Saturday, July 23, 2011

The night of July 10th 2011

Two people drenched from head to toe, spent a chilling night near the top of KP in peak monsoon. This is their story.

It had been a long time since I blogged. Though I have been on quite a few treks after marriage, I never found time to write about them. There were few memorable one's like the trek to Amedikallu, trek to KP from Somwarpet, Second trip to beautiful Bandajje, beach trek from Gokarna to Honnavara. I regret not blogging about them.

The trip to Kukke was not planned in advance. Honestly I was not very keen on travelling with my 6 month old baby. I somehow made up my mind to visit Kukke after Vinay (my brother in law) decided to visit us. Tickets were booked quickly. We planned to start on saturday as we didn't get tickets on friday evening.

We started from Bangalore on 9th evening. This is the first time I was catching a Majestic bus from J.P Nagar. Unfortunately buses to Majestic are not as frequent as it used to be from Bannerghatta road. Fortunately we caught a bus to Jaynagar. The sky was heavy with clouds and soon after we boarded the bus it started raining heavily. From Jaynagar we boarded a bus to Majestic. Thanks to Jeshna (my daughter) who was happy to watch around. She enjoys outdoors which was very helpful through out the trip.

It seems quite some time since I ventured into western ghats since I found that most of the buses towards Dharmasthala\Kukke are parked in front of the KSRTC bus stand instead of usual right end of it. Anyhow, we found our bus right in front of the main gate. It was comfortable and the whole family slept except for Kiran. She tended to Jeshna and made sure she slept well. She couldn't catch sleep as her movements were restricted due to sleeping baby. I pitched in between and somehow both of us managed to catch some sleep. We reached Kukke on sunday morning (10th July) 5:00 AM. This was pretty early than I expected.

Kiran had booked the hotel in advance through one of her bank customers. This person owns a nice hotel in Kukke. Kiran being kiran, forgot to note down hotel name, didn't knew where it was located and forgot her mobile in Bangalore. It was quite Kirannish. After some roaming around she found the hotel (SLR residency). To be frank, it was pretty good, large rooms, nice bathroom and well mannered staff. It was quite cozy. Bathrooms were as big as some of the bedrooms we see in Bangalore. Now the plan was to get ready and have darshan of lord subramanya swamy. After that me and Vinay were free to go for trek to KP. Kiran will visit dharmasthala along with her father and take rest next day till we return. Unlike my pre marriage trips, things didn't go as per plan. Me and Vinay were lazy enough to lie around and kill time. Kiran wanted to dress up in saree for the temple visit. I felt that with Kiran and the baby we will never be on time for the trek. Getting ready with kids and ladies is a never ending wait. Finally Kiran let me and Vinay leave for trek. I was quite happy for that decision. As things unfolded later in the day, I realize now how crucial that decision was.

So the story starts here. Before I start, It is quite important for me to tell about my trek partner. Vinay is one of those human species who don't believe in physical activity unless very much needed. With Vinay, to be very honest, I never thought we will reach the point where we eventually reached. Apart from Vinay's reluctance to spend human energy, peak monsoon, blood sucking leeches and sheer toughness of KP trek made me think that he will give up sooner or later. Anyhow, we finished breakfast and packed lunch at SLR residency. I suggest not to have breakfast here as it was pretty stale. I knew during our trek we will face the leeches. Hence I bought tobacco powder and coconut oil in Kukke to ensure our blood is not wasted on leeches. I don't understand why leeches cannot live on anything other than blood. Finally we started our trek to KP. Vinay took quite a few snaps in the beginning, which happened to be the only ones he will take through out the trip. After initial snaps, we started our long journey up the KP. We had one bag packed lightly. The tent I bought from U S was light as well. After few minutes we realized that we have entered the leech territory. It was first ever encounter for Vinay. Though he was not shocked but definitely concerned. We applied paste of coconut oil and tobacco powder on our shoes and socks. The leeches were all around us. They were the driving force for us. We could not sit or stand at one place. Thanks to cool climate and our light luggage, we kept on climbing. We tried standing on few larger stones for rest but to no avail. Leeches detected our presence and were fast approaching us from all sides. After a long (non stop) march we reached a large boulder. I knew from my previous trek to KP that we reached the half point inside forest. I went back in memory lanes to my first trek with Ankur and Mudit to same place. That is one of the best trekking experience I ever had. The nice time we spent in forest camp. Best part was that all three of us reached the top of KP in our first ever trekking trip. There were some amazing shots taken during that trip which are also posted in this blog.

Coming back to the present, we encountered a snake in the trees.
I am always thrilled to find wildlife during my treks. I took few snaps of the snake before we moved ahead. We kept a fast pace and reached the grass lands after a brief stop on a fallen tree. Though I didn't check the time, I knew that it was time for lunch. We walked towards Bhattara mane. On the way we saw the beautiful view of hills we were going to climb.

We soon reached the Bhattara Manne. We were offered lunch but I politely refused so that we can finish the eatable I was carrying. After a brief rest we marched ahead towards kallu mantapa. There are couple of resting places with few benches on the way up. This is a pleasant development from my earlier trek to KP. These benches are located at places with good views. We took some good snaps at this place. We reached the forest camp which is very close to Bhattara mane.The forest camp was locked. Good for us as we need not shell out trekking fees collected at this point. This was particularly off season and there was only one another group at this place. We moved ahead towards mantapa. The climb from now on is constantly uphill. The route is well carved from constant flow of trekkers to KP. I consider mantapa to be a good point to break for the day as it is mid way to the top. In my earlier trek to KP, we camped at forest camp and reached the peak next day morning. That was quite arduous, the price for which was paid by our aching legs for whole one week.

After climbing for an hour, it started to rain. We were also covered completely in clouds. I took out my rain coat to protect our bag. I could see that Vinay was lagging behind by fair distance. It should have got tough for him to climb up with limited vision under incessant rains. He also cultivated the leechophobia and perhaps was concentrating on his shoes quite often. I liked the atmosphere as I always wanted to trek in peak monsoon to see the western ghats in its full glory. The trees, plants and animals all celebrate the rains. They all come to life in this season. It is a wonderful experience to trek in this season. I remembered the agumbe trip with Kokil in peak monsoon.

We crossed few small hillocks. We were getting tired of continuous climb in the rains. The clouds were all over us. Moisture seeped into the bag.
We only realized how costly it was during the night. I was looking for a narrow strip of valley because mantapa was just on top of it. I remember that there was a stream flowing inside the valley. After walking cotinuously for about 1.5 hrs from forest camp we reached mantapa. I was amazed to realize that we never felt the need to rest. This could be due to the weather during this time of the year. We never felt the heat of sun during our trek.

Just like us, Mantapa was drenched with water. Though our tent was water proof we needed to do some ground work. The floor was uneven and filled with water, so we placed few small stones to make the floor even. We pitched the tent in no time. The tent fitted perfectly under the mantapa. We took off our clothes and squeezed them to drain off water. We went inside the tent for some rest. We found that all our clothes though not drenched in water but were still wet and uncomfortable. We didn't carry any additional pairs. I had only one jacket which was dry. My pants were bearable but top was very uncomfortable. It was the other way around for Vinay. I wore the only dry jacket we had. There was no option left to Vinay but to be in his wet clothes.

The temperature was going down and it was raining. We tried messaging to Kiran in Kukke about our safety. We tried our best to take some rest but the wet clothes made everything miserable. Our shirts, pants, socks, shoes and even undergarments were wet. The thought of spending 12 hrs like this was not imaginable. We tried to laugh off our situation by cracking jokes on Vinay. It was complete contrast to everything Vinay is used to. He walked a forest infested with leeches, climbed up a hill in rains and going to spend a night in a tent covered in wet clothes. Vinay was still lying on an uneven floor. He got a brilliant idea to make the stay more comfortable. We decided to cut the grass around mantapa and lay down a layer of grass beneath our tent floor. This should make the surface even and give us some cushion. It would also bring some warmth as stones get cold during night. I started cutting the grass while Vinay was arranging them under the tent. We must have spent considerable time doing this till the floor was almost covered. I stopped cutting the grass when I found a leech on my shoulder. We made a comfortable bed by that time.

