There I was, smartly dressed, along with four friends. Well-ironed shirts tucked in, wearing a belt and formal pants – looking at us, one might have thought we were going for an interview. But the truth was not something anyone could’ve guessed. We were getting ready for a trek. And little had we anticipated the series of blunders and mishaps that awaited us.
Ramesh, our ex-Head of Sales (and one of our favourite trip leaders) reluctantly talks about the time when he went trekking as a 15-year-old : wearing formals.
20 years ago …
When I think about it now, I feel very embarrassed about how we had dressed up for a trek!
I was 15 and my board exams had just gotten over, giving me the time to relax and go on an adventure.
My friends and I decided to head to Kodachadri, a mountain peak near the town of Kollur in Karnataka. Back then, it was surrounded by dense forests, with no fixed paths and rarely a soul passing by. A trek there required a well-thought plan and a familiarity with the routes.
But we were young and ignorant. When I think about it now, I feel very embarrassed about how we had dressed up formally for a trek! And this was what we had packed: cooking gear, food, water and just a single torch to guide us through the forest paths.
It took some convincing, but the driver finally relented, asking us not to tell anyone about the bus stopping in the midst of the forest. He didn’t want to get into trouble.
“I am not going to let you kids off in the middle of this forest. It’s not safe. Let me take you to the Kollur stop and you can then decide whether you really want to do this trek.”, said the bus driver. Kollur was 13 kms from our destination.
“Forget it!” , I protested. “We are well-prepared and we need to do this trek.” I didn’t want us to waste time travelling back from Kollur to reach the foothills of this mountain. It took some convincing, but the driver finally relented, asking us not to tell anyone about the bus stopping in the midst of the forest. He didn’t want to get into trouble.
The first 30 minutes of the trek was easy, with flat surfaces. We stopped for a leisurely breakfast and by noon, started to trek again.
By now, our bags felt heavy with all the cooking gear and large water bottles. So, we decided to leave our bottles behind.
A Few Hours Later …
Every path was confusing. We didn’t know where we were heading. And that’s when it hit us: we were lost.
There was no water (obviously) and we were dying of thirst. “We shouldn’t have left those bottles behind”, I thought unhelpfully.
Plus, every path was confusing. We didn’t know where we were heading. And that’s when it hit us: we were lost.
“Please God. Save us this time. I’ll never go on an adventure blindly without a plan. I’ll stop wearing formal clothes for treks and I definitely won’t leave behind precious water again.” I wasn’t sure how willing any deity would be to help us since I was not a religious person in the least, but there I was praying my heart out, desperate to find the right path and not die of thirst in this desolate place.
10 minutes went by. And then, either thanks to my prayers or sheer dumb luck, we came across three men walking downhill. And they had extra bottles of water! We drank to our fill. The strangers told us that we weren’t far from the summit, and that gave us strength and confidence.
You would think that we would have had enough and would turn back. But, nope, we kept walking uphill after that, choosing between multiple paths and assuming that this was the way to go.
Again, we chose to be brave adventurers, and decided to set camp and cook our own food, far away from the temple.
Somehow, we reached the peak before it became dark. Surprisingly, there was a temple on top, with a small restaurant run by a priest and his family. The priest advised us to stay the night at the temple, since it was impossible to find your way through the forest after dusk.
But again, we chose to be brave adventurers, and decided to set camp and cook our own food, far away from the temple.
We ate to our fill, although it took quite some time to cook the food as – surprise surprise – we didn’t know how to make a bonfire.
Our torch was dead. We had brought an audio player too. Dead. And without light, we couldn’t go back to the temple.
There were lots of wild monkeys trying to steal our leftover food. I hadn’t mentioned earlier, but Kodachadri is part of a tiger reserve – reason enough for us to not be venturing out after dusk. Luckily, we hadn’t encountered any dangerous animals. So far.
An hour later, our torch was dead. We had brought an audio player too. Dead. And without light, we couldn’t go back to the temple. We decided to sleep where we were.
A roar shattered the quiet of the night. It sounded like whatever creature made that noise was far away. But the distance didn’t seem to calm us – we were very scared.
All of a sudden, a roar shattered the quiet of the night. We jumped, staring at each other with terrified looks on our faces. It sounded like whatever creature made that noise was far away. But the distance didn’t seem to calm us – we were very scared.
We took turns to keep watch and stay awake and by dawn, we were shaken, sleepy but grateful that nothing bad had happened.
We were glad to be back at the temple, only to be greeted with a good scolding from the priest.
The trip taught me a lot of lessons. Never make a journey unplanned, especially to a remote, desolate place. I was relieved that nothing untoward had happened. I had organized this trip and I felt responsible for the group as a whole.
2 years later…
We visited the same place again. Everything seemed so familiar and we actually made our way to the top in less than 4 hours! The same priest greeted us at the peak but this time, we dined with him and slept near the temple. There were no mishaps. No stupid teenagers going on unplanned treks. Nobody wearing formal clothes. And definitely, plenty of water to avoid dying from thirst.
~ This story was written by Ramesh HS.