Saturday, August 28, 2010

Narasimha Parvatha

Aug 2010

Refreshing!!! That's the feeling i have of the beautiful rain trek in the Agumbe ghats. As always good to be in our great western ghats. My friends and I made a magnificent nine and started on a friday night of a regular weekend. We hired a TT to drive us close to our destination. As usual the route from Bengaluru was Nelmangala, Kunigal and Hassan. From Hassan, take route towards Belur, then to Chikmagalur, Aldur, Balehonnur and Sringeri. From Sringeri to Kigga.

We reached Sringeri at dawn and took a break in the TT. The stretch via Balehonnur was bumpy and we were all clearly shaken up, literally. It was raining heavily, thats good because we chose to do the trek in the rains. It was after a long time, the earlier rain trek was to Kodachadri and it was one heluva experience. So hoping to catch some excitement this time,here.From Sringeri we reached Kigga which is around 15 to 20kms away. There is only one road to Kigga and towards the end of the main street is the RishyaShringa Temple, pretty old one. Sringeri is named after RishyaShringa. This was a lovely sight to wake up to. We also identify the little sleek yellow board pointing to Siri Mane falls. So we are at the right place.

Took some time to make a mental note of all things beautiful around. I was filled with joy and the monsoon added a bit of flare. The weather was good and the air smelt refreshing, a far cry in noisy and polluted Bengaluru. As we scouted around to understand how things work around here, i spotted this beautiful thatched house. It so typified Malnad. It was one of the many bhattara Mane(s).

Coffee!! So we began searching for someone you could give us a booster dose. After few minutes,looked like we woke up the entire town, the town constituted the rows of houses on this road. (Not the atrociously priced "row houses" in Whitefield, Bengaluru).Anyways we were told further down the road there was a restaurant, Sringeri style. As we moved away from the temple, we could see the Narsimha Parvatha range in the backdrop of the temple.

Bhattara Mane. Our mainstay during the trip. It was raining intermittently early in the morning. Our Bhattaru was welcoming and planned to serve us hot hot "avalakki vaggarne" and coffee.

This was the "open kitchen" where the most delicious thindi i had ever had in sometime.(Again not as pricey as the open kitchen concept in Bengaluru). The food was yummy and also healthy unlike the oil dipped thindis in namma bengaluru.

While we had a good stay at having breakfast, some of us had to do the background work of getting permission from Sringeri Police Station before we ventured into the forest range. It took us a lot of talking and effort. We also had to physically visit the police station and forest offices in Sringeri before we got a reluctant approval from them. So after a delay, we began our trek at around 12 noon. It was raining and starting point was just behind and around the temple. This is also the road to Siri Mane falls.

The back side of the temple showed us the green fields and the green mountain range. It was a very nice short walk.

Few minutes into walk on the asphalted road, we got the deviation, entry point to the trek route to Narsimha Parvatha. We offloaded our trekking gears and prepared for a good, hard, rough adventure called monsoon trek. It began to pour heavily at this point and we frantically readied our rucksacs, making sure we have adequate stuff(food obviously) with us just in case we get lost in the jungle. We were also conscious of the fact that the other side of the range leads to Agumbe ghat, an area infested with King Cobra. But we were confident that our cacophonic assembly kept them away at a distance. So off we go, off from habitation and off from well drawn roads..into "Kal dhari"

As we trudged along, we realized that we were not that far from habitation and infact there were few brave landlords and their estates we had to cross before we clear the habitation. This was a kalyani immediately down the starting point, we had to go around it and behind it towards the roots of the mountain.

A slow and stead ascent on the way and we began to get a landscape view of the place we had landed into. I can tell you that our decision to do the trek in the monsoon was the best decision. I have been through several treks but yet never had i got a glimpse of the region all soaked with rain and the green and soggy feeling had a very tender feeling to it.

As we moved on, we began to move along in harmony with lots of talk and fanfare. In the process we almost missed the turns. We almost went on a path which leads back to the town if not for the woman of this house who stopped us and set us on the right path. Infact just before this house to the left, there is a "chota" serpertine one file path that leads to the summit.

