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Thursday, January 29, 2015

CTC Turns 7 - 60+ Outdoor events in Feb-Mar

About 7 years ago, on Feb 22nd, 2008 a new web site was set up publishing 10 outdoor adventures and photo albums of a small group of trekking enthusiasts. Objective was to create a online platform to reach out to and connect like minded souls and organize non-stop outdoor events. The founding pillars of the group were clear - focus on passion, non-profit, volunteer driven and love for nature. Over the years the group naturally evolved and grew driven by the passion and selfless efforts of its hundreds of organizers and volunteers. Scope gradually widened beyond trekking to environmental conservation, biking, photography, caring for the less privileged, cycling, workshops, marathons, triathlons and beyond. CTC always maintained a distinct reputation of pushing the limits and bringing out the best in the people, exploring beyond the known trails, non-profit focus and volunteer-ship. These values have now connected nearly 24 thousand souls with a shared passion for outdoors, sports and nature.

To celebrate 7 wonderful years completed we are organizing 60+ outdoor events over 4 weeks between mid-Feb to mid-Mar on trekking, cycling, biking, photography, camping, green, social, heritage and wildlife. Find below our birthday event schedule. We will ensure that all interested members get an opportunity to join during each week. Invites for the respective events will be sent out individually by our organizers in the coming weeks. The center weekend of Feb 28-Mar 1 is reserved for our yearly Trek Polamaa Symposium in which we will be inviting 10 prominent guest speakers from across South India to share and inspire us with their passion on the areas of outdoors, sports and conservation. The speakers and topics will be finalized and announced by next week. Meanwhile reserve the dates!

Happy Birthday!

CTC Turns 7 - 60 Outdoor Events - Feb, Mar 2015 - Trekking, Biking, Cycling, Camping, Green, Photography, Heritage, Social, Snakes
Feb 14-15Feb 21-22Mar 7-8Mar 14-15
Javadhu 2-days Hills Cycling - Peter & Rady2-day Hill Run - Peter & DuraiNagari Moderate 2-day trek - Peter & Rady1 day Social Trek - Peter & Thilak
Feb 15 - 1-day Photo trip - Noel & PramodNagala 2-day difficult trek - Sankar, Saravanan, Subha & Arun SivaMar 8 - 1 day photo trip - Noel & PramodReturn to the frying pan - 3 day difficult trek - Sankar, Saravanan & Subha
Ainthinai Camping+Saplings Maintenance at Thenneri - Siva & ParthibanFeb 21 - half-day foodie walk - Noel & PramodMar 7 Kovur Govt. School-Saplings Maintenance - Nambi & ManiCamping event - Noel & Pramod
Social trek - feb 14 - Rajasekar & NambiFeb 22 - half-day photowalk - Noel & PramodMar 8 Kolathur Saplings Maintenance - NambiHeritage cum Saplings Maintenance Drive at Ayyangarkulam by Siva
One day Cycling - feb 15 - Rajasekar & NambiTwo day Cycling to yercaud - Rajasekaran & Nambi RajanTwo days Biking to Belum Caves - Rajasekaran & Nambi RajanTwo day Difficult trek - Rajasekar & Nambi Rajan
Emperors One night - one day Family trek to Nagala West - Sridhar1 Day ECR photo trek - Dinesh Kumar RGingee-Tiruvannamalai Heritage photo trip - Dinesh Kumar RKancheepuram Hertiage photo trip - Dinesh Kumar R
1 Day photo trek - Dinesh Kumar REmperors Heritage trip to Devanoor - Vinoth & SivaEmperors 2-day Bike Ride to Nowhere - Dr. Arun & MalanEmperors Bike trip, Plantation, Seashore camping to Pondy - Dr. Arun & Malan
Emperors Heritage trip to Mahabalipuram - Vinoth & SivaEmperors Munnar trek - 2 days - Vibin & MalanNagala 2-day moderate trek - Jayanthan, Ruthira & GauthamVelliangiri Trek - Nachi and Ela
Nagala 2-day moderate trek - Jayanthan, Ruthira & GauthamTwo day trek to Nagala - Nachi, Prasanthi, Arvind SpideyLadies trek - Prasanthi + Swati + Raj Jacob2 Day Cycling trip to Paramankeni & back - Sahas, Raj Jacob & Sandeep
Nagala One day trek - Nachi, Karthik Vijayakumar, Arvindh Vinodh, Arvind SpideyTwo day moderate trek to the Western Ghats - Raj Jacob + SandeepTwo day Nagala trek - Karthik Vijayakumar + Ela Murugan + Aravindh VinodOne day cycling near bangalore - Dalvir/Nobal
2 day Motorbiking to Pichawaram & back - Sahas, Raj Jacob and SandeepEmperors Two Days Trek to Kumara Parvathaa - Balaji Mohan, Vinoth KB, ArunNagala 2-day difficult trek - Sankar, Saravanan, Subha & Arun SivaElders/Kids trek - Gautham/Ruthira/Jack
Emperors 2-day Kodai Trek - Vibin & MalanEmperors ride to silver hills - bike ride !! - Dr. Arun & Vignesh selvarajSnake walk - Karthik R yadav & HariEmperors Bike Ride to Western Ghats - Praveen, Bharani & Vignesh
One day cycling near Bangalore - Dalvir & NobalAinthinai Saplings Maintenance Drive at Mailam - Prasanna, SivaOne day cycling near bangalore - Dalvir/NobalEmperors Express Trek 11 - Prem & Magesh
Emperors one day MTB ride - Arun & SiddharthEmperors Express Trek 9 - Prem & MageshEmperors Express Trek 10 - Prem & Magesh
Emperors' Date your bike -- bike ride !! - Dr. Arun & Vignesh selvarajAinthinai Tree Plantation @ Pondicherry - Selva
Emperors "A Day with Irula's - Camping and Snake Walk" - Krishna & MasuEmperors "A Day with Irula's - Camping and Snake Walk" - Series 2 (Feb 21/22) Krishna,Masu

