Friday, January 9, 2009

Tadiandamol

Tadiandamol - the highest peak in the Kodagu district in Karnataka.

Kodagu (anglicised name Coorg) is on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. It is hilly district with the lowest elevation in the district at 900 meters (2,900 ft) above sea-level. The highest peak, Tadiandamol, rises to 1,750 meters (5,700 ft), with Pushpagiri, the second highest, at 1,715 meters (5,600 ft). Headcount from 8 people to 7 to finally 6 started off the planning for this trek. Tadiandamol was not the first option but the backup plan only if the Jodigere trek failed and it never took off and so happenned the trek to Tadiandamol.

Planning: With absolutely no idea of how to approach, came to our rescue was this blog of santosh bs (surprising thing is he shares the same name with the initials as mine!!!). The problem of finding a base place and accommodation with food was solved as also the route to be taken. With the initial plans of going by Badri's Tata estate shelved, I booked tickets on our old flame the KSRTC Karnataka Sarige for 6 people on 28th nov. Now all buses towards Mysore, Kodagu, Virajpet, Ooty.... start from the SMTC bus station on Mysore road. Me, Raja, Guru, Nag, Manoj & Nishant were on this expedition, the bus finally left by 11pm and we were almost in deep slumber instantly. Woke up at 1am to find ourselves at Mysore bus stand (Phew! just 2 hrs ride to mysore that too in a KSRTC express bus!). From there we reached Virajpet by 2am and there the driver dozed off for a rest of 2hrs. At 5am we got down at Kaikambha (Kakkabe) to find absolutely no soul around and we just stood waiting in the dark for someone to ask directions for.
(-- the trekkers ready for the expedition...)

We later realized we had to get down more than a km before to go to the Nalknad palace where our base camping was to be. From that junction it was to be another 4kms trek to our place. Early morning chill, heavy backpacks and steep ascent made the walk all the more difficult and breathless (we got to know later an alternate route upto Nalknad palace).
(-- cloud cover just beside the road we walked upon...)

The road is tarred up to almost 3kms where vehicles can be parked on the roadsides and endure on the trek. As we finally reached our base camp, overall early moring on empty stomachs we had walked for about 6kms and the trek was yet to start and it took us a good 2 hours for the steep walk. Actually the place where we stayed is under litigation and the caretaker there, Thammanna lets it out to trekkers for resting and serves food too. Its a beautiful place, greenery all around but damn cold and increases as you go up the altitude.We freshned up quickly, ate whatever was served for breakfast, left the extra baggages there and were ready for the trek. We wished to stay atop the peak but lack of proper tents and equipment held us back but thammanna offered to put up a covering tent near the base of the peak where generally all trekkers camp and is the last source of water on the trek. We agreed and asking thammanna to be at the big rock (Its a notable huge rock which serves as a natural guardian for the high winds and preferred camping place by many as firewood and wate is easily available) by 3pm with the lunch and tent materials we started off on one of our most awaited treks of the year.


(-- a distant view of the pushpagiri range...)

(-- the target peak in the extreme background...)

Time: 11.20am - We started off and the trek up to the huge rock is flat with not much of strain. We reached there by 12 noon after the numerous sessions of photography enroute. After a brief rest and filling up water from the nearby stream (leeches were here again... and this time Nag was their favorite candidate!)


(-- the base camp near the big rock & water source where we were to spend the night...)

We started by 12.15 pm to conquer Tadiandamol. There are definite paths leading into the mountains but you don't generally climb the ones you see ahead, the path which keeps going straight abruptly turns in one direction and you start ascending a different peak altogether. This series of uphills interspersed with shola forests is the highlight of the trek. It was steep and it was getting steeper, the backpacks, water bottles, cameras and even the jerkins started feeling heavier as the minute passed by and our legs started dancing (trembling due to stress), no place to rest and just an uphill steep climb and no sight of the mighty peak.

(-- Ah! finally the peak is visible at the far end ...)

After series of crossing peaks and shola forests, gradually the peak was visible which somehow rejuvenated our energies and we were all trekking up to reach the summit. As we took breaks in b/w, the view of the endless sight of mountain ranges mixed with the green forest cover and with cool breeze slamming our faces made the trek worthwile and our fatigue vanish. After nearly 90 minutes of strenous uphill trek, finally finally we were at the TOP of the Tadiandomol peak (the highest elevation in the Kodagu district) and one of the highest peaks in Karnataka.

(-- Mission accomplished - relieved trekkers atop Tadiandamol....; L-R - Manoja, Nishanth, Nag, Raja, Guru & Me)

(-- Perfect background for a photoshoot -- Manoja capturing Nishanth here...)

Wow wow! A sense of relief, exhilaration, joy, some pride - the feeling of being on top of the world cant be described in words, its to be felt and enjoyed. Still being mid afternoon, the weather was not hot but quite cool and because of the trek we were sweating and it was time to do a ganguly aka flintoff act and rest. Raja dozed off on a rock for some time in the sun and with loud snoring!!!

