Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nagala Hills, Parvathamalai and Nagari trek

Past 3 weekends of mine consisted of 3 one day, easy to medium treks. Kind of simple and straight forward treks so nothing great to narrate about, so keeping it simple.

October 19 Nagalapuram, AP

For this trek, I am going to write more about the Innova I rented on self drive than the trek itself. As we were short of vehicles, I offered to get a vehicle on self drive. There is an individual who has lots of vehicles on self drive rental (the website he has on his business card is not working)-we needed a 7 or 8 seater ones, so upon knowing the availability of Innova D-4D I booked it. We wanted it at 4 in the morning, but since that will be odd time for him to deliver, I offered to collect it the previous night. He agreed. The vehicle arrived at 11 PM and the driver (sorry, he was introduced as the Manager at the agency) requested me to drop him at his residence in Velachery, few kms from my place. Upon reaching Velachery he insisted that we go little inside-in some small gully, else he’ll have to walk few kms. I agreed. Before he could leave, I did my general inspection of the vehicle for existing scratches and dents and found that front left wheel was flat. I asked this manager to change the wheel and this turned out to be a nightmare- He didn’t know how to get the spare wheel out-(proving that he was a manager-not a driver)-neither did I. We stopped few vehicles that came along-even they couldn’t figure it out- There was no owner’s manual and this person tried to call someone-after few attempts the other person switched off the phone. Finally, by 1.30 in the morning, we figured out how to get the stepney out- we need to insert the hook into a small hole below the boot and rotate- that would lower the spare wheel. Another 20 mins we changed the wheel and I was all set to go, with an empty tank-All self drive rental agencies used to give the car full tank and I was required to return full tank. This agency had an opposite rule- he would give me empty tank and I could return empty tank. Now this meant I was all set to start the trek with an empty tank vehicle, without a spare wheel. None of the fuel stations were open. Reached home by 2.30 AM and had to leave in another 90 mins. So almost a sleepless night. (Other self drive expeditions- Chennai Mysore in Skoda * Wayanad in Scorpio)

Started by around 3.50 AM, picked up people at Thiruvanmiyur, Tidel park, Madhya Kailash and Koyambedu, where other vehicles joined us and we were all set to go- fueled up at Guindy. We stopped once for a tea break and once more to get the flat wheel fixed. It was my first experience dealing with tubeless tyres- how the shop guy fixed tubeless tyre looked quite simple- enlarge the hole, insert some jelly like grease into it and done-but this ‘looks like simple’ treatment did cost Rs 150 (Haven’t paid more than 30 rs ever to fix my bike wheel punctures). Here some nomads had tied few of their pets(cats, monkeys) to ropes- as I like animals I patted few of them and soon a group of nomads brought more animals towards us, posing them for photos and insist that we pay something for their food. With dozens of such people around, the best we could do was to escape.

By about 9 AM we reached the dam near Nagala hills, some 100 kms from Chennai, in Andhra Pradesh. A total of 31 people in 3 bikes & 5 cars. The dam hardly had any water and we commenced the trek. We (11 of us) got lost once, due to multiple trails and the organizer, Vivek had to come back searching for us. Water stream was with us all along, to give a hint on direction and to help us refresh ourselves-some people jumping into it at every opportunity. Only at few places we had to make our way through the rocks-rest it was easy walk. Upon conquering the peak we stopped for a group photo. But we weren’t at the highest peak-there were few more peaks around-on different hills that were taller. From the top of the hill we could see the parking space and it looked so distant that we thought we might need a full day to reach back our vehicles.

There was a pool at the top to refresh and it also started raining. A rope and a life jacket ensured that even those who didn't know swimming got to enjoy in the pool. Part of the trek was executed in rains. My only concern at that time was that my camera shouldn't catch cold. The descent was steep, with loose mud and rocks rolling down wherever we keep our foot.

We reached back to parking place by night and were getting ready to commence our return journey. I did two mistakes here- Due to rain, water had deposited around the wheels and I should have taken out the vehicle first and then ask people to board. Instead I asked everyone to get inside and then started the vehicle, this resulted in wheels getting clogged in Mud. With help from Gopal and others we got the vehicle out eventually. Also I did another mistake of keeping headlamp on for few mins- this drained the battery and we had to push start the vehicle.I'll be cautious about these 2 from now on. Another car had developed serious battery problem and we had to toe it for a few kms.
From Nagalapuram
We reached back home by around midnight and I called the agency telling vehicle is ready to be returned. He said he will come and collect it in the morning.

