‘You might want to reconsider your decision of going on the batch trip. It’s a five day trip with over a hundred people where you will be entirely responsible for yourself. Will you be able to manage?’
My mind was swarming with such thoughts of apprehension even until the day before the trip. But there was another rather dichotomous part of my mind that just knew – I had to go on this trip.
I just HAD to.
Not out of peer pressure, but I had to go for myself – in order to let go of my slowly mounting insecurities, to reaffirm my faith in my own capabilities of managing myself in a crowd, and to find that carefree version of myself that I had left behind somewhere in my childhood.
And this trip did not disappoint me. In these sleepless five days, I learnt more about myself than I did in the past year. I suppose you learn the most about yourself when you spend time with yourself, and for me, that intensive introspection happens only during exams and on trips. 😂
The twelve-hour bus journey that began at 7 PM to Dandeli was an experience in itself. We danced as party songs and Spotify ads blared at high volume from the crackling speakers on the bus. We kept the windows open for ventilation, and needless to say, the wind made my hairstyle resemble Einstein’s, but I couldn’t care less. The mood was just so jubilant and energetic. Everyone finally began settling in and we finally got some sleep around 2 AM. I woke up around 3:30 AM to my best friend reaching for my hand in her sleep. She later denied this, obviously, but I wish I had captured that adorable moment on camera.
We reached Dandeli early the next morning and stepped out of the bus for our first batch photoshoot on the road. Yes, on the road, surrounded by a forest. One of my batchmates nearly had her phone run over by a jeep as she set its timer.
The resort was 5 km into the forest away from the main road, which meant we had to walk 5 km to reach the resort. The early morning walk was beautiful with one of my friends explaining everything he knew about bird watching. Halfway along the journey, my friends and I hitched a ride on the roof of the van carrying our luggage. That was the first time in my life I got a Chaiyya Chaiyya moment. Undoubtedly though, that ride felt like it was straight out of a movie scene. With my friends next to me, the breeze in my hair, the morning glow of the forest – I felt alive.
The resort was cosily nestled in the forest, but much to our chagrin, we barely had any working mobile data or network. That was when we wished we had subscribed to Jio, the only working network. People were rampantly begging for hotspots and Jio users were the superstars.
Eventually, eight of us girls were allotted a tent accommodation. The tents were newly built, extremely clean, and had two attached washrooms. We later found out a snake had entered the boys’ room. We joked that if snakes were entering the rooms, tigers and cheetahs would be entering our tents.
After freshening up, the girls and I headed over to the trampoline and just bounced around, reliving our childhood and giggling as if we were five-year-olds in a sandpit.
Later in the afternoon, after coating ourselves with layers of sunscreen, we headed out for river-rafting. This was another first for me – I felt empowered sitting on the edge of that inflatable raft rowing back and forth and listening intently to the instructor as he told us to duck near the river rapids. Jumping into the river was nothing short of exhilarating. The water enveloped me and I relished every second of it. One of my friends nearly had a panic attack as she landed face down in the water. We held her in order to comfort her as the instructor pulled her back up onto the raft. Overcoming her fears and seeing us have fun, she joined us again. This was followed by zip-lining and photoshoots. Thirty of us girls were packed into an open truck for the 5 km ride back to the resort. As we were jostled around, we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the forest was, with the stars shining down brightly on us.
A beautiful bonfire at night at the resort with soft music was the highlight of the night. We sat in our groups, gazing at the stars and talking softly. As I went to fill my water bottle in the dining area late past midnight, my friend noticed the ice cream vending machine unlocked. Within minutes, half of the batch came to know of this and the machine was emptied. The resort later charged us for all the ice cream in the final bill.
After a night of debating about mosquitoes and barely getting any sleep, we headed to Goa the next morning. We checked into the resort, and spent most of the evening and the night at Baga beach. Building sandcastles, gripping the sand with my feet, and the sand shifting underneath my feet as the waves washed it away – an ethereal experience that rendered me speechless. The sea looked beautiful in the moonlight – everything bothering me seemed insignificant at that moment, in front of the vast expanse of the sea, and I could only feel one emotion distinctly – relief.
