Friday, December 05, 2008

Mullayanagiri - Kemmangundi Trek

Nov 29,30 2008

Eventhough this was the third time Me being on this route, it had the most eventful and probably the ablest team than the previous two occasions.

Thanks to "Nisha", most of the 2 days trek was covered with Mist and the visibility before noon on  both the days was not more than 10 metres.

People wondering who is Nisha?, The cyclone that hit Chennai last week of Nov 2008.

Pre-Trek preperations,

Gather 11 enthusiasts.
Book KSRTC tickets from B'lore to Chick'lore
Book Train tickets from Birur to B'lore (Return Journey)
Shop for food items.
Arrange for tents, sleeping bags.
The most important thing, trace the trek route on Google earth, save it as KML, convert to .gpx and upload it to GPS60cs (GARMIN) - This turned out to be very important due to lack of visibility.

Other members of the team

Manohar D.C (Manu)
Vishwanath (Choodi)
Anees K.A
Linson Jose (Linsa)
Arun Sadasivan (Sadasiva)
Praveen (SNMP)

Day-1 Saturday, Chickmagalore - Mullayanagiri - Bababudangiri - Gaalikere

0430 : Volvo bus stopped at Chickmagalore. Sleepy alight from the bus.
0500 : Me and Choodi started hunting for a lodge, after couple of "No Vacancy's". Got into one Naveen-Lodge adjacent to Bus-stand. The rent was pretty cheap 480 Rs for 4 Rooms (2 Double and 2 Single rooms). 

0530-0630 : I took a quick nap while Manu and Choodi arranged for Breakfast, Lunch and Jeeps.

0630-0745 : Breakfast, Freshen up and Getting ready to board the Jeep. One Jeep and a Omni was arranged to drop us to the start of the Trek, which is around 15 Kms from Chikmagalore.

0745 : Jeep Journey start.
0830 : Reached Sarpadari-Arch, the starting point of the trek. Paid 600 Rs for the jeeps (Rs 300 Each). Started Trekking

0830 - 1015 : Trek to Mullayanagiri.

Immediately after being dropped off the jeep, we collected our Lunch packets, 2 Chapatis + Kharabath packed from "Kamath" of Chik'lore.
Sadasiva started to shoot a documentery using his Sony HC32E. Anees appointed himself as the narrator of the film and ran up and down the initial 20 steps of the trek path to give an ideal intro.

The Trek starts from an arch, and then on the snake like path (Zig-zag). The path is Quite steep on most of the parts.
When we started the trek, the surroundings were engulfed in Mist and we could hardly see the path that we were taking.
This path is very well trodden, and very less chance of losing your way. But we did manage to do so in the initial part.
On a clear day, one can see a big rock on the mountain from the Arch. Just climbing the mount and another mount after that would take one safely to the Mullayanagiri peak.

1. You need not have to cross the Shola forest initially. THe forest need to be crossed after an hour or so.
2. You will encounter a Rocky gorge formation after 1 hour 15 mins of climbing. The actual path tries to bypass this by taking a left turn, stick to this and dont try to get into shurbs. 

You would get a Nandi idol after 90 minutes of climb. From here, the Temple on Top is visible on a clear day.
Another 10 Mins of walking took us to entrance of Caves.
Linson, Anees and others explored the some part of the caves. I opted just to walk to the temple (5 mins away).

Main Temple was in process of "Jeernodhara" (Reconstruction).
A Makeshift arrangement was made to keep the Shiva-Idol.
I met a Bunch of Devotees from neighbouring village having their Lunch at the priest's house.
They were amazed at us trekking amidst the mist.
The head-priest told us about the previous-day's heavy Rainfall at Bababudangiri and surrounding places.
He also mentioned about mud-slides etc. This concerned me a bit.

Mullayanagiri is the tallest peak in Karnataka and its said that its the tallest between Himalaya's and Nilgiris (need to confirm this though).
A small mount on mullayanagiri (Inside the Temple premisis) is a sacred one and nobody is allowed to climb.

We had a nice Black-Coffee at the priest's place and continues our trek towards the Ridge that joins Mullayanagiri and Bababudangiri.
Path towards the ridge passes through the backgate of the Temple compound.

1115 - 1240 : Mullayanagiri to Lunch Point.

