Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bare footing in Western Ghats -- A trek to Kudremukha

The sudden drop in temperature woke me up. It was 6 30 in the morning and I lazily pulled up the window to take a look outside. The winding road with dense green foliage on both side and the slight drizzle made the whole scene very picturesque. It was the perfect start of a weekend after spending the previous weekends at work. We were at Marasanige, a sleepy little town in the Western Ghats in Karnataka. We stopped at the lone restaurant in the town and filled our tummies with Mangalore Buns, a local favorite made with banana batter.

Half an hour later we got down at Ballegal which was the start point of our trek to Kudremukha. The forest check post at Ballegal, where one could buy tickets for the trek wore a deserted look. We enquired around and found that we had to pay the govt. trekking charges of Rs. 275 per head to a local shopkeeper. The base camp for our trek, Mullodi, was about 7 kms uphill from Ballegal. As we were already late, we hired jeeps to take us to Mullodi. Thrashed by the monsoons, the jeeps literally begged for mercy on those roads. It took immense efforts for us to hold on to the bars to avoid falling. The jeep driver told us that he would seek blessings from the almighty every time he rode on these roads. Finally, after a rough 40 minutes, we covered the 7 km drive to the base camp. 

I could hear the sound of the gushing stream from the base camp. While waiting for the other jeep, I quickly went down in search of the stream and found one of the most gorgeous falls that I had ever come across. The flow was enormous due to the recent rains and threatened to sweep away anything that came in contact with it. After clicking few pictures I went back to the base camp by which time the other jeep had arrived. All of us picked up food packets for lunch. The guide we had hired briefed us about the trek and insisted very firmly that we come back before darkness. 

Twenty minutes into the trek and all of us were down checking our legs. The area was infested with leeches. At any point in time, we could see at least 4 to 5 leeches on each of our legs. Initially we were a bit jittery about leeches and kept pulling them out every five minutes. An hour into the trek, we got used to them and stopped worrying about them. As we trekked into the thick forests, we crossed numerous waterfalls and streams where we refreshed and rejuvenated ourselves. Meanwhile the rain was showing no mercy and continued pelting at us making the trek harder.

An hour later, as we gained altitude, the vegetation started changing. The thick dense forests gave way to the vast expanse of Rolling Meadows. It was one of the most spectacular pieces of landscapes I had ever seen. I stopped for a moment gasping for breath. It was truly a sight to behold. The entire stretch through the grasslands was very slushy due to the rains. It was here that my slipper snapped into 3 making it impossible for me to even try and fix it. Cursing myself for not getting my shoe, I started walking with bare feet. Walking on that slushy leech infested terrain without knowing what I was stepping on was very frustrating but I had no choice at all. 

We now started ascending on the ridge that would take us to the Kudremukha. After climbing for half an hour we found it very difficult to continue. The rain was falling harder, the breeze was even fiercer and the slopes were becoming steeper. The temperature was about 18 degrees and all of us were shivering clinging on to each other to find some kind of warmth. We then decided to turn back as most of us were unprepared for this kind of a trek. We had lunch and started descending.
Like always, the descent was madness. The slopes that seemed gentle while ascending now looked steep and treacherous. It took us about 3 hours to get back to the base camp where we were welcomed with hot tea. We informed the locals at the town to bring the jeep and while waiting for it, our guide offered to take us to the waterfall which I had been to in the morning. It was a very short trek to the falls and all of us wasted no time in jumping into the pool. Fifteen minutes later, all of us left the base camp by jeep to Ballegal. Tired and torn, I immediately fell asleep on the bus waking up at Agumbe where I had one of the best meals. More about Agumbe in my next blog!!  
Though the Kudremukha peak eluded us this time it has given me lots of wonderful memories to hold on before we try this once again.

“Patience is an art well learnt when one is at the mercy of nature”

Directions - 
Take cab / bus to Balegal on Kalasa main road (330 km)
Take jeep from Balegal to Mullodi (700 Rs per jeep for one way - 7 km)
Start trek from Mullodi (Camping facilities available as well in Mullodi)

Expenses - About 1500 - 2000 per head.

Tip - 
Start trek early so as not miss the peak. Carry ponchos if trekking in monsoon season.