A memorable weekend at Garudmachi

(Warning: Long post)

A few weeks ago, chopper aka Vasudeo Gharpure was in India, and Vasant Vasant Limaye aka Balya had organized a get together at his residence in Pune. Many of us could meet there and we had a pleasant evening. The conversation turned to having a night out at Garudmachi, and I agreed to to enlist people for the same on 26th and 27th January.

Areal View of Garudmachi. On the extreme right is the cliff behind Garudmachi. You can see the tent tops in the middle of the photo, between the road and the cliff, on the right side of the road.The water reservoir in the left of the road is used for electricity generation by Tata Electric Company. You can see the water pipes on the left taking water to the generators.

Areal View of Garudmachi. On the extreme right is the cliff behind Garudmachi. You can see the tent tops in the middle of the photo, between the road and the cliff, on the right side of the road.
The water reservoir in the left of the road is used for electricity generation by Tata Electric Company. You can see the water pipes on the left taking water to the generators.

Before I proceed,  an Introduction is in order for both Balya and Garudmachi. I met Balya for the first time in July 1977. It was my first hike ever, and we were going to Peb. I distinctly remember four people from that hike. Ajit Ranade was a fellow fresher, and I think this was his first hike too. Three senior hikers that I remember were Chopper, Balya and Sanjay Thaurdesai aka TD.

Vasant LimayeBalya was a legend in IIT even then. He was known for his climbing & organizing skills. He was a great cook, and a leader. He would catch crabs on a hike and roast them on wood fire, or would tie live chicken to people’s rucksacks and cook them for the dinner. And he was so witty.

Convert your passion into your profession, and you never have to work is a often used cliche. Balya is one of the very few who actually manage to do it. Balya started a company, High

Tent at Garudmachi. Vinita & Geeta in the foreground.

Tent at Garudmachi. Vinita & Geeta in the foreground.

Places Management Private Limited, hpmpl, that specializes in outdoor based management training. In this regard, Balya pioneered a whole new business line. Their client list reads like a whose who of the India industry. Garudmachi is their campsite, specifically developed for these outdoor management programs.

Garudmachi is situated at the edge of the western ghats. As you can see in the first photograph, It’s on a narrow shelf half-way up a 2000 feet cliff.

Rapelling and Rock climbing  facility

Rapelling and Rock climbing facility

Easily approachable from Pune (75 km) and Mumbai (via Kolad 140 km), the site is breathtaking.

The Garudmachi Outdoor Development Centre (ODC) is spread over 25 acres. It has comfortable tents as well as dormitories. These can easily accomodate about 100 people at a time. It has a permanent tower like structure created for rock climbing & rappelling. It also has a permanents erected burma-bridge. All these are used for the management development sessions.

On the other side of the road is a modern Management Development Centre (MDC) spread over 15 Kms. It has all the modern facilities for corporate conferences, including stay, conference rooms etc.

Back to our story. I started a email blast. I sent mails to almost every IIT mountaineer who had ever climbed with Balya. The plan was very simple. Reach Garudmachi in the evening on 26th. Cook our own dinner on wood fire, a la IIT Trek style. Keep talking till we fell asleep. Wake up next day morning. Walk around. Have brunch and return.

People were quite excited. The star attractions were, Garudmachi, Balya and a chance to meet up with everyone. In spite of everyone’s busy schedules, 30 people confirmed their participation. These included some better halves, who were also keen on attending the outing and meeting others.

People started arriving around 5 PM on 26th. There were a few dropouts. But by 7.15, around 23 people gathered from Mumbai & Pune. The Mumbai folks (us) were the last to reach. By the time we reached, the cooking on wood fire in the classical aluminum vessels had already begun. It was funny to control the heat by pulling out the wood from fire. 🙂

Cooking on the wood fire at Garudmachi

Cooking on the wood fire at Garudmachi.

Balya Showing Garud Bharari

Balya Showing Garud Bharari

While the cooking was in progress, Balya called all of us to a nearby shed. This was equipped with a screen and a projector. Balya showed us a film, Garud Bharari, which was about a contest between 4 groups of outdoor experts who work at Garudmachi, either on a regular basis or at the time of programmes. And then, there was a Q&A sessions with Balya, where we got some insights into Garudmachi & it’s running.

Watching GarudBharari

Watching GarudBharari

There are about 70 people, employees, who run Garudmachi. In addition to these people, they have a bunch of 70 outdoor experts. Garudmachi really provides a career avenue for outdoor enthusiasts. The safety is given utmost importance, and by god’s grace and their preparedness, their safety record is impeccable.

