The Great Hyderabad Adventure Club wants Hyderabad to shed its laidback label and get adventurous.
On the rocks or on a boat, we wonder, exchange text messages and finally zero in on a stretch of rocks in Madhapur. “We are game to be there by 6.30 a.m.,” Diyanat Ali, the founder of Great Hyderabad Adventure Club tells us days before the shoot. We factor in the possibility of getting the required photographs on a misty morning (and of course, the ordeal of dragging yourself out of bed at unearthly hours to reach Madhapur at 6.30) and decide on 7.30 - 8 a.m.
Finally, when I drive uphill, a few yards away from Inorbit mall, the adventurous five have just begun climbing up the rocks. I feel confident of joining them in a few minutes but then, where do I start? There seems to be no path, only haphazard bushes, shrubs and uneven surfaces! The group lets us in on a few basics of rock climbing.
A good 30 minutes later, we peer down atop a rock and find ourselves looking down at the serene Durgam Cheruvu against the early morning sun.
“We are crazy about adventure,” says Ranga. “But we are not crazy people,” adds Deepam Morparia. “Safety is our first priority,” says Dr. Vibha Naik. She should know. As an anaesthesiologist who is part of the GHAC, she takes charge of first aid.
Perched on the rocks, the five members — Diyanat Ali, Ranga Vutukuru, Deepam Morparia, Dr. Vibha Naik and Padmaja Pullabhatla — who represent the 50-odd organising committee of the 3300 member group, take us back to where it all started. Each one of them hails from a different industry and the thirst for adventure binds them together.
Diyanat wants Hyderabad to shed its laidback label and be called an adventure city. As a school child, he remembers walking all the way from Banjara Hills to Golconda Fort or Charminar. “I had very less pocket money, but I wanted to trek,” he recalls. Some of his peers thought he was crazy; others encouraged him. He learnt the basic tenets of trekking and camping at NCC (he was the best NCC cadet from AP in 1997). As a youngster, he wanted to explore further. Unhappy with the lack of organised, accessible clubs that could provide help for adventure enthusiasts, he founded GHAC in 2008.
“It was tough for a year. We were a bunch of 30 to 40 people who went on adventure trips and hoped that more likeminded people will join,” he says. The photographs from these trips posted on social networking sites and word-of-mouth publicity helped. In a year, there were 700 members. Today, the number has swelled to 3300, out of which 1000 are active members taking part in treks on a regular basis.
GHAC doesn't charge membership fee. Sometimes you need to pay just Rs. 30 for a local trek! “We believe in budget travel. The charge is minimal for basic amenities and equipment,” says Diyanat.
Wealth of resources
“Andhra Pradesh has a wealth of adventure trails waiting to be explored. The forests and rock formations are unique. Even Hampi, which is sought after by foreign travellers for adventure trips, does not have this advantage. I explored Hampi with a small group and found that AP stands a better chance,” says Ranga. A specialist in bouldering, Ranga is ready to offer beginners tips on bouldering, finding the right rock climbing shoes and equipment like crash pads. “Rock climbing, rappelling and other activities make you focussed, teach you to fight against all odds and boosts your endurance levels. I stay calmer and focussed at work,” he says. During the week, he heads a team at a software firm.
Deepam Morparia seconds Ranga's view that AP is blessed with nature trails. “But the problem is, you have to know whether these forest areas are under the control of Naxals.” Deepam, an IIT Mumbai alumnus, trained in mountaineering at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and has been part of adventure activities since the early 80s. A guide to beginners in mountaineering, he rates rappelling and rock climbing at Shamirpet and Moula Ali as must-take adventure trips.
GHAC has men, women and children. Padmaja feels participating in the Mount Everest base camp helped her overcome the limitations of being an asthmatic. “Two weeks at the camp and I realised how the human body, with some effort, adapts itself to tough situations. The effort was worth every bit. The landscape that unfolds at every altitude is worth remembering for a lifetime,” she says. Last weekend, she went on a trek to Harishchandragad Fort and rates it among the toughest. “One step in the wrong direction and it would have cost us dear,” she says.
Dr. Vibha, who has led teams on different treks, ensures that a few members attend the first aid certificate course organised every few months. “Everything is planned, from the list of medication and first aid kit to documentation required for the tour,” she says. She gives a thumbs up to children treks: “Treks promote a healthy lifestyle and get children back to nature, away from their gadgets and television. On one of our trips, children were excited to camp in the jungle.” Her 11-year-old daughter has helped with treks as a junior organiser.
Beginners are trained in trekking skills. “The training is a must before they join us on trips,” asserts Diyanat. The group factors in the need to have different treks for different groups. “Sometimes we go on weekend travel where there is no adventure involved,” says Diyanat.
This being the peak season for adventure, various teams from GHAC have their itinerary chalked out for every weekend. Diyanat sums up saying, “Today, 90 per cent of our members are those from other cities who've come to work in Hyderabad. We'd like more Hyderabadis to come forward and indulge in adventure sports.” Aye to that.
(GHAC can be contacted at http://meetup.ghac.in)
Back to basics
# The GHAC today has more than 3300 members and organises adventure trips for different groups — easy, medium and tough levels. Trekking, rappelling, mountaineering, scuba diving, surfing and river rafting are some of the activities.
# Activities are organised for different age groups — children to elders in their 50s.
# Each trip is taken up only after research. The organising team gets the information on nearby hospitals, obtains permission from police station, is aware of the possible risks along the route, ensures first aid and the right equipment are in place.
# First aid certificate course is organised periodically.