Monday, February 4, 2008

Har Ki Doon Trek

Year: 2005
My first trek's inspiration led me to take part in Har Ki Doon trek conducted by the same YHAI in The Himalayas.
For this trek I decided to report on 29th May,2005 at reporting camp Mussoorie. I boarded Chennai-Dehradun Express on 27th May. Reached Deharadun on 29th and directly went to Youth Hostel Mussoorie to report. It was on Deharadun-Mussoorie road 6 km short of Mussoorie. Some participants from Gujarat were already reported and they greeted me in the dormitory.All of us went to Mussoorie to have a look.We roamed in Mall Road for some purchases.All others went back to YH. I had my lunch and went to Gun Hill on a cable car (rope way). View of Himalayas from Gun Hill was simply superb.
In the evening we gathered in front of YH building. This building was a nice construction surrounded by hills and looked majestically from Mall Road also. Swamy from Karnataka was the Co-Director of this trek. He addressed us. He made some points about this trek. In that briefing he told that in National treks there was a dress code. He pointed me and a guy from Mumbai and told "don't wear cloths like that". I was in shorts and that one was in a sleeveless tee. "Being this area an international tourist center you can wear such clothes. But in treks, all age groups, both the genders will be participating", he remarked. Thenceforth we followed suit. Every group was designated with a name, ours was HD 29.
Day 1
Next morning, the 30th May, we had our group photo and boarded a bus to go to base camp Sankri which was 175 km away. I still wasn't having a digi cam. After a nice start,on our way, we were stopped at Kempty Falls. These falls attract a large number of tourists who visit Mussoorie. After photo session we continued our journey. We were heading toward Yamunotri and traveling along River Yamuna. Journey was very pleasant, but road was very narrow. We continued like that up to Naugoan. Here we deviated from Yamunotri road, crossed Yamuna to reach Purola. This was our lunch point. That was the last place where we found a PCO and also mobile connectivity. After Purola the travel was slightly up hill. After some time we were traveling beside a river. It was River Tons. We stopped at Naitwar for tea. Here River Supin and River Rupin combine to make River Tons. Tons confluences with River Yamuna at another place.
We soon reached check post of Govind wildlife sanctuary. After some formalities we moved. Our entire trek goes on in this sanctuary. Before reaching base camp in the evening we saw a snow capped mountain at a distance. That was my first glance of real snow. Not only myself, there were so many first timers. Base camp was beautiful with colourful tents, 3 flags and also with so many trekkers. One was our National flag, another one was YHAI flag. Among us no one knew what the third one was. The camp site was terraced. At the entrance there was an office tent. From the entrance to tier3 there was a path.The path was separating the premises into 2 sections. In tier1 there was kitchen and dining area on one side of the path and toilets on other side. Tier2 was for excess baggage keeping tent and trek officials tent. All the trekker's tents were in tier3. Gents tents were on one side and ladies tents on other side. Except toilets everything was makeshift. We were scheduled to be in the base camp for 2 nights for acclimatisation and rappelling purposes.
After our evening tea we went out to have a look at village Sankri. There was no electricity, no telephone. While we were walking we saw River Supin flowing between two mountains. Like all hilly areas here also there was a stream between two mountains. They are here called Gads. Some of these Gads combine to form a river. Usually Gads have the name of the place where they were born. Camp fire was followed by dinner. After camp fire chocolate flavoured milk was served. Here at base camp there was a generator to keep bulbs glowing.
Day 2
We woke up by a call for tea at 5'o clock. At 6 went out for a simple exercise. For every batch there will be a leader, a deputy leader and also an environment leader. We chose Sharma from Delhi as our leader. Pratik Dagli from Gujarat was the deputy leader. Nilesh Patil from Maharashtra was our Environment leader. At 8 we went out for rappelling after breakfast. HD 28 members were moving upper camps. Before proceeding for rappelling, we formed in a line on the road to bid them farewell with claps. At 12 we came back. After lunch there was an orientation class. In-charge Field Director Mr.M.K.Goyal addressed us for nearly 2 hours on what to do and what not to do. Next we deposited our excess luggage, so that we were having only our rucksacks with us. Goyal examined weight of every rucksack by lifting it. If he felt it weighed more, he spelled jaada. So there was a need to shed some luggage from that rucksack. If the sack is weighed more, the trekker easily gets exhausted and wont be able to keep pace with others. The other officials were taking care in clearing some weight from those jaada sacks.
In the evening we went Sankri for a stroll. This time HD 30 members were also there. They just landed at the base camp from Mussoorie. Some locals were playing cricket in the village center opposite GMVN bungalow. We happily joined. Before 6.30 we were at base camp. Dinner followed. It was camp fire time after dinner. At that moment it began raining. Usually camp fire takes place in the dining shed. Because of shower it became wet and still it was raining. So camp fire was shifted to camp leader's tent. Compared to dining shed it was small, just 1/3rd.
Usually every time there will be 3 batches at the base camp. The batch that completed the trek, the batch that came yesterday(we), the batch that came today(HD30). All these three batches joined at camp fire. Initially it looked boring. After all have gathered the enjoyment took momentum. Vaibhav Karandhikar from Mumbai played a great role in making this camp fire a memorable one. With his Hindi and Marathi songs he shook all. He was really good in singing Marathi folk songs. When it clocked 10 we didn't know. 10 was the generator turning off time. This was the most memorable camp fire in the entire trek.
