KodanaDu to ThengumaraDa

Location -- KodanaDu is a famous view point around 50 kms from Ooty in the Nilgiris - the meeting place of the Eastern and western Ghats of peninsular India. From Ooty, proceed through Kothagiri and the road towards Mettupalayam takes you to KodanaDu. The trek, though predefined wrt the route, can be done only with the prior permission of the DFO of the Nilgiris Range who operates from Ooty. Be sure to send in a written request for trekking permission atleast a week in advance and follow it up to be sure that you can, in fact, go on the trek!!

Image -- View from KodanaDu view point on an overcast day ....
threatening to pour any minute

The trek -- The trek from Kodanadu View Point to ThengumaraDa is plain descent - nothing more .... nothing less!! From an altitude of 2000m from MSL, you would descend to 400m above the sea level in around 6 hours - or atleast thats what the displayed board claims!! The only excitement would be wildlife sightings - if you are lucky!!

The blah -- Tarsh sent out the trek information on the BMC (http://bmcindia.org) yahoogroups and surprisingly, we didn't get much registrations!! All initial registrations were through personal contact and we wondered if something was drastically wrong!! And it was!! The mail had bounced back off the Yahoo server!! And within half an hour of the message being resent, the 24 seats we planned to accomodate on the trek was full!!! And by the end of the day, an additional 12 seats filled up forcing us to take 3 tempo travellers - 36 ppl on the trek!! Phew!!

An hour's delay in departing from Bangalore dampened just a few spirits, but the rest of the junta were all geared up!! After pit stops for dinner n tea and breaks for our driver to catch thirty winks (!!!), we landed up in Ooty by 0700 the next day. The caveat in taking 30-odd ppl on a trek is that everything takes longer than what you would think it should!! That was especially true here as it was half past eleven by the time everyone freshened up and had breakfast!!! Whoa!! Starting the trek on time went for a toss!!!

To add to that, there was half an hour of confusion when the three TTs separated!! (One of 'em was stopped by a cop and that was the cause of it!) . The guys in my TT didn't complain at all coz we were too busy enjoying!! Overcast conditions ..... slight drizzle ..... clouds swooping down on us .... meadows looking as if the grass has been laid for wimbledon (that came in coz i was watching a match till now!!) ..... Anand in full form which reminded me of Subbu!!! For God's sake ... how on earth could there be someone else like Subbu!!!! :-o

Image -- Misty day at Ooty - A perfect setting!

And while waiting ..... I managed to get this pic ...... Sriram was all senti gettin back to Ooty where he had spent many childhood vacations .... Vinay was just tooo excited to be out on a trek ..... The other junta - Moch, Varsha, Hakim, Sundi, Hrishi et al were still lost!

Image -- Caught a fly landing on the flower.....

When we passed Kothagiri and finally landed up at KoDanaDu by half past one!! Tarsh and Amit rushed to get the forest guard and start the trek while the rest of us swarmed the view point. Click-crazy fingers had a field day. The view there probably deserved more photographs anyway!! :-)

Image -- The view of the serpentine Moyar river against the hills of the Nilgiris ....

When there was no trace of the two guys for over an hour, it seemed inevitable that the trek had to be cancelled for that day. The best option then was to have the trek the next day - and that eventually turned out to be the decision. Migratory movement of elephants was quoted to be the reason for denial of permission for that day - and the DFO himself came down to check if we had violated his orders!!! I can just imagine, if it were just a five man group, to have ignored his warning and heading out by ourselves (a la Kodai- Munnar) -- and ending up counting bars!!!

With time to kill, some people decided to take long walks, some chose to wander down tea gardens where they couldn't be spotted, some enjoyed the pleasant weather and the scenary that was bountiful .... and some clicked photographs!!! :-D

Image -- The tea gardens at KoDanaDu ...... dark clouds loom in the background

After we proceeded to the Forest Guest House at KoDanaDu, we settled down for some good old-fashioned time-pass (translated good old-fashioned fun!!!) -- Arbit group games, Dumb C et al. Moon and star-lit skies, long walks, warm campfires and long talks wrapped up the rest of the day. Elsewhere, junta were the victims of an act by the great Anand who played dead .....

Day two began with a few of us scampering up the hill to get a view of the sunrise .... and down again to freshen up!! :-D After tasty tasty breakfast, we embarked on the trek by half past eight. We would be out of the forest by three, that was the estimate.

Image -- View from up above ....... The river down there was the destination!!

But with a few first time trekkers and a few who sprained their legs early in the game - we were set for delays! Having two totally uncordinated guides didn't help matters either!! And as is inevitable in treks with 35 ppl, the group split into a front section - eager to run and reach the destination to seize the coveted prize (which was in fact a BIG nothing - dunno what that means either!!); smaller groups in between walking at their own sweet pace knowing that they aren't at the end and so can't be blamed!!; and the trailing section which gets pissed the most coz they get little or no rest at all!! The waiting junta decide to start trekking again the nanosecond they see the last man ..... and so the last man never gets to rest!!! :-)

Here, stop we did. And quite a lot of it. A result of which we were running terribly behind schedule. This suddenly stopped seeming like a six hour hike!! By half past one, five hours since we started, we were still descending ....... A hare decided to scamper out of its burrow - over a dazed Varsha's leg and hopped skipped and jumped across the grounds ...... we continued descending ...... further ....... and further .......