Wednesday, January 21, 2015



Day 1 (25/12/2014):-
After a long over night journey from Majestic Bus Terminus we stopped at Jog Falls which was our first destination. We freshened up ourselves there and enjoyed the scenery there. After a while we ate our breakfast at a small restaurant nearby the Jog Falls. Our breakfast was either Rice Baath or Paratha. Then we started our journey to the beach at Hanover from where we were to start our beach stroll of a total of 40kms. The destination for today was Marudeshwar where we decided that we would camp. We distributed the food amongst ourselves and started our journey with high hopes. After a while we stopped at a fisherman’s rest house built along the coast. Once everyone reached the rest house we continued our journey towards Marudeshwar. After walking for a while we were shocked to find out that we had a hill to go across. This hill was known as Apsarakonda. Once we reached the foot of the hill we stopped for lunch which was Khakhara. After eating and freshening up we began climbing the hill and after a while reached a spot where we found out the presence of a small waterfall. We all took a dip in the water and continued our journey. Once we reached the top of the hill to our shock we found out that we had 5 more hills to go across to reach a coast. We didn’t stop till we got down off the 5th hill. We had reached a very beautiful beach where we planned of stopping for the day but found out that it was a private beach. So we just took a dip in the beach and before starting our journey it began becoming dark. When we started climbing the final hill we had to take out our torches so that we could see where we were going. It began to grow immensely dark, when, to our relief we had reached Monkey Beach which had become our destination of the day. After stopping few of the people had chapathis with various side dishes such as palak panner and channa while the others had gone to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After everyone had regrouped we had moved into a small front yard of a fisherman’s house where we slept for the night.

Day 2 (26/12/2014):-
Got up at 6:00 in the morning after a good night’s rest. Completed all the morning work freshened up and then continued our journey without Ajay, Ravi, Anala and Tushar. After walking for about 2kms we stopped at the foot of a hill where we were supposed to wait for the other four who were bringing our breakfast. After an hour or so they had caught up with us and we ate our breakfast which was Idly and Vada with Chutney plus Sambar. Then we all took a dip in the beach. After two hours of a break we continued our journey. After we reached the top of the hill we could see the Shiva Temple at Marudeshwar which was at an approx. distance of 1.5kms from the present place. We started walking towards Marudeshwar and about 0.25kms away from Marudeshwar we got stuck as we found ourselves on one side of a river. We could to cross the river only in two ways, either go back a kilometer and cross from over a bridge which a few people opted while the majority opted to cross the river by going into the water and crossing it. The water was chest-deep. So we had to lift the bags on our heads, watch our step and proceed to reach the other side of the river. After crossing it we reached Marudeshwar and stopped for lunch there. The guys who opted the way around had reached only after we finished the lunch. So we had to wait for them also to finish the lunch. This left us at a fallback of our plan of reaching Bhatkal. So after lunch we rapidly increased our pace in an aim to reach Bhatkal by evening at any cost. This aim also decreased our frequency of breaks to almost nil. Finally after walking 5kms we stopped to find ourselves again at the bank of a quite broad river which had no route to cross apart from the boat service. So we had given up all hopes of reaching Bhatkal on foot and instructed our van to come and pick us up at the place where we were stuck. In the mean while we had got into the beach and enjoyed the flabbergasting view of the sunset. We boarded the van and reached Bhatkal in about an hour and a half. After reaching Bhatkal we had our dinner at the respective Veg. or Non-Veg. restaurants. Then we boarded the bus and reached a wide open space where we slept for the night.

Day 3 (27/12/2014):-
Woke up at 6:00 to a very windy morning. We found a huge H written quite close to the place where we were asleep. Only in the daylight could we make out that we were sleeping next to a Helipad. We immediately distributed the food amongst ourselves and continued on our journey to the foot of the Kodachadri hill. After travelling for about an hour we stopped at a distance of about 0.5kms from the foot of the hill. We started walking and after a distance of 200m we found a small river running. We stopped there, freshened ourselves filled our water bottles and were ready to start our trek. Our aim was to climb and reach the peak of the highest of the 7 hills present ahead of us. We started our trek. After walking for an hour and a half we stopped at a Y-junction where we had our breakfast which was bread with jam. Once we finished eating, we continued our trek. We were facing continuous dangers of leeches, animals and also falling of the slope. After a rigorous and long trek we stopped at around 3:30pm for lunch along a stream. We began collecting wood so as to start a fire for cooking. After lighting the wood we began cooking noodles in a large vessel for all the 23 of us. The noodles got cooked in about 15 minutes. We ate the noodles which was very tasty too and freshened ourselves and continued our trek. The pace was rather slow due to dimming sunlight. In the late evening we found a flat empty place quite near the peak where we decided to stop for the day. But the place was filled with leaves and wood twigs. We split ourselves into three groups – one for clearing the place of leaves, another for collecting the wood for the campfire and the last one for building a suitable campfire for cooking lunch and keeping the animals away. We had cooked Aval poha for the night which was very tasty and filling thanks to Naveen sir. After eating we had decided on who is going to patrol the camp site every one hour over the night. This was the catchy and fun part. It was rather interesting to wake up and talk to your friend sitting next to a campfire which was very soothing amidst the chillness all around. This ended the day.

