A trek to Tadiandamol

After a long gap of more than 8 years, I decided to trek again, and this time decided to do it solo. After looking at a bunch of trekking options in South India, I zeroed in on the Tadiandamol hills in the Coorg district.

Tadiandamol (also spelled Tadiyandamol) is the tallest peak in the Kodagu (or Coorg) district in Karnataka. The difficulty level of this trek is categorized as ‘moderate’, and it can be done as a weekend trek starting from Bangalore. I had read online that it is possible to camp at the peak or at the base of the hill. So, I had picked up a tent and mat for rent and carried them along with me.

The nearest town for this trek is Virajpet in the Coorg district. I boarded a KSRTC Volvo bus to Virajpet starting from the Shanti Nagar bus terminus on a Friday evening. The journey was uneventful, and I was at Virajpet at 4.30 am on Saturday. The total trek distance one-way is 8 km, and can be done in 4-5 hours. Since it was quite early in the day, and I did not want to end up reaching the peak right at noon, I decided to visit Talacauvery – the birth place of the river Cauvery.

Soon I reached the private bus stand in Virajpet, just around a 5 minutes walk from the main bus stand. From here, there are buses going to a town called Napoklu – which is mid-way between Virajpet and Talacauvery. The first bus for the day starts at 6.50 am, and I was soon on this bus making my way towards Talacauvery. Around 40 minutes into the journey, the bus crossed the Aramane stop where I would have to alight later in the day to start my trek towards Tadiandamol. I made a mental note of this bus stop.

The conductor dropped me at a junction called Nelaji from where he said the bus to Bhagamandala would arrive in 5 minutes. Bhagamandala is a small temple town at the base of the Talacauvery hills, and it is easy to find transportation to Talacauvery from this town. True to his words, the next bus was right on time, and I was dropped at the Bhagamandala bus stand. Here, I inquired around, and hired an auto-rickshaw to take me to Talacauvery and bring me back to Bhagamandala as well (costs Rs.250).

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Me with Talacauvery in the background

In the hot morning sun, Talacauvery still looked beautiful. After customarily visiting the shrines of the river goddess and Shiva at the temple, I sat on a park bench there and took in the expansive views of the valley below. Having spent a few minutes there, I got back to Bhagamandala in the same auto-rickshaw, and got ready for my onward journey.

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Valley view at Talacauvery

The time was around 11 am, and I was hungry. So, I gobbled up a couple of dosas in the nearby hotel and also picked up a couple of water bottles for my trek. Soon I boarded a bus back to Napoklu, and got dropped off in this town. A wait of another 10 minutes, and I got the bus going towards Virajpet, and got down at the Aramane (palace) bus stop from where the trek was to begin.

The initial 4 kms of this trek is practically a walk on a surfaced road – although it gradually keeps gaining altitude. Vehicles kept going up and down. In about an hour, I reached a view point from where the actual trek on a mud path starts. It is here that the vehicles have to be parked. Of course, the road isn’t very well laid, and cars with low ground clearance might have to be parked around a km before reaching this view point.

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The trek path. The cloud covered peak on the left is Tadiandamol

I started walking along the mud path and in around 15 minutes, came upon a forest checkpost. The guard gave me a shock when he said that camping on the peak or at the base is not permitted, and I would have to leave my tent, sleeping bag and mat right at the forest guard’s quarters. I did not expect this. The time was around 2 pm, and this meant that I would have very less daylight left to trek all the was up and make it back to this checkpost. With no other option, I dropped my camping equipment at the checkpost, and proceeded further.

The gentle slopes soon give way to a steeper rocky terrain, and walking continuously became arduous. Also, the fact that I had lost touch with trekking for a while did not help things a bit. Nevertheless, a group of youngsters were trekking along, and were passively accompanying me, and also sometimes encouraging me to make it to the top (thanks to them).

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Looking back at the path climbed
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The path gets steeper towards the top

Around half-a-kilometer before reaching the top, I came across a small shola forest, which was the most taxing of the whole stretch to cross. The long and winding roots of the trees crisscrossed the climbing path, and acted as steps on which one has to climb to move forward. Each step is quite steep, and your shoe grip could be pretty precarious on these roots. This is one section which needed careful navigation both while climbing, as well as when descending.

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Inside the shola forest – walking over the roots

It was 5.30 pm by the time I reached the peak huffing and panting all along. The peak seemed to be perennially surrounded by mist, and an Indian flag had been planted right at the top. On a clearer day, the view of the valley around would have been spectacular. But, I wasn’t complaining. The cloud cover and the mist was a welcome respite from the hot April sun, and helped me recover some of my spent energy. I spent around half-an-hour here clicking photographs, and relaxing before starting my descent.