October 25 Parvathamalai

Parvathamalai is more of a pilgrimage spot than trekking destination. The trail is well marked, the rocks are provided with supportive structures to an easy climbing and there wasn’t anything challenging as such. Again we were short of vehicles and I approached the agency for a vehicle. But he was not comfortable with delivering and collecting it at odd hours and wanted one and a half days rent if I don’t return the vehicle by 10 PM. (he was ok if I take the delivery previous night and return it next day moring-that's his reasoning for one and a half day, but why would I pay to keep the vehicle idle) That was unacceptable to me-All agencies are supposed to operate 24 by 7 and the time would be 24 hours from the moment I take delivery. Most of the agencies do not mind if I take couple of hours extra as well. (they do charge Rs 200 as delivery charge, though) But this person wanted one and a half days rent for 3/4th a day’s usage (morning 4 AM till 12 midnight) and I had to say NO. We eventually rented a force (formerly tempo) traveler. At Rs 9 a km this tempo traveller was quite cheap (Indica's charge about Rs 7 a km and vehicles like Tavera are billed at around 10-11 Rs per km)

Due to time constraint we had only one pickup point and the journey was good. We stopped at proper hotels for breakfast and dinner (in Arcot town), so there was no need to rely on bread, jam and other simple items to feed ourselves. Our destination was some 250 kms from Chennai, somewhere near Arcot, off Bangalore highway. Saw the movie Chennai 28 on the way (a story of 2 local cricket teams) We reached there by 9.20 and started off by 9.40. We had anticipated rain, but it was a clear weather all day, except for few moments in the evening. We had all the time in the world, so climb and descent was done at very slow pace. 80% was walking and 20% was rock climbing. The later part was akin to Edakal caves-support structures built into the rocks to assist climbing. There're also few petty shops enroute that sell food item, juice etc. Monkey menace on top forced us to come retreat fast, else it is a nice place to rest for few hours.

The priest explained the significance of the Shiva lingam and related stories in Tamil. Someone translated it to English , but I wasn’t a fan of these stories, so by and large ignored them. People were allowed well inside Garbha Gudi and sat around the lingam- No restrictions that only priests are allowed near the lingam. Monkeys were having free time all over and were clever enough to open the doors and come inside the temple, to target food items in our bags. Besides offering Pooja at the temple (which was painted recently) there is an under construction building which looked like Bhojana shaala (lunch hall). They served prasadam there-rice mixed with 2 other items. Must be a painful job to carry all those things uphill every day.

Luckily the monkey gang seem to be interested only in food items and they didn’t touch the foot wares kept outside the temple.

On return journey we had a Goli Soda at Rs 8 each. Few worms and butterflies and insects in the jungle provided some subject for photography. We reached back to the base camp where there is an Ashram just when the darkness gulped in. It also started raining now. A cup of hot tea and we were ready to go, to reach Guindy by midnight, with a stop at Arcot for dinner.

November 1, Nagari

About 28 people in 5 cars and a bike, headed and organized by Vinodha. About 120 kms from Chennai, inside AP, quite close to Nagalapuram range of hills.

On the way one of the cars developed a snag and while the other cars were waiting little ahead, I suddenly saw that a bunch of ducks are being herded across the road. My camera was in the car and for some strange unknown reasons, Rads drove the car some half km ahead and parked it, making it impossible for me to get my camera in time to click that special moment of so many ducks crossing the road. So had to use my mobile camera for this photo.

This trek was a sinusoidal walk-regular stretches of uphill, flat and downhill terrain. Just walk walk walk all the way-no rocks to climb and no rivers to cross-walking was the sole exercise. A small falls and a pool at the end was the sole attraction. By now I am used to the hilly terrain and hardly felt like taking any photos of the rocks, valley, hill etc as I’ve already clicked a lot of such photos. There is a motor-able road (motor-able by tractors) till the falls-few temples and houses were found around. At stretches the trail was considerably wide and looked as if they were planning to lay a road there. We came down by around 6 and there was enough daylight left. Could have reached home in time, had the organizers not decided to head to Chennai Deluxe, which induced a delay of 2-3 hours. Because my vehicle was at Tidel park I was at the mercy of car owners and had to wait at Chennai Deluxe till others are done with their alcohol consumption and dinner. If organizers can declare their intent of heading to CD well in advance, those who do not prefer to go there (as it means spending additional few hours and few hundred rupees) can plan their exit strategies (like bringing their vehicle till Koyambedu etc)

Similar: TADA Trek AP * Skandagiri Trek Bangalore * Anantagiri, off Hyderabad *Yelagiri *

Leisure trips: Binsar * Coorg * Wayanad * Yercaud * Ooty *


Mridula said...

So you continue with your self drive experience, though the beginning did look scary. The temple picture has come out very colorful.

Mohan said...

Very close to Andhra and Tamilnadu border, you have a whole range of mountains. Though they are very humid most of the times, there are a bunch of places you can plan to visit. I had been to a place called Ponnai and temple tour info is here

About 40 kms from ponnai, the well known Tiruttani is located.. These could be pointers to your next weekend trip :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Mridula
Yes I continue to take vehicles on self drive experience.

@ Mohan,

Yes, thanks for the information. I've read that post of yours.

Arun said...

The empty tank rule is some pig-head idea. I guess this fella doesnt get too much of repeat business.

Lakshmi said...

is the first destination near TADA ? It looks familiar , but I cant place it

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Arun


@ Lakshmi

Yes, it is near Tada. I think it is the same hill range

Paddy said...

My video and photos in Picasaweb may help in your trekking experience at ParvadhaMalai.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for sharing.