Kodachadri – A Western Ghat Beauty

Date – 4th – 5th February 2017

Kodachadri Peek Altitude:4,406 ft
Climate: Clear and sunny skies. Fresh weather.
Local Start Time: 9:30 AM from Kodachadri Homestay
Destination: Sunset point, Kodachadri Peak by 5 PM.
Oneway Trek Distance from Homestay: 12 KM
Trek Complexity: Moderate in Monsoon. Easy Post Monsoon.

Our group started from Bangalore at 10:45 PM and arrived at our destination home stay at 7:45 AM. We were camped in Kodachadri at Hallimane Home Stay in Kattinahole, Mitthikai Post, Hosanagara in Shimoga District run by Mr K.R Ravish Kumar. The air was fresh and nippy, but not very cold. After freshening with warm water which our host was gracious to provide, we had breakfast of Puliogre, Upma and Chutney and coffee. Our host was very courteous and had immediately arranged for tea / coffee and breakfast at a short notice. The coffee was made with coffee seeds from a nearby plantation, was sweet and strong at the same time and gave us an immediate kick preparing us for the trek ahead.

Kodachadri – Here we come: We had a quick round of introductions with our fellow trekkers and our local guide Chaitanya. Chaitanya was a teen was a 10’th grade student @ 15 years of age and spoke the local Kannada dialect. He was extremely camera shy and was wearing normal cotton clothing and had a pair of slippers – which were in a condition of giving away at anytime.Meanwhile we prepared our backpacks with a Litre of water and some refreshments on the way and also go packed lunch of spiced rice from our hosts.We passed through the Kattinahole village looking at the local plantations of coconut, Jackfruit, Bettlenut trees. At 9:30AM the locals were already at work, separating the Bettlenut seeds and laying it on top of their typical western ghat homes for drying.

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After a quick walk of about 300 meter we came up to the starting point. At this point we registered with the local forest office and started our trek, with Chaitanya leading the way.dscn2256

Base to Butter Milk Point: The starting part of the trek was on a Jeep route, with sparse typical western ghat houses on either side. There were dogs and poultry and we could hear the sounds of running streams close by indicating a live water source. After @ 500 meter so, we entered the forest with a gradual incline. The vegetation was thick and trail narrow. The sun rays were barely reaching the ground. We all ascended at a brisk pace after which we came across a flat landscape with a tall tree in the middle. After a brief photo session we continued on the trail. The left hand side of the trail was protected with wiring, which our guide told us was for carry electrical current at nights. The trees on this path were huge some reaching the height of at least 25 to 30 meter with base of about 5 to 8 meter. It was pretty amazing.

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We came across many points where there were swarms of red colored insects on trees. Even a single touch was disturbing these swarms. We had to run our way through this swarms holding our breaths. After walking and running for about 90 minutes or so, we reached our first stop the Butter Milk Point.

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There was a small shop that had the bare essentials like biscuits, water and of course cold serving of butter milk with sliced ginger and coriander. After a refreshing glass, we stopped for a while to see the rice and paddy cultivation on the right hand side. The next part of the trek was from this Butter Milk Point to Hidlumane water falls.

Butter Milk Point to Hidlumane water falls:  Our homestay hosts had mentioned to us earlier that people around the hills are worried about weather patterns in the ghats. The rains had been decreasing over the years, and they were fearing water shortage. We got to see this firsthand during this part of the trek. We cam across many stream flows which were either dried up, were reduced to puddles or were on the verge of extinction for the season. There are blogs that mention gushing streams and leech infested paths during monsoons. But at start of February, the streams were reduced to trickles and puddles and smaller falls which you have to cross.

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We were praying that waterfall should have some water and our guide assured us, not to worry. About 45 minutes later we started hearing the waterfalls and were relieved. As we approached the falls, the inclines started becoming stepper and harder. The soil was eroded from the rocks underneath and rock pattern was clearly visible. It ascend here was moderate and we had to be careful of fall. This would have been somewhat difficult during the peak monsoons. After about 15 minutes of crossing the boulders we came face to face with the Hidlumane waterfalls, and what a sight it was!

