Monday, October 24, 2011

Tryst with Trekking - From here onwards...

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in our lives, when we step out from the taken-for-granted comforts to the new and never-seen-before challenges undreamt of, when notions and stereotypes end, when the spirit to conquer, long suppressed, finds utterance.

It was fitting that at that solemn moment, we raise a toast to our success and take the pledge to go on another trek fairly soon.

We ended that day with some good food after reaching Bangalore and hitting our beds early.

The achievement we celebrated that evening is but a step, an opening of opportunity to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us in the treks to come.

Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp and translate this opportunity and accept the challenge of future treks?

Now, looking back, was it a tryst with our lifestyle or a tryst with our destiny?

Well, only time will say, but we are determined to go on more treks in the coming months.

Here is looking at us... Cheers!!!

Tryst with Trekking - Back to Bheemeswari

So, we wallowed in the waters for a good 3 hours or so. We then calculated how much time we'd need to trek back to Muthati, so Gandalf thought of going back and asking Muthu to start hoping he would have finished his lunch by then.

Gandalf found Muthu on the way, he was coming to meet us as planned. After getting out of the waters and drying up, we headed back to Muthati.

This time, the trek was along the banks of the Cauvery. The terrain was different from what we had taken during the trek to Bheemeswari.

This trail was "by the river", not some distance away from it. The terrain was rocky, there were sharp jagged multi hued rocks with razor sharp edges jutting out which can cut your skin neatly in half if you are not careful.
Climbing a tree on the way among the other points on the trail
There were broken branches to be stepped over, dry leaves to be walked over, mounds of ant hill to be circum-navigated carefully, low lying branches to be ducked to avoid being whacked by them, mossy stones to be treaded with a lot of care otherwise you'll slip and fall into the fast flowing river below, checking and re-checking if the boulder will hold still when you shift your weight on to it, etc. etc. It was a different trail altogether.

Muthu sharpened Gandalf's staff in between. We took 3 breaks in all on the way back, Gandalf changed clothes in between, he held on to his staff all along, the backpack got shifted from one shoulder to another, the distance never seemed to reduce corresponding to the effort we put in, our water supply got exhausted, Reji and Gandalf climbed a tree on the way, Manas missed his step, slipped and fell into the water, he disconnected his brain from his legs halfway in between because of pure exhaustion and no water to quench our parched throats.. Wow, so many wonderful memories of the way back.
Took some photographs on the way
We posed for photographs on the way back. There were a lot of spots we just could not miss to snap.

Cauvery was resplendent in the evening sun, the water continued to flow gently at places, the leaves and branches continued to sway in the evening breeze, the crickets continued with their noise unabated, it was just mesmerising to trek along the banks of the river.
Treading carefully on the treacherous terrain
As we neared Muthati, we saw numerous people enjoying their picnicks on the bank, most of them were drinking and littering the nice serene environment. Plastic Bottles, Beer cans and broken bottles, plastic bags, leftover food, the place was a mess.

We travelled on the main road during such stretches.
Reached... finally... back at Muthati
When we finally reached Muthati, Gandalf had beads of sweat on his bearded face and everyone was pretty much exhausted. Manas managed to connect his brain back to his legs, we all washed up, got to our car, paid a nice tip to Muthu and thanked him profusely for coming with us, and left from Muthati with memories of our first ever successful trek very clearly etched in our minds.

Gandalf got his staff back with him, as a souvenir of his trek.

Tryst with Trekking - Wallowing in the waters

We were in high spirits to wallow around like Hippos in the alluring waters of the Cauvery, so Muthu took us along pebbles and boulders along the river bank amidst exposed tree roots to an isolated spot along the Cauvery.
See the radiance on our faces after lunch... getting to the river
He identified a safe place where there would not be strong undercurrents and left us there to frolic in the waters while he went back for his lunch.
At the banks of the river Cauvery
We stripped and jumped into the water.

Muthu knew the place well, the water was shallow, there were no under currents and we could sit on rocks while being soaked against the gentler currents, the ripples and the waves.

