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Thursday 27 August 2015

Nagala Trek - Saddhi Koodu Falls Entry

Nagalapuram hills in Chitoor district, Andrapradesh is a 100 km drive from Chennai. Have been hearing about this place for a very long time because it was one of those few places Chennaites would often trek to. Lies in the Eastern ghats with similar neighboring hills named Nagari,Tirupati Hills of Sri Venkateshwara National park and Tada falls to the northern end. Nagala has two entry points from east and west, one can do single day treks up to to visiting 2 or 3 waterfalls. Swim around and return back or trek for 2 days climbing upto any of the peaks, camp there and return the next day. Unlike hills in the western ghats where the starting point would always be above some 600 mts Nagala's climb starts from an equal sea level. The highest peaks were around 800 meters so there was nothing to boast about towering peaks but there was something else which was precious to these hills, Its the waterfalls, water pools, gorges, the rocky streams surrounded with thick green forest.
People trek here with larger groups which i don't prefer, I just cant imagine walking with a bunch of 30 or more people inside a forest, it doesn't really serves the purpose of packing my backpack. Traveling with a smaller group or alone beats them all. This time its just me and loga. I knew we had no GPS, mobile coverage or guides. We just planed to pack stuffs for two days and go explore the place till we really got lost. Usually before any trek i would gather up whatever info is available but this time it was all too quick i had little time to check out in detail. Even though it was on a Thursday i did expect to hit some fellow trekkers.
Finally on 27th 5am myself loga started off from Chennai. Passing on from Koyambedu to Andra highway took left from Karanodai to Periapalayam and reached the border town Uthukkotai by 7:30am. Had breakfast and packed lunch. It was raining all the way which was unexpected. Apart from a cap both of us did not pack anything for a rainy situation. By 8:30 reached Nagalapuram village. We had planned to enter through the eastern side so was asking about TP kotta Village and to my surprise no one knew the place, no 2g or 3g so google map was out of question. Finally managed to learn the word Madugu which is falls. From Nagalapuram village the entire stretch of those hills were visible. We were directed to different roads each time by the villagers it was already 9 am and had no idea where we were heading.  After entering the pebble road which gradually changed to a muddy track we just followed it facing the hills in front. It was thick bushy forest which had umpteen no of diversions. Stopped the car but there was not a single human anywhere nearby the vicinity. Finally an old man driving a tractor came and helped us. He said it would be difficult to take the car up to the falls but we had no other option but to drive through the thorny and wet muddy roads.
He said just take all the left u see. But we were stuck again after a km. Somehow we found a farmhouse and they guided us. Finally by 10 am we reached the falls but it was not the eastern entry rather it was Saddhi Koodu falls.
Cursed all the villagers who diverted us to this place. Anyways driving back to the eastern entry should be a maximum of 30 minutes.  But i thought for a moment and decided to trek from here itself. I had no idea about this place and knew where it would lead us to but definitely sensed some thrill. The only question was how would i park my car inside this forest for the next two days. Finally decided come whatever may and had a word with my car like "look after yourself dude" and that's it we locked up, took our bags which was nearly 10kg each and started our trek by 10.45. Dogs are always part of our trekking experiences and the same happened here, out of the blue he came from the bushes and joined us. There was a small way along the stream which led us to a small temple. Thank god there was a priest on duty, we became friends. He would come twice from the nearby village to perform poojas. I told him i will be back only tomorrow so please look after my car whenever you are here to which he happily agreed.
Nearby was the beautiful first falls with an ugly surrounding filled with plastic, broken liquor bottles and waste..felt sad. The falls was just too huge to climb it directly. We looked around to find a way but there wasn't any and here starts our adventurous thrill.
To the right of the falls was huge structures of rocks, to the left there was no visible way but it was the only way up. Started climbing those steep inclines through the rocks. Within a short time we did gain a considerable amount of altitude. Had a good view of the entire stretch which we crossed from the mud road. Spotted my car inside the forest. Heard someone calling like from a distance but we just moved on. Now we have to find a slot to get back to the stream. The problem was the hill we just climbed was drifting away from the river down and whenever we tried to find a way down it ended abruptly with steep cliffs. Instead of climbing down, the hill took us on a left curve for quite sometime. Needless to say it was hot and deciding to wear a short hand t shirt was a bad decision inside those thorny bushes.We desperately had to come down before we climbed the next hill. If there was no way out then we will make ways was our decision. Loga took out the machete and pierced through the bushes. Finally with lots of scratches we managed our way back to the river. Took my compass and followed the river. Whenever the river breaks down into two ways i would take my compass like a pro and advice loga as if i was in complete control with the geography.

