June 8, 2017
A tryst with nature and a break from the humdrum of daily and busy life would be enough for a passionate trekker to go weak at the very thought of going on a trekking expedition. I experienced a similar situation recently when I heard about trek to Nagalapuram out of sheer excitement and which I had experienced just two years back. The very idea of jungle stay gives me an adrenaline rush kindling the spark of adventure giving me a feeling of restlessness till I accomplish it.
Nagalapuram being a paradise for adventure seekers the mention of trekking in this range sent my memories back to 2015 when four Mangalorean trekkers including me had joined People Tree Group of 28 that comprised trekkers from Mysore and Bengaluru for a three day utopian journey from April 14 to 17, 2017. It was my first trek in the Eastern Ghats and we truly had a marvellous and audacious trekking experience. Anyone visiting Nagala will certainly cherish the good memories of bathing, swimming and skylarking in the crystal clear waters of the various pools, the ravishing waterfalls, gurgling streams, the huge boulders and rocks that change colours – a real feast to the eyes.
I want to start by narrating the incident of 2015 trek to Nagala. Just as we were at the fag-end of our three day fun-filled sojourn in the forest and entered the mainland we went through a shocking incident that made this trekking a treasured experience. After crossing the Saddikudu Madugu waterfalls by jumping into the water and then swimming across we entered the mainland. We were changing our wet clothes and were almost ready to leave the place. Suddenly somebody who had put fire to cook Biriyani there had disturbed the honey bees and suddenly these bees began to swarm us. He panicked and began to run helter-skelter. By then our fellow Mangalorean Shashi who fell twice in the process bear the brunt of the honey bees.
It was our good fortune that despite 18 honey bee bites to our fellow Mangalorean Shashi and just one bite each to my teammate Pachhu and me we returned safely mainly because there were three doctors in our group who immediately put Shashi on antibiotics as they were carrying medicine with them. Of course there were many good memories of that exciting trek which often take a backseat when something unusual happens.
Loads of Fun
I gave a miss to Nagala in 2016 because the route was same as that of 2015 but this time around except for the first half day’s trail the trek was on a different trail and that was enough to kindle my interest. It was mid April and some hesitated thinking the temperature in Nagala would cross 40 degrees. I was alone from Mangalore this time and travelled to Mysore to join the People Tree group which organised the trek. What unfolded in the next three days was a journey filled with challenges at every stage coupled with loads of fun, happiness, excitement, adventure, surprise, and of course the trepidation and risk factor involved considering the unusualness of the terrain.
We trekked in some of the most beautiful and pristine terrains in the Eastern Ghats, climbed some of the steepest but beautiful hills descended some exciting but the most sloppiest of terrains, climbed some dangerous and almost vertical hills, rock climbed, rappelled, swam, rafted our backpacks, hopped, jumped, skylarked, shared our food, helped one another, cooked together and slept in the jungle far from the cacophony of mundane mobile phone disturbance and noise and air pollution. Nature in her pristine beauty and plenty of water falls and water pools proved to be our main fodder of excitement keeping us in our elements despite traversing through quite a challenging and tough terrain.
I took a noon bus to reach Mysore by 7 and was promptly picked at the bus station by ‘Kanaka Travels’ the bus that picked all trekkers from Mysore and made an onward journey to Bengaluru before taking the road to Chittor District in Andhrapradesh bordering Tamilnadu. . By 4.30am we were in Chittor where we joined Radhakrishna Murthy of Chennai Trekking Club who is the guiding spirit for our trek. He has been rendering his service to People Tree Group for the last three years.
After a quick break for ablutions we covered another 80 kms to reach Pichatur dam site. Had a sumptuous breakfast in a small hotel and moved to Puttur (in Andhra) where we parked our vehicle. But before that the real work of distributing common luggage and fruits like cucumbers, oranges and lemons had to be completed. Sharing common luggage was not an easy job because carrying luggage along with two litres of water in a trek involving hiking and steep descend is a herculean task and can prove to be the undoing for most trekkers.
Somehow by 11 am we, a group of 35 ranging from the age group of 10 to 60 and above were ready with our backpack which felt quite heavy in the beginning itself and we moved on. We made a grand entry from the west side as trekkers mostly use east and west for entry or exit. After about 2 kms of walk we came across the familiar mango tree (familiarity as went through the same trail in 2015) and from there the real trek began. Till noon we covered the area along the stream and being a holiday we came across all types of people taking a dip in the stream or just enjoying spending some time watching the stream. They were cooking, eating, bathing, jumping into the pool and of course the scene was no different from places frequented by people for leisure and fun. It was littered with polythene bags, beer bottles, lot of plastic plates and the usual picnic residue.
