CTC's 4th birthday celebration on Venkatagiri peak
Let me just begin by saying this: never did I dream I would have such fun in this trek....We started in the wee hours of the morning of 18th Feb. 10 of us crammed into Shankar's scorpio half asleep, trying to associate names with faces and not quite succeeding. All along the way more people and cars joined us, right up to Venkatagiri, bringing our total count to 29 members in 5 vehicles. Half of us caught up on our sleep during the drive, except for the poor guys driving the cars. So to give them a break we took an hour long halt in the fields where everyone took a short nap and then headed out again to Venkatagiri where we had a hot breakfast of idlis, dosas and bondas (this is where the breakfast scam happened).
Another hours drive from there and we found ourselves in a small village where a guide hopped in with us and agreed to take us to the base of the hill. Half way there we realized the local GPS (guide) had a configuration error (didn’t have a clue what we were talking about) so we had to rush back and switch guides. After we parked our vehicles, divvied-up the common gear for all to carry we set off on the trail, surrounded by cows, which took us right to the edge of the hill. Looking up, a lot of us refused to believe that we were going all the way to the top. We thought the organizers were kidding. No such luck...But kudos to our team despite the fact that the climb was steep and long and a few of the members were freshers, we made it to the top through thorns and loose rocks, huffing and puffing our way through. And all of this was possible only because of the encouragement and help of the other members especially "Popcorn Masu", "Scorpio Shankar" and "Accountant sir Charan" who were there to even carry our luggage when we no longer could and who gave out yells of encouragement to boost our morale. We stopped en route a few times; sometimes to catch a breath and sometimes to eat - to keep our energy up. The last patch was the most difficult of all but we persevered and made it to the top in record time surprising even the organizers. YIPPEE!!!
The peak (which I googled and confirmed is just short of 1000 mtrs, though it seemed much higher at the time) however was pretty dirty where some of the locals had left behind a lot of waste after a night of partying. So the team split up; some helped clean the place up, some others left to collect water for cooking, while the remaining people collected firewood for the night. Then we spent a good hour admiring the view and taking pictures of the sunset. As night set in and it got cold, preparations for dinner began. We had a two course meal of soup followed by "birthday biryani" (delicious by the way). In the middle of the night a few trekkers, who later confessed, committed the popcorn scam :) blaming it on the cold and the snores of a few fellow trekkers for keeping them awake.In the morning everyone woke up refreshed and in great spirits with tea to start the day, followed by a cornflakes breakfast with organic honey (yumm!!). After spending some time bonding and joking around, we started with the task of wrapping up the gear and cleaning up the camp site. All tasks accomplished we walked down a different way to a small clearing a few mtrs short of the peak. The view from this point was even more breath taking. Took a few good picture from this vantage point (including the yet to be famous CTC human chain) and then headed back for the base. Some of the guys split from here to get water for the rest of us (much appreciated).
The climb down was amazing. The steep and narrow steps were right at the edge of the cliff with nothing much to hold on to. The trekkers most of them novices, displayed their nerves of steel. Slowly but steadily we all came down and with just two breaks in between we reached the base singing and posing for pictures along the way. At our last break we had a post trek introduction session in true Emperor style with everyone pulling each others leg and lots of appreciation and laughs.Once we reached the base and loaded up all the gear and personal belongings into the cars we headed for town by 5PM to have a late lunch. Initially it seemed that the lunch was going to turn into a "survival of the fittest" contest because we were all so hungry. But as things settled down and plenty of food was passed around, we all had a delicious meal of chicken 65, fried rice and chicken curry with chappatis. After a stomach full of food, lots of good wishes for our anniversary (thanks guys), promises to stay in touch and catch up on FB, we headed back home to Chennai.
Let me finish this by saying that every scratch, every bruise we endured along the way was TOTALLY WORTH IT.
From Kishore kumar
EMPERORS once again proved that they are the best. No matter where the place is they make the trek exciting and interesting. This is my first trek with CTC. I came to know about this trekking club very recently through my colleague and joined in it immediately. After joining this club, I came to know that CTC is celebrating its 4th birthday in Feb and on this occasion they were conducting some 20+ treks simultaneously in the same weekend. This left me with more choices to choose my first trek. I want this experience to last evergreen in my memory so I spent some days reading post-trek experiences from the CTC web site and finally I chose this trek to Venkatagiri.
Now the Journey begins …
I called Alagappan at 11:30 pm on Friday, he said that he is about to start and that he will pick me up on the way (this point is 10 mins away from my home). So, I started from my home immediately and started walking to that pickup point. Even at that time so many cars were going on and I was eagerly looking at every passing car to see if some car will stop near me to pick me. At the end of 5th minute one car slowed down on the opposite side of the road and the person in it waved his hands towards me. Finally, the journey began after a wait for about 1 month. After introducing each other, we picked Charantej near velechery bus stand and 2 other musketeers at their home in Velechery and headed towards Guindy. We reached Guindy (opp. Toyota showroom) at around 12:00 am and slowly everyone started coming. To cut short, after completing the formalities, 4 cars (Santro, i10, i20, and Scorpio) started our journey to Venkatagiri. On the way, at around 3:00 am, we stopped for Tea and then around 5:00 we stopped before Venkatagiri for a short nap.
