Day 2 travel plan: Kodachadri Peak – Kollur Mookambika – Agumbe Sunset Point – Sringeri.
The places listed above are the trail left behind by Adi Sankara, the great philosopher of ancient India’s who propagated the Advaita philosophy and the founder of Sankar Mutts across India. About 1200 years ago, this amazing man traveled the length and breadth of the country teaching the true meaning of the Hindu scriptures, almost every place of religious importance in India has Sankara’s stamp. In this part of India, deep inside the lofty Western Ghats, Adi Sankara’s presence is most prominent as he traversed these paths many a time and left his mark during his spiritual and philosophical journey.
Following Adi Sankara’s footsteps
The first on the list was Kodachadri Peak. On the top of the peak 1300 metres peak, is a small shrine dedicated to Adi Sankara as it is believed that he meditated here and set up a temple for Goddess Mookambika. That is the goal of the trek to Kodachadri. The peak can be reached by a 14 km trek by foot through dense forests or by 14 km jeep drive. We chose the latter because trekking on foot, though the best kind of adventure, would take up the whole day. The jeep drive turned out to be an experience we wouldn’t forget for a long, long time.
At 8.30 AM on Day 2, we set off in the all-terrain jeeps, these jeeps can accommodate 7 people at a time. The attendant accompanied us as a guide as Cocktail took guard before the gate. The jeeps take you upto a point on the peak from where one has to trek 3 kms by foot to reach Sarvajnya Peeta or the place where Adi Sankara meditated. From Silver Hills Farm, the drop off point at Kodachadri was 15 kms. Now, why would people who planned a 2000 km road trip take a jeep ride? Here is the answer:
A heart in your mouth drive !
The entire 15 kms is on a narrow, rocky, muddy, slippery, scary dirt track almost on the edge of the cliff ! But all that don’t matter a teeny bit to the jeeps, they just seem to sail through. One can’t say the same for the passengers inside the jeep though. You are tossed and jostled up, down, left, right, centre and in every possible direction, you could even be thrown out of jeep if you don’t hold on hard, you hit your head on the roof, you hit your knee at the bottom, you fall on your neighbour, you are almost thrown off your seat. We called out to our moms all the time, they would have heard us, some of them must have been glad at our plight considering all the atrocities we usually commit back home, atleast this writer’s mom would have been celebrating for sure !
It was an absolutely exhilarating, thrilling, scary experience. The drivers of the jeeps seemed totally unruffled, it seemed like a child’s play as they turned the beasts in every nook and corner. The drivers of the Eagles admitted what they usually did could not be called driving after witnessing this mastery over the hostile terrain ! Some of us caught the ride on the video, the disturbance on the videos was directly proportional to the difficulty of the terrain.
If the terrain was difficult and the path bordered the huge mountains, it also meant some most beautiful views of the valley and the mountain range.
Beautiful was a gross understatement.
Everywhere there was mind numbing greenery, mighty mountains that made you feel so small yet so alive and the deep valleys that made you search into the depths of your being.
Reaching the peak of wisdom
The jeeps finally dropped us at the beginning of the trek point and from there it was a 45 minute steep trek. From looking up at the clouds from the lowly lands we lived in, we were now walking side by side with the cottony, fluffy white clouds.
We were told on a clear day, one could see the Thungabhadra River and even the Arabian Sea, 40 kms away !
The trek path is quite steep at places and a little scary sometimes because it goes very close to the edge.
Nothing dangerous though, unless you are so lost in the beauty that you forget your step !
Our research on the internet warned us about leeches, especially in the monsoon/post monsoon season, we went equipped with salt and match sticks but not a single leech got us. Whether they were no leeches around or they knew better than attacking beings worse than them, we do not know.
A little huffing and puffing later, we reached the Sarvajnya Peeta (the seat of Knowledge), there stood the small temple for Adi Sankara with the clouds roaming around it as they pleased.
Behind this temple, there was a stall selling the most refreshing lime juice one can ever have ! The vendor lost count of the number of glasses of juice we had and was shouting out to us to keep track of the numbers. Only grouse, wish our people learned not to spoil these natural treasures by littering and behaving like hooligans. A short prayer at the temple, a photo session later, we were heading back.
A walk in the clouds, literally !
The trek back was a walk in the clouds. The whole place was covered by dense clouds and at times the visibility was zero.
