An additional day of cool off time, paved way for the day to think on an expedition. With many blogs and websites that help to see the unseen we decided on a trip to Ubbalamadugu waterfalls. The nearest waterfall that one can get to from Chennai. It needs some patience to climb the rocky paths to reach it. And the falls, itself looks like a slightly huge shower,under which you can stand and not get washed away. You can experience, feel and drink from the falls, due to its moderate force and small size.
We were a bunch of lazy guys trying to cool off on a rather unassuming day. So we got on a 0730 train from Chennai Central Suburban station (MMC) towards Sullurpeta (SPE). Tada railway station was almost 2 hours away. We could sleep, talk, and listen to music, and look around in the typical bachelor style of operations and movements.
Tada marks the border of Andhra Pradesh (2014) and Tamil Nadu state borders. But it has no grand welcome or exit messages. on reaching Tada, we had our breakfast and then went to the mayhem outside, that was the least welcoming for a tourist, in the form of share autos and other autos. The auto drivers were all enthusiastic, full of energy and ready to bargain. We started asking about the charges for to and fro the waterfalls (Forest Gate). Their estimates were all a solid INR 800 plus. Some drivers asked whether we wanted to go to toddy shop. We had a good laugh over it. And found a better way to proceed. We decided to go to the nearby bus stop and get ourselves as far as the public buses would go. We got to Tada bus stop,near Tada market, from there we took bus to Varadiah Palem. At Varadiah Palem, it was learned that there was no us to the place we wanted to go. So we have to resort to some auto. Without expertise of Telugu speakers in the group of 5, we do not know how we would have bargained. But the bargain was not as expected. The auto driver was contumacious, and we had to stick to what price he had put, at INR 450 for to and fro. So we proceeded, the auto-driver suggested to buy and eat or store whatever required from Varadiah Palem, nothing would be available at the forest, the canteen which was there is also closed.
At the Forest gate, there was a shed under which some guards in khaki uniform rested. On seeing the auto , they came up. Some officials, were noticed, to be sitting with some papers under the shed. The guards who came up asked us about the bags, and requested to open it up. They check whether we are hiding liquor. Camera charges are to be paid at INR 50 per camera. Our auto driver paid for our entry and for the auto-rickshaw parking, after a shaky rocky ride. Then we moved on to the parking spot. From where, we have start on our foot. We saved the auto-drivers phone number and the auto number. We told him our estimate of return. He had put up his time to return as 1400. We had reached there after 1100.
We met some steps built over a stream. We crossed it and started with photo sessions. The water in the stream was cool. And then the feet that are unused to walking have to start walking, over the stream, rocky trail. And the trail become more rocky. Some nice view of mountain tops. And then we moved on, it was the end of winter on March 2. The climate was pleasant and cool. It was not dusty and we could listen to some birds singing out. Then we met another stream, where flow was more. We had emptied our bottles into sweat, bottles were filled at the running portion of the small river. Then we noticed that there were some empty discarded plastic bottles and some socks in the water. The rocks in the stream were like large pebbles, there were still some small ones that one could pick up as a souvenir.
We moved on, there was nothing to do about the waste in the forest, for we are also new here, but determined not to spoil it any further than it already is. Moving on, we started seeing some dogs and then a Siva temple. Beyond which we met another stream, a much small one, with two steps we could cross it. Near the stream some guys were having liquor, the smell was on the air. It was uninviting.
There were rocks to be trodden yonder, we were totally immersed in rocks and boulders. The size started increases, jumping over some and watching over the rocks all the time, since some which were easily step-able were shit on by some organism of the wild, but our better guess were the dogs. Some guys were happily returning, we asked them about the onward journey for us, how far to the waterfalls. All of them of our age range were totally happy and energetic about tellings the routes and how the rocks got bigger. Some guys had picked up sticks to help themselves to climb over. We noticed that all the people had turned out in gangs, so that help was always around, there were also girls who went on trek, though a minority by number. The rocks mixed with streams. Sometimes, it was easy to walk on the stream below and get wet up to knees than to climb up a difficult stone.
The rocks became bigger, it was sometimes hard to find the easiest path, and then I relied on some extended hands of friends who could pull me up, tell me where to place the foot and climb and tread on. I met the read on white background solid lines on a big rock, that read danger area. Of course, the footwear were proving to be a head-ache, it helped over soil were we could make out there were shards of glasses. But then placing the foot on stone to climb up was easier with the leverage of foot-fingers than a plain surface provided by the footwear. Often, I had to take the footwear in hand to win over a challenging stone. I wanted to discard the footwear, while a friend also felt the same. We wanted to put out the danger in “Danger area” and we declared the place as “Chappal(footwear) area”. The danger area, we assumed were going to be even tougher, as mentioned by returning trekkers. There was two huge massive stones and in between there were a few stones. From top of the landing stone, we had to step on the small area were the stones were actually stuck by the gap between the two large boulders. The small stepping stones were stuck there due to sheer size of the boulders on the sides. And to add thrill to all this we had to have a small jump from landing rock to the stepping zone. With abyss at the bottom giving some kind of creepy feeling, with the smaller pieces of stones giving way to our weight on them and falling onto this depth, it was really giving a dangerous outlook on the purview. Two odd sticks could possibly lead us to the path above the danger area. This had to be done with extreme care. Especially with my weight to be pulled up, I had help with friends holding the sticks at the bottom and friends above who told me exactly where to put my step on, besides I had my hand ready to be pulled up just in case.