Mist was still there, hampering our vision. But thanks to the pre-marked path on GPS, we were on the right track all the time.
We had to descend quite a lot (from 1907 MSL to 1400 MSL) to reach the Lunch point.
This phase had to be completed quickly, as we were expecting late evening showers.
I knew from my past experiences that crossing the Ridge during shower is next to impossible, due to slippery grass and rocks.
After an hour walk or so, we were blessed with sunshine (for only 5 minutes though). This opened a window to the beautiful view of the valley underneath.
This was a pretty exciting moment, as we could see the complete ridge thats the next challenge ahead. The Lunch point and also a small Hut on the Ridge opposite to the Lunch point. The weather was very good and the greenery around added a soothing effect to the whole setup.

Being a Click-Frenzy team, people were shooting pictures all over the place. This is one of the two places where I cursed myself for not packing my D80 for the trek.

Lunch point was near a Tar-road, but a beautiful view point of the surrounding Green-Mountains.
Couple of lecturers from Chikmagalore and some business men were having a party at this place.
They showed good interest in our trekking route, plan, etc.
Offered us some delicious Chakkuli, Mixture and Oranges which we didnt want to refuse :).
We were in no position to share our Lunch packets though, pretty selfish huh!

After finishing the lunch, we collected our trash and put it in a garbage cover and were planning to carry it to Babaudangiri before trashing it.
But our friends from Chik'lore offered to take the bag with them.

1330 - 1600 : Crossing the  Ridge towards the tower

Next destination was to reach the BSNL tower ( that can be seen from Mullayanagiri on a clear day) thats on the other side of the ridge.

After having Lunch, we had to climb down couple of steps and we would be on a tar road that connects Chikmagalore and Bababudangiri (BBG).Opposite to the road is the start of the small path that takes us over the rocky ridge towards the BSNL tower.

From Lunch point, BBG is around 7 Kms, out of which 33% is the rocky part of the ridge, 33% is walk through grasslands of the mountains to reach the police outpost next to tower. And the rest on a Mud/Tar road to BBG.

Negotiating the rocky formation on the ridge was the second most scary and difficult part of the whole trek (Most scarious was the next day's Jungle trek).
There are no proper paths on the ridge and one has to check the optiohs and chose the best.
There is one particular place where a Big rock face obstructs the path and one has to chose to go above the face which is slanted at 45degree angle.
Me, Anees and Linson chose to walk under the face with our bag getting stuck in the way. The others chose to climb the face of the rock.
Choodi in particular seemed to be very nervious in this place and was very careful.
To make the matter worse, the ridge was wet because of mist and thus accounting for occasional slip.
SNMP was struggling on the ridge and at one point contemplat
ed to go back and catch a bus near the Tar-road.
He was glad later that he didnt do it and continued the trek.

The walk through the grassland was quite easy and relaxed.
One point to note is, that the Tower will not be seen from the Ridge, as it would be blocked by a mountain.
Once we got onto grasslands and bypassed this mountain, a big Red and white tower was visible.
From this point, a small cluster of houses to the right of the tower is also visible. THis place is Manikyadhara.

A small house on the left of Tower is an abandoned police outpost and this was our next destination. 
Keeping the tower to our right, we crossed a valley and climbed the final mount of the day to reach this place.

1630 - 1715 : Walk to Bababudangiri
Once we reached the Abandoned Police outpost, left of BSNL tower, the further path to BBG was on a Tar road and mostly downhill.
We were able to see the valley below us on the right, thanks to the mist uncovered by the sun.
Couple of Jeep guys spotted us from BBG and sprinted towards us in anticipation of Business.
After a fair bit of bargaining, one of the jeep guys settled for 200 Rs for a drop to Gaalikere.
We asked him to wait for us until we finished our Snacks at one of the small hotels in BBG.
Parota and dal curry for pure vegetarians (me, SNMP, Prashant and Choodi). Rest feasted on Egg-Omlets.

It was only a 10 mins ride in the jeep on a Tar road to Gaali-kere.

1830 : Reach Gaalikere and prepare for Camping

Gaalikere is covered three sides by mountains and the other side by valley.

We had a glance at the Shack (Abandoned Hut) opposite to Gaalikere. From my opinion, this was the best place to camp.
But we decided against it due to lack of space (for three tents) and also the open shack didnt look very neat.
The other reason was that we wanted to pitch the tent open air. This decision proved to be very eventful later part of the night.

The Light was fading fast and we were in a hurry to find a nice place for camping and cooking.
Anees found a nice flat surface good enough to pitch all the three tents.
Dilip, Anees, Joephin, Linson and Sadasiva arranged a stove and started the cooking activities by boiling water.
The Menu for the night was 2 packets of MTR Ready to eat Rice items. All we needed to do was to boil water and keep the packets for 4-5 mins inside the water.
But it was very hard to keep the fire going. The boys did a great job of arranging for a screen to avoid the wind putting off the fire.