 But the truth was i really had very little idea about the happenings. It was around 12.30 pm we must have covered 3km now. The difference between having a guide vs being alone was we walk walk and walk to the tunes played by him and there was hardly any time to think or stay aback where you wished as time was always a luxury. The group should always be on the move as if there was some trophy to be collected at the other end. I mean a real trophy like a Cup or something. But here the scene was way more different. We had no destination, routes and rules. Just pure freedom at the cost of some danger as well.
Kept following the river with thick surroundings. I had to change my shoes to slippers as it was too slippery and at times we had to cross through the waters. For the next 2 km the stream was our route. Whenever my compass refuses to agree with the direction of the stream i would find an other way by finding an other stream opening always getting in sync with the positioning was since our entry was from east a straight walk to north west would take us to the center of Nagala hills which actually is the exact north on a lat/long point of view.
Crossed several small pools and the dog kept following us untill we found a huge boulder surrounded with water which the dog couldn't climb. We tried to bring him up but he was too scared he wouldn't allow us to touch him, we had to leave him thinking he might just leave back to the start point but he started crying loudly as we left but we had no choice.
The higher we were the flow on the stream was visibly thinning. Suddenly some canyon like place appeared, it was a surprisingly very different from the terrain we passed all this time. I sat there watching those brown giant brick walls to get a feel of how a real canyon would be..the place also reminded the movie " 127 Hours " one of my favorite.
Diversions and trial like ways appeared all along the main stream, we would just explore each of them but dead end invited us within 20 to 30 meters. Loga spotted the first snake nearby a small pool but it it disappeared quickly into the water. One more small brown water snake was spotted but this one too escaped our camera within seconds. One thing was confirmed that this place had lots of snakes and Ive decided upon one thing that we are not sleeping on the floor tonight. Jumping through the rocks without wetting our shoes we reached the third pool, it was like a shorter version of the magic pool on the eastern entry. After seeing the snakes we dropped the idea of entering the waters but instead we had to do some heavy rock climbing sessions with a 10kg backpack. It was really tough and an unbalancing act but we managed to reach onto the other side without a big fuzz.
It was 2 pm we decided to have lunch there. Half an hour later we decided to move, there wasn't any opening through the thick forest so we had no idea about the shape and view above those trees, one would have to climb on top of a huge tree to see if there existed any peaks nearby but we refrained by executing such crappy ideas. My plan was like we could explore the place forward till 5pm and find a decent place to camp that night.

More rock climbing's, small gorges and pools the forest became really thick. A perfect setting for an Anaconda movie. By 4pm we came across a camping place with a small wooden tent. It was in a bad condition but i thought this was the best place for tonight as it had some flat surfaces nearby the stream.

We had one more hour to explore so we kept our bags there and decided to climb the hill behind the tent to the left. As we climbed on there were hundreds of snake holes everywhere, on the surface, behind the trees, under the rocks everywhere.
We both were a bit terrified. The climb was just too long until we reached a boulder and climbed on top of that. Yes! Finally we could see the nearby mounts much bigger from where we stand. There wasn't any flat surface on top of the opposite hills so even if we did any one of the peaks tomorrow i wasn't sure we could see any views. At least we are now equipped with how the surroundings were. Before getting bites from the snakes we reached back to the tent. Both of us heard sounds like a group of people chatting and laughing far away, Loga said he will start repairing the tent so i decided to follow the stream ahead for some time to see if there was anyone up there. Loga was a bit skeptical about leaving him alone but i said dont worry i will be back in 30 minutes. After walking ahead the sound was much different, may be the gurgling of waters made us feel that way. I also realized  there was no suitable place we could have stayed tonight. If it wasn't for the tent area, night would have turned even more difficult. Returned back to the tent by 5pm and started helping him.

