Brahmagiri Trekking – Amidst the Mountains and Clouds

View From the top of Brahmagiri

To the contrary of my usual trips the Brahmagiri trip was planned some days in advance. As usual I was planning to go all alone for this trip. But suddenly Ajith popped into the scene. After planning for the trekking I had to spend a week end at home and it was then Ajith showed up. As soon as I told him about the trip he raised his hands in willingness and seemed so excited about the expedition. He kept on asking about the trip but I managed to share as little as I can so as not to break the suspense. But I was little concerned about him as he was venturing something like that for the first time. I thought I could have took him for some lighter ones as the Brahmagiri trekking was considered little severe and the summer season also worried me. But he turned out to be too good for a first timer in later stage. May be his daily badminton schedules would have helped him.

I was at Cochin on that week end and I have asked Ajith to come to Cochin from where we have planned to start the trip. I have booked two tickets in the Mysore bus which was supposed to take off by 8 pm. Saturday Ajith started from TVM at 12 pm and reached Cochin by 6 . I was at my office and asked him to come to the office. As soon as he reached I was also out of office and we straight away went to my room for a quick freshen up.  In no time we were out and were moving in an auto to South KSRTC stand from where we have booked the tickets. After having some food and a fast shopping for some urgent things we boarded the bus at 7.45. The bus was right on time and started sharp at 8pm.

The initial plan was to get down at Kalpetta to get freshen up and then go to Mananthavady and from there to Thirunelli from where the trek starts. But asking the conductor on the bus he suggested not to go to Kalpetta as it would be an unnecessary travel. We could get down at Kozhikode and can catch the Mananthavady but from there. There are frequent busses from Kozhikode to Mananthavady. There were some small stops at Trissur and some other places I don’t remember the names. By 1 am we reached Kozhikode and there was a brief stop for our bus in Kozhikode. The conductor asked us to enquire the time of the Mananthavady bus. We kept our bags in the bus itself and asked the Mananthavady bus timing and was replied that by 1.45 am there is a Mananthavady but. We took our bags and get down at Kozhikode KSRTC stand. We have 45 minutes to go and we decided to have some refreshment. I couldn’t believe we wag abound in the Bus stand at 1 am enjoying a tea and snacks.

After some time we saw the Mananthavady but coming and we boarded the same.  We had discussion on some matters and finally slept at some odd time. By 4.30 am we reached Mananthavady which is a small town area. All shops and establishments (though there was little) were closed but the auto stand was very much alive. There was an auto stand right near to the bus stop and we enquired them about the chance of getting a lodge or a tourist home for concluding our morning rituals and a power nap till 6. That is when we were told that the first but to Thirunelli starts from Mananthavady. They pointed to some directions and we walked along that way. We could find nothing on the way and after a little roaming we came to the same place again. Ajith was so excited on all this as it was his first time and seemed very energetic.  We asked some others also about the hotels and someone suggested a name and directed the route.  We reached the lodge but couldn’t see any one there. We called up for some time but nobody showed up. All we could do was to search for some other places and after a little while we could see another tourist home not so far and checked in. It was almost 5 am and there was hardly time for a power nap. All we could do was to keep our phones in charge and lie down for a little while. By 5.45 we got ready and were on the road waiting for the first bus for Thirunelli. By 6.05 the bus came and there were hardly one or two others in the bus along with us. It is about one and a half hour journey from Mananthavady to Thirunelli. The route was through dense forest. The road was very scenic and we could even see some wild dear roaming around as it was early morning. Couldn’t manage to get some pics as it snooped into the woods as soon as they hear the bus coming. We could see fire lines parallel to the road throughout to protect the woods from catching fire in summer.  By 7.30 we reached Thirunelli. Thirunelli is a small town ship with hardly two three shops and a couple of hotels. We could also see some home stays there. Without wasting much time we got into a hotel and had food. We had idly and chutney but we couldn’t get parcel from that hotel as the breakfast was already over. They make very less quantity as there used to be very less people visiting Brahmagiri in summer. After having food we asked for Thirunelli forest IB and they have shown us the way.

