March 01, 2012

Trek to the 'mountains of death'.. Kolli Malai

2 Weeks to D-Day.!

This was supposed my 'much awaited' trek since people claimed this as a difficult one and especially with the organizers Arun and Vipin sending out the disclaimers gave me a second thought if I had made a mistake registering for this trek. But did not want to miss out the fun as there were 21 other treks planned the same day owing to the 4th birthday of our very own Chennai Trekking Club. Most of the names registered were familiar, Vadivel, Durai, Muthu, all master trekkers, so I knew I'd enjoy the trek at least for a certain distance before they ran of in the front. Trust me, I'm not a great trekker, but have managed to complete the treks because of a few people like Vadivel who have encouraged me all this while.  In fact he was the one who wanted me to join this trek in the first place.
Okay, now what was so special about this trek apart from the fact that it was one among the 22 treks held on the special occasion? Well,. I'd say there is this falls 'Agaya Gangai', which was supposed to be one of the most beautiful places known around that region and many blogs about 'Kolli' had told about 'Kolli Paavai', a deity who, according to a myth, chased away the demons with her smile. I was expecting to see her.. lol. Arun had mentioned in one of his emails about the veg 'aatukkal' soup, which was a delicacy in Kolli. It was indeed delicious, especially after a trek like this.

Overnight drive to the foothills – Puliyancholai

I was quickly wrapping things in office as the reporting time to meeting place was at 9. I had packed all my gear and taken it to work, people stared at me as if I was carrying something I was not supposed. Anyway, my friend dropped me near Guindy around 9, where the bus supposed to pick us up. It was not just late, but laaaaaaaate. It was 11 when the bus arrived, finally. By this time we all got introduced and to be frank, I was half asleep and got onto the bus hoping to continue the same. That didn't happen though. On the night before every trek, something creeps into my mind. I guess most of you would agree with me on this, your minds would have already start trekking even before you had reached the foothills, especially if it was your first time to that location. Well, long story short, I didn't have a sound sleep. I was quite sure I was going to lag behind, as always.!




Welcome to Puliyancholai

We had to get down at Thurayur, the closest possible terminus to get another bus to the foothills. A few them started to sleep while waiting for the bus, since the Govt bus that was supposed to come was not on time. We somehow managed to convince a private bus driver to drive us till Puliyancholai, which was around 25 kms from this terminus. Not knowing it to be a touring spot, I was surprised to see 2 small hotels running at such a remote place and guess what, breakfast was ready for us. Arun had called up and informed them of our arrival. Idli with 'kara chutney' reminded me of TP Kotta, how we used to start our trek to Nagala east. I can bet, no one makes chutney so spicy than that.!




Alright, trek time. The plan was to trek along stream. I had already seen a lot of pictures of this stream and knew for a fact that it wouldn't be the best of waters. But when dying of thirst, what else would you do? The initial part of the trek wasn't that difficult, it was a gradual climb, no bouldering, but just a relaxed ascent. Vipin, the trail master knew which way we should head, as there were quite a few detours. We took the first one and that made us think if we were on the right trail, as it was full of thorns leaving a lot souvenirs on our feet and hands.
After a few meters walk, we stopped for a relaxed dip and some pictures, of course. it was a freedom bath for a few, since it was an 'all guys' trek. We did some challenging climbs after that as a couple of us had taken a head start. The trail had a few arrow markings, which we thought, would lead us properly. I was telling Durai how funny it would be if the trail/marking was a decoy. Just as we thought, it was one. It led us into thorny bushes and the trail that existed ceased to now. I thought we should wait at a open area, close to the stream, so that people behind us can see us and so can we. Good enough, it worked. After a good long walk we needed break and it came in the form of a power nap. The place where we stopped was quite familiar as it was one of the spots i had seen in the pictures where other trekkers from previous treks had stopped for napping. The water was cold enough to compensate the scorching sun. So after a quick dip, we had an hour nap, to regain our energy.

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Astonishment at the sight of Agaya Gangai!

