Our trek started immediately post that and I paid our trek guide Sathish the entire amount. He said he had some work and sent someone else with us. We started off with the jungle path immediately. Priyanka took the pole position. Deva and I were at the last. The rest were in the middle in some random changing order. Within minutes we reached the Bodi Forest Officers place where there was YHAI camp. I had to write a long disclaimer letter in Tamil post which another guide in the form of forest ranger joined our group. We were to pay 'tips' for him at the end which I anyways decided I wouldn't as I was not informed about it by my guide earlier. So that constant source of irritation was there till the end. That's the problem with hiring a guide. Either going without a guide or going with an organization is a better prospect because there is no need to haggle every now and then with an organization. Only disadvantage would be the high fees. So, I do away with both for most cases but due to impractical permission obtaining procedure I had to resort to a guide.From there our guide asked whether to take 'shortcut' or not. Our group would know why 'shortcut' is in quotes, especially Priyanka. Ranger decided against it so we took the familiar path. The trail was well laid, weather was chilly so it was a nice breezy walk till a point where we took photos. The whole group wasn't much infested in taking photos so the trek proceeded in a good place.We took our lunch at Middle Station where there was a lone petty shop as mentioned in various blogs but that was closed. We lunched with our so-so lemon rice and pickle there. Most of us were not hungry, thanks to the good breakfast and not so hard trail.The mist started post that and there was zero visibility but it was dream walk till the top. Deva and Aarthy were struggling a bit. Priyanka proceeded at a good pace. So, the formation was more or less the same. With nothing there to see or click, all the effort went on walking to the top. With less rest point we covered good distance in next three hours. From Kurangani to Middle Station it took us around two and a half hours. From middle station we started around 13:30 and reached the Top Station at around 16:30, that was a good progress according to me.
We reached Kurangani and everything was still fresh in the memory, including the failure. The room, the restaurant and everything. We were given a room to freshen up, the same place where I stayed last time. And Coimbatore folks took it to a level up and had a bath before the trek. Beautiful, isn't it. We had our breakfast with a view in an open terrace. Just like last time the food was brilliant. Idly and Vada with Sambar, Chutney was fabulous. Don't know how they make Idly so soft. I ate quite a few Idlys and got ready for the trek. Prabha had parceled his share as he was fasting.We started off in the usual path, everyone together. This time there was water dripping at a couple of places en route so at least we had points where we could fill our bottles. But don't get mislead by this. Be prepared to walk the whole route with just the bottles you have. Last time we didn't have any water points. So at first water point that we settled, people were clicking lot of photos. Already an Electrol packet over.The next stretch from First water point to second water point took a tool on Coimbatore gang with Sharmi struggling a lot. But they somehow managed and reached the place after a delay. Prabha and I were walking along them. Rest of the Chennai team had already reached there. From there I led to Othai Maram (solo tree). I was panting as I walked quickly and sun was beating too but reaching there was such a relief. I wanted to reach there first so as to set up my camera and take some extra rest. I did it in the process. Rest of Chennai gang came in quick succession but the Coimbatore gang took a lot of time to time. As soon as they came, they ate and took rest. Lemon Rice was divine.
Ok, so this is where the tables turn. As soon as we got down, we asked the auto driver and another person sitting in driver's seat about the way to Kolukkumalai. They both showed a way in which we went and there was a security guard sitting there who inquired our whereabouts and said it was two hundred ticket per head which I thought we could have bargained as he gave only two tickets in the end. That thought didn't occur to me. After getting the money his whole persona got changed, he was very sweet and showed us the start of way. In the meantime Mohan met his old college mate and they exchanged pleasantries.We started off in the way he said, and like he said there was a water catchment area, from there he asked us to go straight up to a Jack Fruit tree and Old Building. That straight up wasn't clear, we initially went through some path which was steep and not well trodden. Siva even at the hint of non-green area said that he had seen a trail. Seeing the peak we went in that direction for some time. But the path only got worse and risky after a point of time. Mohan got fed up and said he lost confidence. We went down and asked an old lady about the way, she told something and when I asked whether there is a road there, she said yes, then I told her we wanted to go through forest and mentioned what the forest officer told us. Then her husband asked us to proceed in the way we knew. I think he was fed up.We went to the same point and this time we went to a place where there was a gate and the trail was clear. We went a long way along that point. The forest officer had told that there would be a depleted building along the way. There was a house there, we thought that was it and we were in correct path but only after going certain distance we saw another house from where a watchman shooed us away.He asked where were we from, what brought us here, why do we want to climb jungle, people of forests might come hunt us, security dogs will come for us etc. etc. So disappointed we returned back. We thought we'd go tell the forest officer, what happened, but on return we didn't find him so we went further down for lunch. Only one place was open which served the last of Lemon Rice they had. The Chutney was amazing. To have any food after a trek is amazing. We also bargained a 900 rupee room for 700 and stayed in it. It was a reasonable accommodation.Once we checked in, we went for a bath in the catchment area which felt great and refreshing, I washed my quick dry's as well, one big advantage of it. Back to the room, Mohan slept and Siva started watching series, I didn't want to sleep so I didn't have anything else to do other than to shoot pictures so shot some decent pictures from terrace.
Day 1: A Tough Day Indeed; To Kolukkumalai Tea PlantationI blissfully woke up to views of mountains on my right. Tells me we have arrived. We have arrived at Kurangani, the base camp of the trek. We went to a nearby river to refresh ourselves and for the daily chores. Once done we had breakfast of Poori, idli and vada.We dumped our backpacks in a jeep which will ferry them to the tea estate. We need to carry a day pack with the essentials. Packed lunch of lemon rice was given to all.
10. Kurangani (Theni)It is one of the most rejuvenatinga tourist places in Tamil Nadu and is located atop the Western Ghats. It has estates growing coconut, mangoes, spices, and coffee. There is a mountain rivulet that passes between Kurangani mountains in the east and Kolukkumalai in the west.