Day 3
At 5 tea.At 8 we were ready to leave after breakfast and with packed lunch for high camps. We started. YH officials were waving hands from dining area. We approached the road. HD 30 people were lined up there, clapping hands rhythmically. We walked past them with grace. Some of them shook our hands. We were heading to Juda Talao, which was 4 km away. Our guide for the day was nick named Sharukh. At the point of deviation where we were about to step on the mountain, leaving the road, there was a guy selling cut wood hand sticks. Sharukh told us that was the last place where we can find them and also suggested these sticks come in handy in downhill maneuvers. Almost all have purchased them for Rs 10.
Sharukh was good at Bansuri. He really played it well. Before lunch point we stopped 3 times. At first stop Sharukh told about trees in that forest. Our second stop was at a pipe line crossing the path. YHAI laid a pipe line from a stream to supply water to the base camp. After lunch point we didn't stop. We spent more than one and half hours at lunch point. Distance to be covered was only 4 km,but the ascend was more than 2000 feet for the day. We walked leisurely but steadily. After reaching camp we had a welcome drink. It was made of Rhododendron flowers. It tasted nice.
The camp site looked beautiful. A grass land, size of a foot ball ground, surrounded by tall coniferous trees. A snow capped mountain was seen at a distance. The ground was elevated on one side and other side there was a pond. Multi coloured tents were pitched on the elevated side. A great location, so serene, so pristine, so calm. I didn't even imagine that I was going to spend a night in an area like that.
Sometime later chai and snacks were served. Dinner was at 6.30 in the evening.Usually in YHAI Himalayan treks dinner will be at this time only. There will be light up to 7.45 in the evening. Then only we need to put on a torch if we venture out. Here also there was camp fire. After camp fire we came out of the camp fire tent to go to our tents. Then the magic began. It was chill out side. The sky was filled with innumerable stars. I didn't even know, that much amount of stars were existing in the skies. Surroundings were star lit and attained some more beauty. All these things mesmerised us. Some people began dancing with joy. Immediately all have joined them.
Day 4
Upon our awakening in the morning another time magical moments were awaiting for us. This time Sun rays made magic. The entire area where sun rays were fallen,turned into golden yellow. Entire camp site was in full glow now. Two multi coloured horses were grazing beside the pond. All these things made us dumb. Our batch leader started meditation. Mean while Nilesh Patil, our envi leader, went up to one of the horses and gave a pat. Immediately it stretched its leg to kick him. He missed it very narrowly. He always did things like that. A naughty fellow!
Time has come to leave the camp site. In this camp we enjoyed every moment. We headed for Kedar Kantha at 8. A path was leading beside the pond. We took that. We walked leisurely. At 11 we were at tea point. Usually in trekking season local goat herders open a makeshift tea shop for a living. Here they offer maggi noodles, omelette and tea.
Tea point was a big sloppy area. On one side we saw Kedar Kantha summit at a distance and on another side there were snow capped Garhwal range of Himalayas. It was all a huge grass land with herds of white goats grazing. I enjoyed sitting there, sipping hot chai in cold atmosphere with lovely surroundings.
We had welcome drink in Kedar Kantha camp in the evening. This camp site was also a fine one. Camp site was at the foot of Kedar Kantha peak. In front of the camp there was a huge grass land. A canyon was there at the end of the grass land. At far of a distance from canyon there were snow capped mountains. We were in Uttarakhand state. Our guide showed at some peaks at far and told they fall in Himachal Pradesh state. Borasu Pass connects Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The route is Sankri-Har Ki Doon-Borasu Pass-Chitkul.
We played cricket for some time. I hit a boundary while batting and had a wicket too when I bowled. In the evening we saw a great sun set. We were lucky, there were no clouds. We saw disappearance of the Sun below the horizon over the snow capped mountains. There was no camp fire today.
Day 5
This was summit day. We were going to climb our highest point of this trek, Kedar Kantha summit, at 12000 feet above MSL. Since we camped right at the foot of the mountain, we started climbing it after our start to camp Dundha. This mountain looks like throat of Lord Shiva so it is being called Kedar Kantha. Initially it was not steep. That was phase 1. Phase 2 was a little bit steep. At the end of phase 2,there was some snow. I touched it to feel it for the first time. Phase 3 was the steepest part of this trek. At the end of this phase there was a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Some offered prayers. There was an idol of Lord Ganesha outside. It was found nearby this place by some villagers. The temple was 50 feet behind the summit. Tea point for this day was on the summit. We took a long rest here. From the summit we could see the beauty of Himalayas.
From the summit walk was exciting. We walked on a knife edge ridge for some time. Path was very much narrow here, with sloping sides. Only one can walk at a time. A very steep descend followed after this walk. After descending it was lunch time.
We took a good break and started toward Dundha. After walking 1 hour we came to see the vinyl board welcoming us to camp Dundha. Everyone was at ease, thinking as if reached the camp. But the real drama was, YHAI people placed the board one and half hours before the camp, with an uphill task. At last reached camp Dundha. Sameer from Mumbai and myself stopped before the camp for chit chat and we reached the camp 15 minutes after the last soul entered. Till then camp leader P.S.Chouhan from Lucknow was waiting for us at the entrance of the camp. He welcomed every one of us warmly. Instantly we assumed Chouhan as a good person. Because no camp leader did like this before, and in the entire trek also.
