The surprising Nagala trek By Hungry wolves, Nov 12-13

Thursday, November 24, 2011

After the successful completion of the trek, now its time for a wonderful writeup..:)

Write up by Brandon( An experienced US trekker, but a fresher in CTC) - 

On the second weekend of November, seven intrepid souls set out from Chennai to the Eastern
Ghat trekker’s playground near Nagalapuram, Andhra Pradesh. Driving in the night through dust choked
roads, stopping only for tea along the way, we were grateful to reach the small village of TP Kottai
where we began our trek. We parked our Maruti in a field at the edge of the village and our sole
scooter in the compound of an accommodating villager. A crowd of smiling and inquisitive children
quickly gathered around us as we prepared our packs and distributed food. It must have seemed
strange to them to see this band of city-dwellers set out for the rugged hills for no apparent reason. In
any case, that reason dwelled prominently in all of our minds. Just a few kilometers into those hills lay
crystal clear pools, waterfalls, deep gorges, and mountain peaks offering unparalleled views of the
countryside. Our sense of adventure was kindled by the uncharted and untested route ahead of us.
Our plan was to cross Nagala from East to West loosely following a stream.

We began walking down a road leading from the village to the mountain range beyond. The
road wound through fields and past irrigation canals until we came to the temple where the trail began.
Once we passed a dam, the trail started to ascend and become steep. Our efforts were rewarded by
beautiful views of the valley below.

It wasn’t long before we located the cool mountain stream which was to serve as our
navigational aid. After hopping around the streambed boulders for a while we came upon a small
waterfall offering us an opportunity to bathe before the rest of our grueling day. The rushing water
pounded on our weary muscles like a sort of massage, giving us renewed vigor. Shortly thereafter, the
trail seemed to end in a deep pool formed by the increasingly narrow gorge. I took off my pack to swim
through the slot canyon in an attempt to see whether we could continue along the stream. The water
was deep, and our chief navigator Vipin informed me that a waterfall made following the stream any
further impossible. I was a little shocked to realize that we would have to scale the side of the gorge to
bypass the waterfall. I’ve done some climbing, but only with plenty of protective gear, a harness, and
grippy climbing shoes. Free-climbing with a twenty pound pack and hiking boots presented a new
challenge that I wasn’t sure I could withstand. We started by using the strong jungle vines as ropes
guiding us up the ridge. After a few hundred feet, the vines stopped offering their aid and we continued
by using trees and crooks in the rocks as holds. The climb was exhausting and I would have panicked if
not for the help offered by the more agile climbers. I rapidly drank most of my water supply due to the
taxing route and the heat beating down on the exposed rocks. The camaraderie of our group ensured
that everyone in our group made it to the top of the ridge safely. When I reached the top I felt a deep
sense of accomplishment for doing something that I didn’t think I was capable. I also remember
thinking that Vipin and Nobal, the veteran trekkers in our group, made Bear Grylls look like a girl scout.
They were able to climb any precipice with ease, and were instrumental in helping neophytes like me.


 A thrilling climbing video :

Catching my breath at the top of the ridge, I looked down at my feet and realized that the soles
of my hiking boots had fallen apart. The Vibram soled boots had carried me through many treks in the
last nine years, but I guess this was just one trip too many. Once again the remarkable camaraderie of
our group averted what could have been a disaster. Nobal offered to let me use his Merrell hiking
shoes. I felt bad for depriving Nobal of his shoes, but he assured me that he would be fine trekking the
rest of the way in chappals. After a few more kilometers of trekking, it was clear that Nobal was quite
adept at hiking in any kind of footwear. Trekking in such conditions would be unheard of in the United
States, where I’m from; but I saw trekkers in chappals and bare feet throughout that weekend. Maybe
Americans have especially soft feet.



