Kudremukh Peak Trek – When the mountains teach you how to face your anxieties

The decision to do a one day trek to climb the Kudremukh Peak in Karnataka – the second highest peak in Karnataka at 1892 mts, was one taken in an instant of madness. In an instant when I was taken in by the pictures posted by my brother in law and his wife on Instagram, and in an instant when some unseen force was tugging at my heart. I didn’t even think. That was a first, since I always overthink things. No sorry, that was a second, since the first was when I booked my tickets for the U2 concert. But that might be a story for another time.

Psst! If you read till the end, there’s a short video of our trek, waiting for you 😉 or you could cheat and watch the video straight..your call really 😀

I had booked my flight tickets from Pune, booked my bus tickets from Bangalore and had received a confirmation from Mr. Rajegowda, in his adorable broken Hindi, talking over not so adorable broken network connections, that my brother and I had our permits done for the Sunday trek as well.

I was going to travel alone at first, like everything I have been doing since I’ve become a mom. But soon, my cousin brother decided to join me as well, and in hindsight, it was a great decision to have him along.

My first lesson in dealing with my panic attacks started on the morning I had to catch a cab from my home to the airport in Pune. I was ready at 5:30 am, and there was no cab until 6 am. It didn’t help that the boarding would close at 6:40 am. I was standing alone in the twilight morning outside my house, and well, panicking. If you’re new to this, it involves a crazy increase of your heartbeat, sweaty palms, the feeling of doom, the feeling of wanting to go to the washroom, some nausea and dizziness maybe. I had spent 10K on my travel, and it would be really lame if I couldn’t go, because I couldn’t get a cab/auto to the airport! The Universe showed me some mercy, when I finally got a cab and the cab driver drove like a madman and we reached the airport in 30 mins! Bless him, I thought.

My bus from Bangalore was on the same night, and it was a sleeper bus. There were a lot of guys on the bus, and again, I started panicking. Luckily, it didn’t last long, because my brother turned up, and well, even though I pretend to be a strong, fearless woman, I was relieved to have him there.

Our bus was delayed by an hour, so instead of reaching Kalasa bus stop at 5:30 am as expected, we reached at 7 am. And then further trouble started, since being the unplanned person that I was, I had forgotten to check which mobile network would have connectivity in Kalasa. Apparently only Jio, BSNL and a little bit of Airtel works there. And guess which network I was on? Vodafone. Yep, no network connectivity at all. My brother was on IDEA, and at first even he didn’t have any network. We waited, trying to spot the Jeep that was supposed to pick us up, and I started panicking again. Luckily, my brother managed to get a bit of signal near the Police station, and we found our ride. The driver wasn’t happy and said something to us in Kannada. We could make out that he was waiting since 5:30 am and our phones were switched off. Not knowing Kannada was another problem, it seemed. It was another 45 minute drive, and a lot of it uphill on a very narrow and rickety stretch of mud-road. We thought we would break our backs even before starting the trek! But we didn’t. Whew!

Once we reached the homestay, we were told to hurry up and freshen up, since we were the last people to start and we had to leave by 8:00 am. They showed me an enclosure which had an Indian style toilet and said, you do everything here. I realized, how much I had gotten used to the luxury of a big clean bathroom, with a washbasin, a shower cubicle, a western toilet and toilet paper right then. And started panicking again. But there was no time to break down into full panic mode. So I did what I could, with what I could and tried to shut my brain at that point. We had a bit of rice for breakfast since I definitely didn’t want to poop while on the trek, and started off. I hadn’t slept properly since the last two nights, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too tired since I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could trek the 22kms uphill and then downhill.

I have no words for the trek, because, it was hard and it was breath-taking. We went through the jungle, crossed multiple streams, and walked on the edge of mountains. Some stretches were flat and easy, while some were steep and made us out of breath. I realized that despite my running, I was still unfit. But our guides seemed to be made of a different element altogether. They literally flew through the trek in their t shirts and sandals! No fancy trekking gear or trekking shoes for them. They were the ones who kept me inspired enough to keep going. Reaching the peak was insane, because the rain Gods decided to show us their strength and fury right when we were just 1km from the peak. All the trekkers were drenched and shivering. My brother and I found out, by getting drenched to the core, that our so-called rain jackets, were not exactly rain proof. Couldn’t do much about that 11kms up a mountain. So we managed by shivering and eating bananas and ice cold rice with our ice cold fingers, when we reached the top.

