Friday, August 17, 2012

Heavenly trek to Kodachadri

From the time I got addicted to trekking, Kodachadri was amongst the must do list. And so, during the perfect weather for any western ghats trek, on Friday evening, Sep 22 - 2011, I embarked on what now is one of my favorite trekking experience. The starting signs were themselves great. Not attending 'torturing' weekend MS class was in itself a treat which was boosted by the unexpected holiday which meant I could take off another weekend. The tempo from BMC was on time. I had an almost instant rapport with fellow trekkers which was one of the defining aspects of the wonderful trek. Plus, one of the guide was Kiran with whom I had already done two treks. All in all, it was like an action movie beginning with a bang.

We reached our home stay at the base of Kodachadri early in the morning around 6:30 AM. We were a group of around 25. Among the trekkers, I knew only one from my previous trek (Sakleshpur). Perhaps whenever we meet, it turns out to be an awesome trek? :P. I had previously seen senior people (aged 50+) in treks, but this time I got to see a six year kid scaling a peak in Western Ghats. I was a bit skeptical initally, but then I came to know that he had already scaled Kumara Parvatha! He was a live-wire throughout the trek - another fab aspect of the trek. Not to forget mentioning - the foreigner from South Africa who had allocated an entire year for adventure trip around the world.

Starting from home stay towards trekking spot

The home stay was atypical of the western ghats - pipe connection from running stream, ample gardening around the house, first-class hospitality and tasty breakfast. Leaving extra baggage and having packed lunch, we started around 8:30AM. The tempo took us to the starting point of the trek and we were fortunate to send our sleeping bags and tents along with a vegetable carrying jeep to our home stay at peak. After the customary prep talk from Kiran (and another guide) and photo shoots, we were on our way to the peak.



Assembling at the trek spot followed by prep talk by guides

Crossing the stream into the forest

We started initially on the jeep track and diverged after about 20min by crossing one of the numerous streams into the jungle route. And ofcourse into the leeches. Many of us walked through the stream with the shoes getting wet while a few clever ones removed the shoes and put them back after crossing. I had trekked with wet shoes in Thirumaleguppi, so I didn't give it a thought. It would trouble me the next day.

Out of the forest - first thing to do is remove leeches

The small village and cultivation land on our way

We were immediately treated with fallen trees covered with moss and flat mushroom, ferns, new leaves sprouting, fallen leaves, double-faced Rudraksha, noisy insects, leeches, etc. There was a bit of humidity too. Soon we spotted wild frogs famous around these areas. Some were dark brownish, some like a chameleon sporting mix of light brown and tinge of green similar to the muddy path we were treading on. Beautiful wild flowers completed our blessed experience.

Yet another stream crossing

It took us another 45 minutes or so to cross the forest with its slippery paths punctuated with thin streams and wilderness all around. We came out on a wide grassland with beautiful view of mountain ranges covered mostly with thick trees all around us. We took the opportunity to rest and remove leeches, and yeah most important of all - taking snaps. The coordinators pointed some peak having patch of grass surrounded by thick forest as part of our route - but there wasn't any distinct shape to be able to remember. As we started again and crossed the grassland, we came across villages with green cultivation all around. Crossing the fields, the forests started again - this time with plenty of short waterfalls and wide streams.After about 20 minutes, we came across the most dangerous part of our trek - crossing a bed of rocks made slippery by water flow. Two huge fallen trees were our support and even then crossing was dangerous. It took about 20 minutes for our entire group to get through it. I couldn't help imagining the danger during full monsoon flow - must be very impractical.

The most dangerous part of the trek

Into the forest again - steep and slippery

We now had to steadily climb around the edges of the mountain having thick cover of forest interspersed with waterfalls. After another 20 minute hike, we finally reached the main attraction of the trek - Hidlumane falls. Though it was second half of September, there was good enough water-flow and certainly gushing and icy cold, even at 11:20AM. I kept up my tradition of bathing in a waterfall whenever I go to Western Ghats. The pure and cold water doesn't need a second invitation - one simply shouldn't miss it. It was certainly the biggest waterfall yet I have visited. The force of the water felt as if being barraged by bullets. And ofcourse, it was the much needed massage for journey ahead.

Hidlumane falls

After the refreshing bath, we climbed further up through the winding forest. At one spot, coordinators had to climb up first and lend support for us to go ahead. This led to a small hold-up and allowed leeches have easy preys. For the first time during the trek so far, we got tired and our legs pained from steady and steep climbing. At around 12:40pm, we finally left behind the last of our forest trekking. Ofcourse that meant that the leeches were left behind too for the time being. But more steep climb awaited us through the grasslands. Out of the forest also mysteriously got us good cell-phone signal. 

