[Write up by Deepti Dhandale]
One cannot define heaven unless you get there, but without actually accepting the risk involved one cannot experience this heaven. I was really apprehensive about going for this first trek of my life with CTC and was unsure of my capability. But then I thought what is life without challenges and took on this challenge with complete trust in CTC and I am really glad I did.
For most of us our Saturday began at 3am or so. We met first at Tidel bus stop with some bike and car owners who took us to Koyembedu. Once there we met a larger group of trekkers who were all excited to begin the journey. Some initial checks and calling people to see where they were and we were all set to go. Our group was huge about 43 and some 4 guys were joining in from Bangalore. We picked up people from Koyembedu and then the rest coming from Bangalore and we were on the way to make our weekend a thrilling one.
We reached Nagalapuram in about 2 hours or so where everyone started to gear up for the trek. Food items were bought out and collected in the center and each one was asked to take their share. Everyone willingly obliged and took their share while some of the stronger ones carried the extra stuff required for cooking dinner. OKAY!! Now we were ready to go. We started from the dam at the east of Nagalapuram hills following a trail that led us deep into the hills. At first it was a plain walk getting bumpier all the way. We reached a stream and crossed the big and small boulders and climbed a small hill that led us to the 'Sliding pool'. It was a small pool with a slide about 10-15 ft carved naturally in the rocks. One by one everyone started to slide into the pool, starting with the expert swimmers who stayed in the pool to help the basic and even non swimmers. Almost everyone took a dip in the first pool and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Loads of snaps were clicked at this spot. Some bread and jam was there to energize us for the rest of the trek. Shortly, Peter announced that the advanced loop had to depart in 10mins and the tough members who wanted to be part of the advanced loop started to gear up to go on to the higher ranges of Nagalapuram hills. Most first time trekkers stayed with the basic loop which would be trekking alongside the stream covering the not so high ranges of Nagalapuram hills. Here 25 of the total 47 of us left for the Advanced loops with Peter, Brijesh, Alwin, Subhapriya, Nobal and some expert trekkers. The rest 22 of us stayed back to enjoy more at the pools nearby under the guidance of Shankar, Prabhakar, Google (Gokul), and other expert Trekkers (who wanted to take it easy for once). After the advances loop left we enjoyed for an hour more at the pools getting fish spa as well from the kind fishes in the pools. It was fun to be with complete strangers and yet know that you are going to be safe. The feeling only grew stronger as time passed by.
Finally after umpteen times of calling from Prabhakar and Shankar we came out of the pools to carry on with the trek. The path grew slightly tough and I was really nervous at some places but thanks to the experts in the team who guided me all along. We trekked along the stream, crossing it in some places and climbing over the hills in some places and soon we came to the 'Dead End pool'. This pool true to its name (given by Peter I was told) is a dead end for those who don’t know swimming. It’s a deep pool and advisably only expert swimmers can swim across to the other end. So, what about the rest of us who were basic and non-swimmers?? Here is where one realizes the importance of team work that no school/university can teach. Swimming tubes were inflated for the non-swimmers and our sleeping mats which floated on water were bound together to form a sturdy platform. The expert swimmers got into the deep waters and one by one ferried across the non-swimmers and later all bags. It was an amazing sight to see the co-ordination and team work where everyone took care of everyone (specially us girls ;))
Another challenge that we had at this spot was to keep our volumes low (which was difficult since we were all excited) cause there was a beehive hanging on one side of the hill. The challenge did not end after crossing the dead end pool. We then climbed up some steep rocks only to encounter two huge boulders which we had to climb up and down to get on to the other side. Here again the expert (and kind) trekkers came to our rescue and helped us climb up and down those boulders to get to the other side. I the scared little chicken stepped on the back of Shankar and then Google to achieve this feat. After this strenuous activity everyone was hungry and we had our lunch at the beautiful restaurant on the rocky bed. We had bread and jam and coconut balls for lunch. Chilled mineral water was readily available from the streams for free. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and after few minutes of rest everyone was energized to carry on with the trek. Some more climbing up and down to get to our camping site where we would meet the advanced loop members again for dinner. I was under constant care and guidance from all the experts (since I was the slowest and the most nervous kitten). We reached the camp site next to 'Magic pool' around 5 or 6 in the evening.
