A South Indian Trekking Guide by a South Indian

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Honnemardu Trip

Trip : Honnemardu
Places Visited : Honnemardu, Jog Falls
Dates : 08-Mar-2003, 09-Mar-2003
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Chandan, John(Machan), Kannan(Chetti), Kuruvilla(Kuru), Manesh(Nair), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sonu, Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

Most of the regular members of our usual trekking gang had gone onsite. Still we were able to muster up enough people to go for a trip to Honnemardu, a serene spot nestled in the catchment area of Linganamakki Dam across Sharavathi river.

The Adventurers is a non-profit organisation, involved in the conservation of Western Ghats and the ecologically fragile region of Honnemardu. Bookings have to be done in their Rajaji Nagar office at least two weeks prior to the planned visit. Normally, weekends are heavily booked.

Warri and I set out one day to book the date and also to pay the per head per day charge of Rs.500. After a long hunt for the house and lots of whinings from Warri (There was an India-Pakistan cricket match that day), we finally booked 08-Mar-2003 for 10 people.

We booked a Tempo Traveller from Prerana Tours and Travels, Jayanagar (Phone: 91-80-2664 2223) as usual. The driver was Mr. Umesh.

We started on a Friday night. The way to Honnemardu was beautiful. Shimoga district was lush green even in the summer season. By Saturday morning, when we woke up inside the van, we saw that the road was covered with dense fog. When it cleared, we could see the beautiful countryside.

On reaching Honnemardu, we were greeted by a volunteer of the Adventurers. He asked us to form a circle and briefed us on the etiquette and the activities. First we were asked to complete our morning ablutions and use the nature for our you know what.

The breakfast was served then. It consisted of a simple upma and chutney, but was very delicious. We were taken to the water after that. We donned our life jackets and plunged into the water. The sun was hot, but thankfully the water was still cold. We spent an hour swimming, playing frisbee in the water etc. Kuru and Warri were a little reluctant at first, but soon joined in the fun.

After some time, the volunteer came and asked us to lift and put two coracles in the water. The coracles were made of fibre. Being a round boat, it requires a lot of knack to steer it. We learned it the hard way. At first the boat kept going round and round. Kuru, Machan, Sonu, Robo, Aliyan and I got into one while Chetti, Chandan, Warri and Nair got into the other with the volunteer. Owing to a bad start and strong wind we were way behind and in a race to a nearby island we finished a whole five minutes late. The island was bare and it was difficult to stand in the soil, thanks to the over energetic sun. Moreover none of were wearing any footwear.

We soon went back to the mainland. After lunch, we were told to rest for some time in a small house atop a hillock.

In the evening we again donned our life jackets and went to get the coracles. We went to the main island to pitch camp. The first job was to collect some firewood, while it was still light enough to see. Afterwards, we went to the waterfront in the opposite side of the island for more watergames. The Linganamakki dam was very much visible from this side. We watched the sunset sitting atop a rock enjoying the cool breeze.

When the night fell, we went back to the camp. The tent was already pitched by the volunteers. It was a sort of permanent tent with thick poles and stuff. I think it is not dismantled very often.

The volunteer taught us how to make a decent fire in criss-cross fashion. The bigger logs are kept at the bottom and the smaller ones on top. The whole contraption caught fire very easily. It reminded us of the numerous times we had wasted kilos of paper and litres of petrol trying to light a simple roadside fire.

We sat around the fire and sang some songs. By this time food arrived and was served. We had our fill and lay down to sleep. Though the tent was available, all of us lied down in the open. It was one of those rare occasions when you feel euphoric. Lying down staring at the stars in the sky, with a cool wind for company.

The next day morning we rode our coracles back to the mainland. Inspite of our very valiant efforts (like getting a headstart of about 5 minutes), the other coracle soon overtook us. We were debriefed in the mainland. Umesh was waiting for us with the van.

We went straight to Jog Falls. It was a big disappointment. India's tallest waterfall was all but dried up. There was a trickle of water falling down from one of the four main waterfalls Raja, Rani, Rocket and Roarer. But apart from that nothing.

There was a flight of steps leading to the base of the falls. Chetti wanted to go down have a bath in whatever water was available at the bottom and come up. The committee immediately conevened a meeting and vetoed the idea. (The Committee consists of all practically minded members, which automatically excludes Chetti).

It was at this precise time that a guide approached us and offered his services. He said he will show us 4 points which included a place to take bath. We jumped at the idea.

He first took us to the opposite side of the falls, to an old and abandoned bungalow of the British era. There was a good view of the river from this side. He went on talking endlessly about how big the waterfall is and that it is the tallest waterfall in the world. Seems Niagara Falls comes only second to this. We wanted to point out that Jog Falls with a height of 253 metres is anyway not in contention for the top spot and that Niagara Falls with a height of just 51 metres doesn't come anywhere in the picture. The tallest one, Angel Falls being a whole 979 metres high. But we kept quiet.

