Sunday, October 22, 2017

Face to Face with the Horse's Face : Kudremukh


This was my first trek after my wedding, and luckily I was able to make it for the Kudremukh trek, that was hosted by Summiters Adventures led by Mr. Vishwanath.


My wife (Manasa) accompanied me for her debut trek in the ghats. It was totally a new experience for her, as she had never ventured into such terrain before.

I could see her excitement while we were preparing for the trek even though she was worried about the cute leeches of the ghats :)

All things went as planned, and we departed Bangalore on Sep 1st, 2017 around 10.30 PM in a Tempo traveler. Myself and Manasa boarded the vehicle near Jayadeva hospital, and eventually many trekkers joined us.


It was wonderful to meet a whole new bunch of people from different walks of life, and hearing their experiences added to the joy.  


A small jerk in the vehicle after a few hours made me realise we were in Hassan. In no time from there, we reached the village of Balgal.


Day 1 : Sep 2nd, 2017


Balgal is a small sleepy hamlet situated in the western ghats of Chikmagalur district which is almost 10 kms from Kalasa. We alighted at Balgal by around 6 AM, and waited for the 4x4 jeep to pick us. 

Balgal is the last place where buses or tempos ply, and from here onwards one has to go in a 4x4 jeep. The road from Balgal to Mullodi(which is further 7kms) is narrow & rocky.

Since our accommodation was at "Shola Heights", the staff had come to pick us up from Balgal. The journey was literally a back breaking experience and by the time we reached "Shola Heights", I had to count if my bones were intact.


However, the view from "Shola Heights" reduced my pain and stimulated my ecstasy at the same time.




"When the golden rays of the sun kisses the mighty mountains, everything turns magical "









I had never seen a rice field isolated in the ghats.

Tricolor flag in Nature

Shola Heights :

Shola heights is a unique home stay nestled on the fringes of the Kudremukh national park. It offers very nice view of the Kudremukh peak and the adjacent hills surrounding it. 

Kudremukh peak and the "Shola Heights"


The breakfast comprised of fruits , Uppittu (Upma) , Shavige (Vermicelli) and Gasgase Payasa (porridge). These delicacies filled our stomach and triggered the energy levels of the team.
A small briefing session led by Mr. Ananth made the team aware of what to expect, how to react in case of a leech bite and overcome the fear of creepy reptiles in the jungle. 

Most of the team members were new to trekking and I could see their excitement grew as Ananth described the forest.

With packed lunch in our bags, we were ready to summit the peak of Kudremukh

The Team :


(From L to R : Sundar , Parul , Shreya , Ramya , Ananth , Vishwanath, Agni , Amrita , Manasa , Arjun)


Surmounting the Horse's Face :

Kuduremukha(1894 m) is a mountain range and name of a peak located in Chikkamagaluru district, in Karnataka, India. It is also the name of a small hill station situated around 20 kilometres from Kalasa. The name Kuduremukha literally means ‘Horse-face' in Kannada and refers to a particular picturesque view of a side of the mountain that resembles the horse's face. It was also referred to as 'Samseparvata', historically since it was approached from Samse village. Kuduremukha is Karnataka's 3rd highest peak after Mullayangiri and Baba Budangiri.

One has to take permission from the Forest department office situated at Mullodi near Rajappa's house. Once the entry fee and guide charges are paid, we are allowed to trek to the peak.


The back gate from the forest department office leads one to the peak. However, there are some small routes that appear to be marked as a proper pathway, but they do not lead to the peak. These routes are used by villagers to graze their cattle. Hence it is advised to go in a group with a guide.

The initial path is well marked and there are no gradations for the first few kilometres.





There is a small stream that flows elegantly in the valley below and the sound of the gurgling water can be heard from a long way. This stream is one of the many sources of water, where one can refill their water bottles and energise their souls.

Since there were newbies in the team, we had to match the pace with them. Though our guide asked us to walk fast, frequent water breaks reduced the pace.



The streams were flowing with all its might, and crossing them made it challenging.

Gang of girls crossing the stream.



As we were crossing the stream, there were few jumping jacks on the rocks below. On further inspection, I could see small croaking frogs jumping here and there.



The most challenging part of the trek was to cross the streams, and even more challenging was to cross it without wetting our shoes. On some occasions this was pretty difficult to achieve, and I had to dip my shoe in the chilling water. 