The temperature outside was dropping fast and our wet clothes didn't help. Though I never complain about such situations and consider them part and parcel of trekking trips, but I was getting concerned about Vinay as he started to shiver continuously. We finished our dinner early hoping that the food will bring some change. I gulped down the tomato bath pretty fast. Vinay followed the one cup rice principle and ate only half of the MTR (Rajma chawal). We joked for some time after dinner. Vinay told that first thing in the morning would be to head down to Kukke. I scared him by telling that we will climb up to KP. We were making back up plans just in case it rains continuously for few days. I found that Vinay was shivering continuously due to wet clothes. I was afraid if he gets pneumonia by morning. I gave the dry jacket I was wearing to vinay. I took his T shirt which was still partially wet. Vinay felt comfortable after that. After this we both went to sleep. I woke up in between as the temperatures was going down and wind was blowing our tent. It was raining heavily. I was afraid that our tent will be dislodged. Water was getting collected inside the tent. That was worst as we were already wet from head to toe. Vinay said that it was moisture from our respiration which was getting collected inside the tent. We pushed the water to one side of tent and made a wall out of our shoes and rest of the clothes. We went back to sleep. Somtime in the night, I started to shiver. I felt we went through several cycles of sleeping and waking.

Finally we woke up when alarm in my mobile rang. God it was Monday morning 6:00 AM. Time to wake up and get ready for the office if I was in Bangalore. But here my body felt desperate need for something dry and warm. I could have paid anything to sit beside a fire. I felt sick in the morning. Waking up in all wet clothes inside a tent among pools of water is not a good feeling. You know that you have to wake up, wear those wet socks and shoes, cover up in wet clothes, pack up your tent and climb up. Vinay was reluctant to climb up. Given a choice I would have went up as far as possible in this weather. I knew that the possiblity of reaching the top was very less. We might end up reaching the big rock just below the top of KP. It would be next to impossible to climb up the rock without any tools to overcome the slippery rocks in peak monsoon. I wanted to reach atleast this point before turning back. Vinay had other thoughts. Finally I convinced him to climb the peak where mantapa is located.

After having breakfast and packing up our tent, we started to climb up. I felt quite energetic and good to go up. Though it was not raining, but being engulfed in clouds has the same effect. We were getting doubts on the route as grass covered up the tracks on few places. We climbed for about half an hour and reached the top of the hill(guess the hill just below sheshaparvata). It is pretty good to be there at that time. We were engulfed in clouds. Though KP is quite frequented by trekkers but today we knew there is no one around. It felt as pristine as it would have been hundreds of years ago when humans didn't know of Kumara parvata. The beauty of nature in its most pristine form. It brings peace to any human soul. No wonder why I was such a trekking freak before marriage. I wished to spend some more time here but on Vinay's continuous request to head down quickly, we turned back. We reached mantapa pretty soon. Without much rest, we started the arduous climb down KP. I always feel going down is a never ending task. It always surprises me to notice that this was the route we climbed up the previus day. You keep on walking down but never see an end to it. After a long march down and meeting the only other group on their way up to KP we reached the forest camp. We took a pretty long rest at this point. We applied multi layer protection of tobacco powder in coconut oil to fight leeches. After some snacks we started our march down without stopping at Bhattara mane.

We took a small break before entering into the forest. We knew that once we enter into the forest there is no stopping till the big boulder mid way in forest. It seemed that leeches were waiting for us in the forest. Thanks to the tobacco treatment, not many leeches were successful in there attempts. Few leeches which clinged on to our shoes were not finding it easy to reach a good spot to suck blood. We soon reached the big boulder. Here we applied a final coating of tobacco-oil mixture before the final lap to Kukke. After a brief rest at the big boulder we headed down. We kept on stopping on small rocks to get rid of any leeches clinging to our shoes. The end of the trek was nowhere visible. Vinay was lagging behind by fair distance. I had to wait now and then to check on him. Thanks to leeches, I didn't get much chance to admire the forest which I generally get in all of my treks. After continuous walk of about 40-50 mins we finished the trek and reached ground zero.
I caught hold of one leech in my water bottle to show it to Kiran. We sat at a small stream to get rid of any other leech sticking to our shoes. I threw the leech I caugh in water bottle into the stream and watched it being eaten by fishes.

We finally headed to SLR residency. I bought a bottle of water as Vinay was dead thirsty. Vinay's shoes which were bought new for the trek were in bad condition. We bought a pair of slippers for him before dragging ourselves to our hotel room. What a feeling it was to be back home with Kiran. The thought of a warm and cosy bed has driven us since morning. We took hot water bath and enjoyed the lunch. Lying on foam bed with dry clothes and blanket was such a good feeling. We realized it after the night of July 10, 2011. It's true that humans have made there lives so cosy and comfortable that they are cut out from nature. I don't even remember when was the last time I slept outdoors, under the night sky.

After couple of hours of rest, we went to have darshan at Kukke Subramanya temple. We bought tickets for special pooja. Inside the temple I realized something. I was sourrounded by people cursing each other to have good look at god. I wondered if god is truly inside that structure. Is he meant to service only human beings? What happens to the snake which I saw near the big boulder on the way up KP. What happens to all the birds, insects and other animals? What happens to all the plants and trees we saw on our trek? They are created by the same god who created human beings. Those poor creatures don't even know the existence of the temple. They don't know that they have to bathe in Kumara dhara before visiting the temple to be blessed by god. I was wondering Why would god lock himself in this temple, blessing the selfish human beings who don't have respect for each other. I felt that god must be there on top of KP, roaming freely in the forest. He must be in those streams from where we quenched our thirst. He must be in the clouds which engulfed us. He must be in the wind which blew us cold. He must be in the rains which drenched us. I realized I already had my darshan.

After a quick dinner and packing of luggage we caught the bus back to Bangalore. A nice and memorable trip\trek coming to an end.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wedding Bells

The wedding bells started ringing for our friend Mohammad. The monsoon was at it's peak in the coastal karnataka. Monsoons had always evoked a nice feeling in me. The rains, hills, waterfalls, streams, rivers, jungle and beach. All these marvellous creations wake up to a new life in monsoons. In addition, It also flood newly wed couple with lots of emotions and feelings.We planned to attend our friend Mohammad's marriage and at the same time feel the monsoons of coastal karnataka which he and Naveen had always been talking about.

So the plan was made soon after Mohammad distributed the wedding invitations. The complete trekking plan was always shrouded as Mohammad wanted us to be in Bhatkal most of the time. People joined us n dropped off.

Finally myself, Ankur, Rizwan and Antony were in the trip list.Tickets were booked few day before the trip. Return tickets were not booked as we were not sure of the sunday evening happenings. Plan was to visit Jog falls on Saturday and do Murudeshwar to Honnavar beach trek on Sunday. But the plan kept changing till the end.

On the D-Day, Me and Ankur took a bus to Majestic, while Antony and Rizwan decided to come directly from Home. Being little cautious, we started from Honeywell nearly three hours before the actual departure of the bus. We had some terrible experience in Bandajje trip when 3 of the team members missed the bus due to heavy traffic. So with lot of time to kill, we had a nice and comfortable dinner at Majestic. Then it was a bit of waiting for Antony and Rizwan. The bus was on time and the journey till Honnavar was fine. Next day early morning was witnessed beside the driver after requesting him to stop the bus to relieve myself. The winding roads were cleanly washed by heavy rains during night. The trees on the beautiful hills around us were green and fresh after a night full of rains. Gradually, sun rays lighted up the entire landscape revealing the beauty and simplicity of mother nature.

Soon we reached Honnavar. We got down at KSRTC bus stand and had to take a auto to reach the centre from where to take the Maxi cab to Murudeshwar. One can directly get down at this centre instead of going to Bus stand. Once we were inside Maxi cab, the plan was changed to go to Apsarakonda instead of Murudeshwar. This was the beginning of a nice adventure. Apsarakonda is just few Kms from Honnavar. It is a small village. There is a road on the right which takes to a devasthanam (temple). As soon as we got down from the cab and took few steps, a heavy downpour started. We raced to take out our rain gear and sandals. Myself and Ankur were well prepared to face the rains. Rizwan and Antony were less prepared as they were new to such trips. However, In the entire trek I never heard a single complaint against the rain. After a nice n lively walk in the rains, we reached the temple. After a little enquiry, we reached the Apsarakonda falls. It is just beside the temple premises. At this time, It was flowing hard and carrying lot of mud with it. It was not as impressive as It would have been in other seasons when the water will flow more gently. After couple of minutes, we decided the walk uphill and see the beautiful Apsarakonda beach from there. The walk uphill and the view from the top is going to be in memory for long.
The rain was becoming increasingly strong. There were countelss small waterfalls on top. The rain was hitting us like infinite needles. We were not able to open our eyes. I enjoyed the nice little feeling the rain drops were making on my skin. The view from the top of the hill was amazing. We saw a small cave formation, a perfect place to spend a night during winter or summer. We took some snaps there and then the decision was made to do a beach trek till Murudeshwar. This was not initially in the itinerary because Mohammad wanted us to directly come to Bhatkal without wandering here and there. But I am glad that v did this trek. I shall never forget this trek, We were crossing hill, stream and seeing beautiful beaches and sea from top of these hills.
There were so many streams and couple of times we crossed fast flowing streams. It was a nice experience. All the time rain was a constant companion. We crossed few cashew plantations. We were walking on plain hilltops with numerous streams criss crossing it. Here we were walking in the stream itself. The cool and soothing affect of rainwater flowing on our feet was amazing. Once we were attacked by red ants. At that very point I saw the most beautiful stream I had ever put my eyes on.
Few places we were walking on plain grounds of hill tops, covered with bright and lovely green grass. This was one trek when each single point along the trek was mesmerising then the last one. I was not tired but only thing which was worrying was being late for Mohammad's mrg. Soon we hiked down to a beach called Monkey paaji(sounds weird but this is what locals told us). We were able to see the giant Siva temple from this point. Evidently the distance was too large for us to cover and be on time for wedding. So we hiked till Manki and took the cab directly to Bhatkal. At bhatkal we landed up in Musba lodge which was booked by Mohammad for us. Soon we met Mohammad and were carried to his house for a nice and tasty lunch. After that we slept for a while before preparing for Nikaah at night. Rizwan's and Antony's clothes were wet and Antony had to buy a new set of clothes for wedding. Wedding was surprising simple. We landed on our beds after the wedding was over sometime close to midnight.

