Saturday, December 9, 2017

Kumara Parvatha - The Dream Trek 9/12/2017

Place: Kumara Parvatha, Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Ghats of Karnataka

Distance: 250 km from Bangalore
Type: Trekking
Ideal for: Experienced Trekkers
Trek Difficulty: Difficult
Trek Lenght: 26 kilometres round trek
Trek Duration: 8 hours - 10 hours for one way

You are not called a true trek enthusiast unless you have conquered the mighty Kumara parvatha peak. Being the most difficult trek in Karnataka, Kumara parvatha attracts thousands of trekkers every year. Smitha was planning for Kumara parvatha (KP) trek with her colleagues so she asked if I was interested. Without a second thought, I agreed to join the trek as I would be busy for next two months. Fortunately, her friend Rohit was taking care of the planning hence I had nothing much to worry about.


Best of the Beast: Over the mountains and through the woods
The Airavat bus tickets were booked from Bangalore to Kukke, tents and sleeping bags were rented and taken care of. Karthik who had already completed this trek for 5 times was joining us - a plus point for us. There are two routes to trek KP, one is from Somavar Pete (Coorg) which is shorter but steeper and another one is from Kukke (Dakshina Kannada) side which is long and difficult. We chose the latter so I will only be narrating the trek from Kukke side.


Blueprint of Kumara Parvatha Trek Trail

Friday night: Airavat bus to Kukke was ready for departure at 10.45 pm. We kept all the bags in the luggage compartment and boarded the bus. Most of the members of the group were new to me, so a formal greeting followed to get to know each other. I wasn't sure if I could mingle with them but I knew a long trek like this is more than enough to blend with the group. I accompanied Suraj who happened to be a Marathi guy. With my broken Marathi, we exchanged a lot of stories from our previous bike rides. In an hour later, everyone dozed off to sleep waiting to reach Kukke the next morning.

Saturday Morning: The bus reached Kukke Subramanya at 6.10 in the morning, delayed by half an hour which was a crucial time for us. We freshened up at public toilets near the temple gate and had breakfast at Neo Mysuru Restaurant. With all the heavy luggage mounted on our back, we started trekking. Right diversion near the temple gate leads the way to trek starting point, ask locals if you can't figure it out as there's no signboard. You can also navigate using Google maps which shows exact route but I would suggest saving the battery for clicking pictures later on.


Kukke Subramanya temple, you can see the Kumara parvatha mountain range behind the temple

Kukke to Trek start point: The starting stretch is a plain simple walk on a concrete road for half a kilometre until you find an entrance to the forest on the left. A welcome board read Subramanya reserved forest in Kannada. The actual trek starts from this point. It was 7.45 in the morning by the time we reached.



Plain concrete road until you hit the trek starting point

The actual trek starts from this point.



Essentials for long treks.

Trek start point to Bhattara Mane: From the countryside, we entered into serene forest trail, tall trees prevented the scorching sunlight and provided a soothing climate. The thick forest looked prettier than I had imagined. In the start the terrain was simple but soon it turned from smooth surface to loose rocks with steep inclinations. Though it was not that difficult to climb, the heavy bags made every step difficult. With our t-shirts drenched in our own sweat, we kept on trekking with short breaks at regular intervals. The group was automatically divided into fast trekkers and slow snails. Most of us had carried unnecessary items which made bags too heavy to carry. Finally, after an hour we arrived at a big rock named Bhimana Bande which indicated that we had covered half of the distance to Bhattara mane. Just before the rock, there was a right diversion which leads to the water stream, we decided to skip it for now as we were running out of time.


