Written by Anup ...
It was an exhilarating experience, to say the least, to be in Nagala for the first time. This was my first trek after the tough, but really enjoyable and challenging, OG3 in April. And this one also proved to be as good as OG3 or in fact even better in terms of the variety of pools where we could dive and a day with not a drop of water to drink for hours! And it was nice to see many of OG3 participants again in this trek.
The adventure started for me right from the start. Night driving on highways isnt definitely my cup of tea so, that itself was an adventure! Paari saved those temporary cone dividers kept on the road from getting hit by our car by making me see them when I was abt to hit them:-)! If not the passengers, surely those cone dividers should be thankful to you Paari..:-). They wld remember u forever!!
On the way, we stopped near a cinema close to Nagala. I was casually roaming around the place and kind of inspecting the cinema hall. I think it was midnight, about 00:30hrs. Suddenly I hear a stern voice from nowhere asking me "Enna venum"..! Got shocked though I stopped believing in demons and spirits since long!
When I intently looked up, I could find a guy sitting over the top of a tank in pitch dark keeping a watch over the place...like the security guards do in important installations! It was from him...probably I looked like a dacoit..if so, I would take it as a compliment as nobody ever even remotely feel threatened by me despite best of my efforts. Once we reached the dam site, we hit the sacks and when we were just getting into sleep, rain woke us up.
Everyone ran for cover. I got into my car. Next day early morning got all the food packets and our journey started, of course, after a group foto.! It was real fun with the perfect weather soothing us with cool breeze. I was kind of taken aback with surprise to know that such a dense forest cover exists so close to chennai and I didnt know abt it! Kudos to Peter for discovering Nagala! Streams, butterflies, huge, strange trees, real long creepers that run for kilometers, and lots and lots of mangoes all around!! I ate one fruit which I thought was mango and.... after about an hour, Ananth (NOT Anand Chanduri) scared me saying that those fruits look like mangoes but arent and actually are poisonous! But later, someone told me that if Ananth says something is bad, it definitely is good. Felt assured of my safety after that helpful revelation! So, take my word. Those mangoes that u come across in Nagala arent poisonous. U can eat them and stay alive to tell your story as demonstrated by me.
On the way, me and few more missed the group ahead of us and Priya (guess, I got the name right?!) offered to lead us after that. Though I was sure I heard the noise from the group on the right while climbing the slope, she somehow convinced us that we shd go left. I religiously followed her and climbed up the real slippery slope. And after abt half an hour climb, with lots of falls and slips, Peter saw us during one of his numerous "lightening" like
appearance-disappearance around there. He told us to get down and go right...ha!! We all looked at her and she told us she was just thinking of giving us a different view of the jungle...!! Nice try that!
After all these, we reached some spectacular view points and with cool breeze, it was splendid...and felt like just staying there! But then, we had to move ahead fast as some "surprises" were waiting for us!
Now regarding these silver jubilee "surprises",many theories were doing the rounds. They r listed below in decreasing order of acceptance by the guys around:
1. Full load of chicken briyani is awaiting us there (well, later we didnt even get to have our routine Maggi..:-)!!) - Main propagator (though not the initiator) of this theory was, again, Ananth
2. A dance group consisting of south Indian actresses and actors who, even the mega-serial makers have refused to cast, would be waiting for us. We would be dancing to the tunes of chirping of birds and noises from the streams along with them.
3. Some reporters waiting there to interview us all for a cover article in Time magazine or may be for National Geography And what actually was the surprise then?
The surprise was the revelation that in CTC parlance (during the treks), "5 minutes" is equal to five hours! That was the surprise! First when we started from a peak, Vicky told us that within 30 mins we will hit the water stream and no need to store water. We all gulped our water, and some had even thrown excess water, and walked merrily...only to find that there isnt a drop of water anywhere around! Then we walk walk and walk..and in between, Peter and Brijesh tell us that its just five minutes away!!
