Nocturnal Nagala, Aug 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gayatri’s (CTC Rookie)

Every time I think of trekking, my mind conjures up images of a group of motivated souls, backpacks, water bottles and broad daylight. Never did it occur to me that trekking could also happen at night amidst darkness and the loving kiss of moonlight.

Nocturnal Nagala was a revelation of kinds to me. It was an all-encompassing experience – a night trek, steep/challenging terrain and incessant rains through the night. Nocturnal Nagala enlightened me on my own potential and stamina. I drove close to 250 kms – prior to starting our trek and post our trekking expedition.

I did not plan to take my car initially; however, upon request to bring my car, the only condition I made was to stop for tea at Uthukottai on the way to Nagala (what to do?! Most of us are addicted to something in life!).

We started from Chennai CMBT bus stop at 11.00 p.m. in four cars. As usual, I was right behind the lead car, barely able to restrain myself from overtaking the mighty ‘Ritz’. I noticed that I had company with respect to the seeming ‘restraint’, as there was a Scorpio, the driver of which I’m sure was used to driving a plane (maybe), not a car – such was his speed!!! It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride to Nagalapuram with loud music and louder chatting all the way.

We reached Nagala at 1.30 a.m. and immediately got down to distributing food – apples, mango bites, Glucon D, chapathi packets and other goodies. We set out at 2.00 a.m. The first sight that greeted us was that of a snake. It was just coming out of a puddle of water and heading for cover in the nearby bush! Five minutes into the whole thing and I was enjoying myself already. The familiar smell of dampness, plants and insects greeted us. Guru and his lead man (Mani) had the GPS to guide us on the trail. We spotted a couple of bull frogs, though initially we mistook them to be a piece of rock. Such a fat ass it was - slimy and disgusting; yet alluring and fascinating. Night life at Nagala held us all enraptured as we steadily progressed into the mountain range along our planned trail. It was tiring and strenuous with the narrow focus of our torches guiding our way. The sound of the wind in the trees around us and water in the stream somewhere nearby kept us all going. The silence of the moonless night was amazing. We had crossed the first pool, supposedly the second as well and were heading towards the third.

As we were taking stock of our position we found that we were at the steepest possible incline ever. There was hardly any flat surface enough to fit our seats. Our precarious balance was reflected in the way we were hanging on to tree branches and sticking to boulders for dear life. It was then that the thought of a lizard fascinated me – how conveniently it could stick onto surfaces, against gravity?!

In an excited state of mind stimulated by the nocturnal sounds of the forest, we realized that we had lost our trail somewhere between the second and the third pool! Oh  never mind, said the entire group, the enjoyment mirrored on their glowing faces – such were the spirits, a commendable team effort! So what if we had lost the trail, we hadn’t lost our minds/soul! We trekked continuously for close to 7 hours and finally arrived at the fourth pool.

I’ve already been to the first, second and the third pools during my other treks with CTC. Despite which, every time I set eyes on them, love happens all over again – the beauty of nature consistently overwhelms me! However, nothing could have prepared me for the glorious sight of the fourth pool. I was completely bowled over. The waterfall came from great height and its force almost unbearable. I became silent for quite some time as I was drinking in the scenic magnificence (only nature has the power to get me dumbfounded and I’m sure all my co-trekkers will nod vigorously in assent). Just when I think nothing is as beautiful as what I have witnessed, it is again nature that beats its own benchmark. The force of the waterfall was intimidating, but I was sitting right in front of it and mentally coaxing myself for a dip in the pool. Though I’m not a great swimmer (due to lack of adequate practice), I love water! That is something that motivates me to get into every pool that comes my way. I dragged Mani along with me and drew some comfort from his presence (I’m not sure of the vice-versa bit, though!). The chillness of the water made me go numb all over as I strode purposefully towards the waterfall. There were two smaller ones on the way to the largest waterfall. I believe in slow and steady – leading to astounding accomplishments. I set foot under each one, conquering it and at the same time being humbled by the warmth it bestowed on me. The largest one was so forceful that it almost threw me into the small pool ahead, just by the might of its speed. Well, I refused to let it intimidate me – I stayed under its steady and strong flow for a few minutes filling water in the vessel and bottles for making tea. I then, went back to join rest of the crowd taking rest and stretching their already overworked muscles.

