Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kumara Parvatha Trek - Day2

      We started out on saturday morning at Kukke subramanya and trekked all the way to the Mantap( about  an hour away from the Kumara Parvatha peak) to spend the night. Here’s what happened on day two of my trek.
      We woke up early and could hear, I could have sworn, was a cheetah cub calling out to its mother. Lenin wanted to check it out but I was sure we’d only become breakfast to some cheetah/leopard out to feed her cubs. Now that I look back at the incident, I have managed to convince myself that it was actually some bird because the implications what a feline could have been hunting near mantap are too gory to imagine. To this day, Lenin says that he would have checked it out if he had had a knife. It’s earned him the sobriquet of “Cheetah Hunter” amongst our trekking group.

The would be cheetah hunter - Lenin

      We headed towards the peak at around 6.30 in the morning and soon reached what we thought was the KP peak. We learned that it was a false peak named Sahayadri(I think). The next peak was indeed the right one and we finished up our last loaf of bread and chocolates over there and turned right to trek to Bidahalli(near Somwarpet). On the way we met folks who had chosen the opposite route for the trek i.e. from Somwarpet to Kukke. They warned us about a tough trek route ahead. I did likewise. While the trek from Kukke to the KP peak is a scenic one with mountains and streams, the other trail from Bidahalli is thru dense forests and some steep hills and tougher to climb/descend too.

Deep in the jungle

              A long trek always manages to teach you something about yourself. How you react when you are tired, without food and water? How angry you get when something does not go as you had planned? I learnt that not all things can be planned. Just to enjoy what nature throws at you! Also knowing the general direction of your destination helps when you aren’t able to make out the trial. We had a similar experience after descending 2 kms from the KP peak on our way to Bidahalli where the trial seemed to vanish at a steep hill going downward. We wasted around half an hour retracing our steps to ensure we had taken the right route. I think this was the only point in the trek where in we were not sure what to do. We split up – not a great thing to do for a group of three - Yogesh went back to check for alternative trials, I descended the hill and Lenin was in the middle directing the search. Ultimately he found the trial at the bottom of the hill before I did.
      The rest of the trek was done in relative silence as nobody seemed inclined to speak and waste energy unless necessary. But somehow Yogesh’s enthusiasm for taking photos was not dimmed. Walking amidst the huge trees and shrinking streams is a surreal experience that kind of shows you your place in nature’s scheme of things. We reached the forest check post at around 2:15 p.m. and we were ravenous. We had to trek for a further 4 kms to find any signs of human inhabitation. We asked for food at a few places in the village but no luck. Frustrated we trudged on and soon stopped for rest just before the tiny village ended.
      A few minutes later, a boy walked past with what seemed like a cucumber in his hand. Food! I called out to him and talked about mundane stuff like his name, school etc. while planning to get him to part with the cucumber. He seemed a bit apprehensive at first and replied only in monosyllable to our questions. Lenin and Yogesh insisted that my long hair had started to frighten kids and it was time I cut it. I just pretended not to hear them. Yogesh continued to converse with the kid and convinced him to not only give us the cucumber but also get a few more. The boy gave us the cucumber he had and ran back. We were not too sure about seeing him again.

Feeling the pangs of hunger

  We used the salt we had bought for the leeches to add taste to the cucumber. By the time we were done, we could see the boy returning with two more of the precious vegetable. He also had the good sense to add in a few guavas. Dear boy, you have more kindness in your heart than all the adults in your village put together. If I ever choose to believe in miracles, I promise to make you my archangel. The boy ran back home with a smile on his face, a more than generous tip and our heartfelt gratitude.

