Monsoon Mission in Western Ghats – Life is calling
Right from the start of the journey , it was totally an enthralling experience for an avid nature lover like me . It was Thursday evening , I had to catch my train at to reach Bangalore . I was collecting my bagpack and GPS from my friend who had wrongly taken my bag in which my Garmin was present. So I had to go to Red hills , collect my bag pack and come to Central station to catch the train. I started at from Ashok Nagar and every 10 minutes I was getting call from Sankar , Prem and Guna about my whereabouts . I was calm as I was pretty sure I won’t miss the train like last trek to Tirupathi :P . Equipped with 6 sleeping mats and three tarps , I rolled it and put it over my head and exactly I reached Park station , soon I jumped out of running train with luggage and started running . My phone was constantly ringing , and I was feeling my heart beat . I got into the subway and got out ! Instantly started entering into central gate , all the mats and tarps were blustered away and cut loose . That moment , Phew …. Soon I chucked few mats and a tarp to nearby Pani puri guy , and took whatever was in my hand at that moment and started running . It was and I was in Platform no.6 and I could notice the train. Sankar ji and Prem were shouting Vishaallllll, Daiiii … Soon I noticed the green flag waving, Prem collected the tarp , sankar ji the mats and started to run . The train was moving , I was running parallel to it and rapidly jumped into D1. Phew…… Heart beat pounding …. The trek has not started yet !!
Soon I exchanged greetings with trek participants and noticed Pnagin ji sitting in the corner . It was long time since I trekked with him . I was thinking , this trek would be special for sure . Soon munching the cutlets , vadas , drinking tea , we started playing Cards . Time passed by , as we keep on playing Ace of Spades and Knock Knock . It was interesting and funny to see a huge gang playing cards covering the whole row of train seats .
The Initial 1200 m Ascent – Day 1
Around After negotiating with the bushes and thorns we made our initial hike skipping the stream , penetrating into the thick woods, soon to be lost in the thick and sloppy ridges of Western ghats . , we caught our bus and distributed food items , checked GPS and informed the bus driver . Early morning we quickly disappeared into the thick forest infested with blood sucking leeches and venomous pit vipers . We did not have proper breakfast as we had to reach the 1200 m peak before . It was a very steep ascent , so the team kept up its pace , slowly and constantly climbing up . I was leading along with Sankar ji , Karthik supporting , Prem pushing and motivating everyone and Vipin and Sridhar were sweeping . I was exchanging Agumbe stories with Pnagin ji .
Slowly we were crossing each and every contour line in our GPS indicating the altitude . Around we were at 1000 m altitude , 200 m more to climb . I waited for everyone and finished my nature’s call . My tummy was empty and making sounds :P
Soon Guna , Subha and Prem came and started climbing . Prem noticed a snake hiding inside a hole and advised everyone to start ascending . After climbing 1100 m , I had got affected with severe cramps due to lack of food and water . Although I was hydrated enough , I had cramps in my thigh and calf muscle . Then realised , I did not have food the whole day and day before as well . Sankar ji , Jayanthan helped me out and asked me to rest for a while . It was raining heavily and gusty breeze made it even worse ! So we spread out a tarp and sat for a while until my legs got relaxed. Soon Prem came down to check my status , and helped me out with food and did a superb leg massage .
I was revitalized and started walking again towards peak . The whole team was waiting for me to start and I was back to normal. Soon we were heading into dense jungle filled with surprises !! Once the mist moved, we got a breath-taking view of where we climbed from, and it was impenetrable Shola grassland that we hiked. I still had the effect of cramp which was soon rejuvenated by Karthik’s Poli and Prem’s Electrol mix . It was then I realised how much I missed the coconut balls for breakfast . Soon we descended along the saddle towards the opposite peak . By afternoon we were on that peak and continued along the never ending ridges.
