We had an unexpected company as soon as we started our hike. The clouds which were forming up since last few hours had decided to let go, as the rains came down to greet us while we moved up the trail. It was not raining very heavily, nor was it too light to be discounted. Kind of perfect setting for a short hike early in the morning.
The streams on the way were also happy to see this new visitor. They cut across our path, singing happily and dancing down the forest. We could see few blue patches in the sky, but the clouds predominantly filled the canvas. They were not too solid, like the ones you see at times – huge boulders of black, throwing tantrums as they sluggishly moved forward. Nor were they too light – like a puff of smoke, at the risk of being blown away at the first sign of an intoxicated breeze. They were like a small hut made of mud, sitting happily in the fields, content to see things as they are.
And to talk about the trees. They were all chirpy and waving handsomely. There were more shades of green across the valley than I could name. The entire setup looked like Nature has maxed up on Saturation. It was a symphony of colors, playing right in front of our eyes. We moved away from the trail and started climbing up the path of a waterfall. Small jet of streams passing by served as a warning – Do not stay on this path for too long, as it was not made for you. We heeded to it, and switched to the human trail shortly.
We were looking down at the trail we came from. The path of the waterfall and the trail cris-crossed all the way to the bottom. It was difficult to make out one from other. And even though, while ascending, we were very sure of which was which, it all seemed to have blurred away into a single entity. They were different, yet they were the same. So were the streams. And the trees and clouds. And us.
I was transformed into a dog, and running as fast as I could to evade my captors. My friend, who was now a monkey, was riding on my back, shouting directions, which I could not comprehend. We were running low on energy, but thankfully we saw a gas station on the way, and in no time the fuel tank was full and we rejoined the pursuit. My captors were kind enough to wait on us, as the queue warranted some time. I kept thinking that nothing of this makes sense and something is amiss. But I could not make out what exactly.
Thankfully, I woke up from this dream. It was still dark outside. The valley was sleeping peacefully, covered in a thick blanket of trance. My tent mates were sleeping, far from peacefully. It seemed that they were struggling with the dreams of their own. I wondered what character they might be playing. And will they be lucky enough to find a gas station, like I did.
Sun peeked at us, while we were following our morning algorithm. I was still thinking about the dream. It was still very vivid in my mind, even hours after sleep – which is very unusual. We had been trekking for 3 days then, and there did not go by a day when I didn’t have a vivid (and weird) dream. Many of the people in the camp were having the same experience. Dreams that hit you like reality. You wake up and take a good amount of time to come in terms with what is real. A dream, even as stupid and ridiculous as I had, seems to be perfectly normal when you are in it.
We discussed this while trekking towards our next camp site. In absence of any source (read Google) – we were left there to formulate our own theories. It had to do something with oxygen (the most potent drug) – Was lack of oxygen making us dream more? It does make you hallucinate at times. Probable cause. Since it had affected all and sundry, science was the only possible cause. Other theories were shunned along the way.
Our stay in the mountains in Kashmir continued to be dreamy. We were not complaining, since most of the dreams were happy dreams (weird, but happy). Discussing what we dreamt last night, was now a part of our morning algorithm.
Why do we dream more in mountains?
I was really curious to know the answer, and one of the first things that I did when I came back to Mumbai was search for this. And the answer is really interesting – We do not dream more in mountains. We just remember it better. Most of the times, when in mountains, we break away from our dreams during REM phase – and hence, we do not forget. So, to summarize, we keep dreaming about weird things all the time, but mountains help us to remember. They are like – “Hey you! Take this. Remember your shit”.
Delving a little deeper into science :
During slow wave sleep a person is in their deepest sleep and their brain slows, becoming less responsive to external stimuli, while during REM sleep a person is dreaming (Harvard Medical School, 2007). Many people are able to better recall their dreams when they awake from REM sleep; it is like they are waking up in the middle of a dream so the dream is readily available to their consciousness. It is possible that at higher altitudes the cycles of sleep happen quicker so we are more likely to wake up during a bout of REM sleep, and therefore more likely to recall our dream. It could also be that the decreased oxygen levels somehow affect our dream recall, making dreams seem more vivid. Even another possibility is that the decreased amount of slow wave sleep, proposed to have the function of consolidating memories from the day, leads the brain to try to make-up for that loss of consolidation through vivid, realistic, dreams. Any of these ideas could be the reason that dreams are reported as more vivid at high altitudes, but these ideas are simply ideas and need to be investigated for their validity.
Pretty interesting, right? There is another field in neuro science which is very interesting and has caught hold of my curiosity for some time now – “Lucid Dreaming” and “Interpretation of Dreams”. Can we really connect with our subconscious, have a dialogue with our sleeping mind? The thought experiment is very trippy in itself. I have decided to experiment with this, see if I can find a connection or a common pattern in this weird myriad of thoughts. I will see how it goes. Read about Dreams! Try to debate with yourself what exactly is Reality.
“From a surreal point of view, a dream is something that speaks to you from your subconscious, letting you know all manner of secrets that you consciousness should unlock. From a realistic view, it is defined as a series of thoughts, sensations and images that occur within your mind when you are fast asleep.”
“This is because your dreams are the best window for you to use to access your subconscious mind, and they can reveal to you the truth about what you really like and desire.”
I haven’t trekked much in the last 2 months. A reason for that might be that it isn’t Monsoons yet (my favorite season for trekking). Anyways, this Sunday was fixed for the trek to Ajoba Hills, which has been in my list for some time now.
Quoting from the wiki – Standing at a height of 4511 feet in the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, Ajoba Hill is one of the highest peaks in the Sahyadri ranges. Situated in the Shahapur Taluka at the base village of Dehene, the Ajoba Hill is considered sacred due to the local folklore that this was the place where goddess Sita stayed in an Ashram during her exile and separation from Lord Rama. Halfway through the climb up the mountain is located the “Valmiki Ashram” and the cave here Goddess Sita stayed with her two sons Luv and Khush. The hill got its name from the term “Ajoba” which means grandfather in Marathi – a term that Luv and Khush used to address Saint Valmiki. It is also believed that Saint Valmiki’s Samadhi in the hill increases in size every few years.
Know that feeling when you just can’t let your life halt. You just want to keep running. Keep exploring. Keep ticking out the items from your “to do” list.
Well !! I know that feeling. Earlier this year, I had gifted myself with a promise and list of treks for the upcoming monsoon season. Though I was not able to sweep the list completely clean, I still managed to explore most of the places from that list. Or should I say “we” rather than “I” – coz “I” stands tall but alone, but “we” always stick together to the very end, even though it has to lie a little low. I find pride in having few awesome friends who have always stood up to chose a rough outing in hills over lying warm and cozy in their bed on a lazy weekend morning. We have somehow managed to continue being in NITIE even after passing out (Passing out as in getting our degree and stuff, and not “PASSING OUT” :P)
Anyways, monsoons have gone away now – Much to my dismay, but one can only wait. Kothaligad Fort Trek was our last trek this monsoons. A small fort (just over 3000 feet) situated near Karjat – A relatively easier trek compared to what we had experienced earlier in the season – Still, somehow, it marked a perfect goodbye to the Rain Gods.
Let me take you through a photo tour of this trek.
The pinnacle you see at the top – That was our destination