Tuesday, January 27, 2009

V6 Trek - Unforgettable 3 days of my life!!! (24th Jan 09 to 26th Jan 09)

Being a member of CTC(Chennai Trekking Club) for more than year, i never got an opportunity to trek with the club as the destinations were bit far from Hyderabad. And then while browsing through the CTC google group i saw a new trek detail for Venkatagiri Hills trek which was close to Tirupati and almost on the parallel hills to Tirmula. So after few phone conversations with Peter and checking on other details i was all set to go for this trek, my first with CTC.

Checked with Chandrasekhar (chandu for short, a friend of mine) and he too wanted to be part of the same. We discussed few stuff we needed to carry and then I made a call to Peter to confirm on few aspects which I was not clear about. Booked my tickets for onwards and return journey and with Chandu buying the sleeping bags we were almost good to go and pretty much excited. D day arrived and I headed to the railway station. My train was at 8:05PM from Kachiguda and I was to get down at Renigunta and meet the CTC group from Chennai and all of us were to go together to the start point of the trek. I reached the station pretty early and waited for Chandu to show up. The railway station seemed unusually crowded and I at first didn’t understand the reason. Then checking at the train schedules I saw the B’lore express was delayed by an hour and so was my train and crowd from both of the trains were stranded on the station with nothing to do. Chandu arrived soon and we kept waiting for the announcement for the train. 8:05PM departure became 8:30PM and then 8:45PM and in the end the train came and moved off at 10:30PM. I was running way behind schedule and was hopeful that my train would make up for the lost time and reach renigunta on time and I would not be a reason for the entire CTC group to wait for me. Woke up pretty early after a comfortable sleep and TTE gave me the news that the train would reach Renigunta only at 9:30AM. That was almost 1.5hrs delay from the time we had agreed to meet the CTC group. Few phone calls with Peter and then it was decided that there would be 2 bikers who would wait for us and the rest of the group would leave for the starting point of the trek.


Our train arrived at renigunta station at 9:30AM and Chandu and I rushed out to meet the bikers who had been waiting for us for an hour atleast. Ranganathan and Kathernath waved at us the moment they saw and soon we were off on their bikes to the starting point of the trek which was 7 kms off-road to a village called Madhavaram Podu. There were two more bikers waiting for us to guide us (thanks a ton to Peter) and we were fast enough to catch the rest of the gang. We arrived at a spot where everyone parked their vehicles and soon the ration for 3 days of trek was distributed to all. In all the commotion I noticed Peter busily rushing and giving instructions and I went introduce myself. He was the only one in the group I knew from before (limited to Orkut and GTalk). Chandu and I picked up our food which included a packet of thepla, a pear and apple, a water bottle, Maggie packet, Glucon C and D packet and a Cookie combo (Bourbons and Good day Choc√≥). With the empty cartons tucked inside the cars and no garbage outside the group was all set to start the trek. I felt at this time a small intro or instruction would given to all but it didn’t and we were off. Peter led the group enabled with his GPS and a walkie talkie. There was another piece with the sweeper who ensured no one is left behind. After trekking for 30min Peter realized at a point on the way we had taken a wrong turn and we had to go back 500mtrs. The terrain we were walking was something which I had never imagined or seen. We were actually following a river, if you could call that a river. A complete dry bed of most treacherous rocks I had ever seen. The sun was also not helping the trekkers. Peter was handling this terrain as if it was his living room, walking at brisk pace and I felt even if I jogged I wouldn’t keep pace with him. I overheard people calling him the Mougli of the Jungle. After a while I noticed that that the bag which I thought just an hour ago to be a light weighted stuff suddenly felt as if laden with rocks. The sun was showing it affects and I was feeling thirsty and tired. The sweepers behind were shouting every now and then asking the group to move on and fill the gaps. After a while I caught up with another tired soul (Biju) and we decided we could not take a step forward without resting for a while. After a 15 min breather under a tree shade, we were more relaxed and made a move ahead. The path ahead was no different and we were continuously walking on a dry river bed. After a while we saw small pools of water appearing, a signal that water was up ahead. I had noticed that the water actually was running underground and some points use to surface and then go beneath again. So you would never know up ahead whether you would find water or not. After walking for some distance I heard joyful shouting and scream and for sure knew we had reached a river in full flow, as so it was. A small opening in the stream where the water was as crystal clear as it could get. By the time I reached the place everyone was already in the water enjoying to the core. I didn’t even care to change and jumped into the water with jeans and tees. And what a wonderful time we had. The water was very cold even with the Sun at its full force. After half an hour bathe, came out and by that time people were munching their snacks. Done with the food, Peter gave the command to the platoon to move forward.