Downhill was another ballgame altogether. My shoes were wet and the ground was slippery from all that rain. And looking down from the edge of the hill where I was walking, gave me vertigo. I had no idea that I was afraid of heights as well, until now. Another fear added to my list. But I had no options. I couldn’t give in to panic, or fear. I had to keep moving. I fell and slipped almost five times. Twisted my ankle twice. One of the other experienced trekkers helped fix the pain, bless him. And one of the guides joked, when I fell for the fifth time, that don’t worry, I fell seven times yesterday! Talk about trekker’s humor 😀 But the biggest shock was when my brother skidded at an usual angle, and slipped off the edge! You know, when stuff like this happens in movies, everyone is so fast to react! But when it happens in real life, people freeze. There were five other trekkers in front of us and behind us, and all of us froze at that instant. When my mind started saying, this is not how I want to lose my brother, did I sit down to give him my hand. But right then, he slipped further!! And that was when I saw the fear in his eyes and in my own. And I screamed his name. This time I didn’t freeze though. I lay down as fast as I could and grabbed one of his arms. This time the trekker in front of me didn’t freeze either, and he held on to his arm and someone behind me grabbed his leg and we pulled him up. It is safe to say that every trekker was shook up at this point. The local guides did assure us later, that people don’t slip or roll over the mountains all the way down, but my brother said he was glad we didn’t have to test that theory. The rest of the downhill walk, my brother and I decided to forget about walking fast and competing with the other trekkers. We became the slowest of the bunch. We walked holding hands, always having each other’s backs. We even sat down and climbed down, not giving a damn about how funny we looked. We were that shaken up.

But…we did it! The last 4 kms were the hardest, because it had started raining again, we were cold, hungry, and aching from everywhere. But we did it, and that feeling of achievement and elation, overshadowed everything else. The shower we took later that evening, and those hot pakodas that we had looking at the rain, now dry and warm, but still aching, almost felt like heaven. I don’t know if I can explain the feeling we had in words. I was so proud of myself for being able to do this! I am 37 years old, a working mother, and this was my first long trek and I did it! I survived! I was riding on the adrenaline high, I was riding on the images I had filled my brain with, of the forest and of the mountains, I was riding on some strange positive energy, which stayed with me for the rest of this week!

We returned on the bus the same night, and I had my flight from Bangalore the next afternoon and I reached Pune on Monday afternoon. It has been 4 days since I reached back from my trek. Life has resumed, I was so happy to see my husband and daughter and have network connectivity again! Work and office has started as if I hadn’t even gone for that trek in the first place. But I have bragged about it everywhere. I earned my bragging rights, I felt 😀 And look at me, I still cant forget that experience. It had been so hard, so challenging for me, to overcome my anxieties and fear, to test my physical limits, but it has felt so rewarding. I want to go on more treks like this, and my brother said he wanted to go too. He made a good trekking and travel partner, in hindsight.

And as promised, here is a short video of my trek. Starring me, video credits go to my brother 🙂

Some tips for trekking, if you’re a newbie like me, and if it is a long trek like this one (22KMs):

  • Engage with the local guides and homestay people for a more authentic experience
  • For Kudremukh Peak, especially, the forest officials allow just 50 permits per day. So do plan accordingly
  • You can camp/stay overnight at the homestays as well. We had arranged our trek via Mr. Rajegowda, who is a very helpful person. If you want his contact details, please drop me a message
  • Carry your own water bottle and bananas for snacks. This trek was a strictly no-plastic area, but in general also, we need to care about our environment
  • Carry a proper waterproof jacket
  • Trekking shoes are better than normal sports shoes. We wore our running shoes and they would’ve worked all right, had it not rained. Once it rained, our running shoes were hopeless
  • Carry some first aid like band-aide, some relispray, and some pain killers. No need to carry the whole medical kit though
  • Pack light, especially your backpack, if you are planning to carry one for the day trek. No heavy cameras, or other unnecessary items
  • The Kudremukh peak trek is a day trek – usually starts at 7:30 am and trekkers need to return before 6 pm. If you are traveling from Bangalore, then the KSRTC sleeper bus is the best way to travel. My return bus fare cost me 1100 Rupees and the total cost for trek, guide, homestay, meals, permit cost around 2500 per person

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I’d highly recommend doing this trek 🙂 Send me links of your posts, if you’ve done other treks in India that I can check out. Until the next time then..

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