Friday, December 9, 2016

Serene trek to Bandaje Arbi - 3,4 Dec 2016

Yet another two day trek with BTC, yet another place from to-do list flagged :) The trek started on wrong foot - rain and replacement tempo traveler driver (leading to delay and fitful sleep from loud music). But rest of the trip had everything going for us - from cool weather to snake encounters, from delicious home food to being entertained by kids, from falls to shopping western ghats specialties and visiting temple.



We reached around 8 AM on Saturday morning, freshened up as quick as possible and gobbled as many idlis (with super tasty chutney and sambhar) as possible. Our organizers, Chaitanya and Sushma, discussed plans for day ahead and made a minor change compared to their previous trips. Meanwhile, us photographers got busy trying to capture all the beautiful flowers around our wonderful homestay. Weather had followed us from Bengaluru and I predicted a cloudy day while those who had come previously were dreading a sunny day.

About half an hour journey (jeep and a car) took us to starting point of our climb. We had got packed lunch from home stay. On the way we also purchased snacks as well as ordering insane number of chilli bhajjis to munch after returning.

The minor change of plans was that we went to Ranibagilu view point first. As we were late in starting the trek, it would have been dark while returning. Had a clear view of surrounding hills and we took turns to lie down near cliff edge to savor the thick and colorful forest below. And photos of course. This was just a bit of detour and we then continued on to join the path to Bandaje falls.

The starting trail was one of the two forest sections (where some of us managed to get leech bites). Thanks to cloudy day, we made good pace with not many breaks. Outside the forest sections, it was series of rolling grassy hills, with excellent views all around. To our left were hills with ruined fort walls while we our path led to falls. Plenty of wild flowers and insects as well to keep us photographers busy.






Occasionally, it would drizzle a bit, but nothing too threatening to get out ponchos out. More downhill than uphill meant we were only too happy to keep going, while dreading a bit about returning :P Our biggest break was perhaps about 5-10 minutes spent to click group photos on a short hill with plenty of jutting rocks/boulders.

About 20 minutes past 1 PM (around 2:30 hours of trekking) we reached the falls formed by Netravathi river. Compared to last year, less water given scant rain this November. We spent a bit of time by the cliff, taking photos and trying to see the full length of the falls.

Then we walked back short distance to sit by the river for lunch. Few went to take a dip in the cold water. Drizzled returned and it looked like it would rain steadily but it fizzled out. While we were eating, another group arrived - they had trekked up from the other side. Our local guides went to have a chat while we discussed about the possibilities of climbing up from that side ourselves next time.

After heavy lunch, the climb back was the toughest part that day. As was the norm, Vishal and the two local guides were way ahead in front while the rest of us were on their own pace. In an attempt to put the difficult stretch behind, I too kept climbing steadily and was soon out of hearing distance. Came to know afterwards that I (and some more of us) missed a chance to see python in the wild. Naveen had inadvertently stepped on it and Chaitanya managed to spot it. Sushma and others tried to catch attention of those in front (even did snake dance) without success.

We took breaks often during the steep climbs. Thanks to generous members, we had chocolates to up our energy levels. Another hour of trekking brought us to the fort ruins. Along the way, our local guides spotted and pointed us herd of bison grazing on a distant hill.

The short climb to one end of fort was devoid of any well worn path (from the way we were coming, there was good way while going back) and the little rain in the day was good enough to make it trickier. We relaxed a while and then made a round around the walls, stopping here and there to take in wide and vast walls in hills nearby as well as for group pics. As we were on our way back, we happened to spot shed skin of a lengthy snake.

It took us another 40 minutes of easier trek to reach our vehicles. Despite starting late in the morning, we had all done pretty well to reach back without needing to bring out our torches. After reaching home stay, we all freshened up a bit and tucked into parceled chilli bhajjis (was lacking bit of salt, we made do with onions and masala powder)

Then we had about an hour of absolute gold in terms of entertainment. The two kids were back home for weekend after winning medals in sports day. One studying in 2nd and the other in 4th. But the teacher acting show they put up around the warmth of camp fire was worthy of top awards. From mannerisms to scolding to appointing class monitor, they had remarkable eye for detail and spot on spontaneous response despite our good attempts to troll and trip them. Vijaya was good too, acting as student (real life teacher)

Then it was time for delicious dinner. By the time we could eat no more, it was past 9 PM. After dinner, few went to bed and while some of us played few rounds of Uno. Chaitanya had got two packs of them :) The younger sister paired up with Shweta while the elder got immersed in playing games on Rasik's iphone.





With weather unlikely to be clear for sunrise, we were asked to be ready by 6:30 AM for morning walk. That meant enough time for much needed blissful sleep in cozy blankets. In the morning, we had another round of photo shoot of flowers around - the lotus taking top honors. 5 of us (along with the younger kid and Rocky the dog) went for walk first and the rest followed after they had all freshened up. It was good, to say the least with coffee plantations and home stays along the way.

Semiya for breakfast. Have I mentioned home stay food was tasty yet? About 15 minutes past 10 AM, we started for dip in another falls. Weather turned sunny, driving away morning chill and the gradual increase in temperature making a cold bath that more inviting.

But first we went to another view point. This was like opposite of view point from previous day, which along with fort was visible. Nearby was a hanging house, well made but closed. Few kids came on bicycles to have a look as well.

Then we went back short distance to start our trek to the falls. The kids and Rocky had joined us for this excursion as well. It was a 45 minute trek, much more challenging than previous day with steeper paths, crossing stream, narrow at some spots, littered with leaves most of the way, few leeches and the local guides cutting away branches to make way. Along the way we took a short detour to see another of the falls, taller than our destination but not easily accessible.

Water flow was forceful enough for good body massage. The mini-pool formed by rocks was pretty muddy but we tried swimming/floating nonetheless :P The kids were naturally over energetic and we took care to not let wet their head too much (instructions from their Mom)

After returning, we had our final tasty meal. Rasam was simply too good. The sunny afternoon meant our wet clothes dried nicely while we played hours of Uno. This time all of us joined and the blank cards (or eggs) provided much fun and twists. Before leaving the home stay, we took group pics. 





Then went to their coffee shop, about 15 minutes drive away. In fading light, we first went amidst tea plantation on opposite side of road for more snaps. Then a round of tea/coffee while deciding what all items to purchase - gulkand, tea, coffee, snacks, dry fruits, etc. Given the cash crunch, our organizers took note of how much everybody bought for and paid combined amount. Then later, our accounts were settled online by adjusting with already paid trip expenses.

Past 7 PM, we started for Horanadu, to visit Annapoorneshwari temple. Three of us opted to roam around while the rest of us went to temple and then for free dinner (which was good too). Then before starting back to Bengaluru, we had feedback session. Some suggestions and complaints on TT but overall everybody had enjoyed the trip and home stay. A must visit place for western ghat lovers :)

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