Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Sirumalai hills – Nature’s green carpet unleashed

Exploration is an enchanting experience, it is a feel of getting connected with the unknown; it is a feeling to consciously explore the unexplored; it gives an excitement of conquering a new territory; it indicates the fear of being caught in the middle of nowhere. At the end when you undergo all these obstacles and come up victorious the feeling is marvellous and cannot be limited with words.
It was a long time desire to explore Sirumalai hills, except for the desire none in the group had any idea about the terrain, vegetation density, water availability, weather conditions and other details about Sirumalai all that we carried with us is the unshakable determination to make a trail and to explore a new territory never forgetting to fall in love with the nature and to quench our adrenaline rush to summit most of the peaks.
Sirumalai is the eastern-most outcrop or spur of the Western Ghats with Dindigul city or Kodai Road pass separating Sirumalai from the Palani hills. Sirumalai has very similar flora and fauna to that of the Palani’s but the climate is pretty much identical to that of Yercaud since the altitudes are similar. Sirumalai range stretches about 45 kms on the Dindigul-Madurai road with its width being about 15 to 25 kms. After careful study of the Google terrain maps, understanding contour lines our trail was plotted along the streams and ridges connecting the valleys and peaks.
Morning with the darling mountains:
As planned we headed along the stream which took us to the dry Kutladampatti waterfalls from where we negotiated the dense bushes and sprawled in between the grasses and climbed the rocks to reach the top of the waterfalls. The 30 mts hike to the top of the waterfalls indicated the tuff day ahead in terms of climbing and the trailless trail we were about to encounter nevertheless, forgetting the testing terrain ahead we sat for a while on top of the waterfalls to enjoy the imposing views of the neighbouring villages and the plateau below.
Our search for water in the dry streams:
Identifying our direction towards the destination we trekked across dry streams, thick forests, bushes, rocky trails just to discover that the streams are completely dry and we had to depend upon the little bit of water we had with us. Luck favoured us and after 3 hours of trek we found water trickling out of the stream to quench our thirst. While few managed to take a dip and cool their body others finished their sumptuous packed lunch at the water point. Just a peep into the GPS we realised that the terrain is getting steep and it’s going to be test to our body and mind – the kind of adventure that we were looking for. Yes, the heavy backpack, the waterless journey, the sweating body, the trembling thighs and the fearless heart are indicators of a wanderlust heart.
Reaching the Sirumalai Estates:
After the tiresome trek spanning through the rocky trails and ridges we reached the Sirumalai estate. The smell of jackfruits, pepper seeds, coffee plantations welcomed us into the peaceful and silent forest. From the estates we were able to see our next target the rocky southern peak and the chill weather, was a much-needed refreshment to our body and mind.
Summiting the Sirumalai Southern peak:
Understanding the rocky 1,350 mts peak that we are about to climb we geared up with the ropes and climbing accessories. The 14-member squad was prepared to climb the rocks, penetrate into the thorny bushes and to beat any obstacles that we may encounter.
We crawled inside the bushes to rub with the shrubs and to get cut in the thorns and finally reached the rocks and it was the final 100 mts more to climb to reach the peak. Most of the rocks were high and we had to depend upon the ropes to climb them. The best rock climbers went up to tie the ropes in the rock holes while the others holding to it climbed the rocks. One after the other we used ropes at 3 places to reach the 1,350 mts southern peak. The failure of the slippery rocks to stop us was apparent on its face; the thorny bushes bowed down witnessing our courage; the vertical climb became cakewalk with the assistance of ropes and clever climbers.
The pain of undergoing all these barriers was downright forgotten sitting on top of the rocky peak and appreciating the Sirumalai green carpet unleashed before us. We were able to enjoy the splendid views of the mighty Palani hills, the rain bearing dark monsoon clouds, the beautiful adjoining peaks a rare and priceless gift for all the nature loving souls.
A trek in the drizzling rains:
After enjoying the fruits and the hospitality shown in one of the estates we started walking along the Ghat roads to reach our campsite a small hill top village on the Sirumalai hills.
The pleasure of walking along the tree swamped Ghat road, the gentle drizzles dropping on us, the chillness in the rainy atmosphere; the happiness of summiting the southern peak all gave us an eternal feeling and sense of far-reaching ecstasy. The night went peaceful re-calling the day filled with fun, adventure and gazing at the starlight sky.
Summiting the Sirumalai Central peak:
The target of the second day was to summit the central peak that has a shrine on top called as vellimalai. Satisfying our morning hunger with the hot idli’s from the village we climbed yet another peak, which offered scenic views to all major peaks in Sirumalai hills.
Walking along the ghat road on a cloudy day we reached the base of the central peak welcomed by chill mountain breeze and energetic weather.
Unlike the difficulty faced in climbing the southern peak the central or Vellimalai peak had a clear trail leading to its top providing wonderful views of the entire Sirumalai valley.
On top of the dark monsoon clouds:
Once we reached the top of the Vellimalai peak the monsoon clouds engulfed us, making us sign and jump to the tunes of Mother Nature. Standing on top of the peak with our arms spread we invited the monsoon clouds and the chilling winds a unique experience as if we are almost standing on top of the world encircled by the misty clouds. The pain on my thighs; the cuts in my skin all flew away with the magical clouds and I became part and parcel of nature. I could not ask for a better feeling to wind up this two days trek.
At the end of the two days ‘Exploration’ my heart confesses:
“We find inner peace on lonely trails,
We find tranquillity in man-less territory,
We relish the melody in chirping of the birds,
We realise mountain water sweeter then the taste of honey,
We climb peaks to feel the breeze and perceive the mood of sun,
We ramble upon the ridges to appreciate its beauty,
We wander in the valley to appease our adrenaline rush,
We come back to concrete jungle with great respect to nature realising how miniscule we are before nature.
While we are busy with our daily chores we take pledge to explore.
One thing which I am very certain, while I trek on the ground I get the feeling of flying above the clouds”.
May be this is called as the feeling of an ‘explorer’
Happy trekking.
Durai Murugan

