Friday, September 18, 2009

Kundremukh - An Unforgettable Weekend

1830 hours on 12th Sept - My body parts were all singing their own symphonies. My knees went right, while my feet wanted to rest, the body screamed for some warmth and the mind was blank. Sounds like a nice opening scene for some thriller movie but it wasn't. It was how I really felt after just having hiked for about 8 hours and 30 mins to Kudremukh peak and back. Flashback time....

As mentioned in a previous post, I have always wanted to see Kudremukh and jumped at the first (well not the first but the first feasible) chance I got. I was picked-up at 11pm on 11th night from Kinds Kemp at MG Road by the trip organizer Santosh. Giving me company were Dinesh (a photographer by profession), Sunil and Ram (both IT geeks like me) for the trek. I was happy to see that the group was a small one for I generally hate being in the midst of too many people (probably something to do with the sheltered atmosphere of the Nilgiris where I was brought up). The transport was comfortable too (a Toyota Qualis) and with the customary chai break in the middle of the night (actually 2 or 3) and a puncture later we found ourselves a few kilometers before what was to be our base camp at about 7 am the next morning and what a fantastic setting it was.

The monsoons magic spell can be seen everywhere and the Western Ghats is Karnataka are probably the best places in India to view this magic. There is so much greenery everywhere you see. The smell of the damp earth along with the singing of the birds, the droplets of water from the previous nights rain dripping slowly, making up their own music and last but no the least the silence of the jungle. No cocktail of alcohol or drugs can quite give you the kick of seeing, feeling and hearing nature in her true primordial form.

The base camp which was actually a small hamlet at the foot of the Kudremukh National Park, could either be reached via walk (about 4 or 5 kms) or via a 4x4 jeep and being the lazy city bums we were the decision was made to take the jeep and it turned out to be a real fun ride. The while 5 odd kilometer stretch is built only for a 4x4 and it is amazing to see the old Mahindra Commander (probably a 1970's version) handle the terrain with such ease. The ride took us uphill and we finally reached the house of our host (whose name I shamefully admit, have forgotten) and I would kill to have a place at such a location. The house was surrounded by Shola forests with the majestic grasslands of the park bordering it on all sides. Breakfast consisted of akki roti and chutney and after a quick wash we began the trek at about 8 am.

The trek started off with a brief climb and 5 mins into the climb, I was already panting and gasping for breath. We reached the first forest stream 10 mins or so into the trek and I had the first of many small falls and found my shoes drenched fully. But all that was forgotten when we reached the first clearing. The grasslands opened up in all directions and the scenery was splendid. It seemed so much like the landscape one sees at Eravikulam National Park in Kerala and Grass Hills at Valparai, Tamilnadu. Giving us company were hundreds of leeches waiting to prey on fresh blood that seemed to be coming so willingly to their territory.

The first part of the hike apart from the initial climb is pretty nice and flat and gives the hiker a chance to really soak up the surroundings. The shola forests we passed smell of rotting vegetation. The sun barely reaches parts of these forests and the result is that the conditions are pretty damp. Such is the wonder of nature that the keen eye can spot a whole host of living creatures thriving in the rotting damp vegetation too. About an hour into the trek we reached a huge bison swamp, still bearing hundreds of footprints of young, old, male and female Gaur. You imagine seeing a huge herd of these gentle creatures grazing away at dusk passing an occasional glance at their surroundings. There is also an old house, now in ruins that once belonged to person called Lobo who made the park and their surroundings his home many decades ago. Nature has quickly reclaimed much of the house and the surroundings which are now only topics for tea tables among the nostalgic.

I find a sense of peace a belonging (despite my body complaining for rest and other comforts) in the midst of such surroundings and I always get the feeling that somewhere I was made for a life in the wilderness. The mind quickly returns you to reality and agonizing hours of climbing that lie ahead. The climb gets steeper after the ruins and I was now taking a break every 5 minutes and poor Ram who was doing his first trek was worse off.

The next 3 or so hours were tiring to say the least and clearly the body was signaling to me that I was woefully out of shape. The panting became faster and the only rhythm I could hear was that of my heart that was working its sock off (probably 130 beats a minute) trying to pump blood faster into a body who demands were becoming unreasonable. The last trek I had done was more than 18 months back at Coorg and clearly the lack of stamina was beginning to tell.

At this point the mind really becomes a devil is disguise constantly prodding you to give up and take rest asking you what is going to come out of such a stupid effort.Nevertheless I forced myself to continue and screams of the guys who were already on top of the peak only encouraged me to give the last push and voila! I made it after about 5 hours of hiking.

No sooner had I sat down to catch my breath and have some food than it began to drizzle. With the vegetation offering no cover, we had to beat a hasty retreat from the peak which was already covered by clouds on all sides thereby robbing us of the splendid views that it offers on a clear day. We could only curse our luck and I for one was cursing the loudest because I conveniently forgot my jacket at home in Bangalore.

It rained non-stop for about 3 hours on our way back. Steady and heavy drizzle. My shoes were not cut-out for hiking and I was again cursing myself for not having a pair for hiking. I was slipping, prodding and falling all over the place and managed to pull my calf muscle too. The leeches in the meantime were having the time of their lives spreading to every nook and corner of the feet sucking warm blood. Stops were made every 5 mins to weed out the annoying creatures but it was impossible to get them all out. The terrain made it all the more difficult. Rocks and boulders strewn all over the path with small streams of water gushing down. It is one of those very rare moments in life where you are in pain, cursing your luck, wishing you were at a better place but at the same time enjoying the experience. After all who in the right senses would want to hike down a leech infested landscape for 4 hours in a downpour?

Flashback over.

Back at the hut we managed to get some hot water and after a refreshing bath I just found the nearest bed and fell flat and dozed away for a hour. Dinner was served at about 2000 hrs but was bosy was in too much pain to relish anything that had been cooked. I spent the night twisting and turning on my bed and at about 3 am I moved down to the floor and made myself a bed with the blankets that were available at dozed off.

We left after breakfast the next morning at about 8am, making a stop at a nice little waterfall a few kilometers down the road and then the famous Annapoorneshwari temple at Horanadu (which is magnificent) and at Hassan for lunch. I reached back home at about 2100 hrs beaten and worn down but having just experienced a trip that I will probably speak about with my kids and grandkids.

Thank you life!

Photos of the trip are posted on Picasa

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1 comment:

omahan said...

Dear Mr.Ganesh..A casual visit to your blog became a lesson for a lifetime in understanding how a very bright young man like you had to go through terrible odds and how you have found solace in the pursuit of divine love. You are truly great.