Peter had earlier said this point as point of no return . Thundering rains and Spanking winds made us cross those ridges more interesting . It was the most memorable moment for me !! As I had covered myself with a tarp and were almost gliding along with the wind without much exertion . Soon the tarp flew away :P
So I tied it to my bag and started moving . The winds were smacking to the core . Each and every one in the team were combating against the wind .
At that moment I realised the true power of nature . Soon we started descending which was gradual and was towards the main stream . After descending 100 m , we were back to thick woods . It was around and we decided to camp . Soon Sankar ji and Prem crossed the small side stream and checked for a flat space. Luckily we found out a flat space covered by thick grass . While finding the camp site , we noticed a Malabar Pit Viper and Hump Nosed Pitviper lying on a tree and on a rock respectively . That indicated their basking temperatures. We laid three tents quickly and started arranging things for cooking . I had brought 1 kg of camphor for cooking as this time we were sure that we will cook whatever happens !!
The menu for dinner was soup and Maggi. After setting up the camp site and changing dry fits , we started cooking and started thinking about the gusty winds that literally propelled everyone away from the ridge . Hot soup was on the way . Soon everyone had soup and Maggi and started to find a space to sleep . All sleeping bags and mats were wet ! All outfits were wet ! All tarps were wet ! Almost everything on Western ghats were wet … We ignored everything and started to sleep .
Sankar ji did not have enough space ,so quickly he laid a small tent with his tarp and started to doze. We had a nice 4 hour sleep until everyone started chatting about their trekking stories . The non-stop rains plus the bone chilling breeze ripped us apart . Even though we had three tarps to cover , water was oozing in all directions. Diwakar was having a tough time , sleeping in the corner , almost fully drenched in rain and covered with blood sucking leeches . Subha’s frequent “Oh no! My Sleeping bag is fully wet” was notable. Prem , Saravana , Sridhar ,Subha , Diwakar and myself were discussing about the monsoon winds and rains. It was around , again everyone tried to sleep . Though it was disturbed one.
In love with the Main stream -Day 2
Morning we woke up around and started making Tea . Everyone had rusk and tea for breakfast and were geared up for the long day ahead. Soon we packed all tarps , bagpacks and took a group snap and started moving towards Main stream . After having discussion with Sankar ji , Pnagin , Sundar and Prem , we decided to go to the main stream and then finalize about exiting towards Tea estate or at the start point itself . We had to descend 500 m to reach the main stream and already it was pouring. I was moving along with Sankar and fully loaded with energy as the food and energy bars totally recharged me . I was ready to do a non-stop hike J . We were descending parallel to a dry stream , and noticed a potential camp site which was flat and large . Moving towards the main stream , we kept on descending , walked on animal trails , climbed up and again descended until we reached astonishingly beautiful and breath taking view of the stream far away. Pnagin , Vipin , Sankar and myself recollected memories from MSM 2011 trek of this place where we were removing our leeches ! The team was jumping after seeing the view as it was clear and dry sky . Everyone had their round in taking their profile pictures and quickly we took a group shot . The astounding sight pleased my senses and made me realise that all those adjectives that are synonymous to stunning will be aptly expressed at that moment ! No words to express as everyone were delighted and overjoyed with ecstasy . After all , what you need in life is that moment of happiness under the misty skies along with like-minded souls in the lush green grasslands with thundering rains and gusty winds moving your soul !!
We crossed that ridge and started descending . I was supporting in front with Sankar ji , Guna and Pnagin . After a 50 m descend and regrouping we had Pickle ,rusk and Dates for a quick food session . These little things that Prem does is what makes the group more energetic . Should take this opportunity to thank Prem ji .
After finishing the dates, everyone headed towards the stream . We crossed few side streams forming human chains, as the streams were flowing with great vigour and dynamism.
