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Monday, July 25, 2011

Gavi..?? where in Kerala? Is it a tourist place? Which district it is? etc these were the queries i got after posting the event in the website. Monsoons in its peak time,bad time to visit the forests of Periyar tiger reserve. Good response and a bunch of people registered within the first week and was forced to close the registration within few dates.
So Friday night I reached Shanti Nagar bus stand from where our bus to Kumily was booked. People started coming and finally after all late comers majority seats of the bus were filled by the ascenders. We started of to Kumily, morning when woke up we were in the plains of Tamil Nadu near Kumbam. Hills far ahead, grape farms and drizzling, a good sign to start up with the day. We could see a waterfall sliding through the hills and I made an announcement its Chellarkovil waterfalls and we will be visiting that today. All heads out of windows to see it:):).
After 1 hour of climbing up from Cumbam we reached Kumily... cool and pleasant atmosphere welcomed we crossed the check post in border to Kerala. We checked in to hotel and decided to start by 10.00AM after breakfast with a Jeep ride. mean time went to the forest office and made the arrangements for Gavi passes. By 10.00AM 4 Jeeps were in front of the Hotel and all occupied the best seats and we headed off to Ottakathalamedu (camel head top, if I translated correct ) view point in Kumily. When we started climate was good but as we attained altitude it started drizzling.

Kumily JeepsKumily jeep Ride We reached the peak and drivers showed doubt of going to the peak by vehicle through muddy paths. Rony chettan decided to give a try and after some struggling crossed the muddy area to reach the view point, followed by other Jeeps. Even tough drizzling, rain coats, umbrellas, click click click... click mine... see that peak, mist , people started framing the natures beauty.Kumily Ottakathalamedu The view of the hills around and the Thekkady lake and forest all framed and captured well. A failure attempt to have an introduction section due to rains and we started to Chellarkovil waterfalls as promised in bus. Down pour was more and was non stop. We reached an estate and waited for the rain to stop. We had a nice lecture about the Chellarkovil waterfalls, the life around Kumily and the farming in the high range. Slowly rain reduced and we moved through the estates to the waterfall view point. Disappointment spreaded to all the faces... mist every where and cant even see anything, not even the plains down was visible. Waited for more than 1 hour and no chances of the villain moving out, we started back.Cumbam View pointCumbam ViewTree hut Kumily Went back to the estate and climbed the tree house, and a call from the top.. "he's moving out lets go back.". Huge energy and all started running back to the view point... what a beauty the valley down and hills spreading across. The plains of Tamil Nadu in Cumbam and Theni down, the hills of  Kerala dividing it with Kerala. Chellarkovil waterfall going down to Tamil Nadu side was a fest for the eyes. Mist playing hide and seek and with lots of satisfaction we moved back to the tree house. Checked the time and its almost 3:00pm, all forgot about having lunch only and we headed towards Ampady hotel and had a tasty lunch and came out. Again some clicks around the hotel surrounding.Hotel Ampady We decided to walk towards Thekkady lake through forests dropping the boating plan, and it proved to be right decision thick forests in both sides and little wild life and some leach encounters we reached the Thekkady lake.Thekkady Lake Thekkady Spent some time over there and headed back to Kumily where a martial arts show was going on. Got tickets and all occupied their seats and the show started, one by one the items were shown and was surprised to see their body language and the rhythm they followed in the show. They even performed some fire works in the dark which too  was a feast to the eyes.

