Mom: You have packed everything that you have been asked to right?
Me: I am the organizer.
Mom: Aeeeeaaa(What?), you dint tell me.
I guess there I dashed her hopes of me having a safe trek.
During late November just when I had my eyes on KP, Manoj asked me if I had plans to trek the same in December. I readily agreed as Oct – Feb was said to be the best time for trek and we both started to hunt for more company. This time it was facebook which got us 3 more interested people. The group itself was epic; Manoj – my Mangalore friend’s acquaintance, Niranjan – my cousin’s acquaintance. I was determined to trek with this group and started planning as usual by reading blogs.
Transport – Rajahamsa from Bangalore to Elimale (Manoj’s family stays at a place called Elimale, which is 21 kms from Kukke Subramanya – the starting place of the trek.)
Tents – Rented from OutbackIndia, Residency Road, Bangalore. 3 twin sharing tents costing 150 per day per tent (Total – Rs900)
Luggage – Backpack, trekking shoes, sun glasses, gloves, cap, blanket, extra clothes, bottles, tissues, first aid, dry fruits, camera.
As it was winter and I planned to camp on the top, most of the luggage comprised of things to save myself from cold.
We convened at KSRTC bus stand and boarded the antique looking Rajahamsa bus at 10.30PM on Dec 20 2013. Unfortunately I managed to book last but one row of the seats and to make it worse, Manoj warned us of 1.5ft deep ditches en route. I thought he was exaggerating, but little did I know that actually he was being modest when he said that. I had barely any sleep and I distinctly remember being awoken at 3.18AM by a jerk which marked the start of a roller coaster ride. The bus took an hour and a half to cover the next 30 kms (Sakleshpur to Gundya) of ghat section during which we resented the way Pradeep and Praveen were sleeping (similar to the way Gloria did in the movie Madagascar 2 during the crash-landing of the plane). I really appreciated the fact that the bus withstood the carnage. Finally, just when the Sun’s first rays had started to scatter the fog at 6.30AM, we reached Manoj’s place. We were warmly welcomed by Manoj’s parents, who were kind enough to have woken early morning to pack our food(Chapathis, Curry and Pulao). After getting fresh and filling ourselves with Pulao and Dosa, we set to Kukke in a normal bus. It was around 8.15AM so lots of college students accompanied us in the bus where I had a nice fun chat with them. We reached Kukke at around 9.20AM and started our trek by taking a right turn just before the temple’s entrance. First 1.2kms is a tar road after which there is a board near the jungle for Kumara Parvatha trail.
Trek can be divided into 3 stages.
Kukke to Bhatramane ( 4.8kms )
Bhatramane to Kallu Mantapa ( 2kms )
Kallu Mantapa to Kumaraparvatha peak ( 3 kms )
Stage 1: Endurance Check – Kukke to Bhatramane ( 4.8kms )
Though most of this stretch is covered with a canopy of trees and accompanied by soothing chirp of birds, the continuous 45° uphill takes a toll on any rookie trekker. 10kg backpack coupled with cough made the going very tough for me. Praveen was not accustomed to such heavy treks, so within 1.5 kms he surprised us by saying that he couldn’t continue. For such treks the will power of a person can either break a person or make him push himself for an extra mile. Keeping this in mind I told him that we too wouldn’t continue if he didn’t come. I don’t know what got into him after that, with a steady pace he lead us for the next 1.5 kms! The trail is through a thick forest with intermittent steps in the form of stones and strong rooted trees. We had already started attacking the food supply by gulping oranges. Juicy oranges never tasted so good earlier – it was much better than any tetrapak – REAL or TROPICANA. After 3 kms or so, the jungles gave way to the scorching sun, which made us desperate to reach Bhatramane. Just as we circumambulated a hill with long grass, our eyes fell on a tall mountain. I just stared in shock and wondered if we could reach its peak by nightfall. It appeared worse than the climb which we had already traversed with no forest to cover us from the Sun. Pondering about this we reached Bhatramane at 12.30 PM.
