Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kudremukh Peak - Go test your lungs & legs

                                    The mobile was very close to my ears, when the alarm went, and I sprang to my feet. In the darkness, I heard some one asking me to switch off the alarm, and I was back on earth, for it was Sreekumar. Of course Pramod should be there, by his side. We were at Mallya Residency, Agumbe, and we have to leave by 5 AM to Kudremukh, for this shall be the day of happenings – I realized. And you, my reader, may refer my earlier post, if you are keen, on how I reached Agumbe, from my home town, Trivandrum. And, yes my dear, it’s evitable.

              Got ready by 5 AM, and rang up Ganesh. With in 10 minutes he appeared with his Maruthi 800. The early morning drive through the rain forests of Agumbe should enthuse, for I have a task ahead today, and I kept my window panes open, despite the chilling breeze. Not even a single vehicle crossed till Sringeri, and we were there before the sun. Had a hurried darsan and left soon. Had tea from Jaipura bus stand and went past Balehennur to reach the small town of Kalasa by around 8.30 AM.

                                                  Kudremukh national park is the second largest declared wild life area in the Western Ghats,with a spread of 600 square kms, and falls in Chikmaglur district of Karnataka. The park got its name, from the highest peak within it, which resembles a horse face – the Kudremukh peak. The trek to the peak starts from a tiny village, Mullodi, at its base. Mullodi is around 8 kms from Balgal, and access from Balgal is only by 4 wheel drive jeep – or the two leg drives, that you are. Satheesh, belongs to Mullodi, and arranges treks to the peak. His house is almost last one of the village, and there after it’s the protected area. I had contacted him two days back for the necessary arrangements viz. permission from forest dept., booking guide etc.

            Contacted Satheesh, from Kalasa, and drove to Balgal, whichis 10 kms further, to the Mangalore side. It was a total of 114 kms from Agumbe to Balgal, one side, and we paid Ganesh Rs. 1500, though our agreement was Rs. 6 per km. Satheesh had arranged a 4WD jeep at Balgal and we had a hard time in it, for the next one hour, to reach Satheesh’s house at Mullodi. The village is bordered by towering grass hills.

            Satheesh is an enterprising farmer, that he had coffee, spices, coconut, arecanut, tomato and what not, in the 20 plus acres of land around his house. I was surprised to see that, he even had paddy farms, at this height. 

                            It was 9.30 AM by then, and Satheesh’s family served us with rice balls and chutney, and we finished off the whole thing, they had prepared. Our guide, Reghunath, turned up by then, and we got ready for the trek. A dog, by name ‘Hunda’, owned by none, soon established bonds with Pramod.

                       Satheesh once again confirmed the permissions over telephone – BSNL signals are strong enough, at certain positions. Satheesh’s family handed over the packet of lemon rice, our lunch, and a bottle to be filled and refilled from the brooks, along the trek path. We were off by 10.15 AM, lead by Reghunath and Hunda following.

                        We thought Hunda would return after a while, but to our surprise, he accompanied us the entire journey, till dusk. Within about 30 minutes we reached a brook and quenched thirst. The water had a different taste, but was cold enough, to take away the heat.

                    Filled the bottle and crossed the brook and we had a glimpse of the distant distant peak. Only the tip of the peak was visible.

                              It looked very far and too steep, that I doubted whether I would make it. And Reghunath, our guide, announces that it’s not that far, but just 12 kms one side. To the right of our track, we found an abandoned old building.

                        A man named Lobo had agricultural lands in this region during the early 19th century, and he had built two or three houses, which are now abandoned and added to the sanctuary. Another 15 minutes of trek took us to the next house, which was almost in ruin.

                        Till this point, about one and a half hour from the start, the trek was easy, with frequent brooks, grass hills, shola forests, little ups and downs, all in regular intervals. 

Just after this we had a steep hike, to get to the top of a hill.

I broke down twice, as I felt that my lungs would burst. It took around 25 minutes to get to the top.

                                          It’s worth a mention that once the hike went steeper, Hunda opted to be at the back, closely following the one who trailed. And most of the time it was none other than me. After another 15 minutes of easy walk, reached another brook, which was little below our track.

                                    Here we took some rest as we had similar hike to follow.

                              Filled our bottle, had a face dip and went for the next one. This time my throat dried up. Luckily the hike ended at another water source and I drank and drank and couldn’t even get up from that place, for a while.

                                           It was around 12.45 then, and we were almost at the foot of the cliff. But we are no cliff hangers. I could trace the track, towards the right, along the grass hill side, at a lower gradient, moving away from the summit. Reghunath explains that we have to travel about 1.5 kms to the right, along less steep path, climb up the hill and then walk to the left, the same distance, to conquer the peak, which is right now towering before us. Adding to the woe, there are no water sources, for the next two kms. Filled the lone bottle we had and our bellies, and got back to feet. The next 15 minutes, along the narrow hill side track,wasn’t that tough, for we had the vista around. Mountains and mountains and nothing else.

                               I wondered, where our starting point was, and got informed like this; count the mountains on your right, Mullodi is at the opposite side of the sixth mountain, and is not visible from here. Sreekumar couldn’t resist, conveying this information to his wife at home, and I wonder what her response had been.

                          Light moments did not last long. We were about to take on the steepest and longest hike, among the four such, along the entire trek.

