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    Star trek along the green route
    One two ka five Panchmarhi
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    Nothing so far
    The Hauntings and The Silver Bullet
    Marsimek-La – A record
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Star trek along green route

I do love being amidst nature, but the more natural parts of me don’t like to get too physical with it!

That’s the realisation I had by 11 am on Jul 09.

I started writing about why and how I had that realisation on July 11, just a few hours after I started the Green Trek. Now its 11 am on July 26 and I've just finished completing my explanation. Believe me, this is nothing compared to the harrowing but empowering experience of actually completing the Trek itself. Harrowing because it was the first time I walked with giant blisters :-)... Empowering because I learned to walk on baby pink feet by conquering sheer pain.

Here goes -
July 08, 7:30 pm found me trudging breathlessly down the road to meet the other 60 Kphers. I was so breathless by the time I caught an Auto-rickshaw, that just the thought of trekking 18 kms made me weary. Still mulling over whether I should return home and couch potato the weekend away, I reached the KSRTC bus stand to see Sanju and Amit already waiting. The others soon joined in... All panting under the weight of their backpacks and looking as ragged as me. This gave me a sense of relief... Aah! I wasn't so unfit after all. Some got delayed so we rescheduled for a later bus at 11:30 pm. The time in between was spent on food and booze and I had fleeting thoughts of finding a room in the hotel and max trekking up the accelerator :-) Obviously I didn't really buckle under the pressure and boarded the late night bus to reach the starting point at around 4.30 am on Jul 9.

A highway tea shop was the first re-group point (oops! I mean dump your luggage and wait for the daylight point). There is a Fort nearby built by Tipu Sultan (Manzarabad fort) and since it was too early to be on our way, we settled down at a tea shop and decided to take turns to visit the fort which we knew would be closed (The fort opens to the public at 8 in the morning). So four of us Sanju, Amit, Rajat and I stayed back to watch the luggage while the others went to take a peek at the Fort in the dark.

Everything was just wet, wet, wet... It was drizzling throughout, so we used the roadside to finish the usual morning chores as we waited for the Fort group to return. Meanwhile, we were joined by some more trekkers who interestingly were carrying no luggage! I looked at my heavy backpack and grimaced... Well, it's better to be safe than sorry and I proudly appreciated our logistics / planning skills... sleeping mat, sleeping bags, rain gear, rope, etc. I was like hmmm... we have everything... No situation will find me sorry.

The returnees from Tipu's fort told us that there were 250 steps to the fort. I was like hmm... no, not interested in doing a staircase trek. The other three also decided similarly, and all together, we proceeded for breakfast at a nearby hotel.

Dropping out of the staircase trek was a good idea coz shortly after we did a road trek - walking 4 kms on the highway till the station where the green trek actually starts. This led to a straight time loss of 3 hrs. Packed up as we were with gear which I will call "better safe than sorry backpacks", it translated into 10 hours of energy loss and not to mention it was exactly what it sounds - walking on the road with a heavy burden! In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to hitchhike, but a knee jerk reaction to a smartass hotel guy's comment had resulted in the walk. I had asked the hotel guy how far the trekking point was, and he had said 4 kms. To my innocent question - "We have to walk there? Can't we go by trucks or buses?" - the smartass had replied - "Trekking is walking, right?". Right, I had grimaced and that's what led to this walk on the road followed by a sprint uphill on the narrow track to the railway station to reach the actual trek... Phew!

This ain't weekend adventure sport guys. No matter where you are travelling here from, if you go by what the Railways have to say about it - "Trekking and Trespassing is Illegal. Non-observants will be punished". So no matter who says what in the blogs you read on the green trek, the authorities are covering their asses just in case something happens on the trek. On the question of what could happen... Well we would soon find out why they were keen to shrug off responsibility of the merry weekenders.

