At the Elephant Corridor
Imagine elephants chasing you on a narrow corridor and you get nowhere to go. A herd of elephants sighted in the wee hours of the morning, left in its wake clear tell-tale signs in the zone they roamed. Tall grass blades flattened out, half eaten plants strewn and huge patches splattered with the elephant dung, fresh from the odor emitted. Sensing the elephants could be lurking around, gave us a scare, but the forest guard’s reassurance helped us cross the elephant corridor. I am on a monsoon trek to Tadiandamol hill which at nearly 6000 ft. is the tallest peak in Coorg District of Karnataka, with more than half the trail quite steep at 70 degrees gradient.
With parts of Coorg in floods a week earlier, the videos circulating cast doubts in my mind if this trip would work. In such a season a moist trek path and mild streams came as a surprise package. A 7km trek up the hill awaited us, while we braced for leech bites, usually active in rainforests. As we begin our trek, near Nalknad palace, chill winds blow bringing along light drizzles. The poncho doubles up as a good cover against the dreaded leeches too, in case it falls from the leaves of trees or clings from the bushes that line the path. Did the poncho work its charm? Well yes and no.
At the valley viewpoint
A calm quiet morning at daybreak, peppered by the chirping of the birds and the screeches of the forest insects, called for a look at the valley from the view point, 2 kms away from Nalknad palace. The motorable pathway curves and rises gently till the view point. Despite the mist and fog staying way too long, we can still visualize the serenity of the lush green rainforest vegetation. Finally the sun sneaked in with its orange glow, but the menacing dark clouds encircling the mountain range, pushed us to do the trek quickly.
Past the forest gate and grasslands
Passing through small forest patches, mild seasonal streams from the wayside minor waterfalls, as well as plantations of coffee, pepper, areca nut and cardamom, I arrive at the forest gate, 0.5km from view point, for trek permissions. The pathway beyond the landmark huge black boulder signaled the beginning of a stiff climb. A damp muddy path for most times, the lush green grasslands with sharp tall blades opened up breathtaking picturesque landscapes on both sides. Leeches remain an issue in these tropical rainforests, but the mantra of moving on at the center of the pathway without halting or leaning on anything as much as possible, helped.
Up the steep incline
For the next hour and more, for nearly 4.5 kms, the trek went on a 70 degree incline. Significantly this path has stretches of loose small pebbles, uneven slippery cobblestones and large fragmented boulders. Making things gingerly are the naturally furrowed ridges along the upper inclines. Running out of steam, I sight a peak which seemed a few steep steps away. A feeling of triumph at scaling the peak, with an effort easier than imagined, crossed my mind, but that one minute cheer got cut short by our expert trekker. It turns out I climbed onto a lesser unnamed peak and a greater task lay ahead in the final trek to the Tadiandamol peak.
Through the dense Shola forest
From breathlessness to taking my breath away, an awesome experience, lay in wait for me, on the final stretch. Crossing the dense Shola forests, it looked like the sun may never penetrate in here. True to its character as rain forest, the water sprayed from the branches and leaves, drenching me from head to toe. The thick roots held onto the moist ground like steep steps, forcing me on all fours, at some stretches. Despite all this I stayed on the right path, though it remained slippery and treacherous. But this path is fraught with dangers of the shola forests in the form of snakes, bees, wasps and leeches. We got fortunate not to encounter one.
Reaching the peak
A narrow uneven approach emerged round the bend to the peak, and I had to carefully step on that, lest a false step could mean my plummeting into the valley. At this point there wasn’t any question of my going back, as the Tadiandamol Hill peak remained clearly in sight. Touching the 0 km point notice board turned out both satisfying and a proud moment for me, after more than 3 hours of effort, by constantly pushing my limits.
Unwinding at the peak
I got my much needed break at the top, when the right environment for unwinding, came from the chill winds, fog and mist enveloping us everywhere, bringing with it a sense of true happiness and belonging. The sun continuously played hide and seek and hence the verdant green forests and the contiguous mountainous topography stood barely visible. The ominous dark clouds, served a firm reminder to us, of the need for an immediate descent.
The quick timely descent
The prospect of slipping because of body imbalance while going downhill got amplified by the loose cobblestones and slippery slopes. Maintaining my center of gravity on the downward slope became a major issue till my arrival at the grasslands. The sight of the elephant corridor, which I call the elephant dung zone, gave the first sign of the arrival at the grasslands, and a much even track ahead.
Escaping the rainfall and leeches
While beginning the descent, two pathways looking similar, posed a dilemma, but by chance we found the landmarks we used for the trek uphill, thus taking us half the time as the ascent. Once at the base camp we observe the outbreak of heavy rainfall on the hill top and our sense of timing got us out of the woods. Checking if the leeches slithered on to our clothes happened instinctively. A huge relief on that score, marked our unusual escape in a monsoon trek.
This trip was made possible by Bharat Madhava Reddy of Backpackers and City Freaks (BCF), a meetup group from Hyderabad.
Contact – https://www.facebook.com/BCFIndia.official/
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