“Like jilted nomads, they walked across mountains and hills, got themselves stranded in that world unknown and crossed rivers till there was no more sweat to wipe off their brows….”
The inception of this trip happened when we decided we’d trek farther than we ever have, in the ever so beautiful and enchanting Nallamalla forest in Srisailam.
Zia, Prashant and myself during our usual weekend meetups, discussed what more we could extract out of Srisailam, to make our next trek memorable.
A Bacardi Black-currant Breezer was served. In unison we struck our bottles and exclaimed ‘cheers!’ It was just the thing to kick-start our flow of smart juices. We had trekked until Akkamahadevi already once and it was a great experience and each of us got to take back something special from there. We knew there was a place called “Kadalivanam” which is a place of pilgrimage, but isn't active throughout the year. We decided we should be able to get to Kadalivanam in a day’s trek.
With the initial plan done, we were yet to decide on a date to set off on the trek. Zia, in the meanwhile decided to scout the place on his own and left for the destination, with his camera, tripod and a basic survival kit.
He completed the Akkamahadevi trek, boarded a Coracle (theppa or putti in Telugu) from this side of the bank to the other side, so he could halt at the Ashram for a few minutes and leave for Kadalivanam. All this was amid strife resistance from people he’d met on the way, asking him not to do this on his own. He followed his instincts and reached the Ashram.
To keep this short and to continue with the real deal, I’m going to cut-short further details without detailed description---
Zia was asked not to continue till Kadalivanam at the Ashram as well. He carried on and later returned after walking for a while, since he had to get back to Hyderabad and work on Monday.
“One man’s unstoppable approach may seem foolhardy to one and justified to another….”
The Real Deal
We decided we’d leave the coming weekend itself. The final group after exchanging multiple emails was zeroed in to be Zia, Prashant, Chandra and myself. We had planned to leave at 12PM on Friday so as to reach the destination in time.
We left on time and reached Mehdipatnam to drink tea. It was then that VJ Karan called us and told us he’d join us too. Saying NO was never going to be an option but we were apprehensive because it would delay us even more. He stays about 25 kms from where we were and that-coupled with Hyderabadi traffic is enough to get one thinking about time.
We unanimously decided that we’d wait for VJ and would leave with him. It was then that we decided to re-stock our Medical kit and re-think about other essentials for the trek. I went and re-stocked the medical kit while Chandra bought a Tarpaulin sheet, about 15’x12’. It was his brilliant idea and you will later know why I call that move a brilliant one.
Chai after Chai and cigarettes after cigarettes, we whiled away our time until VJ came to Mehdipatnam. He reached at around 1:40 PM and we left without waiting. We hit the Outer Ring Road (ORR) and Zia claimed this territory to be his own, like he knew it at the back of his head. He missed the left we had to take, in spite of me asking him to take that left. That, along with VJ’s delay triggered a series of events which would decide the course of the next 20 hours.
“There are always 2 roads one can take. One’s a shorter, easier one while the other one is a longer, harder and a more fruitful one…..”
We were driving towards further delay on the ORR, to find a gap in the median so we could get back on track. We drove 11 kms away from Srisailam much before we left Hyderabad’s boundaries, which would mean 11 kms again on the right path to reach Srisailam- a total of 22kms at least. Well, that would prove to be the least of our worries, soon. Anyhow, we hit the right path and we made sure we stopped nowhere.
We covered distance and time very well and reached Vatavarlapalli at 5:45 PM. Vatavarlapalli is where one can find the famed Mallelatheertham falls. A sight like none other, with tall trees mimicking a canopy and the stream dropping into an almost perfect circular pond, not before caressing the jagged slate stone monolithic cliff.
However, this wasn't our destination. We parked the Beast at a Dhaba and ordered 20 rotis, 5 burjis(scrambled eggs) and stocked ourselves with 2 litres of water each. Oh and did I miss introducing the Beast? The Beast is Zia’s Mahindra Quanto- an integral part of our recent escapades.
