Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharavathi Back Waters - 14,15 Dec 2013

Another place in to-do list ticked, thanks to BTC :). On Friday evening 13th December, 2013 twelve of us (13 including the TT driver) left Bangalore to spend the weekend away from hustle bustle of city life. Guess 13 isn't what it is made out to be :) When I landed awkwardly on toes on Monday (9th Dec) during office outing, I was worried more about how I would do the trek than the swelling and pain. I wonder if I would have registered had the injury occurred earlier. Luck or fate, I ended up going for the event and lo! such a wonderful one it turned out to be :)

I reached half an hour early at meeting point (Shantala Silk house - opposite Kempagowda Terminal 3) as is my norm and saw some members already gathered. I kept to myself nearby. Channabasappa Nad - organizer for the trek, arrived a few minutes later followed by others. Two minutes to scheduled meeting time (10:15pm) Channa called me on phone to know where I was - I believe now that he did it on purpose :P When Channa called another member Santosh (who was close by on the other side) - the laughter reached a higher pitch. Soon after, everyone had gathered and it was the same TT we had gone for Hampi.

Troubled journey
After a very brief intro session on our way, thankfully it was decided to sleep rather than watching movie. But the luck was short lived. Around 2AM, we got stuck in traffic as a bus had rolled onto its side. With almost an hour delay, there followed road with most irritating humps (or perhaps they were strips of road dug out) - 5-8 of them placed closed to each other and these appeared frequently.

Early morning surprise - Jog Falls
By 6:30AM, I woke up and got to know that we were visiting Jog falls en-route to home stay. First of the surprises throughout the weekend. Road and weather were perfect for a cycle ride. Though it is dry in this season, there were fallen trees and erosion on mountain side of road to indicate heavy rainfall in monsoon. We reached the falls few minutes to 7AM. I was surprised by the crowd assembled so early in the morning in December - many brushing their teeth and freshening up from the public wash. We did a quick visit and photo shoot - water level very bare compared to monsoon. 

 Finally got to see Jog Falls

Home stay, Breakfast and Elaborate Intro
By 8AM, we reached our home stay - Muppane nature camp - quite a distance from road and into the forest. After freshening up besides our first sighting of Sharavathi back waters, we left excess baggage behind and had breakfast - we had got our own plates from Bangalore :P. Avalakki (poha) and Poori with coconut chutney - different taste to what we get in city, but awesome :). Then we had proper introduction session - Deepthy was introduced to be co-organizer. Sharan, Prakash, Harish, Saravana, Santosh, Deepak, Divya, Ashwin, Kaushik and yours truly formed yet another awesome BTC group. Many were new comers, but by the end of event, they were firmly part of BTC family :)

Sharavathi Backwaters near home stay

Food point at home stay - much much better than costly hotel food

Trek to Goodadagundi Falls
We had our first group photo (was missed out at Jog falls) in front of TT and went in it to start our first trek of the event. It took more than an hour to reach the spot from where trek starts. It was sunny (11:15AM), but not too hot. After about 20 minutes walk through dry grass and small plants and scattered trees, we entered forest trail. Two from home stay (carrying food and vessels to be prepared for lunch) were guiding us. Shortly into the forest, we had to cross a small stream. Some of us removed and carried shoes instead of getting them wet. While drying legs on the other side, found two leeches :D Can't imagine how many more they would be in monsoon :-/

 On the way to Goodadagundi Falls

  Tricky steep descent
Another 25 minutes to reach the falls after passing more streams, small waterfalls, crossing on logs and a steep climb down. We spent sometime resting, removing leeches and photo shoot. Throughout the weekend, we were lucky to be the only group for the time span we were at the spots.

Hydromassage amidst Rainbow
Then started first of the two wonderful water activities. The waterfall is roughly two storied, more water gushing than I imagined for this month. We climbed about halfway and enjoyed hydro massage for close to an hour. At one spot, the flow was so forceful that one would get carried away without strong support - as I nearly was :P. Sun being opposite to us, there was beautiful circular rainbow around us. Thanks to Sharan for the water proof camera, we posed and clicked maniacally ;) Santosh's pose with tattoo on his arm was good.

