Arpita Chakrabarty, a Silver Award aspirant from Sri Sarada Math completed her Adventurous Journey from 17th to 21st of February 2016 at Matha Hill under the Gender Diversity & Empowerment Project. She shares her learning experiences with us in this report.
With a rucksack on our back, we started our journey on 17th of February 2016 at 8:00 PM from Howrah Station. Filled with curiosity and excitement, we all boarded the Howrah-Adra-Bokaro passenger train at 11:35 PM, and deboarded the train the next morning at Barbhum station and reached Matha Forest Area for our camping destination.
We were 54 in our group including 39 members from Sri Sarada Math and 15 from All Bengal Women's Home. We were shown to our beautiful tents immediately, and soon after enjoying our much awaited breakfast, the instructor divided us into 8 groups for our first climbing session.
In this new learning zone we all were inquisitive and thrilled to absorb the new knowledge on the unknown subject -- the Art of climbing. The session began with dissemination of information on different types of boulders like slab, wall, over-hanging and roof; details about normal, pinch, side and jug hold; aim of rock climbing, which is to overcome obstruction; how to judge the easiest way of climbing; where and how to take a proper foot grip, right body posture for climbing down, that too without any equipment. All of this was new to us and we were asked to practice what we had learnt by climbing boulders of approximately 7-8 feet high within the allocated time limit.
In the post lunch session we had a class on ropes, knots and hitches. In this class we learnt about Karnamental Rope (made of lead and poly fibre with breaking strength of 9 mm diameter - 1452 kg), history of Karnamental rope, aim of knot making, the standing and running end of a rope, the basic and most important knots, which thumb or safety knot and guide man-middle man-end-man knot. We also learnt that in order to join two ropes with even diameter we should use fisherman knot or reef knot, sheet-bend knot to tie up two ropes of uneven diameter; key knot, bow-line or rescue knot, clove hitch (to anchor), timber hitch (to pull up something) were also few more knots and hitches which we were taught during our session. After this, we were introduced to various instruments used in climbing like: rope, scaling tape, harness (sheet, chest and combined), P A (Peary Alen) Shoe (used for rock climbing), plane and screw carabiner made of high carbon steel, figure of eight (descender) which is used to move down quickly, Ascender (used to ascending up faster), tape, artificial stair, pulley, horizontal, vertical and universal piton, friend, skyhook, stitch plate, chest ascender and runner to name a few. We all felt completely drenched in the rain of knowledge, at the end of the session, extremely exhausted, yet eager to learn more in the days to come.
A refreshing tea break was given then, and we all enjoyed the beautiful view of the sunset through the trees, which was just an unforgettable moment. In the evening we learnt some basic rules of camping like: how to have a fresh and encouraging start up, mental preparation, skills to adjust with people around, walking manners, camping manners, communication with local customs, passing information and technical planning etc. After enjoying dinner with our friends, we shared our experiences of the whole day, in which we also got answers to some of our queries. With a wish to have a wonderful and exciting next day, we all went to our tents to sleep and rest.
Friday morning, 19th of February 2016, we went for a morning exercise session. Jogging, free hand exercise, and a small laughing class filled us with energy and “gur-chola” boosted our confidence. Next, we went for our rock climbing class with the instructors of ICNL, in which they taught us about belay method (security method to protect a co-climber with the help of a rope from a sudden fall), static belay (man to man), dynamic belay (with the help of instrument). The instructors explained that there should be two platforms, Karnamental rope, anchor (A), belayer (B) and climber(C) should be in the same line to avoid accident, climbing sequence i.e. climbing command between B and C at the time of climbing should be as follows:
C: Take the slag
C: Its me
B: OK/ climb on
C: I am climbing
B: Climb up
After reaching to B, C should say "Thanks” to Belayer. In case of a sudden fall, C should inform B by saying "Falling/ Belay tight" etc., we were instructed that we should bend our body at an angle of 30 degree, being a Belay man, we should remember that our right hand (left for lefties) is the feeling or guiding hand and left hand (right for lefties) is the breaking hand and most importantly we should follow the right positioning of rope to avoid any accident. After listening to these instructions, it was our turn to experience these exercises. We climbed up various types of boulders and played the role of a Belay man also. Exhausted though we were at the end of the session, just one glass of lemonade acted as true energizer.