There were rocks sticking up out of the river at many places, birds were standing tall and straight on them. There were flowering plants jutting up in between the rocks.

We saw folks going on their boats for white water rafting and we waved out to them.
Wallowing in the waters
The river was quite wide at that stretch, it was difficult to clearly see the other bank. The sun was warm in the sky, the water was cool and flowing, you can see the bottom of the river at places near the shore, there were fishes who nibbled at your feet at some places if you sit still, you can hear the water gurgling as it made small ripples and waves, it was pure bliss!!!
Manas doing a pedicure with the fishes
It was a great feeling to be there. And as Gandalf said, it was a "natural sauna".

 The water seemed therapeutic and we discussed a zillion things there, for instance, where we should go for our next trek, how the trek back to Bheemeswari will shape up, etc. etc.

Tryst with Trekking - Lunch at Bheemeswari

Bheemeswari is a small hamlet, there are no shops there, there is NOTHING, only a Forest Department run eating joint, the Jungle Lodges Resort and a templae with its music blaring loudly.

We wanted to have our lunch at JLR, so Gandalf trotted up to the resort's main gate and pushed it open with his staff. He then proceeded to do his typical attitude walk... heavy steps... shoulders hunched from the long weary battle... glancing around taking everything in his stride... never missing anything... and his eyes menacingly saying "Don't f - - k with me!"

He proudly walked up to the Reception and thundered to be taken to the Restaurant.

The staff asked for our cottage number and Gandalf gave him the "once over" as if how dare he not recognize from where he is coming from, and how dare he not recognize the scars on his body from the long arduous jugle trek.

Upon finding out that we were outsiders and not staying in the resort, the grim faced staff told us in very polite terms "No Chance!!!".

What a bum... he said we cannot have our lunch there since we were not staying in the resort... the lunch is only for the residents it seems... so we retraced back our steps to the eating joint run by the Forest Department.
Waiting for lunch at the Forest Department run eating place
The folks there were "customer service" personified, there can not be any second thoughts about this at all. They were kind enough to serve us lunch comprising of rice, rasam, chicken curry, curd, pickle and cucumber salad.. all under the open roof on make shift bamboo benches.
Ready for lunch
I tell you this, in full "hosh", and we all agreed unanimously, that was the best lunch we ever had in our lives.

Words of advice to others
  1. Carry your lunch with you. There is no guarantee that you'll get lunch in Bheemeswari if you NOT fortunate. We were plain fortunate. Also Gandalf's amazing persuasive skills ensured we got to eat that afternoon, I was already looking at trekking back on an empty stomach.
  2. Carry your own water bottles. There were no bottled water available, so we'd to drink the water available there.
After a sumptuous lunch, we were ready for wallowing around in the waters. So we called out for Muthu.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tryst with Trekking - The descent to Bheemeswari

After soaking in the view from the Watch Tower, we continued our descent through winding trails of stretches of pebbles, small rocks, and thorny branches jutting out into our trail. The descent was smooth amidst vibrant green grasses and trees. At times, it was quite a steep descent and we had to tread carefully just in case we lose our grip and slide down.
On our way down the hill to Bheemeswari
We spotted many mounds of elephant dung, elephant foot prints, etc. on the way. Often, Muthu would stop and signal while looking towards something, but we never spotted any animals. Muthu mentioned that because it was noon, the animals would not be coming out of their habitat to the open.

We continued to walk, Gandalf was using his staff while walking and there was a sprite in our steps as we knew we were about to reach Bheemeswari. Gandalf looked as if he is out on the infamous Dandi March.
Having fun on our way down the hill to Bheemeswari
I chanced upon a bright red insect sitting on a small flowering plant and I took a photograph. I thought this is nature at its best, the insect was not bothered at our presence.
Busy bee (???)
Muthu knew the trail very well, we had to take detours from the normal trail at times and after clearing a particular thick section of thorns and shrubs we came upon the main road leading to Bheemeswari.

