Despite being a passionate traveler I have always found it difficult to consciously exercise to keep fit. I’d rather wallow around eating junk and getting fat than hitting the gym. However, occasionally when I do get conscious of the amount of weight I have put on, I do what I dread the most, I go on a trek.
One trek (in my head) would compensate for about a months’ worth of exercise. It would keep me guilt free for a while till the cycle begins again. On one such occasion where I could see my tummy bulging out, I finally decided to go code red. I had heard about these guys through multiple friends and had been wanting to give them a shot. “A mad nomad” is what they call themselves. They organise treks that you can be a part of for a minimal amount. They are, however, known for their all-round facilities like taking care of your transport to the destination, all three meals and stay (whether it is a tent, sleeping-bag or a small homestay to freshen up before and after the trek), everything is included in their package.
The trek I chose to opt for is called “Beyond the Horizon – Kodachadri”. Now a little bit of info, Kodachadri is a peak very close to Shimoga which is in the northern part of Karnataka. It is about 300 kilometers from Bangalore and can be covered by road in about 7 to 8 hours. It is a 14 kilometer trek which goes uphill through the mountain range. Once the trek is done you will be bought to the river backwaters where you will camp for the night.
Fortunately for me I didn’t have to endure this trek alone. My mother walked in on me booking a slot for myself and demanded that I book one for her too, and this is how I went on an amazing yet exhausting trek with my family.
It was a short trek. We would leave Bangalore at Friday night and be back by Sunday night, how hard could it be? Turns out, my parents (being slightly obsessed with dressing for the occasion) decided to pack their clothes in a suitcase as a rucksack would have been too big and a bag pack would have been too small. My sister and I packed in a suitcase as well (I was too lazy to look for the rucksack), and we set out that evening, ready to be picked up by the van that would be taking us to Kodachadri foothills.
The shock was evident on the organisers face as he saw a family of 4 walking with two suitcases, one pink and one black, towards the van. He was so dumbfounded that when my dad asked if that was the van going to Shimoga for the trek, He shook his head. I was a little behind my dad and panicking a little I asked him again if this was the party going for the kodachadri trek, only then did he snap out of it and confirmed that indeed it was. The confusion and shock was still evident as he helped us load our “luggage” into the van.
We finally took our seats and the van continued to pick up 3 other members. We were a total of 14 people including our organisers and one adorable puppy called patch. Once everyone was picked up we had a small introductory session where we had to break the ice by introducing ourselves. Once this was done, we fell asleep swaying to the movement of the van.
I woke up with a nauseous feeling, we were at the ghat section and our driver was under the impression of being chased by every mafia cartel in existence. He would swerve the van effortlessly yet dangerously at almost every hairpin bend, while all of us were throwing up in our mouths. Finally, the van came to a stop and I almost kissed the ground. We had reached the homestay at the foothills where we were to freshen up, have a small breakfast and then leave for the trek.
After all the up roar, we finally began the trek. The first thing I remember thinking was “this is gonna be a piece of cake”. I was at the front of the group walking alongside the guide while everyone else were chatting and walking behind me. Our first pit stop was at a little shop before making our way to a waterfall. By this time, I was feeling pretty good about myself. There was a skip in my step and I was whistling as I walked. My bubble popped once the uphill ascent began. We climbed over large boulders and tree trunks, ducked under low hanging branches and vines. We walked alongside little streams of water on narrow paths. It was exactly what I had expected but not prepared for. Clean air was met with rasping breaths, cold water was met with warm sweat and the rocky path was met with dragging feet. I went from “I CAN DO THIS” to “maybe not”. Just before I gave up I saw something that would have made me go through everything all over again. It was a tall waterfall hidden away in the forest with no motorable road to access it. The only way to get to this fall was by trekking through the forest and climbing the Rocks up to it.
My mind was blown. The water fall wasn’t very big, it did however have quite a bit of water gushing down its moss and plant covered rocks. At the bottom was a tiny shallow pool of water that accumulated before draining out into the rocks, flowing down to meet the backwaters. Unable to contain myself, I immediately took of my shoes, rolled up my pants and jumped into the water. The water level only reached till my calves but I wanted to go further. I climbed the rocks and sat right under the waterfall where the water hit my neck at a force I didn’t expect. Before you know it, I was dripping from top to bottom, my parents giving me joyous smiles before joining me. The rocks were slippery because of the moss and being the clumsy piece of flesh that I am, I found myself slipping hilariously on more occasions than one. All 14 of us, including patch, were in the water playing and posing for the innumerable pictures.
The time came for us to continue our trek, and we dried off and began walking once again. Now this part of the trek was the most difficult, it was through dried fields on the mountain slopes. The ground was rocky and loose, walking on that terrain was burning up my ankles and calf muscles. I had to stop after a bit to catch my breath. Upon raising my sweat adorned head I could see the entire group including my family at least a good 300 meters ahead of me. One of the organisers, Sujay, was nice enough to wait for me as I rasped around like an old lady.
