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Kudremukha – A trek through the land of Iron ore

7 Mar
    Lying at a height of 1894 meters, in the dense Western Ghats of Chikmagalur district, Kudremukha ( literal meaning in the local dialect Kannada – face of a horse) is the second highest peak in Karnataka for trekkers to conquer. Kudremukha is home to the famous KIOCL (Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd). This particular trek was lying in the back of our mind for about 2 years now. The only reason why we were avoiding it was the hassles involved in getting the permissions for the trek from the Forest office due to fact that Kudremukha is a sanctuary to both the tigers and the Naxals. Our summer trek for this year, Ombathu Gudda, had to abandoned (again!! wth!!) due to permission problems and when Monks found a contact point, Sathish, for Kudremukha trek, through “prashant’s blog”, we jumped at the chance and booked the trek for the 1st weekend of March.
    Seven of us – Tintin, monks, MoMS, skm, Ummi, Raghu and ppr(me) boarded the 10:46pm Bangalore-Horanadu bus to KaLasa, which is about 20kms from the base of the peak. On arriving at KaLasa at 6am, we took the local bus to BaLegal, which is a 15km ride taking about 30minutes. At the bus stand, our guide had sent the jeep to take us along the 6km muddy trail to Mullodi village. We had a sumptuous breakfast of Idlis, packed our lunch at the stay and started the trek at 9:15am. Permissions for overnight stay in the forest range is not given. Hence, the trek has to be completed in a single day. The initial part of the trek is along a dusty path with small uphill and downhill movement. After 30 minutes, we reach the first stream with super cool water. One noteworthy point about this trek is that, no one has to worry about drinking water, as there are plenty of streams all along the trek path. Being a summer trek, one need not worry about leeches too but that is superseded by the scorching sun, which makes sure to sap the energy out of us inch by inch. MoMS, monks and skm never even bothered to get a cap for a summer trek. Way to go guys!! Hope you love the new tan + sun burn combination!! 😀

First view of the entire forest range

Picture taken at the first stream
    The trek continues into grasslands with huge valleys to the right side of the trek giving beautiful views for photo-enthusiasts. Then, we enter into thick forest cover which has a small stream running through it and again the process repeats three times (grasslands and forest) with several uphill struggles, making sure to catch our breaths after each steep climb. Controlled forest fire had cleared out major parts of the grassland and at some places the entire greenery of the grasslands is replaced by the black charred remains. Even as we trekked, we could see smoke rising around the trek path in the nearby peaks. Naxal area + forest fire + tiger reserve = now we know why the trek permission is so hard to get!! After trekking close to 8kms, one can find the sign displaying 1.5km from the peak. From here on, the trek becomes easier and almost flat-land walk with the final few hundred meters of uphill climb. At 1:15pm, we were at the peak. Standing on top of a peak taller than any other in the surrounding peaks has its advantages. The views are superb and at such high altitude, the sun does not seem much of a worry, as the cool breeze, fog and clouds take care of us – Its the gift/reprieve from the peak for the tired bodies 🙂
One of my favorite pics..

View from about 2kms from the peak

Thats “model” MoMS posing.. 😛

Cloud cover at the peak
    After a 30 minute break at the peak for picture clicking and MoMS doing a lot of posing :P, the guide took us to a small water fall close to the dilapidated church, which is about 0.5km deviation from the trek path, that can be reached after a 10minute walk down the route from the peak. Here, we rested on a huge boulder and had our lunch right next to the stream, which on moving a few feet changed to a mini water-fall. The view was beautiful with a stream, surrounding forest cover, a water fall, a gang of friends and to cap it all – food for the hungry souls! 🙂 By 2-45pm, we began the descent at a faster pace again through the scorching sun. By the time we covered half the distance, tiredness took over and the descent became much slower. At 5pm, we were back at the stay, dropped our luggage and headed straight to the small falls near the stay. Majority among us took a dip in the cold waters and on return were treated to a plate full of hot chilli bajjis. Curse you chappars! x-( for gobbling every one of the bajjis even before me and skm could lay our hands on one!!! 😛 Played UNO till late in the night with MoMS, monks and tintin pulling a trick or two on the rest of us (one of these days guys!! some one is gonna smack you people right across the head!! waiting eagerly for that to happen 😀 ) And finally, slept on the allocated mats in the verandah.
A dilapidated church close to the peak

Our lunch spot

Skeleton of a dried leaf preserved in water.

Controlled forest fire right next to the trek path
    Our second day our initial plan was to cover the Kurinjal peak. But, when Sathish mentioned that the trek fee of Rs.275 per head had to payed all over again to cover the second peak, we were confused whether to go ahead with the not-so-famous 6km trek along a jeep track. Rs.500 for the guide + Rs.400 per head for the 4 time meal and stay + Rs.450 for the jeep each time + Rs.275 for the Forest office permission took the tally to a whooping Rs.1000 per head for a single day and that too, without including the travel charges. The trek was becoming way too costly for our liking. So, we decided to drop the plan and instead visit the Hanumanagundi falls about 30kms from Kudremukha. 
Hanumangundi falls
Horanadu Annapoorneshwari temple

    We took the 10am local transport, which took about 1 hour through the ghat-section. At Rs.20 per head, one can gain entry into the falls, which stands 22m tall. Even during the summer, one can find lots of water gushing out. Swimming is banned at the stream near the falls, so we trekked the small path to the top of the falls instead. We left the fall in the nick of time when a school tour consisting of about 100 kids swamped the place.. 🙂 The security officer at the falls informed us that there were not many places to visit. So, we decided that it was better to head to Horanadu instead. We took a 1 & 1/2 hour drive to KaLasa, had a BIG meal and arrived at the temple town of Horanadu – the home to the famous Shri Annapoorneshwari temple. Had rest, visited the temple twice and returned home by the 9:45pm Horanadu-Bangalore bus. A costly trek but this might be the peak punishing us for not trekking it from the past two years even when we wanted to do it… 😛
The seven trekkers

Summary:
  1. Trek distance: 21kms from Sathish’s home in Mullodi to the peak and back
  2. Cost per head: Rs.800 for the bus tickets and Rs.275 for permission + Rs.400 for the stay + Rs.500 for guide irrespective of the number of trekkers+ Rs.100 for local transportation bringing the sum to Rs.2000 per head
  3. Time taken for trek: 8 hours -> 4 hour climb and 3 hour return. Single day
  4. Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.
  5. Contact info of guide – Sathish
    • Mobile: 9481074530
    • Land line: 08263249595

Pics link:

Brahmagiri – A trek of blood, sweat, wet and moolah amidst natural beauty

15 Jun
Day 0 – 10 June 2011, Friday
    An 18 seater booked for the trek – A first in our gang’s outing. 18 for a trek!! Still could not believe it when it was done. After a total of 10 modifications and cancellations and confusions and rate haggling with TT owners, 12 members – tintin, manja, monks, raghu, finny, me(ppr), Ummi, skm, Sai, boyz, Subith, prashanth turned up to trek the Brahmagiri hill (1608m high), in Kodagu district – our monsoon trek for the year. What a drastic change from the abysmally low 3 person trek we went to Arbi Bandajje… 🙂
    We started at 11pm, from Vyalikaval police station, home to Ummi. P.S: Ummi doesn’t reside in the police station but close to it, as confused by a certain police constable in Yelahanka… 😛 When 12 pickups were done, the clock had stuck 12 and moved a further 30 minutes ahead, and we had roamed half of Rajarajeshwari nagar to pickup Monks, who seemed to have an unusual idea for fun, by not giving us the correct directions…:P
Day 1 – 11 June 2011, Saturday
    The cab traveled through the Bangalore-Mysore SH17 to Srirangapatna and then the ring road to join Hunsur road, then took a deviation towards Hunsur taking the Mysore-Madikere road (SH-88). On reaching Hunsur, we took the Virajpet-Mysore road (SH-90) towards Gonikoppal. Then, took a left turn taking the SH89 which led to Sirimangala. Once we cross the Bangalore-Mysore highway, the roads start moving from super highways to pothole filled irritating double lanes. You can rest assured that your sleep is not contiguous and you wake up at sporadic bursts of huge potholes.
    Sirimangala is the usual Indian quite and beautiful town in the midst of natures beauty which we strive to see every day. We have to take permission from the forest office to enter the forest, as well as to stay at the IB guest house at Narimale, to spend the night. Camping at the peak or anywhere else in the forest is not allowed. So, don’t bother about carrying tents.

