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Sunrise

Sunrise at Mundajje


This place was haunting me from a long time. Twice had failed to make it to this place. This time, luckily, was serendipitous as there were no dropouts – Thanks to the enthu gang, good weather- Thank God, bookings done in time – Thanks KD and flooding the mail servers and inboxes with hundreds of mails(Spam?) – Thanks ME!

I had tough time porting 8 sleeping bags and 2 tents plus my backpack from my office to the Majestic bus terminal. Thanks Srushti and KD for offloading a few. The Rajahamsa left on time without Cuba and Hemanth, who boarded it running haphazardly at the exit of the terminal.

We filled up the last 1/4th of the bus. As usual soft targets were in the firing range with KD, Hemanth, Cuba and myself taking turns at the trigger. Benjamin was busy watching some soap in his ipod. We had to bring down the noise levels whn rest of the passengers looked annoyed. After a small tea break at kamat’s in Hassan, the bus took us to Ujire nonstop. At the end of the journey, I along with Cuba was sitting on the engine bonnet and bus driver was very enthusiastic in informing us about the places nearby and how adventurous he was during his childhood. The bus dropped us at Ujire by 6:30AM.

Narayan gowda's house


After a quick breakfast and packing up lunch at a local hotel, we hired a jeep to Mundajje Narayangowda’s house. The jeep driver charged us Rs 300( a bit exorbitant but considering 10 people and lot of luggage we thought not to negotiate) for a 12-14km drive. KD and myself stood hanging outside the jeep while the rest were stuffed inside like vegetables inside a veg bun. It was an awesome experience to stand outside a speeding jeep and at the end of the journey we could even spot the massive Bandajje falls at the hill top(People inside the jeep were not that lucky).

Narayan gowda(NG) was standing outside his old fashioned antique looking yet majestic house( reminded me of my Granny’s house). He asked us to get refreshened and leav asap and the guide(not one, but 2! – He had called another fellow as backup!) was already waiting for us. NG’s wife came out with their grand daughter Tanvi and girls set busy playing with the baby. NG went on to explain that he is a member of zilla panchayat and has plans to come up with a trek guide with trails in the surrounding areas to promote adventure. We appreciated his effort and bid goodbye and started our trek on a trail that begins right beside his house.


Stream

Stream no less than a waterfall


There is a definite trail for a few kms(until the stream) and it passes through the elephant trench(made to prevent elephants from attacking villages) and is fully leach infested. The stream crossing without dipping our backpack/shoes/sleeping bags was a little tricky and most of us managed to do it. After a short break, we entered the jungle where there was absolutely no route and the guide’s knowledge of the area was all we had to trace the correct route. The climb was quite steep and after about 3 hours of uphill and missing the route once or twice we managed to reach the exit point of forest. It was 1:30PM by then and we decided to have lunch before hitting the sunny grasslands.

Grasslands - Finally, the No leach zone


Arbi(Bandajje) falls - front view

Benjamin , Sangram and Poonam had gone well ahead of us and we started very late after lunch.The uphill trek continues even in the grasslands and one can see the head of the Bandajje waterfall after about an hour of trek. We found some shade under a tree and rested for an hour or so( No water). The discussions and topics in that one hour was one of the most fun filled times in my trek life!!(@Srushti, Bindu, KD, Saritha, Cuba and Hemanth: I’m too much tempted to write! but, i’ll hold on 😉 ) Its only when someone stopped laughing – after a good one hour or so, that we realized we are far behind an d the guide was waiting for us a KM away under the hot Sun.

Bandajje falls - Breadthtaking top view!


Razor edge!


The next 2 hours was a steep, never ending uphill climb on the grasslands. The surroundings looked hazy because of the heat. On reaching the top, we could see the head of the waterfall faintly visible behind the tree line. We climbed down the slippery path to reach the head of the Bandajje falls. In no time we dumped our bags and ran with our cameras to capture the bewildering drop of the waterfall and stunning sunset. It takes more than courage to bow down and look at the chasm from the cliff.

