Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Monsoon survival mission in Kabinhole reserved forest (10-12.09.2011)

"If you are born, be born for glory, For those born without it would be better off without birth" - Verse 236 – Thirukural

Drawing inspiration from one of my favorite couplet from Thirukural I was thronging to complete this monsoon survival mission trek ever since I knew about it and to live like a glorious CTC trekker for 3 days. I knew very well that the reserved forest which we were heading to is known for its mysteriousness; for its blood thirsty leeches; for its non-stop deadly rainfall; for its dangerous wild streams; for its venomous snakes; for its dangerous ridges. Indeed, the name “Monsoon survival mission” in one of India’s famous rain forest itself brings in panic and sleepless nights to the trekkers.

Nevertheless, undeterred by any of the consequences 30 daring souls wanted to complete this deadly mission. The mission lived up to its reputation and left us with sleepless-freezing nights; with innumerable leech bites; pouring blood; torn ligaments; muscle cramps; slippery stretches of trails; wild streams. Yet, the well equipped and seasoned trekkers survived the three day cruelty and made a mark for the rest of the world to only read, admire and dream about. Certainly, one of its kind CTC style survival trek.

Day 1: A day walking above the clouds and endless night
As soon as we got down from our bus around 5.00 a.m we started packing our trekking gears and food articles and started our trek in the rain forest around 6.00 a.m.

We could hear the threatening rush of the wild river on the side of the road which warned us that it has been raining here cats and dogs since the start of the monsoon. Undaunted by any of the threats posed before us - we started our hike through one of the ridges in the mountain. The initial test was whosoever not able to climb up the ridge has to return back since they can’t make for the rest of the days. As soon as we climbed we were welcomed by a Malabar pit viper none were afraid of the poisonous viper rather few daring souls started giving poses with the venom injector. I got to understand that these guys are hard metal product and made up of very thick skin. Fortunately all survived the initial test.

We continued our climb from 200 mts altitude into the thick-wet woods to reach to a decent height filled with grasses. There were leeches all around the woods trying to stick to our skin and suck our blood. Withstanding the dis-comfortness of all sort we reached the green carpet which gave us the first lovely sight.

The top of the mountain was covered with green carpet and it was a delight for the eyes to witness. It was a gladiator climax kinda feeling for me walking on those lovely greenish grass covered with mist all around the valley. Indeed this beautiful view was the driving force for me to trek these three days forgetting the blood strains, mosquito bites and strained muscles.

Finishing our breakfast we started our hike to conquer the 1,300 mts grassy peak. The entire ridge was fully clothed with thick grass which made the trail interesting at the same time challenging. From one peak to another we kept on climbing for hours together and we thought we reached the topmost peak and finally realized from the navigator that this is just the 1,100 mts peak and the day’s target was to reach 1,300 mts peak, the group got split into two with the stronger ones pushing ahead and the weaker ones perching on to the back.

The thick grass; the impeccable weather; the mist filled mountains; the distant view of the exquisite water falls; the impeccable valley view; the beauty of the seasoned flowers; the non-stop trek on the ridges all made me feel like I was in a wonder land walking above the clouds in a territory were human civilization is totally banned and had the feeling that we are the only human souls wandering in this lush green forest close to the nature. Indeed, it was rarest of rare experience in one’s life.  

After hiking for few more time we reached the peak of the range which was almost 1,300 mts high which offered mind blowing views to the entire valley below. We were able to see the peaks which we had crossed to reach this height the view was simply outstanding and refreshing for the tiring souls. Sitting on top of the peak I almost lost myself in the chill breeze and greenish vegetation.

Slowly with no heart to leave this place we started trekking towards the other low lying peaks through the grassy ridges soon after few hours of trekking we reached yet another spectacular place which offered very interesting view of the green carpet mountains and a cold stream flowing inside it. Few trekkers who went ahead had the rare opportunity to spot few deer’s which had come to have water from the stream. We refreshed ourselves in those rejuvenating water, had our lunch and started moving towards the saddle to climb the other side peaks.  As soon as we entered the saddle we were welcomed by blood sucking leeches which showed no mercy when it came to sucking blood; none were spared from the cruelty of these oral suckers.