Then we were back in the dining area. It was a full moon night and the atmosphere was just magical. It was a little cold, not too much. And so even after dinner, we sat in front of the tents and made merry. It was almost 1 AM before we turned in.

I was woken up by people talking outside our tent. It was six AM and people were already awake. Tea was served and people were sitting and chatting. We joined them.

Balya told us that we will go for a small trek, a climb of about 20 minutes to get a look around. By 7, two of his outdoor experts were already there as our guides and we started. As we reached the road, our guides started herding us to the edge of the road.

The whole group at the highest point

The whole group at the highest point

As planned, we climbed a little and then stopped to look around. There was some haze and everything was not very clear. However, we could very clearly see the Tata Electric Tank.

The view from top
Then we started back. When we reached the road, our guides signalled a safety vehicle to proceed to the campsite. It seems that vehicle was on a standby there, just in case there was any accident. I was impressed. As compared to this, we took on too many risks while trekking in our IIT days.

On return, we had a sumptuous breakfast, and people who needed to leave early left, with the promises of meeting again.

Balya giving Rappelling instructions

Balya giving Rappelling instructions

Those who left behind went for a rappelling lesson. Balya himself was our trainer. He showed us the  whole drill, and actually persuaded Geeta, Vinita & Ratna to do it. When he was talking to Geeta, I was almost certain Geeta would break into tears. Surprisingly she didn’t. All of the rappelled, and were very thrilled that they did it. So thrilled in fact, they all of them did it again. In fact all of us rappelled down twice.

Finally, it was time to return. We returned via Ganpati Pali. Did a Darshan, and were back home by 5 PM. Next 2 days, Geeta couldn’t stop talking about her rappelling adventura.

This entry was posted in IIT days, Memoirs, Mountaineering, Travelogue. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to A memorable weekend at Garudmachi

  1. M. G. Pai says:

    Thanks for shsring. Missed the fun buddies

  2. Prashant Kulkarni says:

    Very nice. I also visited Garud Maachi recently, and echo your statements. I am also trekker. You might want to catch up some of my writings on these topics here: https://ppkya.wordpress.com

    • प्रशांत
      मी तुझ्या ब्लॉगला एक धावती भेट दिली, आणि गरुडमाची चा पोस्ट वाचला. बाकी पोस्ट्सही नंतर सावकाशीने वाचीन.

      • Prashant Kulkarni says:

        धन्यवाद, मकरंद. जरूर तुमचे मत आणि प्रतिक्रिया जमेल तेव्हा कळवा!

  3. Lokendra Patidar says:

    Its so nice helpful articel even reading after ling time from posting… thanks for sharing such type… I am a software professional and working in TCS. Is it possible to urs group for this type activity for learning purpose… 🙂

  4. Tushar Deshmukh says:

    I am Tushar Deshmukh from pune & planning to team building at Gaurd machi for 100~130 people
    pl let us know the contact details.
    Cell # 88888 91508

  5. Chris says:

    Friends. I am planning an overnight at Garudmachi in the next week. From Pune. Could someone tell me whether the road is motorable? Do I need an SUV or a normal car with low ground clearance is okay? How long does the drive take from Pune. Some are saying 3 hours?

    • Chris
      Sorry for the delay in answering. The road to Garudmachi is perfectly motorable. In fact State Transport Buses ply regularly on the road.
      From Chandani Chowk, which is on the ooutskirts of Pune, It shouldn’t take more than an hour and 30 minutes.

  6. Deepak S Avasare says:


    Try to arrange next outing in the month of December so that I can join.

    Deepak S Avasare

  7. deepak patil says:

    Wonderful blog, Makya…

  8. wonderful reading. Thanks for the post

  9. hgodbole@gmail.com says:

    Chopper, V(squared) and a few of you were – and are – legends for the “younger” batches 🙂 Thanks for a wonderful blog, and we’ll try and make it to Balya’s abode one of these days!
    – Hemendra Godbole, 85/EE/H4

  10. Abhay Anil Kharshikar says:

    definately stay at Garudmachi is always memorable for me.

  11. aniket says:

    Sir, When I was going through your post, my mind went back to Garudmachi. like I am doing this again and again. simply great experince 🙂

  12. Excellent Post, and very good detail of Garudmachi. Thanks for sharing it.

    I have never visited this place, and would like to do some day.

  13. M. G. Pai says:

    Makrand, thanks for the posting.

  14. Looking forward to a visit to Garudmaachi soon!

  15. makya, as usual your info comes after the trek. why couldn’t you have posted the information here.

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