Post Trek - CTC Emperors : Freshers Trek to Nagala West, Central Peak 7, 8th April - Sandhiya & Sowmya

Friday, May 4, 2012

There and Back Again - Sandhiya

“ Sandhiya Rajaraman – You have been confirmed for the Emperors Trek to Nagala West – Easy +/Medium on 7th and 8th April 2012. Please read the following mails and prepare yourself. “The words washed a wave of relief over me. I had just been accepted for my 2nd trek ever – With a different organizer in the same Emperors group – One Mr.Senthilkumar Aarumugam. The collective boredom caused by mundane office work vanished without a trace – This weekend was going to be EVENTFUL!!7th April, 4:00AM, I boarded a Van in Madhya Kailash. 4:45, I met my organizer – Senthil and was transferred into a car. 7:00AM, we stopped at a roadside Idli shop in Nagalapuram for breakfast. 8:00AM, we were at the camp-parking. Common gear was distributed, the load was shared, initial instructions and agenda announced. 8:30AM, we were walking across a dried up dam, heading towards the western entry to the mountain range. 

Our group was largely comprised of first-time trekkers. The special feature this time was the presence of an 8 year old boy (Nevan) and a 40+ young man (Mr.Ramesh). Aside of these two outliers, everybody else fell in the expected 20 to 35 band. Now don’t mistake “youthfulness” for “strength” – they are two completely disjoint sets.The first few kilometres of walk served as an Ice-Breaker. “Hi I’m blah-blah, I work at blah-blah, I come from blah-blah” was the general Conversation-Template.The terrain seemed harmless. It was sunny at first, but soon got shaded by a thicket of trees and vegetation. The Nagalapuram-trail is blessed with an abundance of water. I think one of the prime reasons why this trek is rated ‘Easy’ is due to the rich supply of H2O at all times. Your feet might hurt if you haven’t used them much, but the chances of dehydrating before you reach the next water point are close to impossible – unless you lose your way and your common sense.Our climb up to the First-Pool and the Second were pleasant and happy. The first timers seemed to be coping very well and conversation switched to bizarre topics – now that the Ice was broken, we were testing each other’s tolerance to total nonsense. 

Enter Pool-3.  

Imagine a wide open rock face with one massive cavity in between, brimming with clear water. We didn’t need official invitation or permission. The back-packs just slid off our rear. Senthil, the Organizer, was first to do the honours. He dived right in, then climbed up a side rock and smiled with his trademark 32 pearly-whites . We followed suit. Some among us were confident swimmers, some were self-proclaimed dive-experts – but most (me included) put our faith in Archimedes-principle and got in with tubes. Senthil generously gave us an hour to loaf around – and loaf we did  The hour flew by and before we knew it, it was time to climb again. Like a bunch of school kids forced to enter class after play-time, we hung our heads, made faces and dragged our feet about. Senthil seemed immune to all our tricks. Climbing resumed.Blame it on our wet clothes or overly-relaxed muscles if you will, climbing seemed a lot harder after the swim. The Organizer soon caved to popular request and agreed to give us a lunch break. Chappati with Jam and Pickle  The chappathis were store-bought and half-baked. And we were in the middle of nowhere, with no Tawa to cook the roti. Hunger and Creativity resulted in culinary brilliance, the likes of which was never seen before.  

A stainless-steel plate, brought to serve as a lid for a pot became the Make-shift Tawa. 3 stones became the Gas-Stove and Wood+leaves were the fuel. The first few rotis were poorly cooked and the ones who at them in a hurry.. well I pity them. But as the heat caught on, the rotis were simply sensational   By the end of lunch, the plate was pitch black and slightly bent (heat u see). But our tummies were full and we were happy to climb again  The terrain this time was a trail-less steep incline with few trees/rocks to offer support or grip. One careless kick on a loose stone will send it rolling downhill in great-speed– until it finds the ideal head to land on and break (the head – not the stone). Some (like James and Senthil) kept saying “Cmon guys, move move..” – very annoying. Some others would shout in fear “Aaagghhh.. help.. hold me.. don’t kick stones.. move away.. “ and so on.. After several minutes of huffing, puffing and clinging on for dear-life, we finally made it to the top. 

