Monday, June 26, 2006

Brahmagiri the Indian Switzerland*

Brahmagiri – “the abode of Lord Brahma” lies on the border of Kerala and Karnataka. Believe me Brahma chooses his abodes well; the place is really worth its name in gold. Standing at a majestic 1800 Mts it is one of the higher peaks in the Wayanad range. This had been our dream trekking location for the past several months, but for one reason or the other it always got put off. Fortunately Brahmagiri was written into my rambling fate and on Friday the 16th of June, 2006 we (I(Abraham Menacherry), Shyam Chand Kalakat, Sandeep Raja, and Nazeeb) set out to conquer the Brahmagiri peak.

Two more guys, Jean John and Jagadeesh Bashkar were to come along but could not make it, Jean because of a very infectious disease that affects most people before a trek called laziness and Jagadeesh because of a phone call from home asking him to be at the side of his ailing cousin. Jagadeesh, a highly enthusiastic guy was extremely excited about the trek; he had bought stuff worth 20k including a camera and a shoe during that week and was totally disgusted that he could not make it. It must be noted here that his “ailing cousin” was so sick that he went to office on the very next day.

Anyway the remaining members caught a KSRTC Bus from Majestic to the place called Gonicuppa on the way to Kannur in Kerala. Ticket cost Rs.120 was the lowest possible fare available. The bus lived up to its “cheap” expectations rattling our bones to powder before we reached Gonicuppa. It took us 6 hours and we reached around 4 A.M.

First we had to get permissions from the SriMangala Forest Range office before we could go for the trek, the forest ‘Babus’ would be up and about only by 10 A.M so we had time to catch a wink. We walked straight ahead along the road and about 50 meters from the bus stop there stood ‘Yatri Nivas’ as promised in the blog we had read before we undertook the trek.

Showering a silent blessing on whoever had written that blog, we trooped in. The rate per bed was Rs.40. It was a decent sponge bed, in a decent little dorm. We had an un-eventful 4 hours of sleep, well, not everybody, Sandeep dreamt that there was a daemon standing at the top of the bed holding him down and when he tried to shout to me for help… surprise of surprise no voice came out. At this point he woke and then went back peacefully to sleep. I told him later that it wouldn’t have made much difference even if he had found his voice; I was dead to this world.

After the morning rituals we had our breakfast from a decent hotel, cannibalized a local dept. store for food and provisions and then caught a local bus to SriMangala. Ticket charge - Rs14. The route to SriMangala is lush green and though we were hardened with all the greenery of Kerala it was still eye-popping.

We reached SriMangala by 10.15 A.M. Wrote a requisition letter to the official in charge, paid a sum of Rs220 per head(which included trekking fees, forest entry fees, guide fees, tax, what not).From SriMangala we caught an Ambassador taxi to Irippu falls, the base location from which the trekking starts. The road was not very bad, but wasn’t that good either.

At Irippu we were introduced to Laxman our guide. He was assigned the duty to accompany us in the trek to Brahmagiri. He was a forest guide. About 40 years old. The guy was very helpful; n he legibly cleared all our doubts and also helped in cooking food. As per our schedule we would be visiting the falls on the way back so we gave it a miss on the way up.

At Irippu there was a Rameshwara Temple which is built in Kerala style. Shyam and Sandeep had a roundabout in the temple around the sanctum-sanctorum. Then we started out for our real ordeal in the jungle around 12 noon.The initial part of the trek really took the breath out of me, the pizza and late-night culture were catching up on me, I found it extremely difficult to climb up the steep slopes, it was a thickly forested area with blood sucking leeches all around, waiting for my precious blood. Fortunately the guys with me were in my same condition so we worked well as a “team”.

After about an eternity of climbing (it was actually about an hour) we reached the grasslands at the top of the hills. Suddenly as we took a curve we came upon this vast expanse of grass on all sides, the thick foliage had cut us off from the view till the last moment. To tell that the view, as sudden as it came was “breathtaking” would be an understatement. We took some snaps, rested and then moved on.

Next we came up on a brook named “Lakshmana Theertha” it had nice cool water, we drank from it and felt completely refreshed, after climbing for another hour we reached the Narimalae camp at 2.15. I must have lost 5kg’s on the walk; it was really tough for me.The camp has 2 bedrooms, a hall, a kitchen and a verandah. A shed is built outside were you can cook. The kitchen had all the utensils required for cooking and it was also the home of a huge rat family. Seems that Lord Ganapati had come for a visit too, atleast his "vehicle" was parked in the kitchen.