Walking along the stream , we stopped for a quick lunch of Khakra + Cheese . Everyone had a nice water massage in the main stream . It was around and it started pouring heavily like MSM 2011. Anyway all the souls were wet throughout , so they were least concerned about rains and winds now . The priority was Pickle+ Cheese . Prem and Guna ji helped in inventing a new food item similar to Half Boil in egg which was Having Cheese and putting pickle over it and swallowing it at one go !! It was idyllic . All our tummies were filled , I suppose ;-) . Around , we started moving along the main stream , crossing the bamboo trees , thick bushes , sluggish waters , umpteen number of side streams and wet muds . We walked till and stopped as we got a nice flat space for camping . The majestic Main stream displaying its true supremacy was a visual treat .
Soon Nagin ji finished his tent within minutes , and others were laying down their respective tents . I was shivering and bone chilling breeze made it even worse . After laying down the tents ,Saravana and myself went for bring rock for cooking . Sankarji and Selva went to bring water . Prem was helping this time with cooking as always it was Sankar ji taking the responsibility . Today’s menu was Soup and Masala Oats . The Soup was damn nice !!We experimented Masala Oats for the first time and it was not great , but atleast we got to eat in this roaring weather. Anand , Magesh , Jayanthan ,Subha and Sankar were talking about their two day experience in Western ghats . As usual these stories make us more and more delighted . Everyone went back to their tents after finishing their dinner . It was yet another rough night for Diwakar ji as he took responsibility in taking the corner position and did not sleep throughout the night as it was raining heavily and water was coming into the tent. Saravana’s dry sleeping bag which he did not use it in first day was a reliever , and it made us both sleep for 6 hours . The warmth it provided made us fresh and energetic in the morning .
The terrific exit - Day 3
Around , I woke up and the smell of tea in the morning was alluring . Quickly Sankar ji , gave me tea and I checked my GPS and packed all things . Sankar ji told me that we are going to exit somewhere near start point , so we need to climb the ridge ,walk across it and descend. Though it was simple to say , we had to cross several side streams gushing with force , climb the thorn filled ridges , move along thick vegetation cover and descend along slippery rocks. We kept on walking , soon the main stream was taking a left and we encountered a jeep track . So we followed the jeep track till where it lead us to as it was moving parallel to stream .
We crossed few more streams , refreshed ourselves and halted just few kilometres before check point . We decided to deviate from here as in to climb the ridge to reach near the start point . While climbing , Guna ji noticed the Green Vine snake exhibiting its white and black markings . The green vine snake is diurnal and mildly venomous. The reptile normally feeds on frogs and lizards using its binocular vision to hunt. They are slow moving, relying on camouflaging as a vine in foliage. The snake expands its body when disturbed to show a black and white scale marking. Also, they may open their mouth in threat display and point their head in the direction of the perceived threat. I was simply awe-struck with the sheer beauty of the snake .
Soon , they started climbing up . I was taking a few snaps and noticed a Viper on the next branch . Phew !!! I started climbing , soon Vipin , Sridhar and Jayanthan (Silent Heros-Sweepers) came along . After a while , Sundar ji surprised everyone by providing Masala Badam which was the highlight at the finishing point . It tasted damn good !! Soon we proceeded and almost near exit , again Sundar ji took Dates packet and Karthik distributed it to everyone . The timing at which these energy boosters were given was remarkable. It started raining heavily and soon the team started descending in full swing. Around 1:00 pm we exited , with a smile and moment of joy of completing the mission clearly visible in each and every face . Hats off to Sankar ji , Prem for constantly pushing the team .
Once we got on to the roads ,Bus came and people got onto it in CTC way . After this everyone in CTC knows what is gonna happen ……
Magesh ji was asking me about why the trek was titled as “LIFE IS CALLING” –
Our souls are in desperation to be united with nature but we are forced to lead an inert life in the cities . It was that moment of happiness, joy and ecstasy that everyone unanimously exhibited after being amalgamated with nature for just 3 days !! Of course the real life out there in wild is calling us to fuse to make us realize the true happiness J