Venkateswara 4 (V4) - Jan 1-4, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009
What a way to start a year!!!

An experience that was really life changing, both physically and psychogically. The 75 hours, must have changed the lives of each of the 11 participants, maybe to a different extent, but changed definitely.
I had been to difficult treks before, but always with a guide, and never really stretched to such an extent or faced the inherent fear games that the mind plays. Never before had I climbed rocks so independently with real risk of falling and no one looking after me. This was a kind of challenge i had always been looking forward to but never able to find one, as my limits are quite higher physically or psychologically. Maybe i am able to outsmart the fear and feel no threat at all if any safety features are attached or a rescue group is waiting or someone directing the steps which in effect means i am never facing challenges on my own, nor overcoming problems on my own. It was a great 75 hour learning in which I must have grown in physical capabilities, mental strengths, becoming more independent, confident that i can solve life's problems on my own. At points in the trek where things were seemingly difficult, Peter came to the rescue, not always materializing in front of you and giving u a hand ( that was never the purpose) but as a concept- if Peter could do it, its doable, i could do it too. So when Peter climbed the steep precipice near a certain Waterfall (Day 2), the seemingly inpenetrable route suddenly became accessible.

I was able to climb onto the ledges, hold on to roots of trees and swing to ground from the high rock point holding the tree branch and reach solid ground. That, inspite of others asking me to take the alternative route which marked the start of challenges and accomplishments.

The whole trek has been full of figuring things out: from discovering routes through unknown mountains to rationing food out, managing water requirements and avoiding wild elephants, right from the starting hour. And to add to it, making new friends, by figuring them out ;). We arrived at Mamandur, all set , equipped with a gps and contour maps, routes all marked, just requiring a guide to start off with the 4 day jungle adventure. And then it started:

The official there created some red tape by introducing the elephant factor into the trek and asking us to take an alternate route after obtaining permission from the DFO. This pissed Peter off, half a day was gone with just obtainining permissions. nevertheless the gang went ahead, met the forest official and obtained permission and route suggestions. The route now was changed entirely. So now we started at the touristy talakona falls, encountering lots of curious stares from new year revelers who were quite confident that we were part of NGC or Discovery or at the least maybe shooting a film in the forest. After the big climb through the Talakona side, we embarked on a kind of a cardio trek through a certain trail in the forest. We walked and walked and walked through grass, trees, bushes, on the trail, apparantly for 19 km, until it was dark and certain levels of confidence were reached that a stream was nearby and we could camp for the day. At the camp site, whose location we were able to figure out without much delay, the fire was lit and food was cooked. After lots of innovative ways to light up the kitchen, a tasty biryani with ghee was eaten, thanks to Vinoda the head cook doling out the recipe and Karthik executing them to the word. Some went of to sleep, Vinod to meditate and we to chat up until midnight. We could as well have rested for the next day's trek, but when Palani threw some light on why one should not sleep until midnight and how he benefits from it, we all found a reason to give Palani company in his endeavours.

Day 2: Day of mountains?
All woke up in the morning after a starry night's 7 hour sleep and got ready for an eventful day ahead. Day 2 was marked by some difficult climbs and mountain crossings, punctuated by a few waterfalls and pools.Vinod as usual utilized any available free time, meditating and me taking photos of every available bug, flower, landscapes and waterfalls. Some of the newer trekkers, like ananth and me explored new avenues of trekking like climbing mountains with nothing, not even some foothold, but just grass to hold on to. The adventure of course left Ananth dangling in mid air, hugging the mountain at a certain point, waiting for some rope and a rescue. It was at those points when one tended to wonder how Kartik walked on them like some olympic running track or Guru who claims to not be a veteran trekker could conquer with double the load than the rest. The day might have been called as a preview to what was coming the next couple of days and a coach for the same.

It was on this day towards the evening, that I rediscovered the joys of childhood; walking in the middle of the stream looking out for dry rocks to step on to, trying not to get wet. It was like some sort of a challenge the river was trying to pose me; it wanted to say, 'i ll wet u pradeep, let me show you how i engulf you' and I trying to find ever new ways to avoid that, beat the river, say to it 'ah river! i found a dry rock to step on to and stand on, u cant wet me now!'. It rekindled the joy of doing what you wanted to, the way children find joy in doing little things, imagining new things, playing in wonderland with imaginary friends...... the river, the rock, the mountain and the tree.

Nevertheless we were a bit slow on this day but ended the day, finding a nice little camp site, walking for quite some time in the darkness of the night, and working a bit late into the dark.
The cooking team cooked some nice tomato soup and mushroom fried rice with ghee. people were quite hungry and finished the food in a jiffy.
Since it has become a CTC custom, and could not be avoided, we played a game of UNO in which i won. i really feel the need to mention this insignificant part of the trek because i won!! in the first UNO game of my life. you may call it beginners luck, but the fact remains that i won!! :)

And not to forget, the moon had grown brighter that day, raising hopes for a moonlight trek and moonlight photography. but hopes remained hopes as we were too tired to move our lazy asses and slipped into our sleeping bags

Day 3: Day of the pools

This was a day which lead us through some amazing interiors of the Venkateshware hils, some of which felt the touch of human a foot after as long a period as 8 years.We woke up to a nice hot green tea and some amazing scenic beauty. it felt just great to lie there in a perfect location at a perfect temperature. if Peter didnt push us out of it we wouldnt have moved from there, or at least i wouldnt have. but am sure glad he did as it lead to some amazing pools and some wonderful waterfalls which made patterns of their own. After the day's bath at the first pool and some display of diving skills by the trekkers, we started the day's trek. Another huge waterfall and a not so deep a pool later, the trek started getting more excited.....
we started walking along an unexplored stream. At this juncture....
We swam some streaches and climbed some falls,
suddenly the rusk dust became the most precious of all.
The taste of gongura became more tasty,
thanks to the dust which we made pasty.