As we kept on walking we observed path was split into two at many places. All the diversions will merge after few meters of climb. One route would take the shorter but the tougher path and other would be longer but "comparatively" easier path. So whenever you get such diversions don't be in confusion both of them would lead to the peak. We encountered a number of groups on the way who were trekking along with us. I talked with most of the groups initiating conversation with "where are you from"  to "take our group pic plz" 😂😂


Naturally formed steps from the tree routes

Tall tree providing respite from the sun

The route would be a nightmare in monsoon as it will be dominated by leeches
Finally, we came out of the forest and it was a sign of relief that we were closer to the Bhattara Mane. But on the other hand, it was sunny in the open grassland, it dried up the energy posing a more difficult trek. We took a good break of 15 mins and stimulated ourselves with glucose and apples. The cap I got from decathlon came in handy in preventing sunstroke. Unfortunately, one of the guys got cramps in the legs, Rohit's first aid skills helped him recover quickly. Sometimes, small skills like this turn out to be a lifesaver. (I felt the need to learn this skills.) After 20 minutes of walking, we saw the first glimpse of the mountain. It looked extremely huge and absolutely beautiful. I couldn't believe that we are going to hike such a huge mountain which was very far from the point where we were standing. It was almost flat terrain with minor irregularities till the Bhattara Mane. As we moved on I could see a house to the left surrounded by tall betel nut trees. Without any doubt, I identified it was Bhattara Mane.

Bhattara Mane: It was a big relief to see the Bhattara Mane as we could relax for sometime and energise ourselves. We reached 11.15 am, we took exactly 4 hours to complete the first part of trekking with many odd breaks. Bhattara Mane was an ages-old house, built with bricks and sheltered with conventional tiles, surrounded by thick green forest and betel nut trees. A serene place to live in. There were a lot of co trekkers who were already at this place.


Selfie just before we came out of the forest

Into the open grassland. Time to fight with the sun.

First view of the mountain.

Can't believe we trekked till that far.

Direction boards like this are put up at most of the place.

That's Bhattara Mane. The first level of the trek is done.


Bhattara mane: So many trekkers were already there

We found a shady place to sit and relax. Unloading the heavy luggage felt so good. I realised the importance of "packing light" in this trek. Our captain (Rohit) asked us to stand in a circle and instructed few stretching exercises which helped to relax our muscles. (Another skill to be learned). The captain asked us to quickly finish the lunch and then proceed for the trek. I checked the time - it was 11.30 am it seemed little odd to have lunch so early in hence I suggested to take the parcel for which he denied and said it's a bad idea. Later I realised my idea was indeed bad 😂 Bhattara mane is the only place where we can get food but we need to inform them in advance so that they will have the headcount. Rohit had already spoken with them before over the phone and asked them to arrange the food.


Bhattara mane: You can see the dining area.
The veranda area is small where the vessels with food were kept. It's a buffet system where one can take how much he wants. The menu included pulav, white rice, sambar, buttermilk, and pickle. This seemed like a treat to the tummy in the forest.
Photos of Narayan Bhattaru in his house

Palav, white rice, sambar, buttermilk and pickle for the lunch
The food was authentic south Karnataka Bramhin styled and tasted good. After lunch, we had to wash our plates and keep it on the veranda. The cost of the food is Rs.120 per plate which is great for the meal like this in the middle of the forest where getting raw food supplies isn't easy. The best part about Bhattaru is that they are not money minded. They want to serve the visitors not just make the business out of it. A humble person serving the people.


Three toilet booths at Bhattara mane, congested but clean
Karthik informed that we need to report to forest check-post before 12 otherwise they won't allow trekking for that day. It's not allowed to pitch tents and keep luggage near Bhattara mane as its a private area. But we can pitch tents near the forest department and surrounding area. The distance between Bhattara Mane and forest office is around 400 meters and takes hardly 10 mins of walk. 


Bhattara mane to forest office stretch

Bhattara mane amidst dense forest

First viewpoint near the forest office

That is Shesha parvatha mountain. Kumara parvatha mountain is behind this.
There were many forest fire incidences in the past.