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The Indian flag at the peak

The descent was even more taxing on my feet and knees, but I kept walking. Soon, I picked up my equipment from the guard’s quarters, and reached the viewpoint from where the mud path had started. As luck would have it, there was a homestay at this point, and the keeper allowed me to pitch my tent on their ground. Also, I got to use their facilities, and got served piping hot dinner with chicken. The material comforts helped me recover well, and I soon dozed off into a deep sleep cocooned in my sleeping bag inside the tent.

It should be mentioned here that the view point in front of this homestay is quite a sight both in the evening and in the early hours of the day. The lights from the towns of Madikeri, Kushal nagar, and Virajpet are all visible from this point at night, and it is quite a spectacle. Similarly, early in the morning, the whole valley is spectacularly covered in layers of mist, which gives a ethereal feel to it.

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Sunrise over the valley at the view point

The next morning, I started walking down and reached the Aramane or palace. This is the Nalknad Palace, which is nothing but a hideout built by the king of Coorg – Chikka Veerarajendra to escape from the onslaught of the British. The palace is maintained by the government, and has a keeper who could show me around. The 200 year old building needs better maintenance, but was well worth a short visit

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The Nalknad Palace

In no time, I made my way back to the main road and took a bus back to Virajpet. Food options around the Virajpet bus stand are scanty, and I had to be content with a fast-food joint. The KSRTC Volvo to Bangalore was delayed by an hour, but I was soon on the bus on the last leg of my journey that would soon end in Bangalore.

Some tips for this trek:

  • The toilets in Virajpet KSRTC bus stand are in decent shape, and can very well be used for freshening up in the morning.
  • The actual trek start point (the mud path) is 4 kms inside from the main road. So, to save energy, it would be prudent to alight at a town called Kakabe and hire an auto-rickshaw to reach this start point. That way, the total trekking distance halves to 8 kms up and down.
  • With camping at the top banned, the homestay at this trek start point looked like a good option to stay. They have their own tents, and also permit visitors to pitch their tent (if the number is less, I believe). The name of this homestay is ‘West Wind Cottage‘. Details are attached below.

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  • Once this homestay is crossed, no food or water is available (There is a stream which could have potable water in the post-monsoon months). So, make sure you carry some food and at least 2 liters of water per person as you climb. Many youngsters had not carried water, and were left quite tired at the top.
  • Wear sturdy footwear with good grip. The last section of the climb is quite steep, and one wrong step could leave you tumbling down the rock-strewn slopes. It is prudent to gauge each step and make sure the foot is well planted before making every move.
  • The trek path is known to be leech-infested during and after the monsoons. But the environs is also likely to be much greener and pleasant in this time. It is an year-round destination, and it is a personal choice when to do this trek.
  • As always, make sure to carry all your garbage and waste back with you to be disposed later at an appropriate place.
  • Camping at the top of the peak, and also at the big rock at the base of the peak has been banned from Jan 2017. A guard is posted at the check post to enforce this ban.
  • I found the most appropriate information on this trek at this link: http://kotresh.com/index.php/tadiandamol-trek

Videos from the trek:

 

 

A holiday in South Coorg

This year (2014), I and Sangeetha, along with my friend Joseph and his wife Sheba, decided to embark on a 4 day journey all around Coorg to drink in the beauty of the enchanting place. I have traveled to Coorg 4 times in the last 7 years I have been in Bangalore. And, this trip is definitely not going to be my last. The freshness and greenery keeps drawing me back to the ‘Scotland of India’.

Coorg is a perfect weekend destination for a break from the hectic life in Bangalore. Located at around 250 kms from Bangalore, the journey is quick and scenic, and the roads are well marked and smooth.

My trip in 2009 had been quite eventful and fun. We were a bunch of friends – and went there primarily to do white water rafting in the Barapole river. Adding to the excitement was the fact that we were chased by a lone elephant as we drove through the Nagarhole forest.

This trip was no less exciting. We rafted in the Barapole river, stayed in a wonderful homestay in Kutta, visited Talacauvery – the birthplace of the Cauvery river, saw quite a few elephants in a forest camp, and got a fleeting glimpse of a wild elephant in the woods (did not wait to get chased this time) 🙂

I have had the experience of staying in quite a few homestays during my trips to Coorg. This time, I stayed in Rest Inn Homestay, run by a wonderful gentleman – Mr. A N Belliappa. We had stayed at his homestay in 2012, and we were so mesmerised by the taste of the food cooked by his wife that we had decided to stay there again if we visited Coorg the next time.

