Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Post Trek Write up - Perumal Malai and PX-1 Repeat


Perumal Malai and PX-1 Repeat, 23rd & 24th March 2013

Having come to know of CTC only recently, and fresh from my first trek to Nagala a couple of weeks back, I was raring to go on a 'Difficult trek' and to my joy was selected for the Perumal Malai trek. As usual, there was a long email thread where the stuff to buy was decided upon and coordinated. With some last minute cancellations, the final head count stood at ten: 7 of us from Chennai and 3 from Bangalore. Following some frantic rush to the bus, and a comfortable night journey, we arrived at Palani by around 6am. We were joined by the group from Bangalore soon, and we filled our tummies at a nearby restaurant.

We then took a van from Palani and a 20 minute ride later, arrived at the Varathamanathi Dam, which is off the road to Kodaikanal. Here we distributed the various common goods – food, utensils, etc amongst us and then climbed up the dam. The dam offers a beautiful view of the valley behind the reservoir and we had the one thing which is integral to all treks – a group photo :P
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At 8:20 started the trek, and we soon realized that the GPS we had was useless, because there was some problem with the loaded maps. But then we had our 2 gurus, Raj Jacob and A.Raj, who had already been on this trail many times before (both had even been part of the very first Exploration Trek!) to lead us. The initial stretch was plain walking and we hit out with a brisk pace. Most of the time was spent walking on/along the nearly-dried stream, which was full of boulders.
It seems that there had been a lot of landslides and boulder falls since the last trek. And the landscape had changed so much, that at one point, Raj and Raj had to backtrack for some half hour just to make sure that we were going in the right direction!
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We stopped at 12:15 for our lunch (khakras and cheese) and resumed at around 1pm. Then began an amazing stretch. We were still following the stream, but now the boulders were humongous! Jumping from boulder to boulder, while not being the best part of a trek, is nonetheless great fun! I was initially very cautious, and it took time to figure out what can be done.. It was pretty hilarious at times. I would look at a particular jump, and decide that it can't be done. Then A.Raj would come, and jump across without even thinking! And following him, I would curse myself for even thinking twice about the jump...
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After taking 2 small breaks, we arrived at a small waterfall by 3:30. The water flows down the falls, and forms a brilliant long pool. Some of us hit the waters, and boy, was it refreshing! After half an hour, we set out on the last stretch of the day. And nearing the campsite, we had to deal with the one thing I hate about these treks: thorns! Progress was kinda slow because of this, and we finally reached the campsite by 4:40pm. The campsite was just too good: a bed of rocks with the small stream flowing in between, and a steep drop before us. Merriment started with a round of cold ice-tea and the fire place was made soon. We had delicious Maggi by 7pm and most of us were ready to hit our sleeping bags.
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Imagine waking up in the morning next to the glowing embers of the previous night's fire, surrounded by mountains, hearing the heavenly gurgling of the brook flowing by and being treated to an awe-inspiring sunrise over the valley...

Well that is how our second day began. The fire was up again in no time, and out came the tins of condensed milk and cornflakes. We also emptied the Maggi packets, and a decent breakfast later, set out by 8:40am. We now followed a proper existing trail and after 25 minutes of exerting ascent, reached a road. We continued along the road for sometime and then took a trail again. These were well beaten paths, and without any difficulty we reached the next pit-stop by 11am.

This place again, is a water fall caused by the same stream which we had been following yesterday. But the amazing part was that we were able to climb up the falls, and go a little upstream. This, we were told is usually not possible, because the place would be flooded. But now, owing to the stream being drier, we came upon a magnificent cascading waterfalls and a huge pond! Simply spectacular! We had some food and lay down for some time. An hour later, we started out. This stretch, though being a proper trail, was particularly steep and we reached Vadakavunji by 1:30. This is a village which is near the ghat road leading to Kodaikanal from Palani.
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After raiding the local tea shop, 8 of us set out for the Perumal Malai peak by 2pm. Within half hour we were on top of the first peak. From here, you get a view of the far way plains, which is too good! Then followed the best part, where we were walking on ridges which connect the peaks. This part is something, which I'm sure no words can do justice to. A.Raj leading the way, we reached the second peak by 3:30. The last stretch before the Perumal Malai Peak was very deceiving, in that, it looked like it was a decent climb to the peak (which we could actually see), but the slope was in fact extreme! And so, after some frustrating moments, where we just had to halt for a couple of minutes, with the peak in full sight, we reached the final Perumal Malai Peak by 4:10.
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This happens to be the highest peak in the vicinity, and the view is breath-taking, to say the least. What with the lovely breeze, and the childish excitement at having conquered the peak :D Half hour of soaking in the beautiful environment, and then we started the return journey back to Vadakavunji. Now, we knew that descents can be dangerous, but there is something too awesome about the ridges, and a couple of us broke into a run. The 2 hour ascent turned into an even more thrilling 1 hour descent. Along the way, I chanced upon a huge deer which ran down the side of the ridge as I approached. The few seconds worth sighting of the huge animal, running gracefully down the steep slope, which I can only dream of running down.. Wow!

We reached the village by 6pm, and the others soon followed. We boarded a public bus by 7pm and reached Palani by 9pm (not an enjoyable journey :P). Had our dinner at a restaurant and it was time to say the final goodbyes before we went on to our respective cities.
It is surprising, the way you bond with complete strangers in such a short while!! It had been full 2 days of enjoyment coupled with awesomeness. I'm sure none can forget A.Raj's antics :D Nor can we forget Keerthana's resolve: At the campsite, she had slipped near the stream, and hurt her back at night. She was literally writhing in pain, but the first words which she spoke were “I really hope this does not lead to something huge. If I have to be at home for 2 months without trekking, I won't be able to bear it.” This for me, was the finest example of the passion that people have.  She went on to climb most of the Perumal Malai peak (which was optional) the next day, in spite of the pain.

In a nutshell, 3 nights and 2 days spent in a manner which I won't trade for anything else. And all set for the next experience :)

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