Friday, December 21, 2007

Death of Dondole falls

16 December 2007

We ruled out climbing Amedikallu and decided to go to Dondole falls, near Ujire. Here is a file photo of the falls found in web long ago.

Route from Ujire:
From Ujire, take the road towards Kottigehara. 10 kms from Ujire is Kakkinje. Take a right turn there to reach a village Anniyoor that is 6 kms from Kakkinje. At Anniyoor, go left and you will find a huge Church. Take the mud road that goes to left and travel for 4 kms to reach an estate. Falls is 2kms from estate.

We followed this direction and as we entered the estate, things were disturbing. What I thought would be a forest looked like a huge mine field. There were Lorries, worker sheds, and iron sheets, everything except greenery.

I enquired a guy playing badminton about the falls. First, he refused to acknowledge about the existence of the falls. I knew he was bluffing and upon further enquiry, he told that a dam is being constructed for mini hydro project just above the falls. He said there is no use of going to the falls. But anyway, we had come so far and also I wanted to know the state of the falls.

We then got down and started moving. The road was constructed to the dam and for that they had blasted a hill. The debris had almost covered the falls. It was a sad scene to watch. Irreparable damage has been done to the falls. The huge pipes, power generating plant, roads, worker sheds have all destroyed the forests.

I could not get much detail about the dam or the company building it nor about the permissions obtained for destruction.
But whatever it is, the chances of recovery are very remote and it is safe to say that Dondole falls is history.

After destroying Western Ghats for roads, mines and huge power plants, Government has come up with a new idea to continue the destruction of the forests, the mini hydro electricity projects. Soon, other falls like Bandaje, Koosalli, Irpu and Kudlu Theertha will follow the suit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ettina Bhuja

15 December 2007

I was confined to Bangalore for the last two months. When YHAI Bangalore announced an ambitious trek to conquer Amedikallu and Ettina Bhuja, I promptly joined the trek. Twenty people started from Bangalore on the Friday night on two Tempo travelers. The team was logically divided into two groups. Ten of us (Aravind, Subbu, Aishwarya, Murali, Maithree, Girish, Chandru, Jayanth, Pratap and Lakshmi) had some experience of trekking. The others were the students from a management institute and were first timers for the trek. (Henceforth, I will call them as other group)

The plan was to make Shishila as the base point, and climb Amedikallu on Saturday and Ettina Bhuja on Sunday.

Shishila is a small village near Dharmastala. From Dharmastala, take the road towards Kukke Subramanya. 10 kms on this road is Kokkada. Take a left turn here and travel for 15 kms to reach Shishila.

There was a road block at Charmadi ghat and we were struck for 3 hours. We reached Janardhan Gowda’s house at Shishila at 9:30 in the morning. By the time we were ready for the trek, it was already 11AM. Ramu was our guide, and he said that since we were late, instead of climbing Amedikallu; Ettina Bhuja could be tried that day. Amedikallu could be tried the next day, he said. We agreed to that and started our journey.

Ettina Bhuja means “Shoulder of an Ox” and below is the view of the mountain at Shishila. It is a prominent peak seen in Shishila due to its shape.
The initial part of the journey was on a jeep track. After some 3km on this path, we reached a stream. The water level was knee deep, but still it took some 30 minutes for everybody to cross the stream. The slow pace of “other group” was of concern. Our guide said that it is impossible to climb the peak with that pace.
Another 30 minutes of walking in the forest, we reached a water point. It was the last place where we could find water. Actual climb starts from this point. The climb is quite steep at some places.
We stopped for lunch at about 2 in the noon. The guide was still of the opinion that the chances of making to the top was nil. The other group was totally low on morale and was looking forward to get down to the base. But it was difficult for them to move down without the help of the guide. The path is visible for most of the time, but can be confusing at some places. So, the decision was that they would rest at a place where the grasslands begin and we would continue our climb.
After lunch, with new energy we started towards the peak. We had to circle around the peak, since the vertical cliff on one side of the peak was impossible to climb.
The final stretch was strenuous. As I was negotiating the rocks, my only worry was the snakes that may be hiding under the rocks.
Everything went fine and I was on top of Ettina Bhuja at 4:30PM. By 5PM, Subbu, Aishwarya, Chandru, Girish, Maithree and Jayanth were on the top.
After some snaps we started getting down. We moved down quickly to join the other group that was waiting for us. After sunset we started back one loooong journey. We estimated that we would be at Shishila by 7:30-8 in the evening. The estimation went horribly wrong.
The group did not have any torches and they had to manage with the ones we had. The journey was at snail pace. It was 12 in the midnight when we reached Shishila. Our guide did a good job of finding the route even in the forest. This is one of the rare treks where climbing down took more time than going up.
People in Janardhan Gowda’s house had prepared dinner for us. Even though it was midnight, they opened the door and offered us the dinner. I was totally moved by their gesture.

It was 2 in the night when we hit the sleeping bags. The other group had decided to return back to Bangalore and slept in the Tempo Traveler. We were dead tired and the chances of making it to Amedikallu on the next day looked grim.

-- To be continued.

Ettina Bhuja is about 4.5 -5 hours climb from Shishila for a normal trekker. Most of the climb is through dense forests. Water can be a problem here. There is a stream before the climb starts near Shishila and 1 km before the top. One can stay just before the peak. Mudigere Kottigehara route is just 2 kms from the peak. So, one can climb from Shishila and exit at the Mudigere road. It is better to take a guide; else there is a chance of missing in forests.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kumara Parvatha treks

Kumara Parvatha (KP for trekkers), is supposed to be the toughest trekking spot in Karnataka. It beckons the adventurous people from all over Karnataka. For a trekker in Karnataka, his trekking life is considered incomplete without a stamp on KP.

