Exploring the Western Ghat Peaks

January 4, 2024

The Western Ghat, which is fondly known as the Sahyadri mountain range, is recognized as one of the world's hotspots for biological diversity. This ghat traverses through 6 states from Western to southernmost states like Gujrat, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu by covering thousands of kilometers. Western ghat is enriched with flora and fauna abundantly and including National parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests gives trekkers and nature lovers ample options to explore peaks, valleys, forest & waterfalls. Every state has a wide range of peaks where trekkers can explore peaks within these 5 states. One can trek easy, moderate or adrenaline rushing peaks while enjoying the beauty of nature.

A week back, I got a chance to explore some more western ghat peaks from Karnataka which was organized by Youth Hostel Association of India, Mangaluru Unit. This state level trekking was organized from 25.11.2023 to 29.11.2023. After successfully organizing, Kudremukh trek in the year 2022, this time Mangaluru unit decided to explore some other peaks of Western Ghat like Valikunja (Ajjikunja) peak, Kurinjal peak and Oneka Abbi waterfalls. This state level program was declared around 3 months back, and within a short span, the seats were full, so the organizing committee had to increase the intake quota. As it was a state level trek, inclusion of trekkers was mostly from the Southern part of India like Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala and western part of India like Maharashtra and Goa. So, this time dialect was mostly Kannada, Marathi, Konkani, Tamil and of course ‘yencha ullar’. But for trekkers language is not a barrier.

Base camp for trekking was set up in Shri Ananthanatha Swamy Jain temple, Hadiangady Post Shirlal which is around 21 kms from Karkala and around 80 km from Mangaluru. A detailed set of instructions was shared with participating trekkers beforehand which included various trekking details along with how to reach the base camp and especially bus timings along with the bus operators name which made very easy for all the participants to reach the base camp.

I along with some fellow trekkers decided to take a bus from Mangaluru, but luckily when we were waiting at the bus stop, we got a message in the group, one of the volunteers travelling by his car to the base camp. So, we hopped in his car and reached base camp without any hassle. As soon as we reached base camp, we had a refreshing welcome drink and, then we headed to complete registration process.

Once registration formalities completed, we were handed over the items which we were going to use in the next 4 days. These items included plate, mug, spoon, bottle for buttermilk, small back pack to carry lunch, Dettol and spray bottle which we received as souvenir. A very special thing was on plate, mug and spoon our serial number was embossed which ensured that, this trek memories will remain with us for lifelong. Accommodation was provided separately for ladies and Gents in dormitory.

Now some information about base camp where we stayed for 4 days. This temple/Basadi is dedicated to Shri Ananthanatha Swamy and Devi Padmavathi which is around 300 years old. Shri Ananthanatha Swamy is fourteenth Tirthankar of the Jain religion. One of the attractions of this temple is, it has 3 idols, each one of Shri Adinath Swamy (First Thirthankar) and his two sons Bharath and Bahubali. It is said that these 3 idols are not seen much together in any other part of India. The temple area is very surrounded by various trees like arecanut, rubber, cashew nut, coconut etc. and flowering plants like Jasmine, Cassandra and crape jasmine. The temple is very well maintained; one gets positive vibes being into such divine surrounding.

By the 5 pm, most of the trekkers had arrived. I could see some of the known faces from my previous treks like Goa Monsoon, Agastakoodam trek and of course Mangaluru unit trekkers. Around 7pm we all gathered for some ice breaking session. The session was quite amazing and interactive. Session followed by the formal inaugural function of the program by GaneshaVadana and lightening lamp. Briefing about the next 3 days program along with Do’s and don’ts was conveyed. Sumptuous dinner followed shortly.

In 4 days, we had chance to try some local dishes like Karkala cake (made out of wheat flour, ghee and Jaggery), Sanekalu (small rice ball Khir) payasam, Jain pickle (made out of tamarind and jaggery) etc. Trekkers were instructed to go the bed early so that we get ample amount of rest and we can start the next day trek with full of energy.

Next day morning at 4 o'clock was a wake- up call which followed by tea. At 5 o'clock breakfast was severed, and at 5:30 am we picked our packed lunch and energy kit (Fruits and buttermilk). This routine was followed for next 3 days. Having breakfast at 5 sounds crazy, but there was no option. As soon as we picked our packed lunch, we headed toward the bus. After 4km of bus ride, we got down and gathered for instructions. Our local guides from forest department were waiting for us. Around 140 participants started the first day trek to the Valikunja peak including guides from the forest department and volunteers from Mangaluru Unit. Groups were formed such that, every group gets volunteers along with walk- talkie in case of in any emergency. Many doctors also were part of the group who were trekkers as well as Volunteers. First day track was quite challenging, especially the last stretch and distance wise as well.

Around 18 kms of track expected along with challenging elevation. After walking about 2 kms on concrete road, we entered forest area. Initially elevation was quite low, as soon we entered the thick forest, the path became more challenging. Early morning we could bird chirping, dried leaves crumbling noise. Of course leeches were there to welcome us. This time I was wearing anti-leech socks which was quite useful. Climbing was happening along with chit-chat, discussion on various topics, previous treks and experiences. we were taking water breaks, sometime waiting for other trekkers so that all can be one loop. We could cite many vipers (Hump nosed Pit viper), many were camouflage, it was quite impossible to find out coiled vipers from dried leaves. We got pictures of them, thankfully no one dared to take selfi with vipers.

