The Best of Palani is one of the best treks to be in with exotic and challenging trails from PX/3 and PX/5. We started our trip from Chennai to Palani little bit late from Vandalur in a pre-booked van. Everyone had a great dinner in a road way shop and most of them slept fat to compensate the tiresome trek the next day. Next day, we landed in Palani and started distributing the common gears after buying the regular south Indian morning breakfast, Puri Masala. We were not sure what it will do for the stomach but we had no other choice. Most of the common food items like corn flakes, milk powder, and rusk are also distributed and we were at the base dam around 6:00 am to start the hike. There were rows of tractors entering the dam floor in style and people on it were asking about our whereabouts, what we are up to? They assumed many things by seeing our attire – researchers, forest officials, picnickers etc.
But when they forced, we have to tell them that we came for picnic. Some tractors even gave lift onto which some climbed. J After that plain walk, we finally saw some forest and elevation. There was a clear trail until we started seeing big boulders and streams. We need to cross all these boulders and follow the stream to see the gigantic Gundar falls from its base. We rushed a lot, but the sun was already up and burning us all down. As we have to achieve it as a team, we slowed down. We had breakfast early at a small water point and rested. Note that the trails we are following are some of the easiest in PX/3 and PX/5. J We continued fast to the next resting point as it is already noon and sun is over our head. Bala was doing excellent sweep and Gayathri the real sweeper gave all of us more confidence that we can complete it. I myself don’t know whether I was with sweep or in the lead. But I was going almost in middle watching lot of big falls and boulders. We passed through the cave and steep climbs at many points and finally came to the dead end point!!
This is little bit toughest part in PX/3 as well. You need to climb down a 15 ft depth using rope and a tree. This time I don’t know how, I came to the lead position with extreme people Arun (the organizer), Jeyanth and Senthil. When Senthil and Jeyanth showcased climbing down as so simple through the tree, I too thought I can do something with the tree. But I didn’t see it clear enough on how to get hold of the tree from the rope. I simply climbed down the rope with bare hands and was swinging to hold the tree with legs. When my right hand slipped, I thought am dead!! J But my left hand can hold the rope so tight while the right can also a little bit, I did a SWAT US military(Source: Senthil) kind of climb down. Senthil and Jeyanth was seeing me doing this from down and thought am dead down there. But I came out alive with burns on my palm. Next person to do the rope down was Prasana, he did it slow, but still this nylon rope sucks. He also got a small burn. Arun avoided rope altogether and used the natural way, the tree!! Such an injury on day 1 was disgusting to me. Senthil finished his first aid kit to bandage all my wounds so that I can continue the trek.
While all this is happening, the sweep team, Bala and team were enjoying in the falls down. There was a route from down as well, as there is less water during summer. So, all others don’t want to do this Monkey thing and went down to do the water crossing and climbing up way. After all grouped up, we started the next phase of trek. Although I was tired because of the injury, there is no blood loss on the wounds and there is immediate first aid available. I felt safe even in that deep jungle. Thanks to Senthil/Arun/Bala for constant encouragement. Thanks to everyone who helped me out at many difficult climbs where I cannot keep my hands down for support. You need to see the CTC logo to understand why this happens. J
We were moving as fast as possible so that we can reach the camp site before it gets dark. As it is a scarce water summer time, we crossed many places safely. Finally we reached the camp site and photo session started. I removed all my bandings and let the wound breath. I felt death pain but Laure’s pain killer tablets helped a lot. Bala, the all-in-all alagu raja, did all the first aid again to empty the second first aid box. Then the team made an excellent camp fire and had interesting discussions on the camp fire. It was interesting to know about ourselves and our common connections at that camp fire. And the food, we ate noodles/rusk/tea.
Next day morning, Coffee was ready and then we ate some corn flakes. Took excellent pictures in Balaji/Kowshiks cameras and started our day. It was not so much big boulders now. Clear trail, so went with arun/senthil in lead team so that I won’t lag. We reached the village around 9:00 am. I remember one villager asking me “Why you want to walk in this hot sun inside the forest? We only live like this, why you do this? You don’t have any other work?” I still remember those words ringing around my head. I cannot tell that it’s just time pass when their daily work itself is in the forest. Even the reason for doing treks is for adventure, you have to think a little bit about the usefulness of it to the society. I had all free 7up, sprite and kadalai mittais. We took rest until the last member of our team comes. It would be tiresome for the sweep team in that morning as already it was near noon. After all came, we started off to Kodai for our PX/5 trail. I was sad that we missed the view of Gundar falls. I have to do this again to get there.
In Kodai, as usual heavy lunch with mutton, chicken and almost every animal you have heard of. I have to eat any way. So used plastic cover and managed to eat mutton and chicken pieces. Then, we all started to PX/5 trail. We were seeing too many tourists around as it was summer time. We reached the camp site by evening and felt the cold winds by evening itself. The cold is so much that everyone shivered. Some put up double, triple t-shirts over. We also put a tent somehow to safe guard and with the heavy lunch no body was even interested in dinner. But still Bala tried his best to light up the fire with ghee, coconut oil etc as we didn’t take camphor. J Finally camp fire was up and some cooking and eating happened without me. I can just hear the sounds about some food that’s it. While we were sleeping no one was ready to sleep outside. But some bold heads slept near camp fire (Bala/Senthil). Some preferred sleeping deep down where wind is less.
