Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thanneer thanneer (Water water) - A Trek gone wrong..

('Thanneer thanneer' is a tamil movie about a village that runs out of potable water and how it's people deal with it...some flee, some, like the female lead 'saritha' hang on and fight it out).

Now, moving into context, i had gone to this place called Varadapalayam falls(more popularly
called 'Tada falls') last weekend. This place is some 95 km from chennai, in the mountain ranges
enroute Kalahasthi. Had gone there with three of my collegues. For one of them(Binu), this was the 15th trip to this place. (His urge to find the source of this waterfall borders on being obsession!). I've gone there once before (again, with Binu). The objective of this trip was, as always, to trek to the source of the waterfalls.

Linga temple (our base-camp site) is a 9km trek from the closest motorable point. Doing this
after dark was fairly spooky. We were barked at by a bunch of dogs (i am no fan of dogs, domesticated or otherwise!).We saw a couple of snakes, one dead and harmles, another alive and deadly (it is called 'kattuvarean' in tamil, Krait in English, has rings in it's body and it is told that if it bites you, u die before counting it's rings, which are 21 in number). Every footprint looked like some animal's pug-mark. When u walk in a forest at 11 in the night, u suspect even the breeze!. We reached Linga temple at 11:30 pm. We pitched our tent right next to a clear stream. This forest is home to Bears, Leopards, Foxes and Wild Boars (ok, Wild Boars are really less dangerous than stray dogs). We heard enough sounds at night to suggest that the stream had a big visitor that night.(next time, we would'nt be camping next to a stream).

The objective of camping on Friday night was to start our trek to the source early on Saturday, but that was not to be. We got into the stream, started swimming and lazing around. Finally it took a water-snake (or Mani's imagination of it's existence in that stream) to drive us out. We finally set out at 11:30 am, with 12kg backpacks on our backs and 2 litres of water per head. We were sure of finding the source before running out of our 8 litres' supply (big mistake!).

We met the Linga-temple pujari. He told us we could never reach the source if we follow the stream (that much we knew already, it ends in a vertical unscaleable rock wall!).He suggested an alternative trail we could take to go where we wanted to go. We took that trail (if you can call an extremely rocky terrain with a 70 degree gradient for most parts a 'trail'!!). After a 3 hour toil and a few incidents we reached a man-made wall(which the pujari mentioned, so our spirits soared up a couple of inches). Binu named the trail upto this point the pujari-trail. (the landmarks he has named in Tada include Blue-lagoon, Needle falls, Green mile, Linga temple).
We climbed onto the other side of the wall. The other side was a fairly flat surface leading upto a sheer fall.

It was extremely windy up there.(it was so windy that one of the guys - Ashwani - refused to stand up!).It was fun to face the wind though. The only way to go from there was to turn left and vaguely head to the point where we thought the mountain spring could be. After going a few metres, we met an old man and a lady. He said the man-made wall was built by Britishers and that there was a fort on top. He also showed us a proper trail that started a few metres
from there, and said that the source was a 15 minutes' trek along that trail. He said that there was a pool kindof thing with neck-deep water. We got excited. In our minds we were already there. We started taking longer breaks and much longer sips from our dwindling supply of water. In one of the breaks we even discussed strategy for getting into the pool (cos the pujari had warned us against getting into the pool on top). I would go in first and swim the whole stretch and assess the depth at various points. One of us would always stand guard with a rope ready in case things should go awry.(So much for precaution!!)Also, the point where we met the old man was named 'old-man's point' and the trail 'old man's trail'.

Beyond this, the trek played out into a regular unguided trek. We kept following the trail. After a point there was no trail. We kept heading towards a deep gorge (that looked like the only likely place to house a water-body). And then we got lost, we walked in circles, and worst of all we did not have enough water to camp there for the night. Our plan was to reach the source, camp next to it on Saturday night and head back down on Sunday morning. Our backup plan,
should we not find the source on saturday, was to camp wherever we were at dusk and continue the search on Sunday morning. We had not planned for a scenario where we would run out of water. We needed water to cook and ofcourse to drink, and it was getting late, and we did not want to do that trail back after dark. We decided to turn back. We took a different trail
down, which was fairly more gradual and simple and ofcourse longer. After coming down, we had to do the 9 km walk again to reach the road. We were luckily offered a lift by a civil contractor there, to the nearest village(Varadapalayam). That leg was the most risky think i did that day, i was sitting on a thin steel rod on a tanker attached to a Tractor and was
clinging on to the rod (and to dear life) with my feet on another steel rod connecting the tractor to the tanker. At reachable distances, to my left and right were two huge tractor tyres!!This was a 25km ride, and was fun!!

This was an extremely strenuous, energy sapping trek, unsuccesful at that. I had an amazing time all the same. Next time we would be carrying 4 litres of water per head, and wouldnt indulge in premature celebrations, and maybe we'd actually reach the source! Lessons learnt...


i c dumb ppl said...

varadhapalayam is really really a cool place and i am glad you ve been there as well!! i have a lot of fond memories of this place as we used to go there every new years eve (when i was in my early teens)...did the same trek at night because there was only one bus at around 3 pm leaving chennai...we used to carry serious back-packs...halfway through the trek we stopped by the stream and had dinner...man, you have rekindled all those memories!!!!

we should do it next time when i am there!! it would be fun to re-live that experience after 15 years!!

frissko said...

cool!!...yea, we cud do it the next time you are here...

Anonymous said...


I was been thr 8 times, around 4 times we would have gone at Night.

I just wanna want to know the path for Man made wall. Which we never seen.

Pls give out your number / E- id.

We planned for an Night stay at this saturday.

Bz of you guys i am very much intrested to reach the Man made wall.

My E - mail id : amudhanhr@gmail.com

Give me a revert ASAP.

Bz a 12 member team waiting for treking.


mpillai@road-inc.com said...

I havn't been to that place yet. But i always wanted to visit that place. Even though i stay just 40 kms away from varadapalayam, a place called Gummidipundi, i never had a chance to visit that place. Now i seriously going to plan out to have my weekend in that place, specially to the man made wall. Thanks for your ideas folks.

Sashindra said...

oh dear friends,
And this april 2008, we, our family went by misleaded from konai falls to that falls called sithalaya kona falls. upto the checkpost small four wheelers can go.(execpt sumo,siera,matador,scorpio) but after a 3 km from checkpost to inner forest, our omni stucked in sand by 4.00pm.(actually morning is the good time to start the journey). And waiting for mechanic we stayed there upto 5.30pm and started walking back to checkpost. but our grandmother can walk fast. so I 28 old guy walked along with her and reached checkpost at 8.00pm. meanwhile by 6.15pm itself it was fully dark.by moonlight somehow we can find the path itself with 3 to 5 snakes crossing it. so before entering checkpost, get any auto driver's mobile no. and if you pay some 100 bugs of money, auto could be hired.Even the checkpost securities could help for some amount of money to call their known nearby autodrivers.because after walking 3km with my grandmother, the securities came walking by 7.00pm and called autodriver over their phone.(note: no street light, no mobile signal,no shops).Buy don't go with families, only with friends.

Vadi said...

Hi friend,
We have planned to got to TADA falls.. Only to the falls... But still confused with the commute i should go wih!! Ca u help me?? Goin this sunday?? Can u pl mail me your mobile no?? So that i can call.. AM from Chennai...
My mail id- prabhakaran.ug@gmail.com

sandoz said...

Good one.. Could have taken some digital photos and linked here!!