How vivid are the memories of a 6 month old trek? - Kumara Parvatha (Nov 2011)
Let me just say that I took it upon myself as a challenge, resisting the strong urges to pen my emotions down right after the first moderate+ trek that literally pushed my physical and mental boundaries beyond imagination. To my utter astonishment and delight, I realized as I recently started recording the experience, that the vibrancy of those memories is still as intoxicating as ever!
Kumara Parvatha is a mountain located in Subramanya (village) of Sullia taluka, Karnataka. The village is known for the Hindu Kukke Subramanya Temple. The peak is at a height of about 1712m, and is about 13 km from the temple. The mountain is on the border between Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts, so the lights ofSomwarpet town in Kodagu can be seen from the peak.
The planning for this trek was on for almost a month prior to the scheduled date. Kumara Parvatha (KP) and its glorious sunrise & sunset had captured our hearts and we were all eagerly looking forward to it. We got quite a few preparatory mails from Raj on training to get fitter for the trek. It was also the first long trek of mine for more than 2 days. All our anticipation was finally rewarded and after a couple of cancellations/dropouts, eighteen of us boarded the Lalbagh Express on Friday at 3.35 p.m. The train journey was comfortable with our constant interest in food that kept us going. We had bhel, masala vadai, cutlet, bajji, bread omlete, maaza, pepsi, tea, coffee with an abated appetite. Bangalore welcomed us with its cool weather (pleasant change for the Chennai-ites).
After dinner we boarded our bus to Somvarpet. Most of the co-trekkers from Bangalore had already boarded the bus and some were asleep. So, introductions, if any, had to wait till the next day! I woke up to a half empty bus that was parked at the corner of a road. It was just over 4.00 a.m and I was under the impression that we had already reached Somvarpet. A peek outside the bus clarified the cause for the halt as a flat tire, rather than the destination itself. I could sustain the remaining travel in the bus without becoming a frozen piece of thing as I’d had the presence of mind to get my feet into a pair of thick socks. Thank God for giving me sense enough to throw the seemingly insignificant thing in my backpack while packing.
We reached Somvarpet at 6.15 a.m. It was very cold and despite the sleepiness in our bones we were all craving for something hot. We were quick to find a place to have our hot breakfast and finish our morning ablutions. We boarded a bus at Somvarpet for a 45-minute ride to an altitude of 700 m in the Pushpagiri hills where the climb awaited us.
After food distribution, we started off and had to walk for 4 kms upto the forest office, where all of us had to register and pay fees. The 4 kms walk was at a constant incline. My lungs were on fire all the way upto the forest office. Understanding dawned on me regarding the import of Raj’s mail that had asked us to do a regular 15-minute ‘hill walk’ on our treadmills back home! We had to cross the stream and had two options – one, that involved stepping on an unused over-bridge so worn out that it couldn’t have handled even a piece of cotton on it and the other, which involved walking over boulders on the stream. We obviously chose the latter, getting our feet wet with a few slippery steps. I recollect my confusion over protrusions from the boulders, which at some places seemed to disappear at lightning speed, and later, upon closer inspection, were identified to be frogs!
Lush greenery surrounded us and it was a visual delight. We had just started the climb for 20 minutes and the crowd got detracted from the main path for half hour because of a mini waterfall. I decided not to venture too close to water bodies as they would be infested with small, thin, slimy, bloodsuckers – Leeches! I was just resting on one of the roots of a huge tree, waiting for these guys to join us where I spotted a particular black colored thin worm-like creature trying to find its way from a leaf onto my foot. I was trying to lift it off the leaf and onto my palm for closer inspection when Mani clarified to me that I’m toying with a leech. As I was struggling to get the damn thing off me (they tend to stick to the skin like they are a part of it), Aakash got all excited about spotting the first leech of our trip – he large-heartedly took the leech off me and was examining the disgusting creature with awe and reverence!
As most of us were expecting a leech-attack and the monsoon season had just ended, despite the dampness all around the place, we were not badly affected. Though, we had to stop regularly to flick them off various parts of our limbs. A few steep, slippery climbs later, we had almost reached the peak; only to realize that the last part of the climb to the peak was more slippery than the one before and at a steep gradient. The peak was scattered with the remains of a previous visit and there were few leeches lurking around the shadowed corners. But, what a sight?! Magnificence personified!
But we had reached the peak in 6 hours and were not satisfied at the prospect of having to settle down there for rest of the day. So we gladly encouraged discussions of going down the same day to the other end of the mountain, towards Kukke Subramanya. The group split into two, with one that stayed back on the peak and the other that proceeded towards Kukke Subramanya and thereafter to the check post for a trek into the wilderness of Ombattu Gudde.
