Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Well..It happens to all the 'techies'! After a hustling day at the office, a retrospection on our life is mandatory. 'Yeh kaise zindagi hei yaar..Kuch to karna padega life mein'. After all, films like 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' ruined our life by making us feel awful about how we live. And that night was no different! While scrolling through the dreadful feeds of my unknown friends on Facebook, the title of a sponsored event caught my attention; "Moonlight trek". Thanks to the AI for reading my mind. I hadn't gone on a trek for ages. Now that I am employed and now that I wanted a 'much-needed break' I mustered all my courage to send a message to the event organisers (called 'nomads' hereafter). To my surprise, the nomads called me the very next day to blabber the itinerary. Adding to the surprise, the 'trip-ditchers' (my friends who are my roommates and were my classmates) said yes for the trek. Well..thanks to the organizations for which we are working.
So the deal was done. On a hot-humid Chennai afternoon, we set out to explore the magical Parvathamalai in the Thiruvannamalai ranges. We were asked to reach a college on the outskirts of Chennai city from where the 'Nomads' had arranged a "traveller" for us. As always and expected, we reached an hour later than the scheduled departure time; not entirely our fault. A bit can be cursed on the hustle-bustle and traffic diversion created on the streets due to the visits of some bureaucrats. We waited for another hour for the arrival of all our teammates who ensured us of a true night trek. With not much of an introduction among the team, we embarked on our journey to the hills.
Parvathamalai is around 200kms away from the Chennai city and may take 4hours for a one-way journey. We chose the Trichy highway; a 4-laned smooth road with 'just-blossomed' plants in the median. Started by 3 pm in the afternoon, we were expected to start the trek by 7 pm. We travelled for around 1.5 hours on a straight route after which the driver took a right turn to the medieval aged Tamil Nadu. It was like grained panoramic films of the 1970s. Shrubs and trees covered both the sides of the road, cattle grazing on the field, 'paattis' (Grandmas in Tamil) engaged in evening talks and tractors occasionally moving by side carrying hay which glittered gold when sun-kissed. It took us a bit more time to reach the destination because of the frequent nature-calls and urge to stretch the tight muscles.
Since we have reached the basecamp, let's talk about the Parvathamalai. Parvathamalai is in the Thiruvannamalai ranges as per Wiki and is a hot-spot pilgrimage centre. There is a holy Siva-linga atop the mountain which is at a height of 3500ft and is estimated to be 2000 years old. It is considered divine to do a 'Girivalam' (Circumambulation of the mountain) and do the offerings to the deity, especially on a full moon day. So people who are planning to visit the hills on a full moon day, please be prepared. The nearest town to Parvathamalai is Polur, which is 20kms away, but the basic necessities can be fulfilled at Kadaladi. There are two paths one can take for the trek:
Thenmathimangalam - With stone paved steps for 3/4th of the trek; the path which pilgrims usually take.
Kadaladi - A muddy trail just for the people who care for an adventure (We chose this path)
The terrain is rocky and I would classify the difficulty to be between moderate to heavy for an average built person with normal stamina. Even the athletes in the team were gasping after a few metres. The hills are covered with lemongrass and are known for the presence of medicinal herbs. According to the 'Nomads', the uphill trek would take 6hours and 4hours for downhill. The adventure-seeking souls in us opted the Kadaladi trail.
We lit the flashlights, moved our feet from the basecamp by 8 pm and set on the trail. It had rained that day morning and the ground was wet and muddy. The trail started after 1km of walking on a plain terrain. The 'Nomads' lead the way forward through the bushy terrain. We could smell the lemongrass all along our trail. The Nomads had provided us with the energy drinks and protein snacks which we had to take after a few steps. There were intermittent shops in between which provides soups and glucose drinks for double the price of MRP. "Don't shy away from buying those; would be useful". We took short breaks where we all could sit and lean and do a bit of stargazing. Quoting ZNMD, it is embarrassing that we don't do stargazing at all as adults. The view was beautiful and serene. Through the path moon-lit, against the breeze fragranced by lemongrass, we moved uphill. I would suggest strongly to take this route if you are an adventurer and you need a calm trail with only crickets as a disturbance.
