Travelogue: The trek that was – Ghatikallu and Kudremukh

Posted: August 23, 2014 in Travelogue
Tags: , , ,

I got everything from this trek. It’s generally an amazing or boring trek or ideal trek. But this was far from ideal and that’s why it rocked. Being a meticulous planner whenever I plan for things I get very upset if things don’t go according to the plan but this time as there wasn’t any responsibility even the crisis was fun. Let me get through it one by one.

Ghatikallu Panaroma

Ghatikallu Panaroma

Day 0: Chennai to Bangalore

The last trek I did was in May but when thinking it looks as if it was a decade back. So I was really excited to go on a trek after a long time. Kudremukh and Ghatikallu being assumed as an easy trek I thought it’s an ideal way to warm up for Kumara Paravartha which people call the toughest trek in south India.

The train to Bangalore was at 3.30PM, Lal Bagh Express. Though I hate chair cars I thought that it’d be fun because we were going as a group. So Friday attendance was just like giving proxy. Clocking 3.30 and escaping out of Infy. We were supposed to assemble at 12.30 at the bus bay. Good that it wasn’t at 12. Otherwise my weekly ritual of Asian Kitchen Biryani would have been missed. So having Biryani and lime juice I assembled just on time at bus bay. There were 4 people already there and many more yet to come. That was expected. Punctuality is something which is given least preference by many.

Myself and couple of Karthick’s (who organized this trek) team mates took an auto to Paranur where the rest of the Chennai folks joined. Out of 14 from Chennai two dropped out so we 12 went to Central taking the 13:05 EMU which came late by 15 minutes. We didn’t have much introduction in station but in train we split into two groups. I along with Rakesh (a guy who can understand Tamil but can’t talk fluently who never complains when people talk in Tamil) and three people whom I thought to be regular gymmers. The rest three where Tiger Banu Anna (the legend would be explained in below paragraphs), Karthik and Sakthi. We immediately hit it off. By the time I got down from the train I got to know that it’s not going to be a boring trek where I walk alone. I should thank these guys for making an introvert like me part of their gang throughout.

The EMU ride was a disaster but this guy Rakesh was such a sport. Keeping a smiling face throughout. It’s in my fate always to have a kid in my coupe. I wonder how many kids there are in Chennai. And why the naughty brats always come in coupe. The Muslim couple took two and a half seats with only half a seat to park my ass. And in that space the kid never failed to jump in my thighs every once in a while. I was on one side of the aisle and on the other side was Rakesh. The two last minute cancellations were from our coach so we were left to rot in a separate coach. Rest all, along with 3 new comers were in the other coach. Initially we thought of shifting but it didn’t look like a feasible option so we settled down.

Funny thing was the train had a TV and it started with Sami pootu scene. So the beginning was legen – wait for it – dary. Legendary! Throughout the journey I was reading Mr. Biswas. I could complete only 100 pages in the six hour journey in which I hardly moved my eyes and got up only once for natures call. Now that’s an achievement.

Rainy Railway Station

Rainy Railway Station

As soon as the train hit the Bangalore soil there was rain and cool breeze. It felt awesome. But the awesomeness soon faded with time as it took a good one hour to travel from KR Puram to Bangalore where our bus was waiting. To make things worse we couldn’t get dinner and kick started our travel around 11.30PM in the hope of getting dinner in Dhaba. As everyone were hungry Rakesh and the remaining three started to manipulate every game with food. All these memories are hazy to me as I couldn’t open my eyes after 12PM. When I woke up around 1.30 or so I got to know that some traffic inspector or someone had stopped our vehicle citing unavailability of permits. Many sarcastic jokes started there which in turn helped in strengthening our bond. The best one being, “Puthu bus puthu bus nu sonan, kedasiyila permit kooda ilatha busa anipurukanae…” by Karthick. That’s where we got to know that we won’t be having dinner so settled for bread and jam which tasted divine. There was a birthday celebration for Shiva. No one where even wishing him but were directly jumping for the cake. But the good thing was not more than a piece was wasted. If that had happened people would have killed the guy Ram.

