Touching the skies

Touching the skies

I just came back from the hardest, but most spectacular trek I’ve ever been to. Kumara Parvatha is one of the tallest peaks in South India, standing tall at almost 5,800 feet above sea level. Of all the peaks in the Western Ghats, none has seemed more daunting, beautiful and majestic than this. I decided to join my friends on the trek only an hour and a half before we started out.

I stuffed a few clothes, a towel, an umbrella and my headphones, and ran toward the bus stop where we caught the next bus to Mangaluru. We left for Subrahmanya, a town located on the foothills of the mountain, late at night (after a horrendous delay) from Mangaluru’s railway station, and reached in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, after a scrumptious breakfast of ‘masala dosa’, ‘upma’ and some coffee, we were on our way. A tiny, meandering asphalt road led us to the start of the trek.

There it was an innocuous three-foot tall metallic gate and beside it was a notice board confirming the starting point of the trek. The dense canopy beyond the gate looked frightening; I took a few steps forward and before I knew it, I was already deep inside the forest. I looked back and I couldn’t see the gate. It was six kilometres of tropical and humid forests ahead of us. Luckily, the trail was riddled with tiny pebbles and slightly bigger boulders, and losing sight of the path ahead was impossible. About two hours into the trek, we stopped by near a waterfall for a drink, and that’s when the trek was put into a different perspective — there were leeches everywhere. They seem to spring out of no where! We then decided to quicken our pace, though the trail got steeper and more jagged. With every step, our feet got heavier, our breath thinned down and beads of sweat trickled down our foreheads and into our eyes, burning them. But fear kept us going.

Finally, after three hours of climbing the infernal forest, I could see the light. A dazzling blue sky and blinding sunshine tore through the canopy and a green valley welcomed us. After another hour of walking on a grassy trail, we reached Bhattaru Mane (a Bhat’s house), a trekker’s rest stop. I’ve never eaten such a tasty meal. We then washed our faces, filled our water bottles, freshened up and resumed trekking.

The weather was kinder now, thanks to the altitude. The mountain was now visible, though clouds smothered its peak. From now on, the trek was steeper (as if it wasn’t steep enough) and the trail got even rockier than before, but the view behind us was breathtaking. As every hour passed, we got closer to the peak.

After three and a half hours, we reached the peak of Shesha Parvatha, a sister peak of Kumara Parvatha. Everything was visible within a fifty kilometer radius, and the view was spectacular. But huge monsoon clouds rolled in and reduced our visibility to possibly 20 metres at best. We then climbed down from Shesha Parvatha, retracing our path, and after about half an hour, reached a spot ideal for pitching a tent.

Things were put into perspective once again when it started pouring down heavily, a few hours before midnight. I had never been so frightened in all  my life!

I was chilled to the bone next morning. It was probably seven or eight degrees outside, the clouds had cleared and a magnificent sunrise was on offer. We quickly readied ourselves, packing only essentials like water and some snacks in a bag, zipped up our tents and started the climb up. We reached Shesha Parvatha, again.

The only thing between the peak we were on and Kumara Parvatha was an hour of uphill forest. A much denser forest than before. And forests meant leeches. Big ones.

We did the only thing we knew — run. We sprinted across boulders and tree roots. At the end of the nightmarish forest was a steep rock face. We managed to manoeuvre past it by holding on to shrubs on the side and circling about the face.

After that, we found a steep boulder path taking us to a point just before the peak. The last hundred metres was only slightly steep, similar to walking up a ramp, but with every step more tiring than the last. The peak was now clearly in our sights, and it was just like walking up a stairway to heaven.

Finally, we made it. We were on top of Kumara Parvatha; it was a glorious morning. There were smaller peaks and petite hills as far as the eye could see. Clouds covered most of the flat coastal plains. We sat down, clicked a few pictures, took in the sights, and lay down on the grass. I looked up at the skies, looking back over what we had achieved. The metaphor of life being like a mountain to climb sadly didn’t escape me, and at the risk of sounding didactic and preachy, I guess there really is no mountain too tall.

(The author can be contacted on krishnakinnal@gmail.com)

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