Peter Van Geit
Difficult Trek Friday, February 25, 2011
Every trek in CTC is a unique adventure that remains in our mind for a lifetime.... OG was not different
Write up by Durai
Certainly only to read, dream and wonder for a weak body, mind and soul and never to dare trying, these true stories are only meant to record an adventurous history.
There was soo much myths and mysteries about OG treks over flowing in the net and by word of mouth and there is never a better experience than a personal, first-hand experience.
We were celebrating CTC’s third b’day in a fashion and style known only to CTCians. This trek had all the varieties which a true trekker would look for in a trek, to be preserved and portrayed in one’s mind, heart and soul ranging from steep climb, huge boulder climbs up and down, rescue etc, etc.
The trek started initially with 37 trekkers joining from various parts of the country. With 23 of them starting from Chennai and 14 other joining us in Bangalore to trek the Ombattu Gudde peaks from 18th to 21st February, 2011. The co-passengers of Lalbagh Express were initially taken by surprise after seeing our trekking bags and our weird sleeping mats and a white man jumping up and down with full of energy and they finally learnt that these guys are trekkers and going to trek somewhere in the western ghats.
DAY 1 - The day of hiking in the steep mountains and camping in between big boulders: We reached Gundya check post around 5.30 a.m and quickly had a power nap in the chilling morning weather. The trek started with a steep climb which never got over till the mid of the day. We hiked, hiked and hiked from 200 mts to 1200 mts from sea level till we reached the top of a bald peak which offered some spectacular views of the valley below. The sweating soul and the paining body was rewarded with some of the most stunning breath taking views which nature had to offer to us. There were steeps wherein we were forced to climb holding the roots of the trees, grasses. The worst part was it was a sunny day with no water resource on top of the mountain and slowly we started consuming all the water we had and very soon almost all of us ran out of water. Hot weather, no water and wherever we could turn there were only peaks and we were left in a very challenging situation. Our hunt for water left no stone unturned and we started descending towards a dry, steep stream almost 70 degrees inclined. Hunting for water and our camp site we got unintentionally split into four groups and un-fortunately two groups took a wrong dry stream and started declining parallelly. After climbing down the steep boulders we found water dropping in between rocks and almost all fought like monkeys for few drops of water and quenched their thirst. Fortunately, in few hours three groups got reunited and unluckily we lost the fourth group consisting of 5 trekkers. After a thorough stint of sliding, rappelling and rolling on the mountains with innumerable cuts, bruises and cramps we were just able to reach an altitude of about 800 mts which was way ahead from our camp site and the main stream which was located at 200 mts altitude. Pitch darkness covered the entire thick forest and started threatening us with weird noises and loads of insects. We made a camp fire and prepared soup and noodles for dinner wherein we received a SMS from one of the lost soul that we five are staying together and one of us have got injured badly, in the intermittent very bad mobile signal. This night was a very long night since we did not have a proper camp site and lying down in slippery, sloppy rocks which did not permit us to have a good sleep despite our tiredness.
DAY 2 – The day of sliding rocky stream and failing rescue attempts: The day started with aching body and a target of climbing down the never ending rocky mountain and finding our camp site. We climbed down through one of the densest forest and huge rocks which took us very long time to descend we cut through huge trees which were almost touching the sky and beautiful rock formations. Trekking down the stream got widened up and the water flow started increasing and finally we reached a beautiful water fall where we took bath after two days of sweating and bruising trek. After refreshing ourselves near the water fall we (23 trekkers) started our never ending rock sliding in search of our camp site and finally we reached the main river in the afternoon and set our camp over there and started waiting for the rest of the groups to come. Even after 3 hours we could not see any sign of the other trekkers reaching the camp site and we went in search for them and soon learnt that one group (8 trekkers) were preparing dry-fish and were having near a water fall soon they also joined us. We were now 31 with 5 trekkers stranded somewhere inside the thick forest and we could able to trace out their whereabouts. In the evening one group went in reach for the stranded trekkers and came back in vain since they were not able to find them and another group went to the nearby village and brought some eggs, fish and rice and we had a yummy dinner along the beautiful river bed near our camp fire. But still we were worried that we could not find out our stranded trekkers and were worried about their whereabouts.
It was an amazing camp site sleeping on the laps of a broad river underneath the glittering stars and chilling weather this is what may be called as “elixir of life”.
DAY 3 – The day of “Rescue, first aid and rejoicing” As planned the previous day we all got up at 5.30 a.m to find the stranded trekkers. The rescue team was headed by our Peter and I can never forgot the words which he said “We are not coming back without finding them” these words spread across like forest fire in the camp site and gave the volunteers the required courage and mental boost. 11 volunteers headed towards the rocky mountain and started looking for them and we started moving a great pace and after 1.30 hrs of climbing up the mountain the stranded trekkers heard our whistle sound and started shouting. It was that moment which none of the stranded trekkers would ever forget in their life time almost we meet them after 46 hours of gap and we would see the re-birth in their eyes, soon we learnt that Rajiv got dislocated his ankle and was unable to move forward we quickly rolled a grip bandage and gave him the required first aid and provided some refreshments to them.
