Wild Wonderful Karnataka

A trek to Tadiandamol [08-Jan to 09-Jan, 2005]


Team :
Move Mouse over the persons Name to see the Photograph
Yashpal Kumar
Prashanth Kota
Dates : 08-Jan and 09-Jan, 2005
Location : Tadiandamol, Coorg, Karnataka

There have been various inspirations for other trips. But this is one is odd. The real reason this trip was planned was to use the Tent that Yashpal had brought from China 18 months ago. Well, for a 2 member squad, not much preparation is needed. We got all groceries that we liked. Yashpal booked the tickets well in advance and we were all set to go. The bus was for 11:59 and the journey took around 6 hours and 15 minutes. We reached the Virajpet bus stand at around 6:15 AM on 8th January. The KSRTC bus-stand has a decent toilet... for those who are more health conscious, there are many hotels around that which can be used to freshen up. The bus journey was not all that comfortable. But the clear air, twilight environment made us forget all that. The moon was still visible against a clear blue sky lit by dim light of the rising sun... Why don't I get up early every day to see this? After finishing morning chores, we went to the local bus stand which is about 100 meters up the hill behind this bus-stand.

Travel Information: The tickets can be booked to Virajpet at any KSRTC reservation counter. A Rajahamsa ticket costs Rs167/- and the journey is 6 hours long. So plan accordingly and not to reach Virajpet at unearthly hours.

The local bus-stand is lined with many shops and doubles up as a busy market place. We had quick breakfast at "Blue Bell Coffee Tea Bar". I recommend khara-bath and a hot cup of tea here. Anything else can not be proven to be fresh. We learnt that there was a bus to Nakoplu at 6:50... But we did not want to hurry. More so when we heard that there was another bus at 7:30. After breakfast, we bought fruits and cucumber from the local stores... We may be in Coorg... but oranges are not cheaper here. One word of caution... buses never run on time here. 7:30 easily can mean 8:00... In our case, the bus never came... and at around 8:15 the next bus came and we got in.

Travel Information: From Virajpet, we have to take bus that goes towards Nakoplu. We have to get down at Kaikamba. This comes after a place called Kabbinakaadu which is the stop for people going to Honey Valley. The fare is Rs13/-
The walk to Nalknad Palace:
hockey The board at the Kaikamba bus-stand says that the palace is 3 Kms from there. It is a easy jeep track till the palace. The place has become increasingly commercial with many coffee estates also serving as home stay resorts. Clearly India is becoming a favorite destination for tourists world wide. Added to this, locals get an additional source of income and serves as insurance against their principle vocation which is growing coffee. Kings Cottage, Mist Woods, Palace Estate and so on... Finally we reach the Nalknad Palace. There is a shop at the end of the road which has direction to Palace, the Tadiandamol peak and the palace estate. But disappointment awaited us since the palace was under repair. For good or bad, somebody thought of repairing the so called palace. I had seen pictures of the palace earlier and it was in real bad shape. There are enough boards requesting trekkers not to stay at the *palace* over night... but hardly any body listens.

Next to the palace is a small school for about 50 students. We saw only one teacher... the guy who is playing hockey with the kids. No matter how poor a government school looks to be, it will always have a flag post to hoist the national flag on special days.
Rural Hockey in India
Its both a matter of pride to see such symbolism present in every corner of the country and pain to see the plight of such schools. Elementary education does make or break a child's outlook towards education. Principles of Mathematics is taught there... which is critical to any branch of Science or logic. In spite of being in such a pathetic state, Indians are still considered best when it comes to average arithmetic knowledge.

Starting from the palace, the jeep track becomes a well tarred road built and maintained as part of "Pradhan mantri graam sadak Yogana" (Prime minister's village Road Plan). The climb is steep but not tiring. May be it is because of the pure air we breath or just excitement, we never felt tired even though the walk was much tougher than climbing 10s of floors by stairs. The road winds along through many coffee estates and after about 2 Kms, terminates into a muddy jeep track. Some more distance on the jeep track brought us to a fork in the road. I seems, the fork was not there when Yashpal came here the last time... So we did not know which one to take. BTW, there is a little bit of history. Nobody I know has climbed Tadiandamol the first time they attempted... every body ran into problems... some serious and some trivial. My previous attempt was foiled by a riot at Virajpet and hence could not proceed. Yashpal's earlier attempted was thwarted by 2 people who abandoned the mission after being afraid of leeches... I know that Hari also had some problems when he tried for the first time...
rays of sun
Pleasant rays of Sun
first look The fork in the road was the place where Pranjal hurt his foot last time... only there was no fork then. I went about 500 mts along the upper arm of the fork... unfortunately, it was turning away from what we perceived as Tadiandamol peak. Hence we decided that it must not be the route to be taken. We went along the lower arm. A few meters ahead there was another fork... But there was a house too... the guy in the house told us to go on the upper fork this time and we would get a stream, a barbed fence and an open ground ... and then, the earlier road would join us. We were very happy to learn that we were on the right track and proceeded eagerly on the told route. We reached the stream very quickly and granted ourselves the concession of having a break... We ate the Oranges (or Chinos as Yashpal pointed out the difference) and resumed our journey. We even crossed the barbed wire and reached the open ground (left Photo) from where we could see Tadiandamol clearly.

