Archive for February, 2009

Just two days after I underwent one of my toughest day both mentally and physically in the hills of Nagala, I was tempted again for the next challenge, a cycling trip to Mahabalipuram and back with Chennai trekking club. I always loved cycling and ever since I heard that a group of seniors at hostel went to mahabs on cycle, I always wanted to do that.

I was pretty confident about the trip as i had enough experiences with cycling trips unlike the trek last week. The plan was to leave chennai before we got struck with the city traffic especially the annoying engineering college buses that literally go in a parade on the OMR every morning. Mayur, Bhargav and me decided to go ahead with the trip until Mayur decided to drop the idea 2 days before.

Well aware of the troubles we were to encounter during the course of the long trip, I wanted to make sure I had the perfect cycle and gear to make it through without much damage to myself. I was lucky to find a junior with the perfect bicycle for the trip. With a few trials the previous night i was all ready to leave the next morning even though my thigh muscles were still complaining of pain from the previous trekking experience.

I got up the next morning only to find that Bhargav was again lazy enough to drop at the last minute. That meant i had to be alone again. I was lucky then to find that one of my junior, Sritej, was also eager about the trip and decided to come along. So my trip had finally begun when i started from my institute @ 6 in the morning. We took the OMR (Old Mahabalipuram Road) to Mahabalipuram because we thought it would be more habitable all along just in case any one of us wanted some help along the way. I was accompanied by 3 more guys and 2 girls with one more guy following us on his bike.

Our desire to leave the city before the traffic starts was short lived when most of them prefering to break every 5 kms. We had just done 20 kms in the first 2 hours, nearly 27 kms more to go. It was near 8 and the sun threatening to come out any moment. And then after some inspirational words we decided to take the next stop only at mahabalipuram. Me and sritej started out ahead trying to set the pace.

The weather was luckily awesome for the next 2 hours with the cool breeze blowing across from the sea. The sun mostly behind the clouds but the occasional peep from the dense clouds was never a problem. We kept moving along with a good pace doing 25 kms in the next couple of hours with no one complaining of a break. At nearly 10 we were at the outskirts of mahabalipuram.
We had done nearly 47 kms in 4 hours thanks to the good tailwind that blew along. After reaching Mahabs the entire team was very happy. None of them had actually thought of making it through to Mahabs.

We then had Brunch at Dhabha express. I was very hungry after the continuous cycling for near 2 hours. The food there was really tasty especially the fish which they nearly cooked for an hour :D . After we finished eating it was nearly 12. We then had a photography session at the Panch Rathas and then at the Shore temple, not to mention all the various the various angles tried out by Nidhi :)

We wanted to reach chennai early before it got dark and before we were at the mercy of all the lorry drivers who drive with their high beams on, making it impossible to see. We started from the Shore temple at 1pm along the ECR (East Coast Road). After cycling for an hour or so on the ECR, we reach the tiger cave where we decided to take a nap for an hour. With the cool breeze I dozed off underneath the shade of the pine trees. It felt like heaven sleeping on the smooth grass with the breeze tickling you.

I had no mood to get up and get back to chennai,but my team decided to start our way back. We started again at 3 with nearly 40 kms to go to reach chennai. The breeze started to pick-up so did the sun as we threaded along. Very soon i realised everyone other than me and sritej were finding it difficult to cycle along the heavy headwind that was strong enough to push you back every time a bus or lorry went by. I had to literally apply the breaks every time a bus went by. After an hour of continuous cycling i then realised i just had done near 6 and half kms. I also realised that my team was now finding it difficult to catch up with my pace. I slowly started to loose every one other than sritej who was also struggling with the new 8700 bucks cycle that the trip organiser had bought. It was too heavy for her, so Sritej had to do all the donkey work trying to get the cycle home.

After another half an hour into the trip me and sritej were way ahead of the team with them not in our sights anymore. We did not want to stop risking cramps if in case we did. We kept going along with our slow pace fighting the wind much more than anything. Slowly my muscles started complaining and Sritej who was now comfortable with low gears of the costly bike started to pull off. Very soon he too was out of sight. It then started to get too lonely with no one in sight and the wind now punishing me than ever before. But I kept on going with all the determination of making it. I was now sweating terribly even with all the high winds that were blowing along the ECR. I had no other way but to stop every now and then to buy water and prevent me from dehydrating.

Every now and then I could see Nidhi transporting my team on his bike one by one way ahead of me. But I used to catch up with them in a few minutes and then proceed along. After some determined 2 hours of cycling now i was near the chennai outskirts, with nearly 17 kms to go. I had finally caught up with Sritej at Mayajal. We decided now that it was not sensible to wait any more but to carry on the tempo riding that we were doing. All my muscles had literally given up by then, luckily so had the wind. As soon as we entered the City there was no more wind which enabled us to pick up our pace. The only things to trouble us were the frequent stopping due to traffic hold up near kottivakam and Tiruvanmyur.

In the next one hour i had done nearly 16kms and i was in sights of Tidel park. All of my body was starting to ache by the time i had made to the Tidel park. I then got to know that the entire team was nearly one hour down the road. I decided to call it a day without waiting for them and dragged my body all the way back to insti. After a couple of stretching exercises that were suggested to me by my friends I could get a peaceful night sleep. I was terribly afraid that i would get up to see myself in a disdainful state. Nothing of that sort had happened, thanks to all the exercises that i had been doing. All in all it was a wonderful trip with finally only three of the initally 7 making it without using Nidhi’s bike. All along the journey I kept wondering why people kept staring me every now and then. Later looking into the pics I realised what the reason was.. LOL :P

It all began one fine day morning (Feb 11th) while i was browsing the Internet that i came across a google group called CTC (Chennai Trekkers Club). Initially fascinated by their treks, in fact mislead by their pictures, I was tempted to get on board their next trek.