Day 4 (28/12/2104):-
We got up today at 7 in the morning and after freshening up started our trek. The plan was to reach a nearby stream and follow it all the way to the foot of the hill. We had reached the stream that we planned on but it was tough to follow it as the slope was very steep. We had taken the risk and had begun the trek. After two hours we had reached an open place where a large artificial lake was built. We had stopped there for breakfast which was again bread with jam. After having our breakfast Ajay, Gaurav, Ravi and Hari had gone further to check whether the route was available to exit from the hills. In the mean while we got into the lake where we had our dip. After an hour the route was confirmed. We packed up, got ready and began on our way towards the way out. After two hours of risky walking along steep hills we reached the dam which was where the van was to meet us. We stopped at a hill near the dam where we could get a lot of shade. We stopped there and ate our lunch which was weird dishes such as channa aval, palak panner aval and aval mixed with milk powder. Apart from these we also had noodles and soup. After lunch few of us got into the water while others had chosen to rest. We packed up after half an hour and began moving to the dam. In themean while, when the van was reaching we had taken few group pictures. Once the van had arrived we had boarded and began travelling to Bangalore. On the way we had stopped at Shivappa Naik’s fort. Here we had witnessed an awesome sunset. After this we continued our journey. At around 10:00 in the night we stopped for dinner at a dhaba. We had sumptuous dinner and continued our journey to Majestic Bus Terminus. We reached the terminus at 6:00 in the morning. We waved our goodbyes to everyone and departed in our own ways.

I shall remember this event for quite a long time for so many beautiful and awesome reasons. Not only, as a team, did we get a chance, to watch and walk along, some of the splendid beaches but also found time to explore a unknown trail leading to Kodachadri peak. In the end we did not make it to Kodachadri peak, but we came out as a proud and happy team.
We had all kinds of adventure during these 4 days and even while returning to Bangalore our vehicle ran out of fuel, when the driver managed to refuel it, the battery just went kaput. In the end, the team members had to push start the vehicle. All this happened at 3 am in the morning. Having such a motivated and high class team was very special indeed.

24 December 2014.
It all started one day before Christmas, when we were told to assemble at the Bangalore railway station by Ravi. We managed to get there and group overselves right on schedule. But there was a delay, the vehicle arrived a bit late and we managed to leave Bangalore around 11 30 pm. It was then a smooth drive along the road leading to Shimoga. 

25 December 2014.  

7 AM - 11 30 AM
We could manage to reach Jog falls at around 7 AM in the morning. Being a holiday there were lot of visitors. We managed to freshen ourselves up (opposite to Jog falls there are public washrooms) and after few clicks at the Jog falls, we made a move and headed towards Honnavara. In the middle found a junction, where we saw few hotels and decided to stop for breakfast. The options in one hotel were Kerala Laccha paratha, and a rice item. Few of us who chose to have idli opted for another hotel. Completed breakfast in about 45 minutes and then proceeded with the journey. It was a slow descent, along the not so wide road leading to Honnavara. Managed to reach Honavara at around 11 AM. While on the highway we could locate a store, where we purchased the cooking utensil and then started towards Kasarkod beach, which would be our starting point of the trek. 
11 30 AM - 2 PM 
After reaching the Kasarkod beach, we found shade under few trees over there, and started distributing the common food items amongst ourselves. Apart from the regular stuffs each one carried, each one of us had to carry along few other common items like, 250 gms of milk powder, 1 packet of ready to eat food (Khakra or chapathi), a 250 gm dates packet, poha,jam, knorr noodles or soup, ready to eat curry packets. 
Took another 30 minutes to sort these things and one person also had to carry along the cooking vessel. Not sure who started the trek with the cooking vessel, I guess it is Veeranna or Mahesh or Arun. Also found a neighboring home who was willing to provide us drinking water. Each one of us got water over there and started the trek only by 11 40 AM.

Initial stretch was along to beach to Apsarakonda beach under the scorching sun. After few minutes a major chunk of guys went ahead into the shade instead of walking along the beach to avoid direct sun. We four people Tushar, Pooja, Gokul Shivanand and me managed to stay along the beach itself. I personally felt walking bare foot along the shores with waves turning up, to be the pretty soothing experience (minus the sun of course).  
In the middle managed to reach a small fisherman's hut kind of thing which provided temporary shade for all of us for some time. Meanwhile the other group came out of the shade and joined us. Soon we could see the Apsara konda beach and made a quick move towards it. On reaching Apsara konda beach we took some time off under the shade of the rock, clicked few pictures and then headed a nearby shade under the trees where we found a stall selling few sweetened drinks. Over here completed our lunch. Incidentally we had brought along few packets of ready to eat Chapathi. Unfortunately these were half cooked and we chose to eat Khakra instead. We also met the other group of travellers (Durai and friends) from Chennai who were on a roadtrip. It was Durai who voluntarily agreed to drive to a nearby hotel and get the Chapati's cooked. It was a very kind gesture indeed (and saved few kilometers of walking for some team members during the night's dinner that day, more on that coming soon). 

