SWETHA WRITE UP
My first trek with CTC: Two friends of mine and I had set our minds to be a part of a two day trek to Nagala West organised by CTC and registered. I had a brief conversation with Senthil, the organiser about the trek and was anxious to meet all my fellow trekkers. We reached koyembadu on the night of December 2nd and found some other people standing there with their trekking gear and introduced ourselves. I was amazed at the actual number of people who displayed interest towards treks. And I later found out that most of them had considerate experience with the activity. In fact, their dexterity thrilled me. After a brief conversation, we headed in our car towards Nagala. Throughout the journey, my spirits were high and I couldn’t wait to set foot at the famous trekking range. My first step out of the car was before the break of dawn. So, I couldn’t appreciate the formidable beauty that is Nagala but I could feel the chilly breeze and the temperature drop down. We soon began the preparatory activities for commencing the trek and split the food items and common gear. The organisers recognised my inexperience and advised me not to carry additional weight other than the essentials that I had already brought with me in my bag. At this point I didn’t really foresee that my bag will win the contest for the heaviest bag later, in spite of there being no common gears in it! We marched towards the forest using our torches to lead the way (that is without considering the dog that decided to take the lead!). The path started out flat and gradually the incline increased. I could feel the heat, the pull of my muscles and the sweat trickling down, my foot twisted below the ankle every time I stepped on a rock, but the enthusiasm of my fellow trekkers caught on to me and kept me going. To add to that, the sound of the water flowing as a stream wrenched my heart. It was too dark to see the water flow, but its rhythmic pattern calmed my nervousness. Mother Nature surely had her effect. After a climb for almost 2 hours, we reached pool 3.
It coincided with the break of dawn. Oh what a sight to see! The waterfall was boisterous and as white as snow. My fellow trekkers took chances and jumped off the ledge into the pool for a swim. It made me want to follow their lead in spite of being exhausted. With some trepidation, I prepared to take my first leap into the pool, with hands stretched above my head pointed towards water, legs slipping off the ground and then came the splash of the cold water against my face. While we enjoyed the swim in the pool, the volunteers seamlessly went about preparing breakfast, and not just one dish, but a good spread of tea, upma and noodles. They were just as tired as most of us, but the enthusiasm with which they set to work with the cooking pots was commendable. I felt a pinch of guilt, considering that women are conditioned to cook for the men, in our case it was vice versa. But I surely did enjoy the royalty, cause how many times do we get a chance to relax by a flowing stream, with a steaming cup of tea and upma ! Thanks to the organisers. The next phase of the trek was the scariest for me. Crossing pool 3 was tricky.
We had to hang on to the handholds in the rock and stick to the walls of the boulders, and a fall from there meant a clear slide down back into the pool and if not lucky a hit on the head or an injury to the bones was guaranteed. While fighting against these scary thoughts flooding my mind, my legs began to shake. But Senthil, Arun and the others encouraged me to move forward. They offered to carry my bag, and I have to mention this again it was the heaviest bag of the lot. They gave me a hand when I was struck with fear and could not put one leg in front of the other. We steadily climbed our way towards pool 5 crossing pool 4. We had to encounter a bad route, where there were loose rocks. I surely could not have made it up the hill if not for the support of my fellow trekkers, Vikram, Ajith, Bala, Senthil, Arun (forgive me if I have failed to mention some other names). Their attitude and their funny remarks were of immense help. Finally after a lot of huffing and puffing, not to mention getting lost, we reached a peak and had to trek downwards to pool 5. The sounds of the distant waterfall kept my feet moving. It was quite remarkable to observe the effects of the sight and sound of water flowing on my senses. I was scared for dear life when I trekked up and down to pool 5, but was pepped up to jump into the pool, at the very minute I set my eyes on it. Following an arduous trip up the hills of Nagala, we camped at pool 5 and laid our heads by the stream for a nap.
Pure bliss was exactly my sentiment at that point. To be present amidst the woods and in the presence of flowing stream felt surreal. We then lazed around, chit chatting and getting acquainted with the fellow trekkers. Again the volunteers gather up for a fresh session of cooking. Arun, with his bandana made out of a towel, and Senthil by the fire making Maggie, and a few others chopping onions for the biriyani, the crew was working in full swing. The ease with which they went about their tasks was fascinating. We relished the result of their hard work, a bowl of soup and biriyani. The taste was impeccable. As the night fell, it was time for some sleep after a hard day of physical activity. We found a spot, a little secluded from the camp site, but surely beautiful, and nestled in our sleeping bags while the stream sang its lullaby. I woke up in the morning to the sight of the sky only visible through a cover of leaves and branches. It was the break of dawn and I couldn’t have imagined opening my eyes to a more picturesque sight. We then headed back down to the camp site. The agenda for the morning was to climb up to the 800 meter peak. Considering the laborious trek up, I decided to conserve my energy for the rest of the day and saw the group off. Later, a couple of my fellow trekkers and me trekked to a view point to get a glimpse of the peek that the group had headed off to. The view point has a striking similarity to the den of Simbha the lion king. We clicked a few pictures to capture the moment and departed just in time to catch up with the group returning from the peek. We also managed to hide away from a swarm of bees! On our return to the camp site, we prepared to clear the place and trek back down to base camp. But not before we had another dose of food the chefs of the group had prepared. In the meantime, caught by the beauty of the water fall we decided to climb the boulders and sit right at the break of the water fall for a little fun. Being a first time trekker, I was hesitant to climb the boulders, as it was slippery. But Arun and Baranidharan helped me up the rock, and later Rakesh lent his shoulders for me to climb up the waterfall to the source. I was filled with wonderment at their attitude.
They had their fun but made sure they shared it too. The climb down was not as time consuming or hard as the trek up. I should mention that my fellow trekker Easakimuthu, Nachiketha and Vikram were inspiring and supportive. They offered to guide me by my hand when I needed it and Easakimuthu even let me step on his foot to climb up the boulders near pool 3. I could not appreciate their help more. Their readiness to aid and their humour deserves a mention. Thought we managed to have our fun, take a few risks and walk down safely, Ajith, my friend and a fellow trekker, has sprained his leg. The organisers were kind enough and rushed to his help.
They motivated and supported him in his climb down. At last, we reached pool 2, where another group comprising kids, grown up and others were enjoying a swim. We joined in for a dip. And, ‘cause leisure meant savouring it with pop corn, our chefs entertained up with hot pop corn and a smile. Having reached the final leg of the trek, we moved from pool 2 to the base camp. In this process I had noticed that Senthil has trekked down from pool 5 wearing only a pair of Rubber Sandles. He would climb up or down a boulder with ease of a caveman and reach before all of us to lead the way. Also, he was the one who carried my bag all through the trek. His strength and attitude was stimulating. We exited the dense forest of Nagala and stopped by the cave temple to offer our thanks to the almighty for bringing us all back safe. Unfortunately, Ajith couldn’t walk back to his car, so Balaji was kind enough to drive down to rescue Ajith, Senthil and me back to our cars. We parted on our respective ways after a session where we introduced ourselves and posed for a group shot. We said our goodbyes to the wild, formidable and boisterous Nagala which is quite the beauty, avowing to return in good time.