> Mayukh Athmaram
> Kapardhi Bharadwaj (Kappu)
> Mohan Bhandary
> Ayush Hegde
> Chirag Bhaskar
> Ajay Kumar
> Abhishek Bharadwaj
> Aditya Shetty
The name and its picture might seem alluring to any aspiring trekker. The mountain, standing 1,712mt tall (a 13km trek), comes under Somwarpet taluk on the border between Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu district. The Pushpagiri base is a wildlife sanctuary and a proposed World Heritage Site. Falling under the western ghats which is a trekkers paradise, the trek is adventurous but arduous. Our trek objective - start off in Kukke, climbing the foothills through the dense forests --> camping on the peak for the night --> Descend from the other side to Bidehalli (deadline to reach the bus stop being 3pm).
The story commences with two of us just proposing the name and trying to light a few sparks to get our friends along. A group of eight was finally decided the day before the journey started. Two of us with our previous trekking experience(s) enlisted the accessories for the trek. We took a KSRTC bus to Subramanya, seats for which were reserved. With euphoria surrounded we started to Subramanya, a journey of 6-7hr through patchy roads. Sleepless & tired, we reached Subramanya early at around 4am. We booked a lodge (a single room for all the eight!) for daily early morning rituals! Guys who wanted to visit the Kukke Subramanya Temple, which opens at 6:30 for darshan, washed up while the rest went strolling around. We called Bhattare manne informing them of our arrival for lunch at 1 pm (Rs.50 per person). After our breakfast in a restaurant adjacent to the temple, the troop, all pumped up, ready & anxious, started the trek at 8am.
The gentle tar road lead us to a board stating the commencement of the climb. The path is steep, through the rain forest. Be prepared for exams*(oops typo! - meant leeches*; but both are similar - both suck the life out of us!). The forest lasted for a good 4 hours at medium-to-slow pace & was damp & leech infested, not to mention strenuous. Taking salt along, covering up our legs & the army knife technique (Ajay's idea) kept us marginally safe from leeches (suckers got us nonetheless!). Picking up sturdy sticks from the forest was helpful for the climb (I insist on using them). This part of the trek took a long time and tested our endurance level and character to the maximum. After the 4th hour, at 11am, we hit the clearing, with cool & tranquil breeze aided by the height gained greeting us! The path got easier in the open at the end of the rain forest, an hour along the foot path we reached Girri Gadde (Bhattara manne) crossing the sanctuary boundary. This place is a cluster of 3 huts & a farm accompanied with cattle grazing around on the grassy slopes. The pre-ordered lunch was very delicious (tons of rice with sambhar, curd & pickle), though the reason maybe cause of the extreme hunger that engulfed everyone! The lunch was dished out at 1pm as it is every time (so don't bother coming early here, hence plan accordingly). After our sumptuous "feast", we rested a while, getting cleaned up using the water that never dries up throughout the year owing to some engineering from the Bhatta's.
As an additional morale booster, in the hut "Selco" bulbs were being used, which meant something to a few in our group as some of them had worked in the same NGO!
Leaving Girri Gadde at 2pm, we started our ascent, going past the check-post (Rs.115 per person as camping fee, to be paid to the forest ranger). Making up for lost time, we scurried through at a high pace, stopping only at key tourist look-out points for a respite. Even with the relentless sun behind us, we made good time reaching the Mantap at precisely 4pm (one hour BEFORE estimated TOA). A snake was spotted right next to the Mantap(This region is know for King Cobras!). There were numerous watering holes right before the Mantap (we filled the empty bottles with stream water whenever we could for last resort!). While most rested, three of us, Mohan, Shek & myself went in search of a higher camping site, ideally between the Seshparvath and Kumaraparvath peaks. The deadline set for pitching the tent was 5pm. We could only manage a camp site just short of Seshparvatha at 5:30pm. After pitching the two tents, everyone dumped their back-packs inside them & collected firewood and rocks for the camp-fire at 6pm, 4800 feet above the valley! The sunset was a breathless experience for all. It was party time after the Sun went down, with the J's coming outta the closet & some maggi being stewed in the open fire! Everyone had an amazing time out there with jokes flying around, the camp-fire talks, the eating, the fooling around, the Kappu incidents, everyone feeling like they're on top of the world! A sense of freedom had seeped into everyone. The whole place with the rocky terrain, serenaded by the cluster of white clouds whooshing by & the full moon, bared resemblance to a scene from Lord Of The Rings! In our "particular" state of mind, we could fly past the seamless sky with crispy cool breeze against us (like superman)! Remember guys?? -wink-
8pm, and the party stops!