The whole effort was to reach this place, though the last few minutes were really challenging. The moment we reached those stairs, I knew we had it, but wouldn't be content until I saw it. We had to climb down the stairs to reach out to the waterfall. The first thing I saw when I noticed the falls was a group sitting having a beer. Lousy assholes. Hope they didn't break the bottle there and leave. But anyways, the anger vaporized once I was right in front of the falls. Holy smokes... it was a fall from 300ft. I could literally feel the drizzles even when I was standing at a 500m distance. It was quite cold standing there, since the whole place was covered with mountains and the sun wasn't visible at any angle the time we reached the place.
Why wait when your trek was almost over and all you had to do was relax? With no hesitation we all moved in. There was a small pool in front, which was not deep, yet a rope was tied for public to access the falls without fear. It was a little slippery, but who cares when you have support rods in place for you to cling on to. Standing below the falls was like standing a sand storm. The drizzles were hitting us with such a force, especially when there was a slight breeze it became vigorous.


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No sooner did we get ready to leave the place to decide/select a camp site, we started to plan what we should cook for dinner, since we planned to camp near a small village. A small group had already started to the village to get eggs and vegetables, though we had our regular menu like noodles and soup already with us. We had to climb up 1308 steps from the falls to reach the village. It sounded kinda easy at first, but once I started to walk, I felt walking along a steep trail was easy enough. It was time to relax after a tiring climb to the town of Kolli, with a hot and energizing veg 'aatukkal' soup. I am a great fan of soups and given such a tasty and spicy one, I went for 2 rounds. Usually a trekker yearns for anything that is tasty after a day long trek. I was not any different.
After roaming around the town for sometime and settling down at the Arapaleeswarar temple rest place, we started to look for a cooking spot but couldn't find any. So we gathered, in fact bought it for Rs. 25, firewood and started to cook close to the temple. The menu was egg gravy and rice. Our star cooks Vadivel and Durai did a good job in satisfying our appetite. Most of us hit our 'pillows' after dinner, since the day was quite tiring, at least for me. The night was too cold and it was really a gift that we got such a good camp site to spend the night, since we had a roof above us.

Relaxing at the 1100m peak

It was a sleepless night, yet again, though I had a very good rug and a sleeping mat. There was marriage hall close by which started playing 'gana' songs early in the morning, which woke everyone up. Early morning tea/soup made us fresh, actually wake up, to get ready for conquering the peak. The one mistake we did was failing to fill our bottles at the closest village before setting foot for the peak. But that didn't stop any of us. Everyone had 'oranges' with them which would help a lot. We dropped our bags a shady mango tree near the village, en route the peak. It was such an amazing climb, with a little bouldering. We relaxed for close to an hour with a photo session. Of course, why shouldn't we, after such an achievement??
The view was mind boggling, as we could the entire trail, along the stream, we took from the village to reach the falls. More interestingly, we could get a clear view of the falls from this peak. We had a few crazy death defying stunts performed by our fellow trekkers from the cliff at the peak, after all we CTC ians are crazy and adventurous people aren't we?


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The Descend
By the time we had returned to the spot where we had left our bags, it was lunch time. We realized we had spent a good deal of time at the peak. It was quite fortunate that we were able to get ice cream once we hit the trail. A time to relax again, since we had lot of time to reach the village we also stopped for lunch at a nice shady place near a well. I am not a big fan of chappathi's but a trek isn't complete without it. The initial part of the descend was quite scenic, but least did we know that it would be so tough. It was a rocky descend and made us tired, though it was a gradual descend. Usually this part of the trek does not take much time, but this one tested us a bit. It was a relaxing climb-down to the village till we hit the stream. The day was sultry so called for a dip at a good place for preparing soup. The sun set with a nice cold bath with a warm soup and a 15 minute walk to hit the village, where we hired a van and returned to the closes bus station to board the bus to Thuraiyur, where we had to wait for another couple of hours for our bus to Chennai.!
To be frank, I've never heard of this place before and quite sure I wouldn't in the coming days if it was not for CTC. But it was quite an experience for me with a mixed crowd of senior and novice trekkers. Vadivel, Durai, Muthu, Arun, Vipin, Vasanth, Raja and all others who made this a memorable one, had the best time with you guys.!

Kolli K6 - A trek which will stay close to my heart, for the days to come.!

