Monday, December 26, 2011

Chunchi Falls

It had been over a month and half since I had been to Kudremukh along with a few of my relatives, this time I was looking for something closer, something that could be done within a day.

I had been to Mekedatu and Sangama while at school, and while searching for some places to visit around Bangalore, in addition to these I found this place - Chunchi Falls.

Chunchi Falls is lacated around 75 km from Bangalore. This falls is formed by the river Arkavathy which has its origin at Nandi Hills. With the rapid urbanization of Bangalore, the catchment area of the river is seriously affected.

This river joins the River Kaveri at Sangama and later flow through rapid stone gorge called Mekedatu. We shall discuss this in some other blog on travel and trek. Today's blog is about our journey to Chunchi Falls and the experience there in. 

It had been long since I had spent time with my family and so decided to get going on a trip with family. The location choice was mine - Chunchi Falls. I had heard about the falls a few times when I was planning some treks, trips over the last few years but had never made the move to reach the place. 

From the blogs I had read, I had gotten to know that the falls would be around 75 Km from Bangalore and one had to cross Kanakapura Town and move in the direction of Sangama. 

We set out on 24th December around 11 AM from our home towards the falls. It was car drive and together with me on the trip were my parent, my spouce Sahana and my cute niece - Pratiksha. We drove pretty steadily through the traffic in bangalore before we hit Kanakapura road. 

It was probably the first time my parents had driven out in our car on the Kanakapura road. We moved past the Metro, before the traffic began to subside. The rest of te drive was pretty peaceful. You move in front of the Art of Living campus, then beside the campus of APS College of Engineering etc before we reach Harohalli. 

Another 20 minutes drive from Harohalli we reach Kanakapura. Just as we enter the town of Kanakapura, we cross a bridge across the River Arkavathy. All along the journey this far, we find hills which appear to recemble various creatures - depending on your imagination!

We reached Kanakapura a few minutes after 12:00 noon. We moves through the town' main road and then came to the road taking us to Sangama. We move for quite some time on this road till, we find an arch (not in the general sense of the word - but more to indicate an entrance). This is where we need to take a left turn and drive down the narrow road till we reach the parking lot. (The roads are bit narrow and its good to keep an eye for the vehicles coming from the other side).

The falls is supposedly best between early winter and early summer. One has to keep in mind that the falls is no perennial, and it is the rain-fed river which forms Chunchi falls. We reached the parking lot, just on the banks of River Arkavathy, when we found a localite run towards us with a receipt book - the parking fees for a car is Rs 30/-

Just as we move towards the river, we first encounter a channel with water. This channel takes water from the small dam upstream to the power-station a short distance ahead. 

We crossed the channel and began defending towards the river - The river flows along rocky bed of Arkavathy. At various points you would find small deviations from the trek route that take you down to the river. Any point would take you to the big heart shaped pool that the river creates before it decided to take a leap downstream. 

One can reach to the top of the point where the falls finally makes it leap! The only precaution one would need to take is the smooth surface of the rocks. While the smooth surface is just one of the issues to take note of, the other challenge is that of  broken bottle pieces which the weekend parties of the bangalore crowd leave behind. 

I still wonder, why we literate people do not understand that they have to be socially more responsible. The various waste that we produced as part of our joy is also our responsibility to dispose them without creating trouble for the others who too visit the place for enjoyment. 

I some how wasn't very happy with having visited the top of the falls, I could still see faint strains of another falls close by and being the fall lover I am, I would love to get a view of the other one too. I spotted a view point on the opposite side of the falls. I quickly realized that would give me a view of both these falls.

We got back onto the return ascent to the channel and then took the jeep track to the view point. Its around a kilometer from the channel, and is relatively undisturbed. 

The view of the 2nd falls from the view point was something that gave me a good satisfaction. The falls had 2 cascades and had a lot more water flowing when compared to the mail stream flowing.

We reached the view point, munched the junk food we carried and had some snaps clicked before we decided to return back.  The view point however is not well maintained and if I could say is almost neglected. 

This place too like many of the other places in Karnataka, has enormous potential but doesn't get the required attention and dedication towards ensuring that the potential is expiated and also gets little maintenance.

