On the early winter morning of October 4, 2015, a group of around 20 friends got down the bus at Nalknad palace. They were surrounded by a dense fog that covered the towering oak trees and a muddy path that was barely visible after 2 feet distance. Standing in the middle of the road, yours truly was half asleep wearing jeans and sandals, all in the excitement of conquering the highest peak in Coorg district, the mighty Tadiandamol peak. Fast forward to 18th October 2019, yours truly stood in the middle of the same road, only this time in a proper trekking gear leading a group of 20 people to conquer the same peak again.
I had a strange feeling when I stood on the same road again. Just four years ago, I was an immature engineering student just excited to attempt trekking without any preparation or prior experience. After 4 years, I not only craved treks more than any other form of travel but also became a trek leader to help others witness the magic of nature.
It was an amazing feeling to trek up to the Tadiandamol peak again, the peak that made me fall in love with hiking in the first place. The beautiful landscapes filled with rolling hills, the romance of clouds and the peaks, the fog of the winter, and the exciting trail, all flashed in front of my eyes as I explained the best practices during the trek to the group. In this travelogue, I will take you on that transformative journey that introduced me to the purest form of being close to nature, trekking. Come, let’s go conquer the Tadiandamol Peak.
Processing Intel On Intel Folks
Unlike my other treks with Plan The Unplanned(PTU), this one was a corporate trek. A group of people at Intel wanted to go on a trek and they got in touch with PTU to arrange one for them. We picked them up around 8:30 PM and hit the road. Every trek usually starts with ice breakers because the travelers wouldn’t have known each other.
But how do you do that in a corporate trek where everyone not just knows them, they KNOW them. We invented quite a few ice breakers on the fly but nothing would get the ball rolling. That’s when we pulled the trump card, “We asked everyone to pick someone and share their most embarrassing moment in the office” and the whole bus burst into laughter. After a short sleep, we reached Kakkabe at around 4:30 AM. Kakkabe is a beautiful hamlet nestled close to the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Coorg.
I was startled when the driver told me that we reached the destination. We were at least 2 hours early. How could we reach so quickly? Couldn’t he drive a little slower? I was half asleep while I got down the bus, reminding me of the same incident four years ago. I looked around, there were two homestays.
It’s not a very good idea to knock someone’s gate that early in the morning, I said to myself. So I pulled out my phone to call the homestay owner. The call didn’t go through, I didn’t have any signal. We tried from the co-trek lead’s phone and after multiple trials, he picked up.
An Early Morning Gamble
We told him that we reached the main road and asked him directions to reach the homestay. He asked us to come straight to the diversion. We acknowledged it without verification and woke up everyone else.
Everyone got down and we started walking as instructed by the owner. Within a few minutes, we reached the point where the road diverged into two. There were no streetlights so we stood there staring into the utter darkness trying to figure out which way to go. We called up the owner again and explained our situation. He asked us to take the right turn and come straight to the homestay. We followed the instructions and walked on that dark road until we spotted another house. We were excited that the scary journey was behind us. So, we called up the homestay owner and told him we were at the gate.
I guess he might have woken up and walked into his balcony only to spot no one. He called us up immediately and asked us where we were. We explained that we followed his directions and reached a homestay.
“Okay, you reached A homestay but it isn’t THE homestay”, he quipped in his Coorgi slang. He asked us to continue walking on the same road until we see him. We walked through those dark roads with nothing but the sounds of whistling winds, croaks of frogs, and the chirps of crickets accompanying us. After about 20 minutes we finally emerged from the dark and saw light (and the owner too). It was still too early to start the trek so we decided to nap for some time and settled down in our rooms.
En Route Nalknad Palace
At around 6:30 AM, the loud chirps of birds woke me up from my slumber. I walked into the balcony of the homestay to spot some birds. But as I looked deeper into the branches, the mountains in the distance caught my eyes. Fog covered the mountains partially and the sprawling coffee estates seemed to extend all the way from the homestay to the mountains.
We freshened up, had breakfast, packed our lunch, and left the homestay at around 9 AM. We walked back to the main road and boarded the bus to continue the drive on Virajpet-Talakaveri road. At Yevakapadi, we took a left turn into a narrow road.
The road was so narrow, it was hardly enough for the 30 seater bus. As we entered that road, the landscape transformed completely. There were lush-green sprawling coffee estates that spread as far as my eyes could see on either side of the road. We continued the drive and reached Nalknad Palace at around 9:20 AM and started the trek.