Anyways let's get back to the trek. It was a monotonous trekking on the concrete sleepers which I understand were wooden planks some time back. Stepping on concrete planks, putting one step after the other, making sure the middle of your foot hits the plank every time is no mean task. Besides it's just one straight walk and a lot of balancing on the sleepers. It was wet all the time and just a small distance later I could feel the strain telling on my knees. So I wore knee braces, which immediately increased my confidence and I was sprinting on the tracks. Well ok... not sprinting... walking cautiously since the tracks were wet due to the now on, now off drizzle. And soon we reached our first bridge.

Make no mistake guys, this route is not a human being trek. It's meant for trains... It's meant for you to be sitting with your nose pressed to the window in a slow Darjeeling Toy Train types compartment. with all the ladies going ooh and aah at the scenery passing by... And you thinking Macho (..ly) "Shit... I wish I could get off and get lost here" Yeah... that's a nice romanticised version, right? That's exactly what it's meant for. It is NOT meant for you to be walking on bridges with no safety rails and gaping spaces between planks. Let me tell you what the bridge was like...

The bridge was still on the old structure with wooden sleepers and no railings on the side! That's exactly what I mean by saying it's for trains to cross and not for human beings to walk to get a weekend adrenaline rush. Hmmmmm... Just because there hasn't been an accident here till now (at least I don't know of one), it's not as if there cant be.

At the later bridges yet to come, Amit, Sanju's companion, would sprint up and down the planks like a ballerina, striking terror in my heart. I would dream of him falling and we all stretching our hands and saying - "Nahiiinnn!" (Nooooo!) - a nightmare hindi film style. Anyways, back to this bridge - there is an iron strip in the middle for workers to cross. And in some places, this strip is inclined or completely missing... Yeah, completely missing! So the best thing I did was not to depend on it and walked on the planks which, I hoped, like the rest of the gang, were all intact. Three of us crossed and then it was my turn. One look at the gurgling stream beneath, with the flora and fauna swaying in the wind around me made me feel as if I was on a Laxman jhoola (Swing) (or worse coz at the Laxman jhoola there is at least a rope one can cling on to). My body was desperately wanting to give way to the natural inertia effected by the movement of everything around, and wanting to start to fall or sway either front or backward in tandem with everything. I looked straight and could smell myself becoming a toast soon. VC's voice came from somewhere in the background... Go! Go! Don't look down, just look straight and walk. Ah yes! I could look straight too... Let me look at something steady which I did and I walked.

I'm going to take this VC on all the trips guys; he's got a way of inspiring and leading. He helped me cross my first bridge which was no mean foundation to the ordeal that followed, coz the other bridges needed inspiration to the power of infinity (what with me finding out later that this was the easiest bridge!).

Bridge number 1 conquered, we wanted to pause and enjoy the scenery - so some motography (oops, trekkography) and light refreshments followed. After that, it was back to putting one step after another to walk on the railway tracks. I was finding it difficult to carry the tent which I had brought along... meaning we wanted to camp the night out... CORRECTION... which I brought along because Sanju baba had these romantic ideas of camping out. Hmm... It was heavy and could not be strapped to a backpack, so it was decided that each one of us would carry the tents by turn. However, our ingenious Vikas managed to strap it to his backpack somehow and carried it almost half the way before it was passed on to Sarath who had a lighter backpack.

More walking on long stretches of straight track and we came up to Bridge number 2. There was a detour to circumvent this one... And also, an exit to get to the main road. I was very keen to take the detour but then again I thought there would be no detours for the other bridges so I talked myself into walking on it. No harm in getting acclimatised to the terrain, eh! But this bridge had a problem - some of the planks had worn out and were rounded at the center. And if your foot happened to land at such a place, the slight slippery impact could scare you (possibly misbalance you too). I opted for the next best thing, as Rajat teased me later about. Walking with ultra baby steps... very slow and careful.

Eventually, the baby step marathon got over. The bridge was crossed as it was pretty small. After this we hit Tunnel 1 and there was opening on the side of the tunnel, which took us to a majestic water fall. Smiles all around... OK, this was nice. So close to nature...(possibly something I would want to get down from the Toy Train for... yes, truly) Niagara falls is nothing compared to this one. Given the time we spent there and the trekkography it got from us.

