Mission Death or Alive/2, Apr 30-May 3 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009
You like the treks organized by CTC? You have no idea about our deadly, under-cover DOA missions... Read more below...
“Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations.” – Ralph Charell
And that is what we did. No trek in CTC is ordinary, after all CTC is not for ordinary people. The excitement and expectation always hang heavy in the air when the treks are personally planned and organized by Peter. Imagine then what would be running through the minds of the nine brave souls hand picked by the specialist himself for one of the toughest missions in CTC. 
Mission Dead or Alive – II
_IGP6181 The hills and jungles of Sri Venkateswara National Reserve Forest have always been alluring to CTC. There are many who make a pilgrimage to this mystic place and come back only to find their heart and soul still wandering in the wilderness. And as peter rightly says “The only cure is to be out there in the jungle”. This is what makes us brave souls go on daring missions to this forbidden place pushing the limits of human endurance farther every time. DOA missions are specially planned and executed for these high priests of hard core.
As is the case with every single trek in CTC a lot of planning, screening and coordination went into the preparation for this mission - right from planning the trails to getting food and essential supplies. We were determined this time to outsmart anyone or anything that challenges us during the course of this mission. And finally “d” day comes.
Thursday, 30th April 2009 (Day 1 – mission starts)
_IGP6865 I come to the primary pick up pint for all our treks – Tidel Park. I find Peter sitting o the bench along with Bastien who is still recovering from jet lag after his travel to France. Karthik is also there with them. In a short while we are joined by Gowrishankar and Diwakar. All of us hop into Peter’s Scorpio and head off to Koyembedu to get the other operatives of the mission. Ramki’s bus is delayed for sometime and by the time we leave Chennai along with Rola and Muthu it is well past 6 AM. In no time we are on our way to Thirupathi enjoying the views of Nagala and Nagari hills on the way, planning to conquer the few unexplored parts of this range. Senthil joins us at Thirupathi and we head off to Alipiri bus stand to park our vehicles after a quick breakfast. We hire a jeep which drops us Talakona and we are ready to enter mission area. The climb up the steep Talakona falls was taxing with heavy back packs and hot sun sapping our energy. As we ascend further up we leave the ordinary tourists behind and enter the realms of the unknown meant only for those souls with a thirst for exploration. We start walking on the flat trail on top of the falls and enter the forest. We find elephant dung all along making us wary of us the presence of the native inhabitants of this place we could encounter anytime. We come across a reservoir on our way and cross it using a huge tree that had fallen across it. Soon we do our usual routine of following a stream which would take us to the planned destinations and unplanned surprises. In many places the vegetation was razed down by forest fire and that made our progress faster. We walked well into the evening and it started to get dark. We hit a challenging vertical drop and use Bastien’s rope to climb down and proceed further. After walking for sometime we come to a narrow gorge with a 150 m vertical drop. We decide to set camp for the night and start cooking. The whole team chips in with voluntary zeal and food is ready. Thanks to Ramki and Senthil for making some delicious soup and pulav. One of the best foods I ever had on treks. With our stomach full we settle down for the night under the open sky looking into the sky and eternity that goes beyond it.
Friday, 1st May 2009 (Day 2 – mission continues)
_IGP7848 We wake up to bright sunshine and have our tea after which we climb up by the side to avoid the vertical drop and enter the main valley through a side stream. We get down into the valley and start walking along the main stream. This is the same stream where V4 trek was done and Peter and Karthik are happy to be back to the place again where they celebrated the New Year. After walking for sometime we come across a steep drop with a narrow pool at the bottom of a falls. The crystal clear, cool water is more than inviting and we jump into the pool to have a short but good plunge. We formed a human chain to pass our back packs and proceed further on the mission where we reach a fantastic pool with some nice rock formations. One of the rocks formed a good diving point and that set off a diving mania with most of us exhibiting our diving skills while Karthik’s camera shutter clicked endlessly. After a good one hour we had breakfast and started to walk again. After spending sometime in yet another pool we proceed on the mission to reach a wide, 50 m high waterfall. It was mostly dry and there was a nice shady tree at the bottom of the falls. As the team retired under the tree for sometime to listen to the sounds of the jungle, some of us decided to climb up to the falls to pose for some photos. After a few clicks we started walking again. Most of the places along the way were flooded and we had to fabricate rafts using our sleeping mats to transport our back packs. We also had to walk through thick vegetation at some places where there was clear sign of presence of elephants. By evening we were at the base of the thread falls which we had seen from the other side during V6 trek. We swam across the large pool at the base of the falls and climbed up the slippery rocks to reach the top of the thread falls and from there we proceeded to the most beautiful pool we had ever seen in this range. The V6 pool. The very sight of the pool set us diving into it and after some good dives and fun in the water, we settled down for the day cooking dinner and setting a huge camp fire. After having god food we settled down for the night.