We met some monkeys, some humans filled with liquor, a danger pool area and a path further up. The slopes were steep. I would view only the immediately available rocks and tree trunks to hold on to. I would not look down, or look up. When some loose pieces of rocks were on the way,I pushed one away in frustration and irritation and the enthusiasm to move on. Little did I realise that it could have hit people coming up from bottom and the slope was steep enough to make them loose their holds and get injured by yet unforeseen loose piece of stone coming in their direction. I regretted for having pushed the stone down, while I heard a group of 3-4 guys trekking up. I assumed patience to be my best comrade and moved upwards.
Getting lost in the forest was easy when two of us were slow to catch up with the fit guys of the team of five. We lost way and ended up at a dead end, where there was some resting place like that of a cave. The cave had a small way inward, very small, not good enough for a human to crawl into. We decided that they had not gone this way. Later realising that there was another path to the left of the route. We resumed trekking and then went left. Further, we could easily walk on a comparatively flat and one man’s walking way. The track gradually slopped down and then there was no gradient. There were easy steps on the rocks to walk down instead of sitting and crawling down. This had made the trousers very ugly and the effort seem worth displaying with all the dirt on the clothes. The trek could have been easier without the backpack with water and foods that I was carrying, but it could have turned out terrible afterwards, with no bottle to quench the thirst. I rested myself on the rocks and could see people taking the waterfall for a shower. People took turns to stand under the falls and take pictures. We took lot of photos and with help of many co-trekking group we could get some frames with all of us in it. Our bottles were once again filled with natural water. This water was tasting better, in some opinion. Nevertheless, it was water that was urgently needed.
After great deal of getting wet, taking photos, shouting and so on, we decided to visit the danger pool, way back. The climb down was faster and easier, with sliding down and small jumps we could easily get down. The loose pieces of stones were treaded on with some empathy towards the trekkers in oppostite direction. We precariously moved on such stuff that could slide and cause problem to other climbers. After crossing the Chappal area we turned right to reach the danger pool. It was a brilliant view with the green pool, reddish cliffs above and huge rocks. The crystal like pebbles in the pool were very attractive. Some guys stayed at the rocks and drank, some ate, some smoked. Some monkey gangs came up to collect leftover and spilled food items. Some guys were in the pool, enjoying the cool water. Some stayed at the halfway mark that demarcated the depth difference, beyond which the depth was more than neck-deep, say 6 ft(182 cm). Proficient swimmers went beyond the mark and met a small waterfall at the end of it. Some newbies to swimming learned swimming in the first half, for the first time in the natural setting. Some were diving from the plank at the half mark and enjoy the freshness of the whole place. After a considerable duration of fish-life, there was drying up , further photo sessions and then return journey.
During return at about 1530, we noticed more people were hanging out and moving around. We were not feeling hungry, we do not know why. We also found an alternate path midway and entered the Siva temple side without crossing the small stream. This path was very easy to walk on except for lot of shit. Many dogs were present this time and some ladies were cleaning up and burning up the litter. We walked on with somebody sharing some story and keep up the momentum. Beyond the other stream, the only noise that followed us was the song of some bird. One of us easily caught up with the bird and whistled in a mocking manner.
We got to the parking area and reached Varadiah Palem , without any events. Mostly, we were silent and happy at having done something different and enjoyable, natural and so mentally freeing expedition. At Varadiah Palem we paid the driver INR 500. Then, he suddenly extended help to catch a sullurpeta bus that was leaving the stand. We successfully caught the bus at next stop and got on. We saw the Kalki oneness temple on the way and then to Tada Bus stop. There the Tada Market was active, and we helped ourselves with tender coconut water and some bajjis (fried snack). We had a train from Tada R.S after 1800, the ticket seller was not willing to sell it too early, we waited for him to turn to his capricious side that was favourable which not coming up. We were hanging out and then went for eating our lunch. After giving the ticket seller enough time to contemplate on his contumacious non-officious habits, we were back in queue, got our tickets and waited in platform 2. Some more photo-sessions happened. And the train (MRTS) came. We were more than happy to stay silent and chew on the memories of the trek that was.
(PS: The reader is requested to keep in mind that the terms moderate, small, huge, clean, good, bad, heavy. difficult are all subjective to individuals physiques and emotions.)