 
Finally out of the forest - but more steep climb awaited us

Mesmerizing beauty all around

Still a long way to go

After another round of photography of the view around us, we willed ourselves to climb for another 30 minutes to reach a vantage view point on a flatter surface invitingly having a bench made of wood. Some time during the climb, we had a view of cultivated land we had crossed earlier. Perhaps the coordinators did correctly point out this peak after all. We relaxed for quite a while here gossiping about - what else? - trekking. Many of us removed the shoes to get rid of the many leeches painlessly drinking our blood. My count this time was '6' after a disappointing '1' (Sakleshpur) and '2' (Thirumaleguppi) :D. We were hungry, but many among the group didn't like this place for having lunch as it didn't protect us from the hot Sun.

The picture says it all

Lots of ups and downs

And we moved closer and closer to heavenly Kodachadri

After a bit of up and down between hills and a sighting of Kodachadri with its jeep tracks opposite our hill, we settled down to have lunch on a rocky bed with a stream nearby. The stream was actually flowing under the rocks before breaking out and forming a small pool and allowing trees to grow around it. Anyone having extra eateries shared it across the group - another highlight point of our awesome togetherness. Lunch was finished in a jiffy and within the hour we were up again towards our destination.


After another huffing and puffing climb for 15 minutes, we joined the jeep tracks of Kodachadri. Another group of trekkers joined us during the climb - presumably they started after us but had fewer stops in between. The view from the tracks was again exhilarating, the scenery enriched with misty clouds now starting to engulf all around. The Sun though continued to play hide and seek. Another round of snaps followed, the kid being most obliging.

After lunch, more steep climbing

And finally the jeep track to Kodachadri peak

It was close to 3pm. The trek so far wasn't very exhausting, but challenging. The winding jeep tracks were boring after having trekked through the forests, but they did provide us breath-taking views of misty covered hills and forests and gorges and guest houses. Another haul of an hour's trek took us to the home stay. Couple of shops provided us with much needed refreshment in form of tea and coffee and cold drinks. I am failing to remember correctly if some of us had late lunch given by the home stay - the memory is muddled up a bit am afraid. But we weren't done with the day's job yet. We had to trek further up for a date with the famous sunset view from Kodachadri peak.

We literally walked through the clouds :)

But still a long way to sunset point

If our sightings of the mountains covered with mist en-route so far was mesmerizing, then what we came across the last climb for the day was surely heavenly. Rows of cloud covered entire valleys with sun rays filtering now and then. And when they moved to reveal what they hid, we could see dense forests and occasional cry of the wild. More than half an hour of steep climb with tired bodies were forgotten and replaced with pure bliss that can only be experienced.

The temple atop Kodachadri - clouds spoiled our chance to see sunset
Atop the peak at last, we were greeted with a very old looking temple made of stone and covered all around with green growings. The sad part though was that we were engulfed completely in the clouds that our visibility was reduced to few feet. We were deprived of viewing sunset, but many including me made a secret pact to ourselves to return another day. For the moment, we settled on the misty grasses with the mountain's edge close by. The South African, though, turned disappointment to thrilling experience - he climbed a protruding ledge off the mountain covered with mist but visible enough for us to capture him, his hands aloft with obvious glee. Another member followed his lead shortly after he came back, but the rest of us thought it too dangerous to give it a try.

The South African
We went to the sunset point anyway - another 10 minutes of slippery trekking through near darkness at 5:40pm!. The guides had to shout to make themselves heard to let us know the way. The path was covered with wild grass and other trekking paths merged here. Surprisingly there were leeches at the sunset point without there being trees around. Perhaps the misty conditions enable them to survive. We gossiped for some time and went back to avoid trekking down through pitch darkness. On the way, we stopped at one of many vending stalls selling sweet lime water and other eateries. Though the lime concentration was very less, most of us had a glass or more. Most of the vendors had packed off for the day and this kind vendor obliged our large group. While coming, we also saw a group gathering wood - perhaps they intended to pitch in for the night - though as far as I know, camping for the night ain't allowed.

We might have called it a day from trekking perspective. But back in the home stay, we settled nicely for another round of gossiping while dinner was being prepared. One of our guide was a specialist in snake handling and the talk eventually led to snakes. Hearing about snakes always fascinates me initially, but after sometime I feel oddly uncomfortable. And I certainly didn't fancy seeing live snakes nearby. We all had more surprises coming up. For the moment though, we enjoyed hot and nourishing dinner and went to sleep early so as to give ourselves a shot at sunrise.

