Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bababudangiri to Santaveri trek

[Dec 21, 2009]

Fact file:

Trek route: Bababudangiri to Santaveri village (Karnataka)

How to reach:

Vehicle: Bangalore - Chickamagalur - Bababudan Hill (on the way to Kemmanegundi)
Trek: Bababudangiri to Santaveri

Let the vehicle pick you up at Santaveri and come back to Bangalore

Best time to visit:Winter

Trek duration:
1 day

Complexity: Easy


The deadline to reach Santaveri village was 16:00 hrs. One of our trek mates, Gupta had to catch a train from Bangalore to Chennai at 23:15 hrs and the only way it was possible was to start from Santaveri at 16:00 hrs. Now, the time was 14:00 hrs and we were nowhere near Santaveri. It looked like we have lost the trail somewhere which could lead us down to the village. We could see some settlements far down, but how to reach there was the question. The valley was steep and thick jungles posed a challenge for us. It was time to take a break and deliberate on the different possibilities. We went up to the highest point on the plateau where we were held up and tried to have a good view of the surroundings. Kottada and Pradipta then climbed to the top of a nearby hill and after a tiring effort found that we could take a jeepable track to get down to the village. The decision then was to go back to the fort ruins which we had left 3 kms behind and then start from there. The sad part was that Gupta was going to miss his train and we can't help it :)

We came back to the fort and from there followed the jeep track down. Probably, this trek route has not been in use as the thick undergrowth made it very difficult to go ahead. But, we had to and also fast as it was getting dark. After crawling through thick bushes, we finally landed on open space and in another 30 minutes of trekking, we saw a gate which marks the entry point to Santaveri. We could see the village quite below meaning that we have a lot of distance still to cover. All of us were very tired and a couple of them were limping. We somehow managed to walk down for another 45 minutes or so on a road filled with lot of stones. Our vehicle was there to take us back home and we were relieved. We freshened ourselves and sat in the vehicle for the trip back to Bangalore.

Now, exactly 36 hours before, we were sitting at Prof. Choksi's lab and were trying to find out a suitable place for a day trek. There were several constraints for a leisure and longer trek. We had only 24 hrs at hand to reach a certain place, do the trek and get back to Bangalore. After considering several options, we decided to go with Kottada's suggestion to trek from Bababudangiri to Santaveri which it seems he had done it several years before and was doable in a day's time. Immediately, a vehicle was arranged and we decided to start for Bababudangiri around 01:00 hrs in the morning. We were seven of us for the trek. It was Rajesh's job to arrange the logistics for the trek. Time passed very quickly, the vehicle arrived dot on time and we were on Tumkur road by 01:30 hrs on the 20th. When I had left Bangalore, there was heavy construction going on at Tumkur road. I found the situation still the same, but we were traveling in the night, so there was not much of a problem with traffic jams. Most of us were in a tired state and very soon, we were transported to the sleeping mode. Kottada and Kiran were the active ones amongst us, so they maintained the task of sitting besides our driver.

We probably stopped a couple of times midway, but I was totally unaware till early in the morning when the continuous swirls of our vehicle due to the winding roads woke us up. We were on the stretch of road between Chickmagalur and Bababudangiri. The sun was just about to rise and the sky horizon was lit in orange. Kots could not resist the temptation to take a few snaps and for some of us like me, we wanted to answer nature's call. So, we stopped for a while to finish our respective tasks and within a short while we were at the Bababudangiri shrine. It was very foggy and very chill. Rajesh suggested to have bread omlette for breakfast at one of the shops around and after filling our stomachs, we marched along the trek path which goes towards Kemmanegundi. It was around 08:30 hrs. The initial stretch of road was tarred and the trek was more sort of an early morning walk. Thick mists engulfed our path and also restricted the visibility off and on. On the way, many of us had to answer nature's untiring and repeated calls and all along we kept trekking. Very soon, we reached a lake on the bank of which we could see a small makeshift temple. This spot was a photographer's paradise and everybody took turns to pose for a few snaps. Thick mist challenged our photographers and it was the right time to display their skills in handling their sophisticated equipment. Right after we crossed the lake, we could see that there was no tar road ahead, rather it was a regular trekking path cut along the side of the hills. Soon, it became sunny and we all had to remove our warm clothes. There were very few uphill climbs and it was a pleasant walk through open grasslands and occasionally through thick jungle vegetation. This trek doesn't seem to be frequented, so the there was no clear trekking path which could be seen. One has to use their sense of direction, a GPS or intuition to move ahead and it is fun. Soon, we were hungry again and we decided to take a break for some snacks. The place was near a communication tower on top of a smaller hill. The diet was as usual a combination of bread, jam and pickles with slices of cucumber and tomato in between, maybe together I think we can call this as the sandwich.

