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48 hours and 28 km later

NAIMESHA THAKUR
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TREK The climb to Kumara Parvatha is worth the blood, sweat and tears

Amid the rolling hills, lush greenery, and the thought that tigers roam free here, a 28-km trek to Kumara Parvatha, in the Pushpagiri ranges of the Western Ghats, is an investment of two days for a memory that will last a lifetime. Despite being warned that the jungles are home to snakes, tigers, and elephants and that the trek difficulty level was 4/5, which includes steep inclines and some rock-climbing, there is perceptible excitement among the trekkers-to-be.

We all start with a copious application of sunscreen, don our hats and secure our bags at the Kukke Subramanya Bus Stand, which is about two and a half hours from Mangalore. The trekkers are given an emergency kit to be worn around the waist and a hiking pod. The kit contains a few tablets, a reflecting mirror, a whistle, a sachet of ORS and a few other basic things, in case one of us drifts away from the group.

For us city folk, trekking was never going to be easy. We are advised to pop dates into our mouth and not chew them — this way, they would release capsules of sugary energy gradually, much needed during our trek. The profuse sweating, limited eating, and the walk is like a detox process for us.

While passing through the rough upward slope of dense jungle, a stretch that lasts around three hours, the canopy of trees shields us from the blistering sun. Out of the jungle, and on the rolling slopes, the glare of the sun takes its toll in full. A small house, in the middle of nowhere, provides us with a welcome respite, water refills and lunch.

Before the night gets darker, we reach the top of the mountain, set up a fireplace with logs and dry grass acting as tinder, pitch our tents, and use water from a nearby spring to cook. Our sensation of triumph is temporary, as the guide announces that the day-long trek has brought us only to the base of Kumara Parvatha.

At 5.30 am the next day, under a rising sun and a cool mountain breeze, we start again. The floating clouds look just out of reach against the bright horizontal streak of the horizon. The sweat and blood, our small bruises and wounds from the previous day, is already worth it. After trekking through jungles and some rock-climbing, we reach the mountain. Stone shrines, dedicated to Lord Shiva and other gods, dot the peak. Drama awaits us as we descend the slope.

During the trek across the jungle, we had spotted a big King Cobra between two trees, and later tiger dung with a tiger fur ball. Now, our guide reminds us that animal movement starts at 6.30 pm. We race against the setting sun.Our imagination is on overdrive, ears pricking up at every sound and translating it into fear. Loud thumping sounds we assume are from charging elephants, and we stand still waiting for it to cease. Finally, we are back.

NAIMESHA THAKUR

QUICK GUIDE

Starting point Temple town of Kukke Subramanya, around 230 km from Bangalore en route to Mangalore

Getting there KSRTC AC night bus from Bangalore gets you in at 6:00 am

Tips This is an advanced trek; not advised for beginners

Contact Bangalore Mountaineering Club @ www.bmcindia.org



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