Nov 26, 2008

Birding @ Kokkarebellur, Ranganthittu and Kukkarahalli kere

After the fortnight of festivals and absoutely no plans for Nov 1 (Karnataka Rajyotsava day), we finally decided to go birding again. Initial plan was for 2 days, but later had to limit it to a day because of some emergencies. Guru was unwell and as it was a last minute plan, myself and Raja decided to go ahead with the plan planned at 11 pm the previous night. We intended to cover Valley School - Kokkare bellur - Ranganthittu - Kukkarahalli kere and Karanji lake and return back to bangalore by evening. 

Nov 1 2008: Chilly Saturday morning, left our homes by 5.30 am, reached Valley school area quite early. Valley School area: This has become our favorite jaunt mainly because its just in the neighborhood and nobody to disturb. This time we proceeded straight into the campus to the lake for some good birding. Rue our lethargy, the entire series of photos taken here have vanished without a trace and I hardly remember all the species which I saw.. Some which I can recollect are:
  • Little Cormorant (the most common water bird we have seen)
  • Small blue King
  • Pond Heron
  • Indian Silverbills
  • Pied Wagtail couple
  • Red Whiskered Bulbul
  • Jungle Prinia
  • Tiger butterfly & many others
  • A giant spidey with its huge web...
and many more... We spent a good 2 hours here birding, the best part is you never realize how the time moves so quickly when birding. After satisfying our urge for birding here, we had to move quickly to cover the remaining places for the day; we took the route via Kanakapura to our next place - Kokkare bellur. Well the idea was not so bad as feared because 60% of the roads were good but we had to drive around 20 kms more to reach Kokkare bellur. Enroute to Kokkare bellur we saw a small pond where again we had quite a few sightings which included:

Black kite relaxing under the shade
  • Black Ibis pair
  • Grey Herons
  • Spot Billed Ducks

@ Kokkare bellur:

Pelican flight @ Kokkarebellur
  • Spot billed Pelicans
  • Black Kite
  • Black Ibis
and few more, again these series of photos have vanished. On the way to Kokkare bellur, we spotted a black kite peacefully resting under the shades of a tree. We stopped below him and he gave us some nice shots and inquisite looks. We managed to reach Kokkare bellur by 11 am. Here you can just park your vehicle anywhere and go birding, you will find lots of birdies atop many trees and if lucky on the roads too. We could spot mainly the Pelicans and a few Black Ibis only (the remaining visitors were yet to arrive) here. A tree full of Pelicans with their crooning and fluttering give you good oppurtunity to watch them and capture them in your lenses, but kindly avoid standing under those trees else you would be garnished with white paint all over your body. The black Ibis show was distant as they were perched against the sun which made it all the more difficult to view them directly or capture a clear image. The locals here are very helpful and protective of the winged visitors and any wrong move from your end will result in broken bones! But the sight of children asking for money from the visitors is not a good sight to see! After more than an hour here with the sun steadily rising and burning our heads, we decided to move on to Ranganathittu near Srirangapattinam.

Marsh crocodile @ Ranganthittu.

Ranganthittu bird sanctuary: Its a small sanctuary in the Mandya district but the most famous in and around south karnataka. The restaurant here satisfied our appetities which the first thing we did when we landed here. Afternoon times and the sun blazing, birding was not so productive so we bought tickets for the boat ride on the Kaveri lake. Huge crowd had gathered as it was a saturday and we had wait in a long queue for the tickets. The only advantage going boating is you are taken closer to the birds resting on the trees in the middle and the birds are quite comfortable with the boats being paddled around. Not to miss are the huge crocodiles you see from close quarters, this time we were lucky enough to spot some 7-8 crocodiles around. The few winged visitors which I could recognize seeing here are:
  • White Ibis
  • Spoonbills
  • Night Heron
  • the King
  • Pond Heron
  • Colony of Bats
  • Marsh Crocodiles

Well the sightings were not so good, wish to be back here at leisure during some weekday when few people are around. From here we had plans of covering Kukkarahalli kere and Karanji lakes in Mysuru but owing to time shortage we decided to cancel Karanji lake visit this time.

As we reached the periphery of Mysuru, at the first traffic signal we asked for directions from the constable there; he gave us the most easiest route to take, from the signal take right turn, left at the next signal, and right at only the next traffic signal. We landed right on the fringes of the lake with those directions without a glitch.

Kukkarahalli kere, Mysuru: For starters, its located in the heart of the Mysuru city adjoining the Manasagangotri campus. A neat walkway has been created which is used effectively by the walkers / joggers and also bird watchers! The entire walkway around of the park is approximately 4kms. What started for us as a small walk around ended up making us cover the entire 4kms watching different varied winged visitors spread across the lake. My favorite King (kingfisher bird) was very shy and reluctant and only gave poses from long distances; still waiting for a decent shot of this beautiful king. The sunset here was amazing with the winged visitors perched on the trees in the foreground and the golden sun providing the orange blanket all across the horizon. Few of the winged visitors which we could identify were:
  • Spot Billed Pelicans
  • Pond Heron
  • Little Egret
  • Purple Moorhen
  • Spot Billed Ducks
  • Common Coots
  • Cattle Egret
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Grey Heron
  • Asian Koel
  • Parakeets
  • White Ibis

and few others which I am yet to recollect. As it was dusk our plans of climbing the Chamundi hills on foot went for a toss and instead we drove up the hill to visit the temple. The temple remains closed between 6.30pm to 8pm and is open till 9.30pm. The Mysuru city view from the hill top is beautiful especially if the palace lights are on, it presents a spectacular sight. From here we drove straight back to our homes, infact we covered the bangalore mysore strectch in flat 120 minutes on the saturday evening.