While food was getting ready, the locals began throwing questions at us and we told them we’re going to Akkamahadevi. Every single one of those locals asked us not to go, because there were many cases of Bear attacks reported in the recent past. Secondly, they asked us to postpone it for later because the weather mascot predicted Thunder showers for the next 72 hours in that area. We faced some resistance and uncertainty internally as well, with Prashant and Chandra voting for a post-pone while Zia and VJ were ok with either. I pushed them into this and proved myself the tougher one, only to realise something else later on…….
|The light looks good. Watch out guys, not for long!|
To our luck, a bus stopped by without us having to wait for long. We rushed into it and bought a ticket to Domalapenta. After spending 30 minutes standing in the super-fast bus, we got down mid-way at the Akkamahadevi trek start-point.
|The Trek Route. The blue dots show the Akkamahadevi trek. White dots show the Kadalivanam Trek.|
Time check- 6:50 PM.
Light check- Decent. Should last for 40 odd minutes more at least, we thought.
Distance to cover- 7 kms.
Gear check- All good.
Boot check- Laces tethered properly.
|So the trek begins!|
F-B: Chandra, Zia, Vijay Karan and Prashant.
We began walking briskly and maintained a surprising measure of concentration without diverting ourselves, since we had to reach Akkamahadevi before nightfall. The terrain was lusher than it was when we explored it 2 years ago.
I was leading with either Prashant or Zia walking last, to keep the unit together. We crossed the half-way point in about 20 minutes, which meant we covered over 3.5 kms. Pretty decent pace to maintain with dwindling light and the terrain riddled with rocks, pebbles and bushes.
At about 7:10 PM, it went dark all of a sudden and I kept walking along the trail with everyone following closely. We hadn't spoken all this while, which actually was a quite a feat in itself.
Time check: 7:20 PM and we’re doing pretty fine. The trail was getting harder to spot because twilight was soon approaching. Yet, we walked on.
7:30 PM: Boom! I turned around and asked everyone to stop. The trail suddenly went missing. We couldn't identify where we were. We backtracked and we got lost even more. And all of a sudden, there was darkness everywhere. We could see nothing. We had no clue where we were setting our feet.
I looked up the compass and I knew we had to go South East, to reach Akkamahadevi. But without a trail, we’d be putting ourselves in great danger. We were in the middle of the core part of the forest.. And Lost!
The grass in that area was well over 3 feet in height. Everything told me it was perfect Tiger territory. It wasn't the time to worry or get tensed about the situation, because no matter what we’d do, there were more chances of putting ourselves into trouble in pursuit of getting either back to where were started from, or reaching the destination. It was then that we decided that we’d setup camp. We walked cautiously for a few minutes and found an open spot devoid of grass and foliage. That was the perfect spot to setup camp. Having found the spot, we thought we’d try our luck with finding the trek trail one last time. We turned back 180 degrees and walked for about 30-40 seconds. When we found nothing, we turned 180 degrees again and walked back to the open spot. We walked for over a minute and couldn't find the open spot we decided to camp in.
Such is nature. You let yourself wander for a bit and you will later realise you are lost. We spotted another piece of open spot with a couple of trees around it. We wasted no time and began setting up fire. Finding dry wood and grass was more than just a challenge, because of the torrential rains throughout the week.
“When your instincts push you to protect yourself and those around you in such times, it's almost like 10 Men of Steel make their way into you and you then end up doing unimaginable things!!”
We snapped a young, dying, dry tree and used it for firewood. I passed my sorries to the tree, for I would never have done this unless we definitely needed it for survival. We couldn't believe our eyes that we were technically lost for only 30 minutes. Yet, it felt like we were lost for over an hour. Time was passing at its slowest possible pace.
Time check- 8:00 PM.
Weather Check- Very Cloudy.
Light check- Super Dark.
Gear Check- Still all good.
Boot Check- Tethered securely.
Health Check- Everyone’s fine.
Distance to cover- Not more than 4 kms.
We struck a conversation about how we could have avoided this situation if VJ had come along with us without delaying and if Zia didn't sway off track initially. We also spoke about how good the decision of postponing this trek for the next day would have been. All said and done, we finally stuck as a unit and decided to enjoy this unplanned adventure. We were all hungry, for we started with empty stomachs. All we had was the Tea wiggling and lashing at our stomach walls.
