tamhini ghat.
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Bag packed. All set!
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4:30pm: Another rented Innova with 6 of us and a bunch of bags.
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Instead of Chandni Chowk, we turned right one turn before and stopped for some variety of pakodas and tea. It was quite cold and reminded me of the windy cold night during the last trek.

From L to R : Harsha, Sunil, Hari, Durga, Vikas and myself
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It took us almost 5 hours to reach Garudmaachi. Much longer than what I had anticipated. Innova's last row is OK, but I was still tired by the end of the journey. It was 9:45pm already and we headed directly for dinner, which was just OKish.
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Small tents just outside the dinner place.
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10:30pm: After dinner, we were shown to our 6 bedded tent. It was essentially a partial concrete structure with external walls replaced with thick canvas.
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After a few discussions and final preparations, set the alarm for 4am and lights off.
The night was very very windy. The tent walls kept on shaking wildly and I couldn't sleep due to the ruckus. Barely managed to get about an hour's sleep just before the alarm went off. No hot water. Bathing in cold water early morning in winter. Did that, but was a very uncomfortable experience. Have to agree though that every cell in the body felt wide awake after the cold water bath.
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Everybody got ready pretty quickly.
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5:30AM: Breakfast time. Poha, omlete-bread, banana. Never had a proper breakfast so early in the day.
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We had got custom-made tees printed this time.
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Post breakfast, we hurried to the starting point. 5:45AM - Just 15 minutes to the flag-off. Noticeably lesser crowd as compared to last year.
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Managed to catch hold of Milind Soman for a team pic.
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A few announcements and final words of encouragement.
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Barely 5 minutes to go and we were all set for another 100kms trek.
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Last edited by SDP : 28th November 2015 at 10:46.
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Old 28th November 2015, 11:03   #8
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

After some 10 minutes on the road, we branched off-road to the right. There is nice valley view on the right a bit further, but it was still too dark.

I was alert to any early signs of blister formations and chafing. To my horror, my tights started scratching my skin after just 15 minutes into the trek. This is not good. Pulled the tights up all the way. I mean, REALLY all the way up. The top band was above my navel. It was ridiculous, but it worked. Any slack from the tights was eliminated and skin-irritation reduced after some time.

I was getting a feeling that I had forgotten something, but wasn't able to put a finger on exactly what. Then it struck me, I had left the walking stick in the Innova itself.

7:00AM : After almost an hour after the start, we joined back the tar road and headed for the hill crossing.
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Walking selfie.
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A small temple just before the hill-climb starts.
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7:20AM : Sunil and Hari reaching the top
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The entire team at the top of the hill.
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Remember this natural canopy from last year?
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7:40AM : We were out of the forest and into the fields. This was like a nice pleasant morning walk. Nice cool breeze. No sweating.
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Terrific Trekkers crossing a stream.
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7:46AM : Seven kms done. That means we are doing 4kms per hour. About 15 minutes for each km. That became a good yardstick to measure progress for the rest of the trek.
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Early morning sunlight shining on the meadows.
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A RFID tag on my wrist. This is new thing this year.
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8:10AM : We encountered the first village on the trail.
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A very dotted line of trekkers... underscoring the fact that the overall participation was less this year.
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8:25AM : First 10kms done. The first checkpoint is literally a stone's throw away from here.
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As we crossed a bridge and came near CP1, a long line of support vehicles welcomed us.
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Oh, look at that. The CP1. The Vinzaidevi Highschool. It looked different last year. Looks like the gate has been redone sometime during the last year.
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The scene at the checkpoint-1. People resting, having breakfast, getting ready for the next stretch.
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We checked in at 8:30AM. The support team (Harsha and Vikas) had already collected the breakfast for everybody. A medu-wada, some pieces of fried idli with coconut chutney, a banana and some foul tasting potion in a bottle.
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8:47AM : We checked out from CP1 and moved ahead.

