CTC Emperor's Venkatagiri B'day Trek - Inigo

Thursday, March 8, 2012
Mind blowing Narration from Inigo - 8164 words are not enough for him to explain the pleasant memories with CTC

Warning... don't start reading this when you get five minutes break before your project manager comes back to the seat.

Those two days…

My friend is going to kill me when she sees this… I just have started writing this today (23rd Feb) during my office hours. I had a meeting planned which got cancelled, instead of submerging into another work related item, I decided to reminisce ‘those two days’. Her biggest complaint about me till date is that I completely lose myself when I step in to my office. It is difficult to get through to me, I am so consumed by it..on and on.. I know this stress whirlpool is not helping my spirit and that was one of the reasons I decided to pick the old habit. Over to that, I needed some diversion. In her opinion if I am not lazy (I normally read this as ‘consumed-by-work-without-time-for-anything else’J ) I would have been in a different league. But now, I feel something on my back pushing, nudging… no.. no.. something is kicking my ass to write about those two days and so I decided to use my cancelled meeting time before something else came in to swallow it… the old habit is so old even my wife does not know about it. I had spent bit of time in yellow stones, Grand canyon, Nevada area in US and I have trekked to many national parks in Alberta and Ontario regions in Canada. After I returned back to India, I have been wanting to do it in MY own backyard but I did not have a chance. It is a pity to say that I explored more outside,  than in my own backyard.

When I found about CTC about a year and a half back, I jumped on enrolling into the group and started getting updates periodically. I used to read through those mails with ‘bird in the cage’ feeling.  While I was running around with this feeling, I also saw my son growing up fast.. He is 13 now and I felt it is the right age to expose him to the nature and make him appreciate the wonderful place we are fortunate to habitat… So finally I decided to break my shackles (at least for couple of days…) to fly away with my son. I started looking; I got lucky with so many options with CTC’s birth day anniversary. After analyzing much, I zeroed in on Vengatakiri. But when I saw the date I was disappointed, that was the same weekend Kev has some tests going on, so he wasn’t available… there was little bit of battle went on in my head if I should  wait for Kev to get free or should I go on. Finally that good angel on my shoulder told me not to lose the chance. I decided to move on with it.
I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to face ‘I know you…lazy guy… you cannot move your ass anywhere’ comment.  But I needed to prepare for the trip, so delayed my announcement as much as I could and told family. My little girl jumped up and down as though she was going somewhere (she is 9 but I do not think she clearly grasped the idea of trekking, until I came back and showed her the path we walked and where I slept.. she is little confused now.. ) Kevin was plain surprised. My wife looked at me blank, she could not believe. Finally she recovered from the surprise and started to complain that she could not do it. (Her current stamina is way poorer than mine., don’t tell her that I told you…J ). One of the things she asked me to do was to write a blog after I come back so that she can experience what I did. She even packed me a small scribbling pad to note down things during those two days but as usual I lost my mind most of the time in the giddiness of the fresh air and mind blowing landscape and the rest of the time trying to focus on keeping my next step without falling down. The only time I used the note book is to tear a paper to give Uday to do his final expense report.  Any way I am going to spill the beans now…