So a quick course correction and also it made us realized that we are very dependent on the courtesy of the locals to guide us in and out of the forest. Unlike what we had read in other blogs on the need of a guide to take us through, we trusted our instincts and experience and began to script this adventure on our own.

As has always happened, the moment we had the left turn, the path was a steep ascent and it was full of gravels which were loosely exposed by the incessant rains. We all were muted and began to adjust and change gears of our body. We had to flex some muscles which lay dormant and unused in the luxurious city life. Well some may argue what is luxury, but...lets move on we have time to keep up.

Some thirty minutes up the hill, we were lead into a small clearing which gave us a good photo op of the valley around from where we had started. It was awesome. Also, the temple at Kigga was visible at the farside from here. Anticipating some difficult terrain and possibility of dis-orienting ourselves, we felt this was a good point to take a bearing of the temple and note it down, just in case we may need to reference it back. Infact it did help us further up when we just had to do a status check on the direction we were moving.

The temple in the middle, the kalyani as a marker and the entire green range ornamenting the village of kigga,it was an absolute treat. Infact the different shades of the range as we look farther and farther was as though nature's way of telling the infiniteness of itself and the insignificance of ourselves.

We then began to do the major portion of the trek. It may have been around two hours of a tedious uphill journey. This to me seemed the core part of the ascent. It was a very thick forest, made thicker by the continual rains. It rained very heavily sometimes that we had to pause and allow nature to take its time to calm down. The familiar smell of the forest was all too evident. By now i think the team were well tuned and looked like we could keep going for days together.

Slowly the dark forest canopy began to lighten up and it seemed we were nearing the highest portions of the first peak. The thicket began to fade out and there was more light. We could see past the canopy, the pale green cultivated grasslands down below.

There is a rock formation which symbolically marked the first leg of the trek. It began to rain heavily again at this point. However the breeze made the showers more pleasant. Ideally, this is a good point to take a break and have your lunch. But since it was raining and windy we decided to move up further before we have our lunch.

We took a good break here and called for some photo ops. The view was absolutely majestic. The panoramic view of the valley below surrounded by thick green mountain range was fabulous. Some of us had already caught some leeches on our shoes. We tended to it and cleared it up. Did some wandering around to get our bearings. Apparently we had to take a left deviation again

We were now moving on the ridge of the mountain range. We were crossing a relatively even area with low trees and shrubs. It was cloudy and sometimes the mist used to scrape through us.

The good part of our western ghats is that although it was raining heavily and was breezy, it was never really the chill we feel in Bengaluru in winter. Although pretty much the chill factor is lost even in nammaoorubengaluru. So with a jacket on i was actually sweating.

We began to go up and down few mountain tops and after an hour probably we reached a point which had lots of stones arranged in this fashion. The wind gained momentum and was blowing hard. We were kinda batterred and also were doubting about the direction of our movement. We also feared we may not reach our final destination, that is Narsmiha Parvata peak before it gets dark. Some of us even pondered whether this was the summit. But considering the path still continued forward and we did not see any inspection bunglow yet we concluded that we may need to go further up.

This stretch seemed to be the most ominous. We were now crossing a thick forest cover close to the top, i guess. It was a superb environment. The thick and wet forest looked very similar to many of those hollywood movies depicting the amazon rainforests. This was no less than the Amazons.

After a tough drag through the thick jungle, we slowly began to hit the openings again, some familiar resemblance to grasslands which usually denotes the nearing of the summit. It was misty and breezy and we were hit by passing clouds. Truly a privilege to be welcomed in this manner.

So typical of all our treks, so near and yet so far. Somehow we had concluded we reached the top, however we kept climbing one peak after the other. The visibility was poor and as we reached the top of one peak, we were exposed another farther peak.

Now we began to increase our pace, few of us slight tensed. All through this period we were second guessing about whether we have passed the summit point or not. The grasslands were clearly there to be seen, although the fog prevented was to get a good sense of where we were.

