Monday, July 11, 2022

Netravathi Peak - Venturing the Gardens of God

 




Hello Friends,


Welcome to my new post. Hope you enjoy reading the same !!


Due to some prior commitments, I was not able to come up with a blog post for a long time. Even though the trek was completed in 2021, I am posting this in 2022 (making it the first post of 2022).


Mr. Vishwanath of Summiters had told me about this trek in 2017, when we had trekked the Kudremukha peak together. He even invited me to join him for the Netravathi peak trek from ever since, but I wasn’t able to join him due to personal reasons. 


Fast forward to December 2021… Vishwanath and myself were talking about his upcoming schedule for the year, and that is when he reminded me again about the Netravati trek . He was planning to go with a small team during the second week of December 2021, and I immediately agreed to join him come what may. Eventually, the trek was arranged on 11th and 12th of December, 2021

I then discussed about this trek with some of my friends, and a couple of them agreed to join me.


Each trek is extremely exciting and careful planning makes the trek memorable. In this regard, I spoke to my friends and decided on the trek plan the previous day. 


The Journey :

 

10th December, Friday :


Vishwanath had asked the team to meet at Nagasandra metro station by 9.30 PM where a tempo was arranged to pick us.


Bhargav, Meghana and myself stay close-by and we decided to meet at Yelachenahalli station and go together. If you have read my earlier blog about Ettina Bhuja, you will be aware of Bhargav and Meghana (this couple are actually couples 😀)  


While I was waiting for my friends at the Metro station, I tried my hands on mobile photography. The interiors of Metro station in Bangalore are very intriguing for photographers.


Namma Metro welcoming the passengers !

We met the whole team at Nagasandra station, and our journey towards the western ghats started. It's always very nice to meet new people, and this is what makes the trek interesting. After a short introduction by team members, Vishwanath briefed us on the trek. We were all so engrossed in the discussion, that we failed to notice that we were already on the Hassan highway. A short break at one of the restaurants was a great refresher for all of us.


Within no time, people started to hit the bed only to be awakened by the steep curves of the Western Ghats. That is when we realised it was 4.30 AM and we were almost close to our homestay.


After we passed through the quaint hilly town of Kalasa, I realised that we had entered the Kudremukh limits. The tempo stopped near a place called Guthyadka, where an open jeep from the homestay was ready to pick us up. 


We all got down from the tempo to only realize how cold and dark it was outside. The cold December winds made people to shiver, and some of us even thought 'Do we still need to do this trek 😀 ' ?  


The crystal clear sky was exposing all its gems throughout the night, and we could clearly see the Orion Constellation & Orion Nebula among many other celestial objects.


We then hopped on the open jeep, and little did we know that it was a journey of another 6kms uphill on a bumpy road. While many of them were counting the stars, some of them were even counting for their broken bones 😀


11th December, Saturday :


The skilful driver took us to the homestay within 30 mins and it was still pitch dark outside. Vishwanath suggested that we take some rest for a couple of hours and start the trek with fresh energy. We followed his advice promptly and hit the bed in no time. All of us woke up around 7.30 AM and finished the morning chores by 8AM. By then, the hosts had prepared super delicious breakfast which comprised of Idli- chutney, Avalakki (poha) and piping hot filter coffee. 

Sipping a cup of hot Filter Coffee in the land of Coffee is nothing short of heaven.


Our home for the next two days

By then, our guide Mr. Surendra had packed lunch for us and we hit the trekking trail by 9 AM. The trail was just above our homestay that eventually led us to the shola forests. 


The initial trail was mostly filled with gravels and was extremely slippery. This was a gradual ascent for about 2 kms before we encountered the first patch of Sholas.


Isolated homes as seen from the forest trail



What makes this trek interesting and totally worth it ?

This trek is a combination of Adrenaline Terrains like Crossing streams, Hiking the Emerald grasslands, Soaking yourself in the Waterfalls and then Climbing the mountains covered with clouds before you finally conquer the 1500m peak.

(You will find out the answer by yourself at the end of the blog... Keep reading !!)

After we trekked for 10 minutes in the Shola forests, we arrived at a Y junction where the trails looked similar. This is where the knowledge of the guide comes into picture. If we were alone, there were high chances that the correct route would have been missed. The path towards the left leads us to the inner shola forests. The path on the right leads us to Netravathi peak.
The beauty of this trek is, you encounter both the Sholas and the Grasslands on and off. The first minute you see grasslands, the next minute you are already in thick Shola forests.




It was now a break time for all of us as we enjoyed the beauty of the place by sitting on a huge rock besides us. It was also a time where we could examine ourselves for Leeches.




After enjoying the beauty of the mountains, it was time for us to hit the track soon. 



The ascent is gradual from here onwards and you get to see the neighbouring hills in a close vicinity. The houses start to appear smaller and smaller once you start ascending.