That five minutes we could never cross even after walking for hours!! It was already dark and me having forgotten my torch in the car, was trying hard to use all my sixth sense (if ever I had one) to find my way and walk without sliding down the slopes with lose rocks. At some point we all sat down licking our lips for any amount of water. I actually drank..well, rather licked in..my sweat! Take my word guys and gals, it doesnt taste great! For all that show in "Man vs Wild" in Discovery channel where the guy squeezes his sweat drenched shirt to drink the sweat, I think the sweat doesnt really help you. It hurts your throat like seawater - obviously. But someone threw a great suggestion - eat your fruits! That was a good one..I immediately ate my apple (the pear was already eaten) that was supposed to be kept for next day's b.fast! It helped.
If anyone had come there in the midst of the group with limited water, probably there would have been a stampede! This made me realise that the real elixir of life isnt brewed in some ancient alchemist's lab. its just plain water. That was another realisation thru this trek - of course, apart from the realisation that the sweat doesnt taste that well.
After going thru which seemed like a never ending trail, we at last reached a water stream! It was abt 830 or 9pm i guess. People were kind of so relaxed and joyous on seeing that they didnt even rush in to drink the water immediately! Its like when a Genie suddenly comes
in front of you, u dont know what to do with that! But then, it was just for couple of mins, then people rushed in with bottles and drank the elixir of life to their mind's..or rather throat's content! And after that, no one even bothered to think about surprises and food...people just hit the sacks. I slept on an inclined rock. Paari too was there next to me. But in the middle of the night, I dint find him. And added to that, i felt as if I am getting wet with water. I thought what happened? Probably it rained and he went off without waking me up?! Then I realised what happened. I slid down the slope and came into the water! I thanked my stars for not getting washed away into some Kodavari or Krishna thru the stream! I rolled my wet sleeping bag and mat, kept them aside, crawled up and slept on the plain rock..peacefully, only to be woken up by others in the morning!
In the morning, I was very hungry. Rusk, which otherwise I hate, tasted heavenly. Thats what happens with any food flavoured by hunger! Thats the best flavour, I tell u! Then started the best part! We walked, walked and walked..but no complaints as we were always along the streams and near the pools. Jumping into every other pool and water falls. Those ferries made of sleeping mats to carry our luggage across the pools by the swimmers and rides on sleeping mats to carry ourselves across were so cool! I think CTC trek is the only chance where non-swimmers like me also can jump from nearly two storey building high rocks into a 20-40ft deep pool and still live to see the world! As long as super duper saviors like Peter and Brijesh are there around, one neednt bother abt the depth or swimming.
You WILL be saved. If not for them, how else would people like me have enjoyed such great jumps and slides thru the water falls..??! And here there was some great drama enacted by two people. Shravan and Maya. Shravan went up the rock saying he is going to jump. We all waited to capture the moment, looking up all the time. We waited and waited and infact some people even dozed off! Peter disappeared for sometime. May be he climbed some nearby 400m peak and came back. But, our Shravan was still up there! I gave up waiting to see what would happen to the pool once he jumps in. Yes, thats what I was waiting to see but, he just wasnt jumping.
At last he jumped. He made us all wait for 23 minutes 52 seconds to see him jump. Maya was better. She took two second less. Talking abt the slides..there was a real cool water slide, which will put any theme park, even the Disneyland, water slides into shame. That was too good. Took quite a few slides down, and of course saved every time by our saviours. But, I think my mobile didnt like the idea of me alone enjoying the slide. When I took out some food packet from the bag sitting besides the slide, my mobile jumped out and went down sliding. Not in one piece, but in three, in the following order:
i)Mobile minus battery ii) Battery iii) Rear battery cover and of course it was followed by iv) me, trying to save them. But then, they had other plans!
