Going trekking was the least in the list of dream things, I had. Whenever I had the time to watch Discovery Channels’ Man VS Wild, I deeply appreciated the confidence and amount of experience gained in them.
When I received an email from Sharon, TIE for a day out trekking with Peter and the Chennai Trekking club, it was quiet a surprise for me. Exactly a week earlier, my friend Sarvesh and I were talking about getting into some activity that would really be thrilling and rejuvenating to our body and mind. Once I forwarded this message of Trek, Sarvesh’s friend Partha too confirmed participation. One day before the trek, reluctantly I realized that it is going to be true that I will soon be on my way trekking. I always believed that this type of trekking would be a hard walk along mountainside, dense forest with sounds of animals around.
Sunday came and we had to travel to the base camp for the trek. Sarvesh came home to pick me in his Pajero, an MUV that very well suited the purpose of trek. We saw Peter and a French student Ms.Clemence and some casually dressed boys wearing the Chennai Trekkers Club T- shirts sitting at the TIE office. It was then that I realized the seriousness of the trek and from then on, it started sinking into me. We started late because many who confirmed did not turnout. As we were driving towards the base camp, we bumped into two friends who joined the team with us. One was Prabhu who had experience in trekking in Srilanka and the other was Madhu, who had some trekking experience during his younger days.
Had breakfast near a place called Utthokottai and drove towards Nagallapuram. Our cars were stopped at a place 4 km away from the mountain. Things for trekking including food, fruits, juices, waterbottles, noodles and soup packets etc. were unloaded from the vehicles. It then dawned on me that we had to carry, over these rugged mountains, the additional weight of the food that we were to eat too. My trekking dream was almost coming true. Enthusiastically I loaded three bottles of water and some more snacks items into my bag and started walking with friends towards the mountain. The roads were formed of boulders and rocks and it was a great preparation for trekking. We had to crossover a dry water reservoir –climbing the steep dam slopes and going down on the other side. Initially crossing looked impossible, but we did it with ease, and our confidence was soaring high. We kept walking until we came to crossing a small water stream. The tiny water body was a perfect place for us to take rest for a while and to regroup ourselves. We started moving and soon my legs realized that it is not the as easy as the daily morning walk that I used to have. We reached a temple, which had evidences of inhabitation. Walking past that, it was definitely becoming harder, sweating, muscles stiffening. Yet my mind started looking and enjoying at the unexplored beauties of the rocks and small water streams that were flowing beneath the rocks. For the first time in my life, Rocks were beautiful to my eyes and mind. Not all was fine for long. My first slip on the rocks happened before 2 hours of the trek, and I had hurt my legs, bleeding. On our way, there were plants with thorn, which prick. As the trek continued, nature was so beautiful that it actually tranquilized the mind, not to feel the pain. My shoes and socks went wet after the slip and I was worried since others kept theirs dry. We soon came up to a a pond of clear water and we decided to dip ourselves in the chill water and enjoy. Time was almost past noon – It was around 12.30pm. The dip in the pool was wrapped with freshness, that people ho decided initially not take dip also were mesmerized to soon have a swim.
We then packed our bags back and started moving up, Sharon who organized this program was commenting on the next path and the next challenge. She was telling, specifically about the path that we were envisaging upon soon after our bath. She said that we would almost feel like the heart coming to the mouth. She was mentally preparing for the difficult climb up and nearly after 30 minutes, we reached a comfortable place. After having refurbished ourselves with glucose water and few snaps of the great climb, we once again regrouped ourselves and started moving to the destination – a scenic waterfall and pond, a naturally beautiful place for us to relax as lunch was prepared for the team. While some of the trekkers were enjoying the bath and swim, some were resting and enjoying the preparation of food. 2 young boys of 12 years of age who were part of the trek enthusiastically participated in getting firewood in place. They were constantly calling Peter for all the things they did right from swimming or food preparation. The Soup and Noodles prepared was tasty, and in all my life Maggi Soup and Noodles never so good. Suddenly, we noticed Peter running and jumping into the water to save one of the team members who slipped into water. With Sharon and Clemence swimming, probably the beauty pulled him inside. He got the first thrill of the trip.