It is all started 5 weeks back… I registered for the trek… when I did, I was half the mind to mention my real age. ‘What if I get disqualified…?’ that was the thinking, I had been looking at the pictures from various forums and none were close to my age. Anyway the good angel advised me not to misrepresent and so I did the right thing. Then I waited patiently… I was thinking that I will be sent for a trial climb at Pallavaram..  Tick.. tock.. tick.. tock.. days passed by… no news… Two weeks back someone called ‘Masu’(Later I realized I should call him the ‘Man-machine..’) sent me a note with order ‘Pay it now..’ and with threats like  ‘If you cancel it, you will be blacklisted..’ . The dilemma was with the following questions ‘Should I pay or not ?’ ‘What if I cannot go?  Will I lose money?’ ‘What if this guy is a thug, collecting money and would run away?’, ‘What are CTC’s measures to avoid these things… on.. and on…?’. Finally I told to myself ‘Ok I will take the risk.. If I get cheated I will keep it to myself ‘. That’s another reason I kept the plan to myself as much as possible. I paid. Sent a SMS to Mr. Masu and Masu promptly acknowledged but told me that he can only confirm on Monday.  I, in the meanwhile went to Frankfurt for a week trip.  I came back after a week and I did not see any news from Mr. Masu.  I wrote to him to check what was going on and the man casually confirmed ‘Yeah,  I got your money’. I was a little relieved that I did not get cheated..
The next doubt.. ’Do I have the stamina to take it up?’ I googled ‘Venkatagiri’ and got more scared when I learnt it is 1000 mtrs.. this time the stubborn, hard-headed fool (that’s what my friend calls me) inside me took over and determined to see what happens. (My head is the battle ground for various forces eh.. all the time.. you would be surprised how many I have inside..). I needed to prepare.. How do I do it… I started to climb the stairs in my home up and down… By this time I had already told about my plan to kids and wife but my parents were looking at me with ’What has possessed this guy?’ expression. I ignored them and huffed and puffed up and down the stairs, but he maximum I could do was 20 times, then I need to stop. Every day I thought next day is going to be better but never passed 25 times. In the meanwhile the hunt for sleeping bag started. When I went around asking for it,  I received strange looks, with questions like ‘Sleeping.. what?’, ‘Why do you need a bag, can’t you sleep in the cot?’ ‘I have carry bag.. do you want it?’. Finally we could manage to get one from Express Avenue mall.
The Friday arrived. I was supposed to come back to home early to pack and take some rest before I leave. I reached home 9pm that was the earliest that I could manage. Thinking that I would come early I started early (the life of an IT guy!). It was exhausting day at work I was already tired, went home packed things and tried to rest couple of hours, the kids were more excited jumping around and they enjoyed the act of packing for me.  I need to be at Guindy by 12:20 am and there was instruction to be there 15 min early. I decided to leave home at 11pm. Kids went to bed, kissed them goodnight, my trekking bag on my back, my old trekking shoes on.. I said ‘Bye’ and stepped out of the house and went through the dark street. I could hear my wife closing and locking the door behind me. I turned around and walked further and I felt something dragging my left foot, I continued with my walk, and I saw something dangling from my shoe. I bent and took a look, the sole of the shoe was dangling…  The instruction ‘Don’t bring sole peeling shoes’ blinked in front of me as neon board.. I thought that was the  end of the trekking.. I dragged my leg back home. Probably my wife thought that I would l be back, she was still at the ground floor, so I entered back the house without waking everyone.. I figured by then that I will go with my fancy sneaker. I did not have any other option, The other option was to go with my slipper, I decided to go with first option.

I started walking again with very little street light with my oversized trekking bag behind me. No ‘auto’ to be seen. I must’ve been clueless to think that there will be some form of transportation available… I was still walking, but after 30 min of walking, I started to worry whether I will reach Guindy Toyoto showroom by 12:05.. (This was before I understood emperor’s punctuality  J ). I did not want to take chance any more; I was looking for ongoing bikers for ‘lift’. Many of them did not want to bet on the guy who had big funny looking bag and walking in the middle of the road. After a while, one Good Samaritan stopped to pick me up half way, then I continued with my walk, all through the way and kept looking at the watch, I reached the spot at 11:45pm, there was not a single soul in front of the Toyoto show room. I passed next few minutes with utmost uncertainty; I was not sure whether I was in the right place. I could not believe that there was no one. I already was thinking about how I would I go back home, I was sure as minutes went by,  that I was in a wrong place or I got the timing wrong… I set the time limit to 12:10 before I called someone to find out.. just about when I was going to call the pickup coordinator, one smiley guy walked by and called himself  ‘Raja’… oh.. this is pickup coordinator. Then came Yuvaraj, Sathish (Later I thought Masu probably considered this name as a qualification for the selection process, we had about a dozen Sathish in the group.. J ).   By this time I was sure that I was going on a trek.. then came a Santro, i20, i10 and Scorpio. The Scorpio arrived without a driver… It stopped and bunch of bodies spilled out and ‘out’ came a ‘kutti paiyan’ from the driver side with ¾ pant and without slippers. I still did not believe he was the driver, but he turned out to be one – ferocious one… We signed the ‘no liability’ form and out came a stretched hand asking for pen, at the end of it I saw a smiling round face with little to no hair on top portion of the head. That was Ankit. I made him remember my name for life. He will not forget.. he ran away with my pen, When I started to wonder where the pen thief was running, Scorpio door opened and out came a GIRL. My antennae went up, I warned myself … ‘Mr. Approaching-mid 40’,  you better hold up, otherwise these baby boys will make a fool out of you in front of this pretty girl..’.

