Friday, December 09, 2005

Tadiyandamol

Personally, there are a lots of firsts attached to Tadiyandamol for me. It was my first trek in Karnataka. It was the first trek of my first company MindTree's trek group Aarohi. And now it was the first trek of my current company Juniper's trek group Junglee !

Coorg is one of the most green and beautiful regions in South India and Tadiyandmol stands proudly as the highest peak in this region. The view one can get from top of this peak on a morning with clear sky is simply unforgettable.

Anusha who had already been to an estate called Honey valley suggested this trek. We were 23 people in all. Plan was to start from Bangalore late Friday night, reach Honeyvalley early Saturday morning and then start for the trek. Summit the peak and get back to the estate by evening. Stay in the estate for night and start back for Bangalore on Sunday morning with a stop at the Golden Temple, a buddhist monastery at Bylakuppe.

Friday, December 2nd, night:

Dumb Charades:

The 31 seater we had booked was running late. The time when it was suppose to arrive at our office, it was still wandering somewhere in southend circle which is a cool 20 kms away ! Meanwhile, as we were waiting at the reception of Juniper, Dumb Charades kept us occupied. The vehicle finally arrived at 11.30 pm.

Tojo who was feeling sleepy right from 10.00 pm immediately occupied the last row and went to sleep. That it was not such a good decision after all, will dawn on him only later in the journey :)

We all boarded the bus and after a headcount took off. 4 trekkers Sowmya, Kantharaj, Lingaraju and Vinay were suppose to join us from some location on Mysore road. Poor folks had been waiting for us near a junction for around 2 hours. We finally picked them up at around 12.30 am.


Roller Coaster Ride:

That the roads to Coorg are not good was something I had experienced last time I went to Madikeri. But this bad ! For around 2 hours in the night, the road had literally disappeared. Tojo, Pradeep and co who were at the back of the bus had time of their lives ! "Hitting the roof" (of the bus) acquired new meaning that night for quite a few :) Needless to say most of us slept for only a couple of hours.

Saturday, December 3rd:

We reached Virajpet at around 6 in the morning. After calling up Mr. Suresh Chengappa, the owner of Honey valley estate and getting directions from him, we set off for the estate. It took 23 kms and around 45 minutes to a place called Kabinakkadu where we left our vehicle and boarded the estate 4x4 jeeps to reach the estate. This 3 km ride through the estate was a bone rattler !

The Estate:

Honey valley got its name because of the honey bee farming done by the Chengappas, owners of the estate. It is spread over 50 acres. Until 1994, the estate was the largest producer of honey in India (approximately 6.5 tonnes per year), but disappearance of the native bees stopped production. Now the estate produces coffee, cardamom and pepper.

It is maintained by the Chengappa family comprising of Suresh and Susheela Chengappa. Their daughters Savitha and Cynthia help in running the estate. In fact all the room bookings and billing is handled by elder one Savitha. The younger one Cynthia goes to school (some 15 kms away) on weekdays and helps on weekends to look after the guests.

The dogs at the estate also need special mention :) Especially a brown one called Rocky which was too affectionate ! Chirag will be the right person to ask how affectionate a dog can get :)

The houses in the estate are all built with great taste and are very comfortable. After freshening up a bit we had coffee made out of the produce of the estate. Once we all we ready, we went for the breakfast. When we reached the dining room, it was already full of around a dozen foreigners. They were leaving that morning after having breakfast. The round idlis, chutney, sambar, toast and honey were just too good !

Here we go !

After packing quite a few pounds of bread, some cheese and butter packets and some fruits we set out for the trek. According to Suresh, an experienced trekker takes 3-1/2 hours to make it to the peak from the estate. Considering that we had lot of first timers among us, we decided not to rush.

The tough four of our gang Deepti, Prabha, Priya and Sowmya were surprisingly quite punctual. Quite unlike the ladies .. I must say ! :)

The weather was perfect when we started. The sun had not come out yet. It was not raining. We could see clouds cover the peaks around us. It couldn't have been more greener.


