Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Base Camp - Mountaineering course

(in continuation... http://indirakadambi.blogspot.com/2010/04/at-nehru-institute-of-mountaineering-n.html

Preparation for the Base camp slowly started. We were sent to Uttarkashi market to do last minute purchases. We all were very excited mainly to eat road side eateries. I just bought a pair of woolen cap to protect the head from cold and few Electrol packets which saves me from getting dehydrated. All of us had few snacks- pani puri, Bhel puri, and then I packed some Bananas, the instant energy booster for all my room mates... A day before we had to leave for Base camp, we all had to check our Snow boots and fitting of Crampons. All equipments had to be checked once again in case if any damage, we could exchange them. Backpacks were checked for Zips, Adjusting Belts… Each one of us were supposed to be paired with one another and known as buddies. We have to be there for each other at all times in the camp. Avni was my buddy.

While packing, we took few things that were in common – Toothpaste, sunscreen lotion, Moisturizing cream, Torch, Extra Batteries, .. We tried to reduce the weight as much as we can. Even 100 grams sometimes count in steep climbs. There was an order in which we had packed the rucksacks. First of all we had to put in a big Polythene cover like a lining inside the back pack in order to avoid the things getting wet due to rains. Then, the cover containing a pair of tracks, 3 T-shirts, few pairs of socks, undergarments, Sweater, 3 pair woolen gloves will go to the bottom; Then, wind - proof trousers; Feather jacket; Crampon bag; Inner cover of sleeping bag; Sleeping bag; Rock mittens; wind - proof jacket; Toilet kit; Medical kit; Tool kit; books and pens; Helmet; Seat harness; short sling; carabineers; Snow boots; Rope; Mess tin in the side pocket; Water bottle and tea cup on the other side pocket; Sleeping mat on one side and Ice axe had to be fixed outside the Backpack. Total weight would be around 22 kilos I guess!. My only worry again was about carrying the weight!.. Ayyo.. Thinking of that itself gave me lot of shoulder pains! ..lol.. Didn’t know how I was going to do it. But then in the evening, we got good news that girls need not carry ropes and snow boots!.. Yeeeyyyyyyy!!!… But on a second thought I wondered whether it was a good news or bad news. Good news is that we are not carrying that load but bad news is that we are not getting trained to carry loads. So, even without those two things, our bag weighed around 17 – 18 kilos easily. After completing the job of packing, we all had dinner. Few had showers as there won’t be any shower facility available for the next 18 days. Then the things that we didn’t need for Base camp were locked and kept in one room that was allotted for us. Later, we cleaned the rooms and slept.

Next morning 25th October, I as usual woke up first. Put on the chant OM that used to resonate in the room. Later, I woke up other girls. We got ready and all set to leave by 6.30am. Tea and Breakfast were served at 5.30am itself. Few packed their breakfast in the mess tin. I kept some fruits in the bag. All the bags were loaded on the top of the bus. I was quite excited but also tensed. There were two buses that took us to Bukki, 34 kms from Uttarkashi. Bukki is the starting point of our trek place. It was almost 2 hour journey. I was dressed in layers. I had worn two T- shirts and a jacket with a track pant. I slept for a while in the bus. In between there was a stop over for tea. After reaching Bhooki, we all assembled rope wise and with our backpacks, we started our trek towards the Base camp. Rope instructors followed the ropes they were in charge of. There were quite a number of porters who carried kitchen groceries, Gas cylinders, huge vessels, and other stuffs.

It takes two days to reach Base camp, which is at Dokariani Bhamak in Dingad valley. Bhamak means Glacier. In between there are two intermediate camps. First day’s camp was at Thel. It was 8 kms from Bhooki to Thel. Initially we hiked down and walked over an old Iron bridge across the river Bhagirathi. The water was very pure and was greenish blue in color. Then the real hike up the hill began. The trail was well marked and scenic. Our rope was as usual in the end. I had lot of energy. But my pace was slow. In fact the whole rope was slow. Compared to our trek to Tekhla, here the terrains were different; Backpack weighed much heavier. But Suzanne was very understanding and encouraging. Breathing had to be coordinated properly with every step we take. Few stretches were easy; few difficult; we had 3 breaks in between to sip some water and to have some snacks and fruits. That day I realized how tough a porter’s life is! What luxury we had in our family treks in Himalayas where porters carry all our stuffs. Bed tea is served inside the tent itself. Hmm.. My mind started to think - Why are you doing this Indira?. But I know God is preparing me for something. For what? I don’t know. From my past experiences, I have understood that what every pains I have gone through, while going through that pain at that moment is very difficult but at the end of it, there is some beautiful lesson that I would have learnt. So, even here, I know all these pains that I am undergoing will have something to do in some point in my life! We slowly marched inch by inch towards Thel. There was a Duty rope who was assigned to come at the end of all ropes everyday. They were there to help who ever needed any assistance. . That day’s Duty rope had Saurabh and Lalith along with 4 other members.

Saurabh and Lalith had become quite close to me. Saurabh is from Chandigarh. He is short; fair; well built; has green eyes; very charming indeed! He loves good food; good clothes; not to forget good looking girls too! It is nice to see his good collection of mountaineering accessories. He is a typical Virgo! His mannerisms reminded me so much of my little son Vishnu. Well.. Saurabh is a good Rock climber. He is trained at Chandigarh’s rock climbing institute. He is planning to Join Indian army. I call him Billu as he thought that I don’t pronounce his name properly! Lol..:)..We had become good Dosts!

Lalith is a short and real cute guy from Haryana; working in Indian Navy; based now in Vishakapattinam; He is a deep sea diver!; He is really fun to be with; Chatter box! Keeps making jokes; He calls me Mamma! I call him Lallu!. There ios so much of warmth and affection in him; So, with the company of Lallu, Billu and other girls, we slowly reached Thel camp around 2 pm I guess.

Thel in Hindi means oil. By the time we reached Thel camp, we really sweated out.. not water but oil!! Thel camp was at 8200 feet above sea level. Dense mixed forests of Deodar, Rhododendron, Oak, Pine, etc. provide an atmosphere of perfect peace and tranquility. By the time we reached, the tents were already pitched. Tea was served. The camp had a permanent kitchen block. We were then introduced to the Dining area and potty area followed by dos and don’ts. The toilet area for girls was a short walk crossing over a wooden log over a small stream. The place had a good collection of bones of different animals and birds scattered all over. It was quite scary to go there in the night. We always had to go with buddy friend. We had to take the ice axe with us, dig the pit and shit and cover it with the mud. It was a big process. So, anyone carrying ice axe and walking meant they are gone for a big Job!..lolJ Later, we put our backpacks inside the tent and ice axe outside the tent. Adjacent to our camp was a big tree under which was a small temple dedicated to Snake god. Closer to that tree, we had a lecture on First aid by our camp doctor Dr.Khan! He was also doing the basic course along with us. Before coming to NIM as doctor, He was posted in the border area to serve the army.. Well.. That day’s lecture was on how to acclimatize in higher altitude! The adaptation of human body to the new environment is called acclimatization. Anything above 7500 feet is called higher altitude.