With a bit of recharge, we started our march. We were basically following another batch of 4 trekkers who were quite ahead of us. After an hours walk, we could see that there was no trek path as such, but then at a distance we saw the guys ahead of us, and we thought they were in the right direction. We followed the direction but very soon, we realised that we were lost. We were atop a hill and from there, we could see that the actual trekking path was on another hill which looked quite far. The problem was that there was a very deep valley of jungles in between these two hills which we have to cross. We found out from where we have to cross this valley and barged through the thick undergrowth of the forest and soon emerged on the other side on the right trek route after overcoming a steep climb. Now, it was around 2 hours from our last long break and friends decided to break again for a so called lunch. Again, it was the same stuff. We did not want to waste much time since our deadline to reach Santaveri was 16:00 hrs. We finished quickly and proceeded for the next target and thats the ruins of a fort. Within half an hour, we could see the fort ruins at a distance. We realised that now, we are within our time targets. Me and pradipta were the first people to reach the fort, but once we reached there, we could not see any trek path which could lead us down. We were stuck. We waited for our friends behind to reach us and they told that they saw the other group go in a particular direction. So, we too headed in that direction. The sun was right on top of our head and after eating the food, we were finding it lazy to walk. We kept on walking for maybe around 3 kms when we reached a dead end. There were no trek path at all ahead of us now. We looked around the valley from the highest point and we could see a village down, but how to reach was the question. We spent almost an hour deliberating on the directions we should take. Then, we realised that the group before us had vanished in thin air. We looked all around and at distance, we could see sort of a path which leads into a thick jungle. We felt that the trek route is probably there and then proceeded in that direction. Then we could hear some voices from inside the jungle. One of us went and then came to know that there was no route in that direction at all. Now, the time was 14:00 hrs and we were nowhere near Santaveri.

This trek is a very average trek and is doable by anybody of any standards. The distance is long maybe around 20 kms, but the route all along the side of a hill and I can recall only a couple of steep climbs. The only issue is that people should not get lost. It is a day's trek to cherish....

Team members: Kots, Kiran, Ramkrishna, Rajesh, Pradipta, Gupta and Santanu

Photographs courtesy Kots and Kiran.... That why I am in most of the snaps :)

Till the next one... Adios

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A drive to Fulufjällets National Park

It was not an easy decision to make. It is difficult to find a place nearby for weekend fun and activities - most of the places people have already visited. The only good places were up north and the question was whether it is a good time to have a trip to those places. We have to mind the fact that winter is knocking the doors pretty fast and it has already started snowing at places on the norther part of Sweden. After a quick deliberation at Backgarden (during dinner on the 13th, we decided to drive down to a place called Sarna to the north of Sweden. Don't get confused by the name Backgarden - the first time I visited Ludvika and when Naveen mentioned the name, I had assumed it to be the backgarden of his house. But, then I came to know that this was the name of an apartment complex where our friends stay. Anyway, the idea now was to visit the Fulufjällets National Park and the Njupeskar waterfalls, supposedly the highest waterfalls in Sweden. I did a brief search on the net to find out whether the national park was open. Nowhere it was mentioned that it was closed and so the plan was finalized. We were to leave at 7:00 AM the next morning, i.e. the 14th.

The fun started the moment we all left Backgarden after having a nice dinner prepared by Amit. We realized that Pramod has left his mobile phone at Backgarden itself, so how can he wake up the morning after. There was no away somebody could go to his apartment and given the phone, means now were were sure to get delayed in the morning the day after. When we woke up the next day morning, the weather was amazing - it was snowing. For me, this was the first full snowy day I woke up with after landing here in Sweden in June. All the people were awake except for Pramod who was probably in his wildest possible dreams at the moment. Naveen and myself went to his apartment and rang his doorbell. He came to the door after sometime and his first question on opening the door was "Where's my mobile".... That showed that he was happy to have left the mobile somewhere so that he could sleep for some extra time compared to us :). Folks at Backgarden were already ready to go and they were waiting for us and Pramod. We reached Backgarden and in a short while Pramod also reached there. It was snowing quite heavily in Ludvika, the roads were white and we were all set.. We started to realize what the drive was going to be like... We were 6 people in all - Naveen, Pramod, Amit, Amit2, Pratibha and myself (hope people know my name). There were two "smarties" in our gang - Amit2 (the only shaadi-shuda fellow in the group) and Pratibha (the only lady in the group).

