Day#1 : Kukke Temple - Bheema's Rock - Bhattar Mane - Kallu Mantapa
Freshening up at a public restroom, we packed 1L water bottles each,tied sleeping bags to our respective rucksacks and took turns in carrying the four tents and the cooker we carried all the way from home. After breakfast at 8AM, we started the trek. Twelve of us started ascending those never ending steep trails that lay ahead, stopping for short intervals, gossiping on the way, holding trees to take support at times, posing for cameras, passing cooker to each other and wondering if the whole trek was gonna be totally STEEP! We couldn't have been more right for all we were to know. Plan was to have lunch at a priest's house, 7kms from the base. On the way we passed a checkpoint called as Bheema's rock which is almost midway between Bhattar Mane(priest's house) and Kukke Temple downhill. Eventually, we started seeing how far up we were from the forests which now looked very tiny! That was some silent motivation. This continued for another 2-3 hours with sun directly above us making the climb much harder, before we reached our checkpoint#1 for the day.
Delighted and relieved, we had sumptuous lunch comprising of rice, sambhar, pickle and buttermilk.They even have the facility of accommodating people(limited) if they wanna stop over/camp that night.But our aim was to reach Kallu Mantapa at the earliest in order to find good camping spot for the night and it was another 2-3hrs uphill.Post refilling bottles, freshening up, 30 mins power napping we set out on the trail once again. Crossing the forest office enroute, we paid a fee of 200 INR per person (forest permission). On the way, there are two view points we stopped at, to rest. Western Ghats are absolutely magical and one can never get enough. We were sharing our old hiking experiences, be it Kudremukh or Bhramagiri, Todiandamol or Mullayangiri...each of us had the passion to trek and that united us. Finally reaching Kallu Mantapa, we found that all good camping spots were taken. A little disappointed, we didn't wanna settle for a spot we didn't like. And that's precisely when we cranked it up a notch by finding a spot 300m above the usual camping sites and took shelter by a big rock with a view to kill for. Water stream helped us in recouping the water supply part.
Next mission was to clear the ground, teach everyone on how to pitch tents,collect dry wood, fill cooker with water. With sun setting on our left,all of us learn to successfully pitch tents. Eating apples and dry fruits, we decided to clear some more area on the high land to make fire and cook food. One slight mistake and it could turn into huge forest fire coz of breeze and dry grass almost everywhere. Torches and head lamps came to the rescue and also afew candles I found on the big rock that gave us shelter. Three people cut vegetables, four cleared the ground by pulling grass/removing stones, three of us made fire! Keeping fire alive was the challenge for the night. We used Volini spray and oil to keep the fire going on.Chulha was built with three big stones. Rice, vegetables, masala, salt and oil were emptied into the cooker as we waited for a WHISTLE! Even after 45mins, when the fire had started to die and cooker struggled for the first whistle, we gave up on patience and decided to eat whatever cooker had for us inside.
Completely shocked, we saw that the pulaao was totally cooked! The first group success right infront of us and all of us squealed in that victory. There, right in the middle of nowhere, under a million of stars, in fresh chilly mountain air, we had the best Christmas dinner. Around 9.30PM, we were all inside our respective tents. Exhausted, it wasn't tough to sleep in the tents inside warm sleeping bags.
Day #2 : To the peak and back to Kukke
Part1 : Kallu Mantapa - Sesha Parvatha - Kumar Parvatha