14 brave souls teamed up for a dark, deadly and top-secret 3-day mission deep inside an unknown jungle.
Only the most experienced, core members of CTC were recruited for this highly challenging mission.
Find below the mission report including awesome photos and summary write-up.
Mission name was chosen as DOA.
Intended to be Dead or Alive and we were so hoping it shouldn’t become ‘Dead on Arrival’. Opening lines of the invitation sounded creepy. It all the more added up when the number of participants who signed up were 13 on Friday the 13th. That’s how bad as it gets. Later on the number increased to 14 and that kind of gave a relief but still we were expecting the worst to happen. With Peter sending out a mail about the worst things that could happen during our treks which are head getting crushed, wild animals chase, drowning in the pool, getting caught by naxals, etc…etc…etc… a mail followed from the group stating that they are ready to conqueror the fear. A true CTC spirit! We kissed our family and friends Good-Bye, hoping to see them again and off we started into the wild.
14 trekkers, 3 days and no contact with the civilization for the next three days. Nothing between you and the distance mountains but the toughest obstacles that nature is going to put forth and a strong and willing spirit to conquer the challenges to claim the prize, which is beholding the beauty of nature. It’s out there and we were determined to find it and enjoy it and nothing’s going to stop us.
While Palani’s and Peter’s car was zooming through the road towards Renigunta, I popped out of Scorpio and the cold failed to keep him inside the car. Soon Guru followed popping out from Palani’s car. Gush of fresh dew filled air was all over. All you need to do is close your eyes and extend your hands and jus feel the wind. You’re flying!!
The joy didn’t last for long when Scorpio’s rear wheel got flat.
We were quick in removing the tyre and while one gang went along to fix the tire the other group quickly finished their breakfast hogging hot dosas and spicy yummy chilly chutney at the nearby village.
We fixed the tyre soon and headed to Kodur. Found a spot where we stopped and quickly distributed food and stuff in the back packs. Peter, Palani and I headed back to find a safe place to park the cars while the rest of the group moved on to a shady place to rest before a very tiring day waiting ahead of them. We managed to sneak into a mango garden and the gardener promised to take care of our cars until we return and assured us that it’s safe to park it over there. We were so happy that we found a place close by and started jogging back to join the team. It was excruciating long jog and walk and seemed endless.
Finally we caught with the team and after a brief break headed towards our destination. We walked on a dry stream with huge rocks and pebbles. Sun showed no mercy on us. We walked for straight for 3 and ½ hours out in the excruciating hot sun with no water body around, sweat dripping from everywhere and our clothes were completely drenched. Our water supplies were getting low and the frequency of breaks was increasing. Nisha began hallucinating as she was telling me that the sky appeared completely red for her, when it was perfectly blue :-). I was telling Peter that I could hear the sound of waterfall in the distance and Peter jus returned a smile at me and I knew what he meant by that. Chilled cans of mountain dew were spinning around my head and I would just give my anything if someone had to offer me a Mountain Dew during that time. Walk over the Jeep tracks was a bit of relief but it was short lived and we soon entered the dry stream once again. It looked endless. We found a very deep well in the middle of nowhere and were shocked to see it completely dry. But Hope is a good thing and we kept moving in the hot sun!! Finally, there was water flowing down through a tiny stream. There was so much joy on our face and Vetri and Divi couldn’t resist but took a plunge. Such a relief on all our face!! We rested there for some time and then followed though a steep climb and appeared like a way to some temple and there was one indeed. We followed through the steep rocks and boulders by now and there was water everywhere. We noticed a nice log of wood lying between two huge rocks with a pool not so deep beneath it. Creativity sparked in :-)!! We balanced our self and walked till the middle of the log and did funny dives. Nisha was busy teaching people what she is good at, ‘Monkey Crawling’, and she was natural at it. Inherited behavior you see ;). Vetri, Guru and I were handing upside down on the log of wood with dived straight in. We had some yummy Poli’s at the spot for lunch. I had surprise waiting for me. My sleeping bag was missing and I am sure I had it there before I took a plunge. Should be one of the monkeys assuming it’s a food bag. If anyone fins it in your next trek, please let me know guys 🙂
We headed following the stream for another 100 mts and what we had in store, it was treat for your eyes. Some called it the exotic pool, some called it a 5 star pool, but for me it was the most beautiful still water pool I have ever seen. With a huge rock formation around, the crystal clear deep water pool made me feel heaven on earth. When we behold something majestic you either shout out of joy or silence engulfs you and it was the latter for me. We just dived in straight away and were feeling one with nature. But hang on, when nature gives something, it gives in abundance. We followed the pool to the other side and there was a huge waterfall coming through a cave like formation and a little climb gave a nice tall platform for the divers to dive in. Further little climb gave ne more waterfall pool and a nice slide. Truly marvelous. I somehow convinced Divi for a dive while she was resisting big time, and finally I had to push her in :-). We were having fun while Peter, Guru and Claudy went to look for trail. Diva and I had a race at the exotic pool and I lost. Cramps were killing me. Peter returned with the group and was helping Milinda to enjoy the pool. People were trying crazy dives and exhibiting their swim skills.
