Mission Death or Alive/3, June 12-15 2009

1 deadly mission, 11 members, 4 long days, 75km rough terrain, swimming through a 400m long – 5m wide – 100m deep gorge, 40m high falls, vertical rock climbing and amazing team spirit.  
aquamarine green blue…
When Peter mailed me the invite I was tempted immediately. i began having 2nd thoughts about this Mission – Yes, this  trek deserves to be called a Mission – when i realized it was a target of 60 kms or so. Peter the smooth operator convinced me to sign up saying he always gives higher km estimates. And how much we did walk… not 60 kms.. Not lesser like i had hoped, but around 75 kms!!! This has been the longest trek Me and my friends have ever been on! And Yes!  it was worth every bit of the effort!
Day one – We started from Tirupati on Friday morning in a jeep
With 11 of us and our backbacks stuffed in.. Guess the driver felt lonely looking at the crowd we were, So he decides to make it even more comfy by stuffing his friend in the front seat even thought he himself was almost out of the jeep – driving precariously. Had yummy egg dosas and spicy idli, vadas at a roadside eatery on the way to Oblivarapalli … i think …. Guess it was 10 am when We started , after having walked for around almost an hour or so, Thats when we saw it! A beauty of a pool of water.. Crystal clear.. aquamarine blue…
cool… tempting…. Inviting and beckoning us to jump in.. And Jump in we did.
Glad to beat the heat so fast, in such a mystical, seemingly untouched & almost magical pool. We didn’t wanna get out of the pool when Peter called for a time out saying we had to head onwards deeper into the trail. And so began our Run To the Hills }:) The walk got more and more dry as we headed into the hills, walking upstream on rocks and boulders. We found water several times along the way though it was far spaced out. At one marshy bog, we saw a sight to behold..Butterflies nesting…
They were everywhere… Flitting around  in the sun… After several stops along the way, we stopped for lunch at a place with ufficient water. We even managed to grab some quick winks under the cool shade of trees. We finally get a move along and walk for about an hour or so to find what seemed like Sheer Bliss. A long cool pool, dark and mysterious with canyons towering all around
and even a small waterfall at one end inviting us to venture further.. Jus when we began wondering how we should go about crossing this stretch, Peter spoke up… Wanna know what Peter is thinking  – Says Peter ?  Peter thought the place was good enough to call home for a night…. And so it was.
Some people almost didn’t wanna believe that it was DOA and yet by 5 p.m we had ventured into the campsite but glad that we were, we dumped our stuff all over the place and dived into the cool waters. A decision some regretted later…
Buoyed by the fact that we wouldn’t have to lug our backpacks any more for the day, the bunch kept on walking beyond the small waterfall at campsite.
The stretch was lush, green, dense and cool with water gurgling all along. We came across a steep wall over which there was a sprinkler of a waterfall. After we passed this one and walked over some more rocks, we came across a two tiered waterfall pitstop.
We lazed around happily soaking in the views, the fine weather, the vast territory unfolding slowly in front of us – revealing its treasures –
One gem after the other. Sure you are dreaming by now..
Back to reality! What happened next??
Oh the Rain Gods decided to toy with us, thats all. As we were heading back to Campsite 1, the cool blue skies clouded over  and opened up and before we knew it, rain was pelting down. We made it back as darkness fell to the small waterfall which now seemed to be more Alive and gushing than it was barely an hour or so earlier. Myself a novice swimmer who tends to panic at the drop of a waterdrop, was terrified that the water below the falls was inky black and that it was raining and all that. Somehow managed to jump in and get across to safety. Phew the ruckus was over.
But We were too late to cover our backpacks and camera, mp3 player etc which had soaked in lots of water by the time Guru got there 1st. Well, that was day 1. It rained all night but there were clear skies for brief periods and we managed to get a warm fire going and have some
Dinner!  😛
Yummy soup, rice and puliogare masala, parappu pudi and dhal powder etc. We did catch some sleep out under the sky but before
long the rain was back and we crammed ourselves into the crevices and niches that were cut between the rocky faces along the water pool. 
After the rains…
There were bugs crawling all over the place. Finally by dawn, the skies had cleared and we got out of the corners we had sneaked into and caught some decent sleep out in the open. I awoke to the sight of lush greenery all around me, filling all my senses, The canyons Towering all around with no sun in sight for quite a while. Peter’s plan to leave early in the morning did not even come close to working out and we finally left Camp 1 after a good breakfast of apples, rusk, jam, biscuits.
Day 2: We headed back towards the 2 tiered waterfalls after which we headed upstream on the left side. 
Soon we were back to swimming across long, marshy pools and the cycle of ferrying backpacks started all over again ..And again.
After ferrying, comes the fun … 
We came across many huge, wild mango trees with fruits afloat in the pools. I am astonished that this territory was not leech territory as its a thumb rule here in Karnataka – – Where there is moist land and water, there MUST be bloodsucking leeches.