The next stretch was a straight trek. Just chalte raho (Keep going) types. Complaints started... Sarath said his ankle had twisted... Sanju checked and sprayed some sprain relief. He didn't see any swelling, so we patted Sarath on the back and asked him to buck up and started walking again. Meanwhile, the skies opened up, so we stopped. Waited a while for the rain to slow down, took a biscuits-n-water break and started walking. The tent was passed to someone else. Most of the time I had seen Priya carry the tent before.

A straight track, few more small tunnels and a bridge (alright, I was already losing count) and some small streams running next to the tracks and waterfalls in some places. Yeah, it was a good scene for the nature lover part of me. The physical parts of me had started complaining. The center of my foot, which had been taking all the strain of walking on the planks had begun hurting by now and the concrete sleepers (as I said only the bridges had the old wooden planks) made it more painful.


And imagine, it was just 11 am by then and we had covered only 4 kms of the actual trek! Add to this the foolhardy walk of 4 kms on the road where we could have hitchhiked instead and you have 8 kms of walking with a heavy backpack. Gawd! I was missing my wheels and how! But no point regretting, so I kept walking and crossed some more distance and a bridge and then more smaller bridges and then a tunnel after which we hit a different type of bridge. This one did not even have the metal strip... Which made it a small but scary variety bridge version. Workers on the track indicated a detour next to the bridge but I took the walk in my stride and crossed it.

After that came a tunnel which was also crossed. My toes were sending shooting pains up my legs and my mind was giving up on the idea of walking any further, so I sat down. Biju took pity and gave me company. Sanju, Amit, VC and Rajat were ahead and could not be seen. Priya was walking comfortably and Sarath was behind. Off came the shoes and socks and out peeked baby pink feet with giant sized blisters between the toes and in the middle of the feet. I was struck by panic... How was I supposed to walk with these any further??? Sarath, who came up to us too could not go further as he was in misery. There was no exit - I wished for a helicopter bailout :-) but which I knew wasn't coming - so after a short rest-stop, we started the walk on a curvy bridge and some abandoned shacks. OK, here's a good place to pitch tents and stay for the night!

Imagine thinking of staying the night when it was just around mid-day (12 noon). That was the state of the fatigued mind and blasted body. We had just trekked 9 kms (+ 4 kms of the foolhardy road trek) and now needed to cross the bridge which came up next and this ordeal was completed. Saw Sanju and others sitting on a elevation with clear patch of ground as our dining table. It was around lunch time by then, I flopped next to Sanju and removed my shoes. I was dead beat. There were 9 more Kms to go of a similar (or worse) terrain and God knows how many more strip less bridges and slippery rounded off planks! There was no place to stay in between and we had to complete the rest of the 9 kms at any cost and reach the station before nightfall.

Mind you, all calculations of the distance left to cover were approximations at best. Because everybody had different versions of the distance. This was due to the absence of milestones (As I said, this trek not for human beings, it's for trains. Last I saw, they took stock of kms only at stations and not enroute). There was also another reason for the sharp variations in the distance left to be covered. The reason is that the strained body seeks solace and reassurance in knowing how far it's left to go... And the tired mind feels comfy hearing shorter distance so everyone keeps asking the workers. And every worker gives his own estimates... And thus, the awry calculations.

Now back to lunch. Food was out of the bags and I was just resting my feet like Sarath who just couldn't walk because of blisters and pain. The group planned that he needed to get out, so an exit option was looked at. Two of the workers walking on the track said they knew the nearest exit to the main road, so that Sarath and Priya could walk back to the main road. Biju was sent as the negotiator. Biju being Brijwasi (tribe), struck up a major chat session. While we were staring at his back, more and more people joined him and the workers and it seemed now that he might be striking a deal to buy the terrain or talking about a proposal to get married again!
Finally, the man saunters back in his merry gait... Hmm... So? He turns to Sarath and Priya to get ready to go back without an offer to poor suffering me. Secretly, it seemed that Biju arranged for Sarath and Priya to be jeep-lifted after striking a deal with the workers and the contractor; even promising to take them to the nearest town. Of course , Biju did not give me that nugget of information of a jeep being available for transport! (If I knew, I possibly would have exited. But coz I was in pain, I had decided to stay back as the thought of walking back to the main road was as painful, if not more, than walking towards the destination).

