A South Indian Trekking Guide by a South Indian

Monday, July 05, 2004

The Mulayanagiri Trek

Trip : Mulayanagiri
Places Visited : Mulayanagiri, Baba Budan Giri, Kemmannagundi
Dates : 25-Jan-2004, 26-Jan-2004
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Anil Krishnan(Kanchan), Dinkar(Dinkan), Kannan(Chetti), Rajesh(KP), Renjith(Dada), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sreepad(Pad), Sushen

We had to go somewhere. It was almost 4 months since Kudremukh. Our legs had started atrophying. We needed to think fast.

Warri ruled out his presence. He had to prepare for a quarter mile race in his newly ported RD350. Dinkan asked me if there was any trekking involved. Knowing that he would not budge an inch out of his lair if I said 'yes', I lied.

Aliyan had some work at the office on 24th Saturday. Hence we postponed the trip by one day. Monday the 26th, being the Republic Day, was a holiday for everybody.

We started on Saturday, in a Tempo Traveller from Prerana Tours and Travels. The first destination was Mulayanagiri, the tallest peak in Karnataka. In fact it is the highest in the region between the Vindhyas and the southern part of Western Ghats. At a height of 6250 feet, it was indeed going to be a climb. We took the Tumkur road and proceeded to Hassan via Nelamangala. From Hassan it was a direct road to Chikmagalur.

We reached Chikmagalur by 4:00 in the morning. We were too early. We had tea from a roadside stall in front of the main bus stand of Chikmagalur.

After asking for directions to Mulayanagiri, we proceeded. Soon we were climbing along a hilly road. At one point, we stopped to breathe in the mountain air. Chetti had built up a huge pressure by this time and had to go. Armed with a few tissues he stepped into the darkness.

We could see the lights of Chikmagalur town down below. Dawn was still an hour away. After Chetti came back we proceeded towards Mulayanagiri. We reached a fork in the road. The sign board was unreadable. We took a left as that seemed to be going towards the peak (or so it seemed in the dark). The road suddenly became very narrow. Thanks to some skillful driving we reached a level spot. There was a temple here. Everyone except Chetti was elated. This seemed like the temple on top of Mulayanagiri. We had accomplished the tallest peak in Karnataka albeit without any trekking.

We checked out with the temple priest. He told us that this was not Mulayanagiri. Seems we shouldn't have taken the left at the fork.

We traced our way back to the fork in the road and continued ahead. Soon we came to a metal gate with a few steps cut in the rock. Chetti realized that he had seen a photograph of this and it was precisely the place where trekkers usually start.

Asking the driver to come back in the evening to the same spot and wait for us, we took our first step. Time was 6:00 in the morning. It was no longer dark. The first rays of the morning sun had started coming in. The rock-cut steps soon disappeared and the real climb started. The path was very steep and narrow. Dinkan, who was not used to the idea of roughing it out, soon fell behind. Very often we had to stop to let him catch up with us.

As we neared the top we could see the ouline of the temple which was situated on the very top of the peak. Just before the temple walls we saw a cave. We clambered over rocks, reached the cave and took a few of snaps.

Soon we reached the top of Mulayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka State. In fact the highest between the Vindhyas and the southern section of Western Ghats. It was no small achievement. We had completed the trek in just over an hour.

We sat in the steps of the temple, partly due to exhaustion and partly to savour the fresh mountain breeze, served with a generous mix of morning mist. It was indeed lovely. To top it all we had completed our two day trek in one hour. The time had come to enjoy the spoils of our labour.

We met another group who had stayed overnight on top of the temple. They had stayed inside the temple. Soon they started their trek back.

We asked the priest if any breakfast was available. He said yes and went on to tell his wife to make some.

(To be completed)

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Kudremukh Trek

Trip : Kudremukh
Places Visited : Navoor, Tolali, Kudremukh(Well... Almost)
Dates : 28-Sep-2003, 29-Sep-2003
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Aneesh(Pringani), Anil Krishnan(Kanchan), Deepak, Jomy(Pattalam), Kannan(Chetti), Sandeep(Sangeeth's Brother), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Sreepad(Pad), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

After the hugely successful Kodachadri Trek
we were dying to go for another trek, before the rainy season got over. The place was already in our minds. After the disappointment of the Kudremukh leg of our Kemmannagundi Trip in late 2000, we were determined to conquer the actual Kudremukh.

