Friday, 10 June 2011

Nagala - The Magical Land :)

May 28th & 29th, 2011
It is Friday evening.. I am just lazing around at home, drinking a hot cup of coffee in my cool CTC mug, which we got as a token of appreciation for our participation in the Treasure Hunt(TH). As I look at my mug, all the memories of the trek come flooding back and the team names on the map – Hungry Wolves, Eastern warriors, Mountain Kings, Nagala Pirates and Chennai Trekkers , put a smile on my face and I am motivated to write down about my experience, just to relive the moments :)

The teams

It was Saturday morning around 7:00a.m , when Aswin and I arrived at Nagalapuram, after saying our goodbyes to Sunil and Akash at the previous bus stop ( they had to join their teammates there). I was introduced to Ram, one of my team leaders and then introduced myself to the rest of the team. I was glad to see Raj, with whom I had been on my previous trek. Rajeswaran (Captain ) , Shailaja (5 star rani ), Jayanthi and I went in Captain’s car till the starting point of the trek ;  Ram, Ela , Arun and Rajapandipan (RP) came on their bikes; we left Raj behind to wait for Lakshmikanth (LK) . 
All of us split the food and started our trek with Wolf (our team mascot) and his friend Fox at around 8:30 a.m. Within 20 mins into forest, we sort of lost our way, but we were back on track in no time. Wolf and Fox were so excited to see us, because they wanted food and were running around us the whole time with so much energy; on the contrary, I was feeling very tired in just half an hour, as the temperature difference between Bangalore and Nagala was more than 15 degrees that day and it took some time for me to get adjusted to that weather;  I had also cut my thumb pretty deep while cleaning my swizz knife, the previous evening and could still feel the pain. Ram and Ela looked a little worried I guess, wondering if I would be able to make it all the way in good time, as I haven’t trekked with them before,  they didn’t know that I would be okay soon :) I kept shooing Wolf and Fox, as I was afraid I might kick them while keeping a step, but after a while I got used to them around and it felt good at one point when I was in the end, because they were giving me company by running back and forth :)

One step here & one step there!

I had heard about the pools in Nagala and I was waiting to jump into the first one. But when we came across the first pool, Ram told us we will get into it on our way back tomorrow.  I was a little disappointed, but since it was a TH, I was motivated to reach the treasure quickly, and we continued our trek hopping on the rocks along the stream.

The Dead End Pool - My favourite pool! :)

We finally reached the dead end pool! :) This time there was no stopping from jumping into the pool, as we had to cross it to reach our treasure. This pool is my favorite pool :) It is surrounded on two sides with walls of rock and on one side with a huge boulder,  apart from the side where there is a clearing from where we entered. I got into the swimming tube and went to the middle of the pool, looked up at the clear blue sky and kept making 360 degree turns. It was heaven!! :) I just loved it :) Since we had to ferry the luggage, some of us were near the clearing, some of us in the water and some of us climbed on the rock wall to our right and we positioned ourselves so that we can pass on our backpacks from one person to the next and transfer them to the other side. Swimming tubes and mats were used to make sure the backpacks don’t become wet. Once this was done, I was tempted to jump into the water just like some of them did, but I was a little nervous. The jump was from around 12 feet height. Thanks to Jayanthi (who jumped before me, with a tube on ) ; Ram and Arun ( both of who  promised to save me :) ) , I took the jump without the tube and caught the tube which Arun threw once I surfaced the water. It was awesome!!! J I loved it. I wanted to do it again and again, but I was hungry and I thought of eating the cream bun and then jumping again if time permits. Captain shouted all of a sudden! I got scared thinking there was a snake in the pool, only to realize he was being nibbled by the fishes in the pool and  he didn’t like it one bit! All of us got out of the water to eat. Once we were done eating, our leaders realized we cannot wait for Raj and LK here, since we couldn’t reach them on phone we had no idea where they were, so we should keep moving.  We bid goodbye to Wolf, Fox and oh! another dog(which I dint know existed till then!) who didn’t want to swim. We left swimming tubes for Raj and LK to ferry their backpacks and continued walking along the sides of the rock wall. Just behind the big boulder at the end of the dead end pool, there were two more boulders which we had to cross.  RP and Ela helped all of us cross them. We continued our trek along the stream.

The read headed chameleon

We came to a point when our leader Arun ( the navigator ) said we need to ascend to our right. I never saw Arun using the GPS or the maps. All of us trusted him in knowing the route and Arun trusted his instincts! :) He wanted to make sure it was the right turn to the right and said he will confirm and get back. We rested on the rocks next to the stream. 5 star rani was busy eating her 5 star, rest of them were chit chatting or taking pics of the red headed chameleon and I was busy trying to keep my feet away from the red ants. After a while we heard Arun shout out to us that we need to go a little bit further before turning right to ascend. After taking a few steps, we looked up only to find Arun climbing a rock wall which was I guess more than around 70-80 feet high from where we were. I was amazed at how quickly he got so far!