  Goodadagundi Falls

Happiness is having bath in western ghats falls (PC: Sharan)
After we got down, reluctantly, some went ahead for swim in the pool below. I wandered in and came out immediately as it was deeper than 5 feet even close to shore. I changed and resorted to clicking pics. Our guides had started cooking by now. What a luxury - hot meal after refreshing bath. We left our clothes to dry on rocks under hot Sun and took refuge under shade of trees.
The water flows a bit further from the pool and falls away dramatically over a cliff and flows away through beautiful gorge (from whatever we could see without risking safety :P).

Lunch and rest
By 1:50PM, the lunch was ready. White rice, sambhar, mixed veg pickle and ........ appalam!! Plus mixture snack packet opened by someone. Ofcourse we were hungry and ate till body said no more. And for dessert, I took to snapping macros, water splash and succeeded to some extent in trying to capture casual pics.

Towards the most scenic sunset point at Kalghatta peak
We were still heavy with lunch, when we started our next trek at 3:10PM. The climb was easier than the struggle we had descending, went a bit further the way we had come before turning right towards the new destination. We had tall trees, dead leaves, sharp leaves, thorns, crumbling wood, leeches and humidity as company for about 20 minutes steady climb.

  On the way to Belligundi Falls

Belligundi falls
After a short water break in open dry grassland, we reached the sunset point in another 10 minutes. Only, at that point, we were under the impression of only trekking to Belligundi falls - much like Goodadagundi one. And what a sight we had - about 20 feet higher waterfall than Jog (according to guide) on the peak to our left covered with thick trees. Apparently, there is a trekking trail to the falls too - wish I can go there someday :)

   Bellingundi Falls (supposedly 20 ft higher than Jogs)

The valley in front of us was dotted with smaller peaks, small lakes and some village houses. On the distant horizon, we could see faint orange glow of 4'o'clock Sun reflected from Arabian sea.

Place and Movie names 'Antakshiri'
After photo shoots, we came back a little to sit in shade to while away time till sunset. Some small talk and slices of Mousambi later (thanks to whoever had got it :) ), it was time to play. Dumb Charades and Antakshiri were floated as usual and ultimately it was decided to play Antakshiri using place names instead of songs. It wasn't limited to just countries and cities but to local areas too. Thankfully, we agreed to not use street or house names :P
A and R were frequent and letter E proved nemesis in both games. Highlight was Channa coming up with 'nagar' for almost any letter within Bangalore. Sometimes, a team would answer opponent's letter or answer with some other letter - and few of those names were shamelessly used by opponent in future :P. At one point, Andaman was used for letter 'A' and we replied with 'Nicobar' for 'N' :P. After losing out for running out of places for 'E' we continued the game by switching to Hindi/English movie names. And this time, we strangled the opponents with 'E'. By then, interest was flagging and we went back to view point. But 'E' nemesis wasn't over for the day yet.

Sunset and moonlight trek
We hadn't planned for sunset and consequently only few had torch while rest were at home stay. Sharan's torch is powered by rotating a handle - the noise it makes doing so is so memorable. It was good to see almost full moon (read torch for us) opposite to the setting Sun. We had group photos while waiting for Sun to turn red. While the valley gave good sunset pics, it would have been better if there was mountain in the distance instead of clouds hovering over beach.

   Enjoying sunset from Kalghatta peak

By 6PM, Sun had sunk and darkness grew fast. We were equally upto the task. Guide and Ashwin lead the way, Channa brought up the rear - keeping the team as close as possible. Deepthy helped in co-ordination in middle - she slipped quite a few times but avoided fall - not so lucky on Sunday though :P. Yet again, we took a new path - thus avoiding any repeat path for the day. It alternated between grasslands and forest trails. For most part though, natural light was enough, torch being absolutely needed only towards end of the hour trek inside forest. We had to cross a steam too - wet shoes this time (and leech) for all unlike morning escape.
TT was a welcome sight, only to find our driver was hungry since morning! We gave him a packet of biscuit and chocolate bar. On the way to home stay, we tried to play proper Antakshiri but it fizzed out. Deepthy's request for Dumb Charades was no starter. We stopped at a local hotel for the driver to have food. Saravana isn't used to tea/coffee - so Channa taunted him with coffee as being milk with little powder for remainder of the event. Divya was adamant to only having tea, rest of us having coffee. Rusk and snack botti sated our hunger a bit - including the local dog having left overs with continuous shake of its tail. Some took off their wet shoes to check for leeches, while some were content to remove the shoes only at home stay.