Martial Arts KumilyMartial Arts FireMartial Arts

The first day programs over and the gang dispersed for shopping and dinner.. Kumily being a good place to buy spices and handicrafts people got a lot to shop, and food of all types. All went to sleep as we have check out from hotel and start  early morning by 5:00 AM to Gavi.
Morning 4:00AM the annoying mobile alarm, snoozed and went back to sleep under the thick blanket. Again alarm, this time realizing the time got up and freshed up. Went to all other rooms and gained all the bad words for waking them up. Jeeps had come, chilling morning and all got into jeeps. 1,2,3...29 head counts, multiple times, 3 people are missing. Went every where searching and Rony chettan suggested to check the rooms. Got the key back from reception and opened the rooms one by one... what the hell... 3 Kumbakarnas still sleeping. All scoldings and a time line to reach reception with 15 minutes. By 5:40AM all started off to Gavi. Green carpet of tea plantations,civilization and all disappeared behind us and reached Vandiperiyar forest check post.Gavi RoadGavi JeepGavi Misty Road Check post entries and the jeep roof tops opened we enter the forests of Gavi. Beautiful landscapes and streams flowing between them and the music from nature welcomed us. We climbed a small hill as instructed by the driver and spotted  some Indian Gaurs on a near by hill. These jeep drivers have a sharp eye in locating wild life, and they have some favorite spots and they tell that wild animals are usually spotted in those places. Time was 7:30AM still we had a feeling that it was only 6:00AM due to the mist and darkness in forest. green green every where we traveled and stopped at view points, pictures and finally reached Gavi.GaviGavi Lake  The Gavi is an isolated village hamlet deep inside forest with very less population. Wildlife is abundant here. This area was unknown to the most of outside world before tourism started. The trek to wilderness, lake in Gavi and boating in that is a highlight of the place. The delicious breakfast from the canteen and guides were assigned to our team to trek in to the wild. We were given leach socks, rain coats and all all set ready. Rain gods having no mercy continued, but we couldn't stop trekking and followed the trail. Beautiful landscapes and mother nature in full glory, and no doubt it became a monsoon trek.

Gavi Trek

We descended to a hut deep inside the forest, the guide showed us a tiger pug mark. Just down the hut there was a stream and waterfall, visited that and here comes challenge.. we need to cross the stream. By forming human chain crossed the stream and ascended back to Gavi.  After a tiring trek had a delicious lunch there comes another news , elephants appeared near Pachakkanam forest.
We asked the guide and our drivers to take us there. Jeeps started and headed into wild routes again to Pachakkanam forests. Jeeps stopped and we could see a group of elephants in a distant peak. the guide advised its not safe to go near, on requesting again he asked people who's ready to run on being chased by elephants can come. I passed on the message and few of the people started hiking. By this time elephants realized our presence and started showing their digress of our approach. We went nearer to an adjacent hill and took photos. They again started showing their dislike to our presence , and our fear of having more elephants in the near by grasses made us to go down. We returned back as it was getting late and we need to finish our boating and exit the forest before 6:00PM.

Gavi Elephants Gavi Lake Forest Went back to the lake where boats were ready for us. We divided into 2groups as there were no sufficient boats and life jackets. A pleasant sail in the Gavi lake headed us to a surprise a waterfall on one edge of the lake. Got down and headed close to the waterfalls and lot of fun and bath in the ice cold water.

Gavi  Boat Ride

Gavi  Waterfalls Chilled

Gavi  Waterfalls Headed back to the canteen where the next group was waiting. While the other group went to waterfalls we had a visit to the store room where lot of skulls and bones of elephants and other animals were kept. Surprised to see so huge elephants skulls and all.  All back and few of us climbed the hill behind to have a distant view of Shabarimala temple deep inside forest. When we were there our guide came and told its time to head back.
We sat in Jeeps and headed back to Kumily, on the way a sudden stop and shh..sh... See a step ahead in the forest. A group of elephants so close again.

Gavi  Elephant

Gavi  Elephants Again clicks and clicks.... Satisfied all head back to Kumily. Reached Kumily and end of 2 days Treknic and truly a monsoon treknic with a bunch of  like minded friends.
This treknic was with Bangalore Ascenders, a non profitable trekking group based in Bangalore .
Video composed by Navendu,

Kumily and Thekkady:

