I consider it my duty to inform you that this is quite a long winded post with complete details. Attempt if you have some free time at hand.
Once again, I dive into my own mind to retrieve the silver threads of wonderful memories I have of my treks/travels in the past as I have not engaged myself in any lately. This is an account of one such trek, my first tough one – Pushpagiri mountains. I hope you find it engaging, enjoyable and useful. So here we go.
I had neither heard nor seen this mountain before doing this trek. I wasn’t even serious about the height or the distance of trek that was getting planned. In short, I left all the planning to S and didn’t bother getting to know anything about where we were headed. This, in retrospect was a good thing. Because I might have thought only about difficulty all the while instead of enjoying the trek, which would probably hinder my attempts at completing it successfully. Which you’d agree would not be good as I’d be asked to go back to the base on my own.
It was planned that we are going to trek to Pushpagiri peak and I together with my cousin sister were the only girls in the team. Then my sister joined and that got the count to 7. I was seriously doubting the capabilities of the other two ladies, for they were not very strong both physically and mentally. And a serious trek needs mental strength to kick in when the body gives way. I tried to persuade them not to do it, but they were adamant. So I warned them that I am not going to be responsible for what happens to them. It is their sole responsibility to follow us to the top and back. For me too, it was a first serious trek but I was somehow confident that I will make it, come what may. Because I wanted it so bad, to do something, to feel the achievement and adrenaline.
By the time we reached majestic (in Blr) on Friday night, it was raining and we were dripping wet when we got into the bus. Needless to say that the journey was pretty uncomfortable, both for us and for our unfortunate co-passengers. The bus reached Somwarpet quite late as it had to wait for passengers to board in Bangalore, who were delayed due to rain.
I will skip the gory details of the travel and how we didn’t get time for a bath next morning, for everyone’s benefit.
After breakfast we bundled up in my husband’s brother-in-law’s Pickup to our base “Beedalli” which is 20km from Somwarpet. Coorg is such a beautiful place and I enjoyed the ride at the back of the Pickup, having wind in my hair and eyes closed I almost was one with nature. It was 9:40am by the time we reached the base. There is a temple which we didn’t visit due to time constraint. We had planned 8 hrs of total trek time and be back before sun down so we could reach the safety of house without any accidents.
I wasn’t a serious trekker before this one. I’d only done Savandurga twice and some petty walk in the park types. so when S tried to make me understand the seriousness of the task ahead, I overconfidently brushed it aside saying ofcourse I can do this. I really wanted to see what it would be like to be in a real jungle.
We started walking at 9:45am and just after half hour of walking (and signing some papers that indicated if we happen to get eaten by any animal, it is due to our own sheer madness) we were in the Pushpagiri wild life sanctuary. And OMG this was REAL forest, with scary sounds and *GASP* blood sucking leeches! Eeyuck!
And so we walked on and on and on and on and were nowhere near any kind of clearing. Clearly the leeches were making every attempt to have the feast that they could smell/sense. Good thing we had tucked the ends of our pants in socks so none could crawl and climb on our legs, which would make me very uneasy. Every now and then there were scared shrieks from me, my sister and cousin, who were the girls on their first real trek. I personally found the moist creatures disgusting and they made me sick. Since it was a forest and it had rained continuously since past two days, it was very wet so there were a LOT of them, bloody things. One even managed to get into my shoe though the lace-hole. Can you imagine my horror?!
We stopped at every possible place where some strong sun would shine and clear ourselves. When I opened my shoe, there it was climbing up to the dark recesses where we couldn’t see it. The only way was to put a hand and pull it out. And no I didn’t do it, my friend did. Bless his soul. From then on there were regular leech clearance breaks for about a minute in the sun and then walk on. As soon as I spotted a bright sun patch ahead, I would shout in my officer like voice “leech clearance everyone” and people would start looking at their and others’ shoes, use deo sprays to paralyze them and kill some with the shoe if they really felt like and walk on. I carried a stiff small stick with which I would wriggle them out.
Brave soldiers resting on the rocky patch. Yes brave soldiers also wear cowboy hats on treks.
Then we came to the first rock patch and I heaved a sigh of relief because there was sun and there would be no more looking at shoes and we could relax after a long climb. I was exhausted and wanted to sit for a while but was too paranoid to land my bum on the stone lest some of that moist creature climbed up. You’d agree that it wouldn’t be nice to get a leech bite there.
Race of climbing the rocky patch. Yours truly comes first.
Yours truly looking up at sun in gratitude which actually looks like she’s posing for the camera. Co-incidences!
There are three such rock patches which we encountered after about half way through the forest. They are real blessings. There will be scorching sun and no chance of leech sticking. And they are very steep so better climb them first and rest on top for a while. For me, the blistering heat felt like caressing breeze for I could keep my mind clear from thinking about them (by now you know who).
As we went on climbing there was more sun and less leeches. At one point I decided I will not keep thinking if some have gotten inside my shoe as I won’t know even if they bite. And from then on it was easy to ignore the paranoia.
After stopping for a while for some oranges and water, and climbing for more than three and half hours we finally reached the peak. It felt good. The clouds, the view, the far away mountains in different shades. It was indeed a pretty picture, a very pretty one. But we had a deadline to meet. We had to start climbing down at 2pm so we could reach the base before dark (read: before the animals decide to find us for their dinner).
