Sunday, December 16, 2018

Kudremukh Monsoon trek and Western Ghats

In July, one of my colleagues had to visit Kukke Subramanya temple and he asked 4 of us teammates to join him. The idea was to have a road trip with visiting couple of places on the way and ending the trip with visiting the temple. This was just after the Coorg floods and the best routes to reach the temple were all blocked. With the alternative being Charmadi ghat route we decided to trek the Kurinjal peak in Kudremukh. I know it doesn’t make sense and I am still wondering how we ended up doing a trek during peak Monsoon :P Anyways here goes the blog :)

Our initial plan was to leave Friday morning, reach Kudremukh by noon where we would book a resort for the day and go for the trek on Saturday. We would then head to Subramanya where we would stay the night and finish the Kukke temple visit on Sunday morning and head to Bangalore post lunch via the Charmadi ghat. It being off season our guy in Kudremukh told us to give us a call when were on the way and he would arrange the stay for us. However with forest department having a per day trekkers limit we had our trek already confirmed. But well, when do initial plans ever work?

We started from the Nagasandra Metro station at around 1:30pm and went via NICE road to reach the Mangalore highway. We had our lunch at Udupi Garden Veg hotel which is 5 kms after Nelamangala on NH 75. The weather was cloudy throughout.
Mandatory Highway pic in a blog about road trip

I had initially recommended visiting the Shettihalli church and/or Manjarabad fort on the way but since we were already behind schedule we decided to go directly to Kudremukh. Instead of taking the busy Hassan - Belur - Mudigere route, we decided to take the scenic Hassan - Sakleshpur - Anemahal - Hurudi - Banakal route to reach Kottigehara. This is less traveled route so it was a pleasant drive with less vehicles. Well I don’t know to drive but being the trips official photographer and blogger (self appointed), I got the front seat while the 3 others cramped themselves in the back (*think of me doing an evil laugh*).

We reached Kottigehara at around 7:30 pm where we stopped for the much hyped Neer Dosa. I call it hyped because we prepare neer dosa every week at home but hey if you have had the over priced ones in Bangalore restaurants, I bet the one you get at Kottigehara will seem really good :) While you are here also try the chilli bajjis and pakodas.

At this point we realized we did not have a place to sleep that night. Kudremukh was still far away so our best bet was Kalasa or the accommodation at Horanadu temple. We reached Kalasa at around 9pm and we asked the first person we found about a hotel and he directed us to Sri Suprabha Residency where we got two rooms (for 5 of us) for Rs 2300. We had dinner and then went for a walk at around 10pm. Lights out everywhere and we were the only ones roaming around. It was a good day with good weather and hardly any rain, well until then. We woke up the next morning with it pouring like crazy. It was like the universe sarcastically telling us - Welcome to Malenadu and enjoy your trek! The view of Kalasa from the terrace of the hotel was pretty amazing :-)

We had a heavy breakfast and checked out of the hotel by 8am and on our way to Kudremukh we stopped by the tea estate for some quick photographs.
We took the free entry permit from the forest check post (which you need to keep safe till you exit the forest route) and reached the forest department office by 9am to meet our guide. We were supposed to follow our guide who was on his bike to the trek start point but Nandeesh who is born and brought up in Kudremukh told us to take a diversion into the now ghost town. Back in the day it was India’s first planned town. We got a guided tour of how the town was and where he stayed, studied and played. Also got a brief history of the place and how the KIOCL managed the whole town. While we did all this, the guide realized we were not following him and thought we got lost. He went searching for us while we went to the Bhagavathi Nature Camp (which we later realized, was not our trek start point) and waited for him. The thing about this part of Kudremukh is that there is no network coverage. There is one bench near the nature camp entry where you get slight network (strange but true).
Way to the nature camp
View by the roads leading to the trek start point

Long story short we finally found him, parked the car at the gate of the nature camp and started walking on the amazing roads for more than a km to reach the start point of the Kurinjal Peak trek.