Then he took us to a small hanging bridge and told us that this was the second point. There was nothing to see in it. Well, a hanging bridge is a hanging bridge. We got fed up and asked him to take us to the place where he said we can take bath.

This was an ok place. It was more like a canal cut for irrigation. But it had ample water to accomodate all of us. We frolicked for some time and decided to go back.

On the way back, Umesh told us that there was a wild life sanctuary at Tavakkare, which was on the way. We decided to see some tigers for a change.

We took the necessary tickets and boarded a dilapidated tour bus. Once inside the enclosure we saw that the whole thing was not much bigger than a zoo. The name "wild life sanctuary" was a misnomer for this. Only thing was that the cages are big, and with the bus you are actually entering the cage.

There were quite a few tigers and a few lions inside. Of course, they were separately housed. Further, there were a few herbivores too in another enclosure.

After half an hour of "wild-life safari" we got down and boarded our van again for the return journey to Bangalore.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Muthathi Trip

Trip : Muthathi
Places Visited : Muthathi
Dates : 02-Feb-2003
Vehicle : Cars
Maruti Suzuki 800(Renjith), Hyundai Santro(Kuruvilla)
Participants : Dinkar(Dinkan), Girish(Giriannan), Kuruvilla(Kuru), Rajesh(KP), Renjith(Koothu), Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

The regular holiday-makers Khoj and Pad were in Canada and USA respectively. Chetti and Aliyan had some urgent work at the office. The Electrical gang comprising Anumod, Sunil etc. refused to come on such short notice. So on the Sunday morning, there were only 9 people assembled in our Koramangala house, the usual starting point of our trips. There were 3 cars available. Dinkan's Maruti Suzuki Zen, Kuru's Hyundai Santro and Koothu's Maruti Suziki 800. After a toss it was decided that only Koothu's and Kuru's car would be taken for the trip. Why waste petrol ?

Initially the trip was planned to Bheemeswari. There is a Fishing camp on the banks of Cauvery at this place. We took the Kanakapura road from Bangalore and proceeded towards Bheemeswari. Koothu's car had Girish, Warri, Koothu and me. Kuru's car was full with himself, KP, Robo and Dinkan.

There is a small ghat section when you approach Bheemeswari. The road here is very bad. We stopped quite a few times to enjoy the nature's beauty and also to check the tyres.

There was a huge gate at the entrance to Bheemeswari fishing camp. The guard stopped us and asked for tickets. We took out the cash to purchase tickets. But it seems we get the tickets only at Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd. office in Bangalore. So there ended "the Bheemeswari Trip" which was quickly converted to "the Muthathi Trip" at the guard's advice.

6 kilometres ahead was Muthathi, where you don't have to pay to visit the Cauvery. It was in a proper rural setting. We saw many people doing pujas etc. We went to a secluded place and sat for sometime. The river at that part was not very clean and also deep. So nobody ventured into the water.

By noon we were hungry and went in search of food. There was guy by a small roadside stall, who agreed to make rice and sambar if we wated 15 minutes. After about an hour, we got food served in plates made of dry leaves. We had a tough time controlling the watery sambar from flowing into our laps.

We walked to another part of the river after the lunch. We heard people talking about two guys who drowned an hour ago. I went and asked a decent looking person, as to what had happened. He explained to me that there was a drowning incident before their very eyes and that the police has been called. He was a college lecturer and had come with his students on excursion. Hearing that I hailed from Kerala, he pointed to two of his students who were bathing in the river. I talked to them for some time and went back to my friends.

With hardly anything to see in this place and already having decided not to take bath, we started our return journey by 4:00 pm.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Ranganathittu Trip

Trip : Ranganathittu
Places Visited : Kokkarebellur Pelicanry, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Balmuri Falls
Dates : 28-Sep-2002, 29-Sep-2002
Vehicle : Bikes
Enfield Bullet 350(Vishnu), Hero Honda CBZ(Sailesh), Hero Honda CD100SS(Jayaraj), TVS Suzuki Fiero(Manesh), Yamaha RD350(Suresh), Yamaha RX135(John), Yamaha RX135(Jomy), Hero Honda Splendour(Sushen)
Participants : Jayaraj(Mastan), John(Machan), Jomy, Kannan(Chetti), Manesh(Nair), Sailesh(Aila), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Shyamesh, Sonu, Sudeep(Robo), Suresh(Warri), Sushen, Vishnu

This trip came about mainly because we had not done a bike trip for a long time and also because Jomy had bought a new bike and he wanted to complete the run-in period fast.

