Nagala Picnic/N21, May 13 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009
The Picnic on Election Day - Nagalapuram - N21
It was the darkest hour in Chennai and our brightest moment yet in the day; the city was coming to a close and winding up in anticipation of the elections the next day but for the 20 odd CTCians out – the city would have felt the heat for nearly four hours while we drove our way out to the wilderness of Nagala yet again – in the name of chilling out in the dead end pool that had offered so little a chance to open up our tensed and barb wired heads to chill in the crystal clear waters when needed.
Erstwhile, I was still on de-tox mode savouring every moment of the weekend trek and recovering from a very bad cramp when we were summoned to take on yet another journey – and would you ever say no – even if my leg needed amputation – I would not have thought twice to be there AGAIN...
There was however a little surprise in the package – in the name of Anjali – a live wire of a darling she was – she bought back memories of yet another kiddo in my life – my friend - Divya’s daughter Tanvi – whilst Tanvi would go about asking you question after question – “What it is” – Anjali had no airs about her when it came to be doing exactly what had to be done in the picnic..
The pics are ample proof of what she is capable of ey ... Achtung Baby!! We have another younger breed of CTCians in the making...
We began our journey from Nathan’s Cafe yet again – traffic was minimal – picked Naresh at Koyambedu and our cars uncharacteristically chugged along the NH4 and in a couple of hours time we had touched base at the check dam – Food and other essentials were split in a jiffy and soon we were on fire power mode heading east into the Nagala mountain ranges.
Yet another 36 hour marathon work day luckily did nothing as the weather had chilled down quite a bit. 30 – 40 mins later, with guru on the lead, we had reached our target for the night – camp fire and Uno was on in full swing while I chose to crash land in one of the nearby rocks – in memoir of the flowing waters nearby hoping to repeat the heavenly “second by second” experience of the birth of a new day during Nagala 20.My physical self however desperately wanted to rest and so it was that I slept intermittently yet again watching the moon rise to glory and somewhere in the middle lost my senses completely to darkness and left the Sun alone to lit up the day.
With sleep still pushing me for more early morning, I chose to have enough of it and join the rest for a good cup of chai and breakfast. Paari chose to crack his head slipping from a safe height into the waters while jumping and there was a minor break in the proceedings while we dressed him up for safety. Sunita’s masala added further pep to our ginger black tea with whitener and soon we were all hale n happy for a walk in the woods.
01 And all the while, the kiddo was not to be seen and her presence was soon felt when we took to the shades for a break. Viki’s ‘candid’ subject was undercover for a long time and neither did I get a good chance of a perfect frame of the kiddo in motion. Finally, it was time for us to take over the safety of the little princess and she was only too happy to oblige and walk along side by side and with equal vigour & enthusiasm
The rest of the team had already reached the pool – the party had begun, jumping jacks took over the pool in a splash, the weekend trekkers were on in full swing having their share of the water alongside peter whilst Naresh, Nisha and Guru chose to rise higher in the cliff wanting more of the dive and the depths that they could fathom from the inside.
The tyre tube was soon put in action for the little princess and off she went with Guru n Akhi as aide de camp. Her Highness had climbed the rocks while we were busy framing every other jack out there.
3 Guru suddenly erupted from nowhere – Hari, Hari!!! And there she was – ready for the jump with Peter – in a non chalant, simple, dive like much ado about nothing typos and she was off, splash, and thud!!!; moments later emerged yet again on the cliff - this time with Akhi and Peter by her side. I would have hardly imagined doing anything like this and it still gives me jitters climbing dizzy heights for a jump – an awesome kiddo for sure!!!
