Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007) - Part 1

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Kudremukh Ranges
If you ask my opinion about the most beautiful part of Karnataka, being the mountain person I am, the answer inevitably would be the kudremukh ranges. As one trudges through chest-high grass unaware of what lies a few feet ahead and makes sense of the path that is not well traversed and yet takes the time to look around and soak in the beauty, its hard not to be overawed by the majestic mountains all around. None more majestic than the 1892m high horse-shaped Kudremukh Peak. You get this view when you march from one dilapidated house to another in the deserted village some 10km inside the kudremukh national park. The Lobo house among these houses was popular with trekkers of yore as they would rest here overnight and try an assault on the peak the next morning. The more brave souls would camp at or near the peak itself, braving the wind and the chill and wildlife. But such things are ruled out these days since camping inside national parks is all but ruled out. It is next to impossible to get a permit for doing so unless you have a valid reason for the same. The village in question (Tholali) has an abundance of fruit trees like the guava and jackfruit trees around the abandoned houses. With no humans for miles around and gentle mist floating in from the west, it is as close to paradise as I can possibly imagine.
(pic: view from near the top of the peak facing east)


We Start...

The story doesn't start from there though. It started 36 hours back as we, the 10 of us, left Bangalore on a sultry Friday night. The heat in May can be unbearable even in Bangalore. We had chosen trekking in K.N.P. (Kudremukh National Park) as a relief and a break from our mundane routine. An overnight drive takes one through Tumkur, Arsikere, Kadur, Kottigehara, Kalasa and Samse. It lies some 300 odd kilometers from Bangalore in the western ghats. If you manage to reach Kottigehara at the break of dawn, try to keep yourself awake because the view that enfolds through your journey over the next 90 km or so is absolutely divine. The road is in a decent condition and sees little traffic so early in the day. You are taken through beautiful dew-laden tea estates (probably the only ones in Karnataka). If you are lucky, then you might find yourself facing the plateau and the sun soaring above the white sea of clouds which cover it. Pretty soon, you will have crossed Kalasa, a major temple town. There are a few hotels here where you can choose to have your bath and breakfast. A short detour (15kms) takes you across the River Tunga and to the other famous temple town of Horanadu. Be warned that it can be very crowded on weekends. We chose not to stop anywhere and drove straight to Samse (12km from Kalasa) which lies on the way to Malleshwara or Kudremukh Township.
(pic: vista of the Kudremukh ranges which was to be our indulgence for the weekend)


Change of plans!

It was about 8 in the morning. The facilities for breakfast and bath in Samse are at a bare minimum. It is just a sleepy hamlet on the foothills of the Kudremukh Range. There is a home stay that has been opened recently but we didn't give it a try. Our plan was to get a permit from the forest dept office in the township and start the trek as soon as possible. Half the group alighted at Samse and unloaded all the luggage. We wanted to camp overnight at the Lobo house and trek to the peak the next morning. The 11km drive to the township is through lush green forest in the National park. The township lies within the park and was created to house the employees of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (kudremukhore.co.in) which has been thankfully closed down from 2007. We paid the entry fee (Rs.30 per head), trekking fee (Rs.50 per head) and the guide fee (Rs.100 per trek) and returned to Samse. We were also informed by the forest office that no person is allowed to stay within the park after 6pm strictly. So this meant we had to alter our plans. We decided to trek down to Mullodi where we would halt for the night. This village lies just outside the national park.


The unending walk

Our vehicle dropped us at the Basrikal gate. This is where the mud road to Mullodi begins. Its a pucca road on which jeeps can traverse. It has been improved vastly since the last time I trekked in 2005. After crossing a small stream right at the beginning, its a steady climb winding through many plantation estates. Though the stated distance is about 6km to Mullodi, it feels more like 10-12km since the path keeps gradually climbing and the road keeps curving, hugging the hills to our left. At each one of those curves, we would be enticed into thinking that the destination is just after the curve only to be disappointed. Our city bred bodies certainly aren't built for such hikes. After huffing and puffing through the way (never admitting to being tired though), we finally reached the familiar terrain of Mullodi. It lies right on the Somawathy valley overlooking the Somawathy waterfalls. The jeep track ends here. Alternatively one can fetch a drop from the jeeps traveling on this route (about 250-450 depending on the number of people in the group and your negotiation skills). Being the last ones to reach, we saw other taking generous amounts of refreshments and giving their limbs much needed rest and we joined in.


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