Sunday, October 16, 2011

Revanasiddeshwara Betta Night Trek - 2nd Sep 2011

I always wanted to do a night trek once the trek-bug had bitten me more than a year ago. But for some or the other reason I couldn't go for one and on one occasion I had booked for the trek but got cancelled. Finally on 2nd September, 2011, I did make it to Revanasiddeshwara Betta night trek organized by BMC. Even this one was after some difficulty as my friend who was supposed to come along cancelled at the 11th hour. I went ahead nevertheless.

Kiran, whom I met in Thirumaleguppi trek, was our guide. Being Friday evening, I was tired but excited about the night trek. I slept now and then until we reached a spot near Ramnagaram. Kiran, as is his wont, had suggested that we do a short forest walk before we climbed Revanasiddeshwara. We reached this spot around 12am. There were small hills around and temple at the base. The forest started pretty close to the road and the temple.

Kiran giving us the prep talk

Armed with torches and cameras, we set forth for the walk. Many of our group were first time trekkers and most certainly all were coming for first night trek. Kiran started with his usual warning that there could be snakes and sloth bears and what not. We had no option but to be careful. The entire walk took us only 15min including a short break in between, but it certainly seemed much longer. Nevertheless, with the night atmosphere, bushes, uneven surface with stones and skiddy mud at certain places, it was worth it. There was a large rock onto which we climbed and rested. We did introductions, some chatter and returned to the tempo. The way back seemed even shorter than 15min. We collected some wood near the temple to use for camp fire.
Halt point inside the forest
Starting for the climb at Revanasiddeshwara Betta

By 1:45am, we had reached Revanasiddeshwara. Stuffing the sleeping bags, we started the climb. The climb was first on road which had some mending work and then for some distance on mountain rock along the outer edge before the steps started for the final climb. Revanasiddeshwara is famous for temples - there were some at the hill base, one along the way and one at the top. It started drizzling slightly by the time we reached the steps. We had to remove our shoes, for the religious aspects, but that helped in our climb too. The slab based steps were only a connector from relatively flat surface to the steep slope towards the peak. Steps were carved on the mountain rock all the way to the peak. There were iron railings to support the climb and we really needed them due to the slope coupled with the rain and wind.

Atop the peak was the temple surrounded by bare rocks. Kiran led us to a spot around the temple where the steps started again, only this time they were leading down. The steps led to yet another temple, not surprising us anymore. This one had a well built veranda and some construction material near the edge. The place was sort of a cave with two big rocks intersecting. It also meant that we had a safe place to rest away from the rain. The climb had taken us about 30-40min or so.

Campfire
Kiran immediately set about arranging for the camp fire. The construction materials meant we had a good spot on sand and the bricks helped in protecting the fire from wind. But still, we needed diesel to get the fire started. The coconut shells strewn around were also helpful. We sat around in a circle around the fire to enjoy the warmth as it was getting really cold. Kiran as usual narrated some anecdotes from his treks, some of which were familiar to me. Sometime later, people brought out snacks which were consumed with relish.

Preparing to sleep
The wind blew hot and cold, sometimes even putting out our fire. The wood and diesel ran out soon enough and most of us went to sleep. It must have been around 3:30am. Kiran woke us around 5:30am only when there was light just enough to walk without using our torches. When we reached the peak again, we were treated with a pleasant view of hills and lakes all around. Rain had stopped, but the wind still made it difficult to climb down the steep slope. After reaching the road, we had a short break. And when we started again, Kiran took a good look of the rocks around and gave us a basic course in bouldering.
One of the lakes around
Memento (The hill behind is famous for bouldering dares)

By 7am, we started to Bangalore. For breakfast, we stopped at Bidadi and had the famous menu of the region - tatte idly. After which most of us slept peacefully until we had to get down. All in all, a nice outing :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thirumaleguppi trek - a western ghats treat


Ah! The lure of western ghats. Irresistible, especially in the aftermath of the worst semester of my academic life. And BMC had just the medicine I needed - a trek to lush green Thirumaleguppi in fading monsoon season. I was yet again apprehensive of rain spoiling the trek in more ways than one. Thankfully I took the risk and heeded to my heart's wish.

