7 Days & 5 Mountains | Western Ghats
The Western Ghats stretches for 1600 km from Gujarat to Kerala. According to UNESCO, it is older than the Himalayas, the world's highest mountain range. A total of 39 areas in the Western Ghats, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, were declared World Heritage Sites in 2012. We travelled for a week in this mountain range which has these heritage sites spread over 20 in Kerala, 10 in Karnataka, 6 in Tamil Nadu and 4 in Maharashtra.
Jeep enthusiast Ashwin, bike maniac Satish and camera expert Karthik were ready to leave. Four people including me started the journey in a 3-door Mahindra Thar and the Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Now Into the Ghats...
Our target was to reach the peaks of the mountains of the Western Ghats, where we could find off-road sections to test our adventure machines, the Thar and Himalayan. We planned to stay in forest camps rather than staying in hotels. The route was from Krishnagiri - Sakleshpur - Kudremukh - Agumbe - Kodachatri - Jog Falls - Gokarna - Goa - Hubli - Bangalore – Krishnagiri, which is about 2,000 km in total.Hubli - Bangalore – Krishnagiri, which is about 2,000 km in total.
Patla Betta Hills
This hill is located at a distance of 44 km from Sakleshpur. The steep path was the most challenging. Cold winds and heavy rain made it even more difficult. Since this was the first mountain of the trip there was anticipation and fear. Aswin Rajwarma drove the Mahindra Thar and Satish Kumar rode the Royal Enfield Himalayan to overcome all the off-road obstacles. Finally, we reached the top of the hill. We enjoyed the breeze at the top and then returned to Sakleshpur. We spent the night in a tent on a small cliff near Sakleshpur.
Kudremukh Hill is 115 km from Sakleshpur. The Kudremukh mountain trek brought back interesting memories. The second day’s goal was to reach Agumbe via Kudremukh. On this route, you have to cross a reserve forest. That too within an hour and a half. If it takes longer, you have to pay a fine. The police gave an entry card with a QR code at the entrance. There is also a ruined city in Kudremukh.
Human nomadism is not clean here. The only signs of human habitation were houses and mansions. Since no one was allowed to go there, we followed the rivers and crossed the forest path soaking wet in the rain. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Kudremukh mountain range. Roadside waterfalls add to the beauty. We learned from experience that even if we unknowingly touch the plants on the roadside, the insects will stick. We stayed in Agumbe the next day with an insect bite experience!
Kodachatri Hill is the next destination. The most challenging hill in the ‘Into the Ghats’ journey is the Kodachatri hills. The distance from the foothills of Kodachatri to the peak is 8 km. The worst hill route you can experience here. At the entrance, the department did not allow us to go. Because private vehicles can’t go. Only local vehicles (jeeps) are allowed. This is recent government order to protect the environment. We spent almost an hour convincing the officers to let us go with one condition. We had to hire a local jeep along with us in case of emergency the other jeep can help us. And obviously, they didn't allow motorcycles to go. So only THAR was our companion.
Do you have to know how to drive off-road vehicles to reach the peak of Kodachatri? To put it in simple words, you can call yourself 'the best off-road driver' if you climb up and down the hill without any impact on your jeep on that route. Surprisingly, the Mahindra Thar climbed and descended this route very easily. Hats off to Aswinraj who drove the Thar and proved his off-road driving ability and Mahindra for manufacturing this capable machine to go anywhere.
Jog Falls is a popular waterfall in the Western Ghats. Another attraction on the way to Jog Falls is the experience of crossing the Saravati Reservoir on a ferry.
At Jog Falls, there are four waterfalls: Raja Falls, Rani Falls, Roarer and Rocket Falls. It was mind-blowing watching the falls and we didn’t want to leave Jog Falls in a short period. But time is our master! That evening we had to reach Gokarna Beach and so we started our drive from Jog Falls.
On the way from Gokarna to Goa, turn right and there is a privately-owned hill owned by Mr Manjunath Tughle. He named it Dot 4x4. Many off-road competitions and rainforest challenges have been held here. With his permission, we pitched a tent for the night in Dot 4x4.
We cooked and ate dinner in the middle of the forest while seeing snakes pass our tent. The sound of insects, pouring rain and thrilling night made the evening unforgettable. The next day we took the Thar and the Himalayan into a nearby river and crossed the river for more off-road fun. The next day we had to return to where we started and it was a one day-long ride from Goa to Krishnagiri.
The adventure is not yet over. Watch the videos of the five mountain peaks from Chennai to Goa on the Motor Vikatan YouTube channel.