Started in 2008 by Peter Van Geit, a Belgian who had been employed by an IT company in Chennai, the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) was merely an attempt to find like-minded people for group treks and biking trips. Today, it is a 40,000-member non-profit group that organises a gamut of activities in various states (mostly southern) on weekends and weekday mornings. But it’s far from your typical urban tour operator. Its excursions are driven completely by volunteers, and the expenses are divided equally among the participants. The event calendar of the club includes regular activities like treks on nearby wilderness trails, trail runs and outdoor swims, photo walks in and around the city, motorcycling tours in South and North India, as well as international destinations like Bhutan, and even two editions of the Chennai Triathlon.
Signing up for a trek with CTC requires newbies to clear a fitness test with suitable timing. Fitness tests started in the group in 2011 to select participants for tough treks. But now, they’re conducted bi-weekly and participants can enroll to keep an eye on their own fitness levels or train for major sporting events. On the cycling front, CTC conducts 2-3 day trips, week-long and fortnightly trips on muddy trails surrounded by nature’s bounty. Long-distance MTB expeditions include cross-country rides, and international tours in Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Aware of its responsibility towards the environment and society, the club is active on the welfare volunteering and sustainability fronts as well. Its green wing, Ainthinai, organises tree plantation and maintenance drives coupled with camping activities. In the process, it has planted and nurtured 14,000 trees in and around the city in the last four years. Another branch, Chennai Red Knights, organises blood and platelet donation events through the year, and in times of disasters like the 2015 flood. CTC volunteers also undertake regular beach clean-up drives in the city, along with the annual Chennai Coastal Cleanup that they have been doing for eight years now.
In a bid to help the environment and the underprivileged, CTC took up the waste management of Nochi Nagar slum colony, which consists of 640 households. In a year, the volunteers made 250 families segregate their household waste and divert five tonnes of it every month from landfill to composting and recycling. In the process, they built a self-sustaining system of waste disposal for the colony, while also helping the residents sell the compost generated and aspire for a zero-waste zone. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see chennaitrekkers.org for a calendar of their upcoming events.