Kumily is a town near Thekkady and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki District, Kerala. Its one of the major tourist locations and main spices trade center.
Nearest Airport: Even tough Kumily is inKerala, nearest airport is in Madurai, which is some 120 Kms
Route : bangalore- Salem - Dindigul _ Theni - Cumbam - Kumily - Gavi
  : Cochin - Vandiperiyar -Gavi
Regular buses are there from Cumbam in Tamil Nadu. Also regular buses ply from Kottayam and Cochin in Kerala.
Gavi lying in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is a must visit place where lot of eco tourism projects which you should book in advance. They have one day package and camping packages depending on season.
From Kumily Gavi is approachable via Vandiperiyar. The road continues via Pachakkanam, Kochu Pamba till Pathanamthitta which you may not be permitted to do by Forest officials. one or two KSRTC buses runs to and fro between Kumily and Pathanamthitta via Gavi which is a rewarding trip if you have time. It starts early morning and ends at evening.

Accomodation and Food: Gavi accommodation if required you should book well in advance. Kumily there are lot of options available for food and accommodation.

Write up: Jinu John

Orginal Post: http://www.jinujohn.com/2012/07/trekking-in-thekkady-and-gavi.html

Join Bangalore ASCENDers @ CLICK HERE
Event organized by: Jinu John
Image Galleries: Sreeraj , Pranjal , Pratap , Gururaj , Sanjana , Anusha , Sreevalli , Jinu

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our club members from BDR donated 4 units of blood to a cancer patient at Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology.

                                                      Blood Components

Our hearty congratulations to the donors Suresh Sundar, Ashwin Nc, Ram kumar Un, Ashwin S for doanting blood.

Join BASC Blood Donors Repository @ CLICK HERE

Compiled by: Mudassar
BDR co-ordinator: Rafi

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jinu told me that everything during the Jumanji trek will be a surprise, including the route, the terrain, the animals we may encounter, availability of water, how long we will trek etc. It sounded like so much fun & I registered immediately! :) And trust me; every bit of the trek was a surprise! :)
It was on Friday night, when I met 10 other brave, hard core trekkers, who were on mission Jumanji :) We reached Coorg early morning at around 6:30 and from there, we were on our way to Kakkabbe, the starting point of our trek. It was raining on & off during our journey to Kakkabbe & I was praying that the weather be pleasant when we trek & thanks to Mother Nature, it was! The scenery was just beautiful & everyone started out of the window to see the mountains, river and meadows in the cloudy weather :)
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We reached a school next to a palace (looked like a huge old house) and shared the common items, applied whatever repellant we had got to keep the leeches away (eucalyptus oil, snuff powder, Calcium hydroxide, salt, and the list goes on) & started our trek to …. That’s a surprise! :) It was around 8:30a.m. . We walked for around 2kms on a steep tar road followed by mud road and the guys who had been to the Tadiyandamol peak told us this was the hardest part when they trekked to the peak. On the way we saw two beautiful waterfalls. Ram & I walked ahead and reached a forest official’s house & waited for the rest, while we admired the view of mountains, lakes, green pastures far away. Already a leech was crawling up my shoes! Darn!
Jumanji/4
The 11 of us started walking towards Tadiyandamol peak. We came to a point where if we took a right, it would lead us to the Tadiyandamol peak and if we took a left it would lead us to God knows where :) Since we were on mission Jumanji, we took the left turn leading us to a thick forest. This place was infested with leeches. We came across a small waterfall around 50mts into the forest & decided to have our breakfast here. Since there was absolutely no place for us to stand without being attacked by the leeches, we went back to the point where we had to take a right turn to Tadiyandamol peak , found an open space without leeches and stopped to have breakfast. Once we were done eating, we applied the leech repellant & started the trek.
Jumanji/4
Jumanji/4
Once we crossed the same waterfall which we came across before having breakfast, we walked for another 50 mts in the forest, after which we could see grassland & mountains! It was simply beautiful! By now there were a lot of leeches on my leg. The repellant wasn’t that effective. I realized I could either keep looking at my legs, trying to remove the leeches or I could forget about them till the next pit stop & admire nature. I choose the latter :) I have never seen the grassland this beautiful. It was lush green! This is such a big treat for monsoon trekkers :) I just loved it. We were walking along a trail on one of the hills and I could see different shades of green everywhere! We entered & exited yet another forest. Now, we could spot the Tadiyandamol peak to our right; see a waterfall on one of the many mountains to out left. We stopped here to remove the leeches on us. Thanks to the chemist Suresh, who made strong leech repellant & gave Viji & me, one each. Ingredients of the Super strong leech repellant (SSLR): Snuff powder, Calcium hydroxide and salt. Method: mix the ingredients & cover with a cotton cloth. Usage: place on the leeches for a few seconds till they fall off :) Viji & I used SSLR & were delighted to see the quick results! :) Around 20 mts from this point, the trail ended and now came the actual fun :)
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Jumanji/4  To our north east, we could see a mountain with waterfall and to its left we could see another mountain with houses. Our destination on Kerala side was to this mountain: Sasipara, with houses. The next hill could be reached if we went North West, so we headed there. After we ascended and descended a few hills, we ascended on a hill to find ourselves with a spectacular view on all sides!! :) Any direction I turned in, there is a beautiful view! I made a 360 degree turn and was speechless with joy :) I have never been this happy seeing nature, as it was beautiful from every angle. I took a right here and walked on the top of a hill, for around 200mts, admiring the 360 degree view throughout. From my north to east, I could see a lot of mountains in shades of green to blue, disappearing into the horizon; from my east to south, I could see our destination (mountain with houses), the mountain with waterfalls and the Tadiyandamol peak, among other mountains.
Jumanji/4 
Jumanji/4
The remaining side, I could see mountains in different shades of beautiful green :) I just didn’t want to leave this place! I was hoping we could just camp here forever! :) Reluctantly, I followed the others into the forest ahead which was the darkest shade of green.
A few steps into the forest & guess what! We could smell dung & there were a lot of flies here. All of us kept silent & walked ahead cautiously. We could now spot the fresh elephant dung & could hear the branches being broken to our right. We quietly went to out left and stopped at a point where we could either go straight or take a left and head towards an estate. We headed straight & we were now on grassland. Guess what! Yippiee! We spotted an elephant herd far away on a hill to our right!! :) All of us were super exited! We headed towards the elephant herd & stopped at a safe distance of around 300-400 mts on the adjacent hill and admired the wild elephants. I could spot 3 baby elephants, 2 medium sized ones and 5 adults! Wow!! :) One elephant, the leader was the closest to us, and a little away from the herd. I could see it eat grass, lift its trunk & throw grass on its back, guide the herd into the forest. It was simply marvelous :)

