Live interaction with BASC Team & Members - 2nd May 2020

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ironically I’m writing this write-up almost after 3 years and three visits to this falls.
Bandaje Arbbi falls, I first
heard about this place from Harsha my colleague when I was in think 3. After the huge gap of six months in June, after Kodchadri trek we 9 ascenders from Bangalore thought of ascending Bandaje Arbbi Falls and conquering Ballalarayana Durga Fort. As usual lot of Google-ing, planning and mail exchanges were done. I some times wonder how olden day youngsters would have trekked these kind of places in past without the help of tools like Google Search, Google Maps, Google Earth, Wikimapia or without GPS devices which we are so dependent off. We all boarded 10.20 pm Dharmastala bounded rajahamsa bus from platform 23 of KSRTC bus stand. This started our journey towards Bandaje Arbbi. Team included Jaylokanath, Sandesh, Chetan, Naveen, Rahul, Nixon, Bhagwat, Deepak and I.
After reaching Dharmastala at 6.45 am first thing was to book tickets for the return journey, we were happy to see reservation counters open at this odd hour and with in no time we got tickets for Sunday nights travel from Dharmastala. Yes from Dharmastala I don’t remember why we booked from there because trek exit point would be sunkasale and the nearest town from there is kalasa or Horanadu. We must have booked from Hornaadu. Horanadu to Dharmastala is approximately 80 odd kms by road and there is no point in coming back here just to board a bus. May be we foresaw what’s going to happen next. Any ways next we caught bus to Ujre which is 8kms away and costs 7/head; there are lots of buses minus passengers to Ujre. Just beside Ujre bus stop there is a decent pay and use restroom were we finished our morning ablutions. Had sumptuous breakfast at Guruprasad hotel and later hired a jeep f
rom stand which is opposite to the hotel. Rates are pretty straight 150/- per jeep up to Idya. Can cajole the driver and get yourself dropped till Bandaje village for the same price.
Idya is the start point for this trek, also there is one more not so popular start point called Mundaje. Reaching the base of the hill from Mundaje will take almost a day so there is no point in starting from this place. Had a quick photo session at Idya signboard and the arch which is a sort of tradition of our group. Bandaje village is 3 kms from here, we reached Narayan Gowda’s house with in 30 minutes, along the way we had the first distant glimpse of the falls. We met him and enquired about further directions, terrain and the water level in the stream which we were supposed to cross. One can call him and enquire this in advance or before planning for this trek, he can also arrange for a guide but were is the adventure in following a guide. I won’t write down his number here please mail me for the same. From here one is required to follow a small trial and go up to the last house of the village and there lives Babu Naik. This trial is blocked by a small stream one need to follow the left of the stream and later continue with the trail.
We met Babu Naik and enquired about the further directions. The trial to Bandaje Arbbi starts from Babu Naiks house, there are two trials here and u need to pick the right one which is quite clear and starts ascending, the same trial will take you out of the forest and ends at the grasslands after approximately 4 hour
s of trekking. Now we started a slow and steep ascent, as it was monsoon leeches accompanied us for most of the time; we took frequent breaks and energy bars were consumed. This stretch was pretty tough even for the seasoned trekkers like us, now it occurred to me why Harsha and his team retreated back from here when they attempted few years ago. We finally made it to the stream after two hours and an encounter with a Viper probably Malabar pit viper. We spent a cool 1 hour bathing in the chilled waters of Bandaje stream.
Consumed MTR packets for lunch and started for the second stretch of the jungle trek by now it started raining but we were prepared for this and kept moving. Now leeches started attacking us in full force but we could do nothing, the entire anti leech stuff applied was washed away and we were at the mercy of the leeches. After 1 hour of steep ascent we had a break but leeches would not take any break and kept brutally attacking us from all sides. It was still raining and we started off again in the forest cover, the trail was clear except at few places were there was some under growth due to recent rains. Leeches were all over the body and we could not stop to remove them because by the time we would remove them many more were climbing us, now we were on the look out for a safer place. Finally we got a big boulder at right side of the trial all climbed it and got rid of all the leeches. We started off again and 15 to 20 minutes later we were out of the forests.
Rain had subsided by now and we had glorious views of the grasslands an
d the below valleys we had photo secessions and captured all the beauty in our lenses. Mobile networks were also available and we called our dear ones to share the pleasant moments of our lives. There are no trials here in the grasslands so here be at the extreme left and start ascending the peak you need to reach the upstream of the falls. After few yards of ascending we saw the mesmerizing Bandaje Arbbi falls flowing down with deafening sound but we can’t approach the falls from this side. After few clicks we continued the ascend keeping ourselves at the left side of the grassland and with out entering the forest. After some time we saw a walled structure at the end of the grassland just before the forest and yes that was the camping spot for the day. This small walled structure is a dilapidated building and has a flat camping space we put up our make shift tent and relaxed for a while.
Sky was very cloudy and we could not see the sunset, very soon darkness engulfed and we hoped it would not rain or else we would have big trouble. Fortunately clouds cleared and we could see the fully bloomed moon. We had dinner and slept peacefully all the night as it did not rained.
A pleasant dawn greeted us, encircled by mist and the grassland wrapped itself with the dew drops and the thin rays of sunlight descending from the horizon; is this what we call HEAVEN.