9:30 PM: Tip tap, tip tap; heavy drops of water began falling on our heads and smothered the fire. The wood gave out a ghastly hiss. We had to setup tent—and NOW! Right next to us was an arched dry shrub. We quickly undid the Tarpaulin sheet and hauled it across the shrub. With a Victorinox Swiss Pocket Knife, we fastened the sheet to the shrub and the other side of it to heavy, yet not so heavy rocks. And Lo! We had a decent tent to take shelter in! The need of the hour and perfect team work presented to us the most beautiful tent we’d ever seen. It was done in 15 minutes. We now had a make-shift tent, thanks to Chandra’s instinctive brilliance(Remember the brilliant idea I was hinting at, previously?)!
With clockwork like precision, Chandra, VJ and me began picking up burning splinters from the open spot and dumped them into one open side of the tent. We needed it. Fire is essential. It is life. It often, is hope when in the wild. We seated ourselves inside the tent and the drizzle got heavier until it turned into heavy, relentless rain. In seconds, the fire went poof and we were sitting inside the tent, in complete darkness. We had shelter, but we weren't safe. Zia and me went out and collected fallen branches. We reinforced the tent from the outside. We setup a perimeter so no animal could enter easily. We had only one open side now, technically…..
11:00 PM: We had by this time grown tired of the merciless downpour and were busy scanning the perimeter for any movement. The light’s focus from the torch was strong and it went out as a straight beam. So concentrated that nothing next to the circular light spot could be seen, but everything within was crystal clear! The 5 of us thought time couldn't have passed any slower in any part of the universe that day.
We had greater problems to face. Our stomachs were growling and snarling with hunger. Something had to be dumped into them to shut them up. We had 20 awesome rotis and 5 wonderful egg burjis. Awesome and Wonderful, because they could have been our last meals and because they were all we had in terms of solid food. We had Glucose and biscuits but they wouldn't serve the purpose. We were more than just apprehensive about opening them and eating them, because the smell was strong and we didn't want to attract wild animals and add an unnecessary element to our accidental adventure. We decided we'd fast through the night. Water and cigarettes.
11:30 PM: The rain showed no plans of stopping for the next few hours. The skies were the darkest and the forest was at its quietest. Just when we thought it’ll all be quiet, Prashant, Chandra, Zia and VJ stacked their heads on each other to concentrate on something that was approaching towards us. I was least bothered, because the animal sound didn't feel threatening. They began scanning the immediate area for it. Found nothing. This went on for a good 5 minutes before the sound stopped. Whatever that creature was, was very close to us and we could hear sounds every now and then. Our curiosity got the better of us and we finally identified the creature. It was a Frog. A medium sized one. Not even a Bull Frog!!
We had a laugh and that helped with whiling the time away.
“Nature’s full of surprises with every step we take. One’s preconceived notion determines whether the result is a surprise or a shock!”
12:30 AM: The downpour was still heavy and hadn't stopped for a minute. The five of us had usual boy talks and I suddenly realised our pants were getting wet. Quite a timing to for that to happen, I thought! I stood up and noticed that the ground beneath our asses was soggy and murky. In no time, the murky mud turned into a pool and we all had to stand up. We were so strategically screwed! So many events happening at quick intervals ever since we left from Hyderabad? Something surely was amiss. We stood for about half an hour and our hungry and tired bodies sent a clear message to our thankless souls- “Are you going to let me sit… Or Not?”
|Clicking this picture was a feat in itself, considering the downpour. Good job, Chandra!|
|L-R: Prashant, Vijay Karan, Zia, Rohit|
All of us braved out into the open while it was still raining and picked up decently sized rocks to throne ourselves on. It felt like this was our only as(s)piration, ass if our asses and thighs would disintegrate if we didn't find a place to sit. Was it going to be that easy? Really? The rain got heavier and the pool of water got higher. The rock was of no help to me and Chandra. We were back to standing and crouching. I think the pain gave up at some point of time and hunger was the next big thing. We decided we’d open a few biscuit packets and munch on them. Finally! Our stomachs had something better to concentrate on and stop bothering us. Chandra and I decided to sit on our thrones nevertheless, even if it meant our calves and shoes would go wet. Since none of us had proper sleep for the last 24 hours, thanks to the odd timings we all work in, we needed to switch our bodies off for at least a couple of hours.
