Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My weekend escape from Bangalore - I(Thadiyandamol, Coorg)

I was so excited about going for a trek. I heard from Sandeep Edappalli, a good friend of mine and a great trekker, that this is one fantastic place to be. Missing a Bhramagiri trek in near past, I was looking forward to an equivalently good trek.


5.00PM I went to the gym for my regular workout and by 6PM I was out of the office. I did some small grocery shopping as in mineral water, bread, biscuits etc. Had a small dinner and was back at home. By 9.20PM I was dropped in front of KFC on CMH road and from there I moved over to Majestic KSRTC bus stand with a colleague and a great friend of mine, Nidhi. We were at the bus stand by around 10.15pm. There was Arvind and quite a few others already there awaiting the rest of the pack at the stand.

The bus to Madikeri started at 11pm. The bus was ultra deluxe. And the seats were good enough. I had a nice chat with my co-seater Bhargav. The sleep I had was nice. The only break being one at Mysore amidst, at around 1.30AM. The next thing I felt was when we were at Madikeri stand at 4.30am. The bus stand was quite big. The bus stand just like the whole city was uite neat and not littered by the tourist crowds. We went out and had a small stroll to the local bus stand near-by.

I was quite surprised to see a Kannur bus and a couple others with Malayalam boards, at the bus stand. We waited at the stand while Arvind and Samit left for finding a place to get freshened up. We had a tea meanwhile and I happened to notice that the exhalation was having a small foggy attire.

The hotel was very near to the stand - a small one. A narrow pathway leading down to a series of bathrooms, and a heater, into which a person was feeding firewood or coal. We got all prepared and headed back to the bus stand.

We were in the bus by 6am and the bus departure time was around 6.45 am. We had a brief intro session, and in between Nidhi and Venkat started having a Sudoku session out in the cold. That was an interesting sight. I haven’t had a chance to see such hardcore sudoku fans in my life.

The bus we boarded was to Kakabe. The journey time was around one and a half hour. We had a brief session of Antakshari, a multilingual one. And let me brag here that I dared for the first time in my life to sing out loud, at least enough to give my friend, Niyyas a support. So that was my "arangettam" in my life. The fierce competition was subdued with localites filling in the bus. There was a school crowd in the bus. They were speaking in Malayalam and were talking about their examinations. They had Kannada exam and no Malayalam. That made me notice that most of the writings were in Kannada but people were speaking Malayalam, northern Calicut/Kannur accent of it.

The bus had a small halt in between at Napoklu. There we had our breakfast. Idli, chutni and sambar. Happily, for me the sambar was a keralite sambar and i just loved it. I also have to add that the houses and constructions in and around Coorg looks exactly like in Kerala and reminded me that Ivent visited home for long enough a duration.

The bus was at Kakabe at around 8.30am. It made me feel like I have reached the base camp and trek is yet to start in its proper form. First stretch was to Nalkanand palace. It is too small to be called a palace. We spent a couple of minutes there and started walking.

On the way there was a small school and there were few kids playing outside. They were amazed seeing our crowd moving with bags and all. Samit spent a couple of minutes to take the ball from them and throwing it back.

On the way, Arvind enlightened us with the concepts of second wind and the tips-and-tricks of rhythmising the breath with the steps. He was having literally a walk in the park. He was humming some ragas throughout even when i was literally striving to breath properly.

There was dampness all around, leaving a smell of wet soil and leaves. Huge trees all around and there we sighted the peak amidst the clouds - our Thadiyandamol peak. We also saw its siblings, the smaller peaks all around. All of them green, all through.

The first major halt we had is at a huge rock. Few among our group were on the rock well ahead. I was, for long, at the back of the whole pack trying to capture the beauty of the whole scenery and trying to be not so far in the back from the group. I did not want to miss a single photo that I felt, could look good.

At the rock we were hearing a stream flowing nearby. Arvind ordered us to fetch water. So we few went down there and filled empty bottles. The water was very clear and quite cold. A splash of water on the face felt like an instantaneous recharge.

Getting back we started walking again. Arvind showed us the path and told us about the patch of forest coming up. He asked us to keep pin-drop-silence, in that we get to hear the sound of true wilderness. Soon enough we were at that section of the trek. The forest was not like Amazon forest from Anaconda movie or anything. But it was with no doubt an appreciable stretch of forest, dense enough. The track was getting steeper. But soon we were out of the forest.

It was pretty hot when we were out of the forest. There was a well drawn path still up ahead. I was feeling a little tired. But seeing the peak pretty close kept inspiring me. I tried to be in the front of the pack for a couple of minutes through the forest segment. Soon enough, giving it up to the stronger people in the pack and falling prey to my photographic senses.

