March 01, 2012

Trek to the 'mountains of death'.. Kolli Malai

2 Weeks to D-Day.!

This was supposed my 'much awaited' trek since people claimed this as a difficult one and especially with the organizers Arun and Vipin sending out the disclaimers gave me a second thought if I had made a mistake registering for this trek. But did not want to miss out the fun as there were 21 other treks planned the same day owing to the 4th birthday of our very own Chennai Trekking Club. Most of the names registered were familiar, Vadivel, Durai, Muthu, all master trekkers, so I knew I'd enjoy the trek at least for a certain distance before they ran of in the front. Trust me, I'm not a great trekker, but have managed to complete the treks because of a few people like Vadivel who have encouraged me all this while.  In fact he was the one who wanted me to join this trek in the first place.
Okay, now what was so special about this trek apart from the fact that it was one among the 22 treks held on the special occasion? Well,. I'd say there is this falls 'Agaya Gangai', which was supposed to be one of the most beautiful places known around that region and many blogs about 'Kolli' had told about 'Kolli Paavai', a deity who, according to a myth, chased away the demons with her smile. I was expecting to see her.. lol. Arun had mentioned in one of his emails about the veg 'aatukkal' soup, which was a delicacy in Kolli. It was indeed delicious, especially after a trek like this.

Overnight drive to the foothills – Puliyancholai

I was quickly wrapping things in office as the reporting time to meeting place was at 9. I had packed all my gear and taken it to work, people stared at me as if I was carrying something I was not supposed. Anyway, my friend dropped me near Guindy around 9, where the bus supposed to pick us up. It was not just late, but laaaaaaaate. It was 11 when the bus arrived, finally. By this time we all got introduced and to be frank, I was half asleep and got onto the bus hoping to continue the same. That didn't happen though. On the night before every trek, something creeps into my mind. I guess most of you would agree with me on this, your minds would have already start trekking even before you had reached the foothills, especially if it was your first time to that location. Well, long story short, I didn't have a sound sleep. I was quite sure I was going to lag behind, as always.!




Welcome to Puliyancholai

We had to get down at Thurayur, the closest possible terminus to get another bus to the foothills. A few them started to sleep while waiting for the bus, since the Govt bus that was supposed to come was not on time. We somehow managed to convince a private bus driver to drive us till Puliyancholai, which was around 25 kms from this terminus. Not knowing it to be a touring spot, I was surprised to see 2 small hotels running at such a remote place and guess what, breakfast was ready for us. Arun had called up and informed them of our arrival. Idli with 'kara chutney' reminded me of TP Kotta, how we used to start our trek to Nagala east. I can bet, no one makes chutney so spicy than that.!




Alright, trek time. The plan was to trek along stream. I had already seen a lot of pictures of this stream and knew for a fact that it wouldn't be the best of waters. But when dying of thirst, what else would you do? The initial part of the trek wasn't that difficult, it was a gradual climb, no bouldering, but just a relaxed ascent. Vipin, the trail master knew which way we should head, as there were quite a few detours. We took the first one and that made us think if we were on the right trail, as it was full of thorns leaving a lot souvenirs on our feet and hands.
After a few meters walk, we stopped for a relaxed dip and some pictures, of course. it was a freedom bath for a few, since it was an 'all guys' trek. We did some challenging climbs after that as a couple of us had taken a head start. The trail had a few arrow markings, which we thought, would lead us properly. I was telling Durai how funny it would be if the trail/marking was a decoy. Just as we thought, it was one. It led us into thorny bushes and the trail that existed ceased to now. I thought we should wait at a open area, close to the stream, so that people behind us can see us and so can we. Good enough, it worked. After a good long walk we needed break and it came in the form of a power nap. The place where we stopped was quite familiar as it was one of the spots i had seen in the pictures where other trekkers from previous treks had stopped for napping. The water was cold enough to compensate the scorching sun. So after a quick dip, we had an hour nap, to regain our energy.

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Astonishment at the sight of Agaya Gangai!

