Actual Date of travel : 6-7 December 2008
Kumara Parvatha has been eluding me even before I set my foot in Bangalore. It took six months of wait, three failed plans and one almost ruined Friday night for us to set foot on Kumara Parvatha aka KP on an eventful Saturday. KP is the highest peak in the Pushpagiri Forest Range and third highest in whole of Western Ghats only to be surpassed by Mullyangiri and Thadiyandmol. The peak is supposed to be playing hide and seek with clouds all the while with strong gushing winds also to its glory. But you’ll find out soon what it turned out to be!
There are two trails leading to the peak - one from Kukke Subramanya and the other from Somwarpet. Kukke Subramanya is a devotional place approximately 390 kms from Bangalore and the Subramanya Swami temple here is pretty famous. The trail from this side of the peak is arduous and exhausting but equally rewarding when one realizes the hardships conquered. A slightly easier trail is the one from Somwarpet which is still tough by the usual standards. The trail here is supposedly pretty steep in places but is much lesser in distance when compared to the trail from Subramanya. An ideal trek route would be to ascend from Somwarpet and descend through the Subramanya side. This way you would cover all grounds.
Gregory Isaacs sang his way to glory crooning “hotter the battle will be, sweeter the victory” alright! But the battle’s going to be tougher than we’d expected. We were ascending KP from Subramanya side. Yes sir! We chose the tougher battle. Asha, Pavan, Krishna and your truly along with the rest of the BMC group started from Bangalore on Friday night at 10.30 PM to Subramanya. The bus journey was pretty much uneventful other than the swearing driver and the roads which made sure we were never steady on our seats. We reached Kukke Subramanya by 6.30 AM the next day. As it is a pilgrimage, there is no dearth of lodges and we took our own sweet time to get ready. By 9.30 AM, after having breakfast and filling up our bags with food, water and camping stuff we were good to go.
KP was looming above the temple right in front of us and we couldn’t wait to start the journey to the peak. Spirits were soaring high and so the journey begins. We started walking towards KP. A right turn from the temple leads to the trail. After some 15-20 minutes walk on the road through the village, one can spot the official trail with a welcome board informing the details of KP.
Now we were heading into thick jungle and it is steady ascent for most parts. The initial 5km stretch passes through thick canopy of trees and the trail is mostly roots of those trees providing a stable footing among rocks. Initial enthusiasm got us past through not even the first half-an-hour. Realization dawned pretty early! We were totally drenched in sweat and already exhausted. Just half an hour into the trek this was our condition and we were looking at a whole day of steady ascent with obstacles we did not imagine yet. The light breakfast we had was of no help and we were feeling hungry and drained. At that time some angel I suppose offered us an orange. It was pure delight! The citrus fruit had worked its magic effect and we were feeling better than a minute before. It is at times like this that one actually appreciates the value of basic essentials of life. Never had an orange tasted so good in my entire 23 years of existence! And then again, the four of us were getting ahead slowly with frequent breaks to ease our tired bodies. The weight we were carrying got us tired even more than usual. But we were told we will leave our entire luggage at Bhatta’s house. That was some consolation getting us past this rocky ascent.3 hrs of trek in the dense jungle brought us to Bhattaru mane at around 12.30 – 1.00 PM. Rice, Sambar and some pickles were served for lunch. We were good to go by 1.30 again. The plan was to reach the peak by 3 or 4 PM and then start the descent to reach Bhattaru mane by 5-6 PM. So off we go by 1.30.
We left our entire luggage and resumed the trek at 1.30 PM with just water to drink as there are no water sources till the top. There is one stream supposedly near Mantapa but who knows what flows there. It’s not a major stream. We had to stop at forest office to pay some charges to enter the forest and off we go again. We were crossing small hillocks, grasslands for most part and the sun was shining high up in the sky scorching us. After crossing a few hillocks we reached a point where the ascent was steep and seemed endless. No more plain lands in sight. Tough part starts again we thought although totally ignorant of the beating we were about to take from nature!
Now the best part or the worst part (as it seems more apt) is the never ending series of peaks to the top. And it is not like you always have a full view of what is in store for. You see a peak, trek to its highest point only to realize the peak continues up from there and you trek to its highest point again and again realization strikes! Its like mirages, the closer you seem to get the farther it seems to be. All these difficulties make KP trek one of the most arduous yet rewarding treks around Karnataka! It was close to 2.30 PM and we hadn’t covered much ground. KP was still far far away. Even Mantapa was no where in sight. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said the four of us were crawling at snail pace up the mountain. The thing is all four of us were novices when it came to trekking. This was our first trek for crying out loud! (Well second if you consider Skandagiri :P) And I bet I couldn’t have been more deranged for having chosen KP as our first!