It was a very steep ascent that we were making, and we had already crossed few of the grasslands. Some of the folks began to speed up just to make sure we reach the summit on time. Although we were enjoying every bit of the wilderness and the continuous moist breeze, the wind speed was increasing and the sound of the wind grazing past our ears created that eerie whistling sound.

We got a feeling that we were in the middle of nowhere in the peak of Malnad monsoon!!. But soon, after having crossed multitudes of short peaks, we reached a point which seemed pretty flat over a vast area and clear grassland. This looked like the peak but we still had not found the Inspection Bungalow.

We however spotted the small pond which was significant since one of the previous bloggers had mentioned that it indicated that we were almost at the top. However we were not sure and it was getting increasingly difficult to move forward because of the heavy rains.

At this point we decided to take a break and have our lunch. It was literally a standing lunch with one or two persons taking turns to create a shelter while the others had there munch. We were hungry and hogged like we will never have another day to eat. We had our lunch at no man's land and where visibility was zero.

A very good one course meal brought content to our famished souls. Some of us got the right energy to jump around a few streams here and there and venture out farther into the wildnerness.

Voila!!! Our short adventure was fruitful. There was a brief period, probably a few seconds during which the entire landscape was clearly visible and we to our amazement we could spot the Inspection Bungalow at a distance. It is surprising and looked like rain gods showed some mercy and allowed us to spot our IB which our desperate eyes were so eager to spot. We did a good combing operation in and around the IB and were convinced that the IB by itself was not inhabitable.

Considering that we made it to the summit, well almost, we could not search for the Narsimha parvatha which had the etching of the god. However we captured some pictures from the IB and were later told that the actual temple area was somewhere little higher.

It continued to rain and it was close to around 500pm in the evening. We were all drenched, cold and shivering literally. Having not found a good spot to camp for the night and knowing it would be one hell of a soggy sleepness night in the rains, we decided to pack our bags to get back to the place where we had started.

It was the fasted climb down every undertaken, couple of hours later even before it was dark we were back to habitation. The climb down was blessed with continuous heavy downpour and we were given a very very good, spa quality, monsoon shower. When we spotted this man, he had this dazed look, probably laughing at our predicament

By the time we reached the temple town of Kigga it was very dark. The very helpful residence of kigga arranged for us to stay in one of the vacant houses and spend the rest of the night. By next day morning, the skies seemed to have cleared and a good walk down the street was beautiful. Well the motivation for the walk?! Bhattara Thindi Mane!!

After coffee and thindi, we ventured to the close by Sirimane falls. It was absolutely amazing sight.

The falls was brimming with all its glory. We had a very very good time with a good massage therapy sitting below the falls. I dont think the falls would be as beautiful as it was now than any other time of the year.

The falls area is allegedly maintained by the forest department, so we had to pay some ticketing fees.

After cleansing ourselves of all our sins in the falls, we were heading straight to visit Shardambe in Sringeri. I was looking for one last picture perfect photo of Kigga and the surrounding moutains, and i did get it. This snap probably captures the essence of the place.

We were away from the Kigga town and on our way back to Sringeri. The irrigated lands were all there to see. No dearth of water unlike in namma bengaluru. It was pristine. Ok, after the blessings from goddess, we did our "pate pooja" and headed to visit ARRS, Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.

We had a quick peak view at the Agumbe view point. Then took the route towards thirthalli. Few minutes from Agumbe to the left was the ARRS entrance. Apparently unlike my expectation the center is deep inside the forest away from the road. Nothing of significance when we visited. We came to know about the many many good work this team was doing.

The Agumbe landscape was very cool. Light green landscape and surrounding mountains sprinkled with monsoon showers all around. It was one of the very many picture perfect photos i could capture. It was a fantastic trek and adventure. We all vowed to come back to the same region in the next monsoons!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Make SilkBoard Signal Free

SilkBoard Traffic Nightmare
Being a day to day commuter on the harrowing silk board junction in Bangalore, i was wondering if there is any solution to the traffic woes here.I have thought of a simple solution which could be achieved with minimal cost and a little bit of co-ordination from various government agencies.
Please share critically if you see any issue in the above proposal, i tried to send emails to various government agencies and see if they could implement something, but as expected nobody bothers, so just uploading to my blog