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Top slip – a rendezvous with wildlife

 “The shade of each leaf,
The moisture on each grain of sand;
Every little hill fold that you see;
Gives to the river that flows to the landmasses;
Gives life to all our lands”
Conserve Nature

A touching phrase found on the roadside wall at Parambikulam reserved forest.

This trip to Top slip, Pollachi was utterly different from serious treks we do since it was formulated to implant the seeds of “conservation” in the minds of participating nature loving souls. This trip gave us few insights about animal behaviour, trekker’s conduct in wild life sensitive areas, inspiring true stories from a wildlife conservationist, observing the beautiful peacock’s dance, watching the spotted deer’s graze, understanding the pug marks of wild animals. It had so many varieties and different flavours that a nature enthusiast would have sought for.

Watching the deer’s graze on a peaceful morning:

A peaceful morning with the mountain birds breaking the silence in the air, the chill breeze kissing the early raisers, trees dancing to the tunes of the wind, the Anamalai peaks covered with thick fog and the sky becoming chilli reddish. We saw that spectacular herd of spotted deer’s along with their kith and kin grazing the grasses. A very rare sight for a city dweller like me, I enjoyed clicking pictures and watching them graze for almost 30 minutes before some noise came inside the bushes, which chased the deer’s into the woods.

The protector of deer’s:

This black little ancestor of human beings is considered as the protector of deer’s from predators. Nilgiri langur sitting on the top of trees alerts deer’s that unmindfully stands below grazing, unaware of the predators. It emits a unique sound and alerts the deer’s about the presence of strangers and predators in the vicinity. See the below photo carefully and check how the Nilgri Langur alerted the Sambar deer. 

The Great Kannimara Teak:

The great Kannimara teak tree honoured by the central government with ‘Mahavrisksha Ouraskar” award and around 450 years old stands tall in the Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary. Certainly the largest, tallest and most revered teak tree I have seen or heard so far. Hugging its trunk I realised how insignificant is mankind in front of nature, quite a unique feeling.

