Feb 10, 2012

Bike and trek to bliss – Chennai to Tada falls

It’s been a long while since I set out on a bike trip after two memorable previous experiences. Moreover I was waiting for the first adventure road trip on my ‘own’ bike too. A lot of plans came and went and finally the wait got a deserving due. Recently I accomplished a road trip to Tada falls (Andhra – Tamil Nadu border) from Chennai and trekked all the way upto the highest point we could touch in that hill. This story summarises that great experience.

The seeds for this trip were sown abroad. A friend (Vasu) of a friend (Anand) who studies abroad (ya... the same geeky GRE MS route after B Tech in Biotechnology) came back home recently. He was impressed by the movie Zindagi na milegi dobara and was planning such a trip with his friends. Anand, who is my colleague too, was browsing for a lot of such adventure tourism places in the 200 km radius of Chennai- mostly during office hours- and thus I came to know of it. Bugged by the bait, I also threw my hat in the ring for that trip. Hats came in plenty very soon into the ring. My friend Danie, who knows neither Anand nor Vasu, heard of this and he too joined in. Danie spread the word and his friends whom I do not know also planned to join. Eventually, we finalised the date and venue with exactly 20 people and 10 bikes to conquer Tada Falls. Funnily, the longest distance in degrees of acquaintance among these 20 turned out to be 4. Yes, connect any of Danie’s friends to Vasu! Try that. Thus we planned for everything and were excited about this trip with great scope for biking, trekking and befriending new people.

Danie was reading some blogs about the place and we found a rough route map to the top through this blog. (Thanks to the writer). There was all the more reason for Danie to be more excited than us because swimming was also a part of this trip that he can enjoy. We are hydrophobic human beings when it comes to swimming !

The day before the trip. How many surprises can a plan face? Let me list them. The ‘longest distance in degree calculation’ became 3 now since all of Danie’s friends pulled out at the last minute. We were left with 13 men and about 5 bikes. The hunt for the bikes began. The bikes were having weak, already punctured, tubeless tyres or not having required papers to go for such a long distance. Bike acquirement and riders allocation became an interesting problem to solve. One could easily have given the rough sheet that we had with all permutations, probabilities etc. to a CAT aspirant and asked him to practice with that for his DI section questions. At last 11 of us started from Tambaram on the D-day in 5 bikes with 2 more bikes with single riders set to join us in Ambattur and in Thacchur en route to Tada. A funny bunch of people we were. The 13 comprised of a doctor, scientists, advertising men, software employees, an undergraduate first year student and even a pilot.

The surprises were not yet over. We planned to finish breakfast on the way near Gummidipoondi but the plan was busted by a burst tyre on the way. A few km near Thacchur, a Hero Honda Passion’s back wheel went flat and delayed proceedings (mainly breakfast) by a considerable time. Running out of patience, we barged into a roadside eatery which was not so great in first appearance. But we were emboldened by stories of Punjabi Dhabas – the dirtier the Dhaba the tastier the food – and I realised the mistake pretty soon. Rather my first mistake ie. selecting that shop for breakfast. I realised the second mistake I made at the hilltop in Tada later which was skipping breakfast because of taste. That story a few paras below.

After riding for about a 140 km from Tambaram via Chennai bypass, we reached Tada falls parking lot at about 11 AM. The road was simply superb and the ride was a breeze. There was a challenging trek ahead facing us at the foothills of Tada. Here arose a practical problem. Of all the riders, two of us were having costly helmets and we could not risk the helmet lying uncared with the bike at the parking lot. Even though my friend convinced me a lot saying that he personally will get me a better helmet looted from one of the helmet thievery hotspots in Chennai (Anna University parking lot, Besant Nagar beach parking lot etc.), I refused to let go of the helmet and it also accompanied me in the trek.

It was a long way to climb. The path becomes smaller and smaller as we move on and suddenly just vanishes, from where one paves his own path to the summit literally. It was a rough terrain to even walk with sharp stones, uneven ground and slippery rocks taking turns. My old worn out slippers were unreliable in the slippery areas and I had to use it in the ‘on and off mode’. In this aspect, I have to appreciate Arthiban who accompanied us with a Woodlands on his feet. His achievement? He managed to reach the hilltop without – at any point – wetting his shoes. Not even a drop ! And that too when the others could not make it without wetting all the way upto our undies ! There were three ankle deep streams that we had to cross and one or two places where the running water forms natural swimming pools. Arthiban crossed those streams by meticulously finding paths upstream or downstream where he could jump from rock to rock without wetting his shoes.

