Saturday, August 27, 2016

Exploring the once in 7 years Karvi( Strobilanthes callosa) flowering at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.

The "Bombay Natural History Society" was organizing a "KARVI FESTIVAL" at its  Conservation education centre situated on the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park near the "Film City"  at Goregaon East.The  "Srobilanthes Callosa" shrub popularly called "Karvi(Marathi name)" is a shrub that has the uniqueness of blossoming once after every seven  years.Its a large shrub sometimes attaining a height of  6-20(2-4 Meters) ft and found commonly in the hills of the Western Ghats  all along the Western Coast of India.Every year during the Monsoons the plants come alive vegetatively  but without any flowers, just ordinary barren shrubs.The Karvi shrub has a unique life cycle where it mass blooms during the months of July and August after every seven years  with the flowers withering after a life-span of just 15 to 20 days. This shrub last flowered in 2008 and in the vicinity of Mumbai city the ideal locale to witness the "Karvi mass Flowering" phenomenon is the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park".. Hence the "B.N.H.S"  which has a large plot of forest land of  33 acres within the Sanjay Gandhi National park  was organizing its once in seven  years "Karvi Festival".Yes,all this happens just once after  every 7 years and that too for just 15 to 20 days . The next flowering would be in 2024 and although i was busy with other assignments decided not to miss this once in a blue-moon occurence in the vicinity of my own city ,Mumbai .The dates for the festival were  the 29th and 30th of August and 2nd,3rd and 4th of September 2016. On Friday(19-8-2016) went to the "B.N.H.S" office in Colaba and on payment of Rs 150  booked a reservation  slot for attending the festival tour at 0830 hrs on Monday(29-8-2016).Later came home and reconfirmed my registration on-line by filling a form and mailing it to Bhagyashree.Grampurohit, the Education officer of  the "B.N.H.S Conservation Education centre" at Goregaon.
"B.N.H.S" Conservation Education Centre  building on the periphery of Sanjay Gandhi National park in Goregaon .

Monday(29-8-2016)  DESTINATION "B.N.H.S CONSERVATION EDUCATION CENTRE" :- At approximately  0700 hrs left home in Old Prabhadevi road on my antique "Bajaj Wind-125 cc"  motorbike hoping that rains wouldn't play spoil-sport as it did the previous day on Sunday.After ages i was riding long distance in Mumbai  and it was one of the best motorcycle rides of my life  on the "Western Express Highway"sans traffic and traffic signals with a straight non-stop drive .At approximately 0735 hrs after riding approximately 25 Kms   reached the gates of  "Film City" in distant Goregaon. Was amazed at the abrupt topographical changes from skyscraper buildings and highway roads to a dense lush green monsoon forest within a span of 40 minutes bike riding  from home in Prabhadevi !
"BUNGALOW OF CARDS" ? :- "Film Set" for the teleserial ""Ek Rishta Sajhedari Ka"

                                                                                                                              It was a 1 Km drive from the gate of Film city to the "B.N.H.S(C.E.S)" gate" and all along the way came across a few film sets.I was fascinated by the "Film Plot Sets" built inside the dense forest on the periphery of the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park" being a film addict during my youth and having seen almost all the Hindi and English classic movies of the 20th century. As i was early  took a few photographs of a television film set bungalow erected for the Hindi tele-serial produced by Sony Entertainment Asia  titled "Ek Rishta Sajhedari Ka".The serial had premiered on television on Monday(8-8-2016) and hence the Bungalow seemed of recent construction.A beautiful palatial artificial bungalow that would be torn down after the end of  the serial depending on its commercial longevity  with  a new set erected in its place akin to a drama stage.Leopard sightings in the vicinity of film city have been numerous as it borders the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park" akin to the "B.N.H.S Conservation centre".
Guides  Omkar and Pratik..

