September 3rd, 2009
Update: My cave pool drama has been written. Do check it out.
Trekking is exhilarating. Trekking is addictive. Trekking is challenging. Every time a trek is announced, I see my spirits being increased to the levels that it had never gone before. Despite any silly setbacks that may occur, you can see me in the finest of moods on the week before the trek & on the trek… Especially since this was one kind of a trek that I had never attempted in my life before.
Welcome to DOA a.k.a “Dead or Alive” trek. These treks have trails the pass through some of the most amazing rock formations, crystal clear deep pools with tasty water, not to mention gorgeous waterfalls and amazing hill-top views that put regular tourist spots to shame. These treks also contain risky up-hills which have to be scaled & long streams; the only way to cross them is by swimming to the other side. Its also on these treks that humans exhibit their best’est’ qualities and is a team building exercise in itself. Where else can you learn how to cooperate and have fun with people whom you have never met before?
Chennai warriors travelled to Renigunta by train, where we were joined the Bangalore team. Train journey was awesome. We had formed a gang and teased Mohan S & Karthikeyan about the fact that they wanted to camp together on day 1 on the same sleeping mat on top of each other . They were teased to death until the station came, where we had to disembark. An hour or so later, the Bangalore team joined in. It was a quick time for introductions. From the earlier Nagala Trek, I met Ajay and Aditya & Mohan S and Ananth joined us from the previous Tada Fort Conquer Exploration. With so much known faces and exciting new ones, time literally flew by.
We reached this place called Kodur by 3 cabs. On the way, Sagar was showcasing his “bird watching” skills (birds = ones that fly with wings; not the ones you think). Quickly we disembarked form the jeeps and started on the 6 hour long walk which wouldn’t take us through any pool. On we walked and walked. We took 2-5 minute breaks after every hour or so of walking on rocky dry river beds. Then at a point, we reached a nice rock formation which was in the form of shelves. After taking a group photo there, Arpitha wanted to climb the other side of the rocks. As she started climbing, everyone started pelting her with tiny stones ha ha She jumped down & soon started taking revenge! LOL! Playing with kids is awesome fun sometimes
Two more hours later, we reached a well in the middle of the forest. The well was quite deep and had very slippery stairs. Few of us went down and took snaps. Notably, Sandhya and Nandhini, reached the bottom most staircase, washed their faces and came back up again. That would have taken awesome fearlessness and mental strength to do. Kudos to them! With that behind, we started walking again. When it was time to go, Nandhini would start blowing the whistle
After walking along a jeep track that led through a dense patch of forest, we emerged in to the open again. At one point, Ravi Ghosh announced that we were just 2 hours away from the nearest water point.
Lord Siva has this tendency to take home in the creepiest of places on earth. About 15 minutes away from water, we started hearing trickling sounds, followed by more gushing. My heart started beating faster and I started to run. Then we emerged out and the scene was breath-taking. WATER! … and more water everywhere! Instantly everyone wet their feet. To the stream’s right, steps were carved which surprised me. Who could ever carve steps in a dense jungle after crossing 6 hours of near-desert-dry stream? But there it was. In all holiness, there a temple was constructed in brick and mortar for Lord Siva. After saluting him, we started climbing down.
Ravi was in the pool and waving at everyone. We changed in to trunks and jumped in. It wasn’t deep and was the perfect place to start the enjoyment which would then extend to 2 days more. The water pool had a very small water fall. The gushing white water made us sit under it & enjoy the massage it gave on our aching backs. And then it was time to go. Part of the gang travelled upstream and got wet at a bigger pool. Drying ourselves and packing, we got our butts moving to the bigger pool. I never got the idea of “big” until I saw what it was. “Big” created a special place in my heart when I saw the Cave Pool!
After walking for another 20 minutes, we reached the Cave Pool. I was struck by its sight, its magnificence and the grandeur, in the way it carved itself among the rocks, slowly creating ripples when the wind kissed it. It was as if I was in a trance. I couldn’t take in all the beauty in one shot. It was too much
Moving further down the hill, the two hills met, turned to their right and raised above. At this point, an amazing pool was formed which was pretty deep. The hills on both sides created platforms where we could climb on to and then dive in to the amazing pool. The water was so clear that we could easily see up to 5-6 feet inside. One by one (non-)swimmers got on the ledges and displayed their diving prowess. With much fanfare, we could easily declare that Gowri Shankar was the best diver amongst us all. With surgical precision, he goes head first in to the water with straight arms and legs, glides under the water and then comes back up … all in a matter of few seconds.
Adjacent to this first cave pool, there was cave pool 2 that was this deep. To get there, people had to dive in pool 1, swim to the perpendicular ledge (which was very slippery, btw, Sandhya slipped here), precariously climb it and reach the pool 2. We had a HUGE surprise here.
