Brahmagiri beckoning

I badly wanted to do Brahmagiri before end of 2012. No logical reason, but I just wanted to trek that mountain. Many are on my to-do list, but this was on the top. So the Christmas weekend gave us a very good opportunity and friends were able to take time off work and a plan was made.

We drove to Coorg, the four of us and were supposed to be joined by two there. Now, the beauty of driving is, you can stop where you want, take a detour and enjoy the surroundings. We planned to cover Melkote, Ranganthittu and Tibetian colony on our way to Ponnampet.

Mode of transport: Car
People: 4
Date: 22/12/2012 morning 7am
Place: Bangalore

We left home at 7am and stopped near Bidadi for breakfast at the awesome Shivadarshini thatte idli shop. Idlis there are absolutely awesome. I suggest to try this place for a break if you are traveling on Mysore-Bangalore road. We also tried chitranna which was ok. If you are a fan of strong coffee this is the place you should go. There are many other thatte idli hotels in the area, you can take your pick. We went here because it was recommended.

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Bidadi thatte idli – Shivadarshini hotel

Our next stop was Melkote, which isn’t much besides a Kalyani and a temple on the mountain. Get a water bottle when you start to climb the stairs though, steps are tall and tiring. We didn’t visit the famous two pillar place where lot of shooting happens. We simply didn’t have the interest after seeing all that crowd (due to it being a particularly auspicious day).

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Melkote kalyani (you can see the throng of people and clothes lined on the iron fence)

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Melkote temple – view from the road

Then we took a deviation towards Ranganthittu bird sanctuary. We had lunch at a restaurant there. It was decent, but not recommendable. Never take chapatis there, you’ll only get papads. Fried rice and pulao were edible enough. We also had ice creams since it was pretty hot.

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Ranganthittu bird sanctuary

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Lazy crocs at the sanctuary

We took a stroll to watch birds and unfortunately there weren’t many. There were the storks which were pretty comfortably colonized on a tree and a few lazy crocs basking in the sun. The place is pretty ill maintained (S however feels that it was well maintained!!!) and tourism isn’t promoted as well as it could have been. It made me feel wonder for what I paid Rs. 50 as entry fee. We left at around 2:15pm and decided to skip the Tibetian colony and hit straight towards Ponnampet.

We took Periypatna, Siddapur, Ammatthi route instead of the regular Hunsur road since it is in non-drivable condition. We expected to find a few elephants as it had gotten dark, but looks like the huge fellows gave us a miss.

We reached Gonikoppal at 7:30pm and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. Gonikoppal is a small place and good restaurants are hard to come by. The one where we went was decent. Since it is a completely kodava community dominated place, almost all restaurants serve alcohol and non-veg. Picky vegetarians should get their food packed before reaching here.

We reached Ponnampet at around 9:30pm and settled cozily at our friend’s quarters at CIT.

Date: 23/12/2012 morning 9am
Place: Ponnampet
People: 4

We were bathed and fed by around 9 am and packed lunch. We drove to the forest office at Srimangala to collect our permission for the trek, after which it was straight to the Brahmagiri base. We were quite late already, due to friends not making it in time.

We didn’t spend much time at Irupu falls as the water wasn’t that great and we had a big trek ahead of us. So we followed the guide assigned to us. Now this young man was very energetic, however lacked experience. We all took a guess at his age and we agreed it would be not more than 20. Since S had already done this trek once in oct 2007, we didn’t think his experience would be a problem.

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Map at the forest office, Srimangala

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A very meaningful board at the beginning of the trek

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Another save tiger board. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Friend K was leading together with the guide and due to lack of fitness I was the last and weakest link of our group, so S decided to walk with me. The sun was unforgiving and the heat unbearable. Off came my jacket, which was supposed to protect my skin. To hell with the skin when I was being cooked inside the jacket. Then started the sipping of water at regular intervals. Even with hats on we felt the our energy was being sucked out of us by the scorching sun.

After a couple of hours we first saw Narimale (Nari – Tiger, male – hill), and after a few minutes reached Narimale guest house, built by forest department for forest guards. Trekkers are also permitted to stay here for the night on their two day trek to Brahmagiri.

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Narimale

Our initial plan was two day trek – first day trek till Narimale guest house and stay. Second day trek the peak, come back, see around and climb down. However, our plan had to be changed as there was recent elephant attack on the guest house and the building was completely smashed. All for a packet of salt which people who cooked there the previous night of the attack, forgot to take inside. The packet which was left on the window sill attracted a herd of elephants who tore down the place just to get the salt. And now we were left with no place to stay the night. So one day trek it had to be.

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Forest guest house at Narimale thrashed by a herd of elephants

We replenished ourselves with huge gulps of energy drink and fruits and started walking again.