I was supposed to travel with Allagappan. When I asked,  I found that I had been  kicked out of that car. I was like ‘Now What?’. This was about time the ‘machine man’ started to get into action.  Oh.. I forgot, in the middle of all this, there arrived two helmet heads , proclaiming that they were going to come in bike. I was like.. ‘Hello, Are you little ku ku.. ? Are you going to bike for 4 hours and going to hike after that? Crazy’, Later I realized it was all a big conspiracy to bring a camera man to the trek. Masu was so evil to make him  ride his own bike. Mukibul  turned out to be a fine camera man, Arun was the second helmet head. Finally Masu found a method to the madness and decided that Mukibul and Arun need not come in the bike but they can travel along with the gang, ‘How?’, that was a secret… I was graciously given a seat like thing at the back side of Scorpio, Next to me was the clam guy Danush. The whole trip I was hoping that he would not start the kolaveri song.. Thankfully he was not that kind of a Danush. But let me tell you what kind is he… This guy could sleep anywhere… We were sitting at the back of seat of the Scorpio along with 10 back bags and one sub- woofer, the size of a huge water drum. In this crowded place, I was find it difficult to breath but this guy slept from the time the journey started… I was sitting on half my bum, one leg over the other. Masu gave me a politician’s promise to swap the seat with others later… The gang reached koyambedu and stopped. I could not breath so I opened the back door and waiting to know what was happening, then came a muscle man Jagga. I made a mistake of keeping the door open, he came straight and jumped inside. No… stuffed himself inside.. Mr. ‘kutti paiyan’ Shankar graciously pulled the water drum sub-woofer. I did not care where it went but instead of woofer, I had to plant my legs square on Jagga’s shoes. We thought it was all over and that we were ready to go.. no.. mistake,  back door opened again and Masu was standing outside, me and Jagga spilled out. He said that we needed to accommodate Mukibul and Arun. I was happy that they were not going to ride the bike few minutes back but now I was like ‘Why the hell they need to come in the Scorpio?’ but the good angel made me to say ‘Sure why not ?’, Now it was 4 guys, the new joinee was Mukibul and some 8 back bags… my half bum seat became quarter bum seat. And Mr. Clam guy Danush was in his kolavari sleep still… The sound of the audio system was ear piercing, Jagga suddenly woke up and informed Shankar to increase the volume, I touched my ears to see whether I was bleeding. Jagga went back to sleep.
After an hour or so, we needed to stop as one of the car (Yuvaraj ) realized he needed to fill petrol. We stopped and started, Shankar was driving as the man behind the F1 car, mimicking Schumacher of his glory days. We stopped again somewhere when it just started to smell Telugu… we   stopped for tea. I thought the guys driving really wanted to be awake.. we went to a small tea shop where some Telugu music was blaring in the middle of the night with two hazy figures dancing on Tamil Nadu governments free TV. We all had tea, the accountant – Cheran was first time in action.. This is when I had my first shock… I was engaged in a conversation with Jagga, Jagga works for Ashok Leyland as structural design engineer. He asked me what I was doing, I told him. He asked me how long I have been doing it, I told him that too… That guys casually mentioned that ‘your number of years of professional experience is my age..’ and moved on to next topic, but to me, it sounded like ‘What the heck are you doing here old man..?’  It took some time for me to recover from that,  then I told myself, ‘I cannot go back, I am struck with these dudes  for the next couple of days, how the hell I was going to save humiliation..’ 
The speedy ride continued… around 4am in the morning we reached the border of Venkatagiri. We did not want to enter the town and disturb the people. Moreover we need to get some clearance from police before we headed to the mountains.. So the captain Masu decided to stop the caravan…  We stopped in the middle of nowhere about 7 km before the town, there was an isolated road stretching in between paddy fields. We decided to park the cars on that road. Everyone was tired and immediately the tarpaulin sheet was out and it was spread right in the middle of the road and the tired bodies stretched themselves. I even heard snoring.  I could not sleep and I was just walking around in the dark. It was an absolutely magnificent night, clear sky with millions of stars, I thought the nature decorated the sky just to mark the occasion. About half an hour later I could see a single light, miles away, slowly it become brighter and brighter and subsequently combined with slow thuds… It grew louder along with the brightness of the light. It was a bike coming on the same road our comrades were sleeping..  some of them talking, now everyone stood up and pulled the tarpaulin out of the way. I know that guy who was in the bike was praying to his dear God as he approached the gang, I was surprised that he did not drop the bike and run away when he saw bunch of half-dressed guys standing in the middle of nowhere to welcome him into the day..