It was soon play time as a group in the water – teams split – a game of throw ball slowly changed gears to more like a water polo match – but strictly no rules applied first – you could hit the wall even at 10 feet height and adjudge that as a goal – such was the camaraderie out there that what you did out there was of no consequence in the end.. Fun is what we wanted at any costs.. And from nowhere team spirits took a grip on the proceedings – rules came into place..And what good are rules for CTCians when it comes to fun.. Peter went underwater pulling anybody down having a go at his goal post and Akhi and Bala were safely routed to the floor of the pool knee deep to get a good hold on the ball and ensure they hit the goal.
31_ Amidst cries of foul and dirty tricks, the game was on in full momentum for about 30 mins or so when hunger pangs struck. Sunita quickly took centre stage – served some awesome soup n noodles to kill the hunger. And like a ticker, everybody hit the sack for a quick nap before a final rap up for the evening in the waters.
Lord Varuna had other plans though – what started as a flutter first started blowing our mats away and then the rains poured like a power-hose opened up from the top. We soon jumped into the dead end pool for warmth and comfort and the winds blew yet again like we were caught in a wind tunnel of some kind.. i had to rush to get the mats back in place on our back packs – meanwhile Balaji and angel chose to stay put in a sleeping mat in a coy n comfortable fashion .. After having set the mats in place ... i suddenly felt the rains had got harder - faster and they were thoroughly giving me a massage on my shoulders and the back.. Little did i realise that it was ice flakes from the top hitting me from all directions and until thence, some of us wouldn’t believe that we were caught in a hailstorm.
Birmingham had given me a glimpse of what hailstorms could be like but this one was in an altogether different dimension. Rains alternating with winds speeding like they had only one purpose to solve if you know what i mean – and the hail at the end of it ..
We finally chose to stay under the rain shadow region of the cliff and i had the little angel in my sights. The YUP and NOPE came in a flash before questions were complete and she finally settled into a rhythm of sorts.. alternating between singing , chatting and playing with the water .. the cold in the wind was slowly getting to us and the kiddo was no different either ..
she found the water too cosy to come outta it and somewhere in the midst hit upon my neck strings ... HANUMAN .. she beamed ..
Me : Who is Hanuman
Anjali : Monkey God
Me: why is he called Monkey God
Anjali : cos he looks like a monkey
Me : Who was he with !!
Anjali : Ram
Me: And what was Ram doing !!
Anjali : he was trying to save Seetha ..
Me : Who is Seetha
Anjali: Ram’s best friend and they broke up .. Ram wants her back .. Hanuman is helping him get her ..
75 I had to hold all my splits in the tongue - hold onto my laughter but hey .. she kinda gave the crux of the story if you can actually read between the lines .. the break up only meant somebody could have taken her away – and hanuman indeed was trying to help ram .. To me though, this was the best part of my day ... having a kid in your hands and let her do all the talking – be herself – is an amazing - amazing experience.. never mind the discrepancies in history and the mythology – i mean how many us really knew the story so well at that age ey !!
And all this time the rains came down from afar without a moments break – peter and guru who chose to climb the cliff after lunch emerged from under the water next to us – our thoughts finally turned to hot mozhagaa bajji and masala tea served right there with the rains showing no signs of letting up. An hour n a half utmost later – the rains did give way and we had our chance yet to play throw ball for some time ..
Flash floods are a norm with rains like this and little did we realise that it could get precariously close to being a hazard on the walk back to the base camp. The water levels slowly rose in the dead end pool and it was only when it reached our back packs that we saw the danger in it .. we quickly summoned the team and chose to return immediately. The water levels by then had risen to perilous levels and we now had a new friend for company amidst us – FEAR ..
83 What you value exactly shows up at the most endearing of times and the flooding was hardly anything close to it but yet – here we were as a pack of civilians without realisation of the complete potential of what flash floods are capable of, probably waited it out -just enough to help ourselves into another D.O.A type situation. Luckily though, we chose to return the moment we sensed danger and water – the elixir of life – was ominously flowing ever so proud of her strength and gaining more of it every second.