Once the thick forest was over, we entered grasslands, due to open grasslands, scorching heat was making further walking little challenging. As we were about to reach the peak, due to the severe incline (70 degree climb), I decided to give up the last ascent and wait at some place. But in trekking always you meet Samaritans who ensure that you reach a summit point. Thanks to all such people who always give a helping hand when someone is stuck at difficult trail.

Some of the trekkers decided not to go to summit point considering a challenging elevation. Sometimes these are wise decisions for our good, it is not always about summiting the peak, it is about the journey which binds us with nature. Around 100 trekkers reached the peak. Footsteps of Vali are here (Still wondering about footstep existence on the peak). We had our lunch here, after doing a photo shoot and a group picture we started our return journey. While descending we took slightly easy trail where extreme descent was there. Once we descended the extreme slope, then journey felt little easy. Most of them had finished water, and there was no source of water in the jungle, which made some trekkers tired. In between 3-5 all the trekkers completed the trek and headed back to base camp by bus. As soon we reached base camp, welcome drink was waiting for us, we just gulped 2-3 glasses of juice and quenched our thrust. A variety of welcome drinks were offered every day. Most of them were hungry as afternoon lunch was digested completely by the time, we finished trekking 18 kms. By the time, we refreshed evening snacks was ready, the number of calories we burnt during trekking, we replaced it back. A small session was conducted to discuss about day-1 trek and challenges faced by trekkers. Everyone was tired after the trek, all had dinner early and lights were off by 10 PM.

Next day morning, same routine was followed for breakfast and packed lunch. Some participants opted not to go for a second day trek, take a rest and join for the day-3 trek. So, on the 2nd day when we started the trek, numbers of trekkers were quite less compared to day-1. Day -2 trek was Kurinjal peak, distance was around 16km but difficulty level was comparatively less. This peak is situated in Kudremukh National park at the height of 1159 meters. From base camp we got into the bus and reached at Bhagavathi camp from where we started our trek along with forest department guides. Here the path was quite easy, 2 ways were there one was a jeep road and another was shortcut where one can reach early compared to jeep road. The view was very scenic, all enjoyed this trek, and it was quite easy. Again, all the way leeches were there to welcome us, but it was well taken care by the Mangaluru unit as they had provided Dettol and spray bottles for all the participants (but I think now days leeches are getting immune to Dettol also).

On the way to Kurinjal peak trail was open area unlike Valikunja. In Valikunja trail was passing through thick forest. By considering first day water scarcity problem, second day many carried more than 2 liters water, but due to easy trail, more water was not required. We reached at the top of the peak, once all selfie sessions were done, we descended near the guest house, which is in deteriorating condition. We all had our packed lunch of lemon rice with Jain pickle, buttermilk was there to quench our thrust. The group picture was captured with drone shots. As the trail was easy, most of them reached base camp before 5PM where hot masala dosa was waiting for us. All enjoyed Masala dosa. Trekkers who did not come for the 2nd day, opted to do some local site seeing like Varangal basdi, Karkala basdi etc.

We freshened up, roamed around the temple area. Valedictory function was arranged on the 2nd day of trek as most of the trekkers had planned to leave on the 3rd day trek, as soon as trek gets over. This was very thoughtful, so that all can attend the valedictory function. All the participants were given a certificate. Some of the participants were first time trekkers, so we could see the happiness on their faces. Within 3 days quite a good bonding was formed within participants in-spite of their age, profession, spoken language and religion. I feel this is the beauty of youth hostel which brings diverse people together, and what binds them together is love for nature and passion for adventure.

On the third day of the trek, plan was to visit Oneka Abbi waterfalls which was around 12km track. We started from base camp by bus and after travelling for a few kilometres, we got down at a place called Someshwara. The trail for waterfalls was passing through thick forest with moderate elevation, the weather was quite good, birds were chirping. After covering around 4kms, we could hear water flow sound. The last trail near the waterfalls was quite rocky and it became little challenging due to slippery rocks. Some of them slipped slightly. As we reached near waterfalls, we were instructed not to directly venture into the water as body was warm due to trek, we waited for a while before getting into water. Water was extreme cold. People enjoyed into the water taking bath, swimming, playing. We had our lunch near waterfalls. Around 12 PM we started for base camp. By the 3 PM, all participants reached base camp.

The YHAI Mangaluru unit had arranged buses for the return journey to Mangaluru, which is really appreciated. Apart from local trekkers, many trekkers had trains from Mangaluru. By 4PM first bus towards Mangaluru started, many of us hopped on the bus for our return journey with a promise to meet in another trek.

About the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI): This is an NGO which runs on no profit no loss basis. YHAI offers various activities like trekking, cycling, biking & Family campaign at reasonable rates. It is a wonderful platform for especially for nature lovers who wants to explorer peaks throughout India.

YHAI, Mangaluru unit one of the well-established units which organizes monthly trekking for YHAI members from last 30 years. Apart from a 1 day trek, the unit has organized various state level treks successfully. Being part of YHAI, Mangaluru unit, I got chance to see the management skills and volunteering done at unit level. It feels amazing, when people out of passion work hard day and night to organize such successful events. How they take care of small things so that trekkers can enjoy trekking at the best. From a couple of years of trekking experience, I have realized trekking is not just about exploring the nature, it is much more than that, which helps you to grow as a better social being.




By Revati Shendure
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Comment on this article

  • Stany Jovin Menezes, Muscat

    Sat, Jan 06 2024

    Revati's article brilliantly showcases the Western Ghats' beauty and exciting treks. Great job—keep it up!

  • Ricardo Lobo, Nakre

    Sat, Jan 06 2024


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Title: Exploring the Western Ghat Peaks

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