Bhatramane – called so due to a person staying there with last name ‘Bhat’ is a lone house at Girigadde halfway to the peak. Bhat is a well-muscled grey haired man with only an orange trademark lungi to cover his body. He provides food for trekkers which comprises of Rice, Sambar and Butter Milk. He charges Rs85 per head. The cost is fully justified as with food he allows the use of the facilities like toilet, camping area, shaded rest, water etc. The house itself looks very old with few interior rooms and one wide verandah. Living room walls are decorated with frames of Gods and pics with tourists and news articles about him. That day he had cooked whopping 30kgs of rice which again might have fallen short for the hungry trekkers. Buttermilk was a pure refresher which quenched our thirst and cooled us. After some well-deserved rest on the dung floored veranda, we decided to shed our luggage as it was getting too difficult to carry everything. So called “Luggage optimization” helped us lose around 10kgs of combined weight. Unknowingly we left something very important too which we realized only after coming back the next day. We left Bhatramane at 1.45PM.
Stage 2: Make or break – Bhatramane to Kallu Mantapa ( 2kms )
First thing after Bhatramane is a viewpoint, followed by a forest department checkpoint where we need to pay Rs 200 per head to continue trekking. The stretch further where the trail passes in between the dry greenish brown knee length grassland with the first peak in view is the most difficult one. Though armored with thin full sleeve t shirt, cap, sunglasses and a backpack with tent to protect my back, the continuous steep slope in the afternoon sun squeezed every possible drop of sweat out of me. We were rising higher than most of the hills around us and the panoramic view of the Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary was the only relief. While I myself lay down under the shade of a tree, I saw Pradeep and Praveen resting for more than 10 mins at a distance behind me. Niranjan who had exchanged Pradeep’s heavy backpack with his lighter one had moved forward with Manoj. Expending valuable energy shouting, I called out for these resting guys to buck up. They insisted that we carry on to the peak and they would camp at Kallu mantapa. They had food and a tent and as it was their first major trek, I respected their decision and actually was happy that they could reach till Kallu mantapa. I still had to meet the frontrunners so continued on with the struggle during which I met a lady trekker. On asking her age, she replied saying that she was 49 and asked me if I would trek at that age. Looking for the best words to answer that question, I realized the massive scope of improvement that lies ahead. After some distance, the same lady said she couldn’t do it. I motivated her by reminding her that if she couldn’t make it then the 50 others inspired by her won’t make it either. Splashing my face with cold water near Kallu Mantapa, I met Manoj and Niranajan only to hear a devastating piece of news. When I told them that Pradeep and Praveen wouldn’t be joining us to the peak, Manoj asked us if we had enough food for the night and next day’s breakfast. We rummaged our bags only to discover that we had only dry fruits, a little junk food and curry. We thought that Pulao and Chapathis were with Pradeep and Praveen. Manoj got hyperactive and actually climbed down few meters to call out to Pradeep and Praveen but in vain. Being a believer, I had faith that we could somehow tackle the food issue and reach back safely. I just hoped that we won’t be featured in the sequel of “6 – 5 = 2” Kannada movie or in Indian edition of Man vs Wild. Rambling about the food, we left to cover the final part of the trek.