And we kept on walking, on and on and on…….All the way the surrounding were something which I had never experienced. Beautiful mountains all round and the stream flowing between them and all the 58 trekkers following the stream. The idea was the reach a waterfall called Paradise Falls, discovered by Peter and others in a trek before this one. But the group was big and the movement was a bit slow. The organizers kept on shouting “Move on”, “Close the gaps” and though tired many like me kept on moving. We then waded through water at many spots to cross over and kept going forward till we reached a place where the water was too deep for us to go through the other end. We were now surrounded by huge 300 to 400 mts mountains and in the front the stream which we so deep that we couldn’t cross it. Peter and few others swam to the other end to check if there is a way out and some of us took a quick snack and breather. After some time the decision was made to climb one of the mountains next to us. Now that was not something I was expecting to be frank. I was tired and was hoping Peter would declare the place where we were as the camping place for the night. It was 2-3 hours before the light was to fade out. We all started to move slowly and soon noticed that by the time we reached at the start of the mountain (a 300mtrs almost a 70+% incline) peter was almost at the top. Slowly a trail of trekkers followed him and soon it felt like an ants going up an anthill. After climbing for an hour, looking down was bit scary. We were at a place where the only place to take a grip was some loose rocks and grass and the occasional cry from someone at the top to watch out for falling rocks did scare. Naresh who was ahead of me got stuck not able to find way up and I took the lead from him and showed the rest of the group the way. Soon after 2 hrs of climb managed to reach on the top with Ashish guiding others from the top, where there were 7-8 trekkers who had reached before me. I simply collapsed to the ground complete exhausted. Soon it was getting dark and the sun was slowly finding place behind the mountains. After a while all the trekkers came up with the help of our very own Peter who had again went back to help others climb up.


With all the trekkers resting for a while, the torch lights were out (chandu had just got one for both of us, a pakka marwadi quality) and we were finding hard to navigate through the thick thorny bushes and the ground full of rocks. After walking for almost an hour, Peter finalized the place for the night camp and all the trekkers immediately started marking their territories and cleaning the place for a night cap. First time in my like I was about to sleep in the jungle, in the open and in a sleeping bag. Chandu and I took some time to remove the rocks around and spread down our sleeping bags. In the meanwhile a camp fire was lit and people started singing and game of UNO also started. I was too tired to move around decided to sleep early. Had a quick dinner of thepla’s and crept into my sleeping bag. It was just around 8 and the sleeping bad already showed signs of wetness from the dew. The sky was clear and chandu and I tried to identify the constellations we remembered from school as the stars which hide in the city from pollution were here visible in full force. Soon feel asleep with occasional breaks in sleep from snoring trekkers who could even scare the animals around.