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I learnt that elephant’s sense of smell was very powerful & they could smell us even from that distance. Once they were in the forest, Sudhir & Jinu went to our right, to find a place where we could descend. After seeing the steep hills, Sudhir led us to the place where the elephants had been, by taking a parallel path below the path that they took on the hill, as this descent would be the best for us, as it’s the best for elephants! We then ascended to our left & we were at the place the elephants were a few minutes ago!
Now came the tricky part. There was a clear opening into the forest where the elephants had gone. We went into it and walked for around 100 mts on dry broken barks & trees with clear indication that this is the daily route for the elephant herd before deciding that we are too close to the herd and we need to take another path. We took a left and then a right & tried to stay on a parallel path of the elephants & head down to the river. After around half an hour, we realized it was too steep to take this route and we need to find another way. We walked back to the point where we had spotted the elephants earlier where Sudhir & Jinu took out the GPS and were trying to figure out if there was any other route to the river. I was happily facing the wind with my hands stretched, wanting to fly away :) After a lot of discussion, Sudhir decided to follow the elephants! :)
After praying to lord Ganapathi, we followed Sudhir on the elephant trail, towards the river. I placed my foot on an elephant foot print & realized my foot was just quarter the size of the elephant’s foot! The foot prints were so clear, as they must have crossed this path around half an hour back & there was lot of fresh dung including the baby elephant’s! We came to a point where there was a huge clearing, looked to me like the whole herd had been resting here together! From this spot, it took us a little time to figure out where the herd had headed. After around half an hour or so, we again came across a similar clearing. Here it took us more time to figure out where the elephants had headed. We walked in circles for a bit, and then found the right path. This path had barks with green leaves broken on the path. It looked to me like the elephants had taken a new route today to fool us! We came across a very tall tree which was fallen and the guys were joking saying that the elephant knocked it down, as the tree was on its way :) We then came to a steep descent with just soft mud; I easily got down by keeping my feet on the elephant’s foot print, which formed giant steps for me :) We were now on a stone path (which was a jeep track many years ago) and later we were on a path which was pretty even, covered with dry leaves. Trying hard not to make any noise, as we could hear the elephant growl to give us a warning, as we were very close to it, we stepped to our right, out of the path and waited for a while, before going back on the trail. I was the third one now, behind Sudhir & Sreeraj. After around 100mts, Sudhir turned back and shouted run! We all ran back to the point where we had stopped sometime back & Sudhir told us he spotted 2 elephants at a curve, just 50 mts away. Sreeraj had spotted one & I had spotted none! I regretted not waiting even for a second to just spot the elephant before running away in fear, to save my life! We waited here for some time, as we could now hear the gurgling river & the trumpeting/ growling of the elephants. We were hoping that they were trumpeting out of joy to have reached the water & not growling to warn us. They knew we were close by, due to our scent. Once we could not hear anymore trumpeting/ growling from the herd, we followed the elephant foot prints again. It was round 5:00 p.m. We were all very exhausted by now, and we hardly had any water left. There was another steep descent with elephant foot prints creating steps for me to walk down & water finally! Thanks a ton to the elephants, which not only led us to the water, but also made the trail for us and didn’t charge at us for being in their territory! They were the best hosts ever! :)
