After a pretty hectic period in Firetide, finally I got couple of days off, including a whole weekend. I did have a Yana trek planned for the coming weekend. But what about this one? Pappan was all ready to come and the place, Brahmagiri in the Kerala-Karnataka border, was decided after a conversation I had with Arun, who gave us all the needed information. Sunil also could come with us and Vinay jumped in the last minute.
Initial plans were to catch a bus to Virajapet and then a local bus to Iruppu, from where the trek path starts. But, due to the non-availability of return tickets [long weekend factor] we finally decided to drive upto Iruppu. On friday evening we dumped everything into my Versa and hit the Mysuru (Mysore) road. After negotiating busy friday evening traffic in Mysuru road, we managed to get into a Hotel in Srirangapatnam and spent the night there.
The drive continued the next day. We took the deviation to Hunsur after Srirangapatnam and proceeded. After breakfast and some food packing [dosa, idly and sambar] at Hunsur, we managed to hit Gonikoppal by about 9.30. Some more packing at Gonikoppal [this time Chappathis and veg curry], we took a deviation towards Nagarhole/Srimangala/Iruppu. Past Ponnampet, Hudikeri & T Shettigiri, we soon reached Srimangala, where we had to meet up with the range forest officer and get the trekking permissions. Things were smooth here, but we had to pay Rs 170 (20 for entry, 50 for rent at forest rest house and 100 for two days trekking permissions) per head and 200 more as guide charges. Couple of kms past Srimangala, we needed to take a deviation to the right for Iruppu. The main road continues to Kutta at the Kerala-Karnataka border and then to Mananthavady via Tholpetty.
Couple more kms from this deviation, there were a few hairpin bends. In, one of those bends we could catch a far glimpse of the Iruppu falls. Soon, we were at the entrance of Iruppu. Being a popular tourist attraction, the place was pretty much crowded and had its own hotel and a parking area. We showed our permission letter to the group of guides there and one of them, Mr. Suresh, agreed to come with us. At 12.00 we were all ready and hungry to conquer.
Few steps up, along with the crowd and past a hanging iron bridge we could see water tumbling down ... Iruppu falls was indeed a pretty sight ... but we had more important business!!!
Few minutes more ... as our guide continued on a brisk pace, I started panting. Dunno if its because of the long ride from Bengaluru (Bangalore) or the few extra layers of flab around my waist contributed by the recent sedentary lifestyle ... well ... doesnt matter ... now that I was panting. I first made an excuse ... that my sleeping mat has come out of the bag .... that bought me some time to calm my breathing ... then I followed it up with a call for 'break'. It was granted, but everybody else looked eager to continue walking. I dragged my feet for some more distance, which was about an hour and 2 kms ... but seemed like eons to me. In between, Pappan offerred to take some of my luggage and I happily moved some of my stuff into his bag, which included a bulky jam bottle. That was such a relief!!!
The efforts of the forest officials should be commented upon. This trek route hardly had any plastic all along the way. Instead, the whole path was strewn with leeches and a few had clung to everybody's shoes by then and slowly made way into the socks. We had a small break at a place where water was seeping out of a small rock and tumbling down the rocks to join the Lakshmantheertha, which later made a spectacular jump at Iruppu. We emptied some of the snacks packets and culled out leeches from the shoes and inside the socks. Water at this place was so cool and soothing that I literally refused to get up and continue walking ... well ... I am lying ... I cudnt just get up and get my feet moving :(
The path that followed this was somewhat a flat terrain going around a hill. We could hear the sweet sound of Lakshmantheertha. The next break was meant to be near a place where Lakshmantheertha will cross our path, about 1km further. But, a little bit of climb in between and I started panting once again. I tried a lot of things this time. Trying to ignore the tiredness and listen to the soothing music of the birds and the river, picking up a small stick and using it as a prop, singing the song 'puthujanmam nediya naran' to myself (which in mallu means 'the man who got a rebirth'), but all in vein. I had to cry for another break in between, which was soon followed up by a lunch break, as and when we reached the stream.
|Lunch break at Lakshmanatheertha
This stream was a beauty and an ideal place to open up the lunch packets. And so we did ... the dosas and idlys were opened up and gobbled up, in spite of the cold & bad condition they were in. Couple of photos around this place, few more checks to pick out all the leeches and we were up on our feet once again ... by about 2.30.
Past this stream, we were out of the shades into a lush green grass field and some more climbing up. The beautiful hills all around suddenly became clearly visible. The altitude of the place was quite evident from the absence of trees. Mountain tops were painted lush green by the grass ... and looked beautiful.
Break at the hill top ...
We took another break (again I asked for it) near a small rock and our guide told us that the rest house at Narimalai is just 10 minutes away. Anyways ... few more photos and 10 minutes ... we indeed spotted a shed and then the forest rest house. The tall hill to our left was Narimalai and the small building in front of us where built by the forest department following a 10 year long effort, at an altitude of 1418 meters.
The rest house was a dream at the top of the hill, with adequate facilities for cooking and sleeping. A stream flowing just next to it provided a good water source also. There was a large group of people from Ponnampet already occupying the place, but we were provided accomodation in a seperate room along with the guide and the caretaker. It was 3'O clock already and we all dropped our luggage, took off the shoes and crashed ... It wasnt a difficult trek at all ... but I was inexplicably tired. And according to the guide, we took more than 3 hrs for what generally takes about 2 hrs :(
Soon the tiredness vanished and we all realized the trouble. Brahmagiri was about 6 kms from this point and it may not be possible to visit the peak today. Doing this the next day will delay our return journey. We went and talked to the guide and explained him the situation. He gave us options like visiting the Narimalai today and making it to the peak only the next day. There was also a cave (Munikkal caves) somewhat on the way to the peak. Finally, we insisted to go to the peak today itself and he finally gave in.
