Category Archives: Treks

My trek journals

What was trekking for me and an apology – Part 2


This is the second part in the series.You can read the first part here.

As I mentioned in the first part, trekking opened a new  life style for me. Mainly, I liked the way I could push my body limits. I loved it when I went out of breath and was still forcing myself to climb up, I loved running through the boulders, I felt proud sliding and running when descending down. On the rocks I wanted to mimic the monkeys as close as possible. When I think about those days, the statistics of the trek was an important thing for me.

I even used to judge the quality of a trek by how much total ascent I have to do, and how difficult the terrain(steepness,no trial etc..) is. I felt good about myself  after enduring such difficult treks. Restlessness was a common thing in those kind of treks. Sitting silently somewhere, enjoying the view and taking the time to appreciate the beauty of nature and life felt to be waste of timing.

Those times, in CTC(Chennai trekking club), only Peter used to organize such difficult treks. I went for each and every one of his treks, and his treks were said to separate the boys from men.

CTC was life changing for me, and I felt I should give something back. This was the major reason why I co-organized a trek with one of my friend Arun Sekhar. I didnt like the idea of taking people to regular trials, so the trek was through trial where none of us hadn’t been before. Since I had the GPS I was confident about finishing the trek successfully.

To make sure that we complete it successfully, we even kept a fitness test for the participants. It was a small jogging test for 3-4 km. Out of 14 appeared only one qualified the test. But at the end I felt sorry for the other people and took everyone. That was the first mistake I did.

On August 6th 2011, on my birthday, we started our trek. During the initial flat walk itself, few people were lagging behind. Telling them to push themselves, we continued. The team had 25 people, including many freshers. I realize that, it was a bad idea to take freshers into a moderate+ trek. I was 10 trek old, and I didn’t bother to understand the difficulties they faced from a freshers point of view. I thought, “why cant they simply walk faster?”.

At the end of that trek, all most every one was exhausted. Despite starting the trek at 6 in the morning, we had to walk till 9 in the evening to reach a camp site with water. At one point, one fresher girl even cried in frustration. They complained I pushed them too much. It was true though.

In some treks, I took up the role of a sweeper(some one who comes last and makes sure that everyone is together). It was a frustrating job. Pushing the people who are mentally and physically tired, is like a moving a huge boulder. You get tired yourself in the process. Still I continued doing it out of some form of responsibility. When they said, “they can’t keep up any more and need a break” , I didn’t understand what they meant. I thought its just a mental thing and all they have to do is push themselves.

In December, I completed a 9 day mission in one of the best places in the world. It was named DFS(Death for sure). I felt proud. But I started getting more tired in the treks after that. I am still unsure whether its a mental thing or physical thing. But I realized that I can’t run in treks like I did before. I felt sad. It felt like losing some thing very important.

At this stage, I started thinking about the people I have been pushing in all my treks. It may sound silly to you, but I felt bad about myself, for not understanding my fellow trekkers problem. Since my stamina was getting(or feeling) low, I was forced to take frequent breaks during treks. That is when I started noticing the beauty around. When you concentrate on only walking fast and statistics of a trek, you fail to notice little things around you. Suddenly I was looking at treks from a different view point. I laughed at myself, for this late realization.

I think that freshers shouldn’t do difficult treks all of a sudden. I am not underestimating you. You may be able to finish the trek. But its not all about finishing the trek, its about enjoying the trek too. I remember people reaching a camp site and sleep without evening taking Dinner, because they are dead tired. For me, camping is one of the best part in the trek, where we slow down things, and talk to each other and have fun. You cant miss it. I didn’t mean pushing yourself is bad, once in a while its exciting to do some tough missions. But when every trek becomes like that, it becomes boring.

I have to end this article with an apology to all the people I may have hurt in my treks. I am truly sorry for what I have knowingly or unknowingly did. I am thankful to you guys because I have learnt something important.

 

Next in the series(part 3) – Keeping up the name, Is it worth?

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How did I start trekking – Part 1


Even though I didnt know how to name it, I was always interested in adventurous and outdoor stuff. Till my 12th, I lived in Lakshadweep with my parents and there I didnt had any chance to do adventure events. I would say I was closed in a small box, with no idea of the possibilities in life.

