Talakona – July4, 5 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009
That was a lazy Tuesday morning (30 June) at office. I was gazing through the office emails hopelessly. When I took a break, I quickly checked my personal emails and was surprised to see a trek invite to Talakona from Nara for the same weekend (July 4 and 5). Talakona – wait! What is that? I immediately remembered the teal colored huge water pool, which I had seen in the blog already. I went through the blog, saw few pictures and realized that it was none other than the mighty Venkateswara forest – ‘Trekker’s paradise’ in Peter’s words. I had always wanted to go to the Venkateswara forest, after all, who would not want to after seeing the DOA pictures. I checked for my weekend plans and enrolled for the trek. Registration was full in another two days and the confirmed list was sent out. Background works were going on for the car-pooling (Ravi Alagappan, Nara, Ravi Ghosh and other organizers). Shreedhar got us the permission from the DFO and was kind enough to arrange for the breakfast and lunch for the first day. Ravi and Ravi were sending some emails about what to do and what not to. I was dreaming about the teal colored water pool without knowing that we were going to get something much better. Meanwhile, decision was made to drop out the idea of car-pooling and to hire a bus from Chennai and grab the Bangalore/Hyderabad guys at Tirupathi and then proceed to Talakona, which we did as per the plan.July4:

After parking the bus in the base camp Talakona, we were sharing the food to be taken through out the trek. There were more monkeys than trekkers ;) and they were keen in plucking up the food from us. Leaving them to the bus driver and the cleaner until the next evening, the energetic crew of 36 started the trek.

Initial walks along the jeep trail and towards the falls were enjoyable with the nice weather that actually continued for the whole of the two days. Talakona was mostly cloudy and drizzling the remaining time. After walking for some time through the well-built path to the Talakona falls (a tourist attraction), we saw that – a mind-boggling cascade of two levels and the top most one was dancing in the wind. Sujai and I decided to sweep for the trek and were collecting the people who had gone into the second level fall for a dip. Looked like the message has gotten wide-spread - the first timers already knew the fact that CTCians take a dip in even half an inch of water and they wanted to abide by that. Many of them were already in. After collecting them, we went walking to the first level pool – first level of the ~270 m water fall where the water showers up like a thread and dances to the tune of the winds. It was an amazing sight for photography and as well as an enjoyable shower for people. We all got in, making noise whenever the water fell on us, and took pictures then. Monkeys were playing with us during the change and this time, they were plucking up the energy bars and glucon-ds from us. The porters who were helping us with bringing the food to the shed above (which is the actual start of the jungle journey) were keeping them aside for the time we were in the falls. After that there was a steep climb (had well-build path) to the shed. After everyone reached the shed, breakfast and lunch were distributed. It was the spot where the CTC had camped last June. Chappathis and spicy Andhra style groundnut chutney were given for the breakfast. After sharing the lemon rice / curd rice for lunch, and filling up the water bottles in the stream nearby, we started our way into the jungle. Few of us who went to fetch water had to go through a fleet of bees. Also, we saw some elephant dung which was one of the real jungle moments.
This time, we had been telling that the group is taking a bit too much of rest and should get to speed up to go per plan. Is this a trek, or a treknic, I asked? Well, with all the sweat and jungle walk, scratches, thorns, rocks, less water, some people were staring at me as if I was sarcastic. At the end, they knew that it was, indeed. We then got into a first major obstacle, crossing a turbid but big stream. There was tree that had fallen in the middle paving the path to get on to the other side. On the other hand, we could circumvent. We chose to cross the stream through the tree and everyone did so with ease. Yay, the group was so good. We were resting on the banks when Ranjith, Ravi A had gone to check for the trail / way. It was a nice place for photography. Nara and Ravi Ghosh were in action with their cameras. After some time, without being able to resist my urge to get a dip, disregarding the fact that the water is turbid, not so deep, not clear, I got in, later pulling Sujai and few others. Usual CTC style diving photo shoots, pushing and pulling people were going on when Ravi A and Ranjith came up with the way. Ravi Ghosh, as I remember, was the one who took the maximum dips in the whole of the trek (not even did he miss a half a feet stagnant stream enroute and he wanted the sleeping mat for it ;))After trekking for sometime, we got into a dry stream as per the plan. We decided to have lunch in the middle of the dry stream. The place was cool and had a 10 feet decline. Hema managed to successfully fall and get up without getting hurt. We did our lunch there sharing the lemon rice and curd rice and started again.