There were a  lot of people at the forest office taking trek permission. We filled up our name and paid trekking fee of Rs.350 per person. There is a storeroom at the forest office where we kept all the luggage. There's no locker system here so you have to take the risk hoping nothing will be misplaced (keep expensive items with yourself). We pitched the tents before starting the trek as it would be dark by the time we will be back from trek. Pitching the tent and keeping the luggage in the tent is a good idea but we had no time to keep the luggage inside the tents. We refilled water bottles and carried some snacks in a small backpack.

Forest office. People are taking the trek permission.


Strictly no camping is allowed in the forest

You can see the washroom at the left, and forest office to the right.

Refilling water bottle at the forest office

Depth effect on my OnePlus 5 (swag emoji :D)

Information board at forest office

Trek fee and timings (no trek permission  is given after 12 pm)

Dumping all the baggage at forest office luggage room.
We started trekking at 1 in the afternoon. Ideally, it's not a good time to start as it would be  dark and difficult climb down while returning. But we had no other choice as our return tickets to Bangalore were already booked for next day afternoon.

The trek to the peak can be divided into three parts,
1. From forest office to Kallina mantapa
2. From kallina mantapa to Shesha parvatha
3. From Shesha parvatha to KP peak

Forest office to Kallina mantapa: The trail goes through the forest at the beginning but sooner we entered into the open grassland. From then, there is no shelter from the sun till the peak. The terrain is tough throughout the trek so there's no point in mentioning it again and again. At the beginning, the inclination was less and it's a moderate trek for 30 minutes until we reached the second viewpoint. The viewpoint has benches without any roof so it doesn't serve the purpose of resting spot during sunny days. This viewpoint is going to be your milestone while coming back. After this, the trail is almost flat for another 200 meters after which the trek turns out to be very difficult. The sun was high in the sky giving us hard time scaling the hill.


We started trekking from forest office at 1 in the afternoon

Photogenic tree but no time to take a photo.

The trail is well defined. No need of the guide and no chance of missing the route.

There's no respite from the sun throughout the trek after forest office
According to Kotresh blog, the trail from forest office to the Kallina was supposed to be moderate but it didn't feel so. The trail was equally difficult as the base to Bhattara Mane stretch. Few friends were too much tired and were ready to give up, our captain inspired them to push further. It's not impossible for anyone to scale this hill but they would need their own time. The only thing which we couldn't afford at this point was time. Our eyes were eagerly searching for the glimpse of Kallina Mantapa. After 15 minutes we heard the sound of the water stream. It was time to relax and refill the water bottles. A tiny stream coming from the mountain was clean, clear and tasty. Kallina mantapa is just a few meters away from this point. Don't forget to refill water bottles as the next source of water is near the KP peak.


Near the water stream, just before the trek. 3 more kilometres to cover.

Its gonna be a long sunny trek. There is hardly any shady place to sit and cool down.

Kallina mantapa. Trail after this is even more difficult.
It was 3 in the afternoon by the time we reached Kallina Mantapa. Our pace was way slower than we had planned. We realised it's not possible to reach peak if we go at this pace. The speed of the group depends on the speed of the slowest person in the group. Four members of the group decided to stop at Kallina mantapa and return while rest of the group can trek faster even I supported the idea. But Rohit was a team player and inspired everyone to reach the peak, he tried to push us to complete the trek. Cursing Rohit, the slow trekkers started trekking again :P


Kallina Mantapa to Shesha Parvatha: According to Kotresh blog, the trek from kallina mantapa to Shesha Parvatha is the toughest. We were wondering how to cover this stretch as we struggled so much to trek the previous part. We moved on without wasting much time at Kallina Mantapa. Fast ascenders were way ahead than the slow snails. The inclination became more and the difficulty level doubled. Almost 60-degree inclination gave a tough time covering each and every step.

We could see a false peak which we thought to be the Shesha parvatha. After reaching this false peak we could see the Shesha Parvatha but Kumara parvatha was not visible. As we neared the Shesha Parvatha the inclination was even more difficult. It was already 4 pm, we knew it's not possible to cover KP anymore. So Shesha Parvatha became our final destination. Without any second thought, we kept on trekking towards Shesha Parvatha peak. Every time I took a break to catch the breath I could see the gorgeous surrounding. The view was getting better with every step. Finally reached Shesha Parvatha peak at 4.30.


