Literally so, when the clouds come upon you in a sudden rush, and then when they pass you off at the peak ! The view below gets clearer for a while, and then gets blocked again because of their drift. But hey, there’s another part of the view which has opened up now, so let’s feast our senses there; all the while hoping we don’t get drenched up in the rain that seems to be coming upon us anytime now. Such is the charm of this peak just after the rainy season 😉 ! You won’t dare venture here when it rains heavily, although I’m not sure if every one else thinks the same way.
This is one of the moderate treks that can be done in these parts of Western Ghats, but the excitement is no less when you get to know that this is the highest peak in Coorg, and has a good ranking among other peaks in Karanataka too ( 2nd or 3rd; I’m not sure about the exact statistics, but that really doesn’t matter ! ). Such was the thrill built up inside me that during one of the long weekends ( when my other plan failed to take off ), I knew this was the chance for me to strike this trek off my to-do list, once but not for all 😉 !
The decision was made at the spur of the moment, and since I had to go solo, there was no other option but public transport. I have been to these regions quite a few no. of times, and so I have a fair idea of the bus routes in these parts. I also knew where I had to stay ( reason given below ! ), so all I had to do was to call those guys up and ask them about the final leg of the journey, and of course about the bookings too.
And so it was decided ( take a note ! ); a comfortable Volvo bus journey from Bangalore to Virajpet ( http://www.ksrtc.in ), followed by another local bus journey to a place called Kabbinakad junction, from where I’d get picked up by the home stay guys ( That’s an extra cost; or you have to trek otherwise ! ).
The next day, I was all set and boarded the Volvo bus from Bangalore at around 9:30 a.m.. A decently kept up bus ( they call it the club class, the best in their fleet ), it started off on time and wound it’s way through the Mysore highway. Nothing much to say about this journey, except that it was comfortable and the bus made it’s usual pit-stops on the highway, and inside Mysore city, before embarking on it’s final leg for Virajpet. Coorg decided to show off it’s greens as soon as we entered it’s environs ( after Hunsur ), and it was not much time before I got dropped off at Virajpet at around 3P.M.. I had lunch at a small but clean eatery just opposite to the bus stand ( not many options here, but my food was tasty ! ), and then waited there itself for my onward journey to Kabbinakad junction.
The govt bus has specific timings, but there are quite a few private options that can be hailed just outside the bus stand; and so I decided not to wait. My decision proved itself when I got a private bus in about 15 mins after my lunch. This bus was in good shape too and not crowded at all. The cost of the ticket satisfied me further, and the conductor was more than happy to let me know when my stop came by. I got down at the spot and called up my home stay immediately. 10 mins wait and a jeep came in. I hauled myself in and another 15 mins later, I was at the reception of my stay for the next 2 nights.
If at all you decide to forego the jeep drive, you will have to walk your way up to the home stay. It’s around 2-3 kms stretch, so you can walk as well if you so wish ( it’s a nice walk up their plantation ! ). The path is laid up all the way to the home stay, but the incline gets a little steep towards the end; it may get a little tiresome, what with your luggage to tow as well. I was a bit tired from my bus journey, so I decided to take the easier alternative for the moment !
People coming in private vehicles need to park them at this junction again, and take one of the alternatives mentioned above. The parking is designated for the home stay, and it’s pretty safe with a staff hut for guarding the vehicles. Please don’t try driving your vehicle up to the home stay; only 4-wheel Mahindras in expert hands can traverse that route; trust me !
Now, a little about my home-stay ( I’m sure you’d want to know by now ). The suspense ends here, and I am more than happy to give out it’s name to you guys. It’s called honey valley ( http://honeyvalleyindia.in/ ), and you’d love every bit of it ! Named such as it’s precincts used to produce honey back until 1990s, after which it got this new avatar. And what a valley it is ! Lush and green is how you define every nook and corner of it ! Just as you peek out from it’s reception, a verdant vista of the hill so close enthralls you. Covered in greens, all of it ! Punctuated here and there are nice little cottages that can be occupied, including pretty economically priced backpacker accommodations as well. In one such accommodation did I choose to rest my tired soul for the night and beyond.
The home stay has quite a few trekking trails nearby, so even if you decide not take the slightly tougher Tadiandamol trek, you have a variety of other options that can be done (with family as well). Basically, you just keep walking in and around the plantation. Remember not to lose your way though, but it should not be difficult to trace your way back anyway. You will find some or the other local guy to help you out, hopefully 😉 !
