Two people drenched from head to toe, spent a chilling night near the top of KP in peak monsoon. This is their story.
It had been a long time since I blogged. Though I have been on quite a few treks after marriage, I never found time to write about them. There were few memorable one's like the trek to Amedikallu, trek to KP from Somwarpet, Second trip to beautiful Bandajje, beach trek from Gokarna to Honnavara. I regret not blogging about them.
The trip to Kukke was not planned in advance. Honestly I was not very keen on travelling with my 6 month old baby. I somehow made up my mind to visit Kukke after Vinay (my brother in law) decided to visit us. Tickets were booked quickly. We planned to start on saturday as we didn't get tickets on friday evening.
We started from Bangalore on 9th evening. This is the first time I was catching a Majestic bus from J.P Nagar. Unfortunately buses to Majestic are not as frequent as it used to be from Bannerghatta road. Fortunately we caught a bus to Jaynagar. The sky was heavy with clouds and soon after we boarded the bus it started raining heavily. From Jaynagar we boarded a bus to Majestic. Thanks to Jeshna (my daughter) who was happy to watch around. She enjoys outdoors which was very helpful through out the trip.
It seems quite some time since I ventured into western ghats since I found that most of the buses towards Dharmasthala\Kukke are parked in front of the KSRTC bus stand instead of usual right end of it. Anyhow, we found our bus right in front of the main gate. It was comfortable and the whole family slept except for Kiran. She tended to Jeshna and made sure she slept well. She couldn't catch sleep as her movements were restricted due to sleeping baby. I pitched in between and somehow both of us managed to catch some sleep. We reached Kukke on sunday morning (10th July) 5:00 AM. This was pretty early than I expected.
Kiran had booked the hotel in advance through one of her bank customers. This person owns a nice hotel in Kukke. Kiran being kiran, forgot to note down hotel name, didn't knew where it was located and forgot her mobile in Bangalore. It was quite Kirannish. After some roaming around she found the hotel (SLR residency). To be frank, it was pretty good, large rooms, nice bathroom and well mannered staff. It was quite cozy. Bathrooms were as big as some of the bedrooms we see in Bangalore. Now the plan was to get ready and have darshan of lord subramanya swamy. After that me and Vinay were free to go for trek to KP. Kiran will visit dharmasthala along with her father and take rest next day till we return. Unlike my pre marriage trips, things didn't go as per plan. Me and Vinay were lazy enough to lie around and kill time. Kiran wanted to dress up in saree for the temple visit. I felt that with Kiran and the baby we will never be on time for the trek. Getting ready with kids and ladies is a never ending wait. Finally Kiran let me and Vinay leave for trek. I was quite happy for that decision. As things unfolded later in the day, I realize now how crucial that decision was.
So the story starts here. Before I start, It is quite important for me to tell about my trek partner. Vinay is one of those human species who don't believe in physical activity unless very much needed. With Vinay, to be very honest, I never thought we will reach the point where we eventually reached. Apart from Vinay's reluctance to spend human energy, peak monsoon, blood sucking leeches and sheer toughness of KP trek made me think that he will give up sooner or later. Anyhow, we finished breakfast and packed lunch at SLR residency. I suggest not to have breakfast here as it was pretty stale. I knew during our trek we will face the leeches. Hence I bought tobacco powder and coconut oil in Kukke to ensure our blood is not wasted on leeches. I don't understand why leeches cannot live on anything other than blood. Finally we started our trek to KP. Vinay took quite a few snaps in the beginning, which happened to be the only ones he will take through out the trip. After initial snaps, we started our long journey up the KP. We had one bag packed lightly. The tent I bought from U S was light as well. After few minutes we realized that we have entered the leech territory. It was first ever encounter for Vinay. Though he was not shocked but definitely concerned. We applied paste of coconut oil and tobacco powder on our shoes and socks. The leeches were all around us. They were the driving force for us. We could not sit or stand at one place. Thanks to cool climate and our light luggage, we kept on climbing. We tried standing on few larger stones for rest but to no avail. Leeches detected our presence and were fast approaching us from all sides. After a long (non stop) march we reached a large boulder. I knew from my previous trek to KP that we reached the half point inside forest. I went back in memory lanes to my first trek with Ankur and Mudit to same place. That is one of the best trekking experience I ever had. The nice time we spent in forest camp. Best part was that all three of us reached the top of KP in our first ever trekking trip. There were some amazing shots taken during that trip which are also posted in this blog.
Coming back to the present, we encountered a snake in the trees.
I am always thrilled to find wildlife during my treks. I took few snaps of the snake before we moved ahead. We kept a fast pace and reached the grass lands after a brief stop on a fallen tree. Though I didn't check the time, I knew that it was time for lunch. We walked towards Bhattara mane. On the way we saw the beautiful view of hills we were going to climb.