    The forest officer arrives at 9am and it is advisable to phone him once and confirm about the availability of trek and guest house before hand, instead of arriving at Sirimangala and then requesting for the same. Only a few people are allowed to trek each weekend. So, it can be termed as reservation. There are a couple of hotels near the forest office and the breakfast was tasty enough to let ourselves take parcel for the afternoon lunch too. The officer’s advice was to not go for the trek because of the rains as we had to cross a stream in the middle of the forest, which would be overflowing in this season, due to the incessant rains over the past 15 days. Since we had arrived from so far and had the entire trek to ourselves with no other batches for the week, decide to take a chance and paid the sum of 3500 for two days for the guest house, 200 per head for entry, 75 trekking fee per day per person, 500 per day for the guide, 350 per head for the trek permission. This came up to an enormous 8700 for 12 people!! My god, when did trekking become so costly!! I guess being so close to Kerala, the authorities decide to charge for every possible thing for the trek or is it a tactic to lessen the crowd in the forest reserve, which is forcing the elephants to come towards towns and villages?? Either way, we paid though our noses and this is the highest we paid for a two day trek.

Irupu water falls

     By this time, everybody had their morning chores completed in the guesthouse near the office and we were ready to leave by 10am. The trek starts from Irupu falls which is 9Km from Sirimangala. It was a 30 minute journey through scenic land but there was ample cloud cover hanging around. On arrival, the forest guard who was supposed to accompany us for the trek as a guide was furious that we were being allowed to trek in this weather and said it was impossible to cross the stream. By the time skm used his convincing skills and the guide agreed to join us, it was already 1pm. What a waste of time! We waited at Irupu falls and after numerous phone calls, the guide finally arrived at 2pm testing our patience to the limit and we had cursed him quite a few times under our breaths…

Protection from onslaught from the leeches
    Our first stop was at the Guesthouse in Narimale which is a 4km trek from the falls. A trek of 2.5km takes us across a small stream which needs to be crossed over the wooden logs laid across and a further 1.5km after that to the Guest House. It began raining 30 minutes into the trek and ceased only to give us a few glimpses of the beauty through which we were traveling. The leeches had a gala time, suddenly it was a fair for them. 5 days of lone time and then 13 fresh pair of legs to suck out blood from during this particular weekend. We literally ran across the forest cover many times, to minimize the number of leeches that grab onto our shoes.
First sight after the rain abated
rain water flowing down the trek path

    The grasslands provided a bit of relief with fewer leeches and the rain had stopped by then. Finally arrived at the guest house after 1 hour and 45 minutes. The guide informed us that we will not be able to trek in this weather to the peak. So, just when we thought of covering the caves and hoping for the peak the next day, another disappointment was waiting for us, as we were informed that there was no permission to trek to Munikal Caves which is a 3km away from the guest house as it lies in the Kerala province. 3pm on a sat in a guest house in the middle of the Brahmagiri forest range, with no fire wood, several leech bites, most of them bleeding and severe rain. You can term it a disaster but it wasn’t, all this is part of the trek. If you didn’t face any of these then where is the question of a “sense of adventure” or “being with nature”??? Passed our time playing Mafia, our very own Monks favorite game and dumb charades. It was a fun filled, lazy and relaxing time. 🙂
Guest house in Narimale
    With no firewood, our plans of having noodles for dinner went out of the window and we had to settle for bread-jam and chocos. Also, note that there is a stream very close to the guesthouse and we can get drinking water. By 9pm, we settled into the 2 rooms available in the guest house. And to add some more fun into the stay, people with the rented sleeping bags who attached it to their bags found it totally wet due to the rain and couldn’t use it.  Book and then rent sleeping bags for 6 people, carry them all the way in the trek and dump them without any use. Talk of waste of money, time and energy… 😛 Few of us who had their own sleeping bags had them in the trekking bag and luckily had no such worries… 🙂
Day 2 – 12 June 2011, Sunday
    Travel so far spending so much moolah and unable to trek was a disappointment we weren’t ready to take. We literally prayed to god the previous night to let us trek Brahmagiri. Our prayers were answered by a pleasant morning, with a bit of cloud cover and the guide woke us at 6am and broke the good news that we can trek to the peak. 🙂 By 7am, we were geared up with an apple and an energy bar each and a few water bottles to cover the 12km to the Brahmagiri peak and back.

    The trek is majorly though grasslands, so assuming that we will not to be bothered much by the dreaded leeches, did not take enough precautions for a possible onslaught on us.. 😛 What a difference that turned out to be!! It all started when 1 hour into the trek, the leading pack did not inform and took a left turn towards the peak, we under any natural scenario took the straight path which in-fact deviated away from the peak. The entire stretch was forest cover and leech filled. We refused to even bother about flicking them off the shoes coz, every time we stopped our walk and removed the leeches, more numbers would have already climbed the shoes than the numbers we flicked out. We saw a forest guard tower and headed towards it. Our guide, 30 minutes into the wrong turn, came back to call us to inform that we were in-fact heading into Kerala and would have been detained by the forest guards for not having permission from the Kerala forest department to enter that part of the reserve. But we have no regrets to have taken the route, as the views the range provided was quite spell binding. The mist and clouds just above the green hills and super cool breeze blowing across.  It was a deviation worthy for us. The previous day accounted for just about 10pic due to the rain but this time it was click-mania. It was better to get lost in such an amazing place and be found rather than just follow the actual trail… 🙂

some amazing views near the Kerala border

Kerala watch tower. 30minutes into the wrong route

     After 2 and 1/2 hours, with an hour’s wrong deviation included, we arrived at the base of the peak. The last part of the climb is pretty steep and took us about 20minutes to complete the super-slippery surface. On reaching the top, views were not much to be appreciated due to the mist but the views en-route made up for that.

the final ascent
    The descent from the peak turned out to be an adventure in itself. Quite a few of us slipped at-least once and Finny cramped up badly in-between. After a spray of Volini, he was able to pick up pace. A return journey of 1&1/2 hour was again through the serene, pristine and scenic hills was a good one.

the descent

     On reaching the guesthouse we packed up and had a few of the snacks left out before moving out. By 12pm, we were ready to move but the rain gods assumed that we had requested their services back, began to show their full prowess. The return journey was again mostly through the forest cover through the home of the leeches and them punishing us again for treading into their home. By 2pm we came to the end of the trek and forest guard took 500 for his services in the rain. I believe, it is better to have the trekking privatized. The government officials collect the trekking amount literally twice  -One part to the government and one part to their own pocket.

Disciplined set of guys walking in a single file.. 😛

     Had a wonderful massage by the Irupu falls, with the water falling directly over our aching body. Being directly under a water fall in full flow is amazingly refreshing. I suggest every one try it after a trek if possible. We returned back to the waiting cab at 3pm and started out return journey to Bangalore. Had a couple of big breaks for lunch and snacks. This along with the amazingly slow driving by our driver led us into Bangalore limits only at 11:30pm. After dropping 8 people as close as possible to their homes as time permitted, the clock was pointing 12:30 am and we were at Vyalikaval. The driver had a big argument with the owner of the cab about the payment and this delayed us by another 45 minutes. Finally skm came to the rescue again (i tell you this guy should do his MBA… 🙂 ) to convince the driver to drop me and Finny home as we stayed the farthest. Reached home around 2pm. It was going to be a tiring day ahead but no regrets due to another good trek. I and many of my trek mates will take it anytime and everytime… 🙂

gang at the peak
  1. Total trek distance – (5.5km to Narimale + 6km to the peak) * 2 = 23kms.
    • Time taken for climb = 4 hours maximum.
    • Time taken to trek down = 3 hours max.
  2. Total cost 2000 per head including the cab charges.
    •  3500 for two days for the guest house
    • 200 per head for forest entry
    • 75 trekking fee per day per person
    • 500 per day for the guide
    • 350 per head for the trek permission
  3. Contact number of Forest officer, Brahmagiri: 08274246331 and 09481989970.
  4. No tents and sleeping bags required. Carry enough cash to pay for the entry fee.
  5. Trek Difficulty level : Easy to moderate.

