A South Indian Trekking Guide by a South Indian

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Kemmannagundi Trip

Trip : Kemmannagundi
Places Visited : Kemmannagundi, Shringeri, Agumbe, Kudremukh(KIOCL)
Dates : 23-Dec-2000, 24-Dec-2000, 25-Dec-2000
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Kannan(Chetti), Manesh(Nair), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Sreepad(Pad), Sujith(Mootta), Suraj(Susu), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

This was my first trip with my old batchmates of REC Calicut (Now NIT Calicut). I had come down to Bangalore from Bombay after a job change. Chetti suggested going to some place during the long Christmas weekend. Mootta as usual was enthusiastic and arranged the whole trip.

The main place suggested was Kemmannagundi and Kudremukh. The former for a visit and the latter for a trek. Mootta suggested that we visit Shringeri Mutt also which was on the way. We booked a Tempo Traveller from Jet Tours and Travels, Koramangala and were on our way by 8:00 pm on Friday, 22nd December.

We took the Tumkur road upto Nelamangala and turned left for Hassan. By 10:00 pm, we stopped at a roadside dhaba to have food. Most of the time self-styled cinematographer Warri, was handling Mootta's camcorder. Seemingly, most of the time was spent on learning how to operate the thing-a-mi-jig.

Almost 45 minutes after we left the dhaba, Mootta realized that his camcorder is missing. He had left it at the dhaba. We took and U-turn and raced back. Fortunately, the watchman there had noticed the camcorder and had kept it safely. Overjoyed, Mootta gave him 100 rupees as a present.

We reached Kemmannagundi, by 9:00 am on Saturday. The place was not as we expected. It was commercialized, and we saw a lot of tourist buses, with scores of people. Disappointed, we decided to get away from the civilization by climbing a nearby hill. After a few step Warri started having dizzy spells. A few more steps later he started vomiting. There was a big tree on the way up. Chetti and Aliyan took Warri to the shade and left him to sleep.

We continued our way up and reached the top. The view was breathtaking. We decided to stay there for some time. Some of us even slept for a while. It is not everyday that we get such fresh air to breath.

On the way down we took a slightly different route. We were soon surrounded by tall grass. We were walking in a line and I had Mootta in front of me some 15 metres ahead. Mootta had a straw hat on and that was the only part of him that was visible among the tall grass. Suddenly the straw hat disappeared. Khoj, Pad and I ran towards the spot where we last saw the hat. Not surprisingly Mootta had fallen into a ditch and was trying to climb up. Owing to his height which is all of 5 feet, he was finding it difficult to climb up. Pad and I lent a hand and got him out of his predicament.

Warri was awake and ok by the time we reached the place where we had left him. We had found a small stream on our way up. Though we did not have soap or towel, we decided on taking bath there. The small waterfall served as a lovely shower.

Our next destination was Shringeri. Enroute we stopped by the roadside collected a few twigs and made a campfire. Susu, Warri, Mootta, Aliyan, Khoj and me slept in the open, while others slept inside the van. By early morning, when I woke up, I could find only Warri sleeping next to me. All others had taken refuge in the warmth of the van.

We soon reached Shringeri and took a couple of rooms in a hotel to freshen up. Wonder of wonders - Warri, who generally hates water was the first one to take bath. After the bath we proceeded to have a darshan in the temple. We took a few photographs too.

Since the visit to Shringeri got over very fast, we had time to kill. We decided to go to Agumbe which was supposedly nearby. Again, supposedly it offered a lot of trekking oppurtunities.

We reached the place by middday. The route to the view point was unsurfaced. The driver refused to take the van through the kutcha road, saying that the tyres might get punctured. We decided to walk. When we asked a villager about the approximate distance, he said it would be about 3 km. After 3 km we met another chap who again gave the same answer to our question. Perplexed, we walked on. After walking for about 7-8 km through thick jungle, we reached the view point. We could see a couple of waterfalls in a distant mountain. Chetti argued that it was actually nearb and wanted to trek upto it. Even though there was no path, Chetti, Nair and Mootta decided to descend the hillock we were in, cross the jungle and go to the waterfall. The rest of us blankly refused.

For some time we could hear Mootta and Nair, shouting. Phrases like "Step on that boulder", "Catch that creeper", "Swing like Tarzan" etc. wafted through the air. There was no sound from Chetti. A few minutes later, Mootta and Nair came back up announced, "We tried our level best, there is no way we can reach the waterfalls through such dense jungle". We were surprised to see these dare-devils fresh and without a mark on their clothes. A few minutes later an exhausted Chetti came back up, full of bruises and muddy clothes. It was then we realized that Mootta and Nair were merely directing Chetti, by sitting comfortably on a piece of rock.

We had supper from a nearby Muslim home. They had prepared tasty fish curry and rice for us. The charge was very nominal. The lady of the house explained to us in broken Malayalam that she was from Kasaragod, the northernmost district of Kerala.

After supper, we proceeded to Kudremukh. We soon fell asleep inside the van. When I woke up at 5:30 in the morning we were standing still. I saw the driver sleeping bent over the steering with his head on his hands. Everybody woke up one by one and asked the driver, what the problem was. He explained that the van had broken down. We were only a few miles away from Kudremukh. But the van had to be repaired first.

As soon as it was light enough to see, the driver started towards Mangalore (which was nearby) to get a mechanic. Susu accompanied him, since he knew his way around Mangalore.

Khoj and I soon started having the call of the nature. We went to a nearby secluded area and got it done behind some shrubs. We cleaned up with some leaves, and were soon as good as new. We looked around and saw that the van was actually parked in a very beautiful area. It was the beginning of a ghat section on the road towards Kudremukh. Mootta was still sleeping inside the van, when we decided to hunt for a tea shop. When we came back after the tea, Mootta was nowhere to be found. Soon enough we could see him running down a nearby hillock, with his camcorder. Seems, he had woken up to see the van stopped by the roadside and nobody to be seen around. He had climbed the hillock to see if he can spot us anywhere, through his camcorder's zoom lens !!!

We started playing cards on the road. The passing motorists were all staring at us. We had played for almost two hours by the time Susu and the driver came back with the mechanic. After some pushing and starting we were on our way again.

We soon reached Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (KIOCL). We saw a huge dam constructed to contain the affluents from the factory. Even then we could see what this factory was doing to the fragile ecology of the area. We were not allowed to take photographs. But we did sneak in a few.

We took bath in a stream nearby. We didn't stay long in the water because we soon realized that it was polluted.

The only disappointment was that there was no proper trekking to be done. The actual Kudremukh was around 100 km further. We decided to call it a day, and returned back to Bangalore.


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