Emperors Team 9- Nagala East Freshers Trek

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Our Menu for Emperors Team 9- Nagala East Freshers Trek

Breakfast at Nagala East House

Fruit Salad with Honey
Chicken Gravey
Veg Pulav
White Rice

Boiled Egg
Egg Podimas
White Rice with chicken Gravey
Veg Pulav

Boiled Egg

Aval with Karivappilai Mix, kara kolambu, Puli kachal and Sugar

Uthukottai(Whatever they Want)

-:) -:)

Excellent Write Up from Neha:

I’m in a pretty weird state right now, it hurts too much to sit down because of how often I fell; I can’t stand because my legs keep giving away (they are trying to erase all thoughts of any future climbing, I’m sure); I’ve been in hibernation for 2 days. I woke up smiling to myself though, and thought I’d record my memories of a brilliant trek while they were still fresh. We did the Nagala East Trek on the 26th and 27th of May 2012 – left me bruised & achey; but feeling accomplished and proud. In the span of two days, I made a huge new group of friends, faced challenges I didn’t think possible, and had the experience of a lifetime.

We started off bright and early on a Saturday morning ( I hadn’t seen 4 AM in a long time, it was like meeting an old friend I had neglected); well before sunrise. Forming groups and making introductions took a while; and then needed to sort out our food and other supplied before starting out. The regulars took the lead on this one.  Apart from a couple of egg-related disasters, we were good to go in an hour – the sun was just out; birds had begun chirruping – a good, clean start.

I had no idea about the kind of adventure that awaited me, or how intense it would be – the 2 hour drive passed easily enough. We regrouped at the base of our trekking ground, near a tiny local temple, where breakfast was waiting courtesy some local residents. Five-star treatment, I remember thinking. I can totally handle this trek. Me-from-the-future wants to slap Me-from-the-past.
After a quick meal (everyone was too charged to spend time eating); we picked up another experienced trekker – a little dog that’s a regular companion to all the groups. Someone had a bright idea and named her Latika! No clue why. She followed us the whole way, snacking on leftovers and keeping us company.

We got quickly on the trail towards the first stop on our route, climbing over an embankment and through some thorny forest to the stream we were to follow. I was already out of breath when we reached the first mini-halt, a little shaded bed of rocks with a pool of water.  A bunch of experienced trekkers went up ahead to make lunch at stop further ahead.  The next hour or so was just walking over some slippery rock alongside the stream to our lunch halt, right before the Dead Pool.

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And what a lunch it was! The scenery was like a fairytale – shaded by large overhanging rocks,  we dipped our feet in icy cold water and let fish nibble at our feet. Lunch was the most welcome and delicious thing I’ve ever tasted; and  quite a lavish affair, given our circumstances – veg pulao & white rice cooked in river water with a makeshift spoons of broken branches, and chicken curry. I don’t think food has ever tasted so good; even after getting made fun of for showing up with a yellow beggar bowl and having people yell ‘bhikshandehi’ while handing me my lunch. I was definitely past silly things like pride by then. The ‘pure vegetarians’ ended up stealing quite a lot of gravy - I mean it’s not like we were actually eating the chicken itself,  so it totally doesn’t count  ;)

After a quick siesta, we had to ‘stay quiet’ while passing through an area populated with honey bees – somehow the loudest shouting happened here! I think maybe the Nagala honeybee species is deaf - thank God, or we might have had to jump in the water en masse to avoid them. Then came the first ferry – we had to swim across a deep pool of water while the organizers ‘ferried’ our bags across on swimming tubes. I was just beginning to relax when I realized I had to climb across the side of a sheet of rock, sopping wet, to get to the other side. With a LOT of help, we finally made it, climbed over three big boulders and got to the other side.

It was endless stretches of rock for the next few kilometers, as we followed the stream upwards. After one very very very steep climb up the side of a gorge;  I remember this exchange with Prem, who had decided that holding my hand and pulling me along was the only way to make me reach the campsite:
 Prem: We’ve reached the top of the gorge! It’s a 300 m drop from here!
Me (clinging to the edge of a sheet of rock, standing on a muddy ridge about a foot wide): I’m afraid of heights.
Prem (Stepping closer to the edge and and spreading his arms): But look! It’s beautiful!! It’s a straight drop from here! You can see all the way down!
Me: I’m afraid of heights.
Prem: But it’s natural beauty!
Etc etc. Luckily, we were running late and there wasn’t much time to enjoy mocking death by playing hopscotch at the tip of a cliff, so after an equally steep descent, more stream-following, and one final small gorge;  we reached our campsite just before sunlight faded – the Picnic Pool.