    Dandeli, Yana, Gokarna, Sirsi

    29 Apr
    Day 0: (21 April 2011, Thursday):  Bangalore -> Dandeli:

        8 of us Tintin(Nithin), monks(shashi), manja, ummi, shrek(shravan), loki, sai and ppr(me) decided for a summer trip which is usually a non-trek and no bike-ride i.e, in general, a non hectic trip. This time it was Dandeli, Yana, Gokarna and Sirsi in Uttara Kannada. We booked tickets in the 10:45pm Rajahamsa to Dandeli. Long weekend + Rains =  Chaos in KSRTC bus stand. Our bus eventually left at 11:45pm.
    Day 1: (22 April 2011, Friday): Dandeli:
        We reached Dandeli at 10am, to find that the state lodge (situated exactly opposite to the bus-stand) where we had booked rooms for the day, refused availability. After much haggling with the manager, he parted with an ac room for Rs.700 and non ac one for Rs.350. Even further haggling and we were able to extract 2 rooms with non-ac for Rs.880 for 8 guys. A commendable job!! 😀
        
        We landed in Dandeli for the sole purpose of water sports and adventures particularly rappelling. We booked adventure activities from State adventures for a rate of Rs.1000 per head which included Kayaking, Coracle ride, jacuzzi point, river crossing and Crocodile vella. But much to our disappointment, the organizer said that some endangered bird had laid its egg in the rappelling path and we will not be able to do it. 
        We freshened ourselves up and had breakfast at a not so decent hotel. The organizers had organized for a jeep costing Rs.1100 to take us on a 15km journey to Bison River Resort in Ganesha gudi along the bank of river Kali, which was our haven for water sports. Our first activity was Kayaking. Having already kayak-ed quite a few times before, we were quite used to it. But the scenery was good and the place very peaceful. Enjoyed the 1 hour slow ride on the river. Next in line was the boring coracle ride, but we at-least got a chance to take a few pics this time around, as we didn’t take our cams during our kayak trip. After a 20 minute ride, we were taken to the jacuzzi point, where boulders along the river path had created natural seats for us to sit down and let the fast rushing water to flow over us giving a good massage en-route. 30 minutes ran past before we knew and we were very sleepy in the hot sun after the wonderful cool bath… 🙂

    

    River Kali

    
    

    Sai at jacuzzi point

    

        When we returned to the bank, the organizer told us that river-crossing was cancelled, as the water level was not too high and the crossing could be rather termed bande(boulder)-crossing… 😛 This disappointed us mightily, but to our luck, we found that rappelling was open. After a 22km ride into middle of the forest near Jagalbete, where an old mining spot is converted into an rappelling point. 3 guys from the Bison river resort were clubbed along with us for this event. 

    

    Our rappelling spot

    

        Our guide/instructor explained the intricate details of how to go about rappelling safely. The first guy went down the 75feet cliff without any mistakes. But the second person to go, skidded and fell and hit the cliff’s boulders multiple times and reached down with bruised elbows and bloody knee. Now our stomachs squirmed and we had cold feet in mid-day standing on top of a cliff with the sun in all his glory. To add to this, the 8 of us not knowing about the availability of rappelling had come in wearing floaters and chappals with no grip whatsoever.. 😛 
        7 of our gang got down while I was stationed above as a photographer to take pictures of them in the act. I was the last one to go down. Having seen quite a few adventure events and X-games where the experts followed a particular method of doing small leaps and covering major height that way. I followed this method instead of the walk perpendicularly to the cliff, which others before me had followed. It was thrilling and pumped up the adrenaline. One of the best things I have done till date. 
        On the return journey, it was almost 6pm and we bunked the crocodile vella as a majority were uninterested. The last bus to Sirsi goes by 6:30pm. Since we had missed that by a good 30 minutes, we went to our rooms to clean up and have our dinner and get some rest.

    

    Shrek getting ready for rappelling

    

    Day 2: (23 April 2011, Saturday): Dandeli -> Yana -> Vibuthi falls -> Om beach, Gokarna:
        After a night of war with the mosquitoes, we were too drowsy but still caught the 7:30am bus to Sirsi via Yellapura. I will never want to train for driving where the driver of this particular bus trained. He never lifted his foot from the accelerator for any road hump, pothole or come what may. We were thrown around in the seats (we were too smart to sit in the last but one row for this one.. :P) for 2 hours covering 120kms before we reached Sirsi New bus stand right in the middle of nowhere. After a 5 minute wait, we were taken to the old bus-stand amidst civilization. Had a wonderful breakfast of idlis, puris and kokam juice in a small hotel and booked a cab (Winger – 12 seater) to roam around for 2 days at Rs.5000. 
        By 12pm, our cab was ready and we were on our way to our first destination, YanaKumta, we were dropped at the entrance to Yana. A 0.5 km trek lead us to  the famous 2 huge solid black rocks Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and the Mohini Shikhara named after Lord Shiva and Pravathi ma. 

    

    Mohini Shikara

    
    

    Bhairaveshwara Shikhara

    

        After a brief visit to the temple dedicated to Swayambu(created by its own accord) Linga which is situated below Bhairaveshwara Shikhara, we moved towards the famous caves behind the temple. The caves are magnificent piece of artistry by nature. The crevices at the top of the caves form spectacular formations while the whole cave path is strewn with natural beauty though covered with bats and smells of bat droppi. This place is a heaven for photographers… 🙂 We took about 1 hour to cover the whole cave which in normal walking speed should take at a maximum of 10 minutes. 

    

    Infront of the famous caves of Bhairaveshwara Shikara

    

    

    Comet shaped crevice in the caves of Bhairaveshwara Shikhara

    
    

    A lone barren tree atop the Shikara

    

        We next “tried” to visit the cave below Mohini Shikara. The path is made of concrete steps. Monks and me had a race to the cave and we over-shot the cave by 3kms. We had almost reached the parking lot at the other entrance.. 😀 After waiting for about 20 minutes, we saw tintin and loki ambling along, forming a “search and rescue” party to get us back. Well at-least the S & R mission was accomplished… 😛
        Our next stop was Vibhuti Falls at a short distance from Yana. The 2km trek to the waterfall is good and the waterfall is refreshing to say the least. We had the entire waterfall to ourselves and clicked photos to our will. I rechristen Loki as the fishy-boy and i mean it literally. The small fish in the pool close the water fall were attracted to loki’s feet like moth to fire.. 😛 

    

    Vibhuti falls

    
    

    Add caption

    

        By the time we returned to the cab, it was 5pm and the 60km and 1 hour ride to Gokarna was smooth. We entered the famous Om beach where we had booked beach shacks/huts for the night at Om Shree Ganesh Resort. But on arrival the manager much similar to the previous day in Dandeli refused us saying accommodations were full. This is blatant disregard of trust. If you donot have pre-booking then why agree in the first place. We were told to wait back to talk to the owner while tintin and Monks went ahead to search other options. The owner arrived and said 3 rooms were available (magically appeared i guess) at Rs.300 per room. But the guys had found Jungle resort which gave us 2 better shacks for Rs.200 each and we readily accepted. We had a good dinner at “Dolphin Dive Cafe” frequented by foreigners and the cleaner here is a foreigner too. Talk about outsourcing!!! 😛 Took a stroll in the beach at night with no one to disturb except an occasional stray dog whose sleep we disturbed or a tourist with torch finding his way back to his shack.

