Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Basavana Baayi, Belligundi and Gudanagundi falls

20, 21st September 2008

This trek was organized by Sharavathi adventurers. The places were to my native place, but still I had not visited them. These falls are located inside the core area of Sharavathi valley which is not easily accessible.

We started on Friday night at about 11PM from Bengaluru on a Tempo Traveler. It was 10AM when we reached our start point of the trek Hogehalli. Our guide Narayana was already waiting for us and had made arrangements for breakfast. It was Kadubu, a local dish and it tasted great!!

Without wasting much time, we started our trek. The first point of visit was Basavana Baayi falls. Shortly after starting the trek, near Hogevaddi village, we saw a group of spotted deer. It was promising and our guide told that the area is teeming with wild life. The trek was through a thick forest. But several centuries ago, this area was a big town and the remains were still seen in the forest.

There is a small temple at Basavana Baayi. The falls itself is very small but it forms a nice pool and is ideal place for swimming. We had to cross the stream before reaching the falls. The rocks were quite slippery. After crossing the stream, on the last rock I took out my camera from the bag to take some snaps. I do not know what happened, but suddenly slipped. Noting serious, I had few small bruises. But my camera hit the rock; the lens broke out and took a dip in the stream. After some searching, lens was found but water had entered into the lens. Also, camera was not functioning after the fall. My heart was broken for this sudden mishap of my companion. Well, nothing can be done about it and we cannot go back in time. Accidents do happen.

After taking a dip in the water, we continued our journey. This time we were passing through Kallare forests and it was very dense. There were no defined routes and were blindly following Narayana. He was working as a surveyor in the forest department and knew each and every inch of land in Sharavathi area. The area was completely infested with leeches and by the time we came out of forest, most of us had a dozen of leech bites.

Our lunch was arranged in a house at Korikodlu village. One thing to be appreciated about this trek is the quality of food. It was always great and we used to hog food like hungry wolves.

The skies opened up in the afternoon and we had to open our raincoats. We were passing through the hills of Kendalare and the views were stunning. Had it been a clear day, it would have been even great.

At about 5:30PM, we reached our point of stay in Padubeedu village. Stay was arranged in one of the houses. The house was at a beautiful place next to a stream overlooking Devakan bare, a hill. After having a usual round of camp fire, we had an early dinner and hit the beds at 9:30PM.

Next day was a day of twin waterfalls. We started towards the first one, Belligundi falls. It took about an hour to reach the falls. The trek was through beautiful meadows and dense forests.

We were stunned to see Belligundi falls. What a view it was!! One cannot express the feelings through words. On one side is the Arabian Sea and its coast line, other side is the huge mountains of Western Ghats. In between the mountains, Belligundi drops from a height of 480 ft forming a thin silver line between greens. This was a falls only to enjoy from a distance. To get down the falls, it would take a day’s trek. Another way to reach bottom of the falls is to trek along the stream from coastal side. But that can be done only during post monsoon months when water levels recede. The falls is also called as “Kudumari” falls in coastal area.

After Belligundi, we started towards Gudanagundi falls. It is just 30 minutes walk from Belligundi view point. The final descent to the falls was quite slippery. Due to high water levels, we could not get down the falls. So, we went on top of the falls and jumped into water. Arabian Sea and Shirur town is visible from this falls.

After Gudanagundi, the stream falls in a series of 6 stages, few exceeding 200ft in length. This series of falls is called Koosalli falls in coastal region. Our guide Narayana told that it is possible to get down to all these stages after monsoon season. But that is only for brave hearted people.

To return back to Padubeedu, we had two routes. One was through forest and the other on the river path. For the second route, we had to cross chest deep water at few places. So, we took the route through forest. At 12 noon, we were at Padubeedu. After having lunch, we left to Kattinakaru, where we had asked our driver to wait for us.

Our guide Narayana was telling that there are several huge falls in the area and when I started to write down the names of those falls, final count was 26!! I had not even heard the names of most of the falls.

Photo courtesy: Shashidar Gadad

Friday, September 12, 2008

Green route trek

14th August 2004, 24-25th September 2005

This is the railway track trek from Sakleshpur to Subramanya road. The track passes in dense forests of Western Ghats through numerous tunnels and bridges. On the way there are small stations like Donigal, Yedakumeri and Siribagilu. The most popular stretch among trekkers is the Donigal – Yedakumeri route while few people would also extend it to Siribagilu and very rarely people cover the entire stretch.

It was a meter gauge route and when I was a child I used to hear stories about the trains being stopped by elephants. I read Purnachandra Tejaswi’s novel “Jugari cross” during high school where the story revolves round this railway route. All these things fantasized me about this place to a great extent.

In early 90’s, the train services were stopped to replace the track to broad gauge. Due to apathy from several Government agencies, the work never started. The track was regarded as an abandoned track and became a hotspot for trekkers.