I had seriously lost track of time in this beautiful journey. The Magic pool was truly magical with an amazing waterfall view and lots of rocky beds alongside to rest and cook. For the first time I saw our huge villa with 50+ (rocky) beds, trees and hills around for cool Air Conditioning, a kitchenette was created within minutes near the pool where tea was being prepared. Our living room with a poolside view was huge enough to accommodate all of us and we had a shower rooms, bath tubs, and a swimming pool too. And for those required some privacy bushes and rocks provided that easily. What more can one ask for. As I was taking it all in listening to music of the waterfalls, the rustling of leaving and the silence of the hills among the chit chats of my team members, I fell in love with the serene beauty of the place. I felt like I was dreaming with my eyes wide open, until I was shaken up by Google who said tea was being served. Everyone was enjoying their tea in their amazing bowls, I jumped up and got mine too. The tea was so refreshing. Then began the game of throwing people into the pool.
Vipin was the first victim to be thrown into the pool by Brijesh and Nobal. Poor chap kept pleading for mercy since he does not know swimming but nobody listened. Of course we had tubes floating in the pool and some expert swimmers ready to look after him. It was hilarious to watch him and the others being flung into the pool one after the other (I escaped ;)). Soon, our active and energized Peter called on others for another supposedly short trek only for an hour to climb up and down the peak nearby. Some folks joined in while some stayed back. We relaxed and chatted along mingling with everyone. Some played cards while some kept on swimming or stood underneath the waterfalls. More photos were clicked and poses given. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention our Photographer Arvind - kiddo. He was engrossed in capturing pictures of everyone and every scene with his Nikon camera showing off his photography skills ;).
Soon it started to get dark and the kitchen fire was lit again to cook some soup for dinner. Our awesome Chef- Shankar took the lead on cooking with some of us helping to get water and wood, open Knor soup packets and prepare the mixture. Water boiling in the pots and soup being prepared in the light of torches was an amazing sight. As soon as soup was ready all the hungry souls came with their bowls to enjoy the start of family dinner. The soup was delicious and we nearly forgot to keep some for the rest of the team who had gone for the so called short trek. It was almost two hours since they had left. Sometime later as we sat chatting we noticed someone flashing their torch at the peak of the hill. Needless to say it was none other than Peter and company who had attained the peak in the dark. A game of flashing torches went on for some time. It was fun since the torch being flashed from the peak could easily be mistaken for a shining star.
And that’s exactly when our eyes gazed up into the sky full of shining stars. The background was pitch black and the stars shinier than you can ever find in the city. It was a gorgeous sight and you could create imaginary things by connecting the stars as if they were telling a story. We mesmerized at this view for a while and then our chatting resumed. After everyone was done with their round of soup, Maggi- the yummiest food was in the cooking process. Again Chef Shankar was on the roll. At this point some tiered members started to doze off on their respective rocky beds while others continued to talk and joke around. It seemed to be the best family get together ever forgetting the fact that at the start of the day most of us were complete strangers.
Around 10:30pm the peter and company returned from their short trek exhausted and hungry. Maggi was ready and they pounced on it as though it were a life saver. Cheers were shouted for Shankar as they gobbled up all the maggi noodles. Then again everyone took a dip in the pool before retiring to bed. Some folks sat chatting by the fire until early morning hours while most of us went to sleep on the inviting rocky beds. It was a cold night and everyone slept peacefully listening to music from the waterfalls forgetting the bumps on the rocks. When I opened my eyes in the morning it was the most beautiful sight that one could ever ask for in life. I saw the waterfalls and some people swimming in the pool, tea was being served along with hot milk and Chocos. I got up and went straight with my bowl to get some tea and Chocos. Everyone was talking about the fun they had last night. Some more people were flung into the pool and this time I went into the pool on my own to avoid being thrown in there. We stood under the waterfalls and got some pics clicked by Arvind.