I agree those stanzas were very poetic, putting me right up there with Kabirdas and Surdas, but lets move on....

A few minutes later once we were done with the rusk dust and gongura and the patented delicacies associated with their combination, we gained some pace along the the river, though very marginal. as the day matured, peter eventually decided we had enough of streams and we moved on to grass through some very thick trees in order to gain some pace and cross a few steep rises. we crossed some mountains and reclaimed lands form a certain 'Magadha trekkers' after 8 years. By the time darkness ended the day we reached a unique camping site. It was designed especially for a full body stone massage and once we had our fill (it was maggi this time) we gave in to this amazing massuese, mother earth. We flexed our body, bent our bones and released ourselves onto the rocky bed.

Day 4: Well what can we say; If Day 3 was best this was better than the best. i think the Lord Venkateshwara reserved the best for the last.
This is the max i can say about it:
  • Amazing light show by Mr Sun.
  • Boulevard of rocks beautifully lit by Mr. Sun.
  • A spider and its web in the middle of it
  • A gurgantuan Log (and of course photos)
  • Slide friendly water pool
  • Snake skin
  • A slim giant of a waterfall
  • a nice, steep, exciting climb
  • the top of the slim giant
  • An eagle, a pigeon and a beehive
  • a long cardio walk
  • top of a mountain with airtel signal
  • sightings of human activity
  • another long cardio walk
  • a new dam by the now renown 'Maytas'

And to end it all, the icing on the cake- a great truck ride through a wonderful winding road bordered by coulourful flora and some fauna, into the sacred Tirumala.
And then the civilization ended our 4 day tryst. Ah!

Well as things need to go ahead, we took a jeep down the hill, went back to talakona, returned for our dinner, picked others up and drove home to Chennai. By 3 in the night all were home and relishing the just made memories through some early glimpses from Bhagath and Karthik's cams.

The trekkers:
Peter: The famous Chennaiite from Belgium who changed the way of trekking in Chennai needs no introduction. He ensures that people perform to the best of their ability in treks. I dont think he or anyone with him ever got lost in a jungle, whatever the size, over his entire lifetime.
Vinod: WoW! what a man. Lucky to have met the 1985 pass out from my college. Retired and enjoying his life, what more could anyone want.
Bhagath: The portrait king. Looks are decieving when u see the way he treks and conquers peaks, without forgetting to capture them in his cam.
Karthick: The funny and creative trekker. A man with amazing talent for trekking, swimming, photography, and of course blowing air to light a fire and cook. Man, mountains are like National highways for him.

Guru: A man with great patience. he deserves a lot of credit for bringing up the rear with double the load everyone else was carrying. We all owe our food to the cooking utensils in his bag. he claims to have started trekking very recently. if that is the case he is a very quick learner
Palani: The philosophical trekker. a great company in a trek, motivating people all the time and pushing himself to the front. He has got a crazy streak in him and ardently believes everyone in the trek must be having one. Most probably its true!!
Vinodha: the cook with a perseverence and determination so tresured and so rarely seen among the homo sepiens.
Divya: I donno how she trekked for 4 days, with damaged shoes and damaged slippers, but she did it, with a friendly smile and wonderful agility
Nitin: well well, supposedly a new trekker, but never stayed back .. always eager to help and stay at the front. Nice trekking with you.

Ananth: The Shiva Shambo with a snake skin around his neck, was really scared in the early part of the trek, with the slippery mountains and the grasslands. but towards the end of the four days he trekked almost like any other person in the group
Pradeep: Do i need to tell about myself? Anyways I dont want to baost a lot, but I was the one taught Peter how to trek. So go ahead, dont hesitate and thank me for all your amazing experiences.

As Peter often quotes me "It is all in the Mind"..........

Write-up contribution: Pradeep

Organized by: Peter

Technical information (by Peter)
Trail of our 4-day V4 New Year's trek in Google Earth -

Day 1 - enter from Talakona, follow jeep track, take left at road split, leave road and camp near stream

Day 2 - climb down along steep stream towards main river, pass many small waterfalls, proceed downstream along river in valley, splash in several pools, camp before river split

Day 3 - take right at river split and proceed upstream, discover old jeep overgrown road, discover 200 feet waterfalls, camp before river split

Day 4 - take left at split, proceed upstream along river in valley, discover 150 feet paradise falls, climb up at right side, follow foot trail, follow jeep track, reach site where new dam is being built, hike on lorry toward Tirumala.

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