Route: To Valley School: On the Kanakapura road, just 100mts after the NICE road junction a yellow board next to a tree on the right hand side leads to the valley school campus. Good roads upto Kanakapura.

To Kokkare Bellur: On the Mysore highway, just before Maddur town, a huge old board to the left indicates the route to Kokkare bellur which is 16kms from there. Roads are pathetic.

To Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary: On the Mysore highway, after Srirangapattinam, a deviation to the right leads to ranganthittu bird sanctuary which is around 6ms inside. The same route further leads to Hunsur, Madikeri, Virajpet, Nagarhole, Irpu falls, HD kote. Excellent roads.

To Kukkarahalli Kere: As you approach Mysuru city, in the first traffic signal on the outer ring road take a right turn and straight ahead and then left turn at the next signal, and again right turn at only the next traffic signal leads to the lake. Please ask for directions with the locals as you are bound to reach nowhere following my directions. Excellent roads.

Tips: Carry water. Food source Bangalore (for valley school); Maddur town and highway restaurants (for Kokkare bellur); hotel at Ranganthittu and Mysuru city hotels (for Kukkarahalli kere).
Overall a nice birding experience but felt more time was required at Ranganthittu and Kukkarahalli lakes.

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Nov 24, 2008

Valley School Birding, Bengaluru

The Birding bug has recently bitten me and its bitten me all over, which in turn has affected Raja too as I have passed on the bites to him too. Our limitation till recent was a good camera, my previous darling was my Canon A530 which was very insufficiently insufficient for birding and also the interest and patience levels were less.
Somehow coaxed Raja into buying the Panasonic DMC FZ28 prosumer camera which more or less lies with me only because of the leniance I have taken into Raja's statement " I took this camera for you only ". So armed with a new camera and an empty weekend!! - Impossible, so we decided to go on our first birding trip to Valley school. No directions were available anywhere except the fact that its on the Kanakapura road.
Sunday 12th morning was decided for the birding.We reached the turning around 8.30 am from where the school campus is about 1.5kms. All along the way you can do birding, advised from within the cars as approaching the birds from the roadside is undisturbing. Frankly me and raja hardly could identify any birds which we saw as this was the first time wer were out birding, but still it was very exciting watching the winged fairies floating around and keeping themselves so occupied. Once near the campus, you can even venture inside after entering at the security gate and walk until you feel to turn back. The campus is a pleasant surprise with greenery all around and lucky are the children here amidst such valuable, pristine natural surroundings - Hope they realize and preserve it! At the smaller lake inside, the most common bird visible was the Little Cormorant. Also we spent large amount of time chasing and shooting wonderful, lovely, colorful butterflies which are there everywhere. Some of the birds which I learnt to identify (thanks to many INW'ians) are:
  • Laughing Dove
  • Red Whiskered Bulbul
  • Juvenile Red Whiskered Bulbul
  • White Cheeked Barbet
  • Jungle Prinia
  • Red Wattled Lapwing
  • Blue bird (unidentified as the picture is blurred; should be Tickell's Blue)
  • Little Cormorant
  • Pied Bush Chat male
  • Dragonfly varieties
  • Tiger Butterfly and others
Directions: First reach the Kanakapura road either from Mysuru road / Hosur road / Magadi road using the NICE road, else drive straight through Banashankari temple and bus stand. After Talaghattapura and after the NICE junction, around 100 mtrs ahead, on the right hand side you can spot a yellow direction board indicating valley school 1.5 kms ahead. Birding starts right after turning here. Road condition not so good but in a sense good for birding! Other photos can be seen here!

A few more sessions out there birding has improved knowledge on identifying birds... Valley school so far has always been a treat....
Some of the images as below....

  • Blue faced Malkoha
  • Indian Pitta
  • Indian Hornbill
  • Tickell's Blue
and many more.... the Malkoha, Pitta and the Hornbill sightings were lifers for amateurs like me and Raja and we hope our luck continues...