            Yes, as the bard William.Shakespeare said "All the World is a stage" and so was the "Film City" of Goregaon in Mumbai.As the "B.N.H.S" gate was closed on arrival at 0800 hrs  i got confused and one of the crew of a local film company wielding a  toy  pistol told me that this gate was always closed.I rode back 1 km to the film city main gate and after inquiries came back to the "B.N.H.S" gate to find it open and the watchman on duty.I was the first tourist to enter the hallowed wildlife nature forest of the "B.N.H.S"  and on finding the conservation building locked  and not a human soul in sight panicked that the itinerary for the day must have been canceled.After about 15 minutes a motorcyclist tourist arrived followed by two cars and i was relieved that the "Karvi Festival" trek for 29th Monday was as scheduled but delayed due to late arrival of a few  tourists and participants. We all assembled in the main conference hall of the palatial building and after a roll-call  and initial introduction finally at approximately 0900 hrs headed out of the building to begin the much awaited 'Karvi Trek".Our tour guide were two young research employees of "B.N.H.S" Mr Pratik.Tambe and Mr Omkar.Joshi."B.N.H.S Consevation Centre" has laid out 6 different 'FOREST TREKS" in its 33 acres estate for educational and tourist purposes, enlightening the average citizen and tourist in wild-life  conservation and nature.

                                                      Throughout the year various treks are conducted explaining different aspects of nature and the forest wild-life.After a short walk from the main building we came across our first purple  Karvi flower shrubs.The sky was overcast and it began drizzling but thankfully not pouring rain.As usual there were numerous "Selfies" with the "Karvi Flower" and as we began our "KARVI TRAIL" trek  the sight of this mystical flowering shrub became more abundant and common.The "Karvi Trail" route was clearly marked with  paint on tree's and sign-posts along the dense forest trail. Getting lost in 33 acres of "B.N.H.S Conservation Centre" was difficult .A few of the prominent  trees in the conservation centre forest  had names of people embossed on the bark. Trees in the conservation centre can be sponsored for 5 years at a cost of Rs 10,000 per/tree with the benefit of the donour having his or her name advertised on the tree.Nature philanthropy with a little publicity as is all philanthropy all over the World.As we all trooped in a single file along the narrow dense forest path guides Omkar and Pratik explained us various tree's, shrub's and insect life.A lady journalist Vidya from "Hindustan Times" followed  us for a photo-shoot  with the flowering Karvi flowers. A brief  photo/study of the trek from my views and opinions.
"LIANA CREEPER":- Notice the long woody vines akin to a money-plant. Liana trees indicate a healthy forest environment and are found in  tropical moist deciduous forests. The "Sanjay Gandhi National Park" is rich in Liana creepers.
"PURPLE FLOWERS" of the Karvi Plant :-  Walking along the "KARVI TRAIL" we came across a mass abundance of this freak flowering shrub.These were large shrubs approximately 6-20 ft in height and 21/2 inches in diameter.After being dormant as a common flowerless shrub for 7 long years it finally blooms in the eighth year and we were lucky to witness the same on this "Karvi Trail".It was a indescribable sight of a purple canopy of Karvi flowers amidst a slight drizzle of forest rain. Observed a few bees around the Karvi flowers feeding on the nectar."Karvi Honey" is expensive and a rare delicacy as it is collected once in 7 years !After flowering the Karvi plant bears fruits which later dry up and wither.In the next monsoon the fruits burst from their pods and get  germinated giving birth too new Karvi plants while the parent plant dies.The plant has a normal life-cycle every  without flowers until the end of the 7th year when they spontaneously flower.The Karvi shrub usually grows on slopes on rocky laterite soil and once it takes roots spreads like grass on hill slopes.Hence a abundance of Karvi shrubs on the slopes of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the "C.E.S" forest land.There are  a few other genus of the "Strobilanthes(Karvi) Family"   with some plants have a flowering cycle after 16 years ! The "Neela Kurunji(Strobilanthes kunthiana)" a relative of the Karvi Species  that grows in the Nilgiri  and Shola forests of South India blooms every  12 years into  blue coloured flowers.This gives the Nilgiri mountains its nickname "Blue Mountains".
After a long trek through the forest along the "Karvi Trail" route and seeing a abundance of the purple flower we finally arrived at this small narrow monsoon stream which had a rickety  de-commissioned bridge across it.We walked below the bridge and waded through this stream and  akin to "Film City" we all had our own personal photo shoots.