The next 2 hours were spent in trying to start fire for making tea. We then found out that none of us had the tea (dust) packet with us. However, we had with us Nestle milk powder and sugar. So the immediate thought that popped in Mani’s head was to make hot milk. Something hot was so enticing that I promptly seconded his thoughts. So we set out to do the same. The milk was damn tasty, I think it had more to do with my effort than the taste of stream water used (winky)!

We resumed our trek at 12.00 noon. As we went past the fourth pool to reach the source of its waterfall, the trail was immensely challenging, with steep incline coupled with loose rocks everywhere. It was a wonder that all of us managed the climb without major issues. Prior to reaching the source of the fourth pool’s waterfall, we were taken to a breathtaking viewpoint. We could see the source of the waterfall from a distance and were surrounded by rocks and greenery. Marvellous sight! We took snaps of the gorgeous scenery and I managed to climb onto the last boulder/rock beyond which was magnificent void – air and space! Subsequently, we trekked to the source of the fourth pool’s waterfall. It was a small pool by itself. I joined Mani, Arun & Co in exploring the nearby area and was gifted with the discovery of two more pools with small waterfalls. Climbed onto its source and sat on it, enjoying the force of the stream trying to push me down its length and into the pools. Few others joined us at these pools later. And all thanks to the lead team comprising Guru & Mani and the sweeping team comprising Arun & Shankar. They were amazingly patient, helpful, encouraging and invincible at all times!

We trekked back to the third pool by 7.00 p.m., where we decided to camp for the night. Again, camp fire was started and hot upma was served for dinner. Our ravenous hunger was responsible for the upma disappearing within  minutes of being served. Totally dead beat and exhausted, we set our sleeping mats and got ready for bed. At around 11.00 p.m. most of us had retired to bed. Arun was just explaining to me about his previous trekking experience wherein it had rained and due to the size of the group and the lack of adequate tarpaulin sheets, he had to sleep under the sky with just his cap protecting his face from the rains. The thought of that chilled me to my bones. I was fervently hoping that it wouldn’t rain that night. As soon as this thought crossed my head I heard Arun say that it is cloudy and he smells rain. My heart just sank at the thought, but I cheered myself by remaining positive. Just as I was reassuring myself, I felt droplets of rain water on my hands and face. Damn it, I thought! I heard myself call out to Arun as he was lying down somewhere close by. Four of us including Arun went speeding towards people with extra tarpaulin sheet. Grabbed and yanked the extra sheet off them. Most of us used the tarpaulin sheet to cover ourselves, with our sleeping mats beneath us. I’ve only had soft bed sheet/blanket covering me, never a plastic sheet. It was initially suffocating, but I coaxed myself saying I could breathe and that’s all that mattered. Ten minutes later, I woke up with a weird wet feeling on my neck and back and to my utter dismay I realized it was rain water and that my entire sleeping mat was almost drenched. Hmmmm…..what to do? It then hit me that the intensity of rain was not letting anything remain dry. It felt like ages since it started raining and so I looked at my watch. God, it was only 12.30 a.m. When was the night going to come to an end? It struck me that it was going to be a very long night! To my relief it hit me that I had company in staying awake, as movement around me caught my attention. Every half hour I heard Shankar call out for the time and I meticulously kept track of it for the entire team (lol)! Through this mess, Nithya started wheezing when Guru & Mani came to her rescue. As the minutes rolled by, things got better and the experience was more palatable! I realized then that most things in life is either a matter of habit or a matter of time! The entire group came awake at 5.45 a.m. The eagerness to start trekking back was blatantly visible with our body language! It occurred to us that since it had rained through the night, the trail down would be more challenging and slippery. But by now, the previous day’s experience had prepared us to face any kind of trail – challenging or otherwise!

As soon as the group reassembled, with each of us sharing our experiences of wetness and cold with the other, the night that previously seemed unbearable turned out to be a pleasant memory. As predicted, our speed was decent and we managed to reach the second pool within 40 minutes. We halted at the second pool – this is where I had my quota of fish pedicure! We were rummaging through the left overs of our food supplies and shared whatever was left of it – groundnut bars, chapathi packets with pickle, biscuits, chocolates and even oranges. We started by 8.45 a.m. from second pool and bumped into another CTC group that had ‘photography’ as its trekking mission for the weekend. We exchanged pleasantries and captured couple of group photos and continued our merry way to the parking lot by 10.30 a.m. We started by around 11.15 a.m., reaching Chennai by 2.45 p.m.

