Wild Wonderful Karnataka

ooru hogu annutte, kaaDu baa annutte
(A Christmas Trek in Waynad)


It is time for yet another travelogue on my Christmas trek. This has been my fifth Christmas trek in a row. The others being a trek to Hebbe falls in Kemmannagundi, followed by TanDiyanDmol in Coorg, followed by a winter sea beach trek for a week in Orissa and lastly to the Vajrapoha falls in Belgaum.

This year we decided to trek in the God's own country, Kerala. The idea was to trek in the Wayanad district, which is around 260 km from Bangalore. It had been 2 months since I had trekked. My previous trek was to Bramhagiri peak in the month of October and I was getting desperate to get out of Bangalore. I spoke to my friend Padmanabh about a trek during Christmas. He suggested about going to Wayanad.

It was already late to get bus bookings by the time everyone could confirm their participation in the trek. I had a strange feeling that we might have to cancel our trek plans, as we could not get any reservation in any of the government or private buses. It was then that Prashanth came to our rescue. It was decided that we would drive down to Wayanad in Prashanth's car. The idea was a little scary as it is very difficult to accomodate five people and the luggage in a Maruti car. Click to see photos
The other reason to be afraid was that Prashanth was the only one amongst us who could drive. But none of us wanted to let go the opportunity to go to Kerala and hence decided to execute our plan.

So finally we all started our journey towards Wayanad on 24th December 2004 evening. The five of us for this journey were, myself, Padmanabh (Paddu), Prashanth, my cousin Nanda and Channa. This was the first trek for both Channa and Nanda and they both were very excited about it.

The plan was to reach Mysore on 24th evening and head towards Kerala on 25th morning. By doing this we would save time on the 25th morning. The travel from Bangalore to Mysore is a nightmare as the existing road is being converted to four lanes. The traffic was bad. There were numerous potholes, road humps and people crossing the streets. To add to the problems, the road was very dusty too. After four long hours of uncomfortable travel, we reached Mysore by 9.30 in the night. It was a pleasant night in Mysore, where we had our dinner. We hit the bed by 11.00 hoping to hit the road early next morning.

As planned, we started by around 7.00 a.m. in the morning. Our destination was a place called Sultan Battery in the Wayanad district. Sultan Battery is around 115 Kms from Mysore. We stopped at Gundlupet for a quick breakfast. We started from Gundlupet after our breakfast and reached Edukal caves. This place was very crowded with tourists. There was nothing of interest for the trekkers. There were a lot of people who could make sounds like animals. People were screaming and making a lot of noise. We didn't want to stay for long and hence got out of that place very quickly.

From Edukal caves, we started our journey towards Meenmutty falls. Meenmutty falls has three viewpoints. If we descend to the bottom most point of the valley, we can view all the three stages of waterfalls. It was around 1.00 PM in the afternoon when we reached this place. Due to some confusion the group was split in to two. Paddu and myself descended to the bottom of the valley and could view the stage three of the waterfall. The view was breathtaking. We had the luxury of standing on the opposite cliff to view the waterfalls. After feasting our eyes for a while Paddu and I descended much deeper into the valley from where we could get a full glimpse of the entire waterfalls. At the same time Prashanth, Nanda and Channa had gone towards the stage 2 of the waterfalls and were enjoying a lovely bath. When these people were cooling their body with cold-water bath, Paddu and I were dying of thirst. We had forgotten to carry our water bottles. Though it was winter, it was very sunny and we were sweating heavily. After about 20 minutes of trek back uphill, Paddu and I stopped to catch our breath. Paddu's sharp ears could hear the sound of water. We then spotted some water flowing at a distance of 10 meters from the path. I quickly reached the point to find that there was hardly any water flowing there. We were wondering how to tap that water, when Paddu emptied one of his camera role containers handed it to me. I filled water in that, which was hardly 20 ml and started drinking from it. I couldn't filter too much mud from the water. After taking 5-6 gulps of water, I handed the some water to Paddu. After regaining our energy we stared our journey back towards the parking area. After another 20 minutes of climb, we joined our other friends who also had returned back to the car. We had something to eat at a nearby town and started our journey towards Soochipara falls.

We all had forgotten to carry some cassettes for the journey. Prashanth had 3 cassettes in the car, of which one of them were songs recorded from radio city, which was the most popular through out the journey. We almost heard the same cassette at least some 10 times.

We reached Soochipara by 5.30 PM. We parked our car and started towards the waterfalls. It was a 1 km descent towards the waterfalls. There are some steps towards the bottom of the falls. The path forked while we were descending. Nanda and I took the right of the fork and came down to the bottom of the waterfalls. The place was littered, as it is a popular tourist destination. We were at the waterfalls for about 15 minutes before Nanda and I started back towards the car. At the junction where the path forked, I met Paddu who told me that on the other side there is one more view of the water falls where the waterfalls has two stages of drop. It was getting dark and we were losing sunlight. The moon had come up and was very bright. It was full moon day. We thought that we would camp next to the waterfalls. Paddu told us that he saw some flat ground where we could pitch our tents for the night. Nanda and I started walking back towards the car asking Paddu to wait for us there, to get all our bags. After reaching the top, we informed Prashanth and Channa about camping at the foot of the waterfalls. By now the sun had completely set. The four of us quietly marched towards the waterfalls. After reaching the spot where we thought of camping, we realized that there was not sufficient space for our tents. At this point we decided that we would cook and have our dinner at the waterfalls and then pitch our tent at a place little far from the waterfalls where there was some flat ground. We unpacked our bags here. Paddu and I quickly got in to cooking some rice. It was a beautiful night near the waterfalls. The waterfalls looked lovely in the moonlight. We were surrounded by jungle on all sides. It took half an hour for the rice to get cooked. We had rice with some puliyogare mix and MTR palak paneer. We had some mixture too. By the time we finished our dinner, it was 10.00 pm and we had already spent nearly 2 hours at the waterfalls. It had been a long day and we were all tired after that drive in the Maruti. We quickly packed our bags and started climbing back till we found a suitable place to pitch our tents.