Friday evening - 19th Aug, 2011. Time - 9:14pm. I had arrived one minute before scheduled departure from Domlur bus stop. Result - as usual the tempo arrived almost an hour late. We reached a place near Kalasa around 6am from where we had to take a jeep ride to Samse village for our home stay. I must say it was one heck of a jeep ride. For more than half an hour, we climbed the mountain 'road'. The road I mentioned was a muddy one where I wouldn't trust myself to even walk - it was like one of those dirt race tracks. Overnight rain had made it worse. At certain places, the jeep's tyres had made about a foot deep impression. I thank the jeep's manufacturer and the driver for safely transporting us.

Mullodi house - Samse village
Our home stay - Mullodi house, was quite close to Somavathi falls. Coffee plantation was all around along with awesome flowering plants and a big jackfruit tree. By 8:20am, we were done with breakfast. Getting ready for the trek was quite a sight. People had got all kinds of ointments and creams and salt to prevent leech bite. That includes me, I had got salt which I sprinkled on socks and shoes!

As it had rained overnight, we carried a stick to support our footing during the trek. We were a 14 member group including BMC guide Kiran and a local guide. With just one turn around the home stay, we got a larger view of the mountain ranges around. Clouds painted the sky white and grey. To our right was the Somavathi falls with a small temple built very close to water flow. The muddy path was uneven with overnight rain making it slippery.

The picture says it all :)

Somavathi falls

 
Picturesque

Within 15min, we were into the forest path which goes circularly around the mountain with streams flowing on the inner junction of a curve. It reminded me of the Tandiandamol trek which had similar pattern. The flora was quite similar too, a trait of western ghats I suppose. Our guide Kiran, a hard-core trekker and nature lover, quite easily trekked through the slippery rocks of the stream and had a dip in freezing cold water under a small waterfall! We were conservative and declined his request to follow suit. The local guide had a wry smile. The moses and ferns and other grasses growing everywhere on stones too had an eerie feel like Tandiandamol. The difference was that the path was a bit tougher and leech filled due to rainy season.

The circular path with streams

Soon we were out of the circular path and out in the open grassland. 30min into the trek, we took our first break which was more to allow the rear group to catch up. We had some photo shoots, and then the local guide here asked whether we were interested to do another peak adjacent to Thirumaleguppi (I think it was Irumaleguppi, if I remember correctly as it was two peak close to each other). It was an interesting prospect to consider, the path certainly looked more inviting and steeper than Thirumaleguppi. However by the time Kiran and others had caught up to us, we decided to stick with our original plan. Trek to Irumaleguppi would have meant more time and rain would have hampered us badly. In retrospect, we missed a golden chance :(

First view of Thirumaleguppi

 
The interesting landscape


The landscape around us was an interesting one. Due to high winds, there weren't trees on the higher slopes of the mountains all around. However, where ever there was enough shield from winds, there was dense forest. All this and the beautiful weather certainly made us feel blessed to be there. It took about an hour or so to cross different valleys before we could set foot on the main climb towards Thirumaleguppi peak. All along it had been a stroll in the park on the grass covered path.

Crossing the vast grassland 

Steep climb ahead

Irumaleguppi to the left of Thirumaleguppi

The real climb started as the path became progressively steeper. The breaks became frequent and longer. We had climbed sufficiently high when we had to peep to see the valley to our right. The local guide spotted three deers grazing below and asked us to be quiet so as to observe them without driving them away. It was my first time of spotting a mammal (other than monkeys) in the wild. Being higher also meant that we could observe mist/cloud decorating the valley below. It really did feel heavenly.

Spotting deers in the wild

 
 Nearing the peak

In all it took about 40-50min to reach the peak once we started on the steep section. Thanks to grass, which at some places were knee high, we had good enough grip inspite of loose and slippery mud. At some places, the steepness was too high that it was a bit scary. The wooden stick we had carried came in very handy to support our climb. The view of Irumaleguppi to our left was both scary and pleasing to the eye. The mist covered peak was pleasing, but the steepness did give a shudder thinking if we had gone to that peak instead of Thirumaleguppi.

Reaching the peak was a welcome respite after the steep climb. It had taken us about 2.5hours for the entire climb, so we weren't exhausted. But we weren't complaining. After the customary photo shoots, we found a spot on the other side of the peak with rocks strewn near the edge and giving us a view of the valley below. We camped on the rocks and removed our shoes to remove leeches. I had two bites adding to the one I got in Sakleshpur. But the interesting point was all three were on my right foot. Leeches: anything wrong with my left foot??

