Organised by Vishal and Gokul
Writeup by Yashaswini
The morning of Friday the 18th, saw little groups of highly excited people emerging sleepy eyed at the station and bus stand of Kozhikode. These motley groups from Bangalore, Chennai and Coimbatore had come together as the ready and raring-to-go 18 member Wayanad Trek group.We started off in birdie style.
My first trek with CTC, I was as anxious and excited to see what the weekend would reveal to me as I am sure everyone else in the group was. We all met as a group for the first time at Kalpettta – a little bus ride away from Kozhikode. Cursory introductions later, the most important task had to be accomplished – a good sumptuous breakfast. Within an hour, we went from sleepy eyed to well-fed and re-energised and under the capable leadership of our organisers – Vishal and Gokul – were ready to embark on the adventure of the weekend.
We were first faced with the challenge of getting to the forest where the trek starts, in the only available transport – jeeps manned by drivers who were worse bargainers than auto drivers in Chennai. So we had to the services of our only Malayali knowing member to bargain with Jeep drivers. Rishi, the Malayali Interpreter, knew exactly 4 words in Malayalam which still did not prevent him from using them with all his energy and gusto to try and beat down the jeep driver’s prices. Even the non-malayalis joined the fray and tried whatever they could do negotiate. I think eventually we got jeeps at a good bargain because we managed o confuse the poor jeep drivers so much!
All set to face Wayanad, and stuffed in 2 jeeps with some members hanging out of them dangerously we set out into the forest and towards our trekking trail. A brief stop at the Forest Office forcefully added a guide to our already large entourage. Just at the foothill of the peak we were to climb, those Facebook profile pictures before they got all sweaty with the climb, got a chance at a watch tower right which offered a lovely view of the forest around us. These pretty posers were soon rounded up, all food packets were distributed evenly (somehow everyone’s bags were too full to take extra chapattis but not too full for 2-3 extra chocolate bars and cake packets – strange is the physics of bags!!) and the organisers Gokul and Vishal issued orders to start the march up hill.
Thus started the awesome Journey up the highest peak of Kerala – Chembra Peak. A good 2400 Km in height, it was a lovely terrain with lush greenery in some parts and dry stone and grass in others. Some places the climb was almost a 90 degrees steep stone climb and in others it was slippery sand which was to prove to be hell while descending. As we huffed and puffed and panted up the hill we were all sweating buckets but were still never out of breath for pulling each other’s legs, cracking stupid jokes and for posing for those Kodak moments.
Along the climb there was a convenient break at a lake called Hriday-Sagar Lake – A heart shaped lake – unfortunately our trekking boys had no “Single” female company to enjoy the heart shaped lake with. I think this is where the organisers decided that the trekking groups had a very useless ratio of men to women and some drastic changes were needed in the short listing criteria.... may be an all woman trek led by these two organisers!
The lake was too dirty and the sun was too hot and bright for us to really rest there so we all moved into thick foliage of trees and took a nice leisurely break. The chocolate bars emerged and so did chapattis and whatever else could be found to eat by the hungry horde in their bags. While most of us were too tired to do anything else, some of us chose to climb trees, perform balancing acts and pose on rocks.
After half an hour’s rest the guide had to practically beg us to move before we re-started the journey. More than half the climb was still left so off we went again, some leading energetically and others dragging their feet at the tail of the group.
The climb got more difficult from the lake onwards, with steeper rocks and reducing quantities of water, but it was also more beautiful. Every time we stopped to look around a breathtaking view awaited us. Tea estates covered the entire mountain side and the whole area looked like it was carpeted in green. Each time we stopped to drink in the sheer beauty around us, it made every step we had taken worth it.
If you looked up you could see the peak looming large over us, daunting and challenging us to make it to the top.
Whatever it was that kept everyone going, one by one the group finally made it to the top and just crashed there.
As the group rested atop the hill, the remaining food packets emerged. Battles were fought over the last drop of water left and whenever anyone from the group arrived at the peak, there was a race for the contents of their bag and their water bottles. Sorry was the state of those who came at the end, hardly any food and almost no water was left for them. But well as the saying goes – early birds get the worm!
While most of us were resting and feeding, the shutter bugs were busy clicking away at the odd spider webs, beetles, odd shaped leaves and the most alluring scenery. Soon the group pics began. There were the regular posed shots with little horns emerging from people’s heads and then the more “natural” shots where everyone is supposed to be “candid” but ended up in pics where everyone was pointing towards something “casually” but still continuing to look at the camera. Moreover, the poor camera had a challenging task, not only did it have to capture the dusty, grimy yet elated faces of the trekkers but also the strange shouts and hoots and animal calls that were being emitted by them. Here’s an idea for all new gadget inventors – urgently need a camera that can capture images AND sounds for CTC treks!
The photographers also got a chance to test out their mettle and capture the magic of the scenery around us. Looking below we could see how far up we had climbed, and felt great sense of victory. The tree and bush covered valley below, the light mist through which other peaks were visible, the fresh, unpolluted air of nature and the sheer distance from anything remotely city-like, lent the most peaceful and calming effect to the summit.