Next day morning we planned to trek from Bhatkal to Murudeshwar. Got up pretty quickly and left for Jaali beach in Bhatkal. The early morning climate was amazing and to top it up Jaali beach was real splendid. There were lot of stones piled along the beach so as to protect the beach side houses from high waves. We took nice snaps at these points. I also took a beautiful snap of few children playing at the beach.
Almost immediately after this rains started. The rains accompanied us almost for the entire trek. Most of the time we were walking on the man made stone walls beside the beach. Jumping, hopping and balancing ourselves on this wall was cool. The rain drops were hitting hard on my rain coat. I removed the cover on my head and felt the full fury of rains on my face. The feeling of just being with nature is so harmonious. This is how god created us and this is what soothes my soul.
On reaching the end of the wall, we saw a big stream joining the sea. That was the end of our trek. We took the road back to NH and took a cab to Murudeshwar. We visited the giant Siva statue, took some snaps and finished our lunch there. The journey back to Bhatkal was in cab. We literally had half a day before return journey at 9:00 PM. We reached bhatkal and slept for a while. I dislike the idea of day time sleeping in trips. There were so many places still unexplored and going to bed was the last thing in my mind. But anyhow, we have come for marriage and hence we should stick with the timings laid down by Mohammad. But the sad thing was that the reception got postponed from 5:30 to 7:30 and it started at nearly 8:00. Hmmmmm what all places we could have hiked if v knew that reception was at 8:00. :(

We were just in time for the 9:00 PM bus after the hurried reception. We booked the sleeper tickets and the journey was quite pleasant. First time I was travelling on a sleeper bus. I was told by people that private bus operatiors like VRL, Seabird are much better then KSRTC in this part of Karnataka. We reached Bangalore by 9:00 and caught up with office at 11:00.

All in all the experience of a beautiful beach trek in heavy rains covering mesmerising hills was really memorable. I rate this trek among the best of my hiking endeavours. It felt as if we were walking in gods territory where the sign of human touch is negligible. Just like a heaven on earth.
Do a trek from Apsarakonda to Manki during peak rainy season and u can feel, what I am talking about.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Missing link

A gang of seven trekkers on top of a hill at the end of a lost trail. All sense of direction was lost due to poor visibilty in the dense cloud cover. The weather was turning from bad to worse with winds blowing upto 20 kmph hitting them hard and aggravating the incessant rain. The aggression of mother nature was not something they ever faced. This was a moment when the missing link was made out of nowhere. There were three stones at this point with BG written on it. With all the options getting closed fast, they left the missing link there and headed down the valley to Dasarahalli and to safety of a lodge in Chickamagalur. But the missing link was lying there, just beside the three stones. It spent the dark and chilly night at that point. That's when we decided that missing link should be found and put to rest once and for all. Hence the story begins.

Plan to trek from Mullayanagiri to Budangiri was made few weeks ago. But it has to be postponed due to few personal reasons of team members. Finally things looked positive on the weekend of 21\22 July. This was my first trek after my engagement with Kiran. Well now you know why it got postponed earlier. We booked tickets well in advance and managed to get front seats. The team was pretty gud with myself, Ankur, Kokil, Rami and Santosh. Unlike other times, the team size increased on the final day with Renjith and Kanaka joining us on D day.

The D-Day arrived and passed pretty fast. I took leave for my house shifting. After that I took my dad for little shopping which was followed by my own trip shopping. Finished the small telecon at 6:30 and headed home to take my backpack. Soon myself, Ankur and Kokil were in auto heading to Majestic. The trips have always brought back some old memories. I remember Ankur, Mudit and me going in an Auto on our first trekking trip to KP last year. Time had passed pretty quickly since then. We reached Majestic and waited for Rami's gang.

The bus journey to Chickmagalur was quite comfortable and we managed to get gud sleep. Chickmagalur takes just 6 hours and we were there by morning 5:30 AM. The bus to Sarpadhari was at 7:30 and hence we checked in a lodge for freshening up. After that we met another gang of trekkers who were attempting Mullayanagiri first time. The bus driver agreed to start early just for us. The whole bus was booked just for us at 600\-. Not a bad deal when time plays an important role. The early morning journey till sarpadhari was pleasant. We found another bus full of trekkers at Sarpadhari. It was surprising to see whole lot of trekkers at this point. I was little disappointed to see such a big janatha for trekking. But fine, Everyone has the right to come to these places hence adjust madi. Anyway things turned up pretty exciting in the later part of the day.

The initial trek was little steep but somehow It didn't tired me out. I had been a regular jogger and hence it might have helped me. The hill was covered in green grass and most of the time we were in cloud cover. The route to Mullayanagiri is quite well marked. There are few rock formations at one point. One has to keep left at this point. After this there will be a small temple under a tree. Keep left here and soon you will reach famous caves. Took some nice inspiring snaps at this point. Mullayangiri top is just few metres from here. We visited the temple and started towards BB giri. The route is from the other side of the temple. We didn't faced much problem in locating the route as there were lot of people heading that side. Few 100 metres from the temple we have to take a left and keep walking on the trail. After an hour and half we reached the main road. The trek till here was quite pleasant. I didn't felt tired. Renjith, Santosh and Kanaka lagged behind for a while. The trek looked simple and beautiful. But we didn't had faintest idea of things to happen ahead.

Once on the road, we can either take a bus to BB giri or climb up the ridge to trek entire distance to BB giri. We had already decided for the latter option. The route through ridge is just opposite to the point where u get down to main road from Mullayangiri. The entire ridge was covered in dense clouds. The trek was little tough\risky as the rocks were wet and slippery. Visibility was very poor. I feel in some ways the clouds helped us as we were not seeing the deep valleys on both sides. This means that we were not much afraid (perhaps). There were few tricky turns among rocks here and there. A misjudged step at these points will see you rolling down the hill at breakneck speeds. No directions were required on the ridge. There is strictly one way to go on the ridge....Just straight ahead.
After hour and a half of such trekking we ended up at the middle of a hill. There was no trail as such but u have to use ur instincts and little sense of direction. I remembered from the snaps that BB giri was little to the right from the point where we were standing. Ideally we were supposed to see a BSNL tower right from Mullayanagiri. This tower is our destination. But in the dense clouds we were not able to see anything jsut few metres ahead of us. Clouds are tiny droplets of water. With the wind which was blowing, these tiny droplets were hitting me hard on the rain coat making a nice music. I was enjoying this all the time. We kept walking and saw a tiny trail after some distance. We took a lunch break at one point. The chapatis and chutney were fast gobbled down. This was follwed with dates from Ankur. I luv dates on the trek.

The trail from here took us to another hill. Due to incessant rains this time of the year the trail simply vanished at this point. We can't find anything here. I am not sure why but we simply took a right turn at this point. We entered into few bushes and were happy to find a small trail there. This trail took us to the middle of the ridge. We walked for a while and ended up at a small shiva temple. There was a small waterfall at this point. We filled our water bottles here. From this temple there was a route which was going down the valley and another going up to the top of the hill. Rami and Kokil scouted a little on the upward going trail but came back with no positive signs. So we retraced our steps where we missed the trail. We knew that we have got lost. We have lost any sense of direction. Cloud cover was more dense and weather started to turn bad. After a little climb up I just shouted for no reasons. Surprisingly I heard someone shouting back. Soon the shouts started getting closer. We felt happy to see another gang heading to BB giri. But unfortunately they were equally lost. We decided to just keep heading straight and cross the hills. No sooner we climbed a small hill, weather turned bad to worse. Winds picked up speed and the rains started downpour. There was not much time left to explore anything. Soon it will get dark and spending a night on top of a hill in a really bad weather was not an option. Panic button was pressed. Before I realized, the other gang started retracing steps back on the ridge. They decided to head back to the road and to the safety. we felt that this was quite risky in these heavy winds. So we decided to take a trail which we found earlier on the way to Siva temple. This trail was going down the valley and would have headed to a flat ground or road. So the long trek down the valley began. The route was quite steep\slippery and risky but there was no looking back. After a long trek down the hill, We ended up in a estate. In spite of several requests we didn't got any place to spend the night (due to naxals scare). We walked another 5 km to Dasarahalli to catch a bus to Chickmagalur. So the day ended comfortably in a warm and cozy bed of Giri lodge. We didnn't planned for the next day as everyone was tired and no mood to fix the plan. I dearly wished to complete the trek next day. I can't leave the trek unfinished.