I had goose bumps watching the Peacocks dance:

It was 2nd day early morning we entered the Parambikulam reserved forest in the forest department’s vehicle. We were the early ones into the forest welcomed by herds and herds of deer’s on both the side of the road. Unable to believe my eyes and digest the happiness what I saw was absolute exquisiteness. Yes, I saw with my jaw opened the beautiful national bird opening its wings and dancing. It was a glee watching them dance to the tunes of nature. Wish I had all the time in this world to watch this magnificence unfolding before me.

Jumbo quenching its thirst:

Unable to come out of the beautiful sight of the peacock’s dancing we proceeded ahead just to watch a lonely elephant entering into the water, quenching its thirst and disappearing into the woods. With the bamboo trees at the background, huge mass of water body in the front, the jumbo seen drinking water was elegance personified.

Wild boars – the cleaner of forest:

Wild boars seen in great numbers act as a cleaner of the forest. I remember one incident that Mr. Anand recollected from his experience about how 10 wild boars cleaned the remains of a dead elephant within a week. Indeed, the forest and the other wild life should be indebted to wild boars for their assistance in keeping the forest clean.

Mr. Parambikulam of the wildlife Sanctuary:

The Indian Gaur or popularly called as Indian Bison seems to be one the most regular member of the Sanctuary gymnasium. With muscles projecting from every possible part of its body Mr. Bison is a pure vegetarian.

Since it is the human being who wants to venture inside wildlife territory and wish to watch them and take pictures. Whomsoever it may be, keep in mind we are basically trespassing into their territory and it is our duty to follow certain basic Do’s and Don’ts.

Do’s and Don’ts when you venture inside a wildlife territory:
  1. Wear only green or brown coloured dress and avoid wearing any flashy colours. Elephants are colour blind and they may approach towards white colours.
  2. Wear full-length dry-fit trousers and t-shirts as the same could minimise the effect of insect and reptiles.
  3. Avoid using perfume or body or pain killer sprays since, they spread fast in the air and reaches the wildlife before you can spot them.
  4. When you are in a wild life territories never leave the group and venture alone. Always obey the instructions of the guide.
  5. Avoid shouting or screaming if you spot an animal and you can take as many photos one wants maintaining silence.
  6. It is advisable to keep your eyes and ears alert and look out for animal movements while you venture inside animal territory.
  7. Don’t litter or throw plastic anywhere, it may have serious consequence on the life of wildlife eating plastics.

For the love of Nature,

Durai Murugan 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A wanderlust trek to Top Station and how we encountered the Kolukkumalai trail

A trek to ‘Top Station’ has always been on my to-do list and it took a lot of planning for us to complete it successfully. A well-laid Ghat trail from Kurangani  to Top Station was quite apparent on google maps indicating that the help of GPS would be very minimal since, there would be a clear trail unless we choose to take a different trail and make an attempt to explore the virgin peaks and grasslands.

The hike to Top Station is a moderate 4 hour-long one. It starts at an altitude of 400 mts and reaches an altitude of 1950 mts traversing beautiful waterfalls, middle station, a nice, calm and serene village in the Kurangani hills, majestic shola forests, sky-piercing peaks, colourful birds and one can also have the rare delight of a rendez-vous  with few locals who regularly use this trail.

The agenda for this two days' trek was not concrete since we planned only for a stay in Top Station, somewhere near the tea estate and in the morning after visiting few places, a hike back to Kurangani.  But the entire agenda under went a sea change when we saw a ‘zig-zag trail’ that lead to kolukkumalai.

Early morning visit to Kurangini village:

On reaching the Kurangani village at around 5.30 a.m, we were welcomed by the chill breeze that rushed through our nostrils and engulfed by misty clouds. Kurangani is a very serene and peaceful hamlet concealed by mountains, beautiful trees and river waters filled with the harmony of signing birds.

Our trek started along the Ghat trail leading to Top Station. As we started hiking along the trail we had a glimpse of the beautiful peaks that were intruding into the sky while the misty clouds rubbed the peaks gently. The friction between the white clouds and the brown peaks made us feel that we were on a foreign land that barely had  any throughfare for men. It was a mind-boggling view for city dwellers like me and was a brilliant start.