Sunset as seen from Bandajje waterfall


Mesmerizing!


Bonfire!


Chanda maama


Back at the campsite just beside the watercourse, Benji was busy fetching firewood and preparing tea while the rest of us started pitching tents. It was fast getting dark and the gushing winds repeatedly blew away the pitched tents. Later we had to dump bags stones inside to keep it at one place. Benjamin was more than happy to boil water for the ready to eat cuppa-mania dinner and prepare tomato soup to everyone. The spicy khatta meeta topping added the flavor to the dinner. The after dinner discussions was filled with PJs and anecdotes. It was a full moon night and the wilderness of the forest was getting creepier when the topic turned to ghost stories. Girls escaped one by one to the tent and hid inside their sleeping bags(out of fear? 😉 ). I had a good night’s sleep but somebody claimed they heard elephants nearby (later villagers confirmed it).

Green carpet welcome


Ballarayana Durga

Come Sunday morning, we could not afford to be lazy. We had to leave early and it is not so easy to pull people out of water when they are in playing mood. We had to smother a few, threaten the rest before everybody were set to start. The trek continued in the grassland. It was very sunny and we could spot Elephant dung everywhere. After crosing a few hills, we could see the Ballarayan durga fort a sweet 3 hills further. I paced up along with Benjamin, Bindu and Srushti while the rest were far far behind. On reaching the base of the hill on which the fort stood, we could see a gunman and another fellow. They had disappeared when we reached the fort though. (There was another group who had come from sunkasaale just to visit the fort – They had a gunman too! )

Watch tower


Little wall of ballarayana durga

The fort is a ruin. There is nothing inside apart from a compound. It looks like a small wall of china :-). There is a watch tower which gives 360 degree view of the surroundings. The place offers breathtaking view of western ghats and the green carpeted mountains are just mind boggling!

The GANG


Temple at the base of the hill


We rested for a while inside the fort and had our lunch by the time rest of the people dropped in. By 2PM we started downhill which seemed to be a easy route. After about 2 hours of trek we reached a temple at the base of the hill and rested there for a while before hitting the jeep track. It is about 8Kms to Sunkasaale from this place and we availed auto service available for the last 5kms. On reaching Sunkasaale we bid goodbye to our guides (paid them Rs.700, 300 per day and Rs.100 for traveling back). By the time we had tea at a local shop, A bus to Horanadu stopped at the bus stop and we got in. There is a bus every half an hour from 5PM to 6:30 PM to Horanadu, the autowala said. Horanadu is about 30kms from Sunkasaale and the bus passes through Kalasa.

We had our bus booked at 9:30 from Horanadu. Since we had wnough time, we booked 2 rooms to freshen up and visited the famous Annapoorneshwari Temple. We had the prasadam dinner at the temple hall and boarded the bus on time. (Just on time, as 4 poeple went missing and the rest had tough time finding them!)

The bus dropped us in Bangalore Majestic bus terminal by 6:30 and we all parted promising to meetup on a dinner someday the same week. And, we DID. Had a rocking time, AGAIN!

Summary:

* There are two possible routes: Mudajje – Bandajje falls – Ballarayandurga fort – Sunkasaale in that order OR in reverse order. I do not suggest reverse order as it takes out the fun and beauty of the route.

*Take a bus from bangalore to Ujire (All Kundapur bound buses ply this route)

*Jeeps are available from Ujire to Narayangowda’s house. Call him up well in advance and know the weather conditions, rainfall and guide availability.

*For the return journey, book Horanadu – bangalore 9:30 PM bus. One can reach Horanadu comfortably from Sunkasaale. About 32kms. KSRTC buses ply this route from 4:30PM to 5:30PM (around 3 buses)

*camp just beside the Bandajje falls. There is a small campsite where one can pitch 3 tents.

*On the 2nd day, Leave the campsite as early as possible. One can enjoy the mist filled meadows on the way to fort. It gets really hot later.

*Carry fire crackers (Helps scare elephants away)

*carry enough water. Only water resource – Bandajje waterfalls.