2 PM - 6 30 PM

After lunch we had an uphill climb in order to visit the Apsarakonda beach. Few of us chose to take dip in the Apsara konda fresh water fall, while few of us chose to visit a small cave nearby. It was difficult to continue along the beach and along the rocks, instead we chose to climb the small hillock kind of thing in order to avoid that difficult stretch. We continued along the hill for quite some time and then found a place where we could descend. we made our way into a nearby beach. We found few foreigners surfing over there along with some guys building a hut or a shelter. We later found out, this was kind of private property and as a result we had to move on instead of camping over there. It was turning dark, but we managed to move along, not before taking quite some nice pictures and few of us including me had a nice dip in the water. It was pretty awesome indeed. The waves were just fantastic. I wish I had been in the water for some more time, but we had to move along to a different camping spot.

6 30 PM to 10 30 PM. 

So once again, we chose to climb uphill, instead of negotiating the rocks along the beach.This time we walked covered quite a lot of ground that too in the dark under the moon. It was pleasant and a nice experience indeed. We encountered couple of people who guided us too. But overall it was GPS tracking all along the way. After an hour of walking in the dark, we finally found a stretch of road, which a passerby told would lead to Manki village which was our camping spot for the night. It was a sweet news. As we made our way to Manki village we could spot a nearby church. Being Christmas there was a programme going on. People were in a festive mood and seemed very happy. Seeing them happy made us happy too. As we entered the village, few strangers even  guided us on places where to camp couple of guys even provided their contact numbers voluntarily, requesting a callback if we needed some kind of help/support for camping/water.  

Sometimes, its these kind of gestures to total strangers which is so much touching. I knew nobody in the village, yet I met 3 people who willingly shared their numbers and asked for callback in case of any help needed and one person (stranger) even accompanied us to the main road, when we lost our way in the night. 
We traced our way to the beach and sat for some more time looking at the waves. It was pretty rough that day and locals told there were chances of water level rising. Hence chose not to sleep on the beach side, instead chose a house opposite to the beach to sleep. The house belonged to a fisherman and had ample space in the front (in the compound below the trees) to accomdate 30 people. Durai and friends also caught up with us over here.  

Once reaching the beach, few of us chose to eat Chapathi's that were pre-heated along with the ready to eat Curry. Rest of us made our way to Bhatkal - Honnavara highway in search of hotel which was a good 2 kilometers away. We made our way in 2 groups, the first group, Sai and few others quickly made a move towards the highway, in the right direction. The second group comprising of Gokul, Gokul Shivanand, Kavitha, Nikhil, Tushar, Pooja and me, took time and started in the wrong route and only with the help of a local we got back to the correct path. This costed us an additional 1.5 kilometers and loads of extra time trying to negotiate our way through Manki village in Bhatkal.  

Finally we found the proper road and one local even gave Gokul Shivanand a lift towards the main road, just to check if the hotel was opened or not.(Which was open for our luck). After 45 minutes of walking we finally hit the highway and landed at the hotel, where Sai and other guys had completed their dinner and headed back!

Dinner available was Chicken Biryani and Kushka rice for vegetarians. Completed dinner quickly and started towards beach. Once again over here a local guided us with the shortest possible route to the beach and we were back by around 10 40 PM odd. Then it was sleep time. An eventful day came to a close!  

26 December 2014 

7 AM to 8 30 AM.

Woke up in the morning, freshened up, drinking water was available at the fisherman's house. We decided to make a move towards Murudeshwara  along the beach. The team started out in two groups. First group was lead by Naveen and the second group comprised of Ravi who took additional load of getting packed breakfast for everyone. (Thank you Ravi & Anala). 

8 30 AM to 10 15 AM

Though on an empty stomach, we started walking pretty quickly. Early morning walk along the beach, seemed such a breeze. Watching the fisherman, sorting out their early morning fish catch, watching their multi-colored boats (and paintings on them), made a wonderful sight indeed. Wish we could have spent some more time just amidst these guys. But we had to move on. Quickly we managed to reach a place where once again we had to negotiate rocks in order to continue along the beach. 

Over here we took a break. We managed to eat the ready to eat Khakra and also dates. Meanwhile after 20 minutes Ravi and Anala brought along the packed breakfast for all of us and we managed to eat that too. Then it was time to take a dip in the water. Waves were nice and it felt really good indeed.Few of us were very tentative in getting into the salt water thinking of an itching after effect. I had a little itching after yesterday's dip, but that did not stop me from entering the salt water again!

10 20 AM to 1 PM

After around 20 minutes in water, we started again to walk, after a short uphill climb and descend we could manage to reach the beach again. Now the big statue of Lord Shiva was visible to us at a distance. Yep, we were nearing Murudeshwar. But this stretch was pretty tough, the sunshine was getting stronger by the minute and it was making the walk a little difficult. The entire group now got split into smaller groups as each one of us were walking at different pace and were also taking a breather at different places altogether. I managed to have Veeranna for company for much of the journey after which I found Nikhil, Kavitha and Vijay for company as we managed to reach Murudeshwara. There was a huge crowd in Murudeshwara beach too as well as the town, courtesy the 4 day holiday.

