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Monday, November 15, 2010

Kodachadri has always been famous – famous for a blazing sunset and an unforgettable Arishinagundi. I have been in Bangalore for two years now and not once could I manage to get hold of an opportunity to visit this place amongst so many trips. So much for someone who is interested in hiking, photography and waterfalls.

FieldsPano1

Anyhow, when I saw the mail from Bangalore Ascenders (yea, a new group I discovered. They are good – check them out!) I had little going against the thought of joining them to Kodachadri apart from the teeny tiny fact that I did not know a single soul on the trek. So many treks and trips yet, but every single time I had at least one acquaintance to begin with. And I also knew that once on the trek, conversations flow freely for all of us have at least one common interest. But what the hell, for someone who is aspiring to be a solo world traveler someday, there’s always a first time. So if you are one of those who have been thinking to go for a trek for a long time but lack of company has been setting you back, here’s your moment of truth. Going alone isn’t half as bad as going with the wrong company. Next time you see an invite, register! :P 

Kodachadri – A Dreamer’s Reverie
In fact there are many benefits of going alone which I’d like to save for another post. Getting back to Kodachadri, at an altitude of 1343 meters above MSL, forming a pretty background to the famous Mookambika Temple of Kollur, 40 kms off the west coast, it is surely a place that can exceed your expectations. The backwaters of Lingamakki Dam on Sharavathi River create a stunning landscape view all around the peak. The 360 degree panoramic view from the peak is one of the best that I have seen so far with clouds below, the reflecting backwaters, hints of the coastline and a front row seat to an extraordinary sunset.

sunset-1

Getting there and more FAQs –

So what’s the way to paradise you ask? Well I cannot guide you to the hypothetical gateway to the celestial kingdom, but I sure can tell you how to reach this piece of heaven very much located on our planet earth.

Nearest Place – Kollur/Nittur in Karnataka. 

How many approachable routes to Kodachadri are there? – Two. One from Marakutaka Bus stand which takes you via Hidlumane falls to the jeep track going all the way to Kodachadri.

The second one starts from Karekatte gate near Kollur, this route goes through thick forest and then into open grasslands. Arishinagundi falls on this route. 

So to cover both the falls and Kodachadri, one could start at Marakutaka gate, hike to Hidlumane, then climb up to the grasslands, go towards the jeep track, reach Kodachadri peak, get down via the trek route starting just near the temple where the jeep track ends, reach Santosh Hotel at Vallur, hire a guide to go down to Arishinagundi from here, reach the falls, then climb up to the jeep track that will lead you to the gate of Mookambika WLS 2 kms before Kollur. 

What else can we see around?
Well, there is the famous Mookambika Temple of Kollur. 

You could always hit the beach for it is so close to coastline anyway. Maravanthe beach near Kundapura can be a good spot for yet another mesmerizing sunset along the western coast of 

What’s the USP of Kodachadri?
A blazing sunset and sunrise above a sea of clouds!

What about camping?
You can camp on the peak. It is vast and has ample space. No water source though. There is a small temple atop called Sarvajna Peetha where Shankaracharya is reported to have meditated. ;)

Just below the peak, you can also rest at Bhatta’s house or the PWD guesthouse for nominal charges. Food is available at Bhatta’s place. The peak is a 30 minute climb from here. So incase you spend the night here, you’ll have to run up in the morning to view sunrise.

Are there sunrise and sunset points?
Yes, when you climb from Bhatta’s house towards the peak, few minutes later you’d find two diversions on the trail - one to your left and one to your right. The right trail leads you to the peak and the sunset point to the west while the left trail is for sunrise view to the east. 

Is there any other way to reach Kodachadri?
Yes, the jeep track that I was mentioning earlier is operational. You can hire a jeep at either Kollur or Sampakatte village of Hosanagara. I must warn you it is going to be a very bumpy ride. After you reach the temple near Bhatta’s place, you will still need to hike up for 30 minutes or so to reach the peak. The jeep track ends here. 

What is the trek difficulty?
I’d say it is a moderate trek. If you walk through the jeep track, it makes life a little bit easier than climbing up from Karekatte gate. 

Okay, so you still haven’t answered my question. Where do I get down to start the trek?
Marakutaka bus stand falls to your left and is 2 kms after Nittur on the Nittur - Kollur route. 

Karekatte jeep track, again to your left, where a small stone saying Kodachadri 10kms will be found, is 11 kms from Nittur on the Nittur – Kollur Road.

