Last weekend on 12th August 2006, I went to a trek cum outing to Bheemeshwari with BMC. It was a 3 day program with a moonlight trek, 5-course meal, rafting and coracle rides as the high points. These are just some memories from that trek that I have jotted down :)
Here, T being a first time trekker and scared of water, was not really in the nicest of moods. The fact that T had slept only for 3 hrs to get ready for the pick up didn’t help matters at all. Anyways, I tried to cheer T up and gave T something to eat (food always does the trick when people are hungry … J) 10 minutes and 4 more passengers later, the bus started hurtling again towards the destination. We picked up some more passengers on the way and finally reached the kanakpura rd. And the organizers served us the much awaited breakfast which to my disappointment, consisted of 2 idlis and a vada. Don’t get me wrong, I like south indian snacks but idli.. nooo.. anyways, I got one of the idlis exchanged with a vada and gave the other idli to T who happily gobbled it. The Bus ride till Bheemeshwari was uneventful and smooth. We reached the start point of the trek at around 11:30 am. But the problem was that the lunch hadn’t arrived till then, so we waited, waited and waited for another 30 min. and then everybody decided its better to continue the trek and return for lunch after 3-4 hrs. Now, I thought that It was a bad idea, firstly because we couldn’t go far in the trek then and secondly that we will be devoid of food for too long, but I kept it to myself. So we started at around 12:30 and slowly, in a line, entered the jungles of Bheemeshwari.
The weather was quite good for trek. It was cloudy and a little humid which hinted that it might rain later. There was no proper trail on this trek and we all were supposed to follow a guy named Rahul and the problem was nobody knew who he is, as most of us met for the first time and we never had an introduction session. So after much cheers, jeers later, it was decided that whoever gets on the front will be called Rahul J We marched on for another 45 min. and braved a lot of thorny bushes and deadly insects and thankfully didn’t had any encounter with oversized snakes, lizards and dinosaurs. After that T got tired, just sat down and refused to budge for next 10 min. So then we started again and reached the first resting point, where we all waited for the next batch to arrive, which finally did arrive after 20 min.
We were anticipating that we will continue walking then but Neeraj dropped the bombshell that we can’t and have to return from there. His point was valid and that of a guy with a lot of experience of organizing treks. He said that we would take 1 and ½ hrs to reach to peak and another 1 hr on the back journey to bus and will be late for the camping point and for lunch and also if it rains then the trails will be slippery and dangerous. Some wise person said that we are only as strong as our weakest link. This is one of the disadvantages of trekking in a group that you have to think about the slowest of trekkers all the time. But anyways, the idea of quick lunch forced everybody to think and we trekked back to the bus. And it surely rained but we were almost back by then. After everybody got back we found out that we are out of water supply and could get it only on reaching the camping site. So either we could have the food there and then and endure the thirst and (could you believe it..) the urge to wash your hands before eating.. (Now who thinks of that when on a trek ..!!), or reach the camp and then have our food. And it was decided to go to the camp first. We got on the bus and reached the village near our camping site at around 5 pm.
There we waited to buy some basic stuff needed for camping like raw materials for food, wood, and some other stuff. Some people got off and some of us remained on the bus. The monotony and the annoying silence inside the bus were broken when we heard some strange voices coming from the village. It was as if somebody was beating somebody and that person was crying loudly with pain. Suddenly all the sleeping heads came alive. Some started guessing at to what it could be. Somebody suggested it was a wrestling match. But the shrieks followed by cries were too organized to be a spontaneous match. I humbly suggested that it was a wedding ceremony with the person crying out for help after each vow that he was being forced to adhere to. But sadly nobody bought it L. People returning from the village didn’t help solve the mystery. Some said that a guy was on rampage eating the ears of people, some said that villagers were playing some different version of “dog and the bone”. Anyways, this little disturbance helped break the ice and we had a small introductory session there. Ab and I were from IT, S was a student, about to enter the bad bad corporate world of IT. Pr who was a Japanese analyst (wow that was something different) and Pv who was an accountant. Pr told a a very famous Japanese joke (something about mixing of “arigato” and alligator by a sikh in Japan) But the way she said it, showed that she has already told this joke about a million times earlier. T mentioned how an advt. for a room partner can make you famous in the company especially if you stick up the advt in the loo. Finally the bus restarted and we reached the banks of Cauvery at around 5:30 pm (lunch was still not in sight . .phew) Then Neeraj said that either we can have lunch and then go to other side and have dinner again or we could just have an extended dinner at the other end. We decided for the latter.