All right guys remember those moments in life when you come crashing down to harsh reality... This was one of those moments! The storm was inevitable; the scene related to a steam engine arriving at a fair rate of knots and you're tied on to the track just contemplating the unavoidable. The wind picked up considerably and we had to hold on to the tents now and then. But then the gap between the wind surges reduced exponentially, and we were left holding on to the tents without getting a chance to let go. As if this weren't enough, a certain someone (Mohan) "seriously freaking out" caused the level of tension among us to increase a notch or two, causing us to realize the gravity of the apparent bad situation! Ideas started rolling in from everyone which were all gruesome to begin with, all with disastrous consequences. Lightening strikes, getting blown away/tents ripping off with us inside it, & my personal fav - getting washed away due to water cascading down from the peak (courtesy Mohan!). After pointless debating, sticking it out inside the tents seemed to be the best & only solution. While some were inside holding the tent supports, the rest (Ajay and Mohan) held the tents standing outside, relentlessly. Once all of us were inside clinging to a pole each, our thoughts drifted to enduring the wind throughout the night, which was disturbed (as though waking up suddenly) by a sudden (small) fire erupting near the tents cause of burnt wood pieces from the camp-fire getting reignited in the grass (Shek with his superficial vision made a meal of it assuming the adjacent mountain was on fire! He then put his lenses on!). Mohan, Adi and Ajay ran out to stub it and did a good job of it. An hour drifted by, filled with debating and picker-uppers to keep each other awake to hold on to the tent-poles, the thought of staying up all night clamped to a tent was haunting us while some of us contemplated going down and camping at the Mantap (Shek this time). A few of us(myself, Kappu, Adi) either had nothing to comment or weren't capable of doing so! Although it might seem funny now, we went to the extent of calling all the way back to Bangalore for help (Amogh the unlikely Hero, who unknowingly calmed us down with his "soothing" words!), suggestions came by to hold on for the night and wait for weather to pass-by. Slowly, one by one we dozed off and laid our worries to rest.
We woke up at 6am, sadly missing the sunrise, but grateful to survive the ordeal. We packed, and scurried through to the peaks. First was the daunting Seshparvatha at 7am from where the other two peaks were majestic in appearance. On our way through the rain forest from Seshparvatha we could see remains of campfires, probably used by trekkers (if we could have just made it here to camp!). We made it to the Pushpagiri peak in 1 hour 45 mins through some harsh rock faces and streams, relished the view for about an hour taking photos in every possible direction. It was decided before we even started the trek that we would use both routes, we took the route to Bidehalli 10kms from top, we also had a deadline to meet (the only bus to Somwarpet leaves at 3:30pm). Rushing ourselves we started to climb downwards. This route is much easier if not for the two massive and steep rock faces which needs to be tackled carefully (with Ayush's shoe torn and Kappu's heavy backpack we took more time than estimated! Mohan was kind enough to hold back and help ayush all the way down). The rest of the path wasn't difficult considering what we had been through, so we made it to the forest ranger's checkpost after the hanging bridge unscathed only to stop by one of the running streams to freshen up(which was cold and refreshing). Blessing each others luck to complete the trek unscathed and with an eye on the watch we started for the bus stop on the mud/tar road. At times we even ran down the slopes to gain speed (trust me, none of us wanted to miss the bus! Only to stay in this village with no electricity!). We finally made it to Bidehalli cross by 3pm, a good half hour early.The bus took us to Somwarpet from where we set off to Kushalnagar, which had a better frequency of buses to Bangalore and also a host of restaurants to pick from! The bus to Bangalore (at 9pm) took us six hours, we reached at 3am in the morning. In retrospect, the trek was overwhelming and was well worth it!
Just about everyone's itching to go for the next trek!
Useful info :
- "Bhattare Manne" phone number : +91-9448647947
- Very important that you make it by 3pm to the Bidehalli bus stop (3km after Bidehalli village) as that is the ONLY bus from that place to Somwarpet.
- Camphor turns out to be better than Kerosene, etc to light a fire as it isn't heavy.