Diego Maradona, Anil Kumble, Nadia Comaneci , the number TEN – Do these names spell magic and revere to you. So does Kolli Hills in my books.
Turn Back The Time - the year 1999 when about a handful of souls from BIM, Trichy took a deviant turn into this unknown tranquil little country side via Mettur, the rest remains etched in history – be it the steep climb down the 1 – 2 foot rock cut steps and for that matter – the water levels would never let you closer to the water fall – from exhaustion to ecstasy to exhaustion & relief – all rolled in a little carnage of a trek that was befittingly close to the end of our student life – what a trek that was!!!
Kolli 3 therefore was a return to the good old savage self wanting nothing but being in tune with nature and that could only mean that the toughest and the fittest could survive and so it was.
The camaraderie in any CTC trek is a given and take nothing away from this fact cos therein lies the true spirit of a CTCian. The opening notes at the Central Station in Chennai were the usual normal self greeting fellow pals until some chose to take the wrong train in their own hands and guess what – two jumped out when the wrong train was just zipping outta the station and the rest were stuck until Arakonam to join us. One can only imagine what the ticket checkers would have thrown at the rest until Arakonam and any thoughts of things heading in misdirection were finally laid to rest at Arakonam.
Come Salem – and we were joined by the rest of the lot – Palani, the speed racer drove a wild country race with himself to reach Salem in time, bags were loaded atop the vans and we were finally off to the jungles of Kolli.
We were to take a different trekking route this time and that meant extra fun cos of the surprise factor. The vans would drop us at the foothills and we were to climb about 1000 metres to reach the top of the hill from where we would drive out to the base camp – Atop Aakasha Ganga water falls;
Peter played sheet anchor ably supported by Viki, Kartik, Bhagath and one hell of a sweeper in Bhaskar and a whole host of the experienced lot playing their tunes well did help us start the trek aplomb in typical CTC fashion. The Sun God however had different ideas – the soaring heat and dehydration that followed soon sapped our energy to the maximum; It is here that we tend to live our survival test to the fullest although there were helping hands at large – the mind plays over your body and pretty soon – you are a spent one mentally and physically;
The ascent to the peak therefore was never going to be easy – the fitness levels comes to the fore and to me – it was a serious wakeup call as my stamina had touched abysmal levels this time around and I was soon left to rot with a weakening left knee and ankle, but the fun part was to drive a woefully energy sapped lot to the top and to their credit, none of them beat me to death for what I was trying to do would have otherwise been close to insanity in the concrete jungle.
Water was the final selling proposition to reach the top. If ever there is any reason to write off water, you better give way cos there is nothing to beat a parched one’s throat – Water is indeed the elixir of Life. Ranjith & Palani frequently ran down to replenish water stocks whilst Peter effortlessly drove down every now n then to check on the movement of the herd.
It was about 6 PM when we finally reached base camp and the group finally gobbled up whatever they could find at the potti kadai next to the temple. We will hit base at the chatram of the temple for a much needed rest later that nite.
The group split here – few of us choosing not to go down the steps for a dip in the cool waters of the Aakasha Ganga falls in a starry night while we would hit a smaller water fall to chill and massage our worn out self.
Then came the surprise package for the nite; we were to camp out in the forest with a fire to warm ourselves instead of the chatram. I soon hit the sack without a blanket and was woefully woken up by cold and frosty winds at about 2:30 AM – the welcome reception was attended by a zillion stars beautifully laced in the sky and what a sight it was. Unable to withhold the frost any longer, I soon moved to the chatram, thankfully though – I was helped with a blanket this time and slept peacefully thereafter.
My knees and ankle were nursed to partial health ala volini spray. The morning session would be a descent to the caves that was discovered in Kolli 2 amidst scenic getaways and lots of water for fun. I had to play down my fears and therefore chose to cautiously tread down the beaten track alongside Bhaskar who chose to stick with me and ensure I reach the waters safely.
The wow factor finally kicked in and my EOS buzzed with excitement at the sight of 76 delightful souls choosing to bring out the child in them. It was ecstasy finally after a day of being baked in the sun and it did add to the WOW factor. Food and fun brought all the energy and spirits back into me and while the rest chose to explore further – I chose to remain amidst tested waters and keep my EOS buzzing with the rest of the souls.
Amidst all this fun and frolic, Sujai and two other poor souls lost their way in the middle and went about trekking for more than 3 hours in the ruins of the jungle until they finally managed to catch up with the rest of the team.
I chose to leave early with a few others not wanting to be a liability myself at a critical juncture. Surprisingly though, the trek back to the base camp was easier and less painful – oh n add to that – the visit to the Aakasha Ganga falls bought back good old memories – the rock we sat on for lunch and the view point to name a few places. The climb up the concrete steps to the base camp was uncharacteristically boring to say the least but hey – we all made it to the top in good time and I guess that matters most.
A quick shower in the small water fall near the temple and a quick fire lunch to keep our energy going – we were finally starting to leave from Kolli – the hills of sages and mystical aura would never be the same in my mind again.
To sum up – Kolli 3 was an extension of what I had missed 10 years ago and it had all the ingredients of completing a perfect 10 – or should I say – a complete cocktail of a bollywod movie replete with comedy, emotions and adventure – oh! and a perfectly happy ending
Kolli did teach me a few important lessons though; First of all – what you do at the Gym or the swimming pool matters little when it comes to the jungle and the Sun - What matters here is a big heart and a head strong enough to break stones with a single hit are simply a given when it comes to difficult trekking situations and to CTC’s credit – the undying passion in every individual has been an omniscient reason for the success of every trek – not to take anything away from the organisers mind you – but then - you gotta do what you gotta do when it matters most and we did at the end.
Any trek, be it simple or a DOA, the critical parameter is for everyone to understand the seriousness that also comes with the fun of being part of Mother Nature and the jungles in India. Seriousness not just in terms of the safety of self and fellow CTCians but also act responsibly with Mother Nature; And to me, CTC simply comes up trumps in both these cases, and if there is a better way to say it – “Nature's loving proxy, the watching mother” and as you may know it now yourself –
Let us play proxy Mother to the most endearing and heartening, second to none Mother of all – Our Good Old Mother Earth.
Written by: Hari
Organized by: Vikram and Baskar