Friday, December 30, 2011

Ballalarayana Durga....

It was pretty cold in the morning, but the warmth under sleeping bag made me to feel comfortable after a tiring day. I woke up with a clear blue sky and got some shining views of Bandaje waterfalls and surrounding mountains. The breakfast for the day was cup of noodles and then we packed up for another eventful day. After having a light breakfast, we started to trek ahead towards Ballalarayana Durga.
The first few kilometers are particularly strenuous, as the trek has a continuous ascent with a gradient of 45 to 70 degrees right up to Ballalarayandurga. The trail is skinny and at some points there seems to be no sign of trail and at one point I lost the trail and got confused the right way, Green canopied huge mountains covered everywhere I struggle to find the trail. I recalled my past experience particularly which I had spent long back in this land and decided to hike left side sharp mountain.
I know its a hard attempt to hike on dry steep mountains our walk goes more stretchy and long each time when we stepped the top of the hills we found many bigger mountains each time when stepped top on the the hill our initial journey goes like this only.
Surprisingly We spotted wild Gaur at a distance of 50 meters was a stunning moment it stared us for some time and got disappeared from the spot speedily (Gaur is listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List since 1986. It is the largest species of wild cattle, bigger than the African buffalo and wild water buffalo.) Hopefully my few photos will given a small indication of the beauty of this wild animal.
The trek to Ballarayanadurga through dense tropical forests and Shola grasslands, with magnificent views of mountains peaks , Sightly valleys and the mystical music of stream flowing down in the valley.
At one place I found the clear sign of trail and it quite exhilarating. we were back on the trail and we able to sight Fort from long distance. We moved, as we had all trip, quite slowly. The wind howling across the barren rocks and grass was cooling our bodies from burning sun. The spectacular views, the exhilaration, the beautiful and hostile environment. I don’t think I can really describe it, certainly not well enough to do it justice.

We took around 4 hours to reach top of the fort and stayed inside the fort for while. It is quiet, devoid of any people or noise - beauty of calm and gentle breeze are the valued treasures one can enjoy here. After spending few minutes then headed back down with another side of the fort.
A few hours and we were down to the estate, and then another couple minutes of walk to our last destiny point. Just few meters before I reach vehicle I fell down and my leg got hurt badly. Fortunately this happened very near to our vehicle so I only had to walk only few steps with broken leg. I felt bad for the tragedy end but all together ended with nice memories. By 4PM we were out of the park and headed for back to home.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bandaje waterfalls

See the stunning scenery of Bandaje waterfalls and beautiful mountain ranges of Ballalarayana Durga (fort) in two days (22km) long walk was not so easy but this time once again I chosen to hike this place with few curious nature lovers . At the base of Bhandaje, the track passes through Kudremukha national park so initial we faced some serious difficulties from forest department and got delay to start on a late morning. And also recent death on this place made more trouble us to find some guide.
Finally we one local guy joined us and he willing to guide us but on the half way he left us without any reason and once again the whole responsibility had fall down to my head, I had last hiked here in 2007 and immediately I noticed many improvements to the trail there is only one stream crossing which is easy.
This wasn’t easy walk quite the extreme upper walk requires a lot of determination, patience and strength. This hike is not for the faint of hearten hikers. It’s a tough upper walk in very rough terrain. The trail is extremely overgrown, unmarked, and in many areas it has been devastated .
I stopped and took a break several times as people would pass me and then I would pass them as they would break. As we gained more and more altitude, the views became majestic. The hike was very hard and we had lunch nearby stream.
Trekking through the hills was unremittingly scenic with streams thick evergreen jungles and grasslands. After a long upper stretch walk I reach the open grassland area and all our teammates joined me and we all relaxed for while and started to to more hike to reach our destiny before getting dark.
It says its about a mile to the top what it doesn't say is it is the longest mile ever! The bright blue sky, with just the right amount of clean white clouds thrown in, was designed perfectly to go with the greenery. We could spot many hills around us I stopped in for a look and after seeing the falls from the westbound edge of the grasslands terrain I said to my fellow hikers "Wow that was well worth the hike" and as I said it I felt emotion roll over me as this view was so amazing I decided to walk up the trail to the top of the waterfalls.
After crossing the first grassland hill one more grassland is much bigger than the earlier one and had head-high grass. First I reached the summit I waited for rest of my teammates we climbed down to the steep trail into the forest and continued for a bit more towards a open surface on top of the waterfalls.
When I did arrive at the falls , it exceeded my expectations and made all the tough walk,scrapes and bruises worthwhile. This is a beautiful waterfall, in a very scenic setting, and well worth the work to get there and watching sun-set view and awesomeness of the falls is so amazing. The dizzying drop is almost surreal. look out over the falls, keep head down and look at the ground until you get right up to the edge I just couldn't stop staring down the water as it goes from babbling brook to water droplets in harmonic flight.
If you start from Mangalore towards Chikmagalore, you have to get down at Somantadka 4km's from Ujire. Its 2.5 hours journey from Mangalore to Somantadka by bus. You can hire a jeep at Somantadka and go to Valambra, which is the starting point for this trek.
The hike into Bhandaje not the only rewarded the jungle trek is its own adventure as a guide navigates the grasslands, streams and mountains to reveal spectacular waterfall, once I got to the top the falls sore calves, worn out lungs and sweaty armpits will disappear and my visual high would last well into the next day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Belligundi Falls - The Leviathan of Adventure

