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?!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Madikeri Talcauvery

Nov 2008

November trip to Madikeri. A long drive and actually was looking out for a break from concrete jungle again. The drive was surprisingly pleasant again because of good road from Mysuru all the way to Bylakuppe. Roads seem to be lot better than i had anticipated, although we still need to make it complete and consistent. Notably we drove to Madikeri without booking any resorts on the weekend and were lucky to have found a resort good enough to rest comfortably

First stop Bylakuppe.We reached there late in the nite. The journey was very good since we had not expected good roads. None the less it was an enjoyable journey.

We had not booked any resorts prior to our start from Bengaluru. We started at around 300pm and reached Bylakuppe around 700pm.

We got into this Coorg County Resort some distance after Kaveri Nisargadhama.

The resort stay was good, considering we had not booked earlier, we had to pay a walk in price of Rs.4000 per nite.

It was Kerala home style suite we stayed in. The room was good. Cleanliness i would say was tolerable. In general i would say it was a good place to stay considering so many bad accommodations that is rampant in India.

Our Alto was as fantastic as usual. It provided a very good mileage and is comfortable for a small car. I have driven Hyundai I10 but i found the shock abosorbers in Alto way better than I10, considering the bumpy roads you need to drive through in and outside the city

This is the view of the main complex inside the Coorg county resort. It is a coffee estate and the estate house is converted into a resort. By the way, we were the only guests for the nite when we visited. We had dinner here. The service was good and nothing to complain about. We now know of a good place to stay in case we need to find a spot around Madikeri.

From resort we started the next day to TalaCavery, on the way we visited Madikeri. This one is infact a village before Bhagamandala.

Love the villages in western ghats region, they somehow appear neat when compared to villages in kanakapura and kolar belt. Very dusty in those regions. Would love to do a homestay in one of the very many remote villages. The one posted here is kinda busy though.

Reached Madikeri early around 1030am. The most talked about place "Raja seat" was all too visible to be ignored. At first we took it as just another park and drove beyond it only to loop down back into the valley. On further enquiring with the locals realized the park was indeed the Raja Seat. There is a good look out here but nothing else, it was more liking checking the todo list item. Spent some time trying to track the movement of vehicles through the curve roads below.

Tried to capture some nice pictures from the view point.

Toy train to make a round trip just outside the Raja seat park entrance. Lot of peanut and mandakki selling was going on. Again did not feel good about the hygiene to buy any of those. Did not take the train trip

Direction board. Lots of places to go to from this point on. It was funny though, i think the distance were all in negative values to suggest you need to go away from the direction i was looking towards the board. What a logic!!

Heading towards TalaCauvery, to many estates and the likes. Although this belt is green yet it is hard to ignore how man has occupied the hills completely. Not sure if we found any forest region not belonging to a private party or an individual.

If not the estates then the rice fields. Again it is nice green ..and know but it is occupied by man, nothing left to nature even on the plains and valleys either. This was a good spot with lots of green fields and morning sun brightened the place to its best.

We reached triveni sangama, bhagamandala, around 30kms from Madikeri. Very nice place, the road to talaCauvery cuts through the stream in this valley region as the river jumps down the hilly region. The water looked shallow when we visited in winters but the following monsoon was heavy, the road was submerged in this region.

Shopping arcade and the place was festive with some sort of regional rally ending at this point.

Visited the Kerala style temple neatly done and looks relatively new.Sri Bhagandeshwara temple

Reached TalaCauvery and hiked up to the top. Usually when cloudy it is very serene. However today was hot day and could not stay on top for long. Lots of steps to climb to reach this place. A good panaromic view when not cloudy.

Birth place of river Cauvery. Still wonder how it was concluded that this is the place of birth for river Cauvery? I thought there is a saying as to not search for "Nadi or Rishi moola". Maybe i am not very sure about the significance of this place. Completed the archane to goddess and headed back. This place is slowly turning into a tourist spot and i am sure this will be commericialized and will lose its beauty in another couple of years.

Back to Madikeri and Hebbe falls. This has overlook bridge built in now. The authorities have blocked access to the falls itself. So yet another bummer of a place. This place is now left to the babus and other earthly being who cannot strive to explore nature!!.
In the end it was early evening when we started from this place, folded back to bylakuppe and hunsur road, mysore and voila back to another jungle called Bengaluru