After a while we saw a couple walking far ahead of us with their guide, to whom our guide reached and after talking to them found out that they were walking to the temple in Kerala. Oh we didn’t know there was a route to the temple too.

We walked till 1:15pm when we saw a watch tower at around 2 kms. And we were climbing down instead of climbing up the peak. S couldn’t remember seeing a watch tower the last time. He briskly walked to the guide and stopped him. Where were we going? To the Kerala temple ofcourse. What the hell!!!

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The watch tower!

We had missed our deviation towards the Brahmagiri peak and walked further down to the Kerala side. Our guide didn’t even stop to ask us if that is where we were headed. Our guess is even he didn’t know the deviation to the peak.

By the time we retraced our steps back to the deviation it was 2:15 pm and we were hungry and tired and I almost fell down. We had lunch near a small stream and decided to call it a day. Yes, we decided to halt the trek and get back to the base before dark. It made no sense to keep walking as we wouldn’t be able to reach the base before dark if we wanted to see the peak. And we couldn’t stay at the Narimale guest house due to obvious reason. At lunch we got to know the age of our guide – 29 years!!!

On our way back we spotted a Bison at distance. It stared at us for a few seconds before disappearing into a bush. Wild animal spotting is always a joy! 🙂

By the time we reached our car, we were all exhausted. Perhaps not being in the best of health took a toll or may be the heat was too bad. Either ways, we couldn’t complete the trek. It was a bittersweet feeling for me. I was high on adrenaline due to the day’s events. But sad that I couldn’t see the peak.

On our way back, while people chose to dose off (except for the unfortunate soul who had to drive) I promised myself that, soon, I will be back to leave my footprint on the peak. Oh, I will.

The most memorable trek of my life

Warning: This is quite a long post and no pictures too. You’ll find out the reason as you read through.

Until now. And the most trying too. You’ll soon find out why.

The trail of Bababudangiri to Kemmangundi has been my favorite as it was my first trek where I slept overnight in a tent, in the middle of the forest and mountains, beneath the twinkling stars. It was unbelievable, it was magical and funny. You can find the details here and here.

Right after monsoon, we planned this trail again with new people. There was only one very experienced trekker – S. He had been here 6 times before this. I and friend K were the only ones who knew this from the previous trek.

So 9 of us started at around 6:30am from Bangalore in a tempo traveller. Some were meeting each other for the first time. Some were first time trekkers. We stopped at Hotel Mayura at Bellur cross for breakfast. After sumptuous idlis, dosas, vadas and khara bhaths, we got back on the road towards Chikmagalur via Hassan.

When so many people are together, a place can hardly be silent. What started as a friendly discussion, soon reached the status of heated arguments, which died down after we agreed to disagree (some rather reluctantly) and peace prevailed.

After reaching Chikmagalur (and picking up a tent from a friend), we took the road towards Mullayyanagiri and after a deviation, were climbing uphill towards Bababudangiri.We could see drifting black clouds and knew that rain was apparent. However, how much of rain, was something we couldn’t have expected. The prediction on Accuweather was that we could expect storm that night.

The road, towards the end was blocked due to construction work (just like the previous time but this time for a longer distance). We wore our belongings on our backs and like warriors marching towards battlefield, we marched towards Bababudangiri and then reached Gaalikere.

We couldn’t eat our lunch here, unlike last time as there were a lot more people. We walked further and then opened our lunch (packed at Chikmagalur) near a rock and ate. Food always tastes so amazing when had amidst nature. Much to our dislike, it started drizzling. We had 4 hours of walk ahead of us to reach the camping site and with rain it would get difficult and not to mention uncomfortable.

We donned our best jackets (few had to borrow since they came unprepared – good lesson for future) and marched forward. It was around 5pm when we reached our campsite. The light drizzle had started to gain more strength and it was obvious that we would have good rain that night. So a poll was taken whether to walk further and complete the trek in the dark (which I cannot even begin to imagine) or walk back to Bababudangiri (which would be disappointing and of-course means walking in dark) or to spend the night in tent in rain. I immediately knew that option three was best since it didn’t include walking in the dark. If we died, we would all die together in the storm and not by falling down the side of the mountain or being eaten by predators. You can say I have a very imaginative mind, especially during difficult circumstances.

Thankfully most people opted to stay back. We pitched tents in the rain. Talk about tents and rain and the scene that plays out in front of me is the pegs coming off after we repeatedly drive them inside the wet earth. And that is what was happening with us. However we finished all three tents and some very hopeful boys even tried lighting a fire! I need not say that they weren’t successful and we all got into our respective tents to settle down, which means push all the heavy bags at the corners of the tent so it doesn’t get blown away by the monstrous wind and sit and shiver. It was rather cold and we were all wet from head to toe.

