At 1745 m, Thadiyandemol is the highest peak in Coorg, and the third highest in Karnataka. It is situated right on the Kerala-Karnataka border. We were told that on clear days, you can see the town of Kannur, and even a glimpse of the Arabian sea from the top.
Prasanthettan and I set off on our trek at eight in the morning, on Sunday the 6th. We took with us some bread and jam, biscuits, bananas and water, and a map which Mr. Prasad was kind enough to provide us with. The peak is roughly 6 km from Palace Estate.
The first phase of the journey was along a tar road winding up through the coffee plantations. We passed a few gurgling streams cutting across the road, on the way. After about one and a half kilometres, the tar road ended and gave way to a mud road which only four-wheel drive jeeps can negotiate. We stopped by a stream to have our breakfast, and refilled our bottle with its clear water.
We resumed our trek after the break and trudged along the mud road. That part of the journey was rather easy, as the road climbed, if at all, very gently. After another couple of kilometres, the mud road narrowed down to a trail, which seemed to be permanent, as the ground beneath it was hardened. We carried on, looking for a landmark indicated on our map, the “Big Rock”.
The path began to climb more steeply. We stopped regularly, to give our legs some rest. There was no question of becoming tired, as the weather was just perfect (as far as our bodies were concerned) for an arduous trek. Short spells of rain and a gentle breeze (at times stronger) kept our body fluids intact. At last we reached the Big Rock.
Half an hour later we reached another landmark on our map – the “Old Stone Wall”. As the name suggests, it is a neat little wall made of stones piled upon each other. It must have marked the boundary of some ancient kingdom. Next we had to pass through a little but dense forest. This was leech country! Hardly had we taken a dozen steps, when our feet were attacked by a swarm of those slimy bloodsucking creatures.
The path runs into a steep climb inside the forest and it was impossible to progress without resting. We tried to get rid of the leeches during one such stop. It was a mistake. By the time you removed one of them, a couple would have attached themselves to your feet. Standing still inside the forest was a bad idea. But still it was difficult to go on without stopping. Thankfully the path soon came out of the forest, and entered the final stage of the journey to the peak.
We stopped a few metres from the forest for de-leeching. We had brought some salt along with us, but found that it was not a practical solution, as salt takes some time to take effect. The best way to remove them was to just pull them out. It’s a bit tricky, but I almost mastered it by the time we reached back.
The last leg of the climb was upon us. Mr.Prasad had told us the night before that once you got out of the forest, it was a steep climb, but we shouldn’t get discouraged as it was only a few metres to the top. We set off again. This would prove to be the most physically and mentally challenging part of the climb for me. The steep climb and the leeches inside the forest had shaken my nerves, and I was starting to feel the tiredness and pain in my legs.
We stopped every few steps. It became tougher with each step. And we didn’t seem to get any closer to the peak. That we couldn’t exactly see the peak, due to the thick mountain mist, made it all the more depressing. When we stopped for yet another rest, Prasanthettan asked me whether I wanted to go back. He said that it was alright, of course it was my first time. He warned me not to strain my legs too much lest I get cramps.
I was in a dilemma. My heart told me to go on, at the same time I was aware of the danger of cramps. I took one last glimpse in the direction of the peak, and made up my mind. I got up, and told Prasanthettan that I would carry on – I wanted to reach the peak. That last stretch turned out to be not so strenuous after all! We had actually completed the most difficult part of the climb. In a few minutes we were cheering each other on the peak! What a feeling that was! It’s something beyond words…
It was eleven o’clock. The climb had taken us exactly three hours. We sat for about ten minutes on the flat square rock on the peak, looking at the clouds below us on all sides, imagining the view we would have had, had it been a clear day. I wonder how that rock reached there. It’s as if it was put there for the trekkers to rest. We ate a few biscuits and started our return journey.
I understood the significance of my decision to carry on to the top, when we started our descent. Mentally recharged and reinvigorated by the accomplishment of reaching the peak, the ache in my legs seemed to have disappeared. I experienced that mysterious and magical link between the mind and the body.
In a few minutes we reached the edge of the forest. This time, we decided we wouldn’t stop till we reached outside. We told each other not to look at our feet, so as to avoid any temptation to stop and remove the leeches. We quickly walked down the slope through the forest, and in about five minutes we were on the other side. It was amazing how quickly we had covered the same distance which had felt like hours on the way up.
We took a few more steps and stopped to remove the leeches. Prasanthettan had got about 30. Me, probably 20-25. And we didn’t stop even for a moment! The rest of the journey was a pleasant walk through the lovely meadows. The mist had more or less cleared, and we were able to see some of the breathtaking beauty of the landscape which had been shrouded in mist on our way up.
The descent took about two hours, and we were back at Palace Estate by 1 pm. Took a shower and devoured the fabulous meal which was waiting for us, with the great appetites we had worked up!
Visit Prasanthettan’s album to see the photos…