A dip in the ice-cold waterfalls:

The trail leading to Top Station hosts a beautiful waterfall, which brings in chill waters from the valley above. The waters were freezing cold and the dip in the pool in front of the waterfall is nothing but a ‘scintillating experience’. If you follow the stream to the top of this waterfall, there rests another beautiful waterfall that drops from a greater height, with much more beauty. Kurangani waterfall is a rejuvenating dose for any trekker who takes this trail to reach Top Station.

How we encountered the Kolukkumalai trail:

After dipping in the pool we started our hike on the Ghat trail and to our surprise we witnessed a beautiful ‘zig-zag’ trail to the opposite side of the mountain. The trail, covered with the misty clouds and green grasslands was appealing and my heart just could not stop from falling in love with it, which was one of the most beautiful trail I had ever seen. We enquired with the locals and found that the trail led to Kolukkumalai another gorgeous place. It was then that we decided to take that ‘zig-zag’ trail to reach Kurangani village again.

Middle station a beautiful hamlet on the Kurangani hills

On the trail leading to Top Station there lies a very silent hamlet called ‘middle station’ at 1, 300 mts altitude over looking the beautiful valley and just below few magical peaks. Standing on the cliff of middle station one can witness the brilliant panoramic views of the valley, Kurangani village below and Top Station above us.

Hiking the neighbouring peak:

Our adrenaline rush never stopped with walking along the trail and we wanted to climb some peaks to quench it. It was decided that we would climb the tallest peak, which we would spot. We started our climb on a trailless path to reach the top of the peak. It was an adventurous trek along the misty clouds and grasslands. It took us a solid 2 hours of non-stop climb to reach the peak. The peak was a completely wind blown area with the clouds rubbing our skin and making us feel the freezing chillness. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be on top of a nameless peak completely surrounded by misty clouds.

Reaching Top Station to appease our hunger:

We reached Top Station which is considered as a historic transhipment location for tea , delivered here from Munnar and Madupatty by rail and from here it was taken down by ropeway to Kottagudi. Top station is also very popular for the rare Neelakurinji flowers, which blooms once in 12 years. At present Top station hosts tourists who throng this hill lock for the panoramic views of the valley below and to enjoy the misty weather. Top station is also the exit or entry point for the famous ‘escape road’ trek.

Camping near the Tata tea estate bungalow, Munnar:

With the plan of trekking down to Kurangani firming up we decided to camp near the Tata tea estate bungalow. The night temperature dipped as low as 4 degrees making us feel the pain of cold throughout the night and the need for warmth of heat to complete this endless night. On top of the severe chillness what was more adventurous was the visit of the Indian Gaur’s in herds near our campsite. We could easily spot around 20+ Gaurs very close to our campsite and we very lucky not to be bothered by them at any point of time. Indeed, one the most adventurous nights of my trekking life.

Early Morning trek along the dam and finding a transport to reach Kolukkumalai:

I woke up at around 5.30 a.m with my fingers, arms and legs almost numb because of the severe cold and with the laziness that lingers around every morning, we somehow managed to start our trek at 6.30 a.m along a beautiful dam which was emitting out white magical mist. It was a lifetime delight to watch that spectacular early morning scene and I should confess that I was  simply blessed to witness its unfolds. My love for nature keeps growing and my admiration goes beyond my level of thinking solely because of my encounters with wonders like this.

After finding a jeep, which promised us to leave at Munnar, we had shivering moments sitting on the open jeep that had no seats. From Munnar we took a jeep to reach Kolukkumalai tea estate. The ghat road leading from Suryanalli to Kolukkumalai is certainly one of those most difficult and bumpy roads I have ever travelled.

Trekking back from Kolukkumalai estate to reach Kurangani:

Now we all were very excited about trekking on that ‘zig-zag trail’ leading to Kurangani. The entire area was completely covered with mist and the visibility  was very poor. The tea estate workers guided us towards a narrow trail and instructed us to follow it. The trail was completely over grown by dense bushes and grass however, we somehow managed to navigate throw those bushes and reached that dream ‘zig-zag trail’. The joy of reaching that place made us spell bound and I could see only happiness and smiling faces all around the group. After a 2 hour non-stop trek we finally reached Kurangani and soon disappeared to Bodi to catch our bus leaving to Chennai. Overall, a nice two day exploration as our heart went to few less-travelled locations something that is close only to a trekker’s heart.

