Excited, nervous, scared and happy. My exact feelings when the train pulled out of the station with a jerk. I was travelling alone to Bangalore to attend a programme by Inme as a volunteer. Though there were many humans travelling with me but they were as much of a stranger to me as I was to Bangalore.After 22 hours of wait in the train I finally reached my destination, Bangalore. I headed straight to my accommodation and had a good sleep till 12 o’clock in the afternoon.
Yercaud from Bangalore is about 4 hours 22 minutes. We had to leave by 6:00 in the morning. So there I was, on the road again with 79 kids and about 10 instructors. The road was beautiful! The winding roads left everybody in awe.
After we reached Yercaud camp site, which was a private land of Inme, we were immediately given lunch. The KPRD (khana peena rona dhona) place as we called it, gave a view which made eating exotic. After which the kids were introduced to the camp rules and boundaries and were allotted the tents. Yes, we had tents too.
After putting the kids into their tents, the volunteers were introduced to the instructors. We were divided into four teams with four members each. Later in the day the teams were made with the kids and there were about 19 to 20 kids in each team, which was quite easy to manage.
The activities were decided for the next day. there were four activities to be chosen from, rock climbing, wilderness craft, bagpacking and ropes course. Our team was called KASHMIASAHABADE (Christianed so by the kids in our team. Still figuring out what it means). Our day one activity was bagpacking (you basically learn how to efficiently pack your bags when you have too much to carry in limited space). In bagpacking we also learnt how to make a map of a certain area, and how to make and remember the landmarks.
Pointer: never make a temporary thing you landmark. Your landmark should always be a permanent structure or a natural mark, like trees etc.
And believe me when I say this there were some beautiful and intelligent maps. I did try to make one, but mine looked like a really weird maze.
During the walk in the jungle, we saw many trees and also coffee plantations and learned how to distinguish between two coffee plantations. Our resting place for the day was the factory where coffee beans were separated from the seeds and then sent for further production. Soon after the explaination about the coffee process we headed to an abandoned house where our group leader, Tony Sir demonstrated how to pitch a tent. Back to our camp site we had our lunch and then the day went by playing with the kids.
The night got with it a huge storm accompanied rains. Tents got wet. We knew now that there are more coming, and the next time, we will be prepared. After hardly any sleep at night, because the kids came in and constantly woke us up at night, complaining of insects inside the tents, (Solving their problems gave us new thrill) the morning was still fresh and beautiful. Morning brought with it a new day, starting off with power up activities. Which were basically small rhymes to make exercise more exciting for the kids.
After the power up and before leaving from the camp for our respective activities we had a surprise guest visitor introduced to us by our Campus Chief Uma Shankar Sir. Guess who it was, you’ll never be able to guess, it was a SCORPION! We learned a lot about scorpions that day, the most important one was, there is nothing to be afraid of, they are little creation of the nature like we are. They are nature, let them be and they will let you be.
After meeting our guests we proceeded towards our respective activities. Our activity for the day was Ropes Course. In this activity we have different styles of walks using ropes and also walking on the ropes. Trust me its all about balance. You learn balance! With it we also did ziplining which was, frankly the most fun part of that day!
The night dawned on us this time without rain, and we slept. The morning was sunny on the third day, but exciting at the very same time because today we were going for wilderness craft (fyi, its my favourite out of the four). We packed the necessary things and off we went on a very thrilling path. We literally walked on the edge of the cliff. It was just breathtakingly amazing (if that’s even a word :P).
After walking for about 1 hour 30 minutes, we took a stop where Tony sir explained to us how to light a fire by three ways. They were, flint and steel, matchbox and small gas stove. We were also made aware of what is the most combustible in wild, which is cotton. It catches fire very easily. Some embarrassing revelations. Frankly, I have never lit a match stick, and I was asked by Tony sir to demonstrate it to the kids. I did not want to disappoint Tony Sir, so I took the task in hand, and for the very first time in my whole existence I lit a match stick. It was scary, but it was amazing (phat gayi, par maza aa gaya). With that new learning we made hot chocolate and headed straight towards the camp site, where there was pasta waiting for us!
That night was an ultimate night, at around 6 when its usually not that dark, clouds came over us and it felt like it was night already. It rained cats and dogs that night, with heavy lightning and also hailstorm for a short period of time. There was no light, the kids were scared, some were crying, they were all entertained by the instructors and kept sane. The rain bought with it a lot of disasters as well, like there were tents which were torn and broken. But it was all good in the end.
The night moved on and a new day came by. Fourth day brought with it new adventures. Rock climbing! We took the kids inside the jungle near a huge rock which they would climb. There are two aspect in rock climbing. One bouldering, in which you climb a rock with techniques (some types of holds you need to know for both), without the help of a rope, which is tied to your waist with the help of a harness. A rock of about 10ft can be considered as a boulder and would be safe to climb without a rope. A rock more than 10ft requires you to have a rope tied to your waist with the help of a harness and you have a belayer to control your fall, if you loose your grip or if you slip. Helmet is a must in both the activities. The kids were a bit scared but everyone did it, and so did I (yayyy, dancing right now). After finishing the last activity of the camp, we all headed back to the camp site. The usual activities went by and we all were sound asleep in no time.
The next day was Helter Skelter time. This is a time period when all the kids are divided into four groups, totally different from their previous groups and compete with each other in different games. They are all given certain number of points in the very beginning, rest they have to earn on their own. The games were so amazing that the kids and so did we, totally indulged ourselves in it and competed with each other with bitter rivalry. Loved it. We became kids for one day to!
That night was very emotional for everyone all the kids got a DJ night and we were having our last volunteer-instructor meeting. After the meeting we the volunteers and some instructors sneaked out in the night to the watch tower. The view from there at night still remains in my eyes. I would never ever in my whole living life will forget what vision my eyes beheld. I close my eyes and I still see that lighted India map, never have I ever seen anything more mystical than that! I was so glad we made that trip.
(Sorry I don’t have any picture, was to busy capturing in my minds eye… :P)
When the sun woke us up the next morning, it was the day for Goodbye’s. We had to leave for Bangalore by lunch time. Everyone was busy packing their stuff, telling each other how much they loved the camp, making promises to stay in touch. So did the volunteers and so did the instructors.
“The trip” as I call it was another great learning experience. Learned to survive, learned to be nice, learned to stay together, learned to be kind and most of all learned to be a kid at heart always, because that’s what is going to get you through life!
Hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and experiencing it. If you are already here, please don’t leave without leaving a like or a comment, it only helps me to improve. Please don’t hesitate to leave any criticism, its the only thing most welcomed! And also any further details, questions or collaboration or a travel opportunity please give me a call or write me an email!