Tag Archives: Trekking in Karnataka

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. This trip was part of an invitation to review a resort and a homestay at Dandeli, arranged by www.dandeli.com However, the reviews of the places are in separate posts and this one is something else, worth your reading time. Or so, I believe.

Apart from the cool and wonderful green cover that Dandeli has, I had a surprise awaiting me on the second day of my trip. It added yet another perspective to my travels- “Bird-watching”. If you have been following my blogs for a while, then you must already be aware that I have always been interested in wildlife and its conservation. But I neither did I have an opportunity to meet someone closely involved in such form of travel nor did I have any close acquaintances who was good at bird or animal tracking. Here, at Dandeli I met a person who has dedicated time and money in tracking and documenting the birds of the region. The entire experience of birdwatching with this person is something that I will cherish for long time.

As a part of the trip package by the homestay, 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 government schoolteacher 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!

Dandeli timber depot

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 of stay at Dandeli, an experience that cannot be explained but only be felt.

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.

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. She ensures she talks about them to her pupils at school as well. That’s a novel way to inculcate the habit and awareness about nature conservation among children from a very young age itself. 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.

Bonus tip for birdwatching at Dandeli: Watch the hornbills mud-bathing on the riverbank near Ganeshgudi (sometime around winter)

Visit my detailed posts below, for itineraries if you are planning your trip to Dandeli.
Option 1: With sightseeing and stay at ‘Old Magazine House’, a Jungle Lodges venture
Option 2: With sightseeing and stay at ‘Dandeli jungle camp’, an offbeat homestay.

Tracing the abode of celestial congregation- Kollur

While I was flipping through 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 (only If time permitted, that was!). Basically, it was less of industries and more of place hopping. 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 really long bus journey, we alighted at the Nittoor forest checkpost late in the evening. We got the permits at the forest checkpost 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 and is 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. We chose the safest- The 4WD. But, driving through such terrain calls for great skill of steering control, lest have at least 7-8 people thrown off the 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.

After reaching the guesthouse, we could barely stand because of the strong winds. So, you can only imagine our next task of pitching tents.. We called off the idea of camping under the moonlight as we struggled to even hold the tents firmly in our hands. The winds were so strong. That’s when we had to camp indoors, at the guesthouse 😛 We had only a roof above us and no mats or sleeping bags. So we decided to pitch the tents inside the guesthouse hall for the rest of the night.

We woke up early next morning and started our hike up the Kodachadri hill. Our hike mainly consisted of two target activities- one was to reach the Shankaracharya mantapa at the peak, 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 mantapa was beautiful and the sunrise and the Arabian Sea at the distant horizon just added up to the view! The climb was great, giving us an eyeful of the valley that was in all bloom with colourful wild flowers. After a brief walk, we reached the Mantapa. After spending some time at the peak, we readied ourselves for the descent.

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The Kodachadri hills- Overlooking the Arabian sea

The descend was towards the waterfall. With the descending gradient, 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 the organisers. We stopped by at a small cave like structure enroute, 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 that we had thought it would be. 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 at our misadventurous pursuit. But we were all happy that we had found some pure water where we could fill our water bottles and ease ourselves out of the tiring hike that we had been through so far! We were now sure that the tank was there for a purpose and the pipe attached would lead us back to base point. And the descent continued, along the same stream to the base.

There is a small temple dedicated to Mookambika Devi at the base. It is believed to be the original temple that is tagged to the legend of Shankaracharya’s installation of the idol at Kollur. We reached the priest’s house near the temple where we had a simple-wholesome breakfast. After packing our stuffs from the guesthouse, it was time for us to head out to our next destination: Kollur.

morning-trek-34

A view of the Arabian sea from the Kodachadri peak

People who prefer to trek further, can cover the Agnitheertham waterfalls enroute to Kollur Mookambika temple. But, having had enough in the quest of 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 our stay booked for the night.

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The forest guesthouse

The forest 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.

mookambika-temple-8
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 for another story altogether…

Mission accomplished- Kumara Parvatha

This trek was planned to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Sam’s farewell trek (Click here for details).. on the same day, exactly a year ago..

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..

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

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…

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 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..

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 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.

Post sunrise

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 Pushpagiri hill

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.

Day tripping at Tumkur

It was exactly a year ago, that I decided to celebrate my birthday by taking a short trip and break from my work. Mom and I drove our car from home in Bangalore at around 8.00.a.m. and headed towards Tumkur with a plan to spend the entire day outside. We wanted to cover as many landmarks in Tumkur as possible.

List of places covered:
* Devarayanadurga hills: This area has two ancient temples, also a reserved forest area at Naamada chilume
* Koratagere: Goravanahalli Lakshmi temple and the reservoir nearby.
* Siddaganga Mutt: You can combine this with a short trek up the Siddaganga hilltop.

