Talakona/3, Dec 6-7 2008

Monday, July 27, 2009
I alight at the 'IN' gate at Koyembedu looking for souls with portly backpacks waiting to escape the urban madness and head into blissful wilderness. I spot this petite lady with a backpack half her size and shout out: Me: CTC? - Her: Yeah! / Me: Where's every one else? Its close to departure time! Her: No clue .. was looking for them! (We yak for the next 15 minutes on carbon credits and other arbit things not realizing the CTC van was waiting outside!)
Talakona024 Anyway, after the regulation headcounts, enthusiastic introductions and distribution of our dinner packs we start out on our way. It takes quite a long time to beat the Ambattur traffic and after a few snarls, we are finally on National Highway 205 en route to Talakona. The journey has begun. Our first pit stop was on the T.N – A.P border where we stopped for the toll tax. It was here that our CTC member Arul Kelvin spotted an Indian Krait. Alas, it was run overL. Irony that CTC had organized a Snake walks earlier that day. Arul dutifully shifted the snake to the edge of the highway. Good work mate. We continued with our drive. After Tirupati, the real fun starts! For those of us who know 'Sai' – he kept our group rolling in laughter and everybody indulged in wholesome leg pulling sessions! Every few kilometers were punctuated with calls to our guide asking 'Talakoa ekkada?' Given the fact that our destination was deep routed it was indeed an arduous task finding our reserve forest destination. But like everything else, CTC pulled it off and found its way to the base camp at Talakona at 2.00 A.M Saturday morning. After a tiring journey, our sprits were no way tired and we chatted till about 2.45 A.M deciding whose gonna sleep where before we finally retired for the day..err.. previous day.
The next morning, post Idly, Vada, Pongal and some tea, we started the trek.
A 1 k.m. pathway leads to the base from where you start the actual ascent. Once the ascent started, the entire group split into 3-4 groups and of course everybody fell silent, conserving energy to the stepped climb. The climb was an all in all a good one, except for may be a few paces, but still moderate by CTC standards. Mid why through our ascent, the sounds of water fall greet us and pepped up our sprits. A few moments later, we are greeted by a small stream that joins the bigger water fall down under. For many of us, we were tasting water from a running stream out in the open for the first time and everyone sweared that they had'nt tasted water better than this! It was yummy. After drinking to our tummies content and some photo ops we headed to the first water fall.
Heavens behold. 'Wow' is the word. Picture post card perfect may be an alternative word.
Talakona028 A pool of magnificent turquoise water with a beautiful water fall greeted us. Surrounding it from three sides were 100 M high rise and sharp edged cliffs. Of course, the next had to happen. All the 28 of us jumped into the pool and waded like a bunch of happy water buffaloes. Such bliss! The little dose of tiredness that any of our group members might have had vanished. The water was freaking cold and people seemed forget this in the wave of infectious solitude that the group experienced. Poor Arun had a cut from one of the sharp under water rocks dotting the entire pool. A good one hour plus later we managed to pull our selves out of the water and head higher up into the small hills. Post lunch, we walked close to 2 km up there to visit a colonial bunglow, but a passing forest official played spoilsport. Anyway, we began our journey downwards. It was a stepped descent and a bit steep at places. The water fall that greeted us now was the mother fall! Yeah! Again, we wasted no time in getting our skin under water. . Now folks, you have to take every word that I say now literally. The forceful water chunks hitting our backs from close to 100 feet felt like some one walloping you with blunt pieces of iron! We screamed our lungs out and held on to each other. We were drenched to the bone. And further more. It was exhilarating. It was a moment that bowled everyone over. The expression of child like enthusiasm and sheer gusto upon being in all watery wilderness had to be seen on the faces of our CTC members to be believed! Added to this were gusty winds that sprayed water all over you like no other. I am short of expressions at this moment. It was like facing a good thunderstorm in a radius of 20 feet! (Oh, there is where CTC'ian Shubha did a smart thing. She came under the water falls wearing a rain coat. Not that it made any difference, but beat that I say J )
We started our downward ascent now and headed back to our base camp to start our onward journey to Chennai. We caught dinner at Tirupati and after a few pit stops on NH 205 reached Chennai at around 2.00 A.M  (I didn't notice a single remotely tired sole. The water sure is therapeutic and fools your muscle to believe that they did nothing all day)
Thanks organizers :) We were hit and drenched to the bone. And did we enjoy it!
