In case you are joining me late on this trek, you can view the Part 1 of my Nagala trek here .
Pitter patter… a rhythmic sound seemed to be the bgm for my dreams ! But I was woken up by the trickling of water on my sleeping mat and I was completely wet. It had been raining all night and I had slept under the rains ! I decided to wake up and noticed a few of my co-trekkers were awake in an open tent. I joined them.
We were talking in low voices, more out of reverence for nature’s silence around us than for concern for our sleeping friends ; We wanted more people to wake up and join the early morning party !! Some were hungry and out came the snacks – it was 3 a.m ! We chatted and sang . After some time a very low light started dispelling the darkness. Through the clearing on the tree tops we could see the light. Within a few minutes the stream reflected the early morning light. The light was soft and the morning was tender. The flowing stream was singing a soft melody and the setting seemed too ethereal to be real ! One trekker woke up and when we showed her the first rays penetrating the forest, she instinctiveky switched on her torch to find out where the sun’s first rays where !! Another trekker announced that she had thought in her sleep that the constant gurgle of the stream was actually an artificial table top water fall !! It was funny and ironical. We cityzens – we urgently need more zen in the city !! We are all prone to such ironies when our lives get hardcoded in the city ! We need to become more zensitive !
The light permeated the forest slowly but surely. The rain was easing off a little. Hope was dawning among the trekkers that we would be able to trek back, provided the rain did not become heavier; then it would be hazardous.
The rest of the camp woke up and everyone felt a hot cup of chai is what would get us going and raise us out of the numbness due to sleeping in the cold and rain ! But alas, there were no dry sticks or firewood as rain had soaked all the trees and ground. We would have to wait for many more hours before we can drink anything hot.
We got down to the job of clearing the camp site – folding our mats & tarpaulin, picking up the little trash and stuffing them in carry bags, arranging our own bags. We did not have an extra set of dry clothes so we just had to remain wet.
We started the return trek. We followed the lead navigator. Another navigator brought up the rear of the group. But very soon we would be breaking into groups naturally based on our trek speed and stamina, and in some cases our photographic expeditions !! But the group always conglomerated at the critical junctures which were hazardous, to help each other out.
The day was cold and windy inspite of the early morning hope that the first rays had given. The river had swollen considerably and the banks were flooded. We could not go through the exact same spots we had used the previous day due to inundation. We had to test and find safer spots for criss-crossing the stream and scaling the gorge.
A mist had enveloped the gorge and the mountain peaks were capped by the clouds. The trees and plants were fresh having been washed by the rain. The rocks were wet and slippery. The river’s contours had altered dynamically owing to the rains. It was very deep at places and we had to rethink our steps all along.
Except for the slips and falls, which we had come to accept as normal, the first hour or so was uneventful. And then we came upon The Dead-End Pool – again !!
This time we frolicked in the swollen mini waterfall before we geared up to cross the dead end pool. After some group snaps, we formed a human chain across the stream to pass our backpacks. That done we crossed the vertical boulder cautiously. Then we carried our bags across the length of the gorge. One trekker fell off the vertical boulder into the water. She was quickly rescued. She was lucky to have escaped with minor cuts and scrapes. We were tired and hungry as we had not taken a proper breakfast. But we could not even think of that now. We were not yet out of the Dead-End pool. The walls of the gorge were even more slippery than the previous day and it was difficult to cross with the backpacks. After a point the guys offered to bring most of the backpacks. They were very helping throughout.
I was now at the vertical wall, from where I would have to get into the pool to be ferried. It was not possible to climb down as there were no footholds and the organizers had hit upon a solution – to jump into the water with a sleeping mat tucked under our hands. This would help us to bob back to the surface after the dive , provided we do not let go off the sleeping mat; in which case we would have a few seconds to explore the bottom of the pool before we rest there permanently 😦 !!Two guys and a girl would be in the pool to hold and ferry us the moment they spotted our bobbing heads; I’m sorry, its ‘if they spotted our bobbing heads’ !!
