Monday, April 13, 2009

Devarhole - at peace on my B'day

[April 11-12, 2009]

Devarhole is on the way to Ombattugudde

Fact File:

Starting point: Bangalore

Destination: Gundya gate (From Kempegowda bus stand, take KSRTC Sarige bus which goes to Dharmasthala via Sakleshpura, 10:30PM the best one.. it stops at Gundya gate)

Bus fare: Rs. 161.00 (one way)

Starting point for the trek: Walk along the highway towards Dharmasthala for around 3kms where one can see a bridge. Take the jeep track on the right side just after crossing the bridge.

Best possible itinerary: Start from Bangalore in the morning and reach Gundiya check post by 1:00PM. Start the trek by 1:30PM and then reach Devarhole by 5:00PM and camp there. Start the hike to Ombattigudde early morning the next day and reach there by noon. Camp there overnight again. Climb down towards Hosakere on the morning of 3rd day and reach Bangalore by night of 3rd day.

Essentials: Its a tough trek, rocky path, so have good shoes with strong soles. Water is a necessity after Devarhole, so carry enough water from that point on.

The KSRTC Sarige bus dropped us at Gundya Gate (or Check Post) at 5:00AM. The maps came out. Yes, this is the place from where we need to walk along the highway going towards Mangalore and take the jeep track on the right immediately after a bridge. The surroundings were still dark, although the sky was as milky as it can be (it was the next day after full moon). The presence of tall trees on both sides of the highway was blocking the entry of moonlight. Torches were out and we started walking along the highway in search of the bridge. The air was a bit warm and humid, but the pleasure of walking along a silent and peaceful road in the night has a thrill of its own. We reached the bridge in 30 minutes and there was the jeep track which was going down on the right. But, we were not sure whether this was the right route since we could not see anything around in the dark, except for a few houses. After a bit of exploration in the dark, we were convinced that this was the right track for us to take. The time was 5:35AM on 11th April. The thrill was in the air and all of us were just raring to march ahead. We were making an attempt to do one of the toughest treks in the Kabbinale Reserve Forest and climb the elusive Ombattugudde peak. The trek begins here. We were 5 of us - myself, Pradipta, Ramakrishna, Rajesh and Gupta.

We started walking along the wide jeep track. There were few houses along the jeep track, but within 15 minutes of walking, the real forest area started. We could see huge trees with heavy undergrowth on both the sides of the road. The atmosphere was pleasant and invigorating for a nice walk - the air was slightly chill and occasionally we could get the sweet fragrance of flowers. There were several diversions along the jeep road, but one needs to just follow the widest of the roads (easily identifiable) and its usually the one which goes on the right. This part of the trek is not difficult at all and there are no major uphill climbs. At several places along the track, there were fallen trees which were blocking the route, but one can go around and hit the track again. At one place, we saw a huge dead tree which was burning. We were not sure whether somebody had burnt the tree or since the air was dry, the fire started by itself. By 6:30AM, it was daylight and we were able to see the forest very clearly. The forest was thick with several huge and tall trees. The track goes along the river which flows on the right side. Once in a while the river would be close to the path, but slowly it goes away farther. We crossed several dry stream paths on the way, which during rainy season would surely have lot of water. At one of the stream paths though, there was some water but it was stagnant. We continued our pleasant walk through the forest. The air was filled with the chirping of birds and an occasional call. All this time during the walk, once in a while the discussion used to divert to the presence of leeches along the trek, but since it was dry season, we did not expect leeches to be present.

After walking for around 2 hours, we reached a small clearing where we could see a forest milestone on the left. We decided to take a quick rest here. This is when people started to look at their shoes and socks, in case, there are some leeches which are stuck. Thats it, we have stirred the hornet's nest. The first person to notice a leech on his socks was Rajesh. And mind it, Rajesh considers the leech as his biggest enemy in life. In fact, all of us had leech on our shoes and socks, but not much blood was lost. Rajesh had all the possible solutions for leech attacks and all of us took turns to apply tobacco powder mixed with coconut oil on our feet and legs for further attacks. We continued our trek beyond this point and we could see a huge hill right in front of us. In another 30 minutes, we reached the sangam area, the junction which is supposedly the starting point for the real adventure. We decided to have our breakfast (sandwiches+biscuits+banana) here and then plan the further course of action.