Back on the tracks and walking monotonously now with the extra weight of food in my stomach apart from the heavy backpack and feet which were boiling over with blisters, I had a decision to make. Either crawl to the destination or forget about it. I decided, pain or no pain, I should not stop and I should reach the destination like a good soldier :-) (well okay I have romantic notions of being a brave strong guy... so there is no harm in living to be one) This little bit of psychotherapy worked... Looking at Rajat who had the heaviest backpack of the lot and still always ahead of the pack was an inspiration. So I made him my beacon and started following him, trying to keep pace with him.

After that, it was bas chalte raho (Keep going) types till we entered a very dark tunnel. The terrain had changed by now and we were in the midst of dense and thick forest. I hadn't seen the famous bats from the earlier write-ups in any of the tunnels and in this one too I could just hear their sounds. This tunnel was pitch dark and 2 workers were seen sitting next to a fire warmimg themselves. Guess what we asked them? Distance, of course:-) The end of the tunnel wasn't to be seen till the end of several minutes after which I emerged into daylight and waited for the others. Happily enough, they took sometime to catch up... heheh... OK, me strong and silent type man but yeah me vain too!

Again, let me say, walking on those sleepers needs a lot of concentration. One weak moment would find you flat with your chin on the concrete slab, licking mud, to the background sound of a cracking bone :-) (not that bad when I think back... But at that time, it seemed just that way). There is an empty distance between one sleeper and another, this distance is not uniform and changes dynamically ;-) so basically you can't mechanically put one foot after another. To add to these woes, there are some planks which are completely missing! In the tunnel, one can see the planks properly if only you have a good torch. My head lamp worked great while the battery of Biju's handheld torch drained.

OK, now I'm just tired of this harrowing experience, so will run you through - we crossed few more tunnels, took some rest and walked some more. Let me point out that Amit, this lightweight nymph-like creature was the bravest of us all; he walked without any fear, literally ran across bridges, come back to help others by holding their hand, carried the heavy tent on the bridge which was a feat which none of us was capable of (if there is a list coming, put me 6 ft below the bottom-most guy in the capable list)

Just looking at him sprint made me weak kneed. Now was such a time; so we stopped for a glucose break and a chat with a Mallu (Malayalee) worker to discuss what else - the distance - and what horrors awaited us ahead! Biju, who was our official translator dramatically announced that every worker was warning about the longest bridge ahead. Wow. That's the last thing I needed! Rain was playing hide-n-seek when we started walking again towards this dreaded longest bridge. Oh God! More of this. We reached to find a lot of workers working on it, the stream / river flowing in glory below and one could see that all was not well with the planks! One by one we started to walk on it, step by step I went with my baby steps on planks which were worn off at most of the places, literally rounded off at some others places. Surprisingly, I did not feel any fear at all despite the rounded off planks giving a slippery action with every alternate footfall. I was walking steadily and watching the few platforms at the side of the bridge. Few of the daring ones - Rajat, VC, stopped for trekkography but I just followed Sanju off that bloody bridge. I reached to find Sanju sitting on a track facing me... Looking really shaken up and scared. Even the brave Rajat was spied literally crawling the last 3 to 4 planks, VC nearly took a dip in the stream below coz he slipped.

All of us just rested and saw a tunnel nearby from which emerged a tractor with custom made wheels to run on the tracks. We waited for it to get out and also could see lots of bats in front of it. We walked into the tunnel and it seemed a pretty long one and then entered one more tunnel where there was a tractor which was parked and workers were mending something so had to take the narrow platform next to the tracks to cross it. Suddenly saw Rajat running back towards me, I lifted my head to see hundred of bats flying towards us. I blocked Rajat and pulled him down with me to duck as the bats flew overhead.