Rest of us (me, Manu, Choodi, Santhosh, Prashant and Praveen) started pitching the tents.
I was pretty tired of the days proceedings that I didnt even want to get out and have food. But Hunger got better of my fatigue and finally had a packet of Rasam Rice, Sambar 

rice and shared one Pongal with Santhosh.

2030 : Lights off (or is it?)

At 20.30, all of us were inside our tents and getting ready to sleep. All I remember is another 10 mins of chit-chat, malalayam songs played on mp3 player and finally Manu asking the songs to be switched off.

2230 - 0100(Sun) : Nightmarish Wind

I was woken up by a chill wind crossing the interiors of the tent. Initially I felt that the wind would subside down after sometime. But the Gush of wind and the sound (woooooooossssh) continues to wake us up, rather keep us awake for 2 more hours.
The current was so strong that the Triangular shaped Tent (Coleman 4 Man tent) lost its shape and was looking like a yacht-sail in the mercy of the wind.
Manu also woke up around 2330 and we were in a constant discussion about what might happen to the tent. I was worried that the rain cover would be torn apart or would be taken away by the wind. Once this happens, the early morning dew would make our life miserable by seeping into the net-like roof of the tent.

Around 0000 Hrs, Santhosh started shouting "Oh My god, Oh My god". The last person sleeping in our tent Choodi also woke up because of the wind-sound.

While we were discussing about what to be done, Linson and Dilip yelled from the neighbouring tent (5 Man tent) for any help.

We decided to go out and tie any loose knots of the tent, Manu went out first and I followed him next. The air was pretty cold and the frequent chill gush of wind was making our stay outside the tent horrible. Choodi came out of the tent and instantaneously started shivering.

At 0015 hours, we decided that nothing would keep the tent secure at this place and decided to collapse the tent and take it to a different location.

Me, Manu, Linson and Dilip walked upto the shack (50 Mtrs away), to check if its insulated from winds. Six of us in the bitter cold managed to take the things out of the tent, collapse it and carry it. Also avoiding it from blown away.

Another 15 mins of team effort and the tent was pitched successfully inside the shack.
The shack had a good straw-roof and was open on two sides. The spot at which the shack was build was very good, it was next to a mount which would shield the shack from the wind.

The last thing we heard that night was santhosh commenting "Nothing could Rock us now". Amen!

Morning I realised that we did a foolish thing to pitch a tent right across the lake. The winds blowing from the valley would directly hit us before attempting to climb the mountain next to us.

What happened to the other two tents?
The 2 person Coleman tent in which SNMP and Prashant were sleeping was quite sturdy. It was due to is small floor area.
The 5 man tent in which Linson, DIlip, Anees, Joephin and Sadasiva were sleeping also was hit by similar winds, but the cover and the rain jacket of this tent looked a bit 

stronger and heavy than ours. All said and done, I believe one side of the tent collapsed and thus the tent acted as a make-shift bedsheets for the guys :)

Day-2 Sunday, Gaalikere-Kemmangundi(-Birur-Bangalore)

Second day trek was to Kemmangundi, one of the beautiful hillstations of Karnataka. The path would be around 14 kilometers. No major climbs today, but would encounter lot of shola forests and streams and ridges.

0630 - 0830 : Wakeup, packup and breakfast.

We were trying Cornflakes and milk for the first time, surprisingly thanks to Choodi, everybody liked the breakfast and it was quite nutritious for the rest of the trek.

Even though the earlier plan was to start trek at 0730 hrs, thanks to the low visibility and disturbed sleep, people woke up slightly late and the packing up was also a bit slow.

We were able to start the trek at 0830 hours. We walked towards north on the path next to the Gaali-kere. We passed a small temple and then a concrete-house on our left before walking towards the first shola forest.

0830 - 1200 : Covered in mist, The first 8 kilometers

Visibility was very bad. The path from Gaalikere to Kemmangundi is on a well defined “Raja-Haadi” means King’s-Path. The Path is quite broad in most of the places.

Since the path was not trodden recently, grass and shrubs were grown over the path. If not for GPS, we would have been lost initially in the shola forest.

On a clear day, one can see some stretch of the path and you can make some adjustment in the directions to reach there, but it was not so today.

 The initial 3.5 hours accounted around 6-7 shola forests. Invariable the path in the shola forests had disappeared and we had to make our own way. We stopped couple of times to munch “Dates” and drink “Tang”.

 There was also a Dance program from Joephin and gang. I am eager to watch the video of it.

Couple of times, we lost our way on the grasslands, but were able to calibrate quickly with the help of GPS.