Our first crossing was important and we had to make it out clean as that would stamp the right frame in all our heads until we touched base.. Which we successfully did and all the way in the return did we see water rise in levels that we could have only imagined during monsoons. Red ants and Sunita were a cosy twosome for some time to come.
Whilst in our previous treks – we were devoid of clean water and the sun beating down on us tested our thoughts of invincibility and endurance to splits – this was a different situation altogether considering that we were out there to picnic and not trek our way out of an adventure hardly thought to be possible during this time of the year. Therefore the added sense of déjà vu of an unassuming quantum of danger that could crop up from nowhere; the trail was now immersed in water . Peter and Naresh chose to jump into the water to find a way out and we successfully trekked our way out to safety.
116 To me though, there was this one moment, when a madness of a different kind hit me, it showed me what i did value at that moment – it was a crossing from one point to another and water was flowing at a good enough speed to pull you down with it if you did slip whilst jumping from one end to the other. I could have drowned myself in the afternoon trying to swim a long stretch holding my breath when all were having lunch... but that did not deter me really – but now - a meter of a crossing – what would have been easily cleared by taking a stride forward held me back for a moment that stretched like a dark hole in space sucking all my thoughts and leaving nothing but fear in me ... fear not for life but for my Canon EOS 400 D and the telephoto lens that i so adore these days ... I knew then what i had to come to love during the treks .. And that am not gonna give up on my "precious" for nothing on this earth. And at that very moment - just like Da Vinci’s painting – Peter’s outstretched hand broke my pattern of thoughts and i hopped onto safety.
It might sound too shallow and cliché but hey.. Try and get this straight – if you did love something in the first place – what would you do to make sure it stays with you even in the darkest hour – and more so if it means to put your life at risk ... not an easy question to answer in’it - mind you and may be – just may be – some of you would have thought a step or two more than i did and i hope you were only happy to steer clear of the danger and tread to safety back home.
Night trekking was back again as a standard operating procedure at Nagala these days and we had to step into knee deep water again n again n again during the walk back to base camp. With the check dam in site, we were only too happy to hum our favourite numbers in celebration of a safe return to a jungle of a different kind.
The Picnic am sure was fun for everyone of us until the very end when some of us felt that a tinge of adventure could make this complete.. The rains did exactly that – showed the raw power of nature even in the minimalistic levels could have hampered a perfectly fine picnic.
Add to that – deterred us from taking any further steps for the next picnic i.e – and if that’s what you thought ey – i suggest you put your boots back on and start jogging away from CTC right away cos it aint gonna be like that any which ways we see it.
We love the adventure as we see it fit and the spirit of being a human – be it our little Anjali or our very own trekking machine - Peter for that matter revel in the test of endurance and putting our strength of mind and body to test to its very end. And we aint gonna stop for nothing cos in it lies the true value of what we are made of – try us once and you will never wanna go back home - Aint I right Pallavi n Divya!!!
