I stopped gasping for breath, turned around to see if the goons were behind me! Yuck! Yes, they were still after me… I ran, ran (inspired by Paan Singh Tomar movie) and ran till I could not run further… I just collapsed…!!!
The melodious song of the Malabar Whistling Thrush woke me up and I was sweating heavily and with moist eyes I looked around to find the goons but, but what I was seeing was something different - I was somewhere in the middle of a jungle and a few paces away lay my bag and a couple more just beside them! Slowly I stood up, scratching my head looking around pinching myself hard once to see if it is for real or a dream. I heard familiar voices and then appeared my friends from out of nowhere. On further enquiry I realized we were in a remote village deep in the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Slowly and steadily, we climbed on to the raft and pulling the rope ourselves, we reached the other bank crossing the mighty Kali River. In this age of modern yuga, it was quite surprising to see such an arrangement but no sooner I realized we were to witness harsher realities of life!
I heard a roaring sound and looked in that direction to see a young chap riding a bike coming out of the woods. Anil, a young man in his twenties, born in a village and living in the city types greeted us and asked us to follow him to Shivapura village where Gopal bhat resided. The nearest town with all facilities is Yellapura, about 30kms away from the main road.
(the board in the picture reads - Shivapura - Tourist place)
The village is a sort of a mini island as the main road to the village got submerged in the backwaters of the dam constructed on the river Kali. Anil kept on talking about various things while guiding us and the tender coconuts that he gave us was so refreshing and tastier than the ones found elsewhere. Soon, we reached the house of Gopal bhat, our host for a couple of days. He was eagerly waiting our arrival and welcomed us along with his wife and mother with a warm smile. Gopal bhat is an agriculturist by profession and has some ancestral property in this remote village, he’s aged about 40 but very active and works a lot in the fields. A hot cup of coffee served by his wife Savitri, who treated us with dollops of care and warmth made us forgive the rigors of the travel undertaken. She was a very sweet lady and the food she cooked was all the more delicious that we soon realized.
(one of the numerous beautiful streams)
As its cut off from the rest of the world, nature beckons in its best form at Shivapura and you have the privilege to breathe pure air and your eyes get to savor greenery all around were the words from Gopal’s mom, Sharadamma. Another sweet lady who works defying her age putting us to shame and we loved the dishes cooked by her and the warmth with which she took care of us was unforgettable. After relishing a breakfast of hot idli’s and dosa served with coconut and red chilli chutney, we went around the village and the fields with Gopal bhat. People are far and few here and all that you get to see is nature in pristine form. Those small streams at every nook and corner that are lit up with the rays of the rising sun, those numerous birds who sing all day long, the incredibly beautiful vine snake that we got to see up close, those blood sucking leeches who climb and suck your blood every time you step out, the vivid colorful orchids and the flowering trees that adorn the land here, those elusive mammals and the mighty elephants who are frequently seen and the lesser homo sapiens whom you encounter once a while – a perfectly balanced ecosystem.
(the house where we stayed)
Soon, while walking with Gopal in the fields, we came across a group of people who were looking worried and were in a hurry. On enquiry, we realized that a villager, Chandranna was severely ill and had to be taken to the nearest hospital, some 30kms away crossing the river and walking for the 10 kms to reach the nearest road. Yes! That was the nearest and the only way the villagers had to go by. I stood in disbelief thinking about the fate of Chandranna and hope seemed to slither away from me. Chandranna did not survive for long and he passed away while crossing the river on the raft. Sad, but true and that is how the villagers of Shivapura are accustomed to live. They daily walk 10kms from the main road crossing the river to reach their homes and this frequency increased when in need and god save them in times of emergency; many lives have been lost in transit but they still live with a hope that they would see better facilities sometime soon.
I trudged along slowly with the others with a heavy heart back to the home where Gopal’s 10 year old son, Nanda was playing and in a matter of minutes all of us were being chased around by Nanda being forced to play with him. Nanda is a bundle of energy and he can’t sit at any place for more than a few seconds, he is very inquisitive and literally poked into my brains asking about a hundred questions firing at will. He vanished as soon as a chocolate came from me to play with his small group of friends. Sharadamma gave some burnt ashes to apply on the leech bites to stop the blood flow and followed it with a hot cup of tea and some snacks. Tired after walking for the entire day, we rested chatting with Gopal and interesting were his narrations of his childhood and his experiences in the same place. We were soon joined by Savitri and Sharadamma and listening to the tales from Sharadamma, we never realized how time flew.
(An unknown waterfall - an unknown jewel)
Early next morning, we were woken up by an unfamiliar face, Shivaraj. Shivaraj had come to take us to a nearby waterfall and finding us still sleeping had come to wake us up. Shivaraj and his family works in the fields of Gopal bhat, he is a school dropout and loves roaming in the jungle and talks very less. Soon, we were on our way guided by Shivaraj. Overnight rains had dampened the soil and it was as if the entire place was painted with a fresh coat of green. All along the way, Shivaraj kept on narrating real incidents from his life, especially his encounters in the wild with the wild boards or elephants and how he had escaped them. We walked through streams, valleys, and forests and finally reached the waterfalls. We could hear no sounds except for the calling of the birds or the blowing wind or a distant alarm call of a deer; the water was cold and inviting enough and sooner than latter we were playing in the water, diving and jumping in joy! You get to see a different world when it rains. Frogs, Toads, Snakes are all over the place and you get to see various forms of life like butterflies, moths, damsel and dragonflies and wherever you look, you get to see something interesting and special. The first rains are always special as the entire landscape turns from dull brown to bright green and the pleasant smell of wet earth is so refreshing to say the least. As we had plenty of time on hand, we opted to visit the Sathodi falls nearby and after a long tiring trek through the jungle, we reached the falls. The only shop cum home in the near vicinity was closed and there were no people other than us to watch one of the finest jewels that nature has on offer. Sathodi falls is truly breathtaking and mind blowing. See the video below to experience it live!
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