Emperor's Trek August 15 "Get the freedom" - Write Up by Ravi Munnangi

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Written by Ravi Munnangi
Do we need yet another write up about Nagala
Sholay, Basha, SalangaiOli are cult classics - remaking them is a risky endeavor, you risk the ire of purists - comparison is inevitable. Make it as-is and you will termed as lacks creativity, make it too contemporary – you will be accused of spoiling the original flavor. Same is the case when you are writing a write up about the Nagala trek – probably it’s the most written topic in CTC till date. Prabhakar introduced me and recalled how much they enjoyed my past write-ups, which is indirectly setting me up for another write up. The reason for delay in this write up is partially this dilemma and my injured right wrist – which barely gave me enough strength to get past my work.
By the way, God Father inspired many, I am sure more than 100 movies are made around the world in different languages. God Father inspired movies which unveiled the local sensibilities, culture and with perspective of directors of different generations have worked in the past – Nayagan and Sarkar typical examples, the actors bring their style and interpretation of the character making them interesting enough to watch it again. Consoled by this thought process – I am starting the write up of my recent trek to Nagala – Independence Day trek.
The Director and Cast
Without being abused of flattery, I can safely say Arun is the director alias the organizer and guide. Vibin was the co-organizer – who in the past had participated in treasure hunts, organized treks and participated in some hardcore events. The cast is a good mix of first timer and amateurs like me and professionals like Jebin, Ajantha and Karthik.Its easy to say who is fresher, who is amateur and who is a pro – just look at their bags and footwear. In case you are struggling how to assess that with bag and footwear here is the thumb rule
·         big bags indicate freshers – you can find toothpaste inside the bag
·         small bag and casual footwear indicate pro
·         small bag and carefully selected footwear indicate amateurs
Its really odd – plain vanilla odd
Its something really odd and unusual thing in a CTC trek – especially emperors trek. The only group I trek and ride with in CTC – I enjoyed the experience with Emperors and ever since stick with them – maybe there are better groups out there, may be not – I am happy around them that’s all matters to me.  Coming to the odd thing – yeah everyone was there at the assembling point by 11:15 – almost on time – this is the first time when the entire group managed to reach within 15 minutes window of designated assembling time. The van was late by a few minutes owing to traffic. Van and a car started towards the destination – Car would go to east nagala and come to the point where Van would wait for them – I guess its west or north (I am bad with directions)
The break at Tada was odd too – only 6 of the folks in van got out for tea, my usual experience had always been that entire gang gets out and attacks the shop. And there was one more odd thing – ajantha set her eyes on egg dosa – but resisted from ordering it – we wrapped up with a tea. The only not so odd thing was – a guy approaching for “sir – sarakkuvenuma” – and liquor is strictly banned in CTC treks – and we didn’t need any external spirit to pep up our spirits – Nagala is good enough. After hot tea – I picked up a 600ml club soda and my expression after the first sip – made everyone suspect that I was having something more complicated – well I love soda – plain cold soda.
Nothing odd about it
Every time members of Emperor group meet – one thing that usually happens is recollecting and reliving old experiences. Ajantha, Arun and I were recollecting old treks – we did not have a single common trek – but still any emperor’s trek is our trek – we were reliving, relishing and ruminating the experiences. It’s like a food lover talking about Dum Biryani and salivating instantly.
Foodie trek, Dudhsagar, Venky, Venkateswara, treks with peter – so many of them kept us awake, engaged, excited and energized. While this was going on Vibin missed a turn – this also happens usually, nothing odd about it. And the freshers were doing their best to catch up some sleep – nothing odd about it too.
Van reached the meeting point first and Car was late, we had some waiting time. After Vibin and manoj came we went towards the base camp – the area had changed and were not sure – decided to sleep in an open field.
Bag lessons
I have been to treks and bike ride with Arun – he has good sense of humor – tending towards pranks. I was busy rolling my sleeping bag - rolling exactly the way t was when I bought it. As soon as I was done – I found the sling pouch totally tangled, holding the rolled bag between my legs – I untangled the pouch. The sleeping bag wouldn’t slip in. Arun suggested to roll it properly again and I did it. This time the sling pouch rope had hard knots – I knew it was Arun. He showed me an easier way to load the bag back into the sling pouch. Its simple – squeeze it in – no rolling no folding.
Just when we thought it was over, Nithya started rolling her sleeping bag and the whole story replayed. But man … Nithya managed to pack it with the rolling method and Arun had for a day to get his point across to her. Which in fact he did the next day and Nithya learned how to load the bag back into pouch
The common material were distributed and freshers took good share of it into their Himalayan backpacks. They learned the lesson the hardway that big bag is not needed for eastern ghat treks and travelling light is smart thing. After out bag lessons we started towards the Nagala range.
The localities
It was a long walk to the base of the hill, I felt very rusty and my legs were not cooperating – the first few kilometers were tough. Just when we reached the base – we saw two local guys entering in.  About an hour later we came across a family there were two small kids – the family apparently lives there for more than 6 months – they had built elevated platform and small huts – protection from reptiles when the sleep. Apparently they collect the weeds and make broom sticks and sell them for a living. No electricity, no TV and no appliances – felt like my village – we had a pukka house – but I remember the days without electricity when I went for summer holidays. They only had needs- no wants and no desires – just plain living one day at a time.
We didn’t spoil the kids by kids by giving them chocolates – but they have access to them when they come down after couple of weeks. My head was pre-occupied with many thoughts – should we live for needs or should we satisfy our wants – which is right. My chain of thoughts was broken when I had some feeling in the stomach – damn it I am was hungry and the breakfast point was atleast 45 mins away. Everyone was talking about food - on Independence Dayhunger united us.
Breakfast was pretty solid, bread with jam and chocolate syrup + fruits and sprouts. We filled our tummy with food and bottles with water (filtered water – yeah inspired by Manick I bought a water filter). First few times used it sincerely and later – started filling up bottles directly from the stream.
Flag hoisting
Don’t ask me which hill and which ridge – I am bad with directions and places most of the ridges and hills did not have names. But the point was pretty good and we hoisted the flag. The idea of flying the flag on a nagala peak was definitely romantic – flying it in a pure place. Our friends Masu and gang were hoisting the flag in another place – we didn’t sync our clocks – but I am sure folks enjoyed there as much as we enjoyed here