 Bliss

We decided to have lunch even though it was only around 11:40am. Cloud and mist would cover us now and then. After lunch, some were gossiping and some of us simply enjoyed the tranquility. Around 12:30pm, we started our descent back. It was nasty to put the wet shoes and socks back. As always, descent was trickier than the climb. It took about half an hour to cross the steep portion with quite a few stops in between. And another hour to cross the vast grassland back into the circular paths with streams in between. On the way we spotted locals with their cattle grazing the abundant grass. It was confounding to think how the bulky ones had climbed to these spots.

We had a long break at one of the streams. By virtue of stopping a long time there, we could spot colorful frogs and dragon flies and swimming-spiders and flora. Around 3:15pm, we reached the home stay. Just before the last turn, we spotted a 'dung'-beetle hauling a nearly spherical 'dung' upwards the slope!

 'Dung' beetle

Having come pretty early, Kiran suggested that we go have a bath in the Somavathi waterfalls the same evening. For the next day itinerary, he said he will try to arrange for river rafting if sufficient people agreed to come and subject to availability. Initially many were skeptic about it but slowly there were enough numbers. So Kiran contacted and told us that by evening he will confirm one way or the other.

After some rest, we started for the falls. By now, it had started drizzling and temperatures were nose diving. That only served to shrug off our exhaustion. As we were started around the corner from the home stay, people ahead said they spotted a cobra. Now I cannot be sure that was true or false :P. But we sure were cautious. As I mentioned before, the waterfall was quite close. The path was trickier than anything earlier in the day, but we made it to the falls without any trouble.

The fun began near the falls. We had to climb on a wall constructed on the side to reach another man made concrete floor directly in path of the water gushing out. There was a dam like wall constructed with two openings through which water flow was pretty rapid that one cannot cross without huge balancing act. Kiran, the maverick that he is, planted one foot in the middle to allow others to cross. Some of us just climbed the wall and jumped across the opening. And in a final act, Kiran crossed the more dangerous second opening all by himself.

We made it thus far, only to find that we couldn't actually go under the falls and had to settle for the large pool that was at the foot of the falls. The water was too cold that it took awhile to adjust. We played around some half an hour I believe. Some had actually got soap and had bath while some were busy collecting stones.

By 5:30pm or 6pm or so we reached back to home stay. After change of clothes, we sat for what turned out to be mini dinner. One opened a pack of snack and shared it and soon one by one everyone brought out their own. I had brought newspaper, so we spread it out in the middle, kept the snacks on it and sitting around we finished them all, hungry like a lion that we were. Gossiping too had started while we munched and that continued even when the snacks were finished. Kiran spoke about his trekking in Agumbe and techniques for survival in the wild. He started about snakes and leopards and it continued around about dogs and before we knew it eventually reached the topic of God. There was a Psychiatrist too in our group who gave some scary accounts of the patients he had encountered. And while we were at it, dinner arrived much to our relief.
The rain which threatened all day long came with full force in the night. Various colorful insects took refuge in our room, perhaps attracted by the lamps. We even got to see a firefly with two LED like green-glow in its abdomen. Kiran had got confirmation for the water rafting by now. As we had to leave early in the morning, we went to bed (i.e sleeping bags) early for much need rest for the body.

After freshening up and breakfast, we left the home stay around 9:30am. The jeep ride down was lot more bumpy than first day. We could see the effect of heavy overnight rain in form of streams and increased water flow in the river on the way to water rafting spot. We reached there (forgot the place name) around 11:30am. Except me and another guy who had had fever past week, the rest had registered for the rafting. It was some basic level and the water flow wasn't rapid. Plus it was brownish water than the claimed 'white'-water rafting :P. After the rafting had started. the tempo took us to the other end where we waited for about an hour for them to finish rafting. Meanwhile me and the other guy took a nice little walk around with coffee plantations all around.

'Brown' river rafting

Due to the rafting detour, we could have lunch only around 3pm at Kottigehara. Neer-dosa and vada varieties coupled with our hunger made it special. We even got to spot some sparrows. For most of the rest of the way to Bangalore, we slept peacefully. Like I did for Tadiandamol, I promised myself to return, if not for Thirumaleguppi for Kudremukh.

Sparrows - rare to spot them in cities :(

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