September 10, 2017

Lessons from a Magical Land – Kudremukh National Park

Somewhere in the lost lands of the Western Ghats, in the midst of never ending sholas and floating grasslands, there is a wonder land known only to a few. Many may have heard of this paradise, many would have read about the tragedies that befell this land in the form of rampaging mining, but not many know that this paradise has regained its lost glory as one of the crown jewels of the Western Ghats.

The land south of the holy shrine of Sringeri and towering over the tropics of Dakshin Kannada is known to most as Kudremukh. To me, it is simply known as devarkadu – heaven. And it was in this heaven that I was lucky to have arrived at the peak of monsoons, with pouring rains and dense mist all around. I was blessed to be at Kudremukh. It was in the middle of the day that I reached Bhagvathi Herbal Camp and it began raining immediately. The cicadas fell silent with the rains and I could see the clouds roll into the campsite. And just as I began enjoying the rains, the rains stopped and we could step out to take a walk.

I walked upto the Bhadra river and could see the river in spate, the river nowhere as inspiring as its downstream avatar but nevertheless jumping and skipping over the rocks as a butterfly would. The trees were sparkling under the fresh rains and everything looked fresh and green. I was just as happy as a wandering soul would and could think of nothing else, no worry plagued me, no desire throbbed. I walked around like a silly boy while pretending to be a grown up adult, all I wanted to do was to do nothing.

However, there was work to be completed and we were taken to see the nearby areas within this range. My wondrous gaze only grew bigger by the minute. The vehicle which took us had suddenly taken a turn into the adjoining grasslands and we had entered a different world. Wide expanses of grass laden hilltops, patches of shola forests providing a deep contrast to the bright green grasses, stupefied sambar deers who were startled by our sudden arrival and just nature, exuding in her purest form. We drove on and on and reached the highest point in that range where a 360 degree view of the gigantic manifest bloomed all around. Everywhere, as far as our eyes could dare to contrast, there were rolling hills and mighty peaks, there were huge barren rocks and there was wilderness all around. I could have become a poet then but then I remembered to take a few photographs. Even the camera refused to cooperate for it could not focus at the subject, the subject was bigger than the widest lens man could have made and I shivered in cold delight at the failure of another of mans mining ventures at the hands of nature. Kudremukh National Park strikes its claim as one of the gems of the country and at that moment, I could see why Ervaikulam in Kerala, Mukurthi in Tamil Nadu and Kudremukh in Karnataka needs to be preserved for eternity.

There was a stunned silence on the way down and everyone in the jeep was lost in their own personal perceptions of heaven as nothing could possibly compare with the sight we have had. The forest had made believers out of us when all of a sudden, there was an alarm call. We stopped and listened to the cacophony of the macaques and a solitary langur for some time. Surely, a tigress was walking past us, somewhere close by, surely she must have seen us and as her wont, preferred to give us the royal ignore. The excitement at being close to the most majestic of them all made us agree on one aspect, that those who had been mining here for close to 25 years have finally been defeated. Nature has reclaimed her territory and the tigress her own. Kudremukh is safe and sound and what scars remain of the mining are important reminders that it was mistake to ravage this beautiful land and run it to the ground.

The trip ended on a somber mood though there were many treks that followed. Trekking to the Kudremukh peak was an unique experience and so was the walk to Kurinjal Peak through some of the most densest sholas that the subcontinent has. It was ultimately two days of being soaked in nature’s finest, however two sights stand out. The view from the top and the view of the recovery being made after mining stopped. If nature was a person, I could have given nature a big strong hug and said thank you.