A couple of monkeys were busy enjoying their afternoon nap along the main road and they got startled and ran away when Gandalf parted the thick bushes aside with his battle worn staff and we all strode out... 4 valiant knights... scarred in battle... fighting the jungle trail hitherto unknown before... and smiling triumphantly at the sight of our destination. The monkeys stood at rapt attention to welcome us and gave us our right of way. After all, who can stop the infantry when they have reached their destination?

The road sign said we were 5 kms. from Muthati, but we walked the hills for 7 kms.
5 kms from Muthati, well we didn't tread on the usual route, did we?
We walked for another 15 minutes or so along the main road and reached Bheemeswari. We were hungry, so our first halt was a place to have lunch. We decided to explore the Jungle Lodges Resort first.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tryst with Trekking - Checkpoint # 2

We walked for a good distance without taking breaks. The trek was nice after all that climbing. We walked on solitary trails, it seemed as if it had rained there some time as the ground was still moist and nature was in its best of colours and hues. Sometimes we walked in pairs and sometimes we had to walk in a single file.
Various moments of our trek to Checkpoint # 2
After walking for some distance, Muthu pointed out towards a watch tower which served as a view point to the valley below.

Climbing the Watch Tower

At the top of the Watch Tower
We climbed the watch tower and gazed at the valley below and the Cauvery flowing in the distance. It was a beautiful sight. 

View of Cauvery from the Watch Tower... Splendid!!!

We relaxed there for some time and took some photographs. 
On the Watch Tower
The grass was a hue of green we'd never seen before, in fact it reminded us of Russel Crowe parting the tall grasses as he walks towards his wife and son in the movie Gladiator.

After a halt of 30 odd minutes, we continued with our descent to Bheemeswari.

Tryst with Trekking - Checkpoint # 1

We were pretty exhausted when we sat our miserable selves down on the ground. We were the only ones on that trail, we did not cross any other group trekking on the same trail. This was very exciting.
(L-R): Me, Arvind (Gandalf) and Manas getting some rest
We did some soul searching while sitting under a tree, like Gautham Buddha did under a Bodhi tree and we decided to pursue the trekking bit seriously in our lives.

We made plans of our next trek and how we need to do some things outside of our work and family lives. We all should be able to answer the question of "What we do other than work"!!!

Just then, Gandalf came up with his wise comment on how we should not start revelling on completing this particular trek while we have not even completed one leg of the trek. We checked with Muthu on how far we have come and how much more distance we have to go further. 

It seemed that we have come for 3 kms and we still have 4 more to go before we reach Bheemeswari. WOW, some encouraging news that was!!!
Birds perched on the top of a tree against a perfect background
We sipped some water, took some photographs of the birds and the bees and the trees. Gandalf then decided to catch some quick winks while Muthu was busy in sharpening his sickle on some rock.

We are all smiles after the brief rest of around 30 minutes
We continued after some time and this time the trek was over plain trails and some easy slopes. We marvelled at the greenery and how there was no other soul in sight except the 5 of us walking on the trail. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tryst with Trekking - Reached Muthati

We reached Muthati at 10 AM, enquired about and reached the Forest Office, Arvind used his eloquent knowledge of the local language to get details of the trek, get us a guide, etc.

There are TWO routes to go from Muthati to Bheemeswari. One goes through the jungle and the other through the banks of Cauvery. Our guide (Muthu) told us it is better to take the jungle route to Bheemeswari as the sun would beat down on us by noon and the jungle route will provide us some shelter from the harsh sun. We can take the river route to come back from Bheemeswari in the afternoon.
From Left to Right: Manas, Reji, Muthu (our guide), me and Arvind

This sounded good, so we signed a Risk Form (from the Govt, indicating that they are not responsible in case something happens to us during the trek), packed our backpack, bought some water and we were on our way at 10:30 AM. We planned to carry one backpack and take turns at lugging it during the walk.