Trek done. Waiting for the Bus

      The last bus from Bidahalli is around 3.45 p.m. We got in just in the nick of time. We headed towards Mysore(via Kushalnagara) to my place instead of returning to Bangalore. I know for certain that my mom hid her surprise well on how much I ate that night. Home sweet home after an amazing trek. I promised myself that I would soon trek the route from the other side i.e. Somwarpet to Kumara Parvatha to Kukke. That, I am sure, would be even better …

Some Useful Info:
  •  Bhattar’s phone no: 9448647947. Please call him up in advance to inform about you visit.
  •  List of items that I suggest you plan for if you are a trek organizer: Dry food, glucose, fruit juices, some citric fruits, first aid kit, knives, bread, butter and jam, bananas, chocolate, salt to avoid leeches, torch, emergency whistles, insect repellant, Camera.

But like they say the most amazing things in life don’t always need pin-point planning. Get your ass to Kumara Parvatha. I promise you’d have an amazing time there as well.

Liked the second Part?? Here's what happened earlier Kumara Parvatha trek - Day1

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kumara Parvatha Trek - Day1

           Kumara Parvatha(also known as Pushpa giri), situated around 280 kms from Bangalore near Kukke subramanya, is around 5600 feet higher than sea level, a trekker’s paradise and once of the most scenic places I have ever seen. Having never organized a two day trek before, I have no trouble recalling how I managed to botch up quite a few vital ingredients of the trek.


Sunset at the Mantap

What originally started as an eight member trek whittled down to five after rumors of the king cobra and a treacherous trail at Kumara Parvatha went round. Two more withdrew a day before the trek for personal reasons. In spite of an alluring temptation to cancel the trip citing the dropouts, the final three warriors stood resolute: Me, Lenin (my college mate) and Yogesh(my colleague).

            We had booked tickets in the KSRTC bus to Kukke leaving Friday night. I decided against taking out my swift as we were planning to start the climb from Kukke and make the descent on the other side at Bidahalli, Coorg. Come Friday, Yogesh and I had a client deliverable to complete. Pressed for time, we couldn’t hire a tent, buy provisions or supplies satisfactorily – these contributed greatly to our fall later. Have you ever been on a trip where you aren’t sure it’s on until the bus conductor hoots and the driver puts his foot down on the accelerator? Nope. At least hope you understand how I felt!

            Reached Kukke at 4 a.m., rented a room and slept for the next 4 hours. Skipped the customary temple visit in the morning and started the trek immediately after breakfast. The way to the top is very picturesque. The valleys and the peaks proudly let you know why nature is personified as a woman. Our next pit stop was the famous Bhattar’s house situated midway to the peak, around 4 hours from the Kukke. More than the free lodging (for around 50-60 people), delicious meals and other mundane comforts, it’s the willingness to support and help people that sets the Bhattar household apart. This place is an oasis for the weary trekker. Many trekkers camp near the Bhattar house for easy access to food and water. Thank you Mr. Bhattar, you simply rock!

Yogesh trying to build up some energy 


       We left the Bhattar household at around 4 p.m., paid the entry fee at the forest department and headed to the Mantap – the place where we planned to stay the night. Mr. Bhattar had kindly lent us mattress after we informed him about our plan and warned us about the strong winds at the Mantap. To all you folks who read blogs and think the Mantap is some sort of Kalyana Mantap that can house around 12 people – brrrr, snap out of it. Take a tent if you want comfort! The Mantap is a shackle, a stone hedge sort of a structure that couldn’t accommodate more than 5-6. And unluckily for us, it was already occupied.

Why nature is personified as a woman


                Our hopes faded when we saw quite a few people already settled at the Mantap. And we had no hope of making it back to Bhattar’s house as darkness descended quickly on the valley. With only a few stars around, rains seemed imminent and sleeping under the moon was not something we were looking forward to. We reached the mantap and made a few enquiries. Fortunately for us, the others were sensible enough to bring tents. We heaved a sigh of relief.  The mantap was all ours for the night!

 No Kalyana Mantap this!