What a feeling it was to become one with the clouds !
At the start of the trek point, there are a few shrines one of which is believed to house the original Mookambika idol installed by Adi Sankara.
When we reached the jeeps parking place, the driver was fuming because we were running late. They usually keep a 2 hour time limit to cater to more customers and we were holding up their business ! The driver seemed to get his revenge as he drove rasher than ever on the return which left us with a body ache the entire next day ! We also spotted a Toyota Innova heading into the direction of the jeep track and advised them not to venture in the Innova but they still went ahead. What happened of them, we will never know.
Back at Silver Hills Farm, it was a mad rush to pack off to the next place, the heavy breakfast made sure none of us were hungry well past lunch time. Nittur and Kodachadri were ticked off the list at 1.30 PM but the memories shall linger on !
From Nittur, our target was to reach the famous Agumbe Sunset Point before sunset. Enroute was Kollur Mookambika Temple, one of the important pilgrim centres also called Mukthisthalas, 20 kms from Nittur. The temple is usually closed between 1 PM and 3 PM and we weren’t sure if we could stop by for a visit. But looked like the Almighty insisted on us visiting the temple because the drive along the ghat road and some more bad roads ensured that it took us almost 1 1/2 hour to drive those 20 kms !
As soon as we decided to visit the temple, there was a problem. Men wearing shorts were not allowed inside the temple and our boys all wore shorts but then we came up with an ingenious idea – the car boot became the dressing room as jeans were pulled over the shorts ! It was hilarious to say the least ! We had a quick darshan of Goddess Mookambika, the temple was not crowded and it was peaceful. After the visit to the temple, we were suddenly hungry and we found ourselves wolfing down Parottas at a nearby cafe who also specialised in pale, half-cooked rotis. The moment we stepped out, it started raining heavily and we had to make a dash to our cars on the narrow lanes of Kollur to resume our journey.
Drive to Agumbe sunset point
As the location changed, the clothes changed too with the ghat roads becoming dressing rooms. From Kollur, Agumbe is 80 kms, with only a little more than 1 hour left before sunset, our previous experience told us sunset view might not be a possibility. With the quality or the lack of quality of the roads being consistent throughout, we were literally chasing the sunset until the Sun gave up and hid behind the clouds. It gave us immense satisfaction that we weren’t going to miss the sunset, nobody was going to view the sunset that day ! Sadistic pleasures ! When we finally reached Agumbe, there was a heavy cloud, not surprising because it is one of wettest areas in India. The famous sunset point located on the 14 hair pin bend on the Agumbe ghat (the ghat is serpentine and we got a few shockers with lorries trying to make dangerous turns just ahead of us) looked like this when we finally reached there around 6 PM:
How beautiful the sunset would have looked had the sun come out, was left to our imagination. Keeping the slight disappointment aside, we resorted to some, what we called, creative photography:
As the light faded that day, wisdom dawned on us that the right season for sunsets and sunrises was always summer, a catch 22 situation because the beauty of these areas is just after the rains when everything is lush green and pleasant but sunset views are a rarity in this season. Agumbe mountain range is covered with rain forests and is the hub for the great Indian King Cobra, one could visit some rain forest research centres to see these cobras. We didn’t because we were way past visiting hours.
Revisiting Malgudi Days
There was one more attraction to Agumbe left. The popular TV series of our childhood “Malgudi Days” was shot in Agumbe and the little Swami’s house is now a landmark of Agumbe. The house called “Doddamanne” is located right on the main road of Agumbe. We stopped by to visit the house.
The house has now been converted into a homestay.
We explored the house a bit and came across a creaky old wooden staircase which lead to an attic. Swami was shown sleeping in this attic in the first episode.
Agumbe roads were deserted as early as 7 PM, we drove on to our final stop for the day – Sringeri. The road was surprisingly good for a change and we reached Sringeri by 8 PM and checked into Hotel Advaith Lancer. After 2 tiring days where we drove into midnights, reaching our destination for the day at decent time felt so good . The hotel was great and the food amazing, we also had a glimpse of the real world by watching the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match which India won to our delight.
Post dinner, a few of us went for a night stroll. We had the roads for ourselves as we walked on the Thungabhadra bridge with the full moon lighting up the river. It was a pleasant, peaceful night, the kind of experience that dusts the rust from your mind.