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Clear water falling from @ 50 to 100 meter on bare rock. One of the most memorable sights and experiences of the trek. Some of the folks in the group could not resist the temptation of going below the falls. The rock is hard and pointed at places. One of our fellow trekker got deep cut from the rock on his foot. After spending about 45 minutes at the falls we began our ascent to  the Lonely Tree spot.

Hidlumane water falls to Lonely Tree spot:  The trail continued on the right hand side of the fall. There is huge tree trunk, that is laid across at this point, which I suppose would assist the trekkers for crossing the falls in monsoons. In February however, we were able to cross the falls without support. The immediate trail after crossing the falls requires climbing over some big rock boulders. This is a vertical non technical climb that you can easily achieve with patience. Thankfully nature has also provided some trees for support so you can step on them to ascend. This is boulder climb is about 5 to 8 meters. Things become challenging if you have a heck backpack, so pack light during the trail.
After this crossing, the climb is relentless for about 1.5 to 2 kilometers with ascends and descends in an open area.

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At this time you get a chance to see a Lonely Tree which is an indication, that you are coming close to the train end.

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Our group assembled about 300 meters from the Lonely Tree for a lunch. This is a fresh water source from a stream here which we used to fill our water supplies. After a quick lunch we had one more ascent to go to reach the tree, from where you can see the Jeep Trail that goes to Moola Mookambika Temple. Sometimes there are butter milk vendors in this area, so you can refresh and hydrate yourself with fresh butter milk. But if you could hold of for a while, do that and you could enjoy butter milk and fresh fruit at Moola Mookambika Temple.

Lonely Tree to Moola Mookambika Temple: The temple is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims and it’s said to place where thousands of years ago Goddess Mookambika fought and killed the demon Mookasura. In Historic times, individuals used to trek from Nagara state.A temple dedicated to the traditional Mother god Mookambika is located near travelers cottage and is believed to be the moola sthana (the origin) of Sri Mookambika Devi. The trail to Mookambika temple goes on a Jeep route and you can see Jeeps passing by. Make sure you have sufficient protection round your eyes and nose as this part can get dusty. You get to catch your breath and prepare for the final ascend to the sunset point during this part of the trek. This trail goes on for about 2 kms at which point Mookambika temple, BhadraKali temple and a man made water pond is visible. Offering pooja and paying respects to the godesses of the western ghats in a quiet environment is an experience in itself. The next part of the trek is what you can say an icing on the cake, the part that most trekkers wait for, Mookambika temple to Sunset point.

Moola Mookambika temple to Sunset point and back:  With frequent breaks, abundance of water, fresh fruit at Mookambika temple and pleasant climate our bodies were well hydrated and we were all set to make the final 2 KM ascent to the Sunset point and Shankaracharya temple. Sage Adi Shankara is claimed to have visited this place, meditated here. A small temple called Sarvajnapeetha, designed with stone is dedicated to Adi Shankara at the highest of Kodachadri. Any amount of time you spent here is less, as the sights from this point are memorable and will have lasting impact. The beauty and mystic nature of western ghats is abundant in this area both in terms of flora and fauna. You get to see different species of birds flying over you. On the left hand side of the trail are deep ravines and hills of the western ghats where you could see the backwaters of Sharavati river on a clear day.

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You can also visit Sage Shankaracharya’s temple built in the place where Sage Shankaracharya meditated for years.It is said that you get to see the Arabian sea as well, but we could not. We were surrounded by misty clouds with breathtaking panoramic views of western ghats. We spent an hour here, just enjoying the views and thanking nature for over indulging itself in the ghats, with the wish and promise to come here again. With such fantastic views locked in our memories for we started our descent from sunset point back from heaven to earth. The descent is quick, but on completion we took a break and took a chance to immerse our feet in the man made pond at the Moola Mookambika temple. The cold water bought immediate relief to our aching feet and that was when our guides told that we would be taking the Jeep drive on the way back.

