Abbi falls is one of the most popular landmarks in Kodagu, located in ‘Kalakeri Nidugane village’ on the outskirts of Madikeri. This is where the Lostlander was stung by the travel bug, much before she was born! History speaks about Columbus and Vasco-da-Gama, but the lostlander grew up listening to the stories of her grandfather’s adventures of discovering Abbi falls. Those are the very stories that sowed the seeds of seeking adventure and finding her own life path for the Lostlander.
The memories associated with Abbi falls is an endless list, so this post is going to be a photo tour with some old photos of the Lostlander with her grandfather at Abbi falls estate.
This is a brook built by my grandfather to provide accessibility to the surrounding villagers to get across the river, on the upstream of Abbi waterfalls during the monsoons. It has been replaced by a concrete bridge only in yr.2021, several decades after it was originally requested for. (Click here to read further)
I wish to compile a book someday, comprising of all these stories from the life of “My grandfather”. Do share in all your thoughts and any personal stories associated with this place that I will be glad to add them in my book with due credits.
The standard itinerary with PTU: Day 1: Depart from Bangalore (Leave HSR layout) by 08.00.p.m. Day 2: Reach homestay by 06.00.a.m., freshen up and start the hike by 09.00.a.m.; Return to the homestay by evening Day 3: Visit Nagara fort enroute home, reach Bengaluru by evening.
The story of my weekend: A total of 16 people including two trek leaders were supposed to board the bus at various pickup points across Bangalore. While HSR layout was the first pickup point, the last and the biggest bunch of people were supposed to board at Mekhri circle. When the driver cranked the engine to leave HSR, the last member boarding the bus noticed that a rear tyre had a flat. So, it needed to be changed and the punctured tyre required to be fixed before proceeding for the long journey. After about an hour, the stepney was replaced and the bus arrived at the second stop.
People boarded and the Bus… did not start. This time, the battery had drained, completely! A mechanic arrived in a while and told that it could not be topped up and needed a replacement. Well, it was another good couple of hours until the bus finally left…. With an assurance from the ‘travels company’ assuring that there won’t be any more breakdowns.
Meanwhile, I had taken an autorickshaw to reach Mekhri circle to hold up all the people who had arrived there. The co-leader managed the people who had already boarded the PTU bus. Most of them being first timers on their solo travel, their growing anxiety with the extending delay in the tour was quite a challenge to clarify all their doubts and questions. It was 00.30.a.m. by the time the bus finally arrived at Mekhri circle instead of the scheduled 09.30.p.m. We quickly wrapped up the initial welcome and introduction that usually takes a while on normal trips. Everyone needed some sleep before climbing up the Kodachadri trail.
It was approximately 01.30~02.00. a.m. and the bus had reached somewhere around Sira town. Then suddenly, everyone in the bus woke up for a LOUUUD thud noise. The driver stopped the bus. I walked to his cabin and got down with the driver with a torch light to check what the issue was. The driver found a broken bolt under the bus, near the engine room. The radiator had started to leak profusely, and the engine belt had ripped off. The driver informed me that there was no way that the bus could move. Trying to find a mechanic in the middle of the night would only be futile. The options we had was to find one back in Nelamangala (this would take a good few hours) or wait in the bus until morning, find a mechanic in Sira, find spares, get the bus fixed and then proceed. Proceed further to Kodachadri or return to Bangalore. In either case, Saturday would be gone. We pushed the bus to the side of the highway and decided to take time to figure out the next POA (Plan of Action).
I called up the PTU organizers and informed them of the situation. We were fortunate to find a chaiwala (petty Angadi), the ONLY place with light and people movement in the drop-dead night. The people in the bus got down and occupied themselves with their dose of mid-night chai and smokes until we figured out an alternative. None of them would settle for a full refund and wanted PTU to ensure that they got what they had signed up for.
It was a weekend. It wasn’t going to be easy to find an alternate bus or a TT (Tempo Traveler). While my co-lead was waving at every other bus that came on the highway (both KSRTC and private buses) to check if there were empty seats, I was calling up every random travel company listed on google and checking for availability of buses. Either they were all booked for the weekend or people would just abuse me for waking them up in the middle of the night and hang up. To add to it, I was the ONLY person in the entire bus who could speak Kannada. So yeah, I literally had to manage the show and all the translations, communications and co-ordinations. Finally, one KSRTC bus stopped! They had sufficient seats to accommodate all of us as well. But we had a new challenge. The travellers with us had ganged up and would not agree to board a red bus (Karnataka Sarige bus). All requests to convince seemed futile and we let go off the KSRTC bus. After a total of about an hour, the chaiwala managed to find us a localite who had agreed to come with us for a per kilometer charge that was double the normal price. PTU organizers agreed. The TT arrived. Next challenge? It was a 12-seater TT, we were 16 in total. We, the leaders convinced ourselves to sit on the floor of the ramp between the two rows of seats and another 2 travelers volunteered to fill the already crammed space. Ensuring that everyone else got a comfortable space, the journey continued. Fortunately, we had no more surprises and we reached the homestay by 09.30.a.m.
We took time to freshen up, have breakfast, get the forest permits for the trek and finally started our ascend by 11.00.a.m. All went fine, by god’s grace. This was my first PROPER trek in Kodachadri, the previous one was another adventure worth a read. We climbed up the Hidlumane waterfall, arrived at a local house enroute to have a surprise Majjige (buttermilk) stop, crossed paddy fields, areca and banana plantations, Mookambika temple and finally arrived at the peak marked by the Shankaracharya Mantapa. The landscape and the entire path were unrecognizable for me from what I had seen on my previous visit. It was now exploited and overdone by tourists. There were a few hikers who felt exhausted and wanted to give-up halfway. But as a trek leader, it was my personal obligation to ensure that EVERYONE completed what they had signed up for and no one stayed back without some safe company. Finally, everyone made it to the peak, and it was now mission accomplished. Well, only partially!
