Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thirumaleguppi trek - a western ghats treat

Ah! The lure of western ghats. Irresistible, especially in the aftermath of the worst semester of my academic life. And BMC had just the medicine I needed - a trek to lush green Thirumaleguppi in fading monsoon season. I was yet again apprehensive of rain spoiling the trek in more ways than one. Thankfully I took the risk and heeded to my heart's wish.

Friday evening - 19th Aug, 2011. Time - 9:14pm. I had arrived one minute before scheduled departure from Domlur bus stop. Result - as usual the tempo arrived almost an hour late. We reached a place near Kalasa around 6am from where we had to take a jeep ride to Samse village for our home stay. I must say it was one heck of a jeep ride. For more than half an hour, we climbed the mountain 'road'. The road I mentioned was a muddy one where I wouldn't trust myself to even walk - it was like one of those dirt race tracks. Overnight rain had made it worse. At certain places, the jeep's tyres had made about a foot deep impression. I thank the jeep's manufacturer and the driver for safely transporting us.

Mullodi house - Samse village
Our home stay - Mullodi house, was quite close to Somavathi falls. Coffee plantation was all around along with awesome flowering plants and a big jackfruit tree. By 8:20am, we were done with breakfast. Getting ready for the trek was quite a sight. People had got all kinds of ointments and creams and salt to prevent leech bite. That includes me, I had got salt which I sprinkled on socks and shoes!

As it had rained overnight, we carried a stick to support our footing during the trek. We were a 14 member group including BMC guide Kiran and a local guide. With just one turn around the home stay, we got a larger view of the mountain ranges around. Clouds painted the sky white and grey. To our right was the Somavathi falls with a small temple built very close to water flow. The muddy path was uneven with overnight rain making it slippery.

The picture says it all :)

Somavathi falls


Within 15min, we were into the forest path which goes circularly around the mountain with streams flowing on the inner junction of a curve. It reminded me of the Tandiandamol trek which had similar pattern. The flora was quite similar too, a trait of western ghats I suppose. Our guide Kiran, a hard-core trekker and nature lover, quite easily trekked through the slippery rocks of the stream and had a dip in freezing cold water under a small waterfall! We were conservative and declined his request to follow suit. The local guide had a wry smile. The moses and ferns and other grasses growing everywhere on stones too had an eerie feel like Tandiandamol. The difference was that the path was a bit tougher and leech filled due to rainy season.

The circular path with streams

Soon we were out of the circular path and out in the open grassland. 30min into the trek, we took our first break which was more to allow the rear group to catch up. We had some photo shoots, and then the local guide here asked whether we were interested to do another peak adjacent to Thirumaleguppi (I think it was Irumaleguppi, if I remember correctly as it was two peak close to each other). It was an interesting prospect to consider, the path certainly looked more inviting and steeper than Thirumaleguppi. However by the time Kiran and others had caught up to us, we decided to stick with our original plan. Trek to Irumaleguppi would have meant more time and rain would have hampered us badly. In retrospect, we missed a golden chance :(

First view of Thirumaleguppi

The interesting landscape

The landscape around us was an interesting one. Due to high winds, there weren't trees on the higher slopes of the mountains all around. However, where ever there was enough shield from winds, there was dense forest. All this and the beautiful weather certainly made us feel blessed to be there. It took about an hour or so to cross different valleys before we could set foot on the main climb towards Thirumaleguppi peak. All along it had been a stroll in the park on the grass covered path.

Crossing the vast grassland 

Steep climb ahead

Irumaleguppi to the left of Thirumaleguppi

The real climb started as the path became progressively steeper. The breaks became frequent and longer. We had climbed sufficiently high when we had to peep to see the valley to our right. The local guide spotted three deers grazing below and asked us to be quiet so as to observe them without driving them away. It was my first time of spotting a mammal (other than monkeys) in the wild. Being higher also meant that we could observe mist/cloud decorating the valley below. It really did feel heavenly.

Spotting deers in the wild

 Nearing the peak

In all it took about 40-50min to reach the peak once we started on the steep section. Thanks to grass, which at some places were knee high, we had good enough grip inspite of loose and slippery mud. At some places, the steepness was too high that it was a bit scary. The wooden stick we had carried came in very handy to support our climb. The view of Irumaleguppi to our left was both scary and pleasing to the eye. The mist covered peak was pleasing, but the steepness did give a shudder thinking if we had gone to that peak instead of Thirumaleguppi.

Reaching the peak was a welcome respite after the steep climb. It had taken us about 2.5hours for the entire climb, so we weren't exhausted. But we weren't complaining. After the customary photo shoots, we found a spot on the other side of the peak with rocks strewn near the edge and giving us a view of the valley below. We camped on the rocks and removed our shoes to remove leeches. I had two bites adding to the one I got in Sakleshpur. But the interesting point was all three were on my right foot. Leeches: anything wrong with my left foot??


