Nagalapuram/9 - 13, 14 Dec - 2008

Monday, February 2, 2009
The night was filled with excitement, the expectation of the trek to start. I bet the alarm and woke up at 3:25 AM on Saturday morning. Already having packed, I quickly hopped on to my Elantra and raced to Tidel Park. Brief intros, more folks trickling in, we finally got to full quorum at Tidel by 4:20. Picking up a couple of folks on the way we headed to Koyambedu, and there all the 30 odd folks to start on this journey assembled. More intros, stuffing of our bags into the cars, and soon we were ready to proceed. Still dark and so beautiful a weather the Nagala Hills were luring us.

We stopped at our usual breakfast point quite early. Waiting for the breakfast to get ready we were getting to know the fellow trekkers. Around 6:30 we started our final leg to our base camp. The final stretch of the road had quite a bit of a surprise for us. Well the first of many to come :-). The recent rains made the mud roads very difficult to navigate and the trekkers turned to constructionists, mending the road so that the cars could move further. Finally we chose to park the car on the road a few hundred metres to our usual base camp. The trekkers from Hyderabad had also arrived.

Distributing food for the next two days, we all, 45 of us, buckled up and proceeded towards the dam. Avoiding the muddy paths, we finally hit the top of the dam, and behold, there was the huge lake formed by the dam! The water was as high as a two storey building. The trek had started. One of the many unknowns we had to conquer in order to complete Nagala 9!

Spidey sensed Ram and Peter then figured out the route to take. We planned to go over the small hill to the left and get back to the trail at the spot of the burning tree. Sickle in hand Ram and Peter tried to get us an opening through the bushes. And after a few dead ends we finally hit the trail to get to the burning tree. Well tree had stopped burning quite a while ago, but now it was half submerged in water. So we decided to go back and join the trail at a further point. Finally we hit the trail to the first pool of many Nagala treks and we had lost an hour or so. With the recent rains the pool was lot more gushing with water and the mini waterfall was really force full. We all got into the pool and the next 30 mins it was heaven! The non-swimmers were helped using a rope to get to the waterfall, and we all enjoyed the natural massage nature had to offer.

We started to our next destination, the small waterfall up the river bed. Here we had our lunch, filled our water bottles, as this was our last water point until the next day! From now on it was the breathtaking views of Nagala Hills which filled us as we made our way to the 600m summit. As we scaled, the chatter went on, the glucon-d mixed water vanished into our thirsty throats, the lead group explored the routes, the middle pack moved at constant pace, the sweepers made sure no one was left behind. Many snaps got clicked, many limbs got tired, trekkers’ camaraderie was displayed helping out fellow trekkers, and as we neared sun-down we were getting ever closer to our summit.

The morning detour made sure we had to trek in the night. Taking out our led torches we were scaling the slopes with caution. The lead group scouted the hills for easy routes to the top. After an hour or so of trekking in the dark, we reached our summit! Wow what a feeling. The endurance of 10 hours of trekking, the scrapes and bruises, the exhaustion, the tired muscles, all went out of focus. Calm filled us as the breeze took over our bodies and healed it. Savoring the gentle breeze, we moved onto our camping ground. The tent poles from Nagala 2 were still intact! We setup 3 tents and had dinner. Some dozed under the tents; some slept watching the beautiful sky, the full moon smiling at us, the stars gazing at us showing a universe we are oblivious to in our busy walks of life.

Our tired bones resting, it wasn’t an easy job waking up . But as the day broke, we woke. By 6:45 AM we were again locked and ready for next 12 hours (or more(?)) of fun. With the morning sun lighting up the Nagala Hills it was time to enjoy the nature’s lighting effects from the various viewpoints on our way. Our first destination was the 300m waterfalls! Even the thought of it excites me. We started our descent and caught the river bed of this waterfall. We trekked along those slippery rocks, sometimes going up and trying to find a faster route. We were time conscious and wanted to get to the base camp by 5 PM as the Hyd folks had to catch a train back to Hyd.

