The best part about traversing the unpopular trails has its share of unbiased fun and the power to enjoy at your own discretion. The Nagalapuram forest trek is one such fairly uncommon, 1-day trek in the Eastern Ghats. Even at a moderate pace and stops to refill bottles or clicking photos, one can complete the ascent in about 3-4 hours. More often than not trekkers descend and camp at the base. The Nagala hill with their rocky faces and beautifully sliced gorges have levels of hills – the easiest peak being approx. 650 meter high. The trail can be trekked in several ways, by crossing the range from East to West or vice-versa, or trekking to and fro from the eastern/western side.
The Nagalapuram village is located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, near Tirupati (a famous pilgrim place), about 90 kilometers from Chennai on NH5. However, the trek begins from the Arai village, which is around 15 km further from the Nagalapuram village. A motorable road can be taken up to the Koni reservoir, which also serves as the parking ground maintained by the local villagers. The parking fees range between Rs. 50 – Rs.200, depending on the vehicle.
We traveled from Bangalore for about 5 hours and took a pit-stop at Narayanvanam, that’s around 30 kilometers from the Arai village. After relishing on a hearty South Indian breakfast we geared up for the trek and headed towards the starting point.
The trek path winds up through a dense canopy of trees, gurgling waterfalls, refreshing streams, and crystal clear water pools. The rocky gorges that jut out are nothing short of a stunning piece of art. Sometimes the stretches get tricky and slippery and you need to be careful. The chasms get narrower at some points, making one hold on to dear life, like literally. It is not advisable to go without a guide, if you are an inexperienced trekker. Even if you are an experienced trekker, do avoid going alone.
Wandering about the thick forests, accompanied by the babbling brooks, you will see not one, not two, but three refreshing waterfalls cascading down into glorious water pools. These pools, famously known as magic pools, do not dry up even during the summers. The enchanted view gives a feeling of walking straight into some kind of storybook spot. The first two water pools are comparatively shallow, but the third water pool, the guide told, is 30 feet deep. Flowing over the course of time, the water has carved a smooth path on the surrounding rocky walls, forming a natural slide to this pool. Pro swimmers also cliff jump into this pool. Being a non-swimmer & a hydrophobic at that, I found it risky.
The waterholes are considerably deep and non-swimmers, especially, need to be wary of the fatalities. During the monsoons, trekkers have to deal with leeches. Luckily for me, I went trekking in the month of May. We still encountered small stretches with ganon of leeches. The forests also house a large number of bee colonies, so dress up to cover properly from head to toe. Do not trek at night, as some stretches are slippery and narrow. Don’t be reckless or put on a false bravado – it might turn a pleasant experience into a dreadful one. Descend and pitch the tents by sundown, if you wish to camp. It took us about 4 hours to trek uphill, with all the photography & catching-up breaks. After soaking and swimming in the water to our heart’s content and eating lunch by the waterfall at the summit, we trekked downhill and pitched our tents by 5ish.
It is especially important to visit and get yourselves registered at the Nagalapuram town police station when you are trekking on your own. Not only is it legal to sign in at the police station, but also quite essential from the safety point of view. You might as well be an experienced trekker, but safety is of prime importance.
Like any other day treks, Nagalapuram trek too requires a minimum level of fitness and stamina, if you wish to enjoy it without any worry or care. And just like a huge dose of mental strength that is required when you step out of your comfort zone, you need a great deal of it during trekking as well. Knowing how to swim will certainly let you enjoy the pools without any anxiety; the non-swimmers too can indulge in it provided they take the necessary care. Always listen to your body and do not push yourself to the extremes.
Things to Carry
Carry a daypack with all the essential stuff for a day/ 2-day trek including items of clothing, toiletries, insect repellent, basic medicines, food and water. Do consider the tents, sleeping bags and sleeping mats if you plan on camping. And finally, bring back whatever you are taking along, do not leave anything behind that will affect the place and the environment in any manner.
Happy trekking. Happy travels!