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ballal Rayana Durga - Bandaje Arbi

Jan 2008

This was my first trip after a decade. It rejenuvated me like never before, good to be back amongst the grasslands and forests of Western Ghat. We utilized the Republic Day, 2009 long weekend to make this trek. The route was Bengaluru, Nelmangala, Kunigal, Audichunchungiri toll, Chennarayapatna, Hassan. From Hassan we started on Belur Road towards Beluru, from Beluru we started towards Mudigere and Kotegehara. From Kotegehara, took the road towards Horanadu and reached Sunksale Village on the way. This was the starting point of our trek.

We were around ten and hired a Tempo Traveller to take us to the starting point of the trek. The idea was to pick us up once we completed the trek on the other side of the range. We started at around 10pm on a saturday and reached Kotegehara at around 500am. I took this snap at around 500am which indicates various destinations from Koteghara junction.

Kotegehara is on one end of the Charmadi ghat, the other end leads you to Dharmasthala.This point is famous for the Neer Dose. We really had a very very good earliest breakfast. It was really cold out there and we almost emptied the cafe. We then proceeded towards Horanadu.

Around thirty minutes drive from Kotegehara we reached Sunksale village. The village was sleeping when we reached there around 600am. We took some rest to recuperate from our long journey. The morning dew and sunlite and a small and serene village was a very joyful first look of the western ghat belt.

This was the starting point of our trek. There is a path that flows right behind this house. We were dropped off in TT upto this point. This point is around two to three kms from Sunksale. We started from this point around 800am, i guess

We started through the estate and the cultivated land, as is always when we start or end a trek. This region is patched with adike mara. It feels nice to see rows of long and thin adike mara

After about fifteen to twenty minutes of the trek, we reached an elevated spot. We were still crossing the habitation. From this point we could see the durga far above. We were kinda lost at this point and were searching for Narayan Gowda's mane. My friends who had visited earlier mentioned that the landscape has changed and we had to spend sometime figuring out the correct point which takes us into the forest and beyond.

Early morning sunshine provided us some good photo ops. I realized doing a trek in the winter around Jan-Feb seemed very optimal. No rain or leeches, there is only a thin non piercing sun but the summer heat never existed. In fact it was a cool breeze in the morning. The air smelt good and set us in mood for a good long cross country trudging.

So finally after lots of enquires and running around we were pointed to the entry point into the forest to start us on the trek. There is a path to the right of this house, next to the gate that leads all the way up through the forest, the forest is a private property i was told later.

The first walk of the main part of the trek was testing for some of us. Especially this was my first trek after a very long time, maybe in a decade. The first stretch took right up the hill through the forest. It was around 45minutes of an sweating and challenging experience. This was needed to get us all tuned to the long way ahead. There were intermittent clearing as me moved closer to KalaBhairava Temple. Our first stop for breakfast.

It gave a sense of relief to get the first glimpse of the temple premise. I was slightly exhausted by the time i reached there, i should admit, but the spirit was high. We had our breakfast, bread, jam and a watery tea. You could not have asked for anything more. Watery tea is the taste of the trek so to speak. The experience of going through the preparation and sipping a hot cup of self made tea is a very satisfying. The air was cold so the tea provided us the warmth and the necessary kick to our dormant muscles.

To my surprise i realized that the KalaBhairava Temple is a very frequented place for locals in this belt. I spotted couple of TTs and realized that we are still not in the stretch where no man has gone before. I thought to myself, why the hell we took the trouble to climb the step stretch when we could have driven all the way to this place. But i soon realized that the initial stretch was a good warm up exercise and really moulded us to carry on with the rest of our journey.

There is a manmade Kalyani that was being developed in the temple area. You could again see Ballal Rayana Durga in the farthest elevation. The durga was our reference point, sort of the north pole all along our trek. The plan was to head straight towards the fort and pass the fort slightly towards it's right to make a small descent to reach Bandaje Arbi(falls). This was the campsite for tonite.