Inordinate rain; ferocious waterfall and sleepless night

As we dropped through the saddle into the valley we started encountering numerous streams gushing like a wild horse pushing aside whatever comes on its way and we started trekking along the stream for quite some time until we encountered a water fall which was overflowing out of its capacity because of the heavy down pour. It was a treat to the eyes to witness the waterfall out pouring after taking few pictures we rolled out from this scenic spot. In fact the only waterfall we would have left without taking a dip in our treks and this was due to time constraints.

It was around 3. 00 p.m the sky became dark and we were able to sense that it is going to pour heavily until now we have not witnessed the down pour. Without any turnaround time the rain started pouring heavily and nothing was sufficient to protect or guard us from these rains; some used rain coats, poncho and jerkins but nothing could withstand the heavy down pour. All got drenched in the rain and had no other option except to trek in the rain.

Soon we started to hike the peak as it was raining and it was almost 10 hours since we started our trek and non-stop we have been trekking since 6.00 a.m everyone desperately wanted to take break and rest for the day but we had to cross lot of distance before the end of the day.

The grass now became like a greasy carpet and adding to the slipperiness was the wet mud and the continuous rain. There was no mercy whatsoever from nature and I started realizing what a true survival mission trek means in practicality. Everyone started slipping in the greasy ridges innumerable times and I can’t remember even one person who escaped without slipping. I had numerous falls before I had a hamstring pull when I slipped while trekking on the ridges. The greenish grassy ridges were so appealing that none wanted to step down of it and enter into the leech infected forest. Therefore, we decided to halt in the peak itself amidst the freezing wind and non-stop rain. Luckily, Peter called the trek off for the day after a gruesome day in the rain for almost 4 hours and for 12 hours in the day. Now, the thought of resting traversed into my mind and I desperately wanted a sound sleep.

We had no flat surface on this peak the only interesting thing we had was a stream which was running by our side but none wanted to get a dip into it because already there was no part in the body which was dry to get wet in the stream. No other option was left to us since darkness was approaching us and we decided to spread the tarp down and roll-on with another trap and spend the night.
The cruelty never ended within minutes after opening up my sleeping bag it became wet because of the non-stop rain and I had no other option to sleep underneath the tarps with wet clothes. All along the night I had to sleep with wet clothes with the freezing breeze killing me every second. Indeed the night was very very long and my tent mates literally had no sleep. Kudos! We woke up and realized that we survived a dreadful cold night.

Day 2: merciless rain; denying river and a trek inside rain forest:

As I woke to realize that I am still alive after spending gruel night in the peak the few appealing features of the day was the bright day light; the impeccable view of the green valley; the hum of the birds; the sound of the stream and the smell of the rain forest.  Not being certain if I would survive the second day of the survival mission I packed and started my trek again in the rain.

It poured and poured and never stopped even for the sake of stopping. Yet again we trekked and came to the grass lands and we reached a peak from where we were able to see the Ombattu Gudde peak below us. Peter explained to us in an expert manner about the entire valley. Again we took some group pictures to show cause that Ombatte Gudde was right below our foot.

From this view point we marched downwards to one of the main Kabinhole forest stream; it was a reward to trek through most of those lovely patches of no-man’s land. Soon we reached the main stream which was entirely flooded and never like the one which I witnessed when I trekked during summer.

The river was very ferocious and it neither allowed us to cross it nor permitted us to ferry over it; first time witnessing a ferocious river deep inside a rain forest. We were stuck here and did not know what next to do and there was no sign of the water level decreasing or the rain stopping.