Camp Dundha was at an ideal place. It was on the edge of a hill, with patches of snow at the front. At the back there was a valley with woods. One side the trail coming from Kedar Kantha and another side the trail going to Talhouti. After refreshments camp leader asked us to gather in a tent. During introductions, another time he proved his knowledge and memory about YHAI conducted treks. First our leader Sharma introduced himself to Chouhan. Chouhan asked about his past treks. Sharma did nearly 20 treks with YHAI. Whenever Sharma told about a trek, Chouhan was telling the names of Field director and Co-director of that trek. Even Sharma didn't know those details. But one thing made us laugh. Once Sharmaji did Mussoorie winter trek. As usual Chouhan told all the details. As usual Sharmaji told yaad nahee. Then Chouhan told, "you are Mr.Sharma from Delhi along with another man came with so many children and I was camp leader'', and told the name of the place. Immediately all were at laugh. After this session he announced that Mr.Goyal, our in-charge Field director, came there to participate in the trek along with us up to the next camp Talhouti. Camp fire was also good.
Day 6
Chouhan provided us hot water for our morning chores (never done in any other camp in the trek). Our batch leader Mr.Sharma was having some problem with his stomach. So he remained in Dundha for that day and he will continue his journey tomorrow with HD 30 guys. So his deputy Pratik Dagli took over his charges.
The day was claimed to be the toughest of the trek by YH Officials. Because we have to cross an ice field in the middle of the trail. Chouhan told about this and warned us to make it carefully. Main ice field was a sloping hill. A rope was fixed beside the trail and we were fixed with carabiners (An oblong metal ring with a spring clip, used in mountaineering to attach a running rope). We attached carabiners to the rope. While walking we held the rope with one hand so that it gives us support to walk on ice properly. Carabiner arrests any fall if we slide off the trail. If any sliding takes place there, the fall will be stopped after 200 feet. Going down is very easy but coming up is really a big task. If anyone falls, while coming up there won't be any grip for the shoe in that sloping ice. So trekker has to use his hands also. If trekker was not wearing proper gloves, fingers become numb after some time. In these circumstances ice axe comes in handy. A guy from Sambalpur, Orissa was there with an ice axe, to fix the rope and carabiners and also to bring up the fallen trekkers. We asked him 'has any one gone down'. He replied 'only one this year'. After this ice field we came across some ice patches. Some of the trekkers enjoyed sliding on them.
We reached Camp Talhouti. This camp was also in good place. It was having a variety of beautiful wild Himalayan flowers. The camp was surrounded by hills on two sides with patches of ice on them.
Usually in YHAI treks, they don't allow male trekkers into female trekker's tents, even brothers and husbands, but only fathers. Prajacta Joshi from Kalyan, Maharashtra was the lone lady in our batch. Along with her brother Mandar Joshi she participated in the trek. Sleeping lonely in a tent will be a little bit problem. So officials at the base camp wrote a letter addressing camp leaders to allow her brother to remain in her tent. In this trek base camp officials were using wireless service for inter communication with the other camps. Every day before we reach the camp, base camp officials were instructing camp leaders to make necessary arrangements for the single lady. Here also camp leader Mr.Shashidhar from Bangalore made special arrangement for the lady. Nearby the camp there was a Gujjar's hut. Shashidhar urged him to send his daughters to be with the lady for that night. After much debate he agreed. Those ladies also participated in the camp fire and sung songs melodiously.
Day 7
This morning Mr.Goyal, completing his one day trek, going back to base camp. Along with him Dr.Rishabh Dagli from Gujarat was also going. He was unable to continue the trek anymore because he was having blisters on his foot fingers due to shoe bite. He purchased shoe in Mussoorie and wore them for the trek. Due to that reason he has to withdraw from the trek. All have bid farewell to him.
I sat on a rock for some time here before our start. Morning was calm and peaceful. The surroundings were more beautiful than yesterday.
We started our journey to Lekha Thatch. Initially trek was down hill. Afterwards it was a steep downhill and trail went through dense forest unlike last day. Today, tea point and lunch point were at the same place beside a big stream. Our guide for the day was in dual role and acted as tea point owner also. Here we spent big time taking snaps and eating maggi. As soon as we finished our lunch it began pouring. Within minutes the stream swelled. In the rain we began our journey by crossing the stream on a log bridge. We were now walking up hill and the trail was on the side of a hill. Nature here was endowed with lush green forest. Rain was stopped when we reached the top of the hill. Some of us took snaps as the rain stopped. From here we saw Lekha Thatch camp site.
In the camp everyone was busy drying their clothes and all. Soon after snacks another time it started pouring. Camp Leader was not in the camp when we reached the camp. He went to Seema, our next destination, for something. We came out of our tents this evening only for our dinner. Camp Leader arrived just before that. It was still drizzling. So that day was no camp fire day.
Day 8
It was still drizzling in the morning as we were preparing to start to camp Seema. Soon after a downhill we were in Datmir village. First time we were facing people after the start of the trek. In the village center there was a school and a temple. The deity here was Duryodhana, the Mahabharata fame. 2 to 3 members went up to the school and inspected how teachers were teaching. Some people took snaps along with the children playing around the temple. River Supin was flowing beside this village. But it was too steep to reach the river. It was flowing a few hundreds of meters below. All the men in the village have gone to the fields. Only ladies, children and old people were remaining in the village. We took some time for photos at a stream flowing after the village. Soon we reached a shepherd's hut. He was selling goat milk and curd. Some purchased milk to drink. I purchased a glass of curd for Rs.10 and consumed it in no time. It was so sweet. Purchased another glass for lunch. We took our lunch today beside the path we were moving, unlike beside a stream every day.
