Trip Start Jul 18, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hey All,

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile but there hasn't been much to post. This entry is in regards to the trek I took last weekend (the 8th-9th).

So as my pictures from the previous trip to Ooty and Coonoor showed, there are quite a few small mountains (large hills?) in southern India. This trip took advantage of those hills in the form of a trek (which is the same as a hike). Anyway, at 5am on Saturday morning, four of us piled into a cab and headed off to the city of Madikeri. This is a really small city (maybe 10000?), or at least small by Indian standards. Once there, we wandered around looking for the hiking tour guide that would take us on our trek. Since this was our first time hiking, no one felt completely comfortable going off on our own, and as such we hired a guide. After a quick breakfast, and a short drive to our starting point we were off.

The first part of our hike involved a 500 meter climb straight to the top of one of the hills in the area. Normally this type of a climb is not that big of a deal. However, we had a special treat in store for us. Due to the fact that we are in the middle of monsoon season, everything is obviously rather wet (or at least mostly saturated). As such, a delightful little creature known as the leech was out in full force. So during the first third of our hike that day, we constantly had to fend off attacks from these leeches. All they would do, is sit attached to the ground and wave around in the air. When ever they came in contact with something warmblooded (my ankle for one) they would release from the ground, and attempt to find some open part of my skin. Once successful it would make like a mosquito and begin to draw blood. This actually sounds worse than it was in reality. These particular leeches are no larger than inch worms, and at absolute worse, they drank a milliliter of my blood (if I let them go forever). This is the reason for the bloody sock picture. A few of them got the better of me, and I was forced to donate a bit of my blood to nature.

Even the leeches could not detract from what was a wonderful hike. After we breached the top of the peak, we walked along the ridge for what was probably two miles. This was a very interesting stretch to walk along. The entire time, fog from the valley below kept hitting the hill, rolling up to the top of it, and then falling back down the other side. So we would literally be unable to see each other at one point, then five minutes later we could see the entire valley. This was also the first time in my life (and not the last), where I was able to look off a shear cliff, and not be able to see anything but white below me. It was disconcerting, but very cool all at the same time.

At about one pm, we stopped in one of the local villages for lunch. All meals and lodging were included in the price we paid for the guide. Anyway, villages in this neck of the woods in India are very interesting. They have essentially no connection with the outside world. They grow their own food (only for consumption not for market), raise their own livestock, and build anything they need. As far as I could tell, they don't even use money in this type of a society. The 100 or so people who lived in this village just helped everyone else out. It was very weird to see a society like that in todays world. Lunch itself was very interesting. In this area, meals have a very specific style. For dinner, rice is always served first, and its generally served on a banana leaf (plates can be a premium here). Then they serve some sort of stewish thing on top of the rice (in my case it was beet root stew). Next to it they serve this really good form of cabbage, which almost seemed like hash browns but made from cabbage. Then they also serve a variety of pickled vegetables. I'd never heard of the one I received, and don't remember its name. Needless to say, this was a very weird meal. I'm not fond of beets to that part of the meal was only so so, but the cabbage and rice were good. I am pretty sure with this meal alone I broke every single rule set to me by my doctor. It was worth it though to be able to try something truly local, which is probably not served any other region in the world.

After a total of 15 km (almost 9.5 miles), we arrived in another fairly small town. After a quick meal (similar to lunch with a different stew) we all piled into a cabin to spend the night. Originally we were going to spend the night camping in tents, but again decided we would test the waters with trekking in India before we go all out.

The next day, we woke up early and traveled a bit to the start of our next hike. Unlike the previous day where we hiked ever forward towards our destination, todays hike was straightforward; climb a mountain, descend the mountain. What ensued was probably the second most difficult hike of my life (and I have done a fair amount of hiking). Basically over a stretch of 4-4.5 miles, we climbed a vertical mile. This by itself is nothing spectacular. What made it interesting was the trails which we had to follow. Trails on Indian treks are not like US maintained trails. Basically they are formed by the people who have followed them earlier. Therefore things like boulders and fallen trees are inevitably going to get in the way. They didn't occur often, but the presence of them made things more difficult. The only other hard part of the hike was the last 1/4-1/3 of the climb. At this point the mountain became insanely steep (I would guess 60 degrees at least). Even though I consider myself to be in rather good shape, I was pretty much wheezing after this particular section of the climb. Even though the climb was difficult it was worth it. Rarely have I been able to hike to the absolute top of a remote area, to be able to see everything in all directions. Its a cool feeling of accomplishment, which always goes hand in hand with a tough hike to the top of a peak.

Anyway, after we had been up there for the better part of an hour, we descended back to where we started. This was rather uneventful as all descents generally are. It was much less strenuous, and it was easier to appreciate the surrounding views. Once we reached the bottom, we hopped in our cab, and headed home. I don't remember any of that ride as I slept pretty much the entire way back. With the success of this trip, we hope to do another backpacking trip in the future. However this time we hope to camp on the top of another peak in the area. If we end up doing this, details will definitely be sent out.
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