Another travelogue on the best monsoon trek till date for me.
Place rajgad fort, near pune, Maharashtra.
Date : August 2012.
One more team from Great Hyderabad Adventure Club GHAC scales the pinnacle of Venkatagiri Durgam.
“Venkatagiri Durgam”, as the name suggests is a place not so easily accessible as a normal 800 mt mountain. The 200 mt pinnacle is up straight in the middle of a thick thorn forest after a maze of ways from the base village of Palem kota.
Palem kota is a village 10 kms from venkatagiri town. Venkatagiri is a small town in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Its 50 km from Tirupati and about 40 km from Gudur. From Hyderabad one can take a direct train to venkatagiri or can go till Gudur in train and take a public bus from there. From Bangalore one can come to Tirupati and from Tirupati direct bus to venkatagiri.
After all the research and hard work in getting a tatkaal tickets from IRCTC the team from Great Hyderabad Adventure Club (GHAC) was there in Palem kota in front of this pinnacle, all set to conquer the heights.
All I knew at that point was we have to go straight through the forest and the pinnacle has to be climbed from left side covering almost all the circumference and then up from the right side. I had a map of the trail followed by the last team lead by Goutham to the pinnacle but was not able to load it on my GPS that I was carrying for worse conditions.
This was my team Raman, Madhur, Rajashekar, Jatin, me, Puneet, Hardik, Nirmala and Ismat (left to right), everybody in high spirits all set to test their toughness against the toughness of the nature.
Not only the thick forest and navigation was the problem, the weight of the backpack was itself a thing. My backpack had 5 liters of water, 1 T2 tent, I sleeping bag, First Aid kit, pair of extra clothes, 10 cuppa noodles packet, rain coat and a fleece rounding up to some 15 kg Similar was the case with most of us about 10 kg would be the weight. Then we started walking straight on the trail towards the pinnacle and then started the maze of the trails, each trail leading to ways in all the directions just like the old cities, still we tried to go straight, however small the trail may be. Due to that many times we found ourselves in the dense thorns all around us and all we could do was to fight with all those bushes and get bruised up. After all sorts of crawling, tangling, crushing the thorns we found ourselves in a dried stream and decided to take that up to the highest point it takes us, as it was the only way to save ourselves from the fight with the thorns.
Everybody had covered the maximum part of the body they could to protect from the thorns. There were many situations where I and Puneet had to search for a possible way ahead, meanwhile everybody had rest and clicked the pictures. But except from the stream there was no way ahead for all of us to go with those heavy bags at our backs. Our lunch was also in one such break.
All tired up we decided we will follow the stream to the highest point it takes us, as we had no other option and time was running out. By 4 pm we were at the top most point of the stream after which also was the same forest and no clue of the pinnacle. Then we struggled out way through the forest to an open space and found that the pinnacle is still to out right and a lot of distance still left to cover. It came as a shocker and took some time to digest. The light was going to get off in a couple of hours and a lot still left to cover, there was no place to camp and summit was questionable.
The only thing I could make out then was to go straight to the pinnacle and see for the way to the top or camp at some possible place. I told the team that it were the last 2 hours to struggle our way and push ourselves to the edge of our capacity. The team was really awesome and kept the pace and in about half an hour we were at the base of the pinnacle, the thorns were gone by the time and we felt alive again. Adding to the fortune, we found a trail that seemed to be the correct one. After that there was no turning back and the clock was also ticking, we had to make most of the time we had left. We kept following the trail and in some time I was able to spot the plastic wrappers and covers on the way that confirmed that people come on this trail frequently. This time littering gave me so much happiness that you cant imagine. We walked 3/4 of the circumference of the pinnacle and clock showed 5.30. No altitude gained and only half an hour of light left. Then the trails started to gain altitude but on the adjacent hill and we were again going away from the pinnacle but there was no other option as the camp was to be set up at some higher ground.
The accent was steep though took us to the middle of the peaks and was the base for the pinnacle. This was the camping spot for the day and Puneet was getting everybody up as I and Jatin went to see the way ahead to the top. The light went away as we closed in to the pinnacle and the final steep was there. There was surely a way to the top somewhere there but not visible. I gave it a break for the day and went back to setup the camp for the day there.
The camp was set up amid long grass patch, it was way better than the thick thorn forest down.
The grass was crushed, ground leveled and the tents and tarp were laid and the whole camp was set.
Then dinner was made after 40 minutes of struggle to light fire using all techniques. After all the amazing food and story telling everybody went to sleep as next day was a long day.
5 am the camp woke up, got set for the day and packed everything and we were set for the days trek at 6 am. we left all our luggage over there and went to summit. We went straight to the pinnacle and after some struggle found the trail that led us to the stairs kind of structure and then going to the top seemed easy compared to last days’s hard work. Still we were walking on the steep edges and a little carelessness could be deadly at that moment.
It took half an hour then to get to the top which was again a surreal place, completely out of the world. Clouds rushing directly into us after striking the mountain, then we finally reached the top of the place and had some fun moments.
While on the return to the base we took a unwilling detour and found ourselves at a water source and the problem of water was solved for the day. Returning back was not a problem as there was a single track to follow. A trek becomes a lot more simpler it you are on a track, same is the case when the life is on track.
Returning to the base camp was an easy yet very careful walk of half an hour on the steep slopes of the pinnacle. Then we had a fab breakfast followed by 4 hours of downhill trek on a downhill trail through the same thick forest. It was a monotonous walk but accompanied by all sorts of snacks as everybody was trying to loose the weight form their bags. After 4 hours we were there at the base of the mountain but a 5 km stretch of sparse thorns and the trail maze was waiting for us to get lost in it. Everywhere around was looking the same in all the directions but all we had to do was head east, now nobody was in condition to get into the thorns, so we thought of following the trails and after 1 hour we realized that we are lost somewhere. There the GPS came into action and I saw the point where I marked the starting point of our trek, after confirming with the localities there we again started and reached palem kota by 3 pm. The bus from venkatagiri was at 7.30 pm and we seriously wanted to have a dip somewhere or the other. There was a lake just there and was the perfect opportunity for a bath/swim.
No matter how hard trek you do, but when it is followed by a dip in the water everything comes to life again and you feel full energized. The swim was followed by the lunch which was cup noodles and tasted damn good. this marked the end of our trek and we returned to venkatagiri.
The trek was indeed one of my tough treks and made to look easier by the enthusiasm and coordination of the group. Everybody was indeed tough and never made a complain about the trek and did whatever I said.
Puneet, my organizing partner was responsible for all the tasty food that we had all through the trek the tasty palak paneer, paneer butter masala, yummy maggie and everything else.