November 22-23rd of 2003 saw me at KP for the first time. My trek and travel life started with that climb. Seven of us (I, Chandan, Krishna, Nama, Rohith, Sankey and Yogesh) trekked to KP from Kukke Subramanya side.

The first stage of the trek from Kukke to Bhattara Mane itself was too much for us. We were sweating profusely within minutes of climbing. This initial stretch was through dense forests but the steep climb took toll on all of us. Finally, we were relieved when we saw Bhattara Mane.
After lunch and rest for an hour, we started towards our destination. The forest cover was no more and we were directly exposed to the merciless sun. The next point was Mantapa, a partially ruined structure. There is a stream flowing nearby and forms the camping place for most of the trekkers. Eventually, many return back from Mantapa, adding to the people who couldn’t make a mark on KP.
We were a tired lot when we hit Mantapa. We took lot of rest and had plentiful of water. Another gang who had started ahead of us had decided to camp at Mantapa. Camping there was attractive; it would shun us from counting tiring journey, at least for a day. But still we firmly held to our earlier decision that we need to camp at the top and trudged upwards. From Mantapa, the climb was extremely steep. We were already dead tired and progress was hopelessly slow. Every two minutes of walk would result in ten minutes of rest.
Kumara Parvatha itself is not visible while trekking. We would climb a peak hoping that it is KP but there would be one more higher than that. The sun was setting down when we reached KP or so we thought. Actually we were on Shesha Parvatha. Kumara Parvatha remains elusive until you climb Shesha Parvatha. Our spirits lowed down when we saw the gigantic peak, which was the real KP. We had to cross a forest patch and climb a huge rock to reach KP top. We resigned to the fact we had to wait for KP, at least for a night.
Camping at Shesha Parvatha was ruled out; the blowing wind would easily throw us out. We found a spot next to the forest. The night was windy; the worst thing was that the wind blew from all directions. With no sleeping bags or tents, we spent a very long night. Getting down to Mantapa after sunrise was on everyone’s mind.

But the next morning, we were the enthusiastic people ready for the final climb. It took us less than an hour to reach the top. From KP, one can see the endless landscape of Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts. There is also a small temple is at the top.

A year had passed since then. We had done many treks to different places but memories of KP were etched on our minds. Another trip to KP was planned during the long weekend of 30-31st of October 2004. This time the climb was from Somvarpet side.

This time the team members were: Aravind, Chandan, Krishna, Avinash, Rithesh, Bori, Niranjan and Prasanna.

The trek starts from a village Bidalli, 25 kms from Somvarpet. The path crosses a stream and passes through Hegade Mane village, Shanta Malleshwara Temple to reach a forest check post. After check post, the trek is through one of the dense evergreen forests.

The trek from forest check-post was not arduous, but the leeches made our life difficult. The monsoon was still active and the leeches were plenty. The only way of escaping them was to run, run and run. It was even hard to spot a place to have lunch. The important landmark on this path is a vista point 2 hours from check-post.

Shortly after the vista point the path splits into two. The left path directly takes to KP and the other joins the Kukke-KP route somewhere between Mantapa and Shesha Parvatha. We took the direct path and our difficulties increased further. The huge rocks had to be climbed and were extremely slippery. With great difficulty we climbed the first rock and immediately we were at the base of a second one which was some 150 ft high. This rock presented more challenges than the previous one. Few of us managed to climb this monster, but could not find any path further. The thick undergrowth after rains had successfully covered the path. Efforts to find the path proved futile. We had reached a dead end and the next option was to retrace back and take the other path from the junction. Commotion broke out and the first timers panicked, with few of them blamed the navigator (Me!!) for not knowing the route and putting them to hardships. Well, trekking is not a mock drill where everything goes according to the plan.

We climbed down the rocks to reach the junction and took the other route. Even in this route, the path was covered by undergrowth and it took quite a while to find the way. Our joy knew no bounds when we came out of the forest cover to reach the Kukke-KP route and by sunset, we were at Shesha Parvatha. The entire area was covered with mist and visibility was reduced to a few feet. We camped in the forest patch between KP and Shesha Parvatha. It rained during night and with only sleeping bags, we had to face it for the entire night. It was a festival time for KP leeches, with hapless trekkers caught during sleep.

We survived that night (with leech bites of course). The visibility was extremely poor. But since some of us had trekked on this path a year before, we did not face any difficulty in reaching the KP top. Climbing leech rock was tricky.

The third trip to KP was even more eventful. A moonlight trek was planned on 11-12th of February 2006. Naga has written a fantastic travelogue about that trek and can be read here.

I thought that the KP trips were over but not so. This year, Chandan had planned a KP mania. The plan was simple. Four times to KP in a row!!

Normal KP on Feb 10 -Feb 11: Climb from Kukke and get back to Kukke 2 days.
Coorg KP on Feb 17th, 18th: Climb from Somvarpet and get down in Kukke.
Extreme KP on Feb 24th: Climb from Kukke and return back on the same day!!
Night KP on March 3-4th: Moonlight trek to KP

I could only join for the second one. This time KP was a cake walk. The huge rocks on the way did not pose any challenge this time and we were at KP by 2 in the afternoon!!

Time to climb up:
Kukke – Bhattara Mane: 2.5 – 3 hours
Bhattara Mane – Mantapa: 1.5 hours
Mantapa – Shesha Parvatha: 1.5 hours
Shesha Parvatha – Kumara Parvatha: 0.5 - 1 hour

Bidalli – Forest check-post: 1.5 – 2 hours
Forest check-post – View point: 2 – 3 hours
View point – Kumara Parvatha: 1 – 1.5 hours
View point – Kukke-KP route: 1 – 1.5 hours