Day 0 (Dec 30):
A bunch of us gathered at the CMBT bus terminus in Chennai. Sudarshan Sivasankaran was the first and started the process of gathering us together. The first piece of big news was that the organizer had a personal emergency (grand parent passed away), so he could not join us. Well that was not going to stop us after days of anticipation! Besides other CTC folks stepped in to fill the gap. To add we had a lot many dropouts to reduce our ranks from 35 to 21.
A clever piece of positioning enabled us to cash in on the tickets of the Chennai folks who had not showed up. It was to be an oft repeated theme of rising to the occasion 🙂
Day 1 (Dec 31):
After sorting through the food (originally sized for 35 people!!!) and sharing the weight, we proceeded to board a bus (to Pavanassam) that would take us to the beginning of the trek. We started by crossing a dam that would take us into the forest. Gowri lead the way with the GPS. There was no map of the area, and we were going to depend solely on the GPS for the entire trip.
We crossed more dams, some under construction and folks even cajoled a vehicle belonging to the construction crew to give a ride (may they wash dirty dishes for the next 6 hikes!). It was slow going for the most part. An ancient jeep trail provided some semblance of
The GPS route was taking us the same way the previous team had followed. There was no gentle way to trek, we were going up and down some rather steep stuff. In one such case when we dropped into a valley, the team in front ran into a sloth bear that was resting in its hole in the ground. Us folks up above heard deadly sounding growls from the valley below. The bear was within a few feet of three of the trekkers, got scared and ran off!
Well this also got us into a stream bed that we were to follow for some time. The stream ran dry until we hit another that joined it and had luscious clear water. The water we had was extremely clear and sweet to drink for the entire trip. Awesome stuff!!! Hopefully it will remain pristine for many more decades.
To cut a long story short, we followed the stream cross crossing it in many places. The team had started to split with the faster hikers ahead and the slower ones behind (many thanks to Sibin and Gowri to hike back and forth to keep us together). We stopped at a pool in the evening to re-join. It turned out to be a pool just above Angel Falls. We camped there for the night with a wonderful campfire, awesome food (Carrot halwa and two kinds of rice). Abdul, Sampath and Durai are to be commended for nifty cooking. Some folks stayed up to celebrate mid night with a cake.
Day 2 (Jan 01):
The next day we got down to Angel Falls. Spectacular is just beginning to describe it. We were prompt to jump into the water and enjoy a refreshing swim. The cameras were out in full force to capture the moment.
We continued to follow the stream and crossed many more pools. Some of which we enjoyed with a quick dip. We then stopped at V6 pool to have lunch. The V6 pool has pretty deep water and is surrounded by steep cliffs. One could launch 25-30 feet off the cliff into the water. Just utterly beautiful place! The only girl in the group was also entranced enough to take the leap off the edge (go Meenal!).
After lunch, the next stop was at Betel Leaf fall. On way we were to cross stream that was deep enough to submerge us to our necks, and also ferry our packs using makeshift rafts. The future Naval Archs (Kahan, Bala and Jayanthan) showcased their strong swimming skills by helping move the packs.
The Betel Leaf fall, had a step in between. This is where we hauled all our stuff and camped for the night. Another huge campfire and we cooked a HUGE amount of rice to eat. Folks with wet sleeping bags had gracious folks share their sleep ware for the night.
We were proceeding at half the speed that had been anticipated in the original plan.
Day 3 (Jan 02):
We traversed through more beautiful country along side the stream. We reached the top of Step Falls (astounding damn place!), and struggled to get around it. By now it was starting to run out of sunlight. We had more food and had a couple of ferrying trips to get the luggage across. There had been a number of trips and falls by now. Some had cramps and others were feeling the physical exertion.
But we had to keep going to get out of the forest. We did not want to stay the night as most had appointments to keep the next day. We stumbled going across the stream — crossing from the left to the right bank. There were thorns tearing at our clothes and exposed skins. As darkness fell, the glimmer of hope was the number of torches at hand. Atleast no one had skimped on bringing a light!!!
The GPS and Gowri were are saviors as tumbled across the dark night (it was new moon night). To make matters worse, it rained and made the rocks extra slippery. More people fell and stumbled. We had to continually regroup and count to make sure no one was lost.
At 2am we finally neared a village after crossing another dam and a bunch of freshly ploughed fields. Our final gauntlet was to get across the village and its dogs — they were out in full force! The poor villagers are sure to have woken up with all that barking (sorry guys!).
At the Settigunta railway station (the village was a 1km away) we waited until a lorry driver stopped to take us home. A few got down in Renigunta to head to Bangalore and Hyderabad. The rest headed to Chennai for a much needed shower and sleep/work.
Thank you to all you folks for your camaraderie, rising above your physical self to bring us back in one group with no calamity.