December 10th, 2009
Oh boy! Oh Boy!! OH BOY!!! I don’t want to say how awesome this trek was. This trek and some of its special moments will remain etched in my memory for years to come. Nagala is full of water all through the year & since monsoon is around its end, the dam near the hills would be brimming. That would present ripe opportunities for swimming & I would be able to put my new skills to test. Hence, when the trek was announced as a first timer’s trek, I gladly signed up and waited with bated breath for the D-day to show up! And show up … it did! After 3 excruciating weeks.
I couldn’t contain my excitement what-so-ever and few days in the middle, I almost fell sick with excitement. I was high. The thought of crystal clear water, those tiny beautiful waterfalls, gurgling stream and varied colour rocks strewn across in the form of jewels … OMG! Every such thought was driving me crazy. Moreover, we were a gang on the treks and this was a pretty easy trail. So just imagine the fun we would be having on the way and back! To add to it, it was Max’s birthday on Sunday, 6th December … Too many things to celebrate for and only 48 hours. Not enough at all.
A few of us met at co-organizer Naveen’s home on Friday night for a quick pre-trek planning discussion and party. The night dawned into the day with none of us sleeping. Soon, everyone assembled at Koyembedu and we raced off to our dear home away from home … Nagalapuram. Distributing food and items for the next two days, we started walking towards the forests.
The dam was in full splendor this time. It had been more than 10 months since I visited Nagala and the site of the dam overflowing and brimming with water was too good not to be WOW’d at.
Since we couldn’t take the usual route, we chose to walk along the dam, in to the forest which would join somewhere ahead at the regular trail. Trekking until this spot was pretty much easy. Gradual ascents and descents later, we reached the first pool.
The First Pool
The very thought of the chill water excited me to the core & the realization that I could swim this time made it even better. With zilch thoughts, the gang plunged head long in the water and started jumping and diving. Behind the rocks on this first pool, there’s a very cute and small waterfall. We helped ferry a few people there using sleeping mats and even a few non-swimmers climbed on to the rocks and jumped in water… to be lifted up and led ashore safely by swimmers. Around an hour’s excitement at this place later, we started on the way to the dead end pool.
The Dead End Pool
This pool so gets its name because of high rocks on all three sides and the only way to cross this pool is to swim across. Using the knowledge gained from the previous Venkateswara trek, we built two rafts to transport bags safely to the other side. A few non-swimmers were then ferried along with the bags, who climbed on the narrow ledges to accept backpacks as they were being passed to them. In the meantime, you know what we did
This pool is a lot deeper and bigger than the first pool. Since the rocks are high on 3 sides, we climbed on them and started jumps and dives. It was lot of fun to do it this time and without any help or fear. Non-swimmers, please go and learn swimming right now . You are missing the water fun.
It was here that 2 great slips happened
At the Dead End Pool, there are two rocks which have to be crossed to go to the other side. With water and others climbing, the second rock became very slippery and there was very little to hold on to. A slip here leads directly to a deep end of the pool. This time, I tried my hand at climbing it on my own. I was up a little bit when my left leg slipped initially. I gained some balance and climbed up a bit more when left hand slipped. Horror of horrors … bloody left leg gave up too & I slid down the rocks in to the water. It created a huge uproar as I panted and surfaced
Then I was helped to get on top of the rock. Ananth also tried climbing on his own. I warned him that its very wet and slippery. He preferred to ignore the “advice” (he he he..) and tried. He also slipped and that created another huge uproar. Lol. Both of us knew swimming and we escaped the skid without a scratch.
We used Rubbification Technology to laugh off the teases and ploughed ahead shouting MOVE IT MOVE IT … heh!
We had lunch at this spot and then proceeded towards Picnic Pool. It was about an hour from this place. But since there were many first time trekkers, we started pretty early to avoid trekking in the dark. I was with the sweeping gang along side Vikram, Gowri, Max, Sagar and Sai.
On the way to Picnic Pool
After passing along the stream for sometime, we climbed a picturesque hill, which then led us to the edge of a gorge. Little did we know about the beauty that would be present at the end of the gorge, which would be explored the next day. The view of the gorge was awesome from this place. Clicking a few snaps here, we moved on. A few meters of a steep descend led us to the stream again. Hopping across the rocks, we reached the edge of the camp site in about an hour… Talking, chatting and ragging… making our experience.
