32 CTC trekkers started off along the main stream, crystal clear water generously flowing in which we swam and from which drunk. The water was amazingly fresh and cool, a natural rejuvenating spa for the body and mind. The taste was enchanting. The stream was sprinkled with small and big boulders, bounded on both side with lush greenery and cut deep into the surrounding hills over thousands of years not seen yet by humankind before. Words can’t explain the experience of walking through this peaceful and serene terrain… (Simply can’t understand why most people spend their weekends in the concrete Chennai city jungle… you guys are missing out on life…)
We met 3 major obstacles along the river – deep water pools surrounding by steep vertical rocks – the first and third we conquered by swimming through with the help of a long rope. The second one we circumvented by climbing over it. We took a dip in several smaller pools along the trail.
Towards the late afternoon we reached a split (named Nagala/6 and Nagala/7 respectively… 😉 in the stream – at both sides the water was falling down higher up past we could not immediately proceed. With another 1-2 hours before dark we decided to climb steep uphill on a surrounding mountain to set up our camp for the night. The climb was very steep and tricky, rocks falling down, people holding on to tree branches trying hard not to slip. We reached a fairly flap grassland sprinkled with small rocks where we put up the camp. After some theplas and cup noodles everyone fell deep asleep. An exhaustive 12 hour trek from 7am till 7pm.
In the morning we climb further uphill and spotted the original Nagala/1 target – a 800+ meter high peak in the center of the Nagala mountain range somewhat 3km away from our camp. Although water resources were limited and several valleys separated us from the peak we decided to give it a shot. 16 brave members took off while the others took rest near the camp. The sun was beating down hard on us, water was running low, the terrain of long grass and rocks along the non-existing trail was though. We started around 7am and followed several adjacent green slopes until we reached the base on the target peak. From there we had a really though climb with no water left and burning sun on top of us. Sweat was dripping, the legs were trembling, throats were dry as sandpaper, spirits were low, people close to dehydration and mental/physical exhaustion, we pushed on and finally reached the 820m peak around 11am. The mind blowing views, the cool mountain breeze, the feeling of accomplishment, the spirit of team work immediately made us forget all the pain, sweat and thirst. The feeling was indescribable – seeing the entire Nagala mountain range at our feet. We went through hell to reach heaven. We discovered several new streams, a second entry point in the Nagala range and a mysterious small hut in the middle of nowhere. We will soon be back exploring new trails again…
Then came the descend, a steep, long trek back to the night camp, throats getting dryer and dryer, some people were close to passing out, sun relentlessly beating down on us, close to desperation, little shade along the path. We finally reached back to camp exhausted around 2pm and hope was low to exit the hills the same day. Meanwhile two brave souls had climbed down to the river and returned with several bottles of water (still not enough for so many thirsty people). Water never tasted this good! There was no way we would be able to make it back before midnight along the onward trail – too many obstacles along the river. So we decided to take a new, unknown return trail straight over the hills, crossing several valleys in between. It was navigation using intuition, sense of direction and knowledge of the terrain (after three earlier Nagala-s and studying Google topomaps) more than using the modern technology GPS. We started climbing down and up across several grassy/rocky slopes Southeast. We finally reached an upper (dry) stream, found an entry point through dense bushes surrounding the stream and climbed along the stream sprinkled with big boulders downstream.
Everyone was extremely thirsty, visions blurring the mind, knees trembling under the weight of our backpacks, stomachs empty, body near exhaustion. When will we find water, will we get out before darkness, will we get lost in the jungle? We proceeded further downstream until we finally came across some stagnant, slightly dirty pools, some members unable to resist the thirst and drinking from the same. A little further we reached another dead-end (4th one this trek) – a steep 10 meter drop in the dry stream, impossible to scale. So we climbed up along the steep rocks bordering the stream and created a trail to circumvent the dead-end ending up at the bottom of the steep drop. From there again we proceeded along the narrow stream, cut deeply inside the surround mountains, crossing several smaller pools until we finally met running, clear water allowing us to drench our relentless thirst. God heavenly! Water never tasted this good! Amazing feeling! At the same spot we hit another steep 15 meter fall in the river bed which prevented further progress.
Kannan/myself (ahead of the rest to find a trail home) climbed up along the steep left side of the stream along a 85 degree vertical rock until we met the grassy foothills of the surrounding mountains. Climbing back to the stream seemed impossible as it was too deep cut inside the hills with vertical walls on both sides and probably more steep drops along the stream would prevent further progress. It was 5pm… the sun setting behind the mountains already… Another 200m climb brought us at the top of a local peak from which I could see that we were getting closer to the main stream from which we started the previous day. I went ahead and climbed down on the other side of the hill trying to find an access point to the main stream avoiding patches of dense thorns and steep rocks which were impossible to proceed over, the climb down was extremely steep. I finally reached the main stream around 6pm, tracing the trail with the GPS so we could find it back during darkness when the group would be ready for the descent.