"CATERPILLAR :- Along the Karvi trail we suddenly stumbled upon this caterpillar spotted by guide Pratik.It resembled a leaf from a distance and if not for Guide Pratik's trained "Naturalist Eye" we would have just walked past this beautiful caterpillar resembling a tree snake from a close-up view and a leaf from a distance. Nature's camouflage for evading predators. The Conservation centre has a "Butterfly Park" and we came across various types of butterflies along the trail.Rare to spot a caterpillar in its natural metamorphosis habitat. Mr Isaac.Kehimkar  ,B.N.H.S  General Manager   and  author of the  "The book of Indian Butterflies" has done a study on the "Karvi Flowering" cycle as also has established the "Butterfly Park" at the Conservation education centre.
SIGNATURE SPIDER(Argiope Anasuja) :-  From the "Karvi Trail" after crossing the stream we later diverted to the "Dr Salim Ali Point" which is a trail that leads to the highest point of the 33 acre "B.N.H.S Conservation research centre". On the trail we came across this beautiful "Signature Spider"  or "Writing Spider".This species of spiders have a habit of weaving zig-zag patterns on its web akin to a signature and hence the name.There are over 75 different spiders of this genus all having the peculiarity of weaving signatures on their webs.
After trekking for almost  one and a half hours along the "Karvi Trail"and a part of the  "Dr Salim Ali Point" trail we came across this large orchid on a tree.
Snail on a leaf :- The "B.N.H.S Conservation Centre"  trails are excellent for beginner naturalists, children , students and tourists wanting to experience the forest environment in one of the densest populated concrete jungle city of the World, Mumbai.

At the peak of "Dr SALIM ALI POINT" :- Finally at the highest point of the "B.N.H.S Conservation Centre"  nature forest. A "SELFIE" as usual. 

Finally at approximately 1130 hrs we returned back to our starting point the "B.N.H.S Conservation Centre" building after a strenuous 2 hrs forest trek.Strangers became acquaintances and realized that fellow trekker Mr Nitin .Khabaria  resided in Prabhadevi locality in close proximity to my residence .A very cosmopolitan group of male and female  trekkers from all walks of society sharing a single common passion for the outdoors and nature.As i was coming out of the building came across a large group of students from a "International school" entering the building for the next scheduled trek.As for me i had ticked off "Karvi Festival" tour from my bucket list and was happy that the elusive "Karvi Flowering" was no longer a mystery to me.Mounted my motorcycle and headed home stopping at the "Film Sets" en-route to the exit gate of "Film City".
"Film City" and "Film Sets" in the Forest :-  The popular Hindi hit film "Ankhen" is having a sequel "ANKHEN 2"  in production in film city. Now only hope that in future a larger portion of the Sanjay Gandhi National park is not encroached by "Film City" or private luxury apartments and this unique forest environment with its "Big Wild Cats" is preserved for future generations. 

FILM CITY ENTRANCE GATE :- The common entrance gate to "FILM CITY" and further ahead the "Bombay Natural History Society Conservation Education Centre" forest reserve.Got to tour the "FILM CITY" as well as the "Karvi Flowering Festival"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nagla Forests Trek .

Thanks to "B.N.H.S(Bombay Natural History Society)", have been able to study and learn the beauty of nature in my own backyard, Mumbai!
As a professional sea-farer having completed 23 years sailing the "High Seas", have traveled all the continents, barring the Arctic and Antarctica.After quitting employment in the " Mercantile Merchant Navy" toured various International city's, either on a "Solo Back-packers budget" or through private "Packaged tour company's".
It was through membership with the "B.N.H.S" that i finally started discovering the discarded ruined Forts of Maharashtra as well as the forested precincts of Mumbai city.
Vintage "B.N.H.S" local tour bus.

Having previously toured the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park" and "Tunghaneshwar Hills", the "Nagla Block" forest, a important wild-life corridor between these two nature reserves was the only forest that eluded me.
Finally got an opportunity to visit the same through a "B.N.H.S" conducted tour on Sunday(10-7-2011).
