My Trekking Experience

                Nilgiri Trekking Expedition 

The opportunity of starting my trekking experience hit me when one of my collegue informed about a great trekking expedition is being organised by YHAI at "Queen of Hills" the Nilgiris, during the month of october 2005. We a group of 25 to 30 members registered and finally it was 21 colleagues from AdventNet, a close friend of mine "Kalai", 3 more friends of my colleague, started from chennai by rail. We reached Metupalaiyam early in the morning by nilagiri express and catched Metupalaiyam - Ooty Passenger train very famously known as "Toy Train". There were some small land slides across the rail tracks but yet, it was a wonderful experience. There were greenary on bothsides and the cute looking steamy engine pushed the coaches from behind up the Hill. We crossed many mountains, narrow dark tunnels, tall bridges, and few small stations.

The toy train is organised in such a way that there will be gaurds in between the coaches and also in front of the train, ie the actually the rear-end of the train. The steam engine with twin stack (for steam and coal smoke) pushed from behind and it crawls, yes i mean crawls across the mountains with lots and lots of curves throughout its journey. Since the driver will not be able to view whats ahead of the train the gaurds between the coaches keep eye contact to one another and if there was a land slide on the rail the train was brought to a hanging halt. Yes there were brakes in all the coaches, which were operated by the gaurds since its up the hill and these brakes need to be applied to keep the train static, i would say "hanging on the steep mountain tracks". These teeth like brakes holds the train from reversing off. 

We reached Ooty base camp and took a van journey to the trekking starting place, Parson's Valley Trekking Shed which was located 11 Degree 23, 87'N , 76 Degree 36, 00'E and 2295 meters above MSL. In the evening we went for a small warmup trek guided by our local guide to a near by Parson's dam and as soon as we reach the dam it started raining. This was the dam where the famous tamil movie "Roja"'s climax shot. The dam was full to its high level and the shutters were open. It was memorable site and many of us walk across the narrow bridge. We bought some plastic sheets from a nearby shop for covering us as well as our baggages if rain hits during the trek.

We had a tight sleep that night and in the morning we packed our lunch box, water cans and got ready for the 5 day trekking across nilgiris. Before we start we intro ourself and there was 2 new persons joined our group for the trek. One among them was sowmya, a professional trekker i would say as she is trekking for more than 8 years and the other one was Jignesh. We a total of 27 plus one (the guide) started from Parson's valley camp towards Pandiar base camp. It was thick forest throughout and often we came across water bodies. We had a small break at Mukurthi lake and then came across the Mukurthi dam. Later we had our lunch break near a small water body and then started from there without knowing there was a steep up the hill trek ahead. This one was our first stamina testing climb i would say as eveyrone's face turned red when they reach the hill top. But as soon as we reach the hill top our guide informed that we may get mobile signal here. Even though we will be mobile for all the 4 days from now, we only got signals only in 3 or 4 hill tops like this first one. So everyone started talking with their loved ones as it was almost 24 hours by then after ooty they talked in their mobile phones. We looked after the way we crossed and our guide said it was behind that hill where we started. The distance he showed was unimaginable but that was only half the way for us on the first day of trek.
Atlast we reached the Pandiar base camp which was famous for tiger and sambar deers.... The Pandiar Rest house was built on 1966 and is located 11 degree 24.26'N , 76 degree 31.99'E and 2253 meters above MSL. Though it seems like we had decented 42 meters, it was up and down the hill throughout the way... We heared from balaji, the camp leader, that there was no civilisation for 3 kms circumference. We had some hot soup and few of us climbed little up the hill to get a sight of Sunset but the clouds didnt gave us the opportunity. It became so dark very early and there was no electric supply. We had the dinner in candle light. There were 2 rooms for us to sleep and few among us opted for a firewood in one room. Actually each room can only accomodate 3 cots but we were around 14 of us in each room. I started up a game and we all had fun singing songs that night. The next day morning we were waiting for the candle to be blowned as it was kamala's birthday. She's my collegue Gopi's wife and gopi had a surprise for her as he made a lovely bouquet of wild flowers handpicked with the help of Balaji, early in the morning.

We took a group snap with the guide, camp leader and local forest officials and started the day 3 trek towards Anumapuram camp. Day 3 trek was more on tea plantation and roads with less forest area. We saw few deer footmarks in the morning but not the sambar deers. By afternoon we reached the roads between the dense forest. Though its road, throughout the way we saw lots and lots of fresh elephant droppings. Apart from lot of forest birds, the first wild animal we saw was the Langoors (monkeys). We were unlucky to see any elephants but only saw a huge branch of a forest tree broken down by elephants lying in the middle of the road. Every now and then the mist covered the way and we were unable to see anything in front of us..... Then we took a break in a small village and raj was talking with the villagers that i am the one who will be nominating for the next election and asked them will they vote for me as i was busy taking a group snap with the village childrens.