There are few main principles in acclimatization. 1) Gradual Ascent: One should not trek beyond 2000 feet per day. 2) Work in higher altitude and sleep in lower altitude. 3) Drink lot of water to fight dehydration. Well.. Indian army says - one needs 6 days of acclimatization between 9000 to 12000 feet; 4 days between 12000 to 15000 feet; another 4 days between 15000 to 18000 feet. First few days, one has to take complete rest; next 2 days, walk on plain ground; next few days walk with load;

Medically, Right BP, good pulse rate, good appetite and good sleep are signs of good acclimatization. Everything is right with me except good sleep. It is really so long since I caught up with good sleep. But lack of sleep is not affecting my performance in any way. Hmm.. That night’s dinner was Roti, Dhal and Rice. Later, Anil and I being quarter masters took up the responsibility of distributing Ration for all the ropes tent by tent. Ration consisted of Biscuits, chocolates, Dry dates and few raisins. After little chatting, we all slept in our respective tents. There were two tents for girls – 8 in each. Another 8 or 9 tents for boys. That day, in our tent, all six from our rope was there in addition to Bharati and Anshu. Surprisingly that night’s sleep was the best one that I had so far!

Next day, after finishing our morning routine, at 6.30am, we marched towards our 2nd day’s camp to Gujjar hut. It was a 13 km trek. The route was superb. Very very scenic! Since it was autumn, Green leaves of the trees had turned to Yellow and few to Red. Brown, Orange… There was a lovely stream flowing by the side of our trail. Lovely maple, beautiful Pine and lot of other trees were a feast to the eyes. Unfortunately, it was not a flowering season. But still nature was awesome. March towards Gujjar hut had lot of steep climbs, very few flat trails and it was indeed a very long trek. At some points, I felt that the steep trails were never ending. The distance was almost double on the 2nd day. We had few stops for resting in between. At every stop, Lallu and Billu used to wait for me and welcome me with big applause. It seems they kept thinking of me while trekking –“ are yaar chal chal.. If Indira is doing this, we have to do it! “That was a boost for me to push myself more and more and do well. Trek was quite exhaustive. I was thinking when I would go and crash in the camp. We were always the last rope to reach the camp. Even if we were sent first, we would be the last to reach! One more guy Mihir, a 21 year old Gujju, tall and slim was trekking along with me for a while. He calls me Amma!. He is a Teacher by profession; Stays in Rajkot.; He is getting married on December 13th to Pooja. Reason for early marriage is that He had met with 3 major accidents and parents decided to marry him off!!!. He became a part of our gang too.

When we reached, few were already pitching their tents. We had to pitch ours too. First of all we have to look for the direction of the wind and accordingly adjust the door of the tent. Then the ground sheet had to be spread neatly on a flat ground. The Pegs are plugged in the ground. Top portion – Roof is put up with the help of a centre upright pole. The ropes that are attached to the Roof canvas are tied to the pegs tightly so that the roof is held tight. Then doors are fixed. The ground around the tent is dug up to 3 to 4 inches deep so that in case of rain, water doesn’t enter the tent. Ice Axe and Crampons are kept outside the tent so that in case of lightening, we would be safe. Shoes and socks are kept outside to maintain hygiene inside the tent.

After tent pitching, we had tea and started out for another short trek to the Lake Khera Taal near by!.. Shucks!.. I just wanted to rest .But .. Army rule! One can’t have a say. If you do, you will be marked! Anyway, tea gave me some energy and we all walked under the beautiful evening golden sunlight. Weather was lovely. Those golden rays of the sun on the white snow peaks glowed. I just could not take my eyes off that. At the lake, while Mastaan sir started a lecture on the lake and its significance in Hindu mythology, I was busy clicking the photographs of the lake, reflection of the lovely mountains in that lake… I only could hear Krishna, kaaliya,.. That’s it. I missed the whole story part. It was a bit dark. We stumbled here and there now and then and finally when we got back to our tents. We were briefed about next day’s plans. When we came to know that next days trek was only 3 kms and it was very simple, my happiness knew no bounds. I slept in peace !

After our regular morning routines, we headed towards Base camp. It was a very nice short trek. We could no more see any vegetation there. No trees, no plants. Just mountains all round. Base camp was at an altitude of 12400 ft above sea level. On one side, we could see Joanli peak and on other side we had Draupadi ka Dand -2. In between was the Dokriani Bamak, which is a well-developed medium sized glacier of the Bhagirathi basin. The glacier is formed by two cirques, originating at the northern slope of Draupadi Ka Danda and Jaonli Peak, 5,600 m and 6,000 m respectively. The glacier is 5-km long. The stream originating from the glacier’s melted water is called “Dingad”, which later joins many other snow/ice-melted streams and finally merges into Bhagirathi River near Bukki village. In this beautiful Dingad Valley, after having tea, we all rested a while outside the tent; clicked few photographs; pitched our tents quickly and settled down. We had to be at Base camp for a week.

There are 3 permanent structures built at Base camp – Kitchen; store room; lecture hall. Books and equipments are stored in store room. Lecture hall is for lectures and watching movies. Tents are pitched around these structures. There are separate tents for students, instructors, cooks, porters, and one for Doctor too. Every day we are given a particular time for visiting the doctor. Cold, knee and body pain were common problem. Well.. “Cold injuries” was the topic of the lecture that day. With every 1000 feet up in the mountain, temperature decreases. In cold temperatures, most common sickness is nausea, vomiting, cold, cough, swelling and head ache. In severe cold conditions, one may also have Chill blains, frost bite, trench foot and Hypothermia. The high altitude diseases also include Acute Mountain Sickness - AMS, High altitude cerebral edema -HACE and High altitude pulmonary edema – HAPE and high altitude systemic edema – HASE. In all these cases, first thing is to bring the patient to lower altitude and treat. In worst case, evacuate immediately by air to the nearby hospital. Apart from these, we also have radiation injuries caused by sun’s UV rays which in turn cause sun burn and snow blindness. As we all know prevention is better than cure. Adequate precautions in wearing proper clothing, carrying proper equipments, planning expeditions in right weather conditions, having good presence of mind and having a good team leader will lessen the problems to a large extent.” Never stop learning. Never stop listening” is a good saying!