First, we headed towards Devarayanadurga hills where the twin temples are located. A winding road along a picturesque landscape lead us to Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple atop. The view from the top was beautiful with early morning dew settling on the warm rocks. We got the first aarathi (Pooja) of the day and rushed to Bhoganarasimha Swamy temple situated at the base of the hill. It is the custom that the doors of the later opens only after pooja at the hilltop.

Top: The view of Devarayanadurga hills; Bottom left: the temple pond at Yoganarasimha temple; Bottom right: Bhoganarasimha temple

From there, we drove towards Naamada chilume. This is a small spring nestled amid the greenery protected by the forest department. 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. This is part of a reserve forest area and there are a few spotted deer kept in an enclosure. Nothing very exciting about this place, we would have skipped it if we had known.

Top: The road to Naamada Chilume; Bottom left: A guesthouse at Naamada Chilume park, Bottom right: the water spring where Lord Rama’s arrow struck

From there, we lost our way and reached the main road after a very long drive. We asked the locals 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. There is a small lake and a reservoir at a walkable distance from there. We went up there and had our packed lunch with the cool breeze and a good view. Soon after, we planned our next destination- 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, we 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 visitors. Even after several days of planning to get an opportunity to see him, people consider it hard to be able to see him. And there I was, right at his feet, 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!

Sri Siddaganga Mutt
A nandi carved out of a rock at Sri Siddaganga Mutt with the image of Sri.Shivakumara Swamiji

With that, it was a wrap to our day tripping, and we headed back 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.

Trekking enthusiasts have a lot of options around Tumkur. I have covered these places on separate occasions.
* Siddara Betta: A trek and a holy place
* Madhugiri Betta: A trek with a good view and has ruins of an old fort atop
* Siddaganga Betta: A hike accessible near the mutt, offers good view from the top with some mythological spots along the way.
* Seebi: A place for those interested in history

A farewell trek to Madhugiri

That’s what we call bidding farewell in style…

One of our friends was moving out of India and we thought it was good idea to send him off on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish. With that, my group of friends hosted him for a dinner and then planned a trek to Madhugiri. Madhugiri is Asia’s second highest monolithic hill and has the ruins of an old fort at the top.

After a dinner party 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 by around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the peak for sunrise. But, on reaching the guesthouse, we were advised by the caretaker to start the hike after sunrise. There were recent cases of hikers attacked by bears reported on the hills. We waited in anticipation until sunrise.

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

It was 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent after a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance. The start of the trek made me feel like it was going to be an easy climb. A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about 1/5 th of the total climb of the hill. However, the climb started to get tricky further from there. The hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by steps carved out of the rock itself. With this stretch, we covered 2/5th of the total distance.

The Madhugiri fort entrance
The Madhugiri fort entrance

The steps disappeared in the next stretch. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

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 disappeared. 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.

Somewhere in between, an old and ruined wall emerged out. This added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and less grip to place our hand. And then, we had to jump across a crack in the monolith to get to the other side was the steep valley. Once we reached the other side, every structure that was man made suddenly 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 Madhugiri fort- gritty, 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 beehive.

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. The descent was a rather difficult, with me losing my grip every now and then and having nothing to hold onto. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at most places. And finally, Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached the base…

Overall, it was an awesome trek and the last one with our friend.

Cheers..!!

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

A Day Out At Mekedaatu

It was after a long-time that we cousins were catching up and so we planned to have an all cousins day out (no aunties, uncles, mammas and Pappas). We narrowed down to visit Mekedaatu for the weekend. At 10.00a.m on a Sunday morning, we were late to leave home to any tourist places around the city. And to add to our woes, it was Banashankari temple’s annual festival that day. This only means that we had to wade through hopeless traffic jam along with the Kanakapura road metro line construction also being underway…!!

List of places covered:
Food stop at Vasu hotel, Kanakapura- This is popular for its crusty Masala Dosa
Chunchi falls
Sangama
Mekedatu viewpoint

Details of the trip:

Six kms before Mekedaatu, a board pointing to the left indicated the way to Chunchi falls. We decided to take the deviation. The summertime visit to Chunchi falls was a disappointment for us after reaching there. There was hardly any water in the river and the rocks shined bright in the sun’s reflection. Just as we were about to turn our backs to return, a localite who was around us started a conversation with us. He eventually told us that he could take us to a better viewpoint. We blindly decided to follow him.