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It was silent. I could hear birds chirping. No fan and no alarm but still I woke up at 6. It was cold. I recollect today’s task ahead: Didna=>Tolpani=> Khopal top => Ali bugiyal => Bedni bugiyal, a 12km route.

Tolpani

Tolpani

Residents of Tolpani

Residents of Tolpani

I come out of the tent and go straight to the bonfire which was still hot. I sit there for a while before getting back to tent and packing my bag. Soon after that, we had a quick breakfast(bread-jam / omlet) and Rajesh promised that Alu paratha will be waiting at Ali bugiyal for us. Our plan was to reach Ali Bugiyal by 11AM and rest there for half an hour before proceeding to Bedini. 2 batches left ahead of us. Our Bangalore gang was a bit late to start and confident that we’ll catch up, we started climbing slowly. Soon after crossing a stream behind Didna, starts a rather easy forest walk for about an hour or so until we reach Tolpani. Tolpani is small 4-5 house village,2 kms from Didna. Raghu wasn’t feeling all that well and was walking on paracetamol. He was very paranoid of being hit by AMS. We stopped at the water source of the village and waited for rest of the team. The green fields were shining bright with the morning Sun. The villagers were reluctant to pose for the camera and seemed busy with their daily work.

Team at Khopal top

Team at Khopal top

Then starts almost vertical but zig-zag climb that passes through the thick jungle. I was happy to run overtaking the rest of the people and joined Narayan ji who was leading the team. We stopped at Khopal top (people also call it Tol top) for about half an hour, before most of the team joined us. One can see the majestic Choukamba(7838mts) from a point at Kopal top. I was hungry and there was just one thing ringing in my mind, to run to Ali Bugiyal as soon as possible and eat Alu Paratha! After pestering our guide for a while, he dropped the idea of waiting for the entire team to arrive and left with us telling the rest that there is a definite trail to follow.

Entry to the world of Lawn!

The begining of bugiyals

The begining of bugiyals

Clouds- the artist. I just missed the India map formation!

Clouds- the artist. I just missed the India map formation!

Enterance of the wonderland

Enterance of the wonderland

Alu paratha at the most beautiful resturant!

Alu paratha at the most beautiful resturant!

It was half an hour climb form Khopal top, I was taken by surprise when all of a sudden a different world opened up. It was no more jungle, no more brown. It was green lawn spread over kilometers of soft humped mountains decorated with yellow flowers. There were beautiful trees rooted to please even the daemon to get his girlfriend to play hide and seek:-). There were clouds hovering right through the place in all directions creating mystic figures. It was cold as I walked through the mist and then there was Sun to pinch and tell boy, you are not dreaming. From there I could see the entire first day’s route. I could see Lohajang, Wan and Kulling. Ten minutes – All over.(only Me, Ambreesh, Kunal, Neelima and few were lucky)By the time rest of the team arrived, there was a complete cloud cover. All the views were gone. Now, i realized something – damn, i’m hungry. I want Alu paratha! I started running shouting to Narayanji  “I want to reach Alu bugiyal! ” I was so occupied that I had renamed Ali bugiyal!.  On the way I saw a few langoors in the forest to my right. The meadows looked never ending until I saw Gopal waving at us. I ran with KunalAmbreesh, straight to him telling “I want 10 paratahs fast!” He said calmly “sab ke liye sirf ek ek milega, baaki Bedni mein milega”. I felt bad but said to myself ‘Paalige bandid Panchaamrutha’ and ate that Paratha in one go.

Flattered with the actual or reflection?!

Flattered with the actual or reflection?!

Then I saw around. There was a small pond (kund). It had a name but I don’t remember. It was green all over me and it looked like an expensive, well maintained lawn. There was Nanda gunti peeping with all its grandeur(as usual). I went to the other side of the pond where I could see Nanda gunti’s reflection in it. It just gave me 2 minutes to click a pic before the clouds covered the complete area.

Roll on!

Roll on!

