Kudremukh: A Photographic Journey with Strangers

You know that time when you just need a break from every familiar face out there? In case you can’t relate to this then you are still in your first year where everything is bright and shiny. Well, for me it was Oct 31st 2014. I had reached my breaking point and for me this was highly unusual because I am the bright and bubbly. I lay on my bed, a thousand thoughts running through my head as I scrolled through my Facebook hoping to come across some positivity quotes. Suddenly I noticed a post about a trip to Kudremukh organized by the Photography Club, Manipal (well MIT). The discovery of the trip was exciting. It was on 2nd November, a Sunday. Without a second thought, I took down the contact number and the next day I was at Kamath Circle looking up at a skinny guy who was from Photography club. He briefed me about the trip. I handed him 450 rupees and I knew it was done.

Moodbidri  Jain Temple carvings
An exquisite work of art on the roof of the Jain temple at Moodbidri!

On the day of the trip, I was up at 5.45am and had made my way to MIT by 6.30am. I should have expected that 6.30 was not the actual departure time. By the time we left MIT it was 7.45am! Turns out people went to have breakfast in the MIT mess when we were going to be provided breakfast on the bus. That was the only irritating part about the trip. Once the engine of the bus started it was a smooth ride from down there. Through some miracle, amongst the fifty something students on the bus there were only two people from a college other than MIT. Both were from MCOPS. That’s me and a junior girl who I was friends with. She had come because of her brother who was studying in MIT. We sat together and the journey begun.

Moodbidri Temple Pillar
Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning. Outside the Thousand Pillar temple at Moodbidri.

Our first destination was Moodbidri which was about 64kms from Manipal. On the way we were given sandwiches, which were delicious or maybe I just thought they were, since I was hungry. Some girls were seated in the row in front of ours and they insisted on some music which had a magical effect on me and I was suddenly having fun. In Moodbidri we visited the Saavira Khambada Basadi temple. It was a beautiful old temple with 1000 pillars. It was almost deserted and we had it to ourselves for an hour. After a silent prayer, I circled the temple. My tour friends had already started clicking as we had limited time. I decided to do the same. I, being the amateur photographer that I am, took a few photos and listened to the pros, talk about lenses and do the usual Nikon versus Cannon fight. I had no opinion on the matter since I was using a point and shoot Sony camera and had never used a DSLR before.

We were back on the bus and that was when the real fun started. It had been ages since I had played antakshari. With a grandfather who sings, I like to believe that if I had a good voice I would have sang too. The only time I sing in public is during a game of antakshari. The cheerful girls ahead of us made two teams and then everyone in the bus was playing! We played for an hour or so and I was shocked by how much fun I could have with total strangers.

Hanumangundi or Suthanabbi water falls near Kudremukh
Hanumangundi or Suthanabbi water falls near Kudremukh
Waterfall photo western ghats
Since it is inside Kudremukh National Park, permission should be taken from the Forest Department office at Mala forest check post immediately after Bajagoli.

Next stop was Hanuman Gundi Water Falls, which was an hour away as well. Everything around me was lush green. As we descended from the bus, I inhaled the air. I could feel that it was cleaner and certainly chilled. The only instruction, we got here was to be careful as it was slippery. Turns out that was an important instruction. It was an easy climb down to the waterfalls. The sound of water against the rocks blocked every other thought in my mind. I made my way through the rocks to the middle of the stream that emerged from the falls. Before I could stop, I had slipped. Luckily, it has been just one foot. Now my shoe was drenched with water. I let it dry as I focused on taking some photos and just enjoying the place in general. There were some tripods set up on rocks in the heart of the stream and we took a group photo with a press of a remote. That was the first time I witnessed that technology. By the time we started the climb back up both of my shoes were soaking wet and I was out of breath due to the extra weight of my wet shoes.

Waterfalls - Flowing water
The Hanumangundi falls is at about 85 km from Mangalore.
Setting up tripods
Tourists from Mangalore can reach the falls in about two-and-a-half hours via Moodbidri, Karkala, Bajagoli, Mala, and S.K. Border on the National Highway 13 to reach it.

Our destinations as well as everything along the journey was picturesque. I prayed that my camera battery would not die on me. Next stop was for lunch. We passed by a dam which must have been closed as the rocks and pebbles were exposed and shining under the afternoon sun. It was a beautiful place. We had stopped there to have lunch. The menu was gobi manchurian and fried rice! Just as we were done with lunch we heard a local call out to us. It was in Kannada. After a bit of an argument we realized that we were not allowed to stop there since they could release the river water and open the dam anytime. The instructions on the board were in Kannada. How were we supposed to know? We had senior MIT student with us who sorted it out and we were on our way once again.

Pebbles on the River Bed
A dried up River bed on the road to Kudremukh
Colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.
Colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.
We passed by a dam which must have been closed as the rocks and pebbles were exposed and shining under the afternoon sun.
We passed by a dam which must have been closed as the rocks and pebbles were exposed and shining under the afternoon sun.
Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.
Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.

At about 5pm we reached the tea plantations in Kudremukh. The place was heavenly and the thought of going to college the next day felt like a sad joke. I learned that day that leeches could be found in tea plantations and applying salt was the solution. No, I did not get a leech on me. There was a tea house and everyone was having tea. I didn’t want any without milk. I bought some coffee powder (that’s me) and chilled with my junior friend. After a while I was told that milk tea was available. It was the perfect drink for the cold weather. After another group photo we boarded the bus once again for our return journey. We reached Manipal at about 9.45pm. We said our goodbyes and I returned back to my old life. I had an amazing time on the trip. That day I learned a lot, including a new song ‘Sutta Na Mila‘ which was the last track for the night as our bus rolled into MIT campus.

Goomankhan Teahouse - kudremukh
Where there’s tea there’s hope.

Nishma KhetiaAuthor Bio Nishma Khetia is a 2nd  Year student at Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is a Gujarati from Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. She has grown to love photography. She also enjoys traveling, reading and college activities. You can contact her on her Facebook account or follow her on Instagram. You can also visit her photography page The Shutterbug Life.