Welcome to the official blog for Raleigh India 12I | July - August 2012

Welcome to the Official Blog for Raleigh India 12J September - December 2012.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Tango Six - The Story Continues

As promised yesterday, here's the second and final part of Fabian's impressions of life on Tango Six. Thanks again, Fabian.

I've interspersed a few photos taken by David when he was with Tango Six on phase 1.

Within five minutes of our leaving the bus, the rain started. But Tango Six would not be disheartened, largely down to the unwaveringly chilled leadership of our resident guitar player, Chris. Shepherded by our new guide Mr Manesh, we embarked on our 200 km voyage.

Twisting and turning up the mountain path we raced, anxious to find our first campsite, an hour faster than the previous Tango Six. There we found the most luxurious campsite of the entire trek, with huge shelter, fire pit, chairs and bucket shower. However I could not rest. The daunting realisation of climbing the second-highest mountain in India outside the Himalayas was at the forefront of my mind.

Not exactly a 'walk in the park'

At four o’clock the next morning the sound of rain beating against our tent tested my resolve. I’m terrible at getting up and, as day leader, also had to force the rest of the troops to get going. Braving the storm we packed everything, ate the fiftieth porridge of our expedition, and set out into the rain wearing our 20kg backpacks.

Pauline led the most ridiculous look list, combining the three-bowl system on her back and a massive poncho to appear like Quasimodo’s slightly more hunched wife. It was bitterly cold, my boots were sodden and my hands burned in the fierce wind, but we trudged on. Our only respite was a derelict shack with no windows, only half the walls and graffiti from previous Tango Sixes. 

Soon the sunlight came into view and the beast we had come to tame became tangible. Its peaks blanketed by cloud seemed so close. We battled on, the hills acting as giant steps up to the top, stopping only to be stunned by the dramatic valleys below. The gradients increased but our team struggled on, encouraged by Jess’s appalling singing and Stalin’s comic genius. Carrot brought us up from the rear with shouts of ‘Super!’ and Sarah played her medical role to perfection. 

Where the chai comes from - tea plantations

Before we knew it we were atop the tamed animal, triumphantly eating crackers and cheese in celebration of the incredible challenge we’d overcome. However, only half the battle was won. As we quickly found out, the descent can be just as fierce as the climb. 

The new bane of our existence turned up in force – leeches, literally biting at our heels and waiting to sink their suckers into our legs to try to bleed us dry.

The mist seemed to descend with us and the clouds drifted over the undulating tea plantations like thick smoke. Out of the mist we came, and a glorious sight came into view – three pristine jeeps. After nearly eight hours of walking, we bounced down to the town to the tune of Akon and once again devoured parotta and chai, this time fully earned. 

Above the clouds

The next week and a half has flown past, helped immensely by the unblinking sunshine. The terrain has ranged from deep jungle to open plains, cowboy grass to cardamom plantations, with unimaginable views. Once I could see the whole of Tamil Nadu stretching away like an ocean beneath a line of mountains.

Not your everyday views

Each campsite has come with its unique selling point. Some lie submerged under a green sea of canopied trees, the leaves parting for a moment to show the blue sky above only to drift back into place. Others gaze on sunken lakes or endless landscapes. Sometimes our severely dirty and smelly selves even enjoy the use of a bucket shower or lazy river.

Trekking an average of 16 kms a day has united us further, helped by the tendency to share stories of our ‘long drop’ experiences and hygiene-related proclivities. When one member struggles, we all struggle. We walk at one pace for all, caring for each individual.

We’ve just completed a 27 km trek in unbelievable heat, with only the dream of parotta and chai to fuel us as motivation. The fact that we finished the distance in about eight hours with a break is a testament to our work ethic and sheer determination.

Before I finish, I must mention the most momentous part of the trip. Just after we had rowed across a reservoir on our self-made raft, a fully-grown elephant appeared in the shadows of the trees a hundred metres away across a small body of water. Just as we began to pack away our bags, it emerged from the forest. Its sheer white tusks shimmering in the sun, trunk swinging and swirling, it padded down to the water’s edge. The scene was mesmerising, a perfect coincidence and awesome in the purest sense of the word. A magnificent wild beast with a natural beauty worthy of God.

News from Tango Five coming up very shortly...


  1. Jocelyn Tango 6
    Hello darling,
    It sounds like yiuhad an amazing ex perience on treck. I hope that your old knees are not too batterd and that the other joints have clicked into place. It is good to read that you have 'tamed the beast' and that troy has also come to say hello.
    You must be on your way back to fieldbase by now ready to pack your rucksacks for the journey home. Can't wait for your shopping list! See you on Wednesday Mum, Dad &Tom xxx

  2. To Pauline Hannema Tango 6
    Heerlijk om te lezen hoe het met jullie gaat; het klinkt fantastisch!! Als ik het goed begrijp zijn jullie zondag weer op Field Base en is het bijna voorbij.
    Hier heeft het gesneeuwd en is alles 1 dag wit geweest. Vanavond gaat het dooien; jammer want het is zo mooi nu.
    Spreek je hopelijk snel, dikke zoen mam.

  3. Lindy Richardson9 December 2012 at 14:49

    Fabian 12 J
    cc: Anna R 12 J
    Fabulous blog Fabian - thank you for the wonderful descriptions of your trek. Congratulations on everything you have achieved as a Raleigh venturer.
    Have a good trip home and a Happy Christmas.
    Kind regards,
    Lindy Richardson (Anna's mum)

  4. Fabian,

    Wonderfully written as one might expect from a writer in the making. Sounds like you are having one hell of a time, I thought the trek might be the making of you but true to your form in the 3 peaks you conquered it.

    Quick request, you had better have bought me some cliche gap year clothes

    love hugo