Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Summiting the Meesapulimala peak (2,640 mts) – an explorers’ dream trek

Every trekker has a dream and every dream has many millions of hidden aspirations deep inside the bearer’s heart. One such wanderlust dream from a peripatetic soul is the thirst to reach one amongst the highest peak in South India through legs. It was just a dream until we toiled hard to bring it to reality. Being an amateur in exploration I wanted to take up this challenge along with few like minded friends and there were numerous challenges which we had to face one instance was to take a trail without any guide’s help and navigate by self being the paramount.   

From my limited journeys I have realised the success of a good exploration is not in the destination but in the journey itself. Therefore, I have always made it a point to enjoy the journey more than the destination. Here is the brief description of this journey - the supernatural mountains engulfing us; the harmony in the atmosphere; the pleasantry melody of the birds; the morning fresh breeze relaxing the mind; the beautiful village Kurangini all conspired and impressed my inner self to take this journey.

 The astonishing trail leading to Kolukkumalai tea estate from Kurangini:

The initial steps of the trek was taken along the beautiful farm lands of Kurangini village although taking the wrong trail leading inside the farm lands towards few beautiful streams and waterfalls hidden deep inside the magical mountains we soon realised that we are heading towards a different destination and quickly took the appropriate trail heading towards Kolukkumalai. Indeed, taking an incorrect trail is also part of exploration and I enjoyed that as well.

 The sun was on top of us draining every bit of our energy but this could in no way stop our dream to reach the peak. We paraded through the mountain trails; we marched through the grasslands; we hiked the steep trails just for a sole cause to summit the peak. My mind was completely engulfed with the sole thought of summiting the peak.

Once we reached the zigzag trail leading to Kolukkumalai tea estate the sun’s influence on us slowly reduced and we started feeling the chill breeze hitting us gently. After reaching a certain high altitude we had to take steep climbs making our heart to beat faster and our thighs cry out of pain. Draining all the water, which we carried most of us found it very difficult to trek. Slowly and steadily with strong determination steps were taken towards water resource and reaching the day’s target.

Accomplishing world’s highest organic tea estate i.e. Kolukkumalai:

After hard struggle to find water source and with the dream to reach peak. Slowly and steadily one after other trekkers started showing up the Kolukkumalai tea estate. From the Kolukkumalai peak I was able to spot most of the trekkers haven’t climbed half the distance. Yet, I could realise their determination and strong will to reach the day’s destination – come what may. The sun slowly started to rest for the day and almost all the trekkers reached the tea estate.

Lying, at an altitude of 2,100 mts the peaceful and lush green tea estate is a picturesque spot for a tiring body and was a gift for the eyes. The tea served at the hill station shop for Rs. 10 had unique taste, great flavour and refreshing qualities.

But, the trek for the day was still not complete and we had to reach the Nagamalai tea estate to camp for night. Caught in the exquisite sun set view from Kolukkumalai we headed towards our destination for the day. We trekked and trekked for almost 3 hours and finally reached Nagamalai just to find some place on the veranda of a school to escape the cold night. Overall we trekked for 10 odd hours continuously for the well deserving rest for the day. Since there was a local festival the entire village sported with beautiful colours, decorations and we could even witness some great folk dance and songs. The tiring trek and the chill weather gave us a very sound sleep and we slept like a log of wood underneath the twinkling stars filled sky.

Early morning beautiful views of the Kolukkumalai valley and the nearby peaks:

We were woken up to the early morning chillness and to the melody of the birds to witness the pristine and beautiful morning views of the Kolukkumalai valley, slowly realising the pain running through different parts of our body caused by previous day’s trek. It was declared that the day’s target was to reach the highest peak in that region and those of us who want to summit the peak can join and others can take the top station to Kurangini trail to reach the base station. 15 daring souls wanted to summit the peak and create history. However, enjoying the energising birds melody we set up to proceed towards the trek’s target.