After enjoying another 2l of cool Nagala mineral water and dumping my backpack, I climbed up again along the steep slope I rejoined Kannan and the rest of the group helping out those in the back. Everyone was happy to hear that we would make it back home the same day instead of spending another night trapped in the jungle. We regrouped at the top of the peak when the night was falling and prepared for a slow, steep descend in the dark guided by the GPS. Rocks were falling, feet were slipping, people were falling, some were sliding down on their bumps, we finally made it down around 8pm. Everyone enjoyed the cool, refreshing water after a 2 day ultimate experience which stretched both body and mind beyond what most think was possible. As usual we saw CTC team-work at its best, previous unknown individuals helping each other overcome some of the toughest physical obstacles they had ever faced in their lives, creating new life-long friendships and memories.
Thanks to all the great guys and gals with amazing, selfless spirit who helped those in need, stretched out the helping hand, shared that last drop of water and made this trek another successful mission. I believe this is the essence of CTC. It took us another 2 hours to reach back to the cars, dipping inside a big, cool pool along the way to clear all the sweat of the past 2 days. Finally, I reached home at 5am this morning after one of the best and toughest CTC treks so far. Never felt so good and alive!
Written by Peter
In Claudy Serrao’s words:
I was getting bored by the routine work in the lab and was waiting for a much needed break. The next thing I did was enrolling myself for a Nagala trek with CTC. Even though Bangalore and Chennai traffic delayed my arrival to Koyembedu by more than an hour I was succeeded to meet Anand and company outside the bus station around 7.15 pm on Friday evening. It was my first trek with CTC, so all other 31 faces are new to me. We started to Nagalapuram within next 10 mins in 3 cars and 4 bikes. After an hour long drive on NH 5 we took dinner (breakfast!) in a hotel where we had dosas and dosas only. After eating dosas and dosas once again we started towards Nagala. During dinner time I come to know from Balaji that how I missed the seat in Scorpio. As we reached near Nagala the surroundings was becoming better and better. We switched of the ac in our car and opened the window to enjoy the fragrance of nature in an almost empty road. We reached the base of the hill around 11pm and straight away everybody was busy in finding a place for their sleeping bags/mats under the clear sky. While most of the people busy in snoring I was still refreshing my astrophysics knowledge which I learnt during long back my high school days.
We got up early morning on Saturday and shortly Ram and other 5 more people joined us. After distributing food packets we kick started for one of the most memorable trek in most of our life. We took couple of group photos immediately after crossing the dam which do not have water. After walking a quite a distance in the bushes and occasional thorns we met the river. After that most part of our journey was along the river. Words can’t explain the experience of walking through this peaceful and
serene terrain. We were tempted to take bath in the first pool itself but not did so until we reach the famous big deep pool. We were there around 9am. In this pool non swimmers have to cross using a rope tied across or on Peters back (a free ride) and then climb a rock to reach the other end. After everybody crossed the pool Peter and other swimmers shifted our luggage from one bank to other. After taking bath in the next small falls we had a breakfast between a rocky valley.
We started once again moving upwards in the stream frequently changing banks. When Peter was busy in pushing the tail most of leading people enjoyed a dip in hidden mountain streams every now and then. We took a diversion in the forest to avoid a dead end (a steep climb in river). This part was really adventures since there is no definite path. After a couple of trial and error we reached the stream again and celebrated our success with a dip in the water . We took a break for lunch in between and moved forward in the stream. Then we met the other big pool were most of the non swimmers had a ride on Peters back couple of us crossed the pool by a small rock climbing. And then finally in the evening we reached a big water fall. When our fellow swimmers are busy in the big deep pool Vinod was busy in climbing the fall. Our dear swimmers filled more than 50 liters of heavenly tasting water in 1 liter bottles from the fall. After taking enough rest we started climbing uphill towards the planed night camp. The initial 50m steep climb (I think not less than 80 degree!) itself took more than 15 mins for most of us (contrary to the pathfinders proposed 15 min walk to night camp). Then a not so steep climb (but surely more than 50 degree) for another hour or so for the fittest body and toughest mind to reach the destiny . I enjoyed a lot this part of the trek. When Peter came with Radha around 8 pm most of the people had a nap or two. Immediately we cleaned the nearby place to sleep by throwing out the stones. Now it’s the time for dinner, a cup noodles in cold water . Believe me, it was really yummy. It didn’t take long time to have a nice sleep and for wild dreams (even in wet sleeping bags/mats for few of us).