The sleeping bags were perfect in protecting us from the cold as well as varied insects coming inside the house attracted by light bulbs. Sometime in the middle of the night, a drunkard from the village somehow came inside our home stay. After a bit of row he was driven away, but not before some of us were robbed of peaceful sleep. At around 4:15am, the guides started waking us up to get ready for the trek to sunrise spot.

Armed with torches, we began our climb. For most of us, it was the first experience of trekking so early in the morning as well as going to a sunrise viewpoint in the high mountains. The air was cold and fresh, our spirits high. Onwards we marched, guided by each others torch. The sunrise view point was on a different peak to that of the sunset one. And lesser trekking distance too. However, it had it's own challenge - walking on a narrow path, barely 2-3 feet around the mountain's round edges. Coupled with the darkness around, it certainly had our adrenaline running high.

Preparing and waiting for the sunrise

We reached the spot well before sunrise. At around 5:45AM, streaks of reddish-orange light shone on the horizon. We were treated with another heavenly experience. We were surrounded all around by mountains and our spot rose above the mountains in the east. What made it special was the milky cloud cover ending on the edges like a waterfall. While we waited for Sun's first rays to strike, the crescent moon attracted our attention. And as light grew bright steadily, we began shooting the mountains around us. Some adventurous folks went past the peak's edge, down a bit to wait for the sunrise to be enjoyed in solitude. The wait for sunrise continued to taunt us and we were worried if clouds would play spoil sport for the second time too. At around 6:15AM, we even gave up the hope and started to trek down - only for the gods to lift our dark mood by the Sun's piercing rays as we were descending round the corner at 6:18AM. And needless to say, we tried different tricks to capture the fiery red glow. To top it all, I met a college-mate who was part of another group on the way back.

Sunrise amidst sea of clouds
At around 8-8:30AM, we began the descent - the only unpleasant (physically) part of the entire trek. We had to take the jeep track path and reach base in roughly two hours. I was told that this route was around 10km. It seemed much longer to me - thanks to the wet shoes which had had no chance of drying from previous day's water exploits. As the Sun rose to its fullness, so did the temperature. My shoes began to dry unevenly and ultimately giving me blisters on both feet with more than half the distance pending. Having not brought sandals, there was but no choice than carrying on with shoes. It pains even now to just be reliving it. Though all was not bad during the descent. The small groups that formed during the descent kept changing so much so that I must have walked with most members at some point or the other. And I distinctly remember the kid asking Kiran on the differences between Cheetah and Leopard - and the funny part was that the kid knew the answer, he was just 'kidding' us!

About 1-2km from the base, some members took to the streams flowing under the jeep track. Much as I would have liked to have a dip, the sore feet made me reach base asap and remove the shoes. After everyone had assembled at the point we had started the trek previous day, we went to the home stay again for refreshment and late breakfast. The host also offered honey and other items which some members bought. After we finally took leave of the mountains, we still had another item on our agenda - visiting Nagara Fort which was about 20-25km from Kodachadri.


And we were immediately thanking heavens for having a snake-catching expert as one of our guide - a large snake (perhaps cobra, not able to remember) was spotted near the entrance of the fort. The guide immediately went about his business - and soon enough had caught the snake by its tail. But instead of putting the snake inside a bag immediately, he held the snake for a long time for us to see. With hindsight, it should have been avoided. The South African came in aid of holding the bag when it eventually was decided to stop the snake holding. By this time, a local crowd - chiefly children, had gathered in front of the fort. The guide and the South African struggled before the snake got free, shooing away the kids. By this time I was sick of it all and proceeded to go inside the fort. I heard later that there was more drama before they could finally put the snake in the bag. Glad I wasn't around.

Nagara Fort
The fort was ruined yet beautifully maintained with greenery all around. It was amazing to think what people achieved in construction in those days without all the automated machinery of today. One could easily deduce that it was built for strong defense. A series of steps led to a tower from where one could see entire fort and water bodies around. The tower had an emergency exit too - or perhaps meant as a secret door in case of attack which led to back side of the fort. The stair-case was still usable and we reached the backside base of the fort. There were ruined cannons made of stone. The path also led towards prison which must have been horrifying cell as much as it looked dreary. We spent around 50 minutes to see the entire fort. The captured snake was release into a forest just few kilometers from the fort. And along the way I saw another long black snake perilously close to the road. I hadn't seen wild snakes before the trek (not counting zoos) and here I get to see two in space of hours.

