Monsoon Diaries - Dudhsagar

"Bangalore Ascendars" has become so popular these days that getting a registration confirmed is as challenging as a Tatkal reservation. The moment we saw the pictures of night camping near the waterfalls, the bucket list got updated with Dudhsagar. Dudhsagar has become one of the popular tourist destination in recent days, thanks to the likes of SRK and his Chennai express, within 2 hours of the mail being sent, there were close to 60 registrations and yours truly was one among the shortlisted few :-)

We boarded around 9 PM from Bangalore City Station. This being my third trek with BASC, I started seeing familiar faces. There were quite a few trekking groups as well. After introductory sessions on whereabouts and other follow up questions, we started to play Rummy, an usual proven method to break the jinx and get acquainted with the group. As luck would have it, I managed to win first three rounds and was termed hat trick hero. Instant popularity you see. :-)

Day 1 started with not so good idly breakfast at Kollem station. As the trip was planned very late, and being season time, the tickets in Chennai Express were already in waitlist. The train was jam packed as expected and with no options left, we had to force ourselves in along with our luggages. Though it was a good experience, if you are planning for a trip I would recommend to book your tickets well in advance to avoid the hassale.

The majestic Dudhsagar
Finally as the train stopped at much awaited Dudhsagar station, nearly half of the train got emptied. It seemed like we were on a pilgrimage to Dudhsagar. While the dudhsagar was as majestic and as breathtaking it is , all the excitement vanished in thin air to see people littering the place and not respecting nature. It seemed as if majority came here to drink. Only drink. The place is so littered with plastic cups and stunk to the core. Our very first thought was to move away from the place.  We started to walk in the railway trail towards Kollem. The route was scenic with occasional train movement alongside making it more exciting. The frequent downpours reminded us that we are in a monsoon trek.

The Monsoon Green
We stopped for lunch at Sonhaeli and took the forest trail towards Mulem. There were quiet a few streams to be crossed. After a long walk through the forest, we reached Kulem and from there took a cab to Mulem where we packed Fried rice and noodles for dinner. Heavy rains accompanied us through out the journey to Tambdi Surla.

The best part of the trek was the stay in abandoned jungle lodge which looked haunted and was in unusable state. It resembled the scenes from scary movies, you are inside the car with wiper dancing to the tunes of heavy rains surrounded by the eeriness of the silent forest. We were given assurance by people who stayed here in previous treks.  Rooms were lit using torches, floors swept, Odomos applied and sleeping mats covered the floor. To my left was a huge brown jungle lizard staring right into my eyes and a pile of garbage on to my right. Can't ask for a more dramatic night with the sleeping movement on plastic bag creating sounds similar to that of a croaking frog on one side and the hush hush voices of talking ladies on the other side. Despite all the distractions, thanks to the tiredness, we all had a very good sleep.

The abandoned jungle lodge
Next day, the trek to Tambdi Surla water falls started by 6 AM sharp. It was an easy trek except for the nonstop rains making the trails slippery. Few preferred to carry their bags while many left it unattended in the jungle house. Tambdi Surla seemed to be the tourist destination for many near by schools and colleges. It was an hour of walk inside the forest before the beautiful Tambdi surla falls unravels itself. It seems like the hidden treasure of the forest. The intensity and water force were alarmingly high, but that didn't stop us from getting into it. After few failed attempts to photograph the majestic beauty, I gave up and decided to get drenched. A refreshing bath at the natures lap after a tiring journey is always a moment of bliss.

Should I say stop littering or stop drinking ??
Later we trekked down in no time, got freshened up and visited the Mahadev temple before calling it a day. We boarded a bus to Belgaum from Tambdi. The short travel through the village roads, with heavy rains made the trip even more memorable. With more than half of us filling in the entire bus, eatables passing back and forth, the villagers had a strange/puzzled look on their face. Even they seemed to enjoy the scene. Finally as our stop arrived, it took more than 10 minutes for the entire group to get off the bus with our luggage. We ordered our dinner and went in search of Kunda, a sweet that Belgaum is famous for. It is prepared from milk and khowa and came it two variants of white and brown. We shamelessly tasted Kunda in all shops we entered, before stacking up few kgs.