Honey valley estate covered in mist Posted by Picasa

Where are we going ?

"Where are we going ?", "Where is our destination ?", "Where is the peak ?" were the questions which I could hear around 5 times every minute. As we were few hills away the actual Tadiyandmol peak, it ofcourse was not visible. And that was actually working quite well. Why .. you will ask ? Well .. read on !

In the clouds:

By now we had climbed the first hill and were amidst the clouds. On our left side we could see a hill covered with mist and a small waterfall. As the sun wasn't out yet, we didn't have any major problems till now. It was as good as it could get. The best part was that we hadn't had any encounters with the much dreaded leeches till now.


A local on the way to the peak Posted by Picasa

Leech attack !

But then it was too good to be true ! We climbed down the first hill and landed in between a really dense shola (an overgrowth around a stream of water). And then one scream followed another. "There are 3 leeches on my shoes !", "Somebody get rid of the leech of my shoe", "Salt please !", "Woah ! This stick is really effective in removing the leeches !".

On top of that, the first batch along with the guide had gone out of the hearing distance. As the path to get out of the shola was not visible, we had to wait then and there itself and hope that most of the leeches around us were not hungry :)

Inspite of tens of SOS calls, the first batch was totally ignorant of the fact that we were stuck up. Then thanks to the modern technology, we managed to call Tojo up on his cell. Phew ! How relieved we were getting out of the shola.

A thorough leech check at the top of the second hill revealed interesting number of casualties. The first aid kits were out ! Lots of us had red patches on our socks. Few of us were not at all happy with the charity work of donating some blood to the leeches.

Omigosh ! Ees thaat the peeek !

Well .. as weird as it may sound, but this was exactly the reaction of most of us at looking at Tadiyandmol peak ! There stood the peak far far away with just 4 hills between it and us. And was it tall ?!

Still not completely recovered from the shock of leech attack, the sight of the peak which looks so distant and so formidably tall was a bit too much for quite a few ! To top it all, the sun also thought that its high time that he blesses the valley with his rays ! Well .. as one with a camera, I was definitely thrilled but then sun rays unfortunately also mean more heat and tiredness.


Sun playing hide and seek with the valley Posted by Picasa


Now, "Where is the peak ?", "Where are we going ?", changed within no time to "Why are we going ?" :) That we were oblivious to the distance between us and the destination till now had been good in keeping us going. But, the very sight of the final destination, changed the equations. And then profound and philosophical thoughts like "Why are we doing what we are doing ?" spring up !

Up and down and up and down !

We went downhill and uphill for quite sometime. By that time some trekkers from first group decided to go ahead and give summiting the peak a shot. Tojo and Manu had summitted the peak a few years back. So, they decided to do it again.


The panaroma Posted by Picasa


On the way, 2 trekkers, Sowmya and Ganesh managed to twist their ankles. Sowmya's was not that critical but Ganesh told that he heard some "click" when he twisted the ankle. "Great !", we thought. After applying Moov and waiting for 5 minutes, we were relieved that he could move his leg and there was no noticable swelling. He however has a tough time from now on.

By now the frequency of "breaks" had increased tremendously. The worst thing that one can do on a trek is sit for a long time. Even if one feels tired and wants to catch breath, the prescribed way is to bend forward (holding the stick if you have one) and inhale and exhale 10 times with your mouth. Sitting and getting up regularly, especially if you have a backpack, consumes more energy. Besides, it cools down your body. Hence, your body had to produce more energy to warm up again.


Part of our group ! Posted by Picasa


Water point:

We reached the water point at around 2.30 pm. For the first time trekkers, it qwas definitely impressive to make it this far.

Four of us, Chirag, Jay, Santhosh and me decide to summit the next highest peak if not Tadiyandmol. So, we set off and surprisingly reached the peak in 15 minutes. The views from this place were awesome. One could see a never ending valley on one side and multiple layers of mountains on the other. We rested there for some time and headed back.


