It’s not really 80 miles long. We hiked perhaps 30 miles. Much of the rest is closed to the public in an effort to save it. In the 1980's, Kodai students could really hike the full 80. The original trail stretches from the school to the Kerala border in deep wilderness all the way back to school.
We drove to Poondi camp on Friday night, the school's "wilderness camp." Kitchen staff made us chicken tandoori, roast potatoes, beans and hot chocolate for dinner under the covered court. They set out coals to cook doughboys. We slept in tents, though. I'm sorry, we tried to sleep.
In the morning we hoisted 50 lb. packs, and hiked up a staircase of rocks to the first ridge. The sun was behind clouds, so nobody died.
We used roads the British built in case of Japanese invasion. They're very overgrown now, but still signs of the Raj can be found. This milestone became a kilometer stone sometime after 1947. What the British chipped into it, the Tamils painted over.
When we reached Ibex Cliffs, we looked down. Well, first we sat down, then looked down.
What we saw impressed us.
We tried pitching our tents near the edge. It didn't work too well due to the constant 35 mph wind.
So we found another place to camp, in a slightly sheltered place. We made a fire (a minor miracle), had hot soup for dinner. We went back to the cliffs to watch the lights on the plains. Then we bedded down in a light drizzle. At 4am, the heavens opened, and most tents were filled to the brim. In the morning, we awoke inside a cloud.
A morning of hard hiking brought us to the Kerala border and the Pampadum Shola National Park. It's a nice park.
On the way back we walked through Leech Meadows. It's a series of glades known for an impressive leech population. We were bitten many times. We saw many piles of fresh elephant dung. We were not charged, but we were impressed by the leeches. You could see them on the ground, some 4 and 5 inches long. I did not dally to take photos. But when we stopped to pick them off, I did snap a shot or two.
The hike was long and hard. We were delayed by many fallen tress, a fresh gaur skeleton, a natural spring with delicious cold water, and a stream crossing that required the removal of shoes. But we were welcomed back to civilization, after dark, with a manly movie poster in the town of Poondi. We were all impressed with the manliness portrayed.
After I got home, I washed two days of dirt off. It took a lot of effort. Then when I unpacked my bag, I found a leech hiding in my undershirt. I evicted it promptly.