The water in my shoe made a 'Kluch Kluch' sound every-time I walked. Though this was irritating initially, I got adjusted to it every-time I crossed a stream



Once the stream was crossed, the gradient of the terrain changes gradually. It becomes a steady ascent till the grasslands.




Thirumaleguppi and Irumaleguppi peaks were quite intriguing, and can be easily seen on the way to Kudremukh. 

 Peeping Tom - Horse is seem to be peeping :)


 Blue tiger moth seen on the way

The shola forests slowly transformed to emerald grasslands. The vast green carpets welcomed us with a cool breeze and slight showers of rain.




Even though the peak seemed near to us, it was very far.


Monsoons had turned the whole range into a paradise and you can see nothing but greenery.


The sheer beauty of trekking in monsoons is the mixture of Temperature &  Colors. While the temperature soothes your body, the color of the forest soothes your eyes.

 Flower offering to the Horse god


 Onti mara - One of the many rest points


Our guide was forcing the team to walk fast considering the climate and time in hand. However, by the time we reached 'Onti Mara' - lone tree , it was almost 12.30 PM, and it was too late to scale the peak and return the same day(as camping is not allowed). 


You can see few trekkers resting under the 'Onti Mara'. The peak is almost 5 kms and another 1.5 hours trek from this point. 


Considering the time delay and growling stomach, we had to halt there.'Onti mara' was our pit stop, and it provided us with lot of photo opportunities.


While few of us decided to continue with the trek towards the peak, few others resisted going ahead. It was about to rain heavily, and light began to fade.






We had packed our lunch and it comprised of Puliyogre , Pakoda and Banana. Trust me, when you are exhausted, even a small candy will be equivalent to nectar. 

The joy of simple yet sumptuous lunch made the team to jump in ecstasy.

 Enjoying the Emerald gardens

Welcoming the rain

Enjoying the beauty of the forest , relishing the delicious food, and spending time with my better half diminished my vain.

A few of us started to descend early sensing the circumstances. However, 4-5 members from our group wanted to summit the peak, and they went ahead.


I regret for not having trekked the peak, but cherish the moments we spent near the place. 



The descent was pretty challenging, as the downpour was constant. We had to halt for sometime and wait for the rain to recede and mist to decrease.


Infact, the weather was playing a game of hide and seek with us. By the time we moved out of the Shola forest, the weather became clear.  Kudremukh trail is abundant with water sources such as small rivulets & streams. That's the reason why Kudremukh is one of the most beautiful trek in the Western ghats.


We reached our accommodation by 6 PM as planned and the hosts had prepared hot 'Mensinkai' bajji for us by the time we reached there.


A smoky cup of fresh Malnad filter coffee and hot Mesinkai(chilli) Bajji made a deadly combination, and added to the beauty was the mesmerising sunset. 

The whole trek was a spectrum of lovely colors, and the way nature had managed them was indeed a play of God. 

The Turquoise valley of the dawn and the Emerald gardens of the day followed by the Golden Sky of the dusk made the trek even more colorful.

Thus, we called it a day and hit the bed by 10 PM for a hard earned well deserving sleep 

Useful Information


Location :  Kudremukh , Chikmagalur(District) , Karnataka (State)

Distance from Bangalore : 330 Kms

Trek starting point : Mullodi  

Trek difficulty Level : Moderate

Kudremukh trek distance  : 9 Kms (One way)

Kudremukh peak height : 1894 mts

Time to trek : 4-5 hours (one way)

Camping : Not allowed

Best time to trek : Sep to Jan

Permission : Required, should be taken forest office at Mullodi

Trekking fees : Rs 350 per person (with guide fee)

Contact Number : Raje Gowda, 9481179008(M)

Jeep charge : 600-800 per group ( from Balgal to Mullodi)

Nearest bus stop : Balgal , Kalasa

Please do not litter. Save Nature and Wildlife
Happy trekking !!

Thank you

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Rhapsody in Silver : Belligundi Waterfalls


Mr. Vishwanath of Summiters had informed me about this trek long time back, and I always wanted to do this trek considering the challenges it posed.
I could not join for this trek last year when he had organized one, but was lucky to join the trek this year.

Western Ghats are dotted with Pristine streams and waterfalls. In the dense forest are few waterfalls which are difficult to access due to uneven terrain. The rich Sharavathi Valley is home to numerous waterfalls and offer a feast to ardent nature lovers. Belligundi falls is also known as Kudumari waterfalls, and is one such waterfalls which offers challenge to anyone who is willing to explore it.

Day 1 : 23rd Dec, 2016

Things were planned and we were set to depart on 23rd Dec, 2016. As usual some of my friends cancelled their participation at the last moment, and this time I had to go alone with a new group. 

We decided to depart from Bangalore by 3.30 PM, but the hustle bustle of city traffic made us to hit the highway by 5.30 PM after picking up fellow trekkers.

After a small coffee break near Tumkur, we headed towards Shimoga. Enroute, we stopped at hotel Masala Suruchi (somewhere near Kadur) for dinner. The food was tasty and value for money. 



The dinner was so sumptuous and filling, that most of us fell fast asleep once we boarded the vehicle. 

We reached Shimoga by 11.30 PM and then proceeded towards Kattinakaru village which was our base for Belligundi trek.

We could make out the arrival of Western ghats by the breath of fresh air and cool breeze. The star studded sky was one of the most beautiful sights that I had seen in recent times. After losing our way and asking for proper directions, we managed to reach our home stay at Kattinakaru by 2.30 AM. 
The cold weather and the barking dogs welcomed us at Kattinakaru. We then met Mr. Goutham who was our host and discussed about the travel before hitting the bed. I was dreaming about the majestic waterfalls that we were going to see the next day.

Day 2 : 24th Dec, 2016


We were supposed to start our trek by 7.00 AM, but some of our fellow trekkers caused some delay due to which we hit the trail by 9.30 AM. 

The team :


 From L to R : Deeksha , Usha , Goutham (host) , Amit

From L to R : Tulsi (2 from left), Hari , Dinesh , Narayana (guide - 6th from left) , Ajay , Sridhar , Jyothi , Vishwanath , Goutham , myself


The starting point of the trek was around 10 kms from Goutam's home in Kattinakaru village. Once we reached the point, we started to trek without even looking back (as you know it was already late).



Our guide Narayana and his assistant Dhananjaya had brought packed lunch for us. The initial route was almost flat , except we had to cross small streams and a temple. The path was across the coarse of water which usually flows during monsoon months.




 Temple



This lesser known waterfalls is hidden deep inside the thick evergreen forests of the Western ghats in the Sharavathi valley. Its a sheer pleasure to trek in this less trodden region, that makes this trek more beautiful.

Rain shadow forests


The Sharavathi Valley:- The Sharavathi river valley nestled in the central Western Ghats, Shimoga district has been an ecological paradise. The Sharavathi River, rising at Ambuthirtha in Thirthahalli taluk flows north-west and drops down in the Ghats at the world famous Jog falls.



The Sharavathi Valley is home to many water falls and beautiful streams. The valley is evergreen to semi-evergreen forest along with moist deciduous type of forests that dominate the entire basin along with scrub savannah, grasslands, marshy areas . The plantation of acacia, cash crops like areca and rubber provides diverse options in the region.

It is also one of the topmost ecologocial hotspot in the Western ghats with varied flora and fauna.




After walking for almost one hour we arrived to a small place that has flowing water and is a small refreshing point (this place is called Kanchinakere). We quickly filled our water bottles before proceeding our trek. Our guide Narayana wanted us to reach the base of the waterfalls by 12.30PM, so that we could return back in time.



Each and every tree was extremely huge, that we had to trek in between the gigantic roots .

In my habitat

From this point onwards, the level of trek increases gradually from being moderate to difficult. The gradients continuously change from ascent and descent almost every few meters. 

The route from here to base of the falls is very thrilling, as we have to take the support of tree roots and balance between slippery rocks while descending. The descent was very challenging, and many people started to fall every few meters. We then reached the water stream by around 12.30 PM. Most of them were completely drained of energy at this point, and this was where we got the first glimpse of the mighty falls.


First glimpse of the Belligundi falls

To have a glimpse of this waterfalls and to feel the presence of its magnificence, one has to trudge through the unbeaten path. For an ardent trekker to reach the bottom of the falls, he has to cross the intermittent streams, wading through grass, shredding of blood to hungry leeches & descending and ascending multiple emerald slopes. 



Walking through the canopy and listening to the sounds of chirping birds makes the hike memorable. The sight of the silver line of this roaring waterfalls through the canopy that is cascading from height of 600 ft brings a pinch of curiosity in you.


Once the shola forests end, one has to trek further around 1-2 kms to the right thereby crossing small streams and rock boulders. This takes you to the base of the falls from where you can have a refreshing bath in the lap of Nature.



However, few people could not proceed post this point due to the difficulty in terrain and physical stress.
It took around 30 mins for the rest of us to reach the base of the waterfalls. 

The sight from the base of the waterfalls was breathtaking and spellbinding. The thick forests of the Sharavathi valley could be seen from here. 


There was a beautiful rainbow that was formed at the base and this made our bath more colorful. Without even looking back most of us took bath near the rainbow and this was extremely refreshing and rejuvenating.




Taking a refreshing bath under the sprinkling water, a natural shower with a vibgyor of colors removes the hardship and rejuvenates the body, mind and 
soul..!  


All our physical sorrows were vanished by taking a refreshing bath in the Sharavathi river. It was a real Natural therapy treatment for all of us.


Water drops as seen from the Rainbow

This feeling cannot be explained, but has to be experienced.

After the bath, we all gathered near the rock for lunch. The lunch comprised of Chapathis , Chutney , and Gojju (a local delicacy). Trust me this was one of the best lunch we had and the chutney was truly lip smacking.

We started to trek back by 3.30 PM and hoped to reach the starting point before sunset. However, our calculations went wrong, as the darkness engulfed in no time. All of us were really tired with the ascent due to which the water bottles ran empty within a short span. We were gasping for breath and waiting to reach Kanchinakere, so that we could fill our bottles again. 

Trekking in the darkness was a first time experience for me, and it was a unique experience. It was good that we anticipated darkness and brought torches before hand.

Atlast we reached the Kanchinakere water source by around 6.45 PM, and the group prepared fresh Nimbehannu Panka (Lime juice). It was like finding an oasis in the desert, as it brought back all the energy within us.

From this point it took another 2 hours for us to reach the starting point where the tempo driver was waiting for us. We finally reached the starting point by 9.00 PM, thus marking an end to this amazing trek which was totally surprising , exciting and thrilling. 

We reached the homestay at Kattinakaru by around 9.30 PM, and soon most of us hit the bed to earn a well deserving sleep after having delicious Malnad dinner.

The homestay decorated with lanterns 


Day 3 : 25th Dec, 2016

I took a small stroll around the house to have a glimpse at the surroundings.

Homestay

Arecanut plantations

After the morning rituals and breakfast, we bid goodbye to Goutham and his family and thanked them for the amazing hospitality they showered on us.

While driving back to Bangalore, we had a quick visit to Jog falls only to be disappointed by the water level in there. It was truly dis-heartening to see Jog falls without water.

Just a comparison 
(The first picture was photographed during Aug 2007, whereas the second one was during this visit)

Tips for trekkers

1. Smoking and Drinking is strictly prohibited
2. Permits and Guide is necessary
3. Usage of plastic is banned
4. Avoid trekking in Monsoon season (lots of leeches and riskier to trek)
5. Best time is Oct to Jan
6. No mobile signals except BSNL at Kattinakaru
7. Water bottles and Energy bars are recommended
8. Trek level : Moderate to Difficult
9. Do not mess with wildlife if at all you encounter any.
10. Leeches are abundant during monsoons and the frequency reduces thereafter.
11. Carry powerful torches
12. It takes almost 10-12 hours to trek (up and down)
13. Snakes like Vipers , vine snakes , Cobras(Spectacled and King) , Rat snakes are common. Best advise is to leave it as it is if you encounter with any snake. Be very careful & do not harm them in any way.

How to react in case of Snake bite ? see this blog

Green vine snake


Snake images were photographed during my previous trip to Western ghats. You can see that blog here

Route :

Bangalore - Tumkur - Arsikere - Shimoga - Sagar - Talaguppa - Kargal - Kattinakaru

Belligundi falls as seen from a distant view point

Picture courtesy : Vishwanath
(Note : This was not photographed during this trip)

Our fellow trekker Mr. Dinesh has shared his experiences of trekking to Belligundi falls. Please see this short video here :


To know the grandeur of Jog falls during monsoons, see this short video :


If you are interested in this trek, then please contact :

Mr. Vishwanath
(Summiters Adventures)
+91 97403 60365
Thank you


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