The real deal was in the descend. We had a 4×4 ride awaiting us for our return. It is one that is BEYOND explanation and you only hold on to the roof bars hoping that you don’t have a few broken bones or dislocated joints by the time it ends. There is NO road, only a slide down a ditchy/bumpy gradient path. This 4×4 jeep ride alone supports the livelihood of several people around the area. Hence, the localites aren’t letting a road happen even if the government wants to develop this important site of tourism (we were told so by one of them). So, if this ride is considered as an adventure and a source of employment, then you can imagine how memorable this experience must be, right?
Well, in spite of all the delays and breakdowns, it gave me a sense of achievement by the end of the day for having met the itinerary. Though we paid late exit fine at the gates, this was a PTU experience in its true sense. More adventures to come, until then- Keep tripping…. Plan the Unplanned!
Heard of the blue hills? Does the name ‘Nilgiris’ strike any bell? For those who know less, it is a part of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World heritage site in the southern peninsula of India. The ‘Neel-giris’ literally translates to ‘Blue-Hills’ because these hills get their colour from a particular phenomenon. A particular species of the Strobilanthes kunthiana flowers, locally called the Neela-Kurinji bloom once in twelve years. When in full bloom, the entire hill range looks blue, thus giving the hills their name. The last mass-flowering of the neelakurinji flowers happened in 2018 and I left no leaf unturned to witness this spectacle. There were a couple of hotspots identified by the Kerala forest department where arrangements were made to allow visitors to see the flowers. My friends and I decided to visit the Eravikulam National park, located close to Munnar. This stretch of the hills was where most of the blossoms were supposed to happen. After finalizing the visit dates in Sept’18, the Delhi friends had booked their flight tickets to fly down and the remaining of us booked our bus tickets from Bangalore to Munnar. I had got all the necessary entry permits from the forest authorities and booked accommodation in Munnar for all of us. All this was done months in advance to have a confirmed entry anticipating the tourist influx for such a spectacle, if we waited until later. We were all set and waiting for the travel to finally happen.
Come July’18, the rain gods had wreaked havoc in the western Ghats. The entire stretch of western Ghats in Karnataka and Kerala had been damaged by the heaviest rains in eight decades. The damage done was massive to geography, property and life along these areas. In the event of things, damage was done even to the neelakurinji plants and the blossoms were feared to be washed out. Once the rain gods had calmed down and the ground situation of floods seemed to have receded, we waited to see if there was any luck in waiting until September. We were in constant touch with a few locals who gave us the updates on the status of the blue hills. Come September and we decided to go ahead with our original plan. We all had finally arrived at Munnar and were heading towards Eravikulam National Park.
Once there, Yes, there were enough plants destroyed. The stronger few, had managed to bear flowers. We walked along the laden path, feeling grateful for at least so many of the plants had survived. Since these plants blossom only once every 12 years, it means that their reproduction cycle is longer than usual. This also means that, most of the Neelakurinji vegetation is lost in the 2018 monsoon and the next flowering cycle of the year 2030 may not happen at a mass-scale as it is usually supposed to happen at all!! Anyway, we enjoyed whatever we were witnessing.
Also, Neelakurinji is only a sub-species of the larger group of flowers called the Kurinji. The Kurinji flowers come in several colors- white, peach, purple, etc. Here is a collection of the Kurinji flowers from Eravikulam National park that we saw during our visit.
So that said, I was back in my hometown the following week and visited our piece of farmland to check on its status after the monsoon. It used to be a spice plantation that remained unmaintained for a long time before we, siblings ventured into developing it. our farm is a short walk away from the main road. When we arrived there and decided to walk, the entire path was filled with what seemed like some weed that had overgrown during the monsoon. We used a machete to make way for ourselves to walk further. Just a few steps into the area, we were surrounded with pink/ maroon flowers all around us. ‘These weeds had flowered expansively’, we wondered. We took a lot of photos, made way for ourselves, finished our work and returned home. When we discussed about the weeds with the elders in the family, we were surprised to hear that these plants also belonged to the Kurinji family.
Further, an important month in the Kodava and the Tamil calendar is the month of Kakkada or Aadi. In Kodagu, on the 18th day of this month a special dish is prepared using a locally available herb. Its juice is believed to contain 18 medicinal values. It leaves a very deep blue/violet pigment when cooked and consumed only on this day. And what is this plant called? Don’t even guess… Locally called ‘Maddh thoppu’ or ‘Aadi soppu’, it is also a variety of Kurunji. So, Kodagu primarily has three types of Kurinji; the flowering weed(Maley Kurinji(as in hill), Etth Kurinji(as in cattle) and Maddh Kurinji(as in medicine). A little bit of googling allowed me learn that there are many sub-species of the Kurinji and each have their own flowering cycles. While some bloom annually, some bloom once in six years and some take a couple of decades. Neelakurinji was just one among them.
Lesson learnt: How often do we tend to ignore the little things from our own backyard? We think these are too trivial to spend time and look for things elsewhere. It is often that people associate that better things come only when money is spent and distances are travelled, but the truth may be that it is something that we have been conveniently ignoring in our own vicinity. What is your take on this thought?