On the way, we walked above some magnificent valleys! It was like what one sees in dreams. Clinging on to the edges of cliffs with real deep valley right below! During one such walking ..no..crawling...along cliff edges, Peter was jumping past us coolly telling us to "walk normally"!! I mean, when one is clinging onto one's dear life, here is a man telling you to "Walk normally"..!! But, surely, the experience was once in a life time!
After enormous amount of fun in the pools, it was time to go back...and me and other 'drivers" had to leave bit early to get our vehicles. Once we came to the base, we had a real surprise! No, wrong, none of the 3 mentioned above! A tractor was waiting there and ready to take us out!! We all jumped in after distributing whatever food we had left with us to the kids around. In no time, the tractor was packed tightly with us, with most of us clinging on to the edges! That was quite a ride as there wasnt anything remotely resembling a road there. That bumpy ride experience was really great..,much greater than all those so called "adventure rides" in the theme parks! Brijesh was sitting dangerously and someone suggested he be careful.
But Brijesh retorted saying " I am a farmer and we produce tons of wheat every year in our native village. You telling me how to sit on a tractor carriage??" But before he could complete the sentence, he slipped out but Selva quickly leaped up like a spring and saved him. That was an anticlimax for a man who saved dozens of people from drowning in real deep pools!
After we reached the base, after the accts settling, customary bye-byes and all, we started driving back. As I couldnt find my return passengers around, I started bit late and by then most other vehicles left. Me being a person with extraordinary capability of getting lost even within one km radius of my own living place, was kind of worried whether I would ever reach Chennai.
My fellow passengers categorically told me that they dint know the way. Before we reached the main road, we were following a Baleno thinking probably, by chance, this was also one of CTC vehicles. When we stopped to ask him, even before we could open our mouth , he started asking us how to reach chennai! Well, we left, with my fellow passenger Dharmendran assuring that we would find the way..and he was good. He seemed to remember each and every land mark..including movie posters pasted all around!! And we didnt have much problem finding the way. Dharmendran gave splendid company by constantly talking so that i wldnt fall asleep! He was talking all about Tamil grammar (punarchi, retai kilavi, etc) none of which any of us remembered! This guy could become next "Nannan" (one tamil expert who goes around the town asking people to talk "good" tamil)!
Above all, he was continuously feeding me and others in the car with lemon rice that he had brought along!! It was quite tasty and kept me driving peacefully!! Thanks Dhramendran! (By the way, dharmendran, u left your sleeping mat in my car. u can collect it from me. Just send me an email) Some distance before Koyambedu, we cld catch up with few other CTC vehiclesI And finally we reached Chennai. Dropped people on the way and reached home safely to narrate yet another great adventure with CTC to my dear wife and my cute little kid, who for the nth time, asked me how many "wild" animals I had to fight with in the jungle!!!
Thanks Vicky, Peter, Brijesh, Baskar and everone else for such a wonderful experience! No surprise is greater than unexpected challenges and we had them in plenty. And the trek was worthy of celebrating as the mother of all Nagala treks! Thanks again!
(All....well, almost all... the events narrated above are true..or to be precise, 99.2% of the narration is true and 0.8% is fiction.! If anyone finds out that 0.8%, shoot a mail to Brijesh. He will reward you with a bottle of "elixir of life"...:-)!)
Written by Hari Kumar Balasundaram
“Miss Mary” Case who redefined the way all ‘nonwhites’ brought to justice, were addressed in the US courts, once said – “No Pressure – No Diamonds”. She did know then that Men would do only things that they “want to” until stretched beyond their wildest dreams to achieve the ultimate.
In retrospect, Nagala 25 is indeed the best of all treks I have been on till date, that our power of the will and the might of a team are unquestionable, the team is only as strong as the weakest in the link and what if – you were the one!!!
This Mother of a trek as Viki so deservedly put it could have easily been a Dead or Alive situation for those including me - who trooped last to the base camp and although barely a few hundred yards left – without drinking water for almost a good mile n a half and not knowing the way still left us handicapped. If not for Karthick who chose to tread back with the elixir of life for the disintegrating lot in the river bed – it would have been fun unlimited to all the brave souls who chose to wait until help arrived at last.
