It was on the To Do list for the year on one of our friends and when they asked us if we would join in, we gladly jumped in. As the days of the ascent neared a 4X4 that we had booked arrived earlier than expected, making this trip a perfect combination of a 4X4 drive and a trek up the hills:)
We started off on one bright Friday morning, early (by our standards) and hit the BM highway via NICE road. The new vehicle had us all some getting used to, with the noise in the cabin due to the softtop and the ride is very different compared to a sedan:( But it’s a 4X4 and its time too would come, soon.
The breakfast was at Lokaruchi and the drive through the BM highway was nothing to complain about. The road past Srirangapattana gradually gets slower and the one past Hunsur was the slowest, although we were not complaining. The greenery just made up for the lack of speed, especially the stretch via the Nagarahole Forest.
Lunch was at Tamara – Coorg, very close to where we were staying – HoneyValley. Tamara too is a beautiful place nestled amidst the lush green forest/ coffee estate combination and resplendent at that.
The road to Honeyvalley is where the 4X4 nature of our vehicle came in handy.. A section of about 2 KM is all but rocks laid to make a rough road and the 4X4 – L was engaged on our brand new vehicle for the first time and it was indeed an interesting experience to crawl on the road (or the lack of it as one would look at it:)).
We make it to our Spartan rooms in a homestay that’s probably the oldest in the area and has some spectacular valley views, right in the base of the ThadiyandaMolu hills. And the freshly brewed coffee was to die for and we would have as much as possible of it, with breakfast, dinner, coffee time – well everytime:)
We amble about soaking in the sights and the smells and plan for the next day with our host Mr. Suresh, a soft spoken man, with accomplishments that belie his diminutive stature. Once a major in natural honey (thus the name Honeyvalley), there’s no honey left anymore due to some epidemic that wiped out most honey bees. He was probably the first to start the home stay revolution and it was great meeting him. After a simple but freshly made and tasty dinner, we retire for the day, post a round of card game.
The next AM started with a surprise. The guide we had planned for to take us to the forest via an inside route, did not show up for some reason so we had to change plans to get to the Nalkanad palace at the base of the hill, park our vehicle there and trek the rest of the way. The drive through the winding roads were interesting to drive on, although a bit narrow for our liking, needing the 4X4 L gears sometimes.
Enroute we meet some more that were struggling to navigate their vehicles on the rough road, so we advise them to leave the vehicle near the palace and walk back up.
The trek up the hills was first through some tarmac, later a short stretch of concreted roads and past that just mud roads. We briefly stop to marvel at t the view near one such spots. After some selfies and clicks later, the real climb started. We snake through the mud road, gradually narrowing as we gained altitude, when we arrived at the gate where the forest department collects a modest entry fee. Past the barricade though is all just paths made by people walking/ trekking.
And being a week end, there were many. At the time we were at the entry, the forest guard said there were already 90 odd trekkers in front of us.
The early section of the trek was easy. We walk through some meadows, wooded stretches and even a fenced farm growing fruits along the way. We could not help but notice a lot of wild flower plants, wilting in the harsh sun. One could only imagine the splendour of this green carpet during the rainy days… May be we will visit the place again during/ just after monsoon too.
After the meadows, is probably the second toughest section on this climb. One needs to navigate through very rough rocky terrain, carved sharply by flowing water down the hill.
It was important to keep us hydrated through the climb, so we would sip water from the water bottles we had carried.
We manage to tread carefully through this section when we arrive at a thickly wooded section of the climb and here the trick is to navigate the exposed roots, trunks and slippery floor. The climb reminded us of the trek we had undertaken during the last monsoon to one of the waterfalls in UK – BenneHole. It was here that we met up our inspiration, a 76 year old man, who was climbing down after his ascent, dressed casually in formal shoes and he was all encouraging – looking at our tired faces perhaps:)
The best section of the climb was to come next – a very steep, climb over loose soil and pebbles made this section the most dangerous climb thus far. And it was very crowded too, with all of the earlier climbers, climbing down and many of the late ones climbing up, there was two way traffic on this section, making it even more dangerous to navigate. We manage to retain foot hold by leveraging the slightly greener sections of the climb and past this section, after about 100 mtrs was the peak.
Phew what a relief! It took a pack of ORS to rehydrate us back to strength here. The cool breeze and the lightly cloudy weather that day made sure we did not bake in the sun.
We had carried packed lunch up the hill and once all in the group arrived, we eat up the simple lunch (puliyogare) and it was the tastiest puliyogare ever:) and some yummy chitranna, our new friends had carried from home.
It was then time for some of the Yogi’s on our group to perform some Asana’s in respect of the third highest peak in Karnataka and some more such snaps and other later, it was time to head back.
We tread through the 5 different terrains carefully as needed by each of the terrains and since we had run out of water make a small detour to a small stream of running water to collect the same, staying away from amateur climbers/ trekkers who were slipping and falling all along the way, dangerously enough to drag us down if we did not get out of the way.
We arrive back at the entry barricade by 4.00 by when there was just the last 3 glasses of spiced butter milk with the vendor there. The next stretch was easy but took us another 45/60 min by when we reach the parking area at the Palace.
In all the ascent took about 21/2 hrs and the climb down about 10 min or so less.
The caretaker of the palace was passionate enough to be upset that we came in too late and would not be able to cover the entire palace. We marvel at the ingenuity of the builders of yester-years (this place was built in the late 18th century) and the artistry too – alas some illiterate movie crew had ruined all the old paintings by white washing the entire wall. They are now making attempts to scrape it off scientifically to make sure the older painting is exposed and the work is half done, but whatever one can see, is spectacular. Given this palace was also a sort of a hiding place for the king at that time, some pitch dark sections of it are indeed freaky:)
We thank the caretaker and return to our vehicles parked under a fruiting fig tree with the accompanying mess (of over ripened fruits), shake them off and drive back to our abode, bidding farewell to the new friends (who apparently are good old friends with some of our family members as we found out later – its a small world indeed).
Back at Honeyvalley, we get some sandwiches, Pakoras and Coffee and more Coffee:) of-course.
Freshen up after the sweaty climb, in time for the early dinner and retire for the day, applying pain relief gels:( Wondering all the time why do we ever climb (a Hill/ Mountain)?
The answer is simple…..BECAUSE IT IS THERE…………:) (Made famous by the movie Everest)
Leave the next AM post breakfast (yup and Coffee and powder too for making at home). Had planned for some shopping at the souvenir shop at Tamara so get back there for some shopping and Coffee and start the drive back. We chance upon a good restaurant at Gonikoppa (The Spice Rack) where we finish lunch for the day and hit the road back to Bangalore.
We trudge along, make another shopping cum pit stop at Organic Mandya and crawl back to Bangalore with the Maddur/ Bangalore section taking over 3 hrs:(
It was in all a wonderful outing – a combined one on the new 4X4 and a trek to the third highest peak in Karnataka; a good preparation for this years Himalayan Trek (in April) for sure.
As usual these days, I had carried the lighter micro fourthirds camera set with a standard zoom, a telephoto zoom and a macro lens too. All that I missed was a circular polariser as the lighting up the hills was pretty tricky. I have now made that addition to the kit, so the next one will benefit from the acquisition:)
Enjoy the video and the pictures and as usual, leave your thoughts behind.