Venkatagiri, April 5-6, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Venkatagiri is a peak 50 km west of Tirupati. It is almost virgin trek territory as not yet a popular trekking destination. From whatever information we had about this place from our local expert from Venkatagiri, Chenchu, we thought that this was a trek of medium difficulty. Since Venkatagiri was about 4 hours from Chennai, we planned an overnight stay at the top - to spend a night amongst nature and also for the amazing early morning views that any peak is likely to offer. Now onto our experiences during the trek.


Drive from Chennai to Venkatagiri

We decided to take two bikes, an Alto and a Scorpio for the journey. Folks were picked up at various points in the city and we assembled at Koyambedu at 07:00 am. There were totally 15 of us out of which only 6 were from Scientific Atlanta. Most of us were strangers to each other who joined the club through mutual friends, orkut, etc. After an initial hiccup of a malfunctioning bike engine, which delayed us by about 30 minutes, we decided to take another bike and we started on our journey to NH 5.

We drove for about 30 minutes and stopped for breakfast at RS Tiffin Centre to the left of the first tollgate on NH 5. With both our bodies and vehicles properly fuelled we started our drive towards Venkatagiri at 08:40 am. The drive was enjoyable as the road was good and the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. After a drive of about 100 kms with a couple of breaks we reached Naidupet. There we took a left turn and drove about 35km to reach Venkatagiri town.

Chenchu's home @ Venkatagiri town

We reached Chenchu's home around 12 noon. We were welcomed with juice, Dahi Vada, Venkatagiri special mysore pak, boondhi and mixture. We freshened up and ate to our heart's content, constantly reminding each other that we need to stop eating if we wanted to trek. The hospitality shown by Chenchu's family was awesome. They gave us chappathis and Aloo masala for the evening. We started from Chenchu's home around 1:30 pm and drove to Palem Kota, which is 8km from Venkatagiri town. This is the base village for the Venkatagiri hill (Venkatagiri Durgam).

The walk in the hot sun

We parked our vehicles in Palem Kota and left half the luggage in the cars. The sun was already hot and we felt the heat as we waited for the guides to arrive. After a long wait, they arrived and we started our walk towards the base of the hill with our backpacks. Everyone had to carry their sleeping mats, 2 bottles of water and whatever toiletries that we had.

This walk was through a complete dry land with no shady trees. All the vegetation that we found were thorny shrubs. We were walking towards west with the hot sun glaring straight at our faces. Though this walk was only about 4kms, many of us felt very tired. We crossed a small water stream and took a break near that. At that point one of our trek team members felt very tired and had some swelling in her legs. She decided to go back with one of the guides and stay in Chenchu's place till we all came back the next day. We continued our walk to the base of the hill and we took a break there for lunch at 4pm. We had the chappathis and aloo masala given by Chenchu's family. We were all already tired and the lunch was delicious.

The climb up the hill

We had a long climb ahead of us and the guides were very much apprehensive about reaching the peak before it is too dark to climb. We were upto the challenge and we started the climb with enthusiasm at around 4:30pm. The path was a difficult one with small to medium sized pebbles which are very skiddy. The plants on the sides of the path were very thorny and we had a lot of scratches. The sun was also not showing any mercy on us. We took a break every 10 minutes and kept climbing. The guides were egging us to keep climbing, which they were of course able to do without any fuss. Though we had come expecting a trek of medium difficulty, all of us (except Peter of course) felt that this was the toughest trek that we had done till date.

Camping site

As we kept climbing it started getting dark. At 7:15pm we reached a relatively flat plateau at a height about 2/3rd height of the hill. We had two options at that time - either we could continue climbing up the hill in the dark or stay there and climb to the top early in the morning. Our guides advised us to stay there since the path ahead was steeper and it was risky in the dark. We took the advice and decided to stay there for the night and climb to the top early in the morning.

All of us relaxed for a while as we were very tired from the tough climb. We found fresh water which was getting collected under a rock through a little stream from the top of the hill. The water was sweet, cool and refreshing. Then Peter, Chenchu and Bhellsun cooked dinner for us. We had taken a few packs of MTR ready to eat Rasam rice, Bisibelabath and a few cup-o-noodles packs. They started a fire and used an aluminium vessel carried by one of the guides and the water from under the rock.

The food was really tasty and because of our hungry mouths and tired bodies, the food tasted even better. After dinner a group of people played UNO and another group enjoyed a small campfire. We chitchatted for a long time and then decided to retire for the night. The night was beautiful and it felt good to lie down under the stars in the open with nothing over our heads. The surroundings were pitch dark as it was day before the new moon day and we were far away from the light pollution of the cities. We slept peacefully and one of the guides was awake throughout the night to keep guard.


