Sunday, October 16, 2011

Agumbe (Seetanadi nature camp)


We have been to Agumbe a couple of times but never got a chance to enjoy its beauty during the monsoons and we had no intention of missing it this time. The participants swelled from 4 to 10 and finally only 3 of us made it to Agumbe. We didn’t stay at Agumbe but @ the Seetanadi nature camp, Someshwara Wildlife division at Hebri, very close to Agumbe and we had the complete dormitory all for ourselves.
What we realized the hard way was that the Hebri camp is located at the foothills of Agumbe ghats and the weather was hot and dry with no breeze what so ever in spite of the continuous rains. We boarded the KSRTC Rajahamsa bus from Bangalore to Hebri and the journey was super smooth till we stopped with a flat tyre near to Karkala, a good hour away from Hebri. A couple of hours lost till finally we reached Karkala by one of the private local buses that are so frequent over here. A delicious breakfast later, we had to board another local transport to Hebri which was a smooth, entertaining ride. From Hebri, we hired an auto to drop us till the entrance of the Seetanadi camp.
The camp looks very inviting and all that you see around is green in the campus. From the main road, you need to walk about a km to reach the cottages, tents and the dormitory. A little walk ahead and you are right in the Sita river that was flowing menacingly and had submerged some part of the camp area. The accommodations are all good and well maintained by the staff (Of Kulgi, Bhagavathi, Muthodi, Seetanadi camps that we have been to, Bhagavathi camp scores low on maintenance compared to others). Rains were omnipresent and persistent and drizzles led to downpours and the sun finding it difficult to shine through the dark clouds. 
Lunch and some rest and all we did were some roaming around the campsite hoping to catch some herps around but to no avail. In fact, we were hard pressed to pass time and were waiting for every opportunity to wander when the rains stopped. Some colorful dragon and damsel flies and lots of tadpoles kept us occupied for long. Capturing them required effort, laying flat on the ground, low light, focusing amidst the foliage and asking them to pose J
Next day early in the morning, the sun was bright and we opted for a trek through one of the routes mapped in the campsite, particularly I had applied Odomos to keep away the leeches. Probably 10 minutes into the trek and the skies opened up with full force (It was as if we fell right into the trap) and we had no place for cover. Luckily we had a couple of umbrellas that saved some part of us from getting wet. The leeches were highly active now and we were the right prey for them in a hopeless situation, they bit me where Odomos was not applied and so far probably I had never donated so much blood!
The track was slushy with the rain pouring, fallen trees and shrubs blocking our path and the leeches climbing on to us from everywhere and this looked like a never ending trek. As we approached a drier place with the rains receding, I could find a pack of leeches sucking my blood me in one spot where I had missed applying Odomos cream. At last count there were around 25+ leeches on me and all that I could see was my blood stained foot when we finally made it back to the camp. Leeches are smart creatures, they find the nicotine infested blood of Guru tasteless and find it hard to penetrate the buffalo like thick skin of Nag and I’m the easiest prey of the lot being a warm blooded human with a mild skinJ.
After cleansing and breakfast, we set off towards Agumbe again hopping on to the local bus that plies very frequently in these regions. In fact, they are lifeline of Malnad region becoming an effective alternate to the government bus services. A lifer for me was the sighting of the Lion Tailed Macaque (an endemic species of the Western Ghats) from the bus as it was moving on the boundary walls of the ghats. Surprises when you least expect it! It’s such a beautiful creature completely draped in black with a silver white mane. The weather changed dramatically as we rode up the ghats to the lovely small town of Agumbe. Rains were in no mood to let go and it was a heavy downpour that seemed never ending. Mist had accumulated and it was a lovely sight perfect to soothe your eyes. From the bus stand, a few paces down the main road towards Sringeri, leads a mud road between two housed to Rumolous Whitaker’s Agumbe Rainforest Research station (www.agumberainforest.com).
The walk was a very long one but the weather was cloudy and a slight drizzle now and then and not a soul in sight, only thing we could hear were the bulbuls, sunbirds and the minivets calling. It’s a perfect walk in the woods and there is no missing the ARRS as the track ends right there. Discussions with the coordinator there enlightened us about the activities and projects undertaken and hope to be there sometime for volunteering. The walk back was more or less similar with the rains reduced and the weather perfect, finally a good walk of about 5kms after a long time. After a sumptuous lunch at the bus stand and a little rest later, we walked up to the sunset point only to be treated with a misty environment and zero visibility and this continued till we were there.

Every tourist place has it plethora of problems and Agumbe is no exception. The place near the sunset point is crowded by hawkers, sellers and mindless people who come in bikes and cars and park as they wish creating a chaos out there. The sunset point is in the ghat section and these acts of stupidity create a lot of traffic snarls and endless honking! Lovely weather, drizzling rain and how can you not resist having some hot tea with bajji’s…. well we couldn’t and finally we ended up having endless bajji’s and countless tea’s till our taste buds were pacified, all these at the bajji centre close to the old vista point. A momentary decision ensured we started walking down the Agumbe ghats instead of travelling by the local transport and we had no idea how far that would be. Call us crazy… yeah, we are kind of!&$*#!. We walked, walked downhill enjoying the serene vista and avoiding the traffic till we were tired and we realized that only after seeing that we had covered a good 9kms downhill on foot. No more adventures till we reached home from there!


For accommodation at Seetanadi nature camp call the forest department office at 08253 250005 at Karkala.
For staying at Doddamane (Kasturi akka's house) @ Agumbe, call 08181 233075
For staying at ARRS, call 08181 223081 / 233186 or email them at arrs.india@gmail.com
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