The mission started at the Eastern side of Nagalapuram, near the village of TP Kotta. Instead of following the usual Eastern entry stream, the team proceed further North through plantations to reach the base of the 600m Nagala East plateau. From there the team climbed up along a ridge over rough terrain in search for an ancient jeep trail running from the Eastern to the Western plains. Unfortunately we were unable to find back the jeep track as it was most probably totally eroded and absorbed by weather and forest over a long period of time.
Once we reached the top of the 600m Eastern plateau we descended along a small stream running on top of the mountain. The stream runs down to a majestic 300m vertical falls above the magic pool. From the top of the falls one is treated on awesome views of the entire Nagala range seeing the central 800m peak straight ahead of us.
Just before the point where the water drops down, the exploration team discovered a beautiful pool and took a well deserved dip in the crystal clear water to wash away the sweat of the initial tough climb in the morning. There is a spacious flat area near the pool covered by shady forest which forms an ideal camping site for a moderate two day trek.
After finishing lunch the historical mission resumed by climbing down from the 600m high plateau on the Western side above the valley which leads to the side-stream which joins behind the deadend pool. The team struggled in scaling the steep slope sprinkled with loose rocks, long grass and thorny bushes still unable to find any trace of the ancient Nagala East-West road... And then... suddenly... we unexpectedly hit upon the road - a clear 4m wide track, gently descending from East to West.
At many places monsoons and landslides had narrowed the original road down to just a walkable trail. At times it was hard to miss it where the road went through dense vegetation along the side-streams flowing down the slope. We noticed that the trail was still used by the locals for commuting through the mountains. The location of the road was perfectly matching that on the Soviet maps so we knew we were on the right track. As the night fell and we discovered a small dripping stream nearby we decided to call it a day and set up camp.
Hot, soupy noodles were prepared using the new "stove" made by Nagin - the smallest one we used so far made from a coke can. Thanks to the many members who gave various suggestions towards different stove models to heat food. Soon the explorers were deep asleep under the cover of the night with a few stars peeking through the clouds above.
As day 2 was dawning the team slowly woke up to the smell of hot South Indian tea, all excited to uncover more remains of civilization hidden deep inside Nagala. We initially followed along the East-West road until we reached a saddle (origin of the side-stream leading to the deadend pool) from where we dipped down into a new Western valley of Nagala. The climb down was quite steep but offered beautiful views on the steep slopes leading to the Tada plateau in front of us.
Down in the valley the jeep track appeared again and was still being used by the local villages to collect wood from the forest. 4 explorers exited at this point for various reasons - some physically, some mentally. The remaining 22 souls bravely climbed up from the plains at 100m altitude along a very steep trail to the top of a 500m high hill where we discovered a few huts used by the locals to overnight.
From these huts we followed a trail on top of the hill which lead us towards the joining point of two smaller streams draining the Western slopes of Nagala. Here we made an amazing discovery - an ancient temple built with rocks hidden inside the jungle in which we found a beautiful 2m high statue carved out of a solid rock
We found another trail leading down the mountain alongside the streams to the villages at the Western plains. Using this trail it would be possible to reach this place in less then 2 hours. Nearby the temple we found a beautiful multi-stage pool connected by various falls. After the intense climb the group was more then happy to jump in the cool water and receive a wonderful massage beneath the falls.
After some intense splashing, diving, swimming it was time for lunch again. Soon after we started following upstream to reach the top of the Tada plateau. Once on top we found a small trail which allowed us to proceed from the Western to the Eastern side of the plateau. While we were approaching the 774m peak at the Eastern side (the Soviet map indicated an outpost here) we suddenly struck upon a jeep trail again.
As we followed the jeep track the GPS clearly showed that we were moving towards the 774m peak marked in the Soviet maps. We were all excited what we might discover near this peak which offers a perfect watch point over the Bay of Bengal. Suddenly we found old ruins of several buildings half destroyed by age and overgrown by the forest.
The group spread out to explore the surrounding area to see if we could find any further buildings are clues as to its origin. Lying nearby we found a big rectangular stone indicating the date of the building - 1913!!! We had just discovered the remains of a nearly one century old out post near one of the highest peaks in the Tada plateau.
Most likely - as I had indicated earlier - the out post might have been built by the British as a place from where they could look over the Bay of Bengal from a high altitude for incoming enemy ships. As we climbed up further near the exact location of the 774m peak on the Soviet map we discovered another small building offering and excellent view on the Eastern plains from the vertical slope. Sadly, due to the misty weather we could not see the sea. Nearby we again found a few stones with engravings on them. We puzzled the pieces together and discovered the building to be from Jan 1910.
As it was getting late and we had been walking without water for quite a while we decided to move on North towards the famous Tada falls until we could find a suitable campsite near a small stream. On the way again we found remains of the old jeep track which lead to the outpost from the plains nearby the Tada falls. As darkness fell we found a nice flat spot near a stream brimming with water due to the recent rains.
We settled down spreading out our tarpaulin sheets and started preparing our trademark soupy noodles. Some hit the sack early, some enjoyed the evening looking at the moon above, taking pictures of the campfire. Late night a few of us enjoyed a nice cold dip in the stream after which we warmed ourselves again around the fire. The sky was clear this time - no chances of rains.
The next morning the team rose early as the sun was rising over the East. All were excited to explore our third objective - the fort built at the Northern ridge overlooking the Tada falls. After the morning rituals were we soon on our way again heading North. After a while we again discovered fragments of the jeep track suddenly appearing out of the forest. The track here had a hard surface built with rocks and was leading us down at the Eastern side of the ridge along hair pins down to the plains. Built in 1913 we were just wondering what type of vehicles would be moving up along this track...
I figured that it would just be a 2 hour along this jeep trail from the plains to reach the outpost near the 774m hill - a nice moderate trek.... As we wanted to explore the top of the Tada falls we decided to leave the descending jeep track and hop over the ridge to the stream leading towards the falls. Here we found a beautiful crystal clear pool transformed by a sumptuous waterfall into a natural Jacuzzi pool. No need to tell you that soon everyone was diving into this amazing spa.
It was nearly perfect - around noon each of the three days we were treated on an amazing pool to wash away the sweat from our morning climbs and enjoy lunch in a shady, cool spot. After around countless dives and an equal number of clicks of the camera shutter the team was ready to move on to our mission objective for the day. We climbed back upon the Northern ridge and descended until we hit the remains of the fort.
We passed several fortification walls as we climbed down the ridge. We could find an entrance gate and an old circular stone (possible wheel of a canon which used to be present in this location 30 years ago). Other then that we did not find any specific artifacts. Near the edge the hill offering a 270 degree view we could still see the foundations of some watch post but leveled to the ground. This spot offered awesome views on the plains below where we could see the recently built Tada dam.
After a post-lunch siesta in the shade of the walls to escape from the mid-day heat we proceeded our descent till we hit the main Tada stream and tourist trail along the same. We decided to wash away our sweat and tiredness by taking a dip in the surprisingly cold stream near the temple. A small group could not resist to make a quick dash to the base of the majestic 100m high Tada falls which were brimming with water during this wet season.
All good things come to an end. As darkness fell we decided to return to the exit point - the drivers going ahead to retrieve the cars parked 50km away at the other side of the mountain range. It was hard to say goodbye to our natural home to leave back to our concrete offices. While waiting for our vehicles we made a small campfire. Everyone slowly moved closer as the temperature started dropping into the late night. The explorers were staring into the fire while thinking back of those memorable discoveries of the past three days....