Chetti found a page "Trekking Kudremukh" by Manoj Kummini. Though he was from my hometown of Shoranur in Kerala, India, I did not know him. Anyway, Chetti contacted him through mail and he gave us appropriate directions. Chetti went and bought the required maps from Survey of India office at Koramangala, Bangalore.

We were all set with snuff powder (as a defense against leeches), maps, cameras, trekking shoes etc. We decided against carrying tents as it would hamper our trek, and also because there was a place caled Lobomane in Tolali where we could stay. Lobomane or "Lobo's house" was a house made by Simon Lobo, a priest who made the Kudremukh ranges his home. He was described as an 96 year old man in a report by D. Nagesh Kumar, then of IISc, Bangalore, in November, 1988. By the time Manoj Kummini did the trek in late 2002, Simon Lobo had passed away. Lobomane was under a caretaker called Shankar then.

We expected to see Shankar in Tolali, who would then arrange our accomodation. The plan was perfect.

We started on a Friday night as usual. The Tempo Traveller was arranged from Prerana Tours and Travels. Deepak had to be in office till 12:00 in the night. So we decided to have our supper at Hotel Empire in Shivajinagar, Bangalore. Kanchan was also having night duty in office. He joined us at the Hotel. After supper we collected Deepak from his residence at Infantry Road and were on our way.

There was a slight difference of opinion on the route to be taken for the trek. Most of the people were in favour of taking the Samse-Tolali-Kudremukh route which was shorter. But Chetti managed to persuade everybody to take the Navoor-Tolali-Kudremukh route. We reached Beltangadi, by Saturday morning. After breakfast, the driver took us to Navoor where we planned to hit the trail. As soon as we got down, we met a forest guard who asked us to get tickets from the Forest Office at Beltangadi. Without tickets nobody was allowed inside the forest. Khoj, Warri and me went back in the van to get the tickets.

When we reached back, we saw a jeep with the forest officer and some guards talking to the others we had left behind. The officer asked us to get some food if we planned to stay the night and warned us that Shankar is no more there at Lobomane. Even though we said that we have carried some, he forced us to go and get more food. I think he was a little suspicious of our intents. Anyway after what seemed like an eternity, we were able to start our trek.

Initially, Khoj, Jomy, Deepak and I were lagging behind. Soon others were out of sight. We saw a shortcut to bypass the winding road and we took it. Though the climb was laborious, we made it to the road again. We then realized that there was nobody ahead of us and that the others were actually behind us. They finally caught us up. But poor guys, they thought that we had found the trek too strenuous and had gone back. They waited while Warri and Pringani ran down almost half a kilometre to see if we were alright. Not finding us, they had started again.

Kanchan was at the end of his strength when we finally met. When the others started, Khoj, Deepak, Jomy and me, set about reviving and remotivating Kanchan. We fed him almost half a packet of glucose. We soon started again and soon Kanchan and Jomy were out of sight ahead of us.

We again met the others when they were waiting for us at a clearing. Though the initial part of the trek was leech free, now they were everywhere. We set about cleaning our feet and started again after some time.

By this time the mobiles also started getting signal. That was surprising. Airtel mobiles were all working. Thus, though we were lagging behind, we were able to maintain contact.

We had climbed almost 13 kilometres with no sign of Tolali. Everybody were at the end of their strengths and nerves. Chetti was getting all the blame. Soon the rear gang of Khoj, Deepak and I got a message saying that Tolali was in sight and was only 1 km away.

We soon reached the spot, the night was almost upon us. All we had to brave the night were some plain balnkets. No tents, no Shankar. Since it was impossible to find our way back, we decided to stay atop the small hill nearby. We could see Lobomane and Simon Lobo's grave nearby.

