Certainly only to read, dream and wonder for a weak body, mind and soul and never to dare trying, these true stories are only meant to record an adventurous history. This was a three day mission starting from 18.2.2011 to 21.02.2011.
There was soo much myths and mysteries about Ombattu Gudde (OG) treks over flowing in the net and by word of mouth and there is never a better experience than a personal, first-hand experience. OG is bounded by Shiradi Srisla Reserve Forest, Kabinale Reserve Forest and Balur Reserve Forest located in Karnataka and popularly referred as “trekkers delight”
We were celebrating Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) third b’day in a fashion and style known only to CTCians. This trek had all the varieties which a true trekker would look for in a trek, to be preserved and portrayed in one’s mind, heart and soul ranging from steep climb, huge boulder hoping, rappelling, rescue etc, etc.
The trek started initially with 37 trekkers joining from various parts of the country. With 23 of them starting from Chennai and 14 other joining us in Bangalore to trek the OG peaks from 18th to 21st February, 2011. The co-passengers of Lalbagh Express were initially taken by surprise after seeing our trekking bags and our weird sleeping mats and a white man (Peter) jumping up and down with full of energy and they finally learnt that these guys are trekkers and going to trek somewhere in the western ghats.
DAY 1 - The day of hiking in the steep mountains and camping in between big boulders:
We reached Gundya check post which is located in the NH 27 heading towards Mangalore at around 5.30 a.m and quickly had a power nap in the chilling morning weather. The trek started with a steep climb which never got over till the mid of the day. We hiked, hiked and hiked from 200 mts to 1200 mts from sea level till we reached the top of a bald peak which offered some spectacular views of the valley below. One of the co-trekker was unable to climb up further and therefore we had to send him back and soon heard from him that he safely existed.
The sweating soul and the paining body was rewarded with some of the most stunning breath taking views which nature had to offer to us. There were steeps wherein we were forced to climb holding the roots of the trees, grasses.
To our surprise we saw the carcass of a wild boar which was torn into pieces and my guess was could be the hand work of a group of wild dogs.
The most challenging aspect of the trek was the sunny weather with no water resource on top of the mountain. Slowly we started consuming all the water we had and very soon almost all of us ran out of water. Hot weather, no water and wherever we could turn there were only peaks and we were left in a very challenging situation. Our hunt for water left no stone unturned and we started descending towards a dry, steep stream almost 70 degrees inclined. The best part was we saw a beautiful cliff and had some breath taking views from that cliff.
Hunting for water and our camp site we got unintentionally split into four groups and un-fortunately two groups took a wrong dry stream and started declining parallelly. After climbing down the steep boulders we found water dropping in between rocks and almost all fought like monkeys for few drops of water and quenched their thirst. Fortunately, in few hours three groups got reunited and unluckily we lost the fourth group consisting of 5 trekkers.
After a thorough stint of sliding, rappelling and rolling on the mountains with innumerable cuts, bruises and cramps we were just able to reach an altitude of about 800 mts which was way ahead from our camp site and the main stream which was located at 200 mts altitude.
Pitch darkness covered the entire thick forest and started threatening us with weird noises and loads of insects. We made a camp fire and prepared soup and noodles for dinner wherein we received a SMS from one of the lost soul that we five are staying together and one of us have got injured badly, in the intermittent very bad mobile signal. This night was a very long night since we did not have a proper camp site and lying down in slippery, sloppy rocks which did not permit us to have a good sleep despite our tiredness.
DAY 2 – The day of sliding rocky stream and failing rescue attempts:
The day started with aching body and a target of climbing down the never ending rocky mountain and finding our camp site. We climbed down through one of the densest forest and huge rocks which took us very long time to descend we cut through huge trees which were almost touching the sky and beautiful rock formations. Trekking down the stream got widened up and the water flow started increasing and finally we reached a beautiful water fall where we took bath after two days of sweating and bruising trek.
After refreshing ourselves near the water fall we (23 trekkers) started our never ending rock sliding in search of our camp site and finally we reached the main river in the afternoon and set our camp over there and started waiting for the rest of the groups to come. Even after 3 hours we could not see any sign of the other trekkers reaching the camp site and we went in search for them and soon learnt that one group (8 trekkers) were preparing dry-fish and were having near a water fall soon they also joined us. We were now 31 with 5 trekkers stranded somewhere inside the thick forest and we could able to trace out their whereabouts.
In the evening one group went in reach for the stranded trekkers and came back in vain since they were not able to find them and another group went to the nearby village and brought some eggs, fish and rice and we had a yummy dinner along the beautiful river bed near our camp fire. But still we were worried that we could not find out our stranded trekkers and were worried about their whereabouts.
Nevertheless it was an amazing camp site sleeping on the laps of a broad river underneath the glittering stars and chilling weather this is what may be called as “elixir of life”.
DAY 3 – The day of “Rescue, first aid and rejoicing”
As planned the previous day we all got up at 5.30 a.m to find the stranded trekkers. The rescue team consisted of 11 volunteers headed towards the rocky mountain and started looking for them and we started moving a great pace and after 1.30 hrs of climbing up the mountain the stranded trekkers heard our whistle sound and started shouting.
It was that moment which none of the stranded trekkers would ever forget in their life time we met them after almost 46 hours of gap and we could see the re-birth in their eyes, soon we learnt that Rajiv got dislocated his ankle and was unable to move anymore forward we quickly rolled a grip bandage and gave him the required first aid and provided some refreshments to him and also to the group.
Soon we found a very old jeep track and decided to take it to reach the base of the mountain. Rajiv was unable to move his body because of the pain in his ankle, we decided to carry him on our shoulders and slowly we took him to the camp site. Credit goes to the volunteers for carrying Rajiv safe to the camp site.
It was now almost 11.00 a.m and we had our bus at 2.30 p.m to catch and we need to trek 6 kms to hit the bus stop. Quickly, we prepared a stretcher got hold of two big and strong sticks and few small sticks running across those big sticks and a sleeping mat on top of it. A perfect stretcher was ready to carry Rajiv out of the forest and we started carrying him on rotation basis since it was hurting and causing pain on our shoulders. Kudoos to all the guys who took this paining task of carrying him back safe.
Rajiv was given a once in a life time opportunity of being carried in a stretcher and the other trekkers dancing, beating drums and signing in front of him. This perfectly portrays the fact that “OG” is a deadly place to trek and one needs to have excellent fitness level to survive in these forests, these treks are certainly only to read, dream and wonder for a weak mind, body and soul and never dare trying it in their lifetime.
This trek made to realize that this life is worth living and brought me very close to nature. Taught me how to care for a fellow human being and happily live in an environment filled with joy and blissfulness, overall truly it was a “once in a life time experience”.