Written by - Hari Haran
This was my third endeavour with CTC. The first two had been out of the world experiences and i wanted to check out the other side of CTC this time. The side that has the most fun and also the side that's most satisfying.
The prelude to the trek itself was pretty topsy turvy for me. After N61 i was looking forward to a social trek and when this mail came, i was cursing myself to the core since i had some prior commitments that day and couldn't join in. Just 4 days prior to the trip i found myself free and immediately contacted peter if there was place for one more person. He replied on the affirmative and i was head over heels to join this trek. Then i contacted two of my friends and they too said they are willing to join in and we planned to take my car. I told peter that i will be joining with my friends in my car and he said thats all the more good. Now this all looks to be fine and you people will be wondering why i used the word topsy turvy. The reason for that is to follow. On Saturday, i.e the day before the trek one of my friends called me and told me he couldn't make it since he had a sudden commitment and i said to myself fine atleast i have my other friend. But that Saturday night he too told me that he cant make it and my spirits came crashing down. This guy was supposed to drive my car, yes i don't know to drive..in fact i can drive but didn't want to venture that far, and when he said he didn't come, i was wondering what to say to peter since i had committed my car and i was pulling my car out the last minute. I called peter and he said no problem and that i can join in and my spirits soared to a high.
I spent a restless night and didn't sleep much. I had kept the alarm at 4:30 and kept waking up every hour to check the time. Finally at 3:45 i decided enough is enough and woke up for good and got ready for the trek and did a last minute check of my bag. Ironically my alarm rang at 4:30 when i was on my way to tidel park and reached there by 4:45. I was waiting there for about 10 minutes with no one around and i repeatedly checked my cell for the date whether it was indeed sunday the 30th. I prayed i dont make a fool of myself waiting alone at tidel park a day before. Then shahul hameed walked in at 5 and by 5:10 when i saw karthik yadav and hari i was convinced that it was indeed the day of the trek. Peter then came at 5:15 and we left for madhya kailash by 5:30. There i spotted alex and meenakshi from my CCC team and me and karthik joined their car and we left for guindy. There we saw a big gang waiting and sudhir bhai was also there. I also spotted debu from my venkateshwara trek. We unloaded the food packets to plastic covers and started to porur. We were finally reached prem vasam at 7. They recognised us from CTC instantly and it was great to see the kids all ready and roaring to go.
We then decided that since we had ample cars with us, the bikers can leave their bikes at the home and all of us could be accommodated in the car. The children then were split up into the cars along with adults and we started to our traditional home. We kept going for around 1 and half hour time and most of the kids were asleep. I initially went in the Fiat Linea (sorry i forgot the name, think yoganath) and had a nice time with the kids. We had a difficult time deciding the playlist. The kids seemed to know all the latest movies and were asking all the latest songs most of which even we hadn't heard. We had tofollow peter's car since he knew the way and when we saw his car first the left indicator was on, then the right indicator was on and later the parking lights were on when he was going. We thought he had put the parking indicators just to show us the route is straight ahead all the way. It was only later that we found out that he did not put the indicator and it was the other three drivers in his car who were doing it. Then we reached the check post and once we crossed it, we stopped by a nearby trailer and the group photos started.
Then i changed my car and was back in alex's car and we continued the journey. That was the most difficult part of the trip. Alex was having a hard time and me and karthik were sitting behind laughing all the way. Meenakshi and suresh (one of the kids) had teamed up and were giving us a tough time. Both of them were constantly changing the songs and increasing the volume. When we told meenakshi so settle for one song we got scoldings from suresh that if we ever tell anything to his akka (refer meenakshi), then we will have to face his wrath. It seemed straight out of a movie and meenakshi was making it worse with her own punch dialogues.