Rolling hills that has many faces to call it BEST described… Every description depends on who saw it during which time of the year. I was heading to this valley in early winter, 1st week of December to be precise. That’s when the days are warm and nights are cold, but there is no snowfall.
So, as planned my friend and I set foot to see a valley that borders the states of Nagaland and Manipur. ‘It’s a magical place’ is the only thing we had heard. I had done enough research about getting there from Nagaland side and learnt that there are two routes with different difficulty levels. One starts from Jakhama village and the other is through Vishema village. Since we had hired a trek guide, we decided to take the route recommended by her. Initially, not knowing what terrain we would be trekking through, we had carried our large backpacks with all the stuff for our fortnight long trip in Nagaland. But then, our guide asked us to carry just thermals and enough water. “Food and blankets can be bought at the peak” we were told. Anyway, additionally we carried our sleeping bags and some food since we had to utilize what we had carried all the way from Bangalore 😛 We left our luggage at our guide’s house in Jakhama and took a short taxi ride to the start point of the trek. (Watch the video below)
We started to climb up from Jakhama by around 11.30.a.m. and the path was unassumingly steep. The entire trail was encompassed in a thick canopy of trees through which the sun rays could hardly penetrate. Although we were climbing at peak noon, it felt as if it was post sunset. The heat generated by the body while burning the calories seemed insufficient to warm us up. The trail only got steeper at almost 80deg gradient and we kept thanking our guide for telling us to leave our excess luggage at the base. Then suddenly, the forests opened to the blue skies… Before our eyes could adjust to the bright light, we were staring at our first glimpse of the valley. I was at a loss of breath. Not because of the tiring climb or the cold winds that was making it difficult for me stand on my feet, but because I was transported to a different world by the setting sun which had engulfed the green valley. I don’t know if I can express that feeling rightly with words, to simply put it: I was SPELLBOUND!
It was a short walk further from there. The trail along the cliff with the green hills appearing one after the other and the sky changing its shade with every second, kept us going until we had finally made it to the guest house for the night’s stay. At 4.30.p.m., when we reached there, it just got dark with the last ray of white light. But the sky continued to mesmerize us as it turned from red to black, in between illuminating the silhouettes of the surrounding hills. I had started to freeze and shiver by this time as the temperatures dropped to single digits. But I did not want to move from there as I stared at what was the clearest night’s sky I had seen in a long while. So many stars twinkled over the Dzukou valley! As reality started to hit me hard, I had started to get cramps in my feet and had to hurriedly go and warm myself with the thermals and the firewood that was lit to cook food in the kitchen.
As the night passed, the temperatures dropped further. Our thermals and sleeping bags didn’t seem enough and we borrowed additional blankets to help ourselves in the large hall which had just walls, a roof and a wooden floor to sleep on. I could barely sleep through the cold night. Although awake, I was waiting for the alarm to ring at 05.00.a.m. We were supposed to head out to see the Dzukou valley…
At 05.00.am. I was the first one to get up and step out for the hike down to the valley. The morning light was still dim, and I felt the earth below my feet crackle. It did not take me too long to realize that all the grass on which I was walking and the entire valley that surrounded me was frozen. The temperatures had dropped below zero and the frozen valley at a distance looked splendid! Soon, the others joined me, and we walked down the valley to witness what is supposed to be the main reason for our trek to Dzukou. The sunrise! We walked past what the locals call as the cave and walked over a frozen stream. We clenched bits of frozen waterfalls along the way too… And when the sun rose above and shone over the valley- It looked surreal. It seemed like the phrase ‘Frozen in time’ was framed after someone saw this place. The frozen dew drops reflected the lights of the rising sun and the sight was beyond my ability to describe. What I was experiencing from within was a sense of emptiness, accomplishment, happiness- well a medley of emotions. There has been NO place I had been to more beautiful than this, no I’m not exaggerating.
The entire valley has a peculiar kind of bamboo grass which gives it its green color. The same valley looks as if it is covered in red/ pink during monsoon. That’s when the lilies, endemic to Dzukou valley bloom. And come during the peak of winter: The entire valley is painted white in snow. This is a photo my guide had shared with me of how the valley looked just 10 days after we returned. The valley does not fail to mesmerize people irrespective of the season they come. Well, after spending a good amount of time, we returned to the guest house, packed up to head back to Kohima, for the hornbill festival.
By now, we were a big team of trekkers and backpackers who had all bonded over at the guest house and together we decided to take the Vishema route for our return. It was a brilliant decision, I guess! Had we taken the same route for our return; we would have missed the magical sky behind the forest canopy. The sky seemed surreal with every turn in the trail. The valley too looked magical at every corner. It was flat land that we were walking on mostly, apart from a short trail of very steep rocks to slide down from, until we finally arrived at the base. A pre-booked Sumo was waiting to pick us back to Kohima. I want to bluntly end this post because this place is something better experienced than written about.
About the trek in short:
I believe what one calls difficult or easy largely depends on individual’s fitness level and trekking experience. According to me, the distance to the peak is short and could be done in 1-1.5hrs if it was me alone. But it was the first hike EVER for my friend and it took us around 4hours to reach the guest house at the peak.
Although people feel Vishema route is easier onwards, in my opinion- we made a good decision by walking the Jakhama route while going up. Since it is steep, climbing would be slow but the distance is shorter. In contrary, if we took Jakhama route to climb down, the gradient would put enormous strain on our knees which is why I suggest taking the Vishema route for the descent.
Cooked (basic & hygienic) food and potable running water is available at the top, so apart from energy bars for your walk, avoid carrying unwanted luggage.