The headache which I thought to have started because of the suffocation in train appeared again. Only then I came to know that it wasn’t because of the suffocation but because of the lack of sleep. As someone who could sleep in any condition I started sleeping in the bus and got up the next day morning by mosquito bites. All were well awake then. The bus seemed to have stopped at the same point throughout the night. I hardly knew.

Day 1: Bangalore to Ghatikallu with Waterfalls and Sunset point

Once we got to know that a tempo traveler would come to pick us up. I and my man Friday Rakesh went to have tea. That’s the good thing with Rakesh. We were in sync always and never did I had to convince him to do something that he wouldn’t do normally and neither did I had to adjust for him. He sits in aisle, I take the window. He narrates story, I keep mum. And we both love chicken which was the highest criteria.

En Route to Waterfalls

En Route to Waterfalls

On the way to the tea shop we were discussing how well the weather was and how we would be hating the same road if we had been going by that one daily. By the time we came back our bags were already put up in tempo traveler and were kidnapped along with our good except for my Bovonto bottle which we filled up fully the previous night when the permit problem was happening.

Our first stop was unanimously selected as breakfast point. A very nice restaurant which served awesome Ghee Masala Dosa, Vada, Kesari and Coffee. After freshening up and having a sumptuous breakfast we came back to our senses and also got a glimpse of Bangalore beauty. You know what I mean! Apart from that we were also ogling at Mini Cooper which a guy who looked like a total misfit was owning. From here you can safely assume ‘we’ to be the gang of five whom I talked about first during our EMU travel.

The next part of our travel from the restaurant to Ghatikallu Home Stay was fabulous with songs, pleasant roads and beautiful scenery. As a mark of dark spot in every part of the travel there were these driver guys who were creating problem by demanding more money for diesel. Once that problem was sorted out the rest of the day was pleasant.


Ghatikallu Sunset Point

We ate to the fullest at the home stay, I especially loved the rice chapatti which I tasted for the first time. Before starting off to waterfalls we took a couple of snaps and a panorama of the beautiful mountains surrounding the cottage.

Once everyone got ready we split into two groups and boarded the 4×4 open standing jeep. The ride to the waterfalls was one of a kind. It would make the ATVs have a run for the money. After an eventful half an hour ride we reached the waterfalls spot. We had a take a short trek to waterfalls which people did with minimum effort. After a few snaps on the way and on the spot I got into the waterfalls and we had a gala time for about half an hour. The time was limited but as we had to go to Sunset point we started from there with heavy heart.

Another short drive and we reached the sunset point in no time. I thought it to be viewpoints similar to the ones in Kodaikanal where we directly get down from the van and watch the valley but this was different. There was a trek around 1.5 Km and quite steep too towards the end to reach the top. The main difficulty was that I underestimated and it was quite a long time before I was actually on a trek. Add to it my anytime-would-get-torn slippers were giving me trouble. The audience reaction too was similar. That could be because of the long travel too. After few huffs and puffs almost everyone reached the top, there were quite a few helping hands for the girls to climb up too.

Good things about trek is once you reach the top the satisfaction you get would be so enormous that it would make you forget all the pain. Here too it was the same. And thanks to Kiran to have taken such a beautiful picture of me with sunset background. After spending time there watching the sunset and few clicks we descended quite easily.


Camp Fire

The real thrill was after the sunset point. The 4×4 drive back to the resort wasn’t like anything I’ve experienced before. That too in pitch black darkness it was awesome. By the time we settled for the camp fire we were satisfied. The camp fire without fire but with beer was icing on the cake. That was when the whole guys group bonded together. Everyone knew each other’s name along with their sad and super stories. But the dialogue of the day was Sakthi’s, “LKG la irunthu 12th varaikum boys school, collegla Mechanical, aparam engae…”The day ended with Raja Sir Songs in the background. Thanks for that. What we all thought to be a bad day ended quite on a high.

