As the day comes closer, the excitement of being out there in Nature starts building up. Today is the day when in the afternoon I will be heading out to camp at Camp Hideout. The day starts with me wrapping up all pending tasks and packing up for the outing. Breakfast and lunch have been had hurriedly and I want to be sure that the house will be good on it’s own till I come back next day. Gas connection – off, doors and windows – shut, note for the milkman – on the door, all lights and fans – off. I shut off the TV and pick up my bags for the long drive.
It has been a busy day and now I am in a relaxed mood, slowly leaving behind the chaotic city life. I pass by weekend traffic, transitioning from busy streets slowly to the outskirts. Now green color starts to dominate the surrounding. Within an hour, I am driving through mountains, surrounded by greenery with only a few vehicles to spot now and then. Nature is slowly getting over me. There are more trees than buildings and this puts a subtle smile on my face. Driving a short distance more, now I reach very close to Camp Hideout. On the final stretch of road (or off-road to be more precise), I am entirely surrounded by pure nature. No buildings to spot for kilometres, there are only trees, birds and backwaters! Lucky, a peacock passes by quickly between the trees, I am able to only spot it’s last feathers. Although intimidating, I enjoy this last part of drive with a bite of adventure. Just as the thought of me being lost in the middle of nowhere without any network coverage grips, I spot colored tents in the middle of a mountain which gives me a sigh of relief! No, I am not lost! I drive further and am greeted by a board of Camp Hideout. I reach the welcome area with the bags. Although a bit tired from the days work, the absolute beauty of the panoramic view drives away all the tiredness and I suddenly feel a surge of energy and enthusiasm, wanting to discover more of the place.
I decide to first munch upon some hot Kanda Bhajjis and Chai whilst looking thoughtlessly towards the mesmerizing backwaters. As the garam chai and bhajji warm up my tummy, I now ask the camp manager to what I can do next. A small hike takes me to a panoramic spot, where I decide to relax and enjoy watching the sun go down. The sky is changing colors as if it had pre-planned the show for me. A flock of white swans flying over the backwaters makes me think as if I am a part of them, flying and absorbing the beauty around. I click selfies with the sun when it’s just at the mountain tip and some more when the sky is turning colors. The sun has now set, but it is sufficiently bright. I hike down and enjoy some ‘me time’ on the green grass of the campsite, as the sky starts turning dark.
The campsite crew calls everyone on the playground. With new faces around, I am excited and shy at the same time, as I will be playing some funny and challenging games with people whom I have met for the first time, and whom I might never meet again. The next 1 hour or so is spent in playing some crazy and never-heard-before games. I am happy that I played childish games and got a chance to be a child again. As everyone is laughing about the funny moments they just had, I spot disco lights. I now know that there is going to be a dance session and immediately hit the dance floor and start tapping to the beats. The shy ones start joining slowly with weird actions. But once the mood was set, which was around 5 minutes, everyone was dancing around, some with very weird moves, but I simply loved the vibe and we kept asking for more. For the last 15 minutes, every song was the last song as no one wanted to stop dancing. The last song ended with a dipping tone and lights went on with an awesome buffet laid out on the table! The perfect setup after a high energy dance session. There a short line in front of me as I hold the plate. I can smell the aroma of snacks, daal and even sweets. The first thing I do is pick up some pieces of cucumber which goes directly to my mouth bypassing the plate. I fill up my plate with extras so that I don’t have to get up again for more. Settling down on a chair facing the valley, I start munching on the delicacies whilst gazing over the dark mountains and backwaters. I am now having mixed feelings of energy, calmness, warmth and achievement with all of the things that I did in the last four to five hours. A cool breeze is playing around as I am eating.
As I was eating, I saw the campsite staff carrying logs of woods just outside the dining area. A warm camp fire is burning outside. I quickly grab my chair for a chance to sit as close to fire as it permits. Soulful music is playing on the system. I am sitting under the dark starry sky. As I look up, the sheer number of the stars in the sky amazes me. The beautiful songs at the campfire after the warm dinner have already made my day. I am whispering the songs to myself, closing my eyes and feeling the breeze. Some time passes by and there appear two guys; one with a Guitar and another one with a Cajon. A few minutes go with the artists setting their equipment and tuning them to the eve. The first strike on the guitar sends shivers down my spine, the shivers of excitement. The vocalist sends out a long melody. I haven’t identified the song yet, but I enjoy the beauty of his voice. As the beats start coming in, I recall that I have heard that song before. The song strikes my mind as soon as the first words of the lyrics are sung by the vocalist, I jump in with full energy to accompany him singing. Everyone starts clapping to the tunes and the session turns into a chorus. The mood is of relaxed enjoyment. The vocalist transits from one song into the other seamlessly, which awes me to how one can do that so beautifully. After several delightful songs, the crowd starts demanding their favorites, which again are merged beautifully by the artist into his sequence. There are also couples dancing around the campfire to the romantic songs. The musician puts in a thumping song and a group of friend goes crazy around the fire. Just before the midnight, the live music session comes towards the end, again the last few songs being the ‘last one’. The tired souls prepare for their night in the tent. The energetic ones like me decide to spend some more time with the stars.
Chirping of birds and clucking of wild hens wake me up cheerfully just before the dawn. The fresh energy of the morning outside makes me feel full of energy, inspite of only a few hours of sleep that I had. Waking up in the mountains is a feeling that cant be described in words. The first light hitting the morning sky gives you a vivid sense of life and a positive vibe of how beautiful the day is going to be. I woke up in this surrounding and sipped a hot cup of tea. In this span of 30 minutes, almost everyone had woken up. The campsite volunteer took us to enjoy some ropes course adventure activities. Many of the activities were new which I had not done before. Some were fun, some were challenging and some were very thrilling. It was a good time spent playing like kids again but in an adventurous way.
We were instructed to freshen up and get ready for a short morning walk to the lake side. Everyone was excited. Who doesn’t like to spend time at water side! The group started walking towards the lake, some speedily with full energy; others still yawning and displaying their elephant like gait. Pretty soon, I couldn’t see the last person and was way ahead of the most. In 10 minutes, we reached the lake side. What a view it was! Blue water extending on both my sides, cool breeze playing around and the gentle whispers of tiny waves hitting the lake side. We quickly removed our shoes and sat on a nearby rock with our feet in the water. And what is the best activity when you are near water? You guessed it right, throwing stone! Age group for this sport doesn’t matter and I found that almost everyone was throwing stones in the water. After spending awesome time splashing in water, we started our walk back to the campsite.
Hot and spicy Misal Pav was waiting for us. Playing in water makes you hungry fast and when you have Misal in front of you, the hunger doubles. I had breakfast while watching the backwaters for the last time before we started our journey back to Pune. Once the breakfast was over, we wrapped our tents, packed our bags and everyone assembled for a group picture. Laughs were exchanged about the funny moments that had taken place since yesterday, with our temporary friends. The camp manager asked us for a short feedback and it was a happy and memorable ending to the whole experience. I would like to thank Camp Hideout for making us available such a beautiful and full of nature place. I hope to visit again soon and explore more that this place has to offer.