6am : We started from that location which turned out to be a beautiful place in the sunlight and got out to bus stand. We were already told that we will have our breakfast there.. The minute we landed there the ‘idli kadai ladies’ were calling, we dispersed into groups to give business to all shops.. Someone brought (little quietly though…) this up when we were gobbling the idlis and bondas ‘For the amount of one plate of Saravana Bhavan idlis, we now were eating ten idlis’. We understood that when we were gobbling idlis there was some hard sideline negotiation to reduce the price and the millions of rupees, so saved was pocketed by accounts department. We suspected that Maran brothers had their hand in it along with Cheran. The matter is in front of the independent investigating committee so I cannot comment on it further.
8:00am :   We had started to drive towards the base location, we went through the small villages and stopped to pick up some local person to guide us to the starting point of the climb. Many people came forward to help. I saw that one of the biggest advantages in our team composition was the number of Telugu speaking guys, they were trying to identify someone to help us. I later realize how difficult the task was. Every adult male we spoke to was ‘pretty tight’, do you know what I mean?? Early in the morning… their conversation was racking with alcohol smell.  Probably it was a wake up drink… Our friends’ Telugu did not help much in finding the right guide. Finally we selected one and moved on but after few hundred we could hardly understand what he was saying. The so called guide required guide. The captain decided to drop the drunken guide and went back to the village to find a reasonable one and he found.  We parked in the flat land ad split the common gear and started our walk towards the foothills, led by the puny guy in lungie, we started enthusiastically with the company of hundreds of cows which were grassing the forest, the walk was particularly hard with those BIG pebbles. The walk that started briskly slowed down little bit but the ‘lungie man’ was walking (running) ahead of us bare foot. We were in the middle of nowhere, entering the forest and my phone rang for the first time that day.. We have challenges with phone signal in the middle of the town in some quarters but to everyone’s surprise the signal was in full strength all through the trip..  What kind of progress was that? Even if you want to get away from the clutches it was chasing us into the forest…

11:00am : About that time we started to climb. I started normally, I was in the middle of the pack towards end of it. Probably I must have spent half hour on the uphill and I started to labor and I slowed down gradually. This is when I heard a call behind.  During the climb, people were calling out to each other to show where they were, to make sure they were on the right track following the predecessor. But this is was more of a frantic call.. I stopped for a while and continued but the voice grew in sound and agitation. Shankar was the man behind that agitated voice.  I stopped now completely, by now the frantic voice had reached the front of the pack and grabbed the attention of the leader Masu. He rushed back to find what was happening… I was still standing in the middle of the trail trying to catch my breath. It so happened, The sweeper and the leader were just few yards away from me… Masu asked ‘What?’. Shankar explained that someone was really finding it hard to climb, he refused to move and he wanted to stop and stay there in the trail. Masu looked little worried and asked who was it….?  ‘Is it Inigo?’. So it was clear Masu did know my age when he shortlisted my name and probably was waiting to hear ‘cry baby’ from me. I told to myself ‘I am going to prove to this Masu man wrong’.  My brain was all perked up but my body was finding it difficult to cooperate. I started to cramp, drank lot of water and gobbled oranges. I made multiple stops the rest of the way.  This stretch, I was alone, eventually the sweeping team reached me. Cheran was the sweeper, he was someone with the patience of a Yogi. He kept telling ‘We are about to reach..’, Honestly I was not sure what he was referring as destination. We kept going and going. That last bit seemed to be a never ending loop for some time.  Finally I dragged myself to the phase 1 base. The team was so exhausted some of them already fast asleep. We reached there about 12:45, it was supposed to be lunch break time, I had my ‘poli’. I was not sure whether I should eat both the polis or needed to save one. I looked around and it appeared that no one was in the mood to engage in small talk. I realized the mistake I did in phase one, I should have started with my water drinking much earlier and drank uniformly, I also completely forgot about electoral, I should have made use of it.  I felt little better when I heard everyone did ‘stop and go’. But I determined to do better in the next phase and dozed off…