Aahhh what an accomplishment!! 

Senthil : What are you so pleased about?? Now you have to climb down an equally steep incline.
Me : Eh???!!!

The mountain terrain is such that the water doesn’t always flow above the ground – visible to human eye. If you wish to trace a stream to its source, you have to note its flow under rocks and boulders and journey to the other side of the range if need be. This is what we did.Back to reality – the climb down was not so hard. The combined pull of gravity and push of our heavy-backpacks seemed to make the descent a lot easier. We only had to make sure we didn’t slip on the slope and start a human avalanche.Finally, we reached the camp site  Some people started collecting firewood. While we started opening up the Tarpaulin sheets to make shaded sitting areas, Senthil announced that the climb to the peak to watch the Sunset was optional. I had the feeling I could do it. So I signed up. We started around 4:45, 15 of us I guess, leaving behind the rest of the gang to play dumb-charades or anything that they wanted to. The climb didn’t seem so daunting this time - maybe I was becoming stronger after all  

Sunset was brilliant.   
We reached our camp-site again, this time climbing down with torch lights in the darkness  
Dinner Menu : Noodle-Tomato Soup, Vegetable Biriyani
Chief Cooks: Venkat, James Prabhu
Handy Helper and Camera woman: Me  
After soup, while the Biriyani was being prepared, the group gathered around the camp fire for a self-introduction session – Each speaker got 2 sweets after introducing himself.  

The Biriyani that followed was one-of-its-kind.   We ate like savages, asking for 2nd rounds and after that, hit the sack for a good night’s sleep.   Some owls apparently stayed up and yakked – I wouldn’t know cos I was busy snoring.  
In the morning, we woke up and prepared tea. After gulping it down with some Parle-G biscuits, some of us set out to climb another peak while the others stayed back playing games again. The climb to this peak seemed harder – lots of thorn bushes wishing me a good-morning along the way. But the sight of moving clouds all around when we reached the top was a total treat to the eyes   The photographers (one Mr.Balaji Mohan especially) were going ballistic and clicking away to glory   

We didn’t want to leave so early – but we had to. After a careful and steep descent, we reached camp – quickly gulped down the cornflakes with powder-milk that was waiting for us and set out again. We were pretty much retracing our steps from the previous day – but this time, with aching muscles and limbs.The bottleneck returned at the same place we had climbed with so much difficulty the previous day. A repeat performance of “C’mon move move” in multiple languages  (Tamil, English, Telugu, Hindi) and various permutations and combinations of the same with oxymorons like “come fast slowly” and “fall down carefully” got on everyone’s nerves. Main culprits were our dear James Prabhu and Senthil.Post-steep-slope, it was happy climbing all the way to Pool-2  

Boy – This pool was paradise.    

I’m not sure how long we were in it – But when you are having the time of your life, time seems to lose its importance   Senthil was busy preparing Maggie with some loyal souls who helped him. I have no idea who helped, cos I was soaking up in the water fall, jumping in with my tube and simply floating around like a hippopotamus in its habitat   God bless the people who cooked and served me the Maggie – may they live long and prosper.After food, it was a super-easy trek out to the open – with only one glitch – some locals who had come to Pool-2 left behind a load of plastic waste. The last of us to leave the site picked up the waste – we disposed it properly when we reached the city. We only stopped here and there to click pictures. We stopped at the dam-bed again for a group shot. When we reached the car-park, Senthil (our Organizer – lovingly known as the ‘Monkey-Man’) gave a very inspiring speech about why it is important to maintain the sanctity of such places and not litter them with plastic and other forms of waste.He had a very valid point. Most scenic places in our country are subject to such senseless abuse that they lose their beauty forever. Left to them, some people will even spit beeda/paan on the Taj Mahal – such is their attitude. It is therefore up to us to protect the inherent beauty of nature for the future generations to enjoy. And as CTCians, we were determined to make a point.We started our cars and Vans, reached a small roadside Dhaba in Nagalapuram and settled for dosas, parottas and omelette.We boarded our vehicles after dinner, reached the city at 11 – and home by 11:30 

