Our group had all slept. The trek, although short, had most of them worn out as the circumstances were so. Prasanna and I were the only two remaining. The cool summer evening on the mountains, clubbed with the campfire made it comfortable to sleep outdoors.
The wooden planks worked as a cot and the sleeping bag as a blanket. The quietness around, due to a relatively large proximity from the others made the whole forest to talk. I was sitting under the stars, knees tucked in and that?s when I heard it.
This was my first trek as a coordinator with Bangalore Mountaineering Club and the highest peak in Karnataka was the destination. Mullayyanagiri gracefully protects Chikmagalur on its north-west corridor. We were given the responsibility of 24 excited people to host a memorable trek. After a short effortless journey, we took a small tea break at Chikmagalur town at roughly 4 AM. The whole bus woke up courtesy a local idly vendor. I had been to Mullayyanagiri trek just the previous week and this was my third time which made me pretty familiar to the whole event. I thought I saw a burning bright light in the general direction of Mullayyanagiri.
After a refreshing pre-breakfast ( yes, I know! ) we headed towards Attigundi to our home-stay to be briefly halted by the gates of Forest Department at Kaimara which opens right after the first light. Here I knew my eyes weren?t lying and what I had suspected was true. Mullayyanagiri was on fire.
A part of the peak visible from Kaimara was on fire to be only subdued by the roads below but it did not stop the fire from growing. In a matter of minutes, the entire peak visible to us was on fire. There was no way the ferocity of the fire would reduce. We later found out that the fire had been burning now for 3 days straight. Slim chances of climbing the peak were shattered in a matter of minutes. Either way, we kept cool and headed towards Mugilamane. To reach the home-stay in itself is a short trek and a quick breakfast after, we were back to where the bus had dropped us. We were ready for the trek.
We could not risk going to the peak ourselves, forget taking a batch of 24. Unlike other destinations, we did have alternatives. Bababuddanagiri is a wide peak right in front of Mullayyanagiri. The road to Attigundi from Chikmagalur splits the two hills in their valley. Ridge walking on Bababuddanagiri was banned which left us with the option of trekking up the Baba through Galikere.
Scare of tigers in the proximity had a few of the participants frightened. The uphill task ahead of us was quite short summing to 8 kms. It took the whole bunch about 5 hours to reach the peak where our bus had parked. We gorged on our lunch, after coming back to the home stay, ?without really paying attention what we were eating. The arranged jeeps were waiting by the time we were done with lunch to take us to Jhari falls. The cold water jetting against our backs had us fresh and ready for the night.
Back at the home stay a sumptuous meal was being prepared. We got to work on lighting the campfire. Mafia was the game of the evening and after seven tiring rounds, our group retired. Prasanna and I went a little deep into the forest and lit a small fire in a relatively open space. We took couple of wooden planks lying around in the home-stay to act as a cot. Prasanna was at work with his tripod and camera and I was sitting under the stars, knees tucked in and that?s when I heard it.
?Come here, FAST? he exclaimed. In the photo he had clicked of me by the fire, there was a face which resembled that of a bloody heisenberg ( breaking bad ) staring down on me from my above.?
Fear crept into us but panic hadn?t kicked in yet. We thought a weird effect of light caused the face to appear so we clicked over ten more pictures to reproduce a similar effect again. All in vain though. The first picture was the only one where heisenberg graced upon us. Plans to sleep by the fire in the open soon disappeared from our minds.
We woke up the next day to hoping to have forgotten the memory of the previous night, although it was glaring in our minds.
I never thought Fire, Blood and Heisenberg would highlight our trek.
PS: Since I do not have the file due to things getting erased, I?ll share the link to my Instagram where I have uploaded it.
You can find it here.