15 It’s just been three weeks since my first picnic, sorry, FREAKnic, and there was one more around the corner again. Whilst recovering from the earlier Picnic after effects (people who where there for the first picnic would know), I definitely had no hopes of enjoying a nice one this time as well, which was proved wrong later on. Ever since the trip was planned, I was highly skeptical about joining the picnic because of work, but somehow managed it through and headed home to pack my backpacks at 8 in the evening. Darkness engulfed the whole of North Chennai because of power outage for almost 4 hours. I packed the bare minimum stuff, which I could in the dark, required for the picnic in my backpack and headed to the NH5 bypass where I usually get picked up. I got picked up at around 10:30PM. 21 people, 4 cars, headed towards Nagala looking forward for a pleasant picnic time.  Guru and Akilesh were out and were on top of the Scorpio in no time while Metallica was in high volume rocking Amal’s car. Couple of hours drive and we were at Nagala. Since Honda city couldn’t make it till the dam, we decided to drop the car at the village. Three cars, with people hanging outside Scorpio zoomed towards the dam. Snacks, lots of snacks of all types, Ready to eat food, Volley balls and Magi, popped out of Scorpio. Just the perfect food to enjoy the picnic, isn’t it. We distributed them to the backpacks, LED’s switched ON and off we headed into the wild around midnight.  We walked for about an hour and reached our destination for the night when we heard the gushing sound of the waterfall. The first pool.  Next big challenge was to find some flat rocks to sleep for the night. While everyone went on hunt looking for a place to lay down their head for the night, Peter, Guru, Amal and I went on hunt for some dry logs of wood to make fire. The heavy winds helped the fire grow in no time and soon people settled down. While Peter and co started a game of UNO, Nisha and I went to take a dip in the pool with Angel and Balaji showing us the light. We lay down in the water to beat the humid weather but the water was no cool either. Finally we went to bed, sorry, hit our sleeping mats at around 3AM in the morning. Balaji and I had our mats next to each other while Peter had his mat laid on a rock right above us. I was praying that Peter shouldn’t get any wild dreams as if he is swimming. His one fall would kill us both. Night was very warm and soon we all slept off.
It was 7:00 AM in the morning. My eyes were heavy and I could see many still attached to their sleeping mats. Well, this looked like a Picnic. I struggled to pull myself at around 7:30. I could have slept more if not for the nature’s call. By the time I returned I could see people diving and jumping in the first pool. It was time to take a plunge.  Even non-swimmers were jumping into the pool. Who can resist the temptation after looking at people jumping and having fun? With swimmers to help and rescue, non-swimmers had a good time.  Sunitha was struggling to take her first plunge because she was scared of heights, but she didn’t take too long. Next was Amal, he was just standing on top of the rock. He just needed that extra push, literally, and I just did that. Just pushed him down while he wasn’t looking and Amal got started. Balaji, Angel, Hema, Divya, Yash and Pallavi too took the help of Peter and Guru and had fun diving into the water. Now here comes an interesting cute little girl, Anjali. Wow, what a daring girl and a cute kid. She held onto Peter’s hands and dived from the rock. She swam as if she belongs to the water. Effortless swimming just like a frog.  While we wanted to try jumping from greater heights, we climbed the adjacent rock, with Paari and Anjali standing next to me. Because the rock was so wet, Paari slipped and fell barely hitting the rock. But he was bleeding by then. But that didn’t stop him from joining us back. After some first-aid, he was back. Anjali got a bit scared about the slip, but she held my hands and we jumped together. Non-stop swimming and diving for almost an hour.  It was breakfast time. Hot tea, rusk, bhel poori and jam were out. Mary was trying Bhel Poori was the first time and she liked the flavor of it. Sunitha got some homemade masala to make hot masala chai. Yummy. Angel and Nisha were devouring raw milk powder like newborns. Day was getting hotter and it was time to move to our Picnic destination, “The Dead End” pool.
5 It was quiet a walk, but it wasn’t that hot because of the shades. We took a couple of stops on the way. A very small, 15 cms probably, thin and tiny snake crawled through the water. I haven’t seen a tiny snake that small. Soon it crawled under a rock in the middle of the stream and was popped out its head wondering whether the crazy giants have left or not. Soon everybody joined us and we got started again. We reached the dead end pool by noon with no sweat. Akilesh and I swam across and took a couple of jumps while the rest of the group joined us. Peter was filling up air into the lorry tubes. We ferried them across the pool and soon Angel, Divya, Pallavi, Hema and others were jumping crazy. I wanted to jump from great height and the rock formation helped me in getting there. It was scary but it was so much fun diving into the water from that height. Nisha and Guru followed me. Thanks to Bala and Hari for clicking the snaps. While on the other end, Vicky, Selva, Mary, were displaying their diving skills. Balaji was out swimming with his new life jacket. Our attempts to loosen the life jacket while he is out in the deep spoiled as he tied the knot real tight and good. He in fact climbed the rocks and dived with the life jacket. People tried the lorry tubes in turns. Peter would hold somebody’s hands and jump into the pool and would get them to the lorry tube from where they would get ashore. Peter would yell “Taxi Taxi…How much to ferry this person to the shore”, and I would reply “10/- for every foot”.