It was during 2004 that I seriously thought about trekking to this place. I had trekked to few places by that time. So, during August of 2004, a plan was prepared to trek from Donigal to Siribagilu. I roped in couple of my gullible friends who had very little idea about trekking. Needless to say, it was their first trekking.

On 14th of August 2004, three of us got down at Donigal in Bengaluru-Mangalore road. There was still 2 hours for sunrise and we killed time in the lone hotel there. For railway station, we had to walk for couple of km on highway and then take a deviation on the right and walk for another km.

A bit of reality dawned when we saw the railway station. It was in a dilapidated state and indicated of the things to expect on the route.

At day light, we started our journey on the tracks. The initial stretch of about 2 kms is on a plain area and we were thinking what the heck it was and the trek suddenly looked too easy. Shortly our opinions had to be changed. After about an hour, we were at the first bridge. It was about 50ft in length and one of the easiest of the lot that we would be encountering later. From photos, it would look simple to cross a railway bridge. But in reality, it would be bit tricky. First there are no railings to hold. Then, we had to walk on sleepers between the tracks and can see the river flowing down. Added to that it was rainy season and the tracks were extremely slippery. But chance of falling from the bridge was remote still it would test one’s nerve.

After the second bridge was a tunnel. From the opening in the tunnel, we could see a river flowing furiously.

It was then series of bridges and tunnels. We got used to them and crossing was not difficult. Years of negligence and lack of maintenance had turned this track to useless. There was lot of land slides all along the route. One of them extended for almost half a km. At one point we were at knee deep inside mud and slush of a landslide. When tried to lift our legs, the shoes remained inside mud!! It looked as though we were struck in quick sands. It took nearly an hour to cross this landslide and to clean ourselves in the river.

Well, this was just starting. We could see the highway and all of us were thinking why the hell we are into this trek. Even though we could see the highway, there was a huge valley with dense forest that separated us from the highway and no way could we cross it.

The next biggest hurdle was bridge no 20. Some people call it killer bridge and I completely agree with them. It was the longest bridge of the day and since it turns to the right, we cannot see the other end. It was also the highest bridge and there was a fast flowing river. As we started crossing silently, I was shocked to find that some of the sleepers were missing in middle of the bridge!! What a bridge!! With my legs shaking, I had to go to the side of the track and walk. A small slip would end me in the river below. Scared, I started crawling. When I turned back, both of my friends were in the same situation.

After crossing this bridge, we took few minutes rest enjoying the nature and taking stock of the situation. Clearly, we did not expect this kind of an adventure. Also, we did not find any other group trekking on the route. Not a soul seen on the route. It looked as the height of isolation.

We then crossed the longest tunnel which was about 500m. It was completely dark and usage of torches was must. Unfortunately only one torch worked and we had to form a train to walk in the tunnel.

There was one tunnel which was completely flooded. Luckily, there was a deviation for the tunnel and we took it.

We had been walking for almost 6 hours non stop and still Yedakumeri was not in sight. On one of the bridge, my friend slipped and one leg went down the bridge. He could get back on the bridge again but it scared us a lot.

At about 1:30PM, we reached Yedakumeri station. This was supposed to be our halting point. But the station was in a hopeless state. None of the rooms were fit for stay and water was pouring inside the rooms. Though the platform was clean, we had not brought any tents. It was raining cats and dogs. There was nobody at the station. I also had heard the route further was in a very bad shape due to landslides. We decided to call it a day and return back to civilization.

But still our problems had not got over. There was an exit path to the highway but had to cross Kemp hole river which was overflowing. Even a swimmer would not dare to cross it during monsoon. The other option was to return back on the same route and cover the terror bridges and tunnels. But it will not be possible to return back to Donigal before dark. We were in a hopeless condition and I could sense that my friends deciding never to trek in future!!

Then came a Mallu, the man of the day. He was doing some work at the station. He told that we can reach a village that was on top the hills. We request him to a great extent to take us to the village as we had no idea of reaching the village. He agreed but demanded money which I felt was bit huge. But we did not care. Getting out of the railway track was our first priority.

We had our packed lunch at the station and then followed Mallu. It was a continuous climb and already dead tired, it was extremely tough for me and even more for my friends. The rains, slippery, leeches had made mess of a situation. After some 90 minutes of climbing, we reached Kagingeri village. The only bus to the village had already left. I went to a house that had telephone and called a Jeep. Since it had to come from Sakleshpur, we rested in the school. The Jeep then dropped us at Valagere cross. We took a bus to Sakleshpur and then to Bengaluru. It was 1:30 AM when I reached Bengaluru.