So the next day we ventured out to link the missing link. The missing link which was made last day. Only me, kokil, Ankur and Rami dared to venture out again into the terrain where we lost ourselves y'day. To avoid any risks, we decided to go to BB giri and find the point where we got lost last evening. Which means that we shall go to the end point first and track the missing link of y'day. The bus journey was again a pleasant experience. We met a baba who works at the BB giri dargah. He was a nice gentlemen who gave us all the details we needed. He told us that we were quite close y'day and we shud have taken the uphill trail from Siva temple to reach the BSNL tower. We were quite encouraged by this statement. Our chances of finding the missing link were bright now. After we reached BB giri, we had nice cup of T. Soon we were walking towards Manikya dhare. It is a small waterfall 3 km from BB giri. There is a tar road till Manikya dhare. You can take autos\Jeeps to reach this point. We preferred walking on the road. There were beautiful views all around. At one point clouds gave away to nice hill side views. Picture of winding road around these hills was breathtaking. Soon we reached the falls. It was a crowded mess. Though there was lot of Janatha there but it was a nice place to have a bath. There is a cemented bathing area built right underneath the falls. So take your towels and trunks if you plan to visit this place.

From Manikyadhare we were supposed hike towards BSNL tower. There was a small tower just beside Manikyadhare. Kokil and Rami climbed that hill out of excitement and I had to push myself up the hill to get them down. The BSNL towers are quite close to Manikyadhare but they were invisible due to clouds. We got a slight glimpse of the top of the tower for few seconds. That was enough to push us in that direction. We crossed a small stream. We saw a small deer on the hill we were above to climb. It ran away with amazing speed after seeing us. In all my trips I had rarely seen any wildlife and it is gud to see free roaming animals on these hills. I think Bhdara tiger reserve was also close by and it comes on the way between BB giri and Kemmanagundi. We must have climbed another hill before catching a glimpse of the tower again. Kokil found a deer horns. It should be of a big male deer as it was quite heavy and long. We didn't found anyone at the tower. Finished our lunch at this place. It was such a nice experience. Surrounded in the clouds, sitting with friends on top of a hill. The lunch was quite memorable.

Now the daunting task of find the missing link was on us. Deep in my senses I felt that it is going to be close to impossible since the visibility was so poor and there was almost a 180 degree of landscape in front of us. After few steps on a hill in front of us, I realized that Siva temple was on the edge of the cliff and it is not far from the point where we were standing (As told by Baba we met earlier.). This means that we have to go towards the cliff edge to our left. This was enough for us to move towards the left. Soon we reached the edge of the cliff. We also found a trail leading on to few hills. This in addition to confirmation by Rami that Siva temple was right below where we were standing was enough to make us walk on the trail in front of us. The trail was pretty visible in spite of clouds. We crossed few hills. The trail kept vanishing and reappearing at some points. We crossed few rock formations and walked on the plain hill tops. We followed a trail and ended up on a hill. Sometimes we were confused about our position relative to the missing link. The cloud cover didn't allowed us to see much. Ankur was worried about running short of time to get back to BB giri. I convinced him to keep walking for another 15-20 mins and if we didn't find the point then we shall turn back. Finally I recognized a lone tree on the hill. I knew that was the tree which we came across y'day. So the missing link was close by. Soon kokil found the trail which we took last evening. After some time we really found the missing link. The point where we got lost y'day. We completed the trek. We celebrated the moment with cakes. What a feeling it was. The spirit of adventure is something which we tasted that day. Never to lose hope, never to give up and just enjoy the excitement and adventure. It is true, Fear is Fun.

We immediately started back. We didn't wanted to miss the last bus at 5:30 PM from BB giri to Chikmagalur. So we hurried back to tower. Surprisingly it didn't took us long to return. From tower we took the jeep trail to the main road. Here we have to take a left to reach BB giri in half an hour or so. The bus was ready and we boarded it after a cup of T. All our hearts were fulfilled with a sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction of completing the trek. The places we went today were completely different to y'day. All along the trek we didn't found many ppl. Infact during the trek from tower to missing link and back to tower, we didn't encountered a single soul. Four of us were hiking on cloud covered hills, searching for three stones with inscriptions of BB giri. Later I realized what an impossible task it would have been. Something like finding a needle in haystack. But thanks to everyone for not losing patience and hope. We did it. After that it was just returning to Chikmagalur and boarding the bus back to B'lore.

All in all it was a real memorable trek. We got lost for the first time and deep in my heart I enjoyed it. This trek is pretty easy on a clear day but don't attempt the trek on a cloud covered days unless u don't mind getting lost. Even if you get lost it is not that risky as u can safely retrace back ur steps to the road.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Monsoon Rains

I choose this title because this is what I wished to experience in this trip. What better place to feel it then Agumbe. The place getting highest rainfall in K'taka. June had been a dry month for me as I was not able to go anywhere. so I was quite excited about this trip. The original plan was to make a short trip somewhere near Bangalore. Only Kokil turned up and hence at the last moment I decided to make it a 2 day extravaganza. We decided to go to Agumbe so that Ankur will not miss any place. He already visited Agumbe with us in the month of March.

There was not much planning done. I booked the tickets to Agumbe for onward journey. Return tickets were booked from Singeri. The plan was to trek to Narasimha parvata on first day and visit Sirimane falls on second day. But due to heavy rains and naxalite issue the possibility of trek to Narasimha parvata was faint. In such a case we planned to see Kudlu teertha falls near Hebri. So everything was set. I packed my bag and brought it to office to avoid last minute misadventures. I nearly missed the bus due to heavy traffic last time. Ankur and Mudit were going to HYD from Majestic. So I joined them to Majestic. We took an auto from Honeywell office at Bannerghatta road. We were too early to Majestic and have to wait for a long time for Kokil and Sahil. Finished dinner at the usual Andhra restaurant at Majestic. Ankur, Mudit and Sahil boarded buses to HYD and in a short while Kokil and myself were in a bus heading to Agumbe. The bus goes thru Shimoga, Teerthahalli and takes nearly 9 hours.

Next day morning we woke up to a pleasant cloud covered surroundings. The atmosphere was just the way I was expecting. It started to rain as we were getting closer to Agumbe. There was countless streams beside the roads. The road itself washed with non-stop rains during the night.
We were at Agumbe by 6:30 next day. I enquired for a small guest house near the bus stand. It was already booked but to our luck there was a new Hotel (Mallya lodge) which came up recently. We got a decent room for 300\-. The young owner of this Hotel(Sudheendra) is quite a nice chap who can converse in English and Hindi. This is always gud for our group as we don't have any Kannadigas. We were informed that it is highly impossible to go to Narasimha parvata as Police is not giving any permission. Moreover no guide will dare to enter the jungle in heavy monsoons. This was understandable as Agumbe experienced severe downpour this time of the year. Huge trees have fallen to ground taking electric poles with them. The village didn't had current for last 2 days. The streams were flooded, there was no sunlight the whole day and everything was damn wet. This is a tough life if one has to live in such conditions even for few days.

