|I was introduced to the Chennai Trekkers Club, registered with them and booked myself into the very next excursion they were taking - a trek through the Nagalapuram Hills. I'd never heard of these hills before, but I was looking forward to a good time regardless.
I woke up at 4 am and rushed to Tidel Park after picking up my friend Raghu on the way. As we approached the entrance I saw a set of people chit-chatting and asked one of them casually whether they are part of Chennai Trekkers Club. He was flummoxed and had no idea what I was talking about. I realised these were not our travelling companions and I soon saw another group nearby.
To save myself the embarrassment this time around, I just sauntered close and tried to figure out whether they were from the CTC. Bingo! They were and we waited around for a few minutes, till our other trekking companions, among them Peter and Balajiturned up. I introduced myself around and we then headed to Koyambedu to pick up the rest of our party.
'The TRIP has begun' was my SMS to my mom once we started zipping away from the Koyambedu Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT). We pulled over to tank up at a gas station and had breakfast at a nearby joint. In the meantime, the rain gods descended and it was so refreshing to see it pour. We waited for about half an hour for it to stop and then we continued on our way. We reached the base camp at around 9.15 am. Parking our cars and bikes, we filled up our backpacks with food and I embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Lunch by an inviting stream
Perfect weather, a lush green forest with thick tree cover and a passionate group of trekkers -- I couldn't have wished for more. We were traversing past thorns, bees and what not. At one point we walked around a tiny ledge, clinging to the wall of rock -- at the moment I almost felt like enrolling for the trek was a mistake!
About 30 minutes on, we hit on a stream with a small waterfall. It was so delightful to our tired eyes, we jumped right in and soothed our aching muscles for sometime. Peter tied a rope across the stream to make sure that non-swimmers were not denied the fun. We lazed in the water for about half an hour and then continued on our way.
For one hour we trekked through thorny brush and steep inclines until we finally halted for lunch by another stream. On the menu -- puris and idlis, but I wasn't too inclined to eat. I was, however, very thirsty and all the water we had carried with us was over, so Shubro helped us refill the water bottles at the stream's waterfall. To be very frank, I have never tasted water like that before -- so cold, refreshing and straight from Mother Nature, it was truly ambrosia.
A perilous climb to the summit
After lunch, we continued with our journey. I was starting to feel the pain -- aching legs, bruised hands (thanks to the thorns and a bee stung me too!), fatigued body -- all of this made me want to give up. But my mind was focused on going the extra mile.
After a point, Ram came to my assistance, carrying my bag and supporting me through the rest of the perilous climb -- thanks Ram! -- and we reached the summit at 2 pm. The sun was scorching hot by then, but we took a group photo to mark our conquest.
Getting along swimmingly
We began our descent immediately and increased the pace of our walk. It was really steep and we had to watch our step, as there were many loose stones. Thirty to forty-five minutes into our descent, we chanced upon a stream and decided to follow its course. Along the way we encountered another stream which we had to cross. Peter did the initial safety checks and we got to the other side with the help of a rope. We thought we were done with water by then, but we were in for a surprise when we came across two more streams one after the other, which we had to swim across.
By then we were so into the trekking mode that we didn't even feel the fatigue -- we were perfectly in synch with whatever nature put in our path. Peter and the other swimmers were fabulous in helping carry the bags across and helping non-swimmers cross safely. I'm sure we can give Michael Phelps a run for his money!
Check out any time you like, but never leave!
As we carried on, the lyrics of the Eagles song 'Hotel California' came to my mind, with a little twist to apply to our situation:
Relax, said nature ('the nightman' in the original song)
We are programmed to receive,
You can check out anytime you like (crossing every stream thinking that it's the last!)
But you can never leave (we'll never find our way out!)
Then came the good news from Peter and other senior trekkers that we had finally hit the right path -- I heaved a great sigh of relief.
Nightfall and a GPS crash
Night set in, but we continued along our way, walking cautiously through the dense forest. It was pitch dark and we were walking with our torches on. Suddenly, we were told to stop in-between by Peter -- the GPS system had stopped working! However, he and the senior trekkers were soon able to find the trail -- that was when I realised that when technology fails, experience steps in!
After that (in Peter's words, it was just 'child's play' to find our way), we reached the base camp and got back to our vehicles.
Raghuvir and I were so tired, the 100 kms back home looked like another Nagalapuram trek to us. We drove like Johnny Depp in the Hollywood flick Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and somehow managed to reach home safely.
Miles to go before...
Despite the fatigue, I have to say the trek was an experience I will never forget. I'd like to thank everyone at the Chennai Trekkers Club for making it such a memorable one -- I particularly owe Peter, Balaji, Ram and Vivek for organising such a fantastic time for us all.
In conclusion, I would just like to add that Robert Frost, the great American poet, should have been a trekker himself -- the opening lines of the following poem by him describe the spirit of our club perfectly:
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Text and photographs: Ramakrishnan Thiagarajan, Chennai Trekkers Club
(Originally Submitted on rediff.com)