We had to walk for 10 minutes on the way the bus came and we saw another hotel there and from there we packed our lunch and bought three bottle of water. My back pack was feeling heavy. From this point we need to get into a forest trail which leads to the forest IB from where the trekking permission needs to be taken. The trail was little steep from that point itself.  On the way we could see some animal foot prints which I believe was that of dear.  After a walk of 15 minutes reach we reached the forest IB office which was locked. We enquired at the office and they directed us to Suresh Babu Sir who was the wild life warden for Thirunelli range. I had already spoken to him over phone and have informed that we will be coming. We could see a board where the trekking details and some other information where encrypted. We could see so many monkeys on the tree tops there and I could get some pics. They said they are very troublesome as they would enter the office premise and cause problems some times. I could also hear the sound of wood pecker but couldn’t spot the same. Saw a giant squirrel moving from one tree to another there but couldn’t managed to catch a snap as it moved so fast.

Avian population Near Thirunelli IB

Suresh Babu came and asked us to complete the registration and all. By 9 am only we could start the trek because it is dangerous to leave early in the morning and not allowed to start before 9 as there as chances that we come across wild life if we start very early and our guide was yet to come. It was only 8 am by then and we had to wait till 9 I thought. But after doing the registration and all Suresh Sir allowed us to go earlier as we are only two people and we were youth so that we can manage if at all we come across and wild life. He has given us a small briefing and some warning. Coming out of the office we were introduced to a boy who would be not more than 18 years. His name was Rajendran and he was supposed to show the way to us. He was one among the tribal people there and we started from the base camp by 8.05 am.

The initial trial through forest

There was a clear trail where in a jeep could move through and for almost 3 km the trail is like this only said Rajendran. I was little disappointed to take that way as there is no fun in taking a road into the forest. But after going forward for some time he took us through the forest instead of the path and from this point the journey was becoming more interesting. We were moving through dense forest where sun light barely popped in. We didn’t feel the heat of the summer as we were guarded by a huge cover of residuos forest cover over our head.

Morning sun Peeps inside the dense cover

Initially we moved little fast taking breaks whenever necessary only. But after two km in we had to slow down a little for water breaks and rest. Rajendran said if we had to reach the top we had to move fast as it would be very difficult to ascend in the noon time because the heat will be more when we attain more altitude.

By this time itself we had attained a lot of height unknowingly as we were moving through the dense woods. After 3 km we came out of the forest and from this point it was only grass lands. I could get some snap of a horn bill with some pray in its beak.

Todays catch- A hornbill with a prey in its beak

We have also seen two lion tailed macaque but it moved so fast into the deep woods not allowing capturing them.  Rajendran had a very good sight and he sees many a things which we don’t even notice.  We were walking through the side of a hill now and the view to the left side was beautiful here.

We could see the watch tower by now and we decided to have a break here. From the watch tower the real ascent begins. We went up the watch tower and we could see a herd of Bison from top of the tower.

They were far enough from us and hence either we or they had any issues.  We need to ascend five hills on a row to reach the top of Brahmagiri. But from the watch tower we can see only two of them as the three hills are behind the first two hills. Though the other hills are taller than the first two we won’t be able to see them due to the elevation of the first two hills. The trial divides into two from this point. If we take the right side one we will go to the top of Brahmagiri and if we go to the left one we will reach Pakshipathalam which was earlier a trekking route but is restricted now due to threat of Maoist activities.

Rajendran said the Pakshipathalam route is more beautiful and longer one as we need to walk around 6 km from watch tower and one could complete this stretch only if we start very early otherwise we won’t be able to return back on the same day. We had to cover more Shola forest in this stretch and some streams which are very difficult in rainy seasons to cross.

Shola cover Enroute Pakshipathalam Stretch

I was literally disappointed that i couldn’t take this way. Cursing the Maoist we took the right side trail to Brahmagiri. The first hill itself was so steep that we struggled to ascend. Both of us were feeling tired by then but wanted to continue. Rajendran was agile and was moving very fast wherein we were gasping for breath. He doesn’t even take water. Born and bought up in the wild. In half an hour we completed the first hill. We attained a lot of height again and the huge structure of watch tower seemed like a toy from the first hill.

Without much stopping we continued to climb up. The second hill was comparatively easier to the first one and we did it without much stain. Could hardly see the watch tower down the valley. The third was also little easier.

View to the west side from second hill

But from the third hill we could see the top point. Though it seemed very near it was not like that. From the third hill we need to descent to the valley losing some considerable altitude and again had to ascend to the fourth one. The fourth hill is almost 45 degree steep and the sun was creating problems for us. We were sweating like anything but the wind compensated a little.