We soon reached the Bhattara Manne. We were offered lunch but I politely refused so that we can finish the eatable I was carrying. After a brief rest we marched ahead towards kallu mantapa. There are couple of resting places with few benches on the way up. This is a pleasant development from my earlier trek to KP. These benches are located at places with good views. We took some good snaps at this place. We reached the forest camp which is very close to Bhattara mane.The forest camp was locked. Good for us as we need not shell out trekking fees collected at this point. This was particularly off season and there was only one another group at this place. We moved ahead towards mantapa. The climb from now on is constantly uphill. The route is well carved from constant flow of trekkers to KP. I consider mantapa to be a good point to break for the day as it is mid way to the top. In my earlier trek to KP, we camped at forest camp and reached the peak next day morning. That was quite arduous, the price for which was paid by our aching legs for whole one week.
After climbing for an hour, it started to rain. We were also covered completely in clouds. I took out my rain coat to protect our bag. I could see that Vinay was lagging behind by fair distance. It should have got tough for him to climb up with limited vision under incessant rains. He also cultivated the leechophobia and perhaps was concentrating on his shoes quite often. I liked the atmosphere as I always wanted to trek in peak monsoon to see the western ghats in its full glory. The trees, plants and animals all celebrate the rains. They all come to life in this season. It is a wonderful experience to trek in this season. I remembered the agumbe trip with Kokil in peak monsoon.
We crossed few small hillocks. We were getting tired of continuous climb in the rains. The clouds were all over us. Moisture seeped into the bag.
We only realized how costly it was during the night. I was looking for a narrow strip of valley because mantapa was just on top of it. I remember that there was a stream flowing inside the valley. After walking cotinuously for about 1.5 hrs from forest camp we reached mantapa. I was amazed to realize that we never felt the need to rest. This could be due to the weather during this time of the year. We never felt the heat of sun during our trek.
Just like us, Mantapa was drenched with water. Though our tent was water proof we needed to do some ground work. The floor was uneven and filled with water, so we placed few small stones to make the floor even. We pitched the tent in no time. The tent fitted perfectly under the mantapa. We took off our clothes and squeezed them to drain off water. We went inside the tent for some rest. We found that all our clothes though not drenched in water but were still wet and uncomfortable. We didn't carry any additional pairs. I had only one jacket which was dry. My pants were bearable but top was very uncomfortable. It was the other way around for Vinay. I wore the only dry jacket we had. There was no option left to Vinay but to be in his wet clothes.
The temperature was going down and it was raining. We tried messaging to Kiran in Kukke about our safety. We tried our best to take some rest but the wet clothes made everything miserable. Our shirts, pants, socks, shoes and even undergarments were wet. The thought of spending 12 hrs like this was not imaginable. We tried to laugh off our situation by cracking jokes on Vinay. It was complete contrast to everything Vinay is used to. He walked a forest infested with leeches, climbed up a hill in rains and going to spend a night in a tent covered in wet clothes. Vinay was still lying on an uneven floor. He got a brilliant idea to make the stay more comfortable. We decided to cut the grass around mantapa and lay down a layer of grass beneath our tent floor. This should make the surface even and give us some cushion. It would also bring some warmth as stones get cold during night. I started cutting the grass while Vinay was arranging them under the tent. We must have spent considerable time doing this till the floor was almost covered. I stopped cutting the grass when I found a leech on my shoulder. We made a comfortable bed by that time.
The temperature outside was dropping fast and our wet clothes didn't help. Though I never complain about such situations and consider them part and parcel of trekking trips, but I was getting concerned about Vinay as he started to shiver continuously. We finished our dinner early hoping that the food will bring some change. I gulped down the tomato bath pretty fast. Vinay followed the one cup rice principle and ate only half of the MTR (Rajma chawal). We joked for some time after dinner. Vinay told that first thing in the morning would be to head down to Kukke. I scared him by telling that we will climb up to KP. We were making back up plans just in case it rains continuously for few days. I found that Vinay was shivering continuously due to wet clothes. I was afraid if he gets pneumonia by morning. I gave the dry jacket I was wearing to vinay. I took his T shirt which was still partially wet. Vinay felt comfortable after that. After this we both went to sleep. I woke up in between as the temperatures was going down and wind was blowing our tent. It was raining heavily. I was afraid that our tent will be dislodged. Water was getting collected inside the tent. That was worst as we were already wet from head to toe. Vinay said that it was moisture from our respiration which was getting collected inside the tent. We pushed the water to one side of tent and made a wall out of our shoes and rest of the clothes. We went back to sleep. Somtime in the night, I started to shiver. I felt we went through several cycles of sleeping and waking.
