First plunge into chilly waters

As long as one is within the protected environs of one’s home, the whole world looks scary and one fears to venture out. I was once discussing with a friend about adventure fiction by one naturalist Willard Price. I mentioned how I longed I could have that kind of nature adventures. But he was more practical. He said he really enjoyed reading those books as well but he preferred to enjoy the thrills in the safety of his couch curled up with the book rather than expose himself to real hazards. Though I argued with him a lot, I realized I too had indulged only in arm chair adventures so far. I longed for something more real. But I was set in my habits, my activities and my friends. I had no clue where to start. Then suddenly out of the blue, an opportunity came my way. I blindly took the plunge without thinking. Like the first dip into chilly waters!

I was quite a reserved guy by nature and mostly confined myself to a select group of friends at college. I was in one of my close friends' room when four guys burst in. I kind of knew them vaguely. I had had a minor run in with one of them in the first year and he had stopped talking to me the past 3 years. I was busy finishing some assignment that was due the following Monday. I did not even bother to raise my head to acknowledge them. These guys had just completed an exam and were planning to go on a trek to a nearby waterfall to de-stress. They had come to my friend to borrow money from him for the trek. He lent them the money but politely declined the offer to join in on the trek. He was not really the trekking type. For some reason these guys decided to do me the courtesy of the offer as well.

Normally I would have returned the courtesy with a polite refusal and they would have got on with their trek. But I don’t know what came over me that day.

Thanks for inviting me. Sure I will join

They too were probably not expecting this and seem to have been taken aback by my response.

It’s a very tough trek. We will have to sleep in the open tonight and then tomorrow morning we would need to climb 5-6 hours.

They probably thought this might intimidate me. But instead that further steeled my resolve.

No problem. I am coming

They tried one last ditch attempt.

But we have to leave in 5 minutes or we will miss the last train.

But I had made up my mind.

Give me 2 minutes”, I said and went inside my room, pulled out a backpack and stuffed in whatever clothes I could lay my eyes on. Then I opened the drawer and pulled out whatever currency notes I could find and stuffed them into my pocket. In exactly 2 and a half minutes, I was ready for my first adventure.

We had to take the local train to this village Gummidipoondi on the Andhra Tamil Nadu border. From there we had to catch a bus to Tada where this waterfall was located. We had to reach before sunset if we hoped to make it to the base camp by nightfall. But the first bus was too crowded and the next bus was after 2 hours. Needless to say by the time we reached the village in Tada, it was well into the night. So we had to find a place to sleep in the village itself. That did not seem much of a challenge to me. Some hotel or lodge was sure to have a room free. But then there was a small catch here. There were no hotels or lodges in that little village.

We knocked at the door of one of the larger houses and asked if we could get a place to stay. They asked us to make ourselves comfortable on the open Veranda of the house. It was the first time I would be sleeping without a roof over my head. The idea kind of excited me.But my spirit was dampened when I saw who would be our sleeping companions: a drunkard and three stray dogs!

The drunkard was fast asleep. He had his mouth open and was snoring loudly. The place reeked with the smell of alcohol. We decided to ignore our new companions and go to sleep with our backpacks as pillows. But we could hardly get a wink of sleep. If the dogs were not barking, the drunkard would be snoring or muttering in his sleep. And the overall surroundings kept the mind on red alert and sleep would just not come.

We were relieved when the sun finally rose. We got up immediately and left without even stopping to thank our hosts. We were not too sure if they would be too happy to be woken up so early in the morning. The starting point of the trek was pretty close by and it was a pleasant trek for the first couple of hours. Then the sun started beating down upon us in all its ferocity. Also the path was not as scenic as I had expected. Most of the leaves had dried up and not too much greenery could be seen.

It was quite an arduous climb. But we maintained a steady pace and within a couple of hours we were at the base camp. Soon we were by the waterfall and stream. We stripped down and got into the water and had fun for an hour or so. There was a long tree branch jutting right over the water. We climbed on to it and sat there chit chatting for a while. By now I had been accepted as part of the group. One of the guys had brought a packet of cigarettes. He lit one and passed it around as we relaxed on the branch. I was not a smoker. Nor did I intend to become one. But I had managed to find a place in the group with great difficulty and did not want to lose out on the camaraderie by acting like a wet blanket. So I also took a puff and almost immediately let it out and passed on the cigarette. I don’t know why. But somehow smoking tends to foster male bonding.

By now we were hungry. My companions had brought along kerosene, cooking vessels and Maggi noodles. We went around looking for dried branches fallen on the ground. Since it was summer, finding fire wood was not much of a challenge. We gathered some water from the waterfall and soon we had some Maggi cooking. This whole process of finding firewood and cooking in the middle of wilderness reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Enid Blyton adventure stories. Finally the Maggi was ready. I had never imagined just plain Maggi could be so delicious. Maybe it was the hunger or the natural surroundings or just my mental state. But at that moment I found the noodles just amazing. For drinking water, we gathered water straight from the water fall. I am usually very finicky about hygiene and drink only packaged water and insist on washing my hands before I eat. But somehow all that seemed part of a different world, a different time. I was now in a world where old rules no longer applied.

It was still afternoon and we had a lot of time with us. So we decided to climb up further to the middle camp. However we decided to leave our bags at base camp. We had not seen a single soul in the vicinity since morning and we were sure our bags would be safe. The trek to middle camp was tougher. But that was fully compensated by mind blowing views we got of rock formations and waterfalls. I had never seen anything like that ever before in my life. I was so inspired by the sights that I forgot my tiredness and insisted that we should carry on next to top camp as well. But my friends were mindful of the time constraints and decided to head back to base camp.