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December 14, 2011

Into the WILD - Off road ride to Nagari

What would one imagine if I had to say I went on a road trip? Is it the long stretch of highways, scenic ghat roads or even wildlife encounters? Well, I can prove youwrong with our experience in Nagari. This trip had nothing of that sort, butwould be one among the best many of us would have done in our lifetime. What made it so special? Well, there are so many factors which comes to my mind. Thetrail and destination we chose, weather, food and most of all the crowd, whichwas enthusiastic and helpful, on every move of the trip, especially riding across the stream when our machines needed more than a person to maneuver it.


I was not quite sure if Ishould sign up for this ride, as it had been long since I had done one. I am alone rider and have not travelled as a group since 2005, which was during mycollege. Adding to it was my broken arm, though it was fixed a couple of yearsback, it kicked me back from doing any such trips. I called up Sasti, mycousin, and checked if he was fine with doing a trip like this on his new bike,which was not delivered at the time I asked him , he immediately showed a green signal. I’ve also heard a lot about Peter (all good of course) and was waitingfor the right time to do a trip/trek under his organizing. So it began, the'road' to Nagari. All set for the weekend, with last minute shopping yet to bedone, buying Upma and Channa masala. My luck plays fool with me a lot when it comes to buying food items for treks. Somehow they are out of stock or is not available anywhere near. This time I had to roam around for 3 hours to get the Channa masala, after which I hurried to office. Do you think I'd have worked..nope.! I was staring at the prep mails Peter had sent, especially the map andwas picturing the roads, streams, camp site and the fun that was in store. Sasti came and picked me up from office, as I had planned to crash at his placeand get the saddle bag packed up. I made sure I get a good night sleep before the morning ride, but I could not. The excitement creped in and had to start home to pack the last minute gear.

Day 1:

I am not sure why, but somehow got this in my mind that the reporting time at CMBT was 5.30. Damn.! I met Muthu en route to my house at Tidel, who said the reporting time was 4.20AM, so had to hurry home and get the packing done. I made sure I withdrew moneyfrom the ATM, but as you all know, only when you are in a hurry you're patiencewill be tested. The ATMs close to my place didn't work. After reaching CMBT andexchanging the "Hi's", we ran to the ATM since Bhavana kept calling out our names and thought we were the only ones who had not paid. I ran to the ATM and got the money and in the meantime the team had started to move, thoughI had informed Ajay I was at the ATM, next to CMBT. I am quite familiar withthe route, but didn't know if they took the Thiruvallur or the Periyapalayam route. I called Muthu, who told me it was the latter. So we cruised down the road and by the time we reached Puzhal we sighted our fellow riders. I ampretty sure Sasti would have freaked out till that time.

The start was quite awesome, just the way I want a road trip to be, raining/drizzling throughout, wet roads. It started to rain by the time we reached the highway toll. Sasti was a little hesitant to ride in the rains, but it did not last long, I mean the rains. Soon after the drizzles, we stopped for tea.

The early morning showers made sure our journey was dust free thought as we stopped for breakfast at Uthukottai. Thanks to bad roads, our journey was slow and I had lot of time for some early morning pictures. The breakfast was yummy with my favorite menu,Idli and vadakari at Sathish mess, CTC's spot for breakfast. Since Peter washelping out Ram to get his bike fixed, we were waiting at the Pichatur dam till they arrived, which gave us more time for photo session.

Once they arrived, we started to move ahead since there was a lot of ground to be covered. Here began the confusion.The entire team started from the other side of the dam while we (Sankar, Chokku, Sasti and myself were still waiting at the dam’s spillway. We noticed agroup of bikers moving towards Nagala and thought they were from our group. Sankar immediately followed them and I followed him. I remember to a certain extent that we had to go via Puthur as I had seen the map more too many time. I called Muthu, who luckily, was waiting for us at the Pichatur dam. By the time we could realize, rest of our group had already reached Gudimallam temple and had had a very photo shoot (feel very bad to have missed this opportunity). The sun had started to drain us out. Luckily, we had covered the boring part of the trip and were about to start what we had come for, the off-roading part.