I had read about a place called Kokkare Bellur, which was around 86 km from Bangalore. This place is a famous nesting ground of the migrating Pelican. Not that anybody had any interest in bird watching, but we decided to go there.

The plan was to start very early, at around 5:00 am. As usual, everybody was late and we started at 6:00 am from Bangalore. Chetti climbed behind Vishnu in his Bullet, in the hope of getting a ride. That he did not get one, is another story. Warri was alone in his RD350 and Jomy was alone in his brand new RX135. Nair had his brother Shyamesh riding pillion. Machan and Aliyan climbed into Machan's RX135. Aila had Sonu behind him in his CBZ and I had Sanjeev for company in my Splendour. Mastan and Robo brought up the rear in the CD100SS.

We took the fly over to reach Mysore Road and rode on. Every half an hour we stopped for Jomy to catch up. He could go at a maximum speed of 40 kmph only during the run-in period. Even Mastan could do more than 40kmph in his dilapidated CD100SS.

We stopped for breakfast at Channapattana. There were major performances from Vishnu and Aila. Vishnu ate around 10 idlis. After breakfast we continued to Kokkare Bellur.

Kokkare Bellur was a small sleepy hamlet. Apart from a few boards cautioning visitors against destroying the nests of the migratory birds, we found nothing. Then we saw the old ladies of the village pointing at us and laughing out loud. When we asked them they said, "The Pelicans have flown back long ago. If you want to see them come back next year".

This was too much for everybody. Though there wasn't a single bird lover in the gang, everybody started pointing accusing fingers towards me. I had to think quick. I suggested visiting Ranganathittu, another famous bird sanctuary. Thankfully everybody agreed.

We asked for directions and started towards Ranganathittu. Mastan had some work back in Bangalore and he went back. Robo continued the journey with Jomy.

According to the local people, Ranganathittu was only about 20 km from Kokkare Bellur. We learned otherwise the hard way. By the time we reached Ranganathittu, we had already driven 198 km from Bangalore.

There was no way we could ride back and reach Bangalore at a reasonable time. We opted to stay. We went to Balmuri Falls nearby, had a nice bath and rented a few rooms in a Bungalow turned Motel.

The next day, we got up by 6:00 am and drove back to Bangalore.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Mekedatu Trip

Trip : Mekedatu
Places Visited : Sangam, Mekedatu
Dates : 12-Jul-2003, 13-Jul-2003
Vehicle : Cars
Maruti Suzuki 800(Renjith), Maruti Suzuki Zen(Dinkar)
Participants : Dinkar(Dinkan), Jomy, Renjith(Koothu), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Shibili(Shibs), Sreepad(Pad), Suresh(Warri), Sushen


Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Kodaikanal Trip

Trip : Kodaikanal
Places Visited : Kodaikanal
Dates : 13-Oct-2001, 14-Oct-2001
Vehicle : Swaraj Mazda
Participants : Anumod, Daiju(Koilu), Dinkar(Dinkan), Jayaram(Kotharam), Manesh, Sanal(Gowda), Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Shibili, Sonu, Sreepad(Pad), Sunil, Suresh(Warri), Sushen

This was certainly not a trek. This was more like a pleasure trip.

Some guys in our gang weren't so used to the idea of roughing it out. When we related our experiences on top of Kumaraparvatha, to them, they balked at the very idea. To satisfy them we had to plan a slightly less adventurous trip. The obvious choice was Kodaikanal.

This was the grandest trip in a way, considering the number of participants. There were 15 in all. Anumod and company had landed from Bombay a couple of months back. All of them on a permanent transfer. This meant that we cannot go by our usual Tempo Traveller. So we had to hunt for a slightly bigger vehicle. We settled for a Swaraj Mazda from Jet Tours and Travels.

We were supposed to have started at 8:00 pm from Bangalore. The van came almost 3 hours late. We had to swallow a cock and bull story about a tyre puncture. Nevertheless we started the trip in high spirits.

As usual we spent some time in a dhaba for our dinner and proceeded. Soon we were in a bad traffic jam on the Hosur Road. The driver started sleeping immediately. We woke him up and asked him to take a shorter but slightly damaged road. He did that and as soon as we re-entered the main road, he stopped the vehicle and started sleeping again. By the time we reached Kodaikanal it was 5:00 pm Saturday. We had lost one whole day.

We took a dormitory with 15 beds for the night stay. That was a wonderful experience. It was like college days. Guys started playing cricket inside the dorm. Gowda even managed to break a window.

The next day we visited Cocker's Walk, Suicide Point etc. Really boring places. Very crowded too. Koilu and Dinkan liked it though. This was their idea of a trip.