After sometime we realized that the cold was becoming unbearable and we made the decision to spend as much time as possible in a single tent which was holding up well compared to the other two. Unfortunately that was a three men tent. We had to spend time until next day 7am with in each others warmth. That night, rain came down like I’ve never seen it come down. It lashed from all sides making the tent tremble and water came in through the net-like sun roof covered by a meager piece of material for roof. And we sat in there, not minding the water flowing beneath us and the tent coming down on us due to the roaring wind. The only thing we had to hold on to (besides each other) was hope.

Dinner of chapatis gave us something to do and that too was quickly over. Someone suggested talking. We did talk a lot, about  – first impression of each other, first crush, childhood dream etc. It all went pretty well in the beginning and the bottle of elixir (vodka in this case) was being passed around to keep us warm. As soon as we started getting sleepy is when we felt the suffocation. 9 of us were stuffed inside a 3 men tent. I made up my mind to move to another tent. S came with me and so did friend K. We saw that another 2 men tent lay flat due to the wind. The spacious one was holding up, to where we shifted.

From here, it is only my experience that I can document as I wasn’t aware what went on in the other tent. We didn’t talk after coming to the big tent. My teeth were talking to each other and I was shaking rather badly. I got into the sleeping bag, S took a blanket, so did friend K and we tried to sleep. The elixir worked well for sometime and I even slept for a while and when it started wearing off, I would wake up shaking only to take a sip and try to sleep. S started shaking bad and I opened up my now wet sleeping bag to get him in. We had each others warmth even though we couldn’t close the bag. We realized friend K was shivering. I could even feel it. But we could do nothing about it. He didn’t complain. I’m guessing he didn’t have the strength to. Sometime during the night he went to the other tent again to get some warmth but came back. Three from the other tent also followed him due to space constraint. and we all decided to sit up and spend the remaining time talking or rather breathing in each others breath.

Everything was wet, the tent, sleeping bag, backpacks, clothes we wore, jackets, everything. We prayed fervently to all the Gods we could remember. Eventually it was light and yes, we could see that our prayers yielded and rain stopped.

I still didn’t want to go out of the tent into the bone chilling cold. But I had no option. I came out and just stood still, biting my teeth together and making my mind immune to the cold.There was fog everywhere. Visibility was only a few meters. Few guys from the other tent were already out and about their business. Soon everybody was cleaned up and we finished the chapati breakfast. We started on our way further.

Since all of us were tired, we decided to not to go all the way to Kemmangundi (also because it is a very slippery descent) but to get down to a village called Santaveri. The two routes diverge at the British bungalow and that was where we were headed. I was filled with a renewed conviction of making it all the way to the end without letting out an ouch. Thorny bushes were really bad. There was no trail and bamboo had grown all over making us get our bags down and walk on all fours. I mustered all the strength that I could and pushed forward.

We had to cross a small stream the banks of which is filled with leeches. After that we walked uphill and lost our way. Just like that. Thick curtain of fog was not helping one bit. We couldn’t see any further than about 15 meters in any direction. So we decided to walk close to each other so the first person should be able to see the last.

We roamed for a while and reached spots we hadn’t seen on our last visit. Sometimes the path would end in a steep incline down the side of the mountain. We simply couldn’t see any of the features surrounding us. How was one supposed to decide which way to go. Even though compass directed us towards the right direction, we couldn’t be sure of the terrain. Time was running and we had to act if we didn’t want to spend another night there.

Now again, we were presented with two options. Either take our time, explore and find out route, if failed pitch tent for the second night. Or go back all the way to Bababudangiri. People were desperate and many suggested that we go back. Then I suggested to break for lunch after which we may take a poll and decide. S didn’t have lunch and went around looking for familiar trails. Friend R went another way. By the time we were done with lunch, fog lifted for a while and S said he was positive about a trail and we could take a chance. We decided to give it our best, again prayed to all Gods and walked. Surely, it was the right path.

I couldn’t contain my happiness on seeing the British bungalow. More than happiness it was relief, that from here, we couldn’t get lost. We spent some time there and started walking towards Santaveri, where we spotted few wild Sambar deers at close proximity. Road towards Santaveri is a jeep track used by forest department. Now it was filled with hungry leeches who made good use of the opportunity that presented them meal in form of us.

British bungalow pic from the previous visit
The ruined British bungalow pic from the previous visit

From there we walked like zombies until our vehicle came to pick us up. Bless their souls, S and friend R had dumped their luggage and gone to get the vehicle for us. They even got us bhajjis and mandakki.

There was talk of stopping on the way to shower. But I realized we were all completely dry right then and I couldn’t spare a minute out of my snoozing time to shower. Not then. Soon, we all dozed off, only to wake up for dinner at Hassan, then back to sleep until we reached Bangalore.