1:30 AM: Two people would get a shut eye for an hour or more while the three zombies would keep vigil and scan the perimeter, we decided. Prashant and Chandra went first and the night progressed without surprises and the rain showed signs of decreasing as well. VJ Karan switched off sometime after the half hour mark too. Zia and I were talking about how much we yearned for an adventure and now, it has presented itself to us. We couldn’t have asked for any better we thought.
2:00 AM: People got back to taking rest and at some point of time, even Zia, along with Prashant, Chandra and VJ took a nap. Since the night was still and the rains considerably reduced danger from wild animals, I didn’t bother waking him up. I scanned the perimeter continuously and I at some point of time was lost in thoughts.
What followed was something one would only expect from a movie, especially Thrillers or Horrors.
Snap! The sound shocked us and sent chills through our spines. Time froze all of a sudden and I saw water splash on our bags and a little of it on Prashant. It was almost as if everything happened super-fast and at a super slow pace, like bullet time (Gamers will be able to relate with this). Such was the paradox. I’m pretty sure the transition to what happened next would not have been more than a second or two. The tip of the main blade from the unfolded and locked Victorinox Pocket Knife was at less than an inch away from my Family Jewels! I froze in shock and saw an equally if not more shocked Zia holding the blade, startled by what had just happened. I very cautiously asked Zia to withdraw the knife and fold it back, before something else happens and he thrusts the blade forward! There was a dead-calm; we took a breather and then broke into laughter at what happened and the reason for it!
So what really happened? -- The wind and pockets of water on the tent forced the supporting rod to fall off position. The dead calm of the rainy forest night doubled our shock. We now had a great problem at hand. We had to pee. It was still raining and was incredibly dark, so much that we couldn't see anything without the torch. One by one, we took turns and the torch had to be aimed at the forest floor, from between the legs. We passed the ordeal and relieved ourselves of the growing pressure.
“Many a times, a satisfying leak can bring more happiness and peace to the soul than a first kiss, driving a fast vehicle and bagging a great job, all put together!”
Time went by pretty quickly after that and the intense rain that it was, now was no more than a drizzle. But the damage was already done- the forest floor would be wet, the grass would be slippery and we had to be cautious when stepping on rocks and stones, especially during the descent we thought. The forest decided to throw us another surprise, if the previous one wasn't enough to keep us alert and awake.
We heard a bark, very different from a dog’s, but a bark it was. From the sound, we could guess the direction and it was very close to our posh tarpaulin villa! The frequency of the sound increased and we grew restless because dogs can be the most irritating and torturing animals in the jungle. They travel in packs. After much searching and concentrating on the source of the sound, we found him! He was right outside the perimeter we had built, right outside the tent, about 3-4 feet from us. The fucker was small. Very small. He was a frog! That, right there, was a major facepalm moment and we cursed our stars to have given us more than we wanted, while thanking the same stars in a parallel universe for adding entries after entries to our adventure!
This is an important mention- We did video logs regularly during the trip and we did one while building the tent, after we seated ourselves on rocks when the floor got murky and now as well. The four of them very coolly took my name as the instigator. These nasty fellas didn't spare a thought about outcomes should anything have gone bad. I would have been blamed, because of their outrageous allegations!
We added our views and documented our experience and also at some point, thought it would make a good addition to the Found-Footage genre of films, should anything happen to all of us! The turn of events forced our stomachs into growling uncontrollably and we decided we should eat some biscuits. We deserved at least that, if not those heavenly rotis and egg burjis. That was our grub and surprisingly none of us complained about it!
3:00 AM: I decided to get a shut eye as well and I dozed off within seconds. I could hear the 4 of them talking every now and then between pure silence. The perimeter scan was still ON and every person awake was active, whilst only wishing for a faster daybreak.
4:30 AM: I woke up and it was still dark. The blackest of darks. It had stopped raining and we were all awake now. We were waiting for sunrise so the next 3-4 kilometres can be covered within an hour at the most. What was surprising and worth mentioning is that none of us were low on morale. The last 8 hours gave us more happiness and peace than we could have expected. We always wanted something like this and time decided to surprise us when we’d least expect one. We spoke a lot and soon saw signs of daybreak in about an hour.
5:30 AM: Sunrise!! The thick jungle meant that we’d have to wait for a few more minutes before it would be bright enough for us to start packing and continue with our trek.