1 PM - 3 PM

The smaller groups started to have refreshments in Murudeshwara one by one as they arrived and finally at 1 PM we regrouped hoping to finish lunch at a nearby hotel. (Yup only hoping). But finding a comfortable place to sit and eat was difficult as there was so much crowd, each hotel was full. After walking some distance, we once again split into smaller groups and we each went to a different hotel. Completed lunch and were back and took a break.

3 PM - 5 40 PM.

Starting the last section of the beach trek took quite some time and by 3 PM we were ready to make a move towards Bhatkal. This time, it was not that scorching heat, but still it was humid a bit. From here on we walked continously, in different smaller groups, with each one having their own pace. Sai, Jayant were pretty ahead. For once, I thought they would stop only when it turns dark and I would lose one last chance to get into the water. But luckily these guys stopped at a place called Ilvekodi, where the river meets the sea, thusrequiring a ferry to crossover before we could continue the trek. 

5 40 PM - 9 PM 

It was turning dark and I took a dip in the water. Soon Ravi caught up with us and told, we would make a move towards Kodachadri hence had to stop the beach trek and Ilvekodi. Meanwhile I could salvage few more precious moments playing in the water enjoying the sunset and taking pictures. Once done, we managed to locate a nearby road and called our vehicle to pick us at Ilvekodi Sri Durga Parameshwari temple entrace. Things worked out pretty soon and we were on our way to Bhatkal for dinner. Reached Bhatkal, found a decent place to have dinner. Ravi and Naveen took up the task of getting bread for the next couple of days. And then we made a move towards the place of our night halt.

9 PM - 10 30 PM.

Reached this place where Ravi had located a flat piece of land next to a helipad, where could lay the tarpaulin and sleep for the night. There was cool breeze throughout the night, with few vehicles passing and less disturbance.  

27 December 2014 

7 30 AM - 9 30 AM. 

We managed to reach the village which would lead us to the Kodachadri peak. There was ample time to freshen up next to a small stream on the way to the peak. But we did not complete breakfast, instead chose to have breakfast along the way.  Breakfast was simple bread and jam which we purchased the day before at Bhatkal. Filled up our water bottles at a nearby house and started with the trek. 

9 30 AM to 2 PM. 

We had chosen to trek to a nearby waterfall before making our way to Kodachadri, but, since we were running a bit short of time, we dropped the idea of water fall instead chose to reach Kodachadri peak directly. This exploratory trek was not so easy. There was slippery trail on many places, plus the route was loaded with thorny bushes. Each one got their fair share of thorn pricks. My sleeping mat took a brunt with it getting torn in multiple places. But it was fun, in a way different from what we had done over the last couple of days. We had covered less distance but the exhaustion was bit higher owing to the trail, thorns and the ascent. After sometime, Ravi found a water source and decided to pursue the peak trail along side the waterfall itself. It was a nice idea. But there was a catch to it. It was bit slippery and had some climbs too. Each one of us had few slips, but yep, it was fun.
Around 12 PM odd Ravi decided to break for lunch and found a place to cook the noodles which we had been carrying for the last couple of days. Ravi, Anala and Mahesh I guess took turns to cook up the noodles and it turned out perfect. After 45 minutes of lunch break, we proceeded towards the peak.  

3 PM to 6 PM.

We carried along, parallel to the water source for quite a long time and finally the water source turned into a huge waterfall and the climb parallel to the waterfall became near impossible, (though Damodaran, Ajay and couple of others managed to climb it). We took a deviation and proceeded into the dense forest yet again. This time around Mahesh, Ajay were in the lead and it was almost sunset time and the guys were quite enthusiastic considering the fact that, we would be reaching the peak in a short time.

But, Ravi stopped us and told us that we had headed in the wrong direction and we had to back track in order to reach the peak. Soon we chose an alternate path and it turned dark. We had no choice but to trek in the dark, for some time at least. Then encountered a flat piece of land, where Ravi chose, few of us, would go ahead and check if a way exists to the peak or not, while rest of us would wait over here.

They came back within 15 minutes time and told this flat piece of land would be our camping place for the night as finding a way through the forest in the night would be troublsome. The place was a boon indeed, it was a flat piece of land, the forest was not that dense over there, we could clean the place quickly, and we could find loads of firewood nearby, thus allowing us to keep a running fire throughout the night.

Once the cleanup had happened, Ravi, Anala, Naveen, Hari, Mahesh, Ashwin, Arun took up the cooking task. This time the dinner was Poha. It turned out to be very nice, meanwhile everyone got ready with their sleeping bags, Naveen and Ravi decided the shifts for nightwatchman. Yep, throughout the night 3 people would be awake at any time, taking turns to keep the fire running and watching out for any wild animals. I started out with 11 - 12 shift while Hari Ajay and Ashwin gave company. Ajay played his guitar while Gaurav and me took some pictures of the bonfire. This experience was unique. Everyone took turns to keep the fire running and soon it was daylight again!

28 December 2014.

6 AM to 8 AM

Started the day with coffee and instead of chosing to reach the peak and exit, we decided to make a move towards a dam, hoping that, by following its backwaters would lead us to the exit. And believe me it did.

8 AM to 10 30 AM.

But even before we could reach the backwaters, we once again had to move through dense forests, cross dried up water streams here and there and encounter some thorny bushes as well. Finally we were able to descend right next to the dam backwaters, but the dam was nowhere in sight. Its over here, Ravi decided a search team comprising of very quick members (Ravi, Gaurav, Hari, Ajay) would move first to figure out if a way exists to get back to civilization. Rest of the guys would wait over here for them to either come back or a signal for clearance to proceed. We found ample time to get into the water, freshen up complete breakfast.  Breakfast was bread which was left over in adequate quantity.