Last edited by SDP : 28th November 2015 at 20:18.
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Old 28th November 2015, 20:27   #9
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

First checkpoint was at 10.5KMs. Next stretch is 12.5kms, so we would be at 23kms at CP2.
Starting at 8:47AM from CP1, after a little bit mental calculation, we figured that we would be at CP2 by 12 noon.

The sun was burning bright now. I opted for the hat instead of the buff and also picked up the trekking-stick.
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The trail starts from behind the school and climbs up.
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We started following the orange ribbons.
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After climbing, good portion of the trail goes through fairly dense forest.
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While navigating through the thick forest, around 9:15AM, we heard vehicles on a road nearby. But the trail, rather than meeting the road, veered away from the road. We eventually reached the road around 9:30AM.

Vikas joined us for 10-15 minutes on the tar road till we reached the branch-off point where Harsha was waiting with the Innova.
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Harsha & Vikas were happy to provide refills for our water/ORS bottles.
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We quickly bid goodbye to them as the trail veered off-road again.
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15kms mark came at 9:45AM. So we had done almost 4.5kms in one hour.

After some open grass fields, we encountered some thick vegetation again. While I was focused on where I am placing my foot on the tricky trail, I ended up bumping my head on a low-hanging branch of a tree.

Around 10AM, I noticed first signs of pain in the feet. The toes had started hurting a bit after clocking around 16kms.

The terrain goes through lots of ups and downs. I was walking ahead of the team for some time and then I twisted my right ankle. I slowed down a bit after that. Finally around 10:15-10:20PM, we saw the familiar Nivhe temple.
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The trail climbs down by the side of this temple and meets the road. As always, we were happy to see the support team and the Innova after walking through the wilderness for kilometers together.
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A big swig from my ORS bottle in the car and we pushed ahead. The trail stays on the tar-road for a few minutes and then crosses off-road again on the other side of the road. The Mulshi lake on the right and some mighty rock faces on the left gave us company for the rest of this stretch.
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10:40AM : We crossed the 20kms mark. That's 5kms/hr. Good pace!

Walking so close to those mighty rocks was a memorable experience.
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Although temperature was rising, luckily there was still some breeze. Now the sole area of the foot also started stinging a bit.
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We crossed the road one more time and were at the lake-level now.
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The 22kms mark came at 11:20AM. Almost 40 mins for 2 kms? Didn't sound right. But then last year's experience was the same - KM milestone markings along the trail are not completely accurate in some stretches and even absent in some stretches.
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Luckily the checkpoint at 23kms was just a bit ahead and we reached there at 11:30AM.
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Instead of the original estimate of 12 noon, we had reached CP2 a cool 30 minutes earlier. We were happy with the pace we were maintaining.

The scene at CP2 looked manageable. Last time it resembled a large 'mela' with just too many trekkers reaching the CP2 at around the same time.
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We took another 20 minutes break here. As decided earlier, no one took physio-stretches/foot-massage. Sitting down on a proper chair after 23 kms felt heavenly. I took the opportunity to lay flat on the ground for a minute and relieve the strain from the back.

Last edited by SDP : 28th November 2015 at 22:57.
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Old 28th November 2015, 23:01   #10
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

The team-lead Hari is very particular about not wasting too much of time at checkpoints and soon we were back on our feet.

The 3rd stretch is 10.2kms and at the end of it, at CP3, we would finish 33.2kms. Its going to be at least 2:30PM by the time we reach CP3. It was hot. I dropped the long sleeved inner tee and picked up sunglasses.