This talakona trek was excellent for so many reasons.i will try to iterate a few things here for the entire group.first about the drive, it was an awesome drive both ways the roads had everything in them and that made it so exciting to drive n thanks to the bumps which made it hard for the ppl to sleep n they wer singing all the way(reddy garu talks a lot tat we all know but i can tell u he is a very good singer).the roads after tirupati were even more thrilling to drive and there were so many stars blinking in the sky in the dark nite welcoming us to talakona.thanks for the packed vasantha bhavan food (credit goes to archana for arranging it).The guest house was so good and comfortable n the suspending bridge there catched everyone eyes even at 2 a.m.
Talakona019 The next day ppl were so energetic to start the trek inspite of reduced sleep.the guest house ppl prepared an yummy breakfast and everybody was thumping to go.the trail was little steep n demanding initially n after seeing the first pool i would still say it was one among the prettiest waterfall that i have seen in my lifetime and add to tat it was a swimmers paradise.we enjoyed like anything there and i think all of us had the same feeling can we stay longer here n the same question have i seen a waterfall somewer close to the beauty of this. We continued to explore the hills and the nature gave us a surprise with a humongous waterfall n the water was pouring down with so much force most of the ppl were so red wen they came out.the talkona hills is a great treat for ppl who love waterfalls or who r interested in photography n ppl shouldn't have 2nd thoughts in going it's a must go place.
Finally i have to tell about the organizing part Priya did a wonderful job by selecting the place 2 b talakona n i know she took so much pains for the last whole week to get things in place and to her credit she also got a mr.perfect srinidhi to do the financial part n am so happy i was able to help her a little in making this trek a huge success.hope to meet you all again very soon.
Back from a 36 hour trip to Talakona waterfalls, 50 kms from Tirupati, near Kodur in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. Nice place-An ideal weekend destination from Chennai (220 kms) and Bangalore (300 kms). Two beautiful waterfalls, never ending forest for trekking and exploration, a community operated guest house and friendly locals make this a good place to spend couple of days-either relax amidst the nature or do a bit of adventure exploring the Sheshachalapuram range of Venkateswara reserve forest. This outing was also through CTC again like few of my recent treks and there were 28 of us in total, packed in one Santro, one Qualis (rented) and a Mahindra tourister (rented)- N0, not on self drive, I swear :)
Talakona002 We could have left on Saturday morning, but the trip was planned specially for those who work on Saturday, hence we started by Saturday evening. Starting from Tidel park and picking up people en-route, we finally left Koyambedu by 6.30 PM as against the targeted 5.30 PM. (This time all participants were on time, only vehicles came in late) Though it is just 220 kms from Chennai, the roads were bad (There’re more than one route to reach-I am not sure which one we took) and add to that we did a mistake of hiring a 16 seater Mahindra Tourister, which just couldn’t go at a decent speed on highways and moved at snail's pace, slowing the group further. (DO NOT RENT this vehicle for outstation travel-it comes cheaper than Force Traveler and takes more people, but is only suited for city rides and not highways) This, coupled with factors like having to stop for fuel, permits, taxes, confusion over the route etc made us reach our destination at an unearthly 2.30 AM,(8 hours for 220 kms or 27.5 kmph), outsmarting all provisions one might have kept for possible delays. But then, the forest department officials and guest house staff were very friendly. Even at that odd time, one forest department jeep escorted us to the guest house and the staff there quickly made provisions for extra beds etc, so that we could go to sleep without much delay. We saw the Tamil version of Telugu popular movie- Bommarillu on the way. This guest house is operated by local people (under the banner of their community and with guidance from Forest department) and rates are pretty cheap. The Loghut (A one bedroom, elevated structure-ref pics) costs around Rs 400 per day and the Dormitory costs Rs 1000 per day (Can comfortably accommodate a group of 10-15 people with extra beds). There’re only 2 LogHuts and 2 dorms available, so better plan in advance. (I saw one more forest guest house near the temple, but that was a normal building-nothing special in any way. Tirupati is the nearest town if you want more options). The guest house campus is very good- a water stream flows next to it-anytime one can go for a dip or a swim, they have a deer as a pet (named Raja), which is naturally reluctant to come close to strangers, but will come near and readily accept food if offered. There is a hanging bridge on which one can go for a walk anytime. Over crowded population of monkeys is something you need to watch out for. Protect your belongings from being snatched away by them. We didn't spot any sort of animals during the trek but there were several boards on the way with paintings of various animals and birds, with messages related to forest and wildlife conservation.