It is needless to elaborate on the names Tirumala and Tirupathi! Famous as the richest temple in the world, the seat of Swamy Venkateshwara- the lord of seven hills. What goes beyond just this RICH temple is its geographical location. For someone who has been there and used the 11km long stairs to get to the top, I’m sure he must have enjoyed the multiple pit stops and deviations off the course to see the ‘Papavinasanam’ and ‘Akasha Ganga’ waterfalls enroute. And then there is the magnificent Silathoranam, the natural arch bridge formed due to volcanic erosions several million years ago… As if these pit stops weren’t enough, one is bound to get enchanted by the stunning view of the entire range of hills surrounding the temple with the Nagari quartzite formations… Ever since I had been there, exploring these hills has always been on my bucket-list… And when I chanced upon an opportunity to do it over a weekend, I jumped in with excitement. Taking cue from a random couch-surfing meet-up, we had decided to hit the roads to explore the hill ranges of Eastern Ghats. So on a Saturday morning, we started from Bangalore before sunrise to see the highest waterfall in the state of Andhra Pradesh, nestled in the Venkateshwara National Park. While I slept for most of the way, I was awakened to a blurred view of a fiery-red sunrise seen through the dew-laden window glass of our car, cruising through misty roads with hazy paddy fields around. We stopped by at one of the several restaurants on the way for a nice south-Indian breakfast and coffee.
With good asphalted road all the way, we arrived at the forest check-post at Talakona. While our friend was getting the required permits / entry tickets into the national park, we got chatting with a fruit vendor who let us try the variety of fruits in his cane basket which all tasted as sweet as nectar. He then told us that he could be our guide (at a small cost) and show us some offbeat corners of the forest. We agreed upon the idea and promised to buy more fruits from him on our return to make up for his business. We then reached the eco-lodge, managed by the forest department and ordered for food which would be kept ready by the time we returned from our trek from the woods. We then drove up, till the Siddeshwara Swamy temple and parked our vehicle near the foothills of the waterfalls. Our guide took us off the course from there on through stone-laid stairs that seemed like we were walking into oblivion in the jungle that is notoriously famous for red-sandalwood smugglers and the elusive beasts- the Royal Bengal tigers. Our first stop was at this view point from where most of the green and brown stretch of alternating forest and quartzite was seen. After a short climb thereon, our guide made us cross a stream of water and took us to the edge of the rocky path. The stream now seemed like it was jumping down in a mad rush from the cliff we were standing upon, and we could hear the screaming of several tourists down beneath. That’s when our guide burst the bubble for us- We were standing right on top of the highest waterfall of the state. It was a nerve wracking experience to stand atop there and watch the water gush down under our feet and have a post-monsoon gorgeous view of the green ranges.
We were then guided through a canopy of lush green trees and hanging branches along the flowing water, at the end of where our feet stopped! Stopped in amusement… Amusement at what our eyes were seeing… A thick moss laden semi-circular rocky wall due to the flowing water over ages across whom several creepers hung and the water dropped down with all grace. This entire set-up of nature reflected in the mirror-like crystal clear water of the pond formed beneath where the golden fishes were enjoying their undisturbed swim. The rocks inside the pool made it appear rather shallow and was enticing us for a quick swim! With absolutely nobody else in the place- No exaggeration, it felt like we had found our long lost connection with nature right there! All unprepared for a swim, we put our legs into the freezing cold water to get a nice fish pedicure that de-stressed the city souls in us!
After getting our natural fish pedicure done, we headed back towards the base of the Talakona waterfall. But, it was a different route this time… It was a beautiful path with a canopy of trees, a deep gorge to our left and the massive rocky caves to our right accompanied by an eerie silence of the jungle… At the end was another waterfall. It was one of the levels of this multi-tiered waterfall which we had to cross through. For a look from the distance, we could not gauge the level of difficulty until we actually got on the rocky path to cross it. While each one of us mocked and took fun in laughing at why the other person couldn’t cross it with ease, we dreaded our own feat of the waterfall-crossing when we slipped, slid and even glided across the super slippery rock over which the algae had settled making it an armed to the teeth adventure. We had a friend who slid and landed right at the edge of the cliff, just an inch further would have taken him rolling down the multiple tiers of the highest waterfall of the state 😛 All said and done, with we being drenched to our bones, our jaws chattering with cold and an unexplainable feeling of accomplishment, we had reached the last part of our hike.
We then walked down to get a good look of the mighty Talakona waterfall from its base right-up, to understand where we had just arrived from… We then drove to the eco-lodge to dry ourselves, get some food and to call it a wrap for an eventful day that we concluded at twilight!
Let me get you going directly from where this trek to Kumara parvatha or KP peak is actually supposed to start. We reached Kukke Sri kshetra and checked into the lodge(a meagre 100Rs. Per day) run by the temple trust, freshened up and feasted on some sumptuous Mangalorean food for breakfast. Without wasting much time, we started the much hyped- one of the toughest treks in South India.. to the Kumara parvatha peak in the Pushpagiri wildlife zone.
The original plan was to start from the base by 7.00.a.m and camp at Bhatru mane. Then, leave Bhatru mane by 3.00.a.m the next morning and reach the peak to witness the sunrise, what is supposedly one of the best.
As planned, we entered the trekking trail.. It starts off with thick forest around and steep climbs uphill.. There was NO water sources along the way (We didn’t know that there was a perennial stream, with a small deviation after 2.5km) and a possibility of occasional encounters with elephants. We took frequent stops before taking a longer halt at Bhima’s rock. This stretch of 3km had oozed the fluid out of us..