The trail climbs upward with the lake on your right.
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We went through a village where the condition of the houses spoke a lot about the poverty in the region.
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12:30PM : We had crossed the 25kms mark just a few minutes back. Even after excluding the breaks, we have been trekking for 6 hours now.
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The sun was now directly above us. The rising heat started taking a toll.
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While me and Sunil started to struggle a bit, Durga and Hari seemed to be setting a good pace. Here you can see Durga taking a pic of the milestone board. I believe, he clicked each milestone.
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Crossing a dried-up stream.
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The tiring trail goes on and on and on, with some milestone boards completely missing and that caused quite a bit of irritation.
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1:00PM : 28kms! Notice the gap between Hari-Durga and Sunil&me. We were definitely struggling to keep up.
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The trail goes through mostly dry fields. There are ups and downs, but nothing extreme. I came across a small trickle of a stream and splashed liberal amount of water on my face, head and neck. Felt good.
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1:30PM : A selfie with a forced smile at the 30kms milestone.
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A temporary cloud cover caused the Mulshi lake to look even more beautiful. But to be very frank, after the 30kms, I was in no mood to enjoy scenery. I recollected, this was the same stretch last year, which was V-E-R-Y tiresome. Not because of the terrain, but because of the heat and the exhaustion.
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A very 'interesting' board.
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I was not alone. Look at Sunil's face and you will understand.
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I was sipping on water regularly and had just finished an orange.
And ....then it happened. The grueling trail delivered a sucker punch! I was crossing a dried up stream just behind Durga. The stream-crossing had decent amount of shade from trees. Hari and Sunil were just behind and had stopped as Sunil wanted to take a breather. My head was reeling and I struggled to focus my eyes. My throat went dry and suddenly there was a very strong vomiting sensation. I had a strong feeling that I am going to faint. I was sitting on a rock waiting for Sunil to join in. But now, even in the seating position I wasn't sure about myself. I told Durga that I am not feeling well and want to lie down. I slid down from the rock and flattened my body on the uneven ground. Took off the bag, the cap and the sunglasses and just laid there with my eyes half-closed. I didn't pass out, but was on the brink. I could feel it. It was a horrible feeling. Have experienced that just once or twice in my entire life. Suddenly, I wasn't sure about my body and mind at all. May be it was the exhaustion from the 8 hours of trekking. May be it was the lack of sleep the previous night that triggered it. May be it was a temporary dip in my blood-sugar level. May be it was a combination of all. I don't know. Sunil - who had recovered a bit - reached the spot where I was lying flat on the ground. Obviously everybody was concerned. I was advised to drink water, but I wasn't very sure whether I could do that anymore. I was actually drinking a lot of water and my tummy felt like a about-to-burst water-balloon when this thing happened. In fact, with every sip of water, I was feeling nauseated. After what seemed like 5 minutes, I got up and rested my back against the rock where I was sitting some time back. Opened my bottle and splashed some water on my face and neck. Another 2 minutes with eyes partially shut and I signaled to my team-mates that I am ready to move. I got up and didn't feel confident. I told everybody that I need to sit down again, for a bit more time. Everybody looked really worried now whether I was going to need proper medical attention in the middle of nowhere. Another 5 minutes and finally I gathered enough confidence to get back on my feet. Hari took my backpack, which reduced that much burden from the body. I started walking with the head still reeling and eyes struggling to focus. Walked almost like a zombie for next 45 minutes. Had to take 2 more breaks in between, but somehow dragged myself till checkpoint-3. Not sure, but I believe it was 2:45PM when we reached CP3. Durga had called up Vikas already and as soon as I reached, I hit a bed. I remember a girl taking my pulse and mentioning that its normal. She got me some half a liter Glucon-D solution and asked me to have it. I was almost retching and wasn't ready to have anything. Somehow gulped down a couple of sips of glucose and let the body recover. The team finished their lunch and physiotherapy stretches in next 30-45 minutes. The glucose did help and by the end of the hour, I started feeling much better.

That's a pic when we were just about to reach the CP3. You can actually see the checkpoint on the left. Hari was behind me to ensure that I don't roll off somewhere.
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Last edited by SDP : 29th November 2015 at 09:36.
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Old 29th November 2015, 00:53   #11
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

We headed towards CP4, but I was a bit shaken now. Except one water bottle, dropped everything else in the car and just drifted behind rest of the team. The about-to-burst balloon sized tummy returned to normal levels after a couple of hours and the head stopped reeling. I skipped the lunch and opted for an apple and half a energy bar instead. The sun set around 6:30PM before we reached CP4. No pics.

