Javadi Hills, 13-14 Sep 08

Thursday, January 29, 2009
The Javad hills trek was completed by smallest group of the recent treks of CTC – just 10 people in 2 cars. It started with a personal touch with wakeup calls and contact calls going around as early as 4:00 am. We met at Koyambedu at 5:30 with all participants arriving on time – we discussed the route and took off at quarter to 6 admiring the sunrise and wondering how NH5 has so much traffic at that part of the day..

We drove together, talked non-stop with high energy and stopped for breakfast and fuel at Arcot (Whew – what a memorable breakfast – most of us could not eat much until dinner time J ) and packed lunch.. We drove upto Polur from Arcot where we met Rajesh's contacts who worked for the TVS NGO. They guided us up the Javad hills through the reserve area.

The uphill drive was surprisingly interesting with hairpin bends and beautiful arresting views all the way up to Pattaraikadu. We met our local guides Swaminathan and Venkatesh, employees of the TVS NGO who were to spend the weekend with us, parked our cars and started uphill.

The first climb was the most difficult – with an incline of more than 45 degrees. With some first time trekkers and some out of touch ones huffing and puffing bravely and with the chivalrous men Vivek and Dheeraj willing to carry stuff for the ladies, we managed to reach a flatter path after about 45 minutes.

The view on the flatter area was unbelievable – flat cornfields, thatched huts, cows with their designer bells (Madhu lamenting – Oh my, you have to pay 15 francs for a bell like this in Switzerland), bamboo fences around private property which everyone including us used as thoroughfare – the scene was out of the world - similar to pioneer settlements in other planets described in sci-fi novels. There are 278 villages around the Javadi hills. People were extremely hospitable. The area is known for practitioners of black magic and we chatted with the locals about them.

Then came the uphill climb to the next level of fields and huts – and one more uphill trek. Kannan (the lion) tried his hand at photography rushing ahead and taking pictures of everyone. The path in the last climb was less clear and we had to walk through denser shrubs, trees and thorns at some places, but most of it had a visible trodden track. We finally reached the peak at an altitude of 900 m after 2 hours of trekking. We were a single cohesive unit / team by then – nothing like trekking to bind people together.

There were big barren rocks on this peak. The special part about this area is the stone-age style human shelters. The folklore around the area is that dwarfs used to live in these and they used the shelters for protection from the weather and the wild life. The stone roofs looked hand-carved using stone tools.

The dense reserve forest was very close. We requested to be taken there – but our guides said they would not break the rules and go into the reserve forest. We stopped there for lunch – there was a tiny stream – more like tap water disguised as a natural stream which we could use to freshen up.

We started walking downhill with the promise of reaching the waterfall while it was still daylight as people were not allowed in the falls after sunset. This involved going down the same path jumping over fences and also trying not to trip over tree roots. We reached the place where the cars were parked and headed towards Bhima falls in Jamna Maruthur about 19 km away. The hot and sweaty group was dying to get into water after the 10 km trek for the day and the cool respite came easy. The waterfall was not crowded and we had a lovely time for ourselves in the falls as well as in the pool below. It was time to leave as the sun was going down and we drove towards the guest house.

The original planned guest house was unexpectedly full due to VIP visitors and we had to move to a different (and more cosy) one in a herbal garden. We got hot chappaties from a local spot and had dinner and managed to fit ourselves in the available space. Before long everyone was asleep including our guides.

We woke up at 5 am and got ready, went into the village to thank the forest ranger officer and to have some chappaties for breakfast (the previous night's order had been placed in duplicate – one by TVS and the other by the forest department). We started driving towards our destination, stopped on the way to take pictures of the peak we were targeting ie. Pathimalai. Our guides said that they were going to take us through some new routes which they had not planned earlier, seeing our enthusiasm and our interest in exploring new places and pointed to us the route we were going to take.

We started the climb uphill and kept going up through some flat levels. There were lots of edible berries along the way – juicy pink and purple ones, pink ones being the most favored. We took some pictures with the hill as a backdrop.

We kept going up and started climbing the rocks with the guides going up a little and exploring and calling us to join them. There was a steep climb with a stunning view of the flat cultivated areas in the hills and the other forested peaks around us.

We reached the top and found Parvadhamalai staring at us a few km away. The altitude was 970 m and at that level the contour map looked very close to a photograph. Venkatesh brought a bottle of honey with him and rewarded all the trekkers with a handful and we gratefully licked away the heavenly fluid from our palms. Vinod, Vivek and Sridhar started climbing down with the rest of us holding our breaths until they got back to the top after a cliff – face climb.

We went down from that level and started climbing down. There was a Banyan tree and the group transformed into Georges of the jungle trying their hand at swinging across and jumping back on to the rock.

Vivek looked scary like Tarzan with a blue tongue after munching on purple berries. We continued to climb down. This stretch was rocky, bushy and thorny. We saw tunnel spider webs on the rocks. 2 of us had an adventurous brush against an itchy plant and got mild rashes (which disappeared soon after a dip in a local pond). We reached flatter areas at about 2 pm and started walking across the fields jumping fences again and reached the stream. After a cool dip, a lunch of snacks, bread, jam and honey tasted divine.

We started our ascent towards the road for the last part of the trek at about 4 pm. Kannan sprained his leg – and Rajesh lent a helping hand and then a back. The hospitable villagers and the kind guides carried him all the way up to the road to safety.

The rest of us walked ahead of them, took an easy pace up the hill for about 3 km and reached the road at about 5:30 pm. We bid farewell to our guides who were wonderful – there were lots of 'compare and contrast' references to one Mr Kodai Money (Mani???) throughout. We expressed our desire to come again and explore more and that we wished they will be our guides again.

We headed towards Chennai braving the rains, cyclists and truck drivers on the way. Vinod's car tyre popped at the wrong time – and resulted in all the passengers getting a shower in the night while discovering the art of changing tyres in the rain. At last we got back to Chennai and headed home to get a good night's well earned sleep. Lovely and memorable, to be explored further.

Still to be explored – Melpattu (the highest peak in this area at 3076 ft), kotai (old fort ruins on top of another peak) & along the Kamandalam river.

Write-up contributed by Vinodha

Trekking Distance: day 1 = 8.5 kms day 2 = 10.2 kms Terrain: clear easy to walk rocky trails through dense green vegetation, connecting small villages along the way. highest altitude reached: day 2, 990m Guide: yes, 2 Weather: clear sunny

Participants: Vinod, Rajesh, Dheeraj, Madhu, Nilu, Kannan, Sridhar, Arvind, Vivek, Vinodha, (guides-Swaminathan and Venkatesh).

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