            Bread, jam and butter never tasted better for dinner and the campfire we got going enlivened us in more ways than one. The trekking group from Tyco industries pitched tent beside the mantap and we discussed about other possible treks in Karnataka and Kumara parvatha peak. They informed us about another group that had gone to camp at the peak to catch the sunrise. And thanks for the warning regarding the heavy winds Mr. Bhattar, the gales were a bitch. Dearly held on to the mattress and bed sheet against the howling winds throughout the night.

Liked the first Part?? Here's what happened next kumara parvatha trek Day2

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bangalore to Chitradurga trip

I had been planning a trip to Chitradurga for almost a year. While returning from Goa, where we had been to last Christmas, my friend showed me the dim outline of a fort and a mountain beyond and said “that fort is awesome, you should plan a one day trip here”. I vowed to myself to answer the beckoning calls of the awe-inspiring fort.

My swift was raring to go and so was I. I only had to persuade four other software engineers that this would be a worthwhile trip. No easy task this! After weeks of politic maneuvering and cajoling, pointing them to other blogs praising Chitradurga, they agreed. My troupe was now ready: Anand, Malai,Sandeep and Rajesh.

Being the only driver in the group, I had my task cut out. Chitradurga is around 230 kms from Bangalore and I had never driven around 500 kms in a day. We left home at around 7 a.m. I usually drive like my life depends on it (which in a city like Bangalore- it does). The speedometer touched 150 kmph in NICE road. My grey beauty zoomed on and we soon hit the Nelamangala stretch where even going at 15 kmph was an achievement. We had breakfast at Kamat( near Tumkur) and reached the fort at around 11.30.

The impregnable fort is designed in the shape of a snake to confuse invaders. The outer walls of fort are surrounded by a large space that would have been filled with water along with a few crocs and poisonous snakes during an attack on the fort. Our guide next led us to the first landmark in the fort: The gun powder grinder - A marvel of ancient engineering this. Young elephants were used to rotate giant wheels which churned gun powder.

This fort seems to be battle ready even today. Secret locations from where defenders could repel and shoot at invaders, giant walls that still bear the marks of Hyder Ali’s cannons - you can imagine how tough it might have been for Hyder’s soldiers to attack this place.

On the way to the top, we were able to see Jothi Raj (a.k.a Kothi Raj – Translation: Monkey Raj) perform some breath-taking stunts on the ramparts and boulders. A stone quarry worker who struggles to make ends meet, he practices rock climbing with a burning passion and desire. If you visit Chitradurga, find some pity in your cruel city hearts and leave this guy a good tip.

We next visited Onake Obava point, where a brave house wife killed Hyder’s guards to thwart a surprise attack and save her homeland using her onake(a pestle - iron pole used to grind rice). I could imagine a husky housewife dispatching soldiers in that narrow entrance in what can only be described as a grim and macabre fashion. Women those days seemed to be made of sterner stuff! Alas, we all know the fate of such brave souls: death. At least they had the decency to name that fort entrance after her.

The final part of the trek included a climb to the top of the fort. More like a crawl in which I held on to dear life on one hand and my sneakers on the other. Three of the guys backed out even before we got started and arguably missed the amazing 360 degree view from above. I realized it would take at least a day cover the entire fort, our guide had conveniently shown us only the most important locations.

We later visited Chandravalli caves – Dark (don’t forget your torch), dank and the smells of bats is pervading. There is a narrow path in the deepest location that leads to the treasury (If you can consider bat barf treasure!). Personally I did not have the heart to make that wretched crawl.