Even though it was road almost many of us felt it was so tough compared to hill trekking. Moreover it was not so adventrous walking in the roads even though it was covered by forest. We came across so many plantations like this where there will be huts in between and many of us felt like we should own a guest hut like this to spend few days of vacation. By late afternoon we took a break for lunch near a stream which flow towards a lake. As soon as we start from the lunch place the rain came and almost all of us switched to the covers.. plastic sheets covering ourself as well as our shoulder bags. After an hour we took a small break and some fun with the sticks in the middle of the road. Raj comment that as "Tribal Dance". It was again a steep slippery climb up the hill and that streach very well tested all our stamina. Then we trek for an hour through the hills and plantations and "there it was, up the hill ! Anumapuram camp, - said the guide. That part was so tough as many in the group felt so hard to reach the hill top. It was too slippery, steep and we were tired because of the trek we had more on road. The climb was so hard that i felt like i got mild temperature. We had a nice tea at place where we would be sheltering for the night, it was so cold and it started raining heavily. The Anumapuram Trekking Shed was like a freazer and the building inner walls were almost wet. There were no glasses for the windows and there was no power supply as well. Very soon it became so dark and we all settled for yet another game round which we played the previous night. This time it was 24 of us and we sang atleast 2 songs each, for around 2 hours sitting close to one another in a big circular formation. Then we had candle light dinner and slept tight.

The Anumapuram Trekking Shed was built on year 2000 and is located 11 degree 27.18'N , 76 degree 35.15'E and 2145 meters above MSL. The fourth day trek was considered as the toughest as we will be trekking down the hill for the entire day and the distance would be 1 and half times more than the previous day. Kalai, Gopi and his wife decided to go with the jeeproute and leaving them we all started with our new guide "Tiger" Kumar. He got this nick as he is good at spotting tiger in our route ahead. He said he will show us tiger, leopard and elephants for sure if we keep our voice low. It was different kinda forest we faced today compared to the previous days. It was so dense and mostly unexplored. Near pykara dam we came across fresh carrots from the local farm.

As we were thinking that it will be thich forest ahead and as soon as we cross the Pykara Dam it was grassland. We came across the village of ancient tribes so called "Thodas" from where the cine actor Karthick married a tribal girl after they worked together in a Tamil movie. We came across some single log bridges to cross quicksand like wet mud and streams. We took as break after crossing two log bridges in the open grass land where wild buffalos were grazing. After 15 mins i realised that my shots were wet because of the heavy due in the grass. oops i was caught.... and many of us were in the same situation, few hide it with the help of jerkins and bags.

Soon we were again in to forest leaving the wonderful grassland and our guide alarmed us to be quite as it was tiger's territory and just few days before a tigress gave birth to 3 cubs somewhere in this area. We all know how dangerous it would be if we come across that mom tiger. We heard a big gushing sound or water down the hill and it was because of the under ground stream towards a dam on the other part of the hill. We came to know that it was quite a long distance (many kilometers under right below the hill). Suddenly our guide asked my stick and started to explore skinny meat piece from a recent kill by a leopard. Ohh.. how would i say... whether "We were so unlucky to get a sight of a wild Leopard or a Tiger in its territory" or "We were lucky enough that we didnt came across a ferocious mom tigress or a leopard with its recent kill."

We came to know that pretty soon we will be in to the mountains where we will be decending for the rest of the day and we haven't had our lunch yet. The path became narrow and started decending through the forest and because of the recent rain most of the way was flooded with water. Many of us lost balance and fell/sat right on the wet muddy rocks. We then entered a small village and many of us decided to finishoff the lunch as we were hungry. Few decided to skip for another hour or so until we have our next break. It started raining and we thought how we gonna decend in this rain. Very soon we came across bamboo's and we all knew that its gonna be the gaints territory, the majestic indian elephants.... Dilip keeps swinging his towel and keeps making a strange sound "ahan ahan ahan" mins after we have our short breaks in such a way that he was herding us all and kickstart us to resume the trek. The way he sounds remember us that he was a trained professional of herding a group... thats so funny and everyone used to respond in some way or other.