Mookambika WLS gate is 2 kms before Kollur on the Nittur – Kollur road. 

Depending on from where you want to start the trek chose an option from the above. 

Now can I tell you how awesome the trek was?

So here’s what happened. 
It was a while since we started walking towards Hidlumane Falls. Long gone was the jeep track and we were walking on narrow jungle paths now. After few more minutes, we managed to reach Hidlumane Falls passing by another small stream en-route. The falls looked divine with the vertical rock face, greenery along the rocks and the pretty vines that hung from top to bottom. But the whole joy was short-lived only to find a huge group of tourist crowd already inundating any decent frame for photography.  While the rest of the troop also had their good fun I tried to salvage of what remained in the situation and managed this mediocre shot. But trust me, the falls look much better in full frame.

HidlumaneFalls

 One lost cause and with a new anticipation for the rest of the day, I started the climb to reach the grasslands above the falls. To the right, you’d find a huge rock from where the trail leads up again. Following the same, we climbed to reach the grasslands soon enough. It was a short yet stiff climb, yes. All the time while climbing up, I could spot glimpses of wide spread water body all around through the tree cover. I was wondering about its existence which was made clear once we were out in the open. These were the backwaters of Lingamakki Reservoir spread all around the hills. It was a very pretty setting – white fluffy clouds, blue skies, green mountains and veritable forest cover interspersed with backwaters to endless bounds. This is my world alright! What better place for an afternoon siesta?

water

  The monsoon effect was still in place rendering the mountain sides resplendent with lush greenery. Clouds passed by us, above us and below us - so far so good. In the far of distance, the jeep track to Kodachadri was visible and that would be our next destination, the only sore point being, we had to get down this hill into the valley and climb up all the way again to the same height. Looked tiresome but wasn’t so. Soon enough we all gathered at this buttermilk tent on the mountain top, much appreciated refreshment. Clouds engulfed us every now and then on our walk along the jeep track in pleasant company. A short walk led us to the end of the jeep trail where you’ll find a temple and two houses vying for profit from the trekkers and the visitors. The thing is, from here the peak is a good 30 min walk above.

walk

There is always a fine line to cross when mediocre turns extraordinary. So far the trek was just okay but it was about to change for good and it changed big time, let me tell you. After packing our dinner, the rest of the team headed towards the peak while me and Laksh stayed back to come along with few who were freshening up. Time was on our side and we were in no hurry as the trek was done with lot of light left for the day. 

Slowly and rather lazily, 6 of us start the climb. We were loitering here and there until two of us came onto the hill just below the peak and the show unraveled! The entire valley next to us was shrouded in a layer of cottony clouds. 270 degree view was above the puffy cloud layer while the peak rose above in the west. It is a pity that the show lasted only minutes and before the rest came here, we were all in the cloud.clouds A lazy walk from here led us to the peak where yet another spectacular show was about to unravel. The grand sunset Kodachadri is so famous for! Overlooking the west coast in a distance, a clear unobstructed view with only clouds daring to get in the way which we have no complaints with whatsoever, was awaiting us. The sunset shoot was an elegant affair anyway. The entire sky was painted in shades ranging from the calmest of blues to the fiercest of reds. All this while the red blazing ball of fury was playing hide and seek with the playful clouds. With such panoramas in the offing, who wouldn't call this place a photographer’s delight! The changing colors sure kept us busy for quite a while.sunset2The stunted or non-existent foliage at the peak was giving us no protection from the cold winds as temperature dropped with the fading light. A quick dinner later, everyone got comfy in their sleeping bags while I knew better not to crash at such a place which as it later turns out, came to be my own undoing. Karthik accompanied me as we sat on the edge talking about everything under the sun ironically as we sat under the stars, soon to be joined by Laksh. The three of us had good conversations - meaningful, meaningless and all such kinds. It was definitely one of those evenings that I’d remember for along time to come. The night was cold and sleepless. Again few of us got up to chat away to glory till sunrise and the sleeplessness came back with a vengeance as you’ll find out soon.  sunset3What makes Kodachadri a special place, is the unobstructed view of sunset and sunrise on either side of the peak. After a pretty sunrise, we went down to the same temple near the jeep track for a quick breakfast. Now here, going by the previous day’s experience, I expected this day to be no less than yet another picnic. Why this is relevant is because I want to stress on the fact that I did not have breakfast today either expecting no tough terrain whatsoever. And now, why this is relevant is because I was about to have the toughest of times in couple of hours.  rainbow There is a trekking trail right from here that goes all the way to Santosh Hotel at Vallur and then the trail meets a jeep track that takes us to the Karekatte gate. We started getting down and few of us stuck to the end for there was no reason to rush. The trail opens into the grassland for some distance before entering forested area. This part of the trail is comparable to the initial stretch of Kumara Parvatha trek. Soon enough we reached Santosh Hotel and the string of decisions followed that will change the entire equation of this trek for select few. ;)

Reaching Arishinagundi Falls, A Quest in itself!

