The ground under my feet is green and that’s all I can see.
Harsh wind and shallow soil profile preclude tree growth in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats so it is in most parts covered in a carpet of rolling grassland. Miss. S and I, having broken out of the woods ahead of Mr. A.P and Mr. N, plod through this open grassland, and it has been like walking through a whiteout.
Low hanging clouds have enveloped the grassland and visibility is limited. The trail looks to be gently ascending as it presumably ran along the sides, hugging the mountain. To my left could be a sheer drop but I cannot tell as I don’t see anything but white-ness. Miss. S walking a few steps away in the front fades in and out of view like a frightening apparition.
We arrive at a fork junction. One trail goes up the slope and the other is angled towards the base, but in mountains, as in life, paths can be deceptive. Choosing the right path is always tricky and sometimes you need to be chill and do an ‘Inky pinky ponky’.
Right when we are ready for a count-out, the old guide whom we had met at the beginning of the trail, emerges out of the fog like an angel. He says that we need to take the trail that’s going upwards, after all. The downward trail, he says, leads to another hill. He also asks us to wait for Mr. A.P and Mr. N to catch up with us. The duo ambles into the frame shortly and we take a few rounds of group pictures.
I ask the lungi wearing angel how far is the summit. He says it’s half an hour walk away.
The wide jeep trail quickly loses its bulk from here on and narrows down to a thin footpath through rocky terrain.
In the whole trek, this last stretch is the only part that stretches your body, the rest of the trail is a breeze – that’s if the weather is pleasant. On a very hot day, this can be a different experience altogether. Mr. A.P was pushed to his limits when he trekked to Kumara Parvatha, another popular trekking destination in Karnataka, a month before this. Summer hadn’t yet relinquished its grip then and he had to sit down on leech-infested locations because he was so dehydrated he couldn’t take a step forward.
Most of the treks within India are not ranked as ‘difficult’, compared to the ones in Nepal, but difficulties appear in different shapes here, like in the form of scorching heat, dehydration, non-existence of any facility what so ever to rest or refresh yourself. In Nepal, you have 5-star facilities at good intervals. Tea houses boast clean western toilets, cozy bed to sleep and food menu that includes pizza and cold beer. If you have no problem with altitude, you have no problem in Nepal.
Okay, so we huff and puff through this stretch and scramble to the summit’s rocky flat, only to see a large crowd relishing themselves in taking selfies. Perhaps, the only thing that’s missing is a D.J.
I wonder how long this trekking route would exist and how many more people would get this chance to indulge in taking selfies here. Tiger population, as per reports, is steadily increasing and this region already being a tiger reserve it won’t be long before the mountain is left only to the tigers. I’m not bemoaning though.
We too take pictures, stretching our arms and facing the white wall of clouds in front of us like posing inside a whitewashed VFX studio. In a VFX studio photoshoot, the wall will be replaced with a beautiful vista in post-processing. Here, we wait in the hope the clouds that are standing between us and the beautiful vista would lift itself for a perfect photo.
But, life stories rarely end in a perfect note.