If I was left to think that my wounds caused during the fall in the first day were the worst – I was soon humbled by stories of the rest who had braved similar injuries and yet made it to the base camp – double the time faster. Add to that – My kit lens went berserk and rendered useless when needed the most; this would probably have been a huge loss but then consider this – Karthick – Our Achilles of Day 1, who sweeped, photographed, and like a gazelle moved up and down the trail as if he was born so – dropped his lens and Pentax K 200 D camera in the Nagala waters while helping someone in the last leg of the trek!!!.
And to sum up – this trek was more than just about courage and determination; it was about facing your worst adversary and coming up trumps. The worst enemy in this case was none other than your own self – Read on and you shall know why!!!
The reception to any trek invite on CTC has always been tremendous and a special one such as this warrants no mention. 170 brave folks put their hands up in anticipation – a few screening tests later & drop outs as usual donned the mantle – we had 80 odd souls ready to rock n roll. After the usual pick up routine – we set foot on the first base camp at Nagalapuram around 1ish midnight. The plan was to wait for the Bangalore and the Hyderabad team to join us early morning and then head to our target – Scaling the 800 m peak and climb our way down to the base camp on the other side of the hill and then rendezvous to the Picnic Diving spot that had made N20 so famous.
The prediction of Monsoon rains soon became a reality when at about 4 in the morning – showers hit the foot hills but thankfully though the Tamil month of “Aadi” is always windy and the rain clouds soon disseminated out of our way leaving the moon’s crescent and the morning star to light up our night sky.
Ilayaraja’s music lilted through the south westerly winds as some of us insomniacs could not find anything worthwhile otherwise to do. Come 5 AM, the team from Bangalore had arrived and the morning routine took over – after distributing food packets and a momentary wait for the Hyderabad team to arrive – WE had begun.
The trail was that of Nagala 12 to start with and it was little surprise that we soon hit the first water fall of the day. A dip and a quick bite to boot our energy sacks – the first vertical climb had started in earnest. It’s amazing how the familiar breed confidence into your system – the alter-ego version of knowing what you are doing is so comforting sometimes. N12 trail being a known one made life so much easier for some of us - But better things were in store.
We soon reached the sliding pool at around 8ish, Breakfast and a good dive for some churned our spirits to a whole new level. Whilst some chose to set on foot early, the rest continued to jump their hearts out into the water. It was here that the Devil in me chose to rear his ugly head out and I was left thinking all alone about one issue after another back at work – when we were all supposed to have live in the moment. It’s not that this has never happened but the moment it chose cannot be a given at any point in time cos the hardest part of the trek was yet to come and here I was left contemplating all things in life otherwise.
Sujai saw through me perfectly well and his well meant question of me maintaining a silence all of a sudden put me in the worst reverse gear possible. From there on – the fun part had begun – I had become the fall guy –almost tripping over every ‘rock n rubble’ in the river bed. The worst was to come last before our climb to the 800 m peak.. I had slipped into a small culvert hurting my right leg badly – nursed it with the cool Nagala waters for the swelling to subside and had almost forgotten about it when the nightmare began.
The climb was a moderate one and all hale n healthy could have made it easily but for the absence of water. A good 4 hour climb up and down meant adequate water should be back packed to troop down easily. My first symptoms of the pain not giving way thankfully hit when we had reached about 520 m – we were to tread down from here for a bit and then climb all the way again to the 800 m peak.
That pain is simply a mental projection, of the condition we are in at the moment, by the brain is a well known concept – The worst cases like being stuck in a snow storm can make you lose all the heat in your body in a whiff and the extreme thing that your brain can tell you is to go to sleep – the worst situation possible but that’s the brain’s way of saying – this is the last resort and my only way of saving some energy just in case... Couple the brains reaction with the emotional responses to such conditions, being so cross wired in the nervous system, that we indeed choose to react to situations under pain.