After diving session, It was ‘Hand ball game’ time. Cute little Anjali was our goal keeper while Selva was the goalie at the other end. Wish there was a video made while playing. Everyone was covering somebody and still we managed to catch the ball and hit the goal. Naga, Bala and Paari were our main attackers while Peter, Guru and Akilesh were at opponent’s team. At one time I was covering Peter, and if he gets the ball, I could catch hold of his legs so that he cannot swim, while he would do the same to me if I get the ball. The water became so turbid and black because of our game. After playing for almost an hour it was time to make fire yet again. Our chef Sunitha and her dear hubby helping her, made some yummy vegetable soup. Mix of sweet corn and tomato soup and the soup was yummy. It was time for Noodles. Hot magi noodles with tomato ketchup never tasted this good and everyone had their tummy full. So far it just felt we were having an ideal picnic. Clouds started gathering and it wasn’t sunny at all. While everyone found their haven to rest after heavy lunch, Akilesh and Anjali were still out in the water lazing with the lorry tube.  Peter and Guru went out in exploration and I couldn’t join as the rocks became way too slippery as it started drizzling. What started as slight drizzle turned into a huge thunder storm which later became hailstorm. Yes it was hailstorm and was raining cats and dogs.
Nisha and I swam across and climbed the rocks at the dead end pool and just sat there. It was raining like it’s the world’s going to end. The wind gained speed as it entered the narrow gorge swiping away our seeping mats that we laid to cover our sleeping bags. After a while stones started falling and I thought it must some tiny stones that must be falling because of the strong wind but later found that they were hail. The size was getting bigger and we were trying to cover our head but still some of the found their way to our head. The rest of the group found shelter under the rocks in the pool. It was raining endless, while Peter and Guru returned from their expedition.  Angel and Balaji took haven under a sleeping mat. Angel was shivering badly and Balaji made a pyramid like structure with the sleeping mat and made her sit under it. Soon the rain stopped and again the ball game continued while the rest of the team was packing their bags. I had no luck in saving my back pack and all my dry clothes were completely wet.  All of sudden the water level rose.  It wasn’t a good sign and it was time to move sooner. The places that we crossed like a charm earlier were full of powerful currents now, powerful enough to wash away a person to couple of meters. The first current right after the dead end pool was so powerful that it took a while for us to get foothold before we could help the team to cross through.  Lots of big currents, slippery rocks, crazy red ant bites and thorns were taking their toll. No clean water to drink at all. The water was sullied and it wasn’t drinkable. After crossing a couple of powerful currents we finally made it to the first pool.
The first pool was overflowing by now and the waterfall was gushing heavily with rain water. Peter, Nisha, guru and I swam across to the waterfall but the current was so very powerful. While I was sitting at one rock and Peter and Guru standing at the opposite rock to take a dive, I noticed Nisha struggling through the water current. She was cornered and was struggling to get out of the whirlpool. Peter and Guru jumped to rescue and all three found a strong rock and swam through. Nisha got saved :). I am sure lot of people would be disappointed (upset that Nish got saved) about this J especially Nisha’s roommate. After finishing the left over snacks we started towards the dam and reached comfortably by 8:30PM. After changing into our dry clothes, we were all set to hit some daba and have yummy food. Found a decent hotel where we hogged dosa and meals and Sprite.
Every trek that CTC tags as Picnic, nature introduces a little anarchy and brings in chaos and adds twists to it but eventually we all make it out safe and Picnic just leaves behind a very memorable and pleasant and adventurous experience that would stay with us for a very very long time.
Written by: Naresh, Hari
Organized by: Peter
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