Soon we found a very old jeep track and decided to take it to reach the base of the mountain. Rajiv was unable to move his body because of the pain in his ankle, we decided to carry him on our shoulders and slowly we took him to the camp site. Credit goes to Peter, Raj and Shumon for carrying Rajiv safe to the camp site. It was now almost 11.00 a.m and we had our bus at 2.30 p.m to catch and we need to trek 6 kms to hit the bus stop. Quickly, we prepared a stretcher made out of two big sticks on the side and few sticks parallel to those big sticks and Peter’s sleeping mat on top of it. A perfect stretcher was ready to carry Rajiv out of the forest and we started carrying him on rotation basis since it was hurting and causing pain on our shoulders. Kudoos to all the guys who took this paining task of carrying him back safe.
Rajiv was given a once in a life time opportunity of being carried in a stretcher and the other trekkers dancing, beating drums and signing in front of him. This perfectly portrays the fact that “Peter” and “OG” are deadly combinations, so these treks are certainly only to read, dream and wonder for a weak mind, body and soul and never dare trying it in their lifetime.
This trek made to realize that this life is worth living and brought me very close to nature. Taught me how to care for a fellow human being and happily live in an environment filled with joy and blissfulness, overall truly it was a “once in life time experience”. Looking forward for the next trek Peter
Write-up by Surya
THE BEST TREK EVER.. best adventure, good team work and the ultimate exploration.
Everything went fine.. 1st day trek started climbed 1200 mts, totally tired. the inclined part is done and we had to start the declined jumps. we got split up, me Biju, Mani, Sasi and Rajeev.. we five got split from the previous group of guys. we had tough time tracking the path, we had to watch closely for any papers or mark of tracks. it was too steep down.. had to balance very hard, we did not have rope with us. Biju helped us all the way, encouraging us and to find the camp site. In a point while he was helping the others to get down he asked to find if there was any path or track of the previous guys.. i was leading now. but here came the toughest part.. a 75 degree slope, i moved a little front and stopped others to find another path as it was too dangerous to get down without a rope. Rajeev who was right behind me unluckily slipped on the water and forced down.. veryy fastttt.. and hit the wood. I saw the whole scene and was shouting.... oooh nooo! He hit is leg first and then his head.. we were totally shocked.. scared, what ever it is.we went down after few minutes, he was badly injured. he was not able to walk. we camped that night at the same place where he fell slipped down. Biju had a bit of signal flickering in his mobile.. he sent a msg to previous group that we 5 are alone and a guy is being injured. Sad , Rajeev was mourning out of pain the whole night.
Next day, started to walk at around 8 am. he was not able to walk, took 15 min to walk 10 ft distance and had to rest another 5 min. we stopped jumping on the rocks and then started with the forest path. we made him to sit and crawl.. two guys helped him and the other two went forward to find the path. Biju took most patients to help him out. we only crossed around 200 mts on the second day walk and camped on a better place.. a big hugeee rock. we had water here. both these night we had all food but there was no fire to cook. we preserved the food as much as we can.. we had 2 chocolates and a bun, uncooked noodles and milk for the whole day.
3rd day, as-usual, he struggled but had to walk to walk faster. me and Biju took the lead this time and other two helped him. we moved a 100 mts and then found some bottles and covers in the left.. wow it was a jeep trial! we both left our bag and had a look at the path. it was good and we decided to take it. suddenly we heard a whistel sound.. stopped for a minute to hear it again.nothing again. came back to the place we left our bags.. heard the whistle sound again, we turned back.. we saw HOPE, we saw the RESCUE team, we saw PETER. woooo haaaaa! :D we were surprised and happy. we would have taken another 2 days to reach the camp if they dint show up! they brought us food and carried Rajeev all the way to the camp site. After the camp site they made a stretcher and carried him to the main road.. episode over. He survived :D Never had such an experience before.. thaar maar!
Write-up by Ramesh
Of all the treks organized for the 3rd birthday of CTC, mission to Ombattu Gudde was the most hyped. Less water, more snakes, forest fire, leeches, wild animals – it was too much hype. Peter told that he rejected almost 30% of the applicants, suspecting on their fitness. Srini also told he was rejected two times before and was reluctantly allowed this time. Virtually no women on the list. Even while traveling on the Lalbagh to Bangalore, Peter was still skeptical about the endurance of a few fellow trekkers.
