Saturday, July 24, 2010

Scaling newer peaks at Kodaikanal - Part II Trek

I had contacted one Kodai Mani, who had lots of recommendations on the net. With no intention of spending any more time than required in the filthy room, we desperately agreed to his high rates for a day trek. He promised us it would be worth the money (2200 or so).

So we were picked up from our hotel and were surprised when Mani picked up a garland and some lemons to add to the supplies of packed food, sleeping bags, mattresses & other trekking equipment. We found out later the garland was to worship his mother nature, quite a character the guide was!
At the Berijam forest check-post, we joined another team of 7-8guys, of varying sizes from Chennai who we would accompany for the trek. While Shreya & I would head back that evening, the other team had plans to camp in the forest for the night.

At a little past noon, we started the trek from Cap’s Fly view point. (true to its name, caps thrown down the cliff fly back up because of the gusty winds that make their way through the hills). When the mist allowed us, we could see endless hills with dense forests, some exposed peaks and very deep valleys. We trekked along on the edge of these hills in the ‘mimosa’ forest. These Shola forests were rich in Bamboo, Eucalyptus & Pine.

Shreya & I stayed in the front of the pack while we crawled up a nearby peak. At the peak, we refueled over some home-made chocolates, while we waited for the heavier team-mates to join us.
As we left this hill, we entered a forest of medicinal trees. This stretch was no less dense than the forest we had left behind, but just the air you inhaled told you there was a difference. About 100acres are apparently maintained by the forest department for medicinal plants here. Mani took some time here to pray to a stone that symbolized the forest for him. This ‘idol’ was garlanded and lemons were offered.

We got some fantastic pictures, Shreya had a liking for the lavender Neela-Kurinji flowers. At about 3, we stopped for lunch (packed lunch of chapatis which we had carried) by a creek. Great photo-op once again!

It seemed like it was lunch time for the leeches too and they were busy feasting on my blood.
It was a short walk to the forest road after lunch, it was around 4-4:30 when we reached the car that was to take us back to Kodai.

And just when we thought we had enough adventure for a day, the next one began. We reached the forest check-post at 5pm. The check-post is manned by forest guards and the only way out of the forest is via the check-post. When we reached there, the barricade was locked securely, with no sign of the guards. A chai waala (the only other human around) told us that they had ‘just’ left.

Our over reliance on mobile phones gives us this wrong notion of security, we quickly dived to our devices, only to realize there was no signal! The next hour or so was spent in pacing up and down the path trying to ‘catch’ mobile signal, in panic, in weighing out the few options. There was also threat of a thunderstorm, dark clouds were fast approaching and so was darkness.
We were able to get to talk to the forest officials for 30 secs or so before we lost signal once more.

Just as Shreya and I were readying ourselves to walk the 10kms to town to get help, the forest guards came to our rescue. We were let out of the forest after paying a small ‘penalty’. Even as we were driving back, the skies opened and down came the thunderstorm. What a day!

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