After so much hurdle this trek finally happened. I always wanted to do it as a one-way trek and couple it with Munnar sightseeing as the end point would lead to Munnar. In spite of my friend saying that the high point of the trek is the camping place I still didn't want to do it as a two-way trek as it's the same route through which we had to return to. But it so happened that I had only a weekend to spare so there was no point in going to Munnar just to catch the bus and elongate the journey. So, decided to do it as a two-way trek. Unfortunately, the trek permission had become rigid due to Kurangani fire incident, plus there was rain when we had planned it earlier and also the camping place was shifted near to Top Station rather than the traditional camping place earlier, again because of the fire scare. But somehow, we crossed all hurdles and completed the trek.
Day 0 - A glowing SETC bus
Thanks to the new buses, the government bus experience was a breeze this time. Not only was the body, seats and ticketing system improved. Even the experience was pleasant. I got a message from SETC with driver name before the start of the journey, the timings were close to punctual and needless to say comfort was really good.
We were totally seven in number. Out of which Vignesh from my school and Deva from my office took bus from CMBT along with Prasanna, my regular trek mate and school friend. Aarthy, Priyanka, Dinesh and I took bus from Tambaram. Dinesh and Deva were first timers with me as well as for the trek. As usual the travel to Tambaram was tense with lots of traffic moments but we escaped it and reached the place for dinner. Dinesh and Aarthy had already had dinner. I was scrutinizing for restaurants apart from Vasantha Bhavan and railway restaurants so as soon as I saw another restaurant named Shree Saai Bhavan I gladly entered. True to my gut feeling the food was really good. As my eating out habit has gone on decline, I was happy to eat out. We ordered a Sambar Vadai, Ghee Roast and Onion Uthappam for two of us. Ya, too much for two of us that too before a bus journey. Food came thick and fast and Prasanna on the other side was constantly updating us on the whereabouts of the bus. He told the bus took the highway which gave us a bit of scare as we were in Tambaram. If for some reason we had to go to Perungulathur it'd be a dash. Anyways he confirmed with the conductor about the same. We finished the food in no time and went to the bus stop. Only missed the coffee as we had to hurry.
I quickly introduced everyone to each other, clicked a mandatory selfie and checked in. I was at peace only then. Most of the people slept immediately. As I had a good afternoon nap and was tense due to various proceedings at home, it took me a while to relax but taking the route through the old company and having an old company in the form of Deva to talk through with the old office proceedings it was an evening well spent. About an hour later I went for sleep. Once I went for sleep there was no stopping me, I guess the bus stopped for a break point but other than few mutterings I could hardly hear anything. I woke up only around 6.30 AM next day morning.
Day 1 - Familiarity breeds to Happiness as well
It was at Periyakulam that I woke up, a supposed rendezvous point for my previous cancelled trek. The bus was late by an hour. Plus, the driver took his own sweet time to have tea at Theni bus stand, a bus stand which I hate for being so untidy, but tea was good. Still thick tea on an empty stomach got me dizzy, a recent addition for me so I decided that I'd only have black tea going forward. Anyways we utilized the break time well and got onto the bus again.
We reached Bodi about 8.30 AM and got into a private bus to Kurangani. Thank god we had that bus otherwise we would've had to take a cramped share auto along with the luggage. It couldn't have got worse. The route to Kurangani was familiarly pleasant but was superbly misty. The first timers would have enjoyed more. We went to the familiar room for our morning ablutions and came for breakfast. Superb Idly, Dosa, a parupufull sambar and coconut chutney. Everyone was damn hungry and we ate to the fullest.
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.
The ranger was telling us it's only one kilometre more for past three to four kilometres. And when we reached Top Station, Priyanka told our guide informed us it's two kilometre more for our campsite and asked us to take tea/snacks before that. I guess that's where the whole misunderstanding happened. Anyways we used that time to have tea/snacks. Few of us had amazing black tea which was nothing but a sweet hot tea sarbath. We also bought Bread Omelette and Maggi as well. Both of which were horrible. I don't know how a person can even make Maggi bad. Anyways what pissed me was it was agreed that all meals would be part of package. I remember that was including evening tea. But we had to pay there. It's not a matter of money but the trust. Anyways we paid and were ready to walk.
Our guide reappeared and told that we'd pitch our tents nearby and it would get ready only at 7 PM. So, asked us to spend some time there. Don't know what happened about that 2 km further walk. As the situation was to our advantage none really thought about it. We went to the Top Station again to see the mist which we were seeing for the past four hours. But below that was a good open space for us to stretch and chat our time away. For me that was the moment of the day. With no signal, the situation was icing on the cake.
In spite of doing the slowest of stretches and talking we still had time to kill. The ladies wanted to use washroom so they went in search of it. The only option was a Pay and Use one which they couldn't find. So, we decided we'll go further down to another couple of viewpoints just to kill time. Unfortunately, we killed our time quite quickly and asked our guide about washroom. When I said there is only Pay and Use one, he told that's the only one to use. I was fuming at him as I couldn't accept paying even for rest room after paying for the whole package.
He then let us to the campsite where we could use restroom. We kept our luggage in one of the tents and waited outside for the time to strike 7 PM. The owner of the place was Mano. An interesting person, much about him later. He lighted a camp fire for us which kept us warm and cozy. Also spiced up our cooking imagination where we cooked everything from Marshmallows to Tandoori Chicken. Only not, Meth!
Our guide had told that they'd pitch tents outside but Mano later informed that the place where we kept our bags were our actual sleeping place. It was a four-person tent and another was a three-person tent. So here goes the third miscommunication (if you are not following, 1. Two kilometre thing. 2) Rest room.) We hungry souls restlessly waited for Chapatti to arrive. Chapatti and veg kuruma was so-so, guess the no salt kuruma made it so. Otherwise it might have tasted great. Chapatti was soft. With our stomachs making noise we weren't in a mood to protest, we gobbled it up quickly and went to sleep. The surface of the tent seemed to have been put up in not so flat surface so we had difficulty in sleeping. But with little adjustment and due to tiredness, we slept reasonably well.
Day 2 - A 'Shortcut' to Base Camp
A day of disasters. The first plan was to start by 6 AM to escape the prying ranger for whom we've to pay 'tips'. Then it changed to getting up at 6 and going by 7, as per the person who provided us the food. The same was again confirmed with our guide. So, we woke up at 6AM and were waiting for tea before proceeding for sunrise. We waited for an hour and then the guide informed that tea might not get ready. We proceeded to the Top Station view point where the sun was in full fury, making us more furious. When asked, he told that we took time to get ready.
When we came back to our tents, we confirmed him about the breakfast again. For which we waited close to two hours. Thanks to Mano first for giving us black coffee and entertaining us with his stories. He gave us few books and albums in which he was featured. His stories were intriguing, I could feel 'Asuran' theme at some places. Mano told us that he was informed to make tea at 5 AM, then pushed to 6 AM, finally nothing happened. That's how the day was, a day of nothingness.
The person responsible for food came and informed a different story of how it was not required to give food in the morning. Everyone was pissed. We finally had at the restaurant near our place. Thankfully the food was terrific. Especially Egg Curry, Puttu and Appam. Kadala curry too was good. We ended it up with a round of tea. By the time the guides were having food we purchased for tea powder and chocolates. Priyanka did a round of scolding before we started off the day's trek.
The guide was visibly pissed and so were we. The walk happened thick and fast. We reached Middle station in no time. The sky was clear so we had good views. So took some photos but nothing much. This time Aarthy was leading the way along with Deva. Priyanka and I were mostly at the back. Few of us had Sarbath there in the petty shop. I decided not to as I was having throat ache.
Post that we took the 'short cut' which had view of few falls en route but nothing great. Though few of us enjoyed the path, which actually felt like trekking. Others thought there was no difference in distance when compared to the long route. Our guide asked me to 'tip' the ranger again for which I had already told him to give money from what I gave as part of package.
Finally, after a series of 'short cuts' and roads we reached our place. Now, wait for it. The room was not available as it was given to someone else. We avoided the waterfall in the middle so that we could come to room, take our clothes and take bath in peace but that was another disaster. He told he'd arrange another room but he kept on walking. Thank god I had already been to the place so I got doubt whether he was taking us to the room at all. When asked he said he thought I told him to directly take us to the pool. That was the pinnacle of being pissed. I couldn't help but laugh at his ignorance. We sat there and told we wouldn't move unless we got a room. Then he arranged us somewhere to change dress and asked us to hurry.
Priyanka was right in pointing out that, "the whole day he got us late and now he wants us to make haste, no way". But as we had to catch bus by 3 PM we did make haste. In spite of all that a dip in Samabalaru Falls eased away all the tension. The water was cold alright but nothing impossible. We had great water massage which freed us from both dust and tension.
We quickly got ready and went for lunch. Lunch was veg meals with sambar, rasam etc. which the gang said an emphatic 'NO' so decided to have a NV feast at Bodi. We got the 3 PM bus which came around 3. 10 PM and started after ten minutes. We reached Bodi around 4 PM and went to Karna Restaurant as per recommendation by locals. Deva got a new found energy going in search of the restaurant. He was the first one to spot it as well as walk to it.
As soon as we knew the restaurant was open and biryani was available, we were in for a feast. We ordered everything ranging from Chicken Biryani, Mutton Biryani, Prawn Biryani, Quail Biryani, Chicken Chukka, Mutton Chukka, Parotta to out of syllabus Egg Podimas as well. It was nothing less than extraordinary. Final touch of Rasam with Rice was icing on the cake. It was so tasty that it bought tears to our eyes. As none of us were much of shutterbugs, no one clicked any photos. Not only of the food but of food with us too. I at least take the bill but this time I didn't take the bill too. It could have been a great trophy here in the blog.
Priyanka and I thought of meeting my friend and her kid there but as the kid was ill, we couldn't meet them. The next one hour we sat at the bus stand relaxing. That was that day's moment. Reminiscing the past and planning for the future, that one hour was spent in luxury. At 6 PM we went for lemon soda served by another clueless guy who had to be instructed at every step to do in a specific way. Anyways the soda lacked fizz so I didn't like. Finally, we kept our bag in the bus and proceeded for our evening ablutions as we had to travel a long way back.
The bus again was spotless and shiny. This time even the bumps were hardly felt. So, once the bus crossed Theni and my photos got uploaded, I went for a loud sound sleep and got up only the next day morning. How lovely to end the year on a high!