Thorns, Slips, Tumbles and much more at Yerikallu, Charmadi Ghat

YHAI Mangalore planned to visit Yerikallu, a trek in the Charmadi Ghat during the last weekend of November. I convinced two colleagues to accompany me. It is a tragedy for the girls in India. You always need to have some company to go to a trip else you wont get permission from your parents. We were 6 girls out of the 25 trekkers that day. I and my colleagues gathered a little late at the meeting point behind Hindi Prachar Samiti, Lal bagh and started our journey at 6:20. It was quite chilly that morning.

We had a delicious breakfast at Jain hotel,Belthangady. After sipping hot tea, collecting our packed lunch we moved towards the Charmadi base,30 km from Belthangady.Florine ma’m kept us entertained with singing and dancing during the Antakshari session.She is one awesome lady!! 🙂

After reaching the base of the ghat section we had a photo session. We could see the mighty Yerikallu at a distance. It looked like we had to do a lot of climbing. We met our guide and he boarded our van. I was glad to know that we would begin our trek from the 5th curve of the Charmadi Ghat.

Initial view of Yerikallu from the Charmadi Base

Initial view of Yerikallu from the Charmadi Base

There was some confusion between the organizer and the guide. He was expecting us to climb some other peak and took us ahead. By the time we realized it was difficult to turn the van in that ghat. While the driver figured out how to reverse the vehicle I got down and clicked good pictures of the hill we were about to climb. The view from that place was amazing. I wonder if I would ever get a chance to stop the vehicle in the ghat section and click pictures like this. As they say all happens for a good reason. This is the good I see in the confusion 🙂

Lucky shot of Yerikallu I got due to the guide's confusion :)

Lucky shot of Yerikallu I got due to the guide’s confusion 🙂

We returned to the curve and found a narrow entrance from where we had to start our climb. We picked our food that comprised of pulav, 2 oranges and a juice packet. I did a bit of warm up and started the journey. It was a dense forest right from the beginning but just the half the way through. The sun was playing hide and seek. My colleagues were excited as they had to climb a steep path right from the beginning. It was their first experience of a real trek( As they called it :P).  One of my colleague found it difficult to climb. Florine mam motivated her and held her hand and dragged her up the hill.

Initial climb with hide and seek of sun's rays

Initial climb with hide and seek of sun’s rays

I found the trek doable initially. I held a tree or a plant and pulled myself up. I barely managed to climb the hill. I really don’t have the stamina to pull others. I am sure many of my co trekkers would agree to this fact as they have motivated me to complete my treks :P. I am also a slow walker. The agony is I take all the more time if I have to take photos of the scenery around (which i often do). The people who had organised the trip asked me to go ahead so that they could finish things on time. The only disadvantage of walking slow is that you get very less time to rest. When you go in group you can’t leave people behind. So the people ahead rest until all the members arrive. By the time the last person arrives they begin their climb. The last person has no other option other than continue walking. But that is how I like it. I enjoy the climb, I enjoy the journey and it’s not a competition to reach early. I guess I have the record of being the last person in all the treks that I have done so far. (Kinda proud of it :P)

We found wild mushrooms fixed to trees called lichen(my colleague told the name) . She mentioned that they are grown in places that have lots of oxygen. No wonder I was felt my system was getting cleansed during the trek. The forest was dry by now. Luckily we did not find any leeches, only dry leaves scattered around. We took a break to sip water and started the steep climb. After half an hour of tiring climb we saw sunlight and yerikallu in the background. The first sight of 180 degree view of many hills of charmadi was mesmerising. It was a breathtaking view to see hills in all the direction and greenery far and near 🙂 Nagendranath sir showed us each hill and mentioned its name. We clicked quite a few pictures and panorama shots.

Lichen - I got one back as a souvenir.

Lichen – I got one back as a souvenir.

All the hills marked by Nagendranath sir.

All the hills marked by Nagendranath sir.

Other set of hills of Charmadi

Other set of hills of Charmadi

We had finished our trek in the forest and next was sunny grasslands. The path was filled with thorns and tall grass. The grass had turned dry by the this time of the year and they were making the climb all the more difficult. The dry grass made the path too slippery and we could not see the land because they had overgrown to almost my height. You had to push them aside and make your way. Since I was behind someone had already paved the path for me. You dont even know the topography of the land below – whether its narrow or steep down or at a height as you could only see the grass, not even its roots. Despite all the problems I used it as a tool to balance myself whenever I was about to slip. It behaved like a dangling stick that came to my rescue when I felt I was about to fall.

Can u see the path?? ;)

Can u see the path?? 😉

We could see the rock right ahead of us but we couldn’t go straight as it was too steep. We walked by the circumference of the hill and that’s how most of the trek paths are laid. I was the last one and Nagendranath sir accompanied me. We kept looking for fellow trekkers so that we don’t get lost. It was very difficult as you need to only look down at the path. We were walking on the edge and the path was narrow with grass on both sides. We couldn’t even judge the width of the path because of the grass. I slipped once and got a cut on my knuckles. By then there were many cuts on the hand because of the dry grass. The key thing for such treks is that you need to wear full sleeves shirt to avoid getting hurt by the thorns or grass.

