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Monday, April 25, 2011

The unknown is always an enigma. When the best laid plans go down the drain, it is merely an opportunity to embrace the uncertainty in all its glory. That weekend was yet another testament to the fact that universe has its way with things and if you are patient enough, you will almost always know the purpose of everything that has gone wrong.

MannavanurLake3Morning rays reaching the Mannavanur Lake waters.. Experiencing the monsoons big time in heights of summer was the highlight of the two day trip.

The outside scenes were a hazy blur as I barely opened my eyes. It was a lovely morning and I was expectant about the three days that were to be spent in the realms of mountains and greenery. The morning haze was just lifting as we started climbing on the ghat section to reach Kodaikanal. Given the crazy biking muse of late, we couldn’t help but discuss the idea of returning back on bikes here on a later date. The 36kms long ghat section was a lovely drive albeit full of traffic.

morningmist Woke up to this view!

Kodaikanal at an altitude of 2030 meters is invariably cool most of the year and I fell in love with this place already as you’ve read before. Today was no different and I already had a good feeling being back here. Kodaikanal is no different and hasn’t been spared from the ubiquitous tourist crowd.  But why was I to care, I was headed to the lovely woods after all.

The reverie came to a shattering end when we found out our permission to trek was cancelled. We had three days and nothing to do. I made no effort to restrain the disappointment. I swore, I cursed and I thought of a wasted weekend. But today I was to know that attitudes are contagious. Arvindh and Nitin were hell bent on making the best of the situation and soon I was laughing along with others about the situation. What followed for the next two days can only be described as LEGENDARY!

After considering many options, we decided we would go with Kodai Mani to camp near lake called Mannavannur Lake and trek from there to Kookal Lake the next day. It was costing us extra but what the hell, we might as well have some fun if that’s all we were getting. We chilled out the whole afternoon watching the mist come and go. The weather did everything it could to keep my spirits high, it was cool and misty and a brilliant day to do nothing. If you know me, you’d know that I am not a person who is in favor of doing nothing on a vacation. Not that there is anything wrong with chilling out, just that I’d like to utilize every single minute to explore the awesomeness that is around. But today I was forced to do nothing and I was actually enjoying the joblessness.

It was 4PM and we were still waiting for Kodai Mani to take us to the lake. While we waited we took a tour of Kodaikanal Lake and watched the mist come down from the mountains and chase the boats on the lake. Soon enough I could hear loud noise suggesting some commotion on the lake surface but couldn’t make out what it was until huge raindrops fell on my cheeks. I was in a fit of frenzy because I had my camera with me without any cover to protect. I ran to a vegetable stall nearby when they were also busy covering the vegetables and a sweet lady offered me a plastic cover as she smiled. I smiled back and that smile lasted till I reached Bangalore. Officially the adventure had started! :)

boatride Mist came down from mountains and engulfed the Lake

 MistoverKodaikanalLake And then it started chasing boats!

It was summer and I expected Kodai to be cool but certainly didn’t expect such rain. The first rains of the season brought all that was expected of it - the fresh scent of earth, dew drops in the air, mist through the forests and unrivaled greenery. We were headed to Mannavannur Lake, 40 kms from Kodaikanal and the route that leads to it was exquisite. The forests around this hill station are thick and verdant and rains can only make it better. We were passing by high terraced villages with green fields spread on mountain slopes. We hardly saw any traffic and it was absolute pleasure watching the forest go by through the tinted window.

It was almost late evening and I knew I wasn’t going to see the sun set given the cloud cover. But who knew I would see something even better! Consider a vast ground of rolling grasslands all surrounded by high mountains in the distance and right in the middle of all this lies something sparkling. The first sight sparked such enthusiasm I cannot describe in words. That is where we would camp for the day, right by the Mannavannur Lake side. Normally this lake wouldn’t be as spectacular, but today the whole mood was perfectly set by the rains and low lying dark clouds, cool winds and not a soul in sight. We went hysteric watching such beauty and then it rained. Then it rained more. Then it rained more and more. It was dark and we were drenched to the core and then lightning struck! A loud thunder and a second of light in the dark night and then more lightning while we wandered in the open grounds! We rushed back to the nearby village to take shelter at the village school. 

thebigpicture The first view of our probable campsite, presenting Mannavanur Lake!

MannavanurLake-1 Where was I, Scotland?