Auli bugiyal (Photo courtesy : Deepak)

Auli bugiyal (Photo courtesy : Deepak)

The sword of Zorro! with the temple in middle (Photo courtesy: Deepak)

The sword of Zorro! with the temple in middle (Photo courtesy: Deepak)

Bugiyal temple!

Bugiyal temple!

Bugiyal vultures

Bugiyal vultures

By that time most of the team had arrived. A few of us decided to continue and not wait for the rest of the team.  The next 1 hour was memorable walking in the lush green and cold meadows. I had seen a minor version of it near Kemmanugundi(karnataka) but this was tens of kilometers of green carpet. Branded as one of the most beautiful meadows in Asia, it can defeat any other competitor hands down. We reached a small temple which was in the middle of nowhere( It appeared to separate the bugiyals – Ali and Bedini). There we saw the famous “Bedini vultures”. Previously Rajesh had told us about these creatures. These are huge scavengers whose wingspan are in the range of 1-2 meters! They don’t usually trouble anyone, Narayanji say. From the temple, its 15 minutes climb and then easy walk for about an hour to reach Bedini. On the way we met two Isreli travellers who had come to just visit these bugiyals(Not Roopkund!) and they were praising its beauty. As soon we could see the campsite, I ran to it and booked the best placed tent and ran straight to Kitchen tent asking “where is the paratha? ” to which Gopal said “khaana abhi bhi ban raha hai, soup ready hai” to which I say “Anything, just give”. Then? I sit watching the vultures fly and have 5/6/7(I don’t remember) glasses of soup by the time rest of the team arrives.

Campsite at Bedini

Campsite at Bedini

Bedini kund - Awesome reflection

Bedini kund - Awesome reflection

How beautiful can it get? Bedini

How beautiful can it get? Bedini

Then it started raining heavily and I wait inside the tent waiting for food. It got real cold and I slept off. It rained for about an hour and once it stopped I came out for lunch. The area was completely cloud covered and when it opened up in the evening, we saw partailly cloud covered Trishul(7120mts) to the south of Bedini, beside Nandagunti. I walked up to the Bedini kund with Deepak, Poonam and Neelima to get the reflection shots of the mighty mountain in the kund. Deepak was so pleased with the view that he summoned for Smita. The Trishul was very stubborn to open up completely. But we still got amazing views. As it got dark, it got colder and colder and there was no firewood available for bonfire (its a grassland). So Ravi, Ambreesh, kunal and me settle down in the tent playing cards(for a long time) until we were called for dinner. Soon after dinner I slid to sleep in my tent shared with Deepak and Rajesh.

Sunset at bedini. Nandagunti and Trishul, say Hi

Sunset at bedini. Nandagunti and Trishul, say Hi

I saw how beautiful the view of Nanda gunti and Trishul was, still unaware of the hidden beauty to the west of Bedini, covered with the clouds the whole time. It was just waiting for me to open the zipper of my tent the next morning! Come back and check my next post 😉

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(contd.. from previous post) —–dary!!
I wake up, feel that my bed is not so comfortable only to realize that i’m in a sleeping bag 7000ft above my real bed.

Nandagunti as seen from Lohajang campsite

Nandagunti as seen from Lohajang campsite

Sunrise at Lohajang

Sunrise at Lohajang

I come out of it, open the tent zipper and I was pleased to see the majestic Nanda gunti(6309 mts) wishing Good morning peeping out of the mammoth range in front of it. Wasting no time we clicked a few pics of the sunrise and got ready to start our 5 day journey to Roopkund. We had a briefing and introduced ourselves to another group of people who were to accompany us during the trek. Most of them were in their forties and early fifties. They had done their Kailash Maanas sarovar yaatra in 2008 and this time they had decided to complete this trek. I was impressed with the Sunrise and did not miss to capture a few snaps. After a quick breakfast (Chapati and Bhendi, If I remember it right) we split up in three groups and start our trek. I went with the group which left first( well ofcourse I was eager to see things before rest of the folks could see them!) with Gopal (a silent and ever smiling chap) as our guide.

