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So, read on what GHAC Adventurer, Gauhar Kachchhi, has to say on the trip to Sheshachalam Mountain Ranges.
Our Trek Begins – Evening 7:30 pm at the Kacheguda Railway Station
It was fascinating…
What a trek! Experience of a Lifetime… I have never done so many new things all at once…
Full fun! Full Dhamal…
We were a group of 25 high-spirited trekkers. Our youngest member was Jaee, aged 11 and out most experienced member was Mr. Ranjan Sood, aged 53. But it was amazing to see all of us jelling so well with each other. It was as if we all knew each other for years… :)
We started the journey in the evening of Thursday, 1st October 2009. Our train was scheduled to depart at 8 pm in the evening. It was the Venkatadri Express, traveling between Chittoor and Kacheguda. Our starting point was Kacheguda Railway Station, where we decided to get together at 7:30 pm. Our final destination was the pilgrim city of Tirupati. Our tickets were RAC and were confirmed later on. So, we were not together in a single compartment but were divided into 4 compartments. In the train, all the members had packed dinner and we all shared it with each other. Everyone was very friendly and cordial. After the tasty dinner, we all got to know each other. Some members played games like Dumb Charad and sang songs…Later, we all decided to sleep early to conserve energy for the trek on the next day… We reached Tirupati on the morning of 2nd October 2009.
The group rocked! We were all set to conquer any mountains or forests or streams that came in our way. We are Survivors… :)
After that, we went to the local trekking group’s office, because he promised us free tea and coffee… ;) The local group had agreed to provide us with guides, food, boiled water and protection from wild animals, for a small fee. The head of the group was Mr Balu, and he did a great job. The entire group appreciates his assistance in making our stay comfortable to a certain extent. After this, we all got into a bus and were transported to the starting point on the highway. We had a lot of fun there… We had 30 minutes to spend, and all the hidden singing talent came to the fore… :)
Once we reached our spot, we got down with our backpacks. We were in the middle of nowhere. From there began our real trek… With large backpacks on out shoulders, we started walking towards the jungle. We were on our way to an ancient British bunglow that was now converted into a resort. We planned to have breakfast there and pack up our lunch. We got down from the bus at around 8:30 am in the morning… all set to go…
On the way, we encountered railway tracks and decided to pose for a few pics, just for the heck of it… :)
Once we reached the British bunglow, we all waited in line for breakfast. There was only one bathroom for ladies and one for the men. So, not all of us could get a morning shower. We had to bring our own plates, spoon and mugs. After a good smacking breakfast, we got ready to leave for our destination. We were going to camp in the jungle. Our lunch was packed in plastic vessels. It was nothing fancy, just curd-rice and some pickle. After breakfast, we started onwards towards our base camp. It must be a good 10-12 kilometers away, a lot of it was uphill. KSREE had a GPS device. Our starting altitude was around 220 meters and our topmost altitude was around 505 meters. Stay tuned for KSREE’s blog which is going to be jam-packed with all the information you need. He did a great job with his Camera too. Animesh also had an excellent camera. Our trek in the forest was only interrupted by short resting periods for photo shoots… ;) As usual, Cool Dude Naren has the most pics this time also… :) At the start of the journey, we came across a dry river bed. We would encounter this same river bed on our way back 2 days later…At around 2 pm, we reached a waterfall. Unfortunately, the water was missing! ;) It was dry. We had packed curd-rice earlier. That was our lunch at that moment. We were very tired. The money in our pocket was worthless paper and we could not buy anything else to eat even if we wanted to… So, we relished whatever we had. It was our first taste of what the jungle had in store for us…Then, we continued to trek, and at around 4 pm in the afternoon, we reached our camp. It was a yellow tarpolene tent on a dry river bed. Solid rock under our feet.