We collected some firewood and with great effort lit up a fire. The limited food availble was rationed out between the 11 of us by Warri. With the fire going, we all laid down and snuggled close for warmth. Sleep came soon.

Almost all of us were woken up by about 1:30 in the morning. A real icy wind must have done it. We were shivering all over. I could hear Aliyan's teeth chattering. The chattering, once started, took almost a minute to die down. The blankets covering us were wet from the dew. We were seriously in mortal danger here.

When the first rays of Sun started appearing in the horizon at about 5:45 in the morning, everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. We had successfully done it. Not the peak, but a night in Tolali, out in the open, in the rainy season.

Chetti suggested attempting the peak. None of us except Kanchan were ready. Finally, two of them started towrds the peak, while the rest of us stayed behind to enjoy the day. Sounds familiar ? Check out the Kumaraparvata Trek.

We took a few photographs, visited Simon Lobo's grave etc. Some of us like Deepak, simply slept.

We had to start our descend soon. But Chetti and Kanchan was nowhere to be seen. Chetti hadn't taken his mobile too. We decided to start by 11:00 am. Keeping their bags in our camping spot, we set about collecting the wastes of our camp. It was not for nothing that we had learned "No trace camping" from "The Adventurers" in Honnemardu. (Read about it in our Honnemardu Trip).

Precisely at that time the forest guards appeared. They were sent by the forest officer we had met yesterday, to check on us. We showed them our entry passes, and told them that we are leaving now. We also asked them to keep an eye on the bags of Chetti and Kanchan. Of course we did not leave anything valuable inside that.

The way down was led by Khoj. He was literally unstoppable. Deepak and I fell behind as usual. Towards the end we found a stream, with a small waterfall. All of us took a leisurely bath and washed away the blood and leeches from our legs.

We found the van waiting for us at precisely the same spot we had left it yesterday. We decided to go to Beltangadi town and have some food.

After food, we came back to Navoor and waited for Chetti and Kanchan. By 4:00 pm they arrived. Seems, even they did not quite conquer Kudremukh. Kanchan was too exhausted to continue after an hour, so Chetti had gone alone and had reached within 200 metres of the summit. Well, with nobody to verify his claims, we had to accept it.

After Kanchan and Chetti had food in Beltangadi, we started our return journey.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Kodachadri Trek

Trip : Kodachadri
Places Visited : Kodachadri, Sarvagna Peetha
Dates : 12-Jul-2003, 13-Jul-2003
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Kannan(Chetti), Sandeep(Sangeeth's Brother), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Sreepad(Pad), Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen


The beauty of this place is past compare. Chetti was the first one to bring forth the idea of doing a trek in Kodachadri. The time was July. Perfect with rains and leeches and lush green forest. We decided to do it.

Chetti's friend Sandeep had given him directions as to how to reach the place etc. As usual we started on a Friday night in a Tempo Traveller from Prerana Tours and Travels. The driver was Mr. Nagaraj. The trip upto was uneventful. Our plan was to reach a place called Karakkatte Gate by 9:00 in the morning on Saturday. But due to the enoromous time wasted by visiting every eatery on the way (Thanks to hogs Chetti and Aliyan), we were late by almost 2 hours.

This time we were prepared for the leeches. The Kumaraparvatha Trek, though done two years ago, was still fresh in our minds. We made some saline solution and applied it all over our feet. This was supposed to protect us from leech bites. We soon found out otherwise.

The trek from Karakkatte Gate upto Santhosh Hotel was comparitively very easy. Though we took around 2 hours to complete, it was mainly because we had stopped very often to take in the breath-taking beauty of the forest. (Also to take in a few breaths). The breakfast of Puttu and Kadala of Santhosh Hotel is very famous. Since we were very late we could not enjoy it.

(To be completed)

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Honnemardu Trip

Trip : Honnemardu
Places Visited : Honnemardu, Jog Falls
Dates : 08-Mar-2003, 09-Mar-2003
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Chandan, John(Machan), Kannan(Chetti), Kuruvilla(Kuru), Manesh(Nair), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sonu, Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

Most of the regular members of our usual trekking gang had gone onsite. Still we were able to muster up enough people to go for a trip to Honnemardu, a serene spot nestled in the catchment area of Linganamakki Dam across Sharavathi river.