We had lunch and by 2:45PM we set out for ‘Munekkal’ caves (“Pakshi Pathalam” in Malayalam) which are 3 km’s from the camp. The caves are actually about 50Mts into Kerala territory.It is easy to see the border, the forest dept. has pruned the grass in two wide lines all along the border and that line snakes over distant hills for as far as the eye can see. On the way to the caves we saw the mammoth Brahamagiri peak in the background it stood tall and proud among its lesser brothers, from a distance the hills around it seemed to be bowing to it, awed by its majesty and regal stance. To tell the truth I was a bit dis-heartened in seeing this sight, it seemed too big an objective to my tired body.

After an hour of walking we reached the caves, it was as if the guy up there had shoved some huge boulders and put them in geometrically impossible positions just to make us lesser beings drop their jaws in wonder. The “cave” as such was not very big, much like a hole in the rock, but the boulders around it were huge and imposing, we took some risks and climbed up some of them, looking back that was a plain stupid thing to do, one single slip and it would have meant a first class train ticket to hell/heaven.

Laxman informed us about animal sightings near the base camp; we left caves around 4:15 pm, so as to see them. We reached camp back around 5 pm. Nazeeb was all set to have a bath, he was by then utterly tired and wanted to freshen up. There is a small brook near the Narimala base camp, but to reach there one had to pass through a “leech empire” the whole area was covered with those abominable creatures. Anyways we all went for the dip and it was an absolutely fabulous experience. I knew that if I dipped in my foot I would not have the guts to go in, so I took the plunge directly without testing the water temperature. It was as if I had received an electric shock… The water felt as if it had just melted from ice, it rejuvenated every single cell in my worn out body, an exhilarating experience to say the least.

After the bath around 6:15 pm, Shyam and I set off to watch Wild animals. Nazeeb was down with cramps and Sandeep was too plain tired to come along. Anyway they did not miss much as the mist came down which blocked our view, and we had to return disappointed, but Shyam did take a lot of beautiful pic’s with the mist as background.

Later we cooked our dinner and ate it by candle light. The food was too spicy and even though we were hungry we could not eat much, our eyes watered and our hunger was left un-satiated but our bodies warmed up, the chili had at least that good affect. By this time Shyam found out to his dismay that he had been donating a lot of his blood to a leech, “sucker” was the expletive he used, if I remember clearly…:). We then went to bed by 9 PM, and had a long discussion or argument, I fail to remember clearly. Sandeep’s daemon was taking a break so everyone must have slept peacefully. Anyway we got up by 6 A.M, had noodles for breakfast and set off to conquer his-majesty, the great Brahmagiri peak by 7:15 A.M.

The peak is at distance of 5km’s from the camp. We crossed a thick forest on the way, really frightening place, it was dark, with all the sound affects that you hear in horror films. Fortunately it was only a small section and we crossed swiftly. The speed was for a good reason too, there were leeches everywhere, waiting with their demonic suckers to suck us dry… Shyam was seen venting his fury on some of them, in his words they were the “Vampires” of our trek. Naseeb was also bitten during this melee. Infact the only guy who escaped "martydom" was Sandeep, I myself being bitten on the way back.

Now I must put in at least a para about these leeches. In my research on leeches I found out that they could be split into two major categories, the psychological leech and the real leech. The former, is the more dangerous of the two. The psychological leech is very versatile and can get into any part of your body and move to any other part at will, whereas the real leech usually attacks your ankles and stays there. Unlike the real leech which you wont feel till it has sucked out your blood, the psychological leech is very much discernible by the itching it causes. In truth these creatures have only a nuisance value, most trekkers are well fed city-brats and can easily risk giving blood to these poor underfed creatures. The only complaint I have against them is that they usually ruin your socks/pants etc beyond repair with your own blood.