Till lunch we were almost in touch with the civilised world and once we climbed a rather fiddly and adventurous narrow and zigzag path rather with considerable efforts mainly because of our rucksacks we were in a verdant land full of greenery sans the ills of modernity. Though we passed through some 2 to three water pools the ambience was not quite inviting and invigorating. When we came across the 4th pool we could not resist the temptation and happily got into the water. While swimmer and divers amongst us had a field day in the deep pool others found solace in the not so shallow waters. It was really refreshing after a hard days walk.
After a refreshing bath we had to cross another risky hill along the deep pool. We used a rope and transported our bags first and then we moved on. From here on we refilled our bottles and our long and ardours journey towards our camp site began. It was getting darker and the weight of the rucksack added to our difficulties. But the clean and immaculate beauty of the hills and rocks was like a handsome reward for our efforts. With our bottles almost empty and the camp area not in sight we depended more on the oranges in our bags to quench our thirst preserving the liquid in case of emergency. The group could not move in the desired pace to reach the camp site before sunset and the downhill descent to reach the night camp was still far.
With darkness descending we took out our torches and moved cautiously. But the descent was not that easy because the terrain was full of lose rocks which often rolled down giving anxious moments to those who were halfway down. Some of the youngsters gave a helping hand by carrying the luggage of those found it real hard to move with it because many a time we had to move like a four-legged animal. We could hear the sound of the flowing water as we kept waiting for those behind us and that sound was quite reassuring amidst the uncertainty and trepidation.
Finally after lot of scary moments, a few falls here and there, a few scratches from thorns and plants we reached the spot of our night halt. We drank water and filled our bottles and searched for a level place to rest for the night. It was difficult to find a level place in that area and we settled with whatever little place we could find. We ate dry chapathis with chutney and pickle and in between played some Antyakshari indicating that we were down but not out. In no time we were fast asleep in the thick forest with an occasional firefly to lighten up the rather dark sky. Distance wise we had covered about 6.5 kms but considering the terrain we covered it was not a small achievement.
In Elusive Water Source
The morning began on a bright note and we prepared for the tough day ahead by filling our Tiffin with curumber-carrot slices and lemon-salt water in our bottles. Just when everyone was busy with morning chores Kumaran, a passionate young trekker whom Radhakrishna Murthy had brought along, hinted he is going to a beautiful pool nearby. I am happy I responded to the hint because the ambience near the pool reminded me of Bahubali Part I scene which was quite exciting and vivifying.
With great caution I went down on the pool hill and had a refreshing bath as I watched cascading fall in between a rock that was balancing precariously. The tea got over when I had returned but foregoing the tea was worth compared to the beauty of the water pool.
We began the journey with packed lunch and by 8.30 am we were ready and went to the last pool where we filled our bottles as we were told not to expect any pool for next three hours. The day began badly to one of our co-trekkers who in an effort while approaching a narrow path through the rock fell off with a big thud as the plant he held for support gave in. Though he injured his arm slightly there was no major casualty as his back pack saved him from a big mishap.
We began our epic journey where we were climbing 85 degree steep gradient hill and I must say I simply loved the terrain. We had to be careful about the boulders which were coming down from time to time with somebody screaming out loud to be careful. We kept walking and there was no sight of water even after lunch time though we were expecting water within the next three hours. We all forgot about the lunch because it was realised that the trail had undergone drastic changes after Cyclone Vardah that hit Andhra and Tamilnadu coast in 2016 causing considerable damage.
The path was quite riotous and not easy to be manoeuvred because it was once covered by stream and the pebbles were smooth and slippery. In some places long strides were required to jump from one boulder to another and some we had to just sit and slide. Naturally the team got divided into two as one team had gone in the normal speed and were searching for water source so that the team can halt at night. Finally by 5 we in the first team sighted a water source though it was extremely weak. Having quenched our thirst we moved and finally there we were at the source of the water though originally we were scheduled to reach the picnic pool.
The team which had gone ahead had prepared the place for night halt and by the time the other team came it was really dark. Descending the steep gradient forest land was another challenge with the help of torch light. None was in a mood to eat though we were famished and dead tired. Since we were short of the distance we covered on the second day the team leader had to take a crucial decision. At the pace which the team covered the distance on 1st and 2nd day it was impossible to finish the trek on the 3rd day as planned. So it was decided that those who had to go back urgently leave early morning with Kumaran and the remaining members would extend their forest stay by another day. We were up by 4.30 and left the camp site by 6 am bidding goodbye to those who stayed back.