Finally, with my dad’s help, I got to the top of a small hill that was on the way to our destination. I would be lying if I said that I never wanted to get over at this point, but the view from where I was standing was unbelievable. Green trees covered hills all around me, I could see the river backwaters where we would be camping tonight, I could also see the little shop we had crossed before getting to the waterfall. It looked tiny from where I was standing. To be honest, it took the promise of food to get me up here, but as the trek progressed I kept getting the feeling that all this was worth it.
The promise, however, was not kept and it was a little while and more walking till we took a break to have lunch. It wasn’t a heavy lunch and all of us sat in silence as we ate, listening to the sounds of the silent forest with a few birds chirping in the distance. Having trekked on this course multiple times, our organisers had discovered a small spring that gave out clear cool drinkable water. We filled our water canisters and were once again on our way after resting for about an hour.
This time I was a little more energetic and made it a point to walk along with the group instead of behind it. It helped me maintain a good pace uphill. There were many tiny stalls on the way selling refreshments like buttermilk and cucumber to the hikers. I must say, without any doubt, these little stalls were what kept me going.
We climbed uphill for another 2 kilometres to reach a temple dedicated to the worship of the goddess Mookambika. It was during this time I decided to see how my family was faring. Being regulars at the gym, they were definitely doing better than I was. My father was using a zigzag technique to climb uphill. He would walk along the width of the road from one end to another, “It makes it easier” he said. And that’s how I found myself walking zigzag, feeling a little nauseous, but maintaining pace with the group.
We stopped at the temple for a bit, had a bit of pineapple and cucumber to re-hydrate ourselves, and then we were off again. This time we climbed up to a cave. It’s called the Ganesha Guha and has a small prayer area set up to worship the lord ganesha. One side of this cave leads to another much smaller cave. The passage is extremely little and we had to get on all fours to explore it. There was one point where we came to an abrupt stop as our leading member refused to move ahead because of a bat she had spotted. Having seen way too many horror movies, I decided that it would take much more than bats to scare me and I went ahead of her trying to be her savior from the damned. I have never been so severely wrong. I could see two tiny bats hanging off the roof of the cave and my limbs betrayed my ego and refused to move ahead. Another member of the group finally came to my rescue and took the lead. He led us a little further to the back of the cave after which we turned back to come out into sunlight.
Another 2 kilometers of trekking brought us to our most awaited destination, the Kodachadri peak from where we were to watch the sun set. All 14 of us picked our spot and sat down to see the, now golden, sun set. There were swallows playing around gliding in the wind, chirping excitedly. They did put on quite a show for us. Our little puppy, patch, sat on one of our laps, clearly exhausted by the long walk he had had.
We looked as the sky turned golden and then orange as the sun kept setting. We could also see the Arabian sea from where we were standing. It was a very beautiful sight and we sat there in silence enjoying every bit of it.
Once it was dark, we walked back to the temple where we were transported back in jeeps down the rocky, winding, twisty road. The jeep ride was extraordinarily fun; however, I could feel my stomach slowly ascend up my throat as we jerked and got thrown around.
We got back to the homestay and I could do nothing but jump in the shower and wash all the grime, dirt and sweat off my body. Dinner was served shortly and we left again to get to our campsite.
It was about 10:00pm by the time we reached the camp. We set up our tents and got a warm bonfire blazing. It was pitch dark and the only source of light was our bonfire. We could hear the river water rippling every now and then, but we couldn’t see anything except for the stars above us. It was then that I got introduced to an amazing game called Mafia. Everyone turns into an actor while playing. There is suspense, drama, deceit and power during the game. We played quite a few sessions of this till we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. Most of us decided to sleep under the sky near the bonfire and I shut my eyes to a million stars above my head.
The next day, we woke up to see how close we really were to the water, only about 10 to 15 meters. We had breakfast back at the homestay and then began our journey back to Bangalore. On the way, back there is one place I cannot miss to mention the Nagara fort. It lies in between the Kodachadri foothills and Shimoga. It is an abandoned fort belonging to one of the rulers of Karnataka. It is built on a small hill and is almost in ruins now. The highest point of the fort brings you to the view of a nearby lake and green lively patches of fields. We sat under a tree in the fort for about 3 hours playing mafia, after which our stomachs forced us to get out and get to Shimoga for lunch.
Lunch was hearty before we continued back. We played a popular Indian game called Anthakshari (a game played with songs). Due to our multiple stops, we had to have dinner on the highway before we finally got home at about 2;00am on Monday morning.
We made a good set of friends, my family had a great time and I actually stopped looking at treks as a way to make up for all the missed exercise, instead I now believe that they are a great way to get to know other people and bond with your family. Bidding adieu to patch and Deepak and Sujay, our organisers, we got home and fell into a heavy slumber, knowing very well that we would be getting aches all over our bodies when we woke up.
A little information:
- you can visit the “a mad nomad” website at http://www.amadnomad.com
- picture credits: Sarin, Sujay (amadnomad), Madhura and Maninder,