Kolli/1, Oct 18-19 2008

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The hills of death!

Kolli hills will always go down as the most chilling experience of my life ever. Never did I push myself so much physically as I did for this trek. This trek taught me the all important lesson which every trekker should know – “It’s all in the mind” -- by Peter.

Before the trek I was very confident or should I say overconfident that I will clear this one very easily. As it unfolded, I found the going very tough both mentally and physically for most part of the trek. I pushed myself reaaaallly hard but with no avail.

Day 0: The trek started technically in the Egmore railway station when the group got together in front of the station. I got introduced to loads of people, whom I will never forget my entire life or at least till I remember this trek which is probably till the end of life…. We got in to the seats allocated by the organizers and passed some time knowing about the co-travelers. I slowly wandered in to the sandman’s trap as little did I know what tomorrow held for me.

Day 1: We landed in Salem railway station quite early in the morning. We were joined there by a group of five people who reached Salem by car. That’s when I got introduced to the CTC lingo of “Telugu channel”. It was kind of racist. It means certain instances when two individuals resort to communication in Telugu in front a group people whose understanding of that language is minimal. A confusing and long explanation is it??? Well that’s how I got explained.

Outside the station, cabs organized by Vikki were waiting for us. The driver took us to a hotel for breakfast. There we also loaded up with mineral water bottles for the trek. Then we started on the journey to the base of the hill. It was a village who name I don’t recollect. On the way to that place Vikki told me that his native was Salem and how he used to frequent to kolli hills on his bike to take a dip in the falls. Once we reached the village. We were told to leave all the useless stuff in the cabs and travel as light as possible, as the cabs would follow us up the hill through a different route. That is when I heard that instruction as “Pack everything you brought into your backpack and make it as heavy as possible” so I did exactly that. – My first mistake.

We started the trek shortly and it was going smoothly till we were in the initial flat part. We had a walk for about an hour and half till we reached the base of the hill. I was wasting my energy in short sprints running up and down the pack. The flat part was very bushy and we had to go through thorns many a times. First thirty minutes of the climb was gentle and I was going well. We stopped for lunch and I started to feel a little pinch in my breathing. The slope was gentle till now but suddenly it started getting very steep and the humid, hot weather started telling on me. I started losing sweat at an alarming pace. I didn’t panic initially and kept up my pace climbing with the first few guys. Slowly I started losing ground and more sweat. I started to panic a bit. I as afraid that I would end up dehydrated and kept drinking more and more water till I finished all the water I had—my second mistake. That worsened the situation for me. I couldn’t continue both mentally and physically. I recently found a link which tells how dangerous it is to drink too much water too fast. --- Too much drinking water.... Also its general wisdom that more water you drink, more you will sweat and lose essential salts which can’t be replenished by drinking plain water. Loss of the salts will cause ionic imbalance in the body which will cause symptoms like nervous imbalance, fear and high BP.

I started to slow down but remained very determined to finish it as fast I could. I reached the toe end of the group with the sweepers screaming at me to move faster. After some distance, they too gave up on me and left me with the guide who was helping them sweep. Just then I found a companion in gopal. He was feeling the pinch too. I knew we were nearing the summit so I started to relax a bit. That relaxation coupled with my exhaustion slowed me even further. Luckily for me we weren’t on any tight schedule or anything, though due to this slow ascent loads of people were to miss the visit to the falls after we reach the summit. In the middle of the ascent, I found some respite in a pool of water which had formed from the flowing stream. The water was near ice cold and I could the condensation immediately after we filled our bottles with this water. Even here I had too much water. Immediately after the water break the whole group regrouped for a difficult crossover where we needed the rope to cross over the face of the hill. I thought I felt a bit better when all the glucose I had near the pool started to kick in. So I sprinted up the slope without using the rope and even found an alternative route—my third mistake. Instead of conserving the energy there I wasted it again.