We decided to have lunch even though it was only around 11:40am. Cloud and mist would cover us now and then. After lunch, some were gossiping and some of us simply enjoyed the tranquility. Around 12:30pm, we started our descent back. It was nasty to put the wet shoes and socks back. As always, descent was trickier than the climb. It took about half an hour to cross the steep portion with quite a few stops in between. And another hour to cross the vast grassland back into the circular paths with streams in between. On the way we spotted locals with their cattle grazing the abundant grass. It was confounding to think how the bulky ones had climbed to these spots.

We had a long break at one of the streams. By virtue of stopping a long time there, we could spot colorful frogs and dragon flies and swimming-spiders and flora. Around 3:15pm, we reached the home stay. Just before the last turn, we spotted a 'dung'-beetle hauling a nearly spherical 'dung' upwards the slope!

 'Dung' beetle

Having come pretty early, Kiran suggested that we go have a bath in the Somavathi waterfalls the same evening. For the next day itinerary, he said he will try to arrange for river rafting if sufficient people agreed to come and subject to availability. Initially many were skeptic about it but slowly there were enough numbers. So Kiran contacted and told us that by evening he will confirm one way or the other.

After some rest, we started for the falls. By now, it had started drizzling and temperatures were nose diving. That only served to shrug off our exhaustion. As we were started around the corner from the home stay, people ahead said they spotted a cobra. Now I cannot be sure that was true or false :P. But we sure were cautious. As I mentioned before, the waterfall was quite close. The path was trickier than anything earlier in the day, but we made it to the falls without any trouble.

The fun began near the falls. We had to climb on a wall constructed on the side to reach another man made concrete floor directly in path of the water gushing out. There was a dam like wall constructed with two openings through which water flow was pretty rapid that one cannot cross without huge balancing act. Kiran, the maverick that he is, planted one foot in the middle to allow others to cross. Some of us just climbed the wall and jumped across the opening. And in a final act, Kiran crossed the more dangerous second opening all by himself.

We made it thus far, only to find that we couldn't actually go under the falls and had to settle for the large pool that was at the foot of the falls. The water was too cold that it took awhile to adjust. We played around some half an hour I believe. Some had actually got soap and had bath while some were busy collecting stones.

By 5:30pm or 6pm or so we reached back to home stay. After change of clothes, we sat for what turned out to be mini dinner. One opened a pack of snack and shared it and soon one by one everyone brought out their own. I had brought newspaper, so we spread it out in the middle, kept the snacks on it and sitting around we finished them all, hungry like a lion that we were. Gossiping too had started while we munched and that continued even when the snacks were finished. Kiran spoke about his trekking in Agumbe and techniques for survival in the wild. He started about snakes and leopards and it continued around about dogs and before we knew it eventually reached the topic of God. There was a Psychiatrist too in our group who gave some scary accounts of the patients he had encountered. And while we were at it, dinner arrived much to our relief.
The rain which threatened all day long came with full force in the night. Various colorful insects took refuge in our room, perhaps attracted by the lamps. We even got to see a firefly with two LED like green-glow in its abdomen. Kiran had got confirmation for the water rafting by now. As we had to leave early in the morning, we went to bed (i.e sleeping bags) early for much need rest for the body.

After freshening up and breakfast, we left the home stay around 9:30am. The jeep ride down was lot more bumpy than first day. We could see the effect of heavy overnight rain in form of streams and increased water flow in the river on the way to water rafting spot. We reached there (forgot the place name) around 11:30am. Except me and another guy who had had fever past week, the rest had registered for the rafting. It was some basic level and the water flow wasn't rapid. Plus it was brownish water than the claimed 'white'-water rafting :P. After the rafting had started. the tempo took us to the other end where we waited for about an hour for them to finish rafting. Meanwhile me and the other guy took a nice little walk around with coffee plantations all around.

'Brown' river rafting

Due to the rafting detour, we could have lunch only around 3pm at Kottigehara. Neer-dosa and vada varieties coupled with our hunger made it special. We even got to spot some sparrows. For most of the rest of the way to Bangalore, we slept peacefully. Like I did for Tadiandamol, I promised myself to return, if not for Thirumaleguppi for Kudremukh.

Sparrows - rare to spot them in cities :(


Girish Murthy said...

Hi Sandeep,

Kudos to you man, you have an amazing writing skills!!!

You just took me to Tirumalaguppi and back. You have covered the minute things happenned without a miss. Me and my wife had an great experience though it was a first trek for us. Can recall your photography skills and you were so equally passionate about treking as well.

It was great knowing you and Thanks again for such a detailed blog man.


sundeep agarwal said...

Thanks Girish, glad you enjoyed the blog account too :)

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