Immediately after freshening up we headed for B'fast. Then we took a bus going to Hebri. We got down at a stop where there is a big arch. Kudlu teertha is 10 km from this juncion. On enquiry we were told that there will be a vehicle which can take us to closer to Kudlu. We waited for some time and decided to go by walking. As luck will have it, the bus soon arrived. We boarded the bus and got down at a junction. Kudlu was another 6 km left from this junction. The climate was too good. It was raining all around and climate was cool and pleasant. We took out our raingear and started walking. The walk was pleasant in the rain. This was something I always wanted to feel. Walking in the rains with no one to stop you. We came across a river which was flowing furiously. We didn't even noticed this river in the month of March when we were here. I was enjoying the rain very much. some times it rained heavily for few mins before dropping down to the usual beat. It was a nice feeling. Only problem was that I was not able to take out my camera for snaps. We had very few snaps in this trip. After a long walk on the road (which we realized on the way back in the Jeep) we reached a small house where tar road ends. Immediately after that one has to cross the Sitanadi river. This was a small stream in March but not now. It's flooded and had taken down many trees. It was flowing with a trememndous speed. There is a Y fork after crossing the river. The left is a tar road and the right is a mud road. Avoid the templatation to take left and proceed on the mud road. There was not a living soul on this path. We just kept walking on this road. There were lot of tiny streams flowing across the path. At some places the path itself turned into a stream. The place was amazing as all the plants, trees and grass were drenched in rain water. We kept walking and at one point I got a doubt whether we are on the right track. Last march we came on bikes and hence the distance between the river we crossed and the final destination didn't looked much. But now we were walking for nearly half an hour and there was no sign of an end. Finally when clouds of confusion were fully engulfing me, I saw the steep climb which I remembered from last time. Within few minutes we were in an opening. We could see all the beautiful hills around us with numerous unknown falls. There were three very big falls which we noticed from far. The sheer beauty of the falls can be seen from the distance. I was impressed by one particular fall which was quite wide and amazing from distance. After few quick snaps we ventured towards Kudlu. Applied tobacco powder to avoid leeches. we had to cross a stream in the beginning. This was unnoticeable in March but now it was in full flow. The water was gusing over the rocks which were completely submerged. There was hardly any way to cross it. We tried for couple of hours to cross it upstream or down stream. But it was too risky to cross it. For the first time I gave up to Nature's challenge. It was for good as crossing it wud have definitely swept us away. It was little disappointing but It was ok as no one with the given resources wud be able to cross it.
So we tunred back. Had lunch of biscuits and bananas and then it was a long way back home. We rested at the last house near the river. This was the first time we were sitting down since the beginning of the trek. Then it was a long way back to main road. Fortunately we stopped a milk van who dropped us at the main road. It was such a great relief. As soon as v thanked him and crossed the road, v got a bus to Agumbe. It was a perfect timing. So by 5:00 we were resting in our Hotel room. We went into sleep pretty fast. It was raining cats and dogs outside. At around 7:00 we woke up and went out for dinner. I was disappointed to know that Hotel Taj is not serving Dinner that day. Perhaps they were not finding enough customers at this time of the year and hence temporarily closed. We had dinner of neeru dosa and Masala dosa at a near by hotel. We went to bed pretty early.

Plan for Sunday was to visit Jogigundi falls, Sirimane falls and hang out at Sringeri Mutt. The day progressed according to the plan. We visited Jogigundi in Rasheed's Auto. The waterfall is small but still impressive. As ususal what we saw was an enormous amount of water flowing fast. Well this is what I had come to see. Nature in it's full fury. Checked out from Hotel and headed to Sringeri from where we were supposed to go to Kigga to see Sirimane falls. Bus services are pretty gud. We were at Sringeri in no time. But we had to spend some time at Sringeri bus stand to catch a bus to Kigga. Finally we decided to take an auto for Kigga which is nearly 12 km. As it was to happen, Kigga bus came as soon as we started in Auto. Kigga is a small village. It is scenic with all the houses lined up beside a long road ending at Kigga temple. The road to sirimane is from the right of the temple. Autos can take u help u in travelling 5 kms of the total 9 kms. I think they can take u right till falls in summer. But this time they can't oblidge. So we started walking the final 4 km. The mud road had become quite soft at places. There were few trees fallen on the road. It took us 30-40 mintues to reach Sirimane falls. It goes without saying that fall was full due to incessant rains. It is a small fall but quite beautiful. If ur definition of a waterfall is 100 mts plus then you can avoid this place. I entered the falls for a quick bath. Despite the sheer force of the water it is possible to get close to the fall as it is shallow. The trek back was quite pleasant. Kokil was amazed to witness the dishonesty a dog when we didn't gave him any food. The dog shifted for more prospective group.

We walked the entire stretch back to Kigga. We bought down a Jack fruit from a tree beside the road. Unfortunately it turned out to be quite raw. Once at Kigga, we had lunch and saw a small marraige ceremony being perfromed at Kigga temple. It was drizzling and a nice time and place to get married. After that we headed to Sringeri. Checked in the Mutt's guest houses. It costed 75\- and the room we got had a beautiful view of Tunga river. Kokil spent a long time at the window admiring the view. We did little brid watching of another kind from the window. After a fresh bath we visited the Sarada devi temple. This place had a nice feeling about it. I visited this temple three times and every time the peace and tranqulity of the place touches me. Especially this time of the year when the climate was so pleasant. First time v crossed the bridge to go to the ashram on other side of the river. It was quite peaceful and I could have spent days at this place. The views from the bridge was too good. The cool winds of the mosoon were flowing past me. We visited the temple and by this time it started raining. We waited for some time till I took some nice pics. After that it was pretty much fast. checked out and caught the bus back to Bangalore. The journey back home was a bad one. Though I ensured to book front seats but a big lady with her infant son were too much to sit with. The kid kept kicking me and I was having a tough time to even sit in my seat. Overall the trip was a cool one. I wished to see nature in it's full fury and I succeeded in seeing it. The streams we came across were flooded. The falls were full and gushing. It was raining most of the day. It rained close to 40 mm on Saturday in Agumbe. The trip was quite simple without much arguing\convincing required with a big gang. Kokil is a perfect partner for trekking trips like this. He matches me when it comes to the mental\ physical toughness and tolerance required in such trips.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bandajje Revealed

A trek thought about for a long time. A trek where well accomplished trekkers lose the trail. A trek which scares away the novices. A trek which runs a chill down the spine of guys who lost the way here and were forced to spent a night inside dense n dark jungle. A trek which is not clearly described anywhere in the net. This was the trek I planned to go this time. What a beautiful trek it turned out to be.

We planned to trek to Bandajje Arbi on the weekend of May 26\27th. The plan was to trek upto Bandajje falls from Bandajje village. Spend a night near the falls and go up to Ballala Rayan durga next day and reach Sunakasale before boarding a bus back to Bangalore from Horanadu. The plan was made and postponed for other reasons and finally the last week of May was dated for the adventure.
I booked the tickets well in advance. Got front row seats which are quite comfortable on a long ditance bus journey. Booked tickets for Huez and Yogi separately. I googled all possible stories about Bandajje and Ballal Rayana durga from google. None of the articles proved useful as everyone talked about getting lost in Jungles and returning empty handed. People have made it through other way around, i.e from Sunakasale->Ballala Rayan durga->Bandajje falls->Bandajje village. This route is equally confusing without guide. Anyhow there was not much information on the exact route or Do's-Dont's. Hence I wish to make this article as informative as possible for trekkers planning to follow route Bandajje->Arbi->Ballala->Sunakasale.

The adventure began on the day of journey itself. The bus was at 8:30 from KGBS. It had been raining occassionally in Bangalore but on this particular day a heavy downpour started just at 6:30 PM. The roads were flooded and the traffic was halted. We planned to start at 6:30 PM from Honeywell on Bannerghatta road. But due to late shopping and packing we decided to start by 7:00. After I finished shopping and started to go home to get my bag, the rain gods turned merciless. I reached home, my bag was already packed and I just stuffed in the food items and took the sleeping bag. After few quick calls to Imti\Kokil\Ankur, I started toward Honeywell while it was raining badly. The Bannerghatta road was completely jammed. After breaking the traffic rules and driving on the footpath for few metres, I reached Honeywell. Waited for Ankur for 10-15 mins. But with no sign of Ankur and no communication on mobile, I decided to go to KGBS on my bike itself. It stuck to me that I could miss the bus if I don't hurry. That's when I got my bike out, took Imti as pillion and raced to KGBS. I never drove such horrendously in my life before. Roads were either flooded or wet and traffic was slow. I just drove like hell, taking small streets in order to avoid signals. Broke the signals on few occassions. Hit a bike from behind and missed a bus by few inches. The thought of missing the bus and sitting at home after such a long planning was looming large. We reached Town hall at nearly 8:00. Seeing the traffic there sunk my heart. I felt that there is hardly any chance of catching the bus at 8:30. With a disappointed feeling, I drove further ahead. After few signals past town hall, traffic cleard up. It was surprising as this road near Mysore bank normally has heavy rush. I zoomed through that road and voila I was at Majestic by 8:15 PM. I was screaming my heart out. It was a excitement I shall never forget. Parked my bike at majestic and caught the bus with Kokil. Yogesh joined us at Jalahalli cross. So a gang of 7 guys turned down to be a bunch of 4 ppl. Ankur and Huez didn't made it in the traffic and Sachin dropped off at the last moment due to personal reasons.

