It’s been close to 7 years since my first hike in Goa. I’ve done close to 50 treks since then. But if there was one thing about a trek that eluded me for a long long time, it was the variety on the trail. One a fine Friday evening I packed my bags and started for Kodachadri to find out if this trail had what it took to satiate my hunger for variety. The Mookimabika wildlife sanctuary, apart from being the home to the 10th highest peak in Karnataka, the Kodachadri peak, also is the origin of two rivers. The Chakra and Sowparnika rivers originate in the Kodachadri hills and flow westward to join the Arabian sea near Kundapura.
During my research, I had a feeling that it might be the trail I’ve been looking for. It has the lush green meadows, towering steep climbs, milky white waterfalls but I had to hit the ground to see if it really ticked off all the boxes. Will it? Come, see it yourself while I take you on my quest to find the perfect trekking trail.
After what seemed like a never-ending Friday, I finally packed my bag and left my house to board the bus at HSR layout. And like every Trek with Plan The Unplanned, ice breakers followed once everyone boarded the bus. Every traveler I met was so welcoming and cheerful that there was never a dull moment in the entire journey.
The icebreakers set the perfect stage for the adventure of a lifetime. This was the first long-distance trek for a majority of the group. But after a few games that helped us throw the word stranger out of the running bus, everyone was equally excited about the trek. We were gonna scale the mountain as on team :D.
Tranquil Mornings En Route Kodachadri
While most of the journey is on the highway the landscape transforms as you approach Hosanagara. It was probably 6 AM that I woke up as if some natural alarm banged my eyes open. I pushed the curtains aside and realized it wasn’t the natural alarm but nature itself. We were driving by a beautiful river. Since it was still early in the morning the water was still and the light was just enough for a perfect reflection.
I pulled out my phone to find out the name of the river. But to my surprise, it wasn’t a river but a drainage basin of the Sharavathi reservoir. We were almost at the edge of Sharavathi Valley. Monsoons are the best time to travel in this region of Karnataka. Due to the incessant rains, the entire landscape is painted in green.
After some time we crossed Nagara and entered another forest stretch. The sun had slowly started to rise. And the gaps between the trees slowly started to turn orange like how a flower bud blooms revealing the bright orange of a daisy. The cold wid, dewdrops on the window, a slowly rising sun, and sprawling lush greenery. The entire journey felt as if it was setting me up for the journey ahead.
Intro To Eco-Tourism In Kodachadri!
Kodachadri trek is also very famous and unlike Kudremukh there is no restriction on the number of people allowed. So it is quite important to start the trek early to avoid the crowd. So, We quickly freshened up, had the delicious breakfast, packed our lunch boxes, and boarded the bus to reach the trek starting point where we also met our guide.
In Kodachadri, It is compulsory to take a guide along with you for the trek. In a bid to support the locals and preserve forests, the forest department encourages locals to become guides. Our guide during my first trip to Kodachadri worked in Shivamogga during the weekdays and guides travelers over the weekend to reach Kodachadri Peak.
He briefed us about the trek and we started the trek from the jeep stand. The
trail road was surrounded by dense forest on one side and quaint homes on the other. The road kept my mind busy. If it was the kids playing outside their houses a few times, it was the music of running water streams that kept me busy during the other times. And soon after we crossed the last house, we were surrounded by dense fog.
All the huge trees suddenly vanished from our sight leaving a faded silhouette. The guide was walking ahead and due to the dense fog, we couldn’t see ahead. So we had to literally run to keep up with the guide’s pace. Soon the guide appeared and he asked us to wait at the diversion while he went to the forest check post to buy entry tickets for us.
Into The Wilderness Of Kodachadri Hills
Once the guide was back, he asked us to take the right turn away from the jeep road. All we could see was a running stream. So we looked back at him again and he said, we gotta cross the stream. Although the stream wasn’t very deep, crossing it meant our shoes would get wet. But you gotta do what you gotta do, even if it means getting your shoes wet even before the trek hardly started.
Soon after crossing the stream, we spend some time to run off the water and resumed the trek. As we followed the trail, I spotted a beautiful house by the trail. Looking at the betel nut trees around the house, the cloud kissing mountains in the background, and the dense forest in between them, I felt as it was transferred to earth from a heavenly planet.
We continued walking on the trail and soon it became even narrower. The trail was flat but during the monsoons, it was infested with leeches. As if that’s not enough, the entire trail becomes muddy and slippery in monsoons. With one careful step after the other, I continued the hike in the jungle. The initial stretch of the trail kept me so busy that I was constantly ducking under the branches, pushing that odd branch of leaves hanging stiffly in front of me, watching my step carefully.