Belliappa’s Rest Inn homestay is located in the middle of his coffee estate. He rents out 2 clean rooms in front of his home to guests. You can have hot and tasty Coorgi food cooked by his ever-smiling wife Mrs.Shobha. The couple were very friendly and hospitable, and made our stay memorable and pleasant.

Homestay details:

Rest Inn Home Stay
Ajjamada N Belliappa
Kurchi Village & Post, via Srimangala,
Beeruga Road, South Kodagu
Ph: 9449254990, (08274) 246230

Now, some photos from our trip:

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We could find only Ibises in Ranganathittu

 

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Me and Sangi at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
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Sangi with Sheba
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Rest Inn Home stay
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Sangi on the zipline
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Posing on a rope
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Before we went rafting in Barapole
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At an elephant camp near Titimathi
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The Golden Buddha Temple (Namdroling monastery, Bylakuppe)
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Ornamental doors
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On the monastery grounds
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A large bell in front of the temple
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In front of the Buddha

The day we were chased by an elephant…

Posing nicely Not everyday does one get a chance of getting chased by a wild elephant. So, when this hair-raising experience happened to us in the Nagarhole forests of Karnataka, we had our hearts in our mouths, and my eyes were glued to the rearview mirror fearing the mighty beast might bang our vehicle from the back!

But before getting into the finer details of the story, let me take you to South Coorg, or Kodagu as it is known, where it all started, with an adrenaline pumping white water rafting experience in the Barapole river.

The Rafting

The upper Barapole river that drains the Brahmagiri range of hills in the Kerala-Karnataka border, gets its lion’s share of water during the Southwest monsoon. During this season, towns are flooded, bridges are broken and normal life goes to coma. So, when we decided to raft in Barapole in the middle of July, we were highly apprehensive if we would make it, thanks to the incessant rains which had cut of a large chunk of the Kodagu district from the rest of the world [Click]. However we were assured that this was the season, and rafting would happen at any cost.

Homestay So, five of us made it to Kutta, a small town in South Coorg, in my friend’s Fiat Palio Stile on a Saturday morning to conquer the sneering river of the south. The route taken was Bangalore – Srirangapatna – Hunsur – Nagarhole – Kutta – Iruppu. (Route Map) The drive through the Nagarhole sanctuary was scenic, where we saw dozens and dozens of grazing spotted deer, till our eyes were tired. We reached Kutta in less than 5 hours, and called up our homestay host, Mr.Timmaiah, who gave us directions to reach the homestay from Iruppu.

Travel Advice: If you head to Coorg for a river rafting experience, the best thing to do would be book a homestay. There are a plenty of homestays aroung the Kutta-Iruppu area, which give stay and food as a package. Call up the homestay, who can fix you a rafting trip in the Barapole, and there would be no hassles. We had a great experience at Irpu Homestay, with a friendly host, lovely mountain views, cozy rooms and home cooked food – all in a budget.

A deer in Nagarhole In no time we reached the homestay where we were greeted by our friendly host, Mr.Timmaiah. The homestay was seated amidst the green setting of the Brahmagiri ranges, and we could see white cotton clouds traveling innocently across the green background. We were surrounded by coffee plantations, and the sound of the gushing waters of Iruppu falls could be heard even from a kilometre away.

Soon after a hearty meal comprising of vegetable biriyani, aloo curry and chicken masala, we were on our way to the rafting site. The rafting takes place at a place called T.Shettigeri, which was around 15 kms from where we stayed, and a guide accompanied us all the way to here.

We were greeted by Kamal, who was our raft guide. After paying the organizers, and after signing some documents, we were given life-jackets, helmets and an oar. Kamal briefed us about the commands and safety measures. The whole thing was quite professional and he made sure everyone got it right. After 10 mins, we were in our raft, and out into the roaring river waters.

The gushing sound of the river water made us more excited and we looked forward eagerly what the river had for us in store. The initial few minutes was a practice session. Kamal gave us orders, and we followed it religiously. Forward, Backwards, and a lot more. We got a good hand at the commands soon, and set out on our raft. After a few metres of rowing, we were at our first rapid – the Morning coffee. It was a simple rapid, and the effort was miniscule though it flowed quite ferociously. Soon we were through it. Kamal kept giving us commands so that we cross each rapid at the right place and with the right momentum.

