“Next Friday is off. It means a 3 days weekend!!!” As soon as I realized it, I could not stop myself planning for the huge weekend. For the last two years, it’s been a trend for me and my friends to have a weekend trip at least once a month. Almost all the nearby adventurous places had been explored by our adventure hungry team.
A meeting was called immediately. All 5 of us were ready to plan the weekend and were expecting it to be as much fun as we used to have on the previous trips. We were unaware of what we were going to experience would change our lives forever.
“But Arjun, we have already visited all the nearby places. No adventurous place left now”, declared Asit. He was kind of most impatient in our group. All of us were thinking about the unexplored places when Raghav broke the silence, “Eureka!! I think I know a place.” We all listened to him with a bit of surprise and then a huge smile was spread on all the 5 faces.
Priya and Payal were the female members of our group. It was hard to find a girl as adventurous as Priya. She could go to any extent to smell adventure. However, Payal was kind of simple and smart girl who knew to use her brain at the time when it was needed the most.
Having all set, we packed our bags and were ready for the adventure. It was planned that we will leave on Friday morning. We had enough food for the weekend and a camping kit. Asit brought his father’s newly bought XUV and it was the perfect ride for our adventure.
“So what exactly is this place”, I asked Raghav. He was the one who suggested us this strange place named Gujmani, a place near his maternal grandfather’s village, Bukaani. It was 230 km from our place. “It is a place which was always described by my mom’s grandfather”, Raghav seemed excited while describing it. “I am yet not sure about the truth behind the story but it will be awesome if we find that the story is true.”
Asit was a bit sceptical because if the story turned out to be false, we could find ourselves having wasted a preciously huge weekend. But we had no other choice as we had already discussed over all the other places, so we moved on.
After 4 hours of drive, we were almost there. I found a board named “Bukaani” showing an arrow directing towards right. “So, we are near your mom’s village. Where to go now?” I asked Raghav, as I was on the driving seat now.
It was 9 in the morning. There was almost no traffic and we encountered just a few cars on the way. Raghav looked out of the window and directed us towards left, “This way.” I noticed a very narrow road between the dense trees going inside. The highway roadside barricades were absent from that part giving just enough space for a car to pass.
“Are you sure we can go in?” I was not sure if we can take our XUV inside. But Raghav seemed to know this place. He was confident, “Just go ahead.” I looked behind. Asit, Priya and Payal were almost asleep on the back seat. I thought for a while and then turned left. Our car disappeared in the forest alongside the highway.
The GPS panel fitted on the car dashboard was showing that we were nowhere. I couldn’t find Gujmani on my GPS tracker. Raghav said, it is a place truly unexplored as it is not officially a village. It was devastated long ago and only a handful of people were left there. It was dense forest with plethora of wild animals. So people avoided to live there. Our XUV was going on a narrow but clean piece of raw road. Thankfully the rainy season was still away, otherwise this road could turn into a swamp. The road was wide enough to accommodate our vehicle and in case we encounter someone coming from the other side, we could be stuck there. But Raghav was assured that we will find nobody there at that time.
After about 4 kms of dirty drive, we entered a less dense forest and a clear road wider than the previous road. Raghav was excited to see his childhood place and directed me towards a small gate. I was amazed to find a gate there. It meant people lived in this area which almost looked haunted. Raghav went out of the vehicle and shouted to call someone. Asit, Priya and Payal woke up by this noise. We saw an old man opening the gate. Raghav came back and seated again. We drove inside.
It was a nice farmhouse skirted by high fence. We were given nice village food and proper arrangements were made for our stay as Raghav already informed his uncle about our visit. We were delighted.
Raghav told us that he had visited this farmhouse only once in his life as his mother did not allow him to go to that place. He visited this place in his summer vacations but was not allowed to roam around. It was because this area had a waterfall in which many village kids were drowned or killed by wild animals. But now he was grown up and was free to follow his will. He told us that we will start for the waterfall in the afternoon. He was quite excited to explore the place from which he was always kept away.
In the afternoon, we started in our XUV to explore the waterfall. A person from Raghav’s village accompanied us. His name was “Sarju” and he had strict instructions from Raghav’s uncle to stick with us all the time. He seemed a fearless man and he was quite familiar with the area. He was not quite happy with our idea to explore this place in the evening. But it was necessary to check if the story about this place was true or not because as per the story every night, the waterfall was visited by some of the rare species of animals found in the forest. Our plan was to observe them while hiding in some safe place.
Our XUV was running slow due to bumpy road. The forest was quite dense and unpredictable and we were not sure where we will have to leave our vehicle as the way was becoming narrower. After half an hour of drive, we heard the noise of waterfall. Suddenly the forest ended and we were in an open rocky area with an awesome waterfall in our front. We all rushed out of our XUV. “What a beautiful place it was!!!”