It was beginning to get dark now and there were only about 6 of us with the sweeping gang. At this point, there were 2 routes to the camp site. One is to swim across a 50m pool and the other was to climb the hill and follow the trail that would lead to the camp site. We decided that it would be best to swim across the small distance. That would mean building a raft to ferry the bags and helping the non-swimmers float across.
Alas, we didn’t have the ropes to build the raft. So myself and Keshav decided to climb the hill, drop our bags at the camp site and get a few people so that non-swimmers and backpacks can be transported across. Vikram showed us a trail and gave some directions on when to turn left. It became pitch dark now. Promptly, myself and Keshav started ascending the hill. We followed the trail for some distance and logically we would have to turn left and walk along until the trail led downwards. Pretty simple right? But in the dark, things can (and will) go wrong.
Instead of turning left at a certain point, we climbed right ahead and reached a deadend because a tree was fallen across our path. We realized our folly and turned across, which led us into vegetation. Seeing no trail, we were wondering what to do and which path to follow. I knew we had to go down. But it was very steep. Around 80 degrees. After carefully descending for a couple of meters, we noticed some light at the bottom. Fire flies can give you this illusion that there’s light far off. Immediately we switched off our torch light and made sure it was human light.
To send a signal, we switched off and switched on the lights repeatedly. Promptly, someone alerted Adi & he came near the hill shouting at us not to follow the path because there was no way down. No sooner had he said that, Keshav slipped. He slid down for a feet or two and held a tree. My heart was beating like hell & I tried to remain calm. His sleeping mat got ripped open & part of his bag was opened too. Mobile phone, purse and other items flew in all directions. As he was getting up, I calmed him and we launched this treasure hunt for his phone in the dark . We found it! We found his purse also! After retying the mat and putting all the stuff back, we moved up a little bit and found the trail to our left. It was steep no doubt. But the trail had a route to the bottom. The next morning, we found out that the place where Keshav slipped led directly to the pool below. Both of us knew swimming so we could have escaped and there were many other swimmers in the gang too. But the electronic devices would have suffered had our backpacks taken the plunge
Recognizing our absense for sometime, Gowri swam across, got the ropes and ferried the people and backpacks. We reached the camp site safe and sound.
Peter’s Surprise Visit and Hooting
At the campsite, we started collecting firewood to setup the kitchen with a double burner stove. As we were doing this, everyone around us were hooting and shouting UUURRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHHH!! Out of dark, Peter emerged! Everyone was shocked and surprised. When did he start from Chennai and how did he make it this far? Did he get lost anywhere? Lol… everyone had so many questions. Peter knows Nagalapuram like the back of his hand.
The whole campsite resembled a hyper-active beehive as soon as he made his presence.
The campfire was to become a huge bonfire when Peter announced, “I need 6 strong buffaloes” to lift two huge trees. Few minutes later, 2 big trunks came into the campfire and the wood started crackling. A nice dinner of hot soup and maggi later, we headed to the pool for a swim in the dark. For about 2 hours, we would swim in the pool, come to the shore, get ourselves warm at the great fire and dive in again It was superb!
At precisely 12 AM, Ajay went near Max, woke him up and told him that “I” went for a leak and was missing since then. Frantically, he woke up and reached the campfire only to find us waiting with a birthday cake and candles in the middle of the forest … He gave this shocked + surprised reaction (lol) and made sure I was among the crowd. Fresh from the recent swim, wet and cold, we stood near the cake and wished him a very happy birthday.
Almost immediately, we all lifted him up, gave birthday bumps and threw him in the pool. Ha ha! Ajay was standing near the edge and a kick on his bum sent him spiraling in to the water behind Max. We were making so much noise and laughing so hard that I’m sure none slept in the camp site for quite sometime.
Max distributed chocolates when he came ashore and then it was time for the night.
A Cold Night
The night was cold. After about 2-3 hours of sleep, I woke and sat straight up. I was shivering involuntarily… so much shiver that to others it may have looked like I was belly dancing
Not withstanding the cold, I moved very near to the bonfire and slept there. The crackle of fire wood, those millions of stars above, the warm fire and the cold bath + memories of the day made me smile and lulled me into sleep.
