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Walking on air: Battling vertigo atop Duke's Nose

If walking on a thin rope over a 300-feet-deep rocky chasm is your idea of adventure, then you should head to the Duke’s Nose in Lonavala.

At first sight, it was a daunting prospect. How could anyone think of walking on a rope to cross a chasm filled with rocks? What if the harnesses gave up? Our mind was filled with gory images of all the falls we had seen in films — from balconies and rooftops to mountains. And here we were readying ourselves to walk on a thin rope (12 mm) at Duke’s Nose (also called Nagphani), Lonavala, over a 300-feet-deep chasm. We were scared and worried.


Ziplining on a 45-degrees slope from the top of Duke’s Nose. Pics/Atul Kamble

That’s when our host Rohit Nayak informed: “Each rope can hold a weight of up to 2,000 kg. There are two
such ropes, which means it can stand 4,000 kg.” We felt much more confident now.

Nayak started Canvas N Chrome, an adventure travel company, with his friend Dimesh Patel in late 2013.

The two came up with the idea during a trek and have since been organising adventure activities with Malay Adventures, a Pune-based group of professionals involved in mountaineering, hiking and other popular adventure activities.

The Duke’s Nose (also called Nagphani) offers a good view of the Sahyadri Mountains. PIC COURTESY/Parag Jadhav

What we were attempting is usually referred to as highlining, a form of slacklining (walking on a tight rope) done at an elevation above ground or water. For this activity, we had to reach the base village of Kurwande, a 2.5 hour drive from Mumbai. From Kurwande, it’s a 45-minute trek to the top of the Duke’s Nose where the activity takes place.

The set-up
A rope bridge (web) was constructed with the help of four ropes, anchored on the Duke’s Nose at one end and a small hill on the other; three on top, and one at the bottom.

Usually, there is only one flat rope (bottom) with a slight tension on which one walks, but since most of us were novices at the sport, the organisers had added three extra ropes for safety. Of the three ropes above our head, two remained static (tight), providing the necessary anchor on the bottom rope. There were four extension ropes attached to the two static ropes above, of which two were tied with us through a harness, ensuring safety in case we lost

balance. The other two ropes had knots, and we were required to use them to balance ourself on the bottom rope.
There was a third rope on top pulled by a team on the other side to assist movement on the rope.


The adventurists from Malay Adventures on the job

How to walk
The idea was to use our toes to grip the bottom rope, and walk on it with the help of the free extension wires. We could pull them or loosen them as per the requirement. The trickiest part was balancing on the rope. The best way to do it is to pull the free extension wires down, keeping your hands parallel to the ground level.

The more you straighten your hand, the easier it is to balance yourself. And once you achieve that, the rest is all about co-ordinating your movement with those pulling you from the other side.

A walk unfinished
The Duke’s Nose is located at a strategic point offering a beautiful view of the Shivaji Lake and the nearby forts on the south of Lonavala and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Khopoli and Khandala on the north, a sight worth remembering from that height. Unfortunately, highlining requires you to have strong arms to balance yourself on the rope. We managed to cross one-third of it before our hands gave up and there we were hanging in air. It was disappointing, but not bad for a first timer.

Ziplining to basecamp
The fear of heights heightened while ziplining from the tip of the Duke’s Nose to the base of the hill. The activity is similar to Flying Fox, but here we were moving down a 650-feet-long slope slated at 45 degrees. The scariest part was taking the first step in air. The fear of falling was striking again. But thanks to the experts at hand, jumping was easier this time.

Unfortunately, the zipline was not as thrilling as the highline. But nonetheless, it was a great ride.

How it originated
Highlining is walking on a tight rope at an altitude, over ground or water. It was first seen in 1984, in Yosemite National Park, California, US, a couple of years after the discovery of slacklining, in the same park. It is one of the most in-depth form of balance training. It teaches one to release tension and negative energies caused by the stressful lifestyle of the modern society. It can act as a form of meditation for those who practise it.

Duke’s Nose

Overview: This 2,506 feet-high hill is a popular spot for adventure activities like rappelling, ziplining and now, highlining. The climb to the top of the hill is an easy half-an-hour trek from the base village, Kurwande. The trek, though tiring, offers a good view of the Sahyadri mountains on one side and Khandala and Khopoli on the other side.

The Duke’s Nose’s strategic location, made it an important watch tower for the Maratha rulers. Earlier, it was called Nagphani, because it resembled the head of a cobra. It was later named as Duke’s Nose after the long nose of the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley.

Don’t miss: The sunset, and a breathtaking view of the valley of Khopoli and Khandala, and the winding Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

How to get there:
By train: Take 22105 Indrayani Express from CST (5.40 am), Dadar
(5.51 am), Thane (6.14 am), Kalyan (6.35 am) or
Karjat (7.15 am).
By bus: MSRTC Shivneri and Semi Deluxe buses are available every half-an-hour from Dadar, Thane, Borivali, and Pune for Lonavala. It is a 2.5 hours ride from Mumbai and 1.5 hours from Pune. The buses halt almost 5 km before Lonavala city. Hire a rickshaw to reach Jaichan Chowk.
By private/own vehicle: It’s a three-hour journey to the base village, from Mumbai via Lonavala.

CONTACT:
Canvas N Chrome
CALL 8879941420/9619017717
COST R3,200 per person
EMAIL canvasnchrome@gmail.com

Checklist
* Carry at least two litres of water.
* Keep the area clean.
* Wear loose clothes. Avoid dark colours.
* Check safety precautions, and ask the experts for a double check before all activities.
* Don’t forget to carry a good quality sunscreen lotion.
* Take care of your belongings.

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