Once this 3kms stretch was covered, we got our first view of Kukke town.. The thick canopy of forests made way to the grasslands after walking 1km further from there.. It was well past noon and the sun shined at its hottest.. We were running out of water already.. We started to wonder if Bhatru mane really existed and literally pulled ourselves to reach there. Or rather say, we pushed ourselves to walk the small distance that seemed never ending.. Finally… we were overjoyed at the first glimpse of Bhatru mane…
We ran down to his nestle amid a small piece of green land.. I find NO words to express the joy of finding water.. That too, clear and cold water from the stream that ran through his farm.. We had a simple, yet the tastiest lunch served by Bhatru and rested under the shades of his arecanut farm..
We then made a small change in the plan and decided to continue the trek until it was dark. We feared the pace at which we were climbing up and did not want to return late on the following day.. We halted at a view point along the way for some photographs, before reaching the forest checkpost. We continued our hike up after registering our names at the forest office.. We stopped again at yet another view point.. The sun was coming down by the time we reached kal-mantapa and hence we decided to pitch our tent near the stream that ran by..
I don’t remember which sane person in the group chose the place.. I agree that we got a place which became every other trekker’s envy.. The place was for sure, a top rated spot for sunset viewing.. But we girls, who stayed inside the tent know what we went through that night.. The tent was pitched on a slope, on the edge of a rocky cliff which seemed like the place where the earth ended.. It was soon dark and we ate the little food that we had carried and hit the bed (Read hit the rocks)..
The boys comforted themselves in their sleeping bags and threw the poor girls inside the tent.. The entire night went by like this: ‘Our respective backpacks were used as pillows inside our tent. We all would slide down with our bags inside the tent.. again we would push back everything and move up.. Slide down.. Slide up.. Phew..!!’ And a while into midnight.. The intensity of the wind also increased.. The cover of the tent started to fly.. We hoped for it to be 3.00.a.m soon so that we all could start our ascend.. But another surprise was awaiting us.. Madhu heard the cracking sound of the tent support and scared all the girls inside to vacate the tent. We carried our luggage from inside and jumped out of the tent, one by one.. The last girl just came out and the tent crashed down to a flat.. The guys woke up and one of them attempted to slowly remove the pegs.. One peg was removed and then… The tent flew.. away from our reach.. off the cliff.. down the valley.. We had borrowed the tent, on hire.
Everyone woke up and sat wondering why this had to happen. It was still dark at 4.00.a.m. and with the wind that continued to blow ruthlessly, our ascend to the peak seemed impossible.. We stayed back until sunrise 😦 We decided to compromise on one of the main agenda of our trek- Watching the sunrise at KP peak.
After there was dawn,one of the boys dared to go down the cliff. He had a thrilling feat with adventure and managed to bring back the tent that had settled on a boulder in the middle of a water body, down below in the valley.. More than getting excited about finding the tent, we were all celebrating his safe return.. It was around 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent.
Inspite of missing the sunrise, the views post that period were equally spectacular, all along the way. The climb was pretty smooth. It was around 11.00.a.m. by the time we reached the first peak/ false peak- Shesha parvatha.
The view from the base of Shesha Parvatha
After just a few photo moments, we decided to continue our journey.. We descended the steep rock and waded through super cool, thick jungles.. And then, climbed up another steep rock. This rockclimbing with bare hands and legs reminded me of our monkey ancestors.!! A small walk further up took us to the actual end of the earth. Right there, we had conquered our destination- Kumara Parvatha..!!
Shiva temple atop Kumara parvatha
Thanking the diety with a small bow in the temple on the peak, we set our return journey.. Getting down the rocky slope of KP seemed tricky with one of my friends ending up with torn trousers when he decided to sit and slide down on his butt 😉
The descend from Shesha Psrvatha was no easy task either. The loose gravel all along the trail made walking difficult without slipping. It was 4.00.p.m by the time we reached Bhatru mane.. We realised that we had covered only half the distance and had very less time left with sunlight.. We had to complete the remaining distance before it got dark because that was the toughest stretch with thick forests and wild animals. We had a quick lunch at Bhatru mane and got some rest in fast forward mode and started our descend by 5.00.p.m..
We knew we had very less time in hand and a LONG way to go.. We all walked as fast as we could. Our legs had given up already.. I was preparing my mind to stay back in the forest and make a feast of myself to some wild animal at night.. I ran down the slope at times.. My knees seemed like they would part away from my thighs.. We saw the sun coming down.. We continued to walk fast.. We saw the sun going down the horizon.. We paced up.. Suddenly we all halted.. There was pin drop silence.. We realised that some wild animal(mostly elephant) was somewhere around.. It took us a few minutes to feel the sound move away from us.. Then, we resumed our walk. We saw the bright day fade into darkness and every shade in this process. The toughest and the last stretch was almost coming to an end.. We had FINALLY reached the KP gate… And the last ray of light too waned into darkness.. Thus came an end to the KP trek- a mission….. accomplished..!!
We all then freshened up at the same lodge and did a quick visit to the Kukke temple before hitting the roads on our return journey.
NOTE: The above story is written based on my trek back in 2013 when there was no restriction on camping in the entire trail. As on 2019, camping is allowed only around the forest checkpost and Bhatru mane. So, it is wiser to plan the distance, hiking time and camping accordingly.
Must do things/ Highlights of Kumara parvatha trek:
Bhatru mane is the ONLY place you will find food and it is an experience in itself to get your turn in the queue to have your meal served. The same basic rice and sambar is served for all 3 meals and nobody complains. Not tasty, but finding food after a long day is LUXURY here. Bhatru has a fixed time for serving food and very punctual. The crowd is huge especially on weekends and the wait for your meal can take longer if you dont have your own plate.