Flat trail? Yea right!

We’re supposed to be walking on an easy flat trail leading to the falls. But that claim has as much truth to it as saying the earth is flat!  We completely loved the experience of slogging to get to the falls and the propensity to torture ourselves until we got there. Why you ask? Now that would require for me retell the story and you would be required to sit through it. If you are not the kinds who care about the journey and only destination matters then scroll down to the bottom of this post and see the glory that we witnessed. ;) 

This was day 2 of the trek and the previous day was a walk in clouds. One of those days where you can say views to efforts ratio was off the charts! It was a nice and easy trek and today was supposed to be no different. Considering the picnic mood that we were already in, no one cared to eat or sleep properly. With such a laid-back demeanor we start the trek to Arishinagundi not knowing the rollercoaster ride we were about to embark upon. So that’s the prelude. 

Arishinagundi - A Wonderwork

Now coming to facts, Arishinagundi falls is one the spectacular falls of Western Ghats hidden deep inside the jungles of Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary near Kollur. Set amidst luxuriant greenery and wilderness, the falls are a sight to the sore eye. Few places are left here, where you can be so close yet so far, to civilization that is. A few kilometers of walk will take you into the heart of the jungle where sunrays find it hard to get through and the track seems to be either never-ending or disappearing into oblivion.

The usual and saner approach would be to reach Santosh Hotel at Vollur and take a guide from here to the falls. This hotel is on the way to Kodachadri peak and while returning back, one could go to the falls which is a 2 hour steep descent through the thicket. Then after visiting the falls, you could climb up from the other side to reach a jeep track which meets the road head to Kollur, 2 kms before Kollur to be precise. Since everyone does this, coming down on a jeep track wouldn’t make you realize the fact that the track is not flat and instead it goes down steadily. This would mean the track goes up steadily should you start the trek from this side. 

But you’d think who would do the trek in the reverse way. Who would try to make their lives miserable by taking the tougher route when there is an easy way down? You’d be wrong to think none, enter us, the people. Of course it was not a conscious decision and it so happened that we could not get a guide at Santosh Hotel and hence we came all the way to Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary gate and started the trek from here. 

It was 1.30 PM. Spirits were soaring high and most of the team wanted to enjoy a nice bath under the swelling cascade. We were told the route is flat with little gradient. Equipped with no more than cameras and a change of clothes, all of us set towards the falls on the jeep track. We were also told that after 3kms or so, we would spot a 90 degree diversion to Arishinagundi falls. Reality bites and we find ourselves tired out and climbing up. But we still proceed, it is strange how mind can take you to great heights or bring you down to unfathomable depths, like we would know in a while. 

The slogging begins

After a kilometer or so we spotted a diversion already but no signboard was visible We contemplated for long if this is the diversion to the falls but since no expert help was available, we decided to go ahead on the jeep track. It is hot and humid and we are tired and hungry. The track was consistently going higher showing no signs of respite. Few of them turned back here while the rest of us proceeded further. As we went ahead, something strange was happening. We could see no signs of streams and the deafening roar of waterfalls was fast disappearing. If Doppler’s effect has any truth to it, it was safe to assume that we were moving away from the waterfalls. Soon enough we reached a small clearing from where we could spot the falls on the other mountain range opposite to the one we were treading upon. The track which now reduced to a small pathway was like the road to perdition. It did not seem to be taking us to heaven; instead it looked very much ready to have us on our way to eternal damnation. Dark and abandoned appearance it bore without a semblance to a pathway that was used in recent times. Further leading us to believe we were on the wrong track. While the rest of us decided to go back to the diversion, Karthik and Karthik following their intuition, decided to go ahead till they find the waterfall.  

