Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction holding me fast, how
Can I escape this irresistible grasp?
How does a 971m peak (that too not the tallest) in a range of 9 hills become an obsession? It does when you have faced situations wherein you were not sure that you would see civilization again. The dense forests, non-existent trails, leeches, insects of all varieties, venomous snakes, stingy scorpions, slippery rocks while walking into the river, 80 degree climbs in side forests and grasslands: you have it all during this trek. The next thing you do after failing and returning is you plot again to overcome this peak. A willingness to overcome the pain of failure and a love for spending another night in Kabbinale reserved forest range were at the heart of my desire to summit this peak.
11th of Feb, Ram sent out the mail for the trek to be organized by Bangalore Ascenders on 27th and 28th of the same month. I was unsure about joining till 3 days before the actual date, partly because of a few personal commitments and partly because of the ankle injury caused by the silly scooterist who rammed into me a couple of weeks before. But, as destiny plays out its part, X-ray revealed nothing serious and I was done with my commitments before the week was out. So, I was all set for this trek.26th of Feb, I ran around for the supplies and was all set by 7 PM, when Mudassar sent out the GPS log for the 2nd route (the one that runs along the Addahole river) before it takes a deviation on left to take the forest route to the OG ridge. I downloaded the trail onto my GPS along with the first route (for backup :-o). The first route deviates from water source early and with the humidity and heat of Feb-end, not a very advisable route to take.
26th Feb , 10.30 PM: The group of 23 gathered at platform 1A of KBS. A few were excited about OG, a couple looked apprehensive . I was more worried about the bus :-D. The bus was a Rajhamasa type. Since I booked separately and at the last moment, I paid for my procrastination with a left-window seat on the last row in the bus. My fellow last-row-mates were from a rock band, going for playing in a gig. The usual jams at Jalahalli cross and near the intersection for the flyover being constructed not withstanding, I hoped to gather some good sleep till the infamous Shiradi ghats. My hopes were dashed when I got the first bump on the road to Hassan. The road was being widened. It was a non-stop clatter for around 40 minutes. Hassan-Sakleshpur was pretty good route, except for the driver, who decided to step onto the gas and nearly hit a santro. Come Shiradi ghats, and only men with solid arses survive this test of endurance and with the driver refusing to step off the paddle, the experience separated the boys from the men. My co-sufferers in pain, the rockers, had a good time swearing at the roads, the driver and the political system :-D .
27th Feb, 4.30 AM: Addahole bridge, 1km from Gundya checkpost. Dark highway, trucks passing by, a full-moon night and then as a God-send: a tea-stall nearby. The tea was good and we waited till dawn-break to make our entry into the forest area. At around 6.50 AM, we started off for our first pit-stop (the Kabbinahole river crossing) after a group photo. The weather was pleasant, the pace was good. I was at the front of the pack. Met Harish there, nice bloke, who was still sore that he looked drunk in his first tryst with fame, a picture in Bangalore Mirror, as part of the article on Bangalore Ascenders. Nothing much to say about this rather boring part of the trek. The path first crosses the village houses, then the plantations and then leads into the forest. Never take a deviation here. Just keep going on the broader trail. We reached the Kabinahole river crossing at 8.45 AM, very much on our estimated time of 2 hours for this stretch. We were joined at this point by Naresh, making the group a pack of 24. The water of the river, true to its name, was very sweet.