But Here it was H-e-a-v-e-n.
We headed up into dense bamboo shrubbery and walked on until lunch when we finally dropped down on some flat bed rocks along the water stream and ate merrily wondering about a packet of chilli pickle which seemed to be missing even before the action began. A yummy lunch of methi chapatis with various other condiments were munched down and we walked and swam on until we hit  this long gorge of rocks with steep rock faces towering on both sides and water flowing lazily below…
A bunch of us tried to do the impossible here.. Instead of getting into the knee deep water and wading along the shallow parts near the rockface…  We thought we’d push ourselves to our Vertical Limits…  So we began clambering along the sheer rock face complete with backpacks and all… Holding on to the niches and footholds..  Clinging on to stay high and dry…
We managed quite well for about 45 mins or so after which not knowing what comes after the next nook of the rock face got to us. Peter, Guru, Diwa, Rajiv n Gauri started ferrying the backpacks across this long, seemingly infinite tunnel or rather channel of water. Good job guys but their efforts were not rewarded. Divi also swam along with the back pack ferry club – Something we must have all done.
The bACKPACKferry clubbers returned after what seemed like an eternity perched on the rocks.
Myself, Akshaya, Vinayak, Ravi and Brijesh finally heard the other side of the story.. The gorge was about 400 mtrs long
After which there was a 40 mtr waterfall at the end of it – “Gorgeous Gorge Waterfalls”. It was a dead end as we could not camp anywhere there and all that time and energy spent ferrying the backpacks was of no use. Peter came back soon after to take Ravi – the official photographer along for a “once in a lifetime” view.
Guru had gone ahead and climbed up as much as he could to see if there was a way upstream by came back to report that the steep rocks had us stuck. Vinayak and I were swimming along stopping at every shallow place possible to catch our breath and Akshaya was being helped by Diwa who too had come back soon after realising it was a dead end. Before we knew it, Peter and Ghosh babu had reached the far end of the gorge and were clambering over the huge rocks over to the side where the waterfall was. Akshaya, Diwa and Vinayak grew cold feet and decided to head back towards firm land than swim further for any longer.
Brijesh was keen on going to the falls
and I decided to swim along with him and even made it as far as the huge boulders. The unseen other side but Rajiv caught up with me by then and said that the team was planning on returning to the waterfall the next morning and that there was an equally long swim on the other side of the rock boulders.
Brijesh had climbed over the boulders by then & was not visible from the lower side any more. The thought of another long swim did me no good and I decided to head back before darkness set in as well. A decision that is still haunting me !
The swim back was dreadfully slow with Rajiv scouting for footholds and shallow places to stand for breathers. Diwa and Akshaya made it out first followed by Rajiv, Vinayak and Myself. The rest of the team which made it to the falls caught up with us not long after after we stepped foot on dry land. With the sun down and drenched with wet clothes, all we wanted to do was get dry, hog some hot food and stretch out and sleep. Great job backpack Ferry club! 
We retraced our path for a short distance and came upon a place with flat rock beds and running water. This was Campsite 2 With trees circling around and stars playing hide and seek. A yummy hot dinner soon followed – Good job Akshaya and troupe!!! – Pics were clicked around the fire everyone settled in by around 11 pm but sleep did not come easy with some ghost walkers awake quite late into the night. Finally, we drifted away like the white, puffy clouds that formed a canopy over us.
D – day : 3 – After coming upon the “Gorgeous Gorge Waterfalls”
our trek route plan changed to circumnavigate it. The next morning we headed out from campsite 2 into dense bushes and trees but not before we solved the case of the Missing chilly pickle pack. Any guesses about who had it? Well who else but Peter!  LOL. Next time i know – Anything thats not spicy goes into Peter’s backpack. Nothing else. We soon found a little water and hoped the entire route which opens into a valley had water all along. We soon hit a dead end and had to do quite some monkey climbing
to push ourselves higher. After getting over a couple more Tricky spots, we heard monkeys and the guys found some animal trail which we followed out until we reached quite high on that hill. The Vista views that panned all around us were breathtaking.
The view of the falls
did push me on for as long as the sun was not beating down on us as we were under shade for quite sometime but soon we were out on the open and the climbs became harder cuz of the heat and lack of any streams. Soon I lost track of the number of hills we climbed up, down and around. Late in the afternoon we descended down yet another steep hill into a shady but dry side stream.  Guru and Brijesh who had gone ahead to scout for a route came back soaked. There was apparently a small pool of water beyond which there was a bigger pool leading to another dead end. Envious that we would not be dipping in the bigger pool we walked on until the small, narrow almost tub like water source.