But beyond that the route was very unclear. There were many trails that were leading out from the ground. We just guessed that the one leaving in the direction of the peak must be the right one and just got going. Were were encouraged by the presence of a traceable path... but at the same time concerned since there was a lot of undergrowth around it as if it had not been used for a long time... Once in a while we would see chopped would, which is a sure shot sign of human movement... But after a lot of walking by the side of a fence, we reached a point where we were surrounded by 3 sides by the fence and the only other way was the way we came in... The path we followed was for a small shelter to store wood used to make fences... This meant we were totally lost. The path continued in the same direction on the other side of the fence. We decided to go against an earlier advice in some travelogue which warned not to cross any fences lest we wander into someone's property. A few more anxious moments and making way through the jungle, Yashpal recognized some huge rock over which they had taken rest last time. After the rock, the jungle suddenly ended - so did any path.
First look at the Tadiandamol
After getting out of the jungle, we had no idea which direction to go. We had a mountain ahead of us, and to out left at a distance was Tadiandamol. We decided to climb that mountain to get a better view as to where were we... geographically. The size of the mountain was very deceptive. We kept climbing... and it seemed as thought it was growing in height all the while... We were not that worried since we could see the peak always... path or no path, we would reach it any how. Moreover we had lots of time still. Luckily when we were almost at the top, we saw a train of people far far across on another mountain. We thought they were the same foreigners that we had met before. We waved and yelled... and they waved back. We had two options, just climb our mountain down - cut across the jungle between us and join them OR walk around our mountain without losing altitude and still keeping them in sight. Obviously, for fear of having have to climb again, we chose the second option. When we came around, Yashpal recognized another landmark. A long stone wall built to serve as a fence or a fort... And was reachable without entering the jungle - even though we would have to walk amid thick dried vegetation. We hoped that there would not be any snakes and just marched in the general direction. Ignorance is bliss.