Day 2


I was the first one to wake up next morning and looking around saw colorful sleeping bags all around me. Chandu soon woke up and we started discussing the heavy dew which had complete made our lives under the bags tough. After freshening up, saw the camp fire up again (was put out last night to avoid any forest fires) and people surrounding the same drying their wet clothes, socks and shoes. I too went near the group as was feeling a bit clod myself, even though I had a jacket and some gloves which had helped keep me lil warm in the night. After a while the entire camp was up and after packing we all set off following Peter. We cut through some thorny bushes and were climbing down to the river. After half an hour walking through rocks and thorns I started feeling a ting of pain on my left knee. Tried ignoring the pain but didn’t seem working. Soon we reached the river and my pain also was at its peek. We continued the trek and slowly I was starting to fall behind the group. After a while noticed that the group had halted at a place where a very beautiful pool of water was waiting for all the swimmers. Almost the entire group was in the water by now. Kather and Ranga helped me reach the resting place and gave me a pain reliever cream. Resting for a while I was too tempted to sit down and decided to have a dip myself. After swimming around for half an hour most of us came out and had a good breakfast (cookies and pear). Soon the group was all set to move again and the pain in the knee now started killing me. Limping and groaning in pain I tried my level best to keep up with the group but in vain. Indira offered some pain killers which seemed too weak for the pain and it refused to go. I was in such a bad shape that soon the sweepers in the group came up and one of them (Vikram) offered to carry by 10+ kg back pack for me. I didn’t want to give up so easily but with some advice from the others gave my pack to him. I couldn’t thank him enough for that. In the treacherous trek, with his own backpack someone offering to carry mine was something which was something I can never forget. It was almost afternoon and soon limping around and falling I managed to catch up with the group who had halted for lunch. After lunch, Vikram still continued to carry my backpack. We had earlier moved away from the stream and the water with us bit scarce. We were planning to climb up the mountain and climb down to reach the river again. After some really tough climbing (for a first time injured trekker like me) we reached the top of another mountain with a beautiful view of the valley. It was almost nearing evening and the sun was setting down behind a group of mountains far away. We found a nice open area where Peter decided we should camp as it was getting dark. We camped and then because we had less water, Peter and some volunteers decided to go down the mountain to the river to get water for the entire camp. Again a team spirit display which was simply something can’t be taken away from the excellent CTC group. The rest of us started cleaning the place to place our sleeping bags. Saurabh found a wonderful spot and soon Chandu, Saurabh, Mavi, Biju, Apoorv and me set up our bags and cleaned the place. The surprising part was this area had mobile network and everyone was calling home explaining their whereabouts. After I too followed the group and let my wife know I was still holding off in the jungle, I played from Rang De Basanti Songs on the mobile which kept the group going. We decided to have a lil camp fire of our own and soon set up a wonderful fire. It was dark now and we were now recollecting the 2 days of trek and almost each one of us was compelty exhausted and very tired. We just wanted to know where Peter and some of the other trekkers had the energy from to do a trek like this. And for them it seemed a moderate trek and for us it felt as if Nana Patekar was training us like in movie Prahar. We were joking around that if we found a villager or a road we would hitch hike and run away. Even the ladies, Saujanya and Suneela seemed to be searching all around for some method to reach the city (all in good humor). By now the camp fire was up and running and it was the best camp fire around (there were 3 burning around). We had a round of intros and soon were chit chatting about our lives, the jungle, life and even the money counting system at Tirupati Temple. Soon we heard that Peter and gang were climbing up and needed some sign to show where our camp was. The bonfire where we sat was the closest to the edge of the mountain and more wood was pumped into the fire to make it shine bright for the trekkers to sight us. Meanwhile the food was being prepared at the kitchen fire for the entire group. The trekkers arrived with Water for all and there was a huge cheer and applause for them. They did deserve that and much more for taking the effort and pain to get water for all. Kudos to the guys!!! After some light dinner, the bonfire we had lit became the best fire around and soon the entire camp was near it and we had some fun, photo sessions and lot of chatter around it. Soon all of us retired to bed (sleeping bags which were half wet from dew again). Saurabh and me though tired were not able to sleep and kept chatting while some of the groups had started the UNO game again. Earlier, Praveen, Ranga/Kather and Indira had helped me with pain killers and sprays for my knee pain. After a while counting the numerous stars all of us dozed off.


Day 3


The night proved to be much chiller than the previous night and it was evident in more wet sleeping blanket and the bon fire which was ideally to be put off in the night still burning and most of the trekkers had made good use of that by sleeping next to it and using the warmth to help fight the cold. I was again one of the first few to wake up and attended my knee immediately. It kind of felt ok and pained only when I was climbing down and was not in great pain while climbing. Soon the entire camp was up and Peter had a small meet of all the trekkers and it was decided that we were still very far from the Paradise Water Falls and we would need to return back to the city as we would not be able to make it to the falls. Now the point lay wherein Peter was not sure about the water sources up ahead in the trail back home. So it was decided that few would go down as last evening and would get the water for the rest of the group to ensure that we have some water on the return trail. With mostly the same group as last evening and few extra editions(Peter had told the group that down near the stream lay a beautiful small water area where you could dive from 20ft into the water. So with the rest (around 30) still on the mountain, we decided to explore the area a bit. My camera got an opportunity to come out of the bag and I was able to take some group pics. Some songs and cries of “CHAMPA” echoing in the valley by Singhal and me we were having a nice time. We were getting time to relax and were using this to the best use. After the while when the sun started beating down on us real hard we returned to base camp and everyone around had already found a shade under small trees and were having a nap. People were caught in small conversations and some were trying to weigh the various options to eat for breakfast. The morning exploration did make many of us really hungry and we decided to cook Maggie for all present. We collected the packets and soon made the Maggie and everyone had just enough to subside the hunger. Now many of us were eyeing the soup packets and wanted to finish that off and complete our breakfast. Many of us had very little to eat in the night due to some mix up and were really hungry. And soon even the soup was done. With still no sight of Peter and group we just gathered near a tree and had some fun with Biju drugging Praveen and Mavi literally displaying his excellent photography skill on poor lil flowers. It was almost past 12 when the group arrived with water. The camp now had just enough water for a bottle each for the trekkers. Now we were hitting back at the road and with normal trek we were estimated to take at least 6 hrs to reach the nearest road from where we could hitch hike to the place where the vehicles were parked.