11 30 AM to 3 PM.

After an hour and half we got to make a move. Incidentally, Ravi and few others made a loud call from the other side of the dam backwaters. Though we did not understand what they were trying to convey, we felt, since they did not return and instead chose to call, was good enough for us to proceed in that direction. We sorted and managed to carry their luggage too and proceeded walking along the backwaters. Almost an hour into the walk, we met Hari, who told us the road leading to the exit was nearby. We also caught up with Ravi and Gaurav. Over here, few of us got into the water while rest waited while Arun cooked up nice noodles/soup, poha mixed with ready to eat curry. Almost after 1.5 hours of break and rest we finally decided to draw the curtains on the fabulous 4 day trek. It was a fantastic experience. We walked a kilometer towards the dam, where our vehicle would pick us up.

3 PM to 6 PM.

Upon completion of the trek. we managed to drop Aswin and Gaurav to a nearby bus stand where they would go to Mangalore to catch their train. Rest of us proceeded to Nagara fort built by Shivappa Nayak. Took some time out to explore the fort as well as take some pictures (as a group) as well.

6PM - 9 30 PM

Next it was time to proceed towards Bangalore. Stopped for evening tea and snacks at Hosanagara, where we consumed some fried items like padoka and drank loads of tea as well. All in all a pleasant experience. The return journey was where we bonded together even better courtesy some interesting conversations. We had missed out healthy discussions on general topics over the last 4 days, as each one of us was always occupied with either cooking, finding root, taking a dip in water, or other activities. But this route from Hosanagar to Birur had loads of interesting conversations too courtesy Ravi, Anala, Navin, Hari, Nikhil, Gokul, Gokul Shivanand, Sundhari, thanks guys, I enjoyed speaking and bonding with you guys.

We decided to cross Shimoga and then stop for dinner. We were right on time and proceeded towards Birur where we found a Dhaba, where we could stop for dinner. The group was split into two, vegans occupying one table and the non vegetarians occupying another table.

After dinner we started with the return journey and everyone was off to sleep. All was well till 2 45 AM in the morning, when all of a sudden the van run out of fuel. The driver had  failed to refuel at Shimoga, hoping there would be a gas station somewhere on the way. But to our luck, he crossed 29 gas stations and none of them were open!.

Now even the driver and cleaner were clueless on how to proceed. They tried to stop ongoing vehicles hoping to get a lift to the next fuel station. But none of them stopped. Luckily couple of policemen on night patrol, told us about a fuel station, 0.5 kilometers away. The driver and cleaner proceeded by foot to the gas station and came back quickly in an auto with around 10 liters of diesel fuel. Managed to refuel the vehicle and the driver began the attempt to start the vehicle. Soon the vehicle ran out of battery power trying to start the vehicle. I was curious as to how the battery ran out after driving 150 kilometers. Then the driver told me, he uses 6 headlights and told it has used up a chunk, out of the battery. But we were able to push the vehicle and get it started all again. One last team effort by this great team and alas we were able to reach Bangalore by 6 AM. Hopefully Chennai guys were able to catch their train on time.

Overall the event experience was fabulous, team work was phenomenal, each one of the individual was thorough professional. I did not know, how four days just flew by, in all you guys' company. Loads of reasons to remember and cherish this trip for many more years to come.

Hopefully we shall catch up sometime in future too.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snake Walk with Irula's Back to Back (03&04 Jan 2015)

We had two days of snake walk with Irula's and got loads of information's about snakes, its behavior, do's and don'ts for snake bites, venom extraction process and how to react in the event of snake bites.

Thanks to Dr. Rajanna to come all the way from Madurai to walk with us to share his knowledge on the snakes.

Photos from the snake walk event.

Indian Spectacled Cobra
Spectacled Cobra is the most famous and fascinating snake found in Indian subcontinent and can be identified with the spectacle hood in its head. This is one among the "Big Four" of Indian snakes.

Common Krait
Common Krait is an infamous venomous snake capable for delivering neurotoxic bite during night time. This is one of the most common medically significant snake also the member of "Big Four" of India.

Russell's Viper
Russell's Viper is the most widely distributed Viper family member which is infamous for its fascinating whistle and long fangs. This is one of the most bite and death causing venomous snake in Indian subcontinent and the member of Big Four of India.
Kali from the Irula co-op opened the mouth of the Russell's viper to display its fangs.

Rat Snake 
Rat Snake is a commonly seen snake which is famous for its fast crawling speed and much larger size than most of the widely distributed species found in India.

Green Vine Snake
Vine snakes are among the few species to have horizontally elliptical pupils, as well as a pointed, angular snout. The combination of these two factors give the species a high degree of binocular vision and allow them to gauge distances effectively. Contrary to popular belief, they would rarely, if ever, try to poke your eyes out with their snout and it is better suited to camouflage the animal within the foliage and leaves where it is usually found.

Red Sand Boa
Red Sand Boa is a widely distributed Boa found in Indian subcontinent. Among layman it is famous as "Two-headed Snake" due to presence of very thick tail having rounded end. This is one of the most commonly used snake in snake charming work.

