My previous trek to Brahmagiri was in the rains and the moisture not only soaked you to the skin but brought out every leech in the state – or so it appeared. Slipping and slithering up as well as down the Brahmagiri peak is an indelible memory which could only be overshadowed by the impression left on me of my encounters with leeches. Coming back down to Irpu falls with a few blood-laden leeches squelching under my toes (Yes! Inside my shoes) is not one of my favorite memories. Upon reaching the Irpu falls, I sat down upon a convenient bench – surrounded by about fifteen sightseers – folded up my tracks, picked my first leech and looked up to see where to toss it away, only to find those fifteen sightseers had suddenly vanished as though they had dematerialized! I did attract a crowd of others, who were looking – from a safe distance - avidly at my legs, which were bleeding as though they were badly mangled! The only time my legs achieved the sort of attention that is received by the item girls of today!
This time the climate was dry and, thus, no leeches were expected. The problem, however, was that the last time I had ever walked any distance – leave alone trekking – was in April on the trek to Dodi Tal. On top of it, I had seriously injured my foot in November and the injury has left behind a niggle on my left foot which could get aggravated on the uneven terrain of a trek. Being out of shape on a trek is nothing new to me but, hitherto, I had beenthe newbie trekker and nothing much was expected of me. This time, unfortunately, I had given the impression that I was a veteran and huffing and puffing on the trek was not going to burnish that image.
Huff and puff I did within fifteen minutes of the start of the trek, which started from the base of the Irpu falls. For the first half-an-hour I was re-examining the reasons why I ever took up trekking. Then we entered the shade of the trees and what with the coolness and the soothing music of bird-song, I was back in my element. It had been so long since I had been away from the city that the first feel of the forest was a balm to the soul.
Midway through the trek there was a lovely stream and the entire group plunged into it with gusto. After a refreshing bath we proceeded onwards (self huffing and puffing as usual) for a further hour and reached the Narimale Rest house. The last time, it took us a further hour to actually enter the forest rest-house and stretch our feet since we had to de-leech ourselves and then draw rangoli all around the rest-house with salt to, hopefully, prevent leeches from entering it. Kamesh and company set out to make lunch while we collected water, firewood and help cut vegetables. A hot cooked meal after a trek like this was like ambrosia. After the meal we sat around and chatted till about nightfall and, slowly, drifted off to sleep one by one.
The next day we set off to climb the Brahmagiri peak. The initial part of the trek was largely like a walk in the park till we hit the base of the peak. Climbing that peak was a strain since the path was largely made of loose sand and, thus, added to the difficulty of the ascent. We preferred walking through the grass by the side, though that is not as easy as it sounds since the footing is very uneven and you cannot know whether you were going to hit a hollow under the grass or not. (Please do not think of an inch of shaved lawn grass, when I say grass!) We hit the peak to a misty welcome and, thus, there was not much view to be had.
The descent, if anything, was even tougher since you had the added goal of not wanting to reach the bottom far faster than you wanted and the terrain was doing its best to ensure that you did do so, preferably head-first! Luckily there were no mishaps and we reached the Narimale Rest-house as intact as a body full of sore muscles could be considered to be. After a hot lunch of noodles and lemon rice, we were on our way down to Irpu falls and the end of the trek.
I know I keep repeating myself on this count but most of the fun of trekking is in the camaraderie. This time I was not sure because the group was largely composed of first-time trekkers, whose ideas of a holiday would likely have been molded based on tours to hill stations and the like. I couldn’t have wished for a better lot of companions, however. To put your body through unaccustomed exercise and, then, to land up at the rest-house only in order to do more work around the camp should have tested anyone’s patience. Not only were they uncomplaining but they were also actually having fun while doing the chores. Badri was volunteering his services for all odd jobs; Hari and Dinesh helped lug the water; Aditya, Vignesh, Shekhar and Chandru were probably the fire-wood detail and Niranjan was volunteering everyone else’s services! (Oh! He did chop the potatoes perfectly, as he keeps insisting!). You do get to know your fellow-man better when you go on a trek!
Drinking when you are thirsty, eating when you are hungry, bathing when you are sweaty and sleeping when you are tired were the norm of life. These, however, have become relatively rare for city folk and the pleasure you get from these simple things is indescribable. Much like you have to shop around for organic food, which was once the norm, you have to go on a trek to enjoy what the poor endure!