Muthu was carrying a sickle and there were many thoughts on what he'll do with it in some desolate spot on the way. :-)

A kind advice to fellow trekkers, please ensure you carry water bottles with you, for the entire trek, i.e. to go to Bheemeswari and back to Muthati, you cannot buy bottled water in Bheemeswari (we didn't see any shops there), so plan for the entire route.
See the smiles on their faces? This is before we started climbing

We started walking through non-existent trails and climbing up a slight slope and we started marvelling at everything that nature has to offer. Then we saw the slope increasing at a steeper angle and it soon dawned upon us that we were actually climbing a hill.

The climb started getting difficult and we had to stop to catch up on our breath at frequent intervals. Arvind's legs started shaking like Elvis and he sat down and asked us to continue ahead. He literally threw up his hands in air. We quickly made a make-shift walking staff from a branch lying on the ground and Arvind transformed into Gandalf the Miserable (a.k.a LOTR, the movie).
Arvind transforming into Gandalf with a makeshift staff

Muthu then used his sickle to make a staff and Gandalf got a more appropriate staff for his trek. We kept on asking Muthu on how far we've still to climb and he kept saying we are almost there. He made us climb and we kept panting and taking rest while Muthu kept grinning from ear to ear looking at the sad state of our health and stamina.
Muthu made us climb and he was grinning seeing our condition

All those days of lazing on soft beds and bean bags, sipping bear, watching TV, etc. came flashing by and we made a lot of resolutions then and there, i.e. to reduce and avoid touching drinks and smoke again.

And all the time Gandalf kept transforming, from being "just miserable" to "more miserable" and "more & more miserable" as we continued to climb up the never ending trail.

He also kept blabbering, accusing and slandering everyone around.

After what seemed like ages of countless pantings and hearing our accelerated heartbeats and poundings (as if they will leap out of our bodies unless we stop), we somehow "managed" to reach the top of our climb.
At the Watering Hole, after a climb of 45 minutes we were able to relax

For the record, we have been climbing for a good 45 minutes and it was pure and miserable agony for our lazy bodies. After stopping to gulp some water and breath normally, we continued on a semi-slope path for 15 minutes or so and reached a watering hole where Muthu said that we can rest for some time.

Thank Goodness!!! This is where we had our Checkpoint Meeting # 1.

Tryst with Trekking - The Trekking Day

We all met at Arvind's Cafe Americain on Wednesday night. Bags packed and ready!!!

The usual merry making followed and we retired early, 1 AM is early as per our standards to wind up for the day especially when the next day is a holiday. But we had to get up early in the morning, so we had to sleep early. All of us had to cajole and push Arvind to sleep.

Our mobile alarms went off at 5 AM and were duly snoozed till 5:30 AM. There were hilarious episodes in between reflecting the various quirks that people have, but I will cover them in another post. Reji switched off the fan in Arvind's room and he got up in the process thinking there was a power cut. What a bum :-)

We finally managed to goad each other out of home and we were on the road at 7 AM.
Manas and Arvind about to get into the Verna near Arvind's home

Manas drove and we took the intermediate ring road, reached Koramangala and decided to have breakfast there. Searching for a breakfast place at 7:15 AM was not easy, so Reji took over as he is a veteran of the Koramangala Area, we first went to Shiv Sagar, but there were no "vadas" at that time of the morning and Arvind was quite interested to have "vadas". So we walked to Kamat and had Idli Vada dipped in Sambar, some Kesari Bath, sipped on piping hot coffee and we were back in the car.

Reji navigated the route to Dairy Circle and we drove through J P Nagar, got on to Kanakapura Road and after clearing the narrow roads (due to the Metro work) we were on the highway to Kanakapura.

The road was good, the drive and the driver were great, Reji and I were good co-passengers and that is when Arvind started feeling queasy in his stomach. Given his history of motion sickness and soiling the car's insides and the paint on the outside, Manas slowed down and we were driving at around 60 kmph on the highway. We crossed Kanakapura and stopped at a roadside shop for some chai.

