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.