Scaling newer heights

Travel

Scaling newer heights


View from the top.... Thadiyandamol is the highest peak in Kodagu. Photo by Arun Bhat.

Never before has a place beckoned me to return so many times. My second visit followed just a few months after the first. The third and fourth did not take very long either. I had made six visits at the last count and yet, each time I think of Thadiyandamol Peak, I ponder on making another journey soon.

At an altitude of 1745m, Thadiyandamol is the highest peak in Kodagu. Its windy peak offers unhindered views of impressive mountain ranges and valleys of Kodagu and beyond. Neatly stacked layers of hills align one behind the other, extending to the horizon and gently merging into the blue sky. Sensuous curves of the ridges lead down the peak and further up to the next one and the next, eventually disappearing into the mist somewhere faraway, inviting the beholder to walk along them and lose themselves in the mystery that the depth of the hills seem to convey.

Off Kakkabe

The long walk to Thadiyandamol’s peak is as appealing as the vista from the top. Starting from the quiet village of Kakkabe, I soon leave the tarmac behind and walk on a jeep track that goes past lush paddy fields and occasional houses hidden behind trees. It begins to climb gently through coffee estates alternating with thick forests. A few streams intersect the path, forcing me to wet my feet, something I hesitate to do initially. But once wet, I am rejoicing at the touch of crisp and cold water massaging my feet.
Life in the woods keeps me occupied through the trek further. A blackbird flies past, parakeets chatter incessantly on the canopy and drongos whistle as they hop from branch to branch. Sunbirds chirp continuously as they look for nectar in the flowers.
Colourful yellow browed bulbuls whizz past me into a neighbouring bush in a hurry.  As I climb up to leave the forest and the village behind, the jeep track shrinks into a bridle path that leads into undulating grasslands.

Grasslands and coffee estates

Stepping into the open grassland, I am suddenly greeted by bliss - unspoiled hills, thick shola forest and green mountain grass as far as the eyes can see. It is difficult to find fault with this world encompassing a few rocks here and there, a few flowers breaking the dominance of the green grass and a stream running down from the shola forests.
The slopes are gentle and the trek looks easy till the half-way mark - a small plateau above the coffee estates. From now, the distant hills start appearing closer to reach and views expand into the panorama of the peaks.

After some steep climb for an hour, the last bit of the walk goes through a dense forest, undisturbed but for the small hiking path that bifurcates the thick undergrowth.

Another steep ascent and I am at the top, ready to indulge in the endless views. It takes no more than four hours of walking to get here, ending with the vistas that make me desire for nothing else for a moment.

The best of Thadiyandamol lasts beyond the views from the peak. Camping here in the middle of the forest, the night is spent under a sky crowded with stars. A moonless day adds to the resplendence of the stars that seem to glow brighter with the night.

As the trek progresses...

Waking up before sunrise next morning, I am welcomed by the crisp mountain air that made me shiver for a moment. Fog had settled in the valleys the previous night, now lazily moving up through the blue ridges at a distance. Soon the skies turn from an unclear grey to a cool blue and eventually bright orange, signalling the arrival of dawn. Sunrays break through the peaks, once again revealing the splendours of the mountains that were lost in darkness just a while ago.

I spend the later hours of the day wandering aimlessly in the green expanse.
A random walk in the meadows takes me to a nearby peak, where the force of the wind is strong enough to make me beat a quick retreat.

Taking shelter from the wind under a rock barrier, I watch a lone rhododendron tree standing on the top, swaying violently as it braved the wind, making a continuous swooshing sound.

For a moment I wonder what the tree felt - was it jubilant to be standing alone at the top kissed by the high winds or did it curse the bird that dropped its seed in such a testing location? I postponed my descent to the valley from the initially planned 10.30 am to 12.30pm, later again to 3pm. When I relented unwillingly, it was nearly 5.30 pm. The sun was on his way to the western ridge and painting the skies orange. As I descend from the hills, I come down thinking that it won’t be long before I make another visit again.

Factfile

How to reach: The trek begins from Kakkabe village. Kakkabe is an hour’s drive from Madikeri, and takes seven hours from Bangalore. To reach Kakkabe from Bangalore, head out on Mysore road and get to Madikeri. Take the road to Bhagamandala from Madikeri and ask for directions to Kakkabe.

It would be convenient to arrive on the previous night, stay here and start the trek early in the morning. Kakkabe has a few home-stays where you can spend the night before starting the trek. Regular KSRTC buses connect Madikeri with Bangalore and Mysore. Local buses are available from Madikeri to Kakkabe.

It is a moderately difficult trek of approximately eight km, which may take 4-5 hours for a reasonably fit person.

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