More climb

More climb

After a while few fellow trekkers started climbing from a different path. It was very steep and short cut. I did not want to strain my knees as I knew the consequences while returning. So we moved our direction and reached one step ahead where we could see 270 degree view. The way to the rock blocked the 360 degree view. My friends took rest there as the guide told that you would get the same view on the top. Since they were tired they did not want to climb further. We took a few pictures together. We had a very good photographer – Shenoy Mamu who was always ready to take pictures. I wanted to climb further as I never like to leave a trek incomplete.

The task of climbing alone is tough as there is no one to guide you and tell you the right path. You could hope that wherever the grass is bent would be the path as people must have walked over it. But due to wind you never know. I could see people climbing straight ahead of me. But they had taken different route. I realized I took the most difficult path. I guess I should compliment my judgement 😛

Panorama with Nagendranath sir

Panorama with Nagendranath sir

After a while I could see Nagendra sir convincing my friends and they agreed to climb up:) It was a bit tough with rocks around. All the journey till here was like skiing. They hold the sticks and I held the grass with two hands. It wasn’t possible without that. Somehow I managed to reach the top and everyone clapped as we finally reached.;) I know the sarcasm but I consider it a compliment. It wasn’t breezing up there as the rock was blocking it. We could not climb on top of that rock. That was quite huge and 90 degree inclination.

I got a place and started hogging Pulav. It was an amazing lunch and the greenery added all the more joy to it. General norm during YHAI trips is we begin with introductions and then start the journey. But since we got late at the beginning we had our introductions in the top. There were variety of people who came for the trek – teachers, priest, business man, bank employees. There was no common background but only pure passion to hike, explore. Few were retired and they inspired us a lot.

After a few group pictures we started back. That’s the irony – you walk up 3 hours and back may be 4 hours just to be there for not even for an hour. I guess that is also the law of nature. Since it is for a few moments we cherish it and value of those things are less which we get in abundance. I knew that the return journey is going to be very difficult as it is very steep and I have a problem in my left knee. I was very cautious as I did want any injury and a lot of them slipped . We had lot more breaks this time as we were getting down a different way. We were walking to the base of Charmadi and not the 5th curve.

The steep walk down

The steep walk down

Initial grasslands were alright, but later on in the woods it was very difficult. I was avoiding all the shortcuts as they were steep and steep means my knee would hurt more. They were making sure we stick to one group as no one knew the way very well and there were chances of missing. My eyes would only concentrate on the path and at times would look for the person to know the path.  When in dilemma I would shout and ask for path. Shenoy mamu had brought lot of toffees – jeera toffee. At every break he would give us or we would ask him for the toffee.

Once we entered the woods it seemed never ending, At times we would hear vehicle horns very close by and would be excited that the road has arrived just to our dismay that we had to walk further. I would hold a tree or a branch and move down. You need to look for thorns and even dead branches as putting your weight on them would make you fall. There was a point where i could not walk down as it was very steep. I started sliding down. After a while some guys started screaming. I was hopeful that we reached the base. There was a very long wooden log and they assumed that to be the road. I guess excess of oxygen may lead to hallucinations too 😛

My knees were hurting now. I started walking with only my left foot ahead and put all the stress on my right knees. A senior sir told that you need to keep the foot cross to avoid slipping. After walking for almost one and half hour we could hear a stream. Since I had enough water there was no need to go to the stream but wanted to wash face and feel fresh.

YHAI secretary was with me motivating to keep moving till the stream. But later I got alone. It wasn’t that steep and I knew that road is not that far. Shenoy mamu constantly kept a check on me by shouting my name.They wanted to reach the base before it got dark. On the way we found a scorpion. It was posing with its thongs raised. I guess it knows what the shutterbugs want 😛 After clicking pictures we moved ahead.

The posing scorpion

The posing scorpion

Once we saw a house we were all happy – Civilization – end of the steep descent!!! It was a relief to everyone.  Before reaching the vehicle we took group pictures trying to have yerikallu in the background.

A group picture with Yerikallu in the background

A group picture with Yerikallu in the background

My legs were aching especially the fingers due to the descent as all the pressure were on them. While returning we had antakshari and Florine mam was energetic then too. I wonder how does she manage to be so fit and energetic after that trek!!  We stopped back at Jain hotel for snacks and had Paper sweet and hot mixture and chips. They were yum. We reached home by late evening. I hope to climb all the peaks of Charmadi which looked majestic from yerikallu. Thanks to the organizers of youth hostel Mangalore unit.

Key things:

  • Grab atleast 2 litres of water during this season as you have no source.
  • Wear full sleeves shirt and full length pants to avoid scratches all over your body
  • A guide is a must – it is not easy to figure out yourselves
  • Keep the area clean so that others can also enjoy 🙂
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