Here I am ! Posted by Picasa


Layers and layers of hills ! Posted by Picasa


Sunlight filtering through the clouds Posted by Picasa


By the time we were back, we could see Manu, Chetan and Tojo also back after summiting the Tadiyandmol peak. Kudos !

Road back:

After having our lunch (bread, cheese, butter) near the water point we decided to start back. Aim was to reach Palace road from where our vehicle will pick us up and drop at Honey valley. The way back though a proper tar road tested our nerves (and knee joints) as it was downhill, steep and never ending.


On the way back from the peak Posted by Picasa

We had a short visit of the palace of Chikkaveera Raja. Built in the late 1700s this palace served as the last refuge of Chikkaveera Raja before he surrendered to the British in the early 1800s.

Back to the estate:

After enduring high treble, nerve wrecking music in the jeep which took us to the estate, we were quite happy to be back safe and sound to the estate. Most of us (I hope) took hot water bath and looked all refreshed by the time we came for dinner. Dinner was zimply zuperb ! Proper home-made Coorgi food after a hard trek is an unbeatable combination :)

Everybody was enthu enough for campfire. And it was great fun ! Again we had an exciting round of .. you guessed it .. Dumb Charades ! Well .. did we get tired of playing Dumb Charades ? ... Nah ! :) We called it off at around 11 pm and crashed into our beds for a lovely sleep.


Camp fire Posted by Picasa


Sunday, December 4th, morning:

The best day in a trek is the one after a hard day trek. The feeling of achievement, lots of oxygen in your blood and a good night sleep (specially in a nice cosy bed as we were fortunate enough to have) is a wonderful combination. So, everybody was in high spirits when they got up in the morning. And the wonderful breakfast that we had only added to the spirits !

We chatted for a while with a foreigner couple who were out travelling for a year, had just trekked in Nepal, done the Annapurna circuit and were heading towards Kerala after their stay in Coorg. Man ! How I wish I could do that !

Golden temple:

We started back at around 10 am. With ever enthusiastic Shraman in the bus, we were playing Dumb Charades again, this time with personality names, brand names and what not.

We reached Golden temple at around 2 pm. After having lunch at a local restaurant (where we discovered Cockroach in one of the gravies .. Eeks !), we went to the monastery. Established in 1960s, this is a beautiful monastery which houses around 3300 monks. The younger monks playing in the garden just behind the main temple is a sight to behold ! We were fortunate enough to able to witness prayers in the temples. It was a wonderful experience.


Golden temple Monastery Posted by Picasa


The main temple Posted by Picasa


Buddha Posted by Picasa

Meanwhile, I saw a group of enthusiasts, asking a lot of questions to a monk. On getting closer, I found that it was our gang. And there stood Prabha, asking so many question that will shame any reporter. "When was this monastery estabilshed", "How many monks stay here", "How many times does Dalai lama visit this place" and so on.


With the backdrop of Sun, Blue Sky and Clouds Posted by Picasa


At one of the temples in the monastery Posted by Picasa


Journey back home:

This was probably the most eventful part of our bus journey ! This time for a change instead of Dumb Charades, people decided to play Antakshari with country names. Within no time, country names with "e" exhausted, and thus came into existence the "e-group" headed by Nilesh and Jeetu. Whoever was unable to come up with a country name was asked to enact something or the other. We were lucky enough to witness so many Junglees in action ! Whether it was proposing Pradeep or selling soap to Pradeep or quarelling with Pradeep for his alleged affair with somebody, we saw it all ! And if you are wondering about Pradeep, keep wondering as it is difficult to find him now a days. He generally goes around covering his face because of all these acts that he never did :)


Ever enthu Shraman ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


Chirag here ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


What's my favorite drink ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


Santhosh here ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


Looks like its her turn now ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


What is Pradeep upto now ?! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! (Courtesy Santhosh) Posted by Picasa


We only stopped for a wonderful North Kannadiga dinner at Kamat's near Ramnagar suggested by Vinay and reached Bangalore at around 12.30 am. Whew ! A long journey back but a wonderful one ! :)