This is where nature’s amazing! The actual transition from pitch dark to twilight to pleasant and decent day light was between 20-30 minutes. The Sun rises and sets faster than we imagine, it’s one place at an instant and at another place with a good variation in degree in a matter of minutes.
We quickly got out and surveyed the area. The foliage was the greenest of the greens and the freshest one could ever find. The rain had transformed the terrain completely. There were puddles of water everywhere and it was wet everywhere, which goes without a question. We took a couple of pictures of ourselves inside the tent and the surroundings, while the camera on the tripod was still recording everything. We quickly undid the tent, cleaned the place, collected everything inorganic and dumped it into our waste bag to make sure the forest was clear of waste. Right next to our tent were animal footprints. It was difficult to guess what animal’s it could have been. The rain had washed it away. It was a decent size, about 3 inches wide. Could have been a Dog, a Deer, a Bear, a Tiger, could have been anything. Because we couldn't tell which animal it was, I’d rather call it footprint rather than call it a claw mark, pug mark or a hoof print.
|Picture of our tent just before proper daylight.|
|L-R: Prashant, VJ, Zia & Chandra|
We were now equipped with renewed confidence, now that we had light on our side. We had been through this part of the jungle already in the past and we knew which direction the destination was! Child’s play we thought! Child’s play indeed!
Time check- 5:40 AM.
Weather Check- Slightly Cloudy.
Light check- Bright and awesome
Gear Check- Still all good.
Boot Check- Tethered securely.
Health Check- Everyone’s hungry, yet fine.
Distance to cover- Not more than 4 kms.
We began walking South-East towards Akkamahadevi while appreciating the flora and the terrain. It was beyond beautiful. Every tree, plant, leaf, flower, web and even rocks looked young, energised and fresh! We had been walking for over 20 minutes and we couldn’t find the trail we wandered off the previous evening. After a quick discussion, we decided we’d cut through the forest without wasting any more time and head South-East and reach the cliff. Cutting through the forest would mean we’d probably cut down on distance when compared to the curving original trail.
Anyhow, we walked without wasting time and we came across Sambar scats very regularly and we hoped to catch a glimpse of the animal in the wild as well.
We had been walking for a little over 20 minutes and over 4 kilometres surely on a declining terrain, but there was no trace of the cliff whatsoever. We could only see the thick jungle, riddled with stones, rocks, medium sized trees and all kinds of grass in every direction. We re-checked our direction and we were South-Eastwardly bound. We continued walking and this went on for about an hour longer- Still no trace of the cliff or the river.
Over-confidence definitely consumed us and we realized we were lost and we probably drifted into the wider side of the mountain top. We knew the distance towards the cliff could not be too much and we re-estimated and calculated the path we should take. We decided we’d continue walking SE and we did.
|Wet, Lush Green terrain with a decent decline.|
6:20 AM: The walk was getting difficult. Each step had to be taken with care, thanks to the rain. The terrain hardly was flat anywhere and was riddled with rocks and stones. Every step of ours either had to be placed on the curvy shiny slippery stones or the grass between the stones. Grass was slippery too and to avoid surprises from our reptilian friends, rocks and stones won the best choice award. Prashant was leading with Chandra and VJ following him. Either Zia or I were trailing behind.
Still no sign of the cliff or the river……. Lost, we were….
Prashant suddenly froze in his tracks and almost looked like a statue with his arms spread out wide. We were puzzled and that was a funny moment as well. As we neared, we saw a huge, intricate network of webs like one would find in a stereotypical horror flick. My first guess, from the density of the webs was that it’s a Wooden Spider’s lair. We got closer and Prashant was inches away from the web and the beautiful creature was right there at the centre, basking in the jungle’s serenity. It resembled the Wooden Spider, but it wasn’t that. It was palm sized alright, but bulky and round, unlike the palm sized, but long Wooden Spider. Probably the Wooden Spider’s cousin we thought. The shutterbugs in us clicked a few pictures of it and we continued with the walk. Later research told me that this was a Wasp Spider.
|A Female Wasp Spider in all her glory :)|
|So the Snails decided to mate!|
Almost as if a déjà vu, Prashant froze in his tracks, again with his arms spread out wide, but this time he exclaimed “Cliff!!.” We were happy beyond measure. The point looked very different from the one we were supposed to reach, but a cliff’s a cliff and we should be able to scale down and reach Akkamahadevi, we thought.
