Friday, December 11, 2009

Yana-Jog-Agumbe

Read Part III here...

6th Oct 2009 - Early up from Sirsi and after a heavy breakfast, we proceeded towards Yana, our next destination... the weather was still with no signs of immediate rain, early morning chillness and a perfect ambience created. Well there are 2 routes to Yana from Sirsi, one is on the Sirsi Kumta highway route and another through country roads. We preferred the country roads as the Kumta highway is in a mess. Our choice was perfect as there was hardly any traffic early in the day, beautiful weather and we could cover the 60 odd kms in no time... The bad thing that set me back was the construction of roads at almost till near Yana. Where once we used to walk for 3-4 kms among the dense forests was now a tar road going uphill and downhill (the tar was actually coming of and gravel visible on the roads) and at some places passing through the trees leaning dangerously on to the roads scaring us and with no soul all around! All along Magod and now here to Yana we saw numerous places of landslide areas where previously (just couple of days back) landslides had occured due to the heavy rains that also scared us out of our wits. The main thing being as soon as we were nearing Yana, the rain gods opened up persistently showering on us. Reaching a dead end where a gate is located indicates the place from where one needs to walk to reach the mammoth rock formations. Covering ourselves as well as our cameras we started walking along the path leading to the shikara's and the temple there.The mild drizzle started to turn heavy and finally downpour as we wer all caught in a helpless situation and with no option but to get wet. I was rueing our luck all along, coming all the way from Bengaluru to be here, standing in front of the imposing shikara's, cameras ready in our hands... but unable to shoot... because of the rains... and to our dismay the temple at the foothill was locked still (it was probably 10am). Waiting for some time under the shelter of the temple at the foothills of the imposing Bhairava Shikara, trying to capture the Mohini Shikara that is on the opposite side of the main Shikara, we decided to take a walk around the cave. There is a way around that cuts in between Bhairava Shikara and goes around like a circle rounding off the imposing rock. The entire route is infested with bats and use of flash is ideally not advised. Well the last time here I literally had ran around the path as it was literally blowing hot in the summer and very tiring, but this time the other extreme. No idea when will i be there at the right time!?!Legends are that these rocks are attributed to killing of Bhasmasura by Mohini (not divulging into details as many sites carry this info). The two important peaks here are the Bhairava Shikara and the Mohini Shikara that face each other. Bhairava Shikara is the tallest at 120 mtrs and Mohini Shikara slightly shorter at 90mtrs. They are solid composition of black crystalline limestone. These have withstood the forces of nature for centuries and is still a mystery as to how they are here in midst of the forest. Annual fair / jatre happens during Shivaratri here and thousands of people descend at that time. I still recollect the saying "Rokkiddare Gokarna, Sokkiddare Yana" - that meant the rich visit the easier gokarna and the fit to the more difficult Yana, but unfortunately as we go on destroying everything in the name of "development", reaching Yana is no more a struggle as the tar roads have made their presence felt and the approach easier.