Thrilling and Adventurous
We treaded along the stream and it proved to be the most adventurous of the three days trek because the entire day’s trek was along the stream. After going through some adventurous and treacherous paths trail and steep downhill we reached the magic pool by 9 am and it was really gave a magical moment of our trekking journey. But before reaching the magic pool I had the most memorable trekking experience of my life. I was just trying to reach a water fall and within a fraction of second I was down in the deep water pool with a thud not knowing what exactly happened. Even as I was frantically trying to seek help and had given up hopes recalling all my loved ones Harsha from Bengaluru jumped into the water and saved me without bothering about his mobile in his pocket. Kumaran also came running just in time and pulled both of us out of the water. In the process Harsha tore his track pant and his mobile also got wet. We moved on as if nothing happened and spend an hour or so enjoying in the magic pools cool and clear waters. Some of us swam in the shallow waters and some dived from the water fall. We also enjoyed fish spa as thousands of tiny fishes came rushing towards us as soon as we entered into the pool to eat the dead skin giving us a tickling sensation. At the slightest movement of the legs they zoom away only to come back after a little later. Though we did not want to come out of the waters we had to move on thinking of the distance we had to cover. In treks of this nature once we get into the pool there is no changing of clothes.
After the magic pool experience we ascended and descended some of the challenging paths and reached near a gorge. Here Kumaran gave us an option of climbing a gargantuan hill or to cross over by swimming. Kumaran is quite young and daring and he jumps from one boulder to another with ease and he is experienced in guiding some trekkers to Nagalapuram. We had ropes and tubes to cross through and we opted to cross the stream rather than scale the hill because swimming across the gorge adds thrill, adventure and excitement to any trek and Kumaran encouraged it. We packed our bags in plastics and formed a human chain and got all the luggage down through the two feet circumference gorge and kept it in the cave like area. Kumaran sent Abhishek down first through the gorge and into the pool down to help all the jumpers and guide them to safety.
We were lucky as there were many swimmers in the team. It was not easy making all trekkers jump from a height of 10 feet that too from standing in between two huge slippery uneven rocks leaving having space to stand. Getting down into the gorge itself was quite a challenge and then making people jump into the stream though they were waiting down with tubes to lift and guide us, was quite an uphill task. Charu was the first to take the plunge and after some loud cheers she mustered courage and there she was after the jump swimming safely using the tube. Once down into the stream a breathtaking sight awaiting us. Water was gushing down forming a waterfall from the crack of a ceiling of a big cave like stone of about 10 feet height. It was really a memorable spectacle. After that we transported our luggage with the help of tubes and mats to the other end and Abhishek, Ganesh, Kumaran and Kaleem did most of the work of transporting people and the luggage.
After trudging along the stream jumping from boulder to boulder we came to the final stream approaching another risky hill. Again we packed our bags and transported them forming a human chain only to jump into a small pond and walk another 30 meters to cross another stream and repeated the same exercise. By now Kumaran who was doing most of the swimming developed cramps but he continued to lead the team by 4pm we had completed the major hurdles to come to the land area.
We walked along the stream and as darkness approached we could see the signs of human habitation (plastic bottles, plates and other waste strewn in) as me moved on. Darkness descended and with the help of torch we kept walking and lo! We reached the destination of the dam site by 8.30 pm and heaved a sigh of relief. We had covered 16 kms on the final day by trekking in some of the most adventurous and challenging trail. By the end of the day every miniscule muscle in my body (which I wasn’t aware existed till then) was aching and for the next three days the non-stop pain persisted. But the exhaustion was forgotten amidst the exhilaration thinking of the blissful, relaxing and refreshing journey we had.
We were really worried about the team behind us because there is no network in Nagala and we could not establish contact with them. Somehow knew that Radhamurthy, Shivashankar and a few ebullient youngsters who were extremely helpful to fellow trekkers would manage it. Once we reached the destination Kanaka Travels bus was waiting for us. We reached Puttur and dinner and moved to Chittor. From Chittoor Kumaran and few others went to Chennai and eight of us who had to go to Mysore and Bengaluru hired two taxies and reached Bengaluru. I caught hold of early morning KSRTC bus and was home by 1.30 noon.
It was an adventurous and incredible trekking experience and many trekkers proved that age is no bar when it comes to facing the challenge head on. Elders in the team like - Venkatesh and Manjula Patil braved all odds and completed the challenging trek and are an inspiration to others. I am happy I was part of this adventurous journey and would cherish the lovely moments for a long time to come.
Florine Roche Archives: