Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Javadi Hills | 6 Jun 2011

There have been a lot of posts pending, regarding quite a few treks. Here's one more of 'em

Where: Javadi hill region, Eastern Ghats, Tamil Nadu

Who: Srikanth, Vinay and meself

Srikanth was back to Bangalore after a while, and he was itching for a trek. A friend had told us about this nice place called Javadi hills in north Tamil Nadu, where she had earlier gone for some social work stuff. This fit the bill perfectly, as we had only one day at hand.

We boarded a bus to Thiruvannamalai at night. And then waited for a bus to Jamunamarthur (via polur) that would arrive at ~4:30 am..... We waited sleepy eyed for the bus.... None of us knew to read tamil. Except, Vinay recognized some letters, and we would try to auto-complete the words. All of us were experts in speaking broken incomprehensible tamil though. So we somehow got our questions across to people. And we could sorta get most of their replies as well....

There's always a stampede to get into these buses. So we rushed and joined in at the first bus that showed up around that time. We grabbed and blocked our seats, and were proud of our abilities in this field! But, we were on the wrong bus, which we asked and figured out in a short while..... So, we had to do this ritual all over again, until we were on the right bus. Luckily, the next bus we rushed into was the right one.

Around a coupla hours and we were out of the bus. (I forget the name of the place presently. I guess you can ask for melchapli[pronounced male-cha-plea]  and be dropped off at the right spot).... We filled our bottles with water at the village near the road, and asked directions to melchapli. And there was a big fat wide jeep track that led there. We followed the track religiously, assuming that it will turn exciting sometime later, when we could actually do the wandering stuff. We reached Melchapli even before we could complete the thought. And by that time, we drank the water we collected at the village, and it was downright horrible to taste. We saw a dried up stream on the way up, and then realised that we will not get any water anywhere on the trail. We ususally dont carry too much  water, cos there are always streams where you can get refills.... But not this time... It was the core of summer in this region

A little beyond and downhill from melchapli was kilchapli (keeL- cha -plea), where we refilled with some water (which tasted much better. But we only had 2 litres of water for the three of us. We asked the way to the ruins of the dwarf settlements (which is a mild tourist attraction there. And if you fumble long enough to hunt for words to describe ruins and dwarves, they usually figure out what you want and direct you).... And before long, we actually hit our destination: the ruins of the dwarf settlement on Javadi. And we were there by as early as 9:30 am, thoroughly dissapointed at the lack of challenge as well as the lack of nature, as most of the route we walked on established trails from village to village.

After dillydallying around on the top, and staring at the descent down the hill into the village at the base (but opposite side to the way we came), we decided to go down the hard way, carving our own route. It was getting hotter, but there was some respite in the shade of trees and shrubs. We were making good progress initially until we started getting dehydrated.... We added electral in the last litre of water. That got over quicker than the first one

Dehydration hit me first of the three.... i started cramping while doing some tricky sections.... After some time, my steps faltered, and i started slipping quite a bit.... Slowly went into a zombie mode.... Soon, the others started showing effects of mental stress due to dehydration. We started yelling at each other for no reason.... The village was easily visible to us, and we could hear kids shouting there....... It was that close, yet so far (pardon the cliche, but those words are exactly what describe it best)..... Finally, i just gave up and sat down, saying i couldnt take it anymore.... I gave them my gps, and marked the location at which i was gonna stay. And they would go down and get back with water.

I sat there exhausted, muscles sore from all the cramps, and slipped into delusions. Every few minutes i hallucinated that someone was calling my name.... And then, i slipped into a dream maybe where i was sitting at that spot waiting until the next day..... And in some i was in a much more crippled state, and was getting down like the guy in Touching the Void. When i woke up from that, i was so glad that nothing serious had happened..... I just needed water, which would slowly arrive, and all would be fine. The triviality of my situation compared to the one in 127 hours and Touching the Void, brought me instant cheer and inspiration..... With some more time spent with hallucinations and dreams, i heard the real voices of them calling out for me. I gupled down a litre and half of water in one go! (plus electral), waited a while, and then started down the descent through some thorny brush.

Soon we hit the village and gulped down more water. Then it was a long boring road to the bus stop where we had to wait two hours for the bus to come. We hitched a ride on a tractor until some distance. Then it was the bus to thiruvannamalai.

Thiruvannamalai was another big mess! There was some festival or some auspicious day, and devotees crowded the bus stop, waiting to swarm into any bus that gets in. And we were in no strength to fight for seats. We booked a room and went back to Bangalore the next morning.

