Saturday, March 8, 2014
Top 10 treks to do in Western Ghats of India
When I was Ten, I couldn't climb a tree 5-foot tall. I got scared of every hint of sound coming from behind me when I walked alone to the loo in the night. I thought there was someone walking behind me. And yes, I saw a poker face in each square feet of the wall that had the old paint wearing off. I have been scared of many such things, since then, and till I boarded a bus full of strangers in the middle of the night in december month of year 2008. The bus took me to an extraordinarily beautiful mountain peak in the valley of Coorg, and I soon realized, my days of inner adventures were over.
Hiking, Trekking, Adventures - These words never existed in my life, until I explored Western Ghats of the Southern Himalayas. I traveled internationally, camped in the forest and hiked few hills before, But was never my second nature, this adventure though. It was my second inning in Bangalore, when I was introduced to Western Ghats, a place that inspired me, and truly changed my life, forever.
“Landscapes have a language of their own, expressing the soul of the things, lofty or humble, which constitute them, from the mighty peaks to the smallest of the tiny flowers hidden in the meadow's grass.” Western ghats indeed are true definition of it.
With an average elevation of 4000 ft, and running over 1000 miles from North-west state of Gujrat India to Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, The Western Ghats range of mountains is one of the top ten hottest biological diversity site in the world. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, parts of western ghats are known as Sahyadri in west, Konkan coast, along side the arabian sea and Western Ghats in Karnataka and Nilgiri in southern most area. Western Ghats host a total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, an area that has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species. According to wiki, At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats. Siding along in the east is Deccan Plateau. This area in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu is also known as Eastern Ghats. Together with above region they forms the southern Himalayas.
The focus of this post is only the southern region of the Western ghats i.e. not Sahayadri. I am keeping eastern ghats and sahyadri for a separate post.
Why I love western ghats so much : or why I love trekking in western ghats so much is very easy to explain.
Easy hike - No Altitude sickness - least of preparation and planning
Thats right. A weekend away from the Metro of the south, Bangalore, Each Peak in the wild is suitable enough for everyone from enthusiasts to avid trekkers. You don't need a lot of equipments or preparations / training either. You might as well initiate your work-out in the lap of mother nature, in the wild. The trails are well marked, and guides are easily available. All you need do is catch a night bus and get down at the starting point in the morning.
My favorite part - Almost every trek features one breathtaking waterfall that is easy to get under and well there you get the best back massage ever.
A walk in the green woods, I might call it. The variety of flora is not only unique but it exists in every single trek. You'd find a unique quality of the forest in each trek that would leave you fascinated.
Small villages at the foothills, Temples, local cuisine and Free food
In each trek you can discover the small towns and villages tucked away on the foot hills, from where the trail will take you to the peaks through the sanctuaries and protected areas. Best part - discovering the local cuisine, and relishing the most authentic food of that region. Many treks start and end at places with religious importance, that have huge temple shrines. I must say I have had some of the most delicious food in these temples, sitting together with 500 people and more. - the unforgettable experiences.
Rain, Clouds, Sunrise and Sunsets
The Rain, Clouds, Sunrise and Sunsets at western ghats are to die for. Don't believe me? Let me take you to ride of my 10 most favorite treks in the ghat section, those you shouldn't miss if you're anywhere in that region.
10- Kumar Parvat
I hope my friend and trek-mate Pavan is not reading this post, or he might beat me up for placing Kumar Parvatha at 10. This is his favorite peak, and I am sure it is of many other trekkers. but chill Guys, the number doesn't' really matter yeah? Its part of the top 10 and I'll explain my reasons.
Also known as Pushpagiri trek, and at a 14km steep hike from Kukke Subramanya, One of famous pilgrimage in south india, Kumar Parvat / Parvath is considered one of the toughest trek in western ghats. The views from Shesh parvat is breathtaking and the hike through the dry waterfall to the peak is one of a kind, also very slippery in the rainy season. though, Bhatta's house in the middle of trek is comforting, the area can be really hot during most of the year. I cried for the lack of a waterfall I couldn't step in to. Not much jungle to explore, and of course, the sun burn in the month of April is bit unforgiving.
For more details check out - Kumar Parvata
I would call it as wetland trek. Some of us also called it Leechgiri, thanks to the number of deadly (not really) Leeches that we encounters in entire trek. This is one of the greenest trek in the ghats and You can witness grasslands filled with beautiful pink and purple flowers most of the rainy season, Peak has a 360 degree view, stunning view of a waterfall, and yes you can actually go to the waterfall. I wonder why we missed bathing in it, perhaps due to leeches?
BTW if you've been trying to scare the bloodsuckers away, Just carry eucalyptus oil and use it every few hours. No Salt, no other spray needed.
When you travel from bangalore, you also cross Nagarhole National Park, and you can either stop over or see lot of park fauna from the road itself.
For more details check out - Bramhagiri Trek
Photo by Sudhakar N.
8- Ombattu Gudda
For most of you who know I did this trek, I hated it. No option well, because I was bedridden for 10 days after this. The trek is considered one of the most dangerous because of the "lost or killed" reports that have reached the city over the years, But if you plan it properly, this one challenging and one of the most unique trek in the ghats.