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At camp, because I fell asleep almost immediately out of exhaustion – only after a delicious dinner with soup and eggs – yes, the dedicated foodies in the Emperors actually carried crates of eggs along the whole way!
Before setting out the next day, we spent time swimming in the picnic pool; swimmers and non swimmers alike took dives into the 40 ft deep water. The reluctant ones got chucked in anyway, but only with life jackets. Poor Anjana got stranded in the middle of the pool, floating with her life jacket andno way to get back to shore except by learning swimming on the spot!

After an intro session, many trekkers shared their experiences and stories of adventure and friendship at CTC. We then set out back to civilization (only after breakfast though – most important meal and all that); this time taking a different route. We swam across and ferried our bags through a deep stretch of stream, avoiding the gorge-climb. We then trekked back through the stream’s course, and another Big Adventure awaited: to bypass the second gorge, we had to climb through a small hole in some rock, drop down around 12 feet to a little cove; and then take a long jump into knee deep water. The organizers set up a rope we could climb down through, and people stood at various points along the drop to help us down. Finally, with Udhay, Amit, Prem and Vasanth helping, I jumped in and found my reward – a gorgeous little shaded waterfall to cool off in. I feel for Prem and Vasanth, whose heads/shoulders/ arms I stomped all over trying to get down :)

Our next big obstacle was a thorny steep we had to climb into, to find the Jeep Trail which would lead us downwards. I think this was the point someone started referring to me as ‘luggage’.  Can’t say I blame him. I’m amazed by how patient everyone in the group is with a beginner, offering to carry my bags and allowing me frequent rest stops, and giving me much needed encouragement.

We stopped on the way up, because we had to find make sure we were on the right path. The lead group vanished for about 45 minutes, quite a tense wait for the rest. Never a dull moment on this trip though, because our faithful Trek Dog got in a fight with a Jungle Cat (it looked like a regular cat to me, just bigger – and to think I might have gone over to play with the cute kittycat and gotten my face scratched off.  I clearly have a lot to learn about jungles)

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When they finally returned, we made our way up; and another treat awaited – the sliding pool and the magic pool. The sliding pool is a natural amusement park-like structure of a rock slide lubricated with moss, that you can use to slide into a pool. Further up ahead was the Magic Pool, only for the bravest of us – a 75 foot cliff, below which there is a deep pool of water – I don’t know if even Olympic divers can handle these heights! Luckily, Mother Nature also provided a bunch of flat rocks so this could be Spectator Sports for the rest of us – we cheered as people jumped very happily off the equivalent of a 6 storey building into deep water below, and then climbed back up looking like they’d had the time of their lives. Made for many great photos.

After this final adventure, we sped up down along the Jeep Trail, trying to get back before nightfall. Before we knew it, we were back on flat ground, making the final trudge to civilization. The last bits were exciting, because it grew dark, and darkness in the jungle isn’t the kind we see in cities – it is dense and all-pervading blackness.  We made it back to the temple finally, and collapsed into the sandy ground and exchanged stories while the cars were brought to us.
It was a brilliant experience; all in all – my issues and complaints back at home seem so small now that I know the vastness of nature – it really reminds you of your place in the world. I’ve suddenly made a big new group of friends, people I know I can trust with my life because that’s what I did for 2 days!
I’ve set myself a bunch of goals for the next trek; whenever my body recovers from this one:
1. Go to a gym for a few months before attempting this again
2. Limit the number of times I cry to under 2
3. Limit usage of the words ‘Are we there yet??’
4. Find a better name for that poor dog
5. Carry my own bags and not use the porter service
6. ­­Not get murdered on the next trek for referring to the boys as porter service

Excellent Write Up from Anjana:

