Wild Wonderful Karnataka


        A gulp of fresh air has become a rarity in urban India. Welcome to Tadiyandamol (TM) the highest peak in Coorg that rises to 1750 m (5250 ft) above sea level. Compared to the garbage bins called Ooty and Coonoor, which the author had the “pleasure” of visiting the week before, the area around TM remains relatively unspoiled by human filth and pollution.. However, one cannot help notice the replacement of natural vegetation by coffee plantations. A tough choice for a coffee lover who enjoys the outdoors!

        Our trip took us from Bangalore to Virajpet, an overnight journey of about 7 hours. We reached sleepy Virajpet at about 5 in the morning. After the must cuppa of chai next to the KSRTC busstop, we walked up to a private bus stand, about 5 minutes away, to await a bus (Anuradha company) to Kakkebe at 6:45. In the interim we were treated to the musical talents of the local mosque and temple. They seemed to have their desired effect, as Virajpet slowly came to life - a couple of early morning strollers passed by, lights came on in the local Nandini milk booth, a few road side stalls and restaurants opened their shutters, a bus engine roared to life and then a few of the infamous vehicle horns- a sign that Virajpet had definitely woken up. The mosque and the temple still kept on.

        Anuradha took us from Virajpet to Kakkebe in about 30 minutes at Rs. 13 per head. The bus stop to reach the trail head is called The Palace-more about it later- about 5 minutes before Kekkebe. Prepare well in terms of food, for there is little available in Kekkebe or on the trail, unless you want to lighten your wallet considerably. The walk to the trail head, at the Palace, will take you past one lodge, whose name I forget, one King’s cottage and one Misty Woods Holiday resort.


../images/dreams/vasu_tm/vasu_home.jpg         Just before the Misty woods holiday resort are the local school, up to 5th standard, and The Palace. Built in the late 1700s as a resort at the base of the Tadiyandamol – “look up this is the peak you will have to climb” - this palace served as the last refuge of Chikkaveera Raja before he surrendered to the British in the early 1800s. As of Feb, 2005, it was under renovation. At first glance, “THE PALACE” came across as just another dilapidated building. But closer examination, revealed more interesting features-the lime based mortar, the Laterite bricks used, the wooden framework and roof, some beautiful wall and ceiling artistry, a tunnel, a trapdoor and a few ghosts.
Take a small trail to the nearby water fall about 5 minutes away to enjoy the sounds of a gurgling stream. This stream will keep you company all the way to the top and is surrounded by the lush forest you will see on the way.

        The hike to the top of TM from the trail head took us 4 hours, with enough rest stops, past beautiful (can’t help but feel ambivalent) coffee plantations, some dense vegetation and some beautiful views. The hike down took 3 hours. As an upper limit, the hike was approximately a 4 mile (6.4 km) hike with about 2000-3000 ft of elevation gain, one way. Experienced hikers should be able to do it in 3 hours up and 2 hours down with a pack. The air was clean and so was the trail. We rarely saw plastic and paper.

        The trail starts of as a tarred road followed by a non-tarred jeep track which peters out in to a well defined and well traveled “kal-dhari” or foot-path. Once you get on to the jeep track past the palace, the only point of confusion is at a rock about half way up. There is a campsite just behind the rock if you are interested. Take the right fork up. The left fork takes you to the stream (and then on to Kerala I was told), if you are in need of water. The water at this height should be free of human contamination, but you might want to purify it before you drink it. We were told that this is not the case at lower altitudes, even though the water appeared “colorless” and fairly clean at the base. At the top, one is presented with a 360 degree view of Coorg and some cool to chilly air (so have your woolens ready).
If you choose to camp at the top there is very little protection from the elements, but I am sure it would be a sunset to remember, a fabulous night sky and a spectacular sunrise on a clear day. This is probably a rare occurrence in winter.

        We hiked down to the school/The Palace grounds and were treated to a nice Coorgi dinner at RS 20 per head on banana leaves. Dinner consisted of “saaru” (some kind of sambhar), rice and banana curry. This dinner was courtesy of Sitamma, who lives in the house closest to the school. Beware of their dog. He/She is a cute nasty mongrel and will warn you with a bark. Any warm meal is a feast after a hard days hike. One can either spend the night at the school grounds with permission from the school mistress, earlier in the morning. Else, one will have to take a bus back to Virajpet or Madikere (more buses than Virajpet), unless one is willing to fork out RS 500 per night for a room for 2. If you do decide to spend the night outdoors, check for wildlife activity. The last bus in either direction is apparently in between 6:15 and 6:45 from The Palace bus stop. Do enquire locally though.

        In summary, it is a good hike. Such spots are precious by their rarity.
         So do remember, “Leave no trace behind.”

~~ Vasu
Palace and water fall photographs - Courtesy of Vidhya Sridharan.