Yet again Peter announced that the advanced loop would be departing soon. There was shuffling of people from the advanced team and some decided to stay back with the basic team. Finally about 17 people left with the advanced group while the basic group stayed back to enjoy a bit more. We had some more fun in the water until some other group of people came to camp at the pool. Then Prabhakar announced that the basic group was leaving as well. We started to pack out stuff and clear the area for the other group. We picked up all the garbage and collected it in bags to be taken away with us. I really admired this thoughtful activity of keeping mother nature as clean as we found her. Sigh!! How I wish every human being would do this at all times. Anyway, we packed and were all set to go. Headcounts of the remaining people was taken as we climbed up from the Magic pool. Today, I felt more confident of my step than yesterday though I still needed help here and there. Google would hold my hand and literally drag me along as he took long strides in those dangerous and hilly areas. But somehow I trusted in him and simply followed along. Also, Alwin would walk in front of me so I could see his steps and follow them without holding hands. I was getting trained to become a good trekker :)
The trek back was faster and I was less scared since everyone around me was helpful and I trusted my steps more. We had fun along the way joking, clicking pictures and chatting. The route back was the same until a little further from the dead end pool. Having crossed the dead end pool we played in the shallow part of the dead end pool for some time while we waited for others to join. Arvind, Alwin and I learnt to float in the water without having to swim from Sundar and we practiced it for a while. Soon enough Shankar came along and asked us to stop making noise as we could attract the bee hive nearby. We got out from the pool and went a little further to wait for the others as they crossed the pool. It was nearly lunch time and so we stopped at a new restaurant on the rocks to eat whatever was left in our bags. There was khakra, cheese, tomato ketchup, some leftover coconut balls, snickers, oranges and apples. In short there was a load to eat and we had our stomachs full before we started again. A little further we took a different route to go the Mango pool. There were a couple small hills to be climbed up and down and this time it seemed easier than before. We reached Mango pool around 5 pm where we were supposed to meet the advanced loop, but knowing Peter most of us were sure that they wouldn't be there soon.
We lay down on the cool grass beside the pool relaxing our backs and chatting with everyone, While Shankar and Prabhakar sorted the finances out. I was proud to have accomplished my first trek without any hiccups and I was very confident that I wanted to go on some more treks with CTC. It had been a memorable weekend for each one of us and we thoroughly enjoyed the company of all. We waited by the mango pool for some time and then decided to go back to the base where our cars were waiting for us. Back to the base, the place looked different. This was the same place where we had departed on Saturday morning around 9am to go on a wonderful trek with a group of strangers and we came back feeling fulfilled and content having made new friends and stronger bonding. We'd forgotten the muddy and pebbled ground and rest our backs while we waited for others to join. It was almost dark as we chatted along and exchanged numbers and promises to keep in touch.
Some of us who had their bikes left to their respective abodes and a few of us waited. Sometime later we heard from the other team that they were delayed due to some reason, hence would be coming only in morning. So we decided to take leave. We bade our good byes to Nagalapuram hills with an intention in heart to come back soon for another wonderful weekend. We cramped into the cars that were available with their owners and left to our homes. Prabhakar was kind enough to drop us all to our homes. I reached home around 2 am half sleeping in the car.
Back home I thought, we all live in this world full of gadgets, most of us on our laptops and mobiles all the time. Yes these are useful devices but they do not define our lives. The last two days spent in complete absence of any modern devices helped us to connect to people with open hearts. I am really glad I joined CTC and I thank each and every one of you to help make this trek a success. Most of us reached back home safely. It was a trek to remember and I am certain that all of us will want to go on many more treks with CTC.
Three cheers for CTC and our trekking group. We did it and we made it a success!!!
P.S.: Waiting on a write-up from the advanced loop team. :)
Thanks and regards,
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