Around 1200 noon, we were graced by the sun lifting the curtains of Mist. And what a place to do so. 

(pic by Manu)

I was standing on the edge of a mountain, about to climb down. In front of me was a huge valley bisected by a stream. After the valley was beautiful green-colored mountains, a dozen of them running parallel to the stream. Beyond the mountain range was sight of a Huge reservoir (Bhadra reservoir). The Blue waters of this was almost mixed up with the sky and Horizon was not visible in some of the places.

I was repenting about my decision of not getting the D80.

1200 - 1330 : Beautiful views, thanks to Sun

The last food parcel, Cream-bun and Dil-pasand was gulped and we resumed our walk after clicking umpteen photos.

The path from here was quite visible. We were going around the valley that I mentioned earlier. We crossed one of the streams, next to it was a cave, I guess people do camp here.

The only place where one might get confused about the path is, nearer to an abandoned stone-building. One needs to keep this structure on right and walk straight and climb the opposite mountain on its left periphery. Taking the right periphery would lead you towards Z point, or Lingadahalli.

The Final break of the trek was at 1315, just before the start of the jungle.

1330 - 1530 : Jungle walk.

1330 - 1400 : Jungle walk (rather crawl).

Just before the start of the Forest, we could see some buildings that are part of kemmangundi on the otherside of the forest, it was a pretty thick forest spanning all over the valley between the mount that we were standing and our destination. I felt that we should be able to cross the forest patch easily within 45 minutes. Unfortunately, I was way off the target.

As soon as we entered the woods, the path disappeared, may be due to the trees that’s grown over it. I relied on the GPS track and asked Manu to go through some of the bushes and check if he can see the path on the other side. When Manu’s find was futile, I thought of following the RED-TRACK Line on GPS, come what may. I started making way into the thick forest Bushes and trees. It was quite dark inside and I was just descending the valley, hoping that we could encounter a path or two.

After 30 mintues or so, we were so much inside the forest, that it was not a good idea to turn back. So we continued on wherever we felt the path is leading. One thing I have found here and also in Bisle ghat forest is that there seems to be quite a number of small paths, but almost all of them would be leading to nowhere.

The Shurbs were quite tall, taller than me (I am 6.1 ), so I had to bend and check if the other side of the bushes are clear and then proceed. If I find a dead end, I would ask Manu to go to Left or right to check if the path can be found. It was almost an hour since we entered the forest, and My GPS would tell me that we havent covered much distance to kemmangundi. Still another Km or so to go.

At this point, Choodi and Manu suggested that we should climb the mountain that’s to our right and walk on the top of the mountain and reach the Jeep track that was visible (but 1 km far) on the other side of the valley.

I guess this was a good suggestion and glad we followed it. The climb to mountain was pretty difficult and slippery. Eventhough the mount looked bald from a distance, the plants on it were atleast chest height. Manu took charge from here to lead the way and cleared the shrubs for others to follow. Occasionally Sadasiva and  Prashant helped Manu to clear the thorns and plants on the way.

It took another hour of tackling the plants, thorns, slipper and rocky ground to reach the jeep track.

Boy, weren’t we happy and relieved to stand on the track. While in the forest, I was so occupied with finding the route and also tensed a bit that I didn’t realize the scratches on my body and hand. 

We ran towards the canteen and hired two jeeps to drop us to Birur before our train departure which was scheduled at 1745.

 Just in time to catch the train, happy that all of us had confirmations. At 2120 the train stopped at Bangalore railway station and we got down with our heavy luggages to catch local transports to respective places.

Monday, January 14, 2008

le Tour Coorg – The Bike trip – Story (Day 4) Dec 24, 2007.

le Tour Coorg – The Bike trip – Story (Day 4) Dec 24, 2007.

Last day of the tour and we were pretty much exited about the Home-coming. The terrain was supposed to be a flat one most of the places.

Gonikoppa is a town which wakes up pretty early, By 6 AM, there was more than expected crowd and business on the street. I was not able to sleep properly the previous night. Mostly due to the loud noise of the vehicles honking in the night, the room was too warm for comfort.

As usual, we had a cuppa tea in the morning and started pedaling. The sky was beautiful, an orange-red combination of clouds were at horizon welcoming the Sun. The scene demanded a stop and umpteen clicks.

The path till Titimati is surrounded by coffee estates mostly. The road was wider and the quality was pretty good. There are number of homestays on this route, I guess one can opt for this place instead of a busy Madkeri. Titimati was around 18 Kms from Gonikoppa, and we decided to stop here for Breakfast as there would no other big town until Hunsur.