The Light plays hide and seek with every passing minute, and this drama is a spectacle in itself. 


Play of Light on the mountain ridge


We now enter back to the forest through a small patch of grassland which makes way for our next pitstop (a small waterfall). This place is great to relax and rejuvenate ourselves. 




Many of our teammates were eager to take a dip in this waterfall. However owing to stricter timelines, we made a promise to ourselves that we enjoy in the waterfall while returning. This decision helped us gain more time to trek and enjoy the summit.



As I said earlier, the play of hide and seek between Sholas & Grasslands and the Lights & Shadows, makes this trek more enjoyable.

After ascending to the top of the current hill, we now start to descend to the other side of the hill. 



Descending means, we are now entering back to the Shola forests. Didn't I tell you? ... That's the fun part of this trek



Can you see the trek path in the above image? That's where we have to climb... Netravathi peak is beyond these hills and cannot be seen from here yet.



Descending trekkers

In about 20 minutes from this point, you will arrive at a small stream which is a rivulet of Netravathi river itself. This was our next pitstop...



This is where you can refresh yourself, fill water bottles and resume the trek. It is actually a breather which is seldom seen in many treks. A good water source makes the trek extremely rewarding.

Just while we were relaxing on the rocks, our teammate Prajna spotted a snake. To my dismay, it was a cat snake.



This path can be very tricky to cross during monsoons as the water might be gushing and rocks will be slippery. It is advised to go in groups during this time. It is also very challenging to not get your shoes soaked in water atleast once. I actually removed my shoes, crossed the water in bare foot and then wore the shoe again. 


From here onwards, it is a constant steep ascent. You will have to cross two such hills before you actually start hiking towards the Netravathi peak.



One has to follow the trail as seen in the above image. Two hills beyond this point is where Netravathi peak resides.

As you can see, it's a constant ascent and most of the trekking time is consumed on this trail.



All of us screamed with joy on reaching the top of the hill after all the gasping and panting. This joy vanished in a second when Surendra, our guide told us that Netravathi peak is still far away and cannot be seen from here yet. 


Most of us sat there itself, and took deep breaths before we continued the journey.



We were told that the place where we were standing was in Chikmagalur district, and the region behind the hill (in the above image) falls under Dakshina Kannada district. Nature is so amazing isn't it ...

The final stretch was quite steep and filled with tall grass. This made the trail barely visible. 

By around 12.30 PM , we made it to the top of the Netravathi peak and our happiness knew no bounds. It was extremely ecstatic as we all jumped with joy.



We stayed at the peak for quite sometime, and also savoured the delicious lunch at the peak itself. The packed lunch consisted of lip smacking Puliyogre , chips , pudina juice etc., and what a place it was to enjoy the food. 


Some of them rested , while some of them were busy clicking photographs.  The speed of the clouds made me to shoot timelapse videos which can be seen below.



Netravathi peak offers a 360 degree view of the stunning valleys and vistas all around. One can actually spot many scenic locations from here. I have tried to name some of them below : 


1) Gadai kallu : 


This place is also called as Jamalabad and there is a well known trek to this hill. Gadai kallu can be seen exactly in front of you upon reaching the Netravathi peak




2) Netravathi river valley : 


When you turn towards your left , you can see the Netravathi river flowing in all its charm in the valley down below. The course of the river can be seen on a clear day.


3) Other well known peaks :


You can also see the mighty Kudremukha peak standing tall in the distance. The other prominent ones in the region are Attibheri, Kallusanka and Kumbhalakhana which can also be seen from Netravathi peak.


The team :

From L to R : Myself, Vishwanath, Prajna , Meghana , Bhargav and Mrs. Shylaja

Mrs. Shylaja was always leading from the front and her speed was unmatchable. I actually thought that she may be around 40 years, but when we found out that she was 60, we were awestruck. She is working as a principal in a very reputed school and has also travelled many countries. She has also completed many Himalayan treks and was a true inspiration for all of us !


I have been on multiple treks in the Western Ghats, but I rate this as my most favorite trek. The beauty of this trek starts right from the base camp until you reach the summit.


It has beautiful undulating meadows of grasslands complemented by thick evergreen Shola forests. There are varied Flora and Fauna in this bio-diversity hotspot.


I generally prefer to trek post monsoons, just for the greenery. However, in this trek I realised the importance of other colors too. Since it was the onset of winter, the green grass had slowly started to turn golden brown. The myriad hues of Greens , Yellows , Goldens and Reds made the place nothing but Heaven in all its glory.

After staying at the peak for almost an hour, we started to descend with no intention to go back at all. The calm surroundings made us to forget the outer world for a short while.


The descent was pretty easy, with gradual slopes descending to the valley down below. It was more of a straight walk with undulations here and there. 

