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The Green Carpet that I Treaded on: My Trek to Kudremukha & Bavikonda Peaks

It’s been 5 months since I infamously fractured my right forearm. All my travel plans for 2017 were down the drain thanks to my injury and recovery period, forget trekking. Not the right spirit for a person to be in who doesn’t likes to stay indoors at all.

My doctor suggested I can carry on with my normal routine, sans any heavy lifting and pressure on the arm. Rightly so I signed up for a weekend trek with my fav Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC) to Kurdremukha the moment I saw Monisha’s mail invite for the same. A trek, exactly the kind of motivation I needed!
Kudremukh is a peak within the lush green Kudremukh National Park, in Chikkamagaluru also a beautiful hill townsel. The name Kuduremukha literally means ‘horse-face’ (Kannada) and refers to a particular picturesque view of a side of the mountain that resembles a horse’s face. Kuduremukha is Karnataka’s 3rd highest peak after Mullayangiri and Baba Budangiri (source: Wikipedia). Its monsoon and an ideal setting to trek in the Western Ghats.
Day 0: Rain Rain Go Away, Come Again Another Day
20 amigos will be taking on this adventurous sojourn. Pretty much I was the most pumped up since I’ll be trekking after a brief hiatus. Monisha and Gaurav will be leading this bandwagon. We travel on 8th Sept (Friday), reach Chikkamagaluru on 9th Sat (Sat), freshen up, walk up to Mullodi village, and climb!
We were doing 2 treks actually, Bavikonda peak on Saturday and Kudremukh on Sunday. Little did I know the former was as good as a proper trek like the later, if not intense.
We are delayed in our departure from Bengaluru tonight. Its a downpour today evening in Bengaluru. People are stuck at their respective places. Towards Silk Board side it was a deluge. Funny I reached from Mysuru at 9:30 pm, only to find Poornima there. Slowly and so rest of the pack joined. What should have been an on time, planned departure at 10 pm turned to a late movement at 11:30 pm. All were tired and we decided to call it a day.
Day 1: Our Climb to Bavikonda Peak
We reached Balegal (Chikkamaguluru) at around 7:30 am. Quickly attended the daily chores coupled with a cup of tea and coffee we decided to ‘walk’ to our base camp, Mullodi village, which was a good 6 km away, instead of taking the jeep.

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Good morning Chikkamagaluru. PC: Nitish
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Walking up to our base camp at Mullodi village. Not a bad start, eh?

It’s a sunny day today. Soaking in the green all around we realized soon enough that this 6 km ‘walk’ by no means was a simple affair. We were already sweating under the humid weather by the time we reached Mullodi. Today there’s going to be ‘traffic’ on the Kudremukh trail, as lot of people have arrived from Bengaluru to trek (including those BMC buggers). Good thing we will be going to Kudremukh tomorrow. Today we trek to Bavikonda peak, apparently a gentle trek. Or so I thought!

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Lush greenery on the way is sure to captivate you
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An abandoned thatch

Our homestay was right below the entrance to the Kudremukh National Park. A big dorm on the 1st floor would accommodate all 20 of us. Some quick breakfast, coffee, and we started on our trek to Bavikonda and Kilchikia peak ridge at 11 am with our daypacks and packed lunch. Day 1 has started.

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That’s our homestay for 2 days

We will be covering 14 kms in total today. The hike goes through the village, before you enter wide grasslands, offering you some delicious views of the village, the adjoining mountain ranges, and the step farming. Staying hydrated was the mantra, for it was quite a tiring walk up. Midway through we reached resting points, and water streams where we splashed water on our faces and refilled our bottles.

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Streams like these on the way help you to quench your thirst and refill your bottles
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Step farming. A birds eye view of Mullodi

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Not so ancient stone paintings.

Around 6 kms covered and we can see the peak from here now on. It looked stunning for sure. In between comes a patch of jungle where we again drenched our faces in flowing water. Peaceful.

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Cows happily grazing around while we take quick break
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Some helping hand to your buddy trekkers!

Quickly out and our destination is within striking distance. In about 20 mins of hike we were at top. Never did I think this “short-&-quick” walk would end up being a proper trek.
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Our destination for today, right there!

The 360-degree view from the top was astounding. We were literally above the clouds now. The ‘green-carpet-like-valley was clearly visible. Some much needed rest, and then lunch ensued. We spent almost 1 hour at the top before descending. It started to drizzle, good for us to go back now.

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All smiles there. And why not? This is after lunch after all!
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Lads enjoying a good moment of tranquility from top

In another 2 hours we were able to descend without any major hiccups (yeah most of us did slip on the slippery rocks, flat on our bums). Now there was one more twist; most of us were drenched in sweat and needed a good shower. So, we decided to hit the nearby waterfall, and take a nice cold dip in running water (yayyyy!). Quickly grabbed our towels and headed out.

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The nearby stream where we took a nice, cold dip

That dip in the waterfall is all what we needed. The rocks were extremely slippery, and every step was with caution. That flowing cold water was a natural therapy to the aching body. The current of the stream was quite strong though, so much so Darshan almost got swept away 😀 !
No sooner it started raining heavily. We scampered for our chappals and bags to rush back. Back to the homestay, and garma-garam tea, coffee, and pakoda welcomed us. Sun’s down, and time for some team game. Out comes Uno cards. Uno is a card based game in which the objective for the player is to be left with no cards. This game is pure madness and evil. It was a laughter riot!

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Uno, a card based game. People just lost it there!

Dinner was served, and to our delight chicken was on the menu. Food was inch perfect to satisfy our hunger pangs. Before we snore off Gaurav had some instructions for tomorrow’s big day. We need to wake up max by 6am, and be trek ready by 7am. Also, tomorrow we will be going as one big group, instead of multiple small groups as chances of getting lost in the forest is quite high.
Day 2: To the Mystic Valleys and an Never Ending Green Painting
It has rained the whole night. Folks woke up as early as 4 am. Me, as the cheeky late riser that I’m, snuggled inside my cozy sleeping bag till 6 am.