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Nov 14, 2008

Dream It! Do It! - Around Karnataka in 9 days

(the map above indicating the route that we took and the major places we covered)
20 towns, 15 tourist spots, 9N9D, 1950kms, 1000+ snaps, 4 crazy people, 1 car, motto - savour the beauty of Karnataka.
Well, it all started with a wish/dream when previously I with my friends had toured across Karnataka during our college days by purchasing a weekly pass that allows you to travel unconditionally for a full week across the state in the famed Red Bus (kempu bussu). Then I wished/dreamt of touring the state in my own vehicle at leisure and at my pace. 6 years later, it was time for the wish to come true, my dream to be lived when I along with 3 of my friends (2 of them being the same) went on a long adventure journey across Karnataka mainly covering the Coastal region and the malnad valleys.
Preparation: As a full week's leave was required, I had kept informed my friends before a month so as to avoid last minute glitches in getting leaves sanctioned. Then was the route to be taken and after extensive research, search, alongwith valuable inputs from many kind souls and after studying detailed district maps of the state I finally freezed on a route map which went something like this which more or less had no round abouts. Our plan was visit a place and then go ahead to the next and avoid repetitions.
From start to stop: Bengaluru - Nagarahole - Irupu falls - Madikeri - Mangalore - Udupi - Anegudda - Idagunji - Honnavara - Yana - Yellapura - Shivapura - Magod falls - Sirsi - Sonda - Unchalli falls - Agumbe - Kudremukha - Chikmagalur - Belur - Halebidu - Bengaluru.
Passengers: I was the driver cum default passenger #1 Raja had confirmed, without doubts was passenger #2 Guru had agreed, but suddenly he went to delhi for 2 weeks on official duty, he gave us a shocker but promised to be back on the day of our departure. He did! Phew! passenger #3.
Manoj missed out due to some reasons and Nagaraj Gaitonde was skeptical till the end. Finally Nag nodded in agreement, passenger #4
It was tough pooling & convincing everybody, getting leaves, planning and more so execution. The cost was also an issue as we had no idea whether it would go off limits and accommodation at places were also not confirmed. The previous day of our scheduled departure, I caught severe cold topped up with headache and body pain. That was a worry at home which made me gulp down emergency antibiotics to be fit and fine.
26-09-08 - Finally all doubts / issues / concerns aside, as planned we departed from Bangalore by 8:30 pm. Guru being nearer came to my home at BTM layout and we picked up Raja enroute @ LIC colony and no sooner we had realized we had no song cd's! Raja was entrusted with the responsibility but he could not make it in time which made us stop at the Banashankari complex and start searching for the same. Nag (referred to Nagaraj Gaitonde henceforth) was waiting patiently at the Outer ring road junction on Mysore road and here we were busy scourching for the CD's. Finally we managed to procure one and left the place to pick up Nag @ Mysore road junction at 1o pm. Formal introduction of Nag to the others (as this was the first time he was accompanying us) and with the regular fuel stop @ IOC (20 ltrs) we moved ahead. Munching started as some had left their homes empty stomach and we stopped for dinner @ Kamat Lokaruchi @ Ramanagaram. It was pretty late and we were the last customers to leave the place by 11.30 pm. Our first destination was Nagarahole and we knew the gates at Hunsur would open only by 6 am, so we had lots of time to drive. A right turn after Srirangapattinam needs to be taken which leads to Madikeri and further left towards Hunsur. We reached hunsur by 3 am and a good cabbie out there told not to proceed till dawn as tusker menace is rampant ahead. So parked the car in an open field to rest for the next 2 hours. Instantly everybody dozed off and we woke up only by 5.30 am, all of us were so tired and added to it my sickness.
27-09-08 - After a cup of hot chai, we proceeded towards the entry of the park. Mist was still abundant and we could hardly see anything further down the road and the weather was pretty cool. Drove up to the office area with the regular sightings of a lone tusker and some wild dogs, we got into the first safari that started by 7.30 am as the crowd was very less. A good 90 minutes of safari ride in the departmental vehicle yielded sightings of wild dogs, herds of deer, boars and many birds, the big cats were elusive this time too. From there after a short stop at Kutta (we hired a room for 150/- for the morning chores and freshening up), we proceeded to our next destination Irupu falls. Roads were bad and some stretches too narrow and bumpy. There is a temple at the base, Rameshwara temple where vehicles need to be parked. From there a short 10-minute walk into the estates will lead to the viewpoint and the falls. The falls itself presents a majestic sight to the viewer amidst green surroundings and with lot of butterflies around. Except me others fell in to the cool water and enjoyed thoroughly while I went hunting some butterflies and the general landscape. From there roads to Madikeri were good and we had lunch after scorching for a good place there. We were late by almost 2 hours as per schedule and further conditions did not improve. From Madikeri our next plan was to reach Anegudda bypassing Mangalore and with a temple visit scheduled at Udupi. Roads from Madikeri started off well and guru for a change was honing his driving skills amidst the ghat section. That took some more of our time and further the road conditions turned from bad to worse especially after Sullya. Our delay was further delayed and we lost hopes of making it into Udupi We managed to reach near to Mangalore with consistent speeds of 50km/hr at around 8.30pm, further the stretch from Mangalore to Padubidri was horrible – a distance of 50kms consumed 120mts of patient driving. We had a pretty good dinner and here also the hotelier was waiting for us to vacate as it was past 11pm when we left. At this stage Udupi visit got cancelled as also the temple accommodation at Anegudda, but Nag made arrangements for the stay at a hotel in Kundapura. Well that was further 40 odd kms to cover with no idea of the roads. Luckily the stretch was far better and we reached the hotel by 12 midnight. Ah! finally, tired bodies after a continuous, arduous, bone rattling journey and we all instantly dozed off in the cozy comforts of the hotel room. 550kms covered in 26 hrs with only 2 important places. Bad planning!
