I generally am enthusiastic about any trek or wandering in wilderness, however improbable or dangerous or ill timed but there has been but one trek which my friends and I haven’t been able to complete till the destination….
This was during my undergraduate college done in MIT, manipal… which is located in the west coast of India in the state of Karnataka. We had heard about the second highest peak in Karnataka as a place called ‘subramanya’ located at a distance of over 6 hours from the nearest town- Mangalore (Mangalore is around 40 km from manipal on the western coast). We had heard of the place from our seniors (vignesh and arvind khelkar)- who had spent 3 days in trekking and camping in that area. The peak is a part of the western ghats, and they did not at any time inform us that the trek would be difficult or require a overnight haul.
My friends (Sandeep, Alap, Joydeep, Gurwinder) decided impromptu and spontaneously to visit the area over a weekend in which we were free. We packed the basics in duffle bags, and a change over. We expected to be back in couple of days and as such guys don’t require much (we did carry our fair share of liquor and all to spice up our senses before the trek- something which was a fatal mistake for the cause, and cost us our journey’s end goal).
The bus journey from Mangalore to subramanya is hectic uncomfortable and sheer agony (the roads were just potholes so big that even the bus had to travel at low speeds). Subramanya- is the name of the son of shiva- he is also called kartikeya, he is the human son of shiva (the other being ganesha- who had his human head replaced with an elephants). Subramanya is a child who is an ascetic, and a saint. He haunts only mountain tops, and his temples are all located over hillocks (In south india – there are six such places of significance- like panani, swamimalai etc- six places where subramanya spends his time in meditation eons since and still).
Subramanya is located at the base of the western ghats, there is an old and very famous temple located in this vicinity; and the entire area has the feel of a temple town- pilgrimage homes, ashrams etc. The location is hilly and the time we reached – which was late late night, there was nothing open anywhere… we checked out the town; and it was raining and drizzling intermittently which added to the beauty of this small isolated quaint town immersed in sheer peace indeed.
We found a lodging at an ashram- a room for all of us, where we unpacked freshened up and had just enough time to enjoy some high spirits. We relaxed and thought up when we would start in the morning, and before any of us knew it… we all were asleep (due to extreme tiredness of the bus journey- a real back killer).
The morning was sunny and the rain water had started evaporating which meant that it would be extremely hot and humid soon, making the trek up difficult ( I for one sweat profusely which adds to my minute to minute burden). We didn’t bother for a good breakfast and DID NOT take anything to eat or water to drink before we found our trail starting to the peak. We were all on a pretty dazed hangover which added to our brains being temporarily affected. I also believe that as none of us sought the blessing of the saint on the hill, or visit the temple… this made our minds temporarily veiled; so we could not gather what all was needed for our trek, we did not even bother to find out the terrain, time and other details (something which I myself generally don’t fail to do before starting up inside wilderness area).
The trek was extremely difficult, the way up was strenuous to all of us, and as we all realized after a period of 4 hours of gruelling trekking is that we were not climbing the mountain subramanya, rather we were climbing the base hills of the western ghats to reach the base camp from where the actual trek to the mountain was to start- which would be easily another 8 hours of non stop upward haul.
I cannot tell you the awe and expression on each one of our faces when we saw reaching upon the base, the humongous mountain still in front of us, we were left with only one thought… “thats the highest thing anywhere close to here, that means we haven’t reached the top, we are nowhere near the top”
We had more whiskey on us than water, we had more smokes on us than food(all each one of us was carrying in the namesake of food- was one chocolate bar!). We braved leaches on the house with salt, some sucking a lot of our blood and had to be removed with hands. We braved inebriation, hangover and dehydration to finally reach the base area (the top of the western ghats)- we were on our edges, totally lost and tired. We were able to find a hutment with caretaker living in it, The kind gentleman acted as an awesome host, providing us with water and some space to cool off. He also proceeded to tell us details of the trek which still lied in front of us. This really brought us down for we knew that we were not carrying anything remotely required for camping or staying in the jungle. We left our mood behind and carried forward in cheer. This is a jungle reserve and the forest post high up checked our belongings and promptly kept all of our leftover booze and smokes. We were at least less burdened; we took some time to take a couple of photos and explore the area at our leisure. we decided not to trek further as we saw dark clouds coming and this meant that any crazy wacko idea we had to push on further had to be discarded. My first and only failed trek, and as we started downwards, the powerful fury of the clouds above us burst to let out endless rain….. We had a a very tough time coming down, with every trek trail starting to fill with water and quick.
We somehow managed to come back and freshen up, It was a trek which was extremely tough (because we underestimated the route, and overestimated our preparedness) and leave the place. Before leaving though, I decided to make amends and see the temple dedicated to the mountain loving god; the son of Shiva…. subramanya.
Our journey back was uneventful and we all slept intermittently through the broken pot holed roads till we reached back to the peace of our hostel rooms to reminisce our forsaken and perhaps forbidden trip to the sacred mountain.
I myself was very disappointed that we could not get the view from the top, and mentally made a note to re-visit this place in the future and to climb till the top. I also learnt from the mistakes which we made in this trip so that I could avoid it in any further journey. But overall the place and atmosphere surrounding the holy town and hill of Subramanya are divine. The clouds envelop the ghats perpetually and the ever dense greenery is a sight for sour eyes (especially eyes which are more prone to looking at commercial city jungles than the real ones!)
Happy Travelling and ensure that you do plan a journey all the way to the top in advance!