We had to stop every 100 mtrs as we were tired from a three hour walk. Decided to take a break for some quick refreshments and hence descended a little to the other side of the hill to find some Shola forest cover there. We took a 15 minutes break and was unable to keep it to the foot. Then pointing to a rock ridge behind us Rajendran said some weeks back when he was accompanying some foreign tourist they spotted a tiger behind this Shola where we were sitting. Without out turning back to see the place where he was pointing Ajith and me was on our feet to move out of the place. Why should we compete with a tiger in such a place where we don’t have any idea where to go. I purposefully didn’t ask anything about the tiger and wanted to get out of the shola in no time

The ascend from this point was difficult for us as we were all drained out. Two three times we really considered about turning back but after coming all this was I didn’t wanted to give up. After all when it comes to heights giving up is never in the DNA. Am not challenging Mother Nature, but till now I have never turned back from any ascend in half way. May be that’s because I have never come across the real ascends which am planning to venture. All the ones I have covered till this time is not even considered as the third degree ascends. We took almost 45 minutes to get on top of the fourth one assuming that the fifth is very near and we could get to the top easily.

Going for the final lap? Don’t you think so? we also did !!. But there is one more hill in between. Can see the top on right corner of picture

After reaching the top It was really a heart breaking scene to see that we need to cover a lot more ground like a ridge shape structure of ground for reaching the top. This was really a tiresome thing even to think about and Ajith suggested going back and we were running short of water also. But I couldn’t even imagine turning back at this point of time as we have reached till this point and turning back now seemed like a coward idea.

I decided to go further and convinced Ajith also for the same. The day was turning out to be very hot by this time. We took a break for fifteen minutes and again started ascending. From this point we could see the Kerala Karnataka border fire line which was like a jeep trail moving through the top of the mountain ranges . It spread from one mountain to the other and went in unending winding. To the left was Karnataka and right side was Kerala

View to the Karnataka side From Fourth Hill

We were now moving almost parallel to the fire line now and the ascend was for the final lap.

Kerala Karnataka border fire line

In another 20 minutes we reached the top of the hill and all we could see were unending layers of mountains towards all the sides. It was all yellowish due to the summer. I imagined the lush greenery this place could give us if we try this post monsoon or the early months of the year.

 The ridge we ascended for getting to the top

Reaching the top we were dead tired and couldn’t manage to stand on foot and hence had to take a sit on the ground itself. After a short while we roamed around the hill top.

 In the Kerala Karnataka Border fire line

The ridge towards the right from the top of the mountain seemed higher that the point we were but Rajendran said it is not taller. The ridge to that piece of the mountain was abnormally steep in both ways and we didn’t want to try that. We had our packed lunch there. Fifteen idly and curry was over in less than five minutes.  And the last bottle of water also was completed. No we don’t have water either water sources on the way back.

We might have spent a half an hour there roaming around the edges and taking pictures and packed the bag for the descend soon. It was really beautiful to look back at the heights we came over.

View from the top

The descend was pretty fast and in no time we were losing good altitude. Ajith was having some muscle sprains initially and we slowed a little bit for his comfort. We reached the watch tower in another 1 hour.  There was another group of five there with another guide. They were atop the tower when we reached there. We had a little stop at the watch tower and wanted water very badly. Rajendran said there is a small stream on the way to the Pakshipathalam route and we would go there for water. We agreed and took the left trail from the watch tower towards Pakshipathalam. As the route was not used by tourist and trekkers now it was wilder. Covering almost 1 km there we reached a small stream. Basically it would be water falls in rainy season. The water was chilling cold. I couldn’t understand the theory behind this . We had water and sat down there for a while. Took of out cloths and poured some cold water over our self which was very comforting and rejuvenating. The Ice cold water had a super effect on us and we were fresh and ready to move in no time. Rest of the walk was through the forest again and hence we could resist the hot sun to a good level. Just having one more km to reach the base camp we took another deviation as Rajendran told we could take a swim in the Papanasini River. While taking this route we saw a pair of Giant squirrel and managed to capture some nice snaps In fact they were so cooperating)

Giant Squirrel

20 minutes through the way reached papanasini. There was very little water there also but it was sufficient for us to take a dip and wipe out all our tiredness and sins.

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