28-09-08 - Tired bodies, we overslept and left the hotel only by 8.30am. We stopped over at the Maravanthe beach for an hour to savor the coastal beauty. Here to one side you see the ocean and a fresh water lake on the other side and you drive in between. Sunsets are quite famous here and people throng over during weekends. Our next visit was to the famous Idagunji Ganesha temple around 25 kms off the highway from Honnavara town junction. Our next scheduled stop was at Nag’s house at Kasarkod, just before Honnavara for having brunch. Again a delayed start and we were off schedule by almost an hour. Heavy brunch of mouth watering Neer Dose, Rice Kadubu & a delicacy "Chibad /ಚಿಬಾದ್" at Nag’s house made us all the more lazier and from there we went across the highway to see the Apsarakonda falls. This is a remotely located, densely covered but well-known location just besides the ocean and the beach nearby offers a really soothing sight. A few climbs above the falls leads to the viewpoint that gives a beautiful glimpse of the Arabian ocean and the lush green paddy fields of the kasarkod village. All this further delayed us by 2 hours and our plan of Yana was jeopardized and finally we had to cancel the Yana trek to reach Shivapura cross in time. Initially our route was through Kumta, then a diversion to Yana and from there to Yellapura. As Yana was out, we moved straight along the highway up to Ankola and from there on the Hubli road to Yellapura. Till Ankola the roads were good, bad, ugly but none to beat the ugliest stretch b/w Mangalore and Udupi. The Ankola Hubli highway was damn good; you never get to feel the strain. The person who was to receive us had already arrived @ Shivapura cross by 5 pm, we were still somewhere near to Yellapura. From Yellapura we had to take the Kattige-Kumbrala road around 25 kms to reach the Shivapura cross, we were late and no contact of the person waiting for us, the only option was to reach there at the earliest. The roads until halfway was not good, but we had no time to slowdown – another bumpy ride and the latter part was a cruise but still we could not go beyond 45 kmph as the drive was full of curves and bends and added to it a narrow road to drive on. Finally we managed to reach the place after guidance from the villagers at 7.15 pm. The best part was the concern of the villagers whom we were asking for directions – “It’s dark! How will you go there? You cant cross the river now? You have to come before dark as you will get lost in the forests!” – all these statements didn’t bother us much as we knew our person was waiting there. As our fears came true, the person had left after waiting patiently for 2 hours at the designated spot - "ದಿ ಬಸ್ ಸ್ಟಾಪ್" as told by a passerby. It was getting dark, PITCH DARK and no people around, deserted forest area and no idea what to do. Prayers started at ದಿ back of our mind, we decided to call our contact person @ Shivapura and with no network coverage we had to go back around 4 kms to call ದಿm. Enroute earlier we had met a person @ ganeshgudi who knew that person, so we came back and we managed a call from ದಿre. Our intentions were clear with all 4 of us agreeing that we have to reach Shivapura come what may or however long it takes to because no point in going back after coming so far! Our contact person @ Shivapura village was Mr.Gopal Bhat, and he was a gentleman and his family were perfect hosts. Gopal Bhat, surprised by our intentions of making it whatsoever decided to send the person again to fetch us, but that would take another 1.5 – 2 hrs time and all that we had to do was wait. He informed us that by the time the person reaches to pick us, we had to park our car at a nearby known person’s house. We came back again at the cross and me and Nag decided to find the house, park the vehicle and come back while Raja and Guru would wait there itself incase our guide reaches early; all this while we had light as the car’s headlight and tail lamp was sufficient. We went and searched, but could not find any home nearby and came back to the same place; the best part was as soon as we left, the only source of light there was gone and Raja and Guru had a hair raising 15 minutes as they could not even spot each other in the darkness and added to it, that day was “Mahalaya Amavasya” (No moon day and one of the scariest nights). Back to square one, we found a small half burnt campfire still alive and then we started the campfire using the dry twigs present all over to whale time and also to use as a source of light. Luckily we had some Rice Kadubu’s packed earlier at Nag’s house, and our stomachs were craving, we started gobbling them down and that coincided with our guide’s arrival. Phew! A sense of relief and joy and the time was around 9.15 pm. The most surprising part was that 2 people had come to take us and on a bike crossing a river and amidst the jungle! Brave hearts!
The person on the bike came with me to show the parking place, and the others went with the 2nd guy to the riverbed. The distance from the road, where we had camped till the Kali riverbed was around 4 kms, rather 30 minutes of walk through the jungles. To cross the river or ferry smaller vehicles, a wooden raft is used which is tied to both ends of the river Kali and is manually pulled to cross over. Kali river during monsoons is highly difficult to cross and sometimes impossible. So all 6 of us with the bike got on to the raft and another 15 minutes of pulling made us reach the other shore at around 9.45 pm. The guy who had come on the bike was actually Gopal Bhat’s neighbor who had volunteered to bring us and had come on his bike. He again volunteered to drop one of us to Gopal Bhat’s home and I left with him with the laptop and all the baggages of no idea of how the ride would be. The ride to the Gopal Bhat’s home from the riverbed was the best ride on a bike I have experienced till now; well it was not a ride; a motocross rally in the pitch dark jungle on a splendor bike and speed no going down below 40 kmph and me hardly able to balance myself on the back seat! The distance on the bike was longer but we reached by 10.15 pm and I wont forget the ride for a long long time to come. Well the others had a nice, tiring night trek through the forests and farmlands and reached there by around 11 pm. It was an experience on one side but an insight into the lives of these villagers made us shudder. We got to know about this place through an article on the net. The way we reached here was for once, but they had to do it daily and imagine if a person is sick or the bike broke down half way in the jungle! The Government’s apathy in this matter is deeply criticized as the promises they made when acquiring the land and submerging the roads leading to the village had vanished now and the people were suffering to no end. Electricity here is mostly self-generated using the streams flowing around and the telephone connectivity is unpredictable. But still the people have learnt to live this way hoping things would get better someday. Imagine riding like that for around 10 times a day or walking / trekking 10kms each time to reach the nearest road! Well the people of Shivapura and the other villages are doing it with a hope someday things would change. They have seen people die without getting medical help, villages submerged by the Kali river during monsoons, wild animals straying into their backyards, still they are putting up with everything! Truly brave people and hope things get better for them at the earliest. The hospitality of the hosts moved us; they were waiting for us anxiously and had not had dinner till we reached. A nice heavy dinner and cozy mattresses awaited us. Our next day options was either a trek to the Kavala caves or to a waterfall, obviously we chose the latter. What a day! What an adventure! We finally had made it! And even Gopal Bhat was surprised by our will of making it there whatsoever happens. Even my condition had improved drastically thanks to the numerous tablets I was swallowing. Thanking God, we retired for the night. 250kms by road and 10kms by trekking with 4 places of interest; better planning than previous day.