Well. These are subjective Hazards. What about Objective mountain hazards? Floods, avalanches, land slide, crevasses, lightening,… It is maddening!. Hmm…So, after this session, we had dinner followed by a movie on Everest again!.. No way!. Think seriously. Is it worth being in mountains with so much of pain and so much of risks? Is it really worth?!...But one glance at these beautiful snow clad peaks around us are enough to invite us and bring us back into the mountains again and again!... we climb mountains not because we have to but we love to!!. So true! As Jawaharlal Nehru puts it – “The Himalayas are not only near to us but also very dear for they have always been part of our history and tradition, our thinking and our poetry, our worship and our devotion; According to our mythology, Himalayas are the abode of Gods! “

Hmm.. Temperature at Base camp in day time was 5 to 6 degree centigrade. At night, it goes below zero! I started wearing 4 layers of T shirts and a jacket, Feather jacket and a wind proof jacket too. Thermals are must. 2 pairs of socks - one thin and one woolen adorn my little feet. I had to go for a long walk to do my night duty behind the rocks! Like how dogs mark their boundary, we all had marked ours!.. lol... Wet tissues, soap strips and hand sanitizer come very handy at such times! It was very very cold! I got back into my tent and wished all good night and slowly slide down in my sleeping bag and doz z z zzz z .But I was not able to sleep. Cold was making me to pee often. At least 2 times, I had to wake up at night. Kamakshi was facing same problem. But her frequency was little worse than mine!.. Lol ..

Before I used to realize, 5am alarm used to ring! I used to wake up Avni. First thing Avni had to do was to wear her contact lens. Then, we used to go together and finish our morning jobs and have tea. It was difficult to brush teeth in that cold water. My hands used to become numb. I had to rush to the kitchen and keep my hand in front of the fire. After slowly warming up, I used to be ready for half an hour of PT along with all trainees. Yeshwanth, a student of MOI (method of instruction) course used to guide us in PT. Suzanne used to join too. Without PT, our bodies refused to move. PT was a must.

Our training area was at Dokiarani Bhamak, an hour and half trek from Base camp. Initially, the trail was plain and later it was full of big boulders. We literally had to keep jumping from one boulder to another and keep moving. There was also a stream flowing across the glacier. I guess, if once our feet are in that stream, feet would go numb in seconds. Well.. After reaching the training area, we all wore our snow boots and crampons and got ready for a lecture on Ice craft!. This week’s training was dedicated to Ice craft. Rock climbing is the primary skill that we learn in Mountaineering. Same principles are used in Ice craft and snow craft using Ice Axe and Ropes. In rock climbing, we use PA shoe, here we use snow boots and Crampons. Rock pitons are used in rock climbing and Ice pitons are used in Ice craft to fix ropes. But the feet take few hours of training to adapt itself to ice and snow surface. Rope and Ice axe are the lifeline of a mountaineer.

For working purposes, it is good to know that there are 3 principal varieties of Ice. First is blue ice or grainy ice. Most of glaciers are of this form. Hence they are also known as glacier ice. Secondly, Black Ice. Ice those are more or less continuous and mostly found in layers formed by freezing of water. They are old and hard ice. Thirdly, Snow Ice. These are formed by infiltration of water with snow and there by subsequent freezing. A large dry glacier is the best place to learn snow craft. A weeks practice devoted completely to Ice craft under a good trainer is good enough for all trainees intending to become a mountaineer. We were lucky to have Suzanne with us! She made sure that our basics were learnt very well. Tying snow boots and fitting crampons well to the boots in it was itself quite a circus! We learnt how to use ice axe in different positions in different gradients and climb on glacier. Initially, it felt really very awkward walking with that heavy snow boots. But with practice and experience, it felt natural. Proper clothing, Ice axe, Rope, Sun glasses, Helmet, Snow boots, Crampons and water proof gloves were a must in ice craft. We learnt the art of Belaying, anchoring, fixed rope climbing, Crevasse crossing, traversing, and rescuing technique if any one has fallen into crevasse.

Well, one day at noon, as the weather turned cloudy, we all headed back towards the base camp from our training area.. We were showered with snow flakes by the clouds above! Sky looked awesome. The brown ground and the bare brown hills suddenly appeared white in patches. In few minutes, Base camp looked like a fairy land. Whole ground turned to white. White tents on the white ground looked awesome. Trainees wearing colorful red and black feather jackets looked nice in the white background!. photo sessions had started in full swing. Few were looking at snow for the first time!

After a while, Grey clouds were suddenly turned golden by the golden rays of the sun. At one point of time, we could see the clouds in different shades - blue, grey, white, golden… In the next few minutes, dark clouds started settling down. Whole place turned dull and light dark. But hold on! As I turned my eyes to the peaks!!.. What a view! Every where it is dark, but only the top part of the peak is glowing white!! We could see the bright light of the moon shining on the snow peak of the mountains. The moon above those peaks looked gorgeous. This is where Cameras fail but God given gift – our Eyes only can capture this beautiful canvas painted by HIM!.. Oh god!.. This was worth all the pain we undergo in training!!

Hmm.. Our walk every day to the training area was quite a pain in the neck. But instructors used to fill us with lot of humorous lectures.. Well.. Lectures delivered in humorous way I should say! Lot of drama was added to make the demonstration funny. Especially the one rescuing from crevasse was quite a fun! Most lectures were in Hindi. Few could speak good English. Few were Hinglish ( English with Hindi accent)..That was very difficult for us to understand! In the meantime, few girls looked pretty down. They were home sick. Few were crying. They used the satellite phones to talk to their loved ones. Guess the price. Rs.90/- per minute!! If one is not enjoying the course, it can be very difficult to cope up mentally too. There were two boys and a girl, who had come from NCC, Tamilnadu. They were not instructed by their NCC officers that this was a mountaineering course!. They were here thinking that it was one of those camps where they meet lot of students from other states and they learn and exchange their culture through music, dance and drama!.. My god!. I wondered where is the connection between this and mountaineering? They had not even come prepared with right winter clothing. They had to buy everything before we started to the base camp! One boy took it well. Other one was in tears every other day. I had to keep advising him and encourage him to look at this as a blessing in disguise and enjoy the course. Another girl was mentally strong and took the challenges well but she was not physically fit enough to do the course.. Language was also a problem for them to understand any lectures or mingle with other trainees. I was a mediator many a times between them and their instructors. Suzanne used to tell- Indira , it is really nice that you have been a mother like for many here!

On 2nd or 3rd day at base camp, NIM’s Vice principal, Major Vishal Thaapa visited us. He is short, knowledgeable, and friendly and has quite an attitude too! He knows his subject in and out!....He gave us a lecture on weather and topographical map reading. Map reading was the only subject that I didn’t like. Rather it was difficult for me to understand. With little effort, I learnt how to find ones own position in the ground using the map, taking the readings of the forward and backward bearing. Conversion of latitude and longitude to inches, centimeters, all that just went above my head to the peaks and high above clouds!! Lol ... At least with help of Suzanne, I learnt reading and identifying contours, moraines, roads, rivers, lakes, glaciers, peaks,… Through out the lecture, I was wondering how come they are teaching us this old method of map reading. Now everyone uses GPS for treks and expeditions! Well, one cannot rely on GPS all the time!

Hmm.. Next lecture on weather included topics on temperature, effects of mountains on weather, winds, clouds and its types, weather forecast, weather hazards… If one has to listen to lectures after dinner, don’t ask what will be the result. Most of us were sleeping happily. Thank god it was not well lit. Or else if caught, we would have to run around the camp or hop like a frog! ..lolJ lecture on mountain terminology was bit boring. It was interesting to know about Glacier formations, its types and terminologies. Lecture on Avalanche by Suzanne was quite cute. Her hands were always on black board drawing the scenes!