During our post lunch walk we came along a flour mill which was working with the force of stream water. Soon we were in Osla village vicinity. Here two children were selling a type of fruit which tasted good. It started raining when we were about to enter Camp Seema. We hurriedly rushed into tents.
Camp Seema looked very nice. Though a tiny one it has so many attractions. At the end of tent line it was having boulders of 10 feet height. At least 10 can sit on them. Beside the camp River Supin was flowing furiously between the boulders. Trekker's tents were on one side and all the other tents were on another side making a place to play Gilly Danda.
The River along Seema-Taluka -Sankri route is Supin. This River goes and meets Rupin on the way after Sankri and finally meets up with Tons (Single largest tributary of Yamuna) near Mori. River Supin forms out of the confluence of Har-Ki-Doon Gad ( which comes from HKD Valley and Jaundhar Glacier) and Ruinsara Gad which comes from Supin Glacier in Kyarkoti region.
Here at Camp Seema we met HD27 people. They were returning from HKD, which we will be moving to tomorrow. We had good time here during camp fire.
Somebody asked Mandar to participate in camp fire earlier. He asked Doodh Milega? In the camp fire again somebody asked Mandar to contribute some thing. Instantly HD27 people yelled Doooodh.
Day 9
HD27 people bid farewell to our group in the morning while we were moving to our last high camp Har Ki Doon. Tomorrow we will be coming back to Seema. It was because there is no direct route between HKD and Sankri, our base camp. We crossed a bridge over River Supin and entered Osla village boundary. The temple here in Osla is famous for its wood carvings. Before the bridge there was Seema GMVN rest house. We walked on stone laid steps after crossing the bridge and at some height we turned right toward HKD. After covering some distance we saw a waterfall on the other side and GMVN Seema at a distance. Atmosphere was pleasant and views from here were scenic. With so many ups and downs we reached a tea point. There was a paddy field after that tea point. We met HD28 people there. They were coming back to Seema. We departed in opposite directions after a little chit chat.
We continued looking snow clad mountains to reach a tiny but beautiful waterfall. That was our lunch point. Legend has it that was the place where Maa Parvati took bath before meeting Lord Shiva at Har Ki Doon. Just after completing our lunch, there was a down pour. Soon it became to a hail storm. All hurriedly wore their rain coats and started moving toward the destination. Soon all the places looked white in colour. Sometime later there was only rain. After moving one hour we saw a person coming in the opposite direction. We asked him how much distance still to go to reach HKD. He replied 2 km. We were happy to hear that and continued to see a sign wrote on a boulder "Welcome to Har Ki Doon" after 2 km. But the destination was not in sight. We proceed another 2 km to see a Y.H.A.I welcome sign. Another time happy. It also vanished after not finding any thing after 5 minutes of walk. We walked towards an upward direction and saw GMVN bungalow. Energised and moved fast to clear an upward slope. Then the famous Har Ki Doon camp site came into our sight. That was a marvelous tiny piece of land. In orientation it self in the base camp, the Field Director told us that HKD camp site as the best one. It was true.
The camp site was a vast green area. Fenced by Swargarohini on one side, which can be seen right from the base camp, an unknown peak on the other side. In between these two Har-Ki-Doon Gad was flowing, born from Jaunadhar Glacier once 6 km away from here and now receded further to a 12 km distance. Multi coloured tents were pitched in the middle.
A memorable view. Soon we descended to reach kitchen area. Camp leader Amit Lakhani from Rajkot, Gujarat invited us to have pakora. We were ready to eat, another time Rain God showered his mercy. I ran into a tent, Mr. V.Suryanarayana from Bangalore followed and then Mr.Ojas Chavan from Mumbai. Rain was pouring all the evening, so we didn't attempt to come out of our tent. Rather we stuffed ourselves in sleeping bags in that chilly atmosphere. Camp leader after a while in the dark came and asked to come for dinner. We at that time were sleepy, not ready to come out in that rain, simply turned down his invitation. " What should I do with the food we made ready for you", he asked. After some negotiation we sent Ojas to bring some food to the tent itself.
As usual in the morning surroundings turned heavenly. After the first glance I went into the tent. Mr. Suryanarayana was requesting Ojas to bring his back pack from the kitchen, which he didn't bring into the tent last night. Mr.Surya came running into the tent last night without his backpack. His rain soaked clothes were there beside him. ''Without your back pack, how did you change your clothes?'' Ojas asked. ''I am naked", he replied.
Camp leader was distributing gulab jamun before our breakfast. "Do you want another", he asked me. "Yes". "Come here another time" was his reply.
We started walking toward Seema in the same route. Yesterday's lunch point was today's tea point. There we met Mr.P.S.Chauhan, our Dundha camp leader. Along with 4 others he was going to HKD. Before next tea point we met HD 30 people. We met Sharmaji, our former group leader and "The electrifying" Vaibhav. We reached Seema at 2pm.
In the morning in HKD, we saw Seema camp leader going toward Jaunadhar Glacier. So we will be going to be in a leader less camp this evening.
Day 10
Today everyone was in high mood. Everyone was proceeding at a gallop toward Taluka along River Supin. We finished our lunch at Taluka and boarded Jeeps to reach our Base camp Sankri at around 2p.m. Everyone in the Base Camp was astonished and said You guys reached quickly. We collected our baggage. Everyone was in high spirits for completing the trek successfully. After dinner we gathered in a tent for our last night meeting. We received certificates for successfully completing the trek. We missed Dr.Rishabh Dagli and Sharmaji. We asked Mr.Goyal "which is the best group in this trek?" "Yours is the best one". All vociferated he he he. Our Kedarkantha camp leader was also present there. He also supported it.