Day 2: Trek to Kudremukh Peak

After a good night’s sleep we got up at around 6 the next day very fresh. All tiredness gone thanks to the beautiful home stay. In our room I and Rakesh had to share a bed. The other three Banu anna, Karthik and Sakthi were sharing a double cot. Sakthi was clinging on the end and had a cliffhanger sleep according to him.

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

The morning breakfast was sumptuous. Some rice adai, puliogare and coffee. As it was early morning we couldn’t eat much but after a couple of hours. Came to know it was a mistake. Before reaching the base point I started to feel hungry. It was the same feeling with Rakesh too. After a short break in the Kalsa town we reached the base camp in about an hour and kept all our belongings except for the bare minimum, in the van.

Needless to say we were all excited. The first 7 Km was again a 4×4 drive which reminded me of the path from Dudhsagar base to the falls. Within 10 minutes everyone assembled and we started the trek. Plan was like Karthick would stay at the last, I in the middle and his teammates at first. The sun was beating down. Karthik was like, “Etho monsoon trek nu sonnangalae… Mazha vara arikuri konjam kooda illa” (They said it’s a monsoon trek but there isn’t even any symptoms of rain). I did a big mistake of wearing rain coat over my dress to protect my camera. Even though I removed it after crossing a couple of streams I was sweating profusely. Every time I do one mistake or the other. And this time it was this.

After about half an hour of walk we crossed the first stream where we had to remove or shoes. Wet shoes are the most irritating thing. Adding to it there were leeches so it’d attract them even more. I read a lot about leeches as a preparation of Kumara Paravartha but while walking I wasn’t really worried. I was okay with whatever was to happen.

Till we crossed the grassland and entered the valley part we didn’t have any problem with leeches. As we entered the airy valley the college gang got the first leech bite. It was a blessing in disguise as I removed my raincoat there. And it was quite breezy too. Thanks for that. Because till that point I was struggling to walk with the raincoats. And camera in my neck would mean a constant pressure in addition to the bag that I was wearing.

The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch

Karthick ensured that we got our replenishments every now and then by running back and forth with glucose. I hate to mix glucose with water but the stream water with lemon flavored glucose was awesome. Even though we weren’t feeling very thirsty the number of streams ensured that we need not carry more than one liter water bottle. There was at least one stream every one hour.

Harshita who struggled the previous day was the pick of the girls that day. Her friend Anusha was equally competitive. Harshita along with Banu anna were leading the back. Remember I said I’ll explain the legend behind Banu Anna’s name. Let me explain it now. Girls who weren’t knowing why everyone were calling Banu, Banu anna had asked the reason for it, it seems. Banu then said about his age and cleared their doubts. Thus Banu became Banu anna. Harshita reportedly seemed to have asked for his name and Banu anna replied that his name was Tiger it seems. That’s how Banu anna became Tiger Banu anna. By the way this was Harshita’s take. I wasn’t there at that point.

So one by one we slowly reached the peak after crossing numerous valleys, streams and grasslands. Like a trained runner overtaking in last lap. Anusha overtook Harshita and became the first girl to land on the moon. And no marks for guessing who landed on the moon from sterner sex first. It was Banu anna. Sorry Tiger Banu anna.

We relaxed a good deal at the top. We enjoyed both the views and mist. Had a number of bread slices along with cheese. Got ourselves a group pic and an amazing selfie and started descending downwards. We took exactly 4.5 hours to scale up and were planning to get down in 3 hours. But fate had something else to mind.

I was waiting to see the horse nose shape till I reached the top but it was never to be found. So while descending all that 11 in front 11 behind rule changed. Lakshmi and Pavan started the proceedings. Myself, Rakesh, Garima, Karthik and Sakthi were following them. We were followed by Kiran and co. Within half an hour it became clear that I’m not going to shoot anything else. So by the time it was 4 PM I kept by camera in the bag and felt relieved with no weight hanging in my neck. It was also drizzling so thought it wouldn’t be wise to take such risk and further I’ve already covered all the parts while going uphill.