Belligundi trek was one of the exiting treks I ever had with my friend Ashok which is one of the most picturesque place of Western Ghats, falling from a height of 300 feet and hidden deep in the forests.. I visited this place long back with some everlasting memories and was surely a tough task for the trekkers through the flowing streams, rolling velvet hills,Passing through dense jungles and lush green forests with the steep slopes and huge boulders was totally a great escapade ever we did on this land and the the sight of the cascade feast to the eyes.
My friend Srikanth recently made successful trip to this place with his friends on 10th December .I really thank to him for sharing his experience in my blog about his voyage with solid photos and details.
---After my first trek in 2007 to the base of Belligundi falls, time and again plans for a re-trek fell flat due to logistics and guide issues.  This time, things fell in place and we headed off on a crisp bright morning of Dec 9 from Hebbage in shimoga.  A sharp turn on the smooth highway led us to the beautiful farm of our genial guide Halappa who was waiting for us.
The initial crossover from his farm leads to vision of what lies ahead, the entrance of a massive, dark, dense jungle filled with huge trees.  There is a well walked path which leads to a small forest temple, this is the actual start of trek.  There is exactly no path but Halappa's memory of forest led us into deeper dense jungle which without him looked similar everywhere the cluster of trees.  The first 1 hour of walking through the dense leech infested, damp, moss filled ground took us to a small man made pool.  Halappa told there was an abandoned fort akin to Kanoor Kote now total down and overgrown by forest, swallowed total.  Exact 1 hour walk from here showcases an array of monstrous trees over 100 feet in height.  This leads to the second part of trek which is the opening of a cliff.  It is 3 kms treacherous climb down at inclination of 70 degrees leading to the first sight of falls. From here we are greeted with boulders strewn all around with varying sizes and shapes with gushing water. In monsoon time these rocks remain submerged making it near impossible to crossover. A careful negotiation of the boulders brings us to the base of falls in its full glory. The surprising thing is it is not at all deep at the base even with falls Cascading at a height of 500 feet. One can easily stand below the falls.
The panorama photo shows the height of the falls with my friend sitting below the falls.  Truly amazing sight!!
Standing below the falls one can only wonder at the might of the falls in monsoon glory - evident the way it has cut and shaped the valley below.  One can easily spot the belligundi viewpoint which is the opposite cliff from where one can see this falls standing at the cliff edge on their way to Goodanagundi Falls and below it Maalurgundi Falls. Our preference for this route though it is tough was the sheer beauty of the forest and the added beauty of huge trees rarely spotted outside.
After a dip in the magical waters it was time to finish our quick lunch and head back.  Camping was a good idea too but it was another plan altogether. The climb back initial 3 kms of the cliff is one real herculean task until the even forest ground is reached.  The beauty of such a tall falls undisturbed by human presence was worth all the hardship.  With hearts filled with accomplishment and savoring the beauty indelibly graven in our heart and mind, we set out the ascent back to civilization.
A truly memorable adventure worth doing time and again!!My sincere thanks to Rakesh Holla for letting me to contribute to his blog.