We were all exhausted, but there wasn’t enough room inside the tent for all 25 of us… Then a few of us spotted a small pond there… and were we glad. We raced to the pond, climbed down a rough terrain… and there it was… just waiting for us to show up… :) (While going back this route, Nandu took a different route and was stuck pretty badly. He could neither go up nor go back down. It was a very tense situation, and Nandu was terrified. I can never forget the look on Nandu’s face…!) But a few trekkers decided to stay out of the pond. It didn’t seem very clean. Guys in the water teased all those outside it… :) It was fun. The water wasn’t much deep… just about waist height. But still it was a life saver. The cold water soothed our aching muscles, and took away all the dust and sweat and pain from the body. Relief… :) Then after a couple of hours or so, the trekkers were out of the water. It was tea time… We all had our coffee mugs with us… and we had tea with pakodas and biscuits. Then, in the evening, when the sun was about to set, we all had formal introductions. A few classic and new songs rang through the forest. The animals knew that there was a new group of beasts in the jungle… ;) and it was not to be messed with… Around dinner time, Mr Balu and the locals lit a camp fire for us. There was enough wood to ensure the fire would keep burning for the entire night, if we keep feeding the fire. Then we all had a heavy dinner. As usual, all our lunches and dinners from here on consisted of Rice, Rassam, Samber, Pickle and a bit of sweet, usually Tirupati temple’s prasad laddoo. Getting drinking water was big trouble. The locals boiled water in a large container, but it was insufficient for all 25 people and their bottles. And you couldn’t like the taste of hot, boiled water. But we managed. Water is the most important thing during treks… There was no fresh water stream that would give us any confidence of purity. So we decided to rely upon boiled water for our needs. Then at around 10 pm at night, Mr Ali and 15 other trekkers (including me) decided to trek the mountain near the camp. It was a huge mountain and could have easily taken us 4+ hours for a round-about trip. We all readied our torches and set forth to conquer that mountain. But after walking a few hundred meters, locals came to us and warned us not to go ahead at that time. We found that animals are very active at night, and the dense mountain was full of dangerous bears, wild dogs and panthers, as well as snakes. So, trekking at night was a very bad idea.
We dropped the idea and returned to base. After that, a few trekkers went to sleep in the tent, while the rest of us put our sleeping bags around the camp fire and enjoyed the night. We could see the locals hurrying into the forest to scare off wild animals. We did the rest of the scaring with our laughter, games and songs. A few singers were awake until 4 am in the morning… That was my first experience at open-air sleeping… near a camp fire… in a freaking jungle… :)
I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. My back was hurting like crazy. The ground was uneven, and it was solid rock. It was extremely painful… Then the morning brought a new experience. There are no toilets in the jungle. Damn… What an experience! I am glad I did it… ;) Then at around 8 am, we got a cup of tea. Naren was ready with his “Digestive Marie” biscuits… :) After tea, Mr Ali got a plan of fielding a cricket team for GHAC, just like the corporates do. It was a great idea. So, we began working on on it. We had catching practice for 30 minutes… :) Then, it was breakfast time… Light breakfast for all of us… It was good…Then, we packed up our bags and kept them ready. We were ready to go on a short trek, a cave nearby, along with a few small ponds. Very beautiful places indeed. There were a few caves there… More water bodies…There were animals & bats in this cave, and it smelled really bad. There were bats inside, probably porcupines or wild dogs too...After this, we set out of check another interesting location… It was very cool and serene place. Sudhansu found a skull of a dead deer… And then went ahead to discover a Right horn of a fully grown deer… We were happy at the discovery… :) Then, it was time for lunch and we headed back to camp. The food was, as usual, Rice, Sambar, Rassam and laddoo prasad from Tirupati temple… I was already missing Hyderabad… :P After lunch, the group rested in the shade of trees. The Sun was blazing hot, and not a cloud in sight. I and Ram Ganesh climbed up the watch tower. It was covered with a roof, and at that height, cool breeze was like a manna from heaven… :)
Again, as usual, drinking water was hard to find. Boiled water tasted very bad… and it was in limited supply. In this hot weather, we did not feel like drinking this hot water…Then, at around 3 pm in the afternoon, we moved on with our backpacks to a new destination… We headed towards a waterfall around 5-7 km from our first camp. Then finally, after a couple of hours of journey, we arrived at our destination. Our tired bodies rejuvenated with fresh energy as we found a beautiful pond at the base of the waterfall. That was all we wanted. That was what everyone was praying for… :) As soon as we reached Camp 2, we all rushed into the pond of cool water… It was a scenic place. We were glad we made it…Almost everybody was in the water. It was relaxing… The depth of the pond at the deepest point was around 8 feet. I am not a swimmer, so I stayed where water was around 5 feet… It was a great experience…We were dragged out of the water after 2 hours, coz it was getting darker and colder. Also, it was Tea Time… :)
Then again, we enjoyed Tea with biscuits and Wild Banana Pakodas, while enjoying the beautiful nature around us… It was awesome…In the evening, we spent our time chatting with each other… exchanging jokes, talking about things… just relaxing. Then we witnessed something very beautiful. In this wilderness, away from the frenzy of the city, we witnessed a Moon-rise on the horizon above the mountain… Beautiful… :) Then after a few more photo sessions with the moon, we got back to what we know best… chatting… :) Soon, it was time for dinner. Today, it was the last dinner offered to us by the local group. So, in dessert, we got Mesuk Pak sweets… Great!