 2:30pm :   ‘Wiee. . Wieee’ I heard the whistle from Masu, he gathered us to give the instruction about the next phase. This time I acted little smart, I started with the front bunch the climb was steep and rugged, we trekked for about 45 mins and we landed on an area. Settled down, had my drink and orange I felt good now. So far we were trekking through the forest and through the shade, the sun was not on us directly. The next stretch was little different, There was some sort of crude steps but it was so broken down wasted, it was a challenge to determine which was the step or stone belonged to the steps, Once everyone assembled in this location we started again on the steeper climb, we were climbing as one group . The climb was so difficult we could not go faster.
Around 5:00pm : We reached the top… well not exactly, we could not see no robbers fort yet. There was another peak that we needed to go. The group got into action here. One batch went with the mission to bring water. All empty bottles were collected and taken to the water source. Another group went up to survey the place for our night camp, Another group picked woods for the night camp fire. I had enough of climbing for then and I decided to assign myself to the wood picking, After sometime Jagga came down with the complaint that the camping place is filthy and littered by some people who camped earlier. He declared the place was not worthy of camping but Masu drove us up. After a brief climb, we were up at the pinnacle of Venkatagiri hills. We were at the highest point where we could witness the nature unfold. We reached there just in time to see the gorgeous sunset. The view around was so picture perfect.  But I also could not avoid thinking ‘Who the hell came up here to build a fort?’
By now the group that went for water had come back with water and almost instantly the water was all gone. Next thing in the agenda was to make soup, the prep was led by Masu and another team was working on putting the tent (well… kind of tent..), I later understood the tent makers were all real architects. We need to more water for our much awaited dinner.. I felt guilty this time so I volunteered but it was already dark by then, we needed to rely on  LED torch light to find our steps. This was when the cooking gang started the soup preparation. I wanted to stay back and have before we ventured out for water but it was already getting late and we need water for further cooking dinner so we decided to go. But Jagga mentioned what I had in mind.. ‘We six are going, you guys better keep the soup for us when we come back..’  With that we went down to the water source place.. that was easy 45 min. trek away. Finally we reached there in pitch dark, I was expecting a stream or a pond but what I saw was water trickling from the rock. There was a plastic bottle stuck at the source to act as a funnel. It took some time to fill 22 bottles and we started the trek back. This time it was a smaller group and I need to keep up with these energy bunnies. I think in the attempt to be toe to toe with these guys I rushed little bit and ended up gasping for air.

The other time that I felt a little old was, when everyone started calling me ‘sir’. I think I should have dyed my bread before head out for the trek. After return from water fetching adventure, the ‘Mr. Sir’ was exhausted. I needed to sit down to gather myself. It took a while for me to get up to go get my soup. I pulled out my bowl and stretched for soup through the crowd around the fire. The machine man Masu was pouring the soup and he asked whether it was for one. I was very innocent and said ‘Yeah..?’, Masu replied ‘… but the bowl looks like it is for ten..’ . I became small and small behind the crowd and vanished in the dark all the way yelling at my wife…’I told you not to pack that bowl…’(Yes, she was on an overdrive to collect stuff for my trip, so much so, that if  anyone of us had got hurt, I could have done a surgery with all the things that I had packed). It has already become completely dark. The chefs were in full swing preparing dinner. I heard the word ‘Biriyani’. I did not pay attention much, but slowly some good smell filled the camping hill top.  I was sitting around just watching the movements in the camping ground. One small disadvantage of being in south India, typically in situation like our trek, the group is diverse and very quickly small clusters formed in the big group and each group acted independently. We need to do something in the future treks to avoid this. We need to encourage the team to enjoy as one team. Anyway, I saw big telugu cluster. They started ‘matalad’ing in Telugu and fooling around, and then there was a Hindi cluster, though Ankit make it a point to converse in English whenever I was around. Another group always engaged in a discussion about Tamil movies.  I found myself as a peculiar breed… ‘non-Telugu/Hindi speaking, out of touch with Tamil movies’ breed. I could make out bits and pieces and understand the conversation in both Telugu and Hindi but I couldn’t converse freely. My Tamil movie interest stopped with Rajini’s Thalapathi days,  the time when Radha and Bhanupriya (man.. her eyes!!) were the heartthrobs. (I know, their daughters are acting as heroines now…). Prasanth was ignored as baby faced boy. Vijay was not in the scene.  So, my knowledge about Tamil movies belonged to by -gone days. My waiting for dinner time, ended up pretty much with nature and those magnificent spread of stars. I wished to have a good camera to capture the skyline to show to my friend, she would have loved it.  Whenever someone strayed alone I made it a point to catch hold to thrust my conversation.
8:00pm : It was not bad.. the dinner call happened pretty quickly after the beginning process. We all went to the cooking pot with the bowl as prisoner filing in for food (kali).. everyone was given two lumps of ‘Biriyani’ stuff. No offence Masu. It was in-between Muniyandi villas kuska (not many of you know what it is.. J ) and declared ghee rice. I could have called it Thalapakatti Biriyani in the hunger I was, I think that was the case for everyone.. But Jokes apart… Masu, if you open a restaurant, you have me as a customer.  We had ‘Biriyani’, I could even trace few bits of vegetables (If potato and green peas are considered as one..), Chips and raw onion and raw chilli ( I stayed away from it, I did not want a booster for early rise tomorrow..). I had lot of onion with the confidence that I was going to sleep alone in the sleeping bag, the closest one sleeping would be another onion mouthed trekker.  I did not know the speed at which I finished the bowl ( In spite of the over- sized bowl, I just got two scoops..) but to my surprise there was a call for second round and I rushed, but the young legs were quicker.. One and half more scoops, the food was divine for the exhausted body.. 