Bronzeback Tree Snake
Common Bronzeback is the most widespread Dendrelaphis species of India which is the only species of genus in most of the parts of Indian mainland.

Venom extraction from snakes @ Madras Crocodile Bank

Group Photo Day 1 : 03-Jan-2015

Group Photo Day 2 : 04-Jan-2015

Content Courtesy : www.indiansnakes.org

Beautiful Writeup by Sandhya

"CTC Ainthinai - Rajendra Chola's 1000 Year Celebration &Dr.Nammalvar's First Anniversary Memorial Tree Plantation Drive"

It was 26th night around 9:45 PM and no sign of other trip mates as Shantha was patiently taking calls from the other group mates reminding them of the ‘sharp 9:30 PM’ on the e-mail and giving directions to arrive at the pick point. As it was nearing 10, people started joining us. One member, of course with all the directions from our accountant took 2 long hours to arrive from Minambakkam :) God only knows what was his mode of transport that night and little did he know about him unless or until his introduction ;). So after our group's theatre artist arrived, we started to Madambakkam and with the organizers joining us there, we finally started off to Thanjavur. That night passed on with chit chats as the organizers were discussing the past trip adventures and misadventures ;) while some of us trying to sleep amidst the traffic, horn sounds near the toll lanes and pits and holes in the road. None of us realized it was 4 AM when we stopped for tea on the way and after a brisk tea, we got in and continued the conversation until we reached Thanjavur.