But after my 12th, I moved to Trichy for doing my B.Tech. I felt like the door which was shut down was finally open. I didnt know what to do. I joined Karate class and it felt good for both body and mind. Still I wasnt aware of trekking, until 2nd year when one of my friend Naveen suggested to do a trek in Kolli hills. That was my first trek.

In that trek, we got lost once, had fun in the stream, suffered a lot when our water bottles got empty, enjoyed the water falls and we could push the body limits. It was a good trek and we did well for first timers. But after that trek, I didnt do any trek for the next 3 or 4 years. Not sure what happened, lack of partners I guess. The time just went by.

After college I joined IIT Madras as a project associate. The job felt good in the beginning, but soon the boredom got me. I rarely worked at the office. I felt the need to get out and do something different. Everyone around me was living a pre- determined life. People wanted a life where everything was planned. I had no idea what to do, but I desperately wanted to do something fast.

Around that time I saw a movie Into the Wild. In the movie a guy named Christopher McCandless runs away from home after his graduation, burning all his credit cards and donating his life savings to a charity home. He wanted to get away from the society. This movie really moved me. I thought of doing something like it, but not in a so extreme(because I didnt had the courage to).

But living in the wild or travelling needs some experience. You need to learn the surviving skills. With my single trek experience I  wont last long. So I started looking for some partners for trekking. Googling for the partners took me to the Chennai trekking club website. I immediately registered in their Google group and waited for trek updates.

Soon I got a mail saying there is an easy trek on March 12th-13th 2011. I registered immediately. Around 55 of us(I know its a huge number, even I was surprised) were selected for the trek. The trek was organized by a married couple, Shumon and Sucharitha. This trek was totally different from what I did 3 years before. It was well planned, had excellent water pools, superb views,awesome peaks and good food too.

After going for this trek, I decided to trek with them every weekend. It was like a new light in my life. I dropped the plan of going alone on a trek. For me, that was a life-changing weekend.

Last weekend, I completed my 36th trek. And still treks are one of the most exciting things I look forward to do on a weekend.

 

Next in the series(part 2) – What was trekking for me and an apology.

Trek to Meesapulimalai and Topstation(Munnar)


After I had moved to bangalore, I have been looking for places in western ghats to explore. It was another unplanned weekend, and when one of my friend mailed, me and Nobal about his last weekend trek in western ghats I was excited to try something. After some searching I suggested this plan:

  • Starting the trek from Kurangini village.
  • Reach kolukkumalai tea estate which they claim as the highest organic tea garden in the whole world.
  • Trek to Meesapulimalai peak(2662 m above MSL), which is the 2nd highest peak in south India.
  • Trek down to Topstation(near Munnar), a tourist destination.
  • Trek down again to Kurangani village using  a village trail, completing the loop.

The plan seemed excellent and three of us, me, Karan and Nobal agreed and booked the bus tickets.

Friday night, myself and Karan boarded the bus to Theni from Bangalore and Nobal boarded the bus to Theni from Chennai. We reached Theni around 7 am. Nobal’s bus was 2 hours late and we had to kill our time telling each others trekking stories. For some reason I didnt feel that bored.

Once Nobal reached, we got a bus to Bodi which was 16km from Theni. We reached Bodi in 30 mins where we took heavy breakfast and ordered some poori and Dosa parcel for lunch. It was 10 am by then, and the next bus to Kurangani village was at 11 am(the last bus was at 8 am). We couldnt afford to  lose any more time, so we took an auto for Rs 220.

On the way to kurangini

It was getting pretty sunny by the time we reached Kurangani. We started the trek by 11 am. Since its June end, I thought it would be raining heavily and expected a wet trek. Last time I have been in the same route and the sun was exhausting. I was a little bit disappointed seeing the same situation.

Anyway we quickly started the trek. The village was at 750 m altitude and the tea estate was at 2050 m. It was a heavy climb, but we had a village trail. Initially the climb was covered with trees around which opened up later when we reached grass lands. The ridge was amazing, and gave us lot of superb views to click on.

The opposite ridge(you can see the trail to top station)

The way ahead(zig zag trail)

At around 1 pm Karan found a dripping water source in a small valley. I hadnt seen this last time. We decided to take lunch there. We took around 30 mins rest and then pushed ahead. No time to sit around. We were already late and our initial plan was to camp at the peak. Nobal had brought his 2 man tent preparing to beat the cold. The ridge was very steep at the end and we gained altitude pretty fast, some times 300m or 400m per hour. We reached the tea estate by 5 pm.

