It was around 6 in the evening on a pleasant post-monsoon evening in 2016 and I was busy trying to meaningfully occupy myself with my Smartphone sitting next to my wife in our bedroom.
“Mohan I know you hate trekking with a group, but I want you to come to Kudremukh with me along with another 30 of us in October,” said my Missis.
Not obeying a commandment of this form is a matrimonial heresy and a cardinal sin. As I was trying to muster up enough courage to veto the decision, she said again “Did you hear what I said?”
I avoided looking at her and acted as if I was looking at my non-existing calendar on my Smartphone since I was sure she was glaring at me.
“Yes. I was just trying to check if I had any prior commitments”, I said feebly.
“What commitments? You are freer than a wandering monk after having sold off all your businesses. I will go ahead and confirm to Solanki. I am sure you will love the trek.” I recalled the Scottish nursery rhyme; ‘if wishes were horses beggars would ride’. By the way “Kudremukh” means “Horse-Face” in English since the mountain resembles a horse’s face.
“Is it a trek, a hike or a picnic?” I asked her not putting any effort in hiding my sarcasm.
The reply was an icy stare.
“Tiger Solanki is an adventure enthusiast who has done more than 50 treks in the Himalayas,” she said equally sardonically.
Solanki, our trek organiser and provider of some of the photos below.
” A Treknic. A Trek Cum Picnic” I said to myself.
I have completed about 25 treks. Most of my Treks have been in the last three years with the longest being the 45 Kilometres(28 Miles) two and a half days Mount Kailash trek in the Himalayas and the shortest being the 3-hour Chamra Peak in Kerala.
“We leave on October 2nd and return on the 3rd”, Mamatha said.
“How far is it from Mysore?” I asked her.
She shrugged her shoulders and said “No idea”.
A couple of days before the trip I was still not sure where exactly I was going or with whom. One of the lessons that I have learnt in my matrimonial Avatar as a husband is not to ask too many questions whenever she makes a travel plan. After playing the enthusiastic hubby eager to bond with his wife’s friends though a bunch of strangers, I was able to gather an overall picture of the program;
-There were about 30 members in the group including about a dozen teenagers.
-A bus would pick up the members from a few locations and would take us to a place called ‘Kalasa’.
– We would be staying at Kalasa at a hotel. (“No I don’t want to roast in the heat,” said Mamatha when I suggested that we remain along with the group at the camp).
-The trip was one night/two days’ duration. The trek would be a whole day affair.
-We would be leaving on October 2nd, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
Mamatha started packing only on the morning of October 2nd making me feel happy that at last after 28 years of togetherness my habit of last-minute preparations had rubbed on to her. We got into the bus and joined 14 children and 16 adults in a joyful mood. After picking up another member, the bus left for our destination at 9 a.m.
The first of the many rounds of Gujrathi snacks started off within five minutes of our departure with a serving of Khakra. Evidently even after decades of being in south India, Solanki still had his north Indian affinity for frequent snacking. The four-hour drive to Kalasa through Hassan and Mudgere took us through the evergreen Malnad forests and about a dozen different varieties of snacks all sounding like titles of Hindi Horror movies amidst loud Bollywood songs and pole dance using the Bus Stanchion for the pole acrobatics.
I looked out of the window as we got closer to our destination and saw the grand Malnad region and thought how lucky I am since India has the Himalayas in the north, the Western Ghats in the west and the Eastern Ghats in the East. The Western Ghats is spread over six states, 60 per cent of which is in Karnataka and is house to one of the very few rain forests in the world. Unlike many of the other great rain forests, the rain forest of Western Ghats is one place where elephants walk through tea fields and tigers migrate across coffee plantations. Wildlife has survived alongside humans for centuries in the region. The range runs approximately 1,600 km and covers 160,000 km (62,000 sq mi). The area is one of the world’s ten top biodiversity hot-spots and has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species
I love the Western Ghats. The landscapes are beautiful and very different from the ones in the Himalayas or the Easter Ghats. While there is a rare mix of white and green while trekking in the Himalayas, there is only green all around in the Western Ghats.
