Every since I started trekking there are few places I wanted to trek in more than Bandaje( Also called/spelt Bandeja, Bandajje etc). And when finally I got a chance to there, there was no backing down in spite of hearing from folks that this is a tough one. When one of my colleagues pointed his hand towards the evening star and said “The uphill climb is like this”, I convinced myself that he was exaggerating. My trek buddies Lenin and Yogesh were game for this as they would be for any crazy trek I had in mind. I also managed to rope in my roommate Subbu promising him an initiation into the world of trekking in this two day sojourn.
|The Bandeja Falls|
Bandaje is a tiny village around 350 kms from Bangalore and home to plenty of coffee, tea and rubber plantations. We caught a bus to Dharmasala on Friday night and reached there by 6 am next morning. Completed the morning ablutions near the rest rooms beside the temple lake and headed to Bandaje via Ujjire in a jeep( Consider yourself conned if you paid more than 250 bucks!). The trek begins at the home of Narayana Gowda, a pot bellied politician who arranges guides and helps out trekkers with food/water etc. Since only two guides turned up that day and 4-5 groups turned showed up, we had to stay put for an hour or so before starting off.
The first day’s trek is amongst the toughest climbs I have ever done. I felt guilty at having dragged Subbu into this. Even-though I had cajoled him to start running a week or so before the trek ostensibly to toughen up, there was no way I could prep him for this tough an ascent. I stayed with Subbu encouraging him at times but mostly pushed him harder. . Yogesh and Lenin, on the other hand, were in their elements and were leading the trek right from the beginning till Bandaje falls. When you are fit and trekking with others of similar physique, you attitude changes – you put on a facade of a body that never tires and ensure that you are never the one to suggest rest thinking others would consider you the weak link. Bringing up the rear-guard gave me extra time for experimenting and having fun with my SLR camera.
|Sunset at the peak|
After around 3-4 kms of climbing steep hills, we came across the grasslands. It was already afternoon when we reached there and the sun beat down on us without mercy. I realized that these grasslands would be infested with leeches during rainy season and probably just as tough to cross. This was the toughest part of our trek and I avoided looking Subbu into the eye for some time! A few kms into the grasslands, we glimpsed the Bandaje falls from a distance. It seemed to be very near but I always under-estimate distances from far away and it turned out to a good 2 kms away.
|Ballalarayana Durga Fort|
We reached the top of the Bandaje falls by around 4.30 p.m and were totally exhausted. Just the right time for a dip in the cold waters. A few folks informed me that a k.m. or two upstream there is a place that bisons and elephants come to quench their thirst. But we were too tired to check it out that day. Took some snaps of the sun going down and ate bread/jam for dinner constantly glancing jealously at the other groups that were cooking maggi for dinner. Then we set up the tent that we had hired at BMC. Unfortunately it had a few holes in it and I suggest you inspect your tents properly before hiring from them. The sky seemed to hold more stars than I had ever seen and we had a good night’s sleep.
|Lenin and Yogesh at a 100 year old temple on the way to Sunkasale|
Both Lenin and I woke up early for different reasons. Him to catch sight of wild animals and I for the sunrise. The second day’s trek is relatively easy and we headed to the ancient hoyasala fort, Ballalarayana Durga. We had lunch in the dilapated fort, ruins that remind trekkers like me about the once mighty hoyasala empire.
|Some nice perspective shots on the way to Sunkasale|
We also met Mr. Chandrasekar from the Youth Hostel Association, an enthusiastic trekking group from Bangalore. Best thing I liked about them was that they also cleaned up all plastic and non-degradable stuff on the way, ending up with three or four ruck-sacks of waste stuff. In our group, Lenin took on a similar responsibility. Join this group at email@example.com. Totally worth it. The remainder of the trek was pleasant and when we ended up at Sunkasale, we were just in right frame of mind for eating bhajjis and vadas there. You can go to Gottigere to get back to Bangalore. But we ended up spending an additional two hours travelling to Horanadu as KSRTC tickets were only available from there. Had dinner at the famous Annapoorneshwari temple and got into the bus waiting to take us back to Bangalore. Mission Accomplished.
|Somewhere on the way up.|
P.S: Subbu has now completely recovered from the after effects of his first trek and is eagerly looking forward to the next one...(I hope!)