After good rest, we started moving back and came to one more regrouping spot where we understood that there are 2 ways to return to the base camp. One was the route we had taken up the mountain and the other was supposed to be a more exciting one. The choices were put to vote. Except three, all the rest wanted to take the exciting route. I was a bit reluctant because it called for more hurt. Nevertheless since Peter constantly made a statement that all MEN could follow him on the new and exciting route, my hand went up too.
Teams were split. GPS instrument was given to the small team that went down the mountain on the known route. Our GPS was Peter and we simply followed Peter. It was a path of streams so necessarily we had hurdles of big rocks to climb up and down and ponds to cross. Our shoes went up our bodies – from our legs to our neck. I realized that it was comfortable too without shoes, as we crossed 4 hurdles and 4 ponds which were a spine chilling experience. The task of transporting our bags, which only Peter could do and helping team members who were not very sure of swimming were all of Peter’s enjoyment. The first few who crossed the hurdle helped others to crossover. Good teamwork was exhibited. Every time I heard Peter calling out to capture emotions – the anxiety, scare, fright, and all that were seen on the faces of the team members as they crossed the hurdles. When we crossed the last hurdle, as told by Peter, it was almost 6.30pm. I thought that we would reach the regrouping place quickly after that and would meet up with the other team who went down the mountain on the known route. Sun was fast fading away and darkness was slowly but steadily surrounding us. With a few tiny torchlights, with sweat and pain, with wet shoes my ankles started to feel the pressure. With all the pain, we reached the regrouping place where the first team had arrived almost 2 hours earlier and had taken almost a good two hours rest. Peter and CTC volunteers identified that we had reached the place where we had our first bath on the way up. I was not able to recollect from memory the morning bath and was completely in a sedated state. All that I looked for was for some water – so fatigue stricken and completely exhausted. The only comforting thought was that we would reach the base camp soon with a comfortable walk. My mind was so shut that I completely forgot that earlier in the morning it took more than 2 hours in day light to reach the first water body. I suddenly realized that I was unable to contact home and inform my wife. I was not sure, when I would reach the car and have access to my mobile phone. As we started to move further down the mountain, it became pitch dark and saw insects with glow. Almost like stars at your reach. It looked harder to track back. For the first time, our downward climb, as we went on the wrong path, was stopped. Peter went in search of the right track. It was one of the rarest experiences and now my mind started believing that it will not be possible to reach the bas camp easily. It took almost half an hour to spot the right path and location through the GPS instrument. We had to take one up hill ascent to correct our missed path. Rocky path, thorny shrubs and with darkness around, all of us believed that it would be night out at forest for us. The stress was getting on me as to how to inform home. On our downward trek at around 10.30 pm, one of hand phones got signal, but failed immediately.
All of us had faith on one person – that was Peter the Saviour. His energy was very high, every time he tracked the path 300 mts forward, then came back to move us forward. Some where around 11 pm we realized that we were on the right path and were moving close to the base camp.
By 11.20 pm, the signals in the phone picked up, we also realized that we were close to the base camp. The biggest signal, we heard the dogs bark, it was a sound of relief for me. By 11.35 pm, we reached the base camp near temple. When I heard my wife’s anxious voice on the phone, I realized her trauma. The tranquilizing effect of nature’s beauty had gone by then and pain started gripping in. As we drove back to our homes, we discussed about a great trip up the mountain. I reached home by 3 am. Warm water bath and a cup of milk did the magic and I went to bed with a totally different and exciting experience. I know the pain will vanish in a couple of days but memories will remain ever.
The beauty of the whole trip was what we thought as difficult was found to be easy. Perception is different amongst individuals to what can be done by them. Ultimately every one of us did it. Nothing was difficult as it seemed.