A small hotel, not so good idly and dosa was the first food for us on the day. Couple of kms from there and we entered “Rajiv Gandhi National Park”. I guess there were some better places to eat here.
Pic : Orange Red Sky at Gonikoppa. Foreground - Manohar with is Helmet.

The road inside the National park was mostly deserted, an occasional Lorry or a tempo. We hardly saw any busses plying on that day. Yes, there were some Bangalore registration Cars zipping past us.

The next civilized place was “Anechaukur”, this place had numerous tamed elephants (Atleast 50-60), nice sight to watch. After some distance from here, we passed a forest entry gate, which marks the Coorg-Mysore boundry. We bid goodbye to Coorg and couple of police officers on the gate and proceeded towards Hunsur.

The road inside the National park is very silent and very good. At some places, it’s a bit spooky too J. I was pretty sure that we would not be sighting any wild-animals. The birds were abundant here. M is fond of birds and he was pointing me some good looking birds and their interesting postures. Not only Animals, me and M were not able to sight P also. He was flying as ever.
Pic : A Swamp inside the National Park.

Ok, what about my knee? My knee was fine by this time, but….. on this morning, I got a catch near my shoulder. I am sure that somebody was cursing me all the time ;). Due to this, a much awaited good long flat stretch on my road-bike was not that comfortable.

Just when one gets out of the National Park, the trees surrounding the road become sparse. By this time, left pedal of my bike was squeaking like anything, M would judge how far I am just by hearing at the irate noise.

We stopped at a hotel and had a cup of tea, oiled the pedal which was making all the noise and proceeded. An hour of cycling and we were invited to an awesome picturesque sight of Mysore-Plains. One can see all the shades of green. For the first time in three days, “Mountain” was missing between us and the Horizon.
Pic: Nice place to rest

4 Kms before Hunsur, we hit Madkeri-Mysore Highway. Newly laid road, broader than we expected. It was 12 Noon by this time, me and M stopped for a tender-coconut sip. We reached Hunsur around 1 PM, thanks to some local advice, we had lunch at a nice Hotel.

Mysore from Hunsur is 48 Kms, the thought of pedaling in the hot sun was scary. To make the matters worse, there was heavy headwind and also no trees around the higway. P found a nice abandoned Bus-stop (10 Kms from Hunsur) and stopped there. Me and M followed him and had a nice nap for 45 minutes. With 37 more to go and in difficult conditions, there were lot of discussions about plan changes. Finally we thought of pedaling upto Yelavala (15 Kms before Mysore) and then hitch a ride to Srirangapatna for a dip in Kaveri river.
Pic: Prashant all set to move.

Another 15 Kms of pedaling, we were at a place called Bellikere. It was a welcome break for me, drank a sprite and devoured some grapes too. A km or so, we encountered a “Road Under Construction”. A ride on a bad patch of the road and I felt my bike is not going further, I looked at the back wheel and there, I had picked up a puncture.

Quickly, we loaded the bike and myself onto a Rickshaw towards Yelawala (6 Kms from here). Yelawala is a busy town concentrated on a Fork. One side of the fork goes to Mysore (15 Kms) and the other towards Srirangapatna (26 Kms). I thought this should be the end of the bike trip for me and felt bad for the way it ended. By the time the mechanic could fix my bike, M and P arrived. We celebrated with Ice-candy and Juice for successful completion of the trip.

We stood at the left-side of the fork in hope of getting a luggage van to give us a lift to Srirangapatna. 45 minutes of wait in vain and we decided (Wisely) to proceed further towards Mysore on our bikes and catch a bus to bangalore.

It took us 1 hour 15 minutes of ride plus a stop at Hinkal to meet my cousin-brother and a quick snack to reach Mysore bus-stand. Got into a Volvo bus with our bikes safely packed inside the luggage space. Reached Bangalore at 10.40 PM, felt nice riding on the empty roads. Reached home at 11.30.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

le Tour Coorg - The Bike trip story (Day 3) Dec 23, 2007

Best day of the tour! "Sightseeing at Chelavara. Riding in the Fog along the brahmagiri range. Breathtaking vistas all around."

Got up at 5, as usual in the morning and were off from KSTDC hotel by 6.30. Bhagamandala was more colder place than madkeri, probably because of the river. It was still dark and to make the matters worse for riding, there was a thich fog engulfing the temple-town. A nice strong coffee at Santhosh hotel and off we went towards kakabbe.