With a plan to start at 8 AM to the Brihadishvara temple, all 5 of us refreshed quickly, waited for some time for the guys and with no sign of them, took a long walk where we were exchanging our thoughts and experiences and the weather was just too perfect for us to enjoy our walk. And just as we got back, we saw the guys coming down one by one, while Massu had already tasted the food in the nearbly two hotels and was suggesting which one was the best for us to have idlis based on how the batter had fermented. Of course, it was only after our breakfast was done, did he add the feedback from the same hotel owner that the place wasn’t the best one for pooris :( much to the grief of those who had already had it in their breakfast. After one more round of tea, we started towards our first spot from an amazing itenary decked up with Chola temples. 
We reached the Periya kovil, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and Siva started explaining about the cause of preserving historical sites that the group had initiated and the agenda of the trip to mark 1000 years of the Chola temples and to have a Sapling plantation drive in Elangadu for the first anniversary in the memory of organic farming scientist Dr. Nammalvar. We started moving around the temple as the organizers were trying to use one of their older letters to explore the upper portion of the temple, a restricted area. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a chance to explore that part of temple as there was some renovation work going on. As soon as Siva and Massi were back, we proceeded towards the garbagriha. One thing to notice here is the 81 dance postures of Lord Shiva. It was one and hour of observing and getting amazed at the Chola art right in front of us as each one of us were sharing interesting facts about the temple on how the temple was built by assembling stones and starting carving the stones from the top till the bottom. We slowly went around the temple observing the various deities with some touches of Tanjore painting here and there, visible as light shades. We were surprised to see that these natural colours survived 1000 years and were still visible and the effort put in the Chola kings to pass on the stories, mantras and many many things to future generations in the form of inscriptions. Few more things to not to miss here are the carvings depicting the war – one of them being an elephant holding a warrior who is sitting over a horse which in turn standing over another warrior(found on the side of a staircase to Subramanhya shrine) and the continuation on the other side of the same stairs shows the fate of the men in the war, inscriptions with donor names mentioned in right side of the temple (there are a whopping 3 lakh names mentioned and there every chance for your name to appear in that list :), man with a hat (something similar to what we wear these days) on the same side.  
Then after lunch and spl Tanjore Lassi, we headed next to Darasuram Airatheeswarar temple. We first saw the Sapta swaras which has the characteristic of producing a sound similar to each one of the 7 musical note (SRGMPDN) as we step on them. Due to our enthusiastic tourist population in India, who may overstep/throw stones on them in their attempt to listen to the notes and may damage the musical quality in these steps, these were barricaded much to our dismay :(. As we proceeded in further, we were amazed as what stood in front of us, every small part of the temple was filled with a beautiful carving and everyone sprang into action trying to study what those meant. The architecture spoke more of the life of the people in those days – warfare, their ways of entertainment - postures similar to what we call Yoga/gymnastic now, people interlocking to form a full 360 degrees formation, Kanappa Nayanar, Vali-sugriva combat, an optical illusion something similar to the photoshoped images with a cow and elephant entangled from either sides, three headed Ardhanareewarar. 
This way of trying to understand the carvings somehow reminded me of a Dan Brown book, where every page is one step towards a mystery or puzzle, and here I was experiencing one myself, as every other pillar and carving had a story in it to tell and a group of us were trying to read what it meant. As we were exploring the temple we came across a portion which seemed to designed for the water from top to stagnate once it falls down, that’s when Siva and Masu explained that one point of time, the temple was in gold and the circles near the water logging portion were huge diyas and the water would reflect the light from the diyas giving a golden glow to the entire place. It was going to be never ending tale to explore everything in the temple, and we headed next to the home of Siva’s friend who showed us how hand-loom sarees are made and couldn't resist checking and buying some. Then after having some hot Sugiyan, we headed  to Thirukattupalli.
On the way, someone remarked that we could cook that night and then Malika, Masu, Shyam, Anu, Shantha sprang into action and put the list of items. While some of them went to purchase items, we had another round of snacks. It was around 9:15, when we settled down and Rathi and Anu started chopping vegetables quickly, as Malika our head chef was readying everything else, not to forget Karthik and Shyam for their contribution in raitha onions ;). It was around 11, when we started having the dinner and after dinner, while some of them went to get some sleep, the owls settled down for a campfire. That’s when we had a proper introduction and came to know about the rest of the members in the group much better and it was good to know some of them who were very passionate about organic farming like Mani. As and we decided to finally get some rest as the next day was the most important one for which the trip was planned, it was 2 AM and amidst all snoring sounds, we somehow got into a deep sleep, deep enough to realize only in the morning that people had changed positions owing to the late night rains. We could see few people sleeping on the side of the window, some on the stairs and some in van. 
Then after a quick refresher, we stopped near a tea stall for a brisk tea and after observing a group of little cormorants, we headed to Elangadu. While Siva and Parthiban went to purchase saplings, we went to the farm. Few of them took out the shovel and started digging in while Malika, Kavith and I took out the sickles proceeded for mulching. After clearing up a major part of the land, we joined the rest of the group where we had a variety of refreshments to choose from (guava, nellikai, something similar to musk melon). As the plant saplings were yet to arrive, we proceeded to cauvery aaru for a dip that turned into a bath. The initial plan for five of us was only to stand in water and get back silently, thanks to Massi ‘s splash of water with an excuse of the group pic wherein all 5 of us got drenched completely. Then there was no need to stand still in water anymore. It’s when you hit water a long time you realize that all your swimming skills are also gone with running water itself, the area wasn’t that deep luckily, though that couldn’t stop me envying at people like Divakar and others who were enjoying their swim to the fullest. Thanks to Vijay and Shyam for staying beside me to ensure for my safety in my so-called swim. 
That’s when Siva and Parthi arrived and shivering as were when we got out of water, sugar candies greeted us. Then fully drenched as we were, we quickly headed to the farm and planted the sapling for which the holes were dug out. After refreshing, we went to Prakash place for a yummy brunch accompanied by Asoka (sweet made from Paasi payuru). As we were relaxing in the house after having food, we were chatting among ourselves and as the conversation was brewing, we asked Karthi where all he had been trekking, for which Karthi responded that every second Wednesday of the Month he would be trekking (and as Ramesh and few others too joined to hear what was next as everyone was wondering what was so spl about the second Wednesday and if he would get an off only on Wednesdays) from ground floor to fourth floor (Of course he meant the maintenance cut when the lift wasn’t available). After being clean bowled like this, no more checking with others about their treks no matter how much ever they want to share.  
After another set of group pics for our most enthusiastic photographers, we started to Dr. Nammazhvar’s house, where we were moved by his brother’s words and with his age, he was going on and on and was wanting to interact more and more with us as we informed him that we had come to plant a sapling on late Dr. Nammazhvar ayya’s memory. We planted the sapling right outside his house with his brother’s son and other relatives to give us company. As Massu was sharing his experience with the scientist, we posed for a pic for our passionate photographers. As we headed back with two different plans to choose from on how to spend time while heading back to Chennai, we stopped near a bridge until Prakash’s belongings had to arrive and as we were waiting and posing for another set of pics, this time the jumping snaps too for a change, we saw large groups of cormorants flying past us. Then, our next stop was Kallanai dam built by Karikala Cholan. It was a really beautiful view from the top of the dam and Mani and Vijay (with his famous Ak47 posture) was in action this time capturing the egrets in the water, the water as it was flowing through three different directions and some children as they were splashing water and playing at a distance.
It was a breathtaking view from the side of the dam as well and it was amusing to see it fully functional and withstanding the force of Cauvery till date. While we had a great time enjoying the Greater Cormorant having its catch of fish there, it was disturbing to see plastics floating in those water and all through the pathway and just a hope that someday tourists would realize the need their responsibility they owe towards the society by not littering these popular spots. After another round of photographs, we headed to our van and were checking out photographs and began another round of chit chats until the evening snack. And as the van started back to, Pranav announced that we play some games. So we started with Dumb  and our super artist anu dhaan pulliyar suzhi pottu vechanga. After a fun round of dumb C, we halted in villupuram for withdrawing money for our accountant. Then after dinner in Aariyas, as we headed back to our van, Pranav introduced us to a new game ”volleyball”.. Even after trailing 15-19, finally got the game 20-19 and a victory pic.. thanks to Vijayanand, Dhivakar and Mani in that team :D.. 
Then there was a round of thrashing, that 2 minutes after thrashing was the most silent moment in the van as chatterbox Pranav had closed his mouth for so long in those 2 days. And as we were wrapping up, Tambaram arrived and it was a dawn of realization the weekend was finally over and Monday has begun. It was a fun filled weekend and a huge huge thank you to the organizers Siva and Massu for a wonderful trip, Shantha for staying on the top of the accounts, and the photographers Ramesh and Shyam for capturing the most memorable moments throughout the trip and their attempts to make us burst out into a laughter with mouth wide open :D (Something that they succeeded in doing), with most of the group pics being eligible for the toothpaste ad ;). Jokes apart, it was a super awesome trip with each one of us having something interesting to share and we couldn’t have had a much perfect way to end the year planting trees and growing oxygen :) around us. With new year having begun and resolutions at a peak, you cannot take a much better resolution of planting some trees this year and making our world a better place to live in.

- Sandhya.