Velliyangiri Trek - 6th Sep 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009
This was my first trek with CTC, and I am glad it happened with the Velliyangiri hills. I've long had a fascination with these hills and I always wanted to trek up to the 7th hill. Though we couldn't complete it, what transpired was quite worthwhile by all means.
IMG_0148 Kirthi introduced me and Naren to CTC. The plan was to start trekking by 8:30 AM on Sunday, but we three delayed the group by 45 mins. By the time we started the trek it was 8:45 am. We were a total of about 13 folks about to trek up hill. The plan was to reach there by 1PM, take a one hour lunch break and start the trek down by 2PM. Needless to say, weather had other plans. The basement from where we started, near the Poondi temple was 550 AMSL (above mean sea level). Right from our journey from Coimbatore to Poondi, there was a mild drizzle and the climate was very pleasant. Senthil distributed our lunch packets - an apple, one packet of "paruppu poli" and one packet of coconut "poli". He also handed out a glucose packet for the trek up. He kept the extra lunch packs and apples with him. I still wonder how he managed to trek with those up. Monkeys in the area got a whiff of humans with food and were surrounding us. They also employed some cute team work to snatch an apple from one of the trekkers hands. So, we were almost all set. Last set of instructions were to not leave plastic bags anywhere, and off we started up at 8:45 AM or so.
3 The gradient uphill would have been about 0.7 or so. It was at this level almost 90% of the path. I've never seen such consistent and intense gradient before. I also learned a lesson the hard way. Yeah, CTC listed "travel light", but some lessons are better learned through first hand experience. I was travelling with about 5.5 kgs or so (two water bottles, my cam, towel, lunch provided by CTC, two cookie packs, my mobile + wallet). Any optimism or confidence I had at the start of the trek, the mountain dismantled them effectively in under two minutes. The weight of the bag soon started telling, so I was trekking up slowly. It was continuously drizzling at this point. First stop at 700 AMSL. This checkpoint was the breather and I think at this time, everyone effectively knew the trek wasn't going to be easy. We were also waiting for everyone to assemble so we could move as a group. Eventually, people with differing average speeds got separated naturally and some were ahead. I was consistently among the last three in the group. The steps were also quite high. I was musing with Kirthi about the level of commitment the people who constructed this all the way up to the seventh hill! One area was a "vazhukku parai" (slippery rock) which would have made the following area inaccessible to 90% of the population if not for the chiseled steps. I think about 45 minutes had passed by this time.
4 The next stop was 856 AMSL. This was a Ganesha temple. By this time, the rain picked up intensity and never faltered thereafter. At this point, there was a hut to take shelter in. The group also was divided based on speed, and Senthil was trying to play anchor to sync up every one. I hadn't packed for rain (I think only 2-3 were planned for this anyway) and was throughly drenched. Here, there were priests chanting and offering to Ganesha on account of full moon day. I thought it was amazing dedication for they couldn't have been expecting any visitors. I think about 1 hour 45 mins had passed and time was about 10:30 AM now. Next stop was 1000 AMSL. It was still raining. Senthil took his topography map and was checking the target. It was close to 1600 AMSL - quite a long way to go. I was able to pull my camera only once in a while when rain slowed down to a drizzle. Feroz was the true journalist most of the times and was even shooting in rain. Unfortunately, at this point I learnt that one of them decided to stay back. I also got to know that two trekkers started late because their bus came late (10:30 AM). They must have started trekking up now. The time was about 11:15 am now. Once in a while, we had majestic view points of the valley below. Mostly marred by mist, but occasionally clearing to offer a grand view. We could make out lush paddy, distant buildings and even cleaned up ground below. The far away mountains adorned with greenery and the occasional stream made for a grand sight. You could trek up to this height just to view them! From this point on, we made occasional stops at 1100, 1250 and finally 1400 AMSL. The rain was intensifying and I had perhaps drenched to that extent never before in my life. The trail winded mostly on the steps, but occasionally, it would offer some respite in the form of a horizontal walkway. We passed by some makeshift temples (under mountain rocks), mostly of Lord Shiva along the way. We assumed we were crossing a "hill" at each of those temples. At 1500 AMSL, it already felt like a major accomplishment for me. My back was aching so badly and my legs were tiring very fast, but my enthusiasm was quite up. I was ready to go until the last. But at 1560 AMSL, I reached a small hut that offered standing room only for the 13 of us. The rain was lashing so badly that we all got in. For the first time, it dawned on us how cold our bodies were. We had walked quite comfortably till then until the contrasting temperature the hut offered showed how cold it really was. I am not sure how much the temperature would have been, I am guessing about 10C or so. Few were shivering. Time was 13:10, and we had a priest who was walking towards the temple. He estimated another 30 minutes for the final destination. Senthil took a vote, and under the circumstances, we decided to have our lunch and head back down. I was mildly disappointed, but it was in everybody's best interested to go back down.
DSC04091 So we at our polis (surprisingly enduring in terms of keeping away hunger) and shared some chips other trekkers had got. The rain seemed to have abated just a little but it was quite misty outside. We finally started the trek down by about 13:45. The trek was easier down, but I had to account for two new problems. Some areas, your body picks up so much momentum with just a few steps, that it is crazy! Another was that it was very slippery. I fell down thrice. Once in place, once face down, but fortunately on a bush, and third, flat on my back. Only when I reached home later at night did I saw two cuts, one on my leg and one on my hand, and the blood had already clotted. No sensation whatsoever! The rain was lashing so madly - but it was such a long time now that it seemed abnormal to not be drenched. The valley was misty mostly and on occasion showed up. One of those moments, we got view of a might stream flowing down hill at a distant mountain. Unfortunately, it was raining and I couldn't pick up my camera. I assume it was the Siruvani river [anybody have a pic?]. This time, me, Kirthi and Naren were among the first and we trekked at steady pace without stopping. Most of our trek was accompanied by mindless chatter. I think we stopped twice to rest. When we reached the Ganesh temple [856 AMSL], it was about 3:45 PM. We ate what was left of the food and then started down. Our plan was to visit the temple before the rest of the troupe arrived.
IMG_0163 Finally, we were at the basement by 5PM. But my legs were damaged so badly, that every step down ached. My legs couldn't take my body load any longer. Any intense step put it off balance (even a joke cracked by Kirthi caused my leg to lose balance). After we reached down, we had tea. It was incredibly welcome for the weathering my body had taken. We then visited the temple below, and by about 5:45 every one had assembled. So had the monkeys. But they started leaving once they probably figured they weren't getting any food. It was getting dark as well. We departed by about 6PM and on the way back, well it was still raining! We shared some snacks Senthil had and were viewing some pics on Prashanth's camera. Rest of the journey was just random musings among seat mates. Finally, we off boarded by about 7:30 from the van. And that's it! The trek was officially over. As I write this now, two days later, my legs still ache so badly and I am not able to climb stairs without holding onto a railing. But the steps are so joyous. Mainly because I attempted something so huge that I had never tried before. And failed! :)
Written by: Deepak
Organized by: Senthil, Balu
Posted by: Karthick Sundararajan


Aswin Anand T.H. on: September 26, 2009 at 8:06 PM said...

"(even a joke cracked by Kirthi caused my leg to lose balance)" -- Excellent :) I couldn't stop laughing at the sarcasm expressed. Nice writeup overall Deepak!


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