29-09-08 - We were up and ready by 7 am for the adventures for the day; we were treated for some real good hot dosas at Gopal Bhat’s house and hot cup of tea; well that set the tone for the day. Shivaraj was our guide who would take us to the falls and come back and again guide us till the riverbank for our return journey. With no backpacks or baggages, we started of enthusiastically from the house, we started through the forests, crossed many a streams, leeches started showing their presence, unabated we moved forward till we reached a bigger stream. There Shivaraj told us that we can either go through the top which is a longer route or wade through the stream till we reach the falls. We chose walking through the river as again climbing to the top and again getting down to the falls would be strenuous. The water was cold, the sun still waking up, the sound of flowing water was audible, the birds singing their tunes, all in all it was a wonderful journey to the falls, never had we imagined that we would be doing this ever. Soon after more than an hour we reached the falls, it was not a very big one, but smaller ones with good force of water. Rue our sense of mind, none of us had brought spare clothes and we were standing in front of the falls and the stream that was very inviting. We decided to plunge into the water now and dry ourselves later and then leave, we spent quite a long time here wading across, Raja and Shivaraj particularly doing some acrobatic dives, guru chose to be dryer not wanting to get wet. Then started our trek back to the house, now it was even more tiresome and our stomachs were empty by now, midway we caught a green vine snake that had camouflaged itself nicely between the greens of the forest. It was quite calm till we held it and swiftly disappeared as soon as we left it. Now it was virtually a trek as we had to climb up with no definite path ahead, holding on to the loose soil, rocks, sand, trees, shrubs and at one place as I was climbing up, slipped and a stone went tumbling and landed with a thud right onto the camera which Raja was hanging around his neck. The new baby which was hardly days old got a dent on its head, luckily the lens and the screen part remained intact and also Raja was unhurt. We came back to the house with blood still oozing out from the leeches bite and were offered buttermilk by Bhat’s sister who also gave us the solution to stop the blood flowing out. As told we applied burnt ash on the bite and after a few minutes, the blood flow had stopped. We helped ourselves to many more glasses of buttermilk and were ready to leave. As Gopal Bhat and his wife were not to be home by the time we come back, we had thanked them for their generosity and help earlier in the day. Now when leaving we wished his sister goodbye and left with our guide Shivaraj to the kali riverbank from where we had to cross the river on our own and trek to the main road. As it was daytime, the path taken yesterday night was visible clearly as we passed through farmlands and dense forest vegetation. At the riverbank we had to wade through the river on the raft on our own, the wide Kali river amongst the dense forest provided a breathtaking view all along till we reached the shore. From here started our ardous journey of the 4km trek to the main road, by the time we reached the main road we were all completely dried out and tired to the last limb possible. Uff what an adventure we were having in the last 12 hours!!! From there we went to the house where we had parked our car, thanked them and bid goodbye to move on to our next destination. Sathodi falls was not on our agenda as we had heard that the falls has been submerged into the backwaters; but our conception was wrong as that made us move towards the sathodi falls which was around 20kms from Shivapura crossing. The initial 15kms was very fine with good but narrow roads with multiple hairpin bends, the last 5km stretch had no roads at all and it was pretty rough manoevering our Alto along this stretch as it was too bumpy and skiddy. Still we managed to reach there to find no visitors at all. From the gate one has to walk for around 2kms to see the falls. Along the way we were told there is a small hamlet where food is available but to our dismay we found out that the inmates had gone out and we had to be without food till we reached Yellapura. Sathodi falls was a dream destination for me which I always wanted to visit and news of it being submerged in the backwaters had very much dissappointed me, but now I was standing right in front of the magnificient falls savoring each moment. There are some logs kept to block the water flow to avoid people going upto the base of the falls as its too risky and full of rocks. We were almost some 30 feet away from the falls, still the force was such that we were being showered with water drops that far which is why the logs kept there make sense. During peak monsoon I could not resist imagining how would the falls look like; whether it would be possible even to approach it? - I have no answers until I find out personally. Sathodi falls is not so famous as the Jog, but personally I feel Sathodi overshines Jog as water flow to the Jog is controlled and its in full bloom only during peak monsoons, but Sathodi as of now is much better and presents a real treat to the eyes. After spending quite some time viewing the gorgeous falls in all its mighty splendor, we turned back as we had still Magod falls to cover for the day. We went back to Yellapur from where a further 5kms towards Ankola and then a deviation of 15kms inside would lead to Magod falls. The road condition was pretty good and we were racing as to reach there before dark. We reached there by 6.10 and we were informed the ticket counter closes by 6pm. We requested and were let inside asking us to return at the earliest. The view point is at a great distance from where the majestic sight of the falls can be seen. As it was getting dark very quickly we could not savor the beauty for too long but the roar of the falls is still ringing in my ears! After spending some time, we came to see the ticket counter room locked and not a soul around and it was pitch dark already! We made our way back taking a shortcut to our planned halt @ Sirsi. Halfway through, the road stretch was a pain and we had the privilege of having "Fridge bonda" with hot tea. Naga had already booked a room through his relative at Sirsi @ "Samrat guest house" (08384-236278 / 236479) and after dinner it was only rest for all of us. 10 kms of trek and around 100 kms drive with some wonderful places covered. Good planning!