Back on our feet again, we found that there was a truck too in the tunnel. So it seemed that some major repair work was going on here in Batland, exciting the bats no end. There was still 4 kms to go and I felt like Harry Potter in a dungeon with moss on the walls and afraid of snakes in the next 2 tunnels which we crossed. Biju walked these tunnels parallely with Rajat as his torch had run out so he had to doubly concentrate.

As for me, it was 4.30 pm, I was paining nowhere... No, the pain was there, of course, but I had taken it out of my mind as the only aim now was to reach Yedakamuri Railways Station. Sanju looked all set to throw his hands up in the air and disappear into Sanyaas (Penance) mode. The irrepressible nymph Amit was playing efficient nurse to him.

As we walked on the next bridge, the skies opened up again accomapanied by heavy winds which made a baloon out of Biju's track pants, scared the hell out of Rajat who wanted to turn back till the gust of wind died out and this time I am proud to say I acted like VC and egged him on. So we all crossed the bridge to find a few people with a crane who were asked the big question. You guess what :-) I asked the guy how many bridges more to Yedakumari, he replied , "Just one and it's only 2 kms left". Only, huh! I felt like jeering at him but restrained myself. It was 5:30 pm and I was proud to be in control of my destiny. Which was more walking... hehehe :-) No tunnel, just a straight walk.

VC meanwhile was carrying the tent on top of the bag and was supporting it with one hand. At one moment he lost his balance but the smart guy that he is, he threw the tent and sprinted the next few planks till he controlled his descent enough to avoid falling on the concrete slabs and land on his palm on the rocks. No harm done at all. Amazing acrobatics, I must say. This guy will be dragged on all my rides. Amen!

This terrain was really awesome to look at, with it having rained heavily. One could see some uprooted trees next to the railway trek and we walked without stopping to admire the Ghats. It was almost 6.30 pm and darkness started creeping and finally... we spotted the last bridge... a small one. By now, I was stable and held my own tent and VC was behind us all. Suddenly I felt that I was losing balance, teetering with the tent in my hands. I heard VC voice again, "Keep the tent on the planks, Vishu". So I bent down to do that and this needed to be accomplished with some amount of balancing - so one foot went on the iron railing and one foot below the plank at the gap... Interesting positioning, no? (NO, NO, NOT interesting. Horrible it was). Meanwhile, this nymph Amit started to dance towards me across the bridge. He took the tent and gently offered me his hand. I was gonna be damned if I would lose my nerve at this late stage. So I politely declined and crossed the bridge all by myself. VC followed and we were surrounded by a dense and thick jungle. Biju and Rajat were in sight but pretty far away and I had a sneaking suspicion that this was not to be the last bridge. I was hoping I was wrong which was proved right thankfully because I noticed that the layout of the tracks and planks had changed and it seemed that probably our destination (a station) was close at hand. Soon I could see a cement structure at some distance and finally saw the platforms and some walls with no roof. We could see Biju and Rajat were clicking pics on the platform. Now since the destination had been reached, my mind which was in crisis mode went on to worrying, how are we going to sleep on the platform while it is raining!

Thinking all this, I reached the platform. Phew! Flat ground at last, instead of planks, to a breathtaking view. This was a trekkograph's big moment ...this was the moment you would want to get down from the toy train and travel off to nowehere...BUT I was just too breathless for these romantic meanderings.. so I dint even bother to fish out my camera to photo freeze the scene. I could see some people and some structure after the platform and Biju - the wheeler dealer at his job again, talking to some one. It seemed that there were few rooms adjoining the platform and I could see a red tent pitched under a tree. Were these the Wipro guys we'd met Tipu Sultan stop??? The good news was that Biju our man had struck a deal for a small back room for the six of us to sleep in at night. hmmmmmmmm............So the tent.. yeah yeah ...ask me about the tent? Go on...Pitching tent wasn’t feasible coz of the weather ( of the many readers of this article , the culprit of who made us carry the tent should stop giggling right NOW!) ...The tent coz VC to rollick.. me to slip.. hmmmm...Forget the tent

We were given a kerosene lamp, there was dinner available for rs 12 and we were given tea.. hmmmm........How cute , we had carried a cooking stove and fuel cake ...not to mention rope, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, packed foods in our "safe not sorry backpacks"...