One of those days in the base camp, all of us had one on one session with Suzanne. It was a feed back time. My overall progress was going good. She mentioned that my team work, attitude and leadership were excellent. I was also fairing good in the practical sessions. Only thing I needed to work was on strengthening of my arms and shoulders and also work on my pace during the marching session. I completely agreed with her.

Hmm.. Practical sessions were going on well. But since there was not enough snow, they decided that they will teach basic technique of snow craft at base camp itself. We had to imagine that we were in snow and do lot of drama .We learnt identifying Crevasses through probing method. Then, crossing crevasses using ladder and Ice axe and the best was traversing. A long rope was tied across a big crevasse. With the help of Jummar, pulleys and carabineers attached to the rope, we were supposed to cross over the crevasse. I could do only 60% to 70% of the length. The guys who were there on the other side belaying me had to pull me across the rest of the length. My shoulders were really paining. I had to take a pain killer for that. Rescuing people from crevasse using pulleys was interesting too. But what if the person fallen into the crevasse is much heavier than the one who is rescuing is the point!.. Well.. We may have to say then.... Helloooo!.. Meet you in heaven baby! Happy and safe journey!!. Boieeee !! ha ha...

Well, at base camp, there were lot of interesting things happening too..”Dho dhil milra e hei..magar chupuke chupuke…”.. It was not dho dhil but more dhils that were connecting with each other!! Well.. trying to connect with each other. Hmm.. Rather we were making it connect with each other. Whatever.. Pulling each other’s legs, passing silent messages, serious advising sessions, outpouring sessions,. thoda fight thoda pyar now and then along with learning rope knots and map reading from one another made our life at base camp all the more fun!. We all became a family! - A family united in the wilderness amidst mountains; sharing morning tea; dining together; working together; helping each other; sharing our joys and sorrows; planning our future expeditions; watching movie together; sleeping together; wow! - A picture perfect well knit family!! – That’s mountaineers family!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

At Nehru Institute of Mountaineering - N I M

(in continuation to preparation for the mountaineering course)
( http://indirakadambi.blogspot.com/2010/03/preparation-for-mounatineering-course.html )

After bidding good bye, Karan dropped me at the Uttarkashi bus stand from where a bus from NIM was supposed to pick me up at 5 pm. There I happened to meet Chandra Bhaai who had come as a guide with us to Tapovan trek. He is simply awesome. He is like a mountain goat I would say. Very experienced climber and a very kind and caring person. He was very happy to know that I was going for this course. He told” Aapto bahoth fit hei Madame. Phikar mathkijiye.Aap aasaanise karpaavogi”( you are very fit madam.Dont worry. You will do this course very easily). So, with all their wishes, I boarded the bus that was military green in color and on which it was written- Nehru Institute of Mountaineering ( N I M).There were lots of other students in the bus from various parts of India. We reached NIM at 5.25pm. We were the first batch to arrive. We stood in a line in the hostel. We got registered ourselves. Each one of us was allotted rooms in the hostel. There are 3 levels in the hostel. A ground level where our rooms were there and then 2 levels below us has hostel rooms and a Dining hall. I was allotted room no: 5 – named Monal! There were 6 trainees in one room. 3 bunk beds, 3 cub boards, one bath room and a toilet. After dumping bags in the room, I came out and took a short walk in the campus. There I met Avni, Dallas, and Nima, who were also exploring the campus.

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering was established at Uttarkashi in the Ladari Reserve forest area on 14 Nov 1965 to honor the great desire of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who was an ardent mountain lover. The aim of the Institute is to introduce and initiate young men, women and school children to the mountains and nature through its various Mountaineering and Adventure training courses.

Few more batches of people arrived and all were busy with registration and other stuff. In my room, there were 5 other girls. Avni, Prarthana and Mallika are from Bangalore; Anshu is from Arunachal Pradesh and Bharathi belongs to Vishakapattinam.

Avni sanghvi, a Gujarathi settled in Banglore is a food scientist. She seemed to be quiet friendly. Ask her what on earth she has not eaten!. Right from snails, squids, octopus, and you name it - everything has a place in her stomach.. lol...Well.. That’s her job she says! But at home, she says she is a pure vegetarian! Mallika, very quiet and fair looking girl is half Swiss and half Indian. It took a while for me to understand that her name was Mallika!. She just finished her 12th grade. Her mother who was a mountaineer I heard. Anshu, 28 yr young, is married and has two kids. She has her own adventure organization Himalayan Holidays, which she runs along with her husband. She seemed to be a woman of few words. Prarthana, 30 year young girl had worn an interesting T shirt “I took out L from LOVER and now it is all OVER”. Bharati is 37 yr old and has a son who is in 8th grade now. She is beautician by profession. She is quiet calm and poised. She has done sky diving I heard! Well, this is a small introduction about my room mates.

After everyone got enrolled, we were called to attend an introductory lecture for Basic course 210.This was the first time a mixed gender batch was being conducted. Lecture was in Hindi and was mainly on how we should keep our rooms clean; how we should address the instructors as Sir and Maam; how we should be on time for all the sessions; how we have to maintain discipline and cleanliness on and off campus; …Lt. Ashish Bhandari was selected as our course leader. He is a Marcos – Marine commando specialized in maritime operations. I heard that only about 20 - 25% of the Marco trainees finally get to wear the Marco badge due to high intensity training. Instructor asked if any two were interested in becoming quarter masters. Anil and I volunteered to be quarter masters. I thought by taking up responsibility, I would learn a lot. Our role was to prepare menu for everyday breakfast, lunch and dinner. Note down issues regarding food and hostel facilities and address it to the higher level authorities.

It was already 9pm and we were all very hungry. Dinner was served in Dining hall that accommodates 100 people easily. Tables and chairs were laid out. Plates and cups were kept in one corner. I heard the system is similar to any other Hostel dining room. Dinner was simple. Roti - sabzi, Dhal and Chawal(Rice). Around 10.15pm, we all slept. It was very cold. I had only one blanket. I could not sleep whole night.

It is 18th October, 1st day of our course. I was very excited. I woke up at 5am. After having morning tea at 5.30am, we all assembled outside the hostel at 6.30am for physical training. We jogged a little and did few stretches. Breakfast was served at 8.30am. Training sessions started at 9.30am and went up to 12.30 in the noon. Whole of morning was packed with introductory sessions on mountaineering and equipments. I will talk about those in detail later. In the noon, we had to undergo medical check up. I weighed about 56 kilos and blood pressure was normal. Later, we had a lecture on mountain manners and customs. I like to share few things about this lecture here.

Mountain manners: Do not use polythene bags; No littering; Speak with low voice. Greet every people whom you meet on your way; Follow hut manners; Always walk. don’t run; Do not overtake other group without permission; Halt only at scheduled stops; Ascend in zig-zag manner; Drink water regularly; Maintain low profile, Respect others and nature too; Watch while you make statements; Assume responsibility for yourself and your actions; Learn to judge distance; ….