A very memorable, marvelous, magical, wonderful, splendid and revealing trekking expedition indeed! Thanks to Guru/Mani/Arun/Shankar (CTC) for all the support. I’m so glad to be part of this awesome club!!!

Sushmita’s and Nitya’s (Fresher's)

It was a fine day morning when I got a mail from CTC about a night trek to Nagalla. Nithya and I are colleagues and we were desperately looking for a break and a break where we go “Not Reachable”. All fell in place and both of us registered for this trek. The next day we got a call from Guru . He wanted to meet us, rather talk us out of this trek but Nithya and I never gave up.

We had our names on the Confirmation list :D We were super excited as this was our first experience, also it was a night trek. After all the hype that Guru gave we wanted to face the big challenge that was awaiting us.

The day before the trek, guru called us and insisted us to come to the beach for a physical test. Priyanka also accompanied us. He made us walk till the sea and back to the shore and he timed it. I guess it took 10 minutes approximately for us to finish this task.

Hari picked us up in a Ford Figo at guindy and we all met at Nathan’s café Koyambedu. It was nice to see a group of people who share the same interest. All
of us wanted adventure. I could see it in their eyes. It was only four girls in this group. Guru was kind of skeptical If we girls could cope up with them. Especially me as I was a first timer.

We reached Nagala. Food was distributed. We started the trek. A beautiful snake welcomed us. It was bliss to me! I wanted to see a lot of them but we were

All of us with our torch light on, initially in the order of Mani and Guru in the lead followed by all the four girls followed by Sridhar followed by the rest of
them with Arun and Shankar at the sweep. It was all going fine when suddenly everything went haywire. We were lost!

First trek, night trek, welcomed by a snake, thanks to the rains the trail was all slushy and slippery adding to this all we were lost. What more can someone
looking for an adventurous trip ask more for? 

Initially the situation was quite intense. But our team would never give up! Night trek without being lost would have been a bore. It was the most steepest trail
I have ever seen(err I know it’s my first trek .. so wat? :P) with so many loose rocks , with no idea where it was leading to all the 18 of us with so much of hope to get to the 3rd pool were climbing continuously for which looked like ages. We all hear Guru’s voice telling we’ve almost reached the 3rd pool which ran us all with hope and the pace became faster. We were almost there but err not to the third pool but to the second pool.

We couldn’t halt in the second pool as we were already late. We then reached the third pool. What an amazing sight I must say. This was actually too much
for a first time trekker or at least for me to handle. And I didn’t want the pace to become slow because of me. So, I told Guru that I would halt there as we were expecting the Photography team to come and I would join them and get back . But Mani said “ either all of us are going or all of us stay back”. So I was forced to go further. Every time I thought of climbing further there were butterflies flying in my stomach.

The trail from the third pool to the fourth pool was actually easy. 4th Pool what an amazing place. We halted in the 4th pool. All of us were craving for a cup of
tea, actually anything that is warm. I guess even hot water would have tasted good after a continuous 6 hr trek. The tea powder went missing so we ended
up having nice hot milk prepared by Nithya and Co. People were sleeping like they had not slept for ages. All of us were tired. It just seemed like minutes
since we started to rest I heard Guru telling guys three hour break is over lets start climbing. Again all the butterflies on the earth ere flying happily inside my

As me and Sush started climbing up towards the 5th pool with the team and yes sush was back with full of energy…. I feel it is a bit difficult task to make it,
though I motivated myself to walked along with the team… where is sush? I stared searching for her and finally I can able to hear her voice saying nits… nits
and nits… Amazing experience. Where we stopped in between??? I believe nowhere!!! I can feel that sapient life… with some hope in eyes again started climbing towards 5th pool…. Step by step it is become way to difficult to climb, but managed to climb by holding the branches, uff what to say?? Such a difficult task, we the team still dint gave up… for sure I need to tell about our best shoes, which damaged us a lot… Now we are nearing 4.5th pool… struggled a lot, still we dint gave up, I think that hope made few peoples in the team to get in to the 4.5th pool I can strongly say I entered the 4.5th pool only with the help of Guru and Mani otherwise im not sure…

Now we are entering the 4.5th pool… imagine we can see the sky very near by… Wow Awesome, again the photography started… and we rested there for

We planned to start our trek again, while we keep walking we noticed a pool, felt like its calling us to jump on it and enjoy… come on guys, do u think we will leave that? Oh no!!! we jumped over and had a blast… nice time for almost 2 hours, and we aged the time that it should be 6 as it so we forced ourself to leave the place, again thanks for Mani, Arun, Shankar and Guru for taking care of us. 

