The height of adventure
It gives you a high, says ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN
LUSH SURROUNDINGS The Rangaswamy Peak and the path leading to it PHOTOS: K.ANANTHAN
If I have to trek I would prefer anthills! One look at the peak had me sinking deeper into the car seat. Rangaswamy peak, to say the least, is intimidating, especially for novice trekkers like me. Set in the Nilgiris, this peak towers majestically over a chain of mountains and my target is a hazy silhouette at the top.
To begin with, there is hype around this one. I had ambitiously tried to club a couple of RLTs together, but organisers from the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA) were quick to dissuade me. The trek may be long and packing lunch would be the sensible thing to do, they warned.
So, we set off. The drive down Kodanad Road, off Kotagiri, has a dream-like quality to it. Endless carpets of tea, an army of cabbages sitting in orderly rows, stretches of oranges and wild bluebells line the pathway where the silence is broken only by the cooing birds.
Top it with the fresh morning air and there is nothing more you could ask for!
The car begins to shudder as the path thins and the green around seems to be in a mood to brood. Soon we are at the foothills and greeted by steps that are in a hurry to touch the heavens.
Neatly laid steps
One good thing about Rangaswamy peak is you never have to scramble to find a path; neatly laid steps await you most of the time.
The first few are a breeze and I even attempt to keep count.
Slowly, the concrete path gives way to a muddy, winding one of a tea garden.
You feel autumn, as a rug of wilted leaves takes over, and it is dense territory with a stone deity and fallen trees. Halfway through the climb, the concrete path gives way, but the trek is never too tough as there is always a trail to follow.
But an hour into the walk up, gasping for breath and panting become part of the pattern. That's when volunteer Raman draws our attention to a well close by.
It is here that pooja articles from the temple at the top are cleaned. The lore goes that even in the harshest summer, this well never goes dry.
The trek from here is probably the toughest as I take off my trekking shoes in reverence to the deity above. The climb ahead is pretty steep and that's when Raman suggests we take the winding mud path to ease our legs a bit.
There is a whiff of excitement as he points out to elephant dung along the track and the talk veers to one roaming in the wild.
Past many meandering paths, we are finally at the very top, where Lord Rangaswamy rests.
The legend goes that aeons ago, on a rainy night, a cow wandered into the forests after giving birth.
Tracing its footprints, Irula shepherds found it at the hilltop, its udders full.
Ever since, villagers nearby have been singing paeans here.
The sight from the top is well worth the climb. There are peaks and peaks till your eyes can see. Little white villages dot the banks of the Bhavanisagar, which gleams through in a haze even in the sweltering sun. Raman rings the bell as if to let the villagers below know we have reached.
As I sit in the waiting shed, the cool afternoon breeze plays havoc with my hair. Then, I watch the temple priest and tribal women panting their way up.
That's when I realise I've not done too badly either!
How to get there: Rangaswamy peak is 23 km from Kodanad. Down the Kodanad Road, take the Kaikatty diversion and then go on the Kil Kotagiri Road. For details, contact NAWA at 04266-271596.
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