    

    Om beach

    
    

    Jungle resort shack

    

    Day 3: (24 April 2011, Sunday): Gokarna -> UnchaLi falls -> Marikamba temple -> Banvasi -> Sirsi -> Bangalore:
        For a second consecutive night we faced the wrath of mosquitoes. Again got up in a drowsy state but soon was wide awake by the thought of a beach trek… 🙂 Om beach to Paradise beach, the 6km trek along the beach and cliffs. We started the trek at 6:30am, by walking all along the Om beach to its other end and climbed up the hill. The sun was rising and following the beach along the cliff, within half an hour reached Half Moon Beach which is a totally non commercialized small beach with only crabs as its inhabitants.. 🙂 

    

    End of Om beach along the trek

    

    

    Sunrise along the trek path

    

        From here, the route is much rougher along the slippery boulders with the sea crashing into the boulders. After crossing another cliff/peak, Paradise beach was visible. There are a couple of shacks or resorts here but the crowd is very less. This was one of the most beautiful short treks ever taken by us.. 🙂

    

    At half moon beach

    
    

    Flowers at sunrise

    
    

    Paradise beach

    

        It was 8am and we decided to hitch a boat ride back to Om beach costing Rs.100 per head. But along the way, we were taken to the portions of sea where Dolphin’s frequent and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of few of them. On returning to Om beach, we had our breakfast again at “Dolphin dive cafe” and then dived into the sea and played for an hour. Took a long shower in the open roof bathrooms like in our villages… 🙂
        By 12pm, we were back in the cab. Our first destination was the Maha Ganapathi Temple and then the famous Mahabaleshwar Temple which holds the atmalinga. We began our last destination of the trip Sirsi. Had ShevBujiya for lunch (never even heard of the name before but tasted good). Took a deviation en-route and watched the beautiful 116 meter drop UnchaLi falls near Heggarne. 

    

    UnchaLi falls

    

    L to R: Monks me and tintin super excited for a pic.. 😀

    

        The remaining 35km of the journey to Sirsi was very good as it drizzled all the way. We visited the famous Marikamba temple and then the Banvasi temple which is 22kms away from Sirsi town. Banvasi temple is a temple dedicated to Madhukeshwar which is a linga in the colour of honey built in  9th century. The temple gave us ample opportunities to take good pics of the sunset. We returned back to Sirsi town to have dinner and catch the 9pm Rajahamsa back to Bangalore.

    

    Marikamba temple

    
    

    Statue at the Entrance to Banvasi temple

    

    Ardha ganapathi – One of its kind.

    

    

    Sunset at Banvasi temple

    

        It was a very good trip considering the amazing places we visited both natural and man made wonders. Though the hospitality and courtesy of Indians towards one another is still poor, the places we visit negates the effects and has more to offer us new views and perspectives on nature. This makes us want more of such trips.

    

    L to R: Shrek, Tintin, Ummi, Monks, Sai, Loki, me(ppr) and Manja… 🙂

    

    Summary:
    1. Costs 3.5K per head including 1K for adventure sports.
    2. Reconfirm your hotel bookings.

    pics link:

    ABC trek -> Arbbi Bandaje – a Captivating trek

    22 Feb
        Like most of our last few treks, too many cancellations and re-booking was the order. Ombathu Gudda was dropped as we were too few. After much deliberation we decided to trek to Bandaje falls. 3 was the final count – Tintin (Nithin), me (ppr) and after a 8 month long trekking sabbatical, Chandan joined us for this trek.

    Day 1: 18 Feb 2011 – Bangalore to DharmasthaLa
        We boarded the 10pm KSRTC Rajahamsa to DharmasthaLa from platform 23. But just before the bus left, we met Shashi who was trekking the Ombathu gudda on the same day. Curses to Monks for not informing us in the first place… 😛 And in the bus, we met another gang of 7 who were trekking Bandaje too. 
    Day 2: 19 Feb 2011 – DharmasthaLa to Ujire to Arbi Bandaje
        Much to our surprise, the bus dropped us off at 4:30am in DharmasthaLa. We still had about two and half hours to kill. Accommodations are available at the old DharmasthaLa’s Ganga, Kaveri and Narmada guest houses along with modern guest houses Netravathi, Vaishali, Sharavathi, Gayatri, Gangotri and Saketha. So, we booked at room at “Gayathri” guest house adjacent to the temple complex at the cost of Rs.250. The rooms are spacious, very well maintained and has hot water. I would recommend all people deciding to stay overnight to book rooms here. We rested for an hour and then had a beautiful view of the temple town at sunrise. We were ready to leave at 7am. Had breakfast of Idlis and packed Chapatis for lunch. There are multiple routes to visit the Bandaje falls. We chose the route passing through Bandaje village for the climb and Sunkasale route to descend. This way, we go through the forest cover while climbing which is less tiring due to the protection from the hot sun than the grassland route from Sunkasale side.

    DharmasthLa town at sun-rise
        We caught the 7:30am bus to Ujire at cost of Rs.8 per head and reached in 20 minutes. We then have an option of catching a bus to Idya and then hire a rickshaw to Bandaje village or hire a jeep all the way to Bandaje village costing Rs.250. We took the latter, as we had a half-an-hours wait for the next bus to Idya. The jeep leads through the quite and scenic Bandaje village till Narayana Gowda’s house who provides guides for the trek. We had pre-decided to do the trek on our own and Narayana gowda suggested we call him in case of emergency but the routes are pretty easy to identify at this time of the year. By this time the other group whom we met in the bus arrived and another gang of 15 had left about an hour earlier. So, our chances of getting lost were a bit low considering one gang ahead and another behind us.

    Start of trek trail

        Geared up with a compass, a map and a blog, we started the trek at 9am. The climb immediately starts trough a thick canopy cover. The starting part is pretty confusing as there are several tracks leading to different farms on the hills. Once we clear this, the trek is pretty straight forward with one clear cut path at least during this time of the year. After a 80 minute trek, we reached Bandaje river which is a indicator that we had covered about 1/3rd of the distance and we were heading in the correct direction. We crossed the river and took off our shoes to dip our feet in the cool water. This is the first watering point. So, fill up your bottles if any empty. After a 20 minute break, at 10:40, we restarted. The climb increases but we don’t feel the tiredness as the canopy cover takes care of the hot sun and the cool climate makes us not sweat. By 12am we arrived at the grasslands. This point shows that we covered almost 60% of the trek and the Arbi Bandaje waterfalls is clearly visible for the first time. We met the gang of 15 at this point. We took our 30 minute lunch break here.

    Bandaje river
        By 12:30pm, we started our last leg of the climb. It is a bit steeper and has no tree cover. The hot sun over our head, saps out all our energy. Forest fire has burnt out a major part of grasslands. After a 20 minute climb, we arrive at the second watering point just to the left of the grasslands where a small sub-stream creates a puddle of edible cool water. We felt reinvigorated after this and by 1:30pm we reached the peak. At this point, we were like how a school kid would feel during the last hour of class before the summer vacation… 🙂 From here it is a small yet steep 5 minute descent to our destination – “Arbi Bandaje”.

    Start of the grasslands

        We wasted no time to set aside our bags and follow the water flow towards the falls. Due to flow of water, the boulders near the edge of the fall are pretty smooth. So, it is advisable to be careful around this point and it is better if u crawl on all fours to get to the edge. Once we looked down over the edge and lo behold!!! what a sight!! An amazing view of the water falls, all the way to its meeting point on the ground. The beauty of the human mind is such that, in an instant all the tiredness gained in the four and half our trek goes out and in-turn is filled with pure joy of enjoying natures beauty… 🙂

    The amazing Bandaje arbi falls looking down from the edge of the cliff

    The fall at the edge of the cliff

        Took Chandu’s help to hold on to my hand while grabbing a few pics over the edge of the cliff with the other hand. Tintin did a few yogasanas, to get good snaps of the innumerable mini falls created along the flowing water before reaching its majestic best as Arbi Bandaje falls. Meanwhile, Chandu decided to teach a few bravery skills to another gang to go and watch the falls over the cliff without fear… I guess, a “Spot award” is in order for starting this initiative… 😛

    Serene – Reflection of leaves on the water pool
        We then took a long dip near a huge puddle formed by the flowing water. We moved our bags to the other side of the stream and decided to search for a good camping spot. There is a good spot very close to the stream but it was already taken by the 15 member gang with 4 huge tents. After a fruitless 45 minute search, we decided to consult the guide from the other gang who suggested a good spot close to the stream. We setup the tent, got firewood for the campfire and sat down waiting for the next event – The sunset in western ghats. The sunsets are always one of the high points during treks. It is a beautiful real-time video to be stored in out city-bred brains to be re-winded and played back again and again until we get the an opportunity to witness another absorbing view during some other trek.

