Thursday, May 17, 2007

Trek to Mukhruthi

A photo in Orkut was the culprit this time. The picture was well taken, with a blue sky background and nothingness in front. It was a girl sitting on top of a mountain. I couldn't resist to scrap how nice the picture looked. She replied, and in a short time I learnt that the place was called Mukhruthi, very near to Ooty. I was hooked immediately. In due time, I got four more guys "hooked" and so was born this trek to Mukhruthi (Date: 12 May 2007 to 13 May 2007).

The trek was conducted by mountaineering adventure sports society. The cost was 2750 rupees including pick-up and drop to Coimbatore, food, guide and lodging. The person to contact would be Frederick Mob No: 09894380167.

The trekkers were
1) Tony Joseph a.k.a Pullachen
2) Abraham Menacherry i.e. yours truly
3) Anish Chandran a.k.a chandru
4) Juwal Bose
5) Anoop H.L Dev a.k.a Hl

The pickup from Coimbatore was at 5:30 A.M in the morning. The duo from Kerala, Juwal and Chandru were far ahead of time reaching Coimbatore by about 2:30 A.M. Hl coming from Madras was also on time. I was the official organizer of the trek, so I had made sure that everyone came on time. The only problem being that Tony and Me, starting from Bangalore for reasons quite beyond our control (read lazy to start in time) were late by about one and a half hours. To our credit we caught the last bus from Bangalore and for the better part of the journey we sat in the cabin/slept on the floor and suffered other such indignities to reach our destination. I was received at Coimbatore with snide remarks on something called punctuality, but I put all such trash talk to rest with a pathetic smile and an arched back (I did not arch it. The bus did that for me).

With the normal dose of leg pulling, gossip and other chit chat we were soon on our way to Ooty. We had two voluntary breaks, one for tea and the second for break fast. Involuntary breaks were on offer due to the heavy traffic to Ooty. A word of advice for anybody traveling to Ooty, for years (decades?) this place has had a traffic problem so it’s better to add some extra time into your planning.

We reached Ooty by 1 P.M in the afternoon late by 3 hours. The person accompanying us from Coimbatore told us that we couldn’t stay in the Mukhruthi fishing hut. It was as per the new forest regulations it seems. We were late, nothing had happened till then and already this bad news! To tell that sprits were a bit down would be perfectly appropriate at this juncture. I was already thinking that this trek was going to be a washout. Fortunately things started to look up the moment we left Ooty.

The route to Mukhruthi is through Ootacamund, Fern hill etc. On this route one can see the famous Good Shepherd School also.
Except for one small photo session along the route we did not stop till we reached a sign board saying "7 kilometers to Mukhruthi". The small problem being that the route was closed. We came back some distance and then stopped at a small cluster of houses and shops in a place called Pothmund. The Pothmund Dam is very near this place, but at that time we did not know it. After much dilly dallying here we were finally given clearance to go to Mukhruthi fishing camp through the jeep track. If we had reached earlier we could have actually trekked this route, but since it was already late we went in our Sumo.

This cobbled muddy and ill-kept jeep route is really an experience to drive on. On the way the going was so slow that we walked along with the jeep and only climbed on after it picked up speed. The darkness set in very suddenly and as if on cue from a horror film director our jeep developed a problem. It was a minor one so our going was not affected too much. The ride was truly cool, on either side stood the eerie dark forest, with all its creaky-croaky sounds. Most of the route was hidden from sight due to the branches jutting out and the thick grass. Anyways after about an hour of this fantastic ride, we reached the fishing hut at last. Only to find that it was locked! Our guide assured us that the key was on the way through the cook and forest guard.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we went ahead to scour the surroundings. It was pitch black and we only had our mobile displays to guide us and on top of it, when we were about to leave on this adventurous expedition the guide warned us "Inga tigers erikka, be careful!" We took this new piece of information without batting an eyelid... yeah, I am a good liar! Even though our spirit of adventure was not what it was five minutes back, we decided to press on a little more. My Orkut contact had told me about a brook nearby, about how she could hear the water trickling through it and I was determined to find it somehow. It took us some time to find any sort of route though. It was Anoop who did it in the end, all those night shifts he is doing must be adding to the night vision I guess.

Hardly had we gone ten steps when we came across another ghostly looking house. "Let’s go in and check" I said, "You are crazy!" my friends said. I must be a persuasive guy, coz in two minutes time we found ourselves inside the house. Me being the instigator, I was also given the honor of opening all the doors. Believe me, they creaked and made all kinda funny noises. But I refused to give up my nerve, mainly because I had four equally afraid guys standing behind me and running forward was not an option.

After this we went about finding the promised brook. It was quite nearby and once we got out of the house, we could locate it by the trickling noise. We took some photos at this place, which was a bit tough considering that you couldn’t see anything through the camera. It involved a lot of approximating but in the end we did get one or two good shots.