"B.N.H.S" sends its members updates of future bi-monthly tours and camps to be conducted through its "Internet" website and personal E-Mail adresses of its members.
This was supposed to be a single half- day nature trek through the "Nagla Forest" and the charges were Rs 570.
Finally Confirmed my booking with "B.N.H.S" staff on Friday(8-7-2010)and was hoping that the monsoon rains would favour our trek, as heavy rains would cause forest wild-life to seek shelter akin to us humans.Worse, the entire nature tour could be canceled due to lack of participants if it rained heavily and caused "Water-Logging", a very common phenomenon during the "Monsoon Season" in Mumbai.
On Sunday(10-7-2011) morning,arrived at the "B.N.H.S " bus boarding point at Dadar T.T(Near Chandu Halwai Shop) at approx 0545 hrs.
Saw a few co- nature trekkers including young kids ,but no familiar faces and as usual developed new acquaintances and met new nature enthusiasts.Picked up a conversation with Mr R.R.Naimi who at 6'3" was the tallest trekker awaiting the bus and again realized that we live in a "Small Globalized World". He was an ex-student of "Barnes school(Deolali)" , a sister school of my Alma- mater "Christ church School(Byculla)" and hence reminisced about the 1970's era of school life, besides, we both happened to have played as "Goal-keepers" for our respective schools football teams.
The "B.N.H.S" bus arrived at approx 0605 hrs with the two "B.N.H.S" nature trek guides Mr Asif.Khan and Mr Vandan.Jhaveri.  
Lush dense forest of the "Nagla Block" sector of the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

                                                                                                 After cross-checking of the tour members for attendance and payments, the bus left Dadar at approx 0615 hrs.Picked up a conversation with another gentleman Mr Parag.Parelkar who previously happened to reside at Shivaji park but had shifted to Borivili and was a "Professional Photographer" by profession, although not connected to "Professional Wild-life Photography".Thanks to him and a lady co-trekker Vijayanthi.Chakravarthy that i have managed to portray accurately the pictorial photos of some exotic insect species that we spotted during our trek .Parags has firmly embossed his name on his photos , a thorough professional, as "Photograph Pilfering" is common on the internet, let alone the "Film Industry"! One of the most beautiful photos that i photographed of my pet Persian cat "Matahari" was pilfered from the internet and being a prolific blogger happened to notice the same while searching the "Internet" for "Traditional Persian Cats". The pilferer had the audacity to register the "Photo" on the "Wikipedia media" under the category "Traditional Persian cats" with a different name as a "Traditional Persian cat model".Although no monetary fraud was involved, just a robbery of "Intellectual property rights",I firmly fought the case through my blogs and exposed the fraud. Wikipedia authorities withdrew this photograph from their Wikipedia encyclopedia on "Traditional Persian Cats", as its a very respectable authentic encyclopedia .I have personally contributed numerous photos and even edited a few encyclopaedia c subjects in "Wikipedia".Apologize for "Bragging Rights" but i just wanted to expose the cruel World of "Copyright Infringement" in India and the "Internet", majority going un-noticed or the victims unable to prosecute for lack of monetary funds or power. Every "Creative Artist", famous, infamous or unknown likes to be appreciated or criticized for their work and hence despise theft of their indigenous intellectual copyrights.
A few members were already in the bus, as the pick-up starting point was from Goregaon and hence the bus departed Dadar with the complete nature trekkers entourage.
Naimi and myself occupied the 2-row seats and while looking through the co- trekkers for familiar faces , noticed Bakul.Gadia seated on the opposite row seat.Miss Bakul.Gadia and myself had previously been on a group trek to "Rajmachi Fort" and a personal blog of the same is on view.
It was a pleasant bus journey in the cool weather with occasional heavy showers.Finally at approx 0730 hrs , after crossing the "Thane Ghodbhunder road" we stopped at a highway restaurant for tea and toilet.
The "Nagla Block Forest" was a short distance from this highway hotel, just a kilometer away after crossing the "Vasai Creek bridge".