Day 11
Finishing breakfast with yummy noodles and a brief group photo session boarded our Bus back to Mussoorie. One of the officiating ladies entered into the bus and asked us, what's day today? Thurs Daaay, someone yelled. What's the date? 9th Juune. O.K. You are not out of the world she said and departed. Everybody in the Base Camp were waving hands as we were departing. In the mid way we stopped at a Hotel to take our lunch. In the evening we reached Reporting Camp. As per itinerary our batch remains there for the night and depart after breakfast tomorrow. One who wants to reside there afterwards they can book accommodation at their own capacity. I decided to visit Haridwar and Rishikesh. So I liked to move in the same evening to Dehradun. Mr.Satya from Bangalore also was accompanying me. This bus was going up to Dehradun. So anybody going there are welcome, the driver announced. We along with Sandeep Sorathia from Gujarat remained in the bus. He will be going Delhi and proceeding to Ahmedabad from there. Rest of the group bid us send off.
We reached Haridwar in the evening. Booked our accommodation in Karnataka Dharmasala and dumped our luggage in the room. First we went Har Ki Pauri for a holy dip. It was dark already. Mr.Satya opted for a dip in the morning. So I went into the River. I was going for a dip in the most sacred of the rivers, holy Ganga for the first time. First dip was an eternal bliss. Only twice before I had it. On both the occasions it was during parikrama in temples. First one was during Lepakshi Temple visit. Other one was during my visit to Lord Kalyana Venkateswara in Srinivasa Mangapuram. Had dinner and lights off.
Day 12
Went to Har Ki Pauri in the morning. After holy dip went to perform Tarpan to the departed souls of my dynasty.Today we visited Maa Manasa Devi Temple and Maa Chandi Devi Temple, both on cable cars. In the evening we attended Ganga aarti, which every pilgrim shouldn't miss. There are so many temples on the bank of Har Ki Pauri. Pilgrims in large number gather on both the banks in the evening. At sunset priests perform Ganga aarti. Priests hold large fire bowls in hands moving them up and down,chanting, gongs in the temples start ringing, giving a most enchanting sight.
Day 13
In the morning Visited Rishikesh. Had darshan of Lord Venkateswara at Andhra Ahshram temple. Visited places like Ram Jhula, Lakshman jhula

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ooty Trek

Year: 2004
I reached Coimbatore from Vijayawada in the morning. Checked into railway rest room in the railway station. This was because I have to catch Nilgiri Express going to Mettupalam at 0500 the next morning, which was the connecting train to 'The Toy Train' runs between Mettupalayam and Ooty. I thought this will be the right place to reside to catch Nilgiri Express. Had break fast in a restaurant in front of the station. After a long time I tasted tamil sambar. It was too good to resist. After that I roamed all around. In the evening had idly with sambar instead of dinner in the same restaurant and hit the bed. Next morning at 0500 boarded Nilgiri Express reached Mettupalayam at around 0700.Immediately after reaching Mettupalam jumped from the train, rushed toward Toy Train to grab a window seat. Now went all around to inspect the railway station. The toy train is being run by The Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Still steam hauled, it has a diesel engine also. But because of cost restraints they are not using it. After reaching Coonoor station they replace this steam loco with the diesel one which takes to Ooty. This train service began in 1896. Steam loco uses 8000 kg of coal and 14,000 liters of water for this journey. Train runs through dense forest at some places, crossing water falls, streams, bridges and tunnels. All the journey gave splendid views of Nilgiri Hills. In between there were stations where one can be refreshed with tea, snacks and drinks. Another great thing was I had mobile connectivity through out the journey. At 1245 reached Ooty. Upon reaching I was busy with last minute purchases. After completing all of them had lunch at some place and proceeded to Ooty Youth Hostel. There I shed my excess luggage and now I had only a ruck sack, which contains my belongings for the trek, was served by YHAI. After completing my trek I have to re deposit ruck sack at youth hostel. My initial plan was to catch 1330 Ooty - Portimund bus which goes via Parsons Valley which was our base camp. I missed it. I hired an auto rickshaw and began my journey. It was a 12 km journey. After passing Ooty out skirts there was no vehicular movement on that road. Literally the road was laid in the forest. Suddenly a leopard jumped on the road. First it was spotted by auto driver and he yelled 'see there'. We saw it crossed the road and vanished in the trees. I reached base camp at around 1600. Already all the members in my batch reached trekking shed. After chai and snacks we gathered for intros. The oldest guy was from Mumbai. He was 77. There were 5 members from Andhra Pradesh and 3 of them were from Vijayawada. At 1730 another late comer joined our batch. He was also from A.P, raising the number to 6. A slab was fitted beside entrance of the shed.It read the place was at 2295 M above MSL. The road leading further down the trekking shed was going to Parsons Valley dam. It was full of water. It was a no snap zone. This dam is one of the main drinking water sources of Ooty town. Authorities are pumping water from this reservoir to Ooty town. Security persons told that was the spot where climax scenes of film Roja were shot. The place was scenic, weather was cold. That cold weather further intensified the beauty of the surroundings. This was a restricted site. But we had the privilege of YHAI, so we have access to the area. At night before dinner we had a briefing about the trek. Dos and dont's, what to see like that. They told KURUNJI flowers,which bloom every 12 years, were in bloom. Next they will bloom in 2016. Earlier I told some people about the big cat I saw. They told that thing to YH people in that meeting. They asked me what did you see. I replied I saw a tiger. They immediately dismissed and said there were no tigers in the forest. Only leopards. I told them it was certainly a big cat, what ever you name it, a leopard or tiger. They told it as a leopard.