After a short chat with Yogesh whom I was meeting after a gap of 8 months, I went into sleep. We had a short stop for dinner and then reached Dharmasthala by 5:30 morning. After a quick freshening up at public restrooms, we boarded a jeep for Bandajje. Bandajje is a small village which can be reached from Dharmasthala via Ujire and MUndajje. Buses also ply these days till Bandajje. One has to enquire at the KSRTC information counter. We reached Bandajje by 7:00 or 7:30 and had breakfast of MTR ready to eat. Thanks to Yogesh who called Narayan Gowda the other day and arranged for guide. Our guide arrived in few minutes wtih his son (viswanath). Viswanath was around 10-12 years old with a loverly smile. The trek starts from the right of Narayan Gowda's house. Initial route can be asked by any villager who will happily direct you. First few metres from Gowda's house is not clear and better to ask the villagers nearby. There is a small compound wall which has to be crossed after which one will come across couple of houses. Dogs barking at you is a common sign of a house nearby. The trail here is quite visible. Initial climb is steep and could take the heat out of you. It was very humid and we were sweating a lot. A steep uphill climb liek this after a gap of 8 months had it's toll on Yogesh. He vomitted a couple of times. I was afraid that v may have to abandon the trek seeing yogi in this state. But after having an apple, he came over the fatigue and progressed slowly. Our little guide was generous enough to carry his bag. The climb is steep and it will tire you a lot as ur body is not warmed up. The trail here is clear without much doubts. As I was following the footsteps of my experienced guide, I didn't noticed much but I felt that we crossed onto another hill without getting down to a valley. After an hour of trekking we shall reach a bamboo forest, This is an important indication for the point where one has to cross the stream. Most of the trekkers lose their way as they don't cross the stream at the right point. This leads them to the base of the hill and not top of the ridge. Little distance after the bamboo forest, at one opint we shall hear a clear sound of the flowing stream.

There is a big rock at this point. Here we have to cross the stream and not follow the path which goes straight. Plz don't go forward on the cleary visible path, just cross the stream here. Yogi told us that they got lost last time as they just continued on the path. He told that few metres on the straight path one will see a sepent Idol and and elephant ditch. This is the indication that one has come straight and the point where to cross the stream had been left behind. So trace back ur step and cross the stream at the rock where the stream is loudly audible.
After crossing the stream, the route is visible but it could be covered with dense foliage or leaves post monsoon. Still I feel that one could make the way up frome here. This route will take u straight up the hill and on top of the ridge. It could be nearly an 1 to 1.5 hour climb till u reach the shola grasslands. There were lot of leeches after we crossed the stream. We applied tobacco powder on our legs and it seems that u can completely forget about leeches after this treatment. Yogi was feeling better and hence the progress was good. We reached the grasslands and were excited to see the beautifull grasslands. After a brief rest and snaps session we started uphill. We have to cross couple of hill tops before one can see the beautiful Arbi falls. Just walk uphill in the direction in which u came out of jungle. After crossing couple of the hilltops, v saw beautiful side view of the Arbi falls. It is a fantastic view.
A few more minutes trek uphill we saw a man made rock formation. Here we have to take a v turn and enter inside the jungle on left. The path is not visible but u can use ur intution.
After few feets of slippery inclination towards the top of the falls, v reach our destination, Bandajje falls. We sat there devouring the peaceful and beautiful surroundings. Our guide showed us a cave(overhanging rock) where we cud spend the night. Soon our guide bid good bye to us and we were left alone to relax, enjoy and have fun. We had a luncheon session again of MTR ready to eat. After that we relaxed for sometime in the cave. I took a quick nap while others were discussing about topics from capitalism to socialism and what not. Yogi is preparing for civil services and there is no dearth of topics he can talk about. It was a nice surroundings and I enjoyed every single moment there.
After the snap we ventured out so as to see the side view of Arbi falls. It started to rain and we waited for a while till it stopped. Once we were out of the forest and on the hills, I heard a man's shouting. After couple of repeated shouting we were able to connect, though no visible contact was made. After few minutes we saw 2 ppl coming in our direction. They came near us and exchanged pleasantries. They were Prakash and Venkatesh. Both of them are avid trekkers and inspite of being 55 years old are absolutely passionate about trekking. Prakash took VRS from a job in Canara bank and dedicated rest of his time to trekking. He had been to Mt. Everest base and frequently arranges treks in Himalayas. That was quite an inspiring thing for me. V gave them the directions to the waterfall and then just sat there chatting for sometime.

Once it started to get dark we moved back to our shelter near the falls. We ate the MTR before arranging our beds in the small cave. The floor was very uneven and sleeping there was too difficult especially when we had to share the cave with 2 more additional guys. I went to sleep for few hours before waking up in the midnight. Rolled over for few hours before catching some sleep till morning. The morning was pleasant, we went till the edge of the falls for snaps. The view was very good. I missed the early morning clouds but anyway I paid for not getting up early. After quick freshening up we packed our bags and left for Ballala Rayana Durga. We have to cross the falls and climb up straight for two hills. After that one will see a path. Take a left turn at this path and walk straight. This path will basically take u to the right where the fort is located. This path is basically a circle in shape and shud take u to the fort after couple of hours or so. After few minutes of walking on this path one will see a beautiful V shape entry in the fort wall. This means that u r on right track. There is a very good camping spot near this V shaped entry.

The initial trek after the falls was little confusing. I climbed a wrong peak and had to climb down. Once we reached the periphery of the fort, It was an ultimate view. Definitely one of the best views of all my treks till date. There were small small hills (guddas) one behind other with clouds covering. There mesmerising views one after the other. Took some cool snaps but I felt I could have stayed there for eternity. The walk was long.
The trek was fine, there was not much climbing till v got closer to the fort.
Fort, There is not much left of it. We can only imagine the glory of it during the times of Hoysala kings. We spent some time relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery around. The view was superb especially this time of the year. The grass was green and hills were covered in clouds now and then. We could see few bisons far away on some Gudda. Not sure if they were really bisons or buffalos from nearby villages. There were few watch towers where we went. From here you could see the walls of fort running across the hills.
It looked like great wall of china. From one of the watch tower view was very good. I tried my hand on capturing sceneries with wide camera settings. It is a perfect way to capture the beautiful hills around. The hills looked like a big playground with ups and downs. Though it looked like one can playfully jump and hop across hills. But the truth is known only the trekkers. After little refreshments we started toward sunakasale. The route goes from the left of Fort. It is quite visible. This will take u down the hill and connect u to a Jeep track (visible from the fort) after about an hours of trek. This jeep track will take u to the Sunakasale (enquire in few houses on the way). At the first house on the track we met a person who is a pujari at the nearby temple. He was kind enough to offer us couple of dozen of bananas from his own garden. We devoured the bananas and enquired about the drection to Sunakasale. He showed us a shortcut which took us to Durgadahalli. It is a motorable road from here to Sunakasale. The trek is not exciting as the dust raised by incoming vehicles is not bearable. We took a tractor after some distance and reached the Sunakasale by 5:00. The tracto ride was exciting, all our body parts were shaken to the core. But it was good as we need not trek for 4 km on dusty road under the burning son from Durgadahalli to Sunakasale.
After reaching Sunakasale, we had hot snacks of freshly made Bajjis and T. It was a memorable moment after a rigorous trek.We bid good byes to Venkatesh and Prakash. Prakash was anxious about CBSE results of his son which were out that day.

We boarded a bus to Hornadu. Yogesh and Kokil visited the famour Annapurna temple at Hornadu while me and Imti had the Dinner. Fortunately we were able to sell the extra. tickets instead of cancelling. So we got 100% returns on the ticket. This was a good news as the guys who missed the trip will get the total amount back.

So the trip ended wfter we boarded the bus to Bangalore. All in all it was a good mixture of adventure, excitement, beautiful views and wonderful trekking. Bandajje is a place dreaded by trekkers but one who has luck with him will see the stunning beauty named Bandaje Arbi.
I am definitely going to make another trip to this place some time in near future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hiking in the clouds

I had been going on lot of trips since last month. I had been to Sirsi only the week but last. So I didn't had any personal desire for a trip except going out for Ankur or Hubert. This time encouraged by Hubert, We planned for a trip to Kakkabe on bikes. Initially we planned to ride to Ooty. But few dropouts and my disinclination to go for a two day trip to the tourist infested place at this time of the year resulted in dropping out from the trip. Last minute phone call from Hubert gave a push for a quick bike trip to Kakkabe. Kakkabe is a beautiful hill station in Kodagu district. It is 260 km from Bangalore and worth a 2 day weekened getaway from Bangalore.