We started walking on the concrete path with coffee estates on either side. For the next 20 minutes, it was just us, the road, the coffee estates, and the music of the birds and the whistling wind.
A Palette Of Green, Blue, And Grey.
We continued walking on this road, slowly the coffee estate on the right was replaced by a valley. A stream ran down the valley but its sound faded as we were busy sharing travel stories. Perhaps, the estate missed our stories as it re-entered the scene on the right.
After walking for 20 minutes in that enclosed road, I observed some open space on the right side. I knew we were at a moderate height, so it should either be a viewpoint or a cliff. So, I ran ahead to find out and boy that landscape so stunning. If I had to paint it on a blank canvas, I’d have to source all the shades of Green, Blue, and Gray from all over the world to do justice to that beauty.
We clicked loads of pictures here and continued the trek on the enclosed road again. At around 10:20 AM we reached the forest check post. Just like all the protected wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, we had to show a count of the plastic pieces were taking and had to pay an equivalent amount of refundable deposit. We also paid the entry fee and entered the trekking trail.
Hopping On To The Tadiandamol Trekking Trail
Soon after I set foot on the trail, the lush-green landscapes stretching to infinity appeared on the right side. It was a cloudy day, so almost all the hills were busy playing with the puffy white and grey clouds. We continued the walk and the talk as the landscapes unfolded and revealed taller and bigger peaks. The trail was very flat and uncovered, but the cloudy sky and wintery climate eased made it a relaxing trek.
We continued the hike through the open trail dotted with shola forests. The trail although scenic is unchallenging for the most part. There were random trails diverging from the main trail and I went ahead and explored them.
Everywhere I looked it was all rolling green hills spreading to infinity with the multi-blue colored sky in the background. I remember this entire stretch was covered in fog during my first trek in 2015. But now I was able to witness every inch of the beauty that surrounded us.
I guess the group wanted more challenges in the trail but the trail offered none until then. So we made up a challenge on the fly and chose a random hill on the trail and raced to reach its top. See if you can spot people on the slope in this pic.
While half the group was climbing the random hill, the other half rested near a rock and I accompanied them. We clicked more pictures and planted seed balls until the other group was back.
The Final Ascent To Tadiandamol Peak
Once everyone was back together we resumed the hike. We thought the trail wouldn’t be very different and started walking leisurely. After a few minutes of flat trail, a narrow trail in a dense shola forest greeted us.
Soon after we crossed it, we stared at a steep climb but it wasn’t straight, so it wasn’t that daunting. Once we crossed that, the trail threw a steep climb in front of us. It was almost as if the trail was taking revenge for the remarks we made earlier.
We conquered that steep slope as well and as they say, the best views come after the hardest climb. As I looked back at the trail, I couldn’t comprehend the vastness of the huge mountains. Until then I was looking at rolling hills that were all of similar shape and size.
But at that moment I was just awestruck by the huge mountain standing behind the hills right in front of us. It isn’t that I wasn’t used to looking at mountains but this was the first time I got a panoramic view of the mountains not just in front of me but also the ones behind them and so on. My eyes were alternating between the mountain and the people on the trail making me realize, how tiny space we occupy in this world.
After the steep climb the trail flattened out again and within five minutes we reached the end of the trail, the Tadiandamol Peak. Tadiandamol Peak is almost on the border between Karnataka and Kerala. So, if you have sufficient strength to throw a stone far enough from the peak towards the south, then there is a good chance of it landing in Kerala.
The Drama At The Tadiandamol Peak
We sat there and finished lunch. During my previous trek, fog covered the entire peak. So I had no clue how the views were from the peak. But I was lucky this time that I got a small window when the fog cleared up and revealed the magnificent landscapes.
Within no time, the fog took over the entire landscape. The clouds have started to darken indicating it was time to leave. So we started the climb down and halfway through the trek, it started pouring heavily.
We got drenched in the rain while trekking down and reached the homestay. By the time we reached, the snacks were ready. Since it rained, the beautiful people at the homestay made bajjis, the perfect companion for rainy weather.
I highly recommend Tadiandamol Trek for anyone who’s looking to start trekking. It’s an easy one yet doesn’t compromise on the beauty and experience. The trek has enough beauty to bring you close to nature, just enough challenges for a beginner and most of all makes you realize how small a place you occupy in this world. Being humble I believe is an essential quality in travel and life.
Hope you enjoyed the trek.
I’ll see you next weekend. Until then, be in touch.
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