Early morning view from our homestay

Mornings on a trek are always pretty much filled with varied activities. The hustle-bustle to ensure everyone is ready and leaves on time. As with all BTC’s event we were ready by 7 am; breakfast was hogged, lunch-boxes were packed. Kudremukh, here we come!
Our guide came only by 7:30 am though. It’s important to note that you’re not allowed to step inside the national park without a local guide. No sooner after the guide came we stepped on the trail, ready to march.
The Kudremukh peak is the highest point at around 1890 mtrs in the Kudremukh National Park, and the 3rd highest peak in Karnataka. It is home to the lion tailed macaques, langur, spotted deers, snakes, sloths, among others. Even tigers have been spotted inside the park! Various streams and waterfalls dot the park and snake their way through. The entire valley is mainly covered in shola grasslands (giving it a nice, polished carpet-like appearance), with patches of forests in between.

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Early steps in the Kudremukh National Park

We got our passes to the park, and right from the start dense jungles welcomed us with moss-laden trees and numerous streams to hop across. The rains that lashed the entire region throughout last night had its presence felt around today morning, with leaves and grasses still dripping water, streams passing more water today, a hazy, foggy valley, and some leach infested slippery trails. It takes around 4.5-5 hours to reach the Kudremukh top from Mullodi village, at a decent pace. It’s a 25 km of total trek distance we will be covering today. No easy feat by any means.

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First views of the meadows
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Streams like this not only quench your thirst, but also rejuvenates you
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Careful with your steps there!

Out of the jungle and the first vistas of the “green carpet” is now presented to you. Well its amazing to be right out there, and then we are not even in the heart of the park yet. Almost 2 hours into our trek and the trail is starting to get slushy, although we haven’t had much of altitude gain till now. Straight out of one more jungle from where the Kudremukh peak is visible and one can now estimate the gargantuan climb that awaits. It was like the middle point of the trail where we were standing now. We were running a bit late, maybe by around 30 mins or so. Some quick clicks and onward we move. From here on the ascend starts. The beauty from here now is more the elevation you gain the better the landscape becomes. Here, take a look:
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That peak you see at the back? That’s Kudremukha


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The pack starts ascending

Treeline is hardly present at this altitude, barring at few points. But the views will take your breath away, like literally, as the climb gets quite steep and windy and you pant with every step. Phew, never did I realize Kudremukha is not a walk-in-the-park trek. The clouds were playing hide-n-seek with us, at one moment it will open up for us to feast our eyes to the expanse of greenery and work of nature, and then the very next moment we will be walking with thick veil of fog in front of us, treading into the unknown.

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The luscious shola vegetation till your eyes can see. Poornima, the local shepherd!
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The only is way up from here
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Pistachio mountains!
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Treading in the clouds

Soon enough the peak was visible, and most of us decided to hike up without any stopping. In about 10-15 mins of huffing-puffing we made it to the top. Great jubilation followed! Unfortunately, the visibility was marred by a thick layer of fog all around. We quickly took out our lunch of lemon rice.

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Up, up, and more up!
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To the top!

A brief stay of around 1 hour and it was time to go back. The trail being the same, it will take more or less the same amount of time for us to reach back. Sun’s finally out and it gets a bit pleasant now. A descend technically is more difficult in a trek than an ascend, due to slippery rocks and toes hitting the front part of your shoes. Couple that if you are wearing running shoes in a monsoon trek!

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GoPro selfie at the top. PC: Gaurav
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Walking in la la land
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A canvas painting comes alive!

By now most of us have been bitten by leeches. I myself had around 5-6 leech bites, and was bleeding profusely (its been almost 3 weeks since the trek now, and the bites still itches). Our pants were all muddy, shirts soaking in sweat, and legs crying in ache. So much so most of us didn’t even bother to save our shoes while crossing streams; we just dipped them in and moved on. Not that it mattered anymore!

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Change of guards! Bamboo forests midway
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Tiny hoomans making their way in Wonderland!

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After a leg breaking, arduous, 25 kms of tiring trek we all managed to reach Mullodi, safe and sound. The first thing we all did was to remove our shoes and let the feet breathe. Some of us had got blisters, few others had leeches that got a free ride (with a free meal). It was 4:30 pm, and we had reached well on time. A cold, nice shower was inevitable before we pack our bags and head out to Bengaluru. But first, some hot chai, kappi, and pakodaplease!

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The victorious 20! PC: Gaurav

Since we had time with us we didn’t rush things. Most of us were ready to head back to our busy schedule; its Monday again when we reach Bengaluru tomorrow. We decided to take a jeep ride to the main road where our bus was stationed, instead of walking back. The jeep ride did give some helluva scare; bumpy, muddy roads (or to say trail?), poor visibility at night, and neck-break speed on a road that doesn’t even exist! Oh well, we did reach our bus in one piece, and from there it was just some tired souls that felt asleep and woke up next day in Bengaluru.
Kudremukh, well what can I say. I have been hearing about this trek for the last 3 years or so, but never able to plan it. Or to say never I thought it will be a difficult one (we always used to say Kumara Parvatha is THE tough trek in Karnataka). This was indeed a trek that truly lives up to the word of a “Green Carpet”; the lush foliage, the expanse of grassland, and the mystic clouds all add up to the charm that Kudremukha is. Monisha was doing it for the 4th time. And then you wonder, why not?
Written by     : Hrishikesh Baruah
Organized by : Gaurav & Monisha
Date of event: Sep 9th & 10th, 2017
Place             : Western Ghats
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