We slowly started heading towards 3rd pool with minimal torches, its getting dark and dark, finally managed to reached 3rd pool with help of Guru and Mani.

Everyone is hungry and tried by the time we reached, but still we managed to prepare some upma with the help of wet sticks, and believe me I never struggled sooo much in my lifetime to prepare one upma… but anyways finally upma done with after soo much tears…

Now its time to sleep, but unexpected rain… should I tell about this night?? Oh god!! Pathetic… but i have to tell, as I seen the helping hands who saved my life (Its no one other than my friend Sush, Mani and Guru) Thanks for you three… I still remember only the time I got wheezing, rest the above three gods know what happened…. Again thanks for all of you three guys, after I recovered I only felt that the organizer Guru is not only treated us as a co-trekkers as he also become a doctor at the point!! Special thanks for you Guru… Always salute u three guys, after getting wet in10 to 12 hours continuous rain the next day starts here fresh!! Fresh and fresh…

We finally refreshed and started for next day trek, now slowly started moving… I don’t know how others felt but for sure me and sush were very tired and
now we felt that we need a sleep, but still we managed to walk, oh here…. CTC photography team, here we all took one pic… and shared little experience with them and again continued to start our trek.

I think the more I started speaking with the people is the time I left… im sorry my dear friends!!

Now its time to say bye to our dear friends…. we miss you all, though we been with you guys for 2 days but everyone as a perfect human we all helped each other without ego, and we all shared our happiness and sorrows together….

Thanks for you all my dear friends!!! Amazing gang… thanks a ton for Guru for this amazing trek.
Meet the gang soon!!!!

Nachiketa (Regular CTC Trekker)

Nocturnal Nagala

Wow, where do I start?? Do I start with getting lost at 3 AM? Getting drenched and being unable to sleep at night? Going off the trail at random places to explore and changing the plan every hour? Going 56 hours without sleep? Discovering a hithero untouched pool? Or the divine upma at the camp? I cannot decide which of these moments was the best, for this trek had everything.

It all began at 10:30 PM on Friday night at Nathan's cafe.After being picked up by Gayatri and driving through some pretty intense traffic, Guru greeted us all at the aforementioned meeting point. Handshakes, form signatures and disclaimers were done and despatched with in little time and at 11:30 PM we were on our way, enthusiastic and upbeat. The drive to Nagala itself was pretty uneventful, livened up by Guru's banter and Gayatri's driving. On the way, Shankar managed to overtake the lead car in his Scorpio, an act which incensed Guru to no extent. Out stepped our guide to give him a tongue lashing. What was said can best remain between them, but Shankar never dared to overtake anyone again. And soon enough we reached Nagala and got ready to trek. Thanks to the recent rains, the trail was full of slush and mud, rocks were slippery and the trees full of cold water.

No sooner had we started from the parking spot when we had our first encounter with a viper! It quickly slithered away before the stunned trekkers could take their cameras out. A little later on we saw a bull frog, big as a cat. Again, as with our previous experience with the local wildlife, it hopped away from us. Within the hour, we had hit the trail and looked forward to some serious trekking. Guru, as ever, kept our spirits high with his chatter.

And then we got lost.

Somewhere enroute to Pool 2 we had missed a turn and by the time we had realised it, we were stranded on a steep ledge midway down a cliff, just as the sun was beginning to rise. But to be fair, trekking in the dark and navigating by the sound of the stream alone can be very very tough. A scary descent and some searching later, we discovered that we had arrived at Pool 2! Unfortunately, we were also very late and running behnd schedule. Undeterred we trekked on till pool 3 where we had a short ten minute break, before climbng ahead to pool 4. It had taken us six hours to get here. It was decided that we would take a break at Pool 4 and eat breakfast. Out came the utensils and the Cream buns that were packed. We got a fire up and running and water put on to boil. And the began the search for the tea packet. We looked here, we looked there, we looked every where, but it was nowhere to be found. The search grew desperate, bags were opened and turned inside out. Still no tea! So we did the next best thing and dumped all the milk powder and sugar into the pot  and had excellent Pal Khova in the bargain. Due to the presence of many inexperienced trekkers in our midst the one hour break was extended to three and a half hours. And so began another climb. Half way through the climb we arrived at a most scenic ledge overlooking a great view of the valley of the stream. After taking the customary photos, we set off again. We decided to change the plan and go on an exploratory trek instead!