When we came back, we found the driver and guide still sitting on the verandah waiting for the key. In the end it was decided that Juwal would accompany the guide back to the village to see what happened to the key. In the mean time we found out an outdoor toilet just outside the fishing hut and were busy utilizing this God-send one by one.

Within a short time they came back with the key. Our guide for the next day was one Kishore. He was a B.A in economics and had a colorful career before he dropped everything and started this enterprise. It was a good experience talking with him. Even though alcohol was strictly prohibited we had brought one Johnnie Walker Black Label along. We asked his permission to take a swig, which he graciously gave. I guess good Scotch whisky is what the doctor ordered for these cold conditions. Two shots were enough to keep us warm for the rest of the night. Kishore lit us a small fire in the fireplace but then, that was just superfluous. We had the fire within us already....:)

I have gone to treks earlier and had their food. Mostly it is good, but ALWAYS vegetarian. This was the first exception and I hope not the last. We were given absolutely delicious Chapattis and chicken curry by our cook. It was really very tasty. We were all tired by the day’s adventures and the next day we were supposed to get up at 5:15 A.M for the trekking. So we went to bed and in no time our sonorous (monstrous say some) snores could be heard all round Mukhruthi.

For a change every one got up on time and as requested by Kishore we were all ready by 6:00 in the morning. Unfortunately, the cook was not ready and we had to wait one more hour to get our breakfast and I think this was a crucial mistake on our part. If we had left earlier, I am sure that we would have spotted many more wild animals. Anyways we spent this time taking photos of the fishing hut and surroundings. At 7:00 we finally started off with the trek. Kishore set a very fast pace and he asked us to be quiet so that wild life wouldn’t be scared away. I being the camera man had the unenviable task of taking photographs as well as catching up to the fast pace. Fortunately I was able to manage since the trek was not too tough to begin with.

En-route we came across tiger pug marks. It was a thrilling experience to see it. I am personally very unlucky at spotting any wildlife in my treks. In fact in all my treks put together I have seen nothing more interesting than some antelope and elephant shit. Tiger pug marks were definitely an improvement but hardly close to my day dreams. At this point I dared to hope. I was somehow confident that we would chance to see at least one tiger. This confidence was unfortunately misplaced….:(

Shortly we came upon the catchment area of Pothmund dam and took some great snaps and the Mukhruthi peak also came into view. It looked so far away. But in truth it was not so difficult to reach till there except for a few patches which were steep. On the way we spotted an antelope that ran across our path. But since it happened very fast, I was not able to get a good picture of it. Once we reached the foot of Mukhruthi peak we rested and had some chocolates and glucose for the final effort. It was only reasonably tough and in no time we were on top of the peak. It must be mentioned here that due to the lack of other veteran trekkers like my roomie Shyam, Yours truly had the honor of reaching the top first. Here the most interesting thing that happened was that we saw a small snake "Shangu varayan". As soon as it saw us, it scooted off. Again, another interesting moment came when I asked Anoop to photograph me while sitting right at the edge of a cliff and he stood there contemplating whether he should push me down or take the photo. Luckily for you people he decided the latter and I am still here to write all this trash.

The return journey was a breeze. We were all quite hungry by this time and our snacks had finished except for some bread and butter that we were carrying. We stopped only once or twice to take a few snaps and drink from the brooks here and there. But close to our destination we came back to the catchment area of the dam and decided to take a bath. The most hilarious moment was when Pullachen remarked "da, if they open the dam now, we are all gone cases right?" It took a bit of effort to explain to him that we were "up-dam" and not "down-dam". The cold water had positively made me ravenous and I gorged on what was left of the bread-butter left. By 12:45 P.M we were back at the fishing hut. We had our lunch but somehow it was very much below par. There was only sambar and rice. Our expectations were rather high, based on the previous dinner.

We had successfully completed a 16km trek. In all modesty, based on my Brahmagiri experience I felt it was far lesser than 16km. Others in the team felt the distance was correct. I am still not so sure whether it is actually 8 kilometers one way from the fishing hut to Mukhruthi peak. Anyways, we got an interesting piece of news now. Our jeep had a small problem and it wouldn’t be able to carry all of us along with our baggage. Hence it was decided that we would walk back from the fishing hut to Pothmund village with our cook James. The jeep track was 8km, but James knew a path through the thick jungle which was only 4 km. It was not such a good decision since Anish, who was already tired found it very tough to do this new bit of trekking. Fortunately for him a jeep came along and he was able to go half the distance in it. The rest of us, took the forest path, went to the Pothmund dam and took some photographs (prohibited, but we couldn't resist it!). Later we lost our way but not seriously and in a short time we were back in Pothmund village.

The trek finished here. Lter that day we reached Coimbatore from where we left back to our respective places. We had some more misadventure, but that is better explained here.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home