I had a few vague memories of this place: of our trip to South Canara way back 12 years ago. But these were such strong images that one wouldn’t be able to delete from one’s memory so easily. A highway passing right on top of the mountain ranges with light green, moist, sloping grasslands on either side of the road. Patches of Shola forests at a distance forming darker shades of green. Right when your senses are completely dipped and soaked in all shades of green, your mind is jolted by a sudden contrast in colours. A sudden contrast in the landscape, which you wouldn’t expect.
An abandoned, ghostly township, right in the centre of the thick rain-forests. Huge mines, a large factory, rusted machinery, large industrial conveyor belts, railway lines to transport industry goods, an eerie silence with no humans around save a few security guards, who are watching over whatever is left of the wreck. Welcome to the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company. A huge mole on a beautiful countenance of these forests. How vicious must be the hearts of those men who thought of mining these hills for their own greed. On the flip-side, if there is an argument that these mines provided employment and empowered the locals, one would wonder how many locals were employed by this organization undertaken by the central government when even the security guards here were outsiders.
Hmm .. let’s leave this to perception, I’m now sketching my Kudremukh trekking experience in the following paragraphs.
Day 1(7th Nov 2014):
Our itinerary for this expedition was as usual, over a week-end cramped between our busy work schedules and as usual, the nut-cases who were undertaking this expedition were myself, Jatin, Rohit, Preetam, Nagesh, Raghavendra and the kid in our gang, Aashit( Nagesh’s nephew ). We set off in a Qualis hired by us, and the owner of the Qualis Mr. Satish, was a decent chap, save a few instances where he lost his cool when the cashiers at toll booth took their own sweet time to give change for the toll charge. Murphy’s laws seemed to work perfectly here, whichever lane we took in every toll booth seemed to take the longest time to clear. The fact that he was the owner of the vehicle was a respite to us since he drove very carefully and gently throughout the trip.
The first leg of our journey was fun-filled, with all of us poking jokes at each other. Nagesh, compelled to being a little tight-lipped, just being a little extra careful so that he does not mouth any unwanted dialogues, thanks to the presence of his dear nephew. But he couldn’t help being a laughing stock, thanks to some of his dialogues that came out un-intentionally: Red light reflectors on the high way – danger zone( Don’t worry reader … only we understand the context of it.)
We took a break at the very famous Kottigehara junction ( I would take the liberty of calling it Neer-Dosa capital of Karnatka). The Neer-Dosa’s here are some of the best and we gulped down 7-8 neer-dosa’s in no time. After spending a few more minutes here, we set off again towards our destination. I was squashed in the middle seat of the car, with Rohit and Jatin sitting on either side of me, i wasn’t that lucky enough so that i could put my head on someone’s shoulder and sweetly snooze off…he he. I was too drowsy to realize how much time we took to reach the Balagal junction, where the mud-road towards the Mullodi village, which is the starting point for the trek, begins.
Day 2(8th Nov 2014):
This was the most eventful day of our trip and the day of our actual trek. We reached Balagal at around 6.30 AM on this day. While most people prefer taking a jeep ride to cover this stretch from Balagal to Mullodi, we being an extraordinary group of hard-core trekkers, chose to walk this distance instead. But this in a way turned out to be a good decision: there were several small streams flowing amidst coffee and arecanut plantations on either side of the road. The sight of these streams were a joy for us, not because we could play out there, but just that this provided an ideal spot to perform our daily rites.
Rohit dashed off immediately to the very first stream he saw and showed us how to do it … we followed him …. he he…. please don’t take it literally, i meant he just led us by example. He also whole-heartedly donated his water bottle to do the post performance ritual. I felt it rather much easier doing it in flowing water rather than using a bottle .. he he.