The hills kind of formed a ceiling with a gaping hole. From one portion of the hole, a stream was flowing in to full force in to pool 2, creating a waterfall. This was very very beautiful. The force of this waterfall was so much that even experienced swimmers could be pushed in to the water. Through this hole, we could see the peaks of the hills brightly illuminated by the Sun. Thanks to Gowri & few more amazing friends, I was able to reach this place with my stinking swimming skills . Pool 1 will be eternally registered in my memory for an incident, which I will discuss in another blog post.
After spending about two hours here, we moved on.
Steep Climb 1
We had to climb on the hill opposite to the huge cave pool and get on to the other side. The terrain was very slippery and there was little to hold on to. Fortunately for us, few rocks didn’t give way and we made our way through it. It could have been just about 30-40 meters but this climb was superb. After the climb, we moved through a patch of tall grass & came to a local peak. One team had already reached this peak. We could figure out that, this was behind the huge cave pool which we went to earlier. We sat on the very edge and took couple of photos
After few minutes of registering the beauty and drooling at nature, we moved on. It was about evening now and we had 3 more hours of trekking left, which meant we had to trek in the dark. I had never trekked in the dark before and the thought of it thrilled me to bits.
Fall and Injury
As we were climbing down, the grassy terrain gave way and led us on to a 5-foot slope. I stepped on it. Gravitation pulled me down and within a second, I was running down the slope, all involuntarily. I kind of knew I would crash. Near the end of the slope, there was a small tree to my right. As I was about to crash, I held to it as the last straw. But the straw gave up & I landed with a huge THUD!!, amid sharp stones, face down. I got injured very close to my right eye. One was a deep bruise and the other was a not-so-deep but lengthy bruise. Aanalum meesaila mannu ottala
Within a second, couple of guys ran towards me, got the first aid kit out and dressed the wound. The alcohol strips made sure the wound burned like fire. In a few minutes, bleeding stopped. Wound was dressed and it was time to go again Thank Goodness, my eye sight remained intact. It is at this point that I want to profusely thank Ravi Ghosh for continuously monitoring the injury throughout the trek and re-dressing it whenever required. Thank you so much Ravi. You are fantastic.
Few hours of trekking later, we reached another pool, which had to be crossed with our belongings intact. The water was waist deep. Mohan.V didn’t want his trousers to get wet. So he removed his trouser and hung it on his neck. Since it was a nice idea and had to be copied, Guna, who was behind me, did the same. Infact, he went further ahead and did something else which made the photographers run behind him But I can’t share that here he he he!
The pool is named this way because, Nandhini told that, on an earlier visit along the trail, some of them had filled it with rocks, creating an underwater bridge, much like the Ramar Sethu Bridge, which is under water on the Bay of Bengal
It gets dark very quickly in forests. Its as if the lights just go off. It became dark and before we knew it, we were trekking in dark. After few hours of hopping on puddles and jumping on trees, we reached the camp site.
The rocks on the camp site were superb. They were smooth and had lots of space. It even had a small pool so that we could cook our dinner there. Tasting hot soup and maggy, we put our heads and foot to rest under the sky. As it got darker, I was lulling myself into dreamland in total mental peace and silence.
Day 2 - 30 Aug 2009
Day 2 started great! Fresh from the superb sleep under the skies, we woke up to birds chirping. In about 15 minutes, everyone was ready and it was time to go. About a minute or two ahead, we had to cross the first pool of the day which had neck deep water. The chill water gave a precursor to the enjoyment we would be having today & we crossed it soon. This day promised that we would be on a water trail all along and hence we had no need to carry water on our backpacks. That’s about reduction of 3 kilos, which is a huge relief when you are on a trek.
Raft and Heavenly Pool
Soon after an hour, it was time to cross pool 2 of the day. On this day, I was part of the initial gang to reach here. The pool was very deep at the starting itself. It had to be crossed only by swimming across. For the swimmers, it was a child’s play. But what about the non-swimmers and the backpacks?
Using 4 sleeping mats, 2 thick sticks (3 foot long) and two thick threads, we created a raft to transport the bags. Two swimmers would accompany the raft and ensure that it made it safely across. Then they would push the raft and come to the other side and repeat it until the bags were transported. The swimmers worked in shifts to transport all the bags. While some swimmers managed the raft, few others ferried people across. People who couldn’t swim would hold on to the sleeping mat and then would be dragged on the water across to the other side of the shore.
We would then form a human chain on the other side and transfer the bags to high ground so that they are safe from water. I loved this portion of the trek totally. We had breakfast at this spot and soon it was time to “MOVE IT, MOVE IT”
Non-Swimmer’s Pool, Tree and Waterfall
After 45 minutes, we reached the next pool. At a maximum, this pool would have been 7-8 feet deep. Everyone went crazy and were doing all kinds of somersaults. Vel patiently caught all of them on his camera. Check out the videos here. I have embedded my favourite below.