Obviously all this luggage and the foolhardy 4 kms trek on the road earlier had slowed us down! There were 6 trekkers from bangalore already in the front room who had reached at 4 PM according to a guy called Adarsh amongst that group. We all changed into dry clothes and I applied spray on my feet and went out to join others while Sanju and Amit stayed sprawled inside. There was another group as well , one from Intel ..Biju joined me and meanwhile sleeping mats were laid in the room with booze bottles out. I lay down to stare at the dirty ceiling and thinking of the day and waiting for them to mix my drink. The supervisor of the place was high , he came inside the room and enquired if we wanted food and offered to bring omelets in exchange of our booze. The good old barter system ...so we asked him to get a glass and he joined a few minutes later with omelet’s. Small conversation that followed had Rajat (our Bengali babu) making a comment in bengali, which got the supervisor’s goat (he seemed to understand the language took offense to term used) Biju was asked to speak to him in Mallu ...and take him out to pacify him ..mallu mallu bhai bhai style. Dinner over, we just crashed out in a cramped style  - 5 of us were lying vertically and Vikas was lying horizontally facing our legs. The door was not latched and Biju’s pant was hanging on the door but because of Vikas lying there in the position he was,nobody could push the door open without waking him - That proved to be a good decision because we got up in the morning to find out a clothes raid had happened on the neighbors from Bangalore. Heads down, pitch dark and we all were snoring in no time - me taking lead, Biju and Sanju following with their Jhankar beats.

The next thing I remember was waking up with a start with severe stomach cramps and a need to rush to the loo. It was 3 AM in the morning and no loo to go to and a thousand human hurdles to cross before I could reach open ground as such.

The sound of the rain outside was oppressive  - like eight bullets thumping together. I wanted to rush out but clueless as to where I should be headed. Luckily Sanju's maglite was close by so picked that up along with some toilet paper and Vikas's umbrella and walked out of the room. The main door was latched badly and I almost broke the door open in my haste...At that point I could not feel anything ..none of the muscle pains which were expected to after a day long 18 + 4 km trek , the only priority was - download.

Short of any other sanitary locations and no energy or patience for privacy considerations, I just sat facing the platform with the maglite and umbrella in one hand and making sure the toilet paper did not get wet. Oddly the torch light fell on a white creature eyeing me in the pouring rain. I was scared (would like to add I was scared shitless but that wouldn’t be exactly true ;) I could see red twinkling eyes and since I had no place to run or hide and nor was in the midst of an activity which could be put on hold, I just held on to my nerves till the light scared the creature off. Once done, just ran back to the room and crashed out again only to wake up at 6 am with the same stomach cramps and a repeat of the 3 Am routine, this time privacy was a major concern as it happened to be broad day light and the other workers similarly busy like me finishing off exactly the same morning routines.

On return, i was genuinely worried for my tummy so looked for a medicine and tried to catch a wink which just wouldn’t come so gave up and walked out at 7 AM leaving the still snoring sleepers to talk to the workers who had started their day's routine.

The way out from the place was reasonably clear to us the previous day. There were basically four ways out
a) we could go back and cross the last bridge, take a right turn and trek in the forest to reach a small village and catch a bus form there.
b) we could trek further down 12 kms towards Subramanya on the railway trek and walk 4 kms on a elephant trail after that and reach the holy place of Subramanya..
c) we could try the route from Eddakumari where we had to cross a stream which was overflowing in the monsoon season.
d) we could walk all the way back 9 kms and take the exit route which Sarath took with the contractor and his jeep.