After lunch and a little refreshing chat, at 3:00 PM we went for a visit to the Pakhi Pahar. Going up and down almost 12 km with the view of Matha hill, Asim sir, one of our instructors, showed us a narrow space between two mountains where wind is really speedy and from where water flows down in the rainy season, mountain ridge, basin (a hollow space containing water), spar, arite (vertical ridge), pass (a space between two mountains through which we can pass, which is also used as trade route) and most importantly the Pakhi Pahar. He informed us how old these hills were, even older than the Himalayas and why they were named Pakhi Pahar. With a lot of memories and new information, we went back to our camping site again. In the evening, we shared our experience and lessons of the day with Chandan sir. After that, we were briefed about camping first aid, snake bite, and burns and we were informed about the next day climbing schedule of Matha Buru (Hill). With a heart full of questions and eagerness to know the unknown, we switched off our torches in the tents to wake up in time the next morning.
Saturday morning, 20th February -- we kick started our day with a really funny morning exercise. At 6:00 AM we started our journey to climb the 1200 ft Matha hill. Whenever we were feeling exhausted, we looked at the trail and the bird’s eye view of the scene left behind. After reaching the halt, we were given instructions and showed practically how to climb up and climb down, then it was our turn to perform this feat. We climbed up 150 feet and rappelled down and then we did Terrelian Traversing also. We stored some of the most unforgettable moments in our hearts which we would cherish throughout our lives.
After lunch we were given a demonstration on how to pitch a tent, taught techniques for self-cooking and explained three basic needs of camping (water, shelter and fire). We learnt that there are two kinds of shelters -- permanent and temporary, and temporary tents also have two types -- self standing and assembled. We learnt about various parts of tents (outer, inner, ground sheet, central and guard pole), and how and why a tent should be placed at a minimum distance of 100 feet from water source and how pegs should be grounded at an angle of 35 degree. Not only did we get to know about the different shapes of the tents (dome shape, A shape and canopy), different shapes of fire (star, pyramid and tower) but also how to store fire, how to cook food without any utensil or even artificial help for that matter. Somnath sir gave us some interesting information about mountain people and their food habits. We enjoyed tandoori chicken prepared by Avrajit da, Somnath sir, Souvik sir and then we went back to our camping site. At the camp we prepared for the campfire and enjoyed ourselves the whole night. It was one of the most cordial sessions where all the participants and instructors were sharing their experiences and stories in the friendliest of manner. We danced, sang, recited and performed a skit, but the highlight of the campfire was when all of our instructors sang beautiful songs together and Dutta sir joined them and Chandan sir sang the famous countryside song of Harry Belafonte "Down the way" which was truly mesmerizing. Humming the lyric of "Down the way" we slept in our tents.
Sunday morning, 21st of February, we started walking towards the top of Matha hill to visit the temple named Aranyapitha Tirthadhyam. That morning we had the sun as our co-climber. We became a witness to the sunrise over the hill, a scene always to remember. After reaching the top, we did chimney climbing and after coming back to our camping area, we folded our tents and cleaned the area. At lunch, we had a lot of fun. With all our friends, along with girls from All Bengal Women’s home, we learnt some self-defense. At 2:45 PM we bade adieu to the place with our hearts full of memories. At 6:00 PM we boarded a local train from Barabhum station waving hands to Matha, with a wish to come back here once again! We reached Adra at about 7:30 PM and from there we finally boarded the Bokaro-Adra-Howrah Passenger at 10:15 PM. Monday morning, 22nd February, we reached Howrah at 4:30 AM and came back to our homes when our heart was still saying:
Down the way where the nights are grey, and the sun shines daily on the mountain top,
I took a trip on a sailing ship, and when I reached Matha I made a stop.
But I'm sad to say I'm on my way, we won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down my head is turning around, I had to leave a little wish at Matha hill....