We had lunch in Chitradurga and later headed home to our beloved Bengalooru. I was totally tired by the time we reached home after the hectic drive, rock climb and cave exploration; a pleasant and satisfied tiredness that hits you only during such an amazing trip

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bangalore to Kudremukh trip

Bangalore to Kudremukh trip
Day 1 – Sravanabelagola and Halebid
Finally urge to blog gets the better of me! So here’s a travel guide sort of a blog about my trip to Kudremukh trip for 3 days along with my friends. The first thing that hits you when plan a trip to Kudremukh is that there are no hotels or affordable places for lodging. Fortunately I managed to find a long-forgotten-distant relative working in the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company and booked rooms in the company guest house. We were all set for the trip!
Left Bangalore via NICE road at around 8 in the morning towards the monstrous nelamangala road traffic. We were a boisterous group of around ten college mates and beer started to flow soon enough in the morning when I informed them that late breakfast was in store due to delayed departure.
First pit stop was Sravanabelagola at around 1 p.m. The colossal nude statue of Gomateshwara is a 57 feet monolith. Majestic is the only word to describe it. I was particularly impressed with the hoyasala architecture of using supporting structures to hold the massive stone walls. The view from above is surely worth the climb.
Had lunch at Hassan and reached Halebid at around 5 p.m. (just in time actually; the temple closes at 6 p.m.). I have been to many temples but Halebid blew my mind the first time I laid eyes on it. The grandeur of the sculptures, thought, vision and hard work that went into building that temple over a period of 150 years is seriously unparalleled. If you are a first time visitor, don’t forget to hire a guide.
The two massive Nandis in front of this multi layered temple, the imaginary creature Makara, the pillars in the dancing hall, combined with the intricate design and attention to detail on each of the sculpted images makes this temple the greatest example of Hoyasala architecture. And O-boy, talk about the planning and vision of the ancient hoyasala kings. In the software industry, we struggle to gather requirements properly and close projects in time!
Left for Kudremukh via kalasa at around 7. Be careful about the route you take as the roads to Kudremukh might be blocked due to landslides. We finally managed to reach the guest house in a totally exhausted and drenched state at midnight.

Day 2 – White Water Rafting and Hanumangundi falls.

Daybreak greeted us with a very heavy downpour and we were well advised by everyone in the guest house to avoid the Kudremukh peak trek altogether. My co-organizer and I didn’t want to let the folks know that we had somehow planned the trip to exactly coincide with the cyclone ravaging the west coast. We decided to go the Balehole for white water rafting.
I chose the first row for rafting and it certainly satiated the thrill seeker in me. Going through the tiger rapids and the rush of adrenalin just before the rapids is not something that can be put into words. Last word: Do it!
We later visited Hanumangundi falls in the evening. The gush of water forms a mesmerizing cadence of a sort. A few brave souls who entered the water and waddled around for sometime were the first ones to see a real leach at work! (On ourselves that is). There are streams for almost every mile between Kudremukh and Hanumangundi falls. We ended up making quite a few stops on the way and also took a few very good snaps at Kadambi falls on the way.
The way to Hanumangundi falls is full of prime grazing lands and we were fortunate enough to see the native fauna: a herd of bison and later glimpsed a few sambars. This place is totally a treat to any connoisseur of nature. Thankfully Kudremukh has not been commercialized and its eco-system destroyed like a few other hill stations!

Day 3 – Trekking at Kudremukh.
Kudremukh is after all known for trekking and no trip over there would be complete with out it. We choose the shortest trek of around 8 kms to Kurinjal peak. We took around half a kg of salt to avoid the leaches and smeared it on our shoes, legs and arms. The leaches attacked with a vengeance and we finally ran short of salt. I now wonder what the leaches feast on when there are no humans around.

The trek route was filled with mist and we could not see anything beyond 20 feet in all directions. Heavy downpours eased visibility and let us see the landscape beyond for a few moments. Nature at it’s pristine best.

The guys finally got tired of removing leaches from their feet and threatened to head back just a km before the Kurinjal peak. I obliged knowing that if I refused and moved forward, any black eye given to me later wouldn’t have been coincidental at all. Back at the tempo traveler, we finally removed all the leaches (or so we thought) and headed to Nature Camp for tea.

We left for Bangalore at around 12, had lunch at Hassan and finally reached home at around 9.30. The trip exceeded all my expectations and we all left with a sense of satisfaction. I should take my Swift the next time I visit Kudremukh. Now that would be some trip!