Moti gudda trek with Appaji -Unknown treks of western ghats
-Vaishnavi Prabhu with Savita Uday
The beautiful view of Motigudda from angadibail forest farm paddy field
I remember, Appa once met his childhood friend, Madevanna, and they were planning to climb up Motigudda . His friend soon forgot of this plan as he was not serious about it . But, the idea stayed with Appa always. Motigudda trek had been on the 84-year-old Appa’s bucket list for the past 3 years. This is the highest peak of Uttara Kannada region which we see from our breakfast table at the Angadibail farm. I discouraged him that it would not be possible for him at his age and that I will not be taking him. One summer, he somehow convinced his grandson, Atmeeya who at once agreed to take him.
Uday, Anvay, and I were at Gokarna at that time; we received a call from Atmeeya about their adventurous plan of leaving for the trek early next morning. We decided to join and make Appa’s mission complete. Vaishnavi, our all-time favourite volunteer joined us too.
After three years of this trek, Vaishnavi decided to write about it and bring back the best memories of a day well spent.
He had somehow convinced his grandson and my friend Atmeeya to accompany him on this trek.
Just one fine evening we got a call from the duo saying that they were setting out on their willful adventure.
Sparing no second thoughts, Savitakki, her husband Uday, and their son Anvay closely followed by yours truly
packed a bagful of food and set out for the adventure Appaji had planned for himself.
The far mountains that feed into the waters of the Gangavali River and the ones that can be seen from Gokarna beach have many meandering ways leading to it. We chose the one we were the most familiar with starting at the Buda Folklore base in Angadibail forest, about 30 kilometers from Gokarna. The roads were only suited for an ATV, so packed with sticks and strengths in a red Thar, we started off on the raw forest road.
Our first stop was the last drive-able house - Shalini’s Akka’s forest abode - an hour from our base. On my last visit here, Shalini Akka had offered me a bright pink Rose from her garden, but to my falling face,this time she was nowhere around. But hey, we were in a forest with plenty of forest treasure waiting for us.
Shalini Akka's place. This is the first house before climbing Motigudda. It takes an hour on foot to reach here from the buDa center)
Parking the car in their compound, we began trekking like locals with foreign gears. Our camera was enough to make Shalini Akka’s neighbours, a Siddi family, curious. They had visitors from the halakki family whom we met on our way to Motigudda .While some of us stopped to have a few words with the little kids in this house, Appaji kept walking on with his eyes set ahead. From there, we headed onto a steep path littered with many Dhoopa trees. These trees, I noticed on our way back had their trunks slashed with knives and coconut shells tied under the cut to collect the resin in. Atmeeya told me that the locals used the resin, also called Dhoopa, for aromatic and purifying purposes.
A Siddi mud house. We climbed the hill from here
The first way up
The forest path from here on was quite misleading. We even spotted some bear feces claiming the territory of its owner, dotted with visible seeds of some local fruit that the animal must have devoured. Up till this spot, we could still see the sky. What followed was the scene out of a paradise or a dream unlived until now.
We met these people on our way to motigudda .His indignance took me to the little girl who was being carried downhill by her father on our way up. “She has had high fever for two days and needs to be taken to a doctor,” he mentioned. The nearest one, as I said, was at least 3 hours away on a good day. We wondered what someone stuck here in an emergency would do. Sure, the forest, as Appaji pointed out, was home to a hundred thousand herbs,edible and otherwise, but can a fruit berry save someone with a broken leg, or worse, a heart attack?..
In the middle of a forest on the height of the hills, this family with its trials and tribulations of surviving made us question the comfort and privilege we have in the cities. Later, when we descended from our trek, the same family, taking shelter in the Siddi house, must have wondered how the purpose of our trek is different from theirs.
We also met Appanna on the way. From his house on the top of Motigudda, he treks down for 2 hours everyday to earn his daily wages
There were huge trees with their trunks so thick, two of us together couldn’t hug them whole. The forest breathed under out feet, each one an enormous sigh of welcome. A few coins of sunlight that the canopy thankfully let in, played on us as we played who’d lead the troop onward.
The forest became denser. The pathways were misleading. We were surrounded by only trees and their huge canopy as our path was filled with fallen leaves. It seemed like we were walking on a never ending path . After some time we could hear the invisible stream and we reached a low lying moist land. Tired bodies sensed a human settlement. We crossed the huge fallen tree where we looked like walking out of a fallen photo frame.
