Tag Archives: Trekking in Karnataka

Camping in the Indian forests of the African tribes- Dandeli Jungle Camp

Being abundantly blessed with natural beauty, Anshi National park and Dandeli Tiger reserve is one of the first hotspots of the elusive black panthers in India. Apart from its paper mills, Dandeli is also known as the ‘Rishikesh of the South’ for its river rafting in the waters of River Kali. As if these weren’t reasons enough for me to backpack, I got invited to stay at the ‘Dandeli Jungle Camp’. What better way to reconnect the lost bond with nature than camping in the woods? I jumped to grab-in when opportunity struck! This was a Solo-trip that was long due and I had alighted for sunrise at the Dandeli bus stand on a Saturday morning.

After a 30mins drive through the forests to Pradhani, a further off-roading of 2kms from the main road lead me to this simple homestay and camp run in the lap of nature amid the woods. The eerie silence of the elusive woods and the stridulations of the crickets instantly calmed my soul by responding to the deep calls of nature. A basic cottage with all the essential and neat amenities was awaiting me in the midst of the jungle overlooking a farm of areca and mangoes. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be, to feed the wanderlust and nomad in me for the weekend. I was excited to be greeted by Malabar giant squirrels and sambar deer at my doorstep to say the least. One can also avail their tenting facilities with bon-fire if it’s a bunch of friends traveling together. Mr.Dharmesh, the ever smiling owner of the property says that the camp was started by a French lady 3 decades ago from whom he has taken over so that he could settle down in the woods after he quit his well paying job at one of the top-star hotels in Bangalore. He had planned a detailed itinerary for me and I can’t thank him enough for his warm hospitality. After dumping my luggage and a nice lunch, I set out for some exploration.

View from the Supa dam backwaters
View from the Supa dam backwaters

A stroll along the dwindling lonely road on the backwaters of Supa dam offered a panoramic view of the distant hills, only if there was good rainfall- it would have been a gorgeous sight. After a quick stop-over at the tribal shop to relish a glass of kokum juice and buy some jackfruit chips and papads to take back home, I was taken to Syntheri rocks. This is a very beautiful little place located deep in the woods and formed by rich mineral ores that have formed beautiful rock patterns by standing the test of time. A drive to the Kavla caves, A coracle ride in the ferocious rapids of the Kali river, a dip in the natural Jacuzzi, crocodile walk are some of the other activities included in the package that kept me busy through the day. An evening walk in the woods around the property with a personal guide was a memorable time spent identifying the calls of various birds and inhabitants of the forest. The large number of hornbills that fly into their nests in this forest at sunset or catching the sunrise from my window are only some of the fancy things that my stay offered to me.

Syntheri rocks
Syntheri rocks, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

The next day, Mr.Dharmesh personally dropped me off for the early morning bird watching walk that was arranged at the Dandeli timber depot. This first time experience of birding is something that I will cherish for a long time and is written about as a separate post. A bird watching tour around the depot where over 150 bird species could be spotted on any given day- was the highlight of my trip to Dandeli!

So, the next big agenda was meeting the Siddhis- The tribal community endemic to the Kali reserve region who are believed to be of the African origin. Be it chilling with them over some rustic music or trying their favourite delicacy- the red ant/ termite chutney, the experience is sure to leave one amused and feel time travelled.

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A coracle ride in the Kali River, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

With so many activities included in the package that kept me on toes through the 2 days I stayed at this property, it is a high recommendation from me. If you wish to extend your stay by another day, you have no dearth of things to do- from river rafting, to a canopy walk and visit to Dudhsagar falls, all can be arranged by the camp guys themselves. After freshening up at the camp, I started my journey back to Bangalore. I took a KSRTC bus from Dandeli to Hubli from where I had booked my train. Whoa! Such a wonderful trip!

Dandeli Jungle Camp’ is an offbeat stay which does not have its own webpage or have direction boards to keep commercialization at check. From the time I alighted at the bus stand till the time I boarded for return, my entire trip was managed by www.dandeli.com through whom my package was booked. The connectivity of public transport within the reserve area is scarce and being a solo traveler, all my travel hassles were taken care by these wonderful organizers.

