St. Mary's Island, a few minutes boat ride from Malpe, near Udipi, proved to be the perfect place to laze around after Saturday's arduous trek. We climbed atop the hexagonal pillared rock formations, bathed in the Arabian Sea and after a couple of hours were back on our way towards our hotel. Picturesque as it is, with its coconut trees swaying in the wind and waves crashing on the rocks, St. Mary's Island would have to be in the 'also visited' category as far as this trip is concerned. For the trek to Kudremukh, was something out of the world.
It was around 10:30 when the ten of us stuffed ourselves in the jeep which would take us to the starting point of the trek. That the jeep could take all of us, plus the guide and the driver, up the muddy incline which was frighteningly steep at times, is something that has to be experienced to be believed. Some guys were talking of torque and angular velocity but take my word, I still dont know how it got us through!
No camping is allowed inside the Kudremukh National Park. It simply meant that we had to be out by 6 in the evening. Having started the ascent at around 11, with a total distance of 24 kms to go if we were to reach the peak and come back, most of us were just content to be finally trekking.
Reality struck when instead of 'grasslands' we were greeted with a rather uneasy rocky climb in the initial stages of the trek. The sun was beating down hard but the beauty of the scenery that was unfolding before our eyes kept us going. A stream and a stretch of jungle followed and soon we were surrounded by lush green rounded hills on all sides as the walk became easy. As we gained height, the view became more and more expansive and breathtaking. Valleys opened up in front of us. The clouds went floating by casting shadows on the ground below. It was straight out of some calender page. After some time, having run out of adjectives, we decided not to say anything to each other and instead just smiled as yet another valley or a hillock opened up in front of us at the next turn. And it was not only the view which was changing. One moment we were in a jungle with the sound of a million crickets and the smell of leaves rotting and in the next step we would find ourselves in open space with a stream gurgling by somewhere close and the scent of fresh air. Trekking, couldn't get any better.
We had to reach the peak and that meant going really fast and not taking any leisurely breaks. So we trudged along, fighting leeches which would cling to our feet and even get inside the socks. Thankfully we had some salt with us to get rid of them. Our shoes were wet because of crossing the streams, hands were muddy due to walking on all four at places where the climb became really steep, cramps set in occasionally and the leaches wouldn't just let go. And above all was the danger of getting late while descending and the chance of rain and nightfall before we could get out of the park. But we had to reach the peak.
It was 2:45 when we finally found ourselves on the peak. The sun decided to take a rest at the exact same moment. We were engulfed by clouds flying past us. It was suddenly very chilly. We spent about fifteen minutes there, taking a well deserved break before starting the descent.
The trek back was largely uneventful but had a sense of urgency to it. We somehow split into two groups. I was along with three other guys and we were ahead of the rest, who also had the guide with them. I'll have to accept that the last couple of hours were tedious. Fighting cramps, leaches, fatigue and above all, a slight boredom, we somehow managed to reach the Jeep just as night was about to fall and to our surprise (of a happy kind!), the other group came in a few minutes later. That we had to wait for about an hour or so as our Jeep had some problems could be regarded as a minor hitch.
We reached the small village from where we had taken the Jeep, freed ourselves of the leeches, washed our hands and feet and had dinner. The hot sambar and rice tasted heavenly! We were too tired to take the ride back to Bangalore so decided on going to Udipi instead which was around 100 Kms from there. We reached Udipi at 1 in the night and checked into a hotel. I took a long cold shower and was asleep before I knew it.
The knee joints were still aching as we started on our way to Bangalore from Udipi. The feet were still sore after all the walking. Climbing 6000 feet one day and bathing in the sea the other. It felt refreshing to get out of the comfort zone. It felt great to meet eight new people.
Monday morning around 7 o' clock. Im headed back home with my flatmate. The sun is shining bright and there's a chill in the air. Even Bangalore seems so much better.