As we were walking hundreds of seeds got stuck on our clothes... reminding me of the invention of Velcro and the programs that I saw on discovery to demonstrate innovative ideas plants use to disperse their seeds.
Anonymous mountain.
Clear road to the Top:
flower Our idea of keeping the other group in sight really paid off... They even had a guide to lead them. So we were finally sure that we are on the right track. Once that was sure, we opened our food packets and started eating... Oranges, chikkis and proceeded. But we had one more shock waiting for us... the guide told us that they had already passed the last water source... We had missed it any way. We had only one bottle of water left... We had juicy sandwich made from burger bun, cucumber and cheese slices for lunch... we started conserving water and eating cucumber instead. From the big rocky wall, the summit is only an hour away... I liked the way a foreign lady described it "There a little bit of sunny part... then there is a shady part and then there is sunny part again and you are there". Yes, the route was as simple as that. But climbing it was not that easy... given the time of the day - mid afternoon. The part inside the jungle was cool... but steep. After that, the view was amazing. Tadiandamol is the highest peak among its surroundings and hence we can see for long distances on all sides. flower
flower flower
We realized that we would be on the summit too early and slowed down our pace... slowly savoring the oxygen rich air and crystal clear air... If only we had enough water... it would have been perfect. At about this time, all those ahead of use started to turn back... I was amazed to see so many foreigners(Iran, Finland, British, Germany)... The cottages nearby must have had a good tourist season this year. More over, they do not do the full trek. They come as far as possible on Jeep and trek only the last part which is about 2-3 hours before the summit... But there were a few of them who walked all the way from Nalknad palace. At last by about 2:30 we were on the top. We emptied a packet of electral into a bottle of water and re-hydrated ourselves. Luckily, a group of Indians from Bangalore (I remember only Jyotsna, the teenager and Shaukat, the guide) had given us an extra litre of water... A big group of foreign tourists had reached ahead of us and hence we had to wait an hour or so for the peak to be all ours...
eastern side of tadiandamol
Eastern side of Tadiandamol from the summit
More then 10 square Kms per person....
Solitude is a great feeling. After the foreigners left, we were left alone on the peak... Obviously there would be no one more since normally people don't stop on the top here. We were the only people as far as we could see. I slept on a ledge that I named "Prashanth Point" for about half an hour. I was reminded of Hari who always found this urge of nomenclature very strange among humans... After that we started collecting wood for the night. That was not difficult at all.. there were some really fat ones and a lot of dry sticks. We pitched up our tents and put our ruck-sacks in them so that it would not fly away. Very soon we were finishing all the do-ables and it was still just 4:30 PM... what would we do for the rest of the night ?? City life has made us so restless, that we could not sit idle for 30 minutes at a stretch to enjoy what we were seeing... The question of "What next?" seemed to be always on our minds even though the answer did not matter to us then. The first thing we prepared was "Sweet Corn Soup". It tasted great... especially when garnished with Cup-o-noodles and drank in a sliced up water bottle using a tent peg as stirrer. By this time the breeze had picked up and it felt great to face the incoming wind with hot soup in our hands and looking directly at the setting sun. We decided that in order to conserve water we will heat our Pulav in in very less water... and that had to be done by sunset... So we did. By 6:00 PM, we could see the last rays of sun as he descended behind a sea of clouds. People say that on a clear day (April-May), one can see the sun sink into the western sea. We, we have to see it to believe it. By now, much of these clouds had descended down most of the other smaller summits all around us. Only the twin peaks of Tadiandamol, were above the clouds. The breeze had picked up and we felt that at least one of us had to be inside the tents at all time to stop it from blowing. Worried Yashpal even pegged the tent on 8 sides just to be on the safer side. Then, we thought that we will take an early nap now and get up at 10:00PM and light a campfire... Seemed to be a nice idea. We got into warm clothes and got into our tent and slept... prashanth point
The Prashanth Point
The Sunrise and the decent:
early morning The idea of a 10:00PM campfire never worked out. We were too tired to be woken up at night... through out the night however, the strange sounds were coming from outside the tent... A 2 layered tent like this one is bound to make such noise when wind blows at such high speeds. We sleep on and off... through out and were woken up by around 5:00AM. Obviously going out was out of question... We spent one hour eating biscuits, taking photos and playing games over mobile phone. Once in a while we opened the tent doors to see if it was safe going out. A strong gust of wind would always suggest not to. However, when we saw first colors of sunrise appear on the eastern sky, we took turns to go out and have a stroll and the other waited inside the tent preventing it from being blown away. We soon started a fire in front of our tent to keep ourselves warm. It was not difficult to start one because of the wind. On either side of the peak there was mild forest fires... though it was not threatening, we were not sure who started it... we were more unsure about the intent... Anyway, as the minutes passed by, the eastern sky became a canvas on which nature painted her marvelous colors for only us to see since anybody else from the cities below would only see the clouds. The picture on the top right of this page tries to capture what we saw...
Early morning Warmth
But as always photos do little justice to the real thing. After about half an hour of dumb folded admiration of what we saw, we boiled milk, and drank it with Parle-G biscuits for breakfast. There was absolute silence all around... but for birds chirping in the forest near by... an occasional gust of wind making a hustling noise as it went past us... and the fluttering of our tent... This morning goes right on top of my list of all time ecstatic mornings ever closely followed by Kumaraparvatha, Yedakumeri and Isle Royale.
The Climb Down:
By 8:00 AM we packed all our belongings and left the summit after a brief look around. We decided that we would have breakfast at the water resource which was about an hour down hill. We made very quick progress... and by 8:45 we were at a big rock (not the same one that Yashpal recognized the previous day). This was the shelter for a group of 10 trekkers from YHAI. They were kind enough to invite us for breakfast with them and their effort was so genuine that we could not refuse. The team was lead by YHAI representatives named Aman and Gopi. Gopi was a middle aged lady who had gone to Sar pass more than 10 times.... Some people have all the enthu in life. After that, our journey was down hill continuously and lacked any excitement. The topic of discussions was mainly political and I better not air our views here... By 11:30 we were back in the same bus-stand we started yesterday.
Back to Bangalore:
Buses never run on time in Coorg. Sharp contrast to neighboring Dakshina Kannada where every minute is counted. But we traced back our route exactly and reached Bangalore around 9:15PM.

Travel Information: There is a Rajahamsa from Virajpet to Bangalore at 1:45PM. The bus was fairly empty even after it being a Sunday. Fare is the same as the onward journey.

Prashanth Kota
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