Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ettina Bhuja - Conquering an Ox's Shoulder

Well guys, its been almost 2 years since my last blog post. 

My hands were itching for two reasons :

i) Not able to Travel and take Photographs

ii) Not able to pen down experiences in my blog

Reasons being ??  Any guesses .....

Yes, you guessed it right ...... The COVID-19 Pandemic !! 

With travel restrictions imposed everywhere and the whole country being in a state of Lockdown for a long time, travelling seemed impossible. 

Eventually, my legs also started to itch after being idle for quite some time 😁

Luckily, the country started getting into a better shape and the travel restrictions were relaxed. This was a blessing to many travel freaks like me.

Fast forward to Oct 2021 ....

My good old friend Bhargav and his wife Meghana were planning to trek Ettina Bhuja for quite sometime, and he asked if I would be interested to join. Without any second thoughts, I agreed to the plan. Eventually my another childhood friend Karthik and his wife Samhitha too joined the clan.

If you have read my earlier blogs of Roopkund or Kurinjal treks etc., you would be familiar with these guys.

However, I had a feeling of being a "Kabab mein Haddi" or  "ಶಿವಪೂಜೆಲಿ ಕರಡಿ ಬಿಟ್ಟ ಹಾಂಗೆ". The reason being, I was the only Bachelor in the trip (as my wife was not in town) 😁

Bhargav had booked a homestay by then, which made the travel much more streamlined. Generally, most of our trips were ad-hoc without any prior plans. However, this is not the case after marriage 😁

Oct 16, 2021

As planned, we hit the road on Oct 16th which was a Saturday. Karthik agreed to get his XUV500 which was like a "House on Wheels" for us. With five people and luggages onboard, this car was tailor made for the trip.
Since all of us had some commitments in the morning, we decided to depart Bangalore at 4PM. The initial hustle-bustle of the city traffic made us to reach Nelamangala an hour later, and from there it was a cake's walk (thanks to the beautiful highways by NHAI). 
After an hour and a half, we decided to have a small break at Dhruvataare. This small break turned out to be longer than expected, but that was energising, refreshing and lip-smacking at the same time.

We again hit the road by around 7.30 PM, and reached our homestay by 9PM after buying some eatables enroute.

As soon as we reached Smarika Farms, we could instantly feel the chillness of the place and olfact the aroma of coffee.

Our dinner was ready by then, and the hungry stomachs wasted no time in gobbling the food.

Post dinner, we decided to take a stroll on the road and discuss on random stuff. Immediately, I noticed a dragonfly roosting on the side of the road in a small bush. I then placed a torch behind it, to show the effect of backlighting . Eventually, everyone became photographers 😁

We then retired for the day, wondering What's in store for us the next day !!!

Oct 17, 2021

All of us woke up early and headed towards Ettina bhuja by 5.30 AM. Since the distance to the nearest town Byrapura is around 50 kms , one needs at least an hour to 90 mins to reach the place. 

We reached Mudigere town by 6.15 AM,  and an early morning dose of fresh filter Coffee was what everyone was craving for. It's a different feel altogether to drink Coffee in the Land of Coffee.

By 6.45,  we reached Byrapura and parked our car near the Nanya Bhairaveshwara temple which is the starting point of the trek.

This temple is said to be built in the 13th century by the Hoysala kings. If the weather is clear, you can see the Ettina bhuja peak from the temple itself.

We started the trek around 7 AM from the temple campus. A small muddy road opposite to the temple, leads us to the starting point of the trek. 

The path is well defined and is very easy even for first timers without the need of a guide. However, there is another route from Shishila village for which you may need a guide. I haven't trekked from Shishila village though.
After walking for 1km, you would magically enter into a small patch of grassland, from where you can see the whole expanse of sholas and the Ettina bhuja peak.

When you see the peak for the first time, you feel there is a lot to trek. However, that is not the case. The distance is quite short compared to other treks in the Western ghats. 

If the peak is visible, and the light is good, it means that it is Photo time ...

                                (From L to R : Myself , Karthik , Samhitha , Meghana , Bhargav)

After the photo session, we resumed the trek. You will have to cross another forest patch before you hit the grasslands again. This patch is slightly trickier than the first one. If it's raining, the route may be slippery and you may have to cross small puddles of water here and there. The ascent starts to increase gradually from here onwards.  
Ensure you have multiple supplies of water and energy bars to keep yourselves energized. 

Trekking in monsoons has its own charm. You see vibrant green patches of ferns and moss everywhere. 

The floral life is incredible with large varieties of flowers that can be spotted enroute.

As I said earlier, the route is clearly defined and one may not need a guide to climb the peak. 

After trekking for another 1km in the forest,  one enters a small junction where there are two routes. You may get confused at this point and we learnt the hard way !

The route towards the left was a proper well defined route, and the route towards the right was short and narrow.
It is common sense to take the well defined route, and any body would have done that. However, this route gradually becomes narrower and leads to a small check dam around 500 metres away.
We all took this route, and entered the check dam. The route was extremely narrow and infested with leeches. Immediately we realized that we had to return back to the junction point.

