Excellent Write up from Ramesh
Everyone assembled at Koyambedu amidst all the Traffic and confusion about who are last minute Drop outs. The assembling session started at about 20:00 hours and went on till about 21:30 hours. On assembling, the first item in the Agenda, that is Attendance and the Collection of Money was done by Account Aditya. This guy not only appeared to be experienced in his job, but also proved it by his efficiency.
After all this was over, then some of us got introduced to each other and the others just let things go by and waited for an opportune moment to Break the Ice. Some of the Trekkers already knew each other and were reminiscing their old Treks together and looked very comfortable. Some were looking forward to the Adventure with calmness and exhilaration whilst others were with trepidation.
The best part was the organising the cars and finalising who will go in which car. This was efficiently handled by the Organrisers oops Organisers.
Finally at about 21:45 one by one the cars started moving towards the destination of Tada and on everyone’s mind was Food. Calls were flying from one car to the other with the one question in mind – FOOD WHERE? The lead car was driven by Kishhore and he is a fast and good driver. But, some of the cars found out that he was way too fast for them and were lost in Traffic. To catch up with them we had to stop atleast about 3 times to regroup and finally we all stopped at Redhills near a Parotta stall which in the hunger we were in looked inviting. This was at about 22:45 hours and by this time I felt that there was no need to Trek to have leg pain, as the traffic was so heavy that just driving gave pain in the leg. But unfortunately, the nearest inviting Parotta stall was ignored and we had to trek through dense traffic and mud laden roads to reach a small Vallar eating house. Luckily, this house had enough to feed our entire group of 38 much to their wished with good Parottas and Dosas. After our group finished the dinner, the owner was ready to close the shop which presumably he had decided to keep it open till probably 23:30 hours as there was no food left to feed any hungry soul that he would come across.
At about 00:40 hours we arrived at what was presumably the Camp point. For first timers to Tada, it was in the midst of nowhere and there was only the sound of the nocturnal creatures. This was an ideal place and with the Moon being nearly full, it was one of most endearing places to stay as we could hear water gushing in the stream. Immediately on arrival the large Tarpaulin was spread on the ground and anyone with a covering sheet could take any place to sleep on that. But for people like me who could not do much packing as there was some last minute crisis in the office which kept me occupied till the last minute and had to leave without the most important Bed sheet. So I slept in the car and I was joined by Alwin and Kishore Prabhu. The snoring of Kishore was like a lullaby and slowly I meandered to sleep for about 3 hours. I got up with a jerk at about 04:40 hours as is usual on any day and prepared to use the fresh ground for my morning ablutions. That done, feeling a sense of relief and expectation, went to where the main group was sleeping and was surprised to see quite a few guys up and moving about.
The organisers were in the mood of the final preparation and were making plans about who will carry what. Then it was time to get the tea shop going and it was left to Masu to light the fire. Fire wood collection was in full swing then, with Masu urging everyone to find dry wood. This was an onerous task as it was the dew which was the culprit in keeping the top surface of any piece of wood wet and thereby not allowing it to burn well. But, the camphor did the trick and there was a fire for the tea pot as well as for a bonfire to keep everyone’s teeth chattering like a typewriter under the fingers of an expert. I do not know of how many in the group know about a typewriter let alone even seen one. Another group went in search of neem trees to make good toothbrushes as is the wont of the organisers as it was announced no one should use toothpaste. Everyone brushed their teeth with neem I suppose. Maybe some skipped it for the sake of being truly being with nature.
It was at this time, that the Motor mouth Sanker (Sanker, excuse me for the usage)started with a roar in his car to buy Breakfast and everyone flagged him off wishing him good luck. Even before the din of ‘Good luck’ died, he as off in a flash as if he had not eaten anything for quite sometime and he wanted to very badly.
With this done and everyone fairly heated up, the trek was about to start. It is at this time that Prem felt that two pieces of rope will be very useful for any emergency. Everyone was surprised at the mention of rope and some of them with a feeling of dread about the prospect to have to use it. It was left to me to cut the rope into two pieces of about 10 metres each and seal the ends in the fire by slightly heating it in the embers and then dipping it in the nearby stream. Having prepared the two pieces, carrying one of the ropes became my responsibility as Prem very sweetly asked me in such a way that he would not take ‘NO’ for an answer. It was at this time, that the Breakfast arrived, which was Idlis and Vadas. Since, the organisers had received negative feedback about the quantity last time they, were very generous this time and for some of us it was felt that the quantity was a bit too much. But for everyone, who felt was a large parcel at the start of the trek, turned out to be morsel of food at the end of ascent.
The cars started purring along the way and thru dirt roads and pathways with only small stones which were making each car to trek its way to the Main car park. After reaching the Main car park, which brought memories of my previous visit to the Tada falls about two decades ago, everyone parked their cars in a very orderly manner. After this was done, last minute orders from the organisers were creating a bit of confusion when I looked at it from the outside, but, after getting in the midst of it, felt that it was creating clarity amongst everyone. So far so Good.
Then we started walking towards the I guessed to be start point of the trek, but after sometime realised that the trek has already started. First we crossed a stream with a small foot overbridge over it, and peering down, saw that the water was clear and felt like taking a dip and then proceeding further. My prayers were answered when we came across a stream without a foot over bridge. From far expecting the water to be bit deep atleast till waist high, looking forward to the morning dip, was disappointed to see that the water was only till the calf muscle level. Anyway, decided to remove my shoe as I did not want it wet right at the start of the trek itself. This crossed, then we came across a dense foliage, I would not call it a dense forest, where we left the beaten path and started our ascent uphill. Prem and Masu were leading from the front, Sanker was in the middle and the sweepers were Kishore and Vinod. This was the way till the end of the Trek with only Sanker sometimes moving a bit up the line and down the line.