Without being too dramatic here, I chose to sleep wherever possible and dozed off like a new born. Bhaskar and Karthick kept egging me on. The effort was somehow a behemoth of an act. Palani could not have put it any better – Palani had hurt his knee on the second day and he strode of like a champion, estimated that the only difference between me and him was that he knew the destination.
Looking back, Familiar trails would not have made me any worse or better with the injury but a certain confidence would have definitely ensued that I put an extra foot on the gas to tread back to safety. Thoughts wander from cursing yourself for slowing down the momentum to patting your back for the extra effort every time you put in to reach a destination. I had not put my Canon to use until then and therefore was like an excess baggage adding to the woes.
Thankfully though – We had made it to the 800 m peak and meeting the team back always gives back the much needed boost. A quite nap and with Volini as the armour on my back, I warily chose to put my Canon in action and what a refreshing choice that was. Its amazing how when you start doing things you love – nothing really comes to your mind , not even the pain in my legs would have stopped me from shooting all that I wanted to ..
The trek down the hill was a customary one but the pain was back to haunt this time with such vigour – I was a no goner and somehow pushed myself and made it to the gang waiting for me at the foot hills. Peter and Brijesh saved me from the blushes and took my back pack off to help me walk easier. And easier it was – without all that weight on your shoulders, I was jaunting my way back to the base camp and with light dying out – we would soon be left to last in the darkness all by ourselves.
Karthick and Bhaskar – the lion hearts simply chose to stick their boot with us staying all the way back to the base camp. Halfway through, we had to negotiate the stream with a small climb up and walk parallel to the river bed and then step back into the river – walk another couple of kms to hit the base.
Peter suddenly appeared out of nowhere to help us with the directions and he immediately relieved Karthick who was helping Divya out. Peter kept pepping up everyone from time to time and it was almost time for us to reach the base when we hit upon the final bottleneck.
Bala was down with fever and completely dry throated when he reached him. The path ahead was a 100 ft drop which would have led us straight to the base camp but with darkness all over – it was never an easy choice to make and we had to therefore stay put until someone came back to show us the way. Peter who had fallen back with Divya had reached us too by then.
There were only two things possible from here – We either head to the base camp with whatever strength that was left in us and then gorge on the elixir ourselves OR wait with parched throats until some saviour walked our way – helped us with the elixir and then showed the way back to safety.
No words were spoken; not even a single breath of a soul was heard and with darkness looming all over us – there was nothing much left to do but dream of a safe place and all things otherwise... Every minute of waiting here was like a snow storm approaching to kill all the last drop of energy left in all of us.. And just when we thought we were to sleep all nite on the river bed, like an answer to a prayer – Karthick stooped down the hill with a good 6 litres of water on his shoulders.
Our Achilles had finally answered the call. With renewed energies emanating out of pure water, we climbed the hill and about a few hundred yards later – we were finally amongst our lot.
Water, finally was flowing over our feet quietly letting the sands of time take over the process of life all over again. A quick dip in the water to cleanse ourselves of all the heat and the sweat; a quite bite just to ensure that we don’t sleep empty stomach & a painkiller down the throat, I had soon crashed to safety in the cradle of Mother Nature. The tree cover helped every bit by keeping all the cold at bay.
A good night’s sleep always helps, rejuvenates the soul and helps one look forward to another day fit and fighting. I had everyone reason to believe so as the pain killer did its job to a tee. The pain in my right tibia had eased out quite a bit. Morning chores complete and a good enough breakfast helped us clear steer of all thoughts of anything uninteresting. It was destination – Picnic Pool. You can never be far from water here on and this helped as there was no need to carry additional weight meant we can walk a little faster now. With a lighter back pack and a song to hum – “When the going gets tough – the tough get going”– we were on swan song. The group hit the first pool for the day in record time. It was here that I realised my kit lens had given way for God knows what and therefore had to resort to my trusted friend the 75 – 300 bazooka...Back in a familial trekking location of Nagala 20, and a Canon to go crazy at everything I see, I was finally back in the frame of a happy trekker; Jumping Jacks were the order of the day yet again. Folks hogged on whatever was left in their bags and we were finally on our way back to the second of the water pools – the dead end pool.