Summiting - Meesapulimala the second highest peak on the Western Ghats:

Hidden deep inside the Western Ghats Meesapulimala is a marvel by creation; it’s a miracle by birth; it’s a wonder by design; it’s a paradise for trekking; it’s a beautiful poetry lying on the laps of Mother Nature. The striking grasslands, the mind-boggling valley, the thick Shola forests, the exorbitant peaks, the impeccable views of the adjoining peaks. All these make this mountain an exotic location far away from human reach but still one of the most eco-sensitive hot spots in the world.  

 As per the version of local people the word “meesapulimala” is derived from the resembling view of the ‘face of a tiger’ it offers to the onlooker. I realised that the local people are very good observers - It did appear to me like a face of a tiger when I saw it from Suryanalli a village which lies on the base of this peak.

None in the group had ever ventured to summit this peak earlier and the only source we had to rely in order to summit Meesapulimala was a GPS device and the determination to reach is the second highest peak (my GPS also recorded 2,640 mts) after the Anamudi peak (2,695 mts). Gaining all the confidence we headed along the directions shown by the GPS.

 Although initially we were trekking along a trail soon it vanished and left us on the base of the peak that was basically a dry stream. We had no other option expect to take this rocky trail to reach the peak. As far as our eyes could reach we were only able to see the height and magnitude of the peak and nothing else. Gaining all the confidence we slowly headed towards reaching the peak.

Trekking along the Shola forest, grasslands and spotting wildlife:

The team initially trekked along the Shola’s and I went ahead of the team following the directions of GPS. I was able to easily spot the marks and waste of Nilgri tahr. The distance between me and the team became wide and after reaching the grass lands we very blessed with watching the beautiful Nilgri Tahr running inside the Shola’s. With that beautiful view we got energised and felt really lucky. Shortly, we spotted two big black monkeys - initially; we mistook it to be panther and soon realised that it is the beautiful monkey belonging to the Shola’s.

After the Shola’s if we were to reach the peak we had to climb the 75% sloppy grasslands to summit. Every step was a pain - making our heart pound hard and harder. But, the views were spectacular and worth every bit of pain which we under went. Indeed, the impeccable adjoining peaks, the beautiful grass lands and Shola’s below us encouraged to march ahead towards the peak.

After reaching the peak I realised that the trek along the grass lands; the zigzag dream trail leading to Kolukkumalai; the mind boggling views of the Rodo and neighbouring valleys; the impeccable beauty of the Anaerangal lake; the fabulous views of the peaks penetrating into the sky; the melody of the beautiful birds; the lush green tea estate; the chill mountain breeze that went though my nostrils; the gorgeous Shola’s; the trail never taken before to summit the peak all these will stay deep rooted in my heart forever. Indeed, this is what we call it as an “explorer’s feeling”. Yes “I am an explorer”.

Happy Trekking,

Durai Murugan

Monday, 12 March 2012

Trek Polama 3 and the speakers who left a mark in me

Claimed to be the largest trekking symposium in the country it attracted speakers from different parts of South India and pre-dominantly from Tamil Nadu. The event had 18 speakers who have explored and kindled the unique passion within them. The speakers had varried interest’s from animals, snakes, trekking, waterfalls, turtles, photography, first aid, maps, navigation, HAM radio and various other outdoor activities. The event sprawled across two days and engaged the audiences from different parts of the city and few coming from Bangalore, Dindugal, Auroville and other places.

There were few topics I had very big expectations which turned out to be boring and few unexpected topics which were brain-storming and ‘food for thought’. Those who failed to leave a mark in me I forgot them when I came out of the venue only the rest of the speakers who had left an indelible mark in me have made me to pen.

How a photograph of a little frog can save our planet?

This was the question which was raised by Mr. Amogh. Although, it sounds like a hypothesis of a Ph.d dissertation. I was wondering with all curiosity what this Gentleman is going to talk about. However, he made a very good case and conveyed his message very effectively. Admiring his passion for photography and especially his unique passion to photograph small and un-noticed living creatures on earth was something which attracted me. His principles of clicking and sharing them as much possible and giving them free of cost for non-commercial activities are his distinct characteristic features. Although he appeared to be silent person his work and expressions hit me like thunderstorm.

That’s the reason precisely why I walked towards him and had the opportunity to shake my hands with this “Photography phenomenon” called Amogh.