Environmental protection: Do not bath and wash in the river. Discourage porters from throwing cigar buds; Do not make any new trail; Get educated about environment fragility; Conserve flora and fauna; Develop conversationalist attitude; Educate fellow country men in conserving nature; Reduce noise pollution; Report poaching; ..

Lunch time was at 1pm. We had to collect our backpack and other equipments and had to assemble at Pine ground for a demonstration on how to pack our backpacks after the noon tea. Pine ground is to the left of the hostel. There is a nice stadium like seating arrangements all around. A 15.5 mtr high sport-climbing wall is erected in the middle of the ground. The wall, which is an international climbing wall, is the first of its design in India and the first ASIA Cup, organized in India by IMF in November 2004, was held on this wall.

Adjacent to the pine ground, there is a Gyan Hall, which is equipped with Gymnasium equipment and a 10 meter high indoor artificial climbing wall. The wall has changeable holds which makes it interesting and challenging for the climbers. Next to that is administrative block which has the offices of Principal, Vice Principal, Registrar, Accounts Branch, Training Wing, and Chief Instructor, Instructor's room, Training room, Radio room, Dispatch room and the Duty room. Opposite to the hostel is playing field, Basket ball court, Volleyball court, Handball ground, an Obstacle course and the historic Graduation Ground, a focal point of all courses. Orchards and a mini Nursery are also there. To the right of the hostel is the auditorium, which is beautiful with good seating arrangements and well equipped with latest technology. Next to that is the Library, Medical Section, Equipment hiring and Repairing Unit, Laundry, and last but not the least Hair saloon. Diagonally opposite to the hostel are Cafeteria and Internet centre, souvenir shop and residential complex for the instructors and their families. Well.. This is about the campus.

I forgot to mention that the total number of trainees were 91 approximately. We were 16 girls and rest were boys from Army, Navy and few civilians in the age group of 18 to 35. I was the oldest in the group. Whole group was split into 14 teams called Ropes. Each rope had 6 to 7 trainees and had a rope leader and a rope instructor, under whom we get trained for the next one month!. I was the Rope leader for my group and Susan from USA was our Rope Instructor. 32 yr young Suzanne is tall built – 6’2”.She is like a nomad. A full time mountaineer, she travels widely all over the world training young and old aspirants like us. Our rope had Kamakshi from Delhi, Avni from Bangalore, Vijji from Kanchipuram, Neethu from Lucknow, Jothi from Mumbai and me from Chennai!

Kamakshi sahai – soft looking, soft spoken, very jovial, and friendly and caring too. She is working for an adventure company in Delhi. Looking for Mr. Right to fill her life now!
Vijji is 18 year old studying 2nd year degree and is in NCC. Petite; looks frail; she comes from a very poor back ground. Mom is a gardener. Father is no more. She speaks only Tamil. Neethu is in her late twenty’s or early thirties. She is doing her MA. She fought with her parents and come to do this course. She speaks Hindi. Understands English. Jothi, a Malyali settled in Mumbai has come to do the basic course for the second time! Hats off to her!. She is friendly too, very organized.

Archana..Archana...Short, slim, strong girl from Mumbai:).Not my room mate.. not my Rope mate..but a very dear friend.She belongs to the family of mountaineers..ha ha ! Most of her cousins and uncles have gone through these courses i believe!.wow..kewl .isn't it?!..well..She is an expert in Spanish language and trains students to speak and write Spanish:)She has also trained our hero Hrithik Roshan!!yes..proof??..there is a photo of her with him!

Well.. Late in the evening we had a film on training so that we will get an idea how it would be and what we can look forward to. After that, we had dinner at 8 pm and got back to our rooms, packed our backpacks with the Snow boots, crampons, wind proof - jacket and trousers, rope, helmet, short-sling … It weighed around 10 kilos I guess. After talking to Ram and writing my diary for the day, I hit the bed at ten. Lights had to be switched off by 10pm sharp.

The next day, we all left with our backpack for a short 3 hour trek behind the campus. Lunch was packed. It was steep climb with lovely pine trees all round. It was to see how many are fit and fine to do the course I guess. Most of us made it to the top in our own pace. Few girls could not carry the weight; one or two could not climb at all;. Few made it falling now and then. On our way to the top, we saw the snow capped Bandhar Poonch range spread out majestically in front of Ladari reserve forest. I had to share with my friends that I was there in the month of May!! That was a lovely nine day trek with family and friends. And not to forget the lovely black dog Shaggy which accompanied us through out the trek. Steep climbs, hail storm, severe thunder storm, playing cricket in that heights, long stretches of trekking on the ridge, playing in the snow, terrible cold nights, eating hot soups, fresh paneer, rasam, potato poriyal, dhal – roti – sabzi, wa waa waaa!… then, trekking down the steep hill, scenic Gujjar hut, Singing along with Ram listening to the flowing of the cold streams, camp fire on the last day, … unforgettable moments!!

Well, the next four days from 20th to 23rd, we had to get set for our practical sessions.1st week was allotted for Rock craft, which were held in Tekhla. Few more loads were added to our backpack. Ropes which weighed 4 ½ kilos had to be carried in turns. So, now with 15 – 16 kilos of weight we had to trek everyday early in the morning at 6.30 to Tekhla, which was 11 kms away from NIM. Walk was simple and straight on the curvy roads. But weight was the only issue. Had to get used to it slowly. We had to walk along side the river Asi Ganga. Early morning sunrays used to peep through the trees and smile on us. Sound of the Ganges and temple bells, vehicles passing and Sadhus (saints) walking was a common sight. We had a rest point in between for fifteen minutes to have some water and relax our backs. Then we used to march towards Tekhla.

NIM has been conducting the Rock craft at Tekhla for past so many years. Tekhla has plenty of Rocks of different sizes, shapes, different gradients, etc., so, it is lovely to explore our skills there. Day used to start with instructor’s lecture in the open air amidst rocks followed by demonstration and then we learn the technique. Let me talk about Rock Craft now.

Rock-Craft’s boulders offer many ways to climb up each boulder challenging each climber’s skills, sense of adventure and creativity. First of all, one should learn different types of Rope knots and Rope coils. Rope coiling is very interesting. Rope is coiled differently for different purposes - Climbing coil; Rappelling coil; Butterfly coil; Causality coil. We learnt different types of climbing rocks – free hand climb, climbing with ropes, chimney climbing, wriggling, etc., Skills of anchoring, rappelling, belaying, and lowering were also taught. There is lot of varieties of hand holds and foot holds that we learn while climbing rocks – Pressure hold; Pinch hand hold; Over hand hold; Pencil hand hold; Jam hold; Friction foot hold; Jam foot hold; …One needs lot of arm strength to do free hand climbing. Climbing on a long pitch rock -175 ft rock was challenging. My arms went for a toss. But I managed well. But rappelling down that rock was simply awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed Chimney climbing and rappelling a lot. I even tried the difficult one: Shoulder rappelling. Here, Rope can cut through the skin if we are not careful enough. I had a light cut near my neck. It was slightly bruised. No pain. No fun!.