I remember this being my 3rd or 4th visit here, but still not yet explored this place completely. Its possible to reach the base of Mohini Shikara and do some rock climbing and cave exploring activities. Vibhuti falls is just few kms away from here and worth a visit and having a SUV would help in reaching there. The route from Kumta highway and the walk from there leads through Mohini Shikara first and ending at Bhairava Shikara and currently today one needs to walk more in this route for about 3-4 kms. Plans for camping & exploring out here next time is already in my head chewing my brains!!! Well, after some photoshoot and the rains slowing down a bit, we decided to leave as we didnt want to get stuck in any form of road blocks due to rain (tree falls, landslides...). One the way back we tried to traverse the path on to Vibuthi falls but came back halfway as the road was too tough for my Alto to handle. Well, there's always a next time and with that we proceeded to our next destination Jog (yes again!)! Another long time wish fulfilled of re-visiting Yana once again probably after 8 long years! From here via Siddapur we just thought of checking the "world famous" Jog falls as we were very close by and also because of the incessant rains over the past few days. We were not sure of how good Jog would be, but one thing for sure is its expensive - entry fees - parking fees - what all and finally you get to see water dripping at its weakest and thinnest form!!! There is an alternate place to view the mighty Jog where entry is surprisingly free! While coming from Sagar town, going ahead passing the bridge that leads to Jog, a km down the line, a small deviation goes uphill to the left towards the government IB from where the Jog can be seen from the side and also one can walk up to the "Mungaru Male" point, i.e., the edge of the falls from where water plunges down 829ft! Scary isnt it! As expected, still inspite of good rains, Jog wore a sore sight with the water level just about better than last year but nowhere close to its glorious form seen during the monsoons! So a quick small photoshoot and we were off again bypassing the main entrance. The route from Siddapur joins the Bangalore-Honnavar highway after the Jog crossing and one needs to drive back a little to see the falls. From here we traversed along Sagara-Ripponpet-Thirthahalli and on to Agumbe bypassing Sringeri after a heavy lunch at Thirthahalli. We had just planned a 1 night stay at Agumbe at "Doddamane" run by Kasturi Akka or Kasturi Ajji - 08181-233075 -as people lovingly call her. Let me inform you this is not an IB or a guest house, its more of an homestay concept run by her family since 60 odd years mainly providing food and place to rest for the trekkers who visit Agumbe as there are hardly any hotels in this small town. The only other alternative of stay at Agumbe is at the lone hotel opposite the bus stand "Mallya Residency" - 08181-233042; 9448759363; 9448814187. As we were under the impression that this was an IB, we landed at the wrong place where the army were camping, drove inside a barricaded area, were surrounded by about 15 odd dogs and high beam torch weilding army men and few more moments, we would have been fired upon! OMG! Yes we tresspassed into the IB that is now defunct (or given to the army for patrolling / combing operations) as Agumbe / Sringeri is a Naxal infested area. Luckily one of them told the Kasturi Akka's house is down the lane over the corner and smilingly told - if you had come like this after 10 pm, you would have been gunned down, lucky people!!! A lucky escape!The first sight of the house made us exclaim Wow! A century old bungalow on the main road, actually we passed by but could not recognize it the first time. We were greeted by Kasturi Akka and her mother (who surprisingly is so active at her old age!) and immediately floored by her politeness and hospitality. Nag knowing Konkani immediately stuck a chord and they started off conversing as we were sheepishly looking not able to understand what was going on. Next was the enquiry on where could we visit the next half day and ended deciding to visit the "Kundadri betta" for sunrise and if possible trek to Barkana. Their house is an old bungalow and it had all the grandeurs of which an house used to be built half a century ago! The pillars, the roof, the carvings, the doors, flooring all masterpieces that we can only dream of today and would need to spend a fortune to build. 7th Oct 2009 - Early to bed, early to rise, we were up by 6am, got ready and started off towards Kundadri betta, the place from where you get good sights only if the sky is clear! Kundadri betta is about 12 kms from Agumbe (ie you reach Kundadri betta cross before Agumbe while coming from Thirthahalli). We drove along slowly engaging the hair pin bends and the steep climb upwards, taking in the cool breeze and we were the only souls at the top. From the parking place, there are stairs leading to the top of the cliff (about 50 odd steps) where is an old Jain temple and it offers breath taking view of the Western ghats. The mist cover was too heavy and visibility was too low, albeit too low are there was no signs of visibility getting better or the skies clearing up. We came down and waited for some more time, again walked up, still there was absolutely no change in the weather conditions. Finally we drove down to Agumbe and straight ahead to the "Sunset point".Wonder what we wanted by visiting the Sunset point in the morning? actually we wanted to see the valley view from there and sight that beckoned us was simply mindblowing! It was just the green cover all around as far as you could see with multiple hillocks at the far end and crystal clear sky with foams of crisp white clouds dotting the blue sky here and there. The view was least to say very soothing and the weather too was perfect and our inner joy had no bounds. We stayed quite long there just absorbing in the beauty the place had to offer till a large noisy group came and disturbed our peace! Then, time to leave, we came back to Doddmane, freshned up, ate the lovely Dosa's prepared with honey and chutni to our stomach's full. Well the best part about Doddmane or Kasturi ajji is that she serves food to everyone by calling out their names and the work she does at her age is worth par description. We can just say from the bottom of her heart "Thank You" will utmost gratitude. Another main point is that you are not charged any fixed amount for the stay and food and you are given the option of paying as per your wish! Well, thats something in a rarity itself that you hardly get to see anywhere as its money that speaks everywhere! Well, Long live Kasturi akka /ajji, Long live Doddamane!!!

Our next destination was Lakkavalli IB on the banks of Bhadra dam for the next few days. All that and more in the next part!

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

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