Nagala during Monsoon – A singular experience – October 26,27 2013
I am going to cut right to the chase, keep it short and sweet – A retinue with Jack (Organiser) a.k.a Jayanth departed from Koyambedu first, a van and two cars. We were waiting for Mr.Polo, the youngest in the group, as Jude was frantically giving him directions over phone to reach Nathan’s café, the nondescript CTC starting point. Upon Mr.Polo’s arrival, we loaded the two cars with our luggage and drove on to catch up with the rest.
On reaching Uthukotai, we had a sumptuous break-fast of Puris, Chapathis, Pongal, Dosas and Vadas. I am not sure what happened to the idlis as I never saw one. All this for less than 50 bucks a head. Now that’s what I call a good deal. After the killer breakfast, we made a beeline to Nagalapuram. The empty roads, the cloud filled skies, the green pastures and the mist in the backdrop which encompassed the Nagalapuram mountain range– all this within an hour’s driving distance from Chennai – was a treat to the eyes. Raj (Chief Organiser), upon looking at the fog-filled-range, predicted a night of rain whilst Nambi (organizer) was busy recommending which songs to play on the stereo.
We soon reached Nagala, split the common gear amongst us and started the journey to the base of the range. The sight of the reservoir filled to the brim with water was a sight to behold. The clear trail slowly gave way to rocks and the hilly terrain. Very soon, we were wading through knee deep water, walking over tall grasses, pushing through slush and crossing streams where the water current was hell bent on sending us on a direct path to the base of Nagala.
Our first major stream crossing was a sight in itself – Raj, Jack, Gokul, Nambi, Jude and a couple of others formed a chain over chest-deep water. Our baggage had the advantage of being thrown from one person to the next, and landing at the safety of the opposite bank. It was then the turn of the women-folk and then the boys. If only we could be thrown. Walking through neck deep water (in my case), using the organisers as pillars of support, trying to find a footing and making my way to the opposite bank – was spectacular.
It was now time to scale Nagala again. This time, the trail was more in water than on land. We were walking in sync with the stream making a straight path to the dead end pool. Raj was pushing us and had a good lead. We were catching up albeit slowly. At around 1, we found Raj and his company sitting at a spot. This was when Raj announced that it was time for lunch and to turn around. That drew a few quizzical looks as we were hoping to push forward. Anyway, it was time for rusk and cheese, snickers and an orange. So all else was forgotten for a bit.
After a quickie lunch, Raj asked us to turn around. I was confused. Was the trek over ? Are we going home ? I just shrugged and followed the person in my front. Soon after, the plan was clear. We were not crossing the dead end pool and camping at picnic pool. We were instead making our way to the magic pool. And I heaved a sigh of relief. To climb this far and not to spend a night at Nagala would have been catastrophic. Nambi clarified that Nagala was teeming with more water than he has ever seen before. And Raj had decided that there wasn’t enough time to cross dead end pool and reach picnic pool in time. Soon, we arrived at the camping spot for the magic pool, unloaded our luggage and made a beeline to the water streaming through boulders. As we were just about settling down, Raj went and jumped right into the slide – to the sliding pool. Gokul dived from the rocks, into the sliding pool and a few others decided to give the sliding pool a try. I nervously tip-toed to the edge, looked around, hand-gestured Raj that I am coming in through the slide and went down --- whooooop. The slide was a blur – all I can recollect is getting my breath blown away as I hit the pool. It was awesome. Period.
From the sliding pool, we climbed down the rocks to the magic pool. Raj, Jayanth, Gokul and a couple more decided that the stereotypical climb was not cut for them. Instead, they decided to proceed to the shortcut – right from the rocks caressing the picnic pool and straight into the magic pool. My rookie estimate – the dive would be 30 feet. And to see them pierce the water with such elegance was mind-blowing, not to mention scary as hell. Chilling out at magic pool, trying to swim against the current of the waterfall, going behind the water-fall for the heck of it, making smaller dives, letting the fish eat the dirt of our feet was how we spent the next couple of hours.
Once we checked magic pool of our list of things to do, it was time for a little bit of rock-climbing (damn jagged rocks poked me quite a bit), the way back to the camp, for some well-deserved sleep / lazing around. After considerable time had elapsed, Raj decided it was time for food again. He built the fire whilst many of us were busy gathering firewood. Maggi and Chapathi were on the menu for the night. Needless to say that everybody were ravenous and were looking forward to some hot food. The Maggi soon disappeared (as two packets went missing :P) and it was time for the rotis. I generously borrowed pieces of the delicious rotis from Nambi to keep my tummy quiet. Poor guy – couldn’t refuse.
After everybody had eaten, Raj, Jack, Nambi and a few went on to pitch a tent whislt many of us sought succor underneath the rock overhang that doubled as the camping spot. Raj warned everybody to tuck in early and get a couple of hours of shut-eye as it might probably rain in the wee hours of early morning. It was then that Gokul decided to wreak havoc.
