To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort

Tripoto
22nd Jun 2019
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

As with any 'normal' human being the first thing that I do after I wake up is to check on my phone. And when it was a mail from Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC) for a pre-monsoon trek to Kodachadri my excitement made me jump out of the bed & to register asap. You see BTC treks are (in)famous for snapping up registrations in a jiffy. And I was already 20 mins late from the time the mail hit my mailbox. I was done registering within 5 mins, pretty confident of making the cut.

Only to my disappointment the next day that I realized I was on the waitlist of a 12 member shortlist. This ensured I remained sad for the entire day. But with fortune on my side I was contacted by the organizers of a last min drop-out, and that if I'm interested. Was that even a question? Of course I'm interested! And we are back on track!

Kodachadri is a enchanting mountain peak in the Shivamogga district of Karnataka. This peak has been on my to-do list for a while, and a opportunity to relish the same just when monsoon showers are knocking on the doors of Western Ghats. Deep, dense forests coupled with green meadows and an picturesque waterfall is what makes Kodachadri a must-do trek in the Western Ghats. And by no means its an easy trek either.

Day 0: Meetup with the fellow BTCians.

We all squared up at the Nagasandra metro station. Our bus was already stationed there. We departed at 11 pm. We did halt for dinner in a roadside dhaba. BTC events are also famous for their unique way of asking the participants to introduce selves. And this one I guess was the longest ever intro session for a 12 member group in their history. I'm unsure if it was an intro session or a ragging of each other for 2 hours!

Day 1: Hidlumane Falls Just Took Our Breath Away

Tiny rain-droplets on our window, a bout of fresh wind hits our faces when we open the windows of our bus. The greenery of Western Ghats during the monsoons is a sight to notice for the sluggish eyes, that is used to see mountains of concrete otherwise. We had checked into a home-stay to freshen up before we hit the trail. We are at Kattinahole.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort 1/5 by Hrishikesh Baruah
Rivers brimming with fresh rainfall
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort 2/5 by Hrishikesh Baruah
Making our way through the leech infested, dark jungle

Kodachadri can either be done by trekking or jeep ride. Bad-ass people like us chose the former! Just as we hit the trail it started to drizzle. And then drizzling gave way to a downpour. We had barely started and are already wet. From the main jeep route we take a right turn for the trekking trail. A river that we had to cross had picked up volume, resulting in completely inundating our shoes.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort 3/5 by Hrishikesh Baruah

Right after the crossing the stream the forests welcomes you with slippery, muddy path. When in nature you are bound to abide by their rules. And its important to stick together else it is easy to miss the trail and get lost. There's not much elevation gain in the 1st half of the trek; the trail is a gentle up & down and plain walk on most parts. The dense foliage opens up to a clearing which also concludes the 1st part of the trek. The forest check-post can be spotted few steps away. Take the path behind the forest check-post to continue towards Hidlumane falls, traversing past farmland before re-entering the forest.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort 4/5 by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort 5/5 by Hrishikesh Baruah
Day 2

Day 2: Back to Kattinahole

Even after sleeping on a mat on the floor I had a pretty good sleep. Today we have to reach back to Kattinahole via the same trail and then visit Kavaledurga fort. Good news is it has not rained, yet. Putting back those wet shoes and socks back was like the worst feels ever. Without further delay we started off on the jeep trail. Today's program is quite long, we need to be moving as fast as possible. The weather was cool and pleasant and we hoped it stayed this way.

Since it was still early morning Jeeps were not plying on the muddy road. It started to drizzle but not enough to make us put on our rain gear. Descend started as soon as we left the Jeep road and re-entered the forest trail, along with the rains. Few of us (including me) did slip on the downward trail. By the time we reached Hidlumane falls the rains had intensified. There was no one at the falls today, but us. But we don't have time to enjoy in the falls today, and the force of the falls had increased substantially as well.

Hidlumane falls

Photo of Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Back in the bus and on our way to Kavaledurga fort. The fort is around 48 kms from Kattinahole and would take around 1 hour to reach. We reached the village of Kavaledurga by around 4 and started our mini hike immediately. One has to walk past through agricultural lands before landing on the rock laden path to the fort's entrance. And once the fort is visible one can easily understand the excellent camouflage from its enemies with the surrounding dense forests and hills giving it a good cover.

Paddy fields that forms a part of the entrance to the fort

Photo of Kavaledurga Fort, Kavaledurga, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The formidable gates of the fort

Photo of Kavaledurga Fort, Kavaledurga, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Once inside the fort there's further hiking to be done to the central complex

Photo of Kavaledurga Fort, Kavaledurga, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Kashi Vishwanath temple

Photo of Kavaledurga Fort, Kavaledurga, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah
Day 1

A river snakes its way down right beside you when re-entering the forest. We have entered the Mookambika forest reserve. A marvel is about to reveal itself ahead. Keep walking to cross the river stream. The rocks here can be extremely slippery, so even the hands come into action to provide that extra support and safety. After crossing the stream again walk on the muddy trail for around 300 steps while the sound of falling water gets more intense. And before you know it the majestic Hidlumane falls is right in front, the cascading waters falling from high above is giving an all new meaning to adventure. We parked our bags under the shade, the rain has temporarily stopped now, and few of our folks couldn't resist from taking a shower under the chill water. The water flow is high today, and there are lot of people making their way till here.

Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Standing in front of the Hidlumane Falls

Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

We reached at the top by around 5:15 pm. We offered our prayers at the temple, and without spending much time out there retracing our path back to the guesthouse. It took us anywhere between 1-1.5 hours to reach back, and the rains have subsided somehow by now.

Back in the guesthouse and the feeling of getting rid of wet shoes and socks were orgasmic. The shoes and socks were soaked in muddy water, not to mention the worldly 'fragrance' it was emitting, enough for anyone to just throw up right there! Yep, we have to wear them again tomorrow while going down. A shower followed up by dry clothes on finally brought some peace within. Dinner again comprised of rice, sambar and buttermilk. Multiple rounds of Uno cards brought life to the otherwise dull dark room, followed by seemingly innocuous couple of Mafia rounds before we hit the hay.

From here on the real deal starts. The trail gets steep and tougher from Hidlumane falls. Take the trail on the right to find a steep trail. The intermittent rain has made the path more slippery. Tripping here and there became routine now. We finally came out of the forest to a brownish meadow. Sigh, I was hoping for green carpet, but guess I'm a bit early here in the season. The view from here of the ghats was scintillating. But the ascend doesn't end here, and we continue on our uphill climb. Windy conditions were helping to dry down our wet clothes and the clouds flying past through our faces. Visibility got has greatly reduced, we continued to march in the grassland on the marked trail. One final push on a hill and we have reached the jeep trail.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Like I mentioned before the other way around to reach Kodachadri is to take a Jeep ride. We now need to share the treacherous, slushy trail till the guesthouse with the guzzling jeeps making their way up & down frequently. The now and then rains has made the road, well, it can be called a road just for the name-sake. Couple of Jeeps got stuck in the mud while going up. We were sweating profusely inside our rain-jackets and ponchos, but then removing the same was neither an option.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Not the best of roads

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

The walk till the guesthouse was a rather gentle one, it started to pour again like there's no tomorrow. By now we were not even sure if the clothes inside our bags (which in turn is covered by a poncho) are dry. A simple plate of rice, sambar, and buttermilk under a draining sky was enough to keep our hungry bellies happy. We quickly checked into our dorm like room to dump our bags and wet clothes. There was water every where!

It was 3 pm and we ventured out towards Kodachadri top. And just as we stopped out the clouds erupted again, leaving with us with no other options but to just absorb it all. Most retreated back to the guesthouse, the rest braving it all to go all the way up. The trail from here is on a ridge, a cliff on one side with a terrorizing drop below and then a deep-dark forest on the other. Literally walking on a knife's edge! Lot of devotees were here today to offer their prayers at the Sarvajna Peeth on the top. The climatic conditions ensured I kept my camera within the folds of my raincoat. And misty conditions ensured visibility remained negligible.

Our stay for the night

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Kodachadri top

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Walking past the rapturous falls we had to place our steps with utmost care as the rocks were extremely slippery. Crossing past the stream again we finally came out of the forest and back at the forest check-post. Here a small shop selling biscuits, buttermilk and other eatables became a pit-stop for us to take a break and re-hydrate. One half of the trek is done. The next part takes us back inside the other side of the forest again. Walking inside a rain-forest under a pouring sky can be an adventurous and a spooky experience. Apart from the leeches feasting on our legs these forests are also home to endangered snakes and elephants. Following each other closely we reach the river crossing point again, only this time the water level has increased, no significant dangers though. Once the river is crossed its a simple 30-45 mins walk through the village road till the main road from where we started off.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

The forest check-post

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Our legs were heavy and tired by now. Most of us had blisters due to wet socks and shoes. The feeling couldn't have been better the moment we had reached the main road. We sat down in one of the many tea-stalls for some refreshments and snacks before going back to our home-stay to freshen up. A quick shower was all it took to take away all the fatigue.

The fort was built somewhere in the 9th century and was a stronghold of the Nayakas of Keladi. Once you go past the main entrance there's a further uphill walk to the main complex of the fort. Once you enter the ruins the Kashi Vishwanath temple ruins are on your right, showing the exquisite architecture of the premises. A little ahead and to your left is a gigantic rock with a small temple shrine (Lakshminarayana Temple) on the top. Carefully finding my steps up on the rock the view from there of the ghats are scintillating.

the steps that we took to hike up inside the fort

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

walking on the walls of the fort

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Lakshminarayana Temple

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

But there's more to see in the fort complex which has been slowly over-ridden by shrubs and trees from the neighboring forests owing to neglect down the period. As you continue walking up the hill there's more ruins on your left, suggesting this must have been the royal quarters. Ruins of fallen pillars, wells,pools, and other remnants from the main structure lie around. This place must have so many stories to tell about the way life was back in the years.

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

Step well

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

various sections of the fort that lies in a state of shambles

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

As you continue on your exploration there's a treacherous steep route further up the hill made out of rocks. The climb is quite difficult but has its own rewards upon reaching the top. Once at the top be ready to be swayed by the 360 degree panoramic vistas of the entire ghat sections as well as the backwaters of the Varahi dam. Its quite windy out here but the views from out here and the sunset are worth all the efforts that takes to reach here.

View from the top of the fort

Photo of To The Jasmine of the Hills: My Monsoon Trek to Kodachadri & Kavaledurga Fort by Hrishikesh Baruah

While we were having a gala time exploring these piece of history our stomachs were not very keen. We haven't had lunch till now, and it was already 6. At-least, I was going bonkers out of hunger. We grabbed few Parle-G packets from a small makeshift shop once we were out of the fort. We did, however, ensured to have a feast of a dinner on our way back, much to the respite of starving tummies.