        Next in the agenda was dinner, with tintin showing his prowess of cutting tomatoes with nothing but just a fork into perfectly sized pieces. Kudos to you tintin….:) I heard there is an opening as a chef in one of the star hotels.. Maybe, its time for a job change…  I recommend you apply… 😛 In one hour, our dinner of maggi was ready and we had the campfire going. My friends, after a few treks, we have mastered the art of cooking noodles by campfire and I am sure by this time our moms would be so proud that their sons were able to cook maggi on our own… 😀

    Our cooking spot + campfire.. 
        Being a full moon night, visibility was very good and we shouted out (not sang literally screamed) songs with a couple of steps from Tintin and Chandan around the campfire. 😉 By 9pm we were tired and crawled into our sleeping bags with the gushing of the stream only sound along with our snores… 🙂
    Day 3: 20 Feb 2011 – Arbi Bandaje to BallaLarayana durga to Sunkasale to Kottigehara to Ujire to DharmasthaLa
        6:30am and we were wide awake. Finished our morning chores, had breakfast of bread-jam, cleaned up the overnights utensils, packed up out luggage and tent and by 8:30am, we were ready to start our return journey. Note that the stream is the only watering point till we reach Bhattaramane near Durgadahalli a good four hour away. So, fill up all of your bottles here. Our first destination was BallaLarayana durga fort, about 2 hours from our camping spot. The initial part is a steep ascent and by 30 minutes we reach the forest cover. Here take a left and it leads to even higher point where a Y shaped fork is visible clearly. Do not take the path leading to it. Take the deviation towards right and after about 5 minutes, the fort is visible. From here onward, the route is again straight forward with the climb taking you higher. We reached the fort at 10:30am. The view from here is amazing. We spent about half an hour here with tintin and Chandan surveying the route to be taken next. Another group of trekkers were visible and the route that they had taken was directly in-front of us. So, we decided to take this route and from here onwards the journey is pretty easy with a very easy descent.

    BallaLarayanadurga fort

        By 12pm, we met the jeep trail. Here, we met with another batch of trekkers who left after us but had skipped the visit to the fort. They were being told by a armed guard that there was an elephant along the jeep track and it was advisable to stay back for a few minutes and travel in groups. After a 30 minute wait, we restarted and reached the Bhattaramane by 1pm. Here we made a mistake of taking a shortcut to Sunkasale and at one point reached a place where there were two routes heading into the middle of the forest. Not wanting to be lost at the end of the trek, we backpedaled and lost a good 45 minutes here. Then the 3km walk to Durgadahalli/Sultanpete. This is the first major town with shops and rickshaws available. Had a couple of tender coconuts before catching a rickshaw ride costing Rs.60 to Sunkasale by 2:30pm to be just in time to catch the bus to Kottigehara. This journey is of 30 minutes and the ticket costs Rs.13 per head. The bus stop is adjacent to KSRTC bus stand and one can catch a bus to DharmasthaLa or Horanadu from here.

    The jeep trail during the end of the trek
        We took out lunch break here and by the time we returned, heard the news that a majority of the buses were taken off by a couple of major political parties using them as transport for their show of power. This caused heavy rush along all the routes much to our irritation as every bus was filled to the brim. The autos were charging exorbitant prices. One guy claimed Rs.500 for the 50km ride and all jeeps had already moved towards Ujire. After a wait of 1 and half hour, we caught a jeep costing Rs.55 per head to Ujire and then a Rs.8 per head ride for 8kms to DharmasthaLa by KSRTC. This time wastage caused us to reach the temple town at 6pm which removed all our chances of finding a room, cleaning ourselves up, visiting the temple and then catching the 9pm bus. The search for the guest house turned out to be tough as almost all of the 10 guest houses claiming “No rooms”. Finally found a room in Sharavathi at Rs.70 per day with common bathrooms. Freshened ourselves, had dinner and caught a Rs.15 auto ride to the new KSRTC bus stand to catch the 9pm Rajahamsa to Bangalore.
        This was one of the most satisfying treks but we missed out on sunrise due to the tree cover around the falls and the grasslands were dried out. I would have loved it, had it been a total green cover in the grasslands. But nonetheless, one of the most gratifying treks we ever had with only 3 trekkers and no guide. A good step forward. 🙂
    me(ppr), tintin and chandu – The 3 Idiots.. 🙂

    Route taken: Bangalore – Dharmastala – Ujire – Bandaje village – Bandaje stream – Bandaje Arbi Falls – BallaLarayana Durga fort – Durgadahalli- Sunkasale – Kottigehara – Ujire – Dharmastala – Bangalore.
    Points to be noted:
    1. Trek route: Bandaje village – Bandaje stream – Bandaje Arbi Falls – BallaLarayana Durga fort – Durgadahalli
    2. Distance : 8km to falls + 12 kms return = 20kms
    3. Time taken: 4 and 1/2 hours to reach the falls + 4 hour climb down to Durgadahalli.
    4. Cost of the trip: 1500 per head including tent hiring and bus tickets.
    5. Trek level: Moderate to Difficult.
    Picture links:

    Ethina Buja – A pleasant trek

    28 Dec
    Day 1: 24 Dec 2010 – Bangalore to Kokkada
        
        After much cancellations and dropping out, five of us (Tintin, MoMS, Sai, Nuthan and ppr) were finally off to conquer Ethina Buja. Ethina Buja is located in Sishila, a small village in Belthangadi taluk of Dakshina Kannada District near Dharmastala. The actual trek distance is 16kms. Catching the 10:51pm KSRTC Sarige Express bus on 24th which eventually and naturally followed IST to start an hour late. The bus takes the Bangalore – Nelamangala – Kunigal – Channarayapatana – Hassan – Sakaleshpura – Shiradi – Kokkada – Dharmasthala route and the roads are in pretty bad condition. So, we braced yourselves for bad backs the next day. 
    Day 2: 25 Dec 2010 – Kokkada – Sishila – Ethina Buja
        We reached Kokkada at 7:30am and hired a jeep costing Rs.350 to our organizer, Gopu Gokale’s house in Sishila. There were a few other gangs who had already arrived to trek Amedhikallu and Ombattu gudda. We freshened ourselves and had a good breakfast of Idlis and had chapatis packed for our lunch. Lingappa was assigned as our guide. Unlike Kp, Kodachadri and other peaks, there is no clear cut path at a few places and it is advisable to take a guide along.

        The trail starts from Sishila village. One has to take an auto/jeep from Sishila bus stand to reach the base of the peak which is at about 6kms from bus stand. But we took an auto up-to our guide’s house which is a good 2 km away from the start of the trek path. At 10:30am we were up wearing our shield shaped tents like shields and bamboo sticks as swords and started the trek… 🙂

    Start of the trek from Lingappa’s house to the base of the peak
        The initial trail is through a muddy road and light forest cover and the trail itself is pretty wide. After the first 30 min of the trek we come across a stream which can be crossed easily as the water height is a maximum of 3 feet. The small stream continues to run parallel for the next few minutes of our climb. The forest cover turns thick and the trail starts to thin out and by 1pm and a good two and a half hours into the climb we took a break at an open space and gobbled up our chapatis. 
    The actual trail starts from here

    The small stream at the start of the trek

    Thick tree cover

    First site of Ethina Buja along the trek trail
        By this time, the sun was out at all its glory and the humidity very high. It is better if you don’t wear thick clothing for late starts in this trek. The fatigue did get to me after lunch and the journey very slow. We took lots of water breaks. There are a couple of gooseberry trees (Bettada nellikayi) along the route. They taste good with salt. By 2pm, we reached the start of trail with tall grasses and no tree cover. This gave the first clear sight of the surrounding peaks. By 3:30pm, we reached the base where we dumped our luggage and tents. Rested for a good 30 minutes. There is a small stream with drinking water available. So filled up all our bottles. At 4:30 without any luggage to weigh us down, climbed the peak in 25 minutes.
    The last grass-land. The peak is about 1 hour from here

        As the name suggests, Ethina Buja means the shoulder of the ox. The peak is quite steep and we have to climb over boulders. The view is good with Amethikkallu, Ombattu gudda and several other peaks clearly visible. The Sishileshwara temple is visible from the peak and is about 2km from our camping site. We grabbed a few snaps and got down before sunset as the climb down becomes difficult as the visibility reduces. We watched a beautiful and amazing sunset with the sun getting behind the Amedhikallu peak and casting the shadow of Ethina Buja on the other side of where we stood. While we were watching the sunset, our guide was busy collecting firewood. We went back to the camping site to setup tents and a campfire was raging in no time. I(ppr) was forced to be a cook… 😛 and I think, did a decent job of cooking Maggi for the 6 of us. Hot Maggi on a cold night. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.. was very tasty… This is what we can call as boasting…:D We had bourbon biscuits, oranges and apples for desert. The stars were out and dazzling and I swear we cannot see so many stars out in the sky here at Bangalore. We settled in one of the tents to played UNO till 9pm, by which time our guide was busy snoring away, fast asleep in one of the tents.
    Sunset with the Ethina Buja covering half the screen..