No camera around my neck means no freedom. And I’m generally good at descending. So after about 2 Km we overtook Lakshmi and Pavan and started descending faster. The light was diminishing so we hurried. We never stopped at any place. We were at good pace. We were walking and walking to the ever elusive first stream were we removed our shoes. But it was never to come.

The descent was fun also because we were not worried about anything. Leeches by then have become part of our lives. Further Sakthi was playing songs. Sad that Raja Sirs songs were not there. But something better than nothing. But by the time we reached the open grassland we even stopped the song. It was about 6.15 PM then. We thought it’s going to be one hour from there at top.

We walked and walked but we were never able to reach the first stream. We passed a lot of streams which we didn’t remember passing at all while ascending. At two or three points I got doubt and every time Karthik confidently said, “this is the way, I’m sure”. After about an hour and a half we reached the first stream. We thought game over and was just a matter of minutes from thereon. Then came the twist in the story.

Up, Up and Away!

Up, Up and Away!

We had only two mobile torches and two ways diverged in the woods. We took the one not travelled by. And that was the Wrong Turn which made the trek epic. While ascending I was telling Rakesh that the path resembled a road called Old Tibet Road in Spiti. We thought we were walking through that road but after few minutes there was a small stream. That’s where I got the biggest of doubts. I was very confident that I removed my shoes at the first sight of water and that was not it. But others were like, “you wouldn’t have removed your shoes because of a small stream.” I don’t know why but I bought their logic. Karthik was again like, “yes this is the way.” We walked around half a kilometer extra but the starting point was nowhere to be found. We saw the wired fence on one side. Sakthi said there wasn’t fence for sure when we ascended. Rest of the guys too said the same. Poor Garima was the silent spectator. I was confused. I wasn’t sure about the fence.

So I and Karthik walked a few yards to see if there is any light. I saw a light approaching me quickly. For a second I got happy. But it was an insect glowing in the dark. We finally confirmed that we took a wrong turn. Initially there were jokes about what if it’s a wrong turn? What if it rains? What if animal comes? And in that fashion Rakesh said, “Now Vikram is the senior guy.” Don’t know whether it was just another joke or he really meant it. That’s when I got serious. The mood changed. We decided to walk backwards. I was sure that if we reach the first stream we could at least wait for the last batch who were coming a long way back. While proceeding to the first stream I was calculating the resources. The last bit of groundnut cake we had we just ate. Water won’t be a problem as we had stream nearby so thought if everything goes wrong we would survive the night with water. There were 5 cellphones. 1 down. 3 had minimum charge. 1 full charge. By the time I was calculating the resources we got to the point where we took the wrong turn. Garima also had a bad fall during that time but poor girl no was even sympathizing with her then.

After going there, there was again confusion. Which way to take. This time I was sure that we are not going to take any risk. Karthik and Rakesh went towards the stream to check and came midway. I and Rakesh went in the same path till the stream to confirm. I confirmed only after I saw it with my eyes. So two out of the three ways blocked. We took the other way.

For some reason that path was narrow. Karthik said, “If we had taken this path first we surely wouldn’t have thought this to be the right path.” He was right. After 5 minutes of walk we saw a house. None of us were sure again but Rakesh gave confidence saying he saw the house and there would be two bricks. He was perfectly right. Then Karthik too said he saw. I too remembered. Then came another house. The people inside said that we were going in the right way. The third house came which I absolutely didn’t remember. Rakesh said he saw that too. But till now I don’t remember the house.

Finally we saw lights. Pawan, Lakshmi and Tiger Banu Anna were waiting for us with concern. In the meantime we were thinking of what lie to tell and stuff. Once we saw the lights there was 1000W smile in everyone’s face. Banu Anna scolded us. Pawan, myself, Rakesh and Garima then waited there. The rest of the folks went by a jeep. By the time the last group came we had a couple of tea and had one more when the last group came. Never did we knew that we’d be charged for tea. Pawan who said was going to travel to Ladakh saw my Spiti pictures along with the rest.