Then the rest of the evening was spent talking about different things, singing songs, playing games…
It was a beautiful Poornima night. Later, we found it was the Sharad Poornima, that happens only once in a year. What luck…! :) This time, most of the group decided to sleep outside the tent. A good place to sleep was very hard to find. So, I had to sleep inside the tent.. :( Then in the morning, it was as usual, hunting for a good place for potting… :P I and Nandu climbed a hillock beside the camp. It was far away and I figured few would want to climb up there in the morning. It was far easier to climb down the waterfall into the valley. So, it was a safe place… :)
Later, we got our morning cup of tea, and we were ready for yet another trek. One thing you notice in a forest is that you never run out of beautiful places. It was one more waterfall with a beautiful pond. There were many other water bodies around as well. KSREE went out of his way to record stunning images of nature in his camera. He climbed down the waterfall alone in a secluded place to bring us this beautiful snap… Shree Ganesh was so thirsty, he wanted to drink the entire waterfall… :) Then, some member of the group decided to climb the waterfall. It was classic rock climbing, without any safety harnesses… I was stuck at one place. There was no grip… KSREE helped me up. Unfortunately, Mamiko slipped at that same spot and was lightly injured at hands, feet and stomach. But she is tough. She got up and was ready to go… :) After that, we had a few more photo sessions on the top and then returned, this time from another route, as the first one was very risky.
Then downhill, we had another surprise… :)
There were small fishes in the water. When we put our hands and feet in the water, they would come and start biting. But they were so small, they would only eat the dead skin of our hands and feet. It was a great tickling sensation and we thoroughly enjoyed Natural Fish Spa! Then, it was time to go back.It was very difficult to leave those fishes behind. I and all others really enjoyed the massage and pedicure provided by the fishes. But it was time to go home…
We reached Camp 2 and had our breakfast. We were ready with our backpacks to move on… We were going back to Tirupati city. Finally, we filled up our bottles with fresh stream water, and mixed a fair amount of Glucose into it to last us for the trek back to the starting point. We had some last minute fun, video shooting and masti… and then we set out for home…Looking at the distance we walked, I would estimate it was easily between 12 to 15 km to trekking that day.
One the way, we encountered a few things where it was obligatory for all of us to pose for a few pictures… :)
We found a few animal pugmarks. We suspect it was a Panther… There are about 45 Panthers in this jungle. We found a fruit bearing tree… and we plucked a few for ourselves… :) It had a sweetish-tungent flavor, but made the tongue dry…We were back at the Dry River bed that we had encountered on Day 1. It hadn’t changed a bit… :) Finally, we were back to where we had started from… the Railway Tracks… Time for a few more pics… :)
After that, we found a highway. The rest of the guys were still back there, exploring… taking snaps. I, Ranjan Sir, Sudhansu and Mamiko were the first to reach the highway and found a cool drink shop. Ranjan Sir was kind enough to buy us all large cool drinks… :) After resting for a while, the rest of the group caught up with us. Then, we were herded into cramped vehicles and dropped back to the railway stations… After reaching Tirupati, we decided to have lunch. While waiting for all the cars to arrive, we had to put down our heavy backpacks someplace. We found just a solution for it.. :) A cart, the same cart, that had greeted us on our arrival at Tirupati, was still there… ready to carry our loads… :) Good luck…Load carrying cart near the railway station at Tirupati - Day 3
Then we looked around for a restaurant. It was almost 4 pm and we were famished. It was hard to find a decent place to eat. Everyone wanted to eat non-veg food, except 4 of the trekkers. We found a restaurant and got in. The food was very expensive, and terrible according to Hyderabadi standards…
After it was all over, we headed for an ice-cream parlour, while a few went to drink some tea and coffee. I had a scoop of Belgium Dark Chocolate… It was awesome… :) And I didn’t even have to pay for it… ;)
After that, we headed for the railway station and waited for the train to arrive. The train was late. It was also going to take an alternate route as the mail route was under water due to flooding. Finally, we got it… and the train started moving. Everyone was tired, but their enthusiasm had not waned. We had a lot of fun… :) Aamer also wrote a song about the trek and Kranti is going to sing it during out next meetup in 10 Downing Street on Sunday, 11th October 2009.
All in all… the experience was Awesome…