Observed some Industrial activity in the midst of the dense foothills of the Forests adjacent to the main Gujarat highway near the creek and hope that "Industrialization" doesn't destroy this pristine and fragile forest eco-system.A few leopards have been killed by vehicles while trying to cross the main highway road at night, as the "Nagla Block Forest" is an important "wild-life leopard corridor" between the main "sanjay Gandhi National park" and the dense unprotected Western Ghat forests.Special sign post have been installed on the road for motorists with the indication, "Beware, Leopards Crossing".
Finally reached the entrance of "Nagla Block Forest" situated near a small village on the main "Mumbai-Gujarat highway" at approx 0800 hrs.Bizarrely, i noticed a beautiful jet black cat, akin to a miniature panther sitting on the open veranda of a typical Adivasi village house situated exactly at the entrance of ""Nagla Block forest". As i have a pair of pet Persian cats at home have always had a tendency to look for cats in any locality and this particular cat symbolized the "Nagla Block Forest", a total jungle reserve in the midst of a bustling congested city.The "Bombay Cat", a jet black cat breed produced by American cat breeders resembled this cat, although the "Bombay Cat" is a totally different breed to the common black cat found in Mumbai only similarity being the jet black colour.This cat derived its name from the city and i presume the leopards of "Bombay National Park(Later Sanjay Gandhi National Park)" must have been an inspiration for "Professional Cat Breeders" to breed a cat that resembled the "Bombay Panther". There was no rainfall when we arrived at the park but the adjoining narrow forest pathway ground was soft and our bus managed to climb this steep pathway and park itself near the village.Unlike the "Sanjay Gandhi Park" there is no gate or entrance guards at the "Nagla Block " forest entrance, just a small forest lodge with a guard.Entrance to this forest is restricted to normal civilians, hence it is less crowded and definitely avoided by " Holiday Picnickers". I personally feel that the "Mosquito's" of Nagla forest are the best guards against human encroachment in this pristine and dense forests, proving that nature has its own natural protection for survival.
After alighting from the bus,there was a self introductory speech by every member, all from different walks of life, ages and sex.
Our trek into the forest began at approx 0815 hrs, the weather being in our favour, cool and pleasant with absolutely no rainfall. The forest was lush green and infested with mosquito's, a sign of a good forest eco-system, less destroyed by human interference.I was wearing a "Rain-coat jacket" which covered my face and also protected me from mosquito bites.
As usual,Mr Asif.Khan and Mr Vandan.Jhaveri began lecturing us on various insects , plants and trees that we spotted while trekking through this dense forest.As mentioned in my previous blogs, the advantage of a nature or hill-fort trek with "B.N.H.S" as compared to other private trekking tour organizers is the expertise of its trekking guide staff, some of whom have authored wild-life and nature books.I am basically a "Trekker",having previously been an "Air-Gun hunter" in the 1970's,belonging to a generation that had experienced " Small Game -hunting" as a sport,hence fond of just walking and feeling the forests life.My knowledge of birds, insects and trees is minuscule,more familiar with mammals and pet birds,wild-life knowledge gained through reading National geographic and watching television programmes like "Animal planet".Most of my practical knowledge of forests developed after joining the "B.N.H.S" nature treks and nature camps,previously having roamed the forests as a "Semi-literate bird or small mammal hunter" in the 1970's.
The trek was through a narrow pathway having short uphill climbs with lush vegetation and trees on either side.We all walked along the narrow pathway in a single file, sharing observations on insect, plant or tree sightings with explanations from either Asif or Vandhan on the subject.Insects were numerous and didn't spot any rare bird, although heard a few exotic bird sounds in the forests.The "Nagla Block" forests has been a favourite residence of Mumbai's resident wild leopards confined in the "Sanjay Gandhi National Park".In 2010, a rescued leopard from a well was "Radio Collared" and released at "Malshej Ghat". Its entire journey to the "Sanjay Gandhi Park" in Mumbai over 120 days was trekked and "Logged",a first of its kind in studying the "Leopard Corridor" and habits of the "Sanjay Gandhi Park Leopards". A complete detail "Log Account" of this leopard, named "Ajoba" can be viewed on http://www.projectwaghoba.in/docs/pune_mirror_ajoba.pdf.This leopard resided in the "Nagla Block" forests for a few days, which explains the importance of preserving these lush forests from human degradation.