We crossed a small dam, a ridge and continued to walk. after a tiring walk in the scorching sun for about 1.5 kms, we slowly started to grow suspicious as to where this man was taking us as the place started to look more secluded. But, just then, he pointed at a watch tower and told us that we could get a good view from there. Before we could react, he intruded – “But, you need to walk down there. Behind that bush”. We were like, “OK… hmm huh…!!” and continued to walk further. He would certainly not be able to mug us as we outnumbered him, we thought. Once we reached that spot, it was a total sense of relief and a surprise. Had we returned earlier; we would have missed such a great spot. I’m sure this place would look more amazing in the monsoon season.

Chunchi falls
Chunchi falls

After spending a while at the falls, we thanked the old man with a goodwill amount and headed towards Sangama. ‘Sangama’ is a confluence of river Kaveri and Arkavathi and supposedly a very scenic spot post monsoon. But disappointment was waiting for us again after reaching there. Insufficient rains and the influx of tourist on a weekend, the place was crammed with very little place to even sit peacefully on the riverbank.

Legend has it, that a goat had jumped across a gorge to escape from a chasing tiger and hence our destination derived its name in Kannada. (Meke = goat; daatu = cross). Trekking the 3 kms distance from Sangama to Mekedatu was banned then and hence, we had to wait for the pick-up bus to come. After disappointments back to back, we were apprehensive of going forward till Mekedaatu wondering if it would be worth our visit. We lost our patience in waiting and walked across the shallow waters to reach back to our car. The security guard who had been observing us, walked up to us and suggested that we go to Mekedaatu since we had already come so far from the city. We were still half minded and tossed a coin. Heads said a ‘Go’.

The view around Sangama
The view around Sangama

After disappointments back to back, we were apprehensive of going to Mekedaatu wondering if that place would really be worth our visit. Trekking the 3 kms distance from Sangama to Mekedatu is banned now and hence, we had to wait for the pick up bus to come. We lost our patience, and crossed the shallow waters back to reach our car. The security guard who had been observing us, walked upto us and suggested that we go to Mekedaatu since we had already come so far from the city. We were still half minded, and tossed a coin. Heads said a ‘Go’.. So we again crossed the river, by then the bus had returned. We got the last seat for ourselves. The bus was a total-out-of-the-junk-yard-thing. The seats we were sitting on were infact tied to the roof rails with strings- more like a swing..!! And the fully crammed bus(packed to twice its capacity) started. It was an unpaved road, and a lot of dust was filled inside the bus which made us literally stand up from those swinging seats..

View enroute to Mekedaatu from Sangama
View enroute to Mekedaatu from Sangama

So, we again crossed the river and by then, the bus had returned. We got the last seat for ourselves. The bus was a total-out-of-the-junk-yard-thing. The seats we were sitting on were in fact tied to the roof rails with ropes. It felt less like a bus seat and more like a swing…!! And bus was fully crammed and packed to twice its capacity. The drive was through an unpaved road, and a lot of dust was filled inside the bus. We could barely breathe inside and all we stood up from those swinging seats. Once we reached Mekedaatu after a strenuous back seat ride, we felt that the security guard was right- It was a nice place. But again, insufficient rains did not give me the internet picture I wanted.

Since our onward ride was a bad experience, we chose to sit on the top of the bus for our return. Trust me when I say that the ride was the highlight of our entire day… The best bus ride we all ever had in our life. The bus went at high speed blowing the dust high up from the unpaved roads. There was just one thin steel rod around for us to hold onto, that too was tied to the windows below. At one point, another bus came in the opposite direction, and our bus went completely off road. It felt as if our bus was balancing on a few small stones on the slope of the valley so that the driver could make enough space for the other bus to pass through the narrow road. We could reach the treetops, see the best views of the river and the valley below. It was one AMAZING ride.

The bus, road and our shadow of sitting on the top of the bus- between Mekedatu and Sangama

We ended up feeling that the return trip was a very short one and wanted more… one adrenaline rush moment it was…!! It was the last ride for the day as the sun had already set and we returned to our homes high on energy and all charged up and motivated for another boring week ahead.

There are a lot of options around Kanakapura for a full day or half-day trip. I have covered these places on separate occasions. A few of them are:
* Kabbala Durga trek
* Bheemanakindi trek
* Pyramid valley meditation center

Re-visiting the Happy Valley – Makalidurga

I had already been there before.. I knew what to expect (Click here to read more) and so had declined repeated requests for my participation in the trip.

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..

Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station
Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station

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!!

The Makalidurga railway crossing
The Makalidurga railway crossing

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 😦

The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger
Our prized catch- The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger

Makalidurga Ghats- Inspiring the Indian Railways

This one was totally unplanned…!!

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.!!

Some views of the Makalidurga valley

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…

Top: The Subramanya temple at Ghati; Below: The naga pratishtapana installations outside the temple

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.

The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture :'(Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station
The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture 😥
Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station

I visited this place again with friends on a later date. That time, exclusively to do train spotting. Click here to read further.

