This year the first short trip (two nights and three days) took us to Nagalapuram, northwest of Chennai. The Chennai Treking Club took us for an adventurous trek through the Nagalapuram Falls. It was an unbelievable trip, at times in the literal sense of the word!
We began the trek on thursday morning with high spirits, dry clothes, laden with food and anticipation. We arrived back at the bus today at 6pm still with high spirits, unmarred by fatigue, sore feet, wet clothes, soggy shoes, and weird smells emitting from just about everything else we carried. The bags were lighter in their contents after some delicious meals of av bread, cheese, homemade pesto, miso noodle soup, sweet porridge and several cups of tea, but heavier with their waterlogged gear.
Day one began with soft, easy walking along the river, leading us soon to a beautiful spot where we stopped for snack and a refreshing swim. A short walk further we arrived at another gorgeous pool which provided opportunities for jumping into the water from a high rock and slipping down a little waterfall. The littler ones surprised even themselves with their courage and the joy in their faces when they emerged from the water after a jump provided opportunities for some great photo moments (but we were too busy having fun to take any photos ;)
A good hike later we reached the lunch spot where more swimming and yummy sandwiches were on the menu.
A surprise awaited a short while later where we reached a crossover and needed to swim across a deep pool and transfer the bags on a float made of foam mats tied together into a kind of barge. The kids were amazing how they took it upon themselves to get the job done and swam back and forth until all the bags had been moved. Even the less accomplished swimmers overcame hesitation and took the literal plunge (ably assisted by our resident swimming teacher ;)
Thereafter, we continued our hike, heading toward the "picnic spot" where we were to camp for the night.
After a couple of hours of walking, the onset of rain, and quickly darkening skies it became clear that we would not reach our destination. We continued a bit longer until the night sky prevented any further advancing and we decided to stop and set up camp where we were. It was a moment of confusion, frenzy, even mild panic, where fatigue and the pent up emotions of the day came gushing forth like the river that flowed beside us. Crying children, adults trying to be efficient and consoling at the same time, we tried to find places for everyone to sleep, laying out mats, trying to find dry clothes and lunghis to cover the kids, hanging tarps, and praying that it would not rain again. We realized that cooking dinner or even preparing more sandwiches was an impossible task, under such challenging conditions, to say the least, and we decided not toover challenge ourselves so we ate a few of our snacks and tried to settle down into the rocky crevices that were to be our beds for the night. Some slept more, some less, some not at all, mercifully it did not rain, and all emerged this morning with smiling faces, and stories of their nighttime experiences, about whose leg was on whose belly, who had stollen their blanket and who had rolled over them during the night. There was a feeling of "wow, we did it"... some even looked like they had grown a centimeter or two (;
Back on the trail, anticipating dry clothes, resting legs and more opportunities to tell our stories and connect on the comfortable bus that awaited us, we continued on the way, which for some had become a trudge, while others continued hoping over the rocks and boulders like agile mountain goats. The very youngest were relieved of their backpacks and redirected their energies from complaining about their bags (not really ... most of them were amazing in their walking and carrying!!) to chatting gaily as they skipped lightly alongside the river.
We reached the end of the trail at around 6pm, the bus appearing like an oasis in the dessert to parched explorers. We retrieved the last items of dry clothing, or improvised with towels and lunghis and here we are ... homeward bound!
Despite very few hours of sleep and intense emotional and physical exertion, most are still chatting and wide awake. We should reach home by midnight or thereabouts.
These children are full of stories and for many, first-time experiences. Like aria who DID jump into the water from a height of a good few meters, after huge deliberation together with a willingness to overcome her fear. Or Sitara who was such a trooper, hardly once complaining, and going forth when many would have broken.
Our guide from the Chennai trekking club shared that he had never been with a group that helps each other like our kids did. We had set up a buddy system before we left where each older child was assigned a younger child for moments of head count, crossing Chennai roads, etc. it was so beautiful to see Mael helping Tzur to pack his bag, or hear Pia saying "has anyone seen Thomas, I haven't seen him for a while"
There are, of course, many lessons learned, the kids will have their personal ones (you may be told, "mama, I really need good waking shoes!!" Or "dad, can you get me a REAL hiking backpack?" or "next time we really need to read the list better so I don't end up without a cup and spoon!".
These are amazing children. We are humbled and deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones with them and witness their courage, perseverance, joy, compassion, and so many more qualities that make up each and every one of them.
We are all looking forward to returning to the warm embraces of our families and the softness of beds without boulders.