Monsoon Trek to Tada
What would you call it when a beautiful serene stream changes into a mighty, forceful forest river all of a sudden?
How would you feel getting drenched in rain for over 14 hours non-stop in a jungle on top of a hill?
Well, these cannot be just imagined; these have to be experienced!!
If I have to comment on the experience in short, I would quote Andy - "WE SURVIVED!!"
If I have to comment on the experience in short, I would quote Andy - "WE SURVIVED!!"
25 guys did have such an experience in the Tada hills on the 14th and 15th of November. The original plan of taking own transport did not workout as we did not have the number of vehicles to transport everyone. So the organizers had switched to plan B, which they usually have. It was to get a sub-urban train from Central to Tada and take share autos from there to the checkpost.
My boss Andy Packham had come from
on a business visit and wanted to do a trek during the weekend at any cost. Little could he have known what the cost was going to be! UK
I arranged a taxi for him and joined him on the onwards travel on the morning of 14th November. Since the CTC team had planned to take the 7:30am train from Central and reach the checkpost by 9:30am and start the trek, we decided to go there early and explore the place for a while, or atleast be ready to welcome them. Andy too had plans of jogging / running along the trail while waiting for others.
Rajesh and Prem too were coming on their own in a two wheeler as they had plans of returning back the same day. Andy and myself started quite early (about 5:30am from OMR) and by the time we reached the Tada checkpost in the NH it was about 7:30am that is when the others would have boarded the train.
Rajesh and Prem followed us about 20 minutes behind. Once we reached Varadapalayam, all four of us regrouped. Rajesh had bought the breakfast for us. We proceeded on to the checkpost on the base of the trail and found a suitable place to get rid of the vehicles and had our breakfast. Rajesh and Prem got past the check post, in the entry point, in their two-wheeler; while I and Andy jogged for a while and reached a point. We had our breakfast here. As if waiting for us to complete the breakfast, the rain started immediately after.
We found shelter in a hut and waited for about 30 minutes for the rain to stop. We then proceeded along the trail to the main falls. We walked for over 30 minutes exploring all the places and the stream that runs along the trail. Before we reached the first stream, Rajesh got a call from Bala and we were informed that we will be going to take a different trail and not this one. Since it was mentioned as a Photography trek as well, we thought it would be this trail and we were proceeding on this one. So we had to trace back and walked about half the distance to where the rest of the team were waiting. Since we had to catch up with the rest, we did not stop anywhere this time and made sure we walked in good pace to reach them without any delays.
It was a short regrouping. We started from there on the trail led by Bala and swept from behind by the mighty Sujai. Since it was not raining at that time a few people had their cameras out. Since I know better, I just had it inside the camera case, inside my backpack. It was rather an easy climb along an existing trail. The inclination should be about 10 degrees. Rajesh and Prem decided to go back after a climb of about 15 minutes. They had planned to go to the picnic spot and drive back home as they had their personal works the next day. They never knew what they were going to miss! J
Though the climb was not steep at all, I found it difficult in the beginning which is quite usual for me. I have to work for about 4 hours on my own pace to get the heath rhythm going. So I took the trail in my own pace, at the same time ensuring not to lose the team ahead. Took enough stop to get some breather and continued further. When it became very difficult for me to climb, Balaji offered to reduce my load by carrying my bag. Thanks a lot Balaji, that helped a lot in find some pace and reduced the burden a lot. I realized that I should not have brought my SLR kit, which alone weighed about 2kgs. All along Andy had been encouraging to move forward and gain a few more steps so I can reach my breakeven point at the earliest.
After climbing in this trail for over 3 hours, the climb became steeper and now we were going to climb through thick bushes and steep rocks. This climb should be for about 50 meters. Since I had still not found my breathing rhythm I just hesitated a bit. Seeing this Andy encouraged me to keep moving ahead and this is just a short climb and can get through without much difficulty. I also know that if I cross this, then I will get breathing right and prepared myself mentally for the challenge. I did cross this without taking a break. Yes it was difficult, but I managed it and as calculated, I did get my breathing in proper rhythm. After this a few more minutes of trekking came the first break for lunch.
This point provided a splendid view of the Tada valley and the fort on the opposite valley that we are going to reach after the lunch. We did not take much time for break. Took about 30 minutes for lunch and a short rest and then proceeded to the next destination. All along it was Balaji who was carrying my bag and still continued to do so. I should thank him for helping me out so much.
After a short climb upwards, we had to descend down the hill which we climbed. This was one challenging task as the shrubs were not just thick, but also thorny. We managed to wade through the bushes and at one point, since I had not had much water, I got a bad muscle cramp in the left calf muscles. I sat there with pain and later realized that I was right inbetween thorny bushes. Shiva and Alex asked to manage somehow and come a little forward so they can help me with the first aid. I somehow managed that, not without some scratches of course.
Shiva immediately sprayed some sprays to ease the muscle pain and started massaging my muscles. Alex in the meantime gave me some glucose water to ease the dehydration. Sujai reached the place in about 5 minutes and offered some salt. Alex mixed the salt in the Glucose water and asked me to drink. I thought it was going to taste like hell (certainly not as bitter as some of Ayurvedic medicines I take), but thankfully it was not. Five minutes from then, I was fine and was one my toes again. Shiva, Alex and me managed through the thick bushes and reached the next climb. This time inspite of the mild discomfort in the calf muscle, I did not have much difficulty in scaling this climb. I did a far better job than before. We climbed up this hill and again descended down on the other side to reach the small stream and the clear water pool created stream. By now it has started to drizzle and when we reached there, everyone were really excited about playing in the pool, swimming and diving into it while it was drizzling.
It was a small stream which was flowing down from the hill and has created a small pool below it. The best suited place for everyone, swimmers and non swimmers alike. The stream had clean and clear water, without any dirt, mildly cold due to the continuous monsoon rain and did had a mild force to carry the fun lovers from the rock into the pool. It was just a beauty! Did we forget that a natural beauty often comes as a package with some danger, just like a rose comes with thorns in its stems? We certainly did!
Everyone shed their luggage and started diving into the pool right away. Since I have not experience on swimming and haven’t got into a pool anytime before, I decided to keep at the shore watching the guys play. I was wondering if the drizzle would ever stop, so I can take out the camera and take some snaps. I really missed the convenience of a smaller P&S camera here. I could have sneaked it out, grabbed a shot and could have kept it back in covers in not time!
It was already over 4:00pm when we reached the place and the drizzle never stopped, rather started to get a bit heavy. Around 4:30 ‘Ford’ Bala, Senthil, Sujai and few other volunteers, put up the tent (a big tarpaulin sheet that they had bought in Varadapalayam). The rain was now getting heavier every minute and by around 5:15pm or so everyone were inside and had covered the backpacks with the plastics sheets they had bought. I think was the only over adventurous guy who did not cover the bag. When someone asked if my bag is waterproof, I said, I will know that tomorrow. How arrogant!!!
Fifteen minutes later, John Immanual, the other soul who had planned to club the photography trip along with this trek (the poor guy had already started regretting that decision), felt something is pushing him. When he saw below to check on that, he got shocked. The small and beautiful stream, due to the continuous heavy rains, took the form of a mighty, forceful forest river and was about to wash us away! The moment we realized this, there was an alarm for an emergency evacuation and within minutes we were on our foot. Climbed back the same cliff from which we descended, to about 20 meters, found a place, which we thought would be safe from the maddening stream and sat there, with the tarpaulin sheet covering the entire crowd. It was just over 6:00pm and we thought it should be already over 8:00pm or so. It was become so dark and things had taken so much turn in such a short time that we did not realize that we still have another 12 hours to spend there before we get some sunlight.
A few people suggested that we climb up further and find some other place for sleeping in the night. This place though comfortable for sitting, was not suitable for lying, as it was narrow and was laid out like a staircase. 6 people decided to stay back in the same place as they were already sleepy and were also capable of managing there itself. The rest of us climbed further up for about 30 meters and found a flat surface where the sleeping mats can be spread for the night sleep.
Few people immediately found their way inside the tent and started sleeping; few guys did not get sleep immediately and were chatting lying inside. Few of us not getting enough space inside for lying down, sat outside the tent, after unsuccessfully trying to adjust in the space inside. Few people had brought dry clothes and changed over so they don’t have to spend the night wet, but I had not taken anything, so had to spend the entire night in the wet dress. It got worse when it kept on raining throughout the night. Even many of them who had changed to dry clothes, did not have much of luck as the sleeping bags and tent did not help much to cover them from the incessant rain. Only those who managed to get into the middle of the tent were able to keep themselves dry during the night. I spent the entire night either sitting and chatting or lying and chatting with people.
For most of us it was a completely wet and sleepless night. When the dawn broke, we had already decided to trace back through the same route we came and reach the base. The initial plan was to climb down along the stream we camped initially the previous day. Though the stream was back to normal course and the rains have stopped at the moment, we knew that another heavy downpour can once again change it into a mighty river, which could prove very risky.
So we started back on the same route, this time the steep climb was no challenge for me. Though I had not had anything for dinner the previous day and never slept the whole night and had only an apple on the morning, I never had any problems in climbing up the difficult phase. I was in fact among the leads along with ‘Ford’ Bala. We reached the same spot where we had lunch the previous day. Waited there for the rest of the team to group and then proceeded for the base.
When we reached the final phase of the climb down which had a proper trail, the rain started again. Now though I thought this is going to be a casual walk as it was not steep, the wrong selection of shoes, made the walk rather very difficult. I was wearing a jogging shoe with absolutely no grip at all (again misunderstanding that it was a photography trip). This made, what is supposed to have been a cake walk, extremely difficult for me. I felt down twice and got hurt badly. Though I managed to get safe across the difficult part, it was this relatively easy part which put me down due to bad preparation – another lesson learnt!!
After reaching the base we got into a share auto and took a bumpy ride to the Tada railway station and took the first available train to Chennai. We were so famished that the moment we reached Chennai, I bid goodbye to everyone and myself and Andy headed straight to the restaurant in the station. It was only after having a hearty late lunch did we think about heading home.
A weekend which will remain long in my memories and for many others too! The feeling that we had an experience which we do not get all that often really made everyone happy. I hope the same goes true for the rest of the trekkers. I am sure Andy will not spare me for getting him drenched the entire night. Andy, I will try to make up for this during your next visit to Chennai. Hope it will not be an exact opposite, but I not going to expect anything after such and experience. J
I was unable to take much photos during this trek. Here are a very few of them which I managed.