A telephone call broke my resolution of not participating in a trek until my exams are done with. Before I could realize I was neck deep in to organizing the trek. Obtaining the necessary forest official clearance for the trek looked easy, inexperienced as I am, I just thought to myself one letter would do the job. But little did I realize that apart from a letter that would meet the mandatory documents required, clearance would require hard lobbying.Three weeks and innumerable phone calls later I was sitting at the Wildlife office, Pollachi grinning ear to ear holding a copy of the letter permitting our trek signed by the Forest Conservator. Trek preparation picked up a frantic pace from there. Not able to secure train tickets, our imaginative brains came with all possible transportation ranging from meager government buses to hiring a cab for the entire trip, ease and comfort of the cab inclined our mind in to hiring one for the entire trip.
1 Oct 09:
9 participants form Chennai started late night to Top Slip, the base camp with no hiccups, I here choose to ignore the delay caused by the persistent traffic thronging the pot holed highways of Chennai.
2 Oct 09:
I joined the other participants at Tirupur. Typical to CTC’s style the FUN (the capitalization is intentional to denote the size of fun) started there. The participants, here after referred affectionately as “the troop of baboons” jumped, exclaimed and photographed the windmills dotting the vast expanse between Palladam and Pollachi. There was this extraordinarily adventurous ‘pickle loving baboon’ who tried to take a perfectly still photograph of a rotating wind mill from a moving cab and in the process kept the complete troop split with laughter(no awards for guessing who it is). Every thing that starts has to come to an end, so did our journey to Top slip, albeit a little earlier than expected, in the middle of nowhere, with a curious noise emanating from the hood of the vehicle. It takes more than a broken down cab to stop us from reaching Top slip, 6 of us hitched a ride in a van and the others clung on to a passing bus heading to Top slip.
Day 1 Trek: Top Slip to Varagaliar Anti Poaching Camp
The ‘troop of baboons’ left at around 1500 hrs from Top slip and the intention was to reach Varagaliar APC by dusk. Though we were pre warned about the possibility of leeches we did not have the foresight to predict the numbers, there were literally millions of leeches in the decaying foliage littered on the forest floor. An hour later we reached an elephant training camp at Kozhikamudi just to in time to see a 6 year old kid elephant being brought in to be showed off to a group of tourists who had reached the training base camp by road. One of the two guides accompanying us offered us two possible ways to reach Varagaliar APC from the elephant base camp, road or jungle. Living by the words of Helen Keller “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” we choose jungle over the road and one and a half hour, two river crossings, zillion yuck due to leeches and a tough uphill climb later we sighted the APC located in a beautiful high land surrounded by river and thick jungle. It was here where we first sighted a heard of wild elephants grazing across the river. The rain had swelled up the river circling the guest house and we had wade through waist high water to reach the APC, while some of the more deft ones crossed the river stone to stone. I was in for a surprise when I took off my cloth and shoes. There were at least 30 leeches sucking blood around my ankles, shoulders and neck, while the others were busy helping me remove them using Dettol, there was this ‘tall baboon with spikes on its head’ photographing my blood stained shirt, shoes and body. Bloody Indian leeches! The group tucked in after hot soup and coconut bolis but not before a game of UNO. Don’t ask me how we managed a game with out electricity in the APC.
Day 2 Trek: Varagaliar APC to Perungundru at 1733mts
Half the group was scared by the mere thought of leeches, this time with a line on its back and a fancy name ‘ramar attai’ that we were supposed to encounter on the climb to Perungundru. One of the eminent member of the ‘troop of baboons’ had to stay back due to lack of proper foot wear from the day’s trek. We traced our way back across the river, and I immediately understood the efficiency of the waterproof ability of my shoes, the water that entered through the top of the foot had no way to go out! The climb proved to be tough, steep terrain, velocity of wind some where near 45kmph, rain and the decreased visibility which was less than 8 meters most of the times was taxing my body and the going was slow, the only solace being sighting a herd of Indian Bison and a grass snake which was least bothered about our presence. We walked through the clouds, climbed near vertical water falls and had to use all four of our limbs at many places. We reached the peak at 1300hrs as planned and started our descent soon after due to decreased visibility and cold winds. Most part of the descent was uneventful except for my great fall after a slide which left a bruise at my arm, baboons probably are meant to swing and not slide I presume. We spent the rest of the day back at the APC playing bluff and “grapevine” and it was during this game we found the true potential one “hi-tech baboon” who some how managed to twist upaya kusalopary in to oru paiyan mukka banian potturukan !!
3 Oct 09:
Day 3 Trek: Varagaliar APC to Top Slip
The troop was split over the third day’s plan, but we all agreed that we did not want to any thing to with leeches. Finally after a hot cup of milk and noodles we trekked back to Top slip through the road. And we spotted Malabar Giant Squirrel with a white underbelly and shiny dark brown fur, Nilagiri langur, wild dog, spotted dear, wild boar and pea-hens. One reason being we could walk with our head high due to the fairly level walk of the road unlike the steep incline where we do not have the energy to look around. We spent a good amount of time at a water falls ‘Glass house water falls’ having a soothing dip. Soon after we climbed across a barren mountain face to reach Glass House at Mount Stuart, walked through teak plantation and reached Top Slip by 1500 hours. The trek was all about “rain, leeches, fun and wild animals”
Participants: Me, Balu, Lavanya, Vinod, Anand [pickle loving baboon], Anandabarati, Mohan [hi-tech baboon], Ram [tall baboon with spikes on its head], Balaji, Gowri.
Written by: StalinBalaji: For his good food, trust me.Gowri: For sweeping me for most part of the trek.Balu: For his ideaRam, Mohan, Anand&Anand, Lavanya: For their QuotientVinod: For his encouraging words near the peak.
Organized by: Balu, Stalin
Posted by: Karthick Sundararajan