Friday 11th May 2007
We started from Bangalore at 7:00 PM. Got out of Bangalore and reached the Mysore Hiway by 7:30 PM. Then it was a matter of zipping through the Hiway. Everyone was driving constantly at 75\80. Stopped for a quick Dinner at Mandya. Since we were already behind schedule, so we started immediately towards Virajpet where we planned to spend the night. Virajpet was still nearly 150 kms away. Moreover I was quite afraid of Mysore to Madikeri road which was in a unimaginably bad state last year. However, this time good road was laid and it was far better then the nightmare last time. The ride was pleasant as I was able to keep up with rest of the gang and never felt alone. We didn't took a break for 70 km after Mandya and hence it was time for a small break at the junction, 5 kms after Hunsur. It was nearly midnight and 4 bikers far away from home were munching biscuits on the road and in the dark of the night. I looked up and saw millions of stars in the sky. I guess, I had never seen so many stars in the sky (atleast not since the times I remember). It was such a beautiful moment. I was tired and sleepy but the beautiful occassion with friends at such a nice place was worth a payoff. From here we reached Gonikoppal. Enquired at a lodge but no rooms were available. So we started towards Virajpet, which was 17 km ahead. Lodges here were also full. We enquired at a lodge where no rooms were available. I pointed towards a locked door and asked the manager. He said it is booked from 2moro morning. I immediately told that we will vacate the room by 7:00 in the morning. And there we were in the room, lying on a nice bed with good blankets and pillows. Price 500\- for 3 hours of sleep. Who cares, atleast we relaxed our tired bodies and got them ready for an exciting day ahead.

Saturday, 12th May
we got up by 6:00 and everyone were ready by 7:00. Checked out and reached Kakkabe by 8:30. No rooms were available within our budget. There are only Home stays here and they charge close to 1600 to 2000\- for a 4 bedded room and food for a day. This was out of our budget. So we decided to have breakfast and think about lodging later. We had b'fast of Puttu and Poori. We met this guy who enquired about our accomodation. He helped us out by taking to "Twins cottage". The owner (Ashok) is a nice chap who is pretty interested to talk to you. We managed a room for 1000\- and meals for 50\- per head. Room was pretty decent and after freshening up we had 3 hours all for us to relax. Discussion on the bikes was obvious. Shash got a Bike magazine which fuelled the discussion. Shash took a small nap.
After having lunch we rested for sometime before starting towards Tadiyandamol. We planned to trek from Palace estate route. There are several routes to Tadiyandamol, most sceninc is the one from Honey valley estate. But the route from Palace is shorter and easy. From Palace estate it is a further up till the tar road ends. We parked our bikes here and started to walk. Tadiyandamol peak is another 5 km from here. We met a group of school students on our way. A girl in this group was the subject of discussion for number of times during the trek. Hey, I know it's bad but I never called myself good.

Initial trek is on a plain route. You have to just walk on this route till you reach the base of the hill.There is a route to the left. Initially we took this one and found that it is leading nowhere. So basically the thumb rule is that stick to the main route. No left, no right but just straight. After this the climb up the peak started. It isn't very steep and hence not that difficult. The most amazing part of the trip was that we were walking inside the clouds throughout the climb. Hiking inside the clouds was a feeling out of the world. I was in middle of the clouds. The same clouds which I see from the plain grounds of Bangalore. The clouds which every other kid wants to touch and play on. I was in middle of such a cloud and what a gr8 feeling it is. Completely calm, cool and peaceful atmosphere. I took some inspiring photos at few such places. After about a km uphill trek, we came across this forest patch. I saw my second snake of all my trips here. on hearing my footsteps, something made a quick exit towards the side. I turned back and expected to see a lizard. But there it was lying inside a bunch of fallen tree leaves, perfectly camouflaged. I was not able to see the head but tail and the lower part of the snake were visible. I stopped Kokil coming behind me and took a step closer to take a clear photo. But snake was smarter then me and slipped away. Snakes detect slightest vibraions in the ground and hence I should not have moved my feet. Anyhow, I missed capturing the photo of the snake again. We crossed the jungle and reached the grassland. Hubert and Shash were far behind and out of sight. Me and Kokil took some rest here and started the uphill trek. I was able to see the fast moving cluds in front of me. The clouds left tiny droplets on my hands and hair. The clouds blocked any sunlight from falling on the hill, this in addition to the dense white clouds themselves created an atmosphere from a different world.

The peak is not far from this point. In another 15 mins we were at the peak. There is a flag hoisted here. I took a Hillary style snap here. Took some rest and nice photos. There were a bunch of guys who pitched tent there and were planning for a night stay in the wild. I wished to do the same, perhaps next summer. Sometimes I craved for clouds to clear up so that I could see the beautiful landscape below. But the dense clouds didn't blessed my wish. Anyhow, after some rest, We got a call from Shash saying that they were turning back. We started back immediately. We met them near the forest patch. They were quite close to the peak and dropped the trek at the last moment. Prospects of rain were growing and hence we walked briskly towards our bikes. We found a large group of people going towards the peak at this time. Perhaps they were planning to stay on top for night.

By the time we reached the bikes, It started to rain. I was afraid that bikes will fall in the loose mud after rains. I started the bike and hurried towards our rooms. What a nice climate it was. Reached the room, changed clothes and sipped the tea and had biscuits outdoors. It was nearly 6:00 pm and evening was beautiful. Beautiful surroundings, fresh air , cool climate, sweet smell of plants, trees and soil after a short burst of rain, cloud covered hills, friends, a cup of tea and plateful of biscuits. Nothing could be perfect. We went for a walk after the biscuits. We sat in a small bus stand and then discussed about bikes and babes. Favourite bikes and favourite babes. The discussion went on for quite sometime, disturbed once by a piyakkad. It got dark and we walked back to our rooms. After a nice dinner where the speciality was a chutney made out of ripe mangoes and curd. It was a taste I never had before. Kind of a mixture of all the tastes blended beautifully.
We went to bed pretty fast after dinner.

Sunday, 13th May
Next day we took our time to get ready. I was ready by 7:00. Seeing that everyone is still sleeping, I decided to visit Iguthappa temple. It is few kms from kakkabe village. There is an arch at the village centre. The road goes through this arch and directions afterwards are quite clear. The Iguthappa temple was under renovation and hence main deity was moved to a temporary shleter. The priest here were very affectionate. First time in life a priest offered me a cup of coffee. He explained me the history behind the temple which I already knew. His intention was never to get money out of me but pure showing of respect, kindness and affection for the other person. In this case, I was perfect stranger. I was quite moved by this gesture. One particular information he gave me was that there is a 3km trek upto Mallamma hill from the temple. Twice in a year the god is carried up the peak for special poojas. There are couple of ponds up there. I will defintely go up Mallamma hill next time I am at kakkabe.

After few snaps with the priest and their lovely kids, I turned back to the home stay. Found Shash just woke up from the sleep and Hubert missing. Shash took more then half an hour to get ready and by the time he was ready, Hubert came back. We went to Chelavara waterfalls. It is few kms from Cheyandane village between Kakkabe and Virajpet road. From Cheyandane village it is 4 km away. There was not much water now due to summer. The water was shallow and I was able to reach the base of the falls. It had always felt good to be right under the fall. Soon we were joined by few more guys from bangalore. After some time we started back to Kakkabe. Paid our bill (1400\-) and started back to Bangalore.
We just raced our bikes home. Came across a gang of Enfield riders in there heavy leather jackets. Stopped for lunch at Hunsur and then it was everyone on his own. Reached Bangalore at 6:00 after few short stops on the way.

Destination: Kakkabe
Distance: 260 km (approx),
Best Time to go: Post monsoon (Nov to Feb end). Early monsoon (May end or June first)
Route: Mysore->Hunsur->Gonikoppal->Virajpet->Kakkabe.
Things to see: Tadiyandamol trek, Mallamma trek, Iguthappa temple, Chelavara falls, Nilakandi falls.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Gruelling Trek

After a gap of 2 weeks from our Udupi trip, we decided to trek to Kodachadri on the weekend of 7-8th April. We were quite close to Kodachadri during our Udupi trip couple of weeks ago, but never managed to see this place. I was interested in this place as it had good waterfalls besides trekking upto Kodachadri. Certainly temple town of Kollur is an additional bonus. Located near the famous temple town of Kollur, Kodachadri at an altitude of 1800 mts is a beautiful hill in western ghats of Shimoga district. It is most famous for Sunrise and sunsets. One can see the Arabian sea on a clear day. It has significance as Adi Sankaracharya meditated on top of the hill and mythologically believed to be the Sanjeevani Parvat carried by Hanuman.

So it was a complete trekking trip after KP trek last year. Ankur\Rami from my team agreed to join. Sahil and Kokil among Ankur's acquintance joined us as well. We booked the tickets a week before but just managed to get last seats. We decided that we shall take the most difficult route to Kodachadri (via Hidlumane falls). The required information was obtained from http://dreamroutes.org/dreams/mkhan_kodachadri.html. This article has good details about the route. One can simply follow this article by word (except after reaching the top of Hidlumane falls). We took the bus from Majestic at 8:00 PM after having dinner at the Andhra restaurant at Majestic. Except me, others were sitting in the last row and had a bumpy ride to Kollur.