A hot shower later, I could appreciate what I had, however less it was. I appreciated our small house, our small bed, the hot bath, hot food, just about everything. And I thanked, everybody existing and non-existing for what I had. That night, will always remind me to be thankful for what we have and to realize the strength that we don’t know we have.

I also appreciate everybody who shared the tent with me that night. Especially my two younger sisters who were on their first trek, and in all probability a last one with us :P. Also friends who lent their arms and legs to be used by others as headrests and whose breath I have inhaled to be alive. I appreciate S whose impeccable sense of direction and years worth of trekking experience helped to find out the right trail.

I will do this stretch again and again and again. It is so beautiful, that I cannot even begin to explain but in all probability I will never go again when there is a rain prediction.

Now time for moral of the post:

1. Always be over prepared when going out of civilization.

2. Always count in the unknowns and prepare for them.

3. Always have plan B. And plan C just in case.

4. Do not discourage or talk negative during difficult times.

5. Always wear good shoes and carry a good backpack.

6. Carry jackets and rain jackets according to weather predictions. Carry always if you are easily irritable.

7. Always carry compass and a map.

8. Get GPS with terrain if you are not sure about the trail.

9. It is best to have one or two experienced trekkers who know the trail very well. Best are qualified guides.

10. Lastly always help, share and smile. You’ll be lifting someone’s spirit.

You can find the pics from previous visit here.

Find the Kannada version of the trek from Thrilochana Rajappa here.

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Pushpagiri trek

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).

Scenic beauty

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.

Kotebetta climb

It was a beautiful morning. A bit too sunny for my liking, but it was beautiful nonetheless. According to our plan we headed towards Madapur from Somwarpet by around 9 am and reached Madapur 15 minutes later. Since we had a private drop-off, we chose to get down at the HattihoLe bridge (a little further from Madapur). It was me, S and our friend. The river HattiHoLe flows with such a melodious sound that it stayed with me for a long time. In Kannada we call it “jhuLu-jhuLu naada”. It is melodious and rhythmic. Made me want to take a dip in the water, but we had a much serious business at hand. Also, I couldn’t see a way from where we could get into the water. I wasn’t sure of the currents either. Better not venture into unknown waters.

We started on the beaten path taken daily by workers and owners at the estates en-route. Yes, there are a lot of coffee estates on the way. At some point we came across a signboard indicating the direction of Kotebetta and the distance.

Hatti HoLe

Hatti HoLe - The river at the base of Kotebetta

Direction board at the base

We saw a hanging bridge on our way, which was very well-built. I personally have a phobia to step on anything that doesn’t hold still. It was a great experience to walk on this bridge while it swayed above the river in full flow. But we didn’t cross the bridge for our trek.

The hanging bridge

Then we walked through bushes, patches of forests and open lands trying hard to ignore the scorching sun. But he didn’t ignore us. We were tired more often and kept sipping water throughout the climb. The climb was made worthwhile by breathtaking view of the mountains around.

Me and our friend, watching the drifting clouds

The clouds drifted freely, making our view hazy but equally wonderful. We could feel the cool wind as we reached a considerable height. We also experienced clouds on our skin once we reached the peak. They drifted toward the peak, and we stood there, arms wide open as if to embrace the passing clouds. Meanwhile getting chilled by their cool.

Temple

Temple at the peak. Not the actual peak. The actual peak can be seen behind the temple.

There is a temple at the top and we observed that there had been a sacrifice the previous day for the deity. However, I wasn’t interested in going inside the temple. We watched the mountain ranges and passing clouds for a long time, after which the guys relaxed a bit on the low-lying rocks, S read Sherlock Holmes while the friend watched an episode of Friends. Yes, that is exactly what they did! While I was busy capturing their madness on camera.;)

After spending some time there, we decided it was time to climb down. The climb down somehow seemed never-ending. We got back to the bridge where there is a bus stop and had some tea at a nearby shop. In Coorg, private bus transportation is really good. Everybody seems to know everybody else. And people are very friendly, making jokes about things and generally being joyful. It was raining faintly and the bus we got into was a small one. The conductor loaded a bunch of bananas into the bus and I was surprised to see that he gave everyone in the bus a banana each while he ate one. Now, who does that these days?

We got down at our stop and walked back to my sister-in-law’s house for a hot bath and food, while remembering the wonderful trek.

Information:
Kotebetta literally means Fort-mountain. It looks like a Kote from far away, hence the name. There is no fort on the mountain. Google says it is the 3rd highest peak in Karnataka, next to Tadiyandamol and Brahmagiri. Madapur is located around 20 km away from Somwarpet. The buses which goes to Madapur from Somwarpet stops at Hattihole, and there are plenty return buses before dusk. Who knows you might get a banana or two too 🙂

Updated after a few memory refreshers from my husband 🙂 I should give it to him, he has a great memory.