It began with the small streams, dirt roads around the sugar cane fields till we reached the dam, where we took a refreshing dip and planned to finish our lunch. It was a little disappointing to everyone as the chappathi’s were not ‘ready to eat’, but the ‘ready to cook’ones. That turned out to be quite good, as we had to camp at another place for lunch and there was not an inch of shade near the dam. Peter, who knew nuke and corner of this place, showed the spot. Man, that was the best place I’ve ever  camped. It was a huge area close to the stream, with large stones and good shade for a power nap. Thanks to the team which prepared lunch hurting their hands trying to roast the chappathis. I felt very sleepy, but could not as Muthu, Sankar, Sasti and myself had some intersting things to talk about and moreover we were a lot curious about the rest of our journey.

It was quite tough from here. Ram took the lead and we followed him. The trail had a lot of streams tocross, a few were easy, few were deep enough for the water to get into theexhaust and other had rocks which would stop the machines from moving any further. One such stream was quite challenging, where Sasti had me cross it andcontinue the journey there on. This was a test for both rider and the pillion. Both had to be in sync with each other and also with the bike. Sasti and myselfhad that, though he was a little scared in seeing the steep trails with watermelon sized rocks, considering the monster's age, which was just about a week old. Ram/Nagin and Sasti/myself managed to reach the temple on our bike, so did Raj/Geoffrey and Vetri/Jeevan. But a few were smart enough to park the bikes a bit down and walked atop to the temple.

We still had to reach the camp site and were waiting for Peter for the directions. I was expecting a long walk, as a few were saying we had to walk 5kms to reach the place. I was a little excited and also hesitant, since the saddle bags are not something you can carry it on your shoulders for a long time. I had a word with Peter, who said its just a 300m walk to the falls. The full moon, ready to be eclipsed, welcomed us with its beauty. I was quite eager to see how the waterfall looked like as I was too tired and desperately wanted to take a dive. It was indeed beautiful and with no hesitation I jumped into it. Dinner time. As it happens on all the treks, the taste of noodles started making me feel hungry. Helped in cutting beans for the cooks, making sure dinner is cooked fast. The night was pretty cold, and after the hot soupy noodles our head the 'pillow'. Thanks to Siva for lending me half of his blanket.


Not much of an agenda on day2. Got up early, around 6.30 and jumped into the pool without expecting anyone. It was quite cold, but who would miss this opportunity? After a while Muthu and myself went for a little walk to see if there was something interesting to capture. Damn.. we missed breakfast :( When we returned all that was left was a traces of upma in the vessel. We managed with that and planned to compensate that with lunch. Soon we started the descend. Most of the pillions decided to walk till we reached a smoother ground. I was a little selfish here, thinking I could spend some time with my camera, but Sasti Kumar was too kind to walk, giving his bike for me to ride. Never would have he expected that he had to walk for more than an hour to reach us. I felt the descend was challenging than riding uphill, as it required a lot of control, power and stamina.

Once we regrouped, we geared up for a small photo shoot at the same camp site where we had lunch the previous day. The light condition was too good, a gift for any photographer. We continued to ride on the same trail till we reached the village, where we had to take a slight detour. Peter's plan was to finish lunch near Kalahasthi. A few of us were roaming in search of a good place to eat. Arun showed a small mess, that was awesomely enough for us, to quench our hunger. Meals, chicken and fish made our menu. From there we took a relaxed ride to small dam 20kms towards Pichatur. I took a quick dip and came down for a photo session. Arun was too excited to ride along the still water. Kudos Arun, the pics came out quite well and yeah, Apoorva.. your pics as well.. but you have to pay a small price to get it from me.. lol.


After a tea break at Pichatur, we sat down for dinner. I was a little worried that the trip had come to an end too very soon (I know that's how you feel on every trip). Arun, Bhavana, Kiran, Sasti and myself were browsing through the pictures we clicked on the trip while waiting for food. After a nice hot dinner, with roti and chicken, we bid goodbyes and started our way back home.

I am sure this trip lived upto everyone's expectations. Some might not have thought it would be a regular road trip. But for me, I had no clue we were onto something like this. I'd say all this was possible only because of Peter. Every time I read a blog or a post-trek/trip email from others, there would be a last few lines which talk about Peter and the way he managed the complete the trek/trip. I now understand why.

Thank you people for making this weekend/trip a memorable one. Special thanks and mentions to Sasti, Muthu, Sankar, Vetri, CBR Arun, Avenger Arun, Nishanth, Chokku, Prashanth, Ram and Bhavana... I so enjoyed your company.!

Meet you guys in the future trips and treks.