Stage 3: Race against time – Kallu Mantapa to Kumaraparvatha peak ( 3 kms )
The peak which we were seeing throughout afternoon was not the final point, but it was only the first of 3 peaks which we had to cover. Though, KP was termed as one of the toughest treks in Karnataka, I was complacent about it as I had completed a Himalayan trek. The Western Ghats showed me that nature can express her beauty and fury together anywhere on Earth. As soon as we reached the top, we were motivated and demotivated by another mountain called “Shesha Parvatha”. The peak’s resemblance to the snake’s head gives its name and it is adorned by big boulders on the edge. The climb looked horrendous and Sun was about to call it a day. Motivating each other we set timed targets and climbed the Shesha Parvatha passing a narrow pathway with steep slopes on both the sides. We stopped to have dry fruits which I had fortunately packed and reached the edge to click some pics. This is when we finally saw the destination, Kumara Parvatha standing safely hidden behind the other peaks. It was around 6 PM and we had to cross a forest before it got dark and then climb again to reach the peak. Manoj and I were completely exhausted and I felt that my legs could give away any moment. The powerhouse of every cell of my body (mitochondria) did overtime to get me going. Will power played the most crucial role here. Next stretch in the forest was different and beautiful with thin stem and branches winding all over the place. Facing the diminishing light, we moved through the forest racing against the time. The sky was painted with multi-colored layers of blue, crimson and violet. Niranjan was still fit and heroically carried 2 tents in the final stretch. Just before the peak we were challenged by nature again but this time with a near 80° steep rock climb. I had enjoyed the steep climb during the final leg of Rupin Pass trek, so was glad to cross this too. When we were few meters away, Manoj scared us of a possible slipped disc. Nonetheless, we reached top in one piece and no other feeling could match the elation of achieving the impossible. Yes, it was almost impossible for a rookie trekker like me to complete in a day with a cough, luggage and a tent to carry. We were at an altitude of 1712 meters but we couldn’t feel it as it was dark and the moon wasn’t up yet.
Up above the world so high
In the dark I spotted a “tower” with flag posts. This was followed by a search for a flat place for tents. We were one of the last ones to reach and fortunately I found the place just near the tower. With the tents ready, we got together and searched bags in and out for the food. 4 bars of Snickers in Pradeep’s bag which Niranjan had carried lifted our spirits and ate them along with other fried items. Except the paper plates (obviously due to absence of food), I made use of most of the things I had packed. Enclosed in gloves, cap, sweater and a blanket around me, I was ready to face the cold. Stars had adorned the sky and I enjoyed the starlit scenery. Manoj befriended some local Tuluver (Tulu speaking folks) who provided us rice which they were preparing. Their tenting place and camp fire was enclosed between man-height bushes which provided a natural seclusion on the hill top. It was around 9PM when the red moon joined the party. It soon changed color from red to yellow to white as it ascended. I had the local thick boiled rice with pickle and hoped the food was sufficient to reach till Bhatramane the next day. The people there were so selfless that they even provided water to wash our hands considering the fact that one of them had to descend 200 meters to get it. The guys even provided us the buffet (the leaf plates, as they call them) and washed them. These are the experiences I love while traveling to remote places. Smiles drive everyone’s spirits and selfless help for the survival without any competition. It became very clear to me that love and work are not the only things in life; life is much more than just me. With a filled stomach and a wide smile I went to sleep. I had cut short sleep owing to weird dreams during which I saw bright moon shining from inside the tent.
Sun – Earth’s lifeline
Most people camp on the peak to view the Sun making an appearance over the blanket of clouds. Manoj and Niranjan woke me up in the morning and I was excited to explore the place in light. The peak was flat with over 100sqmts of area giving an ample space for the tents among other things. The tower which I had mistook as a temple was just a pile of stones which hoisted the Indian and an orange flag. The Temple was right behind the tents with Shivalinga enclosed in structures of stones. I explored the place enjoying the panoramic view which had Shesha Parvataha in the south-west, bright orangish hue in the east and array of mountains covered by clouds. People started shouting and I saw the orange Sun coming above the clouds. Slowly the Sun came up lighting us all by its golden early morning rays. I admired the perfect roundness and moved around to enjoy the view from multiple angles. It was a beautiful gift for an amazing achievement, I felt very happy and proud to have been at such a place at that time. I understood the influence of nature and travel in my life and aspire to continue till the very end. Manoj took us to a place slightly below the peak where the scenery was breathtaking. We were standing just above a sudden steep with sun in the foreground and vast expanse of jungle below us with clouds hanging around the less altitude mountains. After clicking pics, we went to pack the tents and left the peak around 8.15AM.