Shock and Surprise was what this trip had in store for us and this time was going to be no different. When we got to the edge, there was no sign of the river nor could we understand where we were. We definitely strayed away from our path by a great deal. The point was breathtakingly beautiful and we thought we’d take a couple of selfies(Self-clicks) and group pics. We gathered our composure and then surveyed the landscape. We decided that we’ll need to move left, alongside the cliff, so we don’t lose it again. This conclusion was based on the below points:
- The river extends to never ending lengths on the left, but ends on the right side, when seen from Akkamahadevi.
- We probably were closer to the Crocodile harvest point, than we were to Akkamahadevi, since the River seemed to turn to its left right under or much beyond the mountain.
- The terrain opposite Akkamahadevi is not that heavy. There are a couple of island like parts and there’s water. There were only mountains where we were and this suggested we drifted right.
|The magnificent view from The Edge!|
A hungry, tired and a lost animal is of no good and humans are even worthless! So, we decided to unpack the food from our bags and hog on them. First, the Rotis came out, soon followed by the scrambled eggs. Boy! They, to me looked like the best meal I could ever have in my life! The scrambled eggs were soggy. The water and oil in them floated and the scrambled eggs sank down. There was no place for royalty or choices. This, was going to translate into our energy for the rest of the trip and we had to drive it down our food pipes. Surprisingly, it didn't taste as odd as it looked. People like me can eat anything without complaints when needed and this scored a good 7/10, in my opinion!
With renewed spirits and energy, we resumed the trek. In about 45 minutes, we arrived at a decline and the next mountain had a flat faced cliff! Wow, this was just what the doctor ordered! We had 2 options ahead of us:
1. To take an immediate left on this mountain, take a right where the decline ends and then climb up the next mountain on a steep incline, which would range around 3-4kms of strenuous walking.
2. Get down this mountain’s decline and scale the flat face, up the next mountain to reach its peak. This would mean, less than 1km, but a very very risky option, considering the kind of ordeal we were put through.
“The choices you make in your present will set in motion, the turn of events in the future. It will decide if you’ve to only spar with your opponent or lance through his heart”
Time check- 8:40 AM.
Weather Check- Slightly Cloudy.
Light check- Bright, a little humid but still awesome
Gear Check- Still all good.
Boot Check- Sore feet tethered securely.
Health Check- Hunger satiated. Muscles weakening. Possible Dehydration
Distance to cover- No guessing now, especially after all the turn of events!
We couldn't risk walking any further. We had already been walking for over 25 kilometers on harsh terrain with sore feet. Our shoes hadn't been taken off for 24 hours! So we chose option 2. We decided we’d take the shorter-harder route. The decline was fun, but to scale the next mountain was quite a task. Most of us were tested beyond our limits and my thighs were at the brink of giving up!
Somehow, we made it to the top of the mountain safely. Almost as if my limbs were cut-off, I felt a sharp surge through my thigh! I knew it was a cramp right that instant. I naturally sweat twice as much as a normal person and this took a toll on me. The dehydration forced a cramp. Lucky for us and our tired muscles, we had enough water to replenish our systems with! Two such stops and we were running on empty bottles. By now, we hit familiar ground. We could see the river taking the ‘S’ turn and this was the Kodak moment! Our faces lit up and we were beyond happy. Our muscles were giving up and my cramp decided to tease me again; everyone was tired! We ran out of water, so the only option we had, was to eat/lick dry Glucose.
|Akkamahadevi caves. The flat slab always enthralls me.|
The glucose pack was ripped open with utmost brutality and trust us, glucose is a life saver! All these years, we had been eating and drinking glucose like a cool drink. It really is instant energy! We could feel it. We felt our sinews strengthening comparable with Popeye gulping a tin of spinach. None could stop us, none could come in between us and Akkamahadevi now. Like Juggernauts, we got back on track and made the descent to the Akkamahadevi caves. The thousands of Bats were a welcome sight. We drank river water at the temple and marched on to the river bank. A coracle came by and we got into it in a jiffy. The 15 minute coracle wade was amazing! The cool breeze and the familiar mountains, the deep river and the greenery parched our tired souls.
|Our ride. The Coracle!|
|Slight Drizzle and a coracle ride amid complete peace. Pure Bliss!|
Time check- 10:10 AM.