‘Where history is oblivious, geography is tenacious’- striking lines from a book I read sometime back and that kept resonating in my mind during the 48-hour trek in the Nagalapuram hills organized by CTC.
I sure didn’t look up the history of the Nagalapuram hills before I started for the trek. The very fact that I was embarking on a journey that would fulfill one of my most cherished dreams and the excitement associated with it prevented me from doing so.
Yet the moment I set my foot on the hills to start the trek I realized that the history of the place found voice in its geography. The steep cliffs, gorgeous gorges, crystal clear stream with its deliciously cool water, the wonderful foliage, the picture perfect valley, the cuts and carvings on the rocks which had been patiently eroded by the stream for years together spoke for themselves. They spoke of the tenacity of nature, its ability to withstand time and man’s cruel interventions. They spoke of their proud history and antiquity -   something we trekkers would begin to witness and respect over the next two days.
No wonder that the most profound sayings in life are metaphorically linked with nature. ‘And miles to go before I sleep’ or ‘Rolling stones gather no moss’ have been quoted so often that one tends to overlook the source of their inspiration – Nature.
Each time I slipped on a piece of rock, slid down a boulder, climbed a steep hill or ferried across the stream I learnt a lesson. That I would always pick myself up to tread on the next rock, that the slide from this boulder would only make me stronger to withstand another, that the climb would test my appetite for the heights I wanted to reach or that the fear of drowning was all in my mind – the stream only wanted to carry me across safely.

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There were times when the entire experience was exhausting, moments of despair when you regretted having agreed to participate in the trek; moments when you wished it was all over and that you were in the comfortable cocoon of your city life; moments you wondered if this was all but a dream and that when you woke up your legs would not plead to you to rest them or your muscles would stop crying from the strain.
Somehow, these fleeting moments never registered for too long in my mind. When I lay on the rock and looked up at the sky pecked with stars, I realized that I was one among the fortunate few who got to witness this sight that was unhindered by the jarring city lights. When I looked at the little fireflies buzzing along the woods I realized that it had been a long time since I had witnessed such a beautiful display of lights. When the smell of the soup and upma cooked on the camp fire wafted in the wind, I realized that never before in my life had I felt so hungry or tasted such a delicious treat. When my fellow experienced trekkers pushed me into the pool to take a dip after the exhausting travel, I screamed out loud but was happy inside. They were right! The water washed away the dirt on your body, the worries in your mind and healed your wounds.
One thing that astonished me during the entire journey was how limited my vocabulary had become. As time went by and my body became exhausted, I realized that my conversations were only punctuated by ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’, and ‘please give me a hand’. These were said each time I was given a hand to climb over a rock or cross a boulder or when I slipped down and pulled my guide with me. My guides, themselves experienced trekkers, would always reply with a ‘Don’t mention it’, ‘I won’t leave your hand’ or ‘just five more minutes’. The last bit was of course their reply to the never-ending barrage of inane questions from amateurs like me who wanted to know where the camp site was after every two minutes of walking.
To my guides and the people who organized this trek, I take a bow. Their patience, confidence and attitude to withstand my unfounded ‘worries of drowning’ and ‘fears of slipping’ were tremendous. Extremely patient, they guided me through every mentally constructed obstacle with encouraging words and delightful trekking experiences. Had it not been for them, the trek would not have been half as interesting and exciting as it turned out to be.
Truly, where else would you find a bunch of people who wanted to run the last stretch to the base camp because they felt bored? And I certainly have not encountered such daredevils in my life who lead the way and soon go all alone to trace the trail and return with exciting stories of scouring the adjacent hill – all within a gap of half an hour.
The trek has left me a wiser person. It has humbled me, taught me that it is always ‘mind over body’ that makes it to the top. And that no matter who you are in life, you become insignificant before the bounty and beauty of nature. It also introduced me to a bunch of extremely environment-friendly and nature-loving people who respect it for what it is and untiringly reveal its beauty to people like me who have only a pedagogic knowledge of it.

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Halting at the roadside hotel in Utthukottai for dinner I suddenly realize how strange and artificial the tables, chairs and plates appear to me. It just took me two days with nature to realize the meaningless and unnatural existence I lead when I am not in touch with it.
My muscles ache even as I pen my experiences. And as I write I wonder if there could be one definitive saying that would sum up this experience. I google and find not one, but two of them-

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.  This is not done by jostling in the street. -  William Blake
Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.  - Juvenal, Satires

I couldn’t agree more!

I did try to find out the history of the Nagalapuram hills. Save for Wikipedia I was not able to find any authentic source that gave their history. From what I learnt, the hills were named after Shri Nagala Devi, mother of Shri Krishnadeva Raya of the famous Vijayanagara empire who belonged to the Tuluva dynasty in the 16th century. He named the hills in her honour. Another source told me that the streams that flowed through the Nagala hills drained into the Pulicat lake. One of the rivers that originated here was the Kalangi river. I believe it was the waters of the Kalangi that quenched my thirst for adventure and made this trekking experience a memorable one!

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