Learnt about common insects and their sophisticated adaptation to forest dwelling. Spotted grasshoppers, also a grasshopper with its moulted skin intact on the shrub, a observation and explaination by "B.N.H.S" trekker guides Asif.Khan and Vandan.Jhaveri.As usual, most of the nature trekkers were busy with their camera's, some with professional photography equipment like Parag.Parelkar, others like me with normal digital camera's.Wild-Life and nature photography is the costliest hobby if not professional and hence a few "B.N.H.S" tour group members carry professional equipment for capturing "Poster-card Photos" of insects, butterflys, birds or mammals.Notice the clarity of Parag's photographs in this blog, although "Wild-life Photography" is not his occupation.At times, non-professional photographers like me with standard equipment do occasionally get lucky in capturing classic nature photos, but, that's rare, a authentic fluke.In "Wild-life photography" unlike "Still or Portrait photography" the camera quality and equipment are as important as the skill of the photographer.I have been more of a "Videographer" on most wild-life and hill fort treks, something at which my camera is reasonably on par with professional photography equipment.The insect, butterfly and other plant photos on my blog are a result of the expertise and equipment of fellow trekkers Vijayanthi.Chakravarthy and Parag.Parelkar who posted the same on the "B.N.H.S " website.As for me, i do more of blogs accompanied with descriptive photos and also descriptive videos.This is my small way in contributing back to nature by trying to educate the younger generation on wild-life and nature as also others interested in the outdoors adventures.Whilst walking we came across a long white caterpillar and as usual everyone started photographing it, thinking it to be a caterpillar. Thanks to Vandhan, we realized that it was actually two moths mating, their behinds stuck in opposite direction akin to dogs.Looking through the naked eye, it resembled a single long white coloured caterpillar.On photographing it, the wings of the two different moths were exposed on magnification by the "Digital camera", a real exposure to the wonders of nature. Young children are naturally exposed to learning about the "Birds and the bees" through observing nature, and realize the reason for usage of this phrase in "English Language".
Learnt about the "Monkey Puzzle Butterfly", a unique butterfly whose tail resembles a head, a natural protection against predators.
Among the rare butterfly's that we spotted was the "Blue Oak Leaf" butterfly, a real freak of nature. This butterfly resembled a dry brown leaf when viewed from the side with wings closed.With wings opened, it resembled a beautiful blue colour painting when viewed from the top.Spotted a few moth caterpillars and also a coulpe of moths mating, something i viewed and understood for the first time.Moth caterpillars unlike butterfly caterpillars have more bristles on their body and touching them with bare hands could cause severe itching, a natural protection against predators. My knowledge of insects including the beautiful butterfly's is negligible, although i have a stuffed display curio of exotic butterfly s in my house, the same purchased from Singapore in the 1990's during one of my shipping voyages to that port.I was just captivated by this particular curio in a Singapore curio shop and hence purchased the same, although my interest or knowledge of butterfly's was negligible at that particular time of my life.I hope to get this "Butterfly Display" frame evaluated by "B.N.H.S",as "Butterfly Collection" is a serious and costly hobby amongst collectors.
There were numerous "Tarzan Trees", in the dense forests, trees with strong creeper roots from its branches which can be used for swinging as portrayed in "Tarzan Films".
Suddenly we came across a swarm of butterfly's congregating around a leea tree, absolutely beautiful and i did capture the same on "Video". Miss Deepa, one of the co-nature trekkers and a nature guide at "Sanjay Gandhi Park" explained us the various types of butterfly's on display. I have walked through a "Butterfly Enclosure" at the London zoo in 2010 seeing numerous different butterfly's, having also photographed a pair of butterfly's mating, a rare and fluke photo from my ordinary "Pentax Camera".This was the first time in my life that i had witnessed butterfly's in huge numbers congregating around a tree in the natural wild and not an artificial closed zoo enclosure as in the London zoo.The Leea tree is a delicacy plant for butterfly's, besides, the rain had stopped and a slight ray of sunshine through the forest canopy could have been the reason for this beautiful congregation of butterfly's.