By this time, rats were running in our stomach and it was time for dinner. Peter and gang went on hunt for dry woods while the rest of the team started wearing their cooking hats with Nisha leading the team. Soup, Rice and Veg curry was the menu with Puliogare powder and dhal powder as supplement. Now comes the interesting part, while Nisha, Ramki and Divi took over the kitchen duties, Peter lead the rest of the team to jump into the cold pool in pitch darkness. The huge valley was vaguely lit by the camp fire and it was so damn chill to jump and swim in the pool. Peter gave me a call, “Yo man Naresh!! Jump in, this is INTO THE WILD”, and I could no longer resist the temptation and up I dived. After clicking a couple of pictures, we climbed back to the platform and did some body building acts, flexing our muscles to reveal our mighty 6 packs and 8 packs. Claudy had 10 packs though :-). Dinner was ready by now and hot rice with veg curry never tasted this good. We had second serving too. Thanks to Nisha and Ramki for their patience. They ensured everyone’s tummy is full and they had their share only after that. Nisha and Ramki, you guys are awesome!! We slept by the fire side by 10:30PM!!
Wake up, Wake up!! The call came from Peter by 6:30AM. I was still half sleepy, all because of the stupid monkey. I had to sleep out in the cold. The shawl was way too short to fit my height and had a restless night in the cold. All of us pulled up from our mats and hot tea was getting ready by now. Some picked up bottles full of water to finish their morning duties. Most of them looked unhappy, guess they their mission that morning wasn’t successful :-). We took a dip in the pool for our shower. Vetri, Nisha and I went to the waterfall and dived in to beat the cold and continued our swimming in the exotic pool. Everyone took a plunge. It’s kind of saying Good bye to the very nice pool before leaving in the woods once again. Claudy climbed up the valley to take a couple of aerial shots and soon we all followed him at 7:30AM. Steep walk, mind blowing views and valleys.
Soon we hit a stream and were following it. Rocks and boulders and tuff pools to cross. Time was ticking. We crossed so many gorgeous pools that we lost count of them. Then we came across a very nice waterfall and the water was gushing from about 300mts high. It wasn’t that forceful though. But it was way too tempting, so Vetri, Ramki, Nisha, Guru and I started our climb up the waterfall. It was pretty risky and scary. Nisha asked “How are we going to get down” for which Ramki responded “Don’t think about all that, just keep climbing”!! After crossing through several risky and slippery stones, we make it to the top of the falls. It was so damn beautiful and we regretted for not having a camera with us to capture the moment, anyhow…Meanwhile the group stayed back clicking pictures and Peter had some rest in the hot sun. Getting down was a bigger challenge and since the pool wasn’t all that deep, we were scared to dive from the top and we were waiting until we reached a safe height. Off we jumped. Huh, one hell of a climb.
Looked like rain didn’t want us to proceed any further. It was thundering big time and we all knew it was time to get wet. Rocks were getting slippery, our speed was reducing but we were determined to keep moving. We walked to find a nice lunch spot and the next gorgeous waterfall wasn’t all that far. Most of us had our lunch there. Rotis, Gongura and Jam never tasted this good. Some of the folks got into the waterfall again and started their Yoga stunts. We wrapped up and moved on to find another big waterfall. It was way too big and beautiful and you can guess what we did. But, the twist is this was the dead end. The waterfall was the source of the stream and we had no other way to go but to climb the steep 85deg mountain. The rocks and sad was completely wet. We were at the mercy of the tree roots which weren’t always trust worthy for us. Tough challenge and the most difficult climb. Loose rocks posed the biggest threat. You flip one stone, 10 people below you are going to get a hit. Claudy was leading the way. Somewhere mid way, he flips a stone, and my attempt to stop it from falling was useless. It was going straight towards Peter. I yelled “Peter, watch out”, Peter looks up and Bang!!! “Peter covers his forehead with his hands, but I could see blood dripping down through his forehead into his eyes. Instantly his head face was completely covered with blood. But the mighty Peter didn’t yell out of pain but he said “Photo, photooooo” as if every click of the camera will heal him. 🙂 Claudy got shaken and so was Divi. But still there was no turning back. The way ahead is the only way, where it leads, no one knew, but we started our climb. Lots of loose rocks, every now and then some would yell “loose rock” and all we could hear is the “Thud” sound of the rock hitting the pool below us after 10 second. One time someone yelled it’s a loose rock and people dodged it but it was not the rock but our Life saves, the GPS which fell down. Guru went to its rescue and found it though.