It was also at this pool that Max Comer taught swimming to me and Aditya. After some lessons on paddling and floating, both of us were able to diagonally swim through the pool, overseen by Max. Thank for the lessons Max. I have to start practicing them so that those lessons aren’t forgotten. Very soon after this pool, we came across a huge tree which was uprooted. Being the monkeys that we are , we got on top of it immediately and posed heheh!
Soon after, we came across another tree that got uprooted and lying across in our path. We jumped over it. Another half an hour of trek later, we came across an awesome waterfall to the left of a perfect camping place. The pool next to the waterfall was very small and cute. The rocks that led to the waterfall was pretty much smooth that we could lie down on it bare backs. An amazing massage and sun bath later, we were on our way.
Waterfall of the Day – Massage Falls
Trekking and hopping across rocks, we ascended. Another hour or so later, we reached a scenic waterfall. On a metric, this falls would rate at number two when compared to the one at Cave Pool 2. But hey, what the heck! Nature is bountiful in her beauty and we are – well – measely human beings. The waterfall came on the ground below beautifully in folds, over a spread of 20 metres. The velocity was great and but since the water wasn’t dense, it was pricking on the back, giving an acupuncture effect
This climb to the left of the gorgeous waterfall was the riskiest of all climbs we did so far. Little did we know that rocks and mud would come hurtling down at speeds that were faster than our reflexes. As we were climbing up, the hill was steeping towards 90 degrees. Tree roots, thorny creepers and branches were the only source of balance. Most often, rocks under the legs would fall off as soon someone steps on it. We were calling it the Land mine Hill – full of falling rocks at a touch. At one point, we had to go precariously take a right turn with the least amount of balance available & we had a backpack too with a sleeping mat tied on it!
Everyone soon made it to the top of the hill and then we descended on to the next hill. The place after this descent became the lunch spot and we spent about one and a half hours here. Everyone chilled themselves off & the pleasant winds were making us close the eye lids to enjoy a moment of peace.
On the way to Dirty Pool
From the lunch spot, we had to proceed upwards on the hill. At this point, the altitude was near 850m or something. Using ropes, we crossed a spot which was very slippery, which had water going through it and the place was slightly steep. A slip would have sent one rolling down to the lunch spot from where he would have to climb up again (if alive). Mohan S slipped here. As he was sliding, he used Sagar as leverage and finally stopped sliding hanging on to dear life heheh!
Another gorgeous pool later, where few members of our gang had a dip, we were on our way to the dirty pool. The forest was dense here and we could sense that we were moving through another hill from that of the lunch spot. After an hour or so, we reached the Dirty Pool. As the name says, it was dirty with mud. Around 6 of them got in and went to the waterfall at the end of the pool.
Mohan V had to attend nature’s call. As soon as he filled up a water bottle, he announced that “If you hear a sound from me, please come and see me.” Dudes in the gang immediately did mocks of how he would make that sound & laughed on and on until he came back … lol.
From the dirty pool, we climbed upwards.
Amazing Rock Formations
Once we reached the top of the dirty pool, we could notice that Mom Nature had carved the whole place in a series of steps. Due to the flow of water, some portions of the rocks were shining. They were dark pink in colour & looked magnificient. From the top of these step like formations, you should have seen the place. Surrounded on 3 sides with thick forest, light blue sky above patched with clouds here and there, the evening sun shining brightly and a nice wind blowing, that place had amazing energy flow. I grabbed as much as possible and enjoyed that moment by sleeping for five minutes.
We climbed on and on and reached another tiny pool. It was as if there were no end to these pools . From the tiny pool, we filled up enough water because that was the last water point in the trail and then moved ahead.
Jeep Trail, Talakona
Our exit point for the trek was the Talakona falls in the Venkateswara Hills. From the tiny pool, we navigated to a jeep track. We walked for about two hours on the jeep track until we saw a wooden board that said “Talakona” and pointed to one direction. After grouping here and taking some group snaps, we walked to the top of the Talakona water falls. Since it was quite dark at this time, we didn’t venture in to the falls. Instead we started walking towards the exit of Talakona.
Ride To Tirupathi & Back Home
We reached the base of Talakona by around 8pm and had piping hot dosas. From there, we hired one share auto and one jeep to transport 31 people. 13 of us were packed in to the share auto while the other 18 were packed in the jeep with all our backpacks on top of the auto/jeep. Singing songs and ragging Guna, we made our way to Bangarupet and then to Tirupathi.
At the Tirupathi bus stand, it was time to bid farewell and head home.
An eventful trek with plenty of learnings had come to an amazing end. I will surely do more of this in future. In case you were wondering, at the end, Trekking is more about your mental growth than physical. Helping random people (until before trek), organizing stuff with random people (until before trek) and having fun by teasing them during the trek … All this can NEVER happen in normal gatherings. It fosters leadership and creates superstars. Trekking blows away all kinds of formalities and is only raw fun! If you have never trekked so far with a gang, you have wasted your life
Signing off now …