Rafting in Coorg
Rafting in Coorg

We came to a part of the river where the water was not too fast. Kamal said, if we wanted we could jump into the water. Oh my god! I was just thinking if I should jump, and the time I could decide, the rest of them were already in water! Now, I had no option. Slowly, I too got into the river. And wow! It was exciting to be for the first time in neck-deep water, with no land under my feet. Of course, I believed in those life-jackets. We stayed afloat for a couple of minutes, when Kamal ordered us back into the raft. All of my friends got in, and pulled me up into the raft. It was an experiene.

The next two rapids were a bit more challenging. We had to meticulously follow Kamal’s commands, and also balance our weight in the raft. The rapids were called The Grasshopper and The Wicked Witch. We were enjoying the ride thoroughly. Those in the front went in and out of water in each rapid. Soon, we were approaching our last and the most challenging of the rapids – The Milk Churner.

On the Raft
On the Raft

Kamal stopped before the rapid and instructed us. We were asked to sit tight, and follow his commands. This could be dangerous, unless we did it from the right direction. He told us where to swim to in case we were thrown off the raft. In a moment we were in the Milk Churner. The raft bounced up twice, angled to the right and pushed and pulled us as much as it could. We were all soaked in waves completely, and when we knew what was happening, we were out of the rapid. Phew! We heaved a sigh of relief, and thundered a loud hurray, for having done this adrenaline pumping adventure. We had a hell of a great time, and I was already thinking when I would do it again.

That night, we had a hearty meal, talking over the experiences of the day, and hit the sack soon after.

The Chase

The next day, we made a trip to the Iruppu falls, which was bursting with water. The mild and gentle falls I had seen in my previous visits was gone, and here was a monster. We had a nice fun taking bath in the waterfalls. We were back for lunch by 1 pm. Had a sumptuous meal, and started our return journey. We passed through Kutta, and after entering our vehicle details and signing the register, we entered the dark forests of Nagarhole for the second time in our trip.

Hmmm... so? The journey was mostly uneventful, with lazy looking spotted deers smiling and waving at us every 100 metres. We noticed that every group had a male and 3-4 females. We also saw a couple of barking deers, a sambar and a jungle fowl marching happily with its chicks. We were soon tired of spotting deers, and were traveling gradually at a slow pace in the Nagarhole forests, when the incident happened.

I was at the wheel, and my friend beside me. I was just looking at the road, as I was fed up of deers. All others in the car were fast asleep. My friend suddenly started repeating frantically, Elephant, elephant!! I just alerted myself, and looked ahead carefully. The road was empty. But, by the side of the road, there was a large clearing, and a huge elephant with large tusks stood there agitated. It’s tail was raised as if it was furious, and was angrily pulling down a branch of the nearby tree. I have never seen an elephant in the wild, and all I have seen are elephants in the temples meekly accepting coins from the devotees, and showering them with blessings 🙂

I slowed down the car and moved gradually towards the elephant to get a good glimpse of it. We were almost there, and the elephant was beside us on the road, facing the car on the side. Suddenly, the elephant got highly agitated for some reason. It shook its ears wildly, and gave a deafening trumpet. We were already scared. Someone nudged me to drive ahead fast, and I slowly moved ahead. Now, the elephant was just behind the car. I looked into the rear view mirror, and the elephant was moving towards the car.

Nagarhole elephant A heart-in-the-mouth moment, and I stepped on the accelerator. The car slowly gained momentum. My eyes were fixed on the mirror, and I could see the huge beast running fast towards us with it head bobbing, and dust kicking out in all directions. We were clearly terrified.

I drove away as far as I could. The tusker charged for another 100 metres. Soon I saw a jeep coming in the opposite direction. I just could not think what the jeep guy was going to do. If the elephat had continued the charge, it would come straight and bang on the jeep. I didn’t want to think about anything, and kept driving. The moment the beast saw the jeep, he saw a threat fast approaching, and changed its direction. The elephant moved away from the road, and steered clear into the forest.

We stopped the car a kilometre ahead and thought what an escape it was! Had we been behind the elephant, with the elephant attacking us from the front, we would have had the day of our lives. Just as we had crossed the elephant, we were safe. But, the incident left a huge impact in our hearts. What more could we ask for? A drive through the jungle where we were chased by an enormous tusker. Phew!

We made it to Bangalore in another 4 hours, with loads to tell our family and friends.

More information on Rafting in Kodagu: