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KODACHADRI: EXPLORING THE WORLD, ONE TREK AT A TIME


By: Sahil Chelaramani June 23, 2014
Our story begins in a cramped little tempo on it's way to a remote mountain in the western ghats. Surrounded by strangers, our hero finds two familiar faces. They weren't people he'd known a very long time, it might have been a few moments, days or years, he'd lost track. “Big day tomorrow, we should get some sleep” said the one with the curly hair. Sleep hadn't come easy that night, since the road was bumpy and the seats were uncomfortable. “This time tomorrow, we'll be on our way back, with our heads held high” he continued. His presence on this journey was a source for solace since this wasn't his first time. He'd been on a few treks before this one. Most notably he'd been on a trek to the Kumaraparvatha, a mountain in South India, known for being the toughest one to tame. His destination this time was a mountain known as Kodachadri.  A quick search on Wikipedia had told them that , The name comes from native word "Kodacha" or "Kodashi" which means hill of Kutaja flowers and "Adri" a Sanskrit word, both combined together coined the word Kodachadri. Kutaja in Sanskrit means Girimallika or Jasmine of the hill. The hilly region that is full of 'Jasmine of the hills' plants is "Kutajadri". It is also called "Kutachadri" and "Kodashi Parvatha". “It'll be awesome dude!!” the guy with the curly hair had exclaimed, and now they were on their way to this same mountain.

THE HALLIMANE
They reached the homestead early the next morning. It was a quaint place known as the “Kodachadri Hallimane”. This was a place of rest for the travelers seeking to climb the mountain. The Hallimane had three rooms for its guests. Two of which were reserved for women, while the guys shared the attic or could set up their sleeping gear under the stars. After freshening up,  the travelers gather for breakfast. The owners of the place, a very nice couple, made some of the best food that one could possibly hope for in those remote parts.  “Eating with your hands and walking barefooted feels refreshing. It is such a change from the norms of the concrete jungle we've come from.” said an elderly woman who would be joining them on the journey to the top.





Finishing with breakfast, the travelers sat down around the veranda, contemplating their course for the day. “We should try and be back before dark” said a female member of the group. “If we don't start quickly we may have to stop our trek early” insisted another traveler.  “What ever we do, we must follow a leave no trace behind policy” said an older and more avid trekker and was promptly agreed with. The leave no trace behind policy was a simple one. Don't litter or pollute the mountain side , while on the trek. All waste materials would be carried, until they got back to the Hallimane to dispose of properly. This policy ensured that the balance of nature remained undisturbed. After that, they quickly gathered their belongings, things they needed for the journey and left the unnecessary things behind, and set out to start their trek on the Jeep trail. 

The long journey began at the Jeep trail. This is a route along the mountain that jeeps follow to reach the top. As this hilly road is not maintained properly, only expert local jeep drivers can take the jeep to the top. Jeeps are available for hire at Kollur and at Kattinahole village near Kodachadri base. Motorcycle riding on this highly uneven, steep, mud track with sharp hairpin curves with gradients, may be challenging and risky.  At the very top there is a temple. The temple is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims and it’s said to place where thousands of years ago Goddess Mookambika fought and killed the demon Mookasura.  It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya had a vision of Sri Mookambika Devi and installed the deity here. “A traveler seeking to climb the mountain can either stick to the jeep trail to top or he can go through the forest, which later joins the jeep trail for the final part of our trek. We can take the jeep trail while coming down when it'll be dark. ” the guy with the curly hair chimed in. “Plus, if we take the forest, we'll reach a waterfall after a few miles of the trek. We can rest there before we continue” he continued.  After walking along the trail for a few minutes, they reached the location which deviated into the forest. It was still pretty smooth sailing for the next hour and a half where the path meandered slowly and the incline wasn't too terrible to manage. There was a cool wind blowing that day, so the climb was relatively cool. It was about eleven thirty in the morning before they reached the waterfalls. It seemed like a disappointment at first, being small and relatively unimpressive. “The real waterfalls is further ahead” the person with a yellow shirt chipped in.  It was another half an hour before they reached the actual waterfall. It's water was cold as ice and the force of it, was staggering. The rocks had become slippery, jagged and sharp from being pounded on by the water.Walking underneath the falls became easier with the help of vines growing along the rocks. During the monsoons season, one could expect it to rain cats and dogs. Trekking in the forests at this time can be very thrilling and adventurous because of blood-thirsty leeches. A curious eye and discerning ear can hear many mating calls and maybe even spot frogs indulging in mating. During winters, birds like the Scarlet Minivet and Crimson-backed Sunbird are amongst the many common sights. 



The real trek starts after the waterfalls. With steep inclines at nearly sixty degree angles, your legs begin to ache. The going slows to a crawl as one repeatedly stops to catch his breath and to take in the beautiful scenery.  At one point you realize you're no longer surrounded by trees and shrubs but you're on the bare face of the mountain. When you look at the path ahead of you, you see the peak right ahead of you. This is deceptive and should remember “It's always further than it looks. It's always taller than it looks. And it's always harder than it looks.". Looking back to the path you've just walked often gives you more courage , since you see the obstacles you've overcome.
The ascent continues for a good hour and a half before you reach one of the peaks of the mountain. The view from this point is surreal and you can see miles in all directions.   If you decide to continue, the path from this point is a gradual descent into a valley which is an ideal spot to stop for lunch. An ideal lunch would be something light and doesn't spoil easily. Remember not to litter. 







Along this area you may find leopard droppings which are suggestive that there are leopards around, which are a protected species in the area, along with Malabar Langur, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Paradise flycatcher,Indian Tiger, Indian Elephant, Hyena,Gaur, and the Indian rock python.

Continuing on the journey, after a few more near vertical climbs, you find yourself back on the jeep trail. Beware of the jeeps on the road, which may have limited visibility due to dust and environmental conditions. So when you hear a jeep on the trail, it's always best to stop at the side of the trail and let it pass. This point also happens to be you three-fourth way mark, telling you, you're nearly at the temple.  It'll take you another hour to reach the temple,and by now the sun will probably be out. So carrying protection from the sun like a cap or sunscreen may be wise.  This temple is dedicated to the traditional Mother god Mookambika is located near a travelers cottage and is believed to be the moola sthana (the origin) of Sri Mookambika Devi. Here local merchants sell their food items and is a nice place to stop and rest. For most people, the trek ends at the Mookambika temple. You can hire a jeep to take you down, and drop you off where the trek began.  



From this spot, it’s a 2 kilometer trek to the top.  A small temple called Sarvajnapeetha, designed with stone is dedicated to Adi Shankara at the highest of Kodachadri. This is the last stretch of this trek, but is also the hardest part. For the more adventurous  you can climb the last 2 kilometers and watch the sunset, which is supposed to be beautiful. It is recommended that if you stay to watch the sunset which generally is later in the evening that you trek back down to the  Mookambika temple to get a jeep down otherwise you'll be hiking in the dark which can be dangerous. For those of you who want to complete the entire trek on foot, it is recommended that you start back down as soon as possible, so that you can savior the remaining light of the day. The journey back down is easier than the journey up. Using a walking stick can reduce the weight on your legs by nearly half. On the way back down, it is always beneficial to carry a torch just in case, the sunsets and you find yourself walking in the dark. Sticking to the jeep trail in such a  case helps, since there are houses along the path, and the people living in them,are always willing to help. An added advantage of the jeep trail is that the sound of jeeps usually keep any wildlife off the path, so you won't have any surprise encounters in the dark.  After reaching the point where their journey began, our tired travellers decided to head back to Hallimane for some rest and a campfire dinner.





AFTERMATH
“It is said that if someone climbs a mountain, the mountain lends its power to that individual to conquer life” the guy with curly hair brimmed with happiness. When asked what she thought of this experience, the female hiker said "Climbing is as close as we can come to flying." Another said that "The bizarre trend in mountaineers is not the risk they take, but the large degree to which they value life. They are not crazy because they don't dare, they're crazy because they do. These people tend to enjoy life to the fullest, laugh the hardest, travel the most, and work the least." Whether you agree with them or not, in my humble opinion you should definitely give trekking to Kodachadri a shot.

   




Tags: kodachadri , first trek

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