Finally the sun was down. Dinner was packed. The train arrived. People played UNO. There were lots of jokes made, funny moments shared, legs pulled. As the clock struck 12, it was one of the folks birthday and we had a short celebration of Kunda cutting. Two nights back we hardly knew each other. Now here we are celebrating the birthday like friends. You meet as strangers, speak random stuffs, discuss about treks, languages, movies and share interests and end up as good friends. I believe that's what makes traveling with strangers more exciting.


Omkar Hills - A lesser known weekend getaway

Omkar hills is one of the lesser known place for weekend getaway and it moved right up in my travel list ever since I read about it. Primary reason being the distance, which is much closer compared to my daily commute distance. And it is easily the most leisure ride.  With Anirudh moving to Bangalore and Shiva was also in town for a weekend, not to disappoint them, we decided to visit Omkar hills and if time permits drive back through Turahalli forest. 

Needless to say that we started late and with other folks taking their own time, we started from Udupi garden signal at 8 AM. No confusing routes accompanied by usual blissful weather, we drove through Banshankari, Uttrahalli and reached the hills around 9 AM. The temple looked completely different from South Indian counterparts which I have seen till date. It looked more of a tombstone structure with outsides painted completely in white. Unlike traditional south Indian temples there wasn't any detailing or vibrantly colorful looking outer walls. It was plain and simple. The Omkar hills hosts all 12 jyotirlingas under one roof. There are 12 gopuras each representing a Jyotirlinga.

Bangalore at its usual best
​A sense of calmness and peace sets in once you step inside the temple. Inside the temple are 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva, each taken from different place around India. A 30 minute stride inside the temple talking history about shiva and a short photoshoot, we were done with the visit. Yea we had prasadam too.

Love for Windows
​Outside the temple is the famous giant time clock where we ended up spending more time than planned discussing various theories about the purpose of its existence. The ride back home was through Turahalli forest roads, which felt like any other traffic free highway road drive. As we entered the city by 11, traffic has already set in and It took another hour to reach home.

The time machine
​Ideal for a weekend visit. Takes not more than 2 hours. Must visit place if you are in Bangalore. Plan to start early so that you can return before the traffic kicks in.

Photo trek to ChitraDurga

Chitradurga a.k.a 'Kallina Kote', was my second trip of the year, which also happened to be my second one with BASC [ Bangalore Ascendars ]. The registration mail read “Photography Trek to Chitradurga” and I signed up instantly. It was a 2 day trip and we left Bangalore by 11.30 PM in Hospet passenger and reached Chitradurga around 6. 

The core of man's spirit comes from new experiences
After a brief intro and group photo at the station, we headed towards KSTDC, Mayura hotel. Our stay was in the dormitory accommodating 8 people. Though maintained by government, the quality of rooms and service are way above govt standards. Budget hotel and located at walkable distance from railway station and fort makes it an ideal place for stay.

The Nandhi statue, Chitradurga
We got freshened up and started the exploration by 9 AM. The entire fort was built of stones and we took the first pit stop at a open space which seemed like a prison top. It offered a view of entire city scape and the majestic windmills surrounding the city. Sticking to the theme of photo trek, we moved around clicking pictures that looked interesting and exciting, not bothered about its historic significance.

The Sculptures of Chitradurga
As the temperature was getting hot and humid, we decided to climb the peak before noon. The rocks were slippery, climb was harder at slopes but we made our way to the top. One more session of photos taken and we headed back to the temples where we had an awesome curd rice + pickle + buttermilk combo for lunch. The plan for second half of the day was to visit the OBAVVANA KINDI, followed by climbing to the fortress top which offered the best view for sunset photography.

The Dwarapalikas a.k.a gate keepers, Chitradurga
Glorious sunset, golden lights and Windmills of Chitradurga against the backdrop filled up the frames as we had our third session of photoshoot. The descend down was adventurous and memorable as we got delayed and ended up doing 2-3 hours of night trek with torches in a route less travelled by. We dined and hit the bed early as we had to start at 4.30 AM next morning to catch the sunrise at JOGIMATTI peak. Turned out the journey was longer than expected and we missed the sunrise. Nevertheless it was a good and exhausting trek to the peak which reminded me to work on my fitness levels.

The Song shoot - Namo Namo madesha for the movie Kothi Raja
The timing of the trip was perfect that we happened to see the shooting of the song sequence for the Kannada movie 'KothiRaja'. Meaning 'Monkey King', this is based on the real life story of Jyothi Raj, who hails from this place and is famous for climbing Chitradurga fort without any safety harnesses.

Windmills of Chitradurga
Post lunch, we checked out the hotel, had an awesome full meals. The exit plan was to make our way to Adumalleshwara caves via fort. Climbing the fort with luggages on was the toughest part of the trek. The terrains were harder and the sun was no kinder. As we passed through the caves, the descent started and finally led us to the plain lands down the hills.

The glorious sunlight
The last part of the trek was Chandravalli caves. We hired a guide this time so that we don’t miss out on the details. This turned out to be a worthy idea as the place has so much interesting history associated with it. The cave is 80 feet underground and the guide beautifully explained how sages here used to meditate, secret escape passages for prince and how messages are carried in and out at times of war. We had ice candies and took some photos as the sun descended. The trip ended with last minute tension filled sprint to catch the train.

The Team
Just 2 days, but we bonded well and had great fun. We shared jokes, made friends, played pranks, envied full frame gears, discussed movies, shared food, photographed moments, tested our fitness levels.

All this came at a price of 750/-. 

New Year Ride - Shivagange

Over the years of stay in Bangalore, traveling somewhere during new year sort of became a habit.  To keep up with the tradition, this year we decided to drove to SHIVAGANGE. The choice of place came from "Nomads", an android app that has a good collection of weekend getaway places around Bangalore.

Witnessing the proceedings
As usual, started late and reached the place by noon. Generally places with minimal human presence has always been our choice of preference. Turns out that it was "Shiva Rathiri" and the place was flooded with devotees. With sun scorching straight above our heads, we started to climb. The initial climb with carved out foot steps was easy, but got steeper and narrower as we proceeded ahead. We took few pit stops under the shades of the rocks, witnessing the aerial view of the beautiful landscape. Thanks to the buttermilk shops en route, helping us quench our thirst.

The view from the top
As the path got too narrow, over crowding led to congestion as people descending and ascending wanted to move forward without giving way for each other eventually leading to jam. After some delay we finally managed to reach the temple top. There were huge idols of Shiva and Parvathi standing tall facing the city.

The Entrance
It was a sad scene to witness the place fully littered with plastics and garbage. Further up the hill was the famous Nandhi statue, the main attraction of Shivagange. Seeing the congestion on the top and people taking the alternate routes alongside monkeys, I decided to skip and head down for lunch.

Too Crowded
Had an awesome Tomato rice at one of the shops near the temple. The owner suggested a temple ( the name which I don't remember now ) on the other side of the hill. Riding through the village roads in search of the temple amidst the lush green agricultural lands on the either sides during sunset is quiet serene. Undoubtedly the best part of the trip.

Witnessing the sunset
Shivagange would be an ideal weekend getaway place, if only visited during non peak hours.