Saturday 2nd May 2009 (real DOA begins)
_IGP6977 As soon as we woke up in the morning the majestic pool lured us in and this set off another diving mania with people diving endlessly at times. The cameras would have pleaded with their owners to let go off them given the endless clicks they had to bear to capture all those thrilling moments. Especially the dives from 40 feet. It’s a great feeling being footloose and falling free through the air, plunging into the cold waters of a deep pool. Those few seconds take you through an amazing journey that no road on earth can take you on. After spending a lot of time that seemed like a few seconds we dragged ourselves on to the mission traveling upstream. After walking for sometime we were surprised to hear dogs barking. We later discovered that these dogs were accompanying people who had come into the forest cleared tracts of land by burning down the vegetation and exploiting the natural resources there. Guess it’s high time the forest department did something about this. We quickly crossed this area and proceeded on a dry stream to reach a majestic falls with a large pool at the base. The falls had encircled the area by about 270 degrees except for the point of approach. _IGP7077 We climbed up by the left and reached the top of the falls. After some beautiful snaps at the top of the falls we proceeded on to follow the stream at the top of the falls and in the process walked through some burnt down vegetation again in the hot sun. Soon we came across a walk able trail that would take us to a construction site. But that was not what we were here for. We decided to walk in the opposite direction and explore the unexplored. We came across some vertical drops and steep rocks in some places which we climbed up or down pumping adrenaline like never before. The climb was close to deadly at some places. This was real DOA stuff. Soon it was dark we were walking with our torches in unexplored territory. We had to climb down several drops on the river we were following and at one point came across a dead deer. After spending some time doing a verbal autopsy of the deer we proceeded on the mission and soon came to a deadly dead end. We hit a 100m vertical drop surrounded on both sides by steep rocks, impossible to descent. The view on the underlying valley was breath taking. As we got a nice breeze and view here we decided to set up camp here on the flat rocks at the top of the vertical drop.  The night was pleasant – half moon shining bright. No dinner (insufficient water to cook), just some biscuits and very little water. This was truly testing out physical and mental limits and we were put to tough test. We spent the night at this valley and decided to move on early in the morning.
Sunday 3rd May 2009 (the final day)
_IGP6799 We woke up early in the morning and climbed up along the side to circumvent the large drop in front of us. We reached the top of the mountain and walked on for several kilometers before we could reach a good place to climb down. Along the way we were treated to some spectacular views reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. We finally reached the main stream that lead to the Papavinasam – Mamandooro valley and started following the wide dry stream. We had been walking for several hours now in the dry sun with no water and our parched throats were desperate for a few drops of water. Soon we reached a point where there was water running along the side of the stream. I had never been so happy to see water in my life. We dropped on al fours and drank like a wild animal. We then proceeded on to explore some amazing deep narrow gorges near Thumburu Theertham. After the explorations we proceeded to a stream with nice cool, crystal clear water. We cooked noodles and had it sitting in the water. A welcome respite from the searing heat of the day.  After resting a while in under the shades of the trees along the stream we started on the final leg of the journey. Walking endlessly on dry streams in the scorching sun was a tough task and all of us were up to it. Finally we exited the mountains near Kokkaladoddi and entered civilization after four days. After ransacking a shop on the highway we took a bus to Thirupathi and had a sumptuous dinner at hotel Bliss. With the satisfaction of accomplishing yet another challenging mission the operatives proceeded on to resume the everyday fight for survival in the concrete jungle.
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Written by: Baskar
Organized by: Peter Van Geit
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