On the 24th of last month I had gone trekking with the Bangalore Ascender’s to Kumara Parvatha/Pushpagiri. The team members were Girisha, Jinu, Prabhakar, Om, Ashok, and me. It was my second time with the group. Previously, I had gone with them to Munnar on a cycling trip.
When I told everyone that I was going to KP, most of them told me that it was stupid to attempt the trek at that time since it was still summer and water would not be available near the peak. Also, they said that the trek through the grassy route would be tough in the searing heat. But, the organizers had done their homework well. Girisha had called up someone who had been there a few weeks before us and had made sure that our route(from the Somwarpet side) was well sheltered and enjoyable.
All of that preparation paid of well and it was one of the best treks that I had done up until then. All the treks I had gone on were single day treks, which meant that I could return before the end of the day and did not have to carry a lot of stuff with me. But, this time it was different. The route was 25 kms long and it was going to be a 2 day trek with an overnight camping on the top included. I was pretty excited about it as I had never slept outside under a tent before.
We started on Friday night from Bangalore and reached Somwarpet by about 6 in the morning. After freshening up and having breakfast we hired a jeep to take us to the Mallali water falls and later drop us off at the start of the hiking trail. To reach the water falls one has to take a detour from the route connecting Somwarpet and the start of the trail. I was not that enthusiastic about going to the water falls as I thought that it would be relatively subdued because of the time of the year. But, I was proved wrong! The trip and the short walk to the base of the water falls was well-worth the effort.
We reached the temple by about 9 and from there we set off for the forest office where we enquired about the conditions near the peak. They said that there had been a lot of rain recently(fortunately) and that there was continuous thunder and lightning at the peak(not-so-fortunately). They suggested that we not stop at the peak and that we continue on to Bhattare-mane on the other side before stopping for the night. They also warned us that the route was heavily leech infested!
Thankfully, after all these warnings they gave us the assurance that there was water available at 2 points along the route and also near the peak. Hearing this was quite a relief to us. So, after all the paper work was over, we set off.
A dog accompanied us for quite a way!
I had come well stocked as far as food was concerned. I had with me lots of mangoes, biscuits, dates and chocolates. Even though I was not really that hungry I kept munching on stuff as I walked with the others under the cool shade of the trees. We stopped for water at a couple of small streams.
Very soon, the leech problem became very severe and all of us started walking at a brisk pace to reduce the number of leeches that we were picking up. After a while I found out that stopping to pick off the leeches on my shoes was a wasteful affair as more were climbing onto my legs than I could pick off in a given time! So, I decided to ignore them and simply walk as fast as I could through the wet thick forest and stop only on dry rocks for water and rest.
The tree cover cast a pale green shadow over everything and the recent rains had put that cool, wet tropical touch on the trail. Walking along it, it was easy to ignore the numerous leeches jostling for space in my shoes and simply get lost in the wild beauty surrounding us.
The initial part of the trail was very easy and I soon got ahead of the others as I was walking at a pretty brisk pace. Soon, I came to a pretty steep(about 45 degree I guess) rock face and from then on the climb was pretty tough.
I could see water channels all over them and thought about how cool it would be to climb it in the rains!
After that, the gradient continued to be high. I was starting to feel tired and had to take a couple of breaks in between. The last 2 kms before the peak seemed to go on forever. Finally, by about 12:45 I broke out of the tree cover and to the stretch of rock just below the peak.
The weather atop the peak had absolutely no relation to the conditions below it. It was alternately misty and clear. Conditions kept varying quite abruptly.
After I got to the top within minutes the mist came up behind me and surrounded me. I decided to walk about and check out the area before the others came. There was a temple atop the peak which was mostly just a big pile of rocks.
Then I sat down and decided that the leeches had had enough fun and decided to split ways with them.
Then I surveyed my ration and waited for the others. Soon enough I heard shouts from behind a copse and went over and joined the others. It was only about 1:30 and we thought that we were too early in getting to the peak. We didn’t realize then just how wrong we were!
Then we got some water from a spot just below the peak and made ourselves some hot, tasty soup and pasta!
We then were wondering about what to do after that when suddenly the sky grew dark and it started drizzling. We quickly got under the tarpaulin sheet that we had tied up and into our sleeping bags. Very soon the rain grew in intensity and the sheet started becoming wet and the weight was causing it to droop and touch our sleeping bags. Also, the water was starting to come in along the edges. As soon as the rain started Prabhakar picked up his sleeping bag and ran over to the bags which we had kept under another tarpaulin sheet and got under that. If it weren’t for that we wouldn’t have had space for all of us! As the night wore on, I snuggled deeper into my bag and stayed there listening to the rain pounding the sheet within inches of my ear and enjoying the warmth and silky comfort of my bag. It was then that I realized just how helpful they can be while trekking.
By 5 in the morning, the damp had managed to creep into my bag near my legs where it was exposed to the rain. It was okay since the rain had stopped by then and we all got out of our sleeping bags and decided to get to the viewpoint and wait for the sun rise for which KP is most famous!
When we got there, the sun’s rays where starting to just illuminate the sea of clouds from below!
We stood there making small talk and trying to contain our excitement as the majestic sight slowly unfolded in front of us. Soon enough, the sun appeared over the horizon and veins of color shot out in all directions…
The clouds parted for a few moments and granted us a peak at the sun!
After sunrise, we packed up our stuff. I then took out my bread, cheese, some prunes and dates that I had with me and made a meal of them. I gave it to the others also as we were all very hungry.
The descent was very easy as we started early and because of the rains the day before.
On the way we had to pass through a “leech forest”. We passed so fast through it that most of us didn’t get bitten at all.
We got down on the side of Kukke Subrahmania. This is the more popular route that most people take. This route is mostly through open grasslands. I thought the trail that we went up by was more enjoyable. Anyway, we soon got to Mantapa, After hanging around for a while we made our way to the forest office. When we got there we saw that there were a lot of guava trees all around the place.
We took a break and just lay about eating them and relaxing in the shade of a shelter near the forest office.
We then made our way to Bhattare Mane where we had a lunch of rice, sambhar, butter milk and pickle. Then we waited for a while until the sun lost its edge and then set off again. We got to Kukke Subrahmnya in record time and booked ourselves a room in a lodge and rested and freshened up there. After that we walked around the temple town and had some tasty snacks at a hotel. Then we got our bus back to Bangalore and had a comfortable journey back home!
It was a pretty cool trip and it was my first time with a group this experienced and passionate about trekking and nature. A big thanks to Girisha and the others who managed to make this trip such a grand success!