It was a mad run .... and almost an impossible task, right from the beginning. We quickly covered a good distance of about 3 kms in half an hour. The terrain was kinda flat though .. and also the absence of bags really helped. We crossed several small streams and some muddy patches on the way ... and the peak became visible soon. Also, there were lines drawn to mark the state border. The hills, grass lands and forests on the right side belongs to Kerala!!!
|The piece of hill in the shade is Brahmagiri ... and the lines is the Kerala - Karnataka border
In between, our guide stopped and pointed towards a faraway mountain, where we could spot a herd of wild elephants. He told us that as the sun sets, these elephants might come down and interrupt our path !!! We also spotted couple of deers. It was beautiful and looked right out of a dream world. On the right side, we could spot another path, the one from Thirunelli (in Kerala) to Brahmagiri. Our guide mentioned that this is a more enjoyable and strenuous trek right through the middle of a thick jungle.
The more we walked towards the peak, the further it seemed. And finally, at about 5, our guide told that the peak is still about an hour away and it may not be prudent to continue. We were reluctant to walk back ... but finally agreed after he ensured to take us here the next day as early as possible. I didnt mind not going to Narimalai, not going to Munikkal caves or getting late to reach Bengaluru ... but we had to come back to this enchanting peak. So, we clicked a final snap and turned back ... promising to return.
By 6, we were back and cleaned up couple of leeches from our shoes. There were many and we were all bitten all over. After a few minutes rest, Pappan dragged us all to the nearby stream. He wanted to take a bath and insisted that a bath in the cold river water can do wonders. Infact, it did!!! It had such a rejuvenating effect. For every, pot of water I poured on myself, I wanted more.
Back in the rest house, the lights were up. We did carry petrol and match box to prepare a camp fire. But, the rest house had a solar panel and few lights. And, it was too cosy to have a camp fire. We unpacked the rest of the food (chappathis from Gonikoppal) and finished it in no time. Lights off at about 8 and I was snoring soon after that!!!
We all got up by about 5 and were ready before 7. Soon, we were out on the path towards Brahmagiri, this time not in so much hurry. Past the few streams, from which we filled our water bottle, we soon reached the place where we stopped the previous day. This time we took about 40 minutes. Around another small hill, the peak became more visible. Some more time, we were walking around the last hill just in front of the main peak. After this hill, we had to climb down a bit, walked along the no man's land (between the two lines seperating Kerala & Karnataka) and then found us staring at the steep climb leading to the enchanting Brahmagiri hills!!!
The peak ... again the border is very clear in this ...
It was a beautiful sight ... with few pockets of trees in the valley and the peak covered with thick lush green grass. Our guide said he is not coming up and we proceeded. The climb became steeper and steeper as we went up and became almost vertical at some places. But, a look around would shed all ur inhibitions ... the more and more u go ... u feel more like u r at the top of the world .... I started crying and howling out of joy!!!
This was indeed a steep climb!!!
Sunil gave up by this time, since his shoe was getting slippery. Vinay literally dropped into his knees ... but didnt give up. Pappan was running ahead of me ... and finally ... after about 30 minutes I joined him at the top ... about 1600 meters above MSL and overlooking everything around us.
Everything else below me!!!
To our far right (south east direction) was a blue mist covered mountain ... which was the only thing above us ... not even the clouds. I later confirmed with Mr. Suresh that it is Wayanad in that direction and that peak must be the Chembra Peak.
Pappan on the top ... In the background is Chembra peak
Half an hour later ... at about 9, we started climbing down. It was again a tough exercise, but carefully and safely done by all three of us. Soon, we joined the rest at the base and continued towards the rest house. The return was a bit slower, especially for me, who started feeling the tiredness once again and Pappan who chose to stay with me and take me along. He literally dragged me back and made sure we were through at the rest house by about 11. Within an hour we gobbled up whatever snacks/bread was left and continued towards level ground.
Iruppu falls or Lakshmanatheertha falls
I had a pair of swollen tired legs by then and my feet was aching badly inside the shoes. But, I decided not to slow down the group this time. In just 20 minutes we were near the Laskhmanatheertha river ... about 2kms from the rest house. 5 minutes break there and then we proceeded almost non stop till Iruppu. I slowed down and stopped couple of times in between but made sure that the stops werent long enuf. At about 1.30 we were near the Iruppu falls and few more minutes took us to the entrance. Near the car, we all removed our shoes and threw our luggages and discovered a lot of leeches. Pappan and Sunil had their feet fully eaten up by leeches and were blooding profusely. The leech bite wounds are painless but the blood flow will take some time to stop.
After lunch at the local hotel there, we proceeded towards Gonikoppal. Our guide also came with us since his house is in Virajapet and got down at Gonikoppal, from where he can catch a bus. Soon, we were past Hunsur and at Srirangapatnam by about 5.30. Another mad drive through the crowded Mysuru - Bengaluru highway and we were all home and crashing by about 8 - 8.30.
Well ... this was one of the most tiring for me ... But frankly it wasnt a very difficult trek. May be apart for the leeches. I counted about 32 leech bites ... on my legs, arms, around the waist and even on the neck. More so ... for others. But, at the end of all these .... even leeches were fun ;) On the way back I was thinking of doing the Thirunelli - Brahmagiri trek. The thought of going back to Wayanad was exciting in itself. Add the lush green Brahmagiri hills to Wayanad, it becomes enchanting!!!