A nasty surprise greeted us at the base camp. All our bags were gone. There was absolutely no trace of them anywhere. Everything was gone, including our clothes. Luckily we had kept our money with us. We knew we had no hope of recovering our lost items in the midst of this wilderness. So with a Stoic air, we began our descent. As they say misfortunes seldom come alone. Though I had managed the trek very well, same could not be said of my shoes. One of my shoes opened up at the toe and it became impossible to walk with the shoe on. So I had to dispose of the shoe. So I covered the rest of the journey with one foot bare. I must have looked a clown in tee-shirt and shorts with a shoe on only one foot. The rest of the trip was uneventful except for a moment of gaping on sighting a girl in modern dress at Gumidipoondi. By night fall we were back at our rooms.

My mother always used to say the best part of the journey is the obstacles you face and how you overcome them. If it is just the scenery, one can as well just see them on television or read about them on a book and be satisfied. The challenges are what contribute to real excitement. So true! To date I cherish the memories of my first trek.

This post is an entry for Incredible Stories contest sponsored by Mahindra 

Picture Credits

This post describes an event from 12 years back when I was not even aware of the existence of something called a digital camera. So obviously I have no original photos to post. However I have put some pictures from the net to break the monotony of reading. Find below the picture credits in the order of appearance in the post.

1. Backpackers
2. House Veranda
3. Branch over water
4. Cooking with fire wood
5. Tada Waterfall views


Moonbeam said...

'Best part of a journey is the obstacles' true! and trekking with one bare foot...ouch!

The Fool said...

@Sumana - Nice to see you here after a long time. Yeah. It was painful. But people do Sabarimala and all those place without slippers.

debajyoti said...

that's a nice adventure although u guys lost ur baggages. all the best for the contest :)

Punit Dubey said...

What a nice trek....guess after that you would have been on many other expeditions...say yes :)

And, yes there is something with Smoke or Alcohol that bonds people very quickly....

The Fool said...

Thanks, Debajyothi.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Puneet. You guessed it from my tone in the post. Obviously I did not give up after that. Been on close to a dozen more treks after that.

Punit Dubey said...

Hey! I didn't know you're The Fool :P

Well, for some reasons I am not able to reply to your comment on my own blog *shy*

Thanks for stopping by, glad that you liked the post... Keep visiting :)

Dee said...

Brilliant post again :) adventures gives us some real work and when we look back at them, it gives us a smile.
I enjoyed your experia throughout the post
good luck ahead :)

The Fool said...

Thanks, Deepak. I still look back at this trip so fondly.

Sangeeta Reghu Nair said...

Very beautifully narrated ... all the best for the contest boy !! I really wish for you to win ..

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Sangeetha. Hope your wish comes true.

umashankar said...

Nice impromptu adventure leading to a well written travelogue. The pictures could have been larger though.

Kajal said...

so very beautifully written. Kept me reading word to word:)

The Fool said...

@umashankar - Thanks for the feedback. Have made the pcitures larger. I am usally bit scared of putting more and larger pictures in case page starts to take longer time to load.

The Fool said...

@Kajal - Thanks a lot.

Gayathri said...

Oh! I love adventures.. I have gone trekking to more than 4 places so far.. Yelagiri - 2 mountains, Top slip - 2 mountains, Wayanad - 1, Kodaikanal - 3 mountains. Out of which one mountain in kodai was the most dangerous of all we had to go the foot of a falls by climbing a mountain and going down another, It was highly dangerous a slip and you are dead! I had been there last month and loved it!! your post is awesome and I was trekking with your group.. too good.. a follower and a fan now! :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Gayathri. Somehow I have missed all the 4 places mentioned by you. I hope I cover them sometime in the coming years. I too nearly slipped off a mountain in Japan once.

Arti said...

Excellent TF! The one thing I love about journeys and travels - the moments.. that make them complete and give us so much pleasure later on in life. Nostalgic piece, yes incredible indeed. All the best with the contest.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Arti. Yeah. As I was writing this I remembered so many others too.

C. Suresh said...

Interesting write-up. Hope you have continued trekking

The Fool said...

Thanks, Suresh

DS said...

Truly a heart warming read. Time spent with friends doing things which you like are always cherished. You described the events very well, losing the bags must have been a harrowing experience.
All the best for the contest.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot DS. Indeed cherished.

Neha said...

Nice experience and nicely penned. It reminded me of my own experience when I went for a 3 day Coorg trekking after my 10 exams. Atleast yours was just a shoe trouble. But mine was far nastier.
I don't remember what kind of pant I had worn that day but while climbing a steep hiking path, it just tore off unexpectedly! Imagine my horror and embarrassment as I was with a group of boys and girls whom I had just met during the 3 day trekking expedition. To my luck, one of the girl I had befriended had decided to wear salwar that day and I borrowed her dhupatta and I had to walk for about 45 minutes back to the base camp all alone for the sole purpose of changing my pants!!(btw, I was chased by a couple of dogs too near the camp :( but luckily I escaped somehow) :P
And I again hiked back on my own (Somehow I had memorized the entire path)and joined the group. I think I burned quite a lot of calories that day!

The Fool said...

@Neha - That must have been real tough. And chased by dogs ! Trekking always has this tough experiences. But then looking back that is what makes it memorable.

Puru@ShadowsGalore said...

Haha .. If you had known that Tada is a favorite joint for drunkards, you could still have your bag. As for the shoes, I had a spare of bathroom slippers which came handy :)

The Fool said...

Yeah. We should have thought about it and not been lazy to carry our bags to middle camp. And I had to trudge back barefoot on the tough terrain.

Anonymous said...

Well i really wana know the result ???

i dont know how u enjoyed over there in real, but the way u emote the story real nice to read along, only very few are there they are able to express (them self) their story through words.

your words is directly proportional to your imagination

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