The right turn which did not turn out to be right!

We took a right turn (which did not turn out to be right!) and started climbing boulders.  I assumed the path was taken by water years ago, but Ela told me it wasn’t. I realized he was right, cos the boulders were not smooth at all. It took a long time for us to cover a short distance. The boulders were loose and the climb turned out to be adventurous! :) We were all exhausted and out of water. Since we couldn’t find Arun, we took turns shouting out his name. It was fun, cos it was echoing there :) Since our navigator was lost .. oh sorry, since WE were lost and  we didn’t have the GPS with us, thanks to Ram our other leader , who was figuring out what to do next .. he  took  Ela’s map and compass and tried to figure out where we were, looked into the map in his phone and later called Peter on the walkie-talkie. Ram told us that we were just 2kms away from the treasure and we were the closest to it at that point and the first ones to call Peter!! :) We were super exited to know this. But we were on the wrong path and had to descend and then follow the stream. This was bad news due to the boulders and the thorns; never the less, we were still motivated to continue. But we were worried for Arun. He was alone and we had no way to reach him. Some of them who have trekked with him before said he will be fine and it is possible he is ahead of us. Hoping that that was the case, we started our descent.  We came to a point where we could either take a left and go back to the stream where we took a right and started the ascent, or we could take a right and continue trekking with the gorge below us. We took the right turn :) it was both exiting and scary for me to see the gorge below. RP threw a rock and we heard it splash after a few seconds. Hoping that none of us will end up like that rock, I took steps cautiously. 

View of the gorge from above

After a little more ascending and descending, we came back to the stream, welcomed by hundreds of butterflies (brown and black with white and blue spots on themJ ) !!  :) So beautiful.  “ Nagala” sounds so magical to me and at this point, I felt like I was in a fairy tale :) Water finally!! It is the best drink ever!! JWe were tired and badly wanted to eat our lunch as it was around 3:00 p.m. but we munched on cream buns instead, and continued our trek because Ram wanted to make sure we reach the Picnic pool before it gets dark and also find Arun. After a few minutes, fatigue gave in and Ram made sure we break for lunch, to recharge ourselves. We opened our chapatti packets and attacked the ready to eat curry which Ram held. I gobbled till I was full and lay down on a boulder, waiting for the others to finish. We could now hear someone shout!! It was Arun!!  It was a pleasant surprise for all of us to see Arun! He told us we were almost there and how he found the treasure first! It was Red bull for the winning team. As a team we were not first. Chennai Trekkers and Nagala Pirates had already reached and Eastern warriors were on their way. Once everyone finished eating, we continued our trek, following the navigator who now knew exactly where to go :)

In a fairy tale :)

We waded  through water which was around 3 feet deep, zigzagged the stream, ascended a path with thorns and red ant nests , and made the final descent which had like perfect (huge)steps to the Picnic pool :) It was a beautiful pool. It was picture perfect with a small waterfall, rock walls on one side with a little green here and there, green vegetation on the other side and stream in front of it. Some of us jumped into the pool, some of just relaxed on the bank of the stream and I sat on a rock with my feet dipped in the pool admiring the waterfalls. Ram showed me how he was getting free pedicure! I kept my feet still in the shallow area and waited for the fishes to nibble on my feet. At first it felt good, but then I felt like I got a sting! After a while I got used to it and I enjoyed it J  I was hoping it will help with the leech bites I got from the last trek. I wanted to get to the treasure even though we were fourth ( we heard that Mountain Kings were lost), but since most of us were tired, Arun and Ram suggested we go there first thing in the morning . We saw Raj and LK coming from the side which leads to the treasure! They already went there and came back to camp at the Picnic pool! Raj told us how they passed the stream below, when we were lost somewhere above climbing boulders and hence were ahead of us, even though they started the trek late.

The Picnic Pool

It was time for dinner.  I was feeling refreshed instead of tired at the end of the day :)  Few of us volunteered and started cooking after collecting the fire wood. We drank yummy Wooden soup ( recipe: sweet water from the stream + corn soup + mushroom soup + sweet & sour soup + ladle made out of the bark of a tree :) ) and ate Soupy Disco wheat Maggie ( recipe: left over soup + sweet water from the stream  + flash torch light on the  wheat Maggie while cooking ). We had a heavy dinner and decided to sleep early. I got to sleep right next to the stream!! :)  I gazed at the stars for a long time and the sound of the water from the stream was like a lullaby and then I fell asleep. I got up a few times in between as I was being bitten by may be mosquitoes, but instead of being too annoyed I ended up gazing at the stars and then fell asleep again.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. Very few were awake.  I brushed my teeth and decided to take a dip in the pool. I sat for a while getting my pedicure, watching  Akash take his time to jump into the pool. I tried motivating him, along with a few others and he finally made the jump from around 12 feet. I decided it was my turn. I got into the pool, swam till the falls, climbed the sharp rocks, cut my feet and stood on the slippery surface to take a jump, only to realize I had to push myself  forward, a little away from the falls, to avoid hitting the rocks right below it. I took sometime as my feet was hurting and after hearing the encouraging words from the others who were watching and making sure Arun was nearby with the tube, I jumped! I was very close to the rocks! Thank god I missed it. It was fun :) once I surfaced the water, I clung on to the tube passed by Arun and went back and sat on the rock. Gopal told me my feet was bleeding. Thanks to Ram and Arun who got cotton and dettol and made sure the blood clots and gave me a band aid to put on.