More glucon-d was consumed, legs were getting tired, and hunger was setting in as we approached the waterfalls. Finally at 12 noon we reached our destination. We all jumped into the pool washed our muddy selves and had great fun under the small waterfall. This was on top of the magnificent 300m waterfall. After the fun in the water we weren’t prepared for the sight of our lives!!

Just a few metres form the pool there was the 300m waterfall! Sitting at the top of it, with a sheer vertical drop of 300m below you, the Nagala Hills and valleys all around you, it was unbelievable. Nature in all its glory let this place be formed over millions and millions of years. How pristine! How wonderful! The breeze filled your mind with beauty which will haunt you for ever! These immortal images etched our mind.

We had lunch here, and started on our descent. We indented to get down on the hill adjoining the right side of the dam. To get there we had to go past two hills! These were mostly new trails and the lead group was trying to find us trails we can follow. We encountered very slippery slopes, thorny bushes, small slips, some hurling rocks, and all through amazing team work. Helping each other we crossed the first hill and we were on the descent on the second. But time wasn’t on our side. It was getting dark, and last part of the trail was yet to be explored. The Hyd folks readjusted their plans to catch the later train. So began our second night trek.

Torches out, egging people on, helping those without torches, saving the final drops of water, we could see our base camp and the lake beside it. It was a final stretch, a final push, searching our insides for the hidden energies we never knew were inside us. Going through the bushes, almost pitch dark, we finally hit the exit to the dam!! Just then the moon showed its beautiful evening face out, blushing in red, peeking at the 45 crazy trekkers.

Some took a quick dip in the dam, some relaxed, some gazed at the beauty of the Nagala hills in the night, and some ogled the moon. But all knew the limits they pushed within themselves and had won.

After a leisurely walk back to the cars we headed back to civilization. We had some mouth watering food on the way in road side dhabbas, as our favorite Chennai Deluxe would not be open by the time we would have gotten back. We drove back the tired, exhausted but totally exalted bodies back to Chennai. The Hyd folks had started a bit earlier to catch the midnight train.

Saying goodbyes we parted at Koyambedu. The memorable Nagala 9 came to an end. It’s been 3 days since we completed the trek but the hangover has not passed. All you need to do is close your eyes and the beauty, the thrills, the serenity, the camaraderie, the fun, the amazing friendships, the sound of the gushing water, the silence of the Nagala valleys, the breeze of the summit, the light hearted banter, the high of being one with Nature, the inner knowledge of oneself, all come rushing back. Until the next trek, let the hangover remain.

Write-up contribution: Palanidaran

My alarm ( in phone ) was supposed to buzz at 3.15 am, but my phone rang at 3.45. Someone from CTC reminding me of the trip. I quickly freshened up, got my luggage and walked to the Taramani gate ( The rear gate of my institute ). My cousin Ambarish and I started from Taramani early in the morning at 4 and met others from CTC in Tidel Park. Our next stop was the Koyambedu Bus Stand where around 30 of us met up, reassembled our luggage and started for the 2 hour drive to Nagalapuram, a town 50 Km from Tirupati. Ram Prasad was leading the trek and Peter was guiding us. This was my first trek with CTC.

My interest in hiking began after I saw the movie "Into the Wild" ( 2007, Sean Penn ), a story about a college graduate who deserts his societal life, burns all his money and sets on a journey to rediscover himself. The movie is an adaptation of John Krakauer's narration of the true story. The problems of society, its culture and people had been brewing in my mind even before I came across this movie. There was something which most of us took for granted - that we get to live in a society and reap its benefits. I began questioning my right to all the material wealth and knowledge I could procure and then it hit me. I needed to live away from society for a while to appreciate it better. Get out of the box to see what's in it fully. How do you observe a system, if you are in the system.....Looks like I am getting carried away here, I'll get back to describing the trek.