Now the issue was to reach the other end of Cauvery through coracles. I had this vision of coracle rides about sitting/relaxing on a circular boat, enjoying the surroundings. Well.. the only problem was that the boat was a little leaking, so our bottoms had to get wet, and secondly we had to sit on our knees and toes, facing the river.. it felt more like a punishment than relaxation L . But anyways, we somehow reached the other end and settled down, wary of the monkeys approaching us from all sides and stealing a glance at some firangs playing rugby on one corner. After some fun and play in water, the camping gear arrived and we all set down to putting our tents in place. The camping area was pretty wonderful with hills on one side and a small stream of water flowing from the other side.
We started pitching the tents... (as usual, some were giving moral support, some were posing for te pics and some were actually working :) ) Now the question of lunch raised its head again and packets of rice and sambhar were distributed. We ate like, we were eating after a week of hunger strike. Then people settled down on different parts of that “beach” and Pr started telling us about her great power of attracting pests and insects. She attributed this ability to her blood type (O+) . So is it a good idea to go wth O+ people on a trek (as they will get all the insects to themselves) or a bad idea (coz the leftover insects might wanna try out some other recipe like your blood) Some more discussion on different types of insects followed and continued till dark. And then people came with the bright idea of campfire J . Everybody sat around thinking that somebody will start something.. but nothing happened .. (who will want to present himself to the wolves J) and also pehle aap pehle aap ke chakkar mein ........... !!
By this time T was halfway into trouble.. from the running nose and throat pain.. Meanwhile, M, a former hotel management student, had taken the control of dinner and was shouting orders to volunteers for cutting vegetables for the maggi noodles and started preparing the soup. While me, Ab, and Kr were busy teasing Pj. Anyways, the soup was good and thick and the maggi was also quite good on the taste buds. Then the problems started. Just when we were about to think of the next program of “moonlight trek”, that some forest officers decided to gatecrash the party. It was weekend and obviously the officer wanted to take home something for his wife.. and was a little short on money, so he decided to ask us for help and the fact that we had some problems with our paperwork didn’t help the matters. So folks next time you go and get permissions for the trek, make sure that you get the photocopies of all the docs that you submit and all the docs that they sign. Never take a verbal confirmation. Anyways, Neeraj and Rp tactfully handled the situation but it ate up 45 min. and they left behind 4 guards to watch over us so that we don’t wander away from our camp .. .. grrrrrr…. !!!
With no other option left, people slowly started disappearing in the tents and T who was by now in a pretty bad state of health, partly because of the cold and partly because of all the crap chattering that me and some other members of the group were involved in!! So T dozed off to the nearest tent and I also found one tent to drop but as soon as I lied down I realized that tonight is going to be a very looong night.. as the tent was pitched on a slope L . After 30 min. of struggling, I came out and spread in the open. No respite there as well, as a 5 band music was playing on. With guys, snoring at different pitches and volumes.. it was impossible to sleep. So I joined Neeraj, Rp and couple other guys sitting beside the fire. After a nice veg bar-be-que and 1 hr. later everybody dispersed. And I circled the whole of area with my sleeping bag to get farthest from the source of music. Finally found a place, lied down and started counting the shooting stars. I counted till 3 before dozing off.. !!!!
The chirping of birds, the sound of water coming from the small stream, the smell of soil soaked with dew… with a full sun-size moon in the background.. umm.. ok I was dreaming :-) .. but the actual setting was not very different .. I was still in a trance neither asleep nor awake.. when suddenly somebody shouted.. “wake up guys, elephants are coming” …. Ouch…!! Neeraj immediately came down on that guy and reprimanded him for that. All my senses were awake by now but I pretended to be not affected. But I had to reluctantly get up, when somebody mentioned that water levels are rising and we need to move the tents to higher grounds.. So we all woke up.. moved the tents to a little up on the banks and then watched the whole area, where we camped, begin submerging in water.. that was the beginning, and we got to know that we have to move to the other side of the river, on safe grounds, ASAP. Half of the people were slowly going through their chores, the ones who were supposed to go for rafting were getting ready to leave, Rp took her famous hobby and was preparing tea and some real lazy bones like Pj were still sleeping. So, me and T packed our bags, folded the tent, crossed the part, where we camped, on foot, and took a coracle. This time it was better as we knew what to expect J.
After reaching the other side, the rafting guys left and I barely managed to hang on to the bag containing the breads. There were several monkeys around but I was confident that when it comes to a fight, the hungrier one will win :) So we waited for the rest of the people to catch on with us. While here, we were worried about the petty problems like food. And there on the camping site people were still struggling to get out. The water level had risen alarmingly and it was getting increasingly difficult to ride the coracle in that flow. The last batch including Rp, Pj another PJ, N & K “actually” got stuck in a rock.
Meanwhile, unaware of that grim situation, we happily started gobbling breads with pickles and jam. Suddenly somebody noticed that we were surrounded by monkeys and they were closing in. There must be close to 25 monkeys around, now that is a grim situation, as well. Hurriedly we hid the food, closed the jam bottles and threw the bread in hand, to as far away as possible, but it didn’t help. What saved us was, that exactly at that point, another group of monkeys came from behind the first one and a big fight ensued between the two groups. It seems to be something related to territorial rights and our food was the ultimate trophy. To make matters interesting, I will call the monkeys on our side Eagle gang and the intruders as Bichchu. So Bichchu had the element of surprise on their side and they swiftly covered a lot of ground. But Eagles with a lot of heart, fought back and in the end threw the intruders away. But Eagles were not satisfied with this. They decided to pursue the enemy and chased them away and all of them disappeared in the nearest bushes. We were relatively safe now :-)
After breakfast it was time to freshen up. I was about to enter the jungle when somebody called from behind and asked as to where am I going. Ideally I should have continued walking, and would have ignored the comment, but as fate would have it, I turned back and said I am going to “download” (Now don’t consider me as a geek who only use techie language, somebody, who left just before me, used that as the code word and I found it funny so I repeated it) but to my bad luck, the person, who called me out, got “offended” by that word and all hell broke loose as soon as I was out of ear shot. (More on that later) On my way back, after the “download”, I spotted a very nice stream of little-over-ankle deep water and decided to break the news to the malnourished people back there. And when I reached there I found out that they were still discussing the download funda :-O … oops.. anyways, I told them about the discovery and ran off with 2 others.. phew.. leaving the rest to continue the discussion and correlation on download and bath :-)
So we got out of those stinking clothes and jumped into the water.. wow..and it felt so good. The flow was so fast that even while sitting we had to make sure that a grip is not far off. Some more guys who could not take the downloading jokes any longer, also joined us later … he he ehe. Anyways, the rising water level forced us to get away from that heaven, but not before we clicked some pics. We got all dressed up and left, fully refreshed On our way back we met Rp and gang and listened intently to their amazing rescue story and realized how close they were to ……. Water :-)
Things moved hazily after that, people from the rafting returned and we all put our luggage in the bus and left for another camping destination, which was 3 kms from the current place. After that everybody dispersed for lunch. Me, T and a couple of other guys had some omlettes and rice. The sun was shining brilliantly and there was no cloud cover in sight, which killed any slight intention we had, of a small trek. We returned after the food and saw Neeraj hanging from a rope which was tied down between the bus and a tree. So that was our next adventure, tree climbing and then sliding on the rope between bus and the tree. So several screams and bruised legs later, everybody got satisfied and sat down. Some of them started preparing for dinner. I was in a haze because of lack of sleep all this while and went in the bus to rest. T joined me some time later, after slicing off some skin of the finger while chopping the vegetables. Soframycin and band-aid helped but now the cold started to kick-in and T was getting miserable again. I suggested Tea which helped a little but not for long. At that time Rp came to our rescue and provided T with a medicine, which gave instant relief. So much so that T again started chopping the remaining vegetables :-). After that we sat down and had a round of Antakshari with Rp, Ramu kaki, Sh, and Adi.
The time was 9 pm and we started to feel hungry again. Two new faces joined us, S and A both from Chennai and very nice couple. Chennai is mentioned and nobody is bashing the auto rickshaws of that city, that’s not possible. So the conversation went from ricks, to the Tamil barrier, to ricks in general, to
After that, we collected our bags and spread out on a shade in open with 10 other people. Those who were lucky, dozed off fast. Unlucky ones like me had to contend with the music again. I started thinking about what are the different ways, I can torture that musician leading to a very slow and painful end. Now that, made me feel a little better. Thankfully it was only one person this time and since it was monotonous, so ears got used to it after some time and I also slept peacefully :-)
This was the D-day. This was my tryst with the world of Rafting. The giant waves with the most dangerous alligators in the world, waiting for me. I would have to deal with any situation being presented with and come up with an intelligent solution (that would be something new…. ;) ) I would have to be able to save myself and my raftmates…and if possible the instructor as well. All these thoughts were going through my mind on third day morning, with the cool light breeze, brushing my face. Anyways, I couldn’t take the tension any longer and stood up. It was 6 a.m. I finished my chores and with nothing else to pass the remaining time, I lied down again. Rp (the trek nanny) came and sounded the final whistle and told that the bus will leave in exactly 30min.