The railway trek to Dudhsagar

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.

@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza GhatsART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side
@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza Ghats
ART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side

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.

Top: The vault by the trackside; Below: The waterfall within the vault

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.

Top: The first tunnel on the Goa side of the land; Below: The location marked where the actual Goa territory starts

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.

Run for life..!!
Clockwise from top left: A train passing over the girder bridge before tunnel no.1; Exit of tunnel no.2; Light between tunnel no.6&7; A train inside tunnel no.5

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.

The DDS station
The DDS station

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.

Top: The first glimpse of Dudhsagar waterfall out of tunnel 11; Below: Different views of the Dudhsagar waterfall

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.!!

The waterfall where we took our morning shower at Dudhsagar

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.

Finally.. We got what we wanted..!!
Finally.. We got what 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.

Monsoon retreat- Jog falls

‘Jog’ is a charmer on all Karnataka tourism promotions. Why not? It’s the second highest waterfall in India after all! A glimpse of the mighty Jog at least once in a lifetime is an unwritten rule for every person born or living in Karnataka. And why not see it take a plunge in all its might? This exclusive visit could happen in no better time than the monsoons. So, my mother, brother and I planned this weekend trip to see the Jog. such that we could reach Shimoga by 6.00.a.m.

Our itinerary:
Day 0: Leave Bangalore to Shimoga (Overnight bus)
Day 1: Shimoga to Sagara (local transport), visit Linganamakki dam and hydroelectric project, The Jog falls, Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari. Return from Shimoga to Bangalore (overnight bus)

The details:
When we reached Shimoga in the morning, it was pouring not just cats & dogs, but also cows & buffaloes. A jeep’s ride had been arranged by my mother’s colleague to take us from Shimoga to Sagara town. The rains were so heavy that we could barely see the road ahead. With that, we would fall into just every other pothole that was covered under the flooded roads. Finally, we had managed to reach Sagara, the nearest accessible town to Jog falls.

Once there, we thought to see the Linganamakki Hydroelectric project that falls on the way to Jog. There also used to be a cable car ride down the reservoir that we were interested to go on. Unfortunately for us, our visit was timed just about when permission to visit the project was cancelled for some security reasons. Nevertheless, the view of the Linganamakki dam and the scenery around almost evened up for the miss.

Views of the Sharavati project around Jog falls
Top: the view of Sharavati valley; Below: The Linganamakki dam

And then, with an uphill drive of about six kilometers, we reached the place which was the sole motive of our travel from Bangalore. “The Jog”!! But, there was more disappointment awaiting us on our arrival. It was something that caused us total dismay…!!! The clouds paired up with thick mist had enshrouded the waterfalls completely. And our entire surrounding had just blanked out with mist. There was absolutely nothing in front of us except the mist and more mist… To top it all, it was raining cats and dogs. There was no Jog, nothing. ‘What an unfortunate day for us’, we thought and decided to return after a futile wait.

We turned our backs and started to walk towards the jeep with a heavy heart. As we did, I just happened to turn back and check on our luck with the waterfalls. And yes…. we were LUCKY…!! The mist was slowly clearing out… And we could faintly spot the Sharavathi streaming down in full action.

As we stood for two minutes more, the view was then all clear: The Mighty King (Raja), the Graceful Queen (Rani), the Thunderous Roarer and the Storming Rocket – YES… We saw them! We felt a great sense of achievement, very contrary to what we had felt just a couple of minutes ago. While we got some nice clicks, the mist enclothed the falls, back again. We waited for it to clear out to capture a few more photos because this time, we knew that the action was repetitive.

Jog falls in monsoon
Jog, from different view points

After a while we walked around to get different views of the falls. We went to the top of the waterfalls, walked down closer to the bottom of the waterfall, locatiosn from where we got the side view of the Jog, and so on… It was quite an adventure in itself to get around these difficult spots, especially considering the heavy rains and the slippery path. But, the excitement of getting to these locations was all worth the risk! After having an eyeful and heart full of ‘The JOG falls’, we decided to say good-bye to the place.

On our way back to Shimoga, we visited ‘Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari’. Along with spotting a lot of deer, sambars and peacocks, we also counted on the big cats like the lion and tigers on a safari ride. It wasn’t a typical safari you would have in the wild, but it was more like taking a ride inside a fenced enclosure. But, it is a well maintained place and great if you are travelling with children.

Tiger safari near Shimoga
Roarrr, a tiger at the safari

And that was all the time we had with us. We had almost reached the end of a fun day-Sunday and we boarded the bus back to Bangalore at night. We had to gear up for the crazy week that was awaiting us…

Conclusion: An experience of the monsoon in the western ghats and a glimpse of the Jog in the monsoon are retreats that should go into the bucket list of everyone visiting India.