We walked in the rain along the dirty road to reach a small place where an old couple seemed to be preparing something hot to eat. We were proved right and minutes later four of us found ourselves fighting for a piece of smoking hot delicious omlette dosas that were being served by the sweet old day. Sitting in the hut, on wooden benches eating hot dosas served on banana leaf over some conversations was a perfect end to the day. Later in the night, the rain stopped but I was woken up many times by scary neighs of horses, the thumping footsteps of running horses, barking of dogs and some other noises that I didn’t recognize. All this, while we were sleeping outside, well I was glad to see the morning light and boy! It was lovely.  

morningatMannavanur Mist never left our side, morning view from the school

The mist seemed to be moving in a gracious curve over the hill top and I couldn’t wait to run back to the lake. And run we did, only to find more awesomeness. The mist was lying low while sun had come up above the mountains. We spent another two hours by the lake and then we returned back to the old couple’s place for more tasty food along with some funny conversations.

Now, we had a vehicle with us, two more days to spare and no plan. I had been to Kookal Lake earlier and I suggested we all go to that lake today. After a hearty breakfast we proceeded along yet another exquisite leaf strewn forest route to the lake. It was much different from what I had seen last time, of course the difference being the magic that the monsoons lent to the place. Everything was green, I mean green green! The shola forest beyond the lake was lush and in its prime. On the other side of the shola forest was high mountains and grasslands. I knew this because I was here before. The weather was so perfect for just lazing around. Armed with my camera we wandered along the green pastures, we walked upto the village for a friendly banter with the kids there. We told them we had no place to stay for the night and they came up with a brilliant plan. They said each one of them would take two of us and we could stay with them in the village for the night. Sweet kids!

MistyMountains Along with the cattle, we were lazing around Kookal Lake. Beyond those shola forest lies the temple and the peak.

The greenery, the intermittent rain, the mist, the mountains and the joblessness were proving to be therapeutic. It felt great to be there that moment. It felt as if time could stand still, that was where I wanted it to freeze. By afternoon it started to rain again and I was in no mood to go back yet. I suggested we go trek to the temple on the peak behind those forests in the rain. After much persuasion everyone got to their feet and we entered the forest as thick as the dark tresses of the lady. It was pouring and as soon we entered the forest, the slimy black creatures got to work with an intensity that left only five out of the sixteen trekkers on the trail within the first 10 minutes. The leeches there were blood thirsty as if they were starving for ages and they attacked us with a rigor that could only be matched by the fiercest warrior! Blood was shed, I tell no lies.

bloodylegs The Leech Effect, not for the weak hearted! ;) It doens't hurt though, trust me.

The ordeal lasted a good 45 minutes before we reached the grasslands. Wet wood worked like a charm to scrape the leeches away. I removed my shoes and walked up the mountain in the rain barefoot. Since I had seen the view from top already, I wasn’t in any hurry to reach the top. I walked slowly enjoying the mountains and the rain. We reached the temple on top and as it rained more we started to gorge on what little food we managed to carry. Winds blowing on mountains at an altitude of above 2000meters in the rain was cold but we spent a good two hours on the top shivering to the core and yet reluctant to leave the magical mountains, yet.

viewfromthetop While the guys held the rain poncho over my head, we all go out of the temple to get some shots of the views around

 lakekookal Kookal Lake, Adieu!

When we left, we did so with a heavy heart for the trip had almost come to an end. We dreaded the thought of going back to the leech territory but it would be relatively easier now that we can run faster downhill. With Nitin at the lead, he started running. And so we all had a small trail running exercise in the woods and we crossed the leech territory in a record 10 minutes. It rained and rained as we deleeched our shoes and body by the Kookal Lake. After changing into dry clothes, we set out to reach Bangalore.

I would find myself at these lakes again in two months. I took my family this time and the lakes were lovely as ever. An almost ruined vacation turned into a beautiful exploration. A simple choice of not letting our spirits down led to having a ball of time enjoying the rains, during summer! In such rains I don’t know if we would’ve managed to do the trek anyway. Everything happens for a reason, don’t you think? :)

Route : Kodaikanal - Poomburai - Mannavanur - Kukkal(Kookal) - Kodaikanal

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Written by: Neelima (Courtesy: The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales
Event organized by:
Ramprasad
Image Gallery:
Aniruddha Gupte, Krishna Murthy, Girish NL

Firstly, I would like to thank BASC and Jinu for organizing this trek and also all those who came for the trek,. I do not write a blog, but after this trip, I am even more motivated to start a blog of my own. I was super exited to go on the trek to Vellarimala, from the time I heard about it from a friend of mine last month. I met Jinu and a few other strangers who were going to be a part of the trek to Vellarimala at the Satellite bus stop on Mysore road. In the bus, I overheard a guy saying “ next two days we are all friends da” and that put a smile on my face and I was assured that just like on any other treks, I will have fun even on this one irrespective of the fact that I came without any friends of mine. I do not get sound sleep while travelling, so I got to see a lot of forest after crossing God’s own country’s check post. Once we got down at Thamarassery , we walked till the next bus depot , while it was drizzling. I hate getting wet in the rain. But that didn’t dampen my spirits. I was just thinking positive and hoping that it will be sunny when we trek, so it is ok if it drizzles now. Once we were on the bus to Muthappanpuzha, all of us were staring out the window with our eyes wide and our jaws dropping. The driver was zooming past villages on a narrow lane but none of us cared as the view was just superb. It was like the paintings which we used to make when we were kids with huts and the mountains in the background. Sushruth was busy shooting pics of the scenery. It was an hour’s journey and once we got down from the bus, we had tea at a tea stand and started off our trek via a village to the Vellarimala peak J Guess what!! It stopped drizzling by the time we passed the village.

