Beat the Summer Heat - Le Grand tour du Nagala - Apr 13-15

Monday, April 23, 2012

[Written by Kamlesh]

It was 2.30 AM when  I woke up from my bed. I started arranging stuff inside my backpack, took a  bath and was wondering what to wear for the day. Time fled away and it was 4 AM when I got ready. As I knew that there were two auto stands nearby, I was sure that I would get an autorickshaw to reach Koyembedu from Anna Nagar. At 4.10 AM, I bid goodbye to my mom and then walked towards the autostand. To my surprise, there was no auto there. Hoping to find one near the main road, I walked faster towards the signal. Again, I was surprised to find no autos in the usual stand where I had seen so many autos on other days. There was no sign of any moving vehicles on the road and I thought that I was going to be late. Without losing hope, I marched towards the autostand even though I knew that there were no autos. Suddenly, I heard an auto's sound somewhere out of my sight. I was looking all over the place, but I wasn't able to find it. From the dark, a pin pointed light emerged and there came the hero. Thank god! The auto driver understood that I was looking for an auto and he swifted towards me. I told him to take me to koyembedu and he said yes. Though he demanded twice the usual fare, I wasn't bothered about it.

Having attended the fitness test, I was familiar with few faces. It was Ramesh Bhutiani who identified me immediately, as he joined me on my bike during the fitness trek. Other  members started emerging in a few minutes. After some time, one of the group became very busy. I wasn't sure about the reason for the sudden activeness there. A few feet away, I saw the black muscular car and I realized that Peter was there. When I approached the busy group, I  found guys discussing stuff with Peter and other organizers. I was desperately looking for Chandan Kumar who had asked me to bring an additional sleeping mat for him. Since, I was not sure about whether he belonged to Team A or B, I thought of handling the mat to him ASAP. I found him within a few minutes and gave him the mat. Right then, Team A started getting into the vehicles for the 1 hour drive. It took me some time to find a place. I was looking for a seat in any of the cars, but was getting negative replies from the drivers. Alas, Hema diverted me to a Lancer, which I supposed to be full. Fortunately, I heard a voice saying that there was a seat inside. It was Kannan sir. I sat inside the car and within a few minutes, we started moving.

Surprisingly, Chandan was sitting in the front side. Chaitanya and Balaji were adjacent to me while Kannan sir drove the car. After the introduction chats, Kannan sir initiated a chat on bikes and cars, while we enthusiasts joined him. One memorable moment at this point was Chandan's puzzled look when we were using unusual phrases like naked styling, bare body, and similar stuff to describe the bikes actually. After becoming aware of the subject, he too joined the discussion. Before we could realize, the sun rose up and its rays penetrated through the transparent windows beautifully. Boni and Balaji were sharing their previous trek experiences with CTC, which excited me further. When we entered Andhra border, we paused for the breakfast. Myself along with 7 other members sat inside a small hotel where a lady was preparing food for us. After a few minutes of pestering, the lady finally brought us hot pongal, idli and vadas. We had a nice breakfast there. To everybody's surprise, the bill was just 120 bucks for 8 people. When the accounts in-charge volunteer, Mr. Radhakrishnan (I guess) heard our bill, he was also shocked and commented that we youths should eat more. 

After a few minutes, we were on the roads, following an ash colored Alto. We weren't sure who was driving, but we knew that they were also among CTC. During the middle of the drive, Kannan sir noticed Peter's car overtaking the other cars behind us and soon, he overtook us. We realized that we were away from the correct route. Then we took a U turn and drove towards the right track that took us to the South Eastern entry of nagala hills. I hope, we reached the maximum driveable limit on the cars. Members brought the food items to a common place and everybody picked up their individual share and the common items as well. After we got ready for the trek, the drivers went back to park their cars in some safer places, while we started marching towards the hills.

After a 30 minute walk or so, we reached the first pool where members started taking a dip in the pool. After changing my clothes, I plunged into the pool and few other members accompanied me. Few minutes later, drivers who went to park the cars joined us at this spot. When I was relaxing in the waters, I heard somebody saying that our next agenda was to climb over the vertical boulder that was atleast 15 to 20 meters high. Seeing it, I thought that they were kidding and I said to myself that those people don't have any limit for their humor sense. After some time, an yellow rope came into the scene. Few members climbed the boulder and tied the rope to a tree. Only then I realized that what I heard was actually true. Soon, the fittest members started helping people to ascend through the boulders and passed the backpacks to the top.   

The actual trek started there. Walking on the rocks in the path of the stream alerted my senses and I was looking for any danger ahead or around us. After some time, I got set with the environment and  we followed one another. On the way, we took a dip in another pool which was very chill. Then, we started walking aside the stream's path. At one point, I realized that I lost contact with members who were walking ahead of me. I walked faster, but couldn't find a single soul. There were people behind me thinking that I was on the right track. I shouted a few times to get a reply from members ahead, but in vain. Bharadwaj and Prem Dharshan were following me immediately, and so I shared my doubt with them. However, we still proceeded on the way where the stream flowed in. After some time, I was able to find water droplets on the rocks which relieved me that other members would have definitely gone by that way. Even after an hour's walk we weren't able to catch up with members who went ahead of us. 