We reached Kalasa at around 6 in the evening and checked-in at the hotel ‘Mudra’, a hotel located in the heart of the small town. The owner is a doctor and a Rotarian whose wife happens to be Mamatha’s friend. The rooms were neat and tidy, and the food was excellent.
We joined the group members early in the morning the next day at a village called Mullodi from where the trek was commencing. We started the trek at around 8 in the morning. The trek started off with a slight ascent on a muddy path after crossing a stream. Passing the stream is tricky if you are not careful and luckily all the older guys in the group were expert trekkers, and the younger ones were flexible and fit.
“I wish the trail were wide enough so could have walked holding hands,” said the girl behind me to her friend following her.
“They are doing that and also paving the trail,” I said aloud.
“Really?” asked the pretty girl with her eyes wide open.
“Yes, and they are also installing escalators on steep inclines” I quipped.
“Uncle” screamed the girl angrily.
As we crossed the first five hundred metres most of the members fell behind, and a few fit girls and a boy accompanied me.
“Mohan Uncle, what is the difference between a hike and a trek?” asked girl dressed in purple top and black tights.
“A hike is a walk on well-marked trails that does not demand too much physical exertion. Treks are of longer duration that require stamina and often demand climbing steep inclines and crossing running streams”, I said.
“Is this a trek or a hike?” she asked me.
“Well, it has so far been a hike so far. Let us see how it ends up”, I said increasing my speed.
During the briefing session, Solanki had said that the first point of halt would be ‘Ontimara(‘Lone tree’) marked by a large lone tree at the spot that would arrive after about an hour.
I reached the spot well within an hour, and after waiting alone near the lonely tree for a while, I left the place. From ‘Ontimara’, the trail was flat, with the Kudremukh valley to the right and sloping meadows to the right. The landscape wherever we saw was vast grassland, with the occasional dense spot of trees surrounded by miles and miles of open fields.
This route was spectacularly scenic appearing as though some great Power had covered the whole region with a soft, green carpet.
There were quite a few streams, small and abundant along the trail, and was a great source of fresh and cold water.
The trail started to get steeper for the next few miles and the last halting point before heading for the summit was another ‘Ontimara'(‘Lone Tree’). The whole Kudremukh valley becomes visible. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the trek.
I reached the second Ontimara at the end of the second ascent and looked behind me to see that no one had arrived from our group. I dumped my backpack and lay on the grassy ground.
“This is a good spot to rest and look around for a while” Tiger Solanki had briefed us, before recommencing the walk to the top.
This point onwards, the trail climbs up the ‘horse’s back’ part of the mountain, gradually curving upwards, and ending in a steep ascent. This is the last ascent – the climb to the top is a level walk past green fields.
The highest point on the summit has a small group of rocks. Starting at 906 metres altitude at Mullodi, we had reached 1894 metres, an ascent of 988 Metres or 3240 feet over a distance of 9.50 Kilometers or 6 miles. The trek is considered as of “moderate difficulty level”. It was no picnic by any stretch of imagination.
We Left the peak around 3.00 pm to be back at the camp in time. The descent was down the same trail. My non-water proof shoes and cotton socks both got very wet while crossing the streams. My toes rubbed against the toe-box inside the shoes while descending and my right toenail split into two. One overlooked, but absolutely crucial piece of advice for hiking foot care is to clip your toenails before starting any trek. If they’re too long, your well-fitted boots will do no good, because they’ll still be pressing into your nails, which are pushing into your toes, causing discomfort at best, and at worst bleeding or nails falling off. If your socks get wet, there is a danger that your feet will get injured.
I have noticed that during the descent, the return distance to the starting point remains constant as it gets darker and the sun sets two-and-a-half times faster than usual when you’re hurrying back to the starting point.
The Kudremukh peak trek is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful treks I have done in my life. The variety in scenery you get on this trek is something incredibly unique to this trek. There are overflowing streams that have to be crossed, dark green forests with crisp brown leaves fallen underneath, bamboo shrubs tall enough to touch the sky, rolling green hills and finally, the peak itself, where gusty winds can blow you off your feet while the scenery below blows your mind.
I loved every one of the 39292 steps that I took on that day and shall cherish them all my life.