We stopped enroute to have our breakfast. It was some delicious idli-vada and poor karthik had to give his breakfast to us and go take photos. By the time he returned all that remained was half vada. Tilak was trying his best trying to keep Vinodha's car clean and Hari was helping him in the endeavour. By the time we finished our breakfast Vinodha's car was refered to as sambhar car :) :)...Then we proceeded towards Nagala via uthukottai and that was when the other suresh in our car became active. He was actually not well in the beginning and once we had breakfast he was full of life and we knew we were gonna have a tough time...We crossed the TN border and entered andhra and how we wished someone hadn't brought a red swift car. It was munish's car and the now active suresh didn't want that red car to overtake us. We tried to pacify him showing the red linea behind and he was hell bent that the red swift should not overtake us. He told alex at the drivers seat that if alex doesnt overtake munish's car then he will start driving. After lots of scoldings poor alex underwent of which some were sell this car to the scrap materials guy, buy a bolero, buy peters car..., we finally overtook munish's car and thought finally we can travel peacefully. Already we were having a hard time with the brother-sis duo and now with suresh's wish granted we thought we can travel silently to nagala. But then suddenly we saw munish car overtake ours and that was when suresh was totally mad at us. He went and sat in alex's seat and told him either alex overtake the swift or he will go behind the wheels. Thankfully munish car slowed down and pulled over slightly to the left to let us through and we overtook him. Finally suresh was satisfied. Alex let munish through and suresh was mad at us again. Then munish let us through again.
We halted near a split roads so that the trailing cars behind don't miss the turn. There we met munish and were talking with him when he said his side of the story. The kids in his car wanted him to try anything to overtake alex car and seems when we overtook his car they said him to chuck his car and buy a mercedes or a mclaren or ferrari. Gosh the knowledge such kids have at this age. I did not know such brands existed till my 10th and when i first heard the name mercedes in my childhood i thought it was a super costly chariot that the rich people and kings used. Once all the cars came we proceeded towards base camp and reached there in 10 minutes time.
At the base camp, we volunteers kept the food packets and other essential items inside our bags and distributed the caps to the kids. Then each volunteer was given the responsibility to take care of a kid and suresh was given the responsibility of taking care of meenakshi. With this the actual trek started and we climbed the dam and the got down to the other side. It was as if the dam was a barrier between the civilised side and the wild side. We initially kept walking under the hot sun and along a proper trail for around half hour. I was sweating profusely and was thinking o drinking water, but i was determined to test myself and limit my water intake. Itseemed difficult under the hot sun, but seeing the kids walking so fast and also gia (the 3 year old kid) walking cutely all the way was a big booster to us and we kept walking until we reached a large shady area and we put our first halt there.
We the proceeded towards the first pool. Enroute, we stopped at a small stream and thats where the fun started. The children who were kinda sober and little tired till then showed their true colours. Peter and Sudhir were mauled and Tilak had a tough time controlling the kids. On the other hand hari was back to what he does best capturing photos in whatever angle possible. There was a 1000 W smile in Gia's face who till then was very tired and was walking fast just because her mom said she will see the swimming pool soon. Almost everyone got into the water and there was Sriharsha who was having his own WWF match with the kids. The kids just loved it and it took a long time to get them out of the water and proceed to the next stream. Finally after this small trailer of a stream everyone's spirits were on a high and we rushed to the next stream
We walked for about 15-20 minutes and there we saw the first pool. Though this was not the planned halt and we were supposed to go to the second pool only, this was in itself a super pool. The water was falling sideways along the rocks and it looked like a slide pool. Also there was a good sitting spot near the falls and that spot looked like a natural chair. We were waiting there for sometime since the people in the front had to encounter a tough climb and it was taking time. One of the trekkers (as usual i don't remember the name, but he was incharge of the children at the home) took time of to have a dip and he was enjoying a lot. I wished to get in but since people told the second pool is better than this pool, i did not get in.
