It is Deepavali again...another week in the year for asthmatic and high decibel crackers. Let's escape from the city - that was our initial trigger for going to Kudremukha for the long weekend of Deepavali but we did not want it cost an arm and a leg. Though we planned to leave by 4pm from corporate habitats in Whitefield, it was 7pm when we hit NICE road at Bannerghatta road - thanks to job pressure, late school bus and the notorious traffic snarls. We could not cover much distance on Friday and decided to halt at Channarayanpatna (aka CR Patna) on Friday night after covering 165km. After a refreshing breakfast breakfast at Kamat, CR Patna, the route we followed to Kudremukha is CR Patna(165km)- Haasan(195km)-Belur(230km)-Kottigehara(290km)-Kalasa(330km)-Kudremukha(350km). The road surface from Belur to Kalasa is not so great except a short patch. This would take more than 3 hours if you go non-stop. But you would stop at many places to enjoy the scenic, breathtaking western ghats especially after Kogur Tea/Coffee estate. Stopping at Kogur Tea Estate near the bridge to enjoy a piping hot cuppa is a good idea. En route, I had to listen to many cock and bull stories by Ancy - some of them I have heard many times in the past. We stopped on the way to check out the corn farming areas.
Location: Mangalore is 128km from Kalasa and Udupi is 107km. 90km from Chikmangalur, Kalasa is 330km from Bangalore and Kudremukha is 20km from Kalasa. You can head to Sringeri or Karkala through this route.
When to visit: October to March is the best time. During monsoon, life comes to a stop at Kudremukha.
Where to stay: Upasana home stay, Silent Valley Resort, Nammane home stay. Cheaper options are some lodges at Kalasa or Bhavathi Nature Camp (dormitory) -single room for Rs100 and a double room for Rs 260.
What to carry: Some winter wear and trekking gear. A torch and umbrella will be handy. Be always ready to jump into water and so change clothes. Waterfalls are tempting.
Precautions: Salt, tobaco, Odomos etc for preventing leeches. Turmeric powder or oil to stop bleeding and itching once you are bitten by a leech.
Our destination at the sleepy town Kalasa near Kudremukha National Park is called Upasana - a homestay run by Leena/Sukumar/Abhinandan. A great place to stay and relax at the foothills. To reach this beautifully maintained home stay you need to turn left at Samse Junction to Mavine Kombe. Click here to see the route map and other details. Don't try to find out this place after 8pm in the night. In case you need to ask someone, ask for Sukumar Shetty's house - Upasana is not a well known name here. There is a swimming pool, a good collection of books etc in case you don't want to go around instead just stay at Upasana. They can accommodate 30 quite comfortably at this house consisting of 14 rooms. http://www.upasana.de/. The tariff is Rs 1000/- per head per day including food. Food and stay is free for kids. They provide very good rooms and excellent vegetarian food. Alcohol cosumption and non-veg food is not entertained at its premises. We were welcomed by Leena and we had the liberty to choose any rooms of our choice. We picked 3 west facing rooms at the front of the house and got ready to raid the dining room for lunch. We were welcomed by sumptuous malnad style meals.
After our meals, we headed towards a nearby waterfall called Didupe. We walked for 15min to reach there enjoying the flaura and fauna. As described by one of us, it was a private waterfall with total privacy. Kids were having a ball of a time playing in water while Oswin and I were busy shooting pictures of the waterfall. As usual I was a victim of leech bites - 3 of them attacked me this time. We returned late in the evening back to Upasana. It was a good cardiovascular excercise. We enjoyed the coffee and later dinner with Leena/Sukumar/Abhinandan at Upasana.
Next day morning, Oswin and I woke up at 5:30am and got ready for a short drive into Kudremukha NP for early morning misty scenic views. When you enter the park, you need to collect a pass and later you need another pass with timestamp from the forest office if you are coming back to this gate. You should not be staying more than 1 and half hours inside the national park. We drove upto Lakya Dam and clicked a few pictures and the drive was really nice. We found a mallu tea shop next the hanging bridge on this route. I have heard the joke that a mallu tea shop was there on the moon when Armstrong landed their first time. Tony - the dog at this tea shop was so cute and he wanted a hug and pat from us. I thought he was speaking in Malayalam by moaning and barking. Tony almost french kissed Oswin!
8am - we were back at Upasana for breakfast. Out of the different local attractions - Hanumangundi, Gangadikal, Ambatheertha, Sirumane waterfalls, Bangarabalike, Vadamane, Ballarayanadurga, Gangamoola- we chose to go to Hanumangundi waterfalls. On the way we stopped at many exotic places and enjoyed watching the nature closely. We went down all the way to the waterfalls and I could not resist. I jumped into water and started swimming to the gush of white, foamy water falling from almost 20ft height.The kids enjoyed playing in the water. Climbing back those 200 odd steps was not an easy task. On our way back, we saw the erstwhile KIOCL which stopped in Dec 2005. Around 2pm we got back to Upasana for lunch. Though tired, we were looking for more activities in the afternoon. While some of us were enjoying in the swimming pool, I had a nap to rejuvenate. Next agenda was to walk up the tea plantations; but we could not reach the peak since it was getting darker and colder after 6pm. We returned after walking up a little distance and started back - it was just a drop in the bucket. I enjoyed a solo walk in the pitch dark pathway checking out the firefly look-alike worms' occasional lighting- my solar torch was not far from reach. Then we headed to the sleepy town of Kalasa - to experience the local culture and delicacies. At Kalasa, we did some shopping to boost he local economy - bangle shop, local restaurant, the old style textile shop, STD booth etc. Thanks to my cast iron stomach - I enjoyed a malnad style Onion Dosa with Chutney and Podi.
Next day morning, all of us were ready at 6am to trek through the tea plantations. We walked slowly enjoying the lofty mountain and the mist soaked walkways amidst the lush green tea estates and natural streams sans discussions about the white balance or aperture. It was a slow trek enjoying every bit of it - nature at its best, many wild and domestic creatures - grass hoper, centipede, rooster, dogs, buffalos, cows. Finally we reached a place close to the peak. I found a nice platform to sleep in the sun soaked but cool floor. Others walked another 1km before returning. The tea estate manager came through the route to check who we were and why one guy is sleeping on the floor with a camera and a book on his lap ! Tea Estate employees had started their work while we came down through the plantations. After breakfast, it was time to pack our bags and return to Bangalore's hustle and bustle. We bid adieu to Upasana and on our way to Belur- Haasan - Kunigal- Neelamanagala- NICE Road- Bangalore. We were back in 7hours - thanks to our precarious drive through ghats and the 2 lane roads and a top speed of 145km/hr. We had a great weekend trip to Kudremukha. Need to return again to scale some of the peaks - Ballarayanadurga and Kudremukha peak sometime next year.