9:00pm : Next there was a big commotion to find a spot to sleep. I did not realize that having a sleeping bag had been a disadvantage. We were ordered not to come near the tent. We picked a ‘somewhat’ flat surface near the bush. Myself,  Ankit, Adhithy, Mukibul, Arun and Shankar. We marked our place with sleeping bags before dinner. When we came back, bags were soaking wet. I did not realize the mist was coming down so much.  I have a huge sinus problem and sneeze a lot and hard. But from the time I started the trek I did not sneeze. Now when I realized I was going to be on this open air for the full night. I was little worried. Nevertheless, I got in to the sleeping bag.   The rest of the sleeping bag troop was doing something on the ground, I was too tired to pay attention to that. But I saw Shankar smuggled a tarpaulin and rolled that over his sleeping bag ( I demand an independent commission enquiry, No one noticed it or who ever noticed it did not have the guts to ask the man who had mobilized  dozen people and drove the truck the whole night..) or this may be his personal tarpaulin,not a common gear.
 My next worry was, I was closest to the bush and someone mentioned that they saw rat, ‘What if the rat came and bit me, what if some small insect got into my ears…’, I took my towel tied it around my head,  took my handkerchief and covered my nose and mouth as bank robber. I went into the sleeping bag zipped it up to cover myself like a  Mummy. I put my trekking bag to my head and TRIED to sleep and only then did I realized what the other guys had been doing. There  was a large sharp stone which  was not allowing me to sleep on an even plane, I tried to ignore the discomfort and TRIED to sleep. As I just was closing the eyes.. I was trying to figure whether I need to go ‘chu chu’. I think I was  feeling to go but the pain of coming out of  sleeping bag and setting it all discouraged me to get up. By now I already started hearing ‘tractors’. The loudest one came from my left side from Ankit. Next in the decibel level was Aditi..   Man… I did not want to be anywhere close to 50 meter of their bedroom…  I pulled the sleeping bags top end over my head and fell asleep. Thank God, I was tired…  I kept the LED torch next to me, in case I needed to figure out if anything nibbled my nose.   There was a talk about that day being Yogesh’s birth day and we should wake him up in the midnight to wish him. I prayed in my heart.. ‘Please guys. Yogesh seems to be a nice guy.. let us not wake him in the middle of the night and in the process don’t wake me…  not today…’. No one woke me up, I think Ankit’s tractor kept them away. 
Around three o’clock:  Nature  called me, I stumbled out of my sleeping bag, picked my torch went to the edge of the camp, all the way worried about me stepping over someone or stumbling and falling down. Luckily I safely returned back and snuggled back into the sleeping bag, The next thing I heard was someone screaming on top of his lungs to explain how freezing it was last night and how his blanket was stolen. He was cursing the one who stole the blanket. I realized the affected party was Jagadish.

