The Kopatty trek – A glorious day hike!
The Kopatty trail climbs past landscaped coffee plantations, snakes through deep forests and bursts out to the grassland, to top the summit in a span of 3 hours. On the descent, the trek is a thrilling walk hugging the grassy sides of a precipice. Further on, a rapid descent through another dark forest that ends at a clear stream makes the trek as perfect as it can get.This is where the Kopatty scores over other treks. It showcases the best of western Ghats in a span of 6-7 hours and the trekker isn’t too tired or fatigued by the end of it.
About the Author: ARJUN MAJUMDAR
Stage 1: Summit climb
- Altitude: 1,500 feet gradual climb
- Time taken: 2 1/2 – 3 hours
From Charambane, take an auto to the road that leads to the Maha Vishnu temple. It is 5-10 mins by auto and 3 km further on towards Bagmandala. Get off at the Kopatty bus stop, and in front of the arch that leads to the temple.
The trek starts at the arch on the road. Stand at the entrance of the arch look towards the north to find the Kopatty summit to your left. It stands out on the horizon. Walk past the playground on your left as the road takes a wide curve besides some pretty plantation houses. Five minutes later, the road forks. Take the road on the left and continue along some beautiful paddy fields on your right.
The road continues to climb gently past coffee plantations. Twenty minutes later, it abruptly converts to a jeep track with no metalled surface. Immediately, the jeep trail starts to climb sharply through coffee plantations.
Continue on the jeep track as it climbs through the mixed forest. Watch out for the neatly laid out coffee plantations with their pretty farmhouses that peep through the foliage. Lemon trees with big fruits hang out on the jeep track. The track keeps a more or less northerly bearing.
A sharp curve to the right is also a junction of another jeep trail that descends to the track you are on. Turn right and continue on the jeep track until you spot a green farmhouse in the distance. Look for a junction where a man-made trail veers to the left and the jeep track continues its course until the farm house. The man-made trail covered in thick grassy undergrowth is the trail to Kopatty top. If confused, continue until the farmhouse and ask for directions.
Wade through the man-made trail for 5 mins, until you get to the last hut on the Kopatty trail. It is a large white hut with magnificent red tiles.
To the right is the outhouse of the hut. Take the trail that skirts in front of the outhouse climbing through thick undergrowth. Go past and around an abandoned well to get your first commanding view of the scenery below. It is the view of the Talacauvery region of Coorg.
The trail traverses the undergrowth quickly and plunges into a thick mixed forest in five minutes. The forest is dark and dense and light hardly filters in as the trail weaves in and out around the roots of trees.
Continue on the well-defined trail through the forest, climbing steadily until half hour later, when the sound of gurgling water meets the trail. A brook runs parallel to the trail and eventually crosses it before disappearing in the darkness of the jungle ahead of you. The water is crisp and clear and an opportune place for a refill.
Clumps of bamboo sprout around the stream. Looking through the bamboo, spot the blue of the sky as it seeps through — an indication that the forest is near its end. Climb out of the trail and in five minutes burst out into the open for your first view of the grasslands. An undulating hilly landscape in front dominates the scene.
The trail quickly leaves the grassland to again briefly get back into the dark edges of the treeline. It is more or less a level walk going around the natural curves of the hill. Continue on the trail to emerge in the open ten minutes later to an astounding view of the Kopatty summit in front.
Outside in the grassland, a few meters ahead, look for a rock that presents a lovely platform to give you a grandstand view of the Coorg landscape. Spend some time here because the views are truly worth it.
From the rock platform, walk up to the saddle that forms the base of the climb to the Kopatty top. Finish the rest of the climb in a short ten minute burst of steep climb.
The views from the top is worth every effort spent on the trek. The glorious Mandalpatti plateau is right ahead to the north. To the south, the entire blue hills of Coorg pan out in a never ending series of ranges. Below, the dark green forests with abundant cover is the way for you to descend to Kallugundi.
Stage 2: Descend from the summit
- Altitude: 2000 feet
- Time taken: 2½ – 3 hours
Descend from the summit to coffee plantations through thick forest. Trail ends at a clear stream, followed by an hour’s jeep ride to Kallugundi. For your return, step down to the saddle again and look for the trail that goes past the rock platform to the west and downhill of the Kopatti hill. It is a narrow trail over grass.
The trail hugs the western precipice of the Kopatty hill. Looking down below, is a sharp drop to the jungles and can look daunting. The trail is harmless though. It is broad enough for a trekker to walk on and presents no danger.
It is a gradual descent for half hour around the flanks of the Kopatty hills until you get to a spot where the trail again dives into the forest. Look back to take in the scenery. The summit of the Kopatty top framed against the emptiness of the sky, with the green slopes of its flanks is a treat for the eyes.
It is a sudden change in scenery as the trail plunges into the depth of the dark forest immediately from the openness of the grasslands. The descent is steep at times and over roots of the deciduous forest. Fifteen minutes later, the trail again bursts out briefly into the open to give you superb views of the Mandalpatti plateaus. Continue the descent until an hour later, when the trail levels out at the bottom of the forest floor. The trail carries on meandering through the forest floor and in another five minutes, enters a large coffee plantation. The plantation is on a slope so the descent continues gradually.
It is an old coffee plantation and the trail sticks to the eastern edge bordering the forest on the right. Midway through the coffee plantation, look for a fallen tree. The trail loses its way around the roots of the tree dipping into the forest and emerging fifteen feet below the tree. Five minutes away and not far from the tree, the trail splits and a trail to the right re-enters the forest. Take the trail that leads into the forest and continue your descent on it. The trail gets steeper and needs careful negotiation. Ten minutes later, the trail jumps out of the forest onto a grassy jeep track.
Look for a white farmhouse on your left and below. This is a good spot to take a break for lunch and some fresh water. The difficult moments of the trek are over. The final bit of the trek is a leisure walk to the stream on the jeep track.
After the break at the farmhouse retrace your steps to the jeep track behind you. Or take the shortcut that descends to the jeep track as it curves around and comes back somewhere below the farmhouse. The trek on the jeep track continues to descend as it weaves its way through the dense foliage of the forests. Twenty minutes later, over a grassy stretch, the jeep track comes to a junction where it meets another track descending and merging with it. Turn to your right and continue to descend on the jeep track. A while later, the sweet sound of gurgling water leads you to the stream is it comes into view around a bend of the jeep track. Usually, you can ask a jeep to wait for you at the stream to pick you up.
An option is to cross the stream (needs taking off your boots), and continue the trek through a beautiful jungle for a further 5 kms on the jeep track. It is a lovely walk through the depths of the forest until you get to another bigger stream. The stream, with the backdrop of a hanging wooden bridge, is a picturesque place for a rest. The wooden bridge is broken; so to cross the stream you need to take off your boots again. The depth of the stream is around the shins, so it is nothing much to worry about. Cross the stream and walk for another twenty minutes to emerge into the first signs of civilisation. Half a kilometer and ten minutes further, the jeep track opens out to a road crossing. Wait at the road for a vehicle that can take you to Kallugundi. It is another 15 kms and an hour to Kallugundi from the road. It may take a while to get a vehicle — but ask around. The local villagers have a system of shared jeeps that they use.
Kallugundi falls on the Madikeri-Mangalore state highway. There are plenty of buses that ply on the route and getting a vehicle to Madikeri is not difficult. It is about 30 kms and an hour by bus from Kallugundi to Madikeri.
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
The Kopatty Coorg trek is just a one day trek. You will only need the following things.
- Small 20L backpack
- One litre bottle
- A jacket or poncho in case of rain