Here and there we spotted herds of deer, but they flew away as soon as they saw us, totally un-co-operative fella’s, don’t those idiots understand that the only thing we ‘shoot’ ‘em with, is a camera? On the way to the peak we came across the most beautiful scene during this trek. As we were climbing, Shyam suddenly asked me look to the right, at first what I saw were some hills at a distance with a huge sea-like lake between them, since I had not expected to see any lake and since the lake seemed to be a bit too “high” among the hills I scrutinized the scene again.. This time I was totally spell-bound, the “lake” was actually a sea of clouds so thick that they looked liked the foam on a never ending wave. The interesting part was that at the points where this cloud-sea and the mountains merged it looked like the clouds were trapped between the hills, trying to get through. Funnily, on our side of the hill the sky was, well, sky blue, without a single cloud. Sandeep a veteran of many treks and who has been to more places than you would care to know certified that this was something that he had never seen before in such majesty. We did take snaps, but the magic of the scene was there for only those who witnessed it with their own eyes.

At 8.25 A.M we finally reached the foot of Brahmagiri peak. Next was the climb to the top and it looked very much a daunting task. There were many paths to reach the top, and we all took different paths, the way I was climbing seemed to be a bit steeper that the others but all in all there was not much difference, it was very very steep whichever way you climbed. The distance to the top of the peak would have been about 500 meters; we took about 25 minutes to climb that half kilometer. I was on all fours at one point, for the record it was Shyam who reached the top first, among the four of us, he was by far the “best-trekker”. The exertion to reach the top and the fact that I had not been able to fulfill my morning obligations now took revenge on my bowel. I did some ultra high-speed download and if what Discovery channel says is true then I have “marked my territory” right on top of Brahmagiri peak (Hope that’s a record!).

Having conquered the “final frontier” we started descending at 9:15 A.M. Nazeeb took the lead this time round. We reached Narimala base camp at 11:15 am. We filled our fuel tanks with biscuits and chocolates and then bid good bye to Narimala camp. Nazeeb penned down a 4 line description about the trek which was by far the best that any one of us (including the veteran) had ever had. We started the journey back towards Irippu falls at 11:45AM, traveling at a scorching pace we reached falls at 12:40 AM.

Next was a refreshing bath at the Irippu falls. The water fell with such tremendous force that you could hardly go near the falls. But Nazeeb the adventurer found a way to the back side of the falls. I, Shyam and Nazeeb went behind the falls and crouched in the cramped space between the wall of water and the real rock wall. It was a thrilling experience as if right out of a phantom comic strip, but then there was no secret world behind the falls… at least we didn’t find any.

After thoroughly enjoying our bath we went down to the parking area. Later we hired a jeep to Kuppa (the bus to Gonicuppa from Irippu was at 3:30 but we were too tired and hungry to wait). During the jeep ride Nazeeb told us of his experiences of eating fried cocoroaches and other insects when he was in Thailand. Fortunately the driver stopped at “Madeena Hotel” in Kuppa, there were no fried insects on sale so Nazeeb was disappointed but he did manage to gobble up half a chicken.

We were told that there is a KSRTC bus to Mysore from Kutta at 3:45 P.M. The villagers tempted us telling that it will go thru Nagarhole Wildlife reserve, where animal sighting’s are common. Hence instead of taking the Gonicuppa route we boarded the Mysore bus at 4 pm. The villagers were right; there were as many deer in that sanctuary as there are dogs in the streets of Bangalore. We even spotted an elephant so all in all it was very much worth taking that route, unfortunately Shyam was not able to take a clear picture of the elephant.

At 7:30 pm we landed at Mysore, had dinner at a Malayalee hotel near KSRTC bus stand. Later we called up Jagadeesh and told him an exaggerated version of events, thus driving the last nail on his coffin… poor guy he really missed the whole thing. It took us about 3 hours from Mysore to Bangalore and then we caught an auto till Madivala, we were back home by 12:30, having completed a hugely successful trek. The whole plan that we had laid down had worked out wonderfully well, each every single part of our itinerary had been realized. This trek verily deserved the “Best Trek Award”... at least till I go for my next one.

*minus the snow.

3 Comments:

Blogger Pengal said...

Didnt see any mention about the big tusker's entanglement part !!!!
Smartly missed them alle ?

1:19 PM  
Blogger M-Y-A-S-H-U said...

Did u really mean, I was the "best-trekker"??
Anyways thanks for the compliment...
I rise to the height of Brahmagiri...

3:42 PM  
Blogger snigdha G said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:52 PM  

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