Stopping for some "chai" after Kanakapura, (L-R) Manas, Arvind and Reji

Arvind was carrying a pillow with him (did I mention "quirks" before?), so he took his pillow out to catch some quick winks on one of the benches put there.

Arvind catching his forty winks, see the pillow he carried for moments like this...

After chai, Reji took over the wheels of the Verna and we were back on the road. We reached Sathanur after driving for some distance. We'd have missed taking the left there had it not been for our vigilant Arvind looking out through the window.

After taking the left at Sathanur we passed through the village and saw a traffic jam of a different kind - cows and sheep on the road blocking traffic on the narrow road, there was also a bus stopping on the wrong side of the road while the driver was buying vegetables sitting in his seat.
You can't honk at these traffic jams on the road to Muthati

The nice smell of cow dung and the fresh village air wafted in through the open windows and we relished each moment of the solitary road to Muthati.

Another interesting thing to note is, on the narrow roads of Sathanur, the City Busses would allow the cars to pass which we thought was a very noble gesture of not holding up traffic. Hats off to the bus drivers there!!!

Tryst with Trekking - Drafting out the Schedule

This is the email I sent to the group after almost finalizing the Trekking plan

From: Prashant Dash
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:52 PM
To: 'ARVIND; Sarangi, Manas R;Reji GMail; Reji Office
Subject: RE: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers

Don’t know ifReji is in town or not. Reji, can you confirm you are listening to thischannel? Including your MaxBupa ID to this since the previous emails to yourGmail ID did not elicit any response.

Arvind, youneed to lure Reji into these conversations, so please get your act right,solicit his response by providing some illicit material.

As discussedy’day, we’ll meet up at Arvind’s CafĂ© Americain on Wednesday 05/Oct night for apeg or two of Black Label (that I so graciously donated to the cause of ourfirst ever trek looking realistic) and retire early for the night. Allnocturnal activities will cease early to enable a fresh start the next day.

We’ll start at6 AM on Thursday 06/Oct. We should reach Muthatti by 10 AM including stoppingfor breakfast and other breaks (bio, smoke, etc.).

Aim is to reachBheemeshwari by lunch time and have lunch at JLR if possible. Unwind for sometime on the banks of Cauvery (while watching out for nasty crocs) and thenstart trekking back at 3 PM to reach Muthatti before sunset. Find a lodgingplace for the night in and around Muthati and raise a toast to our firsttrekking adventure after picking up some drinks on the way.

Arvind,remember we are going to Bheemeshwari, not to Gomateswari or Madanaswari orMateswari or Komalaswari or any other belle’s names. Remember this name please,in case you are lost after a croc chase you should ask directions from peopleafter telling them the correct name.

We’ll take 1car. Manas can you get your car? I don’t trust my car since I’m not driving itthese days. Y’day I saw one of the tyres was almost flat and I won’t have timeto service it before we leave. Please stack up some good music to listen on theway.

Y’day therewere some voices of dissent on when we should start from B’lore and stuff.Please remember, mutiny is treason and will be crushed with an iron fist. Wewill also look at other options for the mutineers such as “desertion duringtrekking”, “feeding the mutineer to crocodiles”, etc. etc.

This alsoimplies we should wake up at 5 AM or so on Thursday 06/Oct and cater to ourdaily ablutions. Dispelling our body gasses is 100% compulsory prior to gettinginside the car. No flatulence will be tolerated inside the car or closedspaces, such acts will be viewed in the same light as treason and subjected tothe above options of dealing with mutineers.

Any comments?