A small trail opposite the walled structure leads precautiously to the upstream of the falls through the forest. Here w
e finished our morning ablutions and finished our breakfast. Now we had two tasks to complete one to reach the falls and the other one to conquer the fort and get down at the exit point on the other side. The only information we had was after crossing the upstream there are two trails left one goes to the falls and the right one goes to the fort. Now the question was were to cross the stream so that we could find the start point of these trials we searched nearby the camping spot but could not find any, also cross checked the map no 48 O/8 and the write-ups which we referred and carried none mentioned exact locations. Adding to these two first timers Chetan and Sandesh were reluctant to give a try and wanted to return back, some how we managed to convenience them and started to search the trial that crosses the stream. After few minutes of frantic search we got it. From the walled structure (camping spot) one needs to go right in the East direction (away from the falls) descending a bit and after few yards cross a small compound like wall and now start ascending along the wall towards the forest in the North direction here one can see a stone pyramid structure which is a district boundary marked by the forest department. To the left of the stone pyramid there is a trial that goes into the forest and crosses the upstream.
After crossing the stream (the last water spot) the path leads to a flat space which can be used as a camping spot but it’s not that safe because wild bison’s usually roam the opposite hill and the probability of their visit to the stream from that side can’t be ruled out. Here u can see two small trials left one goes into the forest and then to the falls and the right one opens in the valley of grassland. As we had lost considerable amount of time so we thought of skipping the falls a tough decision and headed towards the fort. After 15 minutes we crossed a small stream which joins the upstream of the falls (if water is available here that would be a bonus).after the stream there is one more small compound like wall that runs perpendicularly till the ridge of the hill. Continue ascending in the valley till it ends and now take left (parallel to the wall) and climb the steep ascent to reach the ridge once you are there you will be able to see the trial and this trial will take u to the fort which is also seen from here. I managed to reach here before others and could see the fort but by the time others reached fort hid under the thick fog.
Something else was in store for us; the peaks were surrounded by mist and the whole landscape was out of the world. The second day stretch is most beautiful and the most picturesque than any other place I have trekked in Karnataka so far. We continued the trial and after some time it started drizzling and now the place had become more mystic reducing the visibility only to few feet’s. It was past noon and still we could not reach or see the fort, after an hour we reached a Y fork
and the confusions started here we did not know which trial to follow and the fort was invisible. Few were skeptical that I have seen any fort and the first timers were compelling to return back. Bhawat and Rahul went separately along both the trials for few meters and could not see anything and returned back. After few arguments and discussions that we were not sure about the route and did not have time to experiment in this thick fog and more ever we had booked our tickets from Dharmastala, we headed back with a heavy heart.
Now first timers were leading and I was at last very much upset that we could not do it in first attempt, thoughts were running in my mind when and how to plan for the second attempt. Now we were racing against time we needed to descend fast, very soon we reached the upstream filled our water bottles and started steep descend of grasslands. We reached the end of the grassland and now needed to enter the forests and here entering the exact point was important to pick the trial. We had not marked any signs as we did not know that we would return, but Nixon’s watchful eye picked the chocolate wrapper that some one threw the previous day. We picked trial and started the fast descend in the process Chetan had a bad ankle cramp; I and Jayloknath had to support him all along the remaining stretch our pace became very slow. Others had already reached Bandaje stream and after 45 minutes we too joined them, had our lunch and started by 4.30 pm. We were last to reach Babu Naik’s house at 6 pm we told him about the Y fork and the point of return, he said fort was 5 minutes straight climb from there. There were plenty of leeches as we could not stop more often and remove the
m so we removed them all here and reached the sole shop in Bandaje village near the school and had tea and biscuits. Considering Chetan’s cramp we decided to call a jeep to the village itself even no one was willing to trek up to Idya after 2 whole days of trekking. The owner of the shop arranged for the jeep which was to arrive at 7 pm. We wanted to get rid of the rotten and bloody clothes and had some time left for the jeep to arrive. It was dark and we had a nice bath using the bore well and changed into respectable clothes. Jeep arrived we struck a deal and got dropped at Dharmastala. We had a hearty dinner which ended with an ice-cream. Few visited Lord Manjunatha Swamy shrine and we all caught another Jeep as we needed to go to new bus stand to board the bus to Bangalore. Bus was on time and we entered the fairy wonderland as soon as the bus left Dharmastala.

• Map required is 48 O/8, can buy this at Survey of India, Kormangala, Bangalore.
• The stretch from the upstream to the falls and from the Y fork to the fort and from the fort to the other side is mentioned in Bandaje Arbbi/3
Bandaje Arbbi/2 describes the nearby places and other exploration options.
• Steep ascent at the very beginning would be very difficult for the first timers.
•Route: Bangalore> Dharmastala>Ujire>Somantadka>Bandaje village>Bandaje stream> Bandaje Falls> Ballalarayana Durga Fort>Durgadahalli>Sultanpete>Sunkasale>Kalasa> Horanadu>Bangalore.
•Two full days trek and permissions are not required.

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Written By: Mudassar
Organized By: Mudassar
Image Gallery:
Mudassar/Jayloknath ,Rahul