We did not understand why this beautiful waterfall was so dangerous. Then we came to know the reality. When we went forward, we found that it was just the tip of the iceberg. This water was actually going down and there was a waterfall which was falling hundreds of feet down from where we were standing. We were stunned. We could not see the end of this waterfall. It was the time for the real adventure. We were ready to go down.
We all wore our trekking gears and started climbing down towards the waterfall. There seemed no other way as the waterfall was surrounded by dense forest from two sides and in any case, we had to climb down as we could not see any direct slope going down. We were going down parallel to the falling waterfall. Sarju was very comfortable while climbing and was moving ahead to guide us.
“Lalla, we should not be here at this time. It can be dangerous. This place is full of wild animals and if we confront them, no one will come for the rescue.” Sarju spoke for the first time. We all were thrilled by listening to this. But instead of being afraid, we became more excited to reach down as soon as possible. Sarju was not afraid. He seemed to be worried about us. It was very dangerous to go down as there were some trees emerging out of the cracks in the rock and a few had snakes surrounded on them. We were assured by Sarju that they were non-poisonous snakes quite abundant in that area.
After 2 hours, we were finally at the bottom. What an awesome place it was! Clean water falling down from such a height. It was truly beautiful. We set up our tents on the side of the river and played in falling water for some time. Sarju was trying to be near us and seemed ready for any upcoming danger. It was getting dark now. We had our night vision binoculars to observe the other side of the river. Sarju told us not to lit campfire as it may scare away the animals. We all hid in our camps with the night vision binoculars on our eyes.
After an hour, we finally saw something rare. A family of leopard visited the river. They were the rarest breed of white leopard and lived in the densest part of the forest. We were watching three fully grown leopards drinking water and playing around the river. It seemed that this river marked the boundary of the forest and they did not go the other side. Suddenly the leopards became uneasy and in a few minutes they left the place growling scarily. Our eyes widened with fear as well as adventure. It was a lion. We could not believe that we were sitting inside a tent in a forest and watching one of the most dangerous animals of the world from just another side of the river. We were hardly 30 feet away from the lion.
Suddenly Priya screamed. We all looked back. She was jumping with fear and pain. There was something around her leg. We switched on our flash lights to find a huge snake surrounding her leg. Its teeth were dug in her leg. We all were badly scared now. Sarju immediately jumped and tried to pull the snake. But the snake had badly drilled its teeth in the flesh and was not ready to leave. It seemed Priya unknowingly stepped on the snake and it attacked her. Finally Sarju got successful in getting the snake by its neck and threw it away in water. Priya’s leg was bleeding. Sarju ran in the forest. We immediately comforted Priya. Payal started cleaning her wound. But Priya was getting unconscious.
Just then, Sarju appeared from nowhere. He brought some plant leaves. He crushed them and put the paste of the leaves on the wound. We brought our first aid kit and dressed her wound. After a few minutes, Priya regained her consciousness.
In all this mess, we forgot that there were wild animals on the other side of the river. Suddenly we heard a roar from behind us. As we turned back, our faces got numb. Three giant white leopards were standing just a few feet away. We realized that we were going to die. There was no way fighting those animals even though we outnumbered them. Clearly, they were more powerful and fast. As we could think of something, Sarju made a banging sound by his stick and threw a few packets in the shallow water stored in small gaps along the river side. They immediately burned with bright light and made some sound. This scared the leopards.
Sarju told us to leave immediately and we ran towards the rocks and started climbing. Sarju was behind us and he lit a piece of cloth and attached it to his stick, scaring the leopards with fire. Priya was not well and we were holding her and climbing as fast as we could. We reached the top in an hour. Asit reached the top first. He ran towards the XUV and ignited the engine. We also ran towards the XUV, opened the doors and jumped inside it. Sarju was left behind scaring the leopards. We locked the XUV from inside waiting for Sarju.
Suddenly a leopard jumped on the XUV and started scratching the wind screen. We all screamed with fear. Suddenly a stick came and hit it and the leopard fell from the vehicle. Sarju was running towards us with no defence. We immediately opened the door and got him in. He was badly injured. We, then, drove towards the farmhouse.
Finally on reaching the farmhouse, we felt a bit of comfort. Priya and Sarju were immediately sent to hospital. We spent the rest of the weekend and the following week in the hospital. Priya recovered soon however Sarju took some time to recover. We were feeling guilty for putting Sarju in such a dangerous situation just for the sake of our adventure.
It was an incredible experience of our life where we almost lost our lives and survived by a slight chance. We could not plan another weekend adventure trip for a long time.