Slowly one by one were making it to the top. Milinda makes it up finally holding hear dear life in her hands and she says “I saw all my family members my friends and God” and “they were telling bye-bye and I was telling then I want to see you all one more time. I ll miss you all”. She continued telling me “Please leave all your food with me here, I ll eat and die here but I can’t go through this anymore”. Welcome to CTC Milinda, some voice shouted from my back. Our climb down was equally tough. Thick thorns tearing through flesh, slippery sand and loose rocks, it was walking through hell. But climb down wasn’t that painful compared to the climb. Still, Milinda fell down right after descending from the mountain and no one knew why. We rested there for some time while I was capturing the expressions of everyone in my video camera and got lucky capturing Diva’s Michael Jackson moves (Watch it in the video, coming soon…)
It was getting darker and we haven’t found a camp site yet. We still had a long way to go. There was this first pool we had to cross and another one right after that. Swimmer dived in transporting the bags using mats as quick as possible. But it was pitch dark by now. No flat surface to put our heads on. Into the pitch darkness we headed with our torch lights in reach of THE PLACE to rest for the night. After a good half hour walk we found a so called flat surface in the middle of the running stream and decided to stay there for the night. We split the gang in two and went in search of firewood’s. Soup and Noodles with pichkoo was never this inviting. Bruised legs, cramps, body aches, but still everyone was in high spirit. While discussion was going about tennis we were preparing some yummy noodles. Everyone had I to heart’s content. As usual, I was in for another deadly night, without a sleeping bag. So I reserved a place by the fire side and slept off and so did everyone. Day 2 was successful!!
I woke to the sound of every one screaming for their share of tea. Some were picking up water bottles to attend nature’s call while the rest of the group was wrapping up their bags for yet another adventurous day ahead. My adventure started at 4am in the morning when the fire died completely and I was shivering out in the cold. I blew up the ash at the camp fire to see that burning coal beneath. Bastein came to my rescue and we started building up fire. After a grueling 20 mins the fire was up and consuming the dry wood like a hungry monster. I could understand why Tom Hanks was so glad and happy when he made that fire.
People returned from their natures call and their face was reflecting that it was indeed a successful mission. Everyone had their share of black tea and up we started our Day 3 trek. Dense bushes, Razor sharp thorns, huge rocks and boulders running through the stream. After a good one hour walk, we came yet another dead end. A gorgeous water fall was feeding the pool below. Well it wasn’t a dead end for me, Nisha, Palani and Guru. We swam to the waterfall and though it was very slippery, we were successful in climbing through it. But transferring the whole team with the back backs against the forceful water gushing though was very difficult. We had to find a detour to conquer the dead end. For CTC, there’s no dead end as always. While I jumped from the top of the waterfall in to the cold deep pool, Nisha, Guru followed.
What lay ahead of us was a steep near vertical climb and a good half hour walk through the dense thorny bushes. Sun was scorching us slowly. Not sure which way to turn and where to go. We got into this dry downstream with some excellent rock formations which was leading us to nowhere. But walk through the small trench was pretty interesting. We had to take a detour again and found a nice ledge from this trench to the flat mountain ground and we were gone once again into the deep woods again. We reached a dead end which was steep vertical waterfall and we had to get down from there.
Peter and Claudy went in search of a trail and Peter got it first. Well it’s not really a trail, but just a steep downhill climb which we all survived. Thanks for the strong roots and runners. We were nearing our breakfast point after a good 2 hr walk from the first waterfall that morning. Where we reached? To the mouth of the waterfall where we climbed though 2 hours back. Rusk, Cookies with pichkoo and Jams were out by now and breakfast never tasted this good. Peter and I quickly recorded the report for that day. We began our trek following the water stream. Beautiful pools on the way, water streams to cross, thorny bushes to walk through. Life has never been this exciting. Yet another dead end and the waterfall had a tunnel like formation. Nisha and I were almost about to take a plunge while Palani was clicking pictures themed ‘Scary Faces’. Peter was back in time after finding an alternate route. Not again, went a few voices, yes it was again a not so vertical steep climb and a long walk through a dense bush which lead us to running stream. Peter said that this could be the last pool that we will have and who can resist the temptation but to jump right away. Trust me!! This pool was so damn chill and freezing even during that time of the day. Wonder why, but it was very cold and everyone were shivering but not for long. After walking another good one hour through the stream, it was time for us to leave the trench and get on to higher grounds which will take us to a road split, which will lead us to the mouth of the Talakona waterfall. All CTC’ians was applauding once we hit the road. The first look of civilization after 3 long days of trek in the woods. A long walk was lying in front of us…..that will take us to Talakona.