Camping by the backwater
After reaching the home stay and freshening up, we were treated with a feast - chappathi with lady's finger, 'hot' chilly bhajji, bisibella bath, curd rice and payasam. After another short night trek, we reached camping spot besides the backwater. The setting was so lovely to be sandwiched between trees and water with moon and stars for company. And no other man-made noise.

   Camp fire near backwaters

  Dumb Charades by camp fire (PC: Channa)

Home stay guides had set up tents and camp fire before leaving. By 10:30PM, we were all seated around the fire with enough ammo for 2 hours. Dumb Charades was finally played - restricted again to only English/Hindi movies. Lot of comical acts, guesses and some brilliant acts as well. I botched up 'Apocalypto' big time before escaping when Saravana guessed it when I managed to convey 'lip+2'. Previous experiences helped me in setting tough :P ones for the opponent, guessing Sarfarosh (exactly same enacting as I had done in past - 'head' in hindi) and acting out for Shawshank Redemption (Copied my colleague's idea of indicating top of imdb list, guessed again by Saravana). 'E' nemesis returned when I gave Ender's Game (End+Game was easily guessed, but no one had idea about er's :D) Santosh was by far best actor IMO.

Weird night sounds
One big and two small tents accommodated us. Mist had accumulated inside the tent cover when we returned from camp fire. After advice from Channa to not go out alone in the night and plan to wake up by 6AM, we finally gave rest to our body. My 700g 15 degree sleeping bag proved too much kill inside the tent. I was sweating even without warm clothes.
Around 3AM, I woke to sound of the backwater waves. Water sounded eerily as if flowing besides us even though we were good more than 10 feet away. Soon, there was weird sound which felt as if some animal was walking close by. I was by the tent opening and could see Deepak's tent and indications of it being windy outside. Rationally, I concluded nothing to fear - only waves and wind outside, weird sounds were snoring ones inside the tent. But subconsciously, I was at unease and afraid for close to 10-15 minutes before sleep took over. Later in morning, others related similar feeling and experiences :D I had thought it was bear, some thought it to be elephant and so on :P One thing everyone agreed upon was that water did sound very close to us.

Sunrise and very loooooooooooooooooooong photo session
My 6AM alarm woke many (dunno if some cursed me too :P). Sand outside was all wet with mist and when we reached edge, saw bubble layers lining the shore. We could see sky turning orange in the distance but cloud cover didn't give us hope to see sunrise. But at 6:57AM, we spotted the orange ball nice and clear rising over mountains in the distance.

   Sunrise from campsite
After mandatory group photo and shots with Sun, we began ways to capture different shots. There wasn't a conscious plan to do so, but one thing led to another and kept us busy another 2 hours! Guides had asked when we wanted breakfast at 7:30AM. We replied that we are packing in another 5 minutes and we decided snaps are enough around 9AM :P. Guides understood our intention and got us tea to the shore itself just before 8AM.
As is natural, we were trying skipping stones. Ashwin threw one nonchalantly after several unsuccessful tries - it skipped atleast 4 times and even better the residue waves was neatly captured by Kaushik - talk about two coincidences! Naturally, next in list was trying to capture stone splashing.
Prakash was explaining how difficult it is to stand on one leg, the other leg risen upto hip level with the foot parallel to ground AND close eyes. Even 2 seconds was difficult. Instead, Channa got us to pose like that in a row with hands raised.

   Deepthy's stunt orchestrated by Channa (PC: Channa)

And then the best part - staging stunt scenes with Deepthy. She would raise one leg high above hip and three of us would enact getting hit by different level of jumping. Channa captured them beautifully. This was followed by individual stunts. And then the show moved by bringing Deepak's tent close to shore and posing inside/nearby. And then we moved to a stone set inside water where people stood and posed as meditating, etc.

Sumptuous Breakfast
We were to start water activities at that spot only. So, we walked to breakfast point after freshening up. While waiting, Santosh described a diet programme he did to reduce 3-4 kgs within a week (fruits one day, vegetables one day, mix of them to follow other days) and how he helped form a small group in his office for 8 floors staircase exercise including some youngsters. Talk changed to blood donation and other things before breakfast arrived.
It was idly, sambhar and what to say - it was combination of masala vada and bonda. It was super to say the least. A large flock of crows assembled in nearby trees, raucous and waiting to pounce when we washed our plates. After we finished and moved away, the flock immediately moved near to kitchen. No wonder they are known for smartness.

