It's time to gear up for a trek

It's time to gear up for a trek

It's time to gear up for a trek

With the onset of summer, it’s time to look for an opportunity to break the routine and escape to cooler surroundings. It can be a stay at a popular hill station, a walk along the streams in the forest or a trek to a peak in the Western Ghats range. In the last one decade, trekking has caught the attention of the youth and elders alike. It could be climbing a hill or a forest trail or even just camping in the wilderness. With a sizeable part of the Western Ghats running through the State, there are dozens of mountain peaks with dense forests and rivers spread around.

A few decades ago trekking was limited to professional trekkers. Trends have changed recently and more number of people are drawn towards it. Several groups led by experts have also been formed for this purpose. Various adventure outfits also offer trekking packages with expert guidance. There is another trend that has caused harm to both people and ecology — people setting out to explore nature without proper understanding of the activity. This has forced the Forest Department to stop free access to some adventurous places. Fortunately, some trek routes are still open for the public. Kumara Parvatha in Dakshina Kannada district, Kodachadri in Shivamogga district and Tadiandamol Peak in Kodagu district are some places that can be explored by ourselves.

Into the wild
Tadiandamol, which roughly translates to ‘big mountain’ in Kodava dialect, is the tallest peak of Kodagu district. This is a moderate two-day trek that can be organised without much hassle. Recently, we trekked the peak, located in Kakkabbe village, about 25 km from Virajpet town. We got down at the bus stop near the historical Nalknad Palace early in the morning and paid a quick visit to the palace before starting the trek. The distance to the peak is anywhere between six and eight km depending on the starting point. The initial path was a road leading to the estates of coffee, cardamom and areca nut. After a while, we took a road to the right at a crossroads, which led us to a narrow path and then to an open ground with a large boulder. We were informed that the area is part of an elephant corridor.

The path turned westward and it rose steeply between lesser hills and entered a thick shola. The walk through the dark and dense forest was cool and exciting and when we came out, the grassy plateau made it easier to climb. The peak was visible right ahead and we reached it leisurely.  The summit has two peaks. Feeling on top of the world, we were treated to sweeping views of the valley with a dense cover of trees extending towards Kerala. The walk downwards was less strenuous and we could make it by evening. Those wishing to do this trek can do it in a day or over two days if you carry tents, food and water.

For those who are not comfortable climbing a hill, there are other options too. One such less exhaustive yet enjoyable trip is the Muktihole trek near Honnavar.  This is a simple trek along River Muktihole culminating in a small cascade with a safe pool of water. We had arrived at Honnavar on a spring morning and we took a bus to Hirebailu village, some 30 km away. Taking a local guide from the village, the adventure began right away. We walked through paddy fields fringing on the forests and climbed over a mountain to reach the other side of the river. Here we had to take a deviation which was so inconspicuous as to be missed easily.

This is where we felt the importance of having a guide. From here, it was just a walk along the right bank over the boulders, sand and heaps of leaves. After about six km, passing by a few smaller cascades, we came to a dead end with a lovely waterfall. The sight was refreshing after the long walk and the spot was ideal to camp overnight. The valley is like a deep canyon with high mountain sides and we are virtually cut off from the outside world. The trek involves a walk of 10 km each way. Sufficient food and tentage should be carried if you plan to camp there.

Then there are some who do not wish to trek on their own and depend on an official body to organise. This is where the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board (KEDB) comes into picture. It is a registered society, under the Forest Department, established with an intention to facilitate activities like trekking, birdwatching, wildlife safari and water sports  in a regulated and well-designed manner. Joining hands with the Forest Department and Jungle Lodges & Resorts, a pioneer ecotourism operator, KEDB has set up a few adventure camps in the natural surroundings of Kudremukh, Dandeli and Belagavi forests.

Castlerock Adventure Camp is one such beautiful location, where you live in the midst of pristine jungles. The camp has comfortable rooms to stay in with catering facilities. There are good vantage points to sit back and enjoy fabulous views of nature, and a watchtower too. A couple of treks assisted by a certified nature guide are also offered.

Though the walk on the railway track to the nearby Dudhsagar Falls is banned after a few accidents, the camp facilitates one to take a lovely ridge-line trek to the top of the falls.

Be responsible
These trips have gained more significance after some unfortunate incidents have been reported as people started venturing into forests without proper knowledge and planning. It is important to understand that it is not possible to complete a trek successfully just with the help of navigation devices and a team of people. This compelled the Forest Department to regulate trekking activity and enforce certain norms, thus preventing individuals and groups from venturing into forest areas without prior permission and a guide. Moreover many of the forests have been upgraded as national parks and tiger reserves, which entailed even stricter norms. As a result, mass exodus into wilderness has changed to well-planned treks. Such activities safeguard the elements of nature as well as ensure safety of trekkers. Thus, one has to get prior permission from the Forest Department to explore popular trekking destinations like Kudremukh Peak, BR Hills, Narasimha Parvatha near Sringeri, Charmadi Ghats and the forests of Dandeli. For more details on eco-trails, log on to www.karnatakaecotourism.com.

Dos and don’ts

Get sufficient information about the trek route; take a guide, follow designated path and avoid creating a new path cutting across fields and forests.

Wear light-coloured and comfortable clothing. It is better if the colours blend with the hues of forest. Trekking shoes is a must.

Be within the sight of each other and avoid making noise. Alcohol, tobacco and the like are forbidden. Do not disturb or pollute the elements of nature.

Carry a backpack with all essentials from food to first aid. Bring back all the trash generated during the stay, but not anything that is part of nature.

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