We all gathered near the signboard that pointed towards Talakona. I was more excited than anyone as I was very eager to go to this place. It was buy one get one free offer. Signed up for DOA and got Talakona for free :-). The waterfall was so majestic and so beautiful. Anyone would just fall in love at the first sight. We didn’t delay any more but just dived in to get closer to the waterfalls. Damn my cramps, thanks to Ramki and Vetri for helping me to get back and forth. It was just amazing to get right below the falls and swim through it. Nisha found a nice root which had a formation like a swing and she was on it swinging happily to glory. We headed back to the top of the 200mts waterfall and relaxed for a while before heading down to Talakona. Sadness was creeping in me slowly as this would mark the end of the trekking but consoled myself that the next one is just around the corner.
Finally we reached a small village outside Talakona and our plan was to reach Tirupati, take our cars from Kodur and head to Chennai. But life seemed to be having different plans for us which made me realize that DOA isn’t over yet. So from now on, no more woods, streams or waterfalls guys but something totally different which only a very few of us got chance to behold. Meanwhile, we found a share auto whichis to take all fourtenn of us at one shot to the nearest village. 14!! Of us withour back packs. The driver said that this number is nothing and the maximum count he took once was 20!! Huh!! Well, that Auto was truly a macho machine. On the way we were transferred to a jeep which took us to the village. We made a deal with another Jeep folk to take us to Tirupati, again all 14 fitted into pretty well. While Peter and I were getting obsessed to ‘Rihana- Unfaithful’, Palani, Milinda and the group were entertaining the rest with their singing talent. Sure we came to know the romantic side of Palani with the choice of songs that he sang. After filling gas at a nearby station off we headed to Tirupati. Everyone had their favorite dishes ordered and savored it to the last tiny bit. Meanwhile, Peter, Palani, Guru, Divi and I headed to get a cab that would take us to Kodur to retrieve our Scorpio and Elantra. What lay ahead of us we, it’s something that I could never forget all my life.
Flashback…We parked our car on Day 1 at a nearby mango garden with the assurance of the watchmen that he would take care of our cars till Monday night.
Present…Not knowing where we parked and unable to identify where the garden was, in that pitch dark night, we were roaming and finally caught hold of the road. I could see flash light going on from someone inside the garden and assuming that the watchmen was just there to hand over our cars and take some nice tip. But I got skeptical when there was more than flashlight. Peter rushed back to tell me that there are cops by the car. A chill cold wind swept though my spine. Not knowing what to do or say, police questioned us saying where we were for the past three days. Damn!! The gardener turned out to be a Brutus!! While I tried explaining the cops saying it’s just the five of us and that we got lost on the woods and it took us three days to find a trial to reach civilization, he wasn’t listening and was insisting us to stay until the officers arrive to the spot. He made a couple of calls to his superiors and I was sure he wasn’t bluffing for money. Knowing that these guys are behind our money, we didn’t listen to them but just took our cars and drove by. But luck didn’t favor us that night and we couldn’t get that long before the manned railways gate ahead of us closed for some passing train and the officers arrived at the other end of the gate right after that train passed. What happened for the next 3 hours I’ll leave it to your imagination. We were fugitives running from cops from deep forest and we were caught red handed. So you can imagine…. The longest three hours of my life… 🙂
We notified the rest of the team at Tirupati about our state and asked them to head back to Chennai. They all reached Chennai safe by public transport. After a hefty fine, we were spared to leave at 3:30AM and off we headed towards to Chennai. Tiredness was creeping in that all I could remember was getting up at 6:30AM in the morning with Peter sleeping at the rear seat, Scorpio parked by the roadside. Well, it wasn’t over yet for me and Peter. Rear tyre got flat and finding someone at that wee hour to fix a tubeless radial was difficult. Finally we managed to find one and while he was fixing we were sipping hot coffee discussing about our next trek trip. Couple of localities stopped by to feel pity for the wounds that we were bearing and were curious to talk to Peter which Peter gladly did. While our tyre got fixed by now and we were about to fix when we heard air escaping through the tyre one more time. Damn….can it get any worse….whole process repeats again and finally we managed to get the car up and running by 8 in the morning. Hogged hot pooris on the way but still I had this void in me as I haven’t got my hand yet on my Mountain Dew.
The best three days of my life spent in the wild and into the wild. An experience by itself. Life has so much to offer and like it’s said in ‘American beauty’, Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in. DOA – All soldiers alive no one dead. Mission successfully!! Yet again!!
Written by: Naresh
Trek Organizer: Peter
Participants: Peter, Divya, Naresh, Milinda, Guru, Diwakar, Ramki, Ranjith, Nisha, Vetri, Bastien, Pradeep, Claudy and Palani.