To which Arvind replied as follows:

From: Arvind Swarup
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 2:02 PM
To: Prashant Dash; Sarangi, Manas R;Reji GMail; Reji Office
Subject: Re: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers

I protest vociferously to such kindof autocratic behaviour. All this is entirely a direct descendant of being pamperedat home with honorofic titles like Bhai Anna and such and being thebully-in-chief because of position and seniority at work. But once everywhileyou do come across one one you shouldn't try to trample on and therein shallone meet one's comeuppance. We are on a pleasure trek and I shall not betricked into any kind of regimental schedule. The whole mail comes across somekind of schedule Nana Patekar subjects his team to in Prahaar. I herewith amfloating an alternate plan. We start at 7am. Reach Muthati. Breakfast et. al.On the way. Trek to Bhagmati. Eat. Find private transportation back to Muthati.Search for lodging. Drink. Wake up late the next day and drive back. Drink somemore once we reach Arvind's Cafe Americano. Only part I agree without questionis on the rule of no breaking wind in the car. Such acts should be treated withutmost severity.


Some more email exchanges

From: Reji Office
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 1:48 PM
Arvind Swarup;Manas R; Prashant Dash
Subject: Re: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers
Good one.

Agree partially with arvind.

Let's loosen up and go. No rules

FromArvind Swarup 
Manas RReji Office; Prashant Dash
Sent: Wed Oct 05 13:18:10 2011
Subject: Re: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers
This rate, you will end up adding a wife also along. You plan to anyway lug your entire house along, why leave the wives.
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

From: Manas R
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2011 13:12:11 +0530
To: Manas RReji Office; Prashant Dash;
Subject: RE: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers
Please add Mobile charger to the list.

From: Manas R
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 1:44 PM
Reji Office; Prashant Dash; Arvind Swarup
Subject: RE: Muthatti Trekking - Dangers
Checklist (in no particular order)
1. Backpack (of course)
2. All terrain hiking boots (anything with good grip)
3. Cotton socks (absorbs the sweat while walking long distance)
4. Change of clothes
5. Towel
6. Torch - two torches will suffice for 4 people
7. Insect repellant cream (odomos) - Manas will get. Will suffice for all
8. Wear shorts and cotton t-shirt for the trek
9. Swiss knife - whoever has one, get it
10. Camera - Prashant will get
11. Water bottle - each person carry 1
12. Sunblock cream - whoever has one, get it
13. First aid kit - if no one has, we will make a kit
14. Snack bars - 4/5 bars each person
15. Toothpaste and brush
16. A bottle of Gatorade - each person carry 1
17. Binoculars (if anyone has one)
Please add to the list if you think of anything else.

Tryst with Trekking - The Prelude

4 months ago we made a tryst with our lifestyle around my birthday. During the course of Reji's, Manas' and Arvind's birthday in October, we should get out of our couchpotato ridden lifestyle of meeting up in weekends for some drinks and dinner, and instead we should go on to explore the outdoors, go on treks, see some nature, soak in some fresh air and get to know some hitherto unknown muscles that we may have left in our bodies as some of us approached and some of us crossed our middle ages.

And we promised to have at least one such trekking adventure before mid Oct/2011.

Call it a decision made in a drunken stupor or a moment of stupidness, but a decision had been made and we needed to be men enough to stand up to it.

Our plans were met with the usual ridicule from our well wishers given how much we have stuck to our plans & decisions in the past. This egged us on to be more determined, because now our own egos were in the picture, we have to show others that we are not "duffers" or "duds" or like those "empty vessels" who make more noise. After some months of silence over this topic, the search started on where we should go for trekking. It was not easy to go where the "trekkers" go as we were all novices in this area, so we searched for something that would not be too difficult nor too easy.

And, to top it all, there were the usual deliberations, the postponement of dates because of our work schedules, travel schedules etc., and the usual laziness that we are so famously identified with, never left us with any room for serious discussions.

After much searching and researching, reading reviews and getting opinions, we finally decided to redeem our pledge, not partially or substantially, but wholly and in full measure on 06/Oct/2011.

There were many factors which influenced this date and some people would like to take credit for arriving at this date, so duly acknowledge them in this post. A sincere Thank You!!!

At the early light of dawn when we would have otherwise slept in our comfortable beds as in any other day, we planned to wake up early to redeem our pledge and head to Muthati to trek down to Bheemeswari and back. A trekking distance of 5 kilometres each way along the Cauvery, at least this is what the websites said.