The whole effort was to reach this place, though the last few minutes were really challenging. The moment we reached those stairs, I knew we had it, but wouldn't be content until I saw it. We had to climb down the stairs to reach out to the waterfall. The first thing I saw when I noticed the falls was a group sitting having a beer. Lousy assholes. Hope they didn't break the bottle there and leave. But anyways, the anger vaporized once I was right in front of the falls. Holy smokes... it was a fall from 300ft. I could literally feel the drizzles even when I was standing at a 500m distance. It was quite cold standing there, since the whole place was covered with mountains and the sun wasn't visible at any angle the time we reached the place.
Why wait when your trek was almost over and all you had to do was relax? With no hesitation we all moved in. There was a small pool in front, which was not deep, yet a rope was tied for public to access the falls without fear. It was a little slippery, but who cares when you have support rods in place for you to cling on to. Standing below the falls was like standing a sand storm. The drizzles were hitting us with such a force, especially when there was a slight breeze it became vigorous.


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No sooner did we get ready to leave the place to decide/select a camp site, we started to plan what we should cook for dinner, since we planned to camp near a small village. A small group had already started to the village to get eggs and vegetables, though we had our regular menu like noodles and soup already with us. We had to climb up 1308 steps from the falls to reach the village. It sounded kinda easy at first, but once I started to walk, I felt walking along a steep trail was easy enough. It was time to relax after a tiring climb to the town of Kolli, with a hot and energizing veg 'aatukkal' soup. I am a great fan of soups and given such a tasty and spicy one, I went for 2 rounds. Usually a trekker yearns for anything that is tasty after a day long trek. I was not any different.
After roaming around the town for sometime and settling down at the Arapaleeswarar temple rest place, we started to look for a cooking spot but couldn't find any. So we gathered, in fact bought it for Rs. 25, firewood and started to cook close to the temple. The menu was egg gravy and rice. Our star cooks Vadivel and Durai did a good job in satisfying our appetite. Most of us hit our 'pillows' after dinner, since the day was quite tiring, at least for me. The night was too cold and it was really a gift that we got such a good camp site to spend the night, since we had a roof above us.

Relaxing at the 1100m peak

It was a sleepless night, yet again, though I had a very good rug and a sleeping mat. There was marriage hall close by which started playing 'gana' songs early in the morning, which woke everyone up. Early morning tea/soup made us fresh, actually wake up, to get ready for conquering the peak. The one mistake we did was failing to fill our bottles at the closest village before setting foot for the peak. But that didn't stop any of us. Everyone had 'oranges' with them which would help a lot. We dropped our bags a shady mango tree near the village, en route the peak. It was such an amazing climb, with a little bouldering. We relaxed for close to an hour with a photo session. Of course, why shouldn't we, after such an achievement??
The view was mind boggling, as we could the entire trail, along the stream, we took from the village to reach the falls. More interestingly, we could get a clear view of the falls from this peak. We had a few crazy death defying stunts performed by our fellow trekkers from the cliff at the peak, after all we CTC ians are crazy and adventurous people aren't we?


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The Descend
By the time we had returned to the spot where we had left our bags, it was lunch time. We realized we had spent a good deal of time at the peak. It was quite fortunate that we were able to get ice cream once we hit the trail. A time to relax again, since we had lot of time to reach the village we also stopped for lunch at a nice shady place near a well. I am not a big fan of chappathi's but a trek isn't complete without it. The initial part of the descend was quite scenic, but least did we know that it would be so tough. It was a rocky descend and made us tired, though it was a gradual descend. Usually this part of the trek does not take much time, but this one tested us a bit. It was a relaxing climb-down to the village till we hit the stream. The day was sultry so called for a dip at a good place for preparing soup. The sun set with a nice cold bath with a warm soup and a 15 minute walk to hit the village, where we hired a van and returned to the closes bus station to board the bus to Thuraiyur, where we had to wait for another couple of hours for our bus to Chennai.!
To be frank, I've never heard of this place before and quite sure I wouldn't in the coming days if it was not for CTC. But it was quite an experience for me with a mixed crowd of senior and novice trekkers. Vadivel, Durai, Muthu, Arun, Vipin, Vasanth, Raja and all others who made this a memorable one, had the best time with you guys.!

Kolli K6 - A trek which will stay close to my heart, for the days to come.!

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