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.