We started from Ludvika around 8:30 AM in two cars amidst continuous snowing and dark surroundings. The route to Särna goes through Borlange, Mora and Alvdalen towards northern Sweden and the distance was around 280 kms from Ludvika. We reached Borlange in half an hour or so - I would say that this place is the nearest town from Ludvika village and my friends usually come here for weekend fun. The road to Borlange is along the sides of a lake and the surrounding was beautiful with snow all around. As we proceeded with our drive towards Mora, I started to feel as if we are driving into the womb of nature. You can see all the combinations - a lake on one side and a steep hill with tall trees on the other or lakes on both sides or steep hill with tall trees on both the sides... This was just fantastic. Dalarna region in Sweden is famous for its natural beauty and I was getting a first hand experience of the same. The drive to Mora goes through small "villages" Gagnef, Leksand and Rattvik. I liked Rattvik from the car window, this place is just on the side of a lake and there is a pier which extends very deep into the lake. Naveen tells me that this pier is very famous during summer and lot of couples usually hang around there - maybe Naveen has lot of experience of going there with someone :)... Anyway, our main target was to reach Sarna as soon as possible and so we kept pushing along... We were getting hungry too and we decided to stop at Mora for coffee, rest-room and food. On the way, Naveen also showed us the largest storage facility of Clas-Ohlson, one of the largest chain of hardware store in Sweden. Soon, we could see the sign-board telling us that Mora is just around a km ahead. We were delighted and in a short while we could see McDonalds on our left. What better place have a quick bite than this place. It was still snowing heavily when we came out of our cars in the parking lot and we rushed inside the restaurant. The first thing for folks was to look out for the rest-room and after achieving that gentle peace of mind, we were focused on what to order.... Does it take a lot of time to order burgers in McDonalds --- nej, nej - you dont even have to speak - just point to the board over your head and its done :) After a quick bite, all of us were ready for the next section of the drive. Suddenly there was an adrenaline rush after the food and the moment we came out of the restaurant, Amit started making snowballs and began throwing at others. The rest of them also followed and it was instant fun for a short while.