From CP4 to CP5 was a smaller stretch of about 6.2kms and that was done by around 9PM I believe. 50Kms done! Had physiotherapy stretches and dinner at CP5 and then the team pushed for the last leg for the day. CP5 to CP6 is 12.5kms, but most of it is on level tar-road. It was pretty late in the day already, but the temperature was not too cold to cause discomfort like last time. Left foot forward, then the right foot forward.. rinse and repeat. It was well beyond 1:30AM (Saturday 21st Nov) when we called it a day and crashed in the beds at the dormitory at CP6.

Here's the last pic of the day:
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Old 29th November 2015, 14:10   #12
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Got some 4 hours of sleep. The stinging of the feet had stopped temporarily by morning. If I remember correctly, I was woken up around 6:30AM. I was the last to wake up. Quickly got ready.

7:10AM : Early morning scene at checkpoint-6. I love this checkpoint because of the brilliant background.
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Looking tired due to the one day old stubble.
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7:30AM : Once a half a liter water-bottle was stuck below, the Innova's hood became a pretty good breakfast table.
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By the time we checked out, it was 7:45AM already. CP6 is at 62.5KMs. CP6 to CP7 is another 12.5kms. So we would be at 75KM mark at CP7. We budgeted slightly more than 3 hours for this stretch.
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Nice morning walk just like the day before.
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The trail in this section was mostly open grasslands.
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In about 20 minutes, we joined a village road. I was seeing the side-view of the same hill at the base of which we had spent the night at CP6.
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We walked a little bit ahead and the side view became more clear. Ah, this is the same one which has the Buddha's head like shape.
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8:30AM : We were about to join the main road and could see the familiar Innova.
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Passed through another village and saw a kid peeking out of his house.
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Soon a huge rock with a fort like structure on top-left was right in front of us. This is the same fort you can see in the background of the Innova pic.

9:00AM : That's fort Ghangad apparently.
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The trail left the road and got into fields on the right.
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9:20AM : We crossed the 70KMs mark. 7.5 kms in slightly more than 1.5 hrs. That's 5kms per hour. Not bad!

Given that we used to walk right on the painted arrows, this one was funny!
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Around 10AM, there was an interesting experience. We were passing through thick forest and suddenly we heard the sound of a bike. I was pretty sure that the road was nearby, but couldn't see the road at all even after walking for another 15 mins.

Soon we could see a rock structure looming large on the horizon and was even more magnificent than the Ghangad.
Those are the Tel-baila twin peaks.
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The trail goes through ups and downs. Sometimes through open grasslands, sometimes through the forest.
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Just after 10:00AM, at this point with the Telbaila right in front, we were lost for about 5 minutes. No arrows or ribbons in sight.
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Explored in two different directions and ...
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... Hari soon found a orange ribbon tied to a tree and we were back on the trail.
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Celebrated that with a selfie!
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Marching ahead. The Tel-Baila was getting bigger and bigger.
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10:45AM : A quick break in a shaded area. Its been three hours since we started. We should be very close to the checkpoint now, but the milestone markers were nowhere in sight.
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A close up of the Telbaila. I could see a small temple in the V shape between the 2 peaks.
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11:00AM : We reached the checkpoint-7. Telbaila village right at the bottom of the Telbaila.
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7:45AM start from the 62.5KM mark. 70KMs at 9:20AM and 75KMs at 11:00AM? Huh?
7.5kms in first 1 hr 40 minutes and just 5 Kms in next 1 hr 40 minutes? Doesn't sound right, especially given that we were doing 5kms per hour that morning. Most likely the distance covered by us was more than the indicated 12.5kms. Easily 3kms more! Come on Oxfam, this is not done! This is the 3rd year of the event and such basic things should have been sorted out by now. We know its an adventure, but where's the fun in making mistakes in measurement and adding extra kms to a already grueling trek?