Day 2 – Wake up Call, Tea
I was up at around 6.30 AM. That’s a rough guess based on the lighting of the sky. As I was wondering who would be up at this ungodly hour, Ananth, who was sleeping on the other side of us shouted “Tarakarama, UUURRRRRRAAAAAHHHH … Wake Up”. I was up at this time and responded to this bird call. Lol. So early & I could see a number of heads coming up to see what the commotion was about and they went back to sleep.
Soon, we started brewing delicious tea, that was to be consumed with rusks. Nothing tastes better than hot black tea & rusk on a cold morning in the forest. Sometime later, Peter and few of them climbed the waterfall and went to another waterfall upstream. By the time they came back, the whole campsite was up and a full fledged diving session was on.
One by one, the swimmers climbed the waterfall, the trees nearby and on to ledges and were diving. Few of us were being thrown in to water like how we did to Max the night before. First timers, especially non-swimmers, were very apprehensive of jumping from the waterfall, to which I could very well relate to. After clicking a countless pictures, shooting videos of diving, we moved to another waterfall behind the camp site. It was beautiful and deep. It was around 11am by this time and time to move on.
Sadly bading good bye to the magical Picnic Pool, we slowly pushed off.
The Gorge and The Cave Pool
Trekking for about an hour, we reached this place Purdha Point from where the Cave Pool was visible in the form of an arch. The gorge below us was deep and rocks were protruding everywhere. We sat near the edge and clicked a couple of pictures and raced down to enter the water pool at the base of the gorge. The cave pool waterfall was at the end of this gorge and we had to swim for around 60-70 meters to get there.
Dropping our backpacks near the entrance of the gorge and wild with excitement, we hit the water. Man … it was so damn cold. We swam for some distance, hit some rocks, jumped over them and swam some more until we reached the cave pool.
It was a breathtaking sight. The roof of the cave would be only around 10 feet in height. There was a big crack in its ceiling from where water was rushing through to form a waterfall. There was so much water that it was as if 10 people were pounding the back with their fists. We stood under it for sometime, came out and went back again. This continued for about 15 minutes and then we climbed to the platforms on the cave. Damn! I was missing my camera at these places. Then it was time to swim back to the entrance of the gorge.
From the gorge, we trekked for about 30 minutes to reach the dead end pool.
Swimming in the Dead End Pool & Raft Race
A human chain formed almost immediately and we passed on the bags through the chain to reach the other side of the dead end pool; from where a man-made raft was waiting for pickup. Once it was loaded with 3-4 backpacks, they would be pushed on water to the other side. Swimmers (oh yes, including yours truly ) took turns in pushing the raft to make sure stuff reached safely to the other side. At the point where the slippery rock had to be ascended, lot of people helped each other to climb it. Once they were done, swimmers jumped in water and swam across.
“On your mark, get set, GO!” … and immediately, Poncho and Max would push the raft in water and race to get it to other end of the pool where more bags were waiting, accompanied by howls and cheers from all sides. On the other side, Viki and two more people would lift us above his head and throw us in water. We would land with a huge splash on the water and ask for encore he he… We literally became kids. As this was happening, few picked up unused mats and started a mat fight in water. We ganged around Max and tore him to bits coz of his birthday, followed by Viki, Ananth and more.
We had some snacks here and then it was time to go back to the first pool.
Group Photo at First Pool
It is customary in each trek that we take a group photo of the awesome gang that made all this possible. So we shot a group photo here and then proceeded to the dam and then on to the cars. On the way to the dam, we were joined by Peter and Guru. Few of them including Lucie, Gowri, Peter, Guru and Ajay swam across the dam under the stars and reached the other side safely.
On the way to the dam, we would shout in chorus as, “Gumtha lakadi gala gala gala … OOHH AAHH OOHH AAHH; LIC heightu CTC weightu” etc. It was time to bid good bye to Nagala now & looking back at the 2 days, I just can’t believe we had so much fun and an easy trail to go with.
Check out the photo galleries. They capture about 1% of the fun we had.
See you soon!