Localites warned us that the road to kakkabbe was in a bad condidtion, and this was an understatement. Ballumavuti, where we planned to have breakfast was only 17 kms from bhagamandala and we took around 3 hours to reach the place, mostly due to Lack of visibility (Upto 7.30) and worst road conditions.

The road condition was such that, we were praying that we wont encounter steep declines, as it was very difficult to ride fast on this shambled terrain.

On the contrary, the fog and the occasional paddy field settings lifted our spirits, not to mention the umpteen photographs we clicked.

Pic: The misty morning & Manohar
Reached Ballumavuti and had bareakfast at Hotel-Priya. Pooris were among the best I have had so far, but the chutney was very very spicy. Most of the people are Estate-owners and seem to be well-off.

From here, the road condition is good. We took the right side of the fork at Nelaje(3Km) and proceeded on a much better road with a sigh of relief. The terrain was not flat as we had assumed, it had apattern of “Ascend-Flat-Descend-flat”, if the ascend and descend were surrounded by the coffee estates ; the flat ones had the paddy fields for its company.
Pic: Bad roads

Kakkabbe is around 7 kms from the fork, just 2 kms to go and we found two enthusiastic boys (Bhavishya and Rajesha) racing us. They were on an atlas make old model cycle with single speed, guess what? both were on the same cycle. Bhavishya was the pillion and Rajesha the rider. They used to match us on flat-terrain and descends, but on the ascend, the pillion used to get down and push the cycle.

Just before Kakkabbe, me and M stopped and waited for our champs. As an incentive, we allowed them to take M's bike for a ride. This time couple of more boys joined and they too wanted to ride. I am sure, they will be talking about “Riding a geared” cycle for weeks to come.
Pic: The Champs of Coorg

Kakkabbe is slightly bigger town, Coorg's deity “Iggutappa temple” can be accessed from here. There are lot of Jeeps which ply you to the place and back. Also, this is one of the starting points of “Tadiyendamol Peak” trek. Tadiyendamol is the tallest peak in Coorg district and third in Karnataka (After Mullayanagiri and Kudremukh).

Speaking of Mullayanagiri, somewhere in between i got an SMS from gauthaman reading “This sms is sent to you from the highest peak of Karnataka, Muliangiri – 1918m. Believe it we cycled all the way up”
For this I replied “Great man. Congrats to you and your team :-)”
More about his story at

As usual P was waiting for us on a bridge, chatting with the Jeep drivers.

From here, Cheyandane was only 9 kms on a beautifully looking newly laid Tar-road. We decided to push ourselves and cover this in 30 minutes. We almost did that.

Cheyandane is a small town with a Governament hospital and array of shops on the main road surrounding the “Chelavara Cross”. We were planning to spend 2-3 hours leisurely at Chelavara. Prema, my colleague had arranged for a Jeep, pickup truck it turned out to be. We were served with nice hot Tea and a dozen bananas while waiting for the driver “Paapu” (Nickname, means baby in Kannada) at his house.
Pic : The Pickup truck, our transport to the top
A second hand Pickup truck, supposed to be bought on that day was in a good condition.
We parked our bikes at his house and jumped into the truck, me and Manohar at the back…. No seats and no cushion.. which proved to be a very wrong decision later on kuccha roads. The road was in pretty good initially, after 3 kms it just disappeared, what we had in front was a path made by water during rainy seasons. Lot of boulders on the path, most of the times the truck was in 4-wheel drive mode. Its better not to risk own vehicles here. 4 more kms of climb on this road took us to the view-point, the place was just awesome.

We were told that one side of the mountain-cliff is Kerala which was in front of us. It was a sight of abundant forest (trees) and range of mountains in the horizon, no man made structure obstructed our view here. The mountain we were standing was part of “Brahmagiri range” which starts from talakaveri. All this time, we were tracing the base of these ranges while riding from Bhagamandala to Cheyandane. This is also a popular shooting (Film shooting) place.
Pic: M and P looking over the cliff

Spent around 30 minutes on the top, clicked some photos, enquired routes for trekking and off we were from the beautiful place. While returning, I occupied the front seat and P had to join M at the back. We stopped at Chelavara-falls (also called as KABBE) on the way back. This was like a private falls, not a soul there (except we four), the water was too cold, I decided not to immerse myself completely. P and M were in water for at-least 40 minutes.
Pic : Awesome Brahmagiri Range

We also visited one Mr Tilak’s house. There is an interesting story behind this visit. M had visited this place 17 years back, when he was a small kid. From the moment I planned this route, he was very interested to visit this place and people who treated him soo well in his last visit. I felt it was some kind of gratitude and “Thank you” visit. I guess both Mr Tilak and M were excited and a bit emotional to see each other. Me and P were more interested in the “Heralehannu Juice”, Heralehannu (in kannada) is a fruit that belongs to citrus family. Its very popular for its pickle in south India. Mrs Tilak filled a 1500 ml bottle with the juice, which proved to be a life saver for us later.

