April 22nd & 23rd, 2011
I was super exited to go on the trek to Vellarimala, from the time I heard about it from a friend of mine last month. I met Jinu and a few other strangers who were going to be a part of the trek to Vellarimala at the Satellite bus stop on Mysore road. In the bus, I overheard a guy saying “ next two days we are all friends da” and that put a smile on my face and I was assured that just like on any other treks, I will have fun even on this one irrespective of the fact that I came without any friends of mine. I do not get sound sleep while travelling, so I got to see a lot of forest after crossing God’s own country’s check post. Once we got down at Thamarassery, we walked till the next bus depot , while it was drizzling. I hate getting wet in the rain. But that didn’t dampen my spirits. I was just thinking positive and hoping that it will be sunny when we trek, so it is ok if it drizzles now. Once we were on the bus to Muthappanpuzha, all of us were staring out the window with our eyes wide open and our jaws dropping. The driver was zooming past villages on a narrow lane but none of us cared as the view was just superb. It was like the paintings which we used to make when we were kids with huts and the mountains in the background. Sushruth was busy shooting pics of the scenery. It was an hour’s journey and once we got down from the bus, we had tea at a tea stand and started off our trek via a village to the Vellarimala peak :) Guess what!! It stopped drizzling by the time we passed the village. We munched a little, filled our water bottles and entered the forest area.
The trek till the Olichuchattam waterfalls was pretty easy. We met some people from ISRO who were on their way back and I was amazed that a few elderly people had come too and one of the women’s shirt was soaked in her own blood due to leech bite and Chaya was startled and wanted to run back home with them, but we convinced her to continue the trek. We started off at 400mts altitude from the village and reached the falls which was around 1300mts altitude. The falls was very steep and the view was beautiful :) The view of the mist covering the mountains opposite the falls was awesome :)
We continued our trek from the falls and the trail got steeper and the leech bites increased. Annoying creatures!! We came across a lot of places where the incline was anywhere between 60 and 90(like a huge step) degrees. Most of the trail was elephant trail (with elephant dung all around else it was the trail made by Ram with his machete). We climbed on and on… we passed a lot of streams thanks to our local guide Ram, and hence water wasn’t a problem. Whenever we made a pit stop, we checked for leeches, threw salt and eucalyptus oil on and made the leeches drop off our skin. We stuffed ourselves with food and hurried because, Jinu wanted to make sure we reach the peak before it starts pouring. Throughout the climb, I could hear Jinu shouting “move”, Ashwin shouting so many things and some of us shouting back at them for shouting!! It was 2:00 p.m. , close to 6hrs from when we started the trek. I was like where the hell is the peak!!
According to Trek Wiki, an average climber will take 9 hours to reach the peak ( 13kms to ascend ) . So if I was below average(which I thought I was ) it would take me at least 4 more hours!! Oh god!! Thanks to the GPS Jinu had, he told us we will be there soon and Ashwin kept me motivated saying he will give me dark chocolate when we reach the peak! :) We passed through bushes which were curved & made a cave like entrance towards the peak and opposite to it we could see only mist!! It was breadth taking!! I loved it!! :)
We reached the peak by 3:15 p.m (2050mts altitude)!! does that make us above average climbers!! Wow!! :) Priyanka was like, is this the peak??!! It was just a flat land and had bushes around it and there was no view!! I was also equally surprised even though I had read the blogs. I expected some opening which had a view but there were none. But we were all overjoyed that we reached the peak and all of us relaxed and ate lunch in peace. Since there was no water source here, Ram suggested that we trek for an hour longer and then set up the camp. We all agreed and Ram led us. This was the first time I saw Ram in action and I watched him in awe as he cut through the bushes with his machete to make the trail and still kept his pace very high, as I had to literally jog to match his pace. He went off the trail a little, but knew in a minute that he was off, and then was back on track. I made a quick 360 degree turn and looked around to find no difference at all!! How the hell does he know where to go??!!
Finally we came to a clearing in Kethanpara which gave us a breath taking view, for which I have no words to describe!! It was heaven on earth!! :) Only those of us who saw it will know what an amazing view it was!! It was incredible!! :) None of us wanted to leave this place and camp elsewhere. But we had to leave as there was no flat surface here nor was there any water :( Reluctantly all of us continued our trek to a beautiful open space called REC PaaRa, where we camped.