After lunch on the way, the usual antakshari was chosen for time pass. Usually I note down good songs so as to add them to my playlist. While I did got a few this time too, this antakshari was different - going with the trek's theme perhaps. The songs were chosen from all south-indian dialects plus hindi. Not caring a jot about our weird voices, we heartily sang anything coming to mind. The best part was that everyone participated. Around 5-6pm we stopped for tea and when we resumed, antakshari gave way to sharing stories - mostly personal experiences, some of them love stories, some school incidents and some trekking ones. And fate had another twist in store for us - vehicle breakdown. But thankfully near highway hotels where some had their dinner while the vehicle was being fixed. As it got very late, some members caught state buses who were kind enough to stop. I stayed behind so as to experience reaching room very late in the night - it was around 12am when I finally completed two days of awesome experience.

17 comments:

Naveen.K.H said...

hey from where did you start the trek ? and which is the home stay you stayed in? can you please provide me the number? and also can private cars reach homestay ?

Sundeep said...

Hi Naveen,

We started from Kollur. There is a jeep track that branches off kollur road.. after that as I mentioned in the blog, we through forest...
I dunno other details you asked as I went through BMC (http://www.bmcindia.org/)...
the home stay at kollur can be reached via car and home stay at top can be reached through jeep..

Naveen.K.H said...

thanks a lot for the reply.
We are planning to go this friday. plan is to stay in kollur on friday night and start trekking on saturday morning. my question is how did you reach the jeep track off kollur road? cos its around 20 KM from kollur town.
can i take my car from kollur to the trek starting point and park it there?
The first pic in this blog, where is it? is it off kollur road?which is that spot?
Please give me details as much as possible.

Naveen.K.H said...

is the spot in the pic called hotel Santosh?(kaka angadi)

Sundeep said...

Naveen,

We traveled in tempo from bangalore (the 1st pic shows tempos, that place is near the home stay at base, around 2km from the jeep track)
the jeep track in 2nd pic branches off directly from kollur road (and the pic is very close to kollur road).. but i dunno how far it is from kollur town..
I wouldn't advice parking car at this junction... ask locals in kollur town, or get an auto/bus/jeep from kollur town to the jeep track.. temple at top is visited by many and hence the place will be known well to locals..
as you are planning to stay friday night, i would advice you to reach the jeep track junction (by asking locals at kollur town).. at the jeep track junction, you can ask the shops for the home stay and there you can park the car.. (there must be many home stays around this spot, it shouldn't be a problem to get one).. if you have any kannada speaking person, it will make it easier...

Naveen.K.H said...

Ok.
we reach kodachadri/kollur at midnight 2am so if we come to the junction as you said, its hard to find people at that time of the night. so it would be better if we have some home stay number.

we will start trekking from sat morning and stay on top hill on sat night, so i need a proper parking for my car somewhere near the jeep track/where the trail 2 starts.

PS: I am a kannadiga !!

Naveen.K.H said...

hmmm..

plan is to stay in kollur since finding a place to stay @ midnight 2am on firday is tough. and next day morning we will start to trek so proper parking is needed. anyways thanks for the reply, pls let me know if you have any contact numbers near kodachadri.

Naveen.K.H said...

PS: i am a kannadiga !!

Sundeep said...

well you can try asking BMC (http://www.bmcindia.org/) - their contact number in their website..

Naveen.K.H said...

hmmmmm

Suman Roy said...

hey man we want to go, but is that place is full with king cobra?? actually we are only 5 to go.
we dont want any guide.Is it possible to go without guide ?

Sundeep said...

Suman,
The path we took through forest, requires a guide definitely.
Not sure about cobra, but I would insist on a guide if you want to trek through mountain path and not jeep track.

Suman Roy said...

thanks Sundeep .. can you provide me some information about guides , and what's your next plan ?? can we join with you in future ??
https://www.facebook.com/neel.suman.roy?ref=tn_tnmn

Hardik Joshi said...

You can get more info at :
http://trekking-india.blogspot.in/2013/11/shiver-in-summer-at-kodachadri.html

manish k j said...

Nice post :)....Bro planning to go on mid june.....weather it'd b risky to go in the monsoon time.....

sundeep agarwal said...

Manish,

I dunno, but western ghats trek in monsoon isn't advisable

manish k j said...

thank you.. :)

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