The streams were slippery to cross and a few of us had some funny falls before reaching the main falls. One could get injuries ranging from skin-deep scratches to fractures depending on the alignment of his stars during these slips. We even saw a person whose jaw bone had taken a severe hit on our way up as he was rushing down for medical aid.

There are chances of losing the direction on the trek as well. The streams that run down from the falls at the summit will guide you. You have to stay close to the path of these streams and it helps to remember a few landmarks to make your way down easier. There is a Sivan temple from where the paths become very narrow. It comes roughly about 45 minutes after you start walking from the parking lot. If you are tracing the path from this temple, you can be sure you are going in the right direction.

The trek is unmercifully tiring as well. It also tempts you with several breathtaking spots midway where you could easily decide to halt the flag and chill out the whole day. Our mission was to reach the top and hence we passed on all these places after brief sessions everywhere with photos and swimstops (or ‘dip and bath’ stops for people like us). The water is clear as a glass pot and cold as a glass pot kept in a refrigerator.

There were some really challenging rocks to climb as we went higher and higher. I will never forget two of them where our teamwork came to the fore. We had to spend time to plan to climb these rocks. The heftier men should lift the people from ground and someone has to support them from the top to go there. The task is to send the first man up without any support from above. With inspirations like Vijayakanth, Balayya and Jet Li we managed all these climbs with aplomb.

Finally we reached a point which seemed like there is no further way up. That spot was simply breathtaking, especially after reaching there after about 3-4 hours of trekking. Now is the time to explain my second mistake and a collective mistake we made. None of us except one have packed anything to eat. All our bodies were sucked out of all reserve energy and craving for food as we reached to the top. That was when we realised that we can’t have any food until we reach down. Luckily, our saviour Danie opened his magic box which contained two packets of bread loaves, two glucose packets and a tiffen box full of home-cooked beef. He had anticipated this and was surprised that we did not bring anything to eat and we had to thank our heavens for that. My mistake of skipping breakfast complicated things further for me and we managed it again by sharing all available food (which is enough for 5-6 people) among 13 hungry stomachs.
I will also remember this trip for eating beef for the first time. I am not a complete vegetarian but avoided beef for all these years. Considering the situation that I was in, I would have eaten even my college hostel’s rock-hard rotis and home cooked beef easily became my elixir.

There was a mini falls at that summit where the water is extremely chill and we enjoyed for a while there. There is also a big natural swimming pool near that place (below it) which is dangerously deep. Even the swimmer friends in our troop went for a brief distance and returned back sensing the water to be risky. Fittingly as were watching from hip-high safety, a stranger who had swam till a deep point in that pool, started to shout to us for help. He had lost confidence that he would make it back and unfortunately for him, we too were not confident or competent to save him. By divine intervention, some other onlookers quickly jumped in and saved that poor fellow. It was near-death for him! And I was thinking that this trip would be unforgettable for me for eating beef ! Luckily no untoward incident happened and he got his life back and our trip was not spoilt with bad memories. All is well.

That special falls at the other end of the pool !

With such great experiences, we descended down quickly – the return down took only about 40 minutes like most treks- and returned home with happy minds and tired feet.

And if you thought the surprises were all told above, wait till you read this.

A week after our trip, Danie had gone to the same place with those friends of his who missed the trip with us. They have managed to find a way higher from the point which we thought to be the highest where man could reach. They have ventured even higher and discovered another divine spot where the water from the tall hills falls vertically for about 50-60 feet directly into a pool.

Wondering if any man went still higher up ! Worth a trip for you too if you are game for adventure.



  1. ** "slippers were unreliable in the slippery areas and I had to use it in the ‘on and off mode’"

    ** "With inspirations like Vijayakanth, Balayya and Jet Li we managed all these climbs with aplomb"

    ** "The water is clear as a glass pot and cold as a glass pot kept in a refrigerator"

    ** "All is well."

    Machi.. It seems u had a very good experiance in that trip and to add the way u expressed the situations with the above statements is perfect. Keep going da...

  2. Loved reading na.. Distance in degrees of acquaintance is a thing worthy of cherishing.. Big clap for bringing it out.. Recreated the journey moments in a merrier way.. Thanks.. :)

  3. Thanks anand. Thanks for making this trip possible too :) If only you had not been browsing all those tourist blogs at office ...... ;)

  4. Hey njoyed reading a travelogue after a long time :) some of your experiences here reminds me off my expedition to vellingiri hills with my college mates :)

  5. Shit Man... Over Bulit up.. From Chennai to Tada is not Road Bike Trip.

    1. Actually yes.. Chennai to Tada is not a big bike ride to boast of.. Admitted :-) But the trek made the ride a memorable one..