With these thoughts in the mind we began the return journey, when I woke up to the reality at hand. We had skipped lunch, so we had to get back to a good hotel to have some food that was to get us going back home. 

We reached Kanakapura, had our lunch at a Udupi hotel that was at the entrance of Kanakapura just after having crossed over the bridge across the River Arakavathy when coming from Bangalore. My parents purchased some vegetables on the way back and we resumed the drive back home.

The journey was pretty simple till we reached Metro, the rest was a drive through the city traffic and we finally reached home at 7:00 PM. 

After many days it was a time well spent with family, and I wouldn't be surprised if I would repeat this and get it to be a routine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trek to Kuduremukh 2

It had been quite a long time since I had been on a trek. The last trek I had been in 2011 was some time in March. This was also to be my first trek after marriage. This time I decided to make it a closed group for the trek, including my wife - Sahana, uncle - Manju, sister - Shwetha, and my cousin -Ramya. Shana, Shwetha were to leave from Bangalore, while Manju Uncle and Ramya were to join from Udupi in the morning. 

Our initial idea was to reach BalGal via Kalasa, however dude to prior booking of seats we had to get back to using the route we chose the last time via - Karkala. We were to travel from Bangalore to Karkala and then take the local service buses to reach Balgal. 

We had booked a bus to Karkala, starting from the KSRTC Majestic Bus-stand at around 9:15 PM. We reached Kakala inspire of the pathetic ghat roads around 6 AM in the morning. Manju uncle and Ramya had just reached the Bus-stand a few minutes before we reached there. 

We got down and enquired about the first bus that was scheduled to reach Kalasa via Kudremukh. The first such bus leave from the Karkala bus-stand around 7:30 AM. We still had nearly an hour and half to wait for the bus. 

This was my second trek to Kudremukh, so I suggested we get to the hotel close by and have some "avalakki" and some other breakfast before we being the journey.  We sat back for the breakfast and enjoyed it before we got back to the bus-stand. 

The bus that was to take us to Kudremukh was a bit delayed and reached the bus-stand at 7:45 AM. A short while after the bus left the station, we reached "KinnigoLi" where the bus halted for breakfast. The bus stood here for around 10 minutes before it began the journey, the next major stop was at Kudremukh township. Another half an hour's journey from the township, we reached the point where we had to get down - Balgal. The time was around 10:15 AM.

Before we had left from bangalore, we had reached out to Arun who runs a home stay (I had taken his contact the last time I had come down here). He had organized a jeep to pick us up from Balgal. The jeep however wasn't there when we reached there! We checked with the localities and got to know that driver had just gone to the closest major town - Samse to pick up some of the daily grocery that was ordered by some of this relatives. 

The driver was back in around half an hour, and we left towards our home stay at around 11:00 AM. The road towards the home stay was all wet and slippery, thanks to the rains. Yes, it had rained pretty heavily the last few days (unlike the last time I came here when it was in the hot summer) - this means there would be leeches for company through the journey :) It wouldn't be new for many of us, but for the first few times it would definitely keep any one paranoid! All this was to just the right build up for the adventurous trek we were to have. 

The Jeep journey was just the beginning of the adventure - road was completely slippery and it requires great skill to drive on these narrow track.  What made the journey even more challenging was that the sides of the road were dug up for some pipes laying. These pipes were built to store water for the proposed horticulture project. The construction of the storage tank was pretty bad, and the water would leak as if from a sprinkler! All along the track we had coffee estates and provided a very memorable scenery. After this long journey, we reached the home-stay at around 12:00 noon. 

We were already late, so dumped our luggage and had a quick brunch before we began our trek to the peak. Arun decided to company us to the peak. The last time we had been on the trek, we began the trek at 1 PM and retuned by 6:30 PM, so I definitely believed it would be possible. 

The climate this far was pretty good, with the sun shining. It looked like the ideal weather for the trek. I was pretty sure we would have a good trek to the peak. The only thought I had at the back of my mind was being able to really get the ladies in the team constantly moving and keeping their stamina ready.

We began the trek at around 12:15 PM, and steadily moved through the track. The initial track was pretty good, not too slippery. There were very few leeches at these initial parts of the trek. The first break that we took was around 20 minutes into the trek just below a tree - we called it "Bodhi Tree".