Because the trail is surrounded by tall trees, I didn’t get any view of the mountains or the peak. But what kept me entertained were the tree trunks. They came in all shapes and sizes. While most of the tree trunks were regular & rounded, a few of them had flanges and a few more had a combination of rounded trunks with flanges.
Level 2: Bhattara Mane, Kodachadri
We continued the walk under the shade, humming that odd song while the rustling of leaves, the burble of the water stream, and chirps of crickets added the chorus. Soon the distance between the trees started to increase and the trail got wider as if it was opening to the portal to another world.
And just when I thought that, it was actually a portal. The trail lead us into a wide open ground, the kinds I remember playing cricket in my childhood. It almost felt like I was let go by a giant after holding me tight in his fists for an hour. While the cold wind on that open ground was in itself a huge reward, the mountain views in front of us just multiplied it.
Pro-tip: If you’re trekking in monsoons, be sure to not stop in damp areas unless you’re desperate for a blood-sucking relationship with leeches ;).
We continued the hike and after 50 meters or so, we saw another house. Fondly called as Battara Mane by the locals, it’s another police check post cum rest point. We recited our names to the guards like kids reciting ABCD and drank the thirst-quenching buttermilk which costs INR 15. The buttermilk got me thinking if the name was actually Butter Mane but then who cares about the English spellings for Kannada words.
After a brief rest, we continued the hike. The view of Banana field, paddy fields, the betel nut trees, and ultimately the wild-wild forest must be having every shade of green ever known. I kept staring at this view as it felt so peaceful and I thought I won’t get this view again But once I started the trek from Bhattara Mane, the trail turned towards the paddy fields. We walked right through them reminding me of my childhood time in our paddy fields.
A Hike Along The Waterfalls
As the trail leads us into the deep forest, the chirps, burble, and the shade returned. The stream was so close to the trail and loud that it almost muted any dialogue between us. So with nothing to do but walk and listen to the lovely music of nature, we marched ahead.
We soon came face to face with a waterfall that had a nice little jacuzzi at the bottom. The guide informed us that this was the lowermost waterfall of the Hidlumane falls. Wondering how many more were there in front of us I continued the trek.
I crossed the jacuzzi by carefully placing my steps on the shaky stones & ducking under a tree trunk to reach a rock. I climbed the rock and continued the hike on the muddy trail. A few minutes later, the muddy trail ended forcing me to get onto the rocky and slippery trail.
But at times, walking on slippery rocks is all you HAVE to do.
As I stood at the edge of the muddy trail, examining the trail ahead, a zillion ideas crossed my mind on how I can fall off and break my back. The trail had patches of rocks covered with algae. If that wasn’t enough, the rocks were slippery and inclined at a few locations. It’s a total nightmare when you place those slippery rocks under the blanket of a gushing water stream. This same stretch is very harmless after monsoons.
Walking On The Rocks-101
But such is trek life man, you never know what you are gonna encounter ahead. But this part of the trail taught me enough lessons on how to pick a choice. As I continued the trek, placing my feet carefully in between rocks and stretch to reach the next safe place and then did it all over again for a continuous 10 minutes. It was definitely a moment that made me think on my toes. But nature has it’s ways of rewarding your efforts and I realized this as I reached another waterfall. I thought this was the Hidlumane waterfalls and was getting excited that there wasn’t anyone there.
The guide told me as I approached the waterfall that it was the mid-zone waterfall en route Hidlumane Falls. I sighed and continued turned around.
Soon after I turned around, I was surprised. There was an almost 60-degree steep slope staring right at my face. As if the rocky terrain earlier wasn’t enough, this steep slope was also completely rocky with stepping stones appearing sporadically.
It was again, just a matter of time before we conquered that rock as well and the trail rewarded us with another relaxing flat muddy trail. This muddy trail had its own ups and downs like a snake moving perpendicular to the ground.
Reaching The Milky White Waterfalls
Perhaps the trail wasn’t very happy with our progress as it abruptly ended the muddy trail pushing us into the running stream. Without any sane option left for us, we continued the trek through the stream. Finding one sturdy rock after another, we reached a crossed over to the other side of this stream.
In one of the corners of the stream, I was lucky to find just enough light to attempt a long exposure shot. So I sat down and started clicking pictures. The gushing water or the slippery rocks, nothing seemed to make a dent in my determination. And after multiple attempts, I finally clicked my first ever, silky smooth waterfall picture.
I continued the walk on this narrow rocky terrain and soon the milky white stream of water running over the pitch-black rocks drew our attention. The guide signaled that it was indeed the ever-gorgeous Hidlumane Falls. I was surprised looking at the crowd. The second time when we started at around 8 AM, we had almost the entire falls for ourselves. However, on the other two occasions, we had to share it with, god knows how many.