One and a half hours of drive and we stopped for breakfast. Picked up loads of water and packed lunch and drove for another 45 mins to reach our destination. The last kilometer was tricky for cars to maneuver due to rocky path and loose soil. After sufficient damage to the chassis, the owners decided they would be better off walking the rest of the road, and so we did. This being the 9th Nagala trek for CTC, they expected the dam to be as usual - like any other place in chennai - dry. But the cyclone Nisha had bestowed upon the dam a blessing of 20 feet of water forcing us to take a diversion from the left to join the main trail. We tried to stick to the existing trail, but despite Ram's best efforts we couldn't find one which wasn't completely submerged in water. With the help of GPS and their past experience Ram and Peter managed to guide us through fresh paths up and down the hill slopes to Fall 1. A small pool of fresh and clean water was nothing less than heavenly for our tired legs, bruised bodies and aching muscles. ( wasn't that bad ). I think this was about when the sun was at its peak. And then we walked and we walked and we walked, an uneventful trek uphill and downhill to circumvent the pools of swamp. At six in the evening, it was getting perceptibly dark and we were, from the looks of it, pretty far from our destination. My first trek in the night. All of us got our flashlights out and slowly started to climb up the final 300 meters. The uphill was pretty steep - about 45 degrees at least and we needed to hold onto trees for support. Only consolation was that the rocks under our feet were firm. We reached up at about 8 in the night. After 10 hours of climb, most of us were pretty exhausted. I simply dropped my bag on the next meter square of flat land and crashed. Tents were arranged but I preferred to sleep under the blanket of stars, like many others. If the wind was a little less chilly, I could say I slept like a baby.

At 3.15 am my cell phone alarm rang. Did it have to ring today, instead of yesterday? Though partially muted as it was deep in my bag, I am sure of at least two people cursing in my general direction for ruining their perfect sleep. I redirected their curses towards Murphy, turned off the alarm and went back to sleep.

Peter woke us up at 6.30. We rolled up our mattresses, zipped our backpacks and without brushing our teeth, started climbing downhill towards some amazing viewpoints. Hundreds of clicks later we proceeded towards another pool navigating through a fair bit of moderately high boulders and thorny bushes. We spent a considerable chunk of time there in the waters and I could sense the Hyderabad chaps getting a little impatient. They had reservations in a train at 7 from a village about 2 hours from the foot of the hill, which meant we were supposed to be back at the foot of the hill by 5 pm. If i remember correctly, the time was 12 pm and people were still getting out of water. Nevertheless, people trickled out of the pool and followed their way back to square one - to the top of the hill.

What followed next can be best described as the worst part of the journey, at least for me. I was carrying the trash bag though I admit, i kept forgetting it at various pit stops. We were climbing down the other side of the hillock where the declivity was greater. To add to our woes there were loose rocks, smooth sandy soil, tree trunks pretending to be strong but mocking you when you need their help. But, Alas! after plenty of sliding on butt and tumbling on rocks, we managed to exit that area and enter into lower lands with pretty thick vegetation. We sat there for a while when Peter and Ram were figuring out the way - we could either go downhill and follow the stream or climb up another hill and climb down. We eventually chose the latter. Sun was generous only until we climbed up the third hill. The final descent, like the final ascent, was in the moonlight and flashlights. The Hyderabad guys had long given up any hope of catching their train. It was 7 pm already. We were stuck once again, but we could see Peter, effortlessly climbing up the hill to tell us that he had found the way to the dam. Once again, everyone was cheerful, and half an hour later we were at the foot of the hill.

For some people this will be a very memorable trek because of the challenges of climbing in the dark and for more than 20 hours in 2 days.

For me I hope this trek will be memorable only because it is my first with CTC.

Write-up contribution: Saran NMR

Organized by: Ram, Vikram

Image Galleries:
Bhagath Kumar
Suresh Kanna
Suresh Kumar
Karthick Ramalingam 1
Karthick Ramalingam 2

GPX trail - can be used for Geo-tagging
KMZ file - view trail in Google Earth 3D



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