The sunset from the view point enroute forest checkpost or Kal-Mantapa
To watch the Sunrise from Kumara parvatha is like going to a different world. Try to make it there in time.
The sky is in its clearest form and star gazing at night is a whole different experience. You see so many stars, bright and clear that it feels as if the sky has moved closer to earth. We got lucky as it was also a night of a meteor shower, so we saw many shooting stars.
Drinking water from the stream felt like nectar. So clean and tasty. You can fill your bottles at 4 places along the way. First after 3kms, near the Bhimas rock. Second, at Bhatru mane. Third, at the forest checkpost. Fourth, at a stream just before kal-mantapa.
While considering Ooty to Bangalore distance, the Ooty is one of the favourite haunts for Bangaloreans, along with the people from nearby cities like Mysore, Coimbatore, Chennai etc. Popular for its well-groomed tea estates, the pleasant Ooty weather although the year has earned it the title of ‘Queen of Hills’. We were nine friends in two cars on this monsoon weekend trip to explore Ooty district. But this trip was planned by skipping all the tourist places of Ooty and exploring the lesser known corners of the district. We started from Bangalore on a Friday night at 2.00.a.m. hoping to reach Bandipur by 6.00.a.m. That’s when the forest check-post opens, and we hoped that could spot some wild animals along our way. But, due to frequent pit-stops, we made it to the check-post only by 7.00.a.m. Nevertheless, we spotted a good number of elephants, peafowls, fox, deer, sambars, wild boars etc. With so many sightings, it was quite a good start for a trip, I must say! The itinerary for our weekend is as given below.
Day 0: Leave from Bangalore by night Day 1: Explore Avalanche forest reserve, explore Ooty, stay at Masinagudi Day 2: Trekking and other activities at Masinagudi, Wildlife safari at mudumulai forest or Bandipur range, drive back to Bangalore through Bandipur. (Visit Himavad Gopala Swamy temple, if time permits)
Part 1: Avalanche and Ooty
First in the visit list was the Avalanche, a steep & breathtaking climb of 35 hairpin bends with deep valley covered by thick white snowy clouds on one side led us to Udhagamandalam a.k.a. Ootacamund a.k.a. Ooty. Without wasting much time amidst the maddening crowd of tourists there, we drove down another set of 34 hairpin curves- 25 kms further from Ooty to reach the forest check post of Avalanche. Thick rainforests on either side, bumpy waterlogged potholes and scenic view of the Emerald dam backwaters at every turn, accompanied us all the way till the start point of the eco-tour. Once there, we hired the forest jeep for a 24 kms drive through the Shola forests- A place that was BEAUTIFUL.
On a clear day, one can see the dam from this place. If one is lucky, he could spot a leopard or an elephant on the way, we were told. Since we were there during monsoon, the thick fog made the visibility poor adding onto the adventure of our jeep ride. On this eco-tour, we visited a century old Bhavani temple, innumerous waterfalls and ended at a beautiful spot called as ‘Lakdi spot’. It had a small stream cascading down in full fury and then running through the shola grasslands surrounded all around. After spending some time there and getting all drenched, we realized that we were all wet till the bones and chattering with cold. Thus, decided to head back to our cars at the entrance.
From Avalanche, we commenced our drive towards our next and the main destination of the trip: “Masinagudi. Masinagudi is a part of the Mudumulai forest range, the extension of Bandipur National park (in Karnataka) towards the state of Tamil Nadu. Since Ooty is the only and the last town before heading towards the forest area, we decided to take a short break there. We filled our cars with fuel, withdrew cash from the ATM and bought some Ooty chocolates along with other essentials before heading towards the cottage we had booked for our stay. Our stay was in a private estate adjoining the forest fringes or rather say it was located within the reserve forest itself. It was late evening (already dark) by the time we reached our cottage. (NOTE: The forest check-post closes by 06.p.m)
Part 2: Masinagudi
We parked our cars at the Singara check post, beyond which the roads are drivable only with a 4WD/SUVs to reach the cottages. Two Mahindra Jeeps were arranged by the cottage guys itself. This 3 km ride from the Singara check post to our cottage was a GRAND welcome in itself: Our road was blocked by herds of elephants, bison and deer. These encounters took our excitement to a soaring high…!!
After a quick round of dinner, we all got ready for the highlight of the trip- The night safari: at 00.00 hrs. in the night, who can believe if we say we drove in an open jeep into the heart of the national park in search of a tiger that was feasting on its latest kill..?? Our safari guide and his clients had been lucky to get this rare sighting on the previous night. And once we were there in the middle of the forest, the screeching engines of our jeep halted, lights were switched off. It was a new-moon day. So, there was no moonlight even, only the open sky with the twinkling stars guided us through. The only 2 sounds we could hear were that of the orchestra of the cicadas and the pounding of our anxious hearts. What we all discovered right there, in the middle of nowhere was “ETERNAL BLISS”. Even after a thorough search through the remotest corners of the grassland, we could not find the tiger until 2.00.a.m. Although we spotted a few other animals, we were definitely sad about the fact. But the bumpy ride to the forest and back was an experience in itself that was all worth it!
Next morning, we were greeted by the excellent view of the Blue mountains (Nilgiris hills) through the window glasses. We all jumped up for the guided walk along the stream, lining the boundary of the reserve area. We captured some rare fauna like the Nilgiri langurs, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar giant squirrel, peafowl etc. in our machine-gun-sized cameras. The climb to the tree top house is also worth a mention that gave us a good view of the forest around. It was afternoon already by then and we had to pack up for our return journey towards Bangalore.
