It's a trekker's paradise

It's a trekker's paradise

PEAK OF DELIGHT  

Rising to a height of 4,400 feet above sea level, Kodachadri promises fabulous views of the Arabian Sea to the west and forested plains and reservoirs to the east. B V Prakash revisits it, yet again, and comes back awed, as if for the first time.

Among the numerous trekking options across the Western Ghats, the peak of Kodachadri stands out as the most attractive mountain especially known for the views from its summit. Organising an outing to this peak is fairly easy which, recently, made us take off right away for the weekend.

The peak, located between Kollur on the western coast and the fortress town of Nagara to the east in Shimoga district, is tall and beautiful. Rising to a height of 4,400 feet above sea level, Kodachadri promises fabulous views of the Arabian Sea to the west and forested plains and reservoirs to the east.

The peak has a few different routes to approach from. Though we have visited this peak at least half a dozen times, and from different directions, the cool weather of December and the lush green cover retained from the monsoons was what made us revisit it yet again.

Driving from the city on a Friday night with brief rests, we reached Shimoga by dawn. Finishing off the morning ablutions and a hearty breakfast later, we drove past Hosanagara, to a small town called Nittur where the trail begins.

Navin, my acquaintance there, helped us to organise the hike with some tips on the trail ahead. Following the road towards Kollur for about 2 km, we found a long bridge, after which, the trail branched out to the left. The towering hill has lush paddy fields in the foreground, which made for a picturesque view.

A few kilometers down the trail, we came to a small settlement with a school in the middle of the forest! An hour later, the path narrowed down and the jungle became dense. To our relief, we found no leeches, and the walk became that much easier. Soon, we came upon a little cascade, followed by the more beautiful Hidlumane Falls.

With its gurgling flow resounding in the background, we trudged on the forest path which became steeper. Thankfully, though, the forest canopy saved us from the sweat and sunburn. When we reached the clearing, we were faced with a grassy slope that went up, almost entirely vertically! And so, we decided we would have lunch before we resumed the climb.

It was delightful to see that large tracts of dense forest had managed to survive on these hills. It took us a little over an hour to reach the top of Kodachadri. Nagesh, who lives here, is of great help to trekkers and visitors and he offered us snacks and tea. You see, the actual peak of Kodachadri is much higher, after another two kilometres or so, and so, we trudged on after refreshments, courtesy Nagesh.

The grassy conical peak is steep and offers stunning views, 360 degrees! It was a clear day and the shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea was discerningly visible in the far west.

To the east, the backwaters of the Linganamakki Reservoir drew our eyes. We were going to camp there, all by ourselves, enjoying the dawn and dusk of the mountain’s beauty. As the sun went down, the wind grew chilly, nipping at our skin and making our noses freeze, but it was worth it.

The peak of Kodachaddri is also home to a cute, simple shrine, dedicated to the great saint Adi Shankaracharya. Built entirely with stone, the tiny structure has an idol of Shankaracharya in its sanctum sanctorum. The stone walls and pillars outside have carved sculptures on them. Called Sarvjna Peetha, this shrine also serves as a temporary shelter, if need be.

The association of Shankaracharya with Kodachadri is just about as deep as the forest itself. From the peak here, a very steep descent goes down through the dense woods, right into the heart of the forest called Ambavana. There, on an elevated platform of a rock, is a cave called Chitramoola, where the great saint is said to have meditated and made Goddess Mookambike appear before him.

According to legend, many saints were involved in penance here. But they were frequently troubled by a demon. But the demon, who was also an ardent devotee of Shiva, obtained a boon that he would be granted whatever he asked for. Fearing that the demon would acquire all destructive powers, Goddess Durga entered his throat and made him mute.

As a result, he could not ask any boon for he could no longer speak. As such, he was called Mookasura. Yet, his troubles and nuisance to the sages did not stop. When it was too much to bear, Goddess Durga assumed her fiery form and killed the demon with her spear. Having killed Mookasura, the Goddess also went by the name Mookambika, and so, the forests around are named after her.

Even though the temple of Mookambika is at Kollur, where devotees normally go, some ardent devotees make a pilgrimage trek to Kodachadri, for they believe it is the ‘original’ abode of the Goddess. Such a pilgrimage is considered as auspicious as a visit to Sabarimala in Kerala. Naturally, it is not surprising to see hordes of Keralite pilgrims trekking up this hill.

At dawn, the wind had subsided and the sky was painted with streaks of pink, orange and blue, with white clouds kissing them. That was the moment we had longed for, and the nature had decided to reward us with it.

The sun went up slowly, lighting up the whole valley with golden morning light and we felt nothing short of enchanted. We basked in the sun’s warmth for a while, then made it back, ever so slowly, down the deep valley.

On the way, we visited the small cave shrine of Ganesha, broke our fast at Nagesh’s home, and went around the small temples, before taking a different path to descend all the way down.  Getting there:
Kodachadri is about 400 km from Bengaluru and can be reached by car via Tumkur, Shimoga and Hosanagara. Nittur Town, the starting point for the trek, is 15km after Hosanagara, and 21km before Kollur. Buses that ply from Shimoga and Kollur make a stop here.

The trek:

It involves moderate climbing of about 13 km to the top. Hiring a guide is mandatory. Those who can not trek can hire a jeep ride to the top.

Accommodation:

Many homestays are available at Nittur.

Ideal time to visit: 
 Anytime except monsoons, although, winter is the best, in my opinion. 

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