By Mona Sathya

Day 1: 25th September

For purpose of creating awareness and contributing to the cleanliness of the beautiful yelagiri hills, I along with my fellow classmates went on a trip to the yelagiri hills.

After waiting for our friends to arrive for the journey, at around 2 pm, we started from our school to yelagiri on a bus we listened to music, had a nap, and chatted about what might arise later on the trip. We stopped in the middle of the trip to have some snacks and the trip took about 6 hours in total. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the camp guide. After an exhausting walk from the bus to the campgrounds carrying all our luggage, we took a breath of relief and updates our parents on the journey. With our knowledge of tent pitching from the live demonstration at our school and some youtube tutorials, we successfully pitched our tents. After some time, we had a delicious dinner which was provided. We returned to our tents and jumped inside to get rest. Nobody including me could sleep as it was a completely new place but after a while it became cozy and, everybody dozed off.

26th September

I woke up at around 5.45 am, got ready, and had tea. We engaged in some stretches and warming up for our bodies to prepare for our tiring day ahead. everyone walked to the bus while carrying the posters we crafted at school about creating awareness to reduce pollution. The guide divided us into four groups before reaching the temple that we cleaned. We named our team “monster” as our team leader favored that word. Each team was given a location in the temple to clean. My team was given a place where we mainly found disposable cutlery.

We cleaned all the paper plates, plastic disposable covers, and plastic wrappers. While looking for a garbage can to dispose of our collection, we could only find one at the end of the temple. If there were garbage bins around the temple, especially where people eat, there would be less garbage thrown around the temple. By the end of our cleaning, I felt satisfied with our service as a temple is no place to be polluted and we had just cleaned it. We gathered on top of the temple to discuss the need to keep places clean. We were told how important it is for holy places to be kept clean and how awareness is important. We stuck our posters around the temple to create awareness about pollution among the temple visitors.

We returned to the camp, had our breakfast, and took some rest before going to a lakeside park to continue our service.

We traveled on a bus near the lakeside park and had to walk to the park as buses cannot drive near the park. The walk took about 10 minutes. As soon as we got there, we took our garbage bags, wore our gloves, and dove into action without teams. My team cleaned many spots in the park and the bags kept filling. We found some parcel packaging waste, likely thrown by people after they’ve had their meal. Mostly there were ice cream product wrappers, plastic water, and juice bottles lying around. Unlike the temple, there were a few garbage bins around the park but there definitely should have been more as the bins were farther from where people hang out or have snacks. We stuck some placards and posters around the park to create awareness in people who come to this park.

After we finished our cleaning, we sat on the park benches and were told about a sketch we should do that night after dinner. We discussed what we were going to do with our respective teammates for a while.

Afterward, we quizzed random parkgoers about how they dispose of their waste, what they think about littering public places like the park, and more. We were surprised by the visit of the town panchayat leader, who talked with us about their initiatives for a green future and appreciated us for our efforts.

We returned to the campsite and got refreshed before having our lunch. We took a rest at the campsite until 2.30. I used this time to update my parents about my day and socialize with others.

At around 3 pm we went to the adventure activity area which excited everyone. There were many options so I was overwhelmed by the choices. I decided to try driving the ATV, with no proper driving experience in the past. In the middle of driving the ATV, I made a mistake, which made the ATV flip almost upside down. I quickly stood up and brushed my sand-covered pants. It was really embarrassing but thankfully no one except my 3 friends saw me do that as everyone else was busy doing their activity. The people at the center fixed the vehicle and my friends encouraged me to drive it again. I drove it perfectly to the endpoint which made me happy.

For my next activity, I made the impulsive decision to go zip-lining for the first time. I didn’t feel scared at all and the experience was very thrilling. Then I tried archery where I learned that I am terrible at it. At last, I went water zorbing in which I felt like being trapped in a giant bubble wrap floating on water with some helpless kids and two teachers. We were constantly falling and squashing each other but in the end, it was completely worth it as we couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we were acting. The adventure activity was very fun and thrilling. I got to do many things that I wouldn’t usually do.