 6:00am Sunday : I wanted to wake up early to see the sun raise but unfortunately, I missed it and but for Jagadish screaming I would have missed the sun set too..  The air was brisk and slowly the surrounding mountain landscape came in view in the virgin sun light. People were chatting in groups.. The loudest was next to me and in the center of it was ‘kutti paiyan’ Shankar going yap… yap.. yap… This guy ‘kutti paiyan ’ turned out to be a business magnate, married, with a kid. I could not believe it. The speed at which he talked was faster than the speed at which he drove. The speed he changed topic to topic was the way he jumped lane to lane. One minute he was in Jaipur, the next minute he jumped to Delhi and the next he was in China boarder and next he moved to his longing to visit north east. I was just watching and trying to keep up with him. After some time, I went for a walk around the top and took some good pictures.  Someone offered some liquid called ‘tea’. I drank it. I started feeling hungry, but I did not see anyone moving towards making breakfast. Some went on another trip to water source to bring water for breakfast others were just hanging around. I had half a poli from the previous day’s lunch and I finished it. Finally water arrived and milk was prepared for the cereal. Cereal and milk with sugar and extra honey. Man..!! I never eaten anything sweeter than that… I felt so hyper, I was worried I felt like bouncing  all the way down.. But considering the long tiring day which was going to demand lot of energy, I had another serving of sweet cereal.By now it was packing time… Everybody was in full action. One more group went for water again to have enough on the way down. Another group dismantled the thing we called tent, which was three feet high. Other team started cleaning the camp site. I joined them in picking up the garbage. I was happy and proud of this group to have the attitude and thinking to how closely we needed to live with nature.  We put all the garbage- including the huge pile that was dumped by the previous dumb-asses who had camped there. That included chicken feathers and ‘signature’ bottles. I would have loved to have a beer or two after an exhausting day but what kind of morons carry that to the top and drank their liver out. We all know what kind of nut cases some become after  just  a sniff of the alcohol bottle cap.  What would have happened if some intoxicated moron slipped a step and rolled down 100 feet? Some people are such freaking head retarded..  I stand by CTC’s rule and insistence of common sense to forbid alcohol and smoke during the trek. These kinds of things drew me instantly towards CTC to begin with…

One thing ( I did share this with few people during the trek…)  I still could not get over the amazement about how a single guy was the driving force to bring this (CTC) together and continued to nurture it, especially in a so called ‘foreign’ land. I considered me as ‘citizen of universe’. I will go to new places with the same feeling that this is my father land and appreciate it. But to have a drive like what you do is something inconceivable to me. Hats off Peter!!! We are lucky and fortunate to have you here. I am not sure whether you realize it, but you have awakened a generation here. I would love to meet you someday. I appreciate it what you have started and what you continue to nourish. Simply put, ‘Thank You’!!!
9:30am, Water force returned back and we packed our bags and started the descent. Captain Masu was particular to take group picture and picture to signify the 4th birth day. We arrived at the first level and took pictures. Mukibi ( It tok just about 24 hours for Mukibul to become Mukibi..) took 400 pictures. I was not sure when that was going to be selected and posted. I have not seen his album yet..  Next was the steepest descent, I took the same decision to be at the front pack. It was scary to look at the depth. One misstep we could roll down hundreds of feet before the corpse stops. We did not see the danger when we were climbing. While climbing up,  it was pure physical exhaustion but while coming down it is pure metal thing not to get psyched. Aditi was behind me chasing my tail, the descent was much quicker and less physically demanding.

Noon : We could come to the place where we stopped for lunch the previous day. We stopped briefly. The advantage of being in the leader pack is you that you tend to reach the spot quick and can take more rest. By the time the rest of the team arrived you are all recuperated and spring up to continue.. This time we were led by Dhilip. This guy was another energy bunny. We could catch up on few things about his studies and work etc.. The guy is from IIT madras and had done water resource management but working in structural engineering side in an IT company. He was little defensive about his choice of career, but, I wanted to tell Dhilip, ‘Don’t feel sorry about your choice, you are not to be blamed. Our screwed up system is the one to be blamed, the whole funded IIT and IISc  is a waste. When we do not have the employment opportunity and the system where these superlatively skilled talents can be nurtured domestically, having them educated is not helping the cause. I am glad and thankful that you are still here in India, I know how many jumped the opportunity wagon and flew away… I know how high the percentage of IITians helping other countries and communities grow and flourished. Have you seen many MIT guys coming and working here in India? The unfortunate truth is where there is opportunity there goes resources. So Dhilip be proud of our choice. Thank you for being here’. I also came to know that Masu was one of his roommates and there were two more in the residence. All four of were avid trekkers part of CTC. How cool that was!. I would love to be as a fly in the wall to listen to their day to day conversation. How refreshing it was to know the young crowd so likeminded to be as friends. Long live your friendship!!!
I thought that we would stop somewhere for lunch but when we heard that we need to have ‘boga aval’ for lunch, no one was in the mood we kept coming down