KalaBhairava temple entrance. There was some concrete construction going on. The temple sanctum sanctorum itself is built of stone but some rest area outside of the sanctum was built of concrete. I always felt concrete spoils the etiquette of the natural region. Worse it reminds of unethical constructions in our concrete jungle, Bengaluru. Anyways, we had a quick blessing from the lord and continued.

The directions to the durga says that you need to go past bhattara mane. I was told that orange trees are the uniqueness of the house and that is how you identify Bhattara mane. We talked Bhatta for a brief moment who conversed well,all the while carefully managing a lump of yele adike in his mouth, oops it almost dropped..i thought... We religiously made it a point to cross the much talked about bhattara mane landmark, as we did to continue on our journey

Maybe we trekked for around an hour or maybe less and we finally cleared the forest and reached a minor summit from where we could see the vast expanse of the western ghats for as long as you could set your eyes on. This photo captures the range and to my pleasant surprise we could spot Kudremukha peak. We also spotted Jamailabad fort.I said man!! it is so close lets go there, but was quickly dismissed on that idea. They always appear close but they never are.

This is supposedly Mckanas Gold spot. It is actually called GangariKal.In the evening when the sun is shining on this side side of the ridge, the dry grass and shining rocks all lit up to give a golden glow. This point gave a good break for us to recompose and recoup. On the other side of this view you could spot the durga.

We took help from this old man to get us through some difficult sections of the trek. He is an old but by no means weak man. Infact he was the fastest member of the team as we crossed along. Again another person with a lump of yele adike. Our gang had a good serving of pan from this poor old man and i guess the unpolished adike tasted very good, so i heard. Could never taste it myself while on a trek.

This was the second phase of our trek moving through the grasslands climbing up hill and going down hill,up and down across several hills. As we progressed we began to feel the heat of the sun from the clear skies. All the while until this point we had a thick cover of the trees in the forest which provided us enough shade. I preferred that, but never had it again.

As we trekked along the serpentine and winding path each of us had to pace it according to our capabilities and so we started drifting apart from each other. This part of the trek was more about counting the steps than talking to each other. And again it was around 100pm in the afternoon. The sun was directly above our heads. Nostalgia, i was able to recollect my earlier treks and simply put a smile acknowledging the fact that this is most expected in any trek.

All the while we climbed up and to the right of the durga. We reached very close to the durga and then started moving across and downhill. The durga was at the summit and we simply glanced through the durga. There were couple of other groups who planned a one day trip to durga from the temple. The durga as such was not enticing to us since our goal was to reach the Arbi. Considering we were kinda worn out by the sun by now, there was nobody who voted to climb upto the durga to have a look. But instead we all agreed to move along and continued.

By now we had reached the uninhabited regions of the grasslands. The view from this point was absolutely amazing and we took a good break to enjoy the vicinity and lots of photo op. We spotted so many other summits which could be part of our next trekking destination as well. Amazing western ghats. Karnataka is truly blessed by nature. I am very proud to say that we have the western ghats. It is also the land of multitude of of plant and animal species. It is also the land of King Cobra. Wheeww never spotted one though!!

Our serpent continued towards the falls. Our final destination for the day. From this point on we had a sort of roller coaster ride, getting down and up through top of several hills.

After an hours trek, we reached a point which was familiar to many of our friends repeating the trek. All of them acknowledged that we were close to the falls. In fact i was pointed out that just behind that rocky edge was our campsite. The heat and the thought of cold water made me walk faster. I planned to gulp enormous amount of water when i reached there, but not yet... but not yet.

From the durga to our final destination, the falls, it was almost two to two and a half hour journey. As we reached close to the falls region, the path started drifting slightly towards the left and reached a final descent area which was scattered with lots of small rocks. This was the most perilous part of the trek. We had to go down in the sun, the destination was visible but had to go through this stretch which was hurting our foot. But we did and started getting down. The end of this descent and towards the left on the green patch was our stream which took an almost 300ft fall to form the bandaje arbi. We reached our campsite around 330pm i believe. We had started the trek around 900am. So roughly around six hours of trek.