30-09-08 - All of us woke up late as the itinerary for the day was limited, we went to the nearby temple town Sonda for a quick visit. We took our own time and reached Unchalli falls only by mid afternoon by 3pm. It was such that even the ticket issuer had not turned up that day as it was a weekday and hardly few people came by. Earlier to reach Unchalli falls, one had to walk from Heggarni village for about 5kms to the falls but now roads are constructed close to the falls. This falls has different names and known as Unchalli falls or Lushington falls or Keppa Joga because of the deafening noise it makes. This fact was very true as we could hear the roar of the falls from quite a long distance. From the check post, one has to walk for some distance through winding roads to reach the viewpoint. Steps are constructed to go down to another viewpoint below. Its also possible to trek to the base of the falls. The captivating thing here is that the weather is anytime moist, because as we saw as the water drops from the height of 650 feet, water droplets move up in the air and finally comes down as a drizzle over the surrounding areas and as the sun plays hide and seek, beautiful rainbows appear regularly and we were lucky enough to spot double rainbow against the mighty falls. These dirzzles are intermittent and there is no chance of standing there without getting wet. We were unable to stand in the open for too long as we were getting wet and even the viewpoint was completely dry. After spending quite some time here we moved on in search of our next destination Waate halla falls. We had no proper directions to this place, as per directions from the villagers at Heggarni we moved ahead till we reached a stream that we had to cross and further walk for about 3-4 kms to reach the falls. We crossed over and started walking and the entire area was deserted with a river flowing nearby and absolutely no souls around. The leeches made their appearance again sucking our blood but we moved on, the time was nearing 5pm and it was almost an hour since we started walking, the path seemed to never cease which made us turn back dropping the idea of seeing the falls. We came back disheartened and finally we saw a villager, he told us that we had taken the wrong deviation!! Oh! gosh. This time we tried crossing the stream in the car but were somehow not convinced and brave enough, finally we dropped the idea and took the route back. We had no other plans for the day but just to reach and halt either at Siddapura or Sagara town. We found no hotels at Siddapura and even at Talaguppa the IB was full and at Sagara town, only two good hotels are present which were recommended by our Sagara friend Shrini. Hotel Varadashree, being the best was full to the brim because of a marriage party and luckily we found accommodation at Shantha lodge. End of another fruitful day. 150 kms with less strain and good places covered. Another day of good planning.
01-10-08 - Woke up lazily and our first destination for the day was the famous Jog falls (no snaps as i still feel dissappointed). We knew in advance that the water flow had reduced but we were hugely dissappointed as the water was trickling down from the majestic height (our dissappointment levels were high as we had just come here viewing the magnificient Sathodi / Magod / Unchalli falls). We spent some time and went behind near the guesthouses to get the side view of the mighty Jog. Then passing by the distant Linganamakki reservoir, we came to Sagara and after a heavy breakfast moved ahead to Agumbe via Thirthalli. The roads are pretty good but we couldnt reach anytime before 3.30pm at Agumbe as our driving was quite slow in the range of 50kmph. Our plan at Agumbe was to trek to the Barkana falls (around 6km trek one way) but the low fuel indicator and fading light added to the fact that no petrol availability till Sringeri made us cancel the Barkana trek and as we also wanted to reach Kudremukha at the earliest. From Agumbe to reach Kudremukh one has to go via Sringeri, the roads till Sringeri are pretty good and after that starts the highway route through the Kudremukha National Park. Single laned, lesser wide, at a higher elevation and bumpy and we had some goosebumps every now and then as many truckers would just whizz pass by and push us to the extremes and the many hittings my car got on the underneath! It was a tormenting road and as the stretch ended at the deviation towards Mangalore, the road widened up and what lay ahead was the beautiful race track and the sight is enough to send the pulses racing. 6pm and the weather had changed drastically with the chill wind blowing and savoring the green beauty of the Kudremukha valley we moved ahead to the forest office at the Kudremukha township limits. We had booked in advance the tents at the Bhagavathi camp (see photo of the group in front of the tent) that is 10kms from the Kudremukha township and is completely cutoff from the rest of the world. From the main road its about 1.5kms inside where the tents / cottages are located with the kitchen. Chilling cold weather and cozy tents and good hot food served by the cook there and the next thing on our minds was to sleep that was accompanied with various sounds (of animals, insects and many others...). Wild animals are sighted quite frequently inside the camp area and the near the tents also and the most common sighted are the Deer, Sambar, Bisons, Elephants and sometimes rarely a big cat. Another exciting day. Missed out Barkana falls but the environment at Kudremukha spiced up the day!
02-10-08 - I was the last to wake up as it was quite chilly weather outside, meanwhile Raja, Guru and Nag were already back from a moring walk in the cold and they spotted deer, sambar in the vicinity of the camp area and they also had a bone chilling bath in the nearby stream behind the camp area. We got news about a indian gaur just spotted crossing the stream behind the camp area, we wasted no time and just ran in that direction. We traced him quickly and no sooner realized he was limping but had no idea why so! He was clearly irritated at our following and he started ramming and uprooting the bushes around him and all the while menacingly staring at us. We moved back not wanting to irritate him further and with bountiful of blood sucking leeches on all our legs; came back to a heavy breakfast and were ready to go to our next destination - Hanumangundi falls. This falls is in the Kudremukha park area and is well maintained. Most of the travellers passing by stop enroute here for a refreshing dip or just to spend some good time at the waters. We then went to the mine dam Lakya dam which is covered of loose sand and people are not allowed on the bridges. Water stored is viewed only when you venture deep inside on the bridge, otherwise its a good place to spend quality time. It was past mid day when we bid adieu to Kudremukha with a wish to be back here soon to conquer the mighty peaks and proceeded towards Chikmagalur town to rest for the day and gear up for our much awaited trek to Mullaingiri the next day. We were welcomed at Chikmagalur with rains and seeding doubts about our trek the next day and also demotivated by every other person with whom we were checking the trek route and advising us to drive all the way up and why waste time trekking!!! We halted at the Soundarya residency in Chikmagalur (08262-235257).
