Night Trek at Thiruvannamalai

This not just another write-up, another trek or another weekend entertainment.. this was an unique midnight experience in the middle of the no-man’s land.. setting camp atop a hill with winds threatening to blow-us away.. accompanied by a drunk guide who narrated storied about ghosts he had seen in the hill we were climbing, accompanied by 2 faithful dogs that formed sentry – and the chance to experience all of this with the company of 2 friends. Read on if I have tempted you enough.. 

We had befriended a local guy from Thiruvannamalai during one of our previous treks. Watching us climb the hill frequently, he asked us if we would be interested in a night trek up this hill. He offered to accompany us, make arrangements to cook and sleep at the hilltop and assured us of our safety. The offer seemed irrepressible and when 2 friends Sriram from Infy and Arun Sify (nice rhyming!) agreed to join, we were on our way to Thiruvannamalai yet another time! Though we reached before sunset, we waited for it to get dark by visiting the temple at the fothill, having dinner and killing some time. We then changed over to our climbing gear and did final checks on our bags to ensure we had our blankets, each of us carried atleast 3 liters of water, dug out our torch lights etc and set off. The guide carried stuff to perform pooja at the hill top and to cook for us. We were soon on our way and started sweating profusely by the time we reach the Kandashram cave and the water body near it. We had to take off our shirts to let the wind dry off the sweat and washed ourselves from the fresh water that keeps sprouting perennially from under rocks in this area. We then sat around the place to view the magnificence of the Arunachaleeswarar temple from this height and picked up a conversation with the guide whose 2 country dogs faithfully accompanied us during the trek. He started off with his frightening stories.. “Just around these rocks besides us, there are several snakes.. all kinds of them. But you need not worry.. because they are doing their work and we are doing ours. We shall not disturb them and they will not disturb us. Same with ghosts as well.. I have seen them walk past in this very hill during night climbs. But I just warn them to keep off my path and they go their own way. In this mountain, some tracks are meant for people and some for ghosts.. as long as they do not cross each other there is no problem..” an so he went on. It as clear that he was drunk.. but listening to ghost and snake storied in the middle of the night in a mountain with no other human in sight is a bit unsettling to say the least! We continued our climb and now found no need for our torch lights.. the cool pleasing light from the moon was more than sufficient. This is peak summer time here in Tamil Nadu.. yet, it was not very uncomfortable as our bare bodies were caressed by a pleasant breeze flowing by. We took frequent breaks as we had the entire night with us and whenever we found a large enough rock, we would spread our bags / legs and lay down for as long as we wanted. Throughout our trek, the 2 dogs that accompanied us with us formed a wonderful sentry – one at the front with the lead trekker and another at the end with the last person in line – and were a far more reassuring presence than the drunk guide. So, after a thrilling climb, we reached the top just before midnight and settled ourselves in a small hut that was once inhabited by a sadhu till about 5 years back at the hill top. The guide made some herbal tea for us, served them in coconut shells he had stored in the hut and started cooking food using the material he had carried with him. We set out outside the hut and simply raveled at the great views and the gushing winds at the peak. It started feeling incredibly cold and we had to put on the spare T-shirts we had carried with us. After immersing in this experience, we got back into the hut to enjoy some hot semiya uppma and set our make-shift carpets for sleep. The dogs found their comfortable spots within the hut too and we were soon under blankets trying to ward off the great wind that was gushing in thru one side of the hut which was completely open. After a no-so-comfortable sleep, we woke up at around 6 AM, were herbal tea yet again by our dedicated guide and we packed up to start our downhill journey. It was pleasant to have the early morning sun beating on our faces as we walked and we walked relishing the great nigh we had just experienced. Enjoy some pictures from the trip..



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