Luxury in Wilderness of Dandeli- Old magazine house

With an invitation from a friend to explore Dandeli, I packed my bag and hit the road in an overnight bus to reach Dandeli. I was excited with the much anticipated trip that materialized after really long. I was received at the Dandeli bus stand the next morning and transferred to the resort located 20kms away at Ganeshgudi where I had the booking. The name of the property where I was supposed to stay at was equally enticing as the woods itself. The first thought that struck me when I heard ‘The Old Magazine house’ was an old rugged cottage painted on canvas straight out of a magazine cover. But, that’s not what the fancy name beholds. Originally built by the British, it once served as a warehouse of gelatin and gunpowder (hence the name) during the construction of the Supa dam built across River Kali, the lifeline of the National Park. I was hosted at this renovated property, now run as a resort by the Karnataka Forest Department.

The road leading to the Old magazine house
The road leading to the Old magazine house

Their 3 categories of accommodation to suit all budget includes- the individual luxurious wooden cottages, the standard large rooms housed in the actual magazine house and the dormitories for large groups who want to stay together. I chose the second one and had a very comfortable stay. The Old magazine house is a simple place nestled in the midst of high rise thick canopy of trees with abundance of peace and calm in nature’s lap. Water bowls have been placed with entwined twigs collected from the forest where the winged beauties come down to beat the heat. The set-up offers abundant opportunities to click the perfect postcard/wallpaper shots of these winged beauties. While most of the resort operators in the region keep food to attract more birds, “that makes the birds lazy and inactivity makes them vulnerable to prey. Hence, we only keep water bowls to help them quench their thirst and provide a more natural habitat for the birds” says one of the staff. Given their dedication to avian conservation and hospitability, no doubt the place is quite a hit among the bird photographers’ fraternity. I was surprised to meet so many enthusiasts who had made this place their home for over a week straight. All they did was eat the meals served at their place and wait patiently to get their perfect shot or spot that one bird they had come down for, all the way!

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Some of the visitors at the property from over 50 species, photos by: Gowtham Shastry

The early morning nature walk too offered some good birding opportunities with their very knowledgeable in-house naturalist. No doubt, the resort is a birder’s haven, but the place has lot more to offer like the flying lizards, the great Indian hornbill, sloth bears, the giant Malabar squirrel etc. which are easily spotted here than any other resort in Dandeli. Don’t be surprised if you drive past a leopard or a black panther post sunset, hence venturing out of the property after 6.00.p.m. is not advised and the guests are required to stay indoors post dinner at 10.00.p.m.

The Dining area at breakfast and Supper
The Dining area at breakfast and Supper

If you are more of an outdoor person always in action, their package does not disappoint you either- It includes a hike to the sunset point, coracle ride and bon-fire if the weather is friendly. While you are in a place known for its white water rafting, you can indulge in the water sports offered by the resort run Kali adventure camp. With a river seeming deadly with uncountable whirlpools, the coracle ride was sure an experience in itself. With the Kali river flowing as ferocious as her name sounds, I chose them over any other private property because all the permits for treks and adventure activities are legally obtained and conducted under the supervision of authorized and trained personnel from the forest department and hence, a safe bet. The neat spread of dishes for all 3 meals completed my stay into one memorable trip!

The Ganeshgudi bridge as seen from the coracle in the Kali River
The Ganeshgudi bridge as seen from the coracle in the Kali River

Summary:
Must dos:
Watch the hornbills mud-bathing on the river bank near Ganeshgudi bridge
• Spot flying lizards that can be seen in abundance just outside your room window.
• Get lucky to come face-off with the black panthers.

Since the resort is secluded inside the Dandeli wildlife reserve, the accessibility to places is difficult through public transport. My entire trip was very well taken care by www.dandeli.com. From my bus-stand/railway station transfers, accommodation to local sightseeing, everything was perfectly handled with their efficient personnel Mr.Sanjay, Mr.Ramnath and Mr.Rajesh. Even if you are a solo-traveler or a bunch of friends or family, I would definitely recommend their services not just in Dandeli but other places as well.

