Above the clouds

Pushing the limits @ Kodachadri Peak

Kodachadri is a mountain peak in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. A temple dedicated to the Goddess Mookambika is located near the top of the peak. The temple is said to stand where thousands of years ago Mookambika fought and killed the demon Mookasura. Sage Adi Shankara is said to have visited Kodachadri peak during his time. A small temple called Sarvajnapeetha, built with stone is dedicated to Adi Shankara at the top of Kodachadri. Because of these temples at the peak, Kodachadri receives a lot of spiritual tourists too.

This time around, I didn’t have my car with me and had to use public transport to reach here. There are no direct buses from Bangalore to Kodachadri. We had booked a KSRTC bus from Bangalore to Kundapura and got down at Sampekatte. From Sampekatte, we reached Kattinahole taking an auto. From here to reach the Kodachadri peak there are two options. One can rent a four wheel jeep from Sampekatte or Kattinahole to reach the Kalabairava Temple and trek the peak from there. Another option is to trek from Kattinahole to the peak which took us around 7 hours to reach the peak.

We had booked our stay in Akshaya homestay in Kattinahole for 900 Rs per night per person. The price is a bit high for the facilities provided. Kattinahole has a couple of other home stays too. These home-stays provide very basic facilities and are very close to the starting place of the trek. We refreshed here and had breakfast and started our trek from here with the guide arranged by the homestay folks. We had taken the road to the checkpost to get our tickets and deposited money for our plastic water bottles. We were supposed to bring back our water bottles and get the money deposited with them back.

We started our trek towards the Hidlumane waterfalls. The initial climb was not steep, the path was wet cause of early morning drizzles and we crossed a few smaller streams of water bodies. In this path the reason why trees are known to prevent soil erosion was so evident. Each huge tree had a lot of roots and these roots were preventing soil from being washed away by rain water. This also acted as a step for us so we would climb easily. There was a stretch of this trail which had a solar powered fence on one side. We were warned by our guide not to touch it as it was in active use.

One would listen to the sounds of water flowing somewhere close by and the sounds of insects and bird sounds. When enquired about the wildlife activity in the area, our guide mentioned about Leopards and Bears. We hoped we don’t see them and continued our walk. After this small initial trek, we reached a grassland where the forest growth was cleared out. We rested here for sometime and checked for leeches. There was a concrete road leading to this point. Apparently there was a jeep route to reach this point. We were checked by forest guards for our permits and we started the next leg of our journey.

A huge green paddy field welcomed us. We were walking on edge of the paddy field. It was interesting to see how these paddy fields are watered by channels from the falls. The water was diverted into the edge of the hill by man made channels to bring water. It looked like an amazing indigenous idea.

At the first sight of the waterfalls, I did get excited and want to get into the water, but our guide asked us to wait for some more time to reach to the top of the falls. The Hidlumane waterfalls is a step waterfalls and is thickly covered by green vegetation on all sides. So we were not able to see the whole waterfalls in a single frame. We trekked along the sides of the waterfall. The path was slippery and there was crowd before us. Other trekking groups had slowed down here and were enjoying the falls and the path was a bit tricky to navigate too.

Once we reached the last fold of the waterfalls, we had a dip in the cold water and started the next part of our journey. This waterfalls had a lot of risky photo opportunities too. Once out of the waterfalls, we checked for leeches in our body and then started our trek again. The climb after the waterfalls was the toughest climb of the day. The climb was steep and after sometime, the forest cover was gone and the sun was up making us more tired. I had to stop after every few footsteps and energize myself.

But the view was amazing as the forest cover was gone and we were in an elevated area, we were able to see the green around us. We climbed a peak and rested again. Even though there was an easier option to skip the second peak we did climb it.

On the way we collected a lot of plastic left over by fellow trekkers and took it with us and dumped in a dustbin near the temple. After this part of the trail came the easier jeep trail. We followed the jeep trail to reach the temple. On our way we were so generous to giveaway an apple and some of our last drop of water to another trekker we met.

We finally reached the Kalabairava temple and were happy to find an eatery their. This is the final place were the jeep can take you to. After this place one has to walk to reach the peak and the Adi Shankara temple. Being not spiritual persons ourselves, we skipped the temple. It felt like we have reached the end of our trek. Later we learned that the trek is yet to continue and the peak is yet to come. Without lunch, both of us together had only 2 oranges, 1 apple, 2 chocolate bars and a couple of bajjis we got in the eatery. This was all the food we had in the whole of our trek. It was already late and the eatery didn’t have any lunch left for us.

This was the moment we wanted to decide if we wanted to go uphill or call it a day and start the trek back. There were a lot of people who started trekking with us and we had left almost all of them behind us. The people we had given our last apple were returning back stopping the trek here. But we decided to push the limits and see where this path will take us. We continued our trek along with people who are visiting the place for spiritual reasons. The crowd included people who just got down from their jeep drives and were fresh to start their climb.

During this climb, I saw something which I will never forget in my life. There was a very old grandma doing this climb. She was very old, older than my grandmother clad in a traditional Kerala saree. That means I would approximately place her in her eighties. I would really doubt if she can walk properly in a plain but she did this trek with the help of her relatives and all that was for the faith she had in a imagined reality called Religion/God. Watching her was a boost to finish the trek for me.

From the trail, we were able to see a small stream of water fall amidst the complete green cover. Looks like the falls is called Belkal Theertha waterfalls and there is some other trekking trail to this place. We were only able to watch it from this elevated place and admire its beauty and imagine how it would be to trek to this falls and take a bath here someday.

This last part of the trail was covered with clouds and was so scenic with 360 degree views and is definitely not to be missed. We came to the Adi Sanakara temple and then went ahead to a smaller peak. This smaller peak was less crowded and we spent some time here resting. Now we know we have covered the last peak of the trek it was already 4.30 PM and we started to walk back. We were ambitious to reach back our homestay before night falls. We wanted to catch hold of sunset views on our way back.

But it got dark sooner and after walking down the jeep trail for some distance, we decided to take a jeep to get to our homestay. We bargained for a better price to drop us and jumped into one of the returning jeeps. We experienced the thrill of staying calm inside a jeep and kind of believing your jeep driver is a better person to take you home. The drive is complicated and not for the city drivers for sure.

Once back to the homestay, I had a bath a had a nice dinner and went to a peaceful sleeping. Woke up the next morning and finished the current book I was reading Beer in the Snooker Club. After breakfast, we started our travel back to Bangalore.

If in case I am traveling here again, I will use the same transport options I did this time, but will book the Public Works Department (PWD) Guest house which is close to the peak and within the forest limits. We were told by our fellow trekkers that the stay here costs INR 750 per person including food and we will have to prebook it three days in advance. Staying here means you get to stay in the peak over a night and also will be able to see both the sunrise and sunset from the peak.

So the rough itinerary would be start from Bangalore on Friday night in KSRTC to Sampekatte and then take an auto or hitch a ride to Kattinahole. Now that I roughly remember the route, I do not need a trek guide. I would suggest that to you too if you are trekking on a weekend. You can follow your instincts and the fellow trekkers and reach the peak without the help of a guide. Book a stay in the PWD guest house and stay there after watching the sunset. Wake up early, watch the sunrise and then trek back to Kattinahole and travel back to Bangalore.

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