After 3 hours, climbing along the welcoming sight of arecanut trees and banana plantations, we experienced a soothing effect, a sigh of relief. Some humans, a home, and a comfortable feeling .
After about three hours of walking through the sights, smells, and sighs of a green so green it hurt to walk away from, we reached Apanna’s beautiful mud house. A very basic abode with a mud-washed verandah and thatched roof that prevented the sun from drying the ground too much, Apanna lived there with his wife and three daughters. The family grew only the basics: rice, onion, chillies , and lentils to support themselves.
The family was warm; the insides of their home cooler than the sticky air outside. Behind their house was a personal stream with fresh cold water that fed into the narrow valley where the family had their years-worth of Arecanut and banana farms that. The banana plants, Apanna said, were a blessing of lord Hanuman sitting atop Motigudda. He said, “The monkeys wouldn’t dare touch our bananas for the fear of his lord, the monkey God”.
The trees around his fields kept the wilderness at the foothills of the surrounding mountains in check.
This majestic sight had me wish against wishes to have a home there. But as every rainbow follows a gloom,
every silence follows a doom, so do the wonders of this valley caution one against the hardships of a life there.
Apanna told us how he worked as a daily wager in Angadibail, which, if he’s fast enough, takes him an hour to reach. They told us how the Monsoons cuts them off from the world outside for 3 months making them survive on all that they had stored during the good times mainly rice , coconut, potatoes ,red chilly - the basics to survive . “The blood sucking leeches will climb up to your head if you start walking in the rain,” he said.
It was time to leave Appanna's house . Following Appaji, we walked into what looked like a green cave, a portal into the densest forest I had ever seen. Moss covered trees and the roots of those trees covered the ground. It was all darker here with an earthy and musky scent only a forest lover could identify.
Suddenly the sky opened up and we felt like we were on the of the hill leaving the forest behind . Out of the forest, we edged into a vast grassland that the locals call Gaali Betta. Galli stands for a gale
that made the tall grass sway like the surface of ocean water.
After getting lost here for a little while and finding our footing again, we passed by the last mud house,
which was owned and abandoned by a Siddi family. They had probably moved downhill for better prospects.
We passed by the last mud house, which was owned and abandoned by a Siddi family. They had probably moved downhill for better prospects.
We rested for a while at the abandoned house and, crossing another patch of lush, we began hiking up the last stretch of the coarse and weather-beaten Motigudda. Up there, we found plenty of porcupine quills to decorate my hair with. We dared the last part of our climb under a bright sun with none but a few clouds as a distant resort.
The last house. An abandoned Siddi abode. )
We finally arrived at our destination atop Motigudda around 2 in the noon. Like many destinations, this too wasn’t
anything on the beautiful journey that led to it. Not one soul but a few seagulls were there in sight.
The mountain top was rugged in comparison to the lush trek that led to it.
We could see where the Gangavali River met the Arabian Sea and in the distance was the pristine
coast of Gokarna.
We rested alongside the locally revered statue of Lord Hanuman. We were all but quiet after finishing off
what Appaji had started for us. As for him, he said nothing, not a word feigning tiredness or expressing
excitement at overcoming his personal feat.
No one could tell what was on the mind of our daring old man having achieved something not many his
age would even give a thought to.
Careful of not stirring any snakes or scorpions resting there, we settled under a tree and pitched into our little luncheon of mangoes and sweet bread with the appetites of hungry children. Uday uncle and Anvay, the best to each other, had already finished their mangoes when they discovered how Atmeeya and I had sandwiched individual slices of our sweet fruits to relish them longer. By the time we had finished, the few distant clouds had begun gathering to threaten the arrival of the year’s monsoon. So it was time to begin descending.
The way back was easier, more charged because of the feat accomplished and the arrival of a lighter weather. We reached home at our Angadibail base at around 7 in the evening where Eeshwaranna, the caretaker of the property, helped us to a hearty meal.
When it rained later that night, the forest played an orchestra where the crickets giggled, the frogs croaked, and a troop of tired humans snored. And trust me, that’s the kind of symphony that fireflies dance to.
Atmeeya stayed with Appaji throughout the trek
Atmeeya stayed with Appaji throughout the trek