It’s been a long while since I set out on a bike trip aftertwo memorable previous experiences. Moreover I was waiting for the firstadventure road trip on my ‘own’ bike too. A lot of plans came and went andfinally the wait got a deserving due. Recently I accomplished a road trip toTada falls (Andhra – Tamil Nadu border) from Chennai and trekked all the wayupto the highest point where man can reach in that hill. This story summarisesthat great experience.
The seeds for this trip were sown abroad. A friend (Vasu) ofa friend (Anand) who studies abroad (ya... the same geeky GRE MS route after BTech in Biotechnology) came back home recently. He was impressed by the movieZindagi na milegi dobara and was planning such a trip with his friends. Anand,who is my colleague too, was browsing for a lot of such adventure tourismplaces in the 200 km radius of Chennai- mostly during office hours- and thus Icame to know of it. Bugged by the bait, I also threw my hat in the ring forthat trip. Hats came in plenty very soon into the ring. My friend Danie, whoknows neither Anand nor Vasu, heard of this and he too joined in. Danie spreadthe word and his friends whom I do not know also planned to join. Eventually,we finalised the date and venue with exactly 20 people and 10 bikes to conquerTada Falls. Funnily, the longest distance in degrees of acquaintance amongthese 20 turned out to be 4. Yes, connect any of Danie’s friends to Vasu! Trythat. Thus we planned for everything and were excited about this trip with greatscope for biking, trekking and befriending new people.
Danie was reading some blogs about the place and we found arough route map to the top through this blog. (Thanks to the writer). There wasall the more reason for Danie to be more excited than us because swimming wasalso a part of this trip that he can enjoy. We are hydrophobic human beingswhen it comes to swimming !
The day before the trip. How many surprises can a plan face?Let me list them. The ‘longest distance in degree calculation’ became 3 nowsince all of Danie’s friends pulled out at the last minute. We were left with13 men and about 5 bikes. The hunt for the bikes began. The bikes were havingweak, already punctured, tubeless tyres or not having required papers to go forsuch a long distance. Bike acquirement and riders allocation became aninteresting problem to solve. One could easily have given the rough sheet thatwe had with all permutations, probabilities etc. to a CAT aspirant and askedhim to practice with that for his DI section questions. At last 11 of usstarted from Tambaram on the D-day in 5 bikes with 2 more bikes with singleriders set to join us in Ambattur and in Thacchur en route to Tada. A funnybunch of people we were. The 13 comprised of a doctor, scientists, advertisingmen, software employees, an undergraduate first year student and even a pilot.
The surprises were not yet over. We planned to finishbreakfast on the way near Gummidipoondi but the plan was busted by a burst tyreon the way. A few km near Thacchur, a Hero Honda Passion’s back wheel went flatand delayed proceedings (mainly breakfast) by a considerable time. Running outof patience, we barged into a roadside eatery which was not so great in firstappearance. But we were emboldened by stories of Punjabi Dhabas – the dirtierthe Dhaba the tastier the food – and I realised the mistake pretty soon. Rathermy first mistake ie. selecting that shop for breakfast. I realised the secondmistake I made at the hilltop in Tada later which was skipping breakfast becauseof taste. That story a few paras below.
After riding for about a 140 km from Tambaram via Chennaibypass, we reached Tada falls parking lot at about 11 AM. The road was simplysuperb and the ride was a breeze. There was a challenging trek ahead facing usat the foothills of Tada. Here arose a practical problem. Of all the riders,two of us were having costly helmets and we could not risk the helmet lyinguncared with the bike at the parking lot. Even though my friend convinced me alot saying that he personally will get me a better helmet looted from one ofthe helmet thievery hotspots in Chennai (Anna University parking lot, BesantNagar beach parking lot etc.), I refused to let go of the helmet and it alsoaccompanied me in the trek.