There are 3 main principles in rock climbing a) Planning; b) Conservation of energy; c) Balancing. It is a game of technique and physical fitness. Ropes, carabineers, Rock pitons, Helmet, short sling, Seat harness, PA shoes and other accessories are a must in RC. All these equipments should be certified by UIAA-Union of International Alpine Association. The breaking strength of some of these equipments are anywhere between 1800 to 2200 kilos!! Apart from being well equipped, one should have a good knowledge on weather too. Hmm.. There are different types of commands used while climbing rocks. For example: take the slack, belay tight, I am there, I am climbing, and so on. My instructor Suzanne was very particular as to how and when we used these commands. Then we had 2 Indoor wall climbing and 2 outdoor artificial wall climbing too with different levels of difficulty – Hard climb, speed climb… I should say these are way tougher than natural ones that we did. Workout that I did to strengthen my arms and shoulders were not at all enough. I could do only 75% justice to this. It was physically demanding. Most of the girls except one or two couldn’t do it. It was quite exhausting too!. I really need to work on my shoulder strengthening. I slowly became tougher and tougher under Suzanne’s guidance. Suzanne is a very good trainer. Very meticulous, patient, encouraging, motivating and very cool. Under her, safety was given the utmost priority. This was her first experience in Indian mountaineering institute. It is nice to read her blog...http://www.whereisshethistime.blogspot.com/

Hmm.. Coming back to my experience, we six girls and Susanne had built a good cordial relationship. On our way to Tekhla, we used to talk a lot about our personnel life, our hobbies and passions, parents -kith and kins, movies, food, weather… So, except carrying loads, everything else was interesting and lots of fun too. Whole day was packed with practical sessions, lectures; movies … Lectures were on Tent pitching(ok), on Himalayan Ranges(good), Rock craft(interesting), History of Indian mountaineering(boring), Map reading(not bad), First Aid(important)… Lectures were quite humorous too. Instructor’s deliveries of the dialogues during lectures are just simply superb. Great fun! We saw the movie Vertical Limit, a documentary movie on Everest and Quest for K2, a documentary by NGC. All the movies were quite scary. None had good ending. They all spoke only about hazards in mountains and mountain climbing. So many deadly issues.. So many deaths!! After every movie session, we all used to think of putting an end to mountaineering after this basic course.. LOLJ

Well.. In these four days, I have been able to build good friendship. I took every opportunity at lunch, tea and dinner time to meet new people and know them. It was interesting to see the diversity in their jobs. Many trainees were from Army, Navy, Indo Tibet Border Patrol, and very few civilians like me. I was also like a PR person there trying to get people introduced to one another. The cooks were quite sweet too. They were all smiles when they used to serve me with Rotis and Sabzis. They always took out hot rotis out especially for me! And not to forget extra Soup at dinner time! Just talking to them nicely, wishing them and appreciating them every time made them to have a special care for me. After dinner, we all used to make calls home, chat, read, bathe.. But in those 7 days, I had a shower only on one day at NIM. That too exactly in three mugs of cold water! Ha ha!.. Way to go and reduce usage of water!. I can really give great tips on this – How to bathe in three mugs of water !; How to have head wash and bathe too in 5 mugs of water; … lol ... Hmm.. Weather was pretty cold. Water was colder! I was always covered, nice and warm in a sweater, a jacket and a scarf.

Forgot to mention. A day before we planned to go for Base camp, Chandra Didi came to see me and check if I have kept all necessary things that I needed for base camp. So kind of her... ……….

Bye for now.. Preparation to head towards Base camp has to be done. Heyyyyyyyy !

Finally, Abba!.. No more trekking towards Tekhla with those heavy backpacks!. But I will certainly miss Rock craft… dancing on and around the rocks!

At Base camp continues.........

Friday, April 2, 2010

Trek on tracks

Location : Sakleshpur, March 27, 28, 29th 2009
Organised by Ramki / Indira kadambi

Peter, founder member of Chennai trekkers,had mentioned few times to me.. “Indira, you should arrange some treks now”...I was wondering how to do it. To begin with, I thought the best was to assist anyone who ever is arranging a trek.. There were some mails from core members planning a Sakleshpur trek..lo..I was so excited ..I immediately wrote to Ramki that whenever he is doing this, I will help him. .....Then every day, Ramki and myself exchanged few mails regarding arrangements to be made...food, tickets, and so on..Then, as we moved close to the departure date, there were many queries from new trekkers...Do we have bath rooms there..Do we have separate sleeping place for girls,...Where do we sleep,...and so on...for everything, I had only one answer...All under the sky...lol...:)...

well..25th march...I went for shopping ketchup, sandwich paste,...then few personnel items..started packing my back pack..I was so excited and had to do so many last minute things as I had to leave my family for 3 days..I had to fill up groceries, cook and dump in fridge for 3 days, make arrangement for my son, maid, dog......Thus every time before the trek, I land up having back pain:)

26th march - All set....One by one landed at Central railway station, chennai and there was one girl Arpita..very cute..She had come with her friend srijith , who also joined the trek and her mom had come to see her off and making sure she was safe with right people...She asked me few questions…Aunty, where do I sit, what is my seat number,.. where do i keep my bags,.....which made me feel I was a school teacher ..lol...:)………all 18 were there...and by lalbagh express, we started out at 3.30 pm…oh god!..I really missed my trek mates then..hmm..but Thank god!.. Kannan and Bala were with me..There were few guys from cognizant, who were having their own fun...we attacked almost everything that were passing by us...tea, coffee, soft drinks, vada, cutlet, masala dosa,...:)...

Then, I started clicking few photos for my story.."Trek on tracks"...
We reached banglore at 9.45 pm and walked towards Bangalore bus stand as planned earlier and met Ramki and co who immediately started distributing the food packets to us..Maggie, Teplas, few junks, fruits, jam, ketchup, Aloo, Beans, Onion,….6 others joined us from Banglore..and that made the total number 24.......ha!..I was happy to meet my old friend Subramanya alias subbu after a long time..thanks to net..I got in touch with him and saw that he joined me for this trek..When I gave him his food packet, he said he already had dinner, he doesnt need it..but I told him this food packet was not for dinner but was for the next 3 days !!...:) :)..lol...:)...CTC's eat less, trek lots..:)

Then few of us boarded the bus at 10.45 pm to shiradi ghats..We got down around 4.30 in the morning at the road side Muthappeswara temple..some of us rolled sleeping mats and slept...others were chatting….some were busy clicking photos...But the most happiest person was our photogarapher Subbu I guess...he got his model for the day..Arpita:)...almost half an hour they had profile shoot just behind the temple at the stream:)...By then, others who had left bangalore by 11.30 bus also landed..Some went to brush, some to bathe,...so by the time we started , we were late by an hour or so..We started slowly by 7am towards Donigal railway station..Weather was nice, pleasant..