There was the case of GPS unavailability too. I gave my GPS to Peter during the Wednesday beach soccer meet up, but the next day it ended up with the group to Venkatagiri. Since it was the biggest weekend of the three years of CTC, and there were about 450 people trekking on various parts of South India – food and other things were purchased in bulk and were being distributed on Thursday at Peter’s home. There were a lot of known faces. Aravind with his whole family was into purchasing and procurement. Guru had bought some apples without a spot check. They would become etched permanently in many people’s minds. He went back with Nithyan to buy some more, this time the apples were better.
People were making soup and tea and pasta in the kitchen. They even ordered food from a hotel. The only thing I went there for was my GPS. Peter had loaded the venkatagiri trail on it, banking on Sibin’s GPS with OG trail. I was feeling very tired and was planning to go back with Rakesh, but he was busy distributing stuff and making the accounts. Murali offered to drop me in Guindy. On the way he strongly recommended that I keep some alcohol with me to fight the leeches. Turned out that the leeches are alcohol averse and it might even alleviate the allergy after a leech attack (I don’t know, that’s what people said).
We were all to meet in Central Station at 3pm on Friday. As I came out of the subway from the opposite side of the Park station, Jegan came running behind (he was on the Pongal trek to Venkateshwara). Sometime later Surya (met him on Nagari trek) also told that he spotted my flat cap outside the station. More people were waiting near Saravana Bhavan, but they were all headed to Sharavathy. People from the Goa trip were also on the same train. The journey on Lalbagh was eventful. Got acquainted with many. We even tried to befriend with a party of three girls, who were no way related to CTC. Everybody made fun of Surya and he was on the verge of crying after finding out that those girls were already committed (at least the one he was hitting hard on). Arrived a little after 10pm at Bangalore We found the Bangalore group in Majestic bus stand. Many of us tried to find something to eat before the buses start at 10:45. Tried with little success to catch some sleep on the bus. Reached around 4:30am in Gundya. It was chilly and dark, Peter decided to sleep there for at least another hour before sunrise. Around 6am we began picking up our food stuff and filling water. It was said multiple times that at least 3 bottles should be filled up, as we would walk for 8 to 10 hours without seeing any stream. Yet some people did not take enough water with them, which would become a problem for the rest of the group as well.
We started on the road to Mangalore. Climbed up on the right into a line of ridges. It was easy for a while, perfect warm up. Then there was more sun and fewer trees. As we were on the ridge we could see a line of baldy peaks (they were not OG though). Even the farthest peak looked deceivingly close by. Sun began heating up by then. We slowly walked towards the peaks, but they looked as if they were moving away from us. The scenery was quite good, offering 360 degree views around. Sakleshpur railway line (we even saw a train moving through the mountains), the river running near Gundya, the bridges across the river, a church far away in the jungle. Green and filmy mist everywhere. On the way to the next peak Durai and I found scattered bones of some animal. At a little distance there was a stinky carcass of a wild boar. It still had some skin on it and almost the entire skeleton was intact. No evidence of any fire or cooking or barbecue. We deduced that it must have been an act of wild dogs . Peak after peak we scaled up the entire line of ridge for four hours. Lunch break then. Ram and the other guys from Naval Arch academy were the first to reach the place where we stopped for lunch. Ram compelled everyone to remove their shirts as they reached the top. There was a small patch of trees on the other side, which was a haven to escape from the beating sun. That’s where people told all the stories about snakes and wild animals and bears and leeches. Not encouraging. For my part, I actually picked up a lot of ticks onto my body, which would daunt me for the rest of the week at least. Few incidents happened thus far. Rakesh had to be sent back as it was difficult for him to walk. When Biju tried to settle some money to Rakesh, he misplaced his camera somewhere. When he realized that he had to go back to find it. He said he met with another group that is hiking in the same area. For my part, after almost reaching a peak I accidently pushed a huge rock. It rolled down at immense speed heading towards Sundar. Just before reaching him it even split in half, as if not to miss him anyways. He miraculously escaped, ducking under it. The split part was sharp and had made a bruise in the left side of his neck and his left arm. Could have been a lot worse for both of us.
We started walking again gradually over the roller-coaster ridge after lunch, reaching as high as 1200 meters. It was sunny. So sunny. Scorching. Even the grass had lost all the moisture in it and become yellowish pale – which made it reflect the rays onto our faces. Sun has effectively separated us into small groups. No trees to be found. Even the huge rocks on the peaks did not offer any shades. The maddening sun had split half the group from the rest. The slower group had the GPS and they were not to be found for a long time. There was a great confusion deciding which route to follow. Everyone was equally frustrated and no one had the better idea. After wandering around the ridge for a while we found a dry stream with dense vegetation but no water. Ram wanted to follow the ridge till the end, but the rest felt to follow the dry stream since both would eventually lead to water. Considerable time was lost by waiting for the people and for deciding the way. The path we took became highly dense offering no further way. This offered more confusion and made everyone feel they were right and the others were wrong. Another search and we found a parallel dry stream. This had less vegetation but more rocks. Humongous rocks and horrendous balance. Even in retrospect those huge grip-less boulders would haunt us. The heavy backpacks will do their worse to reduce our balance. Day was getting worse by the minute. Sun is setting and we still had not found water. Whatever water appeared on the surface was too feeble.