Marathon in Marathon:

An unbelievably next door-uncle-kinda person who challenged the young guys with his bubbling energy is Mr.  Anand Anantharaman. As the saying goes there will be 'calmness before a storm' he never opened his mouth until he had an opportunity to do so. He made the walls reverberate through his youthful vibrations; his legs never stopped at a particular place and he kept jogging from one end to the other end of the room for innumerable times for almost an hour. Certainly, he was the person who covered the floor the more number of times.

He informed us that he started running only at the age of 56 years which I am unable to digest till now. He roared that “running is like a contiguous disease” when one gets to watch inspiring people like him talk I am confident “even a dead man would come out of the grave and complete a marathon”. Definitely he is a person “Born to Run”.

I speak for animals:

A thunderous voice unmatching to its owner was that of an old army Major Mr. Dawn Williams. Although he claimed himself to be as an animal welfare person he was definitely a threat to anyone who even attempts to threaten an animal. He may appear to be old but none of his actions, expressions and voice can make you feel he his retired from service. He his definitely a night mare for people who hurt, injure or even think of harming any five sensed creature.

He uses the nitty-gritty of legal provisions to fight his battle against harmers to animals which was evident from the number of people whom he has got arrested. He his definitely a night mare for any person who thinks of injuring an animal.

A walk to conserve turtles:

He appears like a boy from rural Tamil Nadu sporting with doothi but his English can make an Englishmen raise his eye-brows. This 6 foot tall gentleman walks along the chennai coast looking for sea turtle nests and dig out their eggs to take them to safe hatcheries and release them into sea when they start walking on their own. His new interest of making Tiruvanmalai hills green is an exemplary effort in this economic world where everyone is in search of money.

Arun’s walk has saved hundreds of Olive ridley turtles and I am confident he will walk to save thousands and thousands of these endangered creatures in the days to come.

Nilgri biosphere is my home:

Appearing humble his words spreads like a forest fire which echoes his feelings for something which is very close to his heart i.e. the Nilgris biosphere and its flora and fauna. He is a person who is committed to his word and follows his own set of jungle ethics when he ventures into the nature. His knoweldge about the nilgris biosphere is a product of his hard labour and his voice is unique among the crowd which speaks about conservation. Let him keep marching ahead in his journey towards conservation. All the best Mr. C.R. Jayaprakash.

Organisers Nagin; Aishwariya; Thilak and Karthick Rajagopal:

Although I did not had the opportunity to hear Nagin and Thilak speak but I had the opportunity to move with them and I very well understand their work and contributions. They both are definitely 'feathers on the cap of CTC’ they keep us motivated and when they are into organising one can expect miracles to happen. Defintely, they are always like twinkling stars on a gloomy night.

Karthick has an inspiring way of teaching photography, like his photographs his lectures are damm interesting. A very informative and down-to-earth guy who loves talking on and off the stage. He has inspired many persons to click pictures. Keep your good works flowing like a perennial river - mate.

Women and trekking – Aishwariya’s presentation was as beautiful as her appearance. A very powerful and effective presentaion about the difficulties faced by women during trekking and how to overcome them. Her idea of creating a separate forum for women trekkers made the audiences feel that she is a woman of not only words but also 'action'. Her work in publicising Trek Polama 3 through media was simply brillant.

Dare to create your own trail rather than following an existing trail:

A living example of the word “explorer”. If one wants to understand the term “explore” it becomes pertinent to meet him and join is expedition to realise the true sense of this word. An inspiration for me to trek and explore he has motivated many person’s to take the trails never taken before.

His understanding of the Indian terrain takes anyone by delight and his passion for outdoors is simply un-matched. He made the maps to appear like a beautiful digital photograph, GPS a smart phone in hand and navigation class a walk along the lush green garden. Walking tall in the arena of outdoors he is a god sent gift to Chennai i.e. Peter Van Geit.

At the end of the two days programme witnessing various enthusiastic people speak out their heart. What keep me inspired and motivated is the abundant and over-flowing energy levels expressed by CTC volunteers. The Trek Polama 3 happened only because of the dedicated bunch of volunteers. I am just feeling elated to be one among them. 

Durai Murugan