We reached the Sigandur cross at around 5:00 AM in the morning. It was a pleasant morning. The fresh air and the calm surroundings were good. From Sigandur cross we have to walk back for a km towards Nittur till we see a bridge. One will see Marakuttaka bus stop before the bridge on the right side. Take the right deviation here and walk straight. After few km, one will reach a small stream. Here we finished our morning activities. Completely refreshed we marched ahead till we got the Yemmehonda junction. We have to take right here to reach the Yemmehonda school. From there we walked till the road ends at a house. It will be Gururaj house. Now here there are two routes to go to Kodachadri. One from the left and one from the right. By default Gururaj's family will direct to left. If the intention is to go via Hidlumane falls then it is good to ask the direction for Hidlumane falls, which is towards right. We initially took the left. After finishing the breakfast I realized that way to Hidlumane falls shud go thru GuruRaj's fields. Since this route didn't had any fields we went back and took the route to the right. Gururaj is a very helping person. He is ready to provide free guidance to Hidlumane. But we didn't bothered him as the route was pretty clear. On asking If we can go to Kodachadri from Hidlumane falls, he told us to come back from Hidlumane and take the route to the left from house to avoid any misadventure. We nodded our heads and then left for Hidlumane. The route is quite rocky and there is good chance of slipping on these rocks. Not sure how one can trek here in monsoon. Hidlumane is a series of waterfalls. Didn't counted how many but there are many. :) The final waterfall is nearly 50 ft tall and quite nice. We took a bath at this waterfall.

Now trekking from here to Kodachadri was going to be tough as there is no proper trekking route. There is a small route on the right which ends at a big boulder. The goal is to get to the top of the falls. Hence we crossed the boulder. Now there was no proper route to go to the top of the falls. Kokil and Sahil took initiative and went up to find the route. They didn't came back for some time and then I had to go behind them. With no idea of the way they went, I just climbed up the hill. I was able to locate them after good enough screaming. They were sitting at one place and were insisting on a route nearby. Not sure y they insisted to go to right when Kodachadri was on left. Anyhow with few more screamings, I convinced them to come down. After reaching Ankur\Rami we just walked towards left. There is no route and one has to make their own. After few steps we reached the top of Hidlumane falls. As per the dreamroutes article, we have to follow the stream till we find a path to the left. We never found this path and after quite a bit of dangerous jumping on these rocks we decided that we shall simply climb the hill on our left. It was little tough to climb it as there was no route and mud was quite slippery. The thought of getting lost in jungle is little troublesome. After a treacherous uphill trek we reached the top and were delighted to see a small route towards right. I was pretty much sure that this route will lead us to Kodachadri. We had snacks break there. Then we walked on this route. After crossing couple of hills we reached the Gowrikere-Kodachadri jeep track. From here it was an hours trek to Kodachadri. The mud here was quite soft and deep. We were completely covered by the mud raised by incoming Jeeps.
After a muddy trek on this Jeep track we reached the PWD guest house at Kodachadri. We managed to get some sleeping place in a dormitory for 25\- per head. The lunch, Dinner and B'fast is serverd at the guest house. After a refreshing bath and a fulfilling lunch (25\-) we went to sleep for sometime. We woke up by 4:00 and went up the Kodachadri hill. There is a very small temple housing Adi Sankaracharya. Had few drinks here. Then we proceeded to chitramool caves. This route is from behind the temple. This takes nearly a 30 minutes to reach this cave. It is said that Sankaracharya also meditated here. Now a sadhu is perfroming meditation here. This place is nothing spl and can be avoided if you are too tired of trekking. The climb up from Chitramoola to the temple was a strenuous task again. I always find climbing up to be difficult. We reached the peak and then relaxed and had snacks. Waited for the sunset. A cool breeze had started to blow at this time of the evening. We just chatted and were having good time. Soon a dense cloud was flowing toward the peak. It was a nice view.
After taking some nice snaps of the sunset we trekked back. Reached the guest house just in time. Sahil was waiting for us there. After freshening up we waited for dinner. It was such a relaxing moment. My body was tired after a long gruelling trek but my spirit was completely relaxed. A cool breeze of the night, countless stars in the sky and jovial friends made my time there. We stood in Q for dinner. After first round, the rice was over. We have to wait for nearly 0.5 hrs for next round to commence. We had lot of jokes there. Myself and Ankur loved to scare others by telling them about next day's gruelling trek (20 km). We went to sleep pretty fast.

I promised Sahil to accompany him for sunrise next morning. So I was woken up at 4:30 AM. I was feeling quite sleepy and showed no inclination to stand on my words. Sahil insisted for sometime and gave up after finding no response. I didn't fell asleep after this disturbance and hence decided to take Sahil up to the peak and see the sunrise. It was almost time and hence we started to run towards the peak. We were close to the temple when we stopped and decided to see the sunrise from there itself. The sunrise was real good. We captured the sunrise in the cameras. We visited the temple and on the way Sahil gave some spiritual enlightment lessons. While coming back I visited the Agastya teertham. It is a small waterfall from where water is supplied to guest house.After refreshing back at the guest house we had breakfast. Paid the PWD manager and started to trek downhill.
I shud say that trekking downhill was pretty quick. We took few breaks and were at the Kaka's hotel. We inquired for a guide to take us to Arsinagundi directly from that point. It is a dreaded route through thick jungles and I wud have loved to do that. Santosh (Kaka) gave us a rough route towards the Arsinagundi. With few doubts here and there we reached the pole from where we were supposed to take left. There was a small route and we did took few steps down. But after few steps it was felt that it is quite risky to venture inside without a guide. Lot of earlier trekkers have warned not to venture this route without guide. With not much time left before we have to leave for bangalore we decided to go to main road. From there we can catch a bus to the Arisinagundi gate near Kollur. It is a straight jeep track to Arisnagundi from that gate and hence much easier. So we started towards main road. It was a long walk and almost tired us out for the day. Just walking and walking on the jeep track. When we were close to the limits we saw the main road. What a delight it was. Relaxed for sometime there and boarded the bus to Kollur. After nearly 20 mins we reached the Arisinagundi gate. Trekking here is prohibited (legibly written on the gate) but not strictly followed. We ventured inside. It is a 4 km trek to a board and another km from there. So the trekking started, Initial 1 km was fine but then there were these ups and downs which took lot of energy out of already tired beings. After another 2 kms, even taking a single step was becoming difficult. We took breaks wthin 5 mins of last break. Going was getting tough and our bodies were giving up the challenge. Stories of ppl giving up in the middle of Arisinagundi trek was ringing in my ears. I didn't wanted to be counted one among them. At this moment we saw the board to Arisinagundi. With a renewed energy we took the left here and it was a steep downhill. Unlike the way we thought, the falls was still far. One has to get down the valley and climb up the adjacent hill. I was hearing the sound of waterfall since long back. But there was no sight of the waterfall. I was anxious to see the waterfall and hence went ahead fast. A plain 0.25 km on this hill will take us to Arsinagundi falls. Finally I was standing in front of Arisinagundi. What a nice waterfall it was even during summer.
Not many people visit this place and the peace and solitude at this place was truly touching. In the middle of nowhere, We cracked few funny jokes imitating a news channel anchor famous for his loud crime quotes. It was time to reap the rewards of the gruelling trek by taking a dip in cool refreshing water. After that we had lunch of breads and buscuits.Sahil was not able to eat the stale bread and jam. Immediately after lunch we started back. It was real tough to retrace the steps we took. Now it was a climb down the hill, reach the valley and climb a steep hill to rech the board. This was one of the toughest single patch of trekking I ever did. Taking a step forward was tough. Ankur had wonderful ability to climb (perhaps attributed to his long legs) and reached the board well in advance of us. Rest of the gang dragged themselves up. I just fell to ground after reaching the board. After few mins of huffing and puffing there, we started back to the main road. It was again a long and never ending trek but atleast this time we knew the distance and had the sweet feeling of goiing back. Though it was tiring but we somehow managed to get back to main road. Kollur is 2 km from here. I shall remember this day for long long time. 20 km of gruelling trekking in a day. We reached kollur and freshened near a borewell. From there we visited the Mookambika devi temple. Once outside the temple we dragged ourselves to the bus stand. There we were having snacks when we almost missed our bus to Bangalore. Once on board, I was thinking of the trip for a long time. The beautiful place we had been, nice trekking we did, the physical hardships we went thru, the challenge we stood up to and feeling of making it back home successfully.

As I learnt from NGC,The most beautiful places at the ends of the world have to be reached on foot. One has to endure the physical hardships to reach them. The picture of these beautiful places have become my wallpaper. Whenever I see these images, the feeling of "being there, done that" is priceless.