Down, down ,down
Enjoying the view we traced back the same route and getting down till 1st peak (of the three) was easy after which my legs just weren’t ready to follow my brain. My legs were literally shaking and it was getting very difficult to walk. A friend had advised me to use floaters instead of shoes while getting down and I followed it to save my toes. There was a place where we enjoyed listening to our echoes which had a lag of 1-2 seconds. Bhatramane was nearing and I badly wanted to know if Pradeep and Praveen were safe. We reached around 11.30AM and was glad to see Pradeep and Praveen safe in the house. They had reached Kallu Mantapa at 5 PM the earlier day and pitched the tent there. But there was a problem, even they didn’t have the Chapathis. Actually, due to some miscommunication I guess, I had left the Chapathi bag at Bhatramane the previous day. Luckily it didn’t cost us much and Manoj grabbed them and started eating like a child. After some rest we left the place around 1.30PM only to suffer from blisters and leg-pain. As we walked Manoj’s blisters got worse and my leg pain became excruciating. It was as though the connection between my thigh and shin had broken. I went to a stream near the trail and put my legs in water hoping to recover but in vain. During the last km I either ran/jumped across the roots and stones or stopped; I just couldn’t walk. We could hear the temple’s sound and as soon as I heard a rooster cuckooing I felt happy that I was near to the ground.
I screamed with happiness when I saw a round building which I had seen the previous day near the entrance of the trek. Due to less intake of water I usually don’t sweat much, but that day, my t shirt was almost dripping wet. We had done it and I was glad my legs were still firmly attached to my waist. Unfortunately, other than a reptile, few birds and butterflies we hadn’t noticed any wildlife. We walked the final 1.2kms on the tar road and reached the temple. Near the entrance of the temple we could see the three peaks we had scaled which gives a beautiful backdrop to the temple’s white tower. It was around 4.15PM and I had bus from Puttur to Hubli at 8.15PM. I had to go to Manoj’s house and then catch a bus from there. So I didn’t have the pleasure to visit the temple while Pradeep, Praveen and Niranjan paid Lord Subramanya a visit. Manoj had called his parents to pick him up from Kukke and we left for Elimale in car. Manoj’s father’s swift driving betrayed his calm nature which I had observed earlier. Manoj later told me that he was driving fast just to make sure that I catch the bus at 5.30PM from Elimale. I had missed the bus while collecting the luggage from Manoj’s house. His dad sped again so that I could make it inside the bus this time. I am very grateful for this gesture, it seems he never drives fast. Reminiscing the amazing experiences, I went to Sullia, boarded a bus to Puttur and then got into Ganesh Travels to reach Hubli via Mangalore.
It was an amazing experience: team work, making new friends, enjoying the feeling of achievement on reaching the peak, learning how to make use of available things, witnessing pure selflessness, realizing the importance of shade by the tree, to name a few. I live for such experiences and wish for many more in the future.
A beginners guide to KumaraParvatha trek:
Things to carry:
Depends on where you want to camp as the luggage should be optimized.
Toilet kit, tents, pain killers(Volini) cold proof clothing, blanket, cap, sunglasses, food, bottles, torch.
Carry light as most of the stretch is steep climb.
Just confirm if Bhat Uncle is there on the day you are going. No need to reserve or book as such.
Carry dry fruits, oranges, bun/bread/chapathi(non-perishable).
Again depends on where you want to camp.
Ideal time is to start at 6.30 AM.
3 – 4 hours to Bhatramane. ( Through jungle and grassland walk – 4.8kms)
2 – 3 hours to Kallu mantapa. (Grassland walk – 2 kms)
2 – 3 hours to peak. (Covering 1st, Sheshaparvatha and Kumaraparvatha – 3 kms)
Places to camp :
1) Bhatramane (Water Source)
2) Kallu mantapa(Water Source)
3) Peak (Water source 200 mts from the peak)
Tips for rookies:
- Try distributing the food package equally among yourselves. Might be helpful if one doesn’t catch up.
- Will power is very important. Don’t lose hope. It is difficult.
- Don’t add unnecessary weight. Its ok if you don’t change clothes for a day.
- Try shedding luggage at Bhatramane and drink Butter Milk there.
- Carry torch and extra batteries and avoid trekking in dark.