Time finally for main event of the trip - getting into backwaters
Around 11AM, we were all set to get-in after guides had tied life jackets so tightly that it was a bit difficult to breathe. But given what we did, it certainly was needed. Santosh and Saravana were strapped with two :D. After another group photo, we entered the water. Sharan's camera allowed another round of snaps inside water.We tried unsuccessfully several times to get a well coordinated shot. While doing so, at one point, we were all holding hands and floating in eastern direction with natural flow of water and Sharan in middle of the ring.

Looooooooong Swim
Soon we split and scattered. 7 of us decided to swim towards a dead tree with only branches sticking out of water. Thankfully Channa wasn't around to stop me as I didn't know swimming :P. As I had already been in water twice with life jacket, I was comfortable to wade into water deeper than my height. But this was unlike anything I had done before - to swim for close to an hour to reach a tree in middle of backwaters. Thanks to Saravana for being close to me for most part and dragging me when I got tired. Guides were around too kayaking and canoeing. Despite all good advices, I couldn't get hand-and-leg coordination while trying to swim. I could do frog like sweep naturally, but that didn't get me forward fast enough and was very tiring. What did work for most part was holding my arms straight in front of me and flapping my legs. It gives a bit of superman moving feeling too :P. Ofcourse using only legs tired me faster than if I could have done with hands too. Saravana kept encouraging me with just 3-5 minutes more despite me telling him clearly it wasn't the case. We both were short sighted too without glasses :D. Thought of returning halfway did cross my mind - but thanks to my previous cycle trips, I didn't give up and made it to the tree.

   Thanks to Sharan for bringing water proof camera :)

By then, others too had come to the spot in coracle. I truly felt happy when they praised for coming so far not knowing swimming. So much so, I was buoyed to try swimming back too instead of going in coracle. After much needed rest and photo shoot (with goggles, shades and caps too), we started back on a straighter path this time compared to circuitous one we did earlier. Deepthy joined us too, making it two not knowing swimming. I tried to keep pace, but halfway I was really tired and lagging behind. Meanwhile, Divya too overcame doubts and entered water far from shore.

Coracle ride, dive and Kayaking
I called coracle to give me a lift. Climbing into it was tougher than expected. Once in, I took to oars to keep busy. And then the guide helped us dive from the coracle - persons sitting inside need to hold tightly to avoid injury or toppling :D. After my own dive, I swam again to make it to the shore - estimates varied wildly amongst us, I feel I must have swam close to a kilometer. More than 2 hours. After coming out, people slipped in the mud, but none spectacularly as Deepthy. Miraculously she wasn't hurt, but finally her luck of escape from fall had run out.
While people took turns to kayaking and canoeing, Channa and others brought out much needed snacks. Whole packets were consumed in less than a minute. No wonder as it was past 2PM. I captured the tree from shore to remind me in future of my first long swimming session. As it was getting late, I got to do kayaking for about 10 minutes - was awesome experience, be it changing direction or moving forward. Canoeing - well, some day in future :)

   That tree is how far we swam

Lunch and reaching another sunset point
We finally packed from camping spot and trekked back for lunch. Pulao (which Channa pronounces as Palao :P) with raitha and white rice with sambhar and pickle this time. Pulao had a bit too much of laung, cardamom and cinnamon. Sambhar was awesome (tumba chennagide ;) ). A good moment was saving some Pulao for Deepak, but when he came he went straight for white rice. When asked, he replied that he would take it last - just like some keep sweet for last bite :)
We then bade good bye to Muppane nature camp. Talk started about naming of the camp - it means old/aged elephant. There is a large rectangular pit on the way between food point and camp site. Some joked the pit was for elephant - it was questioned as the pit couldn't have held large elephant, so suggestion turned to dwarf elephant! Ofcourse we took group photo at exit gate and went towards another sunset point - about an hour's journey. Despite predictions of everyone sleeping after heavy meal, we took to talking various topics. Somewhere, it led to rich Indian heritage, various attacks and how religion conversion wasn't as wide spread in India compared to other invasions in foreign countries. There is BBC documentary on this. And then, rather inevitably, politics. We stopped in between to fill air for TT, which resulted in another round of snacks botti despite our full stomachs.