Had to quickly rebuild the hut before it was dark. Adding some additional support we made sure that it wouldn't collapse in the middle of the night. Sticks were placed vertically but the different shapes and sizes resulted in an uneven surface, collected a bunch of leafs to form a bedding. Finally it looked like an amazing premier suit but the only problem was it just wont let you sleep for sure was my conclusion but loga was sure he will sleep on it.
By 6pm it was dark and the loudest of all insects like crickets, cicadas, beetles, grasshoppers to the mosquitoes and  buzzing bees were all singing their heart out as usual.
Since it was raining early morning whatever wood we collected was damp and cold. A considerable amount of time was spent to build up the fire. Managed to make some tea but without more thick dry wood it wasn't possible to keep the fire running. It was pitch dark and both of us went in search of wood nearby.
The last time i saw loga laughing was two hours before. After sunset he always carried a terrified and scary face, even today i would make fun of him. Back to the tent  we prepared some veg soup. At times we would hear some unusual sounds nearby. Each and every 5 minutes we had to check the entire surrounding with torch lights.
It was 8.30 pm played some music from my mobile along with the monotonous jungle ambient sounds. I was in bliss! Both of us were having a cold feet definitely but we were enjoying each minute of those wilderness to the core..i would have absolutely missed this kind of action if there was an extra person or two, it would have been fun in a different way but not something like this.
By 10 had our noodles under the full moonlight which appeared exactly through a small gap between the branches and leaves, it was a beautiful sight. Took all the remaining woods and placed accordingly to keep it running the whole night. A small torch was lighted up towards the center. Now it was time to sleep it off. Took our sleeping bags to the tent to find out loads and loads of tiny insects already reserved their seats under the leaves. We had no options but to pull out the leaf bedding's because clearing it wouldn't help as all those bug heads would return back. Now we are left with a bed made of sticks. Took all our remaining clothes from the bag and placed it between the sticks. Somehow got inside the sleeping bag and for the next one hour both of us were really trying hard just to keep our backs settled between all those sticks. Sleeping was out question. Fear of snakes and dampness made it impossible to sleep on the ground. Sounds which came from different corners of the place frequently forced us to check the area every now and then. In a way it was good that the dog left us else it would have barked around the place non stop leaving loga terror-stricken.
By 1pm i was deeply mesmerized and absorbed. Immersing myself completely with the wild i kept on listening to the deepest nuances of sounds it delivered. Fireflies was all over the place, By 2pm It became difficult to maintain that momentum because both of us were really uncomfortable . We started chatting about ghosts stories and stuffs that's when loga said he repeatedly heard a group of people laughing from somewhere . I too did but both of us didn't hear at the same time. I tried him explaining him that there are two many high frequency sounds all around the place which reflects rather than diffuses to create a frequency range which is much lower. He stared at me for sometime and asked me why are you torturing me like this at this hour. I was biting my laughter and said i am an audio engineer and it was my duty to clear there was no ghosts and it was all science. Even though i would like to meet one if it existed. By 3 am we both got up from the worst premier suit ever and started working on the fire.
Time was passing soon as we were chatting and inventing new formulas to prepare a soup, just had 2 more hours to the dawn. I went back to the stream with a torch and put my legs inside the water for a morning pedicure session from the small fishes. By 5am loga asked shall we go for a small walk along the stream. It was still dark but i agreed and with two torch lights we walked up to find out whether the stream had an ending.This walk was more crazier than staying in the tent. More than half an hour the stream certainly was thinning but the end can only be on top of hills.  Slowly darkness vanished we were back to the tent by 7am.Made some tea and had bread and Jam for breakfast. All our food supplies was over so we dropped the idea of climbing the peak this time. Cleaned up the place and left there by 8am.
It was an express walk, identifying the diversions we took yesterday was just like a breeze. Mornings are always the best, rays of sunlight through the trees had a brighter tone as always. We reached the place where we left the dog, an eye for an eye doggy had left us too. By 11 am we reached the mini Canyon like place.
Yesterday we found a way heading through the rocks. We decided to climb it today. Left the bags down, It was tough and steep. What we found deep inside was a cave. Yes it was a frightening moment, the cave was more than 20 ft long. Ive seen pictures of pythons clicked by a trekkers in these hills. And it felt like something shadowy was on the move from inside. Needless to say both of us ran for life and it stopped on the second pool which we bypassed while climbing up yesterday and took a break. Loga jumped inside the pool for a swim. Next we were on top of the first was just a simple jump of 30 feet but don't worry i am not jumping.
Intense climbing to the right through the rocks, we had to climb trees to cross those big rocky steps. Have never attempted such risky things in life before. A slip was death for sure.
Finally we reached a point where we found the way down to falls. The problem was we were on top of a cliff. Its was a 10 feet jump. If it was grass or mud we would have jumped but here it was sloppy rocks. That is when i remembered we had bought some rope and what better time to use it. Tied one end to one of the trees and both of us flew down. Left the rope there and we were back to the Saddhi Koodu falls by 1pm.

Trek was almost over and what a time we had the last two days, as i said the place surrounding the falls was heavily dumped with plastics and all kinds of waste. We were tired to the max but decided to clean up the place. After nearly 1 hour of gathering all the wastes the       place just looked stunning.

Finally reached the car. I was worried but all was perfectly fine. We left the place, by 3pm reached the nearby village. By 7pm i was back in my bedroom in Chennai. I felt very fortunate to have done the trek this way. Next time i have planned to get a GPS and explore the actual entries from all positions. So the real Nagala blog is yet to come guys..hang on...

Author   : Anish VK
Clicked by : Anish, Loga
   Team: Anish, Loga,
Place  :  Nagalapuram Hills, Andrapradesh
Km Covered           :   2 days || 16 Kms