I was walking in the front and only Ram was following me. The rest were in search of a better path, it seemed. Ram kept arguing that we should be with others and not get stranded. This led to a lengthy conversation about people behavior and individualism and fatalism. He even compared things with his experience in Colorado endeavors and sounded very frustrated with the way things were going. For me there were only two things to do – follow the path that I was already leading or sending him to be with the others. He stuck with me. A little later others too joined us.
The trickling water was steadily increasing in quantity. Further down we found a healthy stream with fresh water. Tried waiting there for the whole group and the sun was totally set by then. More people joined us but that still not the whole group. People told they met Peter but he was still not among us. The only thing to at that time was to camp there and we did that.
Everyone was tired and there was no good place to sleep. Durai offered to cook if someone fetched water. Peter showed up and I accompanied him with Anand to get water. We made soup and then noodles. Something to fill the stomach before we could catch some sleep. The rock situation was very bad. I had to tilt the body like a snake to fit between the boulders. Except for Raj Jacob nobody seemed to have slept well. He had a sound sleep . Peter camped somewhere up behind. Biju somehow sent a text message reporting that one Rajeev was hurt. There were three others and they were also descending parallel to us. We began the second day by traversing through an unending river of boulders. We still had to descend for another 500 to 700 meters to hit the base. The descent was the most depressing of anything I had ever had. At one point it had a deadly drop – but a gorgeous falls and a deep pool. There was a convenient jeep trail around but I totally missed it and took the harder route. But this had a reward though. I could reach another falls under it and had a good dip.
After almost 5 hours of descent we reached the river at the base. People were already taking bath and collecting firewood. But we had another problem here – no noodles except for one pack. Someone had some green beans with them and Durai cooked whatever he could out of it. After 3 hours Peter also reached the campsite. Except for the five people including Biju everyone else made it. Peter took some with him to find the missing and Durai and Dipankar went with a few more to fetch something to eat from the village nearby. Meanwhile, we cooked noodles from the supplied that came with Peter’s group. Peter came back without any success of find the missing – it was getting dark too. Durai also arrived with rice, some fish curry, eggs and vegetables. Everyone could get one boiled egg and the lucky could get some rice and fish curry. He jokingly mentioned “some people meticulously work under the bottom of the cooking pot, but the rest will work only on the top of the pot”. Almost all of them went to sleep after another hard day. Sinu was dreaming of saving the fewer eggs and vegetables for the next morning. We, a group of 5, robbed all that and made egg burji and had it with the otherwise inedible chappathi. It was good. Tasty. Had eggs, onions, salt, chillies, masala, tomato. Egg curry. Super good. Excellent. Fantastic. Wonderful. (alright, enough of the banter!)
Next morning Peter again went in search of the missing. This time enough stuff to make a stretcher too. The rest planned to go along the stream to enjoy the water and scenery. I deserted myself from the group and trying to photograph the things around. The place was mesmerizing and distracting. Weaver ants, kingfisher and other fishing birds, chirps and tweets from various faceless creatures, remnants and leftovers from earlier campers, tiny islands of rock and sand in the midst of the river. Eventually I decided to head back to the camp. As I was nearing I could hear my name mentioned by many. Peter was saying that they might have to go for another rescue mission to find me. Well, I was back so were the other missing men. They took him back in a makeshift stretcher. Everybody started packing and began to walk towards the civilization. I wanted to take at least two laps across the river and I did. Gopal was sweeping and I headed fast towards the front of the walking line. It was not exactly fun but Surya, Durai and Jeyanth were trying their hands with music and dance in front of the stretcher procession. Had taken some photos and shot some videos, before we eventually reached the village nearby. Somehow the people who went before us arranges a motorbike ride for the injured chap.
We had a lunch of fish fry, rice and half-boiled egg in the shop near the river where Durai bought the rice and eggs the previous day. Another kilometer of walk took us to Gundya bus-stop where we landed 3 days earlier. Some went for alcohol that was available – Rajeev sponsored it to the stretcher-bearers. Others went for lime-soda available across the road. Buses showed up after another hour (just before 3:30pm) and we reached Bangalore around 10:30pm. It was raining in Bangalore. Train to Chennai started at 12am. At 7:30 the next morning we reached Chennai, bid farewell to everyone and departed. See you all in another opportunity, Ramesh Azhagar