2:00 : Around two we had completed ¾ of the descent. We reached a flat surface where we decided to rest little bit. We decided to settle individuals expenses, Cheran – Accountant man was in full swing to settle things. And then started a very interesting part. Everyone was asked to stand up and say something about themselves, their experience in the trek so on so forth. I felt that had we don’t this activity a little early in the trek, it would have been very helpful. After this activity, it transformed the whole synergy of the team. I came to know how diverse group we had.  I thought the whole CTC thing was driven by IT crowd but I heard from structural engineers and big group of architects led by Uday who was running his own company. I heard a media person, couple of students (What the heck was I doing while studying..??), Raja was from BPO, Kishore and Gautham were from a content development company and some IT guys also. This was very refreshing that the interest about Mother Nature and outdoor activities were universal. I also got my doubt confirmed that I was the oldest guy. We all took time to go up and share our experience and took this opportunity to thank ‘THE MAN MACHINE’.  The Masu man was the most amazing guy in the whole trek. Solid leader! Knows what he was doing all the way. Never let anyone to fall back (He came all the way down few hundred meters to help and encourage Jagadish when he was struggling and about to give up!) He had amazing sense of directing and involvement. Thank You Masu!  Keep the hunger burning. I would be watching you scaling many heights on the trek and off the trek.  Job well done from the beginning to end!

3:30pm  : After the fun time, we started the rest of the descent, More than anything we were all hungry. We came to the foot hills and now we need to walk our way to the car. I heard it was about 5 km and the sun was at its furious best. We were walking and walking and the woods seemed to be endless. Walking through the big pebbles, made it more difficult. My sneaker was beaten up and started to peel on the sides. I was praying that it should hold up till I reached the car and it did!!
We kept walking, sometimes we felt like we were lost but, we believed in the Captain and kept walking. Finally, I could see our cars. Big relief… More than tired,  at that time we were all VERY hungry. Did I tell you.. I found Yuvaraj lived pretty close to where I did. I requested him whether I can travel in his car. He graciously agreed. We loaded up in the car and start the travel towards the town. In the village we saw a tap and all the five cars stopped and we all washed up, some of us almost took bath. We reached the town and informed the police station that we all came back in one piece. Still hungry, we hunted for an eating place. Masu gave us hope about one famous Andhra mess all through the car ride, but that place was closed. We travelled little bit, could not find a place to eat, as it was a Sunday evening and most of the places were closed. Finally figured out a place like a ‘Dhabha’. It was like a drive in, big space but the restaurant was thatched. We figured that it was mainly for ‘drinkers’ to come and have their food. I don’t think they would have received this big a crowd (very hungry crowd) till date. The guys were scrambling to put the table chairs in the open space. The chairs were broken and tables were dirty, but none cared.  Masu and accountant Cheran had some secret meeting with kitchen crew.  We all waited patiently… Waited and Waited! The supervisor kind of guy ran up and down and in-between he took the bike and went somewhere. We were sitting there wondering whether they were buying stuff for cooking. Finally one plate of some chicken arrived and a bunch of vultures swooped down on the plate in the waiter’s hand and when the crowd cleared in a second, there was nothing in the plate. It all happened in miraculous time. The rest of us were sitting with big L on our heads to say how big a bunch of losers we were. Now Masu again needed to set the terms. He went to the secret meeting with the kitchen crew and waiters and instructed. Then came some more chicken, fried rice and some rotties. We ate till the brim.

Now it was already dark. This is when I heard the nice thing from Masu. He announced that that day was Ankit and Aditi’s  4th wedding anniversary. What a way to celebrate the anniversary.! What a like-minded couple!! We all wised them long life together. I also realized now that they bore half of the dinner bill. Thanks guys!

The final journey started… I was in Yuvaraj’s car along with Arun, Mukibi and Raja. It was a relatively easy drive with less traffic but I felt for Yuvaraj.. After a long day it would have been a tiring drive. We made sure we kept the conversation going to keep him alert. First drop was for Arun and Mukibi to pick up their bikes at Koyambedu and Raja at Guindy and I got down in Adambakkam. It was already around 10pm. I needed to walk about ten minutes. I started walking   worried about the street dogs.  Called home to tell my wife that I was on my way and the immediate need was hot water to bathe. When I called, I heard my kids at the background, I felt like I did not see them for days. There was a sudden spring in my walk and started almost run. I reached home and my little ones came and hugged me as though I went and came from Himalayas. They kept asking me questions and I was answering them patiently. I told my son that next time we were going together. He eagerly accepted.  So, there you go, I am eagerly waiting for my next trek. Loved your company, signing off. I started this on 23rd of Feb and today is 3rd March. In between I could not spend time because I was pulled in different directions. I read through this and felt like I could write another 5 pages.. I had so many  pleasant memories. Let us keep the desire to see outside of our office rooms and explore burning!



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