Pro-Tip: So, it makes a hell lot of a difference at the waterfalls if you start early.
The falls create a jacuzzi under it which is just knee-deep. So, I left my baggage on the rocks by the falls, walked up to the falls, and sat down on the rocks right below the falls. The force of the stream was just right and it relieved me of all the stress of the trek. The sound was so loud that it almost created a barrier around me that didn’t let any other noise be heard. Sitting under the waterfalls is a meditative experience that I strongly recommend you to do.
Up, Up Here We Go! Where We Stop Nobody Knows
We played in the jacuzzi, clicked lot of pictures and started the hike again.
The trail starts with a rock climb right from the edge of the water stream. With wet shoes, wet and dripping clothes, it’s a huge task for anyone. But we weren’t anyone 😉 we were a lot of ones :P. We helped each other climb up the rock by lending support and pulling them up.
But soon after the climb, I realized that it was just a teaser of what’s ahead. Just a few steps after climbing up the rock, a steep muddy trail welcomed us. We climbed up slowly, one step after another, and reached the top. As if it was a video game, the trail leveled up and introduced a hairpin steep climb. While the entry was easier, to exit the steep climb, we literally had to hold any tiny plants we could to not fall back.
Soon after that, it was time for the next level. Where there were tree trunks placed on the steep trail. We crossed over them and climbed up another steep slope to exit the forest cover.
The excitement of climbing up the steep slope didn’t last long when I looked at the trail ahead. All I could see was another towering, endless steep slope, filled with pebbles. We were already exhausted with all the climb. So we took a much-needed break before starting the ascent for what I came to learn as the Everest meadow.
It was a very apt name considering the effort it takes to reach there.
Climbing The Everest Of South India
After a short break, I started the climb again. Taking it slow, one step at a time, bending forward to ease the strain on the knees. Halfway through on this trail strong wind started blowing sideways, trying to topple my balance, and the small pebbles made it difficult to get a good grip to walk straight ahead.
So I resorted to a zig-zag motion and finally reached the top of the Everest meadow. I turned around to look at the trail I walked on but I saw something much more exciting. In the distance, beyond a small mountain, I observed amoeba-like water bodies. Is that what I think it is?, I asked myself looking at those water bodies in the distance.
Of course, it is what it is, the enchanting Sharavati Valley. I was so exciting seeing the valley that I didn’t give a damn about the drama that’s happening over the meadows in front of me. I fell in love reading about the biodiversity of the Sharavati valley and how it’s the only wildlife sanctuary in the world set up for the rare Lion Tailed Macaque. The view is etched in my mind even though my camera did a half baked job to capture it.
Everest meadow marks the second milestone of the trek and it was time for lunch. We opened our packed lunches & boy any Meghana or Paradise or Hyderbadi House biryani is no match to that Puliogare. Knowing myself, I knew it was a momentary feeling. It’s probably because of the tiredness from the trek or the surroundings that I still vividly remember the taste.
After that tasty lunch and recuperating some energy, we started the hike again. The trail flattened out over the edge of a meadow, followed by another steep descent, followed by few more minutes of flat trail and another moderately steep ascent later, we reached the jeep road. It is in this part of the trail that the meadows of Kodachadri Hills were distinctly visible. The lush green meadows during monsoons turn golden by the end of winter.
Seasons change, the colors change but my love for mountains never changes!
Giving Back To The Nature
During the second trek when the monsoons were at their peak, we stopped n the flat stretch after Everest meadow to plant seed balls. It was a noble initiative by Plan The Unplanned to plant seed balls along the trail so that people, animals, insects can reap the benefits. Seedballs are nothing but seeds wrapped in a solidified mixture of cow dung, cow urine & mud.
One of the biggest advantages of seed balls is that you don’t have to dig but just press the seed balls against the soft ground. This was the real deal of giving it back to nature. After all, we were just borrowing the resources it provided us thus far. I felt so happy doing that activity & felt even better while explaining what we were doing off the trail to other trek groups 😀
Kudos to Plan The Unplanned for such beautiful initiatives.
Amazing Conversations En Route Mookambika Temple
The guide informed us that we were still about 4 KM away from the peak. So we continued walking on the jeep road. It was a comfortable walk barring close encounters with skidding jeeps at the corners of the road. The entire road is surrounded by trees on either side. It is on this part of the trail that I had some of the most interesting conversations in all the three treks. Probably because it wasn’t too hard to walk on, or there was nothing visible to see or click pictures of, or even because of the renewed energy from the lunch earlier.