The Dead End Pool bought back memories from the biking trip soon enough, where I almost drowned Nisha & Maelle, trying to stay afloat, and here was another chance to set the momentum right. But then – Lessons in humility are never easily remembered until the haunting comes back to show what humility is made of – the core of a human spirit. I could have simply jumped into the outstretched arms of Chris with a sleeping mat and forget the events of the biking trip. More than the humiliation of trying to drown someone – the fear of drowning oneself came back from nowhere.
From someone who could dive from a 10ft board into a swimming pool with gay abandon – here I was, in trepidation and fear loaded to the max, drowning in my own fears although I knew that Chris would save me if anything were to go wrong at all. The enemy was nowhere but within me not letting me go of a fear so ruthlessly stuck to my spirits – Chris kept yelling and I closed my eyes and jumped and it so happened that I had jumped right on the sleeping mat. I was finally swept to safety by Chris.
A few notches later, the first pool was in sight and we allowed ourselves to chill a bit until the bikers and the car drivers came back with their machines to the N20 base camp location. Bala with the rest of the sweepers finally reached the first pool and it was time for us to move on – back to where we would belong until another weekend came crying into our outstretched hands wanting to leave the civilisation for good and return only when needed.
Nagala 25 is a lesson well learnt for me and although, I had suffered an injury – lost my kit lens for some unknown reason – and fear gripped me from behind at the dead end pool, This trek indeed showed me what I possessed from deep below my guts; And am sure – this would have been the story of all those who suffered similar blows at various points in this trek if not in their lives, only to rise again – clear and better focussed to be a winner!!!
And as I have stated time and again in this blog – Life to me is a long lesson in humility – the sooner we learn it, the better the fruits taste and I for one, owe this lesson this time, to the CTC team who in all their might and power would sure have bought me back to safety if I had given up out there in the jungle and this was not the case to be with any of the team members this time around, by letting us stretch a bit thereby showing us what we are within.
I salute you all CTCians who made N25 successful not just by your sheer presence but by reliving and cherishing what we are truly made of – the true spirit of being a CTCian ...
Written by: Anoop, Hari Kumar Balasundaram
Organized by: Vikram & Bhaskar
Participants: Vijay Thyagarajan, Priyank, Ramki, RajeshA S, Ananth, Madhav P, Shankar S, Ajith Khadai, Jaskirat, Hari Krishnan, Richard, Madhu, Hanumantha, Karthikeyan, Vishwanath, Thirumalai, Balaji K, Nandhini, Lemy, Suresh Kumar,D Anita, Prasanth, Abdul R, Arun Prasad, Hari Balaji, Vikram Gosain,Prakash Thangoria, Saravana Kumar, Ashok, Raja, Ramesh F, N J Balaji, Paari, Sravan Kumar,Suresh Kumar J,Brijesh, Bala Murali, Roseline, Harikumar B, Yuvaraj, Ritesh ,Vishnu, Dharmendra, Rama Padmanaban, Anand Kumar, J Arivazhagan, Rola, Ramachandra, Sriram, K Anand Chanduri, Lavanya K M, Arpitha, Bala Ganesh, Srinivasan, Ramkumar, Simon, Uday Shankar, Sujai, Sudhir, Hema Bindu, Maya, Viki, Baskar, Tamal, Selva, Palani Vinodha, Peter, Divi, Vel, Anup Kumar, Satish Kumar R M, Hyderabad - Sridhar R Kosthu ,Divya B, Chandrasekar, Sachin Muthu V S, Bangalore - Senthil, Vishal, Ravi Ghosh Deepak