After a very uneventful trip we started back on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Kumaraparvata Trek

Trip : Kumaraparvata
Places Visited : Kumaraparvata
Dates : 30-Jun-2001, 01-Jul-2001
Vehicle : Tempo Traveller
Participants : Chandan, Kannan(Chetti), Manesh, Sangeeth(Aliyan), Sanjeev(Khoj), Shibili, Sreepad(Pad), Suresh(Warri), Sushen

This happened in June 2001. We started from Bangalore at around 8 o' clock on a Friday evening in a Tempo Traveller from Prerana Tours and Travels (Phone: 91-80-2664 2223).

Ramesh, our driver was an excellent guy. He drives fast but without taking unnecessary risks. This was our second trip with him.

We stopped at a road-side dhaba, for dinner, and then got back into the van and promptly dozed off. By the time we woke up at 6 in the morning, we were in front of Subrahmanya temple.

Probably, our driver had thought that we were on a pilgrimage to the Subrahmanya Temple. He looked surprised when he saw us donning our trekking gear and heading for the nearest trekking trail.

We had two beach tents with us, which we had hired from Woody Adventures (Phone: 91-80-2225 9159). One was squeezed into my backpack and the the other into Chetti's. Though these were light weight tents, it certainly added weight to our already full backpacks. No wonder, Chetti and I were lagging far behind during most of the climb.

We had read some article written by guys who had done this trek earlier. We were to aim for a place called 'Bhattara Mane' (Bhat's Place) first, spend the night there, and push for the summit the next day. Since we all had become 'soft' by easy city life, the climb was really hard. Also, this was reputedly the toughest trek in Karnataka.

It was rainy season and the forest was wet, which meant we had to fight the leeches too. This was our second brush with the blood thirsty worm. (Previous one was at Thusharagiri in Kozhikode, Kerala during a trek in our college days). Shibili was frantically jumping and running in front of me to escape them. We coould not even stop for a few minutes to catch our breath, because the leeches would be all over us by then. After some time we realized that the best way was to ignore them. Ignore the squishy feeling inside your shoes. Ignore the blood running down your calves. Move on.

The dense forest around us started thinning down after some time. We reached some sort of an open space. Khoj and I were bringing up the rear for most of the trek. We saw the others waiting for us in a clearing. We were slightly piqued at them for not having stopped earlier. It seems Nair heard, what he 'interpreted' to be, an elephant's call for its mate.

Nair and Warri set of again ahead of us. Kannan and Chandan also resumed climbing. Pad, Shibili and Aliyan started as the third group. Khoj and I waited for some more time to nurse our leech related injuries, before joining them.

Nair was literally running ahead of us. Being thin and wiry, he had lot of stamina. Warri was also not far behind.

After what seemed like an eternity, we saw Kannan on top of a rim. He shouted saying he had found Bhat's Place. We went straight to Bhat's place, removed the shoes to let out the remaining leeches, downloaded in the nearby forest and had a bath in the ice cold water of a nearby pond. By the time we came back, food was ready. Never before had we realized that simple rice and sambar could taste so heavenly.

All of us swore that we will not climb the rest of the way. We had had enough for a trip. It had taken us more than 5 hours of back breaking climb to reach Bhat's place. Interestingly Chetti too swore the same.

With instructions from Mr. Bhat, we pitched our tents in a leech free area. Chetti, Chandan, Nair and Shibili entered the first tent (the family tent) and Warri, Aliyan, Khoj and I entered the second tent (the bachelors tent). Pad was left stranded in the middle. He tried clmbing into ours but we pushed him back and finally he had to take refuge in the family tent.

Supper was also arranged by Mr. Bhat. The menu remained the same but the taste was even better.

It rained heavily in the night, but we were safe inside our tents and sleeping bags. The family tent was a little cramped. Of course, it was meant for 3 people.

The next day, Chetti, Chandan and Nair woke up early to climb the rest of the way. Chetti came and called us. He heard 6 sleepy but determined 'NO's from 6 sleeping bags. Chetti went back dejected but nevertheless started climbing with Chandan and Nair.

The moment Chetti was out of sight the 6 of us jumped up and set about enjoying the day. We had very cleverly managed to save most of the food materials from being eaten by Chetti. After the morning's downloading, (Unfortunately Pad and Khoj had their Downloading act captured in film), we started eating the bread and jam and mangoes and oranges that we had painfully toted up.

We climbed some small peaks around and took photographs. Mostly with jam-smeared faces.

By noon, Chetti, Chandan and Nair came back and we started our climb down Kumaraparvatha. Shibili announced that he will never leave "civilization" for another trek like this. But there never was a trek till this, that we enjoyed so much.