After an hour of freshening up and breakfast, we were ready to move to our next destination, the falls created by Addahole river. At this point, we had an introduction session whereby people became aware of the others’ trek record , names etc before we again set off. The pace of the group was very good and we were near the falls in another 45 minutes. The falls provided an ample opportunity for people to get profile pictures clicked. Nice flat rock, beautiful falls nearby and since life is short and such views are hard to come by, we spent more time here than usual. I somehow managed to attract a couple of large butterflies, who kept on hovering over me but as life has its own way of playing out things, I had kept the camera in my bag, which was about 60m up on the trail above the waterfalls. Soon, we moved on from the falls to the Addahole river. Here, myself & Mudassar had a few deliberations on whether to cross the river. Ultimately we decided to stick to following the river and not take diversions away from it. It turned out to be a wise decision as when I tried to walk in the forest instead of the rocks on the river bed, I got a lot of thorns and binders around me. A slight mistake on my part disturbed a few bees nearby and I hit the ground for sometime. Once I was sure they were away, I got down to join the rest of the group and did the remaining part of the river walk on the rocks. There were rocks of different sizes, and we criss-crossed the river numerous times to get around. The humidity level was very high and all of us were in deep sweat. Very soon, we came across a good clearing besides the river, with enough shade for having our lunch at 12.30 PM. People had a royal time, scavenging on the food. I dozed off after lunch, only to find half the team in the same state after I woke up. This is what a good lunch does to you.
We started off around 1.30 PM. By this team, the sun was unbearably hot and most of us were walking in the shade whenever possible. The rocks became larger as we moved upstream. I got quite interested in a few of the bigger rocks, and tested out the Weinbrenner brand fully. The grip is awesome, dry or wet rocks, even on green fossils, especially when I was carrying the backpack which pulled/pushed me. Tried out a few difficult stunts, felt good to came off with them. One guy was not so lucky. He felt head backwards with his bag onto the river. Lucky escape, son. It could have been worse. The team now got split into 2-3 groups as the direction was known to all and everybody moved at his and her pace. Finally after around 2.5 hours of walking, we reached a junction point where the others were sitting. Naresh and Mudassar had gone to search for the camp site. Naresh came back and we collected firewood on the way to set up a campfire. After another 20 minutes of walking, we reached the camp site, which was a little flattish ground, with thick cover of big trees but ground was clear enough to lay sleeping mats and bags. Dinesh and m yself found the big rock more appealing for the night and made that our sleeping spot. Soon, we had hot soup as appetizer. I finished a full course with rajma chawal and dal fry followed by kesari bath. Talk about surviving on meager means in the jungle :o). The night was lovely and the fire was out by 8 PM. It was a full moon night and the sounds of the jungle took over. I did not get much sleep again, interrupted by the slide down on the rock as well as by my habit of staying up late. The jungle looked lit with a layer of white.
28th Feb, 4 AM: I gave up on sleep now and decided to do some star gazing. Rest were fast asleep. Snoring from Dinesh was the only noise in the jungle now :-P. About an hour later, I got up and did some stretches before the pressure turned on and I had to run with a bottle in hand. I am always wary about dry wood and rocks because of the possibility of snakes. Found a 4-feet snake :-D (too bad buddy, could not identify you, was trying to identify by the bands when you slid away) , the only wild life I encountered in this 2-day trek. Around 6, people started waking up, freshening et al. By 7, most of us were ready and finished our breakfast. Mudassar, Naresh and myself were the first ones to move for the exploration of the deviation from the river on the right that takes one up the forest. After a few deliberations, we kept on moving as the deviation was 300m from the camp-site and we still had not covered that distance yet. At this time, the people behind were whistling. So, I waited for them(while Mudassar & Naresh moved on) to ensure that the groups are not split. Once they were there, I took off with Ganapathy. We made very good progress but both of us ended up too far away from the group. After around 15 mins, we backtraced and came back to see a path to the left going up and Mudassar waiting nearby. More discussions followed as I was a little apprehensive at taking the deviation earlier than what the gps trail showed. But since we would hit the ridge anyhow if we maintain the general direction of south-east for sometime, we decided to proceed. The initial jungle ascent is a little steep and that ascent later transforms into a crawling exercise where one has to employ all fours to pull one-self up. Loose rocks and thorny plants dominate this section. Best way to survive this section is to believe in your instincts only and not a nything external. So, if a rock/person is sliding down, just make way else you end up increasing the headcount. I got cut by thorns numerous times in this section of the trail, in order to take the shortest route up, a not-so-wise decision in hindsight. However worse was in store for Ram, who unfortunately got hit by a stone and ended up with a deep cut. It took us around 30 minutes to settle down after this climb.