Hmmm, all lighter vein apart, now coming to some serious notes, we continued our walk towards Mullodi along the kachha road. Jatin and Raghavendra who did not prefer on doing the community ritual found yet another small waterfall alongside to brush their teeth. Once done, a few more minutes of walk along the craters of the winding mud road led us to Mullodi. The first house you get in Mullodi is the house of Mr.Sathish, who provides homestay and guide facilities for all those venture out here. We struck a good deal inclusive of guide, forest entry fee, food and homestay facilities with Mr Sathish.
Yet another up-hill stretch was visible from here. The herd of trekkers ahead of us seemed like a trail of ants creeping along. The up-hill stretch after Lobo’s house took us around 40 minutes to climb, immediately after which we get the very famous Onti-mara ( lonely tree) spot. You could say this is almost the mid-point of the trek. I was feeling happy thinking that i had completed some of the most treacherous parts of the trek, but was disappointed after our guide told us that we hadn’t seen anything as yet.
The next leg of the trek for another around 4 kms consisted of flat grasslands, with some streams and valleys to cross. The view along this stretch is awesome, as you can see several peaks from here, with endless expanse of greenery, with varoius hues of green. You finally cross a valley to get into the hill which actually consists of the Kudremukh peak. The climb here become absolutely difficult and very steep. By this time we had over-taken many of the trekkers who were ahead of us. This stretch is a steep climb of almost around 60 degrees elevation for about a km. Many people preferred to return back from this point, having had a sense of achievement of reaching until here. We were determined to go ahead. Rohit and I were the first to reach the top of this hill. There was yet another trek of around 2 kms from here along the edge of the hill until the peak, which was almost level, with a small up-hill climb as we near the peak.
After having some peanuts offered by Rohit, we proceeded further. We did not want to wait for the rest of our gang who were way behind us.
There is a Church here built by the British here, which is now in a completely dilipidated state. We wondered how they managed to transport all the material and built a church at such a place. Our guide informed us that they managed to trasport all the construction material using horses.
At almost the fag end of the trek, just before the last uphill stretch to the peak, there is a small stream. I and Rohit decided to rest a little here, this is when Rohit realized that he had lost his phone. He felt that it could fallen down at the place where we took rest and ate peanuts. He handed over all his stuff to me and started walking back to that spot.
In the mean-time i climbed up the last stretch and managed to be the first person in our group to complete the trek. The view from here was amazing the feeling was surreal. We were among the clouds. With this trek, i had managed to complete some of the biggest treks in Karnataka.
The others followed a few minuted later. Rohit had finally managed to find his phone at the same spot. We all sat on a rock along the cliff. There was no way for us to tell what was beyond this cliff. We didn’t even dare to stretch our neck and look beyond the rock we were sitting upon, which was almost on the edge of the cliff.
The climb down-hill was much easier. We did not take much breaks since we were afraid it might become dark until we reached the village below. We just took a small break at the onti-mara spot where we chatted for a while and as usual making fun of each other. Preetham dashed ahead of all of us since he had to head back to bangalore tonight itself and he also had plans of taking a dip at the Mullodi falls.
After the onti-mara break, we walked like mad until Mullodi village without taking any break. A piping hot cup of tea and some hot Bajji’s, we couldn’t have asked for anything more after such a hard trek non-stop downhill!
Jatin gave is this crazy idea of doing another trek to Gangamoola next day. But, i guess that wasn’t a right time for proposing such an idea, when none of us could even feel our legs after such a hard day’s trek. When we reached our homestay, to our surprise, Preetham was still here, feasting upon his chicken and fish meal. He wouldn’t have missed this for anything, even the risk of missing his bus back home. After completing his feast and packing a bag full of red chilles for dowry, Preetham sought his way back in dark along the mud road towards Balagal, all alone in the night. After chit-chatting for somtime with the members of the family, a hot water bath, in a dimly lit mud walled bathroom with a huge oven placed in a corner, it felt like heaven. We played a game of UNO for sometime after bathing and the dinner was ready for us this time. After a sumptuous dinner along a camp-fire, we called it a day. None of us remember when we dozed off after we went and crashed into our beds.