Moderate turned moderate plus plus
A trek moderate by design can turn into moderate++ or difficult based on certain factors – sun, rain, water and cramps. Feeling whether a trek is moderate or moderate++ is very personal perception. Bamaboys (Sathyabama college group) were the first to openly admit that it was indeed a tough trek – they all passed fitness test – sustained performance and spirited performance on a short race are different altogether – they are learning it today.
I had my share of trouble – while walking across the stream – the big stone I stepped on tripped – the damn thing was pretty big to be called small boulder. It moved and I landed on my butt – but injured my right hand – wrist was hurt super bad. Its still hurting after 15 days – no hairline fracture – but a very bad sprain. The trek turned moderate ++ for me – I heard some else too had a fall.
We crossed another elevated hut and past it was the water point, the Bama boys were lagging behind and we decided to have our lunch and wait for them. Vibin was sweeping and guess what the wandered off slightly – Vibin found them down the slope. While Vibin as using al his skills to encourage them to move forward – we were busy soaking rice flakes – Avul with tomoato pickle is super-duperwhen you are hungry.
The trek tuned moderate++++ for the bama boys – it was evident when we saw them and Vibin. Generous dose of glucose and avul finally recharged our boys. Of course they got lot of advice on mind over body and stuff.
Important decision
We filled our tummy with food and bottles with water (no filter this time) and started towards the night camp point – close to the picnic pool. Vibin and Arun deliberated on the route and we settled for one route – they took during a treasure hunt. We walked for an hour and it started raining – we continued and reached a place where we realized we missed some ridge or valley.
Arun and Vibin went around a bit to see if there was an alternate route nearby – there was a route – deliberations started on what should be the next step. It was raining, day light was vanishing and many were tired – considering all the factors we had to make an important decision. To go or not to go to the picnic pool – the route was moderate in difficulty level – but could end up difficult - checklist below
·         Sun – No
·         Rain – Yes
·         Cramps – Yes
We had to choose between two options – option A - go on and walk towards the picnic pool – we would reach there by 10 PM or so. Option B – go back to the second hut close to the lunch water point. We choose option B. On a trek what is more important is go back home with pleasant memories and be independent, test your resilience just enough and not have an incident which can leave sour taste. Cutting the chase – be safe avoid un-necessary adventure in the dark. The disappointment of missing the picnic pool was at varied degree for different individuals.
The most important F word
By now many of emperors are surprised, where the hell is Briryani and chicken curry – its all been bread and avul so far. I was desperately looking forward for Biryani – though not very hungry, it turned dark and it was time to think about dinner. In an emperor trek the F word is very important – not the F word which has U – the one which has O. if you didn’t guess it – you are really not qualified to be part of emperor  group – its FOOD not FU*K. But wait a minute … what did just hear …. It was not food – someone said FU*K. OK OK … got it now – the disappointment of missing the picnic pool – resulted in an argument with the wrong F word – which eventually was settled with the right F word later at the hut.  Coming to the F word with U – its the most versatile word – I am not saying that – listen to Osho and decide yourself.
We reached the second hut and one group settled to prepare food and another group to fetch water. Bama boys stunned every one by volunteering to get water. Few hours back they said sorry we cannot walk any more – now they volunteered to walk more with load. Boys turned to men – that’s one way to put it. This deserves special mention – hence the bold italics attention. Hats off guys – you did fantastic.
Bama boys saved the day for me and Karthik with their supply of Paracetamol– thanks guys, without the paracetamol – finishing the trek would have been tougher for me.