Gokul formed a round table conference with a good 15 people and they decided to talk on various topics ranging from how they were ragged in college to who their first crushes were to what turns them on. That god-awful conversation (if I may say so) never ceased to end. They went on and on and on for what seemed an eternity. After suffering for an hour or so to that dreadful noise, I peacefully dozed off.
It was . I felt a vague wetness at my feet and groggily got up. It was raining. Damn Raj and his prediction. Resting my knees against my hands, I slept off again in a curled position. I woke up again. This time, the rain was pelting and my sleeping mat was half wet. Even my curled up position did not help. I got up, took my rain cheater, tried to zip it up unsuccessfully at first, finally managed it and slept off in a near vertical position, amongst various others who had camped underneath the huge rock-cover. In my groggy state, I noticed that a good number of people who had pitched camp above us, in the open, sought the cover of the rock overhang. They took up whatever remaining space was on offer.
All’s well that ends well I suppose. The rain died. We caught a few hours of sleep. In the wee hours of early morn, many went missing, to do their chore, as expected. A few of us got up and were shooting some shots. Raj did us the honor of getting behind the lens and each of us took turn to climb to the edge of an abyss, for that photo that could possibly be our facebook cover photo.
Once everybody had got up and settled, Raj built the fire again, made some hot milk for corn flakes. (One pack of Kellog’s choco is still missing folks :D) After that, Raj announced that we will be climbing up the stream to see Nagala’s highest falls. 15 of us took the bait. We climbed to the first fall which was 3 meters high. Settled down for a bit, before we started hiking again. The next fall was about 30 meters high if my guess is right. If its wrong, well, who cares. It was a bigger waterfall than the first. Period. After that, we started climbing to the next fall. Now that fall, was a sight. A good 300 meters. Which was Nagala’s highest fall, Raj proclaimed. Most of us decided to chill at the base of the fall. Raj, being the numero uno, decided to scale the fall and climbed to its crest. Jayanth soon joined him followed by Vignesh, Jude and a couple of others. Whilst they went climbing across Nagala’s highest falls, the rest of us were enjoying the water cascading from such height. After about an hour or so, one group decided to scale down to the camping spot whislt we decided to wait for the gang that went up the fall. 15 minutes later, Raj turned up with the entire bunch and we trekked downwards. Upon reaching the camp, we noticed many were missing as they were chilling at the magic pool. I made a beeline towards my snickers, orange and apple, my ration for the day.
At this point in time, Raj noticed that a swimming tube was caught in the water current in the sliding pool. He dove down and tried to retrieve it but could not. Now, it was Jack’s turn. Jack promptly went down the slide and caught the swimming tube. Unfortunately, the current was so strong that Jack couldn’t swim himself out of his predicament with the tube. At this moment, Raj probably had his balls in his mouth.
Jack, holding on to the tube, finally found a rockhold, held on to it and scaled to safety, leaving the tube behind. Raj was relieved. Gokul watched all of this, his nonchalant demeanor gave nothing away. As if it was a walk around the park, he dove into the sliding pool, caught the swimming tubes (which Jack was trying to rescue) and swam across to safety, with such an ease that left me awestruck (If Gokul had his way, I think he can trump the Bermuda Triangle, alive)
After the hiatus, it was time for magic pool again. And then, before we knew it, it was time to head back to the camp. And before we knew it, it was time for lunch – Khaakra, the masala powder that comes along with it and pickle. Thereafter, it was time for home. Heading back, I noticed that the landscape looked as alien as it could be. I did not recollect any of the terrain, except for the stream crossing of-course. We had a quick round of introduction after the huge stream crossing and then, walked straight to the base of Nagala, where our vehicles were parked.
After what seemed a very long time, we reached our transport. After about an hour, which seemed even longer, we reached our dhaba. If you think a hotel comprising one owner, three servers and a couple of cooks, can handle a bunch of ravenous CTC-ians, think again. Food disappeared as soon as it was laid on the plate. My paratha was stolen in full from my own very hands. What a sad sight it was. Well, for the next time, I have strategy – spit on my food before it gets taken away. No shame. No hunger.
All said and done – it was my best spent weekend in a long while.
Thank you Raj for being such a wonderful organizer, leading from the front on every aspect of the trek. Thank you, Jack and Nambi for doing the wonderful job of sweeping and making sure nobody gets left behind.
To Raj – I wish you many more successful treks in future and if you will have me, I would love to join you.
To Nambi – One of the most friendliest folk around, always beaming with a smile, I wish you all the best for your “green endeavors” and I hope to join you in making Chennai greener.
To Jack – Thank you so much for putting up with me and making sure I eat. You are a life saver.
Above all – To CTC and Peter – for redefining Chennai – My gratitude.