In the 1980’s while trekking in the Sayadri Ranges, Mr. Ramakant Keny came across the Youth Hostels movement. Inspired by their activities, Mr. Ramakant Keny together with, Mr. Haribhai Sengar, Mr. Prakash Sawant, Ms. Naina Jadhav, Mr. Narendra Keny, Mr. Prafull More and Ms. Jyoti Shetye decided to become a part of the Youth Hostel’s Movement and approached the Maharashtra State Council and National Office with the intention of opening a new Unit in Mumbai at Kandivali. Since there were no units in Suburban Mumbai, the National Office granted permission and the Kandivali Unit of the Youth Hostel’s Association was inaugurated by the then Sports Minister for State Mr. Arun Divekar on 28th September 1983.
The Kandivali unit opened up the world of adventure sports for enthusiasts around Mumbai suburbs and organized various activities such as trekking, rock climbing, cycling and motorcycling. Besides adventure sports, we the members of the unit, also pledged to reach out and find ways to contribute to our community. We partnered with NGOs like Shramjivi Sanghatana, and undertook several initiatives in the tribal areas of Maharashtra, like laying connecting roads, digging wells, organizing blood donation camps and also distributing food and clothes. A tradition close to our hearts has been to hoist the tricolor at the different forts in Maharashtra on Independence Day, a tradition that started in 1983 and followed even today. In no time the unit gained immense popularity at both the National and State level’s mainly due to its activities oriented towards women and children.
Following the Youth Hostels’ motto to promote the spirit of adventure and to develop an understanding among youth about social & development issues, from the year 1986 we started conducting Trekking Expedition’s for teenagers to expose them to adventure sports. It was the only program in Maharashtra which was organized in the tribal areas and was similar to the YHAI National Himalayan Trekking Programs. Till 1989 the participation for the Expedition was from the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat only. Considering the overwhelming response from these two States and the success of the program, the National Office allowed our Unit to organize the Trekking Expedition at the National Level. Accordingly, in the year 1990 our Unit conducted the National Talasary Trekking Program that saw participation from the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Tamilnadu as well. The then YHAI National Chairman Mr. Harish Saxena and then National Vice President Ms. Pervez Dotiwala visited the program and felicitated the participants as well as our volunteers.
Prior to the Kandivali Unit, there were only three other units of YHAI in Maharashtra, However, after the then National Chairman’s visit to the Trekking Expedition program, as a token of appreciation the National Office sanctioned 12 more units in Maharashtra. Our Unit played a key role in establishing various Units in Maharashtra especially Nandurbar, Ratnagiri, Wai, Vasai, Dadar, etc. and also assisted them in planning and carrying out various activities for their units.
Our unit had expert rock climbers who scaled many pinnacles in Maharashtra but due to lack of appropriate climbing equipment they faced many a hurdles and risks, hence some of the members contributed towards purchasing essential climbing equipment and donated it to the unit. Once fully equipped, our team of climbers successfully climbed many pinnacles in Maharashtra such as Telbaila, Vanarlingi, Hadbichi Shendi, Vajeer, Baan and continue onward to many more. Our Unit has been actively pursuing rock climbing and has also organized various training programs for different groups including one for the Police Training School in Nasik
Day by day the graph of our Unit’s activities and membership was going up. However, due to technical problems in the year 1992, the Maharashtra State Council de-recognized our unit, this however did not deter our members and they continued trekking and rock-climbing activities as a group and joined the national programs on a large scale. Meanwhile, our members Mr. Anil Bhandari and Mr. Ashish Bhandari painstakingly followed up with the National office and succeeded in obtaining the permission to run our Unit as an ad-hoc Unit from June 1998. After the unit was reinstated in the year 1999 we reintroduced the Talasary Trekking Expedition at the State Level, Based on the unit’s performance, on the 30th of September 2000, the National Office recognized our Unit as a full-fledged Unit.
Thereafter our Unit organized various programs out of which the most popular program amongst the kids was the 4 days camp during the Diwali Vacation. To sharpen our leadership skills and push the boundaries of the activities conducted we decided to change the location of this Diwali camp which was frequently held at Talasary, to regions of Naneghat-Shivneri Fort, Rajmachi – Kondhana Caves and Rajgad – Torana Forts.
The most wonderful rewards of this camp has been the kids who started out as participants are not only still trekking with us but are also leading our units activities. Since the year 2008, we have also started celebrating our Republic Day by hoisting the tricolor at different forts in Maharashtra.
Apart from trekking and rock-climbing our Unit continued its Outreach activities by maintaining and protecting the remains of forts and also voluntarily cleaned water cistern at Naneghat, Torana, etc and cleared its surrounding area. In addition to this, since 2010 every year on 31st December our volunteers with the help of locals and Velha Police station undertake project “No Alcohol on forts” at the base of Torana Fort. Our Unit did not limit its activities to cleaning and maintaining forts and its surrounding area, but we also planted 100 saplings on Torna Fort. We also helped paint the Mengai Temple, used by trekkers for their overnight stay on Torana Fort. The route from Rajgad to Torna has a rock patch at Budhala Machi, our Unit, fixed an iron ladder at the rock patch making the access safe and easy. Our Unit members also followed up with the Archeological department for expediting the restoration and beautification work on Torna Fort.
Even though awareness about forts and trekking was increasing in Maharashtra, trekkers from Maharashtra and for that matter also from Mumbai, were not aware that there were 7 Forts in Mumbai. To reinstate their long lost fame and glory, since 2010 our Unit started visiting these forts at least once in a year. Till date our Unit has taken more than 1000 people to these forts. It will not be out of place to mention here that in the year 2012, the Unit celebrated our Republic Day in a very unique manner by hoisting our tricolor on these forts simultaneously, with more than 1000 people joining this initiative.
In continuation with our adventure sports activities, our Unit in the 90s organized cycling Expeditions between Mumbai-Kanyakumari, Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai-Nepal and the Mumbai-Bangalore-Ladies Special. Since 2010 our members have been participating in the Mumbai Goa Cycling Expedition organized by the Maharashtra State Branch. In addition, our Unit has independently organized several cycling programs in and around Mumbai and also the Goa – Kanyakumari Cycling Expedition 2014. Some of our members have also initiated the “Bharat Parikrama on Cycle”
Today the Kandivali Unit has increased its membership to 400 members and together we will continue to organize and participate in the activities and take the Unit to new levels of excellence. Through these activities and many more innovative initiatives we at the Kandivali Unit pledge to maintain our commitment to spread the YHA Spirit and Movement through adventure sports.
We are here to maintain our commitment to spread the YHA movement through adventure sports.