Itching to kick start the winter vacation, we decided to trek Aramane Gadde in Shiradi Ghats near Mangalore. Me and 2 other friends Uttaran and his brother Ayushman drove all the way to Gundya (near Mangalore). This was our basecamp. We reached Gundya late in the evening and it was pitch dark. There was no mobile signal and had to use the public phone near the Gundya check-post to inform our arrival. We had booked a room in the Forest Department IB. In the dark it was quite difficult to locate our place of stay. After a lot of confusion regarding the booking and our inability to understand and communicate in Kanada, we managed to settle in for the night. The next day, my other two friends Arun and Sharath joined us. We met our guide and planned out the schedule. He took us to a small hotel for breakfast. Our trek trail started from a point 8kms from Gundya. We had to take an auto to that point. The roads were in very bad shape and the journey to the trek point was bumpy.
The plan was to trek to a certain point and halt for the night. The next day we would reach the peak and then start our decent. We did not have tents to stay for the night. Our guide assured us that it would not be a problem as it was not the rainy season.We started the trek with some basic winter clothing, 2 blankets, lots of fruits and some ready-to-eat food and lots of water. The climb was very strenuous and all of us were exhausted.
The climb was quite steep and we soon exhausted all the water. The guide told us that water can be refilled from a running stream nearby. With fresh water in our bottles we battled the climb upwards. For the first 2 hours we made very good progress but slowed down gradually as we were exhausted and the heavy bags were not helping the situation. The oranges we carried proved to be a very helpful when we ran out of water yet again.
The guide informed us that we need to reach a certain location to refill water which was still few hours climb. The forest through which we trekked so far has been very dense and steep. The second half of the climb were on an inclined grass land which was equally challenging. First timers might find it very difficult to scale the distance. Luckily for us we had a few trek experiences which helped us on to reach the destination on time. On top of the hill there were very few trees to seek shelter from the scorching sun. After taking several breaks during the climb we managed to reach the lunch point by 12:30 pm.
The guide took our bottles and went in search of water while we had our mtr ready-to-eat food as lunch. It did not satisfy our hunger but we had to live with that. After the 30 min lunch break we continued our climb for 1 more hour before we reached the next patch of forest were we had to halt for the night. Despite few hiccups we managed to reach the spot well on time before the sunset. The sunset at this point is supposed to be beautiful. Since we had lots of time, we decided to take a noon nap. Within minutes all of us were fast asleep. In the evening the guide made us some tea using the small vessel we carried and firewood we chopped down.
Around 5:30 pm we started walking towards the sunset viewpoint. Indeed, as the guide mentioned it was a sight to behold. We spent 1 hour at the point before we made our way back to the jungle. We cooked our dinner at the camp site in pitch dark except for the light from the fire. After the early dinner, we were all entertained by Ayushman with is his ghost stories. The intention was to scare us, but thats something that never worked on us. We ended up laughing. After a couple of more attempts, Ayushman gave up and decided to sleep. The guide made us a wonderful bed made of leaves. Arun and Sharath had problems with that bed but rest of us were quite comfortable. We also made a camp fire from the wood we chopped down earlier in the evening. 2 torches and Camp fire was all the light we could get in the otherwise pitch-dark-frogs-croaking night. Within few minutes of getting comfortable in the leaf bed we were woken up by strange noises. Our guide was quick to bring out the torch to detect the disturbance. There was already a thick fog surrounding us which made it difficult to explore the noise. The guide told us that it could be some wild animal and incase it came close to our camp, we must use the fire woods to scare it away. After 15mins of frantic searching using torches we were not able to detect the noise and it slowly faded. This little noise did scare a few of us. Arun and Sharath decided to stay awake for some more time while rest of us decided to sleep as it didn’t bother us. It was around 10:00 pm when we felt water droplets falling on our face.
Our guide assured us that it was nothing to worry about as it was quite common in these regions. He was very sure that it would not rain. One of the things we learned was that it always better to trust common sense than some observation made by the localities. With in an hour the rain broke out in full fury and we ran helter skelter for cover. Our only protection was forest and in few minutes the water started seeping through the thick tree cover. We got wet. Our main concern apart from getting wet was the fire. Without the fire we are left with two torches as the only source of light. It would make it difficult to detect any wild animals let alone scaring them away. Our guide made a very sensible decision to take us out of the forest cover into the open grass lands were the fire was initially lit. He told us that it was important to keep the fire alive and so we helped him move big logs of wood to intensify the fire. He also made a very cleaver cover on top of the fire to protect the rain water from extinguishing the fire. This worked wonders, but we knew it was only matter of time before the rainwater seeps through the cover. Luckily for us rain stopped and the fire caught on to keep us warm and dry. We decided to go back to sleep, but were interrupted again by rain. We repeated the whole procedure of protecting the fire again. This kept on happening again and again through out the night.
All the while the guide was using all his skills to keep the fire alive. Sure enough none of us managed to sleep the whole night and what made it worse was that we had to stand most of the time to keep ourself warm and dry. We were tired and hungry and were waiting for the dawn before the fire dies. We managed to keep the fire alive till 5:00 am even though it was raining. Around 5:30 am our guide made us some watery tea from the remaining heat of the campfire. By 6:00 am we expected the sunrise, but due to clouds and fog it remained dark. Our guide insisted that we drop our plans to reach the top of the peak and start on our decent immediately as it would get very dangerous later on. It was quite dark and we were not able to see anything in front of us yet we pushed for the decent with only 2 torches for 6 of us. This required a well coordinated effort from all to make sure the people without torches do not trip and fall. After struggling for 1 hour the skies brightened up and made it easier to climb down. The surface had become very slippery due to the rain and all of us had atleast a few slips. Luckily nothing serious happened and were able to reach the forest patch. At this point the guide warned us that there would be leeches and so we must not stop for rest and must climbdown fast. The quick climbdown without rest started impacting our legs. With soggy clothes and shoes it only made matters worst. The rain did not stop in the morning either. The continuous rain made it more slippery and at some places we had nothing to hold but grass to avoid slipping. After a strenuous 3 hours we reached the bottom of the hill and to the start point. We were exhausted and had to wait on the main road for some lorry to hitchhike our way back to Gundya.
Lesson learnt from this disastrous trek was to carry the tent irrespective of the season. Apart from that we had a wonderful time trekking. This episode has been an valuable experience in disaster management.