Sunday, 21 June 2015

A monsoon ramble in Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Sheba had an excellent idea today - she sent Enoch and myself up the hill for a hike in the rain.  A bit of father-son time and a step out into the total beauty of creation on a rainy day.

While the rest of Mumbai has been inundated with rain, with trains grinding to a halt and storm sewers backing up in the high tide, we took our beloved 'Papaya' to the Thane entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (just beyond the Tikujiniwadi resort) and having pain our dues, we stepped into beauty.

Enoch and I were well stocked with goodies - and with our umbrellas in hand we started walking up the hill.

Early on we came up to forest department watch tower.  Though wet, we had to climb up for the cloud-scudded view of Thane.  We had to smile when we remembered the last time we had climbed it - for Enoch's birthday in February along with a whole clan of Vargheses!  What fun with the little ones we had.  Today, however, it was only the two of us in the light rain and greenery on all sides.

The path - usually a dry trail through the forest was wreathed in mist...

Soon we were stopping to wonder at the glory of creation - with exquisite small white flowers - raindrop-soaked at our feet.

The monsoons have been with us for 2 weeks now.  And in the last 3 days we have been lashed with rain.  This afternoon Enoch and I were treated with a feast of new colour.  Most of it that beautiful light green of new growth.

Some of the new leaves, however, were an amazing red too...

Being a wildlife sanctuary, we always have a small hope to see some wild beasts.  There is the odd leopard who has taken local dogs in the past - but we have not heard about any big cats being seen for many a moon.

The wildlife we saw was hardly dangerous.

But we were startled to see first a tiny crab - and then a number of lovely specimens... right on top of the ridge!

Take a look at this beauty!

As we walked up the hill we entered the clouds.  The rain came and went, the delicious coolness of the monsoon mixed with the blessed stillness of the place... you would never believe that 500 meters away were high-rise appartment buildings.

One of the big surprises was the tree where we normally have our picnics.  It is on the top of the ridge - a lovely tamarind tree which give a nice shade on a hot summer day when you have worked up a sweat to get to the top.

Today, as we were having our sandwiches, we looked up into the branches and were delighted to see something quite out of the blue - there were beautiful orchids in bloom!

Knowing how much Mum and Dad love orchids, the thought of a climb up the tree to get a few for our home did cross the mind... But we are talking about a National Park here.  While others come in and take things out - (we came across some young men who were foraging what looked like a kind of lily - they told us that it made good subji) - after a short discussion, Enoch and I decided to leave the orchids up where they belonged.

Enoch and I have discovered a series of books that are perfect to read on a small outing like this - and also in other settings like lying in a bed too...  The 'Redwall' series of stories by Brian Jacques - a set of tales of valiant small animals and their adventures.

Sure enough, we had a copy of one of them 'Triss' along with us - and so stopped at various points to have a snack and read one of the chapters.

Here we are at the point which normally is the end of our walk - and a good place to make a cup of tea.  No chance of that today, though, with everything so sopping wet.  So we had to make do with some mountain dew - in honour of the conditions of course!

We eventually walked along the ridge to a place which we had never been to before - probably the highest point locally.  We cannot be totally sure it was the highest, given the mist around us - but it was a dramatic open space with large stones that made good seats - an a ripping wind that came up from the Yeoor valley on the other side.

The rain decided it was time to come down a bit heavier, but we were well set - sitting on respective rocks next to each other under our umbrellas, reading the story and munching on apples (very much like the characters in the books - Jacques enjoys describing the food the eat).

On our way down, it cleared up a bit, given us a dramatic view of the great sprawling city of Thane.   It is amazing how much the building boom continues.  Up and up come the sky-scrapers...

One day, my son, all of this will be yours...

Many eons ago, a young man was taken up to a high place and shown the glories of the world.  He was given a seductive challenge - "you can have all of this, if you worship me" said the tempter.  "Worship God alone" came the steadfast and Father-loving reply.

Some of the same temptation touches our hearts today.  So much is out there up for grabs.  Being in the sheer beauty of the wilderness can help to reset our priorities.   What choices we make today, affects so much of our tomorrows.

Frost summed the outcomes of our choices elegantly at the end of his famous poem:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Going up to the ridge in the rain with my son today was a precious gift Sheba gave me.

My minds eye still has images like this in them:

What a beautiful world!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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