We then reached the second pool in 10 minutes time and boy-o-boy what a pool it was...it was the kind i've seen in calenders and film songs. The water was pristine and the ambiance was superb. It was a small falls that split into two. The place was enclosed by mountains on all side and it looked like we had a big hall to ourselves with an angelic waterfalls at the end. Everyone's spirit was at its peak. Gia, who was till then eagerly awaiting the falls and bearing all the hardships, was a picture of happiness and her face lit up on seeing the water. She was eager to get into the water which by now was full of the kids having a nice time. It took me a lot of time to get to water since the kids were enjoying themselves so much that i found it hard to cross them and go to the other side. Peter and Alex were pulling their trailers, competing occasionally whose trailer is bigger. By trailer i mean kids in tow. Some of the kids and adults were enjoying the falls while others were having a nice time playing catches and target practising with the sponge balls. I spent most of my time near the falls occasionally jumping from the water and at times going under the water to avoid being hit. The target practising was superb and we were the targets. There were two teams one near the falls and the other team the opposite side, We were competing which team was getting hit the most and obviously we were on the loosing side since we were kinda cornered by the falls. That was a good time pass. The ferrying of the trailers was happening at a brisk pace and i took time idling in the cool waters. Meenakshi was doing a nice sweeping job collecting the balls which went to the corners and giving to either teams ofcourse wearing a float. Alex too joined in the game and with more people coming to our side we were becoming stronger. This continued for a while and then many settled for lunch. In the mean time i found a good partner and we were giving catch practice to each other for a long time. His brother also joined in and it was a nice time pass. We spent around one and half hours at the falls and there were various activities right from catching to target practising to ferrying as mentioned before. Some non swimmers even tried their hand at learning swimming and the kid in my car, the non suresh, was impressive swimming on his own without the floats. I was having so much fun in the water that i even forgot to have lunch and when tilak said its time to leave that was when i forgot i didn't have dinner. I was also not in a mood to have lunch and settled for two five stars.
We then started slowly from the place back to base camp. Last minute checks were done to the area so that there is no litter present in accordance to CTC policy and everyone started. On the way down Uthara twisted her ankle and needed some medication. Tilak and Sudhir helped her out and we started moving. The kids were already halfway back. It just amazes their speed and enthusiasm!!! I just couldn't believe that within 15 minutes we were back at the first spot where we enjoyed. Just before that janani, whose shoe sole was half out right from the start of the trip, had her shoe sole completely out this time in both her legs. Harsha had a real hard time tying it since the as soon as she took a step the sole would slide out. It was then decided to leave it just like that with a makeshift arrangement since we hardly had another 10-15 minutes walk.
We then touched level ground very fast and stopped for a photo shoot with a huge peak at the background. It was unbelievable how we made it so fast. The same distance that we took around 1 hour to climb, we returned within 20 minutes. There we took lots of group photos some with children alone and some with the whole group and headed back to the dam. Everyone was in the best of spirits and lots of people who had a first hand experience of either CTC or a social trek (in my case) became hooked on to it. Harsha for instance who had come with his CISCO collegues janani, guru and co told that they are very much looking forward to the real trek. Gia who was by now the darling of everyone was telling her mom that she wanted to go to the next social trek also. Guess we have a regular trekker from among the youngest trekkers in the making!! The kids who were the VIP's of the trip were also looking forward to their next outing with CTC and am pretty sure that's not gonna be far.
Here are a list of most memorable things/happenings/events from the trek:
Firstly the enthusiasm showed by the volunteers. How many would have expected 60+ people wake up early on a lazy sunday just to take some kids whom they have never met outside.
Next the kids themselves, who were ready and raring to go that early in the morning. The suresh in our car said they woke up my 4 in the morning and were all ready in an hours time.
Next comes that unforgettable drive to nagala. Every car wassuddenly turning one way or the other and horns were blaring even at empty roads, courtesy those kids and our car experience with alex, meenakshi, karthik (uncle) and two satish and the other kid was awesome. Trust peters car also would have had a unique experience with 4 people at the drivers seat.
Next comes Gia, how many of us would walk 2-3 kilometers that too under a hot sun at the age of 3. Her determination was alone enough to encourage everyone else.
Special mention to Harsha...the guy is full of energy and i a must for a jungle trek with the various animal sounds he can mimik. He was full of energy all the way.
The photographers need to be applauded for those mind blowing photos that they provided.
Special mention to Uthara and janani. Uthara for making it through with the ankle twist and janani for making it through with a torn sole right from the start and we never knew it was torn.
Oops!! and i forgot...i am becoming a lucky/unlucky charm in all my treks. Every trek something is lost and against all odds its found. This trip guru lost his car remote just 20 minutes into the trek and believe it or not we found it during our return almost 6 hours after it was lost!!!
Last But not the lease, vinodha who sponsored the sandals for the kids