The downhill was constantly at an incline and was very tiring. I just remember a never-ending stretch of downhill ahead of me at all times. There were a few occasions when some of us were seriously considering giving up and camping at the next opportunity. We were craving for a break, which we got in the name of ‘lunch’ at Bhattara Mane. Nachiketa’s constant correction of my pronunciation of that word still rings in my ears! Good food bringing relief to our straining stomach and rest to our wailing limbs. Though the view all around was breathtaking, the rigor of a downhill without a break after the uphill climb was taking a toll on our appreciation abilities. Nevertheless we marched forward. Though my right knee was giving me problems and I had to use the knee support to ensure that it did not give up on me, Prem’s constant words of encouragement kept me going. Even Nachi was facing a similar problem. It was sad to see him suffer quite a bit, though Ela was gallantly giving Nachi & Jayanthi his moral support. Finally we saw some lights, dogs barking and horns blaring - we had completed 25 kms on the first day of our trek – a seemingly moderate trek that just got difficult!
Once outside, we had to reach a check post 22 kms from Kukke. A few from the group decided to go back and proceeded towards the bus stop. I was so tempted to leave, then again, mind over matter – I told myself firmly that I can handle the rigor and that I should not run from the situation (which is precisely what I was trying to do). Dinner was sumptuous, after which we took a tempo to our campsite, which was the flattest ever on a trek – being on the porch of a house, belonging to the owner of a tea shop. The lady of the house was very sweet, empathetic, especially to the fact that I was the only girl in the group.
We stretched our tired muscles and camped on the porch. Dawn came and with it brought the freshness of a new day, a sense of succor to the worn out muscles. In much better spirits and after heavy breakfast, we set out to conquer the 8 km jeep trail. We had to walk along the highways from the check post area to the jeep trail for half an hour. The concept of leeches slipped our minds. My leech socks and tobacco powder along with the stinky neem oil were blissfully left behind. It is at the weakest moment that calamity strikes! And so it did, in the form of leeches!!! We were totally unprepared to handle the onslaught and most of us had really bloody encounters with them. I had around 10 leech bites with bloody feet. For few others the count and the bloodiness just got worse.
The trail was dense with bushes all over and there was dampness everywhere. The trail was clear with no diversions for the first one hour, after which there was a fork. Few from the group led by Raj Jacob went ahead of us as they were too fast for the others to catch up with. After series of discussions and managing to take the right path ahead (which was a right at the fork), we got confused and retraced to take the left at the fork. As we marched ahead we spotted elephant’s footprints and its slightly warm dung but no trace of the other group. We went ahead with rustling leaves and constant apprehension of running into an elephant keeping us all close together. After around 10 kms of walking we reached the stream and the camping site, where we were quick to have lunch. The pool water was muddy and cold. Prem and Shankar went in search of the other team members and came back an hour later. They had seen traces of peeled onions at a parallel spot, half hour from this side of the stream. With the ingredients that we carried masala chicken was made for the non-vegetarians – a wholesome meal, while the poor vegetarians (Ela & me) had only buns and raw maggi!!! After lunch we took the other route that Shankar and Prem had found where the leech population was manageable without much damage and the trail was wider and better than the one that we had used to reach the stream.
We reached the tea shop at around 6.00 p.m. Completing a difficult trek is such an incredibly fulfilling experience. We came out feeling anything but guilty at having missed the other group, only to find out that they had returned around noon thinking and hoping that they would find us at the campsite. The tea lady was eagerly awaiting my arrival, anxious about my whereabouts. Her relief on spotting me amidst the crowd was quite visible. And then I was introduced to her daughters and the group was exchanging stories with her son who is a hard core trekker himself, giving us long-forgotten tales about Ombattu Gudde and Aranmane Gudde.
We boarded the bus to Bangalore, met up with the other team that had decided to stay back on the peak to watch the sunrise and exchanged our unbelievable experiences with each other and boarded the Lalbagh to travel in its air-conditioned comfort.
Special mention of Nagin, Raj (the organizer for Chennai team) and Arasu (organizer for Bangalore team) – their energy levels, enthusiasm and guidance was painstaking.
Memories of discovering and re-discovering one’s threshold is a splendid experience that can never be forgotten! My first moderate-turned-difficult trek where we covered around 41 kms in two days became yet another benchmark for the upcoming treks!