That day definitely made it to the top 5 of the most exhausting days in my life.

Bus to Thiruvannamalai. Bus to Jamunamarathur from there, via Polur. Ask for Melchapli(mel-cha-plea near Javadi, and the conductor will let you know at the right stop).

Head to Melchapli, then to Kilchapli (KeeL-cha-plea), and then ask for dwarves' houses and ruins). Someone called them 'pyramids' as well!

If you want to go down the steeper face of the hill like we did, carve your own way down. But here's our overall track, in case you need some idea.

The splattering of co-ordinates are either because we roamed around a bit in those regions, or when the gps recception was inaccurate due to interrupting foliage.

Current mood: Dehydrated just thinking about that day
Currently listening to: Given and denied - Poets of the Fall

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fooood please

The world record for most number of food items on display in a single day is 5845. And that was a cheese based theme. i.e. they made 5845 cheese dishes (well..... the sponsor was some cheese company!). The total number of dishes in the world must be a hundred fold more maybe? 584500?

Now let's say i've got a hundred years more to live (i hope not though).... And say i eat a new dish every  time i have a meal. I'll eat 3*365*100 = 109500 meals..... And yet i wouldnt have tasted all the food in the world!

And thats why, every time i eat something i've already had before, and am not so fond of, i regret that its taking the place of something exciting and unknown, which i'll never have a chance to even try!

Current mood: vagabond-ish
Currently listening to: My body is a cage - Peter Gabriel

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paithal Mala | 17-18 Sep 2011

After hearing enough complaints of me not blogging about many things, i thought i should put in some extra effort straight away and finish this trek-alogue and post it, before it goes into the ah-now-its-too-late-to-post-it state.

The crew:
Bejoy, Deepthi, Richa, Shanid and myself.

The plan:
Sync up at Kannur. Then a bus to Taliparamba. And from there to Kappimala. Then a jeep to however high up the hill the jeep track could take us. And then head on the trail, until we reach the top of Paithalmala. Find a way to get to the adjacent Purathoty mala. Camp somewhere near the KTDC resort there.

The next day, we would ascend the purathotymala to the north, with mostly grassy slopes. Then head eastward, on a mild descent through rainforest proper, but still stay on top of the hill ridge, untill we reach the next clearing. And all this would be on unmarked trails carving our own route, unlike the previous day. And we would go on further, on the day after that, to reach somewhere near Choma kunda or Thadiandamol.

And of course we expected rain, as we were doing a monsoon trek in rainforest. Consequently we also expected helluva lot of leeches. We went armed with high spirits, some deisel and salt.

The map above was sort of the limits to which we could stretch the plan, rather than the plan itself. The above marked route might take 4-5 days or maybe even more.

The way it turned out:
Day1: We reached Kappimala by bus through a coupla hours of some rather run-of-the-mill kerala views. We gobbled some food there, and packed some for the night. All food for future days were already packed. Then we hired a jeep to get as much up the hill as we could.

The jeep driver kept asking the locals on the way about the situation with the elephants. It turned out that elephants had messed up with some plantation and was driven back into the forest, just the previous night. He warned us about the elephants, but didn't obstruct our intention of continuing our trek. He informed us that there are a few kiddo elephants who could innocently wander our way, but we'd be in trouble if their parents saw us anywhere near them.

We finally got onto our feet, stuffed our socks with salt, and started moving. We were anxious, excited and all of those on-the-edge-ey adjectives. And when we smelt elephant poop, we were reminded to keep staying alert. The slushy terrain preserved a lot of the footprints of the giants as well. But, after some time we were all possessed with de-leeching ourselves that, we couldnt spare it enough worry.  The occasional drizzle, lots of uprooted bamboo trees, streams, slush and leeches later, we were out of the forest and on the grassy hilltop of Paithal mala. Roamed around a bit, soaking in the awesome views of moving clouds all around us, and headed to the watch tower on the southern end, for a pitstop. Enroute we saw the trail to a jeeptrack to get onto the adjacent hill, Purathoty mala, which we followed after having a yummy food break at the watch tower.