However, this route had its own beauty. Leeches were playing hide and seek with us, and it was a tough time to seek the leeches.

The clouds had filled the forest, and we could see fog and mist all over the place.

After reaching the junction point, we trekked along the route towards the right and we entered the grasslands in no time. 

Summary : RIGHT ROUTE is the RIGHT ROUTE 😃

From the grassland, it's a constant ascent till the peak. Things can get slightly tricky from here onwards, if you are a first time trekker. The air starts to become thin, and you can feel your heartbeat.

                                                  I loved this lonely tree standing firm amidst all odds 

The clouds too started playing Hide and Seek with us, as the visible peak becomes invisible within no time !

From this viewpoint, you can get a 360 degree view of the whole range. The charmadi ranges opens up from here, and if you are lucky you get to see them.

For us, it was a different game altogether. We could not see the Ettina bhuja peak itself, forget about seeing the Charmadi ranges. All thanks to Clouds and Fog 😃

This is a good resting point to refresh and re-energize.

You can also see the Nanya Bhairaveshwara temple from here, which seems to be visible in a distant hill.

Once you start nearing the hump of the Ox's shoulder, you can feel the ascent to be more strenuous. The climb is almost 70 - 80 degrees, with boulders to hold on.

The last part of the climb is slightly difficult, as you have to climb on a huge rock to reach the summit. During monsoons, this stretch can be very difficult as the rocks might be slippery with winds adding to the difficulty.

We reached the summit by 9 AM, and it was slightly earlier than expected. If there were clear skies, we could have seen the whole ranges of Charmadi Ghats and Shishila valley which were bathed in emerald green.

It was Samhitha's first trek, and her joy knew no bounds upon reaching the summit. She expressed it by waving the flag of Karnataka.

From the peak, one can get clearer views of Jenugallu gudda , Deepadakallu , Amedi kallu etc., which are other prominent peaks of the region (if there is good visibility).

This is what we could see 😃

We had carried packed breakfast, and savouring the food at this place was no less than heaven.

The descent follows the same path as ascent, and if the weather is clear, one can reach the temple in an hour. However, our motto of every trek is different, as we try to create Green Trails wherever we trek. Because of this, we took a lot of time in clearing up the garbage which was discarded in these pristine mountains. "How cruel can humans be" is the thought that came to my mind, after seeing huge chunks of plastic everywhere.

While clearing the plastic, we also requested people not to litter the place. Some followed and some pretended to follow.  

Conserving Nature is of utmost importance to everyone.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

- Baba Dioum

We reached the base in about 2 and half hours, after collecting as much plastic as we could. To save space, we stuffed in chocolate papers in these bottles. Expecting others to clean your trash in these mountains is purely Inhuman.

Let us be responsible and try to create green trails everywhere. 

I especially like to thank Meghana and Samhitha for their help in clearing the plastic. The reason being, it was their first trek & cleaning garbage was definitely a first time experience for them. To do so without any hesitation is highly appreciable !!

This is nothing new to Karthik, Bhargav and myself as we do this in most of our treks !

Tips to trekkers :

About Ettina Bhuja :

Ettina Bhuja literally means an Ox's Shoulder in Kannada.  By now you would have understood why the hill is named that way. If not, see my banner image 😀

It is situated in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka and is about 1300 m above sea level.

Best time to Visit :

September to February

If you want to enjoy greenery, then September/October is good. If you want to enjoy the views with no clouds, then Winter months are better. However, the grass turns brown in winters.

How to Reach :

1. By Bus - Take an overnight bus from Bangalore in the night which reaches Mudigere early in the morning. From there take a local bus to Byrapura where the Nanya Bhairaveshwara temple is situated.

2. By Car

Bangalore - Nelamangala - Hassan - Sakleshpur - Byrapura


Bangalore - Nelamangala - Hassan - Belur - Mudigere - Byrapura

We chose the second route, as our homestay was in between Belur and Mudigere.

Distance to trek :

Unlike other Western ghats trek, this one is a fairly easier one (if you start the trek from Nanya Bhairaveshwara temple). 
Assuming you have started from the temple, the trek is around 4kms one way to reach the peak.

If you start the trek early in the morning, you should be back by noon.

Food and other essentials :

You need to carry all essentials like Water & Food , as you would not get them nearby.

Where to stay :

There are plenty of homestays and resorts near Mudigere and Sakleshpura. 

We stayed in a homestay called Smarika Farms. The hosts were very hospitable & helpful, and the place is situated amidst coffee plantations which makes it a perfect place to relax and rejuvenate yourself. 

Al the details of this place is given in the link above.

Places to visit :

Some of the major tourist attractions nearby are : Dharmasthala , Mudigere , Devaramane , Chikmagalur , Belur , Sakleshpura etc., 
It all depends on the route that you are taking

I hope you enjoyed reading the blog. 

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