Day 1
Next morning had a bath, took break fast, packed lunch and ready to take off. YH people introduced Mani, our guide for the next 3 days. At 0815 we started trekking with Mani in the front, his deputy at the rear. Few steps after the gate of the trekking shed, Mani deviated from the road and vanished in the trees. We followed him. The path was narrow. It rained heavily at the night. It caused trees to fell in the path because of loose soil. Mani was clearing the path by cutting trees. Where it was impossible we were by passing the path. Trees were heavily dense here. We could see up to ankle portion of the person who was in front of us. It took us 2 hours to negotiate in those wild woods. After that we came to an open grass land. A stream was flowing in the middle. After half an hour we entered in to a pine tree forest. This forest was man made. All the trees were planted in rows. So that we can walk with ease. At the end of this tree line there was another big stream. We were amazed see the water in that stream. It was crystal clear. Some people asked Mani for a break. He said no. After the stream there was a little up hill. At that point there we saw a deep red mushroom with a small frog on that. It was clicked by every member of the batch.
After the up hill a big lake has come in front of us. It was Mukurthi Lake. The waters are actually the back waters of Mukurthi Dam looks like a lake. On the other side of the lake there was Mukurthi Peak which was reflecting in the water. Mani declared it as rest point. After the rest we kept on walking. All were hungry. Mani was walking in the front as if he forgot to give a lunch break. We came to Mukurthi Dam entrance gate area and crossed Mukurthi Dam over flow canal. Mani warned us not to take photographs. If so no guarantee for the cameras cos dam guards immediately seize cameras if they notice any flash. No one dared to do so. After crossing the bridge Mani halted us for a lunch break.It was 1400!! We started half an hour later. From that point it was up hill task. For some extent there was a road. At end of the road it began to rain. We were busy protecting our ruck sacks from rain. All have covered themselves with polythene covers which were purchased at a shop in Parsons Valley. We continued uphill, the gradient was medium.After some time the path took a turn and we were at the side of a hillock. On the other side there was a gorge. On the gorge side we could see a vast area, all covered with greens, small hills and Mukurthi back waters. A beautiful scene. We almost reached the summit. Here a huge boulder was there along the path. It was sloppy toward the gorge. We had to cross it to continue our walk. One side of the rock was steep gradient and other side was gorge. There was no way to by-pass it. So all were carefully crossing the boulder. Because of drizzle the rock was more slippery. Chand(77 years old) called me when I was about to step on the rock to cross. He asked me my help to cross the rock. O.k I told. He held my hand with his one hand and we were venturing to cross the rock. Carefully we were going but at one point he rattled for a while. If we slipped, it was only a 200 feet straight drop. We both controlled, safely reached the other side of the path. We continued the down hill and reached tea plantation at around 1600. One of the trekker asked Mani at what time we reach Mukurthi trekking shed. He replied "15 minutes". All have energized upon hearing that and walked in a steady pace. Mean while Mani showed us Kurunji flowers. Everyone was eager to have a look at them. After half an hour another one asked Mani, how much time we require to reach the shed. He replied the same 15 minutes. Like that he told us 5 times. Everyone was tired. At 1730 we reached Mukurthi trekking shed. Everyone sat inside the shed and took rest. Then asked the camp leader Rama Subramanium about the distance we covered. He told more than 20km. But in the itinerary YH guys mentioned it as 14km. Chai and snacks were served. They both refreshed the people a lot. Mukurthi trekking shed was having 2 rooms, one with toilet, a kitchen and in front a veranda. It was having an over head tank. A pipeline was laid in to a natural spring which brings water to the tank. The shed was also having a spring in front of its premises. Totally a nice place to hang with. Here there was also a slab which indicated the place at 2253 M above MSL, and was built in 1966. It was at one hour walk distance from the jeep track which takes to Ooty. After dinner all of us had a chat with Rama Subramanium. He told us about Himalayan treks. All were tired, so we called it a day.