Arun – master chef prepared biryani –the process of cooking was very enjoyable – under the stars, cool breeze and good people around you. What is better – the process or the product – well both were great – the final dash of ghee ensured that the flavor was terrific. I was the first one to grab a bowl full of serving – but it was so hot and hand was hurt – eating became a nightmare – damn it – I didn’t take spoon. To give you a sense of the taste – when the biryani was ready – we thought we will have enough for breakfast – but what was left was not even enough for one person.
The Hero – our kavalan
This write up would be unfinished if I don’t dedicate a section to Jebin Justus. He ferried water twice – almost 15 bottles and the cooking vessel full. Fellow has a lean and all muscular frame – very unassuming, and quiet – perfect example of nerai kudam thathumbadu. We set up fire and made sure it was up all night – every time I woke up – out of pain and discomfort – I saw him walking around. I owe my god night sleep to him – what a sense of responsibility, volunteering – he didn’t have to do that – but he did. I really felt delighted meeting him. For me he is the hero of the trek – of course the Bama boys did great – but Jebin stands tall (ironically he is the shortest when compared to the Bama boys . hahahahahahahah)
Next morning he washed the Biryani bowl and made some amazing tea. Then cleaned the vessel and brought water again. Man – he is so selfless – take a bow buddy.Actually Jebin spotted reptiles on the way back from the water point and made sure there is enough light, heat and noise to prevent any reptiles approaching any close to our camp.
The trek to the peak before return
Now that we gave up picnic pool – to round off the experience Arun proposed to climb the peak (don’t ask east peak or west peak - please). Like a typical CTC trek – we did not take any trail. The resting time on the peak was nice – discussed many topics, it was fun in simple terms. If I put all of that here – there won’t be any talking point for next trek – know that it was very spiritual and intellectual discussion J.  Slowly hunger was showing its presence – we didn’t have breakfast – only tea – so its time for break fast again. We walked down faster – food was a great motivator.

And again – filled our tummies with food and water and bottles with water. Few took bath and few didn’t – but only one got abishekam (don’t feel like finding out the English word for it, if you know hindi or tamil you know what I mean).  Jebin did Abhishekam for Ajantha.
We hurried back to the hut, had the left over avul with pickle and started our journey back to the base. Arun took us in a different route – it was a pleasant walk downhill. We left all remaining food items at the first hut and went down.
Wait for the van
After our long walk way back into the village – we settled under a big tree – there was a nice platform big enough for all of us to rest. Its called Racha Banda in telugu – it’s a place where village men meet in the evening and chat on various to pass time. Soon enough we became center of attraction or amusement for the villagers.Everyone was busy in their own thing – I had upper body wash – some were sleeping, some busy gulping Glocun D and Ajantha in accounts.
After some struggle the van driver came into contact and came and picked us up. Arun, Manoj and I started thrice to walk 3KMs to the point where van was parked – there is a sense of urgency there. Arun had to catch train to go back to Guntur.
Actually Arun travelled on Friday noon from Guntur to Chennai to take us to Nagala and had to report to work on Monday – he has a 6 PM train to catch at Gummidipoondi. Arun is like that – he spent more time, energy and money for this trek. I know many guys who do this on weekends to go and meet their family or girlfriends – this guy chose to take many strangers and few friends to a trek – introduce them to the joy of going out of the concrete jungle and enjoying nature. We need more guys like Arun to help many of us break the monotony of city life.
Just when we reached the point where the car was parked, we were greeted with a punctured tire. Its not clear if someone did on purpose or it was an accident. The van driver helped Manoj replace the tire and Arun reached on time for his train.
We took a small detour and went to the bajji stall and had amazing bajjis’s . We were so hungry, what can I say, the bajjis tasted a lot better in that state – steaming hot bajji and bonda with chilli chutney.  We saved enough space for special biryani and barottas at the hotel on the way.

Fun, Pleasure and Happiness
From my own state of mind and whatever I observed around – I strongly believe people are deeply confused about fun, pleasure and happiness.  One thing I can say is that – we had fun, happiness and experienced pleasure in the trek. You might have seen this many times on face book – spend on experiences and not things – CTC treks give you just that. We discussed about DudhSagar, upcoming treks and bike rides, preparations for bike ride and what not
Ajantha – Finance
Arun – Director
Vibin – Co-Director
Jebin – Hero
Bama boys – best debut




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