I closed my eyes, prayed to nature, scrolled through my bucket list which included learning to swim if I went back alive after the trek (!), kissed a goodbye to existence and loved ones, tightened my hands around the mat, took a deep breath and jumped feet first into the emerald green coffin !! I could feel chillness and darkness envelop me. I was into the water and the mat was slipping away. Water was entering my nostrils and mouth and I was gasping for breath. I was bracing myself to explore the deep confines of the pool, of that I was sure. Suddenly I could feel a breeze and somebody holding my arms; yes I had bobbed up alive ! I was ferried across the pool and the successful ones were cheered and clicked ‘on arrival’ at the banks of the Dead-End pool ! The organizers joked that since many of us were letting the mat slip while jumping, they should just push us into the water and stuff a mat under our arms if we bobbed up ! Yes, we were crazy to even attempt something like this !
Once the entire troupe had victoriously crossed over the pool, we celebrated by having the first meal of the day at around 12 noon. The rain was pouring again and we had a standing buffet. The pre-cooked chappathi packets were brought out along with 8 varieties of pickles ! The pickles were spooned onto the chappathis, rolled and dived into ! There were a few packets of namkeen and sweet rolls that disappeared quickly. After this relishing meal it was time to resume the trek.
By now, the stream had become my good friend and the slips too did not hurt much; and also perhaps my body had become numb ! I slowed down to click some snaps along the way. The mist had enveloped the mountains and the upstream. The speed of the flowing water was faster now due to the volume of water flowing from the source. This made some of the apparently clear spots also difficult to cross as less rocks meant more speed of the water. It was a live lesson in hydraulics.
We reached the first pool and decided to take a break. I lay down on the rocks and gazed at the mountain peaks. Nature is amazing. There is a wealth of information and wisdom there that reveals itself only to the seeker. We just need to sit in silence in nature and we can hear the whisperings of love and wisdom that resounds. I looked at the steep and narrow gorge and wondered at the river’s patience in making the mountain understand the river’s love for the mountain and creating a path for itself to flow through the heart of the mountain. And such a mighty mountain becoming tender enough to be moved by the gentle river. The River flowed happily protected by the strong Mountains. The witnessing of such love tugged at my heart. Love and Faith can indeed move Mountains.
I indulged in some macro photography that I could not do so far in the trek. There was friendly banter and it was time to hit the resume button. From now onwards it would be a relatively easy path. But our energy levels had dipped dramatically and this made the rest of the trek tedious.
The final lap resembled a comedy movie where groups get lost and keep running into each other and going the wrong way again and again ! This mountain stream can change course slightly depending on the rains and one small wrong turn could lead us into an unknown part of the forest. The organizers were experts and they charted our course well. In the last stretch we also encountered many local villagers who come to the mountains often to pick up firewood or leaves etc. They walked as if they were walking on flat ground under optimal conditions while we struggled like a baby taking its first steps ! The locals were people who were part of nature and they did not need special equipments to visit her !
After much walking we sighted the dam. It was brimming with water. We could spot the temple in the distance. The embankments of the dam were windy and cold. The open spaces and the wind across the water made the walk tough. It looked like a storm was hurtling towards the mountains. Darkness was falling over the mountains. We crossed the dam at its narrowest part and saw our parked vehicles. One group decided to break for dinner enroute while some of us planned to go straight to Chennai.
I switched on my mobile and saw some missed calls. I would have to answer them soon and face some tough questions !! Not yet ! I had not yet bid adieu to the mountain, stream, trees and clouds ! I had the feeling that I was bidding goodbye to a close friend. It was also time to say goodbyes to my co-trekkers who had become good friends by now, having survived two strenuous days together. The organizers had done a wonderful job and were very helpful.
My brother informed me of the approaching storm and the heavy rains in Chennai & Pondicherry. It was going to be a rough ride back to Chennai. The rains would become heavier en route. We would be riding into the storm as the storm would reach these mountains in a day.
I took one last look at the mountain and the stream. I’ll be back to Nagala sometime in the future. Right now, it is time to go back to Civilization !