Soon all the trekkers were ready and by the time we left the camp it was 2 in the afternoon. I was almost certain that only a miracle could help me catch my train at 8 from renigunta. The pain in the knee was hitting me real hard though I had the pain killer sprays and tablets. We had a huge decent from the mountain I was struggling from the start itself. After a while with each step I was biting my self to forget the pain. Soon the sweepers caught up and gave me a lending hand. Pavan, Karthik, Bhagat, Palani kept on helping me cross each and every boulder. Even with their help I found it very tough to walk. Slowly I tried everything possible to forget the pain and catch up with the group. Karthick kept on encouraging me and pavan and palani continuously supported me. Viki again took the burden of my heavy backpack and Bastein also helped me with my sleeping bag. The area around this part of the trek was again a beautiful setting, with a stream and some really serene and calm settings in the woods. We were earlier thinking that we would not have water anywhere nearby but this bump into a stream allowed the trekkers to go gulp extra water and not worry about the rationing of it. After a while we had a short break and looking at the watch and nowhere close to the civilization I had a feeling I would no way be able to catch my train. Most part of this jungle we were in now had loads of bamboo trees and most of them crushed or broken, which raised some doubts in the minds. Continuing the trek, Peter and gang saw from fresh elephant dung which confirmed our earlier doubts. Peter gave the group rest while he tried to figure out the best way out of the jungle away from the wild elephants. After 10 min he asked the group to follow him and we had hardly gone for 15 min that Peter realized the new route didn’t seem to work and we had to cross the path of the elephants to reach the highway. Now this part we found a Jeep road, probably used by forest ranger to patrol in the forest and the best way out for us was to follow the same. It was just past 5 and it was already starting to get dark. Peter advised the group to avoid speaking or making noise and also the torch lights should be on the ground and no clicking of pics or use of flashes incase we spot wildlife. With most of us unsure as to how long we further need to trek we followed the jeep trail. Soon it was dark enough for the torch lights to be out. Now the one torch chandu had got was drained out of life and we were trying to follow someone who could guide us. Lavanya came to my rescue here. With me finding it very difficult to walk with the pain and the trail full of uneven and treacherous ground she was of great help. She continuously pointed out to sharp, moving rocks and places with thorns. We were trying our best to keep up with the group. Everyone had the fear of wild elephants and was almost running instead of a trek and somehow so was me.


Time ticked by and with still no signs of highway I noticed the time was 8 and I had missed my train back to Hyderabad. I was mentally in all the tension trying to figure out how I would reach back home. We had some unscheduled stops for people in the group to catch up with leaders and everyone by now was dead tired. Almost at 9 we saw some lights far ahead and that gave us some energy. We kept on walking/running and almost at 11 is when we first saw the highway. To tell all frankly this seemed the most beautiful sight at that moment. The trucks, the people, the highway, the civilization. Tired and very sleepy we had to cross 2 railway tracks at an incline to reach the highway. On reaching the road I was almost tempted to kiss the tar. Peter told the group that up ahead there was a Dhaba and we would have our dinner there. Soon few trucks were stopped and in groups we reached the dhaba. The smell of good food and people around was a sight I will never forget. Freshened up fast and dug into some hot roti’s and chole and dal. A nice smoke after wards and we were starting to talk about the 3days. And man, what a trek it was. People could still feel the calm, dark and eerie jungle they had just left behind. After the dinner, it was almost 1am now, chandu and me along with abhilash, decide to hitch hike to the nearest town (chittor) and get a bus to Hyderabad. Bidding goodbye to some great and new found friends we were lucky to get a bus directly to Kurnool which has just enough seats for all of us. Boarded the same and were so tired that the rickety bus didn’t deter us from a sound sleep. Woke up in Kurnool and immediately found a bus for Hyderabad. Reached Hyderabad in the noon and was home and telling my wife about the almost fairy tale adventure I had been through. But the story doesn’t end here, next morning when I woke up and logged into gtalk, saw kather and that’s when the entire story came to limelight. After we had left, Peter and others who had their vehicles parked near the jungle went to pick them up. And they found some forest office and Police waiting for them. It so happened that seeing the vehicles someone had raised an alarm and no one knew whom they belonged to. This was also widely published in the local newspapers. After a long ordeal, the forest offices released the group with a fine of Rs1000/- each. Chandu and I being part of the trek transferred the amount to the club as it was our responsibility too being a member of the trek.


In the end, some unforgettable moments, pain, joy, fun and scary moments, this trek is something which was a super moment of my life. Doctor had diagnosed later that I had tore a muscle in the knee and needed some good rest for couple of months. Never did I imagine or think I would be part of such an adventure. The group CTC was so helpful and united that being a member made me so very proud. Made so many wonderful friends in just 3 days. Thanks Peter and others for giving us this opportunity to be part of V6.

Pics: http://picasaweb.google.co.in/raghuveer79/V6CTCJan09#