Meeting the farmers of the forests at Dandeli

Being one of the first hotspots of the elusive black panthers and a place known as the ‘Rishikesh of the South’ for its river rafting in the waters of River Kali weren’t reasons enough for me to grab-in when opportunity struck! A Solo-trip that was long due, finally happened one weekend. I packed my backpack and hit the road in an overnight bus to reach Dandeli.

Since I was travelling solo, I had booked my trip through the packages offered by the resorts in the buffer zone of Anshi National park and Dandeli Tiger reserve. For a change and a reason, I had opted to stay at 2 different properties during my trip. The first day was at a resort to pamper myself with luxury in the wilderness and the second night was at a homestay to feed the wanderlust and nomad in me with the various activities included in their package. Firstly, I stayed at the ‘Old Magazine House’, a resort run by the Karnataka Forest Department’s Jungle lodges and Resorts wing. It’s a renovated old house where the gelatin stocks were stored (hence the name- Magazine) during the construction of the Supa dam. It is a simple place nestled in the midst of high rise thick canopy of trees. The nature lover in me enjoyed the eerie silence of these elusive woods and calmed my soul by responding to the deep calls of nature.

The highlight of the stay was that of having large number of flying lizards around and an ideal set-up for bird photography in their natural habitat. A hike to the sunset point and coracle ride in the ferocious river Kali was included in the package. With a river seeming deadly with uncountable whirlpools, the coracle ride was sure an experience in itself. I chose to do these activities with them over any other private property because all the permits for treks and adventure activities are legally obtained and conducted under the supervision of authorized personnel from the forest department and hence, a safe bet. I took an evening walk before sunset to the Ganeshgudi Bridge from where flocks of hornbills can be seen flying or mud-bathing in the winters.

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The coracle ride

The next day, after a short bird spotting walk in the woods and finishing it with a neat breakfast, I headed towards my next destination- Dandeli jungle camp located at Pradhani. An offbeat drive of about 2kms from the main road leads to this simple homestay and camp run in the lap of nature amid the woods, that’s filled with rare flora and fauna. Be sure to be greeted by Malabar giant squirrels and sambar deer at your doorstep to say the least. Since it’s a camp, basic but neat amenities can be availed with either rooms or tenting facilities. We were taken to Syntheri rocks, a very beautiful little place located deep in the woods and formed by rich mineral ores that have formed beautiful rock patterns by standing the test of time. An evening walk in the woods just around the property or catching the sunrise from my window were just a few beautiful moments among others.

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Syntheri rocks

Photo courtesy: Gowtham Shastry

The experience I had the next morning is something that I will cherish for long time. As a part of the package, I was asked to be ready by 6.00.a.m. and was taken to the Dandeli timber depot. I was introduced to Ms.Rajani, a high school teacher by profession and an avid nature keeper by passion. She was assigned to take me on a bird watching tour around the depot where over 150 bird species could be spotted on any given day- A true haven for the bird watchers! My enthusiastic guide visits this place every morning and evening which she describes as her day being incomplete without talking to the woods and strengthening her nature connect.

Among several species that she went on showing me around and shedding light on facts about them, the one that opened my eyes to an all new perspective of seeing avian life were the Hornbills. The hornbill is one species that is referred to Lord Ram and Sita for the couple bonding that they share. These birds have a very unique way of finding their mates and if ever happened that one bird dies anytime, the other remains single all life without finding another mate which is unique to hornbills. The reproduction cycle of these birds is once in 5 years and hence, the male bird is extremely protective about the female and the chick. The male bestows his beloved with berries of her choice from faraway places during this period. While it carries around 40-50 berries in its beak to feed its family, a few fruits may fall down during its flight, thus contributing to afforestation- The hornbills are the farmers of the forests in true sense and live a life of awe and inspiration to mankind. Another interesting fact is among the 54 species of hornbill across the world, 9 are found in India. Out of these, the world’s largest species- The great Indian hornbill and world’s smallest- the Malabar Grey hornbill with Malabar pied and Indian Grey, 4 species can be found in Dandeli alone. And I was fortunate to see all 4 of these during my 3 days stay here, an experience that cannot be explained but only be witnessed. Another unique sighting was of the jungle babbler or the ‘seven sister birds’. With enormous untold stories, the tour ended rather quickly as we both lost track of time. I gave her a tight hug for the wonderful ways of teaching her students in school about conservation of natural resources and I bid farewell.