Weather Check- Slight Drizzle.
Light check- A little dark, considering the time.
Gear Check- Still all good.
Boot Check- Lying down in the corner of none-of-our-business!
Health Check- Everyone tired, dehydrated, hungry and sleepy!
Distance to cover- 0kms.
We got to the Ashram in no time and almost as if part of a perfect script, it began drizzling! We quickly spoke with the local fishermen and asked them some fish for us. Fish is a must have, every time we go to Akkamahadevi. Every new visit is a new record for the best fish. The best ever. Possibly the best we will ever have!
The hospitality at the Ashram was spectacular as ever! I've never seen levels of courtesy and hospitality max out from the human kind, except at this place- EVERY SINGLE TIME! I am pretty sure the rest of our team would vouch for it as well.
We freshened up a little, changed into different clothes and crashed! We all had dreamless, pure sleep at the ashram for an hour or so. Fish was ready, but we had to eat it outside the ashram, respecting the Ashram’s traditions. We had our lunch as well - the best ever sambar rice!
If things weren't eventful and eons beyond interesting and adventurous already, it dawned on us that we only have covered half the distance. Our final destination as per the plan was Kadalivanam. Now, Kadalivanam is supposed to be a good 7-8 kilometers from the Ashram and half the distance was a steady climb. I knew for sure that I would slow them down or perhaps even put things at risk if my cramps got worse. I told them that I’d stay back at the Ashram and that they can continue with the trek if they can. I also advised against it, because of inclement weather conditions and a 72 hour thunder shower prediction. This would be unknown territory and deeper into the jungle that we’d be venturing into and it’s never safe.
After much discussion and a little argument, we decided that the trip ends at the Ashram and no further and that was a decision taken in unison. Well, almost! We watched the Ashram Peahen, clicked some pictures and listened to it buzz for a while.
|The Ashram Peahen!|
4:00 pm: We got down the stairs and took the coracle back to the ferry pad at Akkamahadevi. Since a return trek wasn't possible because of our physical conditions, we decided we’d much rather enjoy a boat ride all the way! We boarded a ferry and bought tickets for Domalapenta. After a 1 hour soothing ride, we got down at Domalapenta.
|Eye-treats while travelling in the ferry.|
The fun part about getting down at Domalapenta and not Srisailam was--- Zia and Prashant apparently wanted ‘one-last’ adventure and may be an ulterior motive to torture me. Chandra and VJ’s neutral stands on this decision is worth mentioning, for it contributed to pushing everyone’s physical limits. Mine especially, with a super painful cramp. Domalapenta is much closer to the place we parked the car at, but reaching the road from the ferry point is the real task. About 1 to 1.5 kms of steady steep climb is what we had to endure to reach the road. After halting on our tracks a zillion times, we finally made it to flat, populated land.
6:50 PM: We reached the main road and hit the first shop we saw. Appy, Maaza, Slice, Frooti and every liquid drink was ordered. Our life was being pulled back from the depths of despair, until we breathed normally. We kept waiting for the bus and it never came, until one arrived at around 7:45PM. It was full, but we squeezed ourselves and our gear in. The 30 minute drive to Vatavarlapalli felt like 5 minutes when we looked out our tired, dreary and surprised faces.
This stare and laugh went on till we reached Vatavarlapalli. Our gear went back into the Beast’s back and we drove straight to Mannanur, booked a room and we had a singular thought in our heads-
“We had one heck of an adventure! Scary, Fun, Beautiful, Painful and Refreshing.”
|The cover picture of the trip! Isn't it splendid?|
Picture courtesy- Zia
Completely unplanned and with us just about prepared for it. Our false pride about knowing the jungle was completely destroyed and nature once again proved its supremacy over everything and projected two words in True HD- ‘I PREVAIL’!!
This trip couldn't have happened without anyone in the current group. Kudos to everyone for sticking as a unit and not panicking, no matter what the situation was like J
“Nature has a billion ways to shock, surprise and entice us. One instant, it’s a breeze, and a storm in another! Either ways, it always commands respect.”