Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007) - Part 2

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chill under the waterfall
After a few minutes of rest and recharging the bodies, we could already hear some of the guys having a splash, literally, below in the waterfalls. Not to be left behind, we soon joined them. The water gushing down was not in any great quantity as it was summer. What ever was present was thanks to the rains that had hit the region the week before. It helped us though as we could cooled ourselves down standing right under the fall. That being easier said than done provided the slippery rocks we needed to reach and stand on. Almost everyone had a spectacular fall or two. One of the guys even smashed his mouth against the rocks and was incapacitated enough not to do the trek the next day. I had a end of day story to tell too while trying to jump from one rock to another with the camera in hand. The next moment, the rock I landed on was providing me with no grip at all and I was sliding down on my tummy to the waters below. I only managed to keep the camera and my head as high as possible so that they wouldn't bang against the rock while I slid in to the waters. Thankfully the water was only waist deep and the camera survived with just a spray of water. Birding wise, I could hear a lot of bulbuls and see some flying around too. But since we were close to water and in a large group, no birds dared to perch anywhere close. I had to be satisfied for the day just watching them fly around at a distance. We spent the time relaxing there while the sun set on the distant horizon.
(pic: chilling near the waterfalls)

The night and the daybreak
Though we were equipped with tents, we decided to take the offer from one of the household at Mullodi to stay at their home. The house of Sathish is the penultimate one on the path that leads inside the National Park. We spent time gazing at the starry sky trying to spot shooting stars and making sense of the weird noises coming out of the forest (ok, they were peafowl calls) and hills all around. After dinner, everyone fell fast asleep. The morning next, we woke up early and were ready to start the trek at 6.30 in the morning. A few hundred feet from Mullodi village the National Park begins and a primitive signboard proudly announces that the peak is 8kms away. Don't be fooled by that! It feels much much more.

The onward trek
The first landmark on the way to the peak is the Tholali anti-poaching camp (APC) where a forest guard would be present and to whom we are required to report. He would then be the guide for us since a department guard has to accompany any group trekking inside a National Park. To reach there the path follows a valley that offers spectacular views of the range. Quite pleasingly, the many houses and fields that used to dot the valley have been evicted and the land returned to where it belongs, the forest. Though it presents the picture of a degraded forest, it won't be time for nature to reclaim what was rightfully hers. Along the way, there are numerous streams that cross our path. Some of the streams don't even have bridges across them or have a rudimentary one log bridge. One has to cross such streams jumping from one slippery rock to another. It was much easier this time because the streams had barely any water. After trekking for almost 3.5 hours we reached the APC location that I knew from my previous trek. But we were baffled to find the camp deserted and the hut that served as the camp in shambles. We were more confused because we had met the forest guard the previous day on our way and had informed him about our trek. We decided to continue with the trek since the path to the peak was fairly straight forward. We later found out that the APC had been moved closer to the park boundary and we had missed seeing a board pointing to the camp when we had crossed one of the numerous streams.
(pic: view of the evicted houses and the degraded forests across the valley)

Lobo house
A kilometer or so from the erstwhile APC, the trekking path from Navoor joins ours. Soon we reach the Lobo house after crossing a stream. There are two abandoned houses close by here with the first one (on the right) in a habitable condition. Continuing further, the path takes a gentle climb over a mound where the grass has grown chest-high to cover the path up. We had to literally make our way through the grass keeping the third and last house in the village as a direction marker. We knew we had to pass that house on the way to the peak. It was slightly scary because the grass could hide literally anything, from a leopard to a cobra to a bison - all of which are equally dangerous when ambushed. Now this is the place where I felt that connect with nature, feeling one and part of it. Its only when you look at your fellow trekker that reality strikes - that you are a mere guest in this paradise. As described in the opening text, the KP is already towering on your left with the clouds gently kissing it as they floated eastwards. Towards the end of this grassy mound, we emerged in a forest with tall trees that seemed straight out of Sherwood. Realizing that we had lost our way, we trekked inside the forest in the general direction of the last village house. Fortunately, we found the house without wasting too much time. It was rewarding to say the least thanks to the guavas, of which we could not have enough. It was about 11 in the morning by then.
(pic: near the erstwhile APC at Tholali. The Kudremukh peak on the elevated horizon)

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