The forest section stretches further and takes a more north-east direction now and we end up aligning ourself towards the plotted trail. This section was much less steep and had good number of trees to hold onto and make our way ahead. I spr ained my ankle here while trying to dodge a vine and this made sure that I performed the role of a sweeper till the end of the trek. Very soon, we were out of the woods and into the grasslands around 11.45 AM. Grasslands are my worst nightmare at noon time. I along with Abhi, Hari, Adarsh, Jagy & Varun survived the worst of it. On every hump, we used to rest under a tree, even though the shade might hardly cover 2 persons. Can’t help – swalpa adjust maadi boys. Since there was enough time at our disposal, we had a royale time gulping on chocolates, grapes, dates and what not on almost each break. The views were good, but not stupendous and awe-inspiring.
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
I know it's everybody's sin
You got to lose to know how to win
Finally, after a lot of leisurely talk, we reached the OG peak at 1615 hours. A few missed high-fives were followed by chest pumping and congratulating each other. Then the customary orkut/FB/matrimonial solo pictures followed. Lastly, a group picture of us 6 and a brief video followed. The images of previous failures and those nights in the wild with no clue what the next day will be, hovered across my mind while I was at the peak. These brief 15 minutes at OG peak injected new life into us and we crossed the next few humps without taking any break(co-incidence that there were no trees either :o)). Soon, we entered the forest section and came out in 10 minutes to meet the rest of the group. They were tired and without water. Soon, a few of them came back with water from Saraswati estate and we had water to the fill. Next up, were a few group pictures and the long walk to Lakshmi estate, 6 kms away from the start of the jeep track. Long, painful and boring walk interspersed with cool breeze and the evening coolness. We reached Lakshmi estate around 6.30 and after some really sweet tea, started on the hired bus from estate to Chikmagalur, stopping on the way for dinner in Mudigere.
Return journey was uneventful with good roads except the stretch of road widening after Hassan.
Highlights of the trek:
1. Excellent group dynamics and collaboration in each stage of the trek.
2. Good pace of the group, finished well within schedule.
3. Great soup in the evening on the first day.
4. Good organization and planning done by Ram.
5. Decisive inputs by Mudassar while making the decision to deviate at that point from the river while I thought that we should do it a little further ahead. Hats off.
6. Met quite a few interesting people in the group.
7. And the 5 amigoes as we moved from the beginning of the grassland to the end of the forest section near estate – you guys rock! Apologies if I was a little pushy on time management .
8. Hardly took any photos this time :-) . Good break after Raichur :-) trip.
9. High time a PIL is filed to close down Shiradi ghats for repair. Nobody has died of arse pain, but why take the risk?
10. Garmin GPS was like Moses :-) . It did not give up even in the thickest of forest canopies. So always go for a high sensitivity receiver GPS. And lastly, I have become a fan of Quechua backpacks now. This was the first time I used their 70-L backpack and the carrying comfort was far better than the other reputed brands I have used.
11. OG trek is not difficult if you know the route. Its more a moderate trek. But if you don't have much idea about the route and want to decide on the ground, then be prepared for the trek of a life.
For Future trekkers:
1. Don’t venture without proper information such as maps and compass or GPS.
2. Don’t litter the trail as has already been done in bits and pieces. Carry your garbage home and burn.
3. If you want to successfully conquer OG, stick to Addahole river (2nd route) as plenty of water will be available. There will be a meeting point of another stream. From there , the deviation up is just 100m away. You can camp opposite to the deviation if only 4-5 people are there. For groups of large size, need to go further around 400m from the meeting point and 300m from the deviation up to reach a bigger camp-site.
The important coordinates to note are:
Meeting point of stream : 12degrees 55 minutes 28 seconds North 75degrees36minutes 15 seconds East
Deviation point towards forest : 12degrees 56 minutes 01 seconds North 75degrees36minutes 28 seconds East