After a short nap for about an hour (from 5:00-6:00) we started to Venkatagiri. We reached Venkatagiri around 7:00 am where some more people joined us making the headcount to 29. We had hot hot breakfast of Idlis and dosas at the road side shop in the bus stand and started towards the base of the hill. On the way we picked some local people from the village near the bottom of the hill to guide us to the bottom of the hill and also to take care of the vehicles for 2 days. After sharing the common gears and food items, we started our trek at 9 am. After walking for about half-an-hour in a narrow path made of sand and loose rocks and covered with thorny bushes on both sides, we reached the edge of the hill where our guide left us.
When we looked up, there were so many beautiful mountains standing next to each other overlapping one another. It is a beautiful feast for our eyes. As we are not sure of which one to climb, each one told their own preferences. When I enquired the guide, he showed me the tallest mountain in that area with a plain vertical rock on the top half. I stood in astonishment wondering how it is possible to go to the top (I was even doubtful if I could make it to the top as I am a first timer). The initial climb was a bit tough as the steep path is made of loose rocks and mud. As we were progressing, breathing became heavy. Since it is the morning time, the sun is doing its part draining our energy. We took stops every now and then recharging ourselves with oranges, energy bars, electrol, etc. At around 12:00 noon we covered almost half the distance and stood at the height of 600 meters. To our surprise we were standing at the bottom of the vertical rock which I mentioned earlier. Masu clarified the doubts we had about reaching to the top. To reach the top, we have to go beyond that rock where there is a way to the top. After having a yummy lunch of polis, we took rest for about an hour. Around 2:00, we refreshed ourselves and after taking some group photos and single shots we continued our mission to the top.
Throughout the trek we walked through the narrow path. But, till now we felt a bit secure as when we look down, we don’t feel like standing at a height of 600 meters above sea level as the steep next to us is filled with bushes and trees. But, the main game began only post lunch. As we were moving forward, our adrenalin rush started. There is open space on one side which is going down just vertically reaching somewhere at the bottom and the other side with flat straight rocks with little or no grip to hold. My God! I have seen such things only in movies. It was really exciting and it is a great adventure for me as a slight slip would take you directly to the bottom in less than 2 minutes. So we placed every step carefully with full concentration focusing only on the next step and somehow we managed to reach a flat surface and thought that is the top. But we weren’t lucky yet. By the time we reached this spot most of us have only empty bottles with us. Meanwhile, Masu our lead went in search of water while we were taking rest. We were informed that on the top there won’t be any wood available for cooking and camp fire, we were asked to collect some dry wood on the way itself. Some started collecting the wood, while some went with Masu to bring water for our survival and some went to the top to choose a place to put tent.
On the top, there were used paper plates, remains of half-burnt wood, paper cups, etc. left by some local people who trekked to this place a week before. We CTCians started cleaning the spot and made it client-ready. We chose our cooking area (thanks to the previous trekkers who left thick dry logs which reduced our workload) and a beautiful flat place to set up our tent. By the time everyone reached the top, the sun started going down. WoW! What a marvelous scene from such an altitude. Everyone started running towards their bags to get their cameras to lock this romantic scene in their cameras and share them with their dear ones. I was not an exception. I too captured some nice shots along with others. We took group photos here too.Then came the main part. After a day’s trekking most of them was almost tired. But, the organizers started preparing the dinner for the tired souls. Thanks Maasi and Shankar for the filling our tummys with yummy yummy soup and veg biriyani. Thanks for accommodating our request and giving a second round for those who asked for it. We had our dinner near the camp fire set near the tent. By the time we finished our dinner it is around 9:00 pm. People started dumping the tent with their tired bodies and were preparing themselves physically and mentally for the return trip. One sad thing is that some of them (including the organizers) not got a place to sleep in the tent so they laid their sleeping mats outside the tent in the cold. Sorry guys! As the time passed by, it was getting colder and colder and at around 3:00 am it was extremely cold drenching our bed sheets and rugs with mist and fog. It was like covering our self with a bed sheet drenched in ice cold water. Still some tired souls (including me) continued their sleep with those bed sheets. Only at this time 2 scams happened side-by-side which came to lime light the next day.
Most of them got up around 7:00 in the morning (the time most of us usually wake up at home). Again cameras started clicking the sunrise and the 3600 view of the surrounding mountains. The tea was ready by this time and everyone started sipping their tea sitting at the edge of the mountain enjoying every inch of the natural scenery. After having tea everyone went to attend their nature calls. After freshening themselves everyone started packing their belongings and common gears and got ready for the return journey. We had our breakfast of corn flakes with milk and honey and started our return journey from a different route. Some volunteers went to get water for all of us while others continued their downward journey. The return journey was a bit easy but looking down from the narrow steps ran a shiver in the body. Yet, we continued moving steadily. We had a self intro session in the mid way where the now familiar people were telling about them and their experience. We reached the parking spot at around 5:00 pm. everyone was happy that they have completed the near-difficult (Moderate+) trek successfully.
We then moved to a nearby dhaba to fill our tummies with delicious food where we came to know that Ankit and Aditi are celebrating their anniversary. Thanks both of you for the treat. After emptying the hotel we trekkers parted saying that we keep in touch through Facebook. The best part in this trek is that no one seemed to be a stranger to the other. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and caring with one another which helped us to complete the mission successfully.
KUDOS to everyone!!!