Finally, we saw members resting over the rocks. Happily, we walked faster towards them. When I reached there, Radhakrishan sir told us to take a dip in the shower nearby and proceed towards the optional climb to get an awesome view. But, few members had already left for the optional climb. As I was tired, I sat immediately on the rock and let my wetted shoes & socks to dry. Soon, members who were walking behind me started emerging into the scene. It was at this point, I witnessed Mr. Guna's presence (lawyer). As I could remember, he was lying on the rocks taking a nice sleep. We rested there for some time and had our lunch Poli. After half an hour or so, the guys who went for the optional climb appeared from nowhere. I could  remember Peter exclaiming “Oh! It's Poli time”. Soon after, We started our next leg. We reached a small peak from which we had an awesome view of certain peaks of the Nagala range. Took some group photos there and then proceeded towards the grass lands. Fortunately, I was wearing a full length track pants and so, I was safe from thorns and bushes. After walking for an hour or so, we reached a dense area where we had a small water stream. Few members took a shower in it and rested there for a while.

Later, we proceeded towards the flat lands to end that day's trek and camp there. Few guys started collecting firewoods and I helped them. I heard so many guys freaking out that they had never camped so soon in any of their previous treks. Right after, organizers started making soupy noodles  while few others went back to the stream to fetch some water. I picked up my bowl and waited for the soup to get ready. Soon, we tasted soupy noodles and it was yummy. We went back for the second round and then the third... After the soup, organizers immediately started making maggie noodles. We enjoyed eating noodles in the camp fire. Myself along with Kannan sir, Arun, Chaitanya and Balaji (I guess) made our beds little away from the camp site as the place was almost filled. The sky was beautiful with twinkling stars, and somebody asked for the moon. After a few minutes of lying down, I realized something running over my hand. I simply shook my hands and then covered my body fully with the blanket. After some time, I heard noises around me, and people were awake. When I turned back, I saw a line of black ants creeping over Chaitanya's and balaji's mats. Soon, I found those ants on my bed as well. We weren't sure about the reason for its presence near us, might be the food in our bags. Soon, we packed things up and moved towards the campfire. I found a comfortable place under the tree, although there were small rocks popping out the flat land. When I used my sleeping mat and rested over it, the small rock beneath it felt like a head rest. At that moment, I realized Peter's affirmative suggestion in his mail where I asked him whether a sleeping mat was necessary. Had a nice sleep under the sky, where stars peeped out in between the branches and leaves.

I woke up at 5 AM and the ambiance looked like as if it was 7 AM. The sun was about to peep above the horizon. Prem Darshan started clicking the beautiful sunrise. Sundar and few other members started making tea. Guna started unwrapping his bag and picked out a big knife, dates, nuts, etc., one by one. The gang started cracking and time passed away. We ate the reboiled noodles that was leftover. After refreshing ourselves with tea, Peter asked us to get ready for the optional 800m peak climb. Fortunately, majority of the members joined it. We went to the stream, took a nice shower and then ascended towards the peak. Since, I had a nice sleep, I felt very refreshing to climb up in the morning. After an hour or so, we reached the peak from where we had amazing view of the entire Nagala range. We spent a few minutes sitting there, making group photos. Some guys went for solo images making crazy postures. 

We were able to see the campsite from there,  which looked very small from that height. Then, we took a few metres walk on the flatlands to reach another spot which showed us the other sides of the Nagala range. We shouted together calling up for Team B's organizer, “Shankar”, and after a few seconds, it echoed from the mountains. After spending some time there, we descended down to the campsite. Being quite exhausted, we moved in small groups. I lost track with members ahead of us. Myself, Pritham and Balaji were descending together (Hope, I am correct here). At one point, we came across a big droop which seemed impossible to cross. Fortunately, I found another way nearby to descend down safely.  I felt like we were lost and we weren't able to find the direction to our campsite. The area was full of thorny plants and there were no traces of human beings through it. Somehow, we proceeded forward looking for other members. After some time, we reached the trail which connected the campsite and the stream area. Then, we went to the stream, had a nice dip and returned to the campsite.

Rava pongal was ready by that time. I had a full bowl of pongal and rested for a while. After a few minutes, Guna and a few other trekkers came back who were also away from the easiest route to the campsite. I can still remember Guna's excitement in seeing cashew nuts in pongal. 'Ai! Cashew nuts!'. I hope everybody would remember that moment. After a few minutes, we packed up for the second day's trek. We took a dip in the stream again and started walking. Our agenda was to reach the Picnic pool that evening and camp there for the night. Initially, it was a normal walk on the flat lands. Then we descended down to catch up with the stream. We were descending down, yet the track was full of rocks and boulders. On the middle of the route, we met Team B. Shankar was kind enough to give us hot rice and we exchanged our Tepla pack in return. With pickle and ready made mix, we had a nice lunch there. Again, we started following the stream to reach the picnic pool. We came across a beautiful waterfalls on the way. After a steep climb and a risky descend, we reached the picnic pool where swimmers and non-swimmers enjoyed a lot. The night creeped in and we had soupy noodles and Top ramen noodly soup for the dinner. The place was full of fireflies and they sparkled throughout the night. I didn't had enough sleep that night, but I enjoyed watching the sky and fireflies.