We returned to the camp and we were immediately told that we had to prepare dinner for everyone. While the majority of students chose to make the chapati or light firewood for cooking, I and 3 others decided to make the main dish, the sabzi. We started by cutting any vegetables we could find even without a recipe. My fellow cook, Jumana gave us the hope that she can lead us as she was the only person with any cooking experience. Before we could finish cutting up vegetables, the chapati team finished making chapati which made us very envious.

We marched to the firewood stove, with cut vegetables, spices, oil, and hope in our hands. Our teachers guided us on how to cut vegetables and how many spices to add so which made it easier. We managed to make a decent sabzi with the help of Jumanah and the guidance of our teachers.

We were exhausted by the end and we were treated to barbeque around the campfire. We then had our dinner which was the aforementioned chapati and sabzi. After dinner, we got ready to perform the skit in front of everyone.

We watched other groups’ performances which were very hilarious compared to my team’s skit. Finally, our team’s turn came and we performed whatever we had prepared. Our team talked about how we can be sustainable without plastic. We talked about our traditional accessories such as straw bags, metal boxes, and cloth bags. We delivered this information by acting like a person from a different period with different habits. I played the village woman who talked about how I use less plastic by using straw or woven bags and metal lunch boxes.

After the skit performances, we had a small celebration for our dance teacher’s birthday. We got refreshed and went to our well-deserved slumber not long after that. We all contemplated how we would survive the trekking trip after a such tiring day.

27th September

Everyone woke up around 4.30 am. We freshened up and got ready as fast as we can before the sun rises for the trekking. We were provided with bread jam and some tea and coffee. After having them we immersed in some stretches and warmup to get ready for the tedious trekking we were about to begin. We held our torches in our hands and had our water bottles in our bags and started the trek. The first part was hard as we had to walk through wet rocks with no light source other than the torches. It was very thrilling and a little scary as I was aware that people were slipping into the rocks. I took help from one of the students, who guided me safely through the rocks. As I was walking away from the slippery rock part, I noticed that the sun had risen. After that, we walked for a long, easy walk to the top of the hill. Once we reached the top, we took some pictures and had a rest for about 20 minutes.

We then walked to a waterfall that was 40 minutes away from the hilltop. The waterfall was downstream so the walk seemed easy. As we were making our way to the entrance of the forest leading down to the waterfall, it got hard. The walk was risky as their path was irregular and slippery in some places. There were loads of spiders and other insects on our way. We patiently navigated our way to the waterfall. Once I got there, I sat on a rock and got some rest.

The way back seemed faster and less scary. Once we reached the campsite everybody was wearied of the experience. We had our breakfast and at around 10.30 am, we talked to an elderly woman who told us about the importance of medicinal plants grown in the hills.

Everyone was in no shape to make lunch so we were rested until we were provided with lunch. After having lunch we were asked to get ready for our trip back home. We packed our bags, kept them aside and went to clean the campsite which was littered by us. Once we were done cleaning the campsite, we carried our bags and got on the bus.

We were supposed to stop by the fundera bird park to learn about the exotic birds on our way but the weather didn’t support us so we headed straight to Chennai. The trip back home was very quick as I spent most of the time sleeping. We reached the school by 11 pm and that concludes our trip.

I feel grateful to go on such an exclusive trip. I have learned so many things like how to adjust to new environments and how to make a simple dish. The trip has opened me to liking thrilling new activities. I have gotten out of my comfort zone and I have explored my capabilities in terms of physical potential.  

Moving on to the purpose of this trip, The feeling of contentment I experienced during this process was indescribable. It was a sense of fulfillment that came from knowing that I was making a positive impact on the world around me. It was a feeling that stayed with me long after I finished cleaning the park.

In conclusion, cleaning public places and providing people with some sensibility about pollution was a deeply satisfying experience. It not only helped to make the community a cleaner and more beautiful place but also gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I encourage everyone to take action and make a positive impact on their communities, as it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives