Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My first trek ever!!

My first trek – Nagari

Oct 2010
It was 2 months since I registered with the Chennai Trekking Club and I still hadn’t done a trek. The invites that I received were all for medium / difficult treks and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it. Also, the thought of wandering off in a forest with strangers held me back a bit. It was then I received this invite from Peter. It was an ‘open to all trek’ to the hill ranges of Nagari, AP. This was a trek which was divided into 4 levels – Easy, medium, difficult and extreme. Finally I mustered enough courage to register for this trek.
The trek date came close by and I received the preparatory email. It had instructions as to where we had to assemble, the route to the base camp and things that need to be carried for the trek, apart from other rules and regulations. I started packing my back pack ticking things off the checklist. Couple of hours later, my backpack had in it, a set of clothes, 3 litres of water, spare footwear, sunscreen and other things that seemed essential.
I woke up early on the day of my trek and took a cab to Tidel Park, my assembly point. A while later, my friend, Gokul and I reported to the tidel park lead, paid the expense for the trek and we were all set to go. We boarded the bus which had been arranged to take us to Nagari and off we went.
After reaching the base camp, we had breakfast and started to collect food which we would need for the trek – lemon rice, chapathis, noodles, apples, glucon D and coconut poli. After loading everything in my back pack, I started to think if my backpack had become too heavy.
Things that we took for the trek

We started off on a trail that took us into the mountains. It was a narrow footpath that the locals use to collect wood. The whole terrain was very bushy and the sun started beating down on us. An hour later, we started to ascend and it became increasingly strenuous to climb. I desperately wanted to take a break. Everyone going past me asked me not to stop and keep moving slowly. I couldn’t. My backpack was too heavy and it pulled me back. I rested for a while, had some glucon D and started moving. From there, I started resting every 10 mins. It was then I understood why everyone had asked me not to rest. “You stop once, you’ll keep stopping again and again”-Lesson learnt the harsh way.
Stop once and you will keep stopping again and again !

For a few hours, we continued on the same trail which took us deeper and higher into the Nagari range. The views of the valley below were stupendous and kept me going. By noon, I had lost my stamina completely and I was losing my will to continue. Being in the middle of nowhere and at the mercy of nature, there was nothing much I could do but continue walking. By about 1 PM, we spotted a waterfall where people were taking bath. Phew! At last! I thought we had reached the campsite. The sense of relief that swept through me cannot be explained. The actual campsite was a Shiva temple above the waterfall. After the last climb, I could finally hear laughter, talk and glee. We had reached the camp site at last. ! Wait a minute - was this supposed to be the first level that Peter had mentioned as easy in his email? Damn! My body had become numb with pain. I quickly undressed and got into the pool and boy!! It was very refreshing. The cold running water was just what I wanted after such an ordeal. Being a non-swimmer, I couldn’t do much but just stand in the small puddle of shallow water.
The water that we had to cross to get to the 2nd campsite

Post lunch, I was not in a mood to continue and thought of spending the night in the first camp. Gokul though coerced me into continuing and I agreed reluctantly. I then heard the organizers call out for trekkers who wanted to move on and we buckled up. We were supposed to be climbing over a waterfall and follow the stream. What? It looked dangerous but nevertheless adventurous. The point where we crossed the water fall was very slippery and one wrong foot would have left me dead or worse, paralyzed. We then started climbing on boulders along the stream which were becoming increasingly huge and I was continuously gasping for breath. I started to lose my temper at my inability to keep up with the group. Out there, if you don’t keep moving you would be left behind or worse get lost in the middle of the forest. We then reached a fork where the ones who were leading the group didn’t know which route to take. One of the organizers thought it was a brilliant idea to climb on the left and went ahead.  We started following him but the left just didn’t seem right. About half an hour later, there didn’t seem to be any way forward. We were all scathed by the thorns, rocks and it was then we heard someone shout from below saying that it was the wrong route and asked us to come back. Damn! I was furious. I was on the verge of losing it. We then came back and took the right that we were supposed to. It was a long climb again. The climb was so hard that the organizer had to give me electoral to reenergize. I asked him “Do you think I can make it up to level 3” to which he replied “Go up to level 2, and then decide. Don’t ask your body, ask your mind how it feels”. Around 3 or 4 in the evening, we reached campsite 2. I asked my mind and my body and both of them strongly advised me to stay put and not move any further. After a brief respite, everyone got ready to move. I desperately tried to discourage everyone from moving on but in vain. Gokul asked me to come along as there was no water in this campsite and we would have to drain our drinking water supply to even cook. Swearing not to ever trek again, I moved on towards the 3rd campsite. 
@ the 2nd campsite
The trail towards campsite 3 was surprisingly very easy. It was a very gradual ascend. A short while later, people were queuing up and not moving. Ah! We had lost our way again. The organizers in front didn’t know which way to go and few of them split up to find the way to the 3rd camp site. It started getting dark and we all just sat wherever we had space to place our bum and started chatting and discussing about the eventful day that we all had. Half an hour later, one guy had found the trail to the campsite and off we went! By the time we reached the campsite, it was pitch dark. All of us got into action. There was water to be fetched, tents to be put up, fire to be lit and so on. Finally we got the soup boiling and it was over in no time.  Finally, Gokul and I got a corner to sleep and within seconds I dozed off.

The next day we woke up to find a bunch of guys along with Peter getting tea ready.They had spent the night in campsite 2 and came over in the morning. The place where we had camped was a small flat space on the ridge. The view around was just mind blowing. It took a while for the feeling to sink in. I was just staring around in awe. It felt so fresh to breathe such pure air.
This is what we woke up to !!!

Peter then called out for people who were willing to go up to the peak. This time, I was ready to move on. The previous day’s frustration, tiredness had all vanished overnight. Gokul held me back. He told me that we had to return back and if we were to lose energy going up, we would have a very difficult time getting down. Fair enough, I thought and all of us stayed put for some more time at campsite 3, had breakfast and then started our way down. The rest of the journey was thankfully uneventful and by about 6 PM we made our exit and came to the village. Gokul and I went to a nearby bar in the village and drowned a couple of beers and fell asleep. Couple of hours later, everyone had come back and we got into the bus and started off to Chennai. It was amazing how people were still so cheerful and enthusiastic on the way back with no signs of tiredness at all! All I wanted to do was just go and sleep for a day.
The next day morning, my muscles ached, I just wasn’t able to get up and getting to office seemed as difficult as the trek. But through all the pain, there was a sense of happiness, a sense of satisfaction, a sense of achievement. It was then I sent a message to Gokul – “I have the feeling of having conquered something. It feels great.” He immediately called back and acknowledged that he too had the same feeling. That was probably when I decided I would continue trekking.
Looking back at the first trek, 2 years and 25+ treks later, getting lost was probably the best thing that happened during that trek. It made the trek much more memorable. Another lesson I learnt from the trek – spare underwear, shorts, footwear, sunscreen are not required and only add weight to your backpack and if possible use others bowls and spoons rather than bringing your own.

Have you guys had any such interesting stuff in your life? Do share!