Climb to the top

We were scheduled to get up at 5am and start the trek. But we got up only around 5:30am and it was already bright. We saw our surroundings and the beautiful views from our camping site clearly only then as it had already become dark when we arrived there the day before. We started the climb to the top at 6am. We left behind all our lug gages at our camping site and one of the guides stayed back to keep guard. The climb was steep but it was easier than the previous day because of the lack of heat and also because we weren't carrying any luggage. It was quite misty and we even walked through the clouds. At some points we couldn't see beyond 10 feet and it was an amazing experience. We were able to click some beautiful pictures on the way uphill.

After some distance we were climbing up on stones that were neatly arranged like rows of steps. The guide explained to us that there is a fort like structure on the hilltop which was build by robbers who used the place to store money and gold. We climbed through entrances and pathways which were part of the 1000 year old structure on the top. We reached the top around 8:15am. We found the ruins of a building with 4 rooms in the four corners. We rested there for a while and had the chappathis that were leftover from the previous day. The fog cleared by the time we enjoyed the breakfast and we took in the breathtaking views. We then walked around the hill top and found a small temple like building in the edge of the cliff. The clouds were moving fast as they were so near to us and it was beautiful to look at.

The descent

We started our descent at 9:30am. The steep path and the risky edges that we had walked through earlier were more clear to us now as the fog had cleared and offered us better views. We reached our camping site by 11am. We were welcomed by our guide Mr.Subbiah who had in the meanwhile cooked dhal and rice. Dhal rice was hot and tasty and we devoured it. We also refreshed ourselves with the water from under the rock which was refreshingly cool and sweet. I suppose we wouldn't get better water here in Chennai.

We packed our things and started from our camping site at 11:30am. We walked through the long, thorny and slippery path, of course with a lot of breaks. Though the descent was not as tiring as the ascent, all of us felt very tired. Peter, the superhuman that he is, offered to carry Meenal on his back for a while for she had acute pain in her toe. We managed to reach the base of the hill around 2pm.

The walk to the village

Our walk towards the village was again in the hot sun on the same flat terrain with no shady trees. But thankfully the sun was behind us and not glaring at our faces. After we had covered about 1/3rd of the distance we met a local villager who provided us with a pot of Kallu. Some of us decided to have it while others were apprehensive. After that short break we continued our walk in the hot sun with our luggage’s and finally reached the village at 3:30pm. We thanked our guides and took our vehicles and drove back to Chenchu's home at Venkatagiri town.

Lunch at Chenchu's home

We reached Chenchu's home around 4:30pm. If the hospitality was amazing on Saturday, it was simply mind-blowing on Sunday. They welcomed us with refreshing buttermilk and Rasna. We met our dropped out team member who had had a great time at Chenchu's place. We refreshed ourselves and took rest for a while. Then we had late lunch comprising of idli, vada, sambhar, chicken masala and gobi fry. Needless to say, the food was delicious. As if this was not enough, all the girls of the group were gifted a dress, according to Indian tradition of giving a new dress to womenfolk who visit us. We also heard some of the Chenchu's neighbours discussing about their past trek to the same mountain before 20 Years back. Many local people were interested to join the trek but nobody dare to take initiative to climb that durgam(hill) as we did.

Return to Chennai

We thanked Chenchu and his family and started our journey back around 6pm. We took the same route back to Naidupet and then took NH 5 to Chennai. Folks on the bikes enjoyed the evening drive while some folks in the car fell asleep. We reached Chennai around 9:30pm and then parted ways to reach our homes.

It was an amazing experience for all of us. It was the first trek to few of us, the first overnight stay at a hilltop for a few of us and definitely the toughest trek till date which tested the limits of our physical abilities for most of us. It was way beyond our expectations when we started off towards Venkatagiri.

Trekking suggestions:

There are plenty of trains from Chennai to Naidupet. From there plenty of buses are available to Venkatagiri (if you are going by public transport). From the village that is 8kms away from Venkatagiri, we recommend that you take local transport (tractor) to reach base of the mountain, which will save our strength and time as you can avoid walking through the dry uncovered terrain. Try to start trek well before sunrise or in the morning in order to avoid hot sun. Trek during rainy season is not recommended as it is dangerous and we should be walking through the water lanes all along the path. For every five people you should take one local person for more safety. For more information contact site moderators and Chenchu.

Future treks:
We have some more mountains which are more beautiful with some good view points and easy to climb and can be accessed during rainy season also (information from the local guide)

Author - Sreedhar

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Trail in Google Earth
GPS log


kidrah88 on: February 16, 2014 at 7:48 PM said...


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