One wrong turn…

Something was telling me to go ahead but I ignored the call and walked 2kms back to the earlier diversion. Only to find out we were actually on the right path to Arishinagundi! A quick reality check said we were all too hungry and tired and so not prepared for a tough trek but the mind was not ready to accept defeat yet. While many turned back from here, it took a lot of courage for four people to take one decision – to go back on the same trail to find the waterfall again. Once your mind is set, it takes little effort to get past the hurdles overlooking the obstacles. Like I said before, the route looks completely abandoned and forests have a way of making one feel claustrophobic. We literally dragged ourselves up the slopes. It was 2.45 PM when we decided we’d try again. Three of us were actually living the saying one step at a time while Apoorva raced ahead. No water, no food and no sleep were showing its effect – I was feeling giddy and I desperately needed water which none of us had. But I kept saying to myself “Mind over body, Neelima. If you can’t, nobody can" and it seemed to work so far. But that was not enough. We needed some sign to know we’re on the right track, signs that were none. Amidst all this, a packet of glucose restored our life force to an extent. It was already 4, the trail still trailing high, light fading soon and still no signs of the bloody board saying this way to Arishinagundi. Just when we were contemplating return, the board made its appearance. Oh the sweet rush of adrenaline I cannot explain. We whizzed past through the forest now with such a rigor, we reached the falls in the next 15 minutes. Once you spot the board, the trail goes down into the forest towards the falls. 

The Redemption…

I was so glad to spot the other three guys near the falls. Once the initial euphoria passed, I stopped to take in the beauty of the falls. It was stunning, the setting, the force and the effort. We spent quite sometime reveling in the lap of wilderness and the realization of actually having made it to the falls. We had a long journey ahead of us, back to the road head. With invigorated mind and body, the return journey wasn’t much of an effort. Yes, we did encounter leeches, snakes and darkness but nothing could erase neither the fury of the falls nor the state of euphoria.  We made it back to the road head by 6.30PM and were welcomed to a warm applause from the team. 

The Satisfaction.. :)

The trek to Arishinagundi and back would be close to 16kms (8 + 8) and the route as such does not have a heavy gradient. Then you might wonder what made the trek so tough for fit trekkers that we were. Circumstances! Without lunch and a drop of water, and the most important thing – without a ready mind it can sure turn into a challenging task at hand. Having trekked for more than two years now, a tough trek is usually not a problem and the body handles it well. But for the first time in months, the mind had come into picture. I had to constantly try and motivate myself to take each step forward. Body had given up long back but the mind continued to push forward – a true mind over body experience it was! Loved the challenge and loved the group – Laksh, Satish, Apoorva, Karthik, Karthik and yours truly. Arishinagundi will always be a special memory. 

Look at the falls and tell me, was it worth it?  Arishinagundi

How to reach –

Option 1 - 2 kms before Kollur, while coming from Nittur, you’d find a Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary gate to your left. There is a stream running here and a bridge crossing over. You could start the trek here like we did and walk on the jeep track, a long walk.

Option 2 – 11 kms before Kollur, while coming from Nittur, you could get down at Karakatte gate, you’d find a jeep track to your left heading into forest. 4-5 kms walk along this route will lead you to Santosh hotel near volur, take a guide trek down to the falls and come back to Mookambika WLS gate through the jeep track. 

Difficulty – It is fairly difficult with tricky section of descent from Santosh Hotel or from the jeep track to the falls. The jeep track would easily be 7-8 km walk and you wouldn’t find much water until you reach the falls itself. 2-3 hours of trek from either side would be my best guess. 

Best Season – Post monsoon as the water will still be full and the leeches might not be in their best form.

By the end of it, it was a knock out trek. Mind-blowing views, good company and for the fitting lesson taught to a complacent me in thinking Kodachadri – Arishinagundi trek is just a picnic. In hindsight, it was definitely not a picnic, had we taken the right route from Santosh hotel, it still would’ve been a moderate trek. While Kodachadri lived upto its expectations as a photographer’s dream come true, the killing trek to Arishinagundi catered to my deep-rooted need to find some adventure and drama. 

Phew, Whattay Weekend!

Also read other blogs:
By Lakshmish @
Lakshodysseys
By Karthik B S @ Unplugged

Also read kannada blog:
By Apoorva @
Apoorva's Blog

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Written by: Neelima (Courtesy: The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales 
Event organized by:
Mudassar
Image Gallery:
Anand, Karthik, Sudhansu, Apoorva, Karthik B S

3 comments :

  1. Wonderful place to trek when staying in bangalore
    amazing cloud pictures
    When is the next trek to this place starting from bangalore?

    ReplyDelete