When I was about to have a deep sleep, members woke up and started taking a dip in the pool. After having tea, Peter called the members for the optional climb to enjoy an awesome view. I went with the fittest members for the optional ascend. After climbing up for about 15 to 20 minutes, I got very much exhausted. My sleepless night have made me tired immediately. Still, I pushed myself hard to keep in phase with other members. Initially, we rested on a small boulder and enjoyed the morning view of Nagala range. Took a few group shots there. We also enjoyed a vulture's flight. That time, Peter commented those birds as “Lazy buggers” as they could reach such heights easily while we human beings had to climb hard through rocks and boulders to  reach the peak. Then we moved to a water source nearby, where members plunged into a bath-tub kind of pool. Being unaware of the rocks, I jumped into the pool carelessly and so, I hit the rocks. Fortunately, my legs were safe with some scratches and skin burns, although blood covered my left leg. Then we descending down to the super pool. 

On the way, I slipped and hit my other leg in one of the trees. We reached the super pool after a few meters of steep descend. Water was flowing from some 25 to 40 meters of height and it was sprinkling as far as it could. We took a dip in the pool and spent some time there. Then, we descended down to the picnic pool thorough another route that directly took us to the spot. Unfortunately, Nishanth and myself lagged behind due to a risky descend at one place. We lost contact with other members, yet we followed the stream. At one point, we came across a small, but steeply descending pool. Nishanth lost grips on his shoe and so he removed it. Unfortunately, the shoes slided down into the pool. The pool was small, yet little deep in the middle. I slided down in the pool and brought his shoes back. This incident further delayed our trek. We weren't able to track other members' path and we lost hope to find them. After walking down for a few minutes, we heard a voice and it was Boni chaitanya, waiting for us. Thank God. I guess, he was purposefully asked to wait there to take us. Then we descended down together to the picnic pool. By the time I reached there, other members had finished their breakfast and were getting ready for the next leg. Damn!

 I just had time to have my breakfast and to pack up. Right after, we started ascending a few meters and then descended down to catch up with the stream. Our agenda was to reach the dam, before the sun sets in.  After walking for about two hours or so, we reached the ridge where we had to ferry our backpacks using the sleeping mats. Members volunteered to ferry the backpacks in small groups. The place was splendid with the stream enclosed between the boulders on two sides. I swam across it and then we started walking along the stream to reach the dead end pool. Again, we had to ferry our backpacks and so, members crossed the initial big boulder leaving their backpacks behind. Volunteers passed the bags one by one and I was also helping them with the bags. Suddenly, something sat on my nose. Before I could realize it, I felt heavy pain in my nose. It was the bee sting. Soon, other members got alert and everybody paused the work for a while. I proceeded towards the boulder and covered my entire face. Many other members too were hit by the bees. I still have the mark in my nose. Far away, somebody covered his entire body with a blanket and Guna didn't even opened his mouth when I asked him whether he saw my bag. 

Our bags were then ferried across the stream. That stream was quite longer, still I decided to swim across it in a single stretch, hoping to find some rocks much ahead of the land. Unfortunately, I gave up after crossing 3/4ths of the stream and so, I drowned in the water. Holding my breath, I kicked up to reach the surface again, but my arms were painful and I wasn't able to swim forward. Thankfully, Alex was watching my moves and he immediately came forward to save me. I got hold of the air tube and he pulled me to the land. My hearty thanks to Alex for the timely help. We had lunch there, eating whatever was leftover in the backpacks. Then we proceeded further, where we had clear trails. At one point, we were confused whether to go for the magic pool or straight towards the exit route. Then, we decided to take the exit route and reached the final pool on the way. Everybody took a dip in the pool and enjoyed the final moments of Nagala waters. After three days of continuous trek, I felt like missing the environment at this point. Then, we followed the trails to reach the dam. We walked on the flat lands to reach the parking area where a few members from Team B were waiting with the cars. After having soda in a nearby shop, we reached the main parking area and from there, we decided to take dinner at the Dhabhas on the way. As we started earlier, we were ahead of the other members. We took dinner on a roadside hotel, had hot dosais and parottas. We reached chennai by 10 pm or so. Thankfully, Kannan sir dropped me near my place and I took an auto to reach home.        

Even after a week, I couldn't focus away without thinking those memorable moments. I hope, everybody would have experienced the same. I wish to do more treks with the same group again in the  future. I hope, it will happen soon. Right from Nikhil to Duraiswamy sir, everybody inspired me with their unique talents and skills. Thank you guys for a wonderful trek. Good day!
- Kamlesh.

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