We got into our vehicles, went around for a short drive through Mora centrum (now I don't want to mention why we went for the drive around Mora centrum !!) and then proceeded towards Alvdalen and Särna. We found this stretch of drive up to Sarna to be even more scenic than what we had already covered. The intensity of snowing began to increase, the road ahead looked white and we were probably the only ones on the road. We reached Alvdalen in an hour or so. This was a very small place, but the natural surroundings have to be seen to be believed. Beyond Alvdalen, it seemed like the roads have not been cleaned of snow and so driving on this stretch looked dangerous. If the wheel marks were not there on the road, it would have become difficult to locate where to drive ! Our drivers (including Pramod who is regarded as a local F1 specialist !!) became cautious. Soon, we crossed a beautiful looking bridge on a river and then a dam with lot of water in its backwaters. I can't imagine what it would look like during peak winter when the water would become ice ! Hmm, this is not the time to break one's head. The snowfall was deterring us from stopping during the drive, but, the beautiful surrounding was too overwhelming and we stopped. Also, Naveen had to answer nature's call. This was the break which everyone needed or I would say "wanted" from their heart. This was the time for another round of snowballs and fun right on the side of the road. A few cars crossed by with curious onlookers trying to gauge what these useless folks were up to in this cold. It was time for another round of photo-session and people took turns taking pictures. Amit2 wanted to be look the best and he started hunting for his goggles (maybe he wanted to send some of his smart pictures to impress his better-half !). We would have spent around 20 minutes or so probably before we proceeded towards Särna. Very soon we reached Sarna and it was not very difficult to locate the board giving directions towards Fulufjallets National Park reception center. That was not very far but when we reached, we were dejected to see that everything was closed and we were the only souls around. Everything was fully covered with snow all around. We started looking at the map to find out where exactly the Njupeskar waterfall was. We were initially thinking whether we are allowed to go into the park area without a permission or guide or something, but then we realized that there was nothing like that mentioned anywhere which restricts people from going inside the park. Since we have come this far, we decided to have a snow-walk inside the park in search of the waterfall. With a brief idea of the map, we started to explore. The snow was probably ankle deep and it was not too difficult to walk with our regular sports-shoes. The entire park was dotted with tall tree and the trees were all covered with snow at the base. This resembled the surroundings of a song sequence in a Hindi movie. As we kept going along the marked path, we came across a few houses built of wood and each of these houses had a story to tell dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. It was fun walking on the snow and occasionally we had our snowball throwing sessions. For me, this was the first walk on snow after I came down to Sweden and so I was ecstatic and I would have probably spent a much more longer time hanging out inside the forest. It was cold no doubt, but the excitement in us was more than sufficient to go for the walk and explore. There was this chat also going on as to what would happen if suddenly from nowhere a bear or any other wild animal charged at us. I liked Amit's words - Jab sher ka jhoondh chul raha ho with a sherni too, then kaahe ka dar... After walking for around 30 minutes or so, we did not have any clue as to where the waterfall was. We slowly began to realize that the waterfall was not in this direction at all. But, then, there were other things also to look out for. Through the trees, we could see that, there was a water body down a slope and a closer look revealed that it was a river. We decided to walk down through the snow up to the riverside. It was not very difficult to locate the easiest path to get down through the snow. The ideal way would have been to slide down on your bums, but then the presence of several trees made it dangerous. The river bank was equally enchanting. The river bed was just beginning to freeze and it was partly water and partly snow which made a spectacular view. There was this hut too along the river bank with a huge anchor and rotating mast which says that the strongest man in Sweden had lived here :) After spending around 30 minutes or so here, we climbed back and returned back towards our car. It was getting dark faster, so we decided to drive back home. Naveen wanted to drive the dangerous stretch of road between Alvdalen and Särna when it was light. Also, we wanted to have a short stop near the dam on our way back. The walk to the waterfall would have been fantastic and adventurous, but I think we totally missed the way. Did I say adventurous, then hold on - there's more to come !