The Adventurers is a non-profit organisation, involved in the conservation of Western Ghats and the ecologically fragile region of Honnemardu. Bookings have to be done in their Rajaji Nagar office at least two weeks prior to the planned visit. Normally, weekends are heavily booked.

Warri and I set out one day to book the date and also to pay the per head per day charge of Rs.500. After a long hunt for the house and lots of whinings from Warri (There was an India-Pakistan cricket match that day), we finally booked 08-Mar-2003 for 10 people.

We booked a Tempo Traveller from Prerana Tours and Travels, Jayanagar (Phone: 91-80-2664 2223) as usual. The driver was Mr. Umesh.

We started on a Friday night. The way to Honnemardu was beautiful. Shimoga district was lush green even in the summer season. By Saturday morning, when we woke up inside the van, we saw that the road was covered with dense fog. When it cleared, we could see the beautiful countryside.

On reaching Honnemardu, we were greeted by a volunteer of the Adventurers. He asked us to form a circle and briefed us on the etiquette and the activities. First we were asked to complete our morning ablutions and use the nature for our you know what.

The breakfast was served then. It consisted of a simple upma and chutney, but was very delicious. We were taken to the water after that. We donned our life jackets and plunged into the water. The sun was hot, but thankfully the water was still cold. We spent an hour swimming, playing frisbee in the water etc. Kuru and Warri were a little reluctant at first, but soon joined in the fun.

After some time, the volunteer came and asked us to lift and put two coracles in the water. The coracles were made of fibre. Being a round boat, it requires a lot of knack to steer it. We learned it the hard way. At first the boat kept going round and round. Kuru, Machan, Sonu, Robo, Aliyan and I got into one while Chetti, Chandan, Warri and Nair got into the other with the volunteer. Owing to a bad start and strong wind we were way behind and in a race to a nearby island we finished a whole five minutes late. The island was bare and it was difficult to stand in the soil, thanks to the over energetic sun. Moreover none of were wearing any footwear.

We soon went back to the mainland. After lunch, we were told to rest for some time in a small house atop a hillock.

In the evening we again donned our life jackets and went to get the coracles. We went to the main island to pitch camp. The first job was to collect some firewood, while it was still light enough to see. Afterwards, we went to the waterfront in the opposite side of the island for more watergames. The Linganamakki dam was very much visible from this side. We watched the sunset sitting atop a rock enjoying the cool breeze.

When the night fell, we went back to the camp. The tent was already pitched by the volunteers. It was a sort of permanent tent with thick poles and stuff. I think it is not dismantled very often.

The volunteer taught us how to make a decent fire in criss-cross fashion. The bigger logs are kept at the bottom and the smaller ones on top. The whole contraption caught fire very easily. It reminded us of the numerous times we had wasted kilos of paper and litres of petrol trying to light a simple roadside fire.

We sat around the fire and sang some songs. By this time food arrived and was served. We had our fill and lay down to sleep. Though the tent was available, all of us lied down in the open. It was one of those rare occasions when you feel euphoric. Lying down staring at the stars in the sky, with a cool wind for company.

The next day morning we rode our coracles back to the mainland. Inspite of our very valiant efforts (like getting a headstart of about 5 minutes), the other coracle soon overtook us. We were debriefed in the mainland. Umesh was waiting for us with the van.

We went straight to Jog Falls. It was a big disappointment. India's tallest waterfall was all but dried up. There was a trickle of water falling down from one of the four main waterfalls Raja, Rani, Rocket and Roarer. But apart from that nothing.

There was a flight of steps leading to the base of the falls. Chetti wanted to go down have a bath in whatever water was available at the bottom and come up. The committee immediately conevened a meeting and vetoed the idea. (The Committee consists of all practically minded members, which automatically excludes Chetti).

It was at this precise time that a guide approached us and offered his services. He said he will show us 4 points which included a place to take bath. We jumped at the idea.