The ascent was gradual to start with and then picked up gradient as we went along further and further. Some of the companions felt the going tough and felt the need for an accelerated stop session. This was also accentuated by the fact that there was not much of tree cover and we were left to the vagaries of the morning sun bearing down on. But at this stage, it is felt that the organisers of any trek should take care of the starting trouble every trekker – experienced or regular or occasional or fit – faces about 15 minutes after the start. This is because of the fact that everyone is high strung when they are going into the unknown and are having a war with self doubt etc. This period once it passes and the organisers give an assurance, then everyone can see even the weakest of all trekkers easily taking on the challenge with a smile. This rest is not essential for trekkers who have already taken the particular route before and are familiar with the terrain.
Some of the trekkers who could not but follow the ancient jeep trail, felt that it was more of a bike trail. I have my own doubts whether during the period when we are talking about, jeeps were built to ascend this steep tracks. But, definitely bikes were built for this and I have personal experience about the same. By now some of the more agile ones were not following the jeep trail, but were cutting across and making quick time and were always ahead.
At the first point of stop, on everyone’s lips was the only question how long will this torture continue. Prem and Masu were very patient and explained that it was only about 15 minutes to the top and we are home. Personally felt that they were pulling a fast one which proved correct later. Our first serious stop was at the lookout point in the fort which was nothing but a space flat enough to house two men with possibly a machine gun or some sort of fire arm to defend themselves. After some photograph sessions, we again started towards what Prem described to be the best water fall and dipping location in these parts. The final location looked as if it was far into a distant galaxy, but Masu assured that it is not so. Somehow felt he was not pulling a fast one this time and felt reassured. Immediately after the start from the first major stop, came across a steep and slippery rock face with not much of a tree or root hold or even small crevices on the rock. It was quiet smooth and if not for the softness of the behind and the absolute absence of any flat ground immediately after the rock slide, many would have slid their way down, but were denied the pleasure. With deftness known only to goats, Prem and few others easily were down before anyone could even take this slope and be down and out. But, everyone took this step by step and no one was left with a sprained or twisted ankle.
We crossed a dry stream which was pointed out by Prem as one of the points that we will cross during our descent. The place looked decent with lots of tree cover and coolness. But the absence of water stopped some to have stopped there for a longer time. They were enticed by Masu by tales of the waterfall and the pool which we will be reaching in no time. Finally we reached the water fall and the pool after about 3:30 hours from the start. Everyone who have been there are blessed souls to experience such freshness in the water and the surroundings. After about 2:30 hours of dipping themselves and indulging in all sorts of tumbling and turning in the water, Prem decided it was time for one of the most important points in the agenda – LUNCH. As is the wont, all packets of sugar, aval, chips, pakoda and the all important garlic and tomato pickle was collected. Food was nothing but, water soaked aval mixed with sugar and with chips and pakoda on the sides. I was entrusted with the job of distributing chips and pakoda and felt that I made everyone happy. The food tasted like as if it was amirtham directly from the heavens as we were possibly the closes bunch of humans than many in the locale to receive it fastest.
After a siesta in the hot sun, we started our descent into the unknown with Prem asked for the rope I was carrying at a particular point informing that it will be required now as we were descending a twenty foot drop with no hold. But to his amazement everyone who came down did not use the rope at all. At the start of the trek he had informed, that the rope is required only in one location of the descent and everyone felt the worst was over. But, to the chagrin of many, after about 30 minutes, we reached a spot where Prem and Masu first descended to ascertain the slope. Here the progress was slow and it was the location where indeed both the pieces of rope came in very handy. Here, Sanker and Vinod were called for assistance by Prem and Masu. It was a sight to see both Prem and Masu standing in a small piece of rock which was just sufficient to keep two pairs of legs and were also collecting luggage from everyone and also helping some who needed it. Here the progress was very slow and the wait was making things worse. It will be easy to just face an obstacle and get on with it rather than wait imagining it endlessly.
I was explaining to a fellow trekker that by keeping your mind calm and free from all sorts of doubts which assail you, it will be tough but easy to tackle any sort of obstacle during a trek as solutions will flow just like that. But, on the other hand if you view it with self doubts, then you are sure to make a mistake to regret it later.
After this was over, some of them decided to have a dip in the lower water fall as well whilst some felt enough was enough and wanted to get back. Hence, the group was split into two and went about their way. On the way back, almost everyone took a dip in the shallow stream and changed into a fresh dresses. This was welcome as otherwise it would have been very difficult to sit in the cars on the way back. Finally, at about 20:30 hours curtains were dropped as far as the trek was concerned, but, there was one item left on the agenda which was a sumptuous dinner promised by Prem and Masu. Only a few left early without food due to some reason only know to them.
The dinner locale was just after the check post which was a Punjabi Dhaba, but owned by a Mallu and manned by non Punjabis. Everyone was treated to an endless supply of the best of the rotis, chicken curry, omelette and boiled eggs. Even after everyone had their fill, still Prem and Masu were eating and were unabashed about it. Looking back, was reminiscing my younger days when I could match them in gluttony.
Finally reached Chennai by about 12:00 midnight and finally crashed to bed by about 01:00 hours after lots of scrubbing and cleaning which woke up my wife with the comment that I was wasting water and next time, I come back from a trek to carry back sufficient water to cleanse myself