There is a sense of defiance among trekkers and adventure seekers of the city. Many of them are determined to carry on as usual and take these trekking trips whenever they become available.
The online world reflected the thinking among the trekkers that the one tragedy of the Kurangani trek should not stop them from enjoying what they like best, which is to get away from the city and grab a bit of the country air over long weekends.
There has been some support too for the Chennai Trekking Club whose Belgian founder is on the run currently and whose antecedents are being looked into. As Arun (Irumbu Manithan or Iron Man) posts on Twitter, ‘The CTC and its founder Peter Van Geit, gave an opportunity to youth from rural and semi urban backgrounds to savour life beyond the confines of the BPOs were one assumes, that most of them were employed.
Others like Vinay Aravind are upset. On twitter, he posts, ‘The Hindutva brigade is using the Theni forest fire tragedy to insinuate that Chennai Trekking Club is a Church funded evangelical organisation...why?...it’s run by a Belgian!
Astonishing.’ The organisation claims to be a non-profit colunteer-based group organising “hundreds of outdoor, sports, environment and social activities each year during weekday mornings and weekends. All activities are free —expenses are shared equally among participants,” its website informs.
It is clear that the organisation did not do well in handling the Kurangani trek. There have been fierce reactions from Karnataka and Kerala which have shut down treks until the first rains come and the forests get a little moist and the danger of summer forest fires starts fading. Meanwhile, there will be other activities that the IT and BPO crowd can savour while the heat over hill trekking cools. “One botched expedition should not stop the entire activit. It is like saying stop all motor vehicles because of one bad road accident,” says T. Lawrence, an avid mountain trekker.
Smitha TK and Srini Swaminathan are great fans of the Chennai Trekking Club, which they say plans treks and outings meticulously, with well informed guides taking participants through enjoyable experiences. However, there is no getting away from the fact that this one downhill through a raging forest fire was terribly botched by the organisation and the trekkers who ran helter skelter at the signs of danger without being shepherded to safety by someone who knew the terrain and took them away to the safest possible distance away from the threat.
There are excellent trekking spots in the hills of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Some of them are splendidly organised like the one through the western catchment to the Mukurthi Peak from Ooty, which is a brilliant sally into nature. Guided by a forester who comes prepared with just his experience to take people through a full-day trek to the peak and back, tourists feel absolutely safe and delighted with the sheer beauty of nature as the hills and valleys of the Nilgiris roll on and on like in Scotland.