Day 2
All the mornings were as same as Day 1 morning. We started at 0815. Initial trek went through tea plantations. A slight up hill. Up on reaching certain height down hill started. From the up hill it looked like a small valley, full of tea plantation and a tiny village. The village was surrounded by hills. Our path was leading to that village. As soon as we entered the village Mani has vanished. Rama Subramanium also accompanied us. His duties were over at the camp. Some other guy takes his duties for the rest of the trek days. He walked up to jeep track. We ordered chai at the only tea shop village was having. Mean while some one in the village brought just plucked carrots. They were having leaves also. We bought them and devoured. Mani came back wearing a new dress. Then only we came to know that it was his native village. We began our journey toward the hills. Here we spotted some of the portion of a hill in the distance was purple in colour. that was because Kurunji flowers were in full bloom at that portion. We started climbing a hill. In some moments a big cloud came and surrounded all the hill. We were walking literally in the cloud. The path was very narrow, couldn't see more than 2 meters, one side steep up, another side steep down. Really enjoyed walking. Some time later Mani halted us for late comers. Right from the beginning Mani did like that. After every half an hour or so Mani made us wait for late comers. Started again to reach tea plantations. Here we saw small trenches between the rows of tea plantations. They were there for conserving rainy water. We enter a small plain land. Here we saw potato and beans gardens. Next to this plain land there was a hill. We stopped there for some rest. View from here was amazing. Moved from here to stop for our lunch beside a stream. From lunch point we leisurely walked up to Anumapuram camp site on a BT road. The camp site was in a good location. It was a pukka building with toilets. In front of the building there was a big compound. The camp site was surrounded by big woods. Camp leader was Changappa from Madikeri. We heard noise of vehicular movement. Upon enquiry we came to know that Anumapuram is on Ooty-Mysore route. In the evening after tea some members proposed to visit Eucalyptus oil extracting place. While we were reaching Anumapuram we saw many females collecting Eucalyptus leaves fell on the road. Some one asked them, why you are collecting the fallen leaves rather you should take them from trees itself. They told it was an offence. If forest officials noticed it they will book a case against them, they told. All have started walking to watch oil factory. It was very cold. All others wore jackets except me. Why, Swapan Bhattacharji from Rasayani, Maharashtra, questioned. I told him if you are living in Vijayawada you should have known that. Heat, dust and humidity cause hell like stifling situation. But in The Nilgiris it was not like that. Cool. I really enjoyed the atmosphere here. We saw how they extract oil from Eucalyptus leaves. Questions aroused were answered by the owner of the factory. Some of us bought oil bottles. Anumapuram is at 2145 M above MSL and was built in 2000. After dinner it was time for camp fire. At Mukurthi camp shed there was no camp fire. Only chit chat. Burning of wood in the forest is an offence. Also its against the rules of YHAI. So YH officials at Mukurthi just lit a candle and told, assume it as real fire. Here also we thought like that. But Changappa made superb arrangements for the camp fire. He arranged a real camp fire by firing real woods. Then started mazaa. We stood round the fire. One of the assistant in the camp Ganesh danced really well for the movie songs. He was a Rajani Kant fan. All have appreciated him. Other guys in the camp told he was a newly wed. With sheer joy we hit the carpet (no beds).
Day 3
Morning as usual like all mornings, started at 0815. Approached toward the road and deviated for an up hill task. Soon we entered into woods, where sunlight was unable to reach the ground. We continued walking to reach open grass land. We were walking particularly in no civilized areas of hills,but there was some civilisation on the surrounding hills. Here we came across terrace farming. Potato and carrot were mainly cultivated by them. The path went up and down but easily doable. Another time we entered tea plantation area. After a down hill we reached Ooty-Mysore high way.There was a tea shop. Every one had some snacks and tea. Here guys from A.P took a snap. After some time we were on our path. Here the path was very much plain, still found terrace farming. This time we were mostly walking on open grass land. Finally we came into a vast land with a stream flowing. Mani declared it as our lunch point. Post lunch session was a leisure walk. After our lunch point there was a water body. The other bank of the body was a big grass land. After the grass land large woods were there.Wild buffaloes were grazing on the field. Mani told so many swimming enthusiasts lost their lives in those waters. Upon asking why he told the stream contain a type of plant which makes swimmers unable to swim. The plant swirls round the legs of swimmers so that they will be unable to move their legs. No one dared to test it. We followed the stream for a while then deviated for an up hill. Down hill took us another time on to Ooty-Mysore high way. That was Pykara. Our destination! we checked into Pykara rest house which is at 2084 M above MSL. Pykara rest house is near Pykara dam over flow canal bridge.Pykara village is famous for its dam (Pykara Dam) and falls (Pykara Falls). We reached Pykara some what early compared to other camps.So Camp leader arranged us a trip to Pykara water falls.We had to go down from the main road to reach water falls. If dam authorities generate power then only Falls will be in full swing. Now they were not generating, so falls were just seeping. On the main road there were many tea and snack shops. They were well utilized. Camp leader requested us to use public conveyance which was on the road. We obliged his request. Rest house was really a big one.It has a fire place too! Front portion was allotted to trekkers and back portion was occupied by DFO of that division on that day. So we were mentally preparing for a candle camp fire. Cos burning of wood was some thing. We urged the camp leader to lit the fire place so that it gives some warm in the night. He didn't dare. From here Mani signed off as our guide. There will be new guide for tomorrow. We collected some money and handed it to Mani. Then he left to Ooty. The next day he will be guiding another batch. Ooty was 21 km from Pykara. We invited DFO as our guest for the camp fire. 'Camp fire inside' he exclaimed. He was surprised to see the candle we lifted up. He laughed and guided us to the back of the rest house. There was some open place between rest house and kitchen. He ordered his staff to arrange a real camp fire. Within minutes we were round the camp fire with faces glowing more than the light from the flames. Every one was delighted by his gesture. Every one thanked him. He told us about his experiences in forests, near misses of king cobra bites twice, like that. He answered our queries. He dined with us. After dinner some of us gathered in side the rest house and began playing antyakshari. While some people were already in sleep and some were ready to sleep if we stop that nonsense. We tested their tolerance up to 0000. Finally we stopped it because next day morning we had to start early.