The trek was organised by a group of IT professionals enthusiastic about trekking. We planned to do a one day trek on Sunday 15th Feb, just hours after the valentine’s day, to the Nagala hills in the A.P , T.N border. These hills were like the home hills of the CTC because it was their 12th trek to the same hills among nearly the 30 treks they have done so far. On the google group the trek was rated easy – moderate, which made me think it wouldn’t be that punishing at all.

I started my day at 3 in the morning after my friend woke me up. I was all excited as it was my first trek that did not have a trail. I was even more excited that i would get the opportunity to test my new camera. We started from my institute at 3:30 and reached tidel park, one km from my institute at near 4. We started from there in one of their cars towards nagala with a few stops at guindy and koyembedu. It was nearly 8:30 by the time we reached a dam near nagala after stopping once to get our food parcelled. Each of us took our food and started off to the nearby waterfall to have our breakfast.

It was a near 45 minutes walk using the GPS to the waterfall where in all the 52 participants took a break to swim and have our breakfast. Inside the pool we were lucky to see a 3 meter snake inside water sleeping in the chill crystal clear water. After playing around for a while in the pool we decided to start the hill climb. Not knowing how hard it would be, i wanted to take the challenges as they come instead of thinking what was up in store and feel intimidated by the near vertical climb.

It was around 10:30 , 15 minutes into the climb when the disaster struck. Most of the climbers were doing their first trek. Not aware of the loose rocks along the way, one of them slipped a pair of stones, of which the smaller one came hurling towards me at great speed. Unaware of the situation i was merrily going up the hill. On the shouts of my co-trekkers i looked up only to see the stone inches to my face. In the spur of a moment i was just able to avoid it hitting my eye. It hit me near the bone less than an inch to my eye. The impact was big enough to leave me unconscious for a few seconds.

One of the organiser was quick to react. He came running to me and gave me some cotton and glucose water. After first aid was done, I was again on my way with my morale as low as i could ever imagine. It began to suddenly hurt me in all ways possible. All i was thinking was to get back home as soon as possible. Since i had volunteered for such a trek there was no one to blame than me. With all such thoughts and the wound bleeding without any stop i slowly lost visual contact with the people in front of me. And with the organisers helping out the people who were struggling physically there was no one behind me as well.

I was mentally drained the moment i got to the hill top. All i realised was i did an extra climb that was not necessary. The rest of the team took a route along the hill , that meant i had to now start descending, to catch up with the team that had already descended into the valley that had a stream originated from a pool nearby. With no one near me to guide me, I started descent with a technique which i had figured out on my own !! That peculiar technique of mine resulted in me loosing my shoe sole. WHAT A GREAT BEGINNING !! :|

By the time i was down, others who were left behind had caught up. The last part of the descent was done using ropes. I had to now discard my shoe and then do the rest of my trip on slippers, that i had carried just in case we encountered water. We then went up stream jumping on rocks here and there and making my way up the stream. The slippers weren’t doing their job and i started to keep slipping every now and then, getting bruised in the process. After an hour of walk we were now very close to the final destination, which could be only possible via a steep climb followed by decent on ropes. With all the bruises and lack of shoes, i decided to stop thinking of the treacherous way back. I was unfortunate not to make it till the end, missing by just a few meters.

After having lunch with a group of 5 people who also thought wise to stop, i got time for a short nap. I was woken @ around 1:15 by the people who were making their way back. Deciding to take a shorter route this time around we started in a different direction only to find a dead end, a place where we couldn’t climb further as we had no grip to pull ourselves along. We had stalled, all in awkward positions along the hill, with none able to get up or get down. The ropes were then called for. In the process some one left a loose boulder on its way down. The sound of it rolling on the cliff above me was itself so frightening that two people lost grip and fell on each other. Luckily they could balance very fast without much of a damage being done. The boulder luckily hit the edge of the cliff and ended up bouncing of the edge into the valley nearly 200m below.

The next part of the climb involved ropes, a relay climb with me helping out a guy to get past me and then he helping me out on the same. We did this a couple of times till me reached the top. We then had a photography session after which we started our final decent. It was relatively easier as i could smell the success of me getting back in one piece. The decent was full of loose rocks and gravel making it tougher to get the grip. One had to be even more careful not to disturb the stones as one slip would be fatal.

Even after a very cautious decent, there was one incident where Nagamayur was very lucky to be not hit by a boulder his head size. All in all it was a very safe decent for everyone, not to forget the thorns and the sharp rocks all along the way. Then after waiting for everyone we made it back to the dam by 7′o clock and then we started off to Chennai at near 8, after we had all the formalities finished. I reached my room at 11, after an inspired driving from a 45+ year old guy who came along this trek.

I was lucky to end up in one shape , after all that had happened to me during the course of the trek. I had a very sound sleep only to get up with every bit of my body paining so horribly that i could not get up from my bed for near 2 hours. The pain still continues 2 days from the trek, making it harder for me to go from hostel to class. Still life continues as it should, with me registering for the next strenuous trip, Cycling all the way to Mahabalipuram and back for a total distance of 90 kms :)