Monday, October 26, 2015

Kolli Hills - 17,18 Oct 2015

Ah, the sweet pain in thighs and calves after two days of trekking. 

After so many years of trekking exclusively around Bangalore and Western Ghats, I've got chance to trek in the Eastern Ghats, twice this year. First was one of the best experience ever - Nagala. Kolli Hills had plenty of water fun too, but sadly, no pools to jump. Thanks again Bangalore Trekking Club.

This time, we had two teams gathering at BTC's usual spot at Shanthala Silk house (the other group going to green carper Kudremukh). We took a few group pics and impromptu intro session before starting on our separate ways. Ours was a small group - 9 members (Vikram, Ameer, Venkatachalam, Prashant, Chidambaram, Sourav, Marthe, Hillary and yours truly), with Chidambaram joining us on the way at Namakkal. Since we had introduced ourselves already, Dumb Charades on our names was ruled out. Instead, it became a detailed personal info discussion. With mandatory questions like age, do you cook, are you married, etc

We reached Nallathambi resort just after 6 in the morning. We got a big hall with accommodation for 12. Very neat and spacious. Ameer took responsibility to co-ordinate with the guide (speaking in Tamil). After freshening up, we had breakfast at Semmedu (along with A2B sweet poli, brought by Chidamabaram) and packed parcel for lunch. We were then on our way to Arappaleeswarar temple.

The guide was already waiting for us there. He gave a brief of what to expect - total 12+ kilometers of trek, ending with visit to Agaya Gangai Falls. He described the trail to be steep as well as plenty of flat sections. So, after buying Rs 10 entry tickets, we got going.

Plenty of tourists and pilgrims, mainly to visit the falls. The numerous steps leading to the falls were obviously easier going down. Flanked on both sides with plants and trees and pretty large spider webs, we got a glimpse of range of Kolli Hills as we climbed lower and lower. Even the steps at some places were constructed akin to plenty of hair-pin bend roads we traversed to reach the resort.

After going pretty close to the falls, we took a deviation into the forests to start our actual trek. We knew within a few minutes the nature of our track and that the climb back was gonna be very difficult. The trail was, as is common, one person wide. I always wonder if these forest trails were all man-made or a mix of man-made and stream path(formed during heavy rains). We saw more of those monster spider webs and some interesting insects now and then.

With no recent rain, the trail was dry and not slippery. But it took a long time to get used to slope (mostly down). Plenty of red ants on our way, but I don't think anybody got bitten the whole day. After a short while, we reached first of the four caves. Cave might be too strong a word for it (usually 2 huge boulders set against each other), but we'll stick to it as is dubbed by the locals (written on boulders). The stream flowing down from the falls was close by but not accessible. We took our time resting and clicking pics and got going again.

About half an later, we reached the second cave. Couple of Sadhus were camping there. We settled for a long rest around the strewn rocks and boulders on the banks of gushing stream. Prashant and Chidambaram got into water, Vikram and Marthe jumped rocks to explore around, while rest of us just idled around. Small butterflies took to tasting our water bottles.

It was only after we were all ready to go that we realized we had to cross the stream! Suddenly the monotonous trail became interesting. People stood at various spots and passed on bags and sandals and shoes to the other side. Those who could overcome fear, leaped across, while others got a helping hand. After I jumped and skipped and climbed to the other side, my body finally got the trek Thrill. Like something awakening within, some lock opened specifically for body exerting activities. Walking on the trail became much easier, my steps more assured.

The rest of hour's trek to reach final cave was much of the same kind of trail, with stream to our right and occasional glimpse of hills around giving a refreshing change of view. The final spot (fourth cave) had the most religious artifacts and apparently some Sadhus actually live there (and the other similar spots in the area).

After just a few minutes there, we tracked back and went down near the stream for lunch. We realized very quickly that we were heavily short on water but couldn't help it. The stream water was dirty - filled with washed off dirt and sand. So, by the time everybody had a dip (it happened very slowly, only few had gone at the start and then one-by-one all went in) and had lunch (along with tasty sprouts, thanks again Chidambaram), we resorted to filling bottles with as less dirt as possible. We tried waiting for it to settle down in water bottles, but no luck. The guide took to getting kerchiefs from us to use it as filter while filling - the best we could manage. Verdict - safe enough to consume, no visible side effects :P

Our guide was itching to leave early as he had to go some other town afterwards. But he understood our idea of fun and did well to go along with us - sleeping when we took long in water, helping us with spots near cave 2, kerchief filtered water, more waiting near the falls, etc. And answering our various queries as well.

We started our trudge back, thirsty but determined. We stopped only for two short breaks, to catch our breadth, before reaching the stream to cross. This time many more jumped and skipped around. And Vikram managed to slip himself wet just before the last jump, much to everybody's amusement :P

The remaining distance to the steps near waterfall proved much more difficult to cover. The trail was much steeper and we were yearning for a drop of water. Our guide knew some spot for cleaner water than the stream and took two bottles and a kerchief to fill. Of course we shared and finished before starting again.

Around 4 PM, we reached the steps and heaved a sigh of relief. And then, again much like earlier, one by one we got into waterfalls. Just getting near it was difficult with slippery rocks. And there was no chance to get under. The forceful water spray alone drenched us. It was difficult to keep our eyes open. And it was cold, very cold.

And then came the ice cream topping. The steps to climb up. Excruciating step, one at a time, holding onto helpful railing, taking break very often, stopping to view those tranquil hills by the dying light, we did it. Once we had all come out, the authorities promptly shut the gates to steps. Probably been waiting for us!

Lime sodas, pulpy oranges, tea, snacks, water, temple visit - and then we reached the resort to freshen up before going back to Semmedu for dinner. Ameer's desire to have food at some Silverline hotel went yet again unfulfilled. Instead, we had sumptuous dinner at Vasantha Maligai. After getting back, we played Dumb Charades. Between my sneezes, Ameer's frustration to get across his meaning, Marthe's stunning enacting for 'Saving Private Ryan', we had the best laughs and general fun time.

We got ready early on Sunday, checked out, had breakfast again at same place as day before and were on our way to more waterfalls and temples. The first of which was Masila. Falling down like a typical slide in amusement parks, it was nestled in between two hills. The Sun was out baking us but the water was cold. Too much crowd though. After a bit of local herbal concoction, we next went to Ettukai Amman (8 handed goddess) temple. It had a serene walkway from the road to temple. 

And then to final waterfall of our trip. Visible from road, we had to climb down broken glass ridden muddy path. By the time we reached the falls, this too became crowded. Water gushed down in much thinner streams but forceful nonetheless.

So and, like all good things, this wonderful trek came to an end as well. We hopped on for 70+ hair-pin bend ride, stopped for a light snack at foothills, had sumptuous lunch at Namakkal, singing along chart-busters like Why this Kolaveri, Tum Hi Ho, etc an evening snack and feedback session and back to Bangalore in time to see India lose the 3rd ODI vs SA.

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