The chapattis with mango pickle and chatnipudi tasted wonderful after all that loss of salt from the body. And we started the descend at 2:15pm, glad that we were on time.
We are not criminals; faces are sprayed with paint because yours truly was feeling too lazy to use photo editing software to blur them.
We started in three batches. S with his friend, me with another friend, my sister and cousin with another friend, in order of their speed. We were in the middle and I decided to leave behind the friend, to join the two others walking ahead of me and called out loud to the S. He heard and called back, so he must be somewhere near. And I went ahead hoping I would be following quite near to him. We didn’t stop anywhere in the middle in the hope to get back early, so we skipped sitting on the rocky patches and looming ahead of us was the forest and how in the world had it suddenly gotten so dark in there?
I still couldn’t see the two people ahead of me, but wished they were nearby. In front of me now were some rocks which went downhill, may be a stream ran there in rains. And is that the trail? I climbed down and still couldn’t find two tiny figures climbing down ahead of me. This was wrong; I had gotten on the wrong trail. Since how long? And why in the world did I come alone?
Now I could clearly hear the strange scary forest sounds. Did I hallucinate about those faint footsteps somewhere nearby? Is that a deer? Or fox? Or tiger? Or leaopard? My heart thudded while I gathered courage and screamed to S loudly. Thankfully he heard me and came back after a few minutes. And in those few minutes I got the feel of the real wild jungle, which I hadn’t taken in while climbing up.
I didn’t think about how my legs hurt, it was as if they were programmed to jog in a certain speed and I just went with them and jogged my way back till we reached the stream where we had filled water while climbing up. I washed myself thoroughly off the sweat which made me look like I had a bath and forgot to dry myself. It was a welcome relief and when I looked back the mountain and jungle did look intimidating. How hadn’t I noticed it in the morning?
Waiting for others to come. And yes, that IS a bald patch there on my head.
Then we had to wait for the remaining people to come back which they did after an hour. And in the meanwhile I did a final leech clearance wherein I was proud to find that I had no leech bites at all. So huh, damn you blood suckers, you couldn’t get me. I almost went back to give them the finger, but then did it mentally. Wasn’t worth it to get inside the forest then.
Two of them crossing the hanging bridge towards the base. I’m on a spray-painting spree!
Our faithful companion of the trip barely escaped getting spray-painted, as yours truly realized nobody would recognize her anyway.
Distance trekked: 7+7 kms
Total time taken: ~8 hours
Mode of transport: Private
Food: Packed lunch and water filled at the small spring near the base
Energy supplements: Oranges + glucose powder
Leech care: Deodorant sprays, strong sticks
Result: Awesome joy, adrenaline rush, sense of achievement, break from mundane office life, refreshed body and mind
Will I do it again: Without a doubt
Now the time for some pointers, although the regulars already know this:
1. Attempt this if you are fit. Like really really fit. Coz there will not be a break to sit and relax in the middle. Not until the rocks which is a looooong way.
2. If you are a first timer, and are paranoid of leeches, don’t ever go here. At least not during rains.
3. Wear tight socks which has no designs (designs with little holes and stuff) and which is tightly knit. Put your pant ends inside the socks and if you want you can tie the laces tight over the socks.
4. Don’t wear shoes with huge lace holes, which welcome the little guests.
5. Carry a firm and strong stick which isn’t too long. Of course to remove the leeches stuck to the shoes.
6. Carry at least 4 litres of water each. You can fill it at the stream, which is the only source of water.
7. Carry fruits like oranges which quench thirst and gives energy.
8. Carry enough glucose; there are definitely chances of getting faint in the sun.
9. Never ever leave the group and wander alone when inside the forest. It is always better to stick together.
10. Having at least one person who has done this trek helps loads. In my directionless case, it is for staying on track.
11. Carry a deodorant spray each, lest you start fighting among yourselves for it. Spray it a little at the place where the leech has stuck and after few seconds it will fall off.
12. Carry hats/caps. Covering head in the direct sun avoids feeling too fatigued.
13. Don’t, for the love of all that you love; don’t scream/shot/have loud conversations in the middle of the forest. This scares the wild life. Don’t interrupt their lives with your presence. Just because you had nowhere to go, you don’t have to invade their space. Talk in hushed tones or don’t talk at all if you want to spot something.
PS: S spotted a Cobra and a deer. I of course was busy all the while looking at my shoes. Duh!
14. The above doesn’t hold in forests which have too much wild life. Screaming and talking loudly is considered healthier. You’ll guess why if you understood the 13th point.
15. Don’t be too scared, or else don’t go there. The forest and the sounds don’t help. Have a little courage; the animals usually keep to themselves and away from the trail.
16. FINALLY, DON’T EVER LITTER THE PLACE. It is a natural habitat for many beings, don’t spoil their home. Carry a plastic bag to throw your waste in. Carry it back to your place and dispose properly. Better to go with a group that follows this.
PS: This is true for so many tourist places which I’ve stopped visiting for the same reason.
After all this, while climbing down, we found a group which was climbing up and the guys were wearing, floaters!!! On asking he said, the first time there were too many leech bites though he wore shoes, so he wore floaters this time and he got only one. Now that’s what I call brave. Though attempt this at your own risk.