Elagiri bike trip, July 26-27, 2008

If you need a break from deadlines and constantly ringing cell phones, then a weekend getaway to Yelagiri is the answer. Silence and peace are the two most important things you will find at Yelagiri. As one of the least polluted vacation destinations, Yelagiri offers breathtaking sceneries and rustic villages that still retain their original charm. If someone tells you that Yelagiri is just 190 km away from Chennai, slap him (am still trying to catch the fella who told me that)!!! 500 kms in two days, was the distance we covered over the weekend.

You can expect the distance to be at least 250 kms from Tambaram to reach the hills, assuming you are taking the bypass roads wherever possible and not getting into the towns of Vellore, Arcot, etc. One thing I learnt from this trip was never, never prejudge a hill station by it’s height above sea level or freezing temperatures, the beauty lies elsewhere.

Here are some reasons why you should consider Yelagiri for a weekend getaway.

28 super enthu bikers and a car set out on a journey to the nearest hill station on a pristine Saturday morning at 5am.Tidel Park was buzzing with activity as all the bikers were revving up their engines for take off. In a few minutes, we hit the road, cheering and jeering as jealous onlookers gaped and stared at us. After a brief halt at Vellore (we had breakfast here), we headed towards the Hills, after a few wrong turns here and there. After filling up gas and picking up some snacks and refreshments, we reached the base of the Hills and all of us looked up in amazement at the so called “Chinna Malai.”

The u-bends and s-bends to the top of Yelagiri, god send for bikers, left us in a tizzy as we stopped at every scenic bend for photo shoots.CTC never tires of shooting pics at the drop of a hat!

After many a nauseating bend, we finally reach the top, after meandering through the peaceful and serene Mangalam village that also has a lotus pond. We stop to click pics here too. These camera wielding messiahs never tire from clicking away, I swear. But actually, these pics are what bring the trekking memories back to life once we get back to terra firma.So keep going guys; your pics are the sole proof of the pudding, and the key factor to make fella trekkers jay!

We park our mean-machines at the foot of a village which seems to be buzzing with preparations for a religious activity. Loudspeakers blaring with devotional songs and haunting drum beats everywhere. We walk through a beautiful village which is interspersed with clay houses and tiny huts which more or less seem empty now, as all the villagers are either at Swami Malai or in the temple preparing a feast for the entire village. Such camaraderie and brotherhood purely exists in the villages only, isn’t it??? We city dwellers should imbibe a lesson or two from these folks!!

Swamimalai is an ideal place to trek because of its height (approximately 4,338 feet). Trekkers can reach the top of the hill in about an hour with infrequent breaks. Other smaller peaks like Javari Hills and Palamathi Hills are also open for trekking, and we went there too. Swami Malai was indeed more than expected. The pics bear testimony to its sheer splendor and grace. The dense forest on both sides of the steps was sheer delight to even a seasoned trekker. What really beats me about this place is the cheap and yummy hot food in the cold and still not too cold weather of Yelagiri, lack of irritating ring tones (no mobile service), the absence of tourist armies, the closest hill station from Chennai, quite close from Bangalore as well, and very importantly, some really nice and friendly village folks. You will fall in love with Yelagiri, once you reach there.

By the time we head downhill it is well past 4 and our hungry trekkers are moaning in hunger. We head towards a restaurant which says,’ no food’. With many a glum expression on our faces, we head towards a fellow competitor who offers us ‘garma garma’ rotis, veg kurma, chicken curry, dosa, sambar and chutney. Man,this tasted like manna from heaven, believe me! Bless the man who served us these hot delicacies.
Meanwhile, Peter and team have already decided that it’s high time we head for setting up base camp. After a short drive uphill, we come somewhere close to a stone quarry and finalize on our camping spot. The macho men start pitching tents as the dainty damsels just sit and supervise. Good job guys! This comment was followed by guys yelling, ”Hey, pitch in and stop commenting.” You think the girls conceded? No way! Blistering Barnacles! The rain gods begin to shower their blessings on us trekkers!

After what seemed like ages, the rains relent and we are all ready for what trekkers really dream of and eagerly await-Night trekking. With LED torches lighting the pitch dark path, we keep close trail and hold onto each other’s hand. Amidst hoots and calls from a few nocturnals (besides us, that is!!), we inch our way until we almost cliff hang!!Peter aborts Plan A and proceeds on Plan B. Plan B also doesn’t culminate into victory, as the path leads to a dead end, almost every time. The rains aren’t making it any easier either, actually. Wet, dirty ,bruised by horns, and with dampened spirits, literally, we return to base camp and begin to settle down after an exhausting up-down trek and we decide to play a card game of Uno.

