BENGALURU: There are two ways you could go about planning a weekend break in Coorg. One would involve the conventional homestay experience with local cuisine and perhaps an easy trek over half a day. Or, if you’re the adventurous kind, you could rough it out.
Ahead of my birthday last month, my friends and I decided to do the latter – we rented tents and sleeping bags and set out on a budget trek up to Tadiyandamol, Karnataka’s second highest peak at 1,720 metres.
Thrillophilia calls it a ‘moderately difficult’ five-to-six-hour climb. The plan was to reach Virajpet at 5.30 am on Saturday, catch another bus to Kakkabe – a town 25 km away – and start trekking.
Armed with heavy backpacks – with the camping gear, four litres of water and some food – we set out. The first section of the climb was the three-km hike up to the base camp near Nalknad Aramane. The trail, albeit wide and asphalted, was steep. Parts of it lacked shade as well. But we were told that there was a restaurant at the base camp and the thought of a hot meal kept us climbing.
And the view of crimson-leafed trees scattered in a sea of all kinds of green kept us clicking pictures every 500 metres.
We later found out that the restaurant was closed and we graduated to the actual trail, past the base camp, on a grumbling stomach.
Travel blogs told us that there was only room for four tents atop the highest peak. And those who didn’t make it usually camped at a lower altitude, near a spot called the Big Rock. But we were hoping to go all the way. A group of trekkers had already overtaken us and the competition motivated us to push through.
The trail became increasingly muddy and filled with rocks. Along the way we fashioned our own trekking poles out of burnt tree branches. We wouldn’t realise how important they were until the path got much, much steeper.
The day was getting hotter and we were taking more and more water breaks. Thankfully, after a point, the trail flattened out. A few hundred metres later, we reached the Big Rock. The trail was supposed to get steeper after that point. There was also a stream closeby, where we could refill our bottles.
The next stretch was steeper. My thighs hurt and the backpack was starting to weigh me down. After a point, I started making mental notes for this travelogue. I don’t remember a lot of it now, but it sure distracted me from the gruelling climb then.
The peak wasn’t as close to the Big Rock as we had imagined. But then, we didn’t know what the peak looked like either. So we put one foot in front of the other in the direction of the highest point we could see.
The view from every point after the Big Rock was a treat to the eyes. We had reached a decent altitude and could see the stunning green curves of all the hills below.
The trickiest portion of the trek was the forest bit close to the actual peak. I’d like to call it a glorified staircase of massive roots and rocks. On the bright side, there was plenty of shade and thanks to all the trees, it was slightly cooler. Unlike on the open trail, there, we had the trees to hold on to while defying gravity.
The path got slippery in the final kilometre. Trekkers coming down offered us words of encouragement and told us to step on the grass instead of the muddy/rocky path for grip. We were beyond exhausted by then, but we kept going.
As we inched closer to the peak, I turned to look at path behind and my heart dropped down to my stomach. The abyss was right there but so was the reward for all the hours of huffing and puffing and sweating and grumbling – the view was magnificent.
Upon reaching the top, I cast my trekking pole aside and lay back on the grass. There was sand in my hair, but at that point, I was one with nature. It didn’t matter.
The trek was long and exhausting, but once we got to the top, we were glad we pushed through. Beside the stunning sunrise, even the sprains and the sunburns seemed to be part of the reward.
We hadn’t eaten all day and our water supply was alarmingly low. Thankfully, the forest guard and his son brought us a 10-litre can of water and some homemade rice, sambar and pickle. They checked on us later at night as well and warned us not to light a bonfire.
As we pitched our tents and settled in, silver fog flowed into the valley below. It was late afternoon and the sun was about to call it a day. More trekkers reached the summit to watch the sunset. I was looking forward to admiring the infinite expanse of the velvety blue night sky with countless stars. I was even hoping to catch a comet or two.
That was the wrong night, I would later learn. While the clouds dispersed, the moon ascended, outshining every other celestial body in the sky. Who said only humans cause light pollution?