How stupid people can be, rather have they ever pushed their lazy bums for a trek? Many unanswered questions? As Bhadra halt was cancelled, we changed our initial plans of staying back the next day at Chikmagalur instead we decided to halt at Kemmanagundi ( Joshua & Shrini helped us in getting the nos instantly) and then move on from there.Well another fruitful day with less driving and more thrill.
03-10-08 - The D day had arrived and I was about to move with my group on one of the most awaited treks of my lifetime, this being the first attempt at Mullaingiri was all the more special. We started late because of the chill weather or the overcast conditions or just to have some breakfast. The trek to the peak starts from the "Sarpadaari" (its a small metal arch donated by some kind souls indicating the way to the temple) and you are sure to miss it if you dont enquire with the locals. From Chikmagalur town, get on to the tar road leading to Bababudangiri and just after a km off the deviation to Mullaingiri is the Sarpadaari arch located just by the roadside, probably this arch is around 10kms from the town. From the base when we looked up, we could see nothing just dense foliage covering our view. We started ascending the peak from the word go... 10 mts.. 15mts.. 25mts.. we started panting, it was steep and quite steep but we were on a mission and taking breaks we inched slowly ahead covering foot by foot savoring the panoramic view of Western ghats all around, it sure was mesmerizing and kept us going. After 75 minutes of patient wait and a steep uphill trek, we reached the pinnacle of Karnataka (forgive me if i'm a bit too exaggerating, but u just cant relive the experience...). All of us were quite ecstatic being on the highest peak of Karnataka and that too scaling the peak on foot. There is a small temple on the top dedicated to Lord Shiva and we could see some renovation work going on. The mid day weather was just perfect (the sun was shining but not hot), beautiful valleys all around but all this could not fill our stomachs, we were hungry. We then by chance met the priest who resides there and told him that we had trekked up the hill through the "Sarpadaari", he instantly offered us to have food as we would surely be tired. We never expected this at the top of the highest peak - "somebody offering you to have food" - Thanking god for the help we gobbled the food served to us, the food was not hot but at that anytime anything was "Amrutha" for us. After the meal we also met a group of other trekkers who had just arrived and told them about the food availability, they too were hungry and more than willing to have food. Then started the maze of clouds playing hide and seek, the visibility was very poor sometimes and after a few minutes the entire valley would be visible. After spending a long time resting atop and savoring the nature's beauty at its best we decided to trek down the same way we came up after debating whether to take the sarpadaari road or walk down from the tar road. The tar road is a much longer route to walk down as it encircles hills on its way up to the peak. The descent was very swift, it just took about 40 minutes to get down to our car, with black clouds hovering above made us descent all the more faster as the sarpadaari path would become dangerously slippery if it rained and as the descent is steep downhill and no flat surface to hold you back. At the base we were rejoicing at our successful scaling of the highest peak and with all our faces beaming we started towards Kemmangundi for the day's halt. The route which we took to reach here continues forward via Bababudangiri to Kemmangundi but the road condition was "horrible" and very bumpy, luckily none of us had a weak back or spine. After the Bababudangiri junction, the road condition was slightly better and the valley all around was green to the core and with the temperature dipping, it was a pleasure driving all along except for the road conditions. It took us nearly 2 hours to cover a little over 70kms stretch. We got rooms instantly at Kemmangundi and the temperature was zooming downwards and with a lovely environment all around, we were literally in green heaven. Another eventful and one of our most cherishable days of our life coming to an end, the joy of scaling Mullaingiri, the disappointment of Bhadra and the surprise package of Kemmangundi (last time it was very disappointing at Kemmangundi) all made it eventful.
04-10-08 - In the kind of environment we were, all of us were reluctant to wake up early and as also this day - Saturday was supposed to be the last day of our trip, it made us all the more lazier with no interest of going back home so early. The cottages are very well maintained and with lot of flowering plants inside the area and is home to many bird species. We got ready and then exploring Kemmangundi on foot visited the Z point via the Shanthi falls and the gardens out there and with the not to be missed canteen area. The way upto the Z point was entirely different from what I had seen here the last time and with greenery all around, the sight was very soothing and pleasant to the eyes. Post lunch interval we bid goodbye from there and started on our way back with the idea of returning back to Bangalore the same day. It
roughly takes 6 hours from Kemmangundi to Bangalore taking the Tarikere route, but we had plans of covering Belur and Halebidu so we had to come back to Chikmagalur and then proceed ahead. Belur and Halebidu are famous for their Hoysala style of architecture with the main attraction at Belur being the Chennakesava temple and the Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu. We lazily moved around capturing all those beautiful sculpted carvings and never realized the time until it was 6pm. Another 5 hours drive and we would be back at our homes but I was feeling very tired and sleepy and pestered and convinced all of them to halt at Hassan and then proceed the next day towards home. The highway from Chikmagalur to Belur and from Belur to Hassan was in excellent condition with broad roads and without a glitch and we never realized that we were cruising at around 100km/hr. At Hassan for 800 rs we got a complete house / villa for us to spend the night, we being the restless morons went to watch the Kannada movie flick "Vamshi" and retired for the day by 12 midnight. 05-10-08 - Predictably we, especially me woke by only around 11am and then left hassan by 12 noon towards namma Bengaluru. On the last leg of our adventurous journey all of us were in a state of haze and a bag of mixed emotions wondering how fast time flies and recollecting memories about the 9 previous solid days we spent together. Finally at Bangalore by evening I ended off the mamoth trip by dropping off my partners from the places where I picked them 9 days ago and thanked them for making this trip a truly successful and memorable outing. Finally nearly 4 months after undertaking this trip, the memories still as fresh as ever, I am able to finish this travelogue sans pictures and its been a long trip report covering all the major and minor aspects of the trip. Now I feel a hell lot relieved.... (idiot - no guts to wear this in office!?!) Today, 7th August 2009, as i formally complete this blog updating few snaps, the planning and logistics for our "Karnataka Anveshane II" is almost finalized and we all are again ready to rock n roll!