    L to R – Sunset, Amethikal and Ethina buja…
     
    Day 3: 26 Dec 2010 –  Ethina Buja – Sishila – Kokkada – Dharmasthala – Bangalore
        We were woken up by an excited Nuthan who was on his first trek, to catch the sunrise. The timing was just about perfect. We watched one of the most beautiful sunrises with cloud covering most of the surrounding peaks. One of the million reasons why we love trekking in the western ghats – the beautiful sunrise and sunset. 
    Sun rise at Ethina Buja

    Cloud cover in the surrounding peaks

    The orange glow to the sky is beautiful to wathc with cloud cover everywhere…

    Flowers and mist at sun-rise

    15 minutes of picture perfect scenery during sunrise
        By 8:30am we had packed up and started the return part of the trek. The trek down is pretty non-strenuous. An easy trek down, not even small rocks and boulders to worry about which was the case in Kp. By 12pm we reached the stream and jumped in to wash away all the grime accumulated in the trek. It was 30 minutes in the cool water under the warm sun, and the small falls created near boulders acting as a massage to the strained muscles. 

    MoMS pic being taken by me and those are our shadows at sunrise..

    Dew drops on a spider web

         Another 2km trek down to our guide Linagappa’s house. Paid him his fee of Rs.1000 (which in acutal should have been 700) and took an auto back to Gopu Gokale’s house. The masala butter milk provided after the trek is very good and after a short bath, gulped down hot sambar and rasam rice. The food and facilities cost 150 per head which is pretty reasonable considering the fact that they arranged for guide, breakfast and lunch on first day and lunch on second day. We caught the only bus from Sishila bus-stand to Kokkada 4pm. Many KSRTC buses traverse the Kokkada-Dharmasthala route and if you dont want to wait then there are several jeeps plying the route and we caught one of them to travel the 16km journey in 30 minutes in jam packed conditions of-course… i.e, 16 people including the driver in a single jeep… 😛

        Visited the Manjunatha swamy temple in Dharmasthala before catching the 9:30pm bus back to Bangalore which again followed IST to start 45 minutes late.

    Trek gang – L to R – Sai, Nuthan, MoMS(Vineeth), me (ppr) and Tintin (NIthin) at our organizer Gopu Gokale’s house
    Points to be noted:
    1. Total trek distance – 4km on road + 16km on the hill = 20kms.
      • Time taken for climb = 5 hours maximum. It can be done in 4 to 4 & 1/2 hours if we start early morning and carrying light luggage
      • Time taken to trek down = 3 hours max.
    2. Total cost 1500 per head including the bus charges.
    3. Organiser in Sishila – Gopu Gokhale – 9483211246
    4. Try to reach Kokkada before 7am as there is a bus to Sishila which turns of to be just Rs.12 per head instead of the Rs.300 you have to shell out on a jeep. Similarly 4pm return bus from Sishila to Kokkada.
    Photos link:

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    And finally, Kumaraparvatha Conquered!!

    7 Oct
        Our Thotti gang were considering the option of naming 2 particular spots/trips as jinxed. The BR/MM hills and the second being the famous Kumaraparvata, fondly christened as KP by avid trekkers. Being the second tallest peak in the western ghats of Karnataka at a height of 1712m(5624 ft), it was always under our Bucket or Thotti list for the places to be covered. Our initial plan of scaling the KP in feb turned out to be a damp squib, as Tintin, our trip leader traveled to Korea and most of us had to come to work that weekend. We thought it was just a coincidence. Come Oct 1 and we decided to go for it once again. Our worst fears came true when the “Ayodhya verdict” was postponed to Sept 30, the day before the trek. And to add to that, there were 5 drop-outs from the 9 actual members of the trip. Now, even the non-believers in superstition were wary of commenting on the topic.. 😛 We were hoping and praying to god in our own selfish worlds, to not let the verdict stop the running of the 11pm KSRTC bus on Oct 1 to Somvarpet. God answered our prayers and the High court of Allahabad decided to give a Panchayat decision, to satisfy every section of society, except the hardliners.. 🙂

    As nothing eventful happened on the ensuing day, we got the “Go-ahead” from our homes for the trip.

    Day 1 – 1 Oct 2010 – Bangalore to Somvarpet

        The 7 of us consisting of Tintin(Nithin), MoMS(Vineeth), Raghu, Praveen, Boyz(harish), Harsha and ppr(me) met at the KSRTC bus terminus at 10pm with our tents, sleeping bags, food, water bottles and rucksacks carrying more weight than the ones which we took for a 10 day Himalayan trip. I am still wondering why this is the case!! Boyz arrived with a school bag with only 1 set of clothing and nothing else.. Kudos to him for taking the trip so “lightly”.. pun intended.. 😛

    Day 2 – 2 Oct 2010 – Somvarpet to Pushpagiri

        There are two different routes to climb KP. One being through Kukke Subramanya (Dakshin Kannada or South Canara) and the other from Somvarpet(Madikeri or Coorg) side. We chose the latter side for the climb and Kukke side for the descent. The bus reached at 6am on 2nd Oct. Incidentally we climbed the beautiful Kodachadri the same day exactly an year ago.. 🙂

        We had breakfast at a hotel near the bus-stand and covered the 25km, 1 hour journey to Beedahalli, in the private bus which started at 7:15am with the tickets costing 20 per head. The distance to be covered in the first day was 13kms. The first part of the trek was from Beedahalli to Heggade mane, which is a 5kms walk along the asphalt road. Within the first km of the trek, we found a stream. Everyone of us jumped in and the water was good and cool. We prepared ourselves for the trek, changing to tracks and applying sunna (slaked lime), tobacco and salt to our socks and shoes, to protect ourselves from the dreaded leeches of KP.

    The stream at the start of the trek
    Heggade mane

       Moving on, we found the peaks ahead of us, with paddy fields on the sides of the road and Cardamon strewn across the road on plastic sheets to be dried. On reaching Heggade mane, we can find Kumarahalli temple, from where the actual trail starts.

    Kumarahalli temple

        This route is mud laden and on traveling 2kms further, we reached the forest department check-post by 11am. Here we shelled out 115 per head as entry fee and gave a written memo saying that the forest department was in no way responsible if we get lost or if we were attacked by wild animals. We have been to quite a few treks, but this was the first time such a disclaimer/memo was asked.

    Forest department check-post signboard

        Just on crossing the check-post, we came across the hanging bridge with a stream flowing underneath. We can fill up our water-bottles here, as this is the last watering point before the peak. The change in scenery begins instantaneously after crossing the bridge. We enter thick cover of trees with very little sun-rays hitting the ground and the path is totally filled with dried leaves and twigs and wet due to rain i.e, and ideal ground for leeches to thrive.

    Hanging wodden bridge near the check-post

    Walk through the forest
    Dense fog covering the entire canopy


        We reached the first of the three boulders which is inclined at a moderate angle and we took our first break here, as the leeches are very few on the boulders. By this time, I was feeling very tired, with MoMS mentioning we return back if I can’t continue walking further. After a quick bite of energy-bar/chocolate and sip of glucose water moved ahead to the next boulder, which is much steeper. And to our luck as soon as we came in sight of the boulder, the skies opened up. The wet boulder is pretty hard to navigate. So we circum-navigated it around the edge by catching hold of the few bushes to pull ourselves upward. Another 2 hour journey comprising of two more boulders we reached the point where a signboard mentioned 0.75Km to Pushpagiri. One last push and we reached the peak at 4pm, to an amazing sense and feeling of completion only to be taken over by an urgency to erect the tents as the subsided rain was again ready to show us its prowess.
      
