Monkey Hill Trek
by Praveen Kumar
When Apu wrote about organizing the Monkey Hill Trek on the 17th April, I never realized that I could actually make it. But a quick look at the date and the proximity of Hyderabad to Pune, set me thinking and soon, the bus ticket to Pune was ready, and so was the back pack. Train was ruled out due to the non-avaibility of accomodation and a mis-match of timings. The journey to Pune was in the APTDC Volvo B7R (Ticket Rs:550/- Journey time :Approximately 1100 hours...).
The B7R and its driver reminded me of the WDP4 and its Type-3 driver. This had superb accelaration and braking prowess and the driver constantly maintained a speed in the range of 95 to 105 Kmph, with constant braking and pick up in between. Many a times, there were close shaves with the oncoming traffic. At around 0130 in the night the B7R was zooming at his regular speed; As I was witness to the crazy action unfolding ahead of me, this chap over took another private travels ('Neeta') bus, just in time, to avoid an oncoming truck. He just managed to get in and then braked suddenly. THUD!!!. There was a resounding BANG at the back, as the 'Neeta' chap banged into the B7R. The rear window pane broke, and smoke started emanating from the bus.We all made a bee-line to the exit, expecting the worse.
(It so happened that a truck had capsized in front of us, just some time back, and there was a pile up. Our bus braked hard, but the fellow behind could not control the vehicle and banged into us.)
The engine of the B7R had taken a severe beating and the coolant started leaking out. Precious little could be done now... The usual arguments between the 'Neeta' folks and our guys started, but fizzled out fast... As time was precious, having collected my backpack from the luggage compartment, we managed to stop a Mumbai bound APSRTC bus and huddled into one of the rear seats for a back breaking 2 hour run. Finally at around 0445 hours, I was in front of Pune station.
A quick look for a dormitory resulted in a blank. Retiring room was available at a cost of Rs 400/-(No way!! Paying that much, for an hour or so!!). Chucked the idea, had a qucik wash at one of the taps on the platform 1, just to see the empty rake of Sinhagad express being shunted into pf1. Apu had informed me the previous evening that he (along with John and Ashish) would be in SC/1, of the Sinhagad.Having purchased a Rs 36/- ticket to Karjat, and having picked up a copy of the Indian Express, I took a seat in the Pune Quota unreserved chair car, which was right next to the SC/1. My BSNL connection decided to take a day off, and there was no way, I could make an outgoing call. Blame it on not activating the roaming facility... The Sinhagad was rapidly getting filled up and by the time it departed at 0605 hours, the coach was full, with many standees. After the train left Shivajinagar, I decided to check up on Appu. Sure enough, Apurva was there on seat 84. Quick hellos.. and we were supposed to get down at Monkey hill, where every Mumbai bound train would halt for a 30-second brake test...
Piping hot Bread Omelette washed down with a hot cup of tea, did ease my hunger pangs a bit. The WCAM3 headed Sinhagad finally came to a brief halt at Monkey Hill, after stopping at many stations enroute. Speeds were nothing great to talk about.
We 3(Me, Appu and John) got down and waited by the side of the tracks.Ashish, Harsh & Hrishikesh were also to join us soon. Soon, the CAM3 sounded a brief horn, and within minutes, the Sinhagad glided down effortllessly towards Karjat, on the third line...
So, there we were, the 6 of us, ready to begin the MOnkey Hill tunnel Trek...