Pic: Manohar Jumping from one of the rocks
It was almost 3 hours since we stopped cycling and we thought that we should get back on the saddle, bid adieu to the Tilak family and proceeded towards our bikes. We were on the Pick-up truck all this time for traveling, thanked the driver and paid 600 Rs for the trip (which we felt was costly) and started towards Virajpet.

We thought of skipping the lunch as we could not find any decent hotels on the way. From Cheyandane, Virajpet is around 17 kms. The last 4 kms is on the Madkeri-Virajpet highway and mostly flat. We covered this distance in 90 minutes with couple of long breaks for munching biscuits and gulping bananas.
Pic : Chelavara falls (Kabbe)

Virajpet is second largest town in Coorg district and finding a Kamat hotel for hot-Masala dosa was not tough. Our plan was to ride further and camp at Gonikoppa so that we would be left with only 100 Kms on the last day.

The route from Virajpet to Gonikoppa was mostly on a flat road with paddy fields on either side. We enjoyed this ride slowly, clicking some sun-set photos and shopping at a Wax-shop. The last 2 kms was riding in the dark. M was holding a torch in his hand and the other two were following his trail.

At 7 P.M we were at Nandanavana, inside our room. A noisy double bedded room just next to the main road. Had nice dinner at one of the Udupi style hotel. I watched some EPL on ESPN and slept around 10.

The route on Day 2.

Bhagamandala – Take the kakabbe route, the road is in a very bad condition, better to start after dawn.
At Nilaje (20 Kms) – take the right hand side of a fork which leads to Kakabbe. The left side goes towards Napoklu. The Road quality from here is better.
At Kakabbe (26 Kms) – continue on the road towards Cheyandane.
At Cheyandane (37 Kms) – Take left in the middle of the town to visit Chelavara falls (3 Kms). From Cheyandane, on the same main road proceed towards Kadanga then later towards Kadanur.
At Kadanur (50 Kms) – Take left on the Madkeri – Virajpet Highway and proceed towards Virajpet.
At Virajpet (58 Kms) – Ask for directions towards Gonikoppa (18 Kms from here) .


Breakfast – Ballumavuti, Hotel Priya. Nice Pooris but spicy chutney. One can also explore some hotel option at Kakabbe.
Snacks – Cheyandane, this town has couple of shops for light snacks. One can have Lunch here after visiting the falls as its hard to find a good hotel later upto Virajpet.
Evening Snacks – Masala Dosa at Hotel Kamat, VIrajpet. Virajpet is a big town and offers nice restaurants and sweet shops.
Dinner – Udupi hotel, Gonikoppa – Nice food.


Hotel Nandanavana – 400 Per room. Don’t take the rooms that are adjacent to the main road, too noisy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

le Tour Coorg – The Bike trip story (Day 2) Dec 22, 2007.

Got up at 5.15 AM, had a nice coffee at the adjacent hotel and started off towards Bhagamandala at 6.15.
The Woodlands-Hotel is on the same road as the KSRTC Bus stand. To go to Bhagamandala road, we needed to climb upto “Kariappa Statue Circle” and take a right turn towards Mangalore.
It was still dark and the road was not very good. To make the matters worse the terrain was a steep descend for the initial 4 Kms or so. P and M were leading the way and warning me of any major damages on the road. My bike being a thin tired one does not like bumpy roads ;).

Left : Early Morning, Madkeri-Bhagamandala road. The patchy road pattern and the flowers summed up to a good combination for a click.
Right (pic by Manohar) : Looking at one of the mounts that we might have to climb

Bhagamandala and Talacauvery being a popular tourist place, there were plenty of boards making sure that we wont miss the direction. As we had estimated, the terrain from Madkeri to Bhagamandala completely was not downhill-or flat. There were pretty tough inclines on the way. I guess we needed to climb atleast 3 Hills before reaching Bhagamandala.

We stopped at cherambane for tea at around 9. Unfortunately, none of the hotels had started preparing breakfast, we had to move on and decided that Bhagamandala is the right place. Just before Chattimane, me and Manohar stopped for some bike repair and were surrounded by 8-9 enthusisatic high-school boys. They also mentioned about a previous gang of cyclists who were there a couple of months back. We were pretty sure that the gand was Shree's tour de coorg team.

The biggest climb before reaching Bhagamandala was “Kopatti”, the inclines just keep on coming and gets nastier by the minute. From Kopatti, Bhagamandala was around 10 kms away and were were riding had just with one thing in mind, idlies and dosas for breakfast.

Bhagamandala was decorated for the Coorg-Marathon. A welcome arch just before a bridge was erected to greet the brave-heart runners. Imagine 26 kms of runnning in the ghat-section. The marathon seem to be very popular among the localities, there was a live commentary the next day. A veteran gentleman name “Appana” being one of the well known runner.

Bhagamandala is at the foot of Talakaveri, which is part of brahmagiri range. There are number of places for accommodation here, which is is striking contrast with what I saw an year back. We decided to eat at KSTDC hotel, which is on the talakaveri road. Took a much deserved break (90 minutes). The Hotel manager obliged our request to keep our bags at his place until we return from Talakaveri.

Top : Sight of the temple in construction - Bhagamandala
Bottom : One of the prettier buildings in Bhagamandala - The Kashi Mutt.

We had one more problem to solve, where to lodge for the night. The idea was to go to Cheyandane, but given the time, unknown roads and also we were not sure if there are any places to stay in cheyandane. We decided that we shall climb talakaveri, spend ample amount of time there, come back and stay at Bhagamangala itself.

It was 12.10 when we started the 8km climb, my knee was still paining. The problem with a 12 geared road bike is, you wont have a “Smaller Chain ring” which is very useful for climbing with ease. In my bike, i had put more effort, and at after some point of time, one needs to get out of the saddle to pedal. Given my knee condition, i could not do that either.

The plan was to tackle 2 kms a time and give rest to the knee. The first 2 kms was pretty easy, me and M covered it in 8 minutes. P was not in sight for the entire climb, he started flying from the word GO. After a 5 minute break, we were moving towards the “Talakavery – 4 KM” board. This stretch took some more time because of higher gradients. Lot of vehicles passed us and many of them cheered us.

By this time, my knee pain was aggravated to an unbearable state. We ran out of water and had to borrow from one of the bypassing Car-guys. We stopped at a view point and drank some water and rested for some time, from here the climb was only 3 more kms.
Another km later, i had to give sufficient rest to my knee and had to stop for 15 mintues in front of a house. I laid down on the steps of the house when M went inside to fetch some water.
After this lengthy break, the rest of the climb was bearable. With one km to go, one can see the talakaveri temple and the shops arround it. The view from “One Km” Mark is awesome with pictures of mountains and paddy fields in the valleys. Just with half km to go, a steep ascend was waiting for us. M stopped in between to click some photos of me. We took a couple of photos and videos and proceeded towards the temple.

The Three Km Mark View point

All this time we assumed that P would have climbed “Brahmagiri” and would be waiting for us with a icecream in hand. Poor guy, he was waiting for us from an hour or so even without even entering the temple. P being very good in PR (personal relations), managed to keep the stuff at police check-post and also had a hearty chat with the ASI.

Left :
View from talakaveri

Right Top : One of the small mantapams - talakaveri
Right Bottom : View of talakaveri from the steps-to-Brahmagiri

We took around 90 minutes to climb, where as P had climbed it in 36 mintues non-stop. Thats an amazing 15 kms per hour during the climb (way-to-go P, no he is not on steroids).

Talakaveri is the “Birth-place” of river kaveri. A small temple with a pond (Kalyani in kannada) in front of it. The devotees prostrate to the square shaped water hole from where its believed that kaveri starts flowing. Brahmagiri is a mount on talakaveri, one needs to climb 300 steps to go on the top. What awaits the visitor here is a cool breeze and and excellent panaromic view of the mountains of Coorg dist.

There are numerous small-shops at talakaveri, we were lured by a shop who offered hot-pakoda and cold butter milk. Each one of us easily devoured 3 glasses of butter-milk and a couple of pakodas.

After a hour and a Half, it was time for P to bid goodbye to his police-friends. The descend was interesting, we stopped at the “Three Km” view point to celebrate by munching on a “5-star crunch”. Within 15 minutes we were in front of KSTDC. P inquired for a room at KSTDC and somehow got three beds in a Dormitory of 90 beds. The place was pretty neat and we had the luxury of 24 hour Hot water .

It was 3.30 by this time and we decided to have lunch and rest for and hour before visiting the temple and getting into river-kaveri.
The rest of the evening was spent bathing in the river, visiting the temple, calling family members from a public telephone, dinner, slight bike repairs. We slept around 10 in the night and had an alarm set for 5 in the morning.