Few guys went out in search for a place to cross the river but they came back in vain since the river was extremely ferocious and will not spare anyone daring to get into it. Peter carried out a check if any of the trekker wanted to drop from the trek at this stage so that they can be identified a safe location while the others can march ahead towards the target.
Out of 30 souls there were 9 souls who wanted to retire from the trek in the 2nd day while the remaining 21 marched ahead inside the forest following the wild river. We trekked through some of the most dense and wild places heavily infected by the leeches and snakes. Every now and then it became common for us to spot venomous snakes. Before the sun fall we decided to camp at the bank of this wild river were we thought it would be good for us to sleep.
We tented to camp and as usual the rain played the spoil sport not allowing us to sleep - a new uninvited pest came and spoiled our sleep and this time it was the mosquitoes which denied us sleep. I could realize how my tent mates and my neighboring tent mates were hitting the mosquitoes throughout the night. Yet, another sleepless night inside the rain forest adding fuel to the survival mission. Day two survived and I am still alive.

Day 3: trekking beside the ferocious river and risk-of-the-life river crossing:

Got up from the wet tarpaulin sheet and realized that I am still kicking and live on the 3rd day. The thought of trekking for the third day now started going deep inside my mind and started causing a kind of tremor before that everything was packed and we started our hiking towards the 9 member gang who were parked in a beautiful grassy land. We pooled in with them and started trekking along the river. The river seemed to have reduced it ferociousness but still it never allowed us to cross it. We had to trek along it for a long time and it finally we decided it will become impossible for us to catch the bus at Gundiya if we don’t catch the jeep track which is in on the other side of the river and march out quickly.

The most dangerous river crossing of my life:

We did not wanted to waste any more time walking in a trailess land which is delaying our progress. Soon Peter jumped into the river and decided to cross the ferocious river and tie a rope other side and ferry across the baggage and non-swimmers. Indeed, he was successful and there were few other daring souls who followed his steps and formed a human chain.

I ventured into the stream and to confess the current underneath the water was deadly and it can easily carry me miles far away and we decided to cross this river by forming a human chain while the strong guys helping in crossing the luggage. We took almost 1.30 hours to cross this river.

Few small guys and non-swimmers were perching on to the rope and without the help of the strong guys they would have been literally swept off by the river. Indeed, I could see the expressions of these guys unfolding before me and the team work involved to save their souls. I am certain that those almost carried away in that wild stream will never-ever forget that moment in their life.  I remembered with beauty there is always danger and there was no exception with this beautiful river which was ready to engulf few souls.

After crossing the river we had a sense of accomplishment that we crossed this river with great team work. With this sense of accomplishment we marched in the jeep track for 5 kms and reached the Gundiya check post.

The blood sucking leeches had their share from our body;
The greasy and slippery terrain broke our ligaments and gave us physical challenge;
The deadly and ferocious river never allowed us to cross it for a day;
The venomous vipers showed their ugly head now and then and threatened us from proceeding ahead;
The never ending rain, wet clothes, freezing breeze, mosquitoes and chill nights troubled our nights never allowing us to sleep;
Yet, the survivors are back with a bang from the Monsoon survival mission.

If someone asks me; “What are the days you lived like a solider?” I would quote these days; if there is an uncertainty about my bravery I would quote these days; a misgiving about my surviving skills I would not hesitate to quote these days; the most unforgettable days of my junglie life - I have no hesitation to quote these days. Indeed, I lived a life of an animal when I wandered in the forest; lived like a solider while guarding the rain forest; lived like a snake while slithering in the rain forest; lived like a bird when signing and flying in the dense jungles. These are days to remember; these are the days to cherish and the most unforgettable survival mission in my trekking life.

Happy trekking,

Durai Murugan


  1. NIce to read this bro... And I am happy to see all this... Great work Buddy. Proud of you and the Team...

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Nice write up. Thanks to everyone for such a wonderful experience

  4. I joined CTC recently and was cursing myself after seeing the pics on the blog that I missed this. I hope to have such a Trek one day with CTC. I would be going for my first trek of CTC on this coming weekend.