An amateur poetry before I begin my next trek:

I love walking on that lonely trail but the pleasure on the trailless trail excites me;
I love those gentle drizzles but the joy of walking on a heavy down pour mesmerizes me;
I love standing on the cliff, camping on the banks of a beautiful lake, staring at the beautiful moon;
I love the melody of birds; I love the chill mountain breeze;
These are the pleasures which are close to my heart and very close to my heart…

Happy trekking,

Durai Murugan


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

In search of treasure to the heavenly kingdom i.e. Nagalapuram

CTC’s famous Nagala treasure hunt sporting with 5 competitive teams in search for the clues leading to the treasure hidden deep inside the Nagala Mountains witnessed exhibition of the best navigation skills; stood testimony for team building and the feeling of great comradeship. Clues were read, understood and interpreted as meticulously as possible – topography maps were carefully read to plot the latitude and longitude of the treasure point. Trails were daringly taken along the never travelled paths cutting across ridges, valleys, streams, gorges and peaks. I am delighted to share with you the trail analysing, map reading and team work done by Cavaliers of Nagala a compact six member team.

Interpreting the Initial clue:

Our Initial Clue read “N 13 30 28” E 79 49’ 11 - I am standing 30m tall looking into the gorge search near by my base”. We interpreted the clue to mean a tree or a cliff which is looking into the gorge therefore decided that this clue must be plotted on somewhere on the ridge which is looking into the gorge. We quickly rushed to the co-ordinates but were quite disappointed not to see any tree or cliff that was 30 mts in height. Quickly we slipped inside the gorge and discovered a 30 mts high tree although the clue read near by my base even after thorough search we could not find out evidences for any clue only leading to disappointment.

It was almost 2 hours since we reached the co-ordinates but, disappointment and tiredness were the only things that we witnessed and the team decided to leave the co-ordinates and search in the neighbouring areas for the clue – it was then our lucky boy Alwin jumped out of joy lifting the clue from the trunk of the tree completely covered by leaves.

 On the hunt for the 2nd Clue to that black and dry 20mts waterfall –

 1st Clue which we picked up from the tree trunk read “N 13 30’ 53” E 79 48’ 10 - Hello, I am black and dry, my height is 20m my width is 30m. I shower in monsoon. Climb on top of my HEAD”

The clue was point blank clear that it was a dry 20mts waterfall and the only thing which we had to do is find the co-ordinates and create a quickest and easiest trail from the current location to the 2nd clue. Although we had difference of opinions of the trail that has to be taken finally we arrived at a consensus and decided to take the dry side stream on the eastern side and reach the co-ordinates.

Climbing the narrow honeybees thronged gorge:

If we had to reach the 2nd clue we had to take a tricky, honeybee thronged and a slippery gorge. Brijesh one the senior most and the most adventurous guy in our team took the lead here and successfully navigated the gorge and reached the top of that narrow gorge.

 After the clever climb inside the gorge we trekked through the dry side eastern streams to reached the 2nd clue on top of the dry waterfall which read “N 13 29 12” E 79 47’ 05 - We 3 stand apart, near the empty stream, take me out.”

On the hunt for the 3rd clue:

The third clue again had two possible interpretations firstly, three dry stream junction and secondly, three trees standing apart from the dry stream. After braving few climbs, rock climbing and bushes we reached the 3rd clue co-ordinates at around 7 p.m. We decided to call for the day since two of our team members had bad cramps and were not in a position to further proceed ahead. Fortunately, we camped on an abandoned hut, which had decent basic facility like water point and flat surface for camping.

Enjoying the hot noodles watching the full moon on top of us we slept listening to the music of the Nagala birds at 725 mts altitude. One of the finest and peace filled nights of recent times.