While we were waiting for Tarsh to go back and get the backmarkers, we spotted a herd of wild bisons at the bottom of the hill we were treading ..... Although quite far away, Neeraj managed a good snap of a few members of that herd .... Maybe I ought to jugaad that snap for this blog!!! :D

Another interesting thing we noticed was this small nest with newborn birds .... probably just a few hours old ....
And just as an FYI .... If you ever see a nest with birds which are still dependant on their parents. .... do NOT TOUCH either the nest or the birds .... Apparently the mother would disown them if it 'smelt something different' ......

With all this don't forget that we are still climbing down!! Just after we could see the river in close range, we (that was Me, Moch, Hakim, Vinay and Divz) stopped for Sudhir, Yashaswi, Rohit and his fiancee to catch up. The guard from the front carried a bottle of 'brown muddy water' from the stream .... and we gulped it down without a second thought!!! After another fifteen mins or so .... we were at the Moyar River in all its muddy splendor!!!

Tired, hot and sweaty - we were more than happy to take a dip in the river - clear or not! To say it was refreshing is an understatement!!! A dip there would have washed away all the tensions, frustrations blah blah of everyone who ventured in! I was never so happy wallowing in muddy waters!!!

It would be an hour from here to the ThengumaraDa village - another of Tarsh's estimate! We probably would have but for the fact that Tarsh's estimate was based on his trek a few months ago when the river was not in full spate. They had wandered across the stream as and when required the last time around and managed to walk on level ground by the stream to reach the destination. But now, the monsoons had fueled in enough water into the Moyar to render that difficult.

The alternative was to avoid the shrubs by the stream and climb uphill till we got to some clearing and then climb down again. Halfway up, the guard at the rear lost us, confusion reigned, Amit Patil was happily shouting on the walkie interrupting messages being passed between the trekkers -- and I was loving it!! Not the confusion - but the gentle breeze blowing forth, the rocks peeping through green coverings of leaves on the hills and the peaceful state of my mind!!! I was very very reluctant to leave that place!!

As we descended for the final time, I was with the last of the junta. Sriram, Anand, Sudhir, Yashaswi and myself were accompanying a limping Shakthi on the home stretch. The guide's only line was "Half an hour more" for two half hours before he said we would NEVER reach if we walked this slow!! :-D How we proved him wrong!!! It was almost 6 pm when we reached ThengumaraDa.

Image -- The trekkers after a long day ......

Post-Dinner, the next blockage was when all of the 36 junta wanted to call up their kith and kin to tell them that they were still breathing!! The village had all of ONE phone booth!! After gifting the phone operator with business he would usually get in one month, we took our boarding passes, got into coracles and crossed the menacing river. ....... into the safety of our TempoTravellers!!!

A 'Night Safari' followed this - with junta in the first TT sighting most of the animals and scaring 'em away before the second and third could make their way there ..... Apart from innumerable hares, we sighted a Porcupine for the first time in the forests!!! A scared porcupine, with all its quills raised (probably even shooting out some!!), running in front of the vehicle is something you cannot forget in a hurry!! The sight of Amit with a searchlight on his head, sticking out from the front of the van was downright hilarious!! That, in fact, made the day for a lot of people!!!

The walkie in my hand, Div and Vinay in full josh to feed me ideas ..... and Amit on the other end of the walkie .... is an awesome combo!!! Sitting on top of the TT at night and laughing our asses off isn't probably the best way to sight animals. But is goddamn is one of the best ways to have some fun!!! From sightings of 'eyes' at the top to a 'white creature on all fours' lifting us off the ground - we let our imaginations fly!!

At midnight, in the middle of the forest, we stopped to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Varsha. (In Amit style, "Guys, can you IMAGINE, we sang Happy Birthday in the MIDDLE of the DENSE forest WITHOUT a guide!!!")

If only our dear driver Venkatesh could have managed to keep himself awake while driving, we would have gotten back to Bangalore as per plans. But, to keep him from running into oncoming traffic, we had to lend our sleeping mats and let him sleep for a couple of hours at Chamarajanagar!!! As a result, we got back to Bangalore only by nine am on Monday morning ..... Schedules went out of the window .... Moods went down and out .... A dampner ......

But looking back at the trek two weeks later .... I bloody have got no regrets!!! Gimme an option and I'd go right back there!! :-)


subbu said...

u did it again bldy PJ, as usual nice writeup

u r gettin finer on tht
"Guys, can you IMAGINE..." :)))

praveen chavan said...

i know how it feels to take "freshers" on a trek :)
and u guys managed with 36 !!..
that's a bigger adventure :)
looks like a great place..u have more pics online ?

Anonymous said...

Anand said.
It was a good writeup.Hey i don't think i was in form at all, let alone full form.I ended the trek thinking i have a lot more distance to go in terms of getting back to form.. and that is not a brag..;-D Anyway when are the kodai-munnar treks and Himalayan treks being planned?? Any dates known yet??