View of the surrounding mountains as we ascend

Shesha Parvatha peak is visible


Few more steps until we reach Shesha Parvatha

View from Shesha parvatha


Life is lived on the edge
Shesha Parvatha to Kumara Parvatha: KP peak is another 1 km from here and should take around one and a half an hour to reach and come back. I checked the time it was already 4.45 pm, trekking any further would cost us another 2 hours and we will get stuck in the forest for the night. Descending after sunset is very difficult with the terrain like this anything can go wrong with a single skid. Rescue is next to impossible. Hence we decided to skip the Kumara Parvatha and return from Shesha Parvatha itself.

Shesha Parvatha: We sat near the viewpoint and relaxed for half an hour enjoying the incredible view of the valley and Kumara parvatha mountain range. It was tempting to cover the Kumara parvatha but it was too late and taking the risk isn't worth it. I have a reason to revisit KP again. We clicked few pictures and had snacks. It was 5.30pm by the time we started descending. Our plan was to reach kallina mantapa before the sun sets.


KP peak is another 1 km from Shesha Parvatha and will take around 1-2 hours to reach and come back

That is the Kumara parvatha peak
Descending: Unlike other treks where descend will be easier than ascend the case, It's different at Kumara Parvatha. Because of the loose soil and irregular terrain descend was more challenging and scary. One wrong step and we might fall and hurt ourselves or might get cramps in the legs. As the sun was going down the view was getting beautiful. It was a sight to behold. Watching sunset we kept on descending.

The loose gravel and rocks were giving us hard time to descend. I realized why this place is banned for monsoons. In case it rains it would be very difficult to trek. Leeches + slippery trail would be a nightmare for any trekker. There were many groups who were descending along with us but most of them were descending at double the speed than us. It was completely dark by the time we reached kallina mantapa. We sat there for a while and sipped water and ate some dry fruits. Usually, it's dangerous to trek in the forest after sunset but in KP it's not very difficult as the path is well defined and you can never get lost (unless you do some foolish thing to find your own path) 


Sun was setting by the time we started descending from Shesha Parvatha.


Beautiful view of the sunset


It got completely dark by the time we reached Kallina mantapa
It became completely dark just before we reached Kallina Mantapa. Every one of us had a torch which was a lifesaver for us. We took a big halt near kallina mantapa. After trekking for more than an hour we reached the viewpoint (which I referred as the milestone earlier) which was a sign of relief that we are closer to the base. It was 7.30 in the evening and we had to reach Bhattara Mane early so that we will not miss the dinner. After a short break, we started trekking again and finally reached the forest base camp at 8.30. I was so happy to see the tents. I just wanted to go to the tent and sleep but we had another major task - dinner. 

Back to the base: Without any halt, we continued till bhattara mane. Bhattara Mane is lit up with few LED lights, there's no electricity supply at this place so they depend on the solar panels and generate electricity for themselves.

We sat on the ground and made ourselves a dining area lit by the torch. The food was similar as afternoon, rice and sambar on the menu. After stomach full meal, we returned to the tents. We moved all the luggage from storeroom to our tents. Luckily nothing was misplaced, our bags were safe and solid.

There were close to 50-60 tents pitched in and around forest area for the night. It was 9.30 in the night, even though everyone was tired I wanted to spend some more time hanging out. I put few mattresses outside the tent and we all sat down. I looked up, the sky was stunning. The sky was pitch dark and the stars were shining like diamonds. In Bangalore because of light pollution, we can't see the clear sky like this. I remembered my childhood days when we used to sleep on the terrace and gaze the stars at night. We applied violin and gave a gentle leg massage to each other, it was very relaxing. After watching half of the Bettada Jeeva movie on mobile, I went back to the tent at 12. It wasn't cold as we expected. I kept alarm at 6 o'clock to catch glimpse of the sunrise and fell into my sleeping bag.