A year had passed since then. The feeling of not making to Siribagilu was bogging my mind. The stretch between Yedakumeri and Siribagilu was supposed to be most scenic. The broad gauge conversion was going on at a fast rate and there were news that trains might be running shortly. So, a trek was planned by Chandan to railway track on September of 2005. This time, there was a good crowd of 25 people in the trek.

To avoid walking in the plains after Donigal, we got down at Heggadde, a few kms after Donigal. The gauge conversion was almost complete and the bridges were also in a good shape.

This Yedakumeri station was getting renovated. We had reached early and though the nice platform tempted us to stay for the night, we proceeded further as we knew that next day would be a long one. Since we had tents, we could camp anywhere, we thought.

There was a sudden downpour in the evening. Since most of us were crossing a bridge at that time, we were completely wet. But our plans of halting at a place was thwarted by a group of villages who warned that it was an elephant track and would be blocking their way in the night. So, we moved further and just before dark, we were at Tunnel no 21 and decided to stay inside the tunnel. The villagers whom we met were actually hunters and they had made sleeping arrangements inside the tunnel. It was a straight tunnel of 300m in length. Outside the tunnel, there was a vast area and few people pitched tent there. Water was not a problem, there was a stream flowing near the tunnel.

It was a night to remember for long. We cooked our MTR’s inside the tunnel. Sleeping inside tunnel was a nice experience. It was raining and cold outside but quite warm inside the tunnel. But it was a sad day for a civet cat. Hunters bagged it during night.

Next day provided the best part of the trek. Tunnels and bridges were numerous and not very well maintained. At one place, we could see the highway and the towering peaks of Shiradi ghat. Waterfalls were everywhere and one of the most beautiful part of the trek.

The longest bridge was on this stretch, much longer than the killer bridge. It offered panoramic view of the mountains, valleys and forests. Some workers were working on the bridge.

We were already split into several sub groups and few of us who were in the lead got down into a river after the longest bridge. Here, we found a lorry fitted with train wheels. It had come to supply food for people working on the bridge. We got into the lorry and went to Siribagilu. This 3 km of lorry journey on the railway line was fun. Siribagilu is a railway station similar to Yedakumeri but has a small Tea shop run by a Mallu. At total we had nearly covered 36 kms from Heggadde with 45 tunnels and 80 bridges.

A new road was constructed from Siribagilu to Gundya Subramanya road. There was couple of streams that we had to cross. It would be a tough task to cross them during monsoon.

Almost one hour of downward journey from Siribagilu took us to the road. We then took a bus to Kukke Subramanya and after visiting the Temple, took a night bus to Bengaluru.

My next desire is to cover this stretch on the train. But currently, a single train runs during night. I am waiting for a day train, but will railways ever do that?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monsoon Mania-4: Daanagundi waterfalls and return back

10th August 2008

Continued from Monsoon Mania-3.

This is one more waterfalls that I came to know from
Rajesh Naik. Although a small waterfall, it is one of the “easy to approach” falls in that area.

From Karkala, we went to Mala check-post which marks the beginning of Kuduremukha ghat. I had called up Rajesh Naik the previous day to get directions about this falls. We went for couple of kms where the tar road ends. After taking directions from villagers, we started walking on the mud road. Another 30 minutes, we were at the last house of Joshi. There was no one in the house as they had gone outside for a trip. A person looking after the house agreed to guide us to the falls. After walking for 5 minutes in the plantation and another 10 minutes in the forest we reached the falls.

It was the peak of monsoon season and water was gushing everywhere. This is actually the second stage of the falls. To reach the first stage, one has to trek further for about 30 minutes inside forests. That can be done only post monsoon season. Even villagers would not like to enter into forests during monsoon. The person who guided us to the falls told that it was not a famous spot and not many people come to visit the falls. I was happy on hearing it!!

The return journey:
From Mala, we went to Ujire via Naravi, Guruvayanakere and Belthangadi. Here we had an option of going back via scenic Charmadi ghat or truck infested Shiradi ghat. We choose the former route. (An update: Kottigehara – Mudigere route is very good now!!) It was a day of heavy rains. There were land slides everywhere.

Although the road was good, there were very bad stretches at hair pin bends. Buses had a tough time and had to take reverse many time to negotiate some hairpin bends.

At ninth mile stop in Charmadi ghat, we parked our vehicle on the road side and started walking on the mud road. Our aim was to visit a falls near that place. After walking for a km in the forest, we found few villagers. It was already 3PM and they told that it would not be possible to see the falls and return before sunset. We also had to drive back to Bengaluru. So, we decided to drop visit to the falls and return back.

On the way, we saw Alekhan falls. I had seen that falls in October last year, but now the scene at the falls was totally different. I just managed to take a few snaps there. What a rainy day it was!! Kottigehara recorded the maximum rainfall that day (28 cm) in Karnataka.

After Kottigehara, it was an uneventful drive till Bengaluru.

More photos of Monsoon mania can be seen

The end!!