The Forest Whisper – Kudremukha trek
Faraway lands, where the pixies come to life in the dark of the night. That is where I have been.
A rickety jeep ride on roads that have been gobbled by the muddy terrain. Bites nibbled right off the center by tire tracks that dig into the brown lanes. It’s just the beginning.
The vines get thicker as the slope curves steeper, and right where the thick hedges start, the engine stops. A daze takes over, with feet eager to tread and eyes lost in the valley watching the clouds that lean ever so gently, caressing the endless shades of jade seeping deep into the Western Ghats.
Just as you cross over the fence and your feet touch the graveled path, the woods come alive!
Trees so huge, the skies appear closer, and boughs bent so low, the ground is but a seamless extension of the forest. The trickling symphony of the waterfall rings through the wood. At first, it is a slow lull setting the rhythm to each stride, and then as you head-on, it appears now and then like a nymph.
Silver streams gushing through stark black pebbles, scattering into a crystal-clear pool of water that dribbles with a soothing pace. As you cross over these brimming beauties, the feet wobble under the water currents that snuggle into the vastness of the forest.
A steady breeze, cacophony of chirping birds, and the occasional yowl of the peacock stir the silence of the woods as you trek your way to the peak. Wildflowers peak from beneath wild shrubs and the mist traveling ambiguously around the grasslands brushes past the face and disintegrates with a subtle splash.
The wilderness echoes with the buzz of crickets, and as you tread forward through short tunnels of bamboo shoots, sunshine beams through the canopy, lighting up the dim dungeon of trees.
In an instance, it is bright and yellow, and in another, it’s a cast of green foliage crisscrossed into the brown earth. A slight glint of the peak begins to appear before the clouds envelop it in its gray embrace.
Closer to the peak, as the slope inclines, your feet would have had their fill of adventure, but your heart races to devour more. One look around and the magnificent Sahyadri glares back with the élan of nature.
As you drag your feet to the top, everything will turn hazy, and at the peak, all you can feel is the cuddle of the clouds. Sitting on a floating cloud, you will experience a fog wrap of time warp.
The Forest Whisper – Departure
Emerging from the curtain of clouds covering the peak, the valley below looks familiarly strange. The enormity of the Sahyadri is such a calming sight that all you can feel is the mellow sunlight, swooshing breeze, and the crunch of pebbles.
All around, you will see people treading downhill, but not a single footprint can be traced. Everything just merges into the rugged trail. And sometimes, when a stone rolls down the slope, there’s a tingling sensation in your heels to just glide down the grass into the valley’s lap.
But, there is also an urge to move at a sluggish pace, to hold and savor every sight just as pristine as it appears in that moment. The hovering gray skyline slowly laces itself into the infinite maze of green trees that have tumbled and seeped into the forest floor, and the streams that murmur while the birds fly away. The wilderness yawns as the night lights begin to crawl into the green horizon.
Tired of drifting around all day long, just like that, the clouds decide to come crashing down. It pours; the forest, drenched, slips into its night cloak, and the sound of raindrops sliding down the canopy is all that echoes through the dusk.
Walking through ankle-deep water in the woods wearing a deserted look, you will experience a sense of emptiness that is calming. The serene streams of the day turn into fierce brooks, and the trees that looked so gigantic earlier in the day, humbled by the torrent, mumble soggy notes.
Nature has a reflection for every human characteristic, and at the end of this trek too, that is what you will realize. Though your feet are almost numb from the long walk and your eyes scavenge to see the check post, your heart, that beast is left roaring, with a burning desire to return to these lost woods!