        There was one other gang of 7 who trekked with us during the last part of the trek. They had come with just a Tarpaulin to save themselves from the rain. They settled in a small rocky patch and we took the softer greens around the temple at the peak. By 6pm the rains subsided to give us the chance to watch one of the best sunsets. Had a lun-ner/di-nch (lunch-dinner) of chapati and akki-roti and passed time by playing UNO. My amazing streak of not having a leech bite till KP was broken within the tent, as 5 leeches took the revenge. MoMS, Raghu and Tintin who shared the bigger tent with me, were pretty amused/satisfied with the turn of events.. 😛 Slept around 8pm in the cramped up tent with the rainwater entering into our sleeping bags and waking us up a number of times.

    View from the top

    Enchanting Sunset
    Another pic of the Sunset

    Day 3 – 3 Oct 2010 – Pushpagiri to Kukke Subramanya

        Woke up at 5:30 to a beautiful view of clouds above the lower mountain ranges around us. By 8am we had clicked a few pics, packed the tents and were ready to move and cover the 14km return journey. The other gang had used the Tarpaulin both as a bed as well as a cover for them in the night’s rain.
      

    Early morning view of the lower ranges surrounding KP
    Looks like a scene fit for a fantasy movie
    Top row(L to R) – Raghu, boyz, harsha. Sitting(L to R) – tintin, MoMS, Ppr, Praveen

    Cloud cover

        We tried to call the Bhattara mane to enquire about the route to be taken to Kukke as there was no clear demarcation but it was to no avail. We made a mistake and took the same route through which we climbed to confirm if there was any deviations to Kukke. On traveling 1km downward, one of the guys from the other gang found a point in a blog printout mentioning us to take the route towards the watering point near the top of the peak. Reached back to the peak where we found the mentioned deviation and a sign on the boulder showing the direction to Kukke marked in yellow paint.
      
        On first sight, we were very disappointed to find a huge boulder sloping downwards, with no clear end in sight. We feared that we had to travel back 3kms along the Beedahalli route till the point where, a bypass of 6.5km was present to Girigadde, where Bhattara mane is present along the Kukke route. But after a few minutes of looking around, we found a small but steep route along the right side of the boulder from the top. After the descent, a few filled up their water-bottles in the water source, which is a small water fall along the boulder. On an hours trek, we reached the famous Kallinamantapa i.e, a stone structure capable of holding up a tent, where we again rested for a few minutes. There is a second water point near a trough in the ground which is clearly visible from the mantapa.

    Kallinamantapa

        From here the trail goes towards the Bhattara mane amidst a place called Girigadde. The route is mainly filled with grasslands spread over the hills. This stretch seems to be under the rain-shadow region and only grass grows here. But the path is strewn with small rocks and boulders which strain our ankles and knees during the descent.

    Wat a view!!
    Descent through the grasslands to Bhattara mane
    Mounds and mounds of grasslands

        By 11:30, we reached the Forest department check-post on this side of the trek and showed them our permission receipt. From here, it is a 5 minute walk to Bhattara mane. We had called him up and booked for food a couple of days in advance. The food costs 60 per head and it tastes pretty good after a day spent on packed food.

    Bhattara mane


        We were ready to leave by 1:30pm. This last part of the trek covers 6km. By an hour we had made good ground along the thick forests but the leech count is pretty less compared to the Beedahalli route. With 2kms to go along the forest, I hurt my knee and thigh muscle in two separate incidences. Harsha skidded quite a few times and praveen fell flat and hurt his knee too.. 😛 (the jinx version was still running through our minds). This made the journey painfully slow. MoMS, the guy who always comes with the last guy (a back-marker as he fondly calls, obviously lifted from F1 terms.. :P) as a support, was there again encouraging all the way. Took more than an hour to cover the last km of the forest stretch by which time, Tintin and Raghav had gone ahead to book the room for us to freshen up. Reached the end of the trek at 4pm. Then, it is another 1km journey to Kukke Subramanya town. Freshened ourselves up and visited the famous temple before catching the 8:45pm KSRTC bus to Bangalore.

    Signboard signalling end of trek

    Kukke Subramanya temple


    A relatively easy trek made eventful by my lack of physical fitness. 🙂

        Kp is one of the most challenging and enduring treks in the western ghats. It gives one immense satisfaction in conquering the peak. The sunset, the sunrise, the rain, the nature’s beauty, the deep forest cover, the vast grasslands, the view of the surrounding hills, super cool and sweet water in the stream, a gang of friends and trekking over 2 days. Well what else can one ask for?? Trekking is an addiction –  a beautiful one at that.

    Expenses: approximately 1200 per head (600 bus from Bangalore to Somvarpet and back + 115 forest entry fee + food expenses)

    Trek distance: 27kms -> Beedahalli to Pushpagiri = 13Km and Pushpagiri to Kukke Subramania = 14kms

    Links to Pics:
    http://picasaweb.google.co.in/unithinbhat/Kumaraparvatha#
    http://picasaweb.google.co.in/ragupalankar/KPTrip#

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    A visit to God’s own country – Munnar, Thekkady and Allepey

    26 Aug

    Day 0/1 – 19/20 Aug 2010 – Bangalore -> Ernakulam -> Munnar

        Thotti gang on a trip again but this time not a bike ride. The group comprising of Tintin, manjanna, Chandu, Ummi, Jenny and Ppr (tats me.. :)) started the journey to Ernakulam by 8.06pm KSRTC (read as Karnataka not Kerala road transport. I don’t know why two neighboring states have the same name for their transport services!!) bus from Mysore road satellite bus stand. The bus reached a few hours late and took us to the Ernakulam bus terminus at 11am the next day instead of the expected arrival time of 7am. The cab(Innova with ac..not that we required the ac this time of the year though.. :P), that we had booked for the next four days, was ready, with Sujoi as the driver, to take the vehicle through its paces. Had breakfast at a local restaurant and started our 135 Kms, four hour journey to Munnar.  
    Vallara waterfalls

     

    Cheeyappara waterfalls

        The name Munnar is pronounced “Moon-aar” meaning “Three rivers” which is derived so, as it lies in the confluence of three mountain rivers Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. The place was a summer retreat to the British Raj. The Ernakulam – Munnar route extends through Thripunithra, Muvattupuzha, Kothamangalam, Neriamangalam, Adimali and Pallivasal. The journey is through the beautiful tea estates, gushing water falls Vallara and Cheeyapara (Cheeyappara waterfalls cascades down in seven steps), one scenic spot following the other, after each hairpin bend and the ride for the most part is most pleasing to the eye. Visited the Pallivasal waterfall before the short journey to View point which wasn’t much of a view considering the fact that the fog at this point in time had reduced the visibility to almost 10meters. Had a good tea and a bun to go with it (our rural Indian istyle.. :P). Moved ahead to Spring Dale resorts in Devikulam, which is a small town, situated 7kms from the Munnar town, at around 5pm. The rooms are decent but a bit costly considering that they charged 955 for a double room, with an extra person for a single day. With nothing to do for another good 5 hours and no place to visit because of the fading light and fog, decide to roam around the town. I must say that this town is very small compared to any place I have visited before except may be the Himalayan villages. We walk for 20 minutes along the main road and reach the end of the town which had around 10 shops and 2 non-veg restaurants. None of us were ready to take the risk of having food there as 5 of the gang were vegans. Went back to the hotel around 7:30 with a few snacks. Ordered food in the resort and watched “Italian job”.. 🙂 The food was edible, not tasty. Finished the movie and called it a day.

    Enroute to Munnar
    Statue of the Mahatma in Devikulam
    Day 2 – 21 Aug 2010 – A survey of the Munnar beauty

        Woke up at 8am, to find Ummi already up. Finished the morning chores and had bread, butter, jam and tea combo for breakfast. Started to move around 9:30am. While planning the trip, our tintin had listed so many places in Munnar to visit, that finally he placed a few names as optional in the list. We were disappointed that we were going to miss many good places due to the delayed bus the previous day.
       
