Our high-paced modern lifestyles put a lot of strain on body and mind and sometimes can push one to the edge and over it too. We reached such a situation this month while pushing to complete our anniversary issue so we decided to step off a cliff. Yes, we walked to the edge and just stepped off.
The Eon was a great companion on the narrow roads around the little village
But let me explain, just a few hundred kilometres on the outskirts of Mumbai is a quiet little hamlet called Vihigaon. Nothing much but farming and the regular regimens of village life takes place through the week and for that matter for most of the year, but once the monsoons set in, thrill seekers flock to the little town every weekend. This is on account of the 120ft waterfall that lies just behind the collection of 20 little huts that make up this village.
The Hyundai Eon ducks under the tunnel on the way
The Vihi falls are quite a spectacular sight when the river is in full spate but these adrenaline junkies don't get their fix from just taking in the view. They are here to get their kicks from waterfall rappelling. What is waterfall rappelling you ask? At some point of time some genius/madman thought to club rappelling/abseiling together with a raging waterfall and waterfall rappelling was born. That is descending straight down the centre of a 120 foot waterfall secured just by one 10mm diametre rope.
The moment just before you step over the edge
While it's not for the faint-hearted, anyone reasonably fit can give it a shot
The best part is that the only kit you need to participate in this adventure is a pair of trekking shoes, shorts/tights and a t-shirt. The rest of the safety equipment, rope and other bits and bobs are provided to you on site. There are a number of adventure tour operators that conduct trips to many waterfall rappelling sites sprinkled around the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. It's a fairly safe yet spectacular adventure sport that nearly everyone can participate in. All we needed to do now was get there. We made the trip to Vihigaon in the stylish and fun Hyundai Eon 1.0L. The 1.0-litre engine makes a class leading 69PS and was great fun on the twisty roads up Kasara Ghat.
Genius or madman be damned my legs wanted to make a break for the surrounding hills as I gingerly put on my harness, getting my guide to double check that all was as tight as could be. We did this exercise a safe distance from the falls only to be left with a short trek to the point of no return. This wasn't a tiring trek or troublesome exercise but it gave you just enough time to second guess what you were about to do. That would be to foolhardily climb down a slippery rock face with just one rope, gloves and a plastic hard hat for safety while a river bears down on top of you.
This metal figure of eight is what a descender is. The other two metal loops are the carabiners. They are all that is keeping you from falling
I clipped my carabiner (a metal clip that's attached to your harness) to a security rope and made my way to the edge where another guide clipped me on to the main safety line that would keep me safe on my descent. Then I was clipped on to the main fixed line that runs through a descender. Ah, two lines. That makes me feel a lot better. The descender is a figure of eight shaped clamp that allows the main line to pass slowly through it depending on how much friction you apply to the line with your gloved left hand. This allows me to control my rate of descent down the cliff face. I literally held my fate in my hands.
All I could see, looking up, was the rope disappearing back over the top edge of the cliff and the wall of water rushing over me
Now that I'm writing this all these terms and ropes and knots make sense but standing there about to step off the cliff, it all sounded like gibberish. All I was thinking was Are you out of your mind!" I stepped off and started my decent through the falls and almost immediately lost my footing on the slippery rock. Lean back" I heard the guide shout over the thundering of the water. I did and found the going much easier. After a few feet I started to enjoy myself but then I came to edge of the vertical face. They always tell you to never look down and you always just have to. And so I did and found that the people at the bottom of the falls looked tiny and then some real fear set in. How would I manage to keep this up till I got all the way down there?
Did I just do that?
Blind faith can move mountains and with this in mind I stepped over the edge trusting in the guide's instructions, the safety harness and the rope. And it was absolutely beautiful. Once I cleared the edge all I could see looking up was the rope disappearing back over the top edge of the cliff and the wall of water rushing over me. Gone was the feeling of fear and it was replaced with complete excitement. With less weight on your legs, the going actually becomes easier and it was over before I knew it and it was brilliant. If you like adventure then this is one adventure sport you really have to try.