After a few cheerful rounds and many losing, especially poor Divi who literally had the whole bunch in her hand!! Incidentally, the one who has an empty hand is the winner!!!This apart, we mull over the day’s adventures over a dinner of theplas, pickle and sauce. The rain gods must be crazy:they didn’t seem to wanna give up. Poor us! One tent was already uprooted, with the second one almost gone, but thanks to Rajah ,Pramod and mummy, of course, it was back on the ground. Peter’s tent was intact, well almost! The backpackers finally decide to sleep and be fresh for the next day’s trek. After a brief night’s sleep, we wake up to the beautiful and sweet chirping sound of the birds in the forest and the tweeting of sparrows. Man, isn’t this how life should be like always! We run off to attend to nature’s call and later assemble at the stone quarry for a couple of more photo sessions. The bikers with their mean machines never tire from photo shoots, and CTC’s ‘mummy’ had a tough time getting them in line and completing the shoots.

Peter ,Samyak and Diwakar are off by now to explore the unknown and then we hear Peter hovering way above us and signaling for us to come there for what is called ‘the ultimate spot.’ We drudge uphill through thorns and bushes and I need to add here that my legs, knee downwards, were torn by thorns and bleeding.

I still bear the scars on my legs now, or should I say, the ravages of war? Such was the difficulty level of the trek, but this did not deter anyone from exploring more. Peter and a few others too bear the blemishes of war!! After reaching the peak and viewing the entire village from top, we settle for photo shoots again, this time in precarious points. Peter was almost standing on a slope which terrified the hell out of me. But Peter, India’s answer to Tarzan, was unfazed by all the fuss and adulation showered on him.

Meanwhile, Peter spots another hill to explore, and proclaims that it is a ‘must climb.’ “Boy, how much more should I climb with my bleeding legs?” I groan. I am immediately goaded on and motivated by chants like, “Mummy, if you can’t, then who can?” This is ammunition enough for me to withstand the travails of that herculean climb. On the go, after brushing with thorns and brushes, we finally reach the top and hoist a mock flag there!The climb down wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The dark clouds looming menacingly large above us decide to vent its fury on us, and add to our misery. But you know, it’s best to trek when it rains. These moments need to be experienced than read. Forget the slipping and skidding!!

With the rain, came along the next arduous task of our drive downhill. When the rains abate a little, we start the bikes and car and head downhill. Every biker was shivering with the icy cold winds blowing on their faces and the rains lashing on them, mercilessly. They were like pin pricks, I was told. I was safe in the car which was the best place to be in, considering the weather conditions. Yelagiri, as you know, was celebrating a religious festival and the rains did not dampen their spirits or celebration for even a fleeting moment. The drive downhill was halted in a few places by the procession of chariots, carrying the village deity. So much color, devotion and splendor were indeed breathtaking.

In about an hour’s time, we reach the bottom of the hill and then continue on our journey to Chennai, reminiscing about the trek on our drive home. We are faced with even greater showers, but our fierce and brave bikers drive on, unrelenting. We keep close track of each other lest we lose sight of each other, then halt for a hot cuppa tea on the wayside tea-stall, and after grabbing a quick bite, we head towards home after settling trek accounts, and part ways. On my way home, all alone in my car, I couldn’t help but think,” Man, was this real?” How did I manage a trek this difficult and without any water source? How did I suffer the thorns pricks and cuts??”

I was bleeding and badly scarred, remember!!All this paled in comparison to the fun, team spirit, camaraderie and joy that we experienced during the trek .The moments under the sky in the tents that kept blowing up every now and then. Though one tent was uprooted by the howling winds, it did not dampen the CTC spirit. Fellow trekkers offered sleeping bags, sheets and jackets to those braving it without tents. This simply goes to prove the CTC motto:”I trek, therefore I live.” At about 12 midnight, I am at home, narrating my experience to my family that was fast asleep, but nothing could stop me. I went on and on and on…..

Participants: Nandikesh S,Ashok Rajendran,subhakant nayak,sachin nair,sivaraj,Ebby,Rajesh KR,Kannan K,Peter,Satheesh Kumar R M,Vikram J,Divya,Balaji Seshan,Sreedhar M M,Gokul K,anand chanduri,Priya,Vivek Yadav,sudha anand,Joshy,Sheethal G C,Pradeep Pendhota,Rajmohan,Uma Maheswari,Smitha,Pramod M R,rajah mohamed

Image Library :
Sudha Anand

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