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Dandeli timber depot

After freshening up back at the camp after breakfast, I started my journey back to Bangalore. I took a KSRTC bus from Dandeli to Hubli from where I had booked my train. Whoa! Such a wonderful trip!

Summary:

Must dos:
• Watch the hornbills mud-bathing on the river bank near Ganeshgudi
• Spot flying lizards and the black panthers.

Dandeli Jungle Camp is an offbeat stay which does not have its own webpage or have direction boards to keep commercialization at check. You can get in touch with them if you wish to, through www.dandeli.com
The connectivity of local transport is not reliable. Although, it would be a great idea to have an own vehicle to go around the place, the property that you stay at can arrange it for you and hence, traveling alone shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

Tracing the abode of celestial congregation- Kollur

While I was flipping through the old photos of my college days, I was taken back in time to this so-called ‘Industrial trip’. This class trip consisted of trekking, pilgrimage, beaching and lastly, not to forget our industrial visit (If time permitted!).  Basically, it was less of industries and more of tripping. So here goes the first part of the so called ‘Not-so-Industrial-Trip’.

Although I had walked for miles to reach places during my school days, this was my first ‘Official’ trek! A trek in the ‘Kodachadri hills’ in Malnad region of the western ghats.. After a real long bus journey, we alighted at the Nittoor forest checkpost late in the evening. We got the permission from the forest officials for the night’s camping ahead at the old forest guesthouse. We parked our bus there and got into the 4WD jeeps that were waiting for us since early evening. There is NO road from Nittor to the guest house, it’s only a muddy pathway. And in monsoon, it makes way for a deep trench kinda massive slush pool. This stretch can be covered by various modes based on each person’s interest. You can walk up or drive or ride.. The more adventurous people choose the latter; cycling comes with the greatest challenge with every inch posing the risk of getting stuck in the slush or having a flat.. We chose the safest- The Jeep ride. But, driving through such terrain calls for great skill of steering control, lest have at least 7-8 people thrown off-road. That said, it was a crazy drive up the hill until we reached the guesthouse in the darkness of 10~11.00.p.m.

We could barely stand because of the strong winds, so one can imagine our next task of pitching tents.. We called off the idea of camping under the moonlight as we struggled to hold the tents firmly in our hands due to the wind. That’s when we had to camp indoors 😛 We had only a roof above us and no mats or sleeping bags.. So that’s why we pitched the tents inside the guesthouse hall for the rest of the night.

We woke up early next morning and started our trek up the Kodachadri hill.. Our trek consisted two target activities- one was to reach the Stone mantap for sunrise and the second was to take a shower in the Hidlumane waterfall.  We did not hire a guide as the organisers claimed their familiarity with the route. The sight all the way till the mantap was beautiful and the sunrise and the Arabian Sea at the distant horizon just added up to the sight! The climb was great with an eyeful of the valley that was in all bloom with colourful flowers of the wild. After, a brief walk further up, we reached the Mantapa. This place is claimed to be the spot where Shankaracharya is said to have spent few days at. After spending some time in the plains and the peak of the hill, we got set for the decent.

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The Kodachadri hills- Overlooking the Arabian sea

The decent was towards the waterfall. With the decent, we slipped, jumped down, clung onto wild creepers in the event of finding our way to the waterfall amidst the thicket of the forest. Somewhere, we had already started to realize that we were lost in the forest. The thumb rule of finding the way out of a forest is to follow a flowing water body. The organisers followed the sound of flowing water and we followed them. We stopped by a small cave like structure en route, where someone had installed an idol of Lord Ganesha and offered some flowers. We prayed for our safe exit out of the forest and continued with our pursuit of the waterfall. So we finally reached at the source of the flowing water Sure it was a waterfall.. But ain’t the mighty one we thought of. It was a stream that was directed to a storage tank by the localites and the tank was overflowing forming a waterfall!! Neither the organisers nor the others knew how to react and felt happy that we had found some pure water where we could fill our water bottles and ease ourselves out of the tiring trek that had been so far! And the decent continued along the stream cuz we were sure the tank was there for a purpose and the pipe attached would lead us back to base point. There is a small temple dedicated to Mookambika Devi here, which is believed to be the original temple that is tagged to the legend of Shankaracharya’s installation of the idol. We reached the priest’s house near the temple at the base where we had a simple-tasty breakfast. After packing our stuffs from the camp, it was time to head to our next destination Kollur.