Given the fact that the contractor had asked not to walk that route, exit option D was out and given the fact that we were told that the next part of trek was dangerous as the bridges were scary and had many more missing planks situations so exit option B was ruled out so the unanimous decision was to go follow the exit option A.

I brushed and all and started waking the others.. Sanju baba was in a sleepy trance and in no mood to wake up. The rest of the Bangalore trekkers in the other room had woken up so I had tea and breakfast with them. Two of their members wanted to trek with us as they wanted to reach  Bangalore as soon as possible (the other four had decided to follow the exit option B).

Meanwhile the supervisor had assured us that one of his workers will accompany us to the nearest village. Everybody was packed and ready ......There was one more batch from Intel (6-8) who also joined us in following exit option A) while the 2 bangalore guys dropped their plan and decided to follow their own gang to exit option B)...so finally a group snap later, we split.

Overnight robbery notes were exchanged - We lightened our back packs, all our food was either eaten or given to the workers, someone had stolen shoes of the Bangalore gang and Biju's tracks were missing from the door..(the supervisor located the shoes though). The Intel guys had lost  3 jeans and two pairs of shoes. It seemed to me that some of the workers went for overnight Shikaar (hunting) and borrowed the stuff (permanently of course.. but that’s a small detail) ..

We all took a collective bow to Vikas for having guarded the door and our clothes...(u see we had lots to loose, what with us carrying everything under the sun for a one day trek (in our safe rather than sorry backpacks)

Anyways we all started towards exit option A) - Trekked back the railway planks to reached the last bridge to the station - the Intel guys crossed calmly and were waiting at the right turn, Biju and Rajat also crossed and waiting for the rest of us to cross.. I started my baby steps and that was one of the scariest bridge crossing I did ..my legs were shivering and for a moment i stood still at one of the planks not wanting to move forward or backward. ..I wanted to turn back and see what others were doing but was frozen to the spot. Rajat stood there facing me ...literally looking like the light at the end of the tunnel ..just the sight of him motivated me to move towards him  It would not be exaggeration to say that after a full day trek on saturday and the way i had mentally psyched myself, this bridge had been crossed in a scary trance.. but now that it was the first one after a night's sleep, I was fully aware and body n mind had let go of yesterday's training .and thus the reaction of shaking knees.

Finally I did reach Rajat. Rajat asked me "Kaisa tha? (How was it)...I said "Phat Gayi! " (Torn apart) ..he replied ..mera bhi? (Mine too) ..So I stood with Rajat and thought seeing two of us Sanju who was crossing would get the needed support which he did. VC and Amit were next crossing parallel to each other. Suddenly Amit decided to play hookey and plonked himself on the plank to take pictures of the stream below ..not only that he asked VC to hold the umbrella above him as he did the trekography ...We were scandalized at this and Sanju started shouting at Amit to just get up and move. Finally Amit decided to stop clicking and walked towards us. We took the right turn together with the workers leading and Intel pack following them and all of us at the end trekking into the forest. A stream was flowing gaily parallel to the tracks which we were climbing...

The gradient was almost 45 degree and increasing gradually.. the small rocks were slippery and we had to take care to make sure each footing was a steady one. There were trees on both sides and slowly we realised that this was getting to be fun...Intel guys with no luggage had it easy and workers climbed with equal dexterity. I worried that since we were all carrying heavy luggage, if these guys chose to run ahead at current speeds, I would be trekking all my life in this jungle. So I requested one of the workers to stay behind with us and he obliged.

At least our gang was feeling the full force of sheer fatigue ..VC was urging everybody to carry on ..and at one point Biju could not take it anymore...and we all just sat down while Sanju and others sat few steps away from us. We must have looked like a group of Young oldies, tired and haggard of the terrain which made the workers laugh. They were nice though and allowed us to rest and even agreed to my proposition that they carry my "better be safe than sorry backpack" which was now such a big pain to carry. The awesome amount off my back, trekking from then on despite the steep incline was easier. Magically enough the steep incline was over in five minutes, right on dot as the workers had assured us exactly five minutes ago. We reached flatter ground to see the Intel pack sharing glucose and applying salt on their leech infested feet.