Moola Mookambika temple to Homestay:  There were 4 wheel Mahindra vehicles arranged to take us back to the homestays. There is no travel policy beyond 7PM in the reserve. The sun really sets fast, so we had to be quick to get to the vehicles after visiting the sunset point. The roads were a nightmare and but the drivers really stood up to the task, even providing an entertainment by overtaking each other on such narrow paths. This experience lasted for about 20 minutes and I bet it will give an Disneyland roller coaster ride a run for money. We appreciated the drivers efforts for bringing us intact in one piece to our homestay where we bid adieu to our local guide. You could choose walk back on this path if you like and enjoy the beauty of the hills. The descend is very simple, though you have to be careful of the occasional vehicle suddenly coming in front or behind you without warning.

I took a nice cold bath at the homestay and enjoyed a full veg dinner of chappatis, dal and subzi with pickles and curd rice, before hitting the bed for a nice well deserved sleep as we had to start early for our drive back to Bangalore the next day.

Morning in Kattinahole and Return to Bangalore:  Morning walks nearby the homestays provides insights into the local life and always gives opportunities to meetup with locals. I had a nice sleep at the homestay and had a refreshing cup of coffee. Time for the morning walk. The air was cold but not damp. The sun was peeking out, yet the fog was visible at a distance. There were tall beetlenut and cocunut groves with intermediate Jackfruit trees.

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I met one local on the deserted street while I was looking at the Jackfruit trees.He started speaking in the local Kannada dialect which I was not aware of. He told me the jackfruit were not ripe for eating, but offered me some if I wanted to put it in sambar and curry which he said tasted delicious. I thanked him for his hospitality and continued on my walk. Later I saw him going down to see the plantations, leaving his footwear on the road. Apparently he needed footwear for walking on the paved road and felt comfortable in the Jungle without his footwear on. Amazing indeed!

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After a breakfast of delicious Idli, coconut Chutney, yellow spiced rice poha and another serving of coffee we started our way back to Bangalore with an intended stop over at Shivappa Naik’s Fort at a distance of 27 KM from Kodachadri.

We thanked our guests for their wonderful hospitality considering the limited means they have due to the remoteness of the area. With a promise of visiting Kodachadri again during monsoon, we bid our final adieu to Kodachadri and left for Bangalore carrying in our hearts the beauty of the western ghats and the hospitality of the people.

For my trekker friends 

The following points are well known but nothing like revising. 

  • Kodachadri is a seasonal trek. That means the complexity and the nature changes from Monsoon (June through September) and Post Monsoon seasons (November to February). Though Western ghats are green through out the year, the greenery and challenges come on there own during the monsoon season. With gushing streams, leeches and slippery path during monsoon, the trek becomes moderately challenging then. In the post monsoon time, the trek is easy and no prior preparation is required.
  • The homestays may get crowded at times and resources in terms of beddings may be limited. Be prepared for sleeping in sleeping bags and taking shower with cold water if you need. I felt you can count on  genuine hospitality and effort from the locals. They are courteous, co-operative and even though language becomes a problem, you can easily manage to stay.
  • Mobile Connectivity is limited at times. You may not get carrier signals during the trek or at homestays. Most of the homestays have landlines which you can use for emergency.
  • Water is abundant on the trek. So son’t worry if your water supply is exhausted. There may be a fresh water supply around. Just use water filter cloth or purification pills and you should be OK.
  • A Jeep trail runs by closely, so human help may not be far away in case of emergency. The trek trail is well laid out and you may get local guides easily who can arrange for the forest entry permits.
  • You may find mosquitos in abundance during night time and insects and leeches on the trail. So do carry repellents and salt with you for going on the trail.
  • The rock formations at the waterfalls are sharp. Be careful near the waterfalls and if there are cuts take immediate action. At least carry a first aid kit with cotton, antiseptic and bandaid/tape.
  • You do not have to carry an extra pair of socks or sandals in the Post monsoon season during the trek, as your feet will not get too wet crossing the streams. However in the monsoon season carry sandles along with your hiking footwear if your hiking footwear is not water proof. You will enjoy the trek more with dry feet than wet feet.

Homestay Address:
K.R Ravish Kumar
Hallimane Homestay
Kattinahole, Mitthikai Post, Hosanagara, Shimoga District
Ph: 08185-290272, 295811
9632549169, 9482352368

(c) Copyright 2017: Sachin Keskar. EMail: tokeskar@gmail.com

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