Peter Van Geit
Treasure Hunt Wednesday, June 1, 2011
And the winner is....
It was a nerve wrecking weekend - 5 teams were on a neck to neck race in search for the hidden treasure. It all started at 11pm on Friday when a small undercover team left Chennai loaded with 5 treasures heading Northwest out of town. They set off on their nocturnal mission at 4am before dawn moving straight towards the central 800m peak where they set up a communication center to sync up with the teams. A second sub-group went straight to the treasure location to hide the 5 treasures ahead of the teams. The entire stage was set by 9-30am itself.
Meanwhile at 3am the 5 competing teams assembled in the city, joined by several members from Bangalore in Nagalapuram around 7am. After this the individual teams dispersed towards the Eastern (Hungry Wolves and Eastern Warriors) and Western (Chennai Trekkers, Nagala Pirates, Mountain Kings) side of the mountain range to their respective starting points. By 8am the teams were on their way scaling slopes and hopping boulders towards the treasure hidden inside a mysterious gorge 2km North of the central peak. Who would make it first?
Time kept moving slowly at the treasure point waiting for the teams to arrive or make contact.... 10am... 11am... 12pm... 1pm... 2pm... 3pm... nothing happened... no team appeared nearby... no communication... Suddenly there was a cracking sound on the radio.... Yeah finally the silence got broken... The Hungry Wolves made contact after climbing up a hill near the 200m gorge along the main Eastern stream. They were confused as to how to climb over the gorge to reach the picnic pool.... after some time the wolves disappeared again from the radio... silence followed again... time started crawling again....
4pm... another crack on the radio... this time it was the Eastern Warriors who seemed to be nearby the treasure point and able to make contact... Thilak noted that they had passed the central 800m peak and descended into a dry stream which they had been following for the past 1 hour... I understood that they had missed the main Eastern stream (which has running water) and got into a parallel stream which would eventually hit the main stream. I told them to proceed further and take a left once they reach the main stream....
4:30pm.... I could hear voices shouting near the treasure point... yeah the first team had finally arrived... expecting to see the Eastern Warriors ... I was taken by surprise when the Chennai Trekkers lead by Brijesh suddenly appeared in front of me... they immediately started diving into the deep pool near the mysterious gorge searching for the first treasure hidden 2m below the surface of the water. It took them only a few minutes to locate and pull out the the first treasure from the bottom of the pool... a pack of chill red bulls to celebrate their victory...
5pm... finally the 2nd team - the Eastern Warriors - appeared near the treasure point, proceeding downstream from the North side...initially there was some confusion within the team to start a coordinated search for the 2nd treasure which was hidden inside one of the many crevices of the gorge.... soon the Nagala Pirates appeared on the scene as the third theme and Gowri was quick enough to find the 2nd treasure (a box of 25 Ferrero Rochers) roping in the 2nd position for the Pirates. The Warriors had to settle for the third position after locating the 3rd treasure (Belgium chocolates) below the green cover high above the gorge.
6pm... darkness was setting in... no news from the Mountain Kings or further info from the Hungry Wolves yet.... we were beginning to get worried about both teams either being delayed or lost on the way.... Raj (who started last) and Arun (navigator) of the Wolves had earlier reached the treasure point but without their team! The hunt guidelines clearly stated that the entire team should reach the treasure point to finalize the team position. Arun went back in search for his missing team...
Finally the night fell over Nagala and the 3 teams who reached the treasure point prepared to set up camp - 2 camped near the picnic pool while the Pirates preferred a more serene night near the the treasure gorge. The smell of Maggie Noodles, Knorr soup filled the air as the tired trekkers played Uno cards around the campfire. High in the tree the radio was not picking up any signal from the Kings or Wolves. We prayed they might have set up camp somewhere on the way and might appear the next morning.... The night was silent and warm... The stars were shining bright above us accompanied by a few fire flies on their nocturnal stroll along the stream....
6am... slowly treasure hunters starting waking up around the campsite... they had slept off in every possible nook and corner of the boulder stream bed... a sip of refreshing ice tea... a yummy cream bun... a dip in the cool pool ... slowly they started getting back on their feet. Around 7am we decided to pack up the 2 remaining treasures - one from below a carpet leaves, the other one hidden below a rock - and proceed downstream towards the picnic pool. We had given up hope of the two remaining teams reaching the treasure point.
7am... to our surprise we met the entire Hungry Wolves team around 500m further on their way to the treasure point. They had camped near the picnic pool where they reached yesterday during dusk. I admired their persistence in making it to the treasure location and handed over the fourth treasure to them - a box of French Vochelle chocolate covered peanuts. The wolves finally made it and completed their 24 hour hunt to the treasure. Thumbs up.
All four teams regrouped near the scenic picnic pool around 8am and relaxed from the previous day's efforts enjoying food and swimming in the large, cool pool and taking a shower below the falls on either side of the picnic pool. Around 10am the teams started their return downstream along the main Eastern stream towards TP Kotta village. We kept the radio on and calling out every 10 minutes, still unaware of the fate of the Mountain Kings who never reached the treasure point.
Around 5pm we finally met two members from their team near the first pool who briefed us on the previous day happening of the Kings. Looks like they had followed the trail of a past trek loaded in the GPS missing the instructions given beforehand where to deviate towards the treasure point. They finally exited earlier in the day near the 2nd Eastern stream doing an exact repeat of the loaded N/44 trail. At least we were happy that they had exited safely and the team was fine. Better luck next time for the Kings....
A few members went ahead of the teams to pick up the vehicles parked the previous day at the various starting locations around Nagalapuram. Near dusk, at TP Kotta village near the Eastern dam, all participants received a memorable gift - a nice mug with CTC logo and Nagala treasure map - before dispersing back to Chennai. CTC's first treasure hunt was an interesting and learning-full experience - a test for 5 teams to show they navigational skills and display their team-work effort to reach a pre-defined point far away from the starting points deep inside a forest of a mountainous terrain.
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