Happy travelling.

November 26, 2011

One Day Monsoon hike to Nagalapuram Western Entry Peak

After doing a few treks with CTC, this was the one I was looking forward to very eagerly, as it had a lot of thrill and exciting factors filled in. First one which crossed my mind was the fact that this is usually a 2-day trek, which we dared to complete in 1 day. The second was the 'no-food' factor. I don't eat much during treks, and usually prefer just to survive with just chocolates and glucose, so this part didn't bother me a lot, although I knew it would test my endurance at the closing stage. But I sure wanted to give my best.

I've done a few one-day treks to Nagala West with CTC and know the trail to a certain distance, 3rd pool to be precise. This made me a little more confident to do this trek.

So it began when the group of enthusiasts assembled at CMBT. It was around 5 when we started from there after a cup of tea. As usual the road en route Periyapalayam was shattered and we had to drive slow. The sunrise was perfect that morning, unfortunately we could not take a break for a photo shoot as it was getting late and we still had to complete breakfast before reaching the base. Luckily breakfast did not take much time and we started towards the base camp, where we reached around 8.

After distributing the 'lunch', we started our ascent towards, what would be, the ultimate experience of my life. We gathered for a group pic, as we were not sure if we would find time for this later in the day as we usually do on relaxed pace treks. I wanted to assess my stamina and pace, as I was trekking with some big guns of CTC this time and would have to definitely keep up with their pace. It was 9 AM here. 

It took just 20 mins to reach the welcome stream and without any break it took another 20 mins to reach the 2nd pool. WOW. This is quite a good pace for me. I had to take a break now, for sure, but not for long. Vadi and Muthu had already started to prepare themselves for a quick shower, which would be irresistible even for people who don't know to swim. Jesu and myself decided to skip pool2 and reach the 3rd to freshen up for the rest of the trek. But I could not keep up the pace, as I had a little too much breakfast, I guess. So I had to rest for a while. In the meantime, Vadi n co had started and both of us reached pool 3 at the same time.

By 10 AM, we had all started towards mini kutralam. From this point onward, the trail was completely new to me and had a lot of expectation in my mind about the 4th and the 5th pools. I wanted to see it for myself, hence did not ask how the pools would like. After reaching mini kutralam, I could not hold myself from getting drenched and wash away the sweat. After a 10 minutes break, we started for the steep cliffs, and there started the real test for me. This is a place I'd have to be really thankful to a many, Durai especially. Unfortunately 4 of our fellow trekkers fell behind before we reached the 4th pool. It was quite fortunate that our mobile still was within reach. Vadi managed to get hold of Senthil, who had reach mini kutralam. He decided to get back there and regroup. So we decided to wait at the 4th pool till they arrived,which gave us some time to spend in the pool.

We still had a lot more ground to cover after the bottles were filled at the last water source, the 5th pool. Durai kept pushing a few of us encouraging we are just a few minutes away from destination, though it never was. As the day progressed we were starting to feel the sun draining out our energy.

Our target was to reach the 800m peak by 2PM. After some tiring effort, we were quite successful in getting there well before time. MAN! The view was inexplicable. Though the sun was at its peak, the cool breeze was so soothing, it made a few fall asleep, including me. We rested for about 30 minutes and gathered for a group pic with the breathtaking view in the background. It was indeed one amazing view of the dam below and that of the entire Nagala range. 

By the time we started the return trek, most of us were completely out of water. Things went smooth, until we lost the trail to the 5th pool. Thank god to Vadi, who came to the rescue, as always. Soon after he sensed the trail we reached the pool and quenched our thirst. At a steady pace, we continued the descend and managed to the reach the welcome pool and took a break for a last dip of the trek.
Just about dusk, we reached the base camp and settled the accounts and ended the trek with spicy Andhra briyani.

I'd like to thank everyone who made this trek so lively, especially Vadi and Durai for organising it. I'd definitely have to mention both Muthus, Jesu, Gokul, Vasanth, Sivavarthanan, Rajkumar, Goutham, Satish, Rohith - I so enjoyed your company. Hoping to meet you all in the forthcoming treks.


January 22, 2011

The Ghats of south India.

Travelling has always been a passion in my life, so is photography. As a child, I've traveled a lot, especially you know when time