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A view of the Arabian sea from the Kodachadri peak

People who prefer to trek further, can cover the Agnitheertham waterfalls en route to Kollur Mookambika temple. But, having had enough in the quest for a waterfall, we decided to take the bus route. The bumpy drive continued until we reached Kollur, the small temple town known for the Mookambika temple, one of the Shakti peethas. This temple is said to have been developed by the Keladi rulers later in time so that pilgrims don’t have to trek up the overlooking Kodachadri hills to worship the goddess. Another legend has it that Lord Shiva appeared before Sage Kola and agreed to be present there in the form of Linga with his consort Devi. Along with Shiva and Parvathi, all other gods and goddesses are believed to be residing in a non-form in the Linga. Hence, Kollur is referred as ‘an abode of the entire celestial congregation’. We took a little time to offer our prayers and admire this beautiful little temple built in the typical Kerala style of architecture. Post that, we proceeded to the forest guest house where we had booked our stay.

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The forest guesthouse

The guest house is located in a serene location in the middle of the ‘Mookambika wildlife sanctuary’ and on the banks of river Sowparnika. With banks I mean, just a couple of steps lie in between the guesthouse and the river. This river is frequented by spotted deers & leopards to drink water. And we were told that just the previous morning, a tiger was spotted on the same steps that we were standing on at that time! The river flowed gracefully with the crystal clear water and the school of fishes enjoying their swim in between the tree roots that grew beneath. It was a SPECIAL place to go back again indeed! We cherished every moment of our stay there while being in harmony with nature in its purest form.

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The Idol of Mookambika being taken out as a part of the daily ritual

Soon, the dawn broke the next morning awakening us to another day reminding us of our journey to the next destination- Bhadravathi. It was the last day of our tour and that meant we had to do the most important part of this trip Our Industrial visit! That’s another story altogether..

Mission accomplished.. Kumara Parvatha..!!

This trek was planned to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Sam’s farewell trek.. on the same day, exactly a year ago.. Let me get you going directly from where it 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 put our trekking foot forward. 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. Leave Batru 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 per plan, we entered the trekking trail.. It starts of with thick forest around and steep climbs uphill.. NO water sources anywhere and a possibility of an occasional encounter with elephants. We took frequent stops to hydrate ouselves.. We stopped over at Bhima’s rock and had some fruits that we had carried. This stretch of 6km oozes the fluid out of you..

 A view from Bhima's rock
A view from Bhima’s rock

Once you cover this 6kms, you get a good view of the Kukke town.. We saw the grasslands after walking 1km from there.. It was well past noon and the sun shined at his hottest.. We were running out of water already.. We started to wonder where was Bhatru mane.. We were literally pulling ourselves or rather- Pushing ourselves to the extreme to walk further to scale the small distance from there which seemed never ending.. Finally… we were overjoyed at the first glimpse of Bhatru mane…

The first glance of Bhatru mane
The first glance 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 a tasty lunch served by Bhatru and rested under the shades of the arecanut trees..

We made a small change in the plan and decided to continue the trek until dark fearing the pace at which we were doing it.. We halted at a view point few metres further for some photographs before reaching the forest checkpost where we had to register our names.. We then continued..

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We stopped again at yet another view point.. The climb further was interesting with good views of the valley around.. The sun was coming down and so we decided to pitch our tent near the stream that ran by..