Sunil's wife and sister joined us at CP7. They had started from Mumbai early morning and reached the CP7 in another rented Innova.
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Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2015 at 00:12.
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Old 29th November 2015, 14:41   #13
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Sunil had a huge blister on the inner side of his left foot. He got it punctured and then properly bandaged at CP7.

11:30AM : Exact 30 minutes break and we started again.

CP7 to CP8 is 11.6Kms. This is the last long section which is 10+ kms. Easily 3 hours in mid-day heat. Might be as exhausting as the previous day's CP2-to-CP3 section, where I had trouble. I could see the the concern in the eyes of my team-mates. I had slept properly in the night and was being careful with quantities of food and water/ORS since morning. I was feeling confident. Just to tackle any possible low blood-sugar blip, I carried a half-liter water bottle filled with Glucon-D solution.

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We march onward. Tel-baila in the background. A different angle.
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A farm scene. Separating the chaff from the grain by hitting it on a large stone.
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After one and half days of sweating, the village pond looked very inviting.
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A sign full of meaning. When you think of it, it applies not only to the obvious 'fitness/physical-capacity comfort zone' , it also applies beautifully to "personal life" and "professional life". May be, when you are tired, you tend to get philosophical.
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I hadn't spoken to my wife or kids for more than 12 hours now. Durga mentioned that he is getting a weak network signal on his mobile. I switched off the aeroplane mode. I was speaking with my wife for about a minute and the damn thing switched off due to low battery. It was 70+% in the morning when we started. I borrowed Durga's phone to complete the call. Wanted to hear the voices of my kids as well. But the kids were at their grandparents' home and I couldn't recollect the landline number.

No phone meant no pics. Backup phone was in the car. The next crossover point where we would meet our support car was easily 4kms away. That's about an hour of walking. Not a problem. Kept walking.

A few teams who were doing the 50KMs challenge crossed us. Also bumped into Gurdeep - a friend from my office - who was doing the 100kms.

Around 1:00PM, we reached the road again. I handed over my regular cellphone for charging and picked up my backup cellphone instead.

Family members joining the walk -even for a few kms- meant a lot to us. It breaks the monotony of the trek and brings in a new perspective.
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The rest of the stretch is on tar-road. Soon we could see the familiar Korigad on right which is just next to Amby Valley. That meant we were getting closer to the Cloud-9 Hill Resort which is also near Amby valley and that's the finish point of the trail.
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Durga demonstrating the team strategy. Left foot forward, then right foot forward, then repeat!
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Managed to get the number and was able to chat with my kids for about 10 minutes. Can't describe how refreshing those 10 minutes felt! Made me forget the pain in the feet and exhaustion.

1:30PM : 84KMs mark. 9kms in 2 hours. Quite good!
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Luckily the sky became overcast and we got some cloud cover. Fairly straight road, decent cloud cover and some cool breeze as well. In the middle of the day, when generally the trek is at its grueling best (or worst), I couldn't have asked for anything more.
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Objects in the mirror are closer to the finish-line than you think!
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2:10PM : We reached the CP8. 2 hrs 40 minutes for 11.6Kms! More importantly, 86.6kms done!
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Although lunch was waiting, all of us headed directly to the rest area and got some relief with the physiotherapy.
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Sunil got the bandage redone.
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Even Durga had developed a couple of blisters and got those attended to.
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Spotted some key Oxfam-India officials and the official blogger at CP8.
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Lunch was poori-bhaji and some pulav/biryani. Wasn't looking forward to the bloated feeling. So skipped the rice item. Harsha and Vikas somehow managed to get us some kulfi which tasted amazing in the heat.
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While we were relishing the kulfi, it started to drizzle. Rain in Nov-end is not at all common in this region and we were really surprised. We still had almost 14kms to the finish line and nobody was really prepared for trekking in the rain. Luckily the drizzle remained extremely light and stopped after some time.

Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2015 at 00:17.
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Old 29th November 2015, 19:01   #14
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

We had a longish break at CP8. Due to the possibility of drizzle, I left the backpack in the car and picked up just the phone and a small water bottle.
The last 2 sections are really short. CP8 to CP9 is just 7.1kms.

3:00PM : We started towards CP9.
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Saw this weird looking structure. Couldn't even hazard a guess about what could be this. Anyone here knows?
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The light drizzle brought cool breeze along with it and that made life easier for us.
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We passed through some pristine grasslands which wouldn't have felt out of place even in the Sasan Gir sanctuary.
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The weather was amazing. It was almost 3:30PM, but felt like it was 6PM.
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3:50PM : We reached the 90KMs mark! Yay! Last 10kms to go, the countdown began!
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Just kept on following the arrow marks. This one is interesting.
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2 stream-crossings one after another. Quite a bit of ascent followed by steep descent.
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We found a familiar landscape. The road is just beyond those 2 houses.
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4:30PM : We reached the tar-road and met our support vehicles. With Sunil's family joining in, now there were two Innovas.
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Two checkpoints before I had asked Vikas - "I know there are no shops anywhere here. But if you can somehow manage, can you please get me a bottle of chilled Pepsi?". He said "Its not good for you!". I replied "I know. But I really want to have something cold and I need that sugar kick!". When we met again at CP8, he told me that he couldn't find any shops on the way. Instead the kulfi provided something cold and full of sugar. When I saw the 2 Innovas just before CP9, Vikas waved a Thumps Up bottle at me from the road. Seriously hats off to this guy! I had never imagined a support guy who was so tuned to every whim and fancy of the team. I gulped down half the bottle right there and finished the rest in next 10 odd minutes.

4:50PM : We reached the CP9 after clocking 7.1kms in 1 hr 50 minutes.

Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2015 at 00:29.
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Old 29th November 2015, 20:08   #15
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Default re: Trekking 100 kms from Garudmaachi to Lonavla! How hard can it be?

Last year, we had reached CP9 after sunset. This year, we were doing better time.
Now the final 6.3KMs were left. May be 1.5 to 2 hours more. Last year we had finished at 8:38PM. Year before that the time was 7PM something. So if we hurry up a bit, there was a distinct possibility of beating the time from both the previous years!

With that thought, we checked out immediately from CP9.

We all wanted to be in "Terrific Trekkers" tees at the finish point. Durga and me were not wearing those throughout the day. So getting into Terrific Trekkers tees and picking up the torches were the only things that we did at CP9 before rushing off the checkpoint at 5:00PM.
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5:15PM : 95Kms !! Last 5 left. 6:30PM looked possible and Durga mentioned - Let's reach before we have to start using the torch.
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A house that seemed familiar from last year. We turned right from there.
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A brilliant bungalow.
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5:30 PM : We reached the road. Next 1 odd kms is on this road. Cloud-9 Resort is very close from here.
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5:45 PM : One final detour off the road.
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The daylight had started failing us. It was getting darker and darker with every step.
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99KMs at 6:05PM.
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Vikas and Sunil's wife - who had traced the route backwards - joined us. In fact, they helped us navigate the last section which was definitely longer than a kilometer. It was getting really dark and we could barely see anything. Finally, 6:20PM, we reached the road again. Another few steps and we saw the "Cloud 9" board that we were all eagerly looking forward to.
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From that sign to the finish line is a steep incline, but we didn't mind.
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Smiles and sighs of relief.
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Our official time this year - 6:25:20PM
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Happy faces! Our best time yet!
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A light drizzle delayed the medals and certificates a bit. Three cheers for the entire team and especially the support guys - Vikas and Harsha!
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Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2015 at 00:33.
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