The river was pretty wild. I filled my bottle with water and enjoyed every sip of the cold crystal clear water. All of us sat on leech free boulders and cleaned our shoes & socks and dipped our feet into the cold water. It was so relaxing. We quickly gobbled whatever we could and packed our back packs. Suresh & Sreeraj got into the river, and tied one end of the rope to the tree on the other side. The rest of them followed & spaced themselves across the river. Viji held onto the rope & went on the other side. I passed the backpacks from my end, to the next person in line and the dry backpacks were finally on Viji’s side. I then held onto the rope & crossed the river with strong currents. Once we were all on the other side, we got out the torch & started to climb the mountain. Even though there was light on the bank of the river, it was pretty dark in the forest, as it was a dense forest and we could hardly see the sky. We followed the trail of a water stream for a while, but then had to make our own trail. It was around 7:00 p.m. now and we took a right and were heading towards what the GPS showed as our destination. There was no clear path and every direction looked the same – densely populated tall trees. At this point, I was wondering out loud if I should be scared, because I wasn’t & I was exited! It was so thrilling to go trekking in the dark, not sure of where we were headed, in a forest with wild animals! :)
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Sudhir found a clearing above & switched on his GPS. I flashed the torch on the GPS & he was telling me that we need at least 3 satellites to show us where we were. The satellites were switching between 1 & 2. Now Jinu switched on his GPS and told us that we could ascend left and reach an estate after 5 kms or walk straight for 3.6 kms and be on our way to the destination. Since there was no clear path ahead, we ascended a bit & found the old stony jeep track. We decided to walk 5kms to the estate, as we were sure of finding a place to camp, rather than walk towards the planned destination and end up camping on the leech infested area. Since we found litter on the way, we were convinced that the locals take this path & were motivated to ascend with the torch lights. We also saw an elephant foot print going down the path, which told us that this particular elephant wasn’t headed upwards (but we had no guarantee of other elephants!). Chinmay & I were singing a motivation song while ascending. After around 2 hours of trekking, many of us felt the fatigue creep in. I on the other hand, was motivated to reach the estate & then take good rest the entire night & that kept me going and I continued walking. Jinu’s GPS said 3kms. A few times I went ahead & as advised by Jinu I flashed the torch 20 mts away, first to check that there were no animals & then making sure that the path was still there and walked ahead. After around half an hour even I started feeling tired and every now and then I was asking Jinu how much more and the difference was just 100 mts always! I felt like we were hardly covering any distance, even though we hardly took a brake and continued walking. Jinu spotted a white snake with black rhombus spots on it, and after a min of torch light on it, it was in attacking position and I fled from there. There were lots of leeches crawling on our feet by now. I realized that the SSLR was so strong, that it had burnt my skin! I was now throwing snuff powder whenever possible & later thought ill clean my feet when we reach the estate & ignore them for now. One time when we just stood to take a break for 2 min, on Ravi’s guidance to save the torch light, (because we had no idea when we will reach the destination & some torch lights were dimming) we switched off the lights and stood. It was pitch dark! There was no moon that night too. I could not see the stars, as it was a dense forest covered in mist! We switched on our torches & were back to walking. There were spiders and bugs apart from leeches on the path. Twice we came across a huge boulder in front of us and it looked like a dead end to us. Both the times, after a little searching, we turned right to be back on track. Near the second boulder, we saw a scorpion. After few seconds of torch light on it, it looked like it was going to attack. We thought the better of it & took a few steps away from it & waited for everyone to join us. It was around 10:00p.m now. We were all very tired and the GPS said 2.5 kms. Hoping it was true, we kept walking. We munched on biscuits and had glucose and kept walking. When we were 1.7 kms away from the estate, where Jinu had marked a house, there was a small water fall running perpendicular to our path & we could see houses on the hill to our right! We were happy that we could see civilization. But after crossing the falls, we were lost & couldn’t find the track anymore :(

