Maybe it was the surreal mist, the warm rain falling softly, the emerald lushness of the surrounding hills this monsoon season or the wonderful company of like-minded nature lovers, but a recent trek with fellow yogis in Pune was about as close to perfect as it gets.
About 50 of us from Param Yoga, a yoga centre run by Dr. Renu Mahtani, met at sunrise on a recent Saturday for the 1-1/2 hour bus ride to Lonavala, where we climbed a popular hiking trail known as the Duke’s Nose. Prominently visible from the Pune-Mumbai expressway, the large rock formation is so-named after the Duke of Wellington, who must have had a particularly prominent facial feature.
When I saw the signup sheet for the trek one morning at yoga class, I didn’t hesitate. I’ve always loved hiking in wild places, and have done so in Alaska and other states, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand—why not India?
I’ve never hiked with so many people at one time–so many happy, joyful and genuine people. I enjoyed many conversations along the way.
The scenery was incredible. At one spot where we took a short break, the fog was so thick that the edge of the brilliant green land was like staring into a white abyss.
When we reached the top of “the Nose,” it was so misty we couldn’t see much of the view. But instead of anyone getting bummed out about it, our guide, Naviin Bajaj, quickly organized several rounds of school yard games. Everyone laughed, joked and had such fun together, just like little kids.
After the nose, we came back down and hiked through a brushy hillside out to a ledge called “the Duchess” that usually provides a great view of the nose itself. The mist was so soupy, you could practically drink the air. My bare arms were covered with a glistening sheen. The fog momentarily cleared, revealing the faint outline of the great nose itself, and we quickly assembled in front of it for a group photo.
On the way home, Dr. Renu and other yoga teachers and students sang a million Bollywood songs in Hindi. I didn’t know any of the words, of course, but everyone was so joyful and happy that I clapped along with abandon. As I left the bus late that afternoon, I turned to the group and said, only half joking, “so what are we doing next weekend?”
I emailed Renu a photo that someone had taken with my Blackberry. She emailed back to thank me, and added this: “It was a great pleasure not only meeting you in person, but seeing you enjoying with us, as us.”
She could not have given me a greater compliment.
*To my yoga teacher, Bosky, thank you for organizing this trek. I’ll always remember it.