A 5 minutes break and we continued our trek to the beak, we resumed the trek. The next phase has many streams and - this time the streams were flowing with lot more force. We moved on to the lobo-house. I could feel the steam in the team slowly receding, we just took a short break before we continued the trek.

From the last trek, I remembered the next phase was going to be pretty challenging. - It required us to climb a steep slope. The team slowly geared up for the climb but it took longer than expected. We reached a camping point which had manifested itself to a leech removing venue for most of the trekkers. We had our lunch at this spot before we resumed the trek. 

The next phase of the trek was the actual climb of the Kudremukh peak. The Camp-spot is just at the base of the peak and generally involved a pretty steep climb to the peak. When I looked at the watch, I realized we were slower than the last time and we would have a challenge at hand if we wanted to make it back by 6:30 PM like the last time. 

Ramya and Shwetha were already completely drained of energy, so we were pretty slow in our progress.  We began the last stretch around 3:30 PM and after consistent pushing and coaxing, we reached the plateau at the peak around 4:15 PM. The walk to the peak from the point we reach the top is around 10 minutes - one could find a ruined church on the right. 

We reached the edge of the peak from where we could see the plains of the west coast. We spotted a few notable landscapes, completed another set of snacks we had carried along. and by 5 PM we decided to resume our return trek. The joy of having reached the peak had in fact completely gotten us to forget the strain we had put to get to the peak.

Just as we began the decent from the plateau at the peak, we could see the clouds forming pretty quickly. We had to rush through the remaining trek if we intended to reach pretty quickly - Just a few steps into the trek and we had a quick shower which got us completely wet. The initial drizzle just got heavier and we found it just hard to see the route more than 3 meters ahead of us!

The heavy rains of the slope, got the complete slope flowing with water. We found it hard to even lift our foot and put it to the next one. This was just the beginning of the adventure at hand! The light faded away very quickly. We could also spot lightning ahead. With the state of the team at hand, leeches, water, lightning, and many more we were here for something memorable for a life-time! It was pretty common knowledge that the heavy rains at the peak would generally flood the stream on the return path - that is the last one we would expect!

The steep decent, combined with the rains was just making the complete journey a hard task at hand. A Slip and a fall was something that had become an common seen on the way back. The umbrella, raincoat and jerkins we wore were no protection form the rain. The rain would subside for 4-5 minutes but it wasn't enough to hold the ground against the wind. The wet dress only made it chiller than usual. We had 3 torches with us and we were completely at their mercy. 

Our Guide Arun, was pretty patient and helped keep the pace constant. He was the last person till we got down to the Lobo house, and then took to being the first in the line. The route was pretty clear till we reached Lobo house but then it was hard to find the remaining route in the tall grass and to add to it, it was the possibility of wild animals. 

We steadily made progress and kept moving towards the home-stay. In the dark, we found  a few rabbits, some bats and some others which we couldn't identify in the dark. This journey in the dark on the boundary of the National park, is definitely something that was to stay with us for long time in memory.

Ramya and Shwetha were pretty tiered and only when the reached the homestead did they realize that they had really done it. The strain of the travel, trekking, darkness in the forest and the fear of leech had gotten the better of us all. We reached the home stay at 9:30 PM. 

The next 30 to 45 minutes were spent to finding the leeches that had climbed all over us. We then freshen up and finally had dinner at around 10:30 PM. 

We took a sound rest before we had we woke up for the next day's return journey. We had asked the jeep to come down at around 7:30 AM so that we catch the bus at around 8:45 PM. 

We reached Bajagoli at round 10:30 AM, had our breakfast. Manju uncle and Ramya returned to Udupi; Shwetha, Sahana and I returned to Beltangadi before catching the next bus to Dharmasthala.

We reached Dharmasthala and booked our tickets to Bangalore. We reached Bangalore at around 9:00 PM. 

This was a memorable trek, thanks to the nature's forces. It always reminds me of one thing - Man only proposes and it is God who disposes. The Nature - a form of God has a lot of lessons to teach the student who is ready to learn. The absolute bliss is felt when you surrender to it, live through the experience.