You;d be trekking through stream, a very steep mountain and then as the name suggests, Nine hills connected to each other, that are situated in the opposite side of the river from Kumar Parvata. The trek also features some agricultural land, but the best part about it is walking and camping in the middle of the stream. Quite an adventure I must say.
For more details check out - Crossing Nine Hills
Photo by Pavan Bhat
7- Tadiyandmole Coorg
This was my first trek and this view is one of my most favorite. something that inspired me to take up not only trekking but photography, Its been five years, and the memories of Tadiyandmole is still fresh.
Coorg is one of the most popular destination in Karnataka, south India and the area around Tadiyandmole. the Abbey including many other waterfalls are stunningly pretty and have easy trekking access. The area also features tea/coffee plantation and multiple home-stays. Coorgi weddings are fun to attend, What more reasons do you need to explore this place?
For more details check out - Tadiyandamole
6- Chembra Peak Wayanad Kerala
As inviting as this hike looks in the photo above, this is one adventurous hike in Kerala region of Western ghats that you wouldn't want to miss. Starting from riding on the narrow, steep, someone concrete roads of the plantation with 20 people stuffed in one jeep to hiking the peak in heavy winds and crazy rain, and the surprise, of seeing the size of the peak at top, and how dangerously hilarious it is to stand there in the wind, This trek is very charming and romantic, of course the heart shape lake might as well take your heart away if not the rainbows and the views from the peak.
The Milky white, 3-level Meenmutty is one of the few waterfalls in this region you can visit to, when you hike chembra, though its in the different direction and require a trek up and down. but its sure worth it.
Be careful of those slippery rocks on the left though. read the link below to know why I am saying this. For more details check out - Wayanad
5- Narsimha Parvat - Agumbe
Not one, not two but many reasons why Agumbe features as one of my top 5 favorite. I saw one of the best sunset and sunrise from the top of Narsimha. The fascinating stories about Naxals, King Cobra, and Malgudi days, including the fact that this place is known as Cherapunji of the South India, were more than enough for us to drive to this place. And if the trek and waterfalls weren't enough. Sringeri took our breath away and gave us one weekend full of adventure, spiritual and relaxation.
For more details check out - Agumbe
4- Bandajje Arbi
Did I talked about the Sunrise and Sunsets above? Hold on, we have another killer sunset waiting for us here. This is one tough trek to the top of the waterfall, through very unique flora and well, fauna could be one concluding story because, we were told we had wild elephants roaming around our camps in the night and people have also spotted the mighty king of the jungle here.
Hanging on top of that waterfall, and trying not to fall down, while witnessing a mesmerizing sunset, is one of the most beautiful memory from there. The trek has varying trail, 12 Kms of Jungle, then dense grassland to reach the waterfall, and then meadows to the the top of the ruins of a fort and from there through forest and concrete, its one hell of a ride to the nearby town that also features one famous temple and yes food is yummy and absolutely free.
For more details check out - Back on Trail
3 - Kudremukh
Why these treks are featured towards the top of the list, of all the above factors, I mentioned I love usually, and also because of the vastness and views, the options in the areas surrounded by and a possibility to do it through out the year.
Kudremukh is actually on one side of the circle, that the state highway makes. The other side is bandajje. part of the park is inhabited and You can find the plenty of fruits to pluck and eat on your way to the peak, which is confusing. Yes you heard me right. the horse-faced peak, known as Kudremukh, about 16km from the starting point, has many similar peaks adjacent to it. But dont you worry because each rolling hill offers incredible view of the valley and the shola forests and also glimpse of the wildlife.
The hilltown nearby also has amazing views, a temple and great food to offer. the 2-level waterfall of Hemangundi is fun and the ride to the place, incomparable.
For more details check out - Rolling Hills
2- Kodaikanal to Munnar
This is the only trek featured in this list, that requires you a have long weekend considering you're traveling from and to Bangalore. Reaching Kodaikanal and then coming back fom Munnar is one adventure, I wouldn't miss. But thats not the only specialty. This region part of Indira Gandhi national park is totally different from other trek lands specially those of karnataka. The Escapade route, and the trek through the villages is part of Nilgiri hills that traverses through many ranges and each ranges of forests offers unique flora and fauna.
Apart from the fact that you can explore two very famous hill stations of Kodaikanal and Munnar, the offbeat route inside the forest is once in the lifetime experience not to be missed, You would often wonder if you're in Upper Himalayas, or North-east, and as you pass through, hidden lakes, sound of the waterfall from far-off, the golden play of sunlight and colors will leave you in awe of the beauty of the nature.
Fore more details check out - Kodaikanal to Munnar
1- Mulliyangiri Chikmagalur
That sea of clouds tells you the story of why Muliyangiri features at top in my list. You'd see layers of clouds in most of these treks and but not the ocean such as this. The hike to the highest peak of karntaka is easy, the valley spread over this vast range of Bababudan giri hills is accessible though many routes and and roads. The colorful cave, temple at top, camping at a windy lake to trekking through the mist and red hills of kemangundi, exploring the stream to stunning hebbe falls to sun showering and crazy jeep ride, This is one trek I would do again and again and again.
For more details check out - A Walkin to the Ocean of clouds
Read more travelogues from Western Ghats and Himalayas and Short adventure stories from South India here - India Trekking Full Logs - Western Ghats & Himalaya
For all Adventure travels - http://blog.poonamparihar.com/p/adventure-travel.html