Sound sleep after the tiring trek feels heaven
Sunday Morning: Our captain started waking up everyone at 7 am. We got up and freshened up, there's a toilet near forest office which is spacious and cleaner than the one near bhattara mane. After freshening up, We packed our tents and posed for a group photo. We loaded our bags on our back and headed towards bhattara mane. After having Uppitu and rice for the breakfast we started to descend without wasting much time. On the previous day, we were baffled by the difficult descend, we had another 5 km to cover for today.


A group photo before we started descending



So many tents pitched all around the place


View of the mountains in the morning

Rice and Uppitu for the breakfast

I can't believe we trekked that mountain range and that's our captain standing there.
Descending: It was already sunny by the time we started. After half an hour we reached the forest, the escape from the sun finally. Getting down was the same old story, the terrain gave a tough time. We reached the big rock (Bhimana Bande) at 10.40. I wanted to see the falls which we skipped the previous day. 

Waterfalls: We took the left turn soon after the big rock. The trail from the route to the falls was mesmerizing. We could hear the birds sing their tune, the serenity of the forest was untouched at this place. Soon in 5 minutes, I heard the water flow. I wanted to take a dip at this place but it was late for us to catch the bus so I had to skip it. The ice-cold clean water was tempting to take shower here but we were running out of time. I got another reason to revisit KP.


Descending is even more difficult than ascend

Group photo sitting on the big rock.
Observe this rock (circled in red) which marks the way to the waterfalls

Tall trees of Western ghats never fail to amaze me
I could sit there for hours looking at the flowing water and hearing the birds sing

Tiny waterfall. A long exposure shot on OnePlus


Into the wild she goes, to lose her mind and find her soul

Back to the Base: We started to descend again. After an hour we could see the building at a far distance which was a big sigh of relief. There were some small stalls at the exit gate who were selling fruit bowls and buttermilk. I gulped on a fruit bowl and buttermilk to cling my thirst. We hired an auto who dropped us near the temple gate. The temple closes for darshan at 1 pm and reopens at 3 pm. It was 12.30 already and we had to take a shower to visit the temple, so we decided to skip visiting the temple. We headed to neo mysore for lunch, south Indian thali filled up our stomach.


Local vendor selling fruits and buttermilk

That's too much of luggage we carried. 

South Indian thali at Neo Mysore Restaurant
Bus stand is just 5 min walk from the temple gate. The bus was already standing in the bus bay ready for departure. We loaded our luggage and boarded the bus. Everyone was dead asleep. We rested for a while and had good conversations. It was one memorable trek etched in our minds. Hats off to the captain for organising and inspiring members throughout the trek.

We reached Bangalore at 9 pm and home by 10 pm.

Important Points
1. Travel light - Carry as minimal luggage as possible. It's really painful to carry heavy luggage and trek. 
2. If trekking from kukke side, you have to reach the forest office and seek the trek permission before 12 in the afternoon. Otherwise, you will have to start the trek on the next day.
3. If you have girls or slow trekkers in the group then don't attempt to complete the entire trek on the first day like we did.
4. Make sure you call and inform Bhattaru before you go so that they will have the headcount for the food to be prepared.
5. Pitching the tent at the peak is not allowed so don't get disappointed.
6. There are three toilets at Bhattara Mane and one at the forest office.
7. Washroom at forest office is spacious and cleaner but there's only one washroom.
7. Try not to carry DSLR as it will add weight.
8. Route very well defined, you don't need any guide.
9. There's no electricity available so carry your power bank and torch.

Important Contacts
* Bhattara Mane - +91 9480230191
* Camping accessories on rent - Shady tents www.shadytents.in

Don't forget to +1 or Like and leave a comment below.


Check out kp vlog on my youtube channel, I make videos about all my trips.

Please subscribe to keep in touch :)




6