This was my first sighting of the leech looking for prey ! removed some, glucosed up and started the trek which was downhill from then on with my backpack firmly on my back again. From here we crossed streams, fields and dense forests..could also see elephant dung...this was quite an interesting stretch and we were told that as many as 13 elephants had crossed the previous week. I wondered if me with my 80 kgs found it so difficult to climb up how could these huge creatures climb with their weight ..maybe 4 legs helped after all!

Dog barks nearby indicated that habitable civilisation was near with Man's best friend around. Sure enough some huts came into view shortly. Honestly guys.. much that I loved this trek, seeing them was a relief, then came the tar road, my feet tired of walking on planks welcomed that change of terrain as well but not for long. The brave Intel guys decided to walk 4 kms to the mainroad and since we had already done this foolhardy road trek were in no mood to follow them and decided to wait for the 12.30 bus there. We did have an interim brilliant brainwave of calling for a jeep, we tried using the phone of the house next to the road but the kids refused to let us in till their mother arrives, while we sent him to get permission from his mother working in the  fields, we found out that the phone itself was conked off due to heavy rains.

We shifted to the porch of the house and started killing the leaches which were sticking on us while we waited to meet the 12,30 bus which came around shortly and with us in it, it drove down the  narrow picturesque roads through the forest for 4 kms till we reached the Intel guys who boarded from there. The ride was smooth till Sakleshpur with a stop each at every village and eventually we came to a halt at 3.30 PM.

Guys, now we were in no mood to wait for another bus so flushed as we are in funds, we decided to hire a car. We found a hotel nearby to offload luggage, I used my tulu knowledge to get a taxi in the shape of a Maruti van with two drivers.. yeah two drivers! We boarded up and were on the roll . Merely 20 kms down the road, one of the tyres burst! Ok ..surely the driver had a spare. No! the spare was there but had no air ! wow we were stranded in the middle of the road, with two idiotic drivers and all our luggage! Very kewl! The two drivers took off to get the tyres repaired by hopping into a passing auto leaving us sitting on the road. It took them cool two hours to come back and just then they informed that they had run out of gas! And when exactly were you planning to tell us that you had no gas cylinder, I felt like screaming? Anyways the two morons entered halfway into the city and couldn’t find any shop open as it was a Sunday! By the time we were so tired and so mentally screwed up that the sight of the TWO DRIVERS was getting on our nerves.

We decided to dump them and get another cab. In this exercise they tried to contribute their two bit in the hope of earning some money,but they couldn’t get a Maruti taxi and we negotiated independently with a  solid looking Sumo taxi walla to take us to Bangalore and just shifted our luggage to the sumo before the fight with the two drivers turned into a full fledged Blow JOB!

Moving on a steady car never seemed such a pleasure till then. After a quick tea and  dinner stop we reached Bangalore way after midnight, dropped Sanju and Amit at their place.. followed by Rajat, VC, Biju and lastly me who reached home at 1:45 PM ...
Phew! Can You feel it? Can you feel how tired I am writing this ? Can you feel how tired we were reaching this far. I can feel you are' tired just reading this.. I am tired of writing it. Did I say I was better off on my wheels before?...Did I ? I dint! ..OK I'll say it now...Next time anybody plans a rail trek...I will do it with my nose pressed to the window panes of a train compartment...and next time I want to trek in a forest ..

I will RIDE to it on my TITLI,
Trek n Trek LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT! 
n I will RIDE back !!!!!!

Good night guys...Lucky you.. the green trek will soon be broad gauge. You can go there.. but with your nose pressed to the compartment window in a train ..Meanwhile read this and just wish you could walk there like me...(that shows that you are going mad)

Vishu Shetty

 

   
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