The exhaustion kept piling on me and I started to get cramps. I could bear the pain for sometime but after a point I couldn’t even carry my bag, so gave it to the guide who carried it painlessly. Gopal kept telling me not to show short bursts of energy, instead move slowly but steadily. But I thought otherwise as not doing that was easier. Sometimes what is easier is what hurts you most. That is the only time in a trek I gave my bag to somebody else to carry. The guide, Gopal and me were moving at snail’s pace and somehow finally made it to the peak. By this time the cramps got out of control. I could neither sit nor stand. I painstakingly smiled for a group snap at the summit. We reached the place with step farms and an Airtel tower which I vividly remember.

The exhaustion somewhat died seeing the lush green top of a hill, whose ascent was very ugly. After a thirty minute walk, we reached the viewpoint where to my joy; I learnt that the cabs are supposed to pick us up. “No more trekking for the day” – well that’s what I thought. It was also finally time for lunch—yes finally!!! I don’t know about other but I had a blast at that place. It was unlimited rice and one serving of chicken. I flicked anand’s chicken too. That was a very filling meal.

The cabs then took us to the temple and we unloaded the entire luggage from the cabs. I had barely caught my breath when peter said guys interested in going to the waterfall can follow him.

We had a brief discussion with the authorities there who advised us that going waterfall in this level of light is not so advisable. We went ahead in spite of that. Yes, that’s true. I went it too – My fourth mistake. On the way down the stairs, I learnt that there are actually 750 steps which we have to climb down to get to the waterfall. What was scary was that we climb up those 750 on the way back. By the time we reached down. The light was very bad already but it was still enough for us to view the falls. This was the first time I had gone any where near such a big falls in my life. The ascent back was pretty smooth and I wasn’t that ruffled as I thought I would be.

Once back on the hill-top, we got ready for a blast of a dinner. It was an unlimited dosa festival. People just thumped like they did for the lunch. After the dinner some people sat down for a game of Numero Uno in the center of the road, rest crashed.

The localites thought we were gamblers when they saw the cards in our hands. We had a hard time convincing them that it was just a game meant for kids in age range 5-12 years. After the game the gamers crashed too. We had to get up early.

Day2: I got up a bit late and was feeling a bit refreshed after the sleep. Peter informed that people are going down to falls again to take a bath. The original plan was to come back from there and then take a different trail downhill to the village where we started. But plans are meant to be replaced by better plans. This time I could see the grandeur of the falls in a more elaborate way or should I say I couldn’t. The force of the falls made it impossible to look at it directly much like looking at the sun only here it is water droplets instead of electromagnetic waves. We could see the falls directly with bare eyes. We had a pleasant dip in the falls and set out for the return journey. Some 9 of us got slowed down; including Peter because of some minor sprain Angel had suffered. Suddenly on our way up on the trekker who knew Tamil read an inscription on one of the rock some 150 steps up the path. It showed a way to some caves across the stream that flowed down from the falls. Peter set about finding that cave as the trail was properly marked. We had nothing but a muscle spray but we decided to start the detour. I was feeling somewhat better so I followed too. I even convinced Divya to come.

The descent was pretty simple and was very energetic. The trail led us down to the gushing stream and marking pointed us to cross the stream. The stream was furious and wouldn't let anybody cross it solo. It needed a team effort. We formed a human chain with two strong guys at each end—evidently me and peter and crossed the raging stream. We kept following the arrows on the rocks till at one point we decided that we should turn back, though we didn’t reach the cave. So we turned back and reached the stream again. There was a small incident while we were returning. We followed the same strategy with me and peter at each of the ends. But this time I slipped and almost flew away with the flow. Lo behold Uma leaps out to pull me out and save the day for me. That was legen…. Wait for it … dary. After all the drama, we had a nice dip in the stream. It was very powerful and kind of felt like a Jacuzzi at one of those five star hotels. We really missed cameras as there would have some splendid snaps. We took a dip for about an hour. At that point of time anybody of us would have hardly felt that we didn’t have our breakfast that day and we were way past noon already. Then we started the ascent up the slope which we had so energetically climbed down.

Suddenly out of nowhere, the exhaustion I had felt the previous day returned back to me. I started panicking way early this time as I didn’t have any water and people were much less too. My cramps as if had just hid under skin resurfaced.