Finally we woke up when alarm in my mobile rang. God it was Monday morning 6:00 AM. Time to wake up and get ready for the office if I was in Bangalore. But here my body felt desperate need for something dry and warm. I could have paid anything to sit beside a fire. I felt sick in the morning. Waking up in all wet clothes inside a tent among pools of water is not a good feeling. You know that you have to wake up, wear those wet socks and shoes, cover up in wet clothes, pack up your tent and climb up. Vinay was reluctant to climb up. Given a choice I would have went up as far as possible in this weather. I knew that the possiblity of reaching the top was very less. We might end up reaching the big rock just below the top of KP. It would be next to impossible to climb up the rock without any tools to overcome the slippery rocks in peak monsoon. I wanted to reach atleast this point before turning back. Vinay had other thoughts. Finally I convinced him to climb the peak where mantapa is located.
After having breakfast and packing up our tent, we started to climb up. I felt quite energetic and good to go up. Though it was not raining, but being engulfed in clouds has the same effect. We were getting doubts on the route as grass covered up the tracks on few places. We climbed for about half an hour and reached the top of the hill(guess the hill just below sheshaparvata). It is pretty good to be there at that time. We were engulfed in clouds. Though KP is quite frequented by trekkers but today we knew there is no one around. It felt as pristine as it would have been hundreds of years ago when humans didn't know of Kumara parvata. The beauty of nature in its most pristine form. It brings peace to any human soul. No wonder why I was such a trekking freak before marriage. I wished to spend some more time here but on Vinay's continuous request to head down quickly, we turned back. We reached mantapa pretty soon. Without much rest, we started the arduous climb down KP. I always feel going down is a never ending task. It always surprises me to notice that this was the route we climbed up the previus day. You keep on walking down but never see an end to it. After a long march down and meeting the only other group on their way up to KP we reached the forest camp. We took a pretty long rest at this point. We applied multi layer protection of tobacco powder in coconut oil to fight leeches. After some snacks we started our march down without stopping at Bhattara mane.
We took a small break before entering into the forest. We knew that once we enter into the forest there is no stopping till the big boulder mid way in forest. It seemed that leeches were waiting for us in the forest. Thanks to the tobacco treatment, not many leeches were successful in there attempts. Few leeches which clinged on to our shoes were not finding it easy to reach a good spot to suck blood. We soon reached the big boulder. Here we applied a final coating of tobacco-oil mixture before the final lap to Kukke. After a brief rest at the big boulder we headed down. We kept on stopping on small rocks to get rid of any leeches clinging to our shoes. The end of the trek was nowhere visible. Vinay was lagging behind by fair distance. I had to wait now and then to check on him. Thanks to leeches, I didn't get much chance to admire the forest which I generally get in all of my treks. After continuous walk of about 40-50 mins we finished the trek and reached ground zero.
I caught hold of one leech in my water bottle to show it to Kiran. We sat at a small stream to get rid of any other leech sticking to our shoes. I threw the leech I caugh in water bottle into the stream and watched it being eaten by fishes.
We finally headed to SLR residency. I bought a bottle of water as Vinay was dead thirsty. Vinay's shoes which were bought new for the trek were in bad condition. We bought a pair of slippers for him before dragging ourselves to our hotel room. What a feeling it was to be back home with Kiran. The thought of a warm and cosy bed has driven us since morning. We took hot water bath and enjoyed the lunch. Lying on foam bed with dry clothes and blanket was such a good feeling. We realized it after the night of July 10, 2011. It's true that humans have made there lives so cosy and comfortable that they are cut out from nature. I don't even remember when was the last time I slept outdoors, under the night sky.
After couple of hours of rest, we went to have darshan at Kukke Subramanya temple. We bought tickets for special pooja. Inside the temple I realized something. I was sourrounded by people cursing each other to have good look at god. I wondered if god is truly inside that structure. Is he meant to service only human beings? What happens to the snake which I saw near the big boulder on the way up KP. What happens to all the birds, insects and other animals? What happens to all the plants and trees we saw on our trek? They are created by the same god who created human beings. Those poor creatures don't even know the existence of the temple. They don't know that they have to bathe in Kumara dhara before visiting the temple to be blessed by god. I was wondering Why would god lock himself in this temple, blessing the selfish human beings who don't have respect for each other. I felt that god must be there on top of KP, roaming freely in the forest. He must be in those streams from where we quenched our thirst. He must be in the clouds which engulfed us. He must be in the wind which blew us cold. He must be in the rains which drenched us. I realized I already had my darshan.
After a quick dinner and packing of luggage we caught the bus back to Bangalore. A nice and memorable trip\trek coming to an end.