The forest was so dense and we were walking through a foot wide rocky path built of sliced rocks centuries ago and was once used as a horse messaging route. Our guide informed that if we come across herd of elephants we need to leave way to them and resume our trek. But i was wondering where was the place or another path to leave way for the elephants as we were decending in a steep way down the hill. Then we saw a single elephant down the hill, quite a long distance away from us and we were luckly enough that it wasnt in our way. Our guide didnt even informed about its presence to many of us, as if we make any noise it may start charging towards us and he very well know that elephants can climb up the hill much faster than down the hill and a single elephant is always dangerous compared to the herd. We reached the main bridge (though it was small) over the roreing water stream. We halted for a while and few of us had our lunch and few went to take a quick bath in the freezing water. This bridge were used mostly by elephants and other wild animals, but very rarely by humans.
I felt something was pinching my legs and it was small seeds struck all over my socks, shorts and shoes. Quite interesting that how nature had provide a mechanism for them to travel distant places with the help of sticking over animals and greminating somewhere away from its birthplace. Later, on our way we saw few wild Malabar Giant squirrel's in tree tops. They were in brownish dark brown color and with lot of fur. Many of us were dead tired and we helped few of them who were struggling to trek along the rocky path. Our guide informed that its better to get down the hill as soon as possible as rain may start anytime and if it does its gonna be a tough task. Then we had a small break at a big rocky hill top. We shared some energy giving snacks like dates and we heard bear sounds across the hill. Many of us desperately searched to locate them, but in vain. Soon we reached a place so called elephant watering ford and since the force of the water was quite strong, so we formed a human chain to cross it. Those hot burning foots felt like "being in a heaven" when we walk along the freezing water. As soon as we cross it the rain started and thank god we were just few feets towards the roads and soon the trek is gonna be over. We walked half a km to reach the temple where the jeeps were waiting for us. We travelled in to the mudumalai sanctuary towards peacock dormitory where we are supposed to spend the night.

Peacock Dormitory was built on year 1962 and is located 11 degree 34.40'N , 76 degree 33.36'E and 910 meters above MSL. Wow, we had decented 1235 meters today alone and from the starting place its was a 1385 meters decent. As soon as we reached the place "Peacock Dormitory" we started planning about what's next. There were lot of suggestions flowing and one was "Night Safari". Though it was not a official one, and the traffic is closed from 8PM to 8AM across Mumalai Sanctuary, we planned to go for it with the help of local jeeps, since there's no restriction for those jeeps. But there was no garantty for our lives if some wild animal attacks us. So only few among us bravely decided to go for "Night Safari" and around 15 of us started after the dinner in 2 jeeps.

The first animal we saw was a wild Bison freely grazing on the grass close to the road (It was Ooty - Mysore highway). The other jeep stopped few meters behind us and our driver said "lets reverse back and see what the persons in the other jeep are watching". Since there was no other vehicle on the road he was pushing fast backwards towards the jeep and everyone was looking at the jeep behind. Suddenly, a big tiger (full grown i would say) crossed the road. Wow !!! what a sight it was. The rear jeep headlights were ON and we saw the black image of the tiger crossing. It was only few yards from us. That moment we felt the fearness and recognized the risk what we had taken to cross those hilly, greeny dense forest. We were unable to imagine what would have happened if a tiger came across, when were on in the jungle for the past 4 days. The spot where we saw th tiger was just half a km away from a small village, where dasara festival was happening and was fed up with hundred's of people. That village was right in the middle of the Mudumalai Sanctuary.

That night we saw wild rabbits, spotted deers, heard of elephants, bisons, and sambar deers. We went across the TamilNadu - Karnataka border and saw few more wild animals. We were not lucky enough to see panthers or Chital.We came back to the dormitory after 2 hours and started planning for the next day morning. As many didnt came for the night safari, they had a choice to see wild life the next morning through mudumalai sanctuary's official bus safari. During the morning jungle safari we saw wild animals like Elephants, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar and birds like Peacock(our national bird), Grey Jungle Fowl, Mynahs, Owl, King Vulture and Eagles. It was one hour trip inside the forest.

We had our break fast and thats the time to depart. We had a group photo session and started to decent further down the hills to Ooty through those 3 local jeeps. We readhed YHAI Ooty Youth Hostel by afternoon and a fantastic lunch was waiting for us there. Then we celebrated muthu's birthday in the train and reached chennai the next day morning. The rain which was following us from the day one of the trek gave a warm welcome to us at the chennai central railway station with thunder showers.

Am happy that you read my experience and i will write more about the trek in detail pretty soon...

More about my Shoe, the content in the bag's , the need for stick, and my future trekking experiences..... coming soon.... Keep visiting....




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