We came to the parking lot and again had a relook at the maps for the waterfall. Then we realised that we read the map wrongly and actually the waterfall was not in this section of the park. It was another 20 kms ahead. Anyway, we decided to come again to this place sooner or later. The one good thing which the park authorities did was not to lock the doors of the rest-room. Anyway, can there be a better rest-room than the surrounding nature, but the rest-room had running hot water which was much needed at that time. We started our way back. It was around 2:00PM or so and we decided to have a late lunch at Alvdalen or Mora depending on the situation. We noticed that the snowing has subsided a bit, but the road was still slippery. We were going ahead of Pramod's vehicle and Amit also joined us in our vehicle and we were constantly chatting apart from listening to desi chartbusters. We were cruising along at a speed of 7o km/hr when suddenly Naveen (our driver!) shouted at us to look somewhere. We thought there was an animal crossing the road or something interesting was there. But it was not to be. Actually Naveen was looking at the rear view mirror and he had seen Pramod's vehicle make a swirl and fall into the ditch. We turned back and saw that Pramod's vehicle was nowhere on the road. Just a minute before, we had felt a small jerk due to slipping wheels on our vehicle also, but we were so busy in chatting that we ignored that jerk. We immediately turned back and went around 400 metres back. Now, we could see that Pramod's vehicle was in the valley on the side of the road and Pramod and Amit2 were coming out. Fortunately, there was no injuries and the car was on its wheels and it seemed OK. Now, started the problem. Pramod's car was a 2-wheel drive and he and Naveen tried their best to get the car out on the road for around 30-45 minutes. The idea was to get the car our backwards using the rear wheels. All attempts were futile as the wheels were skidding heavily on the snow and it was becoming really tough (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33GQwhtfpLY). We were in the middle of nowhere and there were very few vehicles plying on the road. We were hesitating to call the emergency number since it would take a long time for the towing vehicle to arrive at the spot. Few of the cars stopped to enquire about us, but none of them had the necessary accessories to pull our car out of the ditch. Finally, there was no option but to call the emergency number and tell them about our situation. This was the first time for all of us to call the emergency facility and seek their help. Since we were very far from the nearest towns, we were told that it would take at least an hour for the towing vehicle to reach us. Then we started waiting for the help to reach. We had already spent around an hour at this place and darkness was engulfing the sky very quickly. We were chatting for maybe around 15 minutes or so when a car plying on the road came and stopped near us and offered us help. His vehicle was a 4-wheel drive one and he had belts with him to tow vehicles. That was a blessing for us. He got into action immediately and tied the cars back to back with the ropes and began trying. It took just 15 minutes for him to pull our car up from the ditch. Man, that was it. Now, we started to call the helpline frantically to tell them that the towing vehicle was not required now. They told that the towing vehicle was already on its way but they called that back and told us to be careful from next time. Whew ! - What an experience that was. We thanked the guy who helped us out and started on our journey towards home. Now, everybody was careful and people were driving at 50-60km/hr. The problem was that snowing has stopped, the temperature was a little bit higher and so there was both water and snow on the road. It was really a tough situation and with lot of caution we reached Alvdalen from where the road to Mora was generally cleared of snow. Ok, people were silent now and also getting hungry. We decided to stop at the same McDonalds where we had stopped in the morning. We reached there around 16:30hrs, freshened up, relaxed a bit, had our grub (I had two burgers !) and then started our way back again. The section of road from Mora to Ludvika was good as we had driven in the morning - so there was no problem speeding up to the speed limits. Rattvik was looking very beautiful in the night lights. People were very tired now and they wanted to be home as early as possible. Without any more stoppages and after a small round of racing between Borlange and Ludvika, we were at Naveen's place around 20:30hrs.... Wow - what a day it was. Now, it was time to relax and listen to the tales from Pramod of the moments just before the car swirled and fell into the ditch. We had gone to have an adventure at the "waterfall", but then we had a more severe life-threatening adventure: a "ditchfall" :) Overall, the trip was real good and the ultimate goal was achieved and that was "TO HAVE FUN".... Cheers till the next one...

Unfortunately, my camera was not there, so I could not take so many pictures. The pictures here are taken using Pramod's camera.

Hej Da

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sweden tales - Kolmarden Zoo and Park


A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to visit one of the largest zoo and nature park in Sweden at Kolmarden (www.kolmarden.com). Kolmarden is located around 150 kms from Stockholm near a place called Norrkoping. Kolmarden has a small railway station of its own and one can take a train from various places in Sweden to reach this place. There are connecting buses from the bus stop next to the Kolmarden railway station to take you to the Zoo and the travel time is around 10 minutes. There are buses from Norrkoping also directly to the nature park. A trip to Kolmarden is a whole day affair as there are several things to see and do.

The major attractions of Kolmarden are the Dolphin show, the Seal show and Birds of Prey, a show showing the fantastic performances of falcon and few other birds. I never had the opportunity to see a Dolphin show which I was told is usually very good. These beautiful creatures are one of the smartest animals on earth. I had already made the reservations for the entry to the zoo online and have also booked the seats for the dolphin show as I wanted to sit right next to the pool to have a nice view of the performance. We took a direct train to Kolmarden railway station from Vasteras early in the morning and then took the connecting bus from the station to be right there at the entrance of the zoo just before the zoo opening time of 10:00AM. The day being a Saturday, there were several visitors to the zoo. The interesting thing is that the train and bus connections to this place are made in such a way that visitors don't have any problems reaching this place.

The staff at the gate handed us the map of the zoo and the schedule for the shows and we took a while to chalk out our plan for the walk inside the park. We did not want to miss any of the shows. A few animals which are habitats of the Scandinavian region, like some foxes and cats were listed on the information sheet, but we were not able to see any of those in their enclosures. We did not miss any of the shows and also took a bus safari inside the park to see lions and wild bears. The shows were all too good and we enjoyed every bit of it. The dolphin show was the best and being seated close to the edge of the pool, I had the nice opportunity to view the animal and its antics from close quarters. After the zoo visit, I went around the city of Norrkoping for a couple of hours. It was nice to see trams running along the streets and also saw a cycle-rickshaw for the first time in Sweden. Instead of me writing anything, it would be better to show some pictures.

Hej da.