We all assembled at Donigal station,.. had group photo as usual..Then the trek...TREK ON TRACKS began...initially it was very exciting to walk on those jellikallu( stones that r laid on tracks)...we were all given 3 water bottles each...some of them had already finished 2 bottles in an hours time:)...after an hour or two, as the sun started showing its colours, ..hmm...ayyoda!....It was bit tough to walk in the sun…Sunscreen lotion was applied all over, caps sat on heads, sun glasses on eyes, water bottle in hands,...but legs were on tracks all the time :)….Ramki and few others were quite fast..and so Ramki had to stop now and then to make sure that all of us who were bit behind make up fast…..

..Tracks were pretty simple…straight, some turns now and then…poking stones, lots of tunnels — measuring 100 ft to 500 mts, human wastes here and there, beautiful bridges, 2 to 3 stations, … Trail… full of trees, shrubs, wild flowers,. …some times huge rocks on either sides,…at some places, few constructions were happening…layers of mountains, lovely valleys, beautiful streams, deep gorges, scary tunnels, soothing sound of birds whistling, various shades of green tress, plants all over, dense forests, few bones here n there,….…exciting indeed…of course it would have been more exciting if the mid sun was more kind to us.. Few pro - trekkers trekked enjoying the mother nature in spite of scorching sun…few complained, ..few thought they didn’t expect this kind of trail and that trek would be only on tracks like this…few wished it should have been more exciting….well..i told Ramki…..Ayyo…when is this track going to end ? !..The big mistake I did was not to read the mail sent by Ramki which described the trail. As I always look forward to surprise elements when I trek, I usually don’t read these mails that describe the trail…

On every trek, on the first day, I always have this thought..” what am I trekking here for? .It is better dancing than pulling myself all along this treacherous trail” ..:)…hmm…those who were ahead of us had breakfast at a nice stream. Those who were little behind had to satisfy their hunger sitting on tracks and have breakfast.. Resting often now and then, unable to bear the hot sun, leg slowed down its pace…eyes were eagerly looking forward to some big stream…Lo…there we got a big, long bridge under which beautiful stream flowed dancing between rocks..Immidiately subbu, ramki and myself got down and joined others - kannan, gaurav, bala, and rakesh, who were already having a nice Jacuzzi….We changed into swim trunks and jumped into the stream..Ahaaa..Awesome..This is what our body required at this point of time …great rejuvenationJ…From stream, we could see the bridge high above us.. Few walking across, trains crossing,…When we saw few others crossing the bridge, we shouted at them to come down…but whether they heard us or didn’t want to come down, what ever the reason. Those who missed this really missed the fun…Then, we had lunch and climbed up to the bridge and again our trek on tracks started…Few meters ahead, we met other guys n gals who were resting…Then, we all started our journey again in our own pace..

When I trek, I realized most important thing is one need to walk at their own pace and take deep breathe two three times when ever you are tired... Never take big breaks. It is difficult otherwise to get back to pace. Secondly, you should carry sufficient water. You should never empty the water until you fine the next stream. Water should be sipped now and then, little by little. I usually carry a waist pouch which will have Glucose water in a Tupperware bottle, Dates, Badam, few candys, So that I need not take out my back pack for every little thing and I could keep on walking and energizing myself simultaneously. Then my waist pouch also has suntan lotion to apply often, knife, and lip-balm too. Another important thing is to carry as minimum luggage as possible. just 2 pairs of dress, food, a towel, knee cap, emergency medicines, crape bandage in case you have any ankle injury…that’s it…Carry light is the key word .

Then, we crossed many tunnels…sometimes goods trains passing us in and out of the tunnels. We reached Yedukumeri station and thought that was the camp site….but Rakmi had his own plans…he said NO…Ayyo…again our legs started.. right left right left…marching on the tracks !..but now sun had settled down a bit. Lovely views on both sides…it was pleasant finally. But legs really needed rest. It felt like as if we had acupressure of our life in one single day ..:)….Now, the chirping of birds became more ….and suddenly at sunset time, God gave us a great treat to our eyes…Lovely formation of clouds..dark and light..superb colours .. orange, yellow, golden.. peeping through clouds…It was so true at one point when we saw a beautiful silver lining around the cloud..”Every cloud has a silver lining” was perfect ! and made sense…my camera just could not stop clicking these clouds and trees at the sunset time. It was amazing…suddenly I felt all energized and thanked god for making me go through all the pains since morning and giving a wonderful feast to the eyes and ears in the endJ Most of the time while I trekked, I wanted to be with myself. Lot of questions, and many answers to life’s questions,…hmm..all one can find when we are one with this beautiful mother nature! I guess.. Finally God was kind enough and gave some gyan to Ramki too to end the day’s trek at the end of 21 kms stretch!and pitch a tent next to a tunnel…WOW !…

My happiness knew no bounds…ramki, shiva, kannan, bala got busy in pitching up tents. Few went to fill up water bottles from nearby stream, and few other guys went to collect some woods to make camp fire. but alas!...it started pouring!...So, what do we do for food?...hmm…should we finish up teplas, junk food?..ayyo..what about noodles and all the vegetables that we carried to make vegetable noodles? !…All plans went down the drains..:(…..Then we all sat in the dark tunnel wishing for rain to stop and suddenly we heard the train entering the tunnel…With supers speed, we all got up and what ever bags we could collect, we took it and put it in a safe place and stood safely and allowed the train to pass smoothly..:)..Suddenly we realized three guys had not come still..They had decided to stay back at yedukameri..!..So 21 of us were left……. By then, rain had stopped. We saw that inside the tunnel, there was a safe place where 5 - 6 guys could sit and cook…heyyyy….so, bala got into action. He was the chef of the day!...We collected all soup and noodle packets. Few got into cutting vegetables, few were lazing around, few were resting….But my mind was all into soup soup soup..Hot hot soup !…so, I immediately rushed to the kitchen place..Sat there..entertained the cooks with few songs…warewah !.. Soup was ready!..Soup was a combination of tomato and sweet corn J..Ladies are always served first in CTC…real gentle men styleJ!!...So, I got the first taste of hot soup..no patience at all…just put it in my mouth….oops!..burnt my tongue badly…no issue.. so what.. sip sip some more.. Burnt more..s o what.. Some more..Abba..my stomach was really satisfied with 2 cups of awesome knorr soup. Then my mind started thinking..”My god! Why are guys grumbling to walk on tracks?..It is so beautiful, great views,.More than anything you should have great attitude man! Common!...LOL ..:)….Then soon noodles were ready too…All of us had nice veg noodles …stomach too truptiJ highly satisfied..:)…by then it was 10 in the night, and Ramki told we all had to get up at 5 and start the trek latest by 6 !Some of us inside tents, few others outside tents…either way.. all slept well…suddenly I hear a scream..who is that?! …Arpita!..she had dream again!!..it seems the train ran over her in the tunnel….lol..lol..;)…comedian of our group!:)…hmm…the next moment..all grr..zrrr…