Finally, and once again, at the request of our guide, it was time to start the journey down. While climbing up, if anyone thought it was going to be easier on the way down, they were miserably and horribly wrong. I did not think it possible, but it was even harder than the climb up! The slippery sand and pebbles with sharp-edged rocks to break your fall ensured a very arduous climb down. Each of us of course had our own amazing style of descending the peak. Some of us like Rishi decided it required too much of an effort decided to let gravity do all the work. A couple of hard tumbles, scraped knees and scratched hands later, they were already at the bottom of the hill. Others like Vishal skid on their bathroom chappals as if they were ice skating and would have reached the bottom before anyone else if they had not stopped to "Motivate" the slower, cautious and scared movers like me! Then there were the pros, nimbly jumping and skipping down without a single scratch or fall. Nursing my own bruised knee and toe and every other aching limb caused by my million falls I continue to be highly envious of them. But there was one person who made the highest sacrifice to the mountains - Rohit lost his "sole" somewhere along the way to the mountain and then fell about 20 times not realising that he had lost it.
Finally and in one piece, we all made it down the slope and drove back into Meppady. As dusk set in it was now time for us to look for a camping site. The organisers led the way and we soon set out towards the Karapuzha reservoir. We took a bus to Vazhavetta and from there walked up to the reservoir. While the rest of us lazed about and chilled the organisers hunted for a good camping spot near the reservoir and we all trooped there to start the process of "setting up camp". Depending on our innate skills (or the lack of them) there was division of labour! We split up into different committees - there was the water committee which went to fill enough water from the village, the food & fire committee to collect twigs, light the fire and make Maggi & soup (we even had sub committees - Maggi Masala committee, the fire blower and the Kindee) and the campfire committee to use their super-human strength to break logs and make a camp-fire.
With such efficient workers and under the guidance of our able organisers we soon had a roaring fire with some Maggi boiling inside. There were of course many moments of amusement when some people almost blew the stones off when they were blowing into the fire and others tried to talk the fire into burning better.
There was the usual fight for Maggi once it was made. One poor soul lost his only bowl because that was the only bowl that could go into the vessel to take out the Maggi. After Maggi, on popular demand there was some soup made as well. We cooked and cooked until the log of wood being used as Kindee lost its wooden bark and the Maggi and soup began tasting more and more of wood! It was finally time to retire for the day. The comfortable owners of sleeping bags slipped in while those with mere bed sheets lay sandwiched between 2 tarpaulin sheets and we all slept away our tired limbs to the sight of the night sky dotted with beautifully with stars. The Saga of camping can never of course be complete without a mention of the great Agasthian, the only man part of the garbage committee who diligently and sincerely ensured that the campsite was un-littered and everything was left spic and span... so much so that he was spotted cleaning the vessels in the reservoir early in the morning as well.
The next morning as we all woke up to a cold and dewy day, we saw our campsite surroundings for the first time in proper light. We were faced by the most gorgeous sight - a clear body of water flanked by an imposing peak, the sun just rising through the clouds to clear the misty morning air and the dew settled on our bed sheets. Some small birds were making ripples in an otherwise still water body. It was a sight to slowly drink in and enjoy peacefully as we stood huddled around the campfire that some of our group's strongmen had already got going.
Soon the morning laziness had to be shaken off as we had to quickly rush and catch a bus that would take us back to Meppady from where we were to head to the Suchipara waterfalls. Post the campsite clear up, we all just about managed to catch a bus to Vazhavetta from where we got another bus to take us to Meppady and then to Suchipara falls. Again we had a long trek with many uphill and downhill trails to reach the waterfall. Our already aching limbs from the previous day's trek were most certainly not happy with this new onslaught. Finally, at the sound of water, our steps hastened and at the very first sight of water all bags and shoes were shed and we all rushed to stick our heads into the waterfall. This was followed by an hour of fun, screaming and splashing about in the waterfall and the pool below. Some of us tried some brave under-cave diving stunts while others chose to slip and fall and splash about in the pool itself. Our shouts and screams drowned out even the gushing roar of the water fall behind us and we even joined some complete strangers in their loud celebrations and slogan chanting.
Finally, drenched, soaked but completely elated we got out of the water and all of us gradually but very reluctantly started the trek back to the entrance of the falls. Here we again rested for a bit, had our fill of Lime Sodas and did some of the important accounting. Our spirits were kept buoyant by some awesome chapatti and pickle and bhel puri we put together from our left-over food rations.
It was finally time for the group to start dispersing and prepare to head back home. Some unlucky ones who were going to Chennai had to catch a bus as early as 5pm and so had to rush back to Kalpetta in time to catch a bus to Kozhikode from where their bus left for Chennai. Even here the spirit of adventure didn’t leave the group as the bus from Kalpetta to Kozhikode broke down in the middle and the Chennai goers had to fight against time, find short cuts, hitchhike and somehow get themselves to board the bus to Chennai. The more lucky ones – heading to Coimbatore and Bangalore – had till 9 30 in the night and spent a more leisurely time at the Calicut beach, enjoying the beautiful sunset and debating the differences between an Ornicopter, an Army Doctor and a Kite (really as Sheela, Vishal and Ram can expertly explain there are more things similar between the three than you would think)!
Eventually as the night wore on, the last of the Wayanad Trekkers boarded their Buses back home and brought an end to an amazing weekend.
Thus ended my first experience with CTC – filled with New adventures, Sheer fun, maddening chaos, unseen horizons, new friends, precious skills (how to cook Maggi in the wild for instance) and most of all unforgettable memories.
By Yashaswini .