Oh at this point let me say that it was drizzling and we were getting drenched in spite of the raincoats. So this trek has 4 stages. The first one is casual walking on the muddy roads. You see open skies or cloudy ones as in our case.
The next stage is through the forest. At this point it was pouring and at few places we were walking through the forest in ankle deep waters. In a way the water was keeping leeches off of us but then some of them were strong enough to hold on to our shoes/clothes. (Yes, there were leeches, it was rainy and swampy, duh!).

The third stage is the top, just out of the forest till a view point before the ascend to the peak. There is an abandoned home where you can stay dry for a while and eat anything that you might have carried. The view from here was supposed to be awesome but all we could see was fog :( We still had more climb so there was still hope!
Blurry pic? Blame the rains

The long way to go!

The final stage is not for the faint hearted or for someone with fear of heights. It is a steep climb and at times I felt out of breath and had to stop. Just to not appear weak, I used these breaks to click pictures :P
Yes we went up that peak
Kurinjal Peak Conquered
The climb down was scary too. With lower visibility we really had to see where we were keeping our foot.
When we came back to the earlier view point, the rain had reduced and fog had cleared a bit and there she was, the majestic green western ghats :)

We started from the camp gate at 10:20 am and reached the peak at 12:43 pm. We stopped for a bit at the top and then were back to camp gate at 2:40pm. If you are wondering how I remember the time, well, I refer to the timestamp of the pics (sometimes I take random pics to remember the time). And yes we covered a total of around 13 kms in under 4hrs 30mins.

There were leeches everywhere and our guide had half a kilo of salt with him to help us in case we got bit. We also had salt with us and we got bit so many times that we emptied the salt by the time we were back! He told us not to stop as that is how leeches get to climb onto us. We each carried a small stick to remove leeches off our shoes and clothes when they climb. I checked for the timings of the trek and he said that trek is allowed from sunrise to sunset. So during rainy and winter they do not allow you to climb after 2pm and in summer they allow you to stay on top until 5pm. Regarding attire, with shorts it is easier to see and remove the leeches before they suck too much of blood and shoes help to keep leeches away for a while. If you are wearing track pants make sure that there is no way a leech can climb inside :P

So that was the trek. We had checked out of our hotel and the next reservation we had was in Kukke so we were kind off in a fix. Thankfully the forest officers near the gate allowed us to bath and change at their house. We left after freshening up and stopped at Bajagoli for lunch/snacks at 4pm. We reached Mahamaya Residency in Subrahmanya at around 8pm. This ended the epic bloody tiring day (literally bloody thanks to leeches).
Mangalore Buns :D

The next morning we had breakfast and visited the temple and were done with darshan and taking prasad by 10:30am. We wanted to wait for the lunch which starts at 12:30pm but we were told that Charmadi ghat might get blocked due to people leaving to Bangalore so we decided to checkout and leave by 11am.

We passed via Dharmasthala and stopped for lunch at Hotel Panchami Residency on the highway in Ujire. There were lot of vehicles on the Charmadi ghat and at times it was really scary as it looked like a sure shot accident considering the speed in which the heavy vehicles go in. There are couple of view points where you can stop to enjoy the ghats but since it was drizzling, we could mainly experience fog.

We reached Bangalore city limits at around 8:30 pm and thanks to the metro at Nagasandra, I avoided the traffic and reached home by dinner :)

- Arjun, who wanted to visit Kukke and also drove us in his car
- Mr Manju (You can reach him on 9482905699) for arranging the guide and getting us the required permissions for the trek in Kudremukh & Nandeesh for coordinating with him
- Jithin, Nandeesh, Saurabh and of course Arjun for the amazing company throughout the trip.
- My OnePlus6 which took the amazing pics and survived the heavy rains :-)

You might also be interested to read:  Sringeri and Horanadu, Avalabetta and Gudibande fort, Manchanabele, Maklidurga, Mekedaatu,

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