With Sravanabelagola, Belur & Halebid done, the group was a little tired. The early start and lack of sleep added to the torpor. The road was also winding and churning everyone’s insides. For the added touch, we realised the lunch had not been too kind on some of the stomachs All of us quietly listened to the music as we entered the last leg of the journey to Kudremukh. I finally suggested that we walk along the road for a while before getting back into the car. We stopped the jeep close to the edge of the road to see a beautiful view of the sun setting over a green valley. Z got off the jeep enthralled and excitedly began to point out the finer details in the scene to PA. PA took one look at it and then threw up. The journey and lunch had been too much for her. But Z never got over the shock of such a violent reaction to her animated descriptions and was wary about venturing her opinions for quite a while.
When we reached Kudremukh it was around eight. We were staying at the Kudremukh Iron Ore guesthouse – a fairly decent place available to the public at reasonable rates. A couple of cockroaches emerged from our bathroom but the next morning the staff smothered them with generous doses of disinfectants. The restaurant had a limited menu and as our stay progressed we realised it was biased in terms of South Indian food. The staff was not particularly bright but was pretty helpful and once we had all established what was required, they could tell us in clear terms that the stuff was not available.
The next morning, we were all up and ready at seven, ready to go on our trek. The most popular trek in the area is up the Kudremukh peak. This however takes a couple of days. So we chose a smaller trek. The driver dropped us off at the starting point along with our guide. Even though it was December, it was quite sunny. The trekking route was devoid of trees and was instead covered with chest high dry grass in most places. I figured out that if it were so dry at least there would be no leeches. We made our way slowly, watching the hills unfold. Our guide, on the other hand, was completely purposeful and skipped ahead till we lost view of him. Finally, we found him sitting in a thinking pose, looking over the valleys and clearly contemplating some deep and heavy thoughts. When he caught sight of us, he skipped off and soon disappeared again. We were getting a bit miffed. Without thick foliage we were not really getting lost but negotiating some of the trickier areas could have become a little tough.
After a reasonably quick journey, we arrived on top. The highlight of this was a view of the Kudremukh peak, the slag filled lake and a transmission tower. We debated over which part of the Kudremukh peak gave the name to the place (Kudremukh literally means ‘horse face’). We chose not to wonder exactly how ecologically damaging the polluted lake was. And we ignored the transmission tower. Exhausting all possible ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ in about ten minutes, it was time to sit in the hot sun and eat our supply of snacks. The guide had disappeared again as usual and when we found him we decided to leave. The routine repeated itself, with the guide skipping ahead. Being bad at downhill walks, I trailed behind and so did Z. After a while we realised we had taken a slightly different route. We could still see the rest. But the ground beneath our feet seemed to slope very sharply and it was tough keeping our balance. Eventually the rest managed to scream out directions and we found a better path. DA had already sprained his ankle slightly in a similar error of judgment on the slope. While this mini adventure was in progress, I looked up to see that the guide had regained his thinking man’s pose some way off and was blissfully unaware of the happenings behind his butt. A strong urge to kick the very same butt over the hill could not be implemented given the distance. But the idea boosted my morale for quite a while. Eventually we descended upon smaller slopes and the land became smoother. Z and I meandered off and came upon a colony of leeches. Bolting from there was a work of a moment. Obviously no hill in the Western Ghats is entirely free of leeches no matter what the weather and poor Z ended up with two bites.
We reached the base after five hours from start, well ahead of schedule and decided to check out other spots of interest. The immediate concern was to find a spot for lunch. Rather unconventionally, we ended up on a table in the backroom of a tiny all-purpose store. The owner was not using the table and let us use it. This act of kindness generated immense business for him since we ended up ordering plenty of fruits, juices and snacks from his shop to supplement our humble meal of idlis and upmas. One of the nicest things about treks is that food which you do not pay attention to in home environs – theplas, idli, upma - taste really scrumptious.
The first tourist spot was the Hanuman Gundi waterfall. The place had nearly 300 steps leading to the bottom of the waterfall. It was quite crowded but at the bottom we managed to find enough empty rocks to scatter ourselves on. Soaking my feet in the water, I did not notice the tiny spider like insects that were suspended in it. S pointed it out to us, and all of us watched fascinated for a while. The sight was definitely more fascinating than that of the men of Karnataka in swimwear, flaunting their paunches by the waterfall.
The next stop was at the dam. Biju Patnaik had inaugurated it in 1971 when he was the Union Minister for Mines. In the 90s, his son Naveen Patnaik, holding the same portfolio, had inaugurated the next phase. I do hope around family dinners they tell this story since I found it quite interesting. The dam however was not a proud sight, what with muck in one part thick enough to walk on. Infact someone had actually walked on it and left behind footprints. The Kudremukh Township exists primarily because of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company and one can’t complain about the state it is in.
After a full long day, we finally headed back to the hotel and played a quite game of Taboo. The next morning Z and I managed an early morning walk in the mist lifting off the ground prettily. People living on hill stations must be really lucky to be able to wake up and watch nature lifting off the cloud cover from her creations every single day. Still, I am a townie at heart, and it was time to head back. Everyone left for Bangalore by road and I would be going to Mangalore to catch my train from there.