T was still sleeping very peacefully (I really envy people who can sleep like there is no problem in the world). I mean, its really unfair, you know. While people like me, worry about so many things, including, the cold breeze, the snoring, the mounting tension of the rafting program of next day, here people like T sleep as if they are in some other planet altogether :-( . To retain my sanity, I woke T up and told about the 30 min. deadline. So, after 45 min. the bus started and reached the destination (jungle lodges). By this time T was fully awake and mortally scared of water. I was happy, since T was even more scared than me and so I showed my brave face to the world and tried to convince T that I can really match an alligator in pulling T, if it comes to that. Imagine a giant alligator jumping on board the raft and me facing the strong waves and rescuing T from the jaws of alligator (Its difficult to imagine that.. but you can atleast try ;) ). Anyways, T didn’t seem so impressed by this whole idea, so I didn’t push it much. Ramu kaki and Rp met with marginally more success in convincing T that there is absolutely no harm in this sport. Finally, all the efforts paid off and T ( and me too ) relaxed a little bit.
Anyways, after signing off a document (required before you enter the waters), we got into the rafting gear, which included a life jacket and helmet, and assembled, near the starting point. The chief instructor began giving some very important “gyan” about the river-commands, how to act in emergency, how to help the teammates etc etc ( some excerpts from his speech were as follows, Awwiiite …. Now bhe bhill see how to save a person awwiite…… you nheed to ghet yourself in strong standing position awiiite , … and so on.. he hehe )
So Finally, we jumped into waters, Our raft had A and Ab as lead rafters, Me and S in the middle row, followed by K and T followed by the chief instructor. I said “jai bajrang bali” in my heart and starting rowing. I was feeling a little jittery but then I looked at T and S who were visibly more stiff than me and I immediately put forward a brave face and felt better. The funda of Front rowing is to get your full body to move with the row so that your arms don’t get tired and the funda of back rowing is to make your side waist/hip as a pivot. Initially, we had some problems synchronizing but then things fell into place and soon we were experiencing our first rapid. It feels real good when you are going full speed into the incoming wave and it strikes you with force. The thrill was new and exciting. T too, started to relax a little. Exactly at that point, things took a small turn. T apparently jumped from the seat and started screaming. I thought the alligator rescue mission is about to start, but alas, it turned out that a small but very “dangerous and deadly” frog has encroached into our territory (raft) and T cant have it. So everybody, including the instructor, started looking for the intruder and finally convinced T that its out. Anyways, T shakily sat down on the seat and somehow started rowing again.
The scenery all around was amazing and the adventure was overwhelming to first timers like me. We had, in total, around 7-8 rapids. The instructor told us that due to the rising level of water, the rapids had decreased. Now, it was time to jump out of the raft and enjoy a little bit of floating. I was pleasantly surprised to see T also volunteering to jump, well how fast people can change !!!!! So, I jumped, keeping one hand firmly on the rope, on the side of the raft and started floating. It was amazing experience. To give us some more thrills, the instructor started rocking the raft, a little bit. Thankfully, he changed his mind after some time and sat down. Well, it didn’t last long and we were pulled back in, one by one. Everybody was smiling and feeling satiated by the experience. We had a nice photo session in the raft and did some “rafting cheers”. Then It was time to face one last rapid and then we finally floated to one side. To bring a little excitement to the climax, that little intruder frog showed up again on T’s foot and that brought again, an avalanche of screams and shouts until the instructor decided that enough is enough. So he said “awwiiite” picked the frog and threw him far-far away and T looked relieved. Finally, we got out of the boat and posed for the camera and then rode on the open jeeps, through the jungle, to our camping site.
After returning back, we found, M and Neeraj busy in preparing the breakfast. The halwa and “upma” was quite tasty and we all happily gobbled it. After that, we all lazed around and started preparing to leave. Like all good things in life, this outing too, has come to an end. So finally, we posed for one last group pic and then boarded the bus. On the journey back home, Rp, who was still fresh (I really want to know the secret of her energy) decided to have an introductory session. Ab suggested that everybody give somebody else’s intro. The idea was quite good, but the problem was I was bloody tired. Two nights of less than avg. sleep and the physical effort of rafting, had taken the toll on the body. I had a quick nap and after that had a small discussion on some interesting books with Ramu. Meanwhile somebody was introducing me and mentioned the “download”….. again !!! grrrrrr….. no comments :). Anyways, People started saying goodbyes and I did the same when my stop came and with heavy steps started walking towards the home.
The outing was good and a whole lot of thanks to Neeraj and Rp, without whom nobody can think of managing a bunch of no-gooders like us. Special thanks to M, Ab and K for giving us that wonderful feast and finally a big round of cheers for the whole squad which made this outing a memorable one. Cheers.