We climbed constantly and made a turn every few minutes.Having been fascinated by the waterfall at pool 4 we decided to see what was at the very top of the falls. The climbing was steep, and tough. In some places, the climb was near vertical but we persevered, losing our grip but never losing heart. Even Sushmita, a first timer who was finding it tough, made the extra effort needed and after 2 hours of tough climbing, we reached a rocky out cropping and took time off for lunch. Never had chappathis and tomato pickle tasted that good! Amidst all this, we had a warm round of applause for Sushmita and Priyanka. Tremendous of them to have made it that far.  After finishing with lunch , we climbed down in the direction of the stream and were pleasantly surprised at the beautiful pool that awaited us! The pool was very shallow, only about one feet deep at the very edge and was situated directly above the falls at pool 4. What a beautiful spot that was. Upstream of that was another pool. It was immediately christened pool 4.5 and off we went to swim in it. Oh, the joy of cool water on worn feet!! Lying in that pool was pure bliss. A beautiful view awaited us at the very edge of the pool just before the water plunged down the cliff into pool 4. I must remark that most of us enjoyed ourselves so much on this trek that we just forgot about cameras and photography! Just taking in the sights with our eyes was enough to ensure that every memory would stay as fresh as any photograph.

After a couple of hours of lazing around in the pools, we decided to head back. Again a climb back up to the lunch spot ensued. Even though descending to the pool took the better part of ten minutes, I managed to climb up in two minutes flat. I was surprised at my speed and felt proud. We descended again and this time maintained a steady pace even though some of us fell back. Regrouping halfway to pool three, we made it back to our designated camp spot in fading light.

The menu for that night was Upma. And so we got about preparing a fire, collecting dry twigs to burn and setting the water to boil. Thanks to the recent rains, there was precious little firewood to be found. A little ghee added to the twigs soon caught fire though. And then the water was set to boil. Nithya took it upon herself to prepare the Upma and dutifully sat through the smoke and heat for the better part of two hours. But the upma never thickened! To hungry trekkers this was a little too much time and we pounced on Upma soup even before it had come to a boil! Who knows, maybe we have invented a new award winning five star dish! But even as we skimmed the water off the top, the rava at the bottom had started to thicken. Dripping with ghee, it was the best upma I've ever had in my life. Appreciation for Nithya and her cooking skills are in order! Our bellies full, we finally lay down to sleep.

And then it started to pour.

And it poured and poured and poured all through out the night. For 8 hours. What to do? What to do? Quickly we wrapped ouselves in the tarpoulin and lay huddled together on on top of each other to try and catch a few winks of sleep. Alas, it was to no avail. The water seeped in from all sides. The cold was biting and our muscles were cramped. Water, water, everywhere and not a spot that was dry! Sometimes I thought I was sleeping in a lake. I do not remember how I passed the night. Every time I caught a few winks of sleep a ice-cold finger of water down my neck would wake me up. Theja and Shankar actually spent the night awake sitting under a rain coat. Theja later told me that he heard snores from our part of the camp. I wonder how anyone slept in that rain! On the other side of the camp, things were worse. Nithya had woken up in the middle of the night wheezing for breath. Thanks to some quick thinking by Mani and Guru, she managed to get some breath back. The morning never seemed to come. Finally at five thirty everyone decided that they had had enough of the rain and the camp and decided to make a move. The movement was necessiated by the fact that it was deadly cold and the only way to warm ourselves up was to trek hard and fast and intensely. Quickly we broke camp and set out on the trail. The rest of the journey was uneventful. As we came back out of the woods, we met another group of trekkers out on a photography trek and exchanged stories with them about the rain and it's aftermath. After posing for a couple of group pics, we set off to the parking spot and reached the cars at around 10:30-11 AM, tired but with superb memories and stories to tell.  

A big thanks to Manimaran, Gurumurthy, Arun, Shankar and all others for making this trek my best so far.

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Nasreen Basu on: August 25, 2014 at 4:03 PM said...

awful piece of information, I had come to know about your blog from my friend vimal, mumbai,i have read atleast 13 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your blog gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanks a million once again, Regards, upma recipe


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