Contrary to the normal boring return journeys when all are usually exhausted and silent, all the 9 of us were jumping off our seats every now and then, until we crossed Bandipur: We encountered at least 24 elephants including a herd with a new born, at least 20 peacocks all set to open up their feathers as it had started to drizzle, sounder of wild boars etc.
For someone who finds peace in nature, this was a magical trip! This is that ONE trip that I would love to do all over again and that time, it would be for a longer stay here… in the cradle of mother nature.
Even then, the second visit to Makalidurga happened. I was forcibly dragged out of bed on a cozy Sunday morning. I was supposed to be the guide to the first timers so that they could hike up the hill.
I knew the way to reach Makalidurga- but could not guide them any further to the exact spot from where they could get the photo of the train crossing which they wanted.. Considering it was around 11.00.a.m, the sun had already reached a good position to suck the fluid in us..
We had left home without breakfast hoping that we could have something on our way and pick up some water bottles.. Hard luck..!! We could find neither!!
All of us reached a railway track finally.. And randomly climbed a hillock, climbed further up.. We continued to climb hoping to find some shade to sit and wait till our catch of the day appeared… But again, no luck- no water, no food, no shade. We randomly stopped on a considerably flat area without being able to proceed further under the ruthlessly shining sun and waited for the train..
After about half an hour, the smoke from the engine chimney appeared near the horizon.. We all got excited.. As it neared, the engine emerged from behind a bush, then a bogie.. Before our cameras reached their position, we saw the end of the train 😥 It was a small train with just 1 engine and 4 bogies…
So, we continued our wait.. After a while again we found some smoke at the horizon. So, this time we hoped that our tiring wait would end soon and we could get that perfect internet photo of a blue passenger train passing across the frame… Hard luck once again- It was indeed a super long train with over 55 bogies: But, it was a goods loco and not the one that we had waited for and moreover its colour did not match the background 😥
This meant that we still had to wait. We were restless… We decided to walk further up hoping to find some shade atleast..!! And we did find a small tree (or rather a bush). Something that was better than nothing, we thought. All the five of us squeezed into that small patch of shade and continued to wait….
After a while, we heard the hooting of a train at a distance… This time, we couldn’t see any smoke rising up… The sound became louder and louder but still- there were no signs of the train. But, we knew for sure that the source was somewhere closeby. And suddenly, a Nizamuddin-Yeswantpur bound passenger train came buzzing into our visibility. We all took our cameras out and started clicking… The train was really long and it stretched beyond the 2 ends of the frame. Yet, this was not the photo we wanted. The train was actually in the opposite direction. So, even if the engine is very much in the frame, it appears like it is gone beyond 😥 But, anyway it seemed like we could not hope for anything further because we were all dehydrated.. So, we had to be contended with what we got and return back to pavilion 😦
My family decided to visit the Ghati Subramanya temple on Ganesh Chaturthi day considering that there would be less crowd in a Subramanya temple. A short drive into the Bangalore outskirts, Ghati welcomed us with a mesmerizing view of the hills, ponds scattered in the meadow and a lot of greenery around… The boundary of the meadow was lined by a railway track- It looked beautiful.!!
And just as we slowed down to appreciate the view, a freight loco came zipping along the line- and now it looked picture perfect…!! And just as I thought that this scene was familiar- my mind wandered to recollect where I had seen it. Soon I knew the answer: it was the “Makalidurga Ghats” that I had seen in an IRCTC hoarding of the South Western railways at Cantonment station. Back then, I remember that I had gone back home and googled about Makalidurga but had soon forgotten. So, this felt great today!!
We then proceeded to the temple and finished the darshan early (considering less crowd). And we then straight away followed the milestones to Makalidurga. I was back from a railway trek to Dudhsagar just two days ago and here, I was with a view that inspired for another railway trek. We stopped our car close to the railway station and walked 3-4kms along the railway track to reach the bridge that I had seen in the hoarding. But sadly, there was no train that would pass at that time…
We then explored the place around by foot. One of the hills offered an amazing view of the surrounding villages. There are ruins of an old fort atop the hill which makes it a great place for some exploration. I later learnt that the place is crowded with trekkers on weekends who usually come here for adventure sports and camping. It is a nice place if you are looking for a quick and a random drive just around the city.
We had guest dropping by at home and hence, headed back home early.
If you have read my previous 2 posts- The railway adventure and Do’s & don’ts for a monsoon trek, then you’re sure to have had an insight to the adventure part of my trip to Dudhsagar waterfalls. This post is more on the trip and the sightseeing part of the story. I elaborate on the beautiful vistas that we came across as passed tunnel after tunnel, walking along a railway track, in the middle of a National park and finally seeing the beautiful Dudhsagar waterfalls.
17 of us boarded ‘MAS-Vasco express’ from ‘YPR’ on a Friday night and alighted at ‘Castle rock station’ on the following morning at 9.15.a.m. ‘Castle Rock’ is cute little station that divides the village into two- on one side is the railway colony, school, hospital, offices etc. and on the other side is the town(if at all it is called so) with basic amenities like a grocery store and a few petty shops. Since we were travelling in monsoon, the station was all green and a treat to all the eyes that had just landed from a concrete city.
With no facilities available anywhere around the station and even the basic offices closed on a weekend, we all freshened up in the washroom of the railway station itself. This is a point from where our railway trek starts. It is less of a trek and more of a walk along the railway track, all the way to our destination: The Dudhsagar waterfalls. But like they say, its is the journey more than the destination that matters, the entire stretch of this trail is what makes the trip all the more special.