We reached the running water stream and after few short breaks, we went to the flat rock camping site at around 5 in the evening – heard from someone that it was a part of DOA1 or something. We relaxed a bit, started collecting firewood. I had been cursing Indira for making me carry a bag of rice for no reason. I later learnt that she made someone carry dal and some powder mixes. To my surprise, they unwinded a small grocery in no time which had carrots, beans to variety of powders to jaggery (but why is that??). Indira finally unveiled her secret plan of making a bissibelabath for dinner. Wow! Could see people were cheerful after hearing that one word. Next is the part that actually made up my trek. By the time we were collecting firewoods, few people went on the opposite stream and came back saying that there was a big pool at about 20 minutes. Ranjith and I along with 6 more decided to go there starting at 6 in the evening.
Was it an odd time for that? Yes, but we thought we would do a night trek back after all that was a straight way back through the stream over the boulders. We took few torches in a plastic bag and started towards the pool. We did find it, but it was not so big as expected and when we got there it was drizzling. Ranjith was telling that Peter had taken them to this place already and he said there is something if we could cross the pool and go on with the stream. We swam across, Aditya, the KF guy was looking pathetic with his bloated jean but he managed to do that. Then came a second pool, we swam across that too, and after climbing up and down a couple of big rocks, we were at the dead end of the stream. We were sitting on a rock, the stream was flowing beneath that, and some fifty feet under, we were hearing the sound of waterfall. The water that passed through our feet was falling down with a huge sound. The place gave an amazing, breath-taking view of the Venkateswara Mountains. Forest and water stream looking back, waterfall under our feet, a 180 degree view the mighty Venkateswara mountain range in our front, it was duskier and drizzling too. I was telling someone that we would never ever get such a sight in our lifetime, never ever. We were enjoying ourselves forgetting the fact that we have to go back all the way through boulders, two swim and cross channels and conquer the darkness. Few of us were willing to get little down and see how the water is falling like, but Ranjith was against that considering the safety.After we started, after crossing the two pools, the boulders were slippery due to rain and the water level was so high in many places. Few places, we could not climb up the way we used to get down. This time, we were worried about taking back Pranav (youngest of the group – Sujai’s bro), Aditya (with heavy wet jeans and not-so-good shoes who was falling down in every rock) and Arpitha (the only girl in the venture). Ranjith was navigating and I was at the end. Pranav could not go with their pace for long time and started slowing down. Arpitha was hanging in a five feet gorge and with shivering hands when I lifted her up, I was blaming myself for calling her and was even thinking whether this was worth taking up. After few fall-downs, Pranav slowly got into rhythm and we made it in another half an hour to the base camp where we could make others envy with our bravado. We decided to go there again in the morning. Bissibelabath was getting ready and Antakshari was going on in full swing meanwhile. Hema’s team took the lead, and the opposite team concluded that it was breakfast time. Bissibelabath was extremely delicious after a hard day, following with a good night’s sleep.

July5:A pleasant morning, with black tea. Oops, we were late, so we decided to go with the plan. Some people did not get a chance to make it to the viewpoint, adventurous get off, but Ravi Ghosh and Nara were promising about more exotic places and viewpoints later in the evening. Convinced with that, we started moving biting the breakfast.

Pictures, pictures and more pictures on the way back. Everything looked beautiful. Sujai went in the middle giving up the sweeping job. Ranjith, Ravi ghosh, Nara and I were sweeping and at one point, we, a gang of 12 or 14, realized that we were lost.
LOST – we had missed them somewhere, we got out of the dry stream somewhere where we should not have and we were actually on the top of some hill. Making few people sit at a visible place, four of us started searching in random directions. Without GPS, without directions, we realized the pain of finding trails and people. Only tool that we had was a whistle. Ravi Ghosh was blowing it up heavily, yet no luck. After some 45 minutes, we could hear a distant whistle sound in some direction. Ravi ghosh and I were running to pick them up and were relieved to find Ravi A and Sujai. But then, we did not find the way back to the place where we left the crew. We took the GPS, marked that place, went on search for the lost crew again. It took over one and a half hours to sort all this out and to make a reunion. After seeing the GPS trail of the path we took to find the lost crew, many were commenting that it was as if a jilebi :). Important lessons learnt were to listen to the directions and give a signal to the next group when there was an unknown deviation. Getting lost in jungles – it was fun too.
We made it to the shed again shortly and from there to the third ever biggest pool in CTC’s history (It was the second, but Peter and few others had found the biggest on the same day in the same Venkateswara range which they claim it to be the first). We had so much of water fun, diving, somersaulting, jumping, what not – Many non-swimmers showed their valor, they were in with sleeping mats and were having fun. We got out after an hour, proceeded towards a viewpoint. That was amazing – it was looking like Grand Canyon valleys from one side. So huge, mighty, something that cannot be fully portrayed. Pure breeze, 100s of feet deep down under, weird pictures, group pictures – it was the highlight of the day. We started descending down on the valley side, but there was a clear route (not a trail, but a well-built route). We were enjoying the valley view all through the walk and some great viewpoints. We finally made it to the jeep trail at around 5 in the evening and were walking peacefully towards the bus grazing our Talakona memories.

We named it as Treknic because, the trek was moderate, the crowd was enthusiastic, had loads of energy way back, great fun people. The dance fun started when the driver started playing ‘kuthu’ songs way back in the bus. Everyone was made to dance ;) and it was like a college picnic day.

We had a delightful dinner at the Bliss in Tirupathi, bid bye to the Bangalore guys and made our way back to Chennai, the concrete jungle.

Verdict is, Talakona is a must-must-must-go trek, which offers loads of surprises.

Written by: Karthick Sundararajan
Organized by: Nara, Ravi A, Ravi Ghosh
Participants: 36
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