We got up early in the next morning and witnessed beautiful sunrise in the mountains. The people who ignored Vinodh’s suggestion not to brush their teeth using water didn’t know what a blunder they are committing. With in quick time we put a base camp at the top of the hill. Around 7 am twenty of the brave souls started their journey to conquer the 800m peak in the center of the Nagala mountain range around 3km (horizontal distance) away from our camp. After sometime two among us returned back to the base camp. We had in total less than 6 liters of water in our bag even though we had plenty of empty bottles. After couple of hours trek we had breakfast in a grassy land. With temperature increasing slowly people found it difficult without water. One among us gave an idea of distributing the water in jam cup and Peter executed it to perfection.
As time passed 800m peak is not yet visible, people are finding it difficult to keep the tempo going. The sun was beating down hard on us, water was running low, and the terrain of long grass and rocks along the non-existing trail was though. Sweat was dripping, the legs were trembling, throats were dry, spirits were low, people close to dehydration and mental/physical exhaustion.
In our next pit stop we got a cup of glucose water. And here Peter noticed a hut in the no mans land, and assumed it as a Kingfisher out let. But people needed water rather than beer or for that matter anything else on that day. Five among us stayed back at this place and one more person stayed back little earlier. So now it left to the other 12 people to reach the local peak as our destiny not yet visible. When we reached the peak Peter switched on his GPS and to much of our surprise it stopped only after showing the altitude of 813 m. There is no end to our joy but most of the enjoyed just lying below a tree on the top. We needed water to celebrate this not champagne! The people are too much exhausted to explore the surroundings surely knowing that water is not available. At the same time one among us went down and informed other five that they are only 100m away from our original destiny. And with in 10 mins they also joined us and took rest.
After having a couple of photo sessions and having view of the surrounding we started back to the base camp. We descended the peak bit quickly hoping that somebody in base camp had gone to get the water. The whole day our discussion was about water contrary to the previous day were we discussed from Formula 1 to American politics. We had the privilege of getting one more cup (to be exactly 2/3) of water. And finally somehow we made it to the base of the camp. Of course at that time all of us come to know that how precious water is.
At the same time, the people in the base camp put the tent to avoid the hot sun. Some of them tried to find water in the adjacent side of the base camp but returned back after finding a dead end. We took rest for a long time in the base camp and when we supposed start back three brave souls come back with 8 liters of water from the pool. After getting reenergized by water we started towards parking lot in a new direction hoping to meet some water body soon. In Peter’s on words it was navigation using intuition, sense of direction and knowledge of the terrain rather than using the modern technology GPS. Unfortunately we met a dry stream and continued in that stream without finding water for a long time. And finally when we found a colored (brown!) stagnated water most of us not able to resist themselves. They drink water until their thirst is quenched and took rest while some other went in search of fresh water. And finally when I found a fresh water I drank 1 liter of water in one stretch for the first time in my life (may be last time if I won’t do any more Nagala adventures)
At the same time Peter and Kannan went in search of exit route and found one in quick time as we already reached a dead in the dry stream. We climbed a small hill and took rest upto 6 pm. It was already dark at that time, so we started descending the peak using the torch. The path was too steep and full of slippery rocks and occasional thorny bushes. And finally after more than a day we saw the running water . After taking a small break we started again in a line and kept on following each other.
In the night we lost our path couple of times but thanks to Peter and Ram’s Nagala knowledge we were back in the correct path within quick time. We took our last pit stop of Nagala 4 near the burning tree. After drinking enough divine Nagala water we were near parking lot around 12 am. And after another 2 hour journey we were back in Chennai.
Thanks for all those people who made this mission possible. A special thanks to Sandeep for suggesting me to join CTC. I was so impressed with CTC thought of writing an article. Actually I never wrote anything apart from my notes (that too generally copying from my seniors/friends copy!). Before leaving back to Bangalore itself I thought of coming back to Nagala for more treks. I was there in the Nagala 6 team, who knows I may also there in Nagala 221 (Ram’s idea so Ram will organize this) with my son or may be with my grandson !
Participants: Peter, Ram Prasad, Balaji Seshan, Claudy, Rayan, Nisha, Lavanya, Prasanna, Ganapathy, Subranyam, Gopikirshna, Paneesh, Ranjith kumar, Rajasimman, Kannan, Vinod, Hari, Sridhar, Diwakar