The trail to purathoty mala was more or less a steady gradual descent through the forest, which we hurriedly went through, so that we wouldnt be caught in it during the dark. We emerged out into the grassland again, and the trail led us to the KTDC resort. To our astonishment, we found a rather well tarred road there (compared to a trail that we saw in google maps). This meant that we probably should have gotten to this side of the hill by bus in the first place, to have more time on our hands to do the more challenging bits. Anyway.... it got pretty cold quick, and our mildly rainsoaked clothes didnt make it any better. We pitched our tent near the resort before it got dark. After a final leech check, we were all inside, 5 people in a 3 person tent. We decided to cram ourselves, as it would be easy to stay warm, and less of a burden to carry the extra weight of another tent. Food, some spirits to warm us up, and a lot of chit-chat and laughter later, we were off to sleep.

Day2: We woke up at 6:30 and went about the regular morning routine, but with thoughts completely on the exciting day ahead. This was the day, when the actual interesting part would start, as we would carve out our own way, and into nicer denser forest. We packed our stuff, coated our legs with deisel (for the leeches) and started out at 8:30. Our first goal was to reach the top of the hill we were already on, by a mildly steep hike through the grassland-ish section. Most of it was easy, as the grassy parts were easy to grip. The occasional boulders werent too much of a bother, as we could circumvent it (They were too slippery to climb on directly).... The occasional patch of the rainforest trees, were a bit tricky as it was really slippery. But we got through without much incident. There was an elephant trail more or less around the way we were taking, easily noticeable through the uprooted grass and plants, and a LOT of poop. The poop wasnt stinking much even after getting wet in the occasional drizzle, which meant that this shit wasnt fresh enough to cause us much bother. We kept ascending while drizzles and sunshine were battling it out. Soon, we hit the top and saw the majestic view of the overwhelming amount of rainforest spread in all directions. Although we had expected the exact same thing from looking at the google map, actually seeing so much of rainforest covering you in all directions.... is an awesome feeling.

Except..... we hoped to see a grassy hill top in the distance, towards east, where we would aim to get to next. The grassy hilltop was nowhere in sight (probably occluded by stuff closer to us). We had just done the easy bit of the grassland ascent. the core of the rainforest seemed a little daunting. We decided against going into it, because the forest we faced until now was really slippery, and our rate of covering it would be too slow to reach the grassy hilltop before nightfall. And there was no realistic hope of camping anywhere on the slopes within the rainforest either.

The weather up there was changing every minute. One moment, it was all clear and you could see all the hills to the distance, and the next, everything is all covered up, and the next it pours, and then some mild sunshine, except its much more feebler than the sun we are used to. A much colder sun. We, saw clouds approaching from both sides of a hill ridge, and then colliding and forming a single big blanket..... Much of all the amazing stuff was happening when i couldnt take my camera out to take pictures due to the rain.

We stood there on top, hoping there might be some spark of thought that would give some new twist. We grabbed a quick bite, and relaxed for a while. Slowly, and heavy-heartedly, we were trying to get down to the reality that we would have to head back. And then it rained. And it rained heavily enough to not leave any room for second thoughts. We still waited a while for the rain to subside though. We heard some distant thunder. And realizing that the peak was not the place to be when there is a possibility of lightning, we soon saw ourselves descending through the elephant trail. Many slippery portions, a few not-so-nasty falls and few thorn pricks later, we were down onto the road again. Then it was a rather dull walk down the road to civilization.

Directions: Kannur => Taliparamba => Kappimala by bus. Then a jeep to go some more distance up. Then followed the trail to the watch tower. Then the trail to the KTDC resort.

Alternatively, you could come to the  KTDC resort side of it first, through Kannur =>Taliparamba => Pottem Plavu (via kudiyanmala), and then catch a jeep.

And then we went up the hill we were on, towards north (and headed back the same way down)

We hope to get back to it sometime probably during late winter, so that the rainforest bit wouldnt be too hard.

Current mood: Lazy
Currently listening to:  Blue sky - The Allman brothers band

Sunday, September 04, 2011

No news yet!

For those of you who are curious of what has been happening to the startup..... well.... there's no news yet :(... We (me,bro,sis-in-law) have been building arbit stuff that are needed for the startup ultimately..... i.e. Everything is still under construction.... Mostly we have been building stuff to build parts required for the machines we are planning.... We were thinking of either building a reprap, or a cnc-mill..... The cnc-mill is just a few steps short of complete.... And u know, i guess these are the hardest.... And we've been doing things in bursts, rather than a continuous effort, cos we are easily distracted

And for those of you who were thinking that, my cycling, running and treks would have increased in number.... it has actually turned opposite.... Its hit such lows like before i started cycling/running

Current mood: the trying-to-get-back-on-track
Currently listening to: The Night - Black Lab