On our way to the treasure! Just like in life, it was all about the journey and not the destination :)

After sometime, we all munched on cream buns and started on our way to the treasure!! We clung on to a rock wall, zigzagged the stream , crossed another hundreds of light greenish white butterflies :) Heaven!! :) , saw the Eastern warriors and Nagala pirates on our way, met Peter and took him along to the place where the treasure was. Yippie!! We reached the place finally!! :) After 24 hours!! :) Even though Peter had sent our treasure with someone, so that he could give it to us at the Picnic pool, I wasn’t disappointed. Just like in life, our treasure was in the journey itself and not in the destination :) We asked Peter to take a group photo of the 10 of us and headed back to the Picnic Pool. 
We ate our treasure which was Vochell Fruit & nuts :) We drank ice tea as we cooked Upma  for breakfast . It turned out to be very tasty. We cleaned up the campsite and started our trek to the gorge :) After an ascent and descent we reached a place where we could either continue our walk in the forest or swim in the gorge for 200 mts and then trek along the stream. Raj and Jayanthi decided to walk it and the rest of us, with people from the other teams, first helped ferry our backpacks by positioning ourselves from the top of the gorge ( where I was ) , in the entrance to the gorge ( which was pretty narrow ) , the gorge itself till its exit. After passing the bags down, I climbed down. Thanks to Sabri,  Brijesh and  Prasanna who helped  me down to the gorge as my feet which was bleeding did not let me take support of the rocks and climb down easily. Half way down, there was a rope with knots at equal distance so that we could grip our feet on it and climb down. Peter and 5 star rani were enjoying the burst of water from the stream which flowed into the gorge. I enjoyed the shower for a bit and continued to cross the gorge. Thanks to LK who helped RP, Ela, Captain and I cross the gorge. We picked our backpacks which were on the mid way of the gorge and continued to walk along the rock walls, gripping the walls very hard to make sure we don’t fall into the water/rocks below.

The gorge

We took a small break, ate cream bun, drank the not so tasty mix of Lemon and Orange energy drink and continued our way to the Dead end pool :) with help from Brijesh , Sabri  and Ela, we crossed the two boulders before the pool. From the 12 feet jumping point, I passed the bags to 5 star rani who passed to the next person in queue and they were ferried across the pool to the clearing. Now it was time for me to jump into the pool! :) Once Arun and Brijesh were ready with a tube in the water, I jumped in and Brijesh threw the tube to me after I surfaced the water. It was superb!! :) I so wanted to do it again and told Marie(but had to go eat lunch with my team) . Marie told me to do the jump again and told me I would regret not doing it once I was back in Bangalore and now I regret not jumping again :( More number of people attacked the curry in Ram’s hand this time with the chapatti.

On the way back to my favourite pool :)

Once we were done eating, we made our way to the first pool easily by following Brijesh who knew the route well and then finally we got to enter the first pool! :) we took turns to get massage from the burst of water at one corner of the pool. It was amazing :) Ram, Arun, Brijesh , Rinkesh and I had a water fight. Thanks to Ram, I now know the right technique to use in a water fight :)
Ram and I were on our way to the end point of the trek when Ram was teaching me which direction to go in  depending on the direction of the stream. We were soon joined by Ela and Brijesh.  We came across a place littered by the locals who don’t know the treasure they have : Nagala itself. Fox was here eating the leftovers! We met Aswin with another teammate of his & he told us how they got lost & told us he will be back after taking a dip in the first pool. We reached the dam ( the starting point of our trek ) and sat in shade and admired the mountains around us. Arun told us he will eat 20 bajjis in the village. I began to feel hungry all of a sudden! We came to the point where the vehicles were parked. Again we were out of water! I had a chat with Akash and Freedom who told me they got lost and found their way back after exploring more mountains and then walking along the circumference at the base of the mountains to where we were.  I still had my 5 star and I shared it with 5 star rani who already had a 5 star in her hand and a few others resting on a mat in the shade of Peter’s car.  Once all my teammates were back, we headed back to the main bus stand in Nagalapuram and ate bajjis on our way and drank buttermilk near the bus stand :)

I found my treasure in nature itself! :)

Thank you Peter  and the other organizers of CTC for the awesome Treasure Hunt  and to all my teammates who helped me during the trek :) I found my treasure in nature itself :)

Thank you Peter, Ela & Rajapandian for the pictures.

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