Once we were all under the tarpaulin sheet, we were trying to make space for everyone and also keep ourselves warm. It started pouring heavily once we were all inside. It was around 5:30 p.m. and it was pretty dark. We were hoping it stops raining, so that we could make a camp fire and then make soup for all of us. But it just didn’t stop. Prateek started entertaining all of us by singing old Hindi songs with background music. I joined him, whenever I knew the lyrics and we were just shouting on top of our lungs most of the time. I realized that it helped me keep warm and started singing nursery rhymes whenever Prateek took time in deciding on the next song. I am not sure if we entertained the rest or bugged them, but Prateek and I, along with a few others were having a good time. It didn’t stop raining and they made fire under the tarpaulin sheet, making sure it doesn’t catch fire and cooked soup, which was yummy. Once I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag and stared out into the sky, I could see the outline of the Vaavalmala mountain whenever there was a lightning. It was beautiful; I never got scared, even though it reminded me of the movie Castaway as I had the company of 16 others. The water from the tarpaulin sheet was dripping at my feet and half the sleeping bag was wet in a few hours. I hardly slept due to the cold weather and kept checking my watch every now and then waiting for dawn. It was around 11:30 p.m. when half of the tent fell down as the stick supporting it, could not hold it any longer as it was raining cats and dogs. Most of us got up to hold the sheet and make the water flow away. Some of us tried to do whatever possible to make the stick hold the tent. Once we were sure this is the best that can be done (we all knew we will be half wet) we tried to get some sleep. In the morning all of us discussed how bad the night was. Prateek was sitting half the night with the tarpaulin sheet right on top of his head and later slept on his bag; Ashwin had no opening in his sleeping bag to breathe; Jinu had to hold the tent in one hand the whole time to prevent water from getting in and so on…
Once yummy lemon tea was made (thank god they found sugar, else we would have had to drink Assam salt tea!!), half the group went trekking to Vaavalmala peak, while the rest of took rest at the camp site. Dinesh was arguing with me saying that here, it rains from below! And when I asked him what about gravity, he said forget gravity, I will share the link with you. I am still waiting to see the link! The one thing I regret not doing during this trek is climbing Vaavalmala. Since I was feeling giddy in the morning, I didn’t want to risk it as I knew the descent would be harder than the ascent and I still had 14kms of descent. I hogged on an apple, two buns and three chapattis, before the group who went to Vavulmala returned. Most of them said the view was better than the view from Ketanpara which made me regret my decision to not climb it, even more. Once we cleaned up the place, we cut a cake to celebrate BASC’s 2nd birthday, and ate the yummy powdered plum cake which was given to us like it was prasada :)
Finally we started out descent at around 11:00 a.m. We stopped at Ketanpara for sometime. Ganesh asked me to sit at the edge, along with the rest, and I cautiously moved front and let my legs hang. It was just awesome!! The view was even better here and I felt so close to Mother Nature. Even though I may have scared some people after shouting my lungs out while singing yesterday night, most of them agreed when I said I want to sing and I sang one of my favorite songs “I’m on the top of the world” by Carpenters. For about quarter of the journey, I was doing pretty fine we kept ourselves motivated by shouting in a friendly way (like ”ooi summne hogo” , “poda dei” ) at those ahead of us :) I should have worn a knee cap :( by the time we were half way down, I was walking like Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates of Caribbean!! Thanks to Saiesh , Karthik , Bharath , Jinu and Raj I was able to descend . I absolutely took no break till we reached one of the streams after which Jinu said we will stop only at Ochattilum falls. No matter how long we descended, the falls never came and every time I asked where the falls was, they were like can you hear the falls?? We are almost there. This kept happening and we never took the turn to the falls and nor did we get a break. By now, I could barely keep a step all by myself.
When we finally reached the village, Saiesh, Karthik, Bharath and I got to eat mangoes and guava grown in the farm. It was very refreshing. Since they took turns in helping me walk, they all got to goto a nearby waterfall and take a dip. When we were around a km from the village, Saiesh got a brilliant idea of walking backwards down the inclined road, so as to put less pressure on the knees. I did the same, with a helping hand for around a km and I was walking at my normal pace backwards and we reached the tea stand finally!!
We took a bus and then an auto to Thamarassery, in-between which I finally got to eat the dark chocolate :) The chocolate helped me as long as it stayed in my mouth as I didn’t think of the pain in my legs. After eating dinner, we boarded the bus to Bangalore and I got sleep for a few hours due to fatigue. It is Wednesday now, 3 days from when we came back & I am still walking backwards :) It was one hell of a trek experience, very adventurous!! Thanks to BASC and Jinu for organizing the trek, and also to all the participants of the trek :) I loved it!! :) Looking forward for more such treks :)
Thank you Sayeesha, Bharath & Jinu for the pictures.