As mentioned the weather was cool and pleasant, the forest floor being damp due to the early morning rains.Spotted a few land crabs but surprisingly could not spot any exotic bird.Strangely, this was the only outdoors nature trip in which i spotted the minimum amount of bird life but learnt the maximum about insects and butterfly's.
After trekking for approximately 2 and a half hours we finally reached the "Vasai Creek" embankment of "Nagla Forests" which is the separating link between "Nagla Block" and the main "Sanjay Gandhi National Park".
The creek water was murky due to the monsoon water and it had a few sea-weeds floating.Spotted a few egrets and pond herons along the banks on the opposite side of the river.It is almost unbelievable on seeing hills of the "Sanjay Gandhi National park" on the opposite bank being covered entirely with lush green forest trees and not a "Concrete Jungle",as has most of Mumbai city, including its distant suburbs.The rare "Open Billed Storks" were seen flying in the sky above the river, majestic large birds, never seen in Mumbai city.
We rested at the creek embankment, having our personal snacks and refreshments, a normal procedure on any "Nature Camp Trail".
After a brief halt of approx 15 minutes we decided to make our way back to the bus.
The trek back to base was swift as it was a reversal of the same arrival path and hence familiar to all us trekkers.We reached back to the village in approx 45 minutes at 1130 hrs, compared to the approx 2 and half hours trek to the end of the nature walk at the "Nagla Block/Vasai creek embankment".To our surprise we found that our bus had parked itself in the soft mud opposite the village houses and had got stuck in the muck.Our driver tried to extract the bus in reverse and forward directions , but, the tyres kept getting stuck.It was akin to a vehicle trying to drive through a wet paddy field, the bus tyres sinking at least 6 inches into the soft soil.A few of us tried lending a helping hand to the driver and cleaner by inserting rocks and wood pieces into the deep troughs created by the tyres but it was of no avail, the bus just refusing to budge.We finally had to abandon the bus as Asif and Vandhan decided to request the services of a "Towing Truck" to extract the bus from its solitary rest.All of us finally decided to gat back home individually, deciding to catch the local transport to Borivili station.A few of us numbering about ten, including Naimi,Parag and Bakul made our way to the main "Mumbai-Gujarat Highway" outside the park, deciding to seek any transport that could cart us to the bus-stop.We were lucky to hitch-hike a tempo that dropped us at the bus stop situated beyond the "Vasai creek Bridge" , near a "Dhabba Style hotel".We each paid the tempo driver Rs 10, thanking him for the lift, a real outdoor trek of a different type! We finally boarded the bus for "Borivili Station", reaching at approx 1330 hrs. Parag guided us to the booking counter where Naimi purchased "Railway coupon tickets", something i saw for the first time in Mumbai since i haven't been commuting by public transport in recent years , preferring my motorcycle or cycle!Co- Trekkers Deepa, Farida, Naimi and myself finally boarded the "Churchgate Fast Train" from platform Nos 3 both of us getting into the "Gents Compartment", a real adventure and learning experience of Mumbai's transport system that has become on par with developed first World country's barring the excessive commuter population.I am no snob,just a normal middle-class "Sobo Individual(South Bombay)" having spent my entire life in "South Mumbai" unaccustomed to suburban living and commuting and hence my ignorance of present day train and bus updates of Mumbai city.21st century Mumbaikars living in the suburbs, all individually developed localities, would have the same impression about "Sobo(South Mumbai)" unless regularly commuting to work or entertainment.Most offices, entertainment centres and tourist sites, barring the "National Park" are still situated in "Sobo", making it one of the Worlds costliest real estate.The internet and modern day communication has greatly transformed the living methods of Mumbaikars, especially the "Self-Employed", hence occasional "Nature Walks and treks" are a source of healthy living and interaction with other like-minded naturalists.Finally arrived at my home in Prabhadevi at approx 1430 hrs, very quick compared to the bus breakdown and common transport facilities that we endured while returning. An excellent grueling nature trek.