As I left home, on the evening on the 7th of September, one thought kept eating me. I wondered why I was about to travel almost 400km to a tiny village called Kalasa for a single day of hiking. The hike in question was one to a hill called Kudremukh (roughly translating to horse face), in the western ghats of Karnataka, organized by the Bangalore Ascenders group.
I reached the pickup point on time, exchanged pleasantries with our 20 strong travel party and braced myself for the bumpy and sleepless night ahead. It was about 6.30am when we reached Kalasa. The plan for the day was little more than sightseeing around the area. The places we covered that morning were a lovely stream just a kilometre from Kalasa, the town itself, a rather crowded waterfall by the name of Humangundi, and a spot called Ganga Moola, apparently the origin of three rivers. Ganga moola seems like an interesting place as there is a trail that follows a small stream up into the hills. Unfortunately we did not have time to explore the trail but I’d recommend the curious among you to check it out.
I found the time spent in the bus itself to be the most enjoyable. I sat right on the front stairs of the bus revelling in the stunning vistas as they zoomed by.
By midday most of us were itching to get on foot and roam about. The next agenda for the day was to get to the base village for the Kudremukh trek. This miniscule village, by the name of Mullodi, can only be accessed on foot or by jeep. We decided on the latter. The jeep track appears treacherous to say the least. With 11 of us stuffed into a single vehicle and me right at the back, every muddy switchback, and every boulder had me gripping on to anything I could get my hand on and holding on for dear life.
We reached Mullodi in about an hour and a half, but I swear it felt much longer. At the village we had a pre arranged homestay and a very pleasant one at that. We enjoyed a late lunch and proceeded for a dip in the stream that runs near the homestay.
The evening was spent playing a multitude of campfire games….rummy, dumb charade et al. Post dinner everyone retired into their sleeping bags hoping to get a good night’s rest for what lay ahead.
The Need to Know Bit:
Kalasa, is 360km from Bangalore by road. KSRTC buses to the place are available. I wouldn’t recommend any of the tourist places close by. An ideal plan would be to head straight to the hills on arrival and spend the entire weekend trekking. There is more than one route to the peak, the easiest being from Mullodi.
Permissions for the trek and hiring a jeep can be taken through homestay owners in Mullodi. The place we stayed was called Mullodi house, owned by Rajappa, who can be contacted on 08263-249333. Food, accommodation, guides and hot water is available at the homestay.
Cost of homestay (inc of food): Rs. 500 per head, cost of jeep: 2000 for a round trip (depending on your bargaining skills)
We set off for the Kudremukh peak at about 8am.This was more than an hour later than we had planned.
At 8 we finally set off. The weather seemed favourable, with sun playing a constant game of hide and seek and occasional bouts of rain. The terrain itself isn’t too taxing either. There is an omni-present trail all the way to the peak.
The route started off with many ups-and downs constantly moving from grasslands to forest and crossing many flowing streams along the way. I waited and waited for the ascent to get steep, but such a section never really came.
What makes made this trek exciting was the effort to reward ratio. For very little effort one is treated to some amazing vistas of the endemic Shola forests. The stretches of Shola here are some of the most intact, continuous and pristine sections I’ve seen anywhere in the Ghats. Due to this fact, the Kudhremukh range harbours a wide array of bio-diversity. Kudremukh would make an awesome hike for any naturalist.
With a group of 20, it was highly unlikely that any wildlife sightings would happen. We still managed to glance upon Chital and Gaur in the distance. I get an equal kick from the little things on the trail and the variety of wildflowers and insects present was simply amazing.
The peak can be reached within 4 hours time if one moves at a decent pace. I have to give a shout out to my group mates, many of whom were on their first real trek, all of whom made it to the peak in good time.
Once on top everyone was eager to see the horses face only to be told they were standing on it and it is only visible from the adjoining hill. Here we broke for lunch, some rather nasty packed upma.
Unfortunately, the forest department doesn’t provide permission to wander off further than the peak. To the east (i.e other side) of the peak is never ending undulating terrain of prime un-explored Shola habitat. If I had my way I’d keep wandering there till the sun went down. There is also a prime camping spot by a stream just near the peak.
I was informed at the peak by our leader, Jinu that I had missed checking out a ruined church on way up. Ruined Church I quizzed, with a whimsical look on my face. All the way up here? Who would build such a thing and why? I never did find the answers to those questions but I did find the ruined Church. It is quite a sight, bang in the middle of montane rainforest. I entered the structure hoping to find some creepy crawlies but no such luck.
The way back was a bit more treacherous. The bouts of rain had made the trail rather slippery and each of us landed on our bottoms at least a couple of times. The group was divided and this gave me time to amble down at a slow pace clicking photographs. It took us about three hours to get back to Mullodi. Most of us concluded the hike with a dip in the stream followed by a warm bath and some tea at the homestay. Thus, concluded our trek, well almost. We still had the bone rattling task of taking a jeep back down to Kalasa and getting into the bus. And the even more bone jarring task of getting into that nightmare of a bus that was to take us back to Bangalore.
So to answer the question I had kicking off this trip was, yes, it was worth it. We had a fantastic team and each one of them made it a memorable outing. Though, I’d love to visit the area again for a more thorough exploration.
The Need to Know Bit:
The Kudremukh range was declared a national park in 1987. It is one of the largest Shola forest corridor in India and may soon be declared a Tiger reserve.
Officially, one cannot enter the forest without a guide and permissions are only given to hike till the peak and back. Camping in the National Park is banned. The trek is made easier by the fact that luggage can be left back at the homestay. Packed Lunch is provided at the homestay. Kudremukh has all the ingredients for a perfect first trek.
Chances of wildlife sightings are good. To spot wildlife, set off before sunrise and maintain silence
Geographical Co-ordinates: 13° 7′ 46.24″ N, 75° 16′ 6.79″ E