We reached the last segment of the trek. Though there was a clear-cut path all through; with loose rocks and steep climb, this was to me the toughest section of the whole climb. During a small break, I happened to notice a leech on my shoe sole. I was seeing a leech for the first time, real and alive. I was enthralled. I wanted to check if I got a leech bite too. I had already heard that we won’t actually ‘feel’ leech bites. But I happened to notice just a single leech bite, for the first time in life. This made me feel that I just had become a trekker by all means. But the leech had fallen off, dont know how. So the salt was not required.

The peak, I was feeling elusive; just around a corner; just above the nearest visible highest point. I felt that the peak cheated me a couple of times. Finally I was few meteres from the actual peak. I just ran like hell and I was the 6th in the pack to be on the peak. The time was 12.16pm

The wind was like refreshing and recharging. Couple of minutes there we few started a small stroll to a near-by peak, which was not more than a couple of feet away. It was not higher than the first peak. I was lucky enough to spot a bird which was floating in the air, doing some marvelous mid-air acrobatics. Arvind told us that it was a Kesteral.

It was lunch time. Everyone was busy getting their packages, unpacking and making sandwitches etc. Had a well assorted lunch: chapathi, cakes, sliced cucumber, breads, bun, biscuits, apple etc. The lunch was heavy enough to compell many of us for a good enough nap. The post lunch time on the peak was filled with photo sessions. Solo, group and all sorts; just trying to capture the prestige and ego-satisfaction we all had in conquering the peak, which atleast to me was no less tall than an Everest.

By 2pm we started our descent. By the time we started our descent, there were a couple of other groups on the peak - a few foreigners among them. The descents first section, since having loose rocks, needed a little extra caution. There was one point where I really slipped and required support from Varun to be back on my feet.

In about 20-30 minutes we were back on the rock where we had rested on the way up. We were asked to give way for a few climbers who were on the same path, ascending, by Aravind. Having had the feeling of an arduous climb, I was really appreciating Aravind's command to give way. In between, I saw Vishwa and Naveen running back to the summit, getting down not less than a 100ft. Vishwa had actually forgotten his spectacles on the summit. So Samit our backend leader said he would also wait for them to reach back. Late in the night, on the way, back I got to know that they were not able to retrieve the spectacles.

Reaching the rock we all rushed down to the stream again. We rested for a while, taking enough time to freshen up in the cold water flowing down. The water was really cold. So naturally cold.

The stroll down continued again. On the way I happened to spot yet another bird, which I had seen never before. Arvind gave us the information that it was a Scarlet Minivet. Alas, we were back at the palace at around 4.30-5pm. Taking another break to have some snacks we continued our journey. Finally we were at the bus stop, which I'd like to call, our base camp. Few of us started having a Frisbee session, which did not last long as a bus, to Madikeri arrived soon enough. The next 1.5 hrs I slept like a baby, in between waking up, just to see, Sandeep, Soumiya, Naveen and Kumar still energetically playing their heated game of Mafia, which I, in that state of mind, failed to comprehend well enough.

We were back in Madikeri by 6.30-7. It was already dark and there was no electricity throughout. From the bus stand we walked a couple of meters to a good vegetarian restaurant - Athithi. Most of us had a nice session of dosas and tea. We few had a discussion with Arvind - a post trek performance review. He gave us 7/10 and few pointers on where we faltered and what to be careful about the next time.

There was a foreigner couple at a table next to ours at the restaurant. They had ordered for dosa from the menu and were looking surprised seeing what their waiter served them. I could see the wonder in their faces, as to, how to eat it. They were looking at each other. And in between gave me a glance, as if asking, am I eating it right? I was happy that I had energy left to appreciate the wit.

Leaving our baggages at the back of the restaurant, where they were serving their buffet dinner, we walked around the Madikeri township to a temple near by. It was a small Shiva temple. The construction was almost like a Mosque, with Minarets and Arched doorways. It was very different. But the "prasad" was good – “avil” with coconut grating and sugar. It tasted really good.

We got back to the hotel for dinner. We had a buffet - rice with rasam and curd, where I happened to have a discussion with Nidhi about food habits. North Indians have parathas even for breakfast which was quite a wonder for me and they (I conclude) preferably don’t preferably take rice, which is so different from the habits of the South; just enforcing the slogan - "Unity in diversity".

After dinner we were back at the KSRTC stand, where we had a brief game. The brain behind was Jean. The game was interesting and Varun was the one who came with the answer. Soon we came to the know our bus is there in the stand. Boarded our final bus and we were comfortably seated. Soon enough, my co-seater, Niyyas was well asleep, which I failed to have with the kind of Hindi pop music video which was played in the bus.

The bus took off at 11.00pm and by 530am Saturday, we were back in Bangalore.

And getting back, this is my treasure chest!

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