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)