The hike to Ombattugudde peak can be done through multiple routes from the Sangam and maps are available in blogs which show those routes. One of the most frequented trails is the one which goes along the river up to a point from where one has to take a diversion towards north and then reach the peak. But, we decided to attempt the one which goes straight up rather than the roundabout route along the river. When we were around at the Sangam, one more group of around 7-8 people also came and they were planning to take the river route. We spent around 2 hours at the Sangam, freshened up and then started the hike through the jeep track which goes right across the river stream. This route too goes along the river for quite a while (maybe around an hour or so). The trail is easily identifiable. All along the route, there will be quite a few diversions which goes on the right side, but one should not take that route. The correct trail is the one which goes to the left. On the way, we met a group of guys who were on their return trek. It seems they too wanted to take the straight trek route up, but could not make it. They had camped at a place called Devarhole. In just around 45 minutes or so, we reached Devarhole. At a certain place, one can hear the sound of the waterfalls and withing a very short 5 minute walking distance, a small trail on the right side leads to the river. This place has got a nice camping spot. Rajesh and Pradipta just explored the place, filled water and then we proceeded ahead for the climb. We reached another junction after 10 minutes of walk and we used the compass to find the direction towards north and started an uphill climb towards the ridge which will take us to the peak. We began climbing up the hill through the thick jungle (putting marks on the trees on the way) and occasionally we had to use our sharp weapons (courtesy Rajesh) to make the clearing for the trek as we climbed up. After ascending for more than an hour on the steep slope, we began to realise that there's no point going up like this as the jungle was turning out to be very dense. Further, I started getting problems on my feet due to heel cracks/boils and I was finding it very difficult to walk. After a short discussion, we decided to abandon the trek up to Ombattigudde this time around and planned to camp for the night at Devarhole. As we returned, the pain on my feet began to increase and it took us around 45 minutes to return to Devarhole. We took up a spot which was very close to a small waterfall and all of us just crashed on the rocks to lie down. It was around 2:30PM then. After a quick rest, we began to plan for lunch (maggi zindabad) and within no time, lunch was ready (courtesy rajesh, he was the only guy in total control) and everybody hogged. All of us were dead tired with problems on the feet and entire body and is there a better way to release the pain than to jump into the fresh and cool water of the river. We ended up spending a good time in the water. The air was very hot and moist and we were planning to sleep under the open sky, but suddenly, we could see clouds hovering in the sky and thats when we decided to bring out our tents in case it rains. We had brought two tents and both were assembled in no time. Rajesh insisted that the two tents be put side by side so that in case of any possible attack by wild animals, we should all be together to put up a fight. For such an eventuality, he also had other ideas - he collected sticks and kept between the tents, he wanted to tie waste cloth at the end of a stick and dip it in kerosene and keep and so many more... The sky was becoming dark and we spent a good amount of time chatting with each other before we started preparations for dinner - noodles again and fried rice. We finished our sumptuous dinner by 10:30PM, packed up everything and started the bonfire. We sat around it for sometime before guys felt that its time they go to sleep. Pradipta and myself decided to sleep outside the tent on the rocky surface whereas the remaining three slept inside the tent. It was a great feeling sleeping face up towards the open sky with lot of stars to gaze around. The moon was not visible but the sky was totally lit up - milky white. Slowly the time passed by and it was 12:00AM on 12th April... And thats my BIRTHDAY... I had never imagined that on my B'day this year, I will be in a jungle, lying peacefully on a rock in the middle of a river and watching up at the stars with the sound of the gushing water of the river to give company... What an atmosphere !! I would love to celebrate all my future birthday's like this, but can I be always fortunate like this time? I was awake for another hour or so just being myself in total peace - a silent spectator and a silent listener to whatever was around me !!

We slept outside till around 2:00AM or so and then went inside our tent. The guys in the other tent were in deep slumber. As time progressed in the night, the sky was totally white and it was a wonderful sight. Everything around was very clearly visible. We were all awake by 7:00AM the morning of 12th and we started getting ready for the trek back towards civilization. The tents were re-packed and the rucksacks assembled in no time. It was time for another dip in the river now and we spent around 30 minutes or so living the time on hand. We started walking back around 10.00AM and within 45 minutes we were back at the Sangam. We had taken soda and lime with us for the trip, so it was time now to prepare sweet lime soda. Wow, that was refreshing. We met another group of trekkers at the Sangam who were also on their way back. After a short rest, we resumed our trek back with regular stoppages for refreshments in between. Just before we hit the main road, we spent a long time along the river. I was having a tough time walking with sores and cuts on both my feet. All the others were also tired and somehow we all managed to drag ourselves to Gudiya checkpost by around 2:30PM. There were frequent KSRTC Sarige buses going towards Bangalore and we boarded one of them. Rajesh was getting hungry and he wanted to go only till Sakleshpura, get down there, have lunch and then proceed towards Bangalore. But, once inside the bus, he was bullied into traveling till Bangalore. Just before reaching Sakleshpura, the bus stopped for a quick break. Rajesh was personally informed by the conductor that he should have his lunch there. Rajesh and Ramki went ahead for lunch and rest of us had snacks. In about 15 minutes, the bus started towards Bangalore. Suddenly, we realised that Rajesh was not in the bus and we had to rush towards the conductor to inform him of his absence. The conductor told that the bus is going to stop at the bus station which was around 10 minutes from that place and Rajesh can come and board the bus there. We were not sure whether Rajesh had money or mobile with him. We reached the bus station and Ramki decided to take an auto and go back and search for Rajesh and conductor assured that the bus will wait. Ramki had just left in search of Rajesh when from nowhere Rajesh came rushing inside the bus. Now, we have to get Ramki back. We made a call to Ramki and asked him to come back. He had already reached the place where Rajesh was left behind and was searching for him. It took another 10 minutes to come out of the confusion and Ramki was back in the bus again. The rest of the bus journey was boring. The driver was driving dead slow and the passengers were getting irritated and they were shouting at him once in a while. But then, you cannot force a person to do something which he doesn't want to do. We reached Yeshwanthpur at 10:30PM and walked back to IISc. Had dinner at GYM cafe and thats it. Yes, we could not reach the peak this time, but we had a fabulous time during the trek and we are planning to again go back sometimes soon and finish the trek...

The plan to Ombattigudde was finalised at the last moment due to logistics issues. Earlier, we were planning to go to Charmadi ghats with the help of a guide, but that did not materialise. We boarded the KSRTC Sarige bus from Kempegowda bus stand, Bangalore to Gundya gate on 10th April night. One has to take a bus which goes to Dharmasthala via Sakleshpura to reach Gundya gate. The best bus is probably the one which leaves Kempegowda bus stand at 10:30PM.

Till the next trek.... Adios... Santanu