(-- Raja can sleep anywhere, anytime -- here on a rock, under the sun with loud snores - heavenly sleep...)

...and we others were lazing around, clicking photos, butterflies, just relaxing enjoying the cool weather out there. We also realized why camping here is extremely difficult, open narrow hilltop with shola forest on one side depth and gorge on other sides, no boulders to shield the winds and no firewood in sight and moist land. The wind speeds are very high during the nights (upto 60km/hr) and the temperature atop drops drastically and the main thing is carrying all the camping stuff to the peak is itself an arduous task and water is scarce too. After a hour long break, rest and fulfilling nature sights all across we swiftly descended down to the big boulder which was to be our camp site for the night, the descent took us just around 40 mts but by the time we reached the base our legs were trembling!!! It was 4.30 and no signs of thammanna nor the camp material nor the lunch! A few minutes of agonizing wait, poor network coverage and finally got thammanna on the line and he was on his way, words of Relief! Our messaiah arrived with the food and the materials for the tent and by then we had collected enough firewood to last for the night. We gobbled the food supplied as all of us were damn hungry and relaxed as the tent was being set up.

(-- the open tent set up for the night; u can see the hole on the right that messed up things later...)

It was an open tent with the tarpaulin covered on 2 sides and the other two sides open. Well we had to spend the night in this and with the temperature dipping all of us were braving for the adventurous night in store for us. Thammanna set up the camp fire for us, set up the tent and bid us goodbye to be back the next morning to retrieve all the materials.


7:00 pm - It was getting dark and the intensity of breeze increasing and the temperature dipping and we had also realized there was a big hole in the tent which would be right above us and in the case it rained we would have a gala time. Close to 8pm, it really happened and it started raining! Water started leaking inside wetting the dry tarpaulin inside and then all of us rushed out and decided to interchange the tent putting the hole in the opposite direction of the rain. All of us got drenched and the tarpaulin too but the firewood was safe and dry. It just rained for 5 minutes and those 300 seconds were enough to jeopardize our whole tent setup and leave us wet and agonized. We regrouped quickly, reversed the tarpaulin, dried the inner tarpaulin and relaid it, stabilized the campfire and started drying ourselves in front of the campfire. It was just 8pm and pitch dark and not wanting to our moods be spoilt (because of the rain), started our fun, masti and dance around the campfire with a few boys gulping down a few drinks to keep them warm. 09:30pm - After lots of singing and dancing (Nishanth and Guru were the cheerleaders and in high spirits) around the campfire and quickly gulping down dinner amidst the fire lit, we all decided to retire for the night. It was chill with the breeze blowing harder and an open tent to spend the night. We huddled next to each other covering ourselves with blankets, jackets, caps, gloves, socks with all that we had carried, still the chillness persisted. All of us could manage sleep except Raja and Manoja as they were sleeping at the extreme ends. Raja in particular was unable to sleep because of the weather and as the campfire was burning out and somebody was required to keep it lit. Amidst strange sounds here and there, the night passed off peacefully without any hassles.

(-- Me warming in front of the campfire...)

4:00 am - With a very thin bedspread, I could not further bear the cold that woke me up and I got out to give company to Raja and Nishanth. Later Nishanth dozed off and me and Raja passed time around the campfire till daybreak.


(-- Early morning... 2 lovely scapes...)
7:30 am - All were up, fog had completely eclipsed the surroundings, weather was still chill, the sun was playing hide and seek and when we looked up, we could barely see the Tadiandamol peak that was completely engulfed in fog.


(-- tadiandamol peak covered completely early morning; view from our base camp...)

Guru, the laziest amongst all was the last to wake up and he had the best sleep without any hitches. We packed and left for the long walk back to the house from where we started off the previous day. En-route we met Thamanna who was on his way to our place to collect back the tents and other materials he had provided. We got back, freshened up, gulped down the breakfast prepared, paid thamanna the charges acquired and started on our way back home. This was the longest walk I had undertaken since a long time as the legs were crumbling under pain as it was mostly downhill walk, it was all the more painful and stressful.

(-- in the corridors of the ancient Nalknad Aramane...)

En-route we paid a visit to the ancient Nalknad Palace (Aramane) and took a shorter route to the bus stop through the fields and estates that saved us walk of more than a km.


(-- the shortcut path through the lush green fields...)

As no direct buses were available at that time to Bangalore, we had to wait for 45minutes for a bus to Virajpet from where the only option we had was a Volvo bus to Bangalore (else other buses post night) that we took and reached Bangalore by 11pm. This was one of our most awaited and anticipated treks and a sense of deja vu and accomplishment were visible all over our faces as we bid bye to each other to meet up very soon for our next adventure. All along one thing was running through my mind -- When will be turn of Kumaraparvatha? (the most difficult and strenuous trekking route; still lies unanswered)...


Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!
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