We woke up in the morning and picked up the third clue which was kept on the trunk of a tree near the dry stream which read “N 13 29 25” E 79 47’ 40 - I rise from the ocean. I fall from the sky. I flow in between.”

Heading to the treasure point:

The treasure point was one the easiest guesses of all the clues. Since the clue read with the topography map everybody with unanimity whispered it is a small stream on the base of the central Nagala peak. Relishing the early morning chillness and watching the early morning misty clouds we forgot the treasure hunt to be honest and started cherishing the clouds rubbing our skin. The early morning trek penetrating into the clouds and walking along the ridges reminded me of the monsoon trek I did on the Palani hils. In another 45 mins of trek along the ridges we reached the treasure point with the treasure goodies waiting for us.

Overall, a wonderful 24 hours of search for the treasure covering around 32 kms navigating unknown trails with the help of GPS and topography maps was a brilliant hands-on-exercise for aspiring navigators.

Happy trekking,

Durai Murugan

Friday, 27 April 2012

Honey falls (Thenaruvi) – the delight of Courtallam

Many elders of southern Tamil Nadu will have pleasing memories enjoying the ‘Saral malai’ (drizzles) of south western monsoon at Courtallam and the bathe in those innumerable waterfalls. The seasonal rainfall starting from June to September every year attracts people from various parts of south India to take bath in the heeling waters and the best time to visit this place is when the monsoon sets in southern Kerala.

The chill breeze, the pleasant weather, the gentle drizzles, the aroma in the wet soil, the melody of the chipping birds, the delicious fruits, the delightful views of the mountains all these conspire me to visit this ‘magic place on Western Ghats’ called Kutralam again and again. I have been continuously visiting the “Courtallam seasons” regularly for the past 7 years and I should confess am absolutely delighted and rejuvenated during my past visits to this rare hot spot of south Tamil Nadu.

The heavenly Shenbagadevi falls

Unlike recent restrictions two years back Shenbagadevi falls was open to all the people who visit Courtallam and most people trek along with family and friends to this beautiful falls and offer their prayers at Shenbagadevi temple. The trek along the main stream, the steps carved on rocks and the striking Kutralam valley are still fresh in my mind and magnetise me to this place again and again.

My memories with Shenbagadevi waterfalls cannot be forgotten that easily for its pure and heavenly water, its refreshing breeze, its stunning beauty and its deep pool. I remember during my previous visits diving inside the pool and standing beneath the ice-cold waterfalls, all these memories will stay deep-rooted in my heart for years and years to come. I can very well understand that these are special memories not unique to me alone and common to everyone who has visited this beauty on earth. I love sitting on the edge of that rock bordered pool and watch the water hitting the rock and the thundering sound it emanates. Indeed, that is my style of enjoying the mode and rhythm of a waterfall.

A hike to Honey falls (Then aruvi):

From the Shenbagadevi waterfalls an one hour continuous hike along the ghat trail along the stream and bouldering one can witness ‘Honey falls’ it derives its name because of the honey hives which can be found plenty on this waterfalls. Absolutely, there is nothing wrong in calling it as ‘honey’ even the water tastes sweet and even better than the honey.

The forceful water drops from a height of 170+ feets at Hoeny falls. During monsoon its impossible to get near this falls but during summer one has to negotiate powerful water currents to hit the base and bath in this mind blowing waterfall. The climb towards this waterfall provides spectacular views of the courtallam valley below, goes without saying that one need to face the huge boulders and steep climb to witness this beauty unfolding. 

Watching ‘Honey falls’ during monsoon is an enchantment – the thundering sound it produces, the splashing waters, the mind-blowing view and the satisfaction of adrenaline rush are nature’s gift to an adventure loving soul.

Watching the clouds changing its patterns, shapes, colours and sizes while we are still on the land is an out of the world experience which can be enjoyed only at Courtallam and during its season. The therapeutic waters and the revitalizing breeze all warrant to correctly term this heaven on earth as “Spa of South India”.

Happy Travelling,

Durai Murugan

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

‘Marathon in mountains’ – Sunny, Waterless, Fainting, Lonely and what not Marathon!!!