The descent starts and its time for one more realization. I always thought ascent was the toughest part of a trek but so was not the case. I never realized while descending down a mountain one needs to carefully place footing to avoid really serious injuries! All the while I was just feeling like “Juggernaut” from the X-Men series. It was really tough to balance with all the kinetic energy and momentum pushing us down the trail with loose soil and rocks all along. What I didn’t realize though was that this could get worse if you have luggage to carry (Which I learned the next day!). By now the damage was slowly being done and I was totally unaware. What I am talking about is that I hadn’t cut my nails before the trek and so they were slightly overgrown. And my toe nail kept on hitting the front of the shoe while I took each step down. After an hour I realized both of my toes were paining a lot. But ignoring the pain while basking in the glory of nature as the set sun over the distant horizon casting a golden glow over the already golden grass we moved ahead. We reached a viewpoint at around 6 PM. We took some snaps.. some rest..some conversations flowed and we were back on trail. And the “self-photo maniac”(as my friend puts it ) that I am , I took a couple of photographs more than the rest of the people. By now the rest of the gang was out of sight. Vinod and the rest of us started after a short while I guess it was twilight by then. We were all relaxed and chatting away through the trail when suddenly we couldn’t locate the trial for a while.
Next morning we hit the trail again by around 8 AM. Now the task of getting down the hill was becoming more tedious as we also had our luggage to carry while we tried to balance ourselves. We slipped, we fell, but we made it to Kukke Subramanya in one piece by 12-1 PM! We met a couple of childern playing cricket at the foot and joined them for a game. We were back in the same hotel where we started this wonderful sojourn - two momentous and joyous days in the woods. We were planning to eat at the Subramanya temple which is known to serve the tastiest food but it was too crowded and we had to start soon for B'lore. Instead we thought we would atleast visit the temple but people were queued up already in long lines and no chance of that either. But miraculously one gate in front of us was opened( I don't know for what reason) we pushed our way through to have a wonderful Darshan. And as always all's well that ends well! So was the end of this journey.
I thought it'd be an interesting idea to post an image a week. Pictures from my surroundings, my sojourns or just out of my muses would be seen here from now on. Watch this space for more! :)
An early morning view @ Ulsoor.
And so it was a long weekend again! March 27th – 29th ’09. The scorching summer heat was totally getting on my nerves and all I could think was water..water..water.. which culminated in us taking a trip to the gorgeous Hogenakkal falls that weekend. As is turns out summer heat continued to wreak its havoc however the falls itself totally made up for that! Hogenakkal translates to Smoking Rocks. Well the water here falls with such force they create the illusion of smoking rocks.
Hogenakkal falls on Cauvery River in Dharmapuri District of Tamilnadu are a whole series of waterfalls spread over an area of one Kilometer approximately. The water falls over on one side into a gorge some 20m deep and there is another gorge which is the downstream of the river. An idyllic place for a perfect weekend day out! The water here is believed to have curative powers as it passes through some forests with medicinal herbs. Curative or not, it sure was rejuvenating as hell!
Hogenakkal is approximately 180 kms from Bangalore. There are two routes to reach the place and we chose the longer route which goes through Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri. It takes four hours to drive down to the place. We hired a cab and we were stated off from Bangalore by 6.30 A.M. The road was pretty good. Smooth drive all along. By 10.30 A.M. we reached Hogenakkal. There is a small settlement around the falls where one can find some local hotels and Tamilnadu state Guesthouse in case one decides to stay overnight.
I have just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer and I must say it is one of the profound books I have read. This is my first tryst with non-fiction and boy! It hits hard. The author recounts his disastrous experience about his journey to the roof of the world and back in 1996 in this book.During May 1996, five expeditions ventured to conquer the Everest summit but ended up losing much more than they had bargained for. It was the ill-fated climb that led to the sad demise of 12 climbers in a single season – worst tragedy Everest has ever seen. Although all seemed fine the day the summit assault was launched, unpredictable forces of nature sneaked upon oblivious climbers leading to a ferocious struggle for life at oxygen-deprived dizzying altitudes of 26000 feet and above.
Jon Krakauer’s masterly account succeeds in bringing up the harsh realities and the inherent risks of mountaineering. I have come to realize that state of mind and clarity of thought is just as important as physical fitness. At mind numbing heights (literally – due to oxygen deprivation), taking the right decision at the right moment saves one’s life as it happened on the ill-fated day. The author raises many issues regarding the Everest Expeditions which I thought never existed.
The dangerous commercialization of the “conquest to the roof of the world” is a case in point. Anybody who is able to afford the outrageous fee and has a death wish can end up on Everest as it seems. Commercial expeditions charging an enormous fee in return for a supposedly sure shot climb to the summit and back are aplenty! For a moment I believed even I could climb Everest with no prior experience whatsoever. In the face of adversity, saving one’s ass itself is a big deal. Let alone bring a group of amateur climbers to safety!