I started moving very slowly again. I couldn’t believe I was struggling again. In the middle of struggle, we heard screams of something which rest of guys uphill had termed as a “rescue team”. That only meant we were close. But the thought of 600 more steps after we reach our original detour point, was frightening. You see that’s why they “ignorance is bliss”.
Step by step I reached the top and then flushed myself with some fluids (slice and sprite you pervert!!).

Babu sir helped here as I was broke – ‘thanks to anand’; as he sponsored me for all I drank. We had our lunch. I learnt that our little adventure of taking a detour cost the whole group a chance to trek more. Well I don’t think anyone would have been interested in doing so. So there was a change of plans and it was decided that a part of group can go down by the cab and interested junta can follow the last day’s trail downhill.

I still remember and will do for the rest of my life when peter walked up to me and said “Raghu, you look very tired and it would be good if you could go down with the cab. There are some nice viewpoints on the way down and moreover we can’t afford to get delayed again as we have a train to catch”. It just shook me up and I was more determined than ever to go downhill trekking. I promptly replied that I will go downhill through the trail. He agreed and we set off a very tricky descent.

Rain-gods were marginally angry with us and cursed us with mild showers on our way downhill. It made the descent a bit difficult especially at the place where we used a rope in our ascent. We had to sit slide for most part of our descent. I knew that if I slowed down this time then we were sure to miss the train. So I maintained a constant speed like an old locomotive. We were down in no time, may be a couple of hours. Yet we were on a tight schedule. Yet on our arrival downhill, it was festival-like atmosphere with people going on cycle-rides around the village. Others busy taking bath and freshening up for the Salem chicks. We actually had to wait for the cabs that had started downhill through the road route downhill. They still didn’t reach the base which shows the scorching pace we built up on our descent through a steep wet hill slope. The CTC motto is “When the going gets tough, the tough get tougher”.

Once the cabs reached, we packed everything and started off. There wasn’t lack of thrill there too as we missed Angel and Vinodakka at the village and started off without them. Unfortunately we did come back to pick them up (should have left them there :D). Once we reached the station we barely had time to eat our dinner, so we rushed to the nearest paratha shop and people feasted on the unlimited parathas. I have to congratulate organizers on maintaining this “unlimited" spirit throughout the meals during the trek unlike the other treks. It just adds another dimension to your trekking abilities when you know that at the end of it all u get unlimited food. We finished our dinner and boarded the train for the return to Chennai. Nothing much there in the return as everybody was tired and wanted to crash hard. We reached Chennai early next morning. Everybody bade a final goodbye and left the station. I concluded my trek by rushing home in an auto and crashing till the evening. I guess the “Hill of Death” deserved at least a day off from work.

I have mentioned several mistakes I made in this trek. Life is all about learning from mistakes and not repeating them in future. Well I try not repeating them. When I succeed in doing that I have a great trek. Overall the trek was awesome and an adventure to remember. Great organizing coupled with unexpected surprises made the trek even more memorable. The friends I made in this trek were awesome too especially Madhu, Babu Sir, Vinodakka, Divya … the list goes on. Special thanks to Umakka for saving my life across the stream. The power of the stream was really frightening. I hope to see them in many more treks in future. Forgot the needless to say – Peter was awesome, as he always is.

Write-up: Raghuvir

Organizer: Vikram J

Participants: Senthil Subramaniam, Vikram, Balaji Seshan, Peter Van Geit, Babu R, Sridhar P, Ram Prasad, Gopalakrishnan, Sharon, Vinod, Anand chanduri, Gokul K, Sivaraj, Sudhakar Sundaram, Yaseen Lanka, Selva kumar, Uma Maheswari, Vijay Narayanan, Vinodha Jeyanthilal, Samyak, Madhan Mohan, Ramyanisha Ramanan, Raghuvir Reddy, Gurumoorthi, Kumar K T, Ravi S Ghosh, Angel Glady Magdalin, Shyamala Krishnamoorthy, Chandrasekar R, Suresh Kumar J, Chandravel, Gopal Kishore, Rounak, Madhu Hanumantha, Ramesh, Chirag Dhyani, Bala, Selva Pandian, Deepak, Jai Ganesh

Image Library:
Ravi Ghosh
Vikram J
Selva Pandian
Wild Kannan
Suresh Kumar



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