Excellent Write up from Abhishek:
I’ve been living in Chennai on & off for close to 10 years now. My introduction to CTC though is less than 100 days. It all started off during one of my crazy train journeys from Mumbai to Delhi a couple of months back. A couple of trekkers were travelling with me in the same train to Delhi from where they were heading onwards to some point in Uttaranchal for a 1 week trek. These guys spoke very highly about CTC and the kind of CTC conducted, The fire in me got re-kindled to enroll myself into the first possible trek with the first possible opportunity with CTC.
I guess it was a part of HIS scheme of things that I enroll into one of the testing treks as my first one with CTC.
While I was browsing the net for the activities and the treks of CTC I discovered that there was a trek – Emperor’s Nagala. On googling the same, the top hits were all re-routing itself to CTC. The pictures as well as the blogs were so interesting that I was visualizing myself right there at the sliding pool…
My selection to the trek is a story in itself but without getting into too much of specifics, I got a feeling that I was meant to be there for THE EMPEROR’S NAGALA.
The Pre-Trek - (The WE)
On the , Saturday 2013, the skyline of chennai seemed cloudy. Close to 30 trekkers had gathered outside nathan’s café all eager to set feet on the Nagala (East). Prem along with volunteers like kumara vel & Mahendran were at their organizational best with ensuring the head count being done, the trek costs being collected, the Trek and Legal Claims Disclaimer being signed off, the trekkers being directed into each of the car-pool and coordinating with the rest of the team boarding at points after and other than koyambedu, finalizing on the leader and the sweeper for the route amongst a lot of other things that the eyes couldn’t see..
En-route we stopped at a place not very far from red hills where we had tea which was as refreshing as the early morning rays of the sun..once we reached the township of oothukottai, there was the 2nd break for shopping where we shopped for utensils, chicken some consumables and other essentials for the trek. We reached the eastern entrance of Nagala where we parked the cars and set ourselves ready before the trek began. We were given oranges and chocolates for the journey onwards. The experienced guys also ensured that the freshers like myself weren’t carrying extra loads and were not only encouraging but also pepping the team up for the exciting journey ahead.
The Trek - The WE ALL
The master trekker prem was leading from the front and the mr passionate – kumara vel was the sweeper. We started off a few minutes past and all of us were high on energy and the adrenalin was running high to capture the Emperors Nagala. The beginning was smooth and none of us had any idea as to what this trek had in store for us. We reached the 1st pool where the breakfast was unpacked. It was an ideal trekkers breakfast with loafs of bread and mixed fruit kissan jam being hogged by each one of us and fresh steam water to quench our thirsts.
The journey continued and we reached the 2nd pool. All of us jumped into the pool like there was no tomorrow. The stay there was brief as we had to move on. Also, the experienced guys knew that this was just the beginning and there were many streams though out the trek with next pool getting only better than the earlier.
The first confusion happened when a part of the team which was slightly lagging behind lost trail and climbed an up-hill while we had to actually cross the stream and walk straight. The up-hill detour was a challenging one and it was highly inclined. As we climbed half the distance uphill some of the experienced guys of nagala east started recalling their past treks and not climbing this hill and elevation so early in their treks. The last part of the laggers dint lose too much energy or time as there was a timely realization and got back on trail.
Close to 50% of the team had reached the camp-spot where lunch was supposed to prepared and consumed. The dry stems and branches of plants and trees were gathered and the ethnic gas was prepared by the team. While this happened, a couple of people went and ensured that the people who had lost trail were located and guided to the lunch-camp site.The master chefs was the Doctor from Pondicherry - Dr Arun. The starter was scrambled egg, followed by Veg Biryani, Soya Taste-maker and the finger-licious Chicken. While lunch was prepared, a part of the team went to the Dead-pool less than a KM away to see the route forward which was lead by Prem. This also paved way to do the preparatory work to cross the pool. We completed our lunch and had raso-gulla for dessert.
Anand’s air bed was put to best use as it doubled up as a raft in which the baggage were being transported from one side of the pool to the other. This was like a military operation water expedition as there was a bee-hive right over the side of the hill over-seeing the lake. We had to be as discreet and silent as possible to not provoke the bee to attack us. At a good speed each one was transported to the other side of the Dead-pool.
The view at the other side of the Dead-end pool was breath-taking. It reminded me in a way about Phi Phi island and the huge rocks by the sea. I felt as if this was a dream world. But my sixth sense was saying…this is only the beginning…the best is yet to come.
Once we crossed the deadend pool, the trek was getting more exciting. We were walking at a brisk pace and walking past the streams until we reached one of the complex elevations…we had to be quite as there was a threat of a bee attack in that elevation. Also it was a narrow trail with a deep pit on the left. A couple of wrong steps and you would be hitting the boulders beneath!!
We crossed that slowly but surely and reached a long stream. The trek was beginning to get never ending but the excitement was only building.
We had to walk a few miles before we reached another critical up-hill elevation. This was the same place where there was a bee-attack the earlier time prem and team had come hiking on nagala east. This place was tricky not only because there was a bee-attack the previous time but also because the elevation was steep and there were quite a few loose boulders en-route upwards.