It was a long way to climb. The path becomes smaller andsmaller as we move on and suddenly just vanishes, from where one paves his ownpath to the summit literally. It was a rough terrain to even walk with sharpstones, uneven ground and slippery rocks taking turns. My old worn out slipperswere unreliable in the slippery areas and I had to use it in the ‘on and offmode’. In this aspect, I have to appreciate Arthiban who accompanied us with aWoodlands on his feet. His achievement? He managed to reach the hilltop without– at any point – wetting his shoes. Not even a drop ! And that too when theothers could not make it without wetting all the way upto our undies ! There were three ankledeep streams that we had to cross and one or two places where the running waterforms natural swimming pools. Arthiban crossed those streams by meticulouslyfinding paths upstream or downstream where he could jump from rock to rockwithout wetting his shoes.
The streams were slippery to cross and a few of us had somefunny falls before reaching the main falls. One could get injuries ranging fromskin-deep scratches to fractures depending on the alignment of his stars duringthese slips. We even saw a person whose jaw bone had taken a severe hit on ourway up as he was rushing down for medical aid.
There are chances of losing the direction on the trek aswell. The streams that run down from the falls at the summit will guide you.You have to stay close to the path of these streams and it helps to remember afew landmarks to make your way down easier. There is a Sivan temple from wherethe paths become very narrow. It comes roughly about 45 minutes after you startwalking from the parking lot. If you are tracing the path from this temple, youcan be sure you are going in the right direction.
The trek is unmercifully tiring as well. It also tempts youwith several breathtaking spots midway where you could easily decide to haltthe flag and chill out the whole day. Our mission was to reach the top andhence we passed on all these places after brief sessions everywhere with photosand swimstops (or ‘dip and bath’ stops for people like us). The water is clearas a glass pot and cold as a glass pot kept in a refrigerator.
There were some really challenging rocks to climb as we wenthigher and higher. I will never forget two of them where our teamwork came tothe fore. We had to spend time to plan to climb these rocks. The heftier menshould lift the people from ground and someone has to support them from the topto go there. The task is to send the first man up without any support fromabove. With inspirations like Vijayakanth, Balayya and Jet Li we managed allthese climbs with aplomb.
Finally we reached a point which seemed like there is nofurther way up. That spot was simply breathtaking, especially after reachingthere after about 3-4 hours of trekking. Now is the time to explain my secondmistake and a collective mistake we made. None of us except one have packedanything to eat. All our bodies were sucked out of all reserve energy andcraving for food as we reached to the top. That was when we realised that wecan’t have any food until we reach down. Luckily, our saviour Danie opened hismagic box which contained two packets of bread loaves, two glucose packets anda tiffen box full of home-cooked beef. He had anticipated this and wassurprised that we did not bring anything to eat and we had to thank our heavensfor that. My mistake of skipping breakfast complicated things further for meand we managed it again by sharing all available food (which is enough for 5-6people) among 13 hungry stomachs.
I will also remember this trip for eating beef for the firsttime. I am not a complete vegetarian but avoided beef for all these years.Considering the situation that I was in, I would have eaten even my collegehostel’s rock-hard rotis and home cooked beef easily became my elixir.
There was a mini falls at that summit where the water isextremely chill and we enjoyed for a while there. There is also a big naturalswimming pool near that place (below it) which is dangerously deep. Even theswimmer friends in our troop went for a brief distance and returned backsensing the water to be risky. Fittingly as were watching from hip-high safety,a stranger who had swam till a deep point in that pool, started to shout to usfor help. He had lost confidence that he would make it back and unfortunatelyfor him, we too were not confident or competent to save him. By divineintervention, some other onlookers quickly jumped in and saved that poorfellow. It was near-death for him! And I was thinking that this trip would beunforgettable for me for eating beef ! Luckily no untoward incident happened and he got his life back and our trip wasnot spoilt with bad memories. All is well.
|That special falls at the other end of the pool !|
With such great experiences, we descended down quickly – thereturn down took only about 40 minutes like most treks- and returned home withhappy minds and tired feet.
And if you thought the surprises were all told above, waittill you read this.
A week after our trip, Danie had gone to the same place withthose friends of his who missed the trip with us. They have managed to find away higher from the point which we thought to be the highest where man couldreach. They have ventured even higher and discovered another divine spot where thewater from the tall hills falls vertically for about 50-60 feet directly into apool.
Wondering if any man went still higher up ! Worth a trip foryou too if you are game for adventure.