The sunset from our tent
The sunset from our tent

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 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 inside their sleeping bags and threw the poor girls inside the tent.. The entire night (Wait… Half of the night) went by while we would all slide down inside the tent with our bags.. again 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 were hoping 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 inmates to vacate the tent. We carried our luggage and jumped out 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 one of the pegs.. And then… The tent flew.. away from our reach.. off the cliff.. down the valley.. Everyone woke up and sat wondering why this had to happen.. We all sat up and the wind blew ruthlessly.. It was still dark at 4.00.a.m. and with the winds, it seemed impossible to ascend.. We stayed back till sunrise..:( (One of the main agendas not being met) Arun, dared to go down the cliff, have 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.. We were all celebrating his safe return than getting excited on finding the tent.. around 7.00.a.m, we started our ascend..

It was a smooth climb for most of the part.. We stopped by for a spectacular view- The post sunrise period.

Post sunrise
Post sunrise

We continued our walk.. The beautiful view of the ranges continued to enchant us all the way up..it was around 11.00.a.m; before we realised, we had conquered our destination- Kumara Parvatha..!!

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But, we decided to continue our journey.. We climbed down the steep rock and waded through super cool thick jungles.. And then, we had to climb up a steep rock with bare hands and legs which reminded me of our ancestors- monkeys.!! A small walk further took us to the actual end of the earth. We had conquered the Pushpagiri hill too..

Shiva temple atop Pushpagiri hill
Shiva temple atop Pushpagiri hill

Thanking the diety with a small bow in the temple on the peak, we set our return journey.. The climb down the rock was a rather tricky one with Bhu ending it with a torn trousers on his butt 😉 The climb down further was no easy task. We stopped by so many times to aid the numerous cramps the fellow trekkers were going through.. It was 4.00.p.m by the time we reached Bhatru mane.. We realised we had covered only half the distance and had very less time left with sunlight.. We had a quick lunch and grabbed some rest in fast forward mode and started by 5.00.p.m..

We knew we had very less time in hand and a LONG way to go..  And one of the toughest stretch ahead to do after the sun is down.. We walked as fast as we could.. We walked and walked… 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.. But Arun motivated me to walk.. Walk.. Walk…I ran down the slope at times.. My knees seemed like they would part away from my thighs.. We walked… We saw the sun coming down.. We walked as fast as we could.. Cuz we had to make the most of the sunlight.. We saw him go down the horizon.. We paced up.. Suddenly we all halted.. Pin drop silence.. We realised that some wild animal(mostly elephant) was somewhere around.. It took us few minutes to feel the sound move away from us.. Then, we again continued to walk fast.. We saw the bright day fade into darkness and every shade in this process. The toughest & the last stretch was almost coming to an end.. We reached the KP gate… And the last ray of light too waned into darkness..

We still had time for a quick bath at the same lodge and a quick visit to the Kukke temple….

Thus comes to an end- a mission….. accomplished..!!

Day tripping.. At Tumkur

It has been exactly a year ago, on my birthday that I decided to take off from work and take a short trip… Mom and I left home at around 8 o clock towards Tumkur.. The original plan was to spend the entire day covering as many places as possible…

View from Devarayana durga hills
View from Devarayana durga hills

First we headed towards Devarayanadurga hills where the twin temples are located.. A winding road along a picturesque landscape lead us to Yoganarasimha swamy temple atop. The view from the top was beautiful with early morning dew settling on the warm rocks..

Atop the hill- Yoganarasimha temple
Atop the hill- Yoganarasimha temple

We got the 1st aarathi (Pooja) of the day and rushed to Bhoganarasimha swamy temple situated at the base of the hill.. The doors of the later opens only after pooja at the hill top..

Boga-Narasimha temple
Bhoga-Narasimha temple

From there, we drove towards Naamada chilume. This is a small spring nestled amid the greenery protected by the forest department.

Enroute to Naamada Chilume
Enroute to Naamada Chilume

It is believed that Lord Rama rested at this place enroute to Lanka.. When he woke up in the morning, he did not find water to make his vermillion (Naama- in Kannada). Hence, shot an arrow to a boulder from where a small spring emerged. This is a perennial water source even till date..

Naamada chilume
Naamada chilume

Our next destination was Siddara Betta where in a lot of caves are there for the trekkers and considered to be a holy place for those interested in mythology.  However, we lost our way and reached the main road after a very long drive.