After this we were walking past another stream and we were sniffing that we were very close to the picnic pool. There was a final small elevation that we had to climb and though we knew we were nearby there was also a small element of un-certainty if we had really made it to the final destination for the day.
We climbed up and took a left and we could hear the water-falls of the picnic pool. It was the feeling of completing a marathon. You are tired but bursting with excitement…the body which is tired finds such new energy that it will explode!!
We climbed down the rocks and we were right there at the Picnic Pool. One by one most of us started jumping into it. Some of us climbed the rocks of the fall and we plunging ourselves into the deeper side of the pool.
By then it has started getting darker as the sun had set. All along the day, the weather was nice to us as it was cloudy and pleasant. It was a close to moonless night as the next day was ammavasya or no moon night.
We collected the dry wood sticks for the ethnic gas, so that we could have supper. For supper, we had variety rice – rice with dal powder & ghee, rice with rasam concentrate and tomato thokku followed by curd rice. All of it tasted liked nectar after a long and tiresome trek from the base camp.
We had dinner and crashed. There was a little space challenge as there was another group of 20 people from kerala who had also camped at the picnic pool. Nevertheless, we had made sufficient arrangements.
At mid-night, we were in for the biggest adventure as it stated raining heavily. The tarpaulin sheet which was tied on top was of little resistance as water was seeping in. some of us were un-disturbed by this and climbed over one another to ensure that the rain doesn’t deter our sleep.
Some of us couldn’t sleep a wink after the rains as their sleeping bags or whatever bedding they has carried became wet and there wasn’t anything that could be done.
The next morning we woke up and had some coffee while plunging ourselves into the pool. Also, the new day start afresh no matter what was the mantra and immaterial of whoever was able to sleep or not, everyone was inside the pool.
The highlight was that one of the guys – sollin selvan’s swimming goggles slipped out went off to the base of the pool. After multiple attempts, he went to the bottom of the pool and ensured that he found it. The way he ensured he found it showed some awesome character of the person. Anand, prem, arun, raja to name a few were at their jovial best and ensured that if people weren’t entering the pool by choice then they were pushed into the pool for sure! Anand’s air bag which had doubled up as a raft was being put into best use as a water mat and atleast 3 to 4 people were clinging onto it right through the morning.
After the session in the pool we had awesome rawa-upma. The master chef ensured that the taste was perfect and there was hardly any left-over of the same despite it being made in more than sufficient quantity. The taste was awesome and one of the best upma’s I’d eaten outside home in a very long time.
We started off from picnic pool to our next destination – the sliding pool. It was a thrilling journey to the sliding pool. Prem ensured that the excitement was always at its edge by taking us through another route which would lead us to the Dead-End Pool. At a point we had to use a rope and rappel a few feet from a rock boulder crevice into the stream. It was an exhilarating feeling to be doing some many different things in the same trek and the highlights seemed to be never ending.
Sollin selvam again was a man Friday as he took the previous day’s route just to ensure that we dint have to leave the rope behind. After having rappelled down, we had to swim 500 metres to reach the other side of the trail. From there we walked a few miles to reach the dead-end pool. We continued the trek without a break until we climbed and reached the sliding pool. By then, it was and we had a rest + snacks + introductory session.
It was heartening to know that our leader prem has done 54 treks in 2 years which technically means that he has been trekking every alternate weekend for the last 2 years!!
We also realized that many in the group were civil service aspirants.
The sliding pool was blissful and we had a gala time. Raja – our mr commando had a water proof camera ad he ensured that each one of us was video recorded during our slide into the water!!
The biggest highlight was when we went towards the magic pool. There was a point in time when most of us thought we were done for the moment and the trek when we were diverted towards the magic pool. The first person to dive into the pool was ___________ - no points for guessing..it was prem. When I saw him jump from a height of close to 50 feet above the water, for a moment my heart was in my mouth.
But hs jump was inspiring for a handful few of us who jumped from between 40 to 50 feet above into the magi pool. The moment was magical indeed and it was a be-fitting end to the adventures and trek before we started trekking downwards.
We reached the base camp very soon as the sun had set.
We drove back towards Chennai and halted for a very heavy and sumptuous dinner at a dhaba. It was a feast of sorts.
Observations and learnings from the trek were
- Prem by far is an Emperor for reasons beyond his knowledge about the trail
- True to what was told and pre-empted, even strangers meeting for the first time felt like family
- Everyone participated and played their part.
- it is a humbling feeling to be a part of a community like this where everyone seems to be similar but different than the other
- Magic pool is my love and I want to go there again and again and again
- People like kumara vel, ram, anand, moorthy, mahendran, raja, sollin selvam, saurabh, vivek, all the aruns, hari, raja to name a few are great team players
- Nithiya the only lady in the trek is a woman of steel
- The Dead end pool certainly is a wonder in the world
- There is no point in carrying too many clothes when going on a trek
- Doctors are also great cooks