He first took us to the opposite side of the falls, to an old and abandoned bungalow of the British era. There was a good view of the river from this side. He went on talking endlessly about how big the waterfall is and that it is the tallest waterfall in the world. Seems Niagara Falls comes only second to this. We wanted to point out that Jog Falls with a height of 253 metres is anyway not in contention for the top spot and that Niagara Falls with a height of just 51 metres doesn't come anywhere in the picture. The tallest one, Angel Falls being a whole 979 metres high. But we kept quiet.

Then he took us to a small hanging bridge and told us that this was the second point. There was nothing to see in it. Well, a hanging bridge is a hanging bridge. We got fed up and asked him to take us to the place where he said we can take bath.

This was an ok place. It was more like a canal cut for irrigation. But it had ample water to accomodate all of us. We frolicked for some time and decided to go back.

On the way back, Umesh told us that there was a wild life sanctuary at Tavakkare, which was on the way. We decided to see some tigers for a change.

We took the necessary tickets and boarded a dilapidated tour bus. Once inside the enclosure we saw that the whole thing was not much bigger than a zoo. The name "wild life sanctuary" was a misnomer for this. Only thing was that the cages are big, and with the bus you are actually entering the cage.

There were quite a few tigers and a few lions inside. Of course, they were separately housed. Further, there were a few herbivores too in another enclosure.

After half an hour of "wild-life safari" we got down and boarded our van again for the return journey to Bangalore.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Muthathi Trip

Trip : Muthathi
Places Visited : Muthathi
Dates : 02-Feb-2003
Vehicle : Cars
Maruti Suzuki 800(Renjith), Hyundai Santro(Kuruvilla)
Participants : Dinkar(Dinkan), Girish(Giriannan), Kuruvilla(Kuru), Rajesh(KP), Renjith(Koothu), Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

The regular holiday-makers Khoj and Pad were in Canada and USA respectively. Chetti and Aliyan had some urgent work at the office. The Electrical gang comprising Anumod, Sunil etc. refused to come on such short notice. So on the Sunday morning, there were only 9 people assembled in our Koramangala house, the usual starting point of our trips. There were 3 cars available. Dinkan's Maruti Suzuki Zen, Kuru's Hyundai Santro and Koothu's Maruti Suziki 800. After a toss it was decided that only Koothu's and Kuru's car would be taken for the trip. Why waste petrol ?

Initially the trip was planned to Bheemeswari. There is a Fishing camp on the banks of Cauvery at this place. We took the Kanakapura road from Bangalore and proceeded towards Bheemeswari. Koothu's car had Girish, Warri, Koothu and me. Kuru's car was full with himself, KP, Robo and Dinkan.

There is a small ghat section when you approach Bheemeswari. The road here is very bad. We stopped quite a few times to enjoy the nature's beauty and also to check the tyres.

There was a huge gate at the entrance to Bheemeswari fishing camp. The guard stopped us and asked for tickets. We took out the cash to purchase tickets. But it seems we get the tickets only at Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd. office in Bangalore. So there ended "the Bheemeswari Trip" which was quickly converted to "the Muthathi Trip" at the guard's advice.

6 kilometres ahead was Muthathi, where you don't have to pay to visit the Cauvery. It was in a proper rural setting. We saw many people doing pujas etc. We went to a secluded place and sat for sometime. The river at that part was not very clean and also deep. So nobody ventured into the water.

By noon we were hungry and went in search of food. There was guy by a small roadside stall, who agreed to make rice and sambar if we wated 15 minutes. After about an hour, we got food served in plates made of dry leaves. We had a tough time controlling the watery sambar from flowing into our laps.

We walked to another part of the river after the lunch. We heard people talking about two guys who drowned an hour ago. I went and asked a decent looking person, as to what had happened. He explained to me that there was a drowning incident before their very eyes and that the police has been called. He was a college lecturer and had come with his students on excursion. Hearing that I hailed from Kerala, he pointed to two of his students who were bathing in the river. I talked to them for some time and went back to my friends.

With hardly anything to see in this place and already having decided not to take bath, we started our return journey by 4:00 pm.