Kudremukha - A Trek to Remember

I had been an admirer of Neelima ever since I landed on her blog. Reading through her travelogue will not only make you jealous but inspires to take up travel more seriously. One such post talked about how she managed to do so many treks, traveling with various travel groups and thats how I got introduced BASC - Bangalore ASCendars. With no second thoughts I liked their FB page and registered in their group ( free registration ofcourse ) , just to realize later that unlike other groups, they are one of the most active and passionate group which travels every weekend. If you are looking for luxury and comfort BASC is not the place to be. I kept on ignoring the travel updates from BASC. Kudremukh was one such mail which I would have ignored on any normal day. It came on a day where I was too pumped up reading many travel blogs and I had no second thought whatsoever and registered. The difficulty level was Medium to Hard and as a prerequisite you are expected to have done similar treks to be considered eligible. Luckily we had Kumaraparvatha and Kodachadri on our conquered list.

Picturesque grasslands of Kudremukh
There was the confirmation mail with our names and a list of todo items. We gathered at majestic by 10 PM and exchanged smiles and hand shakes. It took sometime for us to get comfortable with new faces as we two were the odd ones in the group not knowing kannada. The next day started with sight seeing of Kudremukh iron ores followed by Hanumangunde falls and a quick stop at Ganga moola which I decided to skip and rest in bus as I drained out completely during the ascend from falls. It was almost by lunch we had breakfast ( yummy puliogere and neer dosa ) and headed back to the home stay. The roller coaster experience of 11 km ride on complete mud road in a fully packed jeep brought us to home stay. Rice, Sambhar, Papad and Pickle lunch at homestay filled our stomachs. With half of day to spend, the plan was to trek to Durga dibba / Devara dibba hills which the organizer claimed to be a trial version of the larger trek to come tomorrow. This was my first experience of trekking with rains on and off. Sometimes there were occasional drizzles, sometimes heavy downpour. Truly an experience.

There is beauty all around us. You just need to look.
 Passing through the slippery terrains and slopes, finally we reached the peak and found ourselves in the natures lap with the passing clouds and greenery all around. BLISS is the word. Later in the evening we had a dip in the cold stream removing away all the weariness in the limbs. The evening was well spent with introductions, card games and seniors ragging the first timers. Dinner was served and we hit the bed by 12.

It feels good to be lost in the right direction
With packed lunch boxes, GPS gadgets to track the route, wireless devices to communicate, ropes to cross the streams, we set out at 6.30 Am to the most awaited 22Kms trek of Kudremukha. I was excited  to beat my previous best record of 15 Kms. The first milestone was to trek to Gomukha peak (1625 m) followed by Kudremukha. It was tough, sloppy and slippery at places. The monsoon wasn't that kind at times. But the inspiration to proceed further was right there, whenever we took a moment and looked around. And being one of the slowest and photography enthusiast didn't go well together. Every time I stop to shoot Girish will be right behind poking me to move forward.  Unlike experienced trekkers we didn't pack much of eatables and the group which moved fast had plenty of reserves which would get over by the time we reach them.

Say NO to littering
This is when my tastebuds realized left over particles of Krack jack can be so delicious. People were gracious to offer some eatables while others became close enough to pluck it and eat.  The atmosphere was very friendly and never like we had just met. People were sharing their previous trek experiences and striking poses and the mood was lively. You can never stop being amazed at such a serene landscape and breath taking sceneries. Finally we made it to the peak ( 1850 m ) and after the usual group photo shoot, we had the much awaited lunch by the stream and we returned back.

Leeches. Ahh, how did I not mention about them. During this entire episode, they had a great time finding, and sneaking into our shoes. There was heavy blood shed all along the trials. I too had few bad bites which still remains as a souvenir.

Tired and Worn out
We made it back to the homestay with sore legs and tired body, but a happy heart. Met new people who shared similar interest, made friends, pushed the body limits both mentally and physically , Kudremukh is definitely a trek to remember.

"In the end
my shoes tore,
feet became sore,
but heart said
lets do it
once more."

Contact - Arun ( 08263214235 ) is the local guide who arranges weekend treks in Kudremukh.