Saturday, February 2, 2008

This Parvata is no 'Kumara'

This Parvata is no ‘Kumara’ – Kumara Parvata

The name, the trek, the distance, the height were all deceiving for a group of eight (a mixture of youth and men ‘young at heart’) who decided to climb the Kumara Parvata (KP) in Subramanya in South Canara district. We arrived at Kukke Subramanya on Friday, January 11, morning for a break from monotony and routine. After having ‘darshan’ we decided, over breakfast, to climb the Kumara Parvata. We had collected bits and pieces of information from various sources before the trek. An avid trekker from Bangalore had told me to climb KP from the Somvarpet side and descend to Subramanya.
Contrary to his advice, at 11.30 AM we started our journey from Subramanya. We had exactly 20 bananas, a kilo of apple and orange each, a packet of dry grapes and cashew nuts and 6-7 bottles of water.
The first two hours of the climb was through thick forests, hence was not tiring. We stopped by a stream, refilled our water bottles. By 1.30, we reached the grasslands where there was no place to hide from the benevolent sun.
After nearly one and half hours of walk through the grasslands we reached our first targeted halt at Bhattar Mane (Bhattar’s house) by about 3 PM. Narayana Bhat and his house was an eye-opener. Totally cut-off from civilization, Bhat lives in his cow-dung plastered kuchcha house with his mother and workers. His five-acre agricultural land is full of arecanuts and vegetables besides a cow shed that houses 20 cows. For the weary trekkers, he provides breakfast, lunch and dinner at a nominal price, but only if they inform him before hand. As we had not informed him, we had to be content with a banana each from our reserve. During our conversation with Bhat we realized that the journey ahead was the most challenging. Also three trekkers from Delhi, who were relaxing at Bhattar Mane, cautioned us. They had given up their journey midway and returned back.
At 4.30, we resumed our journey, the next target being a Mantap. On the way, a forest camp office and two resting spots with 4 benches each in the open air were a solace. We chanced upon a guava tree on the way and feasted on a couple of unripe ones. The sun was sinking fast and the climb was definitely getting steeper. We reached the Mantap by 7, capturing the glory of the sunset in our cameras. We were also fortunate to refill our water bottles from a dying stream enroute.
The Mantap is a 6.5 square feet raised platform, with 4 pillars. We were disappointed by its size but the very thought that KP is a cobra-infested mountain scared away our disappointment. After lighting a candle, we had the bananas and the dry grapes for dinner. The view from the Mantap was amazing, red lights in the Subramanya town dotted the horizons- stars, shooting stars, jet planes, a crescent shaped moon – the setting was perfect for a well deserved sleep.
At 9.50 PM, the breeze started, waking us all. It grew stronger and transformed into a chilly wind. Groans, moans, sighs, cries- the desolate mountain was echoing with our desperate wails. The blankets and sweaters were not enough; we badly felt the need of a tent. The wind subsided by midnight, putting an end to our misery.
At 5.30 in the morning, we set out with 2 torches to conquer KP. The sleep had rejuvenated us, our mind was clear and eyes sharp. The climb was steep, the least to say, for the angle was near perpendicular. Now, here we faced the ultimate test, any one who has climbed KP would have faced it. You climb to the top of a peak and lo! and behold you have another equally challenging one in front of you. One, two, three four…our patience was running out. But at last the fourth one was the KP and we were atop it at 9.00 AM.
The most enchanting part of the 3.5 hrs climb was embracing the breaking sun, which revealed its glow shyly like a child peeping from behind its mother’s sari folds. The sight from the top was beyond words. Photos will do no justice. The purest oxygen that filled our lungs made up for the frugal food we had and literally drove away our fatigue. During a 20 minute photo session at the top, we were spell bound by the beauty of the rising sun. As it rose, the rays started lighting up the peaks one by one.
We met some forest department workers, who were clearing the way for trekkers ahead of the busy Sankranti festival. Their guidance gave us a clear idea of our downhill journey. We had some 15 kms to go. But the climb was not yet over. We had our last hurdle in front of us, Pushpagiri. That dampened our spirits because a further climb was unexpected.
But then there was no looking back. The journey to Pushpagiri was refreshing too because we walked through a very thick forest. The Sun rarely gets a chance to show its splendor inside this forest. We decided to have our breakfast near a water source, which was supposed to be a kilometer ahead. But a group of teenagers had occupied it before us and hence we decided to continue our journey. By 9.45 we stopped to have our breakfast, an apple each and the pack of cashew. Pushpagiri, finally, seemed to be within our reach. Another 20 minutes of steep climb got us there. The sight was fantabulous, the feeling was immense, we had not only conquered KP but also humbled it. But a group of trekkers who were atop Pushpagiri told us the place was sacred and shoes and slippers were prohibited beyond a certain area.
Time was not on our side, we had to catch the only bus from Bidahalli, our destination, at 3.30 PM. And we had no clue how the downward journey will be. We followed the red arrow marks on the rocks. An arrow mark at the top of Pushpagiri shows you the direction towards Hegde Mane in Bidahalli.
The descent was dangerous. It was steep enough at some places that we had to sit and move on the slippery, rocky mountain side. We met a couple of forest guards on the way, who gave us the exact guidance. Then as it happens in the Kollur-Kudachadri trek, a dog from nowhere appeared and led us from the front. We were still 7 Kms away and it was noon. We decided to have our lunch, which was an orange each. With renewed vigor, our post lunch journey continued. By then we had reached the forest area and walking was easy. The poor dog made our journey easier. We had nothing but 2 bottles of water. Frankly, we were a little upset that we could’nt share anything with that selfless canine.
We spotted the first sign of civilization -a forest department office board. It was 1.30, we rested for 10 minutes before walking to Bidahalli. That walk was the most tiring one. Hot afternoon, tar road, no shade, exhaustion, hunger…but from the Mallikarjuna temple on the way, we came to know we had 5 Kms to cover to reach the bus stop. With no other way, we walked, looking back often at the mountain chain with a sense of pride and relief. A Good Samaritan in the form of a road contractor with whom we picked up a conversation gave us a pack of Good Day biscuits, moved by our plight.
Finally around 3.00 we reached the bus stop, where we stretched ourselves on the road till the bus came.

Things to note:

Anyone who wants to try to trek KP must have the following

1. Minimum 5 litres of water per person.
2. Glucose, anti-venom, tobacco, Iodex/Moov, band-aid (turns-off leeches)
3. Sufficient food – fruits, biscuits, bread, nuts.
4. Tent, if you cannot withstand the breeze
5. Or Sweaters, Jackets or Thermals
6. Bhattar Mane – Mob-944867947. Call him in advance if you need food.
7. A decent stick, torch
8. The distance and the height are very deceiving, so always keep check of the time.

How to get there?

1. One can climb KP from Subramanya side in Dakshina Kannada and descend to Bidahalli (22 kms from Somvarpet in Kudagu/Coorg) or the reverse.
2. There are only 2 buses to Somvarpet from Bidahalli. The morning bus is at 8.30, evening one at 3.30. So plan your trek accordingly
3. From Bangalore, you have KSRTC buses to Subramanya. The one at 9.00 from Majestic is ideal. It reaches the temple-town at 5.30 AM.

The trekkers included: Anandan, Nandakumar, Prajith, Pramod, Shankaran, Sudeep, Sudin, (all from Kerala) and Umesh (Bangalore)