Next day morning was also shivering till the sun hits the valley. Till morning we had camp fire because of the wood collected. It’s all because of great work by Vignesh and other members who collected wood even in dark with torch. Morning we had rusk and milk maid cream which was so tasty for all the hungry guys. Then non-stop photo session started. Balaji Mohan and Kowshik were called by people everywhere to take solos. Some wonderful group snaps were also taken. Some did a leech bath in a small pool on top of Gundar. J We saw Bharani (Motta boss) coming in search of us. The reason behind him coming at the end of trek is still a mystery. J He slept inside the valley full night without sweater or sleeping bag in full formal (with belt). Even from that place he would be updating facebook I think. He lit up fire around him and slept with the heat generated by it. The place he slept is full of boars and bison. Definitely some animal would have come and wondered about this animal sleeping in the midst of fire. J
After all fun with photographs, we started our climb up. It’s a steep climb to the pine forest and then to the road. You can sight lot of rare animals which you can find only in Zoo. Senthil/Arun ran on lead and moved the team. Bala was taking his own easy routes by doing excellent sweep. We took lots of rest as it is around 12:30 noon. But after we entered the pine forest, we can feel the Kodaikanal climate and its beauty. We were resting for some time to wait for Bala. But Senthil in lead, one group went ahead while Bharani and I wanted to follow the group.
As I tried to catch up with Bharani as much as I can, at one point I ran to find him but I lost him. Then only I understood that I ran in wrong direction into the next forest and I got lost in the forest. While coming back from there, I was able see Bharani and the team heading towards an open space. So, I started walking in that direction to that open space as fast as possible to catch up. But then again I missed the group. Since Arun & Bala took another route, I can never meet them again. I waited for some time but I had over confidence that from there it should be easy. J
So, I started exploring the route out to the road alone. The correct route is to catch the neat trail after climbing the open space but I walked to the left of the open space and ended up in some abandoned jeep track with forest vegetation. It’s not the same route we took in peter’s trek. So, confused!! But I still continued in the Jeep track towards the vehicle sounds and open space. Many things happened then which made me lose confidence slowly. Even the clear jeep tracks lead me into deep forest and made me to loop around, visible open spaces led me into some flat space where I can only see scenic views and vehicle sounds at alternating sides making me to predict road direction wrong. In-between I can also sense some animals running around. I was making lots of sounds with bushes and also had a huge stick. I know it was useless but still did something to pacify myself. I guess I would have walked at least 5-6 km lead by vehicle sounds into animal trails with full of thrones and bushes. Again and again luckily I hit the same jeep track I started with. That’s the most disgusting part. Now I understood how bad my navigation skills are. Only after coming out I got to know that the next village is 8 km up and Kodai is 8 km down. So, it’s impossible walking to Kodai or the village through the hills. I thought about doing that instead of tracking the road. J If I have done that, I would have to stay in that forest the whole night. In-between, it became cloudy and showed signs of rain even. I was already in Cloud # (the entrance to heaven) by seeing that. If there is a rain, definitely soil will be eroded and am never going to get anywhere. After 3rd round, watching lots of sceneries and similar open spaces again I could reach the same starting point. I took a rest with water and 5 star chocolate after 1 hour and thought for a moment to decide on the direction which I never took. I didn’t drink any water as I wanted to drink the remaining only after I come out. But I have to drink some to make my brain work!! J While roaming around the jeep tracks, I was literally praying not to get hurt by wild animals. Being alone and lost in the forest is the life challenging experience I got first time. With all that worries, I somehow made into the right jeep track by walking the reverse direction and finally found clear jeep (this one is with rocks to avoid erosion) tracks leading me to the temple check post. I was really happy to see the road and the temple. I simply sat before the temple and prayed for a minute. Now the next worry is about thoughts in my friend’s minds.
The next funny thing here is I don’t have any cash in my pocket. I need to go to Kodai to catch my friends from that point. Two random people helped me out after seeing my looks with bushes all over me and got me into some Auto. That auto person was really helpful and he was even ready to give me money to go to Chennai. You cannot see such people nowadays. On the way I can spot our vehicle coming with everyone searching for me and I waved my hands to stop them. Thank god, if they have gone down there in search for me, they would have killed me. J The entire organizer group wanted to hit me there itself for doing stupid thing. J But somehow by seeing my situation, they left me. Now, am thinking how Bharani did it all alone the Gundar valley. It would have been really thrilling.
We reached Kodai and planned for Cycling. The people who were left behind at Kodai don’t know that I was rescued and hiding behind the car. They were ready to file Police Complaint. J I took mutton biryani and started resting as I was dehydrated walking around in the forest for 1 ½ hour with the speed to save myself. I even thought about going for Cycling right away but since I missed it, all buggers ate anything and everything they saw in the road side shop. All are treats from one or the other. I missed all this but had Kodai Choco treat from Bharani. J Emma, Laura, Senthil, Bharani and I were in the van and talking about Senthil’s french girl friend goals. By the time these cyclers took to come back, I had huge doubt that something is happening. But I can only see all those food items they ate in photos. L
Hand injury and lost in forest!! Nice experience to have. This was my first injury and a good lesson out from all the difficult/moderate treks I have done. The team was really wonderful; I can remember almost every ones name. All were so jovial and friendly. Thanks friends for being with me till the end. We should all meet again in some trek in future!!