Again the first annoying part i could look at is how mindless and careless we have all been. There is no respect for nature and all the food and plastic has been dumped around at free will. I hate those nature loving "ba****rds" who have no respect for mother nature. Better clean up peoples otherwise dont bother to come trekking, ..idiots!!!..

The campsite was absolutely amazing, we had to compete with few other campers though. We did manage to occupy a fairly flat piece of land. We had a good dip in the falls, it was icy cold and really could not spend as much time as we all wanted to, but it was refreshing nonetheless. Had lunch, chapati, took a small nap and began to explore the area around the campsite. Just around 20meters from where we camped, the stream took a nosedive. This was the Bandaje Arbi. The volume of water was slightly low, so we could go all the way to the edge to view the falls taking a plunge below. Having a look down is no easy task, i admit i never gathered enough courage to pop out my entire head away from the slope, like my friend here is doing. I was content with whatever i did. Bit scary man!!, why take the trouble.

We had a good break enjoying the sunset. I could almost grab hold of the jewel before the sunset. Sunset was quick and we retired to the camp to begin the cooking session, not that i cooked, just wanted to enjoy the gupshup.

Ofcourse the campfire to provide us with all the light and warmth. Our campsite was right next to the flowing water. So we did not have to compromise anything when it came to water for cooking. We had a good clean cooking session? I guess so!!.

The view of the campsite from far. It was a perfect campsite. The stream nearby, a campfire. The forest covering in the background. All you could ask for. We had good food, it was made a bit spicy since we could not gauge the huli pudi quantity in the dark. We had poppins to soothe our tongues. The nite fall was quick and clear. We were all tired and easily slipped into our sleeping bags looking at the starry skies. Our nite was interrupted suddenly by another set of trekkers who had started the trek in the dark from other side of the hill. We were a bit worried. Some thought about naxalities also crossed my mind. But in the end they were another bunch of tired and beaten trekkers. We gave them the excess spicy food we had!!

Morning dew again. Good picturesque view of the summit. It is good feeling to know that you go to bed early and wake up at the flash of the first light in these region. It is good!! We were quickly up and running. Again a good hot cup of watery tea did the trick and kickstarted our descent. We quickly packed our bags and cleaned up the place. No we dont spoil the nature. All the dirt and plastic was burnt in the campfire.

One more photo op situation. Came to know that the night trekkers were complaining about the spicy food we gave them. We all chuckled. Luckily they were close to the water spot :)

The stream provided a mini water fall. This was our source of water. The sound of waterfall did provide us good background sound all nite long

The campfire provided us with heat and light through the nite. We killed the fire before it died, hmm did we really?!!. We crossed the stream and climbed up the forest cover to begin our trek down towards the Bidepe village side.

Wow , we had not realized that a beautiful sceneary awaited us. We had a gala time taking photos, we all had made it to the top and were concluding our trip.

Now we started getting down along the ridge on the other side of the arbi. We had camped to the right and now we were getting down to its left.

Some of us drifted close to the edge and could spot the Bandaje Arbi head-on taking the plunge. The fall is pretty deep, we could not see the bottom. I am sure the place is really a treat to watch just after monsoon, but not sure if this place would be as hospitable as was this time during monsoon.

The best photo of my trek. It sums up everything there is to a trek and everything you need to look forward to.

Finally we descended down through the grassland and entered the forest region. This is the view of the falls from just about when we were entering the forest. My camera charge was down after this point so could not capture more details. The trek through the forest was very steep, i wonder how one would climb up from this side. It took us nearly four hours to complete our trek downhill. At the bottom we again had a gala time in the waters by the stream which was just after the falls. Our TT was waiting at Narayan Gowda's place. We moved from kadiyurdvara and reached Bandaje Junction. From Bandaje Junction, westwards will reach Beltangadi via Ujire and eastwards we reached charmadi village to descend down the charmadi ghats to Kotegehara. The rest was routine trip back to Bengaluru. We hit Bengaluru around 1000pm that nite. It was a funtastic time and a very pleasant one at that. I think the winter weather saved us all from any excessive strain. Will signoff now, looking forward to my next trek, maybe in the monsoon?!!