‘Marathon in mountains’ considered being one of the deadliest of treks in CTC yet again reiterated its position firmly. My first marathon was deadly but this marathon gave me an altogether different experience. Most of the participants were new faces to me and the highlighting aspect was two participants were aged 40 + years, one 50 years and one +2 student. All determined to complete this ‘mind over body game’ after being experienced from previous difficult treks.

Early morning ascend to reach the 880 mts southern peak:

The trek started at 3.30 a.m negotiating the bushes to figure out the trail leading to the 550 mts water point in the Nagala souther valley. After successfully spinning and twisting inside the bushes we reached the water point at 4.45 a.m.

One of the best challenges on this Marathon was designed by the pioners to summit the 880 mts southern peak that will test the endurance, physical and mental toughness of the participants. The early morning climb to reach the peak was very enjoyable and none had the courage to predict about the hot weather that could us challenge us.

The trek along the ridges towards the peak surrounded by clouds with chilling breeze rubbing through us was the best delight and great booster to continue the trek.

Sensing the killing Sun:

While descending the peak itself we started realising the hot Sun, which was waiting to dry and kill us with its seasonal heat. Most of us decided to drench their clothes, towels and whatever possible with water. While we took the ridge above the Nagala western stream within 10 minutes time my towel and t-shirt dried up cautioning that you guys are going to have toughest of all times.

The Sun never stopped us; the climbs never stalled us; the sharp stones never denied our march, for the strong will we carried to reach our target. It was marathon - marathon and nothing else that ran through our minds. Steps were taken towards keeping in mind only the target and not the pain that we underwent.

Getting lost in the wild:

While I was heading the team on the ridges and the other seasoned marathoners sweeping and motivating the team we crossed the 25th kilometre and it was time to locate the next water point. The GPS which I had did not had water points marked therefore, I decided to slip inside the valley to look for the stream we were supposed to hit and requested the team to wait on the ridge. When I returned back to the ridge no one was there on the place where I last saw them and I had no clue which way they left and therefore, decided to stay there for some more time wait for them to find my whereabouts. Unfortunately, even after 30 mins no one turned to the same place therefore, I decided to continue the trek all alone.

Lonely marathon on the ridges of Nagalapuram and Tada:

It was 1.00 p.m when I got secluded from the team and with the hope to find the group I started to trek with high speed but I was not able to find their whereabouts. Since I have taken this trail two times I was quite familiar with the trek route and with the help of GPS I was quite confident to reach the destination.

The silent Nagala valley, the sun exposed ridges, the aftermath of forest fire all drained my energy making me feel exhausted completely and after entering the Tada range I almost fainted mainly due to dehydration if not for that one orange, the little water and timely rest I had I would have fainted on the hills itself. Never experienced such kind of giddiness before. After seeing the Tada valley from a distance I started gaining confidence since I knew that I could find some waster in that stream.

My knee got heavily stressed because of carrying my body and hiking for almost 13 hours and it started paining with each step. But I was confident to reach the destination with all these difficulties in place, but one thing which was bothering me was the whereabouts of the team since it been almost 6 hours since I saw or heard anything from them.

After refreshing and refilling from the Tada waters I slipped through the thorny bushes and the dry streams and reached the Tada main stream and tried calling others with the intermittent signal in my mobile but none of their mobiles where reachable therefore understood that the team is still deep inside the woods. Went near the temple pool and snapped for almost one hour still after that there was no news from the team and my hunger went beyond limits since I did not have lunch and had very little break fast. Therefore, decided to reach Vardapalayam to have some food to regain my sense. At 10.00 p.m I received a good news via sms that the team has reached Tada top successfully.

After that I was given to understand that few injuries denied the team to proceed faster and the team reached the destination at 1.45 a.m to earn the well deserved sleep at the Tada base.

Overall a very BIG THUMS UP for the entire team for having successfully completing the fourth successful edition of ‘Marathon in Mountains’ keeping the standards of trekking very high and for completing this ‘mind over body game’

Happy trekking,

Durai Murugan