Taking on Thadiyandamol - Part 1

When the going gets tough, the tough goes places... climbing mountains, getting drenched, feeding leeches and taking insanity to new levels. Thadiyandamol is not a new destination for me, it was my fourth trip there. Every time I go, there is something fresh, something new, whether it be the company, the weather or the places we visit. The only thing that remains unchanged is the charm and beauty of the place. It is not easy to slip away from everyday life or escape your problems and worries, but there is no better way than getting out of the house and running towards the mountains and the hills, getting lost in the wilderness. Nothing soothes your soul better, nothing rejuvenates you more, nothing else makes you feel like a better person. That is probably why I did this trip again, with Abhilash, Suja, Venky and Saad. A few more were expected to join us, but "unavoidable" circumstances forced all others to skip. I have learned off late to respect sentiments and leave them unquestioned.

The five of us started on a Saturday morning in two cars. It was 2:30 AM and the roads were pretty much empty, an unusual opportunity to get out of the city in a few minutes, not hours. So we decided to get lost in the city to negate the time gain. Notice that I used the words "decided to" and not some foolish sounding combination like "happened to". After half an hour of frantic 'road searching', Abhilash skilfully got us back on the Mysore road. (I told you I will be commending on your effort in the second paragraph). This 'getting lost' phenomenon was a trademark of our trip this time. We managed to repeat this a couple of times more in two days. Anyway, once we got back to Mysore road, it was all cake walk. Venky and Saad had covered some distance by then and we decided to meet up with them at Virajpet when we stop for breakfast. The only hotel open at Virajpet at 7 in the morning was 'Hotel Plaza'. We had a quick breakfast and resumed our journey towards Thadiyandamol.

I knew the route and was the navigator, but missed a turn and we ended up at Napoklu. So we had to drive back towards Virajpet and this time managed to find the place. We wanted to stay at 'Kings Cottage' in the foothills of Thadiyandamol. I had tried to contact them to book the cottages but could not reach them. By the time we reached there all cottages were full. We did try at 'Palace Estate' but it looked like an auspicious day for all the world to come down to Thadiyandamol, of all the places!! It was then that the King's cottage owner suggested homestay at his sister's place, about 6 kilometers from the foothills. We had no other options and soon left for the place. Mr. Dorai Somanna met us on the way and took us to his house, a double storied home in the middle of an estate. Though the place was little far from our destination, the hospitality and food was amazing there. We unpacked our bags, grabbed our cameras and were soon ready to embark on the trek.

So after all the starting troubles, we started our trek from Nalknadu palace by 10:45. The weather was pleasant and it was still too early for the sun to show its fury. We progressed without much sweat as it drizzled occasionally, just enough to wet our hands and face. The climb till the foothills of thadiyandamol is partially through tarred road which gradually gives way to a mud trail. There is also a small stream which we cross a couple of times before reaching the foot of the mountain. It was a comfortable walk till the view point with Venky cracking up every now and then about how he found this trip 'kid stuff', compared to the Kodachadri trek he did with us. Little did he know what lies ahead and it took only a few minutes from the view point for him to get a taste of things to come. Venky was the live wire throughout the trip, charging us all up with words and deeds. We got the first glimpse of the mountain ranges from the view point and it was breathtaking even with the misty cover.

View point also gave us the first glimpse of leeches - armies of them marching hungrily towards us from all around. The rains had brought them back to life and there were far too many this time. There is some beauty in watching them march, its more like a symphony. They all stand up still with their heads stretched, trying to sniff out the prey, much like the violins and C playing out the opening moves of a Beethoven sonata - slow and smooth. Once the prey is located they all march forward in unison, wasting no time, showing all the urgency, swift as in the climax - the drums rolling, trumpets and trombones at their highest pitch. Most of the times we run in panic, stopping short of noticing the synchronicity and coordination. As we stand there lost in the music, it dawns on us that the music is over and blood starts 'ooozing' out of the wounds. Enough of 'Leech Puranam', else Venky will kill me. He doesn't really consider glorification of leeches 'sexy'.

So as it happened, a few minutes away from the view point, Abhilash suddenly stopped and rolled down his socks. There was a leech hanging on his leg, blown out of proportion with all the blood it managed to suck in. A little salt got rid of the leech but it took a while for the blood flow to stop. Venky's fears soon came true as he found one inside his socks as well, sucking blood from a vein on his ankle. He could feel the blood "ooozing" out of the wound as the leech was removed. Once they are full with blood, the leeches drop off and cannot move fast with all the load inside. So Venky took the pleasure of squashing the life and blood out of the helpless leeches. Thus started the by-now-famous hatred between Venky and the leeches. As written in the Vedas and other ancient religious texts, time had come for the "dreaded leech fighter" to take life and"save the clueless earthlings from the ruthless attack of the ones not to be spoken about" and eventually "bring salvation to the people of the world and lead them to aplace where flows milk and honey, and crawls no leeches". As if to fulfill the prophecies about the leech fighter, Venky got bitten twice on each legs at the same spot. But in spite of all the bites and 'ooozing' blood, victory was Venky's, who fearlessly fought them every time and squashed all of them to death.

By the time we reached the foothills, from where the actual climb starts, all of us except Suja had experienced the hospitality of leeches. Looks like even they have a gender bias!!
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