Just so it helps you, this home stay is in a part of Coorg which is called Kakkabe. Kabbinakad junction is the exact spot where you have to get down from the bus.
The food here is wholesome but a vegetarian fare. You can however, treat yourself with made-to-order non-vegetarian stuff too. Not many options there but lip smacking nevertheless I’d say !
Next day began with a hearty breakfast and finally the trek for which I had come here. I got myself a guide and paid 500/- Rs. for the same. Our journey began from the backyard of the home stay itself ( another reason for choosing to stay here ), wherein we wound our way through and around several hills, before catching a glimpse of the peak that we had to ascend. The weather was cloudy and windy ( not too chilly though ), and I was enjoying every bit of the walk, what with views around me playing a major part in edging me on ! With a bit of photography and intermittent rests on our way, our path finally crossed another that is actually the one which is often taken for this trek. This is where we had our lunch, before embarking on the last 1 hr of the trek.
Let me now tell you specifically about the 2 paths that lead up to Tadiandamol. The longer, but more picturesque path leads out from honey valley, and it takes around 3-3.5 hrs to reach the peak. You need a guide to trek on this route, and you will get a paid one from Honey Valley itself. The shorter, and more popular route starts from near Nalknad palace, which is around 3-4 kms from Honey Valley. A popular place to stay here is the Palace Estate ( http://www.palaceestate.co.in/; named after the palace of course ). This place is an expensive fare as you can check out from it’s site, so I still recommend staying at Honey Valley, and walking or taking a jeep to the trek start point. This second path is not as exciting as the first, as it’s practically covered up on both sides with thick vegetation. It’s difficult to see your way through to the view yonder. You don’t need to take a guide on this path, as it’s pretty well marked up. It takes 2-2.5 hrs up through this one.
Both these paths converge at some point ( my lunch stop remember ? ), and it’s from here that the real 1-hr trek starts. Views start getting better and better, while at the same time the ascent keeps getting steeper and steeper. My walking stick proved very useful here, for going up and more so to control myself while coming down. My knees would have thanked me for sure !
I’d recommend you guys to have your lunch only once you reach the peak, as otherwise the last hr trek proves too much to be done on a full stomach ( I didn’t like my guide’s idea to start with, but had to comply ).
Once up, savor the 360 degree view to your full satisfaction, lie down, try closing your eyes and hear the wind rush past your ear ( Kiss the clouds remember 😉 ?? ); be careful though if you perch yourself near some of the sudden drops. An exhilarating experience all in all ! And it’s not just this peak that you can reward yourself with. Depending on the time at hand, you can explore quite a few other peaks that jut out from this one and are nearby ! Do remember on your way back, to cover the steep descent before it gets dark. It will get more and more difficult once the sun sets, and there is at least one pocket of thick vegetation on the way down. Midway during this first hr of descent, you will have a few peaks to walk around too, so it all depends on your enthusiasm, and the amount of time at your disposal !
And once you get back on the easier of the 2 routes ( recommended ! ), you can take some time to stroll around the Nalknad Palace too. It’s not much of a structure though, but a palace still, and you’d do well to admire it’s construction and read some tidbits about it’s history. One such story goes about the last king of this region having to seek refuge from the British here, before being exiled to North India. Just carry the wiki article with you and you might enjoy reading it when inside the palace. You can also take this as an opportunity for some much needed rest !
The short-cuts that my guide took after crossing the palace, is something that I will not forget easily. Carving out paths where there were none ( or at least none to be seen, so thick is the vegetation in these parts ), crossing streams and at the same time keeping a watch for snakes that may be out and about ( Very moist patches these, at least near the streams; I saw quite a few frog varieties ). And to top it all, signs of elephant crossings; it did get very exciting in these parts ! And quite tiring too by the time it ended, not to forget the never ending walk !
And boy, did I forget mentioning about the leeches ? Well well, I was lucky there because of it being a mid-November month. It was dry season and streams were not that full, so I had a bit of a luck here, and though we did encounter leeches lurking in those wet patches ( near streams ), their numbers were not alarming by any means. I had my anti-leech socks on too ( www.naturelounge.in ), and they did help in boosting my confidence at least. Highly recommended while trekking in the Western Ghats !
You have my blessings if you need to cross these parts in or just after the rainy season !!!
Last but not the least, you can request Honey Valley to give you a jeep ride while coming down from the peak on the 2nd ‘easier’ path, but you came here to trek, right 🙂 ? Be slow and steady, and time will fly by 😉 !