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We munched a little, filled our water bottles and entered the forest area. The trek till the Olichuchattam water falls was pretty easy. We met some people from ISRO who didn't make it to the peak due to rain , who were on their way back and I was amazed that a few elderly people had come too and one of the women there was soaked with her own blood due to leech bite and Chaya was startled and wanted to run back home with them, but we convinced her to continue the trek. We started off at 400mts altitude from the village and reached the Olichuchattam waterfalls which was around 1300mts altitude. The falls was very steep and the view was beautiful J The view of the mist covering the mountains opposite the falls was awesome J

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We continued our trek from the falls and the trail got steeper and the leech bites increased. Annoying creatures!! We came across a lot of places where the incline was anywhere between 60 to 90(like a huge step) degrees. Most of the trail was elephant trail ( with elephant dung all around else it was the trail made by Ram with his machete). We climbed on and on… we passed a lot of streams , and hence water wasn’t a problem. Whenever we made a pit stop, we checked for leeches, threw salt and eucalyptus oil on and made the leeches drop off our skin. We stuffed ourselves with food and hurried because, Jinu wanted to make sure we reach the peak before it starts pouring. Throughout the climb, I could hear Jinu shouting “move” , Ashwin shouting so many things and some of us shouting back at them for shouting!! It was 2:00 p.m. , close to 6hrs from when we started the trek. I was like where the hell is the peak!!

According to Trek Wiki, an average climber will take 9 hours to reach the peak ( 13kms to ascend ) . So if I was below average(which I thought I was ) it would take me at least 4 more hours!! Oh god!! Thanks to the GPS Jinu had, he told us we will me there soon and Ashwin kept me motivated saying he will give me dark chocolate when we reach the peak! J We passed through bushes which were curved & made a cave like entrance towards the peak and opposite to it we could see only mist!! It was breadth taking!! I loved it!! J We reached the peak by 3:15 p.m (2050mts altitude)!! does that make us above average climbers!! Wow!! J Priyanka was like, is this the peak??!! It was just a flat land and had bushes around it and there was no view!! I was also equally surprised even though I had read the blogs. I expected some opening which had a view but there were none. But we were all overjoyed that we reached the peak and all of us relaxed and ate lunch in peace. Since there was no water source here, Ram suggested that we trek for an hour longer and then set up the camp. We all agreed and Ram led us. This was the first time I could see Ram in action and I watched him in awe as he cut through the bushes with his machete to make the trail and still kept his pace very high, as I had to literally jog to match his pace. He went off the trail a little, but knew in a minute that he was off, and then was back on track. I made a quick 360 degree turn and looked around to find no difference at all!! How the hell does he know where to go??!! Finally we came to a clearing in Kethanpara which gave us a breadth taking view, for which I have no words to describe!! It was heaven on earth!! J J

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Only those of us who saw it will know what an amazing view it was!! It was incredible!! J J None of us wanted to leave this place and camp elsewhere. But we had to as there was no flat surface here nor was there any water L Reluctantly all of us continued our trek to a beautiful open space called REC PaaRa, where we camped.