The two paths (Thenmathimangalam and Kadaladi) would join midway the trail. From hereon, there would be many shops to serve you even at midnight and you will be acquainted with numerous pilgrims chanting the names of 'Lord Shiva'. The environment drastically changes and you will feel amazed as the environment dissolves in spirituality. From the confluence, the Trek goes to the next level of difficulty. There would be handrails anchored to the rocks and be cautious while using it as these could be rusty and point-edged at some places, and getting injured is the last thing you wanted on this deserted place. The mist started covering the mountain and the coldness started to engulf each of us. Don't forget to take your hoodies if you are going during the winter. The moon was bright enough for us to switch off the flashlights. The clouds were dark and had a pinch of horror to it. Adding to the horror, there was a tree with numerous dolls hung to the branches en route. A thick fog started to cover us and we realised reaching an altitude more than the nearby hills.
We reached the second basecamp from where the temple atop can be seen. The path from here is very interesting and dangerous at the same time as we had to literally do rock climbing by just clinging on the rails bolted to the steep rocks. It is a one-way route and minimum space has to be ensured between the persons climbing up, as one wrong foot or a movement can cause serious injury. Climbing atop that rock itself can be considered as a milestone of the trek. From here the journey to the temple is much easier as the path is paved and have steps. You may be asked to remove the shoes from here and I will leave it up to you to decide.
Finally, that moment had arrived. We conquered the hills!!!
We reached the destination by 3 am in the morning and the peak was crowded with pilgrims and you may not feel like you have done something commendable :D. We entered the temple and was surprised to see how a small temple can accommodate hundreds of pilgrims. There was a long queue (numerous queues in fact) in which we found a slot to stand and the crowd took us inside without needing much of the effort from us. The temple is built with rocks, with not much headspace and billboards saying 'mind your head'. The atmosphere was so sacred that even the agnostic persons would fold hands before the idol. We managed to get out of the temple somehow and began searching for a place to have dinner (same old protein snacks).
There are spaces in the temple premise itself where you can relax and even have a nap. But it will be very crowded and don't expect and wait for a tidy place (Grab the offer before it goes). We took a short nap (Don't forget to bring sleep bags or at least a blanket and sheet) under the thick blanket that we brought without even removing the socks. It was damn cold in the morning. After 2 hours of disturbed sleep, we woke up to this:
One of the best sunrises I have ever seen. The coldness gave way for the heat of sunlight and mist started to build up occasionally. Numerous rainbows offered a lovely spectacle. The temple was still open and the bells could be heard all over the night. A huge rush would be there in the morning to see the sunlight falling on the Trinetra of the Sivalinga (Amazing ancient science which is not much appreciated these days). We decided to start moving down soon as we may get caught in between the rush of the people who go downhill after the early morning puja; which creates a ruckus at the stairs leading down. And that had had to happen. One of our teammates was late and hence we got stuck in the queue, for over an hour. So it is advisable to commence down the trail soon after the sunrise, not spending much time enjoying the sceneries.
This was our moment to take the pictures of our achievement and we didn't have the hi-fi DSLR to capture the beauty of the night clearly. We took lots of pics, of which some are:
It was obviously much easier to move down the trail though it is advised not to go too fast as it may hurt your calves. The path we climbed was sun-lit and the lemongrass danced in tandem with the breeze. The nature was beautiful, so was its creation. We had to go down faster as the scorching heat started to burn us by 10 am itself (Nothing new for the Chennaites). Through the trail, we continued, our feet engraved in the mud, birds whistling secrets, and small streams following our path. We reached the basecamp, after 3 hours of trekking.
We looked back at the peak we conquered. A sense of achievement started to flow within us. The trek may have ended, but the path is still long. "One step forward" at a time!