Up close and personal with the Kudremukha peak


Iris

During the descent, I spotted this lovely flower and mistook it to be the endemic 'Neela Kurinji', and later Vishwanath clarified it as Iris.


During landscape photography, it is not always the wide angle that matters. Even a telephoto lens would help you create wonders.


When Kudremukha peak starts to fade away, that means you are descending on the right trail


It was around 2 PM when we started to climb down the mountain, the clouds had started to congregate by then.

Keeping the promise that the team had earlier made, we all started to descend as quickly as possible. 


As you can see in the above image, Shylaja ma'am was well ahead of us even during the descent. The couple-duo and myself kept on descending slowly by capturing everything that we could see.





Small patches of grasslands were lit while the other patches were in shadows. This made the whole scene a lot more dramatic. 



I hope you would have understood by now, as to why this trek is super amazing. 

By around 4.30PM , we had almost reached the first waterfalls. The time taken to climb down was much quicker than expected, and we were able to spend sometime in the waterfalls. Though the weather was cold, we all took shower in the chilling waterfall.


We could see the sky turning Gold and light fading gradually. It was another 45 mins journey from here to the homestay.  So, we started our trek back to the basecamp after an hour's play in the waterfall. I highly recommend this activity to trekkers visiting the peak, as its a highly energetic and refreshing activity. But, please do not spoil the nature by littering. If you are not a Nature Lover, then please stay back at your homes in the city.


This was the last image for the day. Both the battery of my camera and my personal battery had drained by then. 



We reached our homestay by around 6.30 PM and were welcomed by Hot onion pakodas with piping hot filter coffee. This was a super energy booster to all of us. 

This was then followed by sumptuous dinner, and we all hit the bed pretty early to earn a well deserved sleep.

12th December, Sunday :


I woke up early to shoot time-lapse of the rising sun. Prajna accompanied me to a small hillock nearby and I had set the camera in the right direction based on the composition and light direction. However, the clouds played a spoilsport and we couldn't see the sunrise at all.


After shooting timelapses (https://youtu.be/xtcfXq6TMrQ?t=46), we returned to the homestay for breakfast.

By then, most of the group were awake and ready. The plan for the day was to visit Elneer falls and then go to Hornad temple for lunch. However, owing to some last minute changes we headed to Hornad temple directly. 

We departed from the homestay by around 10AM with heavy hearts and promised ourselves that we shall come back again to reminisce our trek. 


The owner then dropped us back to Guthyadka village where our tempo was parked. This is when we realised how deadly the night drive was the previous day. This was truly an experience !!

It was an hour's journey from here to Hornad. We reached the temple just before lunch time and had a wonderful darshan of Goddess Annapoorneshwari. This was then followed by mouthwatering lunch served by the temple authorities.

We headed back towards Bangalore by around 2PM from Hornad. However, a quick break near the Bhadra river turned out to be a longer one as the child in each one of us was reluctant to go back.



We reached Bangalore by 10 PM and bid a heartfelt goodbye to the entire team, hoping to meet again !!

This was one of my most memorable treks till date, and I thoroughly enjoyed trekking with this team. Everyone was inspiring, and I learnt a lot from each one of them.

Netravathi Peak Trek Guide :

1) What's the best season for Netravathi trek ? 

September to February is the best time to trek here.
I don't suggest trekking in monsoons as the weather can be extreme. If you still wish to trek during monsoons, then July-August would be good.

2) How to reach ? 

Samse is the starting point. Take any overnight bus from Bangalore to Kalasa and Samse is just a few kms from Kalasa

3) Any accommodation ?

Summiters had arranged accommodation in an unknown homestay near Samse. However, I believe you get some homestays at Samse or Kalasa

4) How long is the trek ?

We completed the trek in 9 hours (which included ascent, descent, lunch & breaks in between and bathing in waterfalls)

5) Where is the Netravathi Peak located ?

Netravathi peak is located in the Chikmagaluru district of Karnataka which is in pristine Western Ghats. We do not encounter the actual birth place of the Netravathi river in this trek, but I believe it takes birth somewhere near the peak

6) Do you suggest any tour operator for this trek?

I have trekked with Summiters on multiple occasions, and can vouch for them.
Vishwanath : 9740360365

7) Total trek distance :

Netravathi peak trek is around 7-8 kms one way.

8) Trek difficulty :

I consider this to be a moderately difficult trek. The final stretch is a bit exhausting.

9) Prior trekking experience :

Not mandatory but recommended

I hope you liked reading this blog post and enjoyed the trek as much as we did. If you liked this post, then please leave a comment below. Also please share this among your friends, which will motivate me to write more of such stuffs and provide quality content to all of you.

You can also follow me on : 


Last but not the least
Save Nature. Please do not litter
(A humble request from a fellow Nature lover)




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