The forest guest house at Naamada Chilume
The forest guest house at Naamada Chilume

Next, we asked for directions towards Goravanahalli. This village is famous for the Lakshmi temple. And better known for- Late Kamalamma, the holy lady. We finished our pooja amidst the crowd, took turns to make a wish at the wishing pillar and planned our next destination- Sri.Siddaganga Mutt.

Sri Siddaganga Mutt
A Bull carved out of a rock at Sri Siddaganga Mutt

We were blessed with the holy water of Siddaganga. We took a stroll around the huge campus of the mutt and were awestruck with the service rendered to the society. And then were in for a BIG surprise.. An occult of the least expected.. We felt blessed when we got the darshan of his holiness Sri.Shivakumara Swamiji… It is when least expected, miracles happen. Swamiji who is fondly called ‘the walking god’, was gracefully sitting on the porch of the Mutt and blessing the disciples. It’s hard to get to see him even when people plan for days and there I was, right at his , taking blessings from this Holy man. I was thrilled, ecstatic and had goosebumps. Only countable people on this planet have this magical aura around them (according to me), and he is one!

With that, it was a wrap to our day tripping and we headed home, feeling all blessed (literally! With a long day of temple visits) and having a small peek into history and mythology here and there along our way..

Scaling Asia’s second highest monolithic hill – Madhugiri

That’s what we call bidding farewell in style.. You need to send off a dear one on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish.. So here’s the one for you Sam : A trek – for the group of people that we are- who are always high on tripping.. 🙂

From the foothills of Madhugiri - A view from our guest house
From the foothills of Madhugiri – A view from our guest house

After a dinner party at the ‘Only Place’ on a Friday night, we started to drive towards NH-4 in 2 cars and 2 bikes at 1.00.a.m.. With a smooth highway road and bumpy country sides- We reached the guest house at the foothill of Madhugiri at around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the top before sunrise to have a good view of the sun emerging out of the clouds.. But, the caretaker at the guesthouse advised us to leave after sunrise as bear attacks were reported recently on the hills.. There was hardly anytime left for sunrise and we all sat up in anticipation.

The Madhugiri fort entrance
The Madhugiri fort entrance

After a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance, we started the climb by 7.00.a.m.. The start of the trek made me feel it was an easy climb and was contrary to what I had heard of… A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about  1/5 th of the hill… Further, the climb was was tricky- the hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by well etched steps on the rock itself.. We covered 2/5th of our climb.

A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs
A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs

And then the steps vanished. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little more steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

Madhugiri Betta- the supporting rods
Madhugiri Betta- the supporting rods

Somewhere in between, some ruined wall emerged out.. this added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and not sufficient grip to place our hand.. And then, we had to jump over a small(quite a big one indeed) crack in the monolith, on the other side was the steep valley.. Once, we had jumped- every structure that was man made disappeared.. It was just one super steep hill stretching into the sky.. we had to literally use all four limbs to scale this 4/5th of the hill.

Fort Madhugiri
Fort Madhugiri

And finally- there emerged the first glimpse of the gritty Madhugiri fort- yet, seemingly elegant. This was built by Raja Heere Gowda who owed allegiance to the Vijayanagara kings, which was later reinforced by Hyder Ali. It is believed that this fort was a comfortable hideout for many freedom fighters during the Independence struggle. Beehives on the ramparts of the fort were the only means of sustenance for them and that is said to have given the place its name – Madhu(honey)- Giri(hill)

We walked across the structure in its dilapidated form where the view on the other side was a treat to our eyes and feast for our tired souls. Our joy knew no bounds when we found a puddle of rainwater, which tasted no less than nectar from a bee hive..

A puddle of water atop the hills
A puddle of water atop the hills

We spent some time atop and started our descent so that we could reach the base before the scorching sun made his way.. It was a rather difficult way back down with me losing my grip very now and then having nothing to hold onto.. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at many places.. And finally…. Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached down….  An awesome trek and the last one for this season with Sam…. Wish you all the success in your career and we all look forward for many more trips with you…

Cheers..!!

P.S.: photo credits to Sam (I’d left my camera in the safe confines of my home)