To me, one of the chief take-aways from this trek is the organizer-Senthil’s commitment and energy level. In my observation he was:
·         the first to pick firewood and last one to eat (sometimes he didn’t have any food left)
·         the first to climb a monstrous rock-face and then help you with your back pack and offer a hand to pull u up
·         the first to offer to carry your backpack if you looked like you would collapse
·         the first to pick up the plastic-waste left by any other senseless idiot
·         the only guy with the most radiant, contagious and inviting smile on his face at all points of time   
He led us by example and made this trek a pure pleasure to be in. I am honoured to have been part of it  
Thank You Senthil.  
And Thanks to everybody else who came along with me  

Write-up from Sowmya

 “Amma!! I have got selected in CTC trek, am so excited”, I shouted in phone. “hmmm” was my mom’s only response, she didn’t have any idea of what I was talking about. “Amma am going to trek with ‘Chennai Trekking Club’’, I insisted. “ Ena club gib, you are not going anywhere, they will mix something in your food and do something”, she ordered me. I decided I will go even before I sighed “ok!! I won’t go”. (This time films they pollute mind, only idea about club my mom had was dim lights and drugs.)

The day finally came, i prepared my bag (Actually Anand’s bag, with my things). I was writing check list and verifying it again n again.  I woke up by 3.30 and took bath, i got instruction to assemble in guindy by 4.20. It’s been more than 5 years since I woke up this time. Van came, I boarded it with pride as astronaut boarding a satellite. Our mission is “Nagala West”, hope it doesn’t turn out Mission Impossible for me, as it’s my first trek I didn’t have any idea of how well I could manage myself. We had idly for breakfast on the way, by that time mostly got intro from all.

We came near Nagala, everyone got jam, pickles, parle-g and orange. Help from volunteers to carry common gear. Our mission started, we walked in stony and sandy path. Well I always been last bencher, was last as usual. The stony trail of mountain started, it was clear with shades of trees and mild music of stream nearby. Climbing started, it was like never before. For most of us it was our first trek, I didn’t know where I got stamina may be from nature. After little climbing we came across crystal clear stream, we filled our bottles up. Water taste was countless time better than any mineral water I ever tasted. Senthil organised so well, he was encouraging us to keep up. Climbing was easy, sometimes rough we got help. Finally we came to pool 3. Some jumped in immediately, many like me sat to blow our tubes. Water was so cool. When senthil called out for us telling it was more than an hour, we didn’t have even little wish to leave, it was excrusiating to leave it. 

With heavy heart we started climbing. We had our lunch chapatti, jam ad pickles. We rested for a while, then the difficultly started, the lose rocks!! We had to walk very careful not to fall down or roll rock in others path. Some week souls like me got help for carrying bags. We moved very slowly. Finally, we made it to our camp site. Stream nearby, in shadows between two peaks. We set our tents with thurfoil. Some of our group started to peak to see sunset. Some stayed. (well I did stay) remaining jumped into the water. We started playing dumbserious and drank soup. As we were playing it grew dark, something very beautiful got my eyes. It was a swamp of ‘glow-worm’, I felt like dancing (well like trisha in gili, fortunate for my team I didn’t). I was eight when I last saw a real glow-worm.  I felt so close to nature. Then rest of our team joint us after their sunset trek. We had camp fire and self intro session (not to mention the sweets). We had vegetable briyani for dinner. We all lied to sleep, it was hard ground, but we slept like logs. My dream was full of stream and glow-worm. Some went to see sunrise, some stayed (well I know me, I have to get down), we played bluff. Morning we had kelloggos and milk. 

We started from our camp, walking down wasn’t as hard as climbing up. We reached pool again, everyone now had courage to dive. We had lunch, magge!!. But we didn’t have any wish to come out of water, we had our water lunch. We finally completed our trek. We all got into van with so light hearted, determined to come back again.
Mission Accomplished!!! 

Things I learnt from trek,
·         Always carry salt and lemon (or pickles) for sure. It helps you when you get dehydrated.
·         Always be the first, you get time to rest more than walking at last
·         Important of all never litter and pollute environment.



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