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Nov 9, 2008

Chunchi falls - Sangama - Mekedaatu

It was almost fifteen days since we had been on our last adventure (@ Maidenahalli), we were again searching for some getaway place nearer and finally we decided on Chunchi falls near Sangama for a short visit. I had good vague memories of Chunchi falls which I had visitied on a office trip somewhere in 2003! (the splendid falls was etched in my memory which made us decide on the venue this time).

10th august 2008: As strict as I am ever, never mind the "aah not again" chores from my regular group of Raja, Guru and myself, we left bangalore by razor sharp 6:30 am on a dull saturday morning towards kanakapura, with the regular fuel filling exercise at talghatpura IOC pump and with a small tea break there. Guru had another reason to be tired because of the severity of the toothache he had added with fever (poor chap! he struggled for almost the entire morning, still put up a brave face), we breezed past kanakapura and stopped at a small village enroute for the much needed breakfast. Still we had quite a slow drive with neither my eyes nor the body willing for the drive but being forced to till we had breakfast. The breakfast was pretty good added with a good cup of hot tea propped us up. Just before 15 to 20 kms before sangama is a huge arch to the left which is the deviation to Chunchi falls and a board is also put up notifying the same. Another 5-6 kms through this road landed us at the edge of a cliff from where a little bit of walking is required to reach the falls. There was a old man there issuing tickets and collecting parking fees and we were the first ones there as it was quite early in the day. We spotted a watchtower to the left in the opposite direction of the falls and we walked up there first to get a view of the valley through the fields making our own path. The view from the watchtower was good with a cool breeze blowing over. Spent a lot of time lazing at the tower and after an hour of idling time decided to trek up to the falls. From there no definite path was visible, we started walking on the banks of the river Arkavathi, on the boulders, b/w the shrubs literally wherever we could place our feet firmly. We were able to hear the sound of water falling from quite a distance and was like solving a puzzle to reach the falls. Well when we reached there, we could see the silver drops of water falling graciously from the top, in two stages or rather because the water flow was very less so much that the inner rocks and the parch green was clearly visible. Overall we were dissappointed having see the same falls in full flow last time and later when we got to the place where we had parked the car, got to know that the water is diverted to a power plant and is released to the falls only on few days. Still putting the dissappointment behind we enjoyed the mini trek and the bumpy walk.

As we were back much earlier than expected, we decided to head towards Sangama and if possible Mekedaatu. Even the water flow at sangama was moderate but the crowds were more as also the plastics and the drinks. Incidentally I have been to sangama around 3-4 times but never ventured out to Mekedaatu. This time however as none of us had been there, we started our walk crossing the river towards Mekedaatu. No difficulty is crossing the river as the water level was only upto knee height and at the other end of the bank there are 2 buses which ferry people to Mekedaatu and back to the river bank for 12 rs per person. We heard its about 4-5 kms away and decided to walk rightaway upto Mekedaatu. Empty stomachs, hot sun and a dry muddy road made it tiresome and we took more than a hour to reach there and the distance was 6kms. Many groups who had started walking behind us in b/w changed their minds and had boarded the bus, but we kept on moving as we had decided to walk irrespective of how far it ever would be! On reaching

there we could spot hoardes of people there almost covering every inch of space available. Here the main attractions are the rock formations and the force of water flow. On one of the boulders we could see hardly any people and rightaway decided that would be our territory, as we tried reaching there realized the difficulty and the reason for no people swarming there :).

Mekedaatu instantly impressed me on my first time visit itself - the gushing water, the amazing cut in the

rocks & boulders, the scenery, the lush green surroundings and heard its abundant in wildlife too. Sitting on the edge of the rocks and peeping down to see the water is itself an experience that cant be described with the water sprinkling onto the face and sometimes scary too (one small slip and you are gone for ever!). We spent as much time as we could watching the rivers flow in such force and carving out various shapes in the rocks which dare to stop their flow and later we chose the easier option and came back by the bus till sangama. Played for very less time in the water (i'm scared of drowning in the water from previous experiences!) and started searching for food as our stomachs started crying. There is only one dhaba kind of a hotel where we had some food (but expensive) to appease our grumbling stomachs. All the while one thought was running through the mind of a few display boards which we had seen. The boards are actually "Warning messages" put up by the friends and families of the victims who were washed away in the waters at Sangama and to warn people of the dangers (Swimming, swirls/whirlpools, crocodiles) but people care a damn and regularly the victim count is increasing (hope the government does something!). Mid evening and the crowd had considerably reduced and the rain gods made their presence felt with heavy lashings and finally we decided to head back to the dry, safe confines of our homes. Heard there is an old guesthouse there at Sangama (plans for utilizing that has already started in my mind)!

Overall a nice, good, not so clean, crowded still space for everybody, adventurous, beautiful place and a worthwile trip very closer to our namma bengaluru.

Route: Around 90 kms from bangalore on Kanakapura road on the way to Sangama / Mekedaatu. About 16kms before 'Sangama' you have to take a left turn to the Yeleguri village to go to the Chunchi waterfall. The waterfall is about 6km away from the deviation.

Tips: Play safe in water as the currents are very strong. Don't litter. Avoid plastics / liquor. Dont leave traces of your visit. Preferred to carry own food and water.

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!