Day 4
Before the start DFO addressed us. He told us to visit Pollachi forest. He remarked that Indians cant wait to see a leopard or a wild animal. We make noise he told. If anyone wants to see a wild animal, needs patience, which is lacked by our people he claimed. We started walking toward Pykara dam over flow canal. We went past it and deviated on to a vast grass land. We crossed two hills and came up to a stream. Crossed a log bridge on it to continue up hill. Our guide told us that the area was tiger zone. If we maintain silence we might be able to see a tiger. After the up hill we were walking on the side of the hill. Beside our hill there was another hill. Between these two hills a stream was flowing. The hills were covered with woods, so now and then we were walking in their shade. Suddenly guys in the front stopped and signed us not to make noise. 'Tiger' murmured Vamsi from Hyderabad, who was right behind the guide. I just had a glance of it. Nearly 10 members sighed. After some time noise raised and we started walking. Here we saw a canal which was at a steep depth taking water to the other side of the hill through a tunnel. Nearly half an hour later we entered tea plantation zone. At this point we saw a scenic view between two hillocks. It was far and seemed to be lower than the area where we were walking. The area was green with black patches. We were walking on the path which was leading to a tiny village. It was actually having the houses of the labourers working in those plantations. Here I was walking along with Swapan Bhattacharjee. He was using all electronic gadgets including GPS. What do you do,I asked him. After some hesitation he told that he was United Nations Chemical Weapons Inspector. There was a chai hut. R P Raju, whose digital photos I am using for this blog, made a phone call from chai shop land line to his house using ITC card. After chai and some rest we came to a point where there was a path leading down the hill. We were between the two hillocks. This was the point from where we saw a beautiful area, which appeared before the village. Guide told that was Mudumalai wild life sanctuary and National park, which lies in Tamilnadu. Beside that there was Bandipur National Park of Karnataka. They both come under Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The area was vast. It was green up to the horizon. At some places there were black patches. They were the shades of clouds! The scene was amazing. We were nearly one thousand meters higher than the forest. There our guide gathered all of us and told that were now entering into Veerappan zone and also that was an elephant roaming area. So be careful. Some were telling what they would do if Veerappan comes in front of them. We began our down hill process. It was mostly on the stones which were laid long back. The Path must have been used in ancient times where there were no vehicles. We were descending in a slow pace. That was because Chand had some problem with one of his legs. So he was not carrying along with the rest. Beside the path there was a stream. We thought it was a big one because it was making so much noise. We were continuously loosing height. It was already 1345, the guide still was continuing. All were feeling hunger. At a place, the route was completely covered by fallen trees. To continue our walk we had to climb a piece of land which was about 5 feet of height. Our guide first went up. I was third. Then our guide and me, by giving our hands helped all to clear that height. Bagul Sagar Santharam from Maharashtra, unable to control his hunger opened his lunch box there itself. He asked not to wait for him. We kept going.Then a question came into our mind, can he clear that height? After some time there was a bridge to cross the stream we were following. We were stunned to see the stream, which was a tiny one. But it was still making much sound. It was our lunch point. It was 1430. All were too hungry, so every lunch box was emptied in no time. Mean while Sagar came and joined us. Our guide assured he will show us at least one elephant if we were silent. We didnt find any although we were not talking but found some fresh droppings. Mean while we came to the foot of the hill. There was a stream. Some were walking in the water to reach other side. Some have removed their shoe and stepped in the water to cross. I found some boulders in the stream at some distance off the path. I stepped on them and crossed the stream neither removing my shoe nor making them wet. All appreciated especially Swapan. Now we were on plains, no descending. We crossed a resort and reached a temple,where jeeps and our Mudumalai camp leader were waiting. He told us we were the group which took much time to reach that spot. The other groups came around at 1600. But we were there at 1700. Sanctuary gates were to be closed at 1800. We loaded all our luggage on jeep tops. From here we had a glance of mighty Nilgiris. I thought we conquered The Nilgiris. We vroomed toward The Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary. When we reached the main road we were stopped to have tea in a restaurant. We hurriedly finished our tea and continued our journey. We were in, in time. Checked into Minivet dormitory, built in 1978. It was at 880 M above MSL. So from Pykara we descended 1204 meters in one day. Immediately we gathered in one of the dormitories. Our camp leader first told about the forest and then introduced us Subbu, a forest guide. That meeting went on for an hour and concluded with a decision to have a private program to visit forest on jeep that night, which was not in YH itinerary. Fees was Rs.200/-. People who didn't participate in the raid were remained in dorms. Jeep started at around 2100 after our dinner. That jeep has some special arrangements. It has extra focusing lights and open top to have a clear view in the wild. All were hoping to find a tiger. First we had a glance of Bisons and then 2 Elephants. Like that we roamed, but didn't find any Tiger. At midnight we reached our dorms. Here we found herds of Deers. In the morning, after break fast reached bus stop. From Mudumalai, Ooty has two routes. One is via Gudalore, Pykara and another one is via Masinagudi. Gudalore route is the regular Ooty-Mysore route. Masinagudi route consists 36 hairpin bends. We opted this. Reached Ooty around at 1130 and deposited my ruck sack in YH. I spent two more days in YH Ooty. Here there was a poster about Himalayan Treks conducted by YHAI. Next day I explored Ooty.On second day morning I boarded a bus to visit Dodda Betta which is the highest point in Nilgiri hills. People in the bus were in deep discussion about some thing.Veerappan was shot dead last night!!


First I should admit that I am nomadic in nature. As a travel freak I often visit places like river sides and places close to nature. It was going on like that.
But things were changed dramatically when I came across an article which lead to my first trek to Ooty, conducted by Youth Hostels Association of India(YHAI).
Like all the FIRST things it was also an awesome one. That was the beginning of MY ENCOUNTERS WITH NATURE.It was 2004.

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