Brahmagiri-The Ridge Across Forever-Friends-Holiday 2023

“The waterfall is just a little further,” the forest guard reported enthusiastically. I gasped with exhaustion, as the trail—which had been largely comfortable until then—had become considerably steeper. I stopped and looked around: a clear stream emerged from a narrow valley and hurried away through moss-laden boulders. In the background of this verdant riverscape rose a series of lofty hills of the Western Ghats, their tops obscured by a mass of dense, rain-bearing clouds. Somewhere up there, another half day trek, was our destination – the Brahmagiri Peak. We continued walking and as we turned a corner I was surprised by a deafening roar. Before I could even catch the first glimpse of the magnificent Irpu Falls, I was drenched in spray. As I wiped my glasses, a flash of brilliant emerald caught my eye. On the damp field of moss sat a beautiful, ethereal blue-green butterfly, shimmering with a metallic sheen. It was the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen. I later found out it was the Malabar banded peafowl, a species endemic to the Western Ghats.

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We were hiking in the monsoons, perhaps an inconvenient time to get up, but as our guide impressed us, the beauty of the waterfall is best enjoyed in the rain. In any case, the Western Ghats are undeniably charming in the monsoons. Heavy clouds hang moodily over the valleys, dissipating in frequent showers. Multiple streams turn into violent torrents and crash down the hills in a swirling foam and spray car. This abundant rainfall is considered to be one of the main reasons why an exceptional variety of life is found in the hills of Western Ghats, and this biodiversity was something I could easily appreciate during the climb to Brahmagiri Peak. The butterfly was indeed a good omen. Would I be lucky enough to see more rare species? It really didn’t matter, because the scenery in itself made my trip worth it.

Photo by MGA73bot2

The guard warned us about leeches as he plucked a piece of polyethylene from the ground. He put it in his pocket and said, ‘Most people prefer the dry season for trekking. There are too many leeches in the rains. His warning came a little too late – that’s when I noticed the telltale trickle of blood between my toes. Leeches cannot be avoided in the Western Ghats, but one can take comfort in the fact that their bites do not hurt. As we passed through one of the shola woods on the hills, the trail almost disappeared into the undergrowth beneath our feet. These forests occur in a mosaic of rainforest patches interspersed with rolling grasslands, and the juxtaposition of forests and grasses gives the landscape a captivating beauty.

The gnarled tree trunks around us were thick with a layer of moss and lichens, under which orchids grew. The darkness reverberated with a chorus of crickets and cricket-like calls from tree frogs. In the canopy above me, a mound myna screamed and I tried in vain to get a glimpse of the bird. It is true what everyone says – one can hear the sound of life in the shola forest, but it is difficult to see its source.

Without warning, the rain began to come down. Large drops fell hard on the leaves with a loud patter that mimicked a waterfall. And then, above the roar of the rain, we heard a singing flute that had an amazingly human quality. Behind a curtain of ferns on a rock lay a blue bird with iridescent spots on its shoulders, giving a live performance. It was the unmistakable Malabar whistling thrush, aptly known as the ‘whistling schoolboy’. Another endemic species to add to my list. The pull to Brahmagiri was full of such moments – the beauty of nature unfolding around us, embellished by the freshness and greenness of rain. Some people have seen elephants and leopards on this trek! The ‘schoolboy’ I saw was much smaller in size, but for me the sighting was no less exciting.

Quick Facts

Stands: Karnataka

Place:Near the Karnataka-Kerala border in Kodagu District, the coffee capital of India, in the Western Ghats.

Distance: 250 km ZW of Bengaluru

Travel time: By road 5 hours, by rail 3 hours + 3 hours

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