Jinu , Ram and some others had put the tarpaulin sheet tents.Once we were all under the tarpaulin sheet, we were trying to make space for everyone and also keep ourselves warm. It started pouring heavily once we were all inside. It was around 5:30 p.m. and it was pretty dark. We were hoping it stops raining, so that we could make a camp fire and then make soup for all of us. But it just didn’t stop. Prateek started entertaining all of us by singing old hindi songs with background music. I joined him , whenever I knew the lyrics and we were just shouting on top of our lungs most of the time. I realized that it helped me keep warm and started singing nursery rhymes whenever Prateek took time in deciding on the next song. I am not sure if we entertained the rest or bugged them, but Prateek and I, along with a few others were having a good time. It didn’t stop raining and they made fire under the tarpaulin sheet, making sure it doesn’t catch fire and cooked soup, which was yummy. 9 Once I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag and stared out into the sky, I could see the outline of the Vavulmala mountain whenever there was a lightning. It was beautiful, I never got scared, even though it reminded me of the movie Castaway as I had the company of 16 others. The water from the tarpaulin sheet was dripping at my feet and half the sleeping bag was wet in a few hours. I hardly slept due to the cold weather and kept checking my watch every now and then waiting for dawn. It was around 11:30 p.m. when half of the tent fell down as the stick could now hold it any longer as it was raining cats and dogs. Most of us got up to hold the sheet and make the water flow away. Some of us tried to do whatever possible to make the stick hold the tent. Once we were sure this is the best that can be done ( we all knew we will be half wet ) we tried to get some sleep. In the morning all of us discussed how bad the night was. Prateek was sitting half the night with the tarpaulin sheet right on top of his head and later slept on his bag; Ashwin had no opening in his sleeping bag to breathe; Jinu had to hold the tent in one hand the whole time to prevent water from getting in and so on…
Once yummy leamon tea was made ( thank god they found sugar, else we would have had to drink Assam salt tea!! ), half the group went trekking to Vaavalmala peak, while the rest of took rest at the camp site. Dinesh was arguing with me saying that here, it rains from below! And when I asked him what about gravity, he said forget gravity, I will share the link with you. 11 I am still waiting to see the link! The one thing I regret not doing during this trek is climbing Vaavalmala. Since I was feeling giddy in the morning, I didn’t want to risk it as I knew the descent would be harder than the ascent and I still had 14kms of descent. I hogged on an apple, two buns and three chapattis, before the group who went to Vavulmala returned. Most of them said the view was better than the view from Ketanpara which made me regret my decision to not climb it, even more. Once we cleaned up the place, we cut a cake to celebrate BASC’s 2nd birthday, and ate the yummy powdered plum cake which was given to us like it was prasada JIMG_2559

Finally we started out descent at around 11:00 a.m. We stopped at Ketanpara for sometime. Ganesh asked me to sit at the edge, along with the rest, and I cautiously moved front and let my legs hang. It was just awesome!! The view was even better here and I felt so close to Mother Nature. Even though I may have scared some people after shouting my lungs out while singing yesterday night, most of them agreed when I said I want to sing and I sang one of my favorite songs “I’m on the top of the world” by Carpenters. For about quarter of the journey, I was doing pretty fine we kept ourselves motivated by shouting in a friendly way (like ”ooi summne higo” , “poda dei” ) at those ahead of us J I should have worn a knee cap L by the time we were half way down, I was walking like Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates of Caribbean!! Thanks to Saiesh , Karthik , Bharath , Jinu and Raj I was able to descend . I absolutely took no break till we reached one of the streams after which Jinu said we will stop only at Ochattilum falls. No matter how long we descended, the falls never came and everytime I asked where the falls was, they were like can you hear the falls?? We are almost there. This kept happening and we never took the turn to the falls and nor did we get a break. I could barely keep a step by myself by now. When we finally reached the village, Saiesh, Jinu, karthik, Bharath and I got to eat mangoes and guava grown in the farm. It was very refreshing. Since they took turns in helping me walk, they all got to goto a nearby waterfalls and take a dip. When we were around a km from the village, Saiesh got a brilliant idea of walking backwards down the inclined road, so as to put less pressure on the knees. I did the same, with a helping hand for around a km and I was walking at my normal pace backwards and then we reached the tea stand finally!!
We took a bus and then an auto to Thamarassery, in-between which I finally got to eat the dark chocolate J The chocolate helped me as long as it stayed in my mouth as I didn’t think of the pain in my legs. After eating dinner, we boarded the bus to Bangalore and I got sleep for a few hours due to fatigue. It is Wednesday now, 3 days from when we came back & I am still walking backwards J It was one hell of a trek experience , very adventurous!! Thanks BASC J I loved it!! J Looking forward for more such treks J
Link

Orginal post by,

Keerthana: CLICK HERE

Other write-ups from:
Aswin Anand
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Written by: Keerthana
Event organized by: Jinu John
Image Galleries:
Jinu, Bharath, Debashish, Vikas, Sushrut, Raj

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 17th on account of Bangalore ASCENDers second birthday we donated groceries of worth 2500/- rupees to Laksmamma Orphanage. They take care of about 30 orphan children.

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This Orphanage is run by Nagaraj and his family; they do not have any corporate or government sponsorship. They are funded by people like you and us. Those who wish to donate personally can contact to the below address.

V.Nagaraj
Smt.Laksmamma Orphanage(R)
#27/1 , Amco Layout , Kodigehalli, Near Impact college
Godwin School Road, Sahakaranagara Post
Bangalore – 560092
Mobile:9845304581,9342198459.

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Coordinated by: Satish
Images by: Ram
Compiled by: Mudassar