Recently we planned a trip to a remote place called Tapola nestled in the heart of the Western Ghats, 5 hours from Mumbai. The plan was to stay in a camp next to the lake, which catered to water sports even during the monsoons.
Having spend longer than we intended to at Mahabaleshwar, it was around 7 pm by the time we were on the road to Tapola, a drive of around 25 kms from Mahabaleshwar. The light dispersion from the typical cloud filled sky of the monsoon season had made even 7 pm seem like 5 pm until then, but as soon as we were on the lonesome road to Tapola it darkened and a heavy mist started rolling on to the road. With comments about how it was Friday the Thirteenth and how we are all going to get killed one by by one and rather pathetic DJ mixes loudly playing on the stereo (due to the lack of foresight of carrying good music with us) we made our way along the road.
The first lights that we saw were the red reflectors, neatly bordering the road. The vehicle headlights would bounce off the reflectors making them glow with a fiery red light, acting as the guiding beacon for the path forward in the heavy fog that we were blanketed in. As we cautiously made our way through the foggy but deserted road we went past walls with evenly spaced lights, warmly glowing in the fog and making visible to the eye cosy houses and clubs which made me conjure up images from James Herriot’s books of fire places, with merrily crackling fires, deep arm chairs and good company over port. Driving through the curvaceous route in the fog was tough and the driver switched on the blinking back lights of the vehicle for safety. As we descended lower into the valley the fog started to clear and these blinking lights made for an amazing visual display. In rhythm with the DJ beats and like the flashing disco lights, they lit up the passing scenery highlighting the swaying trees as though they were energetic figures dancing in the rain.
The pitter-pattering of the rain made for the opening notes of the nocturnal concert that we were going to hear. As we settled down for the night at our camp, the rain petered out and the sounds of the night engulfed us with their symphony. The frogs were rendering their score in full baritone. Owls joined in synchronously with their hoots and the crickets and other micro world creatures, never the ones to be left out, provided the chorus. Background music was provided by the gushing water as it cascaded from the hills into the lake.
Come dawn, the stage was taken up by a new crew. The nocturnal band shut shop and we were presented with the soprano notes of the peacocks. Chirruping of the other birds filled the morning with an energetic brightness and welcomed us into the lovely wilderness of the camp.