Day 2:

Sleeping in the tent, I suddenly woke up as I heard some sound outside the tent. I heard footsteps around the tent. I was imagining some wild animals, may be a wolf or a fox. Probably I have been reading too much of Kenneth Anderson's experiences these days, as I started imagining stuff. Then suddenly the footsteps became louder and I could hear it right behind my head. That is when I realized that it could be the sound made by a shoe. I woke and scanned the tent, to see Channa missing from his place. I laughed at myself for being very imaginative. It was already 6.00 in the morning and Channa was out for a morning walk. Quickly we all woke up and packed our bags and tents and were off in the Maruti.

At this point I would like to mention about Channa who had brought a GPS device along. Channa is a student of IISc and owned a GPS device, which he uses for his research project. Using the device, he could tell us our position, the height from the sea level, etc. He also kept noting the route and the device could draw a map of the route we had covered. The device could also tell us at what speed we traveled in the Maruti.

After driving a couple of km, we stopped for coffee. We were surrounded by tea gardens from all sides. Early morning sunrays falling on the lush green tea gardens enhanced their beauty. Paddu quickly started making some coffee. We also took out some stuff from our bags to munch. We finished our quick breakfast and headed towards the much-waited Chembra peak. I was eagerly looking for this, as I wanted to go the Chembra peak for a long time. So far I had not done much of trekking on this trip, so I was all geared up to hit the jungle route for some trek. We reached the foothills of the Chembra peak and started our upward climb. Someone told us of a water source at the peak and hence we didn't carry much water. After an hour's steep climb, we reached a small water flow. I quickly got to work and filled all our water bottles. From here, the grassland started. After an upward climb for another 15 minutes, we met some people going downhill. They were all from Bangalore and had camped on the top. We bid them goodbye and 5 minutes later, found a small lake at the top. We found more Bangaloreans there. We stopped at the beautiful lake for a while. At this point, Prashanth told us that he would not trek to the peak, as he wanted to catch some sleep. He had to drive more than 250 Kms in the evening in the busy Mysore road. We too thought that it was a sensible thing to do.

After climbing a little, we realized that the lake we saw was in the shape of a perfect heart. It was a lovely view. The lake was surrounded by green grass. We were not sure whether it was a man-made or a natural lake. Later one of the local guys told us that it was a lake made by one of the British officers for his beloved wife.

It was a treacherous climb from there. After another 10 minutes of trek, Paddu told us that he too would not trek to the peak as he was just recovering from fever. This discouraged Channa too. But we encouraged him to continue. Nanda was very excited and he said that he would not give up until he reached the peak. After another 15 minutes of climb, Channa told us that he would quit. So, Nanda and I collected the GPS device from him and proceeded. Nanda wanted to find out the height of chembra peak using the GPS device. Nanda was an energetic guy in this trek, always full of enthusiasm. He held the GPS device and we both continued towards the peak. We were climbing in the grassland and we were exposed to deep valleys on either side. We could tell that this route was quite popular as the route to the peak is very prominent. After 20 minutes of leaving Channa, both Nanda and I reached the peak. It was a beautiful place. There was probably not more than 500 sqt of space on the peak. We had taken around 2 1/2 hours to reach the peak. After resting there for 15 minutes, we started descending and reached others. By now, everyone was very hungry. We had not eaten anything after the light breakfast we had in the morning. We had some 'holige' with us, which we devoured. We quickly descended and reached our car. We thought of having something to eat. There was a tea plantation adjacent to the place, where there was a small stream flowing. After a refreshing bath and some food, we set out of that place.

We then went to Pookot Lake. After reaching that place we realized that it was a big tourist destination. So without spending much time, we exited that place. It was getting dark and we had to leave for Bangalore. On the way, we thought of visiting the Banasur project site at a place called Padinjarathara, which has Asia's largest earthern dam. We reached that place by around 6.30 pm. This is a beautiful place. The moon lit the sky well. There is a beautiful lake there surrounded by mountains on all sides. This is a place not to be missed in the Wayanad district.

We started from Wayanad by around 7.30 in the evening. The journey was not very eventful except for some elephants we saw in the Bandipur forest. After having dinner in Mysore, we started our journey to Bangalore. We had just crossed Srirangapattana, when Channa said that he had not noticed any vehicle coming our way from the opposite side. Shortly we realized what it meant. There was a big accident on the Mysore road. A bus heading towards Ooty had met with an accident with two tempos. There was a dead body hanging out of the front window of the bus. We were stuck there for an hour and a half as none of the vehicles could move. By then some of the frustrated people made some way by breaking up the road divider. We were still stuck in a traffic jam. Now Nanda came to our rescue, he cleared up some of the traffic and made way for our car to get out of that place. After that Prashanth ensured that he did justice to all the potholes in the Mysore road. His Maruti went in to every pothole before I reached home at 4.00 in the morning. Prashanth reached home after dropping off everyone.

Nagendra HK


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