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The best decision now was to camp on the uneven rocky path trying to clear the leeches from the area. It was close to midnight now. Everyone started cleaning their socks & shoes filled with leeches. I got grossed out seeing the countless leeches being removed and the blood on everyone’s legs. Even now, just thinking about it makes me feel sick. I feared removing my shoes. Thanks to Ram & Suresh, they calmed me down, gave me chocolate to eat and helped me remove the leeches. Chinmay & Sreeraj started a fire, around which I warmed my cold feet (was pale white as it was wet due to river crossing). The damn leeches were attracted even to the fire! Can’t believe these disgusting creatures! The fire died down quickly as no one had the strength to keep it alive. We put the tarpaulin sheets beneath us, wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags & fell asleep on the rocks. I got up once, when I felt that a leech was crawling on my lips! I brushed it aside first & then switched on my torch to search for it, in vain. Assuming that I was getting nightmares already, I went back to sleep, when I felt a sting on my finger! It was there! Thank God it didn’t go into my mouth! I was too tired to worry and fell asleep again.
It was 6:30 a.m. when I woke up & it was very misty. The forest was looking beautiful. We cooked soupy Maggie, had two helpings & then it started to rain! Jinu & Sreeraj had found a way out from what we thought was the dead end & later Sudhir checked the route once & now we were on our way uphill again. Guess what! We saw steps carved on a stone & after passing an area infested with countless leeches, Jinu & I finally saw a gate, jeep track & cows!
12We were near the estate in around 10 mins from our camp! But absolutely no regrets! :) It was one hell of an adventure sleeping on an elephant path, not sure of which animal we may encounter. All of us were thrilled to reach the civilization. We had reached Kabbe. We had finished our quota of trekking yesterday itself, by trekking for almost 14 hours! 
Jumanji/4
I sat on a boulder & admired the cows eating grass & climbing the hills above the lake in front of me and thanked Mother Nature for being so kind to us :)
Thank you: BASC & Sudhir for organizing this adventurous trek, Jinu & Viji because of whom I was a part of this trek & all the other participants of the trek who helped me throughout the trek.
Thank you Sreeraj, Suresh & Karthik for the pictures.
Other write ups by: Sreeraj,Ramkumar
And some videos by Ramkumar,
Following the Dangerous Elephant  path:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WCPc7KLcrE  
 
Visit our Group @ CLICK HERE
 
Written by: Keerthana
Event organized by: Sudhir 

Image Galleries:
Karthik,Naveen,Sreeraj,Suresh
,Jinu