After having filled our bottles to the brim, all of us jumped in and splashed around to cool off. Soon it was time to keep moving as we were still in the middle of nowhere and this was to be the last leg of the trek.  Soon we climbed  more hills after Peter made me give up my backpack and its belongings as I was trailing at every uphill climb. Walking hand in hand with Peter, there was not even time enough to feel the drain. Thanks everyone – Gauri, Guru, Brijesh, Diwa, Vinayak & Rajiv as well for lugging my stuff around when I was down and Out. Would not have made if not for everyone’s help and  support. Thanks again!
Soon we were on top of the valley with the sun heading down westward and us walking at the edge of a luscious green, bowl-like canyon. Deep within we could spot the stream – possibly almost dry – with the mirage of water reflecting in our minds, almost quenching our dry parched throats, Egging us on… To move along… and So we hit the mysterious 
Jeep trail after some photo pitstops. How we celebrated that we were back amidst civilization after so long. Walking along we even found a milestone in Telugu indicating that we were 9 kms away from a certain “Date palm tree point”.  Blissfully dreaming about the yummy food we would eat at Hotel Bliss once we made it out, we started walking along the jeep trail anxious to cover as much of the distance possible before the day’s light went out. At some other milestone that followed the 1st, we discovered that if we headed back some 18 or so kms we would reach an even more mysterious sounding place called “Thief’s Point” when translated from Telugu. I guess that’s where we had to call the bluff, but we were way too excited and carried on towards “Date Palm Tree point” inspite of seeing lights blinking en-masse, out in the horizon behind us and almost no lights visible in the direction we were headed. After having covered the zig zagging 9 kms to Date Palm tree point, we made it! Where to you ask? To the Date Palm Tree point. The milestone in Telugu pretty much claimed something like – “Date Palm Tree Forest Point-This is it.” Outrageous to believe but that’s the rough translation I got out of Divya who was the only one reading the Telugu words right!
Well, we looked around and the trail which had not looked used in quite some time went nowhere at that last googly of a milestone and we were still inside what looked like dense forests. Peter who had doubted where the trail led seemed flustered as we had been silly enough to wander so far away from CTC’s marked gps trail that the place we were in was not even seen on the map. Suddenly we were a much quieter group than earlier, Treading back on the very same trail that led us astray. We passed the places we had stopped at to grab some quick bites. The night air was light as darkness enveloped us. The lights of civilization glittering Far away were almost an Intrusion.  Soon we covered about half the distance we had wandered away along and reached a milestone called Cell Point – a spot deep within the hills where surprisingly most cell networks worked.
Calls were quickly made, the group updated on the delay so that there would not be any Search and Rescue operation mounted, Bosses informed about the missing in-action employee(s) and soon we crashed into our sleeping bags, not mindful of the fact that we had not eaten much and eager to let sleep drown our fatigue. The sky was not cloudy and the moon shone high over our heads late in the night as I drifted in and out of the wakeful state of mind.
Day 4 – Freedom: With yesterday behind us, we awoke to a crisp, cool morning much before the sun was out.
Breakfast was skipped as was brushing our teeth due to limited water supplies. Who needs to brush when there is no breakfast anyway??!!! 😀 Soon we walked back some more along the jeep trail and then wandered off the jeep trail and back on to the Right trail – the route to the Holy grail (of sorts) – The CTC trail.
Before we knew it we were faced with panoramic views of the plains spreading down and out from the hillside we were on. We descended into rocky creeks and were following another dry stream right after that. The grand face of the rocky, canyon like mountains watched in   Silence as we walked onwards. We hit a point where the water if there has been any would have fallen like a 30 ft waterfall. Peter the adventurer took the left side of the rockfall
even though Guru had scouted the right and found a walking trail that seemed to have been pretty often used. Soon we caught up with Peter who came up with Guru after the two had refilled water bottles from a source after the dry waterfall. Walking this clear flat trail was a cakewalk compared to the walking we had done over the past 3 days. It was not very sunny for most part of our walk as we had left campsite early by 6 am on Monday. Once we found the trail through – what would have been an impossibly dense bush walk through – forests that encompass the hill, we even discovered tell tale signs of human activity which included some fresh bullock cart wheel print leading us along.
After walking until 1030am on Monday morning, we came across 2 villagers – one of whom led us toward the royal APSTRC bus that was waiting. Leftover jam, rusk, and other eatables were given out to the villagers – A jarring note of alien consumerism introduced in a land where time seems to have stood still. Whereas the same generosity displayed towards us by 2 ladies in the bus – who smilingly distributed mangoes  –
out of the sack loads they were carrying for their grandchildren seemed so much more Real and worthwhile. 
Lessons we city dwellers need to soak in Perhaps…
The royal bus ride
Took me more than a week to complete this birds eye view… Make the picture perfect by describing in words what u all saw in your mind’s eye … There are so many in the team, letsee who comes up with what
aDiOs AmiGos! Until the next DOA?? Time alone will tell.
Written by: Ashwini
Organized by: Peter Van Geit
Image Galleries:
Ravi Ghosh

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