Breakfast was good and PuLiyogare was packed for lunch. They insisted that we buy water bottles from them, stating that “it was found recently that water on the hill is contaminated with some iron related substance”. We didn’t find merit in that statement and felt it is said purely to scare us and make us buy water from them. We anyway had good supply of drinking water with us. 9.30 or 10 AM in the morning was the time when we finally left the guest house for the trek. Trek was fairly easy, with well established trails. Since we as first times were not familiar with the terrain we commissioned 2 guides. At around 12 Noon we reached the first waterfalls (named Etikoppaka falls, the first image you see on top of this post), after a break at a small stream (which formed another waterfalls which we were going to see later in the day). The place is very scenic (see pic), but the lake is not that friendly for amateur swimmers-the water is either too shallow (near the shore) or suddenly too deep. But then it is good enough for a good refreshment.
After spending nearly 2 hours we started for a place 30 mins away where we would stop and have lunch. During this walk we spotted a camera man recording our walk. Our organizer enquired with a ‘director like looking’ person (Name-B.V.Ramana) on who are they and what they are doing. The conversation thus struck resulted eating up 30 minutes. We learnt that it was a local telugu devotional channel (Name: SV Bhakti Channel) owned by TTD (Tirupati Tirumala Devastanam) they were doing a documentary on Talakona and wanted to record few clippings of our organizer speaking about our experience in Talakona and all. It’s not every day that you get a chance to see yourself in a TV (never mind that channel is hitherto unheard of). I simply stood in the frame upon request along with my bag as they wanted more crowd, but others had gone far ahead and were in no mood to walk back all the way. [Related: Watch me in an ETV Kannada program] The recording went on for couple of minute and was okayed in the first shot. The director didn’t have an email address to offer-not sure how he operates without one.
Talakona029 When we finally finished shooting, subsequent conversation and declared pack-up, rest of the team had finished their lunch and was waiting. Next on the agenda was to visit some British Bungalow somewhere uphill, but I understand we had to stop and start return journey, as it was beyond 3.30PM and our objective was to return to base by 1730 hours. On the return journey a villager asked for some fever tablet, as someone is having high fever. Hema had some paracetamol and we gave him two tablets. He enquired us on the dosage and returned with a thankful eye. Just see how difficult life in these places can be. One may have to walk for miles before you could meet another human being-let alone basic facilities and luxuries. Hope his family member who was suffering from fever recovered fully.
We walked down the hill though using steps and soon landed at another water fall- named Gunjana Falls, which is 3 times bigger than the earlier one and most popular of all Talakona falls. This water fall forms out of the stream we’d crossed in the morning uphill, which abruptly gushes out of the rocky mountain to fall a lengthy, powerful eye catching fall. Walkway have been constructed in the middle of this falls- people can walk in and take shower under the falls, water flows further down the vertical rock into a small lake (not as good as the one we saw earlier). Talakona falls are fairly popular as tourist places. There is a motor able road to take people near the water fall area and well built walk ways till the falls. The other waterfall we went in the morning needed several kms of walking in the woods, hence was relatively undisturbed. Many trees had several pieces of cloths tied to them. Some religious belief or customary I assume.
Finally by 5.50-6 PM the first batch was back in the guest house. Few of those who reached early didn’t have the room keys and had to wait for others to come. Few took their own time to get ready keeping everyone waiting till then, we took off by 7 PM. Return journey took equal amount of time , with a stop for dinner at Tirupati and we reached Chennai (Koyambedu) by about 2 AM. Per head expense was around Rs 810, which I feel is reasonable.
Written by: Baidik, Satish, Shrinidhi
Organized by: Priya



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