We couldn’t and just couldn’t ignore the gazillion scenic spots that we come across for which we had to stop after every minute or 5 minutes of the walk for a photo. The Castle rock railway station itself was so good looking. This green moss laden station is located in the midst of the Braganza Ghats, in the heart of a National park. Take for example, this ART (Accident Relief Train) parked by the side of the tracks. It is adding so much colour to a photospot.
We continued to walk in the direction of Dudhsagar, but were unable to ignore the numerous waterfalls we encountered on our way. We stopped every time for photos. We had to walk through a total of 11 railway tunnels before reaching the main waterfalls. The first one can be approached by crossing a girder bridge laid over a scenic view of the valley.
The 2nd tunnel is the longest-at 624m. and the most beautiful one. It resembles an entrance of a Castle.
After crossing tunnel no.3, we walked slightly off the track, into the woods to see another large waterfall. Then came another waterfall, plunging down inside a vault kind of a structure built into the cliff.
The 4th tunnel is special. After crossing this tunnel, we would be setting foot in another state altogether. This tunnel marks the border between Karnataka and Goa.
After a long walk from there, we crossed tunnel no.5. While still navigating our way with torchlights on the tracks, inside the tunnel, we heard the hooting of a train approaching us from behind. There wasn’t much time for us to get out and hence, we all decided to get down from the track and stick as close as possible to the wall of the tunnel to stay safe. When the goods train arrived, we literally held onto our dear lives. It was dark inside the tunnel and no place to move.
The 6th and the 7th tunnels came together. The 7th one was nothing more than a small arch. Then we walked through tunnel no. 8, 9 and 10.
The 10th one was long and dark. And with exiting it, we saw Light at the end of darkness.. We had arrived at the ‘Dudhsagar station’. This is a de-func station and hence, neither the trains stops nor any tickets are issued for passengers who board from here. However, some lucky visitors manage to get a stop here but, they take a risk with a ticket-less travel. But, this is where we all realized that we were all tired by walking along the tracks. But, the fact that our destination was nearby gave us energy.
Then, we proceeded towards the 11th tunnel…. When we were exiting it, we were all hooting and clapping in joy. That’s because we all got our first glance of our destination. The mighty Dudhsagar: “Ocean of Milk”. The feeling was inexplainable. It was a great sense of contentment after a long tiring walk that was alllllll worth it..!! There was now a sudden spike in our energy levels and we all hurried towards the waterfalls. We dumped all our luggage right there, in front of the waterfall and crashed down in awe. As we were basking in the glory of the waterfalls, it had started to get dark. We looked out for space to unpack our luggage and our tents.
The only shelter (a small roofed structure) available to pitch a tent was already occupied by a large group who had arrived before us. We had no choice but to camp in the open, just by the side of the railway tracks. We put up a small campfire sort of a thing so that we had enough light to see each other’s face. But mind you, we were in the middle of a monsoon season in the western Ghats. The rain gods who had been kind on us during the entire hike were now playing spoilt sport. The campfire was put off too soon and we managed the rest of the night with our torches.
It poured cats and dogs the whole night.. The roaring noise of the waterfalls in the backdrop and the loud hooting sound of the train that passed atleast once in every half an hour, the tent pitched right next to the track with the waterfalls on the other side, it was indeed a night to remember..!!
Next morning, we all rose with the sun and spent some peaceful time in watching the water gushing down violently. Apart from freshening up last at Castle rock, it was already 2 days & 2 nights since we had last seen a decent restroom or a bathroom. We looked around to find a little place where we could finish off our stuff in peace. A small waterfall nestled deep inside the woods is what we found instead. All the girls in our group jumped into the water while the guys kept a watch for any trespassers 😉
Mythology says that the “DevaKannikas or the Apsaras are often seen bathing in the midst of the woods, before sunrise.. and if one is lucky, he can see them walk by in wet clothes” to think of it from a strangers’ perspective, I guess the scene that morning must have been something similar to that. We couldn’t find a place near the waterfall where we could change into dry clothes. Hence, we all wore our jackets over wet clothes and walked 1.5kms towards our tents. On the way, we came across tens of trekkers who desperately stared at us.. I understand the natural human instinct to drool at divine looking girls who are walking wet after getting all soaked in pristine water. Nobody could help the sight.!!
We were told that the passenger train would cross the waterfalls by 9.15.a.m. This meant that we had to be at the view point by that time to get that perfect internet photo..!! It took us to cross the 2 more tunnels to reach the viewpoint. After reaching there and waiting for a few minutes, we finally got the wallpaper worthy photo that we wanted.
After a long photo session of the large group that we were and before the crowd who had just arrived in that passenger train would spoil the peace, we headed back to our tents.. We had a round of heavy brunch (carried from home) and slowly packed up. The initial plan was to walk the track all the way to Kulem, but owing to the cruel sun and the tiring walking experience on the tracks on the previous day, we decided to wait to find a train ride, either to Kulem or Castle rock. We missed the goods’ train to Kulem by a few minutes and so, we had to wait at the Dudhsagar station for the passenger train going towards Castle Rock.And with that.. Curtains down to our trip to DDS falls..!!!
Update as on Year 2019: • Trekking on the tracks in prohibited as it passes through a National park. There is a risk of a human-animal conflict. • If you wish to visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls, you can sign up with one of the organisers based out of Londa in Karnataka or Kulem in Goa. They can take you through an authorized trail or a 4WD ride to a nearest point can be arranged.