The last group who came about an hour late carried along with them a bunch of leeches. The next few minutes there were massage therapy happening. Rakesh and I almost instantly quoted Yeh Jawaani Hae Diwani scene (no offense). All we non leech people along with Chammu and 2 more got into a jeep. The rest of the leech people took another jeep.

Jeep ride was fabulous which started with songs we didn’t know and only Rakesh murmuring. Then came Dhol Paje which everyone sang in chorus. The jeep driver who was fluent in all the languages in fact said, “generally people get tired while coming down. How come you all are so lively after the climb.” Sad thing was we couldn’t hear Pehla Nasha completely. Part of the mistake should be attributed to Chammu. She changed it when the song first came. What use in completing B.Ed. in Hindi if you don’t like Pehla Nasha.

By the time we came to ground. Sakthi had already told his version of story. Anusha was eagerly waiting to hear it from us. Being a bad narrator I asked Rakesh to say it. By the time he finished the story the leg pain increased considerably and we got to hotel. As soon as Karthick gave thumbs up sign I and Rakesh went down to order chicken. We ordered two Chicken fried rice and two kebab. The rest of the folks were not coming. We didn’t know why. We were busy discussing about our love/crush affair.

That's One Crazy Selfie!

That’s One Crazy Selfie!

Rest of the guys came after some 10-15 minutes and informed that Harshita fainted and a lot of drama seemed to have happened. We missed all that. All we wanted was chicken which we were waiting for (Yeah such morons we are). We got it after such a long time. A lot of people came in and went but got only less food. Thanks to our first order we at least got our due. We were okay to even have a dysentery but we promised that we wouldn’t move our ass unless we eat chicken. But sad thing is we missed Sprintz. Their version of Sprite.

Day 3: Back to Chennai

Everyone were telling that we would miss the train the next day but we didn’t have the energy to worry. The van started at 12 after the missing five took a group picture. From there till the next day morning I never knew what all happened. The tea break, puncture etc. We got a local bus to Bangalore station. Reached there at 8. Had breakfast and took open tickets in Lal Bagh Express. It was a sleeper coach and Rakesh assured that the train would be free and his parents used to travel in the same train. As promised the train was empty. We didn’t even pay the extra charge. Everyone were happy to have missed the sitting train because there we were able to stretch our legs. Sleep for couple of hours. Chat, look at photos etc.

An Early Morning Hitchhike

An Early Morning Hitchhike

We bid adieu to each other. I took straight bus to Thiruvanmiyur whereas the rest took train. I didn’t have change so I couldn’t get 11 rupees ticket. Instead got 9 rupees ticket and got 2 stops before. In the second bus too the conductor irritated by not giving change. I wasn’t in a mood to fight and spoil my mood. In spite of it what was a great trip was spoilt by these guys. Distinction of Chennai! No matter how much you defend your city there will be party spoilers!


Karthick – Trek organizer

Karthik – Member of The Missing Five

  1. Chammu says:

    Lovely Post and very well written Vikram..!! 🙂
    To all the public out there who loves “Pehla Nasha” song and to Vikram..
    I need to clarify something about “Pehla Nasha” song which is mentioned in hindmost paragraph.

    While returning through jeep ride, these guys(Vikram,Rakesh,Pavan and Garima) were annoying me to change each and every song that was being played (….where i was lost in my own world of leg cramp). When “Pehla Nasha” song was played, I heard someone blurting out “Stop it..!!” . I just pressed the next button hard in music player which made the songs shift forward twice. By the time i changed the song back to “Pehla Nasha” we reached the destination. Later I came to know that Vikram said to “Stop the Jeep” so that we could hear the song fully ..!!

    Finally, What I am trying to say is ..@Vikram : “Even I like the Pehla Nasha song. :P..and if u are very much worried that you couldn’t hear it properly, I would like to download and give you the song :P..”

  2. Vikram M N says:

    Lol. OK Chammu. I’ve the song. But that was the apt mood . thanks for your consideration though :p

  3. itislux says:

    An Extensive Account!

    certainly inspired me to start my own travelogue 🙂

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