'Just 1' km trek to sunset point
After getting down from TT, we walked for about ten minutes to reach another home stay - maintained by the famous Sampath. The home stay was painted outside like some modern art (not that I can recognize one, just felt so) - all posh inside, must be used for corporate events.
We then started the 'just 1 km' trek which turned out much more. For about 20 minutes, some steep, slippery and thorn infested path. Santosh got a bad cut on his soles. Deepthy had her second fall for the day - perhaps fulfilling previous day's quota too :P. Small thorns got stuck to shoes and clothing. Thankfully, grip on my slippers was good and better than Saravana's sport shoes :D
Halfway through, we got to see the backwaters, islands and sun about to set in the distance. Moon was out on the eastern horizon, just like the day before, overlooking large expanse of trees amidst small hills. 

  Sunset overlooking Sharavathi backwaters

We had nice unobstructed view of Sharavathi backwaters from sunset point. Much better sunset pics than previous day and somehow my dead batteries worked enough for few snaps. Just after 6PM, we started back. Getting down was tougher with steep slopes and slipper grass and small stones. At one point, path was confusing due to thick plant cover and so we took one possible direction, which wasn't that difficult but actually wasn't a path :P

Rest and double strong tea
After reaching Sampath's home stay, we got to relax more than an hour. After freshening up, we got talking in the verandah. Everyone opened up by now, closeness in the group starting to show as we felt as if been together for a month. Talk ranged from difficulty in IT due to frequent s/w changes, mindset as one climbs the ladder, Deepthy's aerospace medicine arena, Sharan's credit card work and associated travel - this led to him recollecting his posting in Africa, local culture and close escape. He also explained how some credit card frauds happen - really scary, and how cards with chip might reduce it. Ashwin and others were surprised that I have close to 6 year industry experience, just as Saravana was in Hampi. I'll have to get used to this :D
Meanwhile, we were served very strong tea (tasted a bit bitter too) - Divya happily drained more than two cups. Channa told Saravana that it is milk with 'some' tea. And then as is custom, there was feedback session. Emphatically, it was all positive feedback from us, with few minor issues raised which Channa and Deepthy accepted and promised to get better at. The little surprises throughout the event was definitely the highlight, places chosen for trek and water activity adding to charm.

Small night trek to finish off things
We took another group photo with moon shining brightly in the sky and started back to TT around 7:30PM. Many torches were still in TT like previous day :P but moonlight and the few ones we did have were enough. Deepthy led us this time and nearly had a third fall. We continued to pull her legs by suggesting how tiger or lion would run away seeing our fiery nails :D and hence we were safe night trekking in forest. Talk continued in TT until dinner stop around 8:30PM. For some time, we couldn't get tables close to seat all of us and after we had sit separately and ordered, tables suddenly became empty and we finally sat side by side. The costly food wasn't good as home stay (roti was made entirely of maida :-/). But dessert was good - I finally got to eat Gudbud after I had come to know during Kumaraparvatha trek in Sep 2012!

PS: Happy to inform that the single leech bite ain't itching yet :P (5-6 bites from Kumaraparvatha trek didn't itch either - developing immunity after so many treks? :D)

PPS: During the two days, sprain pain was almost negligible, I could run and do stunts. But after the event, it is paining again :-/ 


dee said...

beautiful :) you missed "muppane" stories though!

Sundeep said...

Thanks Deepthy :)
I have added Muppane and also double life-jackets (from your version). And remembered your nail claws too :D

prakash reddy said...

Awesome :) blog made me to recollect all the fun we had last week :)

Sundeep said...

Thanks Prakash :)
Thats what motivates me to write, to recollect and re-live all those small moments years down the line :)

Santosh Kumar said...

Oye Super... relived beautiful moments of Trekking. .. Looking forward for another one!

Sundeep said...

Thanks Santosh, we sure will meet in another trek :)

Saravana Hari Guru said...

Covered almost all the moments Sandeepji!! Superb!! :)

Sundeep said...

Thanks Saravana ji :)

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