                             Ten steps up, 15 second rest, next ten steps…, this was the strategy I adopted. Those 15 seconds were spent for photography, and all the more to keep me alive. Odd was my strategy and I was trailing. But Hunda was patient enough, to be with me. And he was found enjoying the vistas equally.

                          And by 1.30, that horrible stretch ended, and I found Pramod and Sreeekumar crashed at the top. I followed suit.

                                  Lying on ground, I found the summit, just about one and a half kms away. And I could see it from where I lied, the last stretch of about half a km, is yet another hike. I knew I was drained, but decided to get myself there, even if I had to crawl. Got to my feet, gulped from the bottle, what remained, and went on.

                                     Got to the foot hill at 1.50 PM. 

                            The last stretch, just around half a km, not that steep as the earlier; but dear, I had almost nothing left in me. I found Pramod experimenting with close steps, in an effort to avoid lifting legs up.

                                     I thought that would take time, and I should reach there before I fainted. I decided to stick by my old strategy and it worked. Just a few steps to the goal, I saw Hunda shooting ahead, to be the first over there.

Then Reghunath, Sreekumar, Pramod, and though last, but not least, yeaaaaaah, I made it.

Fell flat with a pounding heart and wheezing lungs. Slowly sat up to see where I was.

                            To the left of our trek path was the thick woods of Kudremukh Park, home to almost all typical fauna of Western Ghats.

                      In fact, I was lying just close to Bison droppings. Got up and staggered around. Reghunath points to the south, the hillside town of Belthangadi, and Arabian Sea is to our west. From east to north we had folds of Grass Mountains, with misty tips. The second highest peak of this region falls on the other side of Mullodi, named ‘Irumoor Guppi’. It can be hiked with half the effort and the views are equally fascinating, it seems. There are a few more cliffs to the right, adjacent to the apex, and before we could focus our cameras, mist spread, covering the panorama.

                          Slowly crawled down to the woods and opened our lunch packet. Our bellies were full of water and couldn't take in much, to Hunda’s pleasure. The flat surfaced rocks, within the woods, appeared to be better than the bed cushions, and dozed off till 3.30 PM.

                                 Hunda opted for a cooling session.

               Return journey, along the same path, wasn’t that tedious, except for my aching toes.

                       Stopping every now and then for a photo session, we kept on walking, at a moderate pace, and reached back Satheesh’s house, by 6.30 PM, without much happenings.

                             Had tea and then moved to the small, but beautiful falls on Somavathi River, very close to Satheesh’s house. Lit by the full moon and no one any where around, we sat beneath the falls for a while, though it was chilling. Back at Satheesh’s house, we had a small campfire and then food was served.

              We had rice, Sambar, Pickles, Papad and egg burji and don’t know how much we ate. We were allotted a small room in his house with sufficient bed spreads and blankets. As you would expect, the night was very cold.

Got up early morning and left Mullodi, by 6.45 AM, in the jeep Satheesh had arranged. From Balgal took a bus to Kalsa and hired an autorikshaw for the famous Horanad Annapoorneswari temple. The auto driver Mr. Prabhakar was kind enough to wait for us, and we got back to Kalasa in the same vehicle. Prabhakar took us a hotel that served neat and tasty food. After break fast boarded the 8.45 bus to Karkala,via Kudremukh town. Major part this journey was along the thick jungles of Kudremukh National Park, and got down at Karkala, famous for ancient Jain temples. Explored these monuments and took another bus to reach Mangalore by 2.30 PM. Did some shopping for the kids at home, and boarded Maveli Express which left Mangalore at 5.40 PM and reached Trivandrum at 7.30 AM on 1st March.

Pramod and Sreekumar rushed to their homes, as they were to be at office by 10 AM. And me………I spent the whole day at home.

                             It would be better to reach Satheesh’s house by evening, so that the trek shall be started, early morning, the next day. If the peak can be reached by around 11 AM, there will be enough time to explore the thick woods on the other side of the peak, which we missed for lack of time. Mountain folds will be much more greener, after the rains………….yes, if you don’t bother leeches. Mullodi and surroundings are worth a visit, even if not for the trek. Should take family along, next time, to be with another family, in surroundings, totally strange. For, our kids are just living to learn and not learning to live.


                                Satheesh, Mullodi, Kudremukh shall be contacted at 09481074530 or 08263249595. Just inform him about your plans and appear before him, for he will take care of all other hassles. He charges Rs.300 per head, per day, with vegetarian food and Rs.350, if non veg. The food is a part of what they prepare for them and hence don’t expect much delicacies. Jeep fare from Balgal to Mullodi is Rs. 400, one side. If you are on the budget side, you may walk along the jeep track to Mullodi in 2 hours. Satheesh took Rs. 115, per head, as trekking fee, to be paid to the Forest dept., and I didn’t feel he was cheating us. The guide fee is Rs.250, and if you could afford, pay little more, for it’s a full day job for him. 

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  1. Shinu

    did u gone Anamudi trek inside PTR. As u had a gud connection with forest officials, why dont u think to do that strech....

  2. Binu,
    The Anamudi, I know, is a part of Eravikulam National Park and its not in PTR. Is it the same place that you have mentioned. If so, I have been to its base, near Munnar,once, but couldn't continue further for certain unexpected reasons. Yeah... I will make it once.


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