Lunch point, with a dripping water source

Kolukkumalai tea estate

Myself and Nobal had some tea and biscuits from the tea shop at the tea factory. Rs 10 for a tea. I asked around the people about whether there is a trail to Meesapulimalai peak and as usual they said “Its very difficult and risky, but you can hire a guide here”. We said ok and didnt bother to ask any more questions.

It was too late by then, and camping at the peak wasnt possible without a night trek. So we thought of camping some where in the boundaries of the tea estate. Google maps had a route from tea estate to the peak. I had loaded it into my gps. But it was wrong and last time when I went there, I couldnt reach the peak for that reason. This time too we were about to go in the wrong trail, and with God’s grace we met some villagers on the way. They were really nice people and said you have to go back a little and there is a village trail to the peak. They said there can be elephants on the way, so be careful. Thanks to that villager everything turned out well. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Inside the tent

In the new trail we saw some elephant dung, even inside the estate boundaries. We didnt want to take any risk, by camping in its territory. So just before entering the forest, we set up the camp on a flat space. Nobal and Karan read the instructions and set the tent in less than half an hour. It was getting cold by then. We opened up the chappathi packets and MTR curry for our dinner. We covered all our backpacks with my tarpaulin sheet, in case if it rains. The tent was amazing. Warm and comfortable for 3 people. In another 30 mins we were in deep sleep.

Karan was the first to wake up in the morning, he was busy taking pictures. I too wanted to see the views but was too lazy and cold to get out of the tent. But before the estate people come we had to leave there. So we quickly packed up, and started climbing towards the peak by 6.45 am.

The peak between us and Meesapulimali. 2640 m above MSL. see the trail along the ridge.

One final climb to the peak

On our way to the peak there was another big peak which was at 2640 m altitude. To reach the peak we had to climb this one up, then go descent another 100m down and then again climb. It was steep but the trail helped us to save some energy. The views where superb all around us, we could see the zig-zag route we took on the previous day. By 8.40 am we reached the Meesapulimalai peak. I was happy that the mission was accomplished. We took some food there, clicked some pics and decided to move down.

GPS reading at the peak.

Its sunny even at the peak. But we dont want to leave the peak so soon after all those climbs..:)

Our plan was to trek down and reach the SH 17 highway between Munnar and Topstation and then get a bus to the Topstation as there was no point walking on the tar roads. This part of the trek was totally new to me. We guessed that there should be a trail, but wasnt sure if it continues till the bottom and will be in good condition. We kept moving, and to our surprise we saw a waterfall on the way. The water was so chill, I didnt dare to take a bath there. We filled our tummy with ice chilled water, took some rest, clicked some pics and continued following the trail.

The small waterfall we saw on the way down.

The trail was wide and in good condition in the beginning but soon it disappeared. The next one and half hours we trekked down with the leeches in a terrain where everything around us was rotting. Plants you grab for support came of so easily and there wasnt anything called solid ground. It was like stepping into a rotting Forest. Out of all this the most irritating thing was an itchy plant. I have never came across this plant before in any other trek and I consider myself lucky for that. This small plant has many miniature poking stuff, and when you touch the plan it pokes really nasty. It really tested our mind.

Finally back to civilization.

We were relieved when we reached the tea estate. I removed my shoes, which had some leeches inside it and put on my slippers. By 12.30 pm we reached the Yellapatti tea estate factory. The bus stand was nearby. Luckily the bus came in 15 mins. We reached the Topstation by 1.20 pm where we took lunch. Had some tea and by 2 pm we started walking on the village trail towards Kurangani.

The ridge we climbed on first day.you can see the zig zag trails and the tea estate on top.

I didnt like this trail much. It was covered by trees most of the places obstructing any descent views. But since there was no bus from Topstation to Kurangini we had no other option. On the way we reached a small water falls, where Nobal and Karan took bath. We reached the village by 5.45 pm, Had some time and waited for the 6.15 pm bus to Bodi.

The waterfalls 1.5km from the village.

I wont say this was my best trek. But it was one of the best camping nights I have ever had. And this was my first trek where I tried enjoying the trek rather than simply physically pushing myself.