It was roughly 3:30 PM by the time we reached the Mookambika temple. We still had about 4 KMs left for the day, ascent and descent combined. Owing to the restrictions on vehicular movement into the sanctuary, we had to reach the temple back by 5 PM. While few wanted to rest at the temple, a majority if not all of the trek team signed up for the timed challenge. The temple is another place of religious importance not just for the locals but also for people from faraway lands. Mookambika Temple in the Kodachadri hills is dedicated to Goddess Mookambika who is believed to have killed a notorious demon named Mookasura.
Life Lessons From Trekking
The trail starts with a steep ramp built over rocks and turns leftward into another rocky steep climb. The end of this steep climb reveals the ridges and cliffs of Kodachadri Hills. Most of these ridges and cliffs were hiding behind a blanket of fog during the monsoons. But during the winter trip, I witnessed the raw beauty of Kodachadri Trek. I realized during the third trek that I was walking along the edge of a cliff during monsoons. Any mistake, I would’ve ended up deep inside the shola forests of Kodachadri hills and probably wouldn’t be alive to even write this travelogue.
But, what were the odds of me falling off the trail?
Probably very very slim. Owing to my experience of trekking in the monsoons, the sturdy shoes, fit body, I can safely say that the chances were slim. But it sends a shiver down my spine when I think about the consequences of this low-probability event. The event if occurred would have dramatically changed my life forever, even put a permanent stop to my trekking self.
I learned that it is these low-probability high impact events are all that matter in life. We usually keep thinking about high probability activities like graduating, getting a job, getting married, and living a comfortable life. But instead, it’s those life-changing, low-probability events like losing your job to a pandemic and their consequences are what we should spend our time on and prepare ourselves.
The Final Countown To The Kodachadri Peak
It took me a while to get my mind back to normalcy after that realization. After a series of steep climbs over rocks, accompanied by the wilderness of Kodachadri hills by the cliff-side, we reached the Kodachadri Peak. Sarvajna Peetham marks the end of the trek to Kodachadri Peak. Sarvajna Peetham is where Adi Shankaracharya meditated and attained “the wisdom of the world” hence the name Sarvajna Peetham. Though there are controversies over the period in which Shankaracharya lived, the Sarvana Peetham atop the Kodachadri Peak is at least 1200 years old.
The view from the Kodachadri peak is washed out in monsoons. But I was lucky to see the beautiful landscape from the peak during the third trek. Apparently, one could see the Arabian Sea from the peak but to say the truth, I couldn’t see it. The wind was fast and cold, carrying the sweat of tiredness away from our faces, filling in a sense of joy & victory. The joy of reaching the peak restored in us the strength to trek through even tougher terrains and tougher times, both in the trek or otherwise :D.
We trekked back to Mookambika temple where we had hot and delicious bajjis before getting on to the jeep. The Kodachadri jeep ride is one of the most adventurous rides you will ever go on. The road is muddy, slippery & dangerous. If you want to best enjoy this ride sit in the front row near the door. But promise me you won’t fall asleep as I did 😛
Post Trek Rituals At Kodachadri
At roughly 6:30 PM we reached the homestay. Took a nice warm shower and had the delicious dinner. Games, Bonfire, dance, and music followed. Amidst all the fun, I happened to look up and boy the sky was so inviting. I quickly grabbed my phone and walked away from the light into the darkness.
The road was pitch dark and after a few meters, I stood there, under the starry sky hearing nothing but the rustling of the leaves of betel nut trees. While I was busy get the right picture, I heard some strange sounds. I was sure that it was the rustling of the leaves above. So, I left the starry night alone to live another day 😛
Trip Back In Time- Nagara Fort
We started early at around 8:30 AM from home stay after having yet another delicious meal at the homestay. The next destination was Nagara Fort. An 18th Century fort belonging to the Keladi Dynasty.
Although the fort is now in a ruined state, the monsoons simply transform the landscape. The watchtower is still in one piece and gives you magnificent views of the Kodachadri Hills & the backwater channels of the Lingamakki Reservoir.
We spent close to an hour or hour and a half here exploring the ruins and clicking a lot of pictures. After a brief stop for lunch after Shivamogga, we played games and sang our way back to Bangalore.
Basically! Kodachadri Is Love
There are only a few things that one could ask for in life. The company of a beautiful bunch of people, a homestay with delicious home-made food, ZERO network whatsoever, and the most exciting trek in the Western Ghats that packs all kinds of trails in it. Every one of those three trips to Kodachadri has left me with so many lasting memories and people.
Now you know why Kodachadri has a special place in my heart 😉
Thanks a lot for sticking through till the end. Hope you enjoyed reading it too and if you loved the place, add it to your next weekend trip. Alternatively, you can get in touch with me on Instagram to join me the next time I head to Kodachadri. You can also read about my Kheerganga and Triund & Kudremukh trekking experience.
I’ll be back soon with another blog post.
Until then, you can check out other blog posts 😉
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