We made our way down the other side of the ridge, our feet sliding and our hands carefully
gripping trees to make the steep descent. About midway down the gorge, the thorn forests became
thicker. The thorns tore into our skin like Velcro strips of hypodermic needles, but still we pressed on.
Finally we arrived at our familiar friend, the stream. I felt like kissing the ground I was so grateful to be
off that treacherous sun-drenched hill. We followed the stream for what seemed like an eternity.
Frequently, I would look ahead and see what I thought was the end of our ascent up the streambed.
Light would shine through the trees and the trail appeared to start going downhill. This proved to be
only an illusion, but I was reassured along the way by Nobal (who had now taken up the role as the
shepherd herding the less nimble flock) who said this leg of the journey would end soon.


It soon became apparent that my pack was not well adapted to Indian trekking conditions.
Specifically, it was about 15 pounds too heavy. In America, trails are wide, improved with dirt or
pebbles, and never at too steep a grade. Consequently, trekkers pack their bags full of fancy gadgets
which allow you to bring a miniaturized version of home into the wilderness. It’s common for pack
weights to reach 40-50 pounds. In India, there simply are no maintained trails. Climbs up mountains go
straight up and the exposed rocks which form the trails make each step precarious. I was warned to
pack light, and I thought my 20 pound bag would suffice, but I just had the wrong perspective on what
constitutes “light”. If you are reading this and considering a trek in South India (I would recommend
going with the CTC), I cannot stress enough that you need to pack extremely light. Consider whether
each ounce is essential. A trekker with a proper light pack will jump from rock to rock like a mountain
goat, while those with heavy packs will stumble and lurch their way to a sprained ankle or worse. I was
getting so fatigued by the difficult trail and heavy pack that I wasn’t sure if I could safely continue. I was
feeling the signs of dehydration despite drinking ample water and my vision was starting to blur and
spin. Again, the camaraderie of the group saved me. The supremely capable Vipin volunteered to carry
my pack for the climb up the rest of the streambed and up to the Central peak. Switching to Vipin’s
ultralight pack immediately helped my condition and I was making my way up to the Central Peak with
relative ease.

At the top of the Central Peak, we watched the sun set on the valley below. It was a gratifying
reward to the day’s hard work. After resting for about fifteen minutes, we turned on our torches and
headlamps and made our way to the campsite.

The climb down the peak to the campsite was riddled with steep sections of rocks. When we
arrived at camp, everyone was weary and hungry for dinner. I helped set up the sleeping tarp and then
sat around the fire where magic noodles (or ramen noodles) were cooking. I don’t think magic noodles
have ever tasted so good. With full stomachs and aching feet, we went to bed.

The next day the plan was to follow a stream to the Western side of the forest. This proved to
be much easier than the hiking we did the first day. Some indefatigable trekkers (Vipin, Nobal, and Fazul

if my memory serves me right) climbed an especially rugged peak to get some clear morning views, but I
rested at the bottom of that peak at a pool with a waterfall. I took a long swim in the cool water and
then we made lunch on the rocks. My comrades were insistent that I try some of the curry and
chapathis and I am happy to report that it was delicious. Indian food lends itself to trekking in a way
that American food cannot (try making hamburgers and pizza in the backcountry). When the climbers
rendezvoused with us at the bottom of the mountain, we began to follow the stream to the end of our


The homeward stretch followed a fairly well-trodden trail along the sides of a narrow gorge
which became impassable several times at waterfalls and deep pools. We had to make short climbs up
the side of the gorge to get around these points. At the third pool we met up with some fellow
CTC’ers on a freshers trek starting from the West. They appeared to be having a great time bathing in
the pools; splashing water at each other and swimming to the falls.

We took one last swim in the second pool, where I found a nice rock that allowed me to stand in
the water while a waterfall rushed over my head and shoulders. From there we made our way out of
the forest and back to a village north of Nagalapuram.


I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made on this trek. The guys on this trek were people that you
could trust in the most difficult of situations. Everyone cheerfully helped each other and consequently
everyone had an enjoyable experience. I’ve expanded my understanding of the things that I can
accomplish physically. Although it was a harrowing and difficult experience, it was worth the challenge.
Once I let my feet recover from this trek, and adjust my gear for South Indian conditions, I look forward
to my next CTC trek



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