        We began day with the visit to Eravikulam (Rajamalai) National Park, which is a 30min drive from our hotel. Brought tickets costing 35 each and 25 per camera. A mini bus took us to about half way on the Anamudi peak (anai mudi means the forehead of the elephant), the highest peak in South India at 2695 meters, which is a part of the national park. From this point on, we had to trek along the well laid out road. Our expectations were very high for the trek, as we are avid trekkers. But the trek rather it should be called a walk, lasted a mere 15 minutes, when a sign board displayed said “Here is the limit”. This indicated the end of the walk. I was mightily disappointed, as I was hoping for a decent trek. Though nothing should be taken away from the beauty of the peak. There is a water fall en-route along with beautiful greenery all along the way. We found a few Nilgiri Tahr(the endangered mountain goats). The place was a bit crowded and this easily scared the goats to run away.We returned in the same route through the mini-bus, to find a huge line along the ticket counter. We were lucky to have missed the queue.. 🙂
       
    Tea estates enroute to Anamudi
    Endangered Nilgiri Tahr
    Anamudi waterfall
    Anamudi
        Chewed onto some corn and continued our journey. Came back to Munnar to book timings for our massages. Then we covered 
    1) Kundala lake
    2) Aruvikkad waterfalls near kundala
    3) Mattupetti Dam
    4) Echo Point
    5) Nyamakad Waterfalls
    6) Anayirankal Dam which has the Tata Tea Plantations
    7) Shooting point
    8) Photo Point
    9) Top Station where the rare Nilakurinji (strobilanthus) flower that blooms every 12 years is present and
    10) Pothamedu View Point.
    not necessarily in the same order.

    Echo point
    Top station

    Mattupetti Dam

      Boating facility is available in Kundala. With a bit of luck, we can find wild elephants that come to drink water along the shores of this lake. Had lunch at a hotel near Kundala. By the time we turned back it was almost 5pm and had started raining. So, decide to skip the remaining few places such as Blossom Park and Atukkad Waterfalls which were pending. At this point we wondered, why we were disappointed in the morning, that we would be missing many places. Went back to the hotel only to return back for our 7pm massages. Had dinner of chapatis and fried rice, before having a good night sleep with the massage taking effect.. 😛

    Day 3 – 22 Aug 2010 – Munnar -> Thekkady -> Periyar Wildlife sanctuary -> Alleppey

        Started our third day at 9:30 with a ride of about 4 hour covering 110km, from Devikulam to Periyar. Visited the Power House waterfalls, which is at around 15kms from Devikulam. The entire route is covered with spice plantations such as Coffee, cardamon, pepper, cinnamon(chakke), vanilla, nutmeg(Jaikaaya) and ginger. Had breakfast along the way at around 11am, before moving to the Thekkady town where we bought the food items necessary for the safari, which was spread across our lunch time. 


    Sambar
    Bison
       Our inital plan was to take a cruise ride along the Periyar river and hope that we found a few wild animals in the ride. But our driver knew a contact in Periyar National park also called Thekkady/Kumily/Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary/Periyar Tiger Reserve, which is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India. The actual rates are 950 for a trek along the road and 1800 for a jeep ride. To our good luck the forest guards were on leave and there was only one guard on duty. The driver through his contact arranged for a jeep ride for 500 per head and that too along a route not allowed to public generally and requires permission from the forest officer. This was an amazing stroke of luck. The 17 km ride through the forest, along the mud laden road with leaves, branches and water puddles along the way added to the Monitor Lizard, Bisons, Sambars, Gaur, Nilgiri Langur (black monkeys), elephants and lot of birds which we were lucky to spot. Since this route is not taken usually for the safari, the wild animals were found all along the road and ran as soon as it heard the sound of the jeep, along the many hair pin bends. We weren’t able to click many pictures, as Manjanna’s cam broke, when he accidentally sat on it.. 😦 His 20x zoom cam would have been ideal for this ride. We first sighted the Sambar deer along a hill. Next the a bison herd which were quite far to the naked eye. Then the Nilgiri Langurs. After this we had a quite period of about half an hour where we couldn’t sight any animals except the occasional birds. The ride on this part was through thick grasslands which reminded us of Ali Bugyal in the Roopkund trip. Jenny, Chandu and Ummi were bitten by leeches. Jenny in particular was well taken care by the forest department guy who accompanied us.. 😉 Then we found 2 herds of elephants at two different mounds happily grazing away with no tensions other than when to have the next meal.. 🙂 Took a few pics before having our lunch of fruit cake. 

       

    Elephant herd at Periyar sanctuary
    Ummi, Ppr, Manjanna, Tintin and Chandu at the Periyar national park

        Another point to note here is that, the Sabarimala hills are visible from this point, which is around 7kms and the path to it is clearly visible. To our dumb luck, there was too much cloud cover which blocked the view of the temple. We returned back to our jeeps and rode the 17km back journey. We found a herd of three Bisons about 10 feet in front of us. The beautiful and majestic beast waited for a moment before carrying on in its path. At 5:30 pm we exited the sanctuary. Then began our journey to Allapphuzza, which is a 165km, 5 hour ride from Thekkady. The roads along the backwaters is well what can i say straight as if a scale was used all along the way to design this road.. 😛 Reached Gowri residency where we had booked the rooms only to directed by the middleman to Snehadara residency with costs of 500 per room and an additional 150 for the extra person. The rooms are clean and the walls and the roof made of bamboo. Had a good nights rest.

    Day 4 – 23 Aug 2010 – Allepey -> Ernakulam -> Bangalore

        Allapphuzza alias Alleppey was also called the Venice of the East by Marco Polo for obvious reasons. The backwaters, lagoons, canals, small streams and  lush green coconut palms all along the way is the one differentiating factor when compared to rest of the states with western ghats. Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala with the paddy fields stretching to infinity belongs to this region.
       
        We got up and freshened ourselves before gobbling up half a dozen Idiyappams for breakfast. Being the day of the Onam festival, which is celebrated with much fervor through out Kerala, irrespective of religion, found almost all shops shut down. Went to the backwaters to book a speed boat at 350 per hour for 3 hours. Enjoyed the scenic, lazy ride through the backwaters. Imagine the situation in Bangalore where the roads are replaced by water ways, the potholes and humps replaced by green weeds and the BMTC’s replaced by bus boats. This is the exact state. We roamed around the main water way, deviated into small gullies and then came back in another main water way. A laziness took over us after the first 1 hour and the cool breeze added to it.. By the time we finished the ride at 1:45, we were a pack of hungry, sleepy guys… 

       
    A house boat
    The famous backwater of Alleppey
    A bus boat
    Kuttanad, the never ending paddy fields


        Reached the nearest hotel to find that the Onasadya was over and they had only normal meals. Onasadya is the grand feast prepared for the Onam celebration. The meal consists of nine courses with 11 to 13 essential dishes. We were pretty disappointed to have missed out on a feast on Onam being in the heart of Kerala. Moved back to our rooms, packed our luggage and started our return leg of the journey with a 90km, 2 hour ride from Allapphuzza to Ernakulam to take 5.45pm bus to Bangalore and reached home at 8:30am the next day, to finish the round trip.

    Thotti gang -> Jenny, Chandu, Tintin, Manjanna, me(Ppr) and Ummi
        This was one of the most non hectic trips we undertook till now. All we  did was ride in the cab, go to a nice place, take a few pics, again climb back into the cab to visit another sight. A pleasant trip amidst all the rides and adventures.

    Expenses:
    Hotel cost along with food for the 4 days and 3 nights = Rs.6000 for 6.
    Transportation cost:

    • Bangalore to Erankulam and back via KSRTC costs around Rs.800 per head.
    • Innova costs around Rs.1300 per day for the first 80km and then an additional cost of 13 Rs for every excess km. This came upto 680 kms costing us Rs.10K

    Total distance covered = 1900kms
    Total cost of trip = Rs.6000 per head.



    Link to pics:
    http://picasaweb.google.co.in/unithinbhat/Kerala?feat=email#
    http://picasaweb.google.com/manjunathmb/KeralaTrip#
    http://picasaweb.google.com/ppr.bms/Munnar?authkey=Gv1sRgCMOG1vrm1buqKg#