2nd day morning, few guys woke up early, finished their morning jobs, packed…one by one we started our march on tracks..R L R L R L…!…This time, I had Subbu to trek along with me. He started the day with nice song and explanation to it…He has a way to tell stories..It was so nice to hear him reciting shlokas, stories,…Got some good gyan!..So, this was my break fast J..Since Subbu had already finished all of his food on first day breakfast time itself!, I shared my food inexchange for his storiesJ…We stopped at few view points, drank the beauty of the layers of mountains, sat ..Had some fruits, exchanged each others life stories too..As we walked along, we met few guys who were working along tracks and came to know that there was a nice stream just after tunnel 82…so, we hurried there in anticipation..WOW!..there....put down our bags, changed and trekked uphill to find a small little water falls…Kannan was there with Bala enjoying it ,,,I had to wait for 10 mts for my turn to stand under the falls which I did patiently..It was superb!..…what else a trekker can ask….water water water!....Then other trekkers followed us and had good bath, breakfast,…it was 12 noon by then..Subbu and myself started again our journey further…Ramki had told that we are supposed to trek 18 kms that day and stop at Siribagilu..Just after an hour of walk, we see the board, Siribagilu!!!...My eyes could not believe that we had already reached..Kept looking at the board to make sure I was not reading it wrong…NO..I wasn’t!..wow!…yee…we were the first to be there…and those who followed later were surprised tooJ… Siribagilu is a small station in front of a beautiful peak..A station master is there with few assistants..But sadly no coffee, no teas available. Atleast, we were happy that we reached very early there…took good rest under the trees and waited for all others to join us…

Through enquiries, we came to know that there is jeep track adjacent to the station which leads to the kukke road..All of a sudden, my brain started working..Ha!..why should we again keep walking on the tracks till tunnel 92..why not take the jeep track , hit kukke road, and go to gundiya check post, have fun in the river and get back to blore…By then subbu already made up his mind to trek along this jeep track and go to bangalore and rest well the next day before he hits office on monday..He immediately packed his back pack, and bid bye bye to us…Then it was turn of Shiva and co to follow subbu…But 7 of us ramki, kanna, bala, rakesh, srijith, arpita and myself were in no mood to go to bangalore…so, we decided to take the same jeep track…

All 20 of us started slowly enjoying the dense forest…it was a beautiful and little scary trek …here and there we could listen to the streams flowing..lot of dry, wet leaves all over the track…At one point, I did not see any one in front of me and when I looked back, no one there too!...my heart started thud thud thud !…hmm..no problem,… my mind started working faster than my legs…what if some animal comes,.. how do I react..what do I do…so on.. lol…!..For half hour I almost was all alone…no fear?..NO..:)…Then litlle ahead, I saw kannan, bala ramki waiting…then rest of guys behind me also joined…then the group of 14 went to banglore and 7 of us went back the trail for a kilomitre and jumped into the stream…. Trek is no fun without water!..absolutely true!...1 ½ hour we enjoyed … just 7 of us had the whole stream for ourselves. By 5.30, we packed and started to walk towards the main road that joins Anila bus stand on kukke road….Wait !....ayyo!…leech !...here, there,…no.. one more here..ayyo..hmm…15 mts went in driving away those leeches….Anyway, we continued further down the tracks,..and there….ROAD !!....yippi yippi ..ya ya ya..

It was 6 pm by then..found a tea shop right there where the bus stops..dumped all our backpacks…gave the tea shop guy some ginger and requested him to make ginger tea. Thoroughly enjoyed 2 cups of tea each of us…then it started drizzling!..hey.. Why not take a walk in the rain??!,,,, ya.. why not ?...ok.. Now, we set a deal with the tea shop guy..decided to stay there that night..He agreed to give his gas and cylinder for us to cook.. …great!...Rakesh stayed back at shop…, Arpita was busy taking snaps with the new hat that she found in the shop..The hat was made of Arichnut tree leaf....very artistic indeed..20/- per hat. ….Slowly then we got ready for rain trek.. Guys removed their shirts..It was already getting a bit dark and we got on the road….wow! ..wow!…no words to describe that beautiful walk in the rain!.....at once I thanked god for bringing me and showing me and giving me such wonderful experiences…No regrets of having stopped performing dance!… The road was simple superb..well laid, nice winding roads, bamboo trees on both sides, and weather!. Very pleasant,.lightning now and then, good breeze, great company..What else you need?..!!..it became pitch dark..one of the guys had a brilliant idea..he told..”Hey!..all of you look up…stretch your hands, close your eyes…now feel the rain, feel the breeze…now walk quietly! “..adada..ahaha…Awesome man!!..We were KIDS there..!!....We didn’t feel like stopping our walk at all..We sat on a bridge there on a pitch dark night looking at vehicles passing in great speeds…good.. Relax!…

Then, we started to walk back to the tea shop.. Arpita and srijith had found a great treasure for all of us!!…we had to sit on the road and observe the vehicle light that was coming from a distance..WOW!!..it was like seeing in a movie where when the god or some great power arrives, u see slowly the rays of light coming and spreading all over!...oh my god !..u will pay anything to watch this scene! ..amazing!!!..can u believe we sat there almost an hour just watching these rays of lights!... some moments cant be erased from our memory at allJ…Simple things in life bring great joys in our life..Isnt it??!...Enjoy life guys..enjoy nature..enjoy treks…! ! ! Back at tea shop, we had hot omlettes, bisi bisi bisibelebath, sambar rice, Tea,.. …yummy yummy..had great dinner that day and rolled our mats, crashed to bed. One or two guys started snoring!..grrr grrr….

Ayyo…arpita and myself couldnt sleep at all…It was around 12.30 midnight I guess..Both of us woke up and stood on the road… our hairs were left open..it was pitch dark.. We sat on a kutti stone watching all vehicles passing by…many of them for sure had looked at both of us…But none dared to stopJ.. no one wants to risk their lives with ghosts…isn’t it??.....lol.:) …That was an experience!.Later, both of us got back into our sleeping bags…r.rrr…rr..

3rd day – Sunday..early morning 6.30, we woke up, brushed , then packed our bags, and started to walk towards gundiya check post..Scenic roads, great weather,..had some fruits, clicking now and then on our way…and around 8 am, we hit the Nethravathi river bridge close to check post..We got down the bridge, got into the river.. Nethravathi was beautiful but muddy, flowing gently, and dancing sometimes in between rocks…We kept our bags under a huge tree..We all freshened up there…Till 9.30, had great luxurious bath and came to check post.. We had Dosas, uttappam, coffee, tea…and boarded a bus to Dharmasthala..There Ramki went to bus stand to cancel others tickets and 3 of us srijith, arpita and myself climbed Ratnagiri hill to have a look at Gommateswara…Bala, rakesh and kannan who were supposed to look after our bags were happily snoring at the bus stand itself !..They were woken up by arpita’s kicks and we then moved to the new bus stand..boarded the bus to bangalore…Before that , we had nice badam milk, spicy butter milk, lemon soda,…and quenched our thirst for trekking