Relief, peace, serenity.
This quiet, introspective moment transitioned quickly to reality when my friends splashed me with water and I playfully hit them back.
I truly felt liberated at that moment.
Soon, relief, peace, and serenity were completely replaced with fun, dance, and upbeat energy as my friends began dancing to the music at the boardwalk. We returned to the resort at 2 AM that night, with the light drizzle becoming a heavy downpour. I was completely drenched as I sat down to have dinner. One of my friends even took care of me then, staying back with me to ensure that I finished eating.
The following day, some of us rented an open jeep and toured Goa on our own. One of my friends drove, while the others helped him navigate. Hesitant at first, he eventually gained confidence and ensured we all had a safe ride. The drive along Parra Coconut Tree Road was one of the most scenic parts of the trip.
We visited Fort Aguada and were singed in the scorching heat, but even the scorching heat didn’t stop my friends from making reels. We had a cruise booked for the evening and in the late afternoon, we decided to go trekking at Devil’s Finger near Fort Aguada. I was all decked up in a dress and party shoes, dressed for sightseeing and the cruise, but in the spur of the moment, I agreed for the trek. Keenly aware of my horrible sense of balance, my friend held my hand at every stage of the rather difficult trek, guiding me through the moving rocks, tall grasses, and slippery flat rocks. In spite of her holding my hand, I fell multiple times. We got some beautiful shots of the sunset but left the trek midway in order to go for the cruise. The cruise was a beautiful experience, the salty air giving me my Einstein hairstyle again.
My feet were swollen by the end of the evening, yet I went with my friends to Candolim beach the same night. The beach was deserted but all the more serene. The waves crashed against the shore and we all just sat there, talking and listening to music, till 4 AM, when we finally headed back to the resort.
The next day, being the last day of the trip, was fairly relaxed. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Anjuna Beach, bought souvenirs, cashews, and splashed around in the water. We headed back to the resort in the evening in order to begin our journey back home. We finally managed to leave the resort late at night and reached our college in the evening of the following day.
There was barely any dancing on the bus on the return journey. Everyone was tired and almost entirely consumed in the memories of the trip.
For me, it was the little moments that defined the whole trip. The moments where we cared for each other. Looked out for each other. The moments where my best friend walked on the side of the vehicles on the road just to make sure I’m safe. The moments our group would hold hands while crossing. The care each of my friends showed when I sprained my ankle on the trek. The bear hugs and the slow dances. The teasing. The random candid clicks wherein my friends were eating ice golas. The instances in which I could explain Hindi to my Kannada-speaking friends. The times when I was called Doraemon for optimally packing my bag to carry essentials. The soulful, relaxed conversations over dinner. The riots of laughter that erupted when we experienced water cuts and power cuts in our room. The hair straightener that got more priority access to the power sockets than our phone chargers. The moments my girls discussed the ultimate soul-cleansing bubble bath we all craved for when we returned home. The moments that I photographed my roommates’ hairstyling and make-up sessions. The endless, endless photo sessions. The new Tamil and Telugu songs I listened to. The crazy dancing. The open jeep ride. The stray dog that found comfort in resting where my friends and I were sitting at the beach. The breeze against my hair. The adrenaline rush following the zip-lining and river-rafting. Just all those moments when I felt so, so free.
As this was a tight-budget trip, we had to be resourceful and that honestly made the whole experience even more fun. I also witnessed the non-academic, absolutely carefree side of each of my friends’ personalities. Meeting them only in college never allowed me to explore that facet of their personalities. I also have this habit of missing people I care deeply about when I’m having fun, so undoubtedly, I did miss my family and my other friends who couldn’t make it to the trip. I made sure to keep them updated throughout – so yes, I spammed them with photos.
I wish I could write a book about everything I’ve experienced, but right now, all I can say is thank you – thank you to my batchmates for the suitcase of memories they’ve given me. And thank you to my roommates for putting up with my tortoise pace of operating in daily life. Honestly, there was no need for me to buy souvenirs – this trip is just so deeply engraved in my mind.