  • Route: Loha jang to Didna
  • Distance: Approx 12kms
  • Terrain: First half distance downhill, easy walk crossing numerous streams , fields and waterfalls
    Second half is a very steep uphill to Didna
  • Time taken:Around 5 hours
Classic setting

Classic setting

Colorful fields

Colorful fields

Raan bagad falls

Raan bagad falls

Crossover - Neelganga (Photo courtesy: Poonam)

Crossover - Neelganga (Photo courtesy: Poonam)

The downhill was a very easy walk. While crossing one of the streams my sunglasses fell in to it and broke which left me thinking of what to do for the final day’s climb to Roopkund (Where sunglasses is a must). Gopal went down to the stream to retrieve my by then Pirate’s Goggles!. We found large bushes of cannabis plants (Bhaang!) all through the route. The next hour or so trek took us through colorful fields, numerous streams, beautiful waterfalls, “Lord of the Rings” styled green bridges with wet algae and stair-cased waterfalls flowing underneath, open hilltop carpetted with green lawn and a mammoth Iron/steel made bridge that help cross the river Neel Ganga which flows underneath it after falling as a kilometer sized waterfall named “Raan bagad”.

Life in hills. Not so easy

Life in hills. Not so easy

After crossing the bridge, its a steep never ending uphill climb to Didna. This is physically one of the most challenging stretches in this route. We met an 85 year old woman carrying a huge load of dry grass to feed her cattle. She was kind of half hearted to pose for a snap. She continuously blabbered something in Gharwali language and all I could make out was “what would she gain by posing for us? !”. I felt so true. But, tipping them would give them a wrong signal and I dint want to start a culture where villagers start posing to visitors for money. Further up, I met Ram and Savitha, both 5-8 year old kids who were going down with a cattle heard. I was amazed with their demeanor when they politely said “Namaste” with a gesture and smile. I asked them if they study. Savitha said something in Gharwali which I understood to be “yes”. I smiled back at them and offered them chocolates which they happily took and ran down with their cattle.

I tried counting stones. 1 2 3 4 .....

I tried counting stones. 1 2 3 4 .....

Campsite: Didna

Campsite: Didna

I was way ahead of the team along with Narayanji – our guide, Jagadish, Bhanu and Zimit. We reached Didna, a small yet beautiful village located at 8000ft above sea level. The village is quite big with colorful fields, cattle huts and stone houses. Narayanji seemed to know everyone there. All people seemed to be friendly souls who smile at anybody they see. Our campsite was on a flat land right behind the village. I ran to the campsite where porters were pitching tents and cooking food. We pitched our tent in the most comfortable location and dumped bags inside and settled down waiting for others.

Enlightened! - A view from Didna campsite(Photo courtesy: Neelima)

Enlightened! - A view from Didna campsite(Photo courtesy: Neelima)

This is the last place where we get cellphone network (Airtel/Vodaphone/BSNL). After informing the family about our whereabouts, we had lunch. The rest of the evening was eventful. We played cards(bluff) for a good long time. Then started Dumb charades in torch light. Then it got cold, dark and under clear sky we lit up campfire to play Antakshari. Narayanji with local folks started the play with a folklore ghrawali song and a million hindi songs followed thanks to Poonam and Ravi’s gigabyte sized song databases in their brain. Among the songs “yahi hai, yahi hai rang roop….” will continue to be in our memory for a long long time (well, for its never ending yahi hai! ).

The session ended with the Om mangalam bajan(Thanks to the Manas sarovar team) After the dinner everybody settled in their tents but for a few of us who stood in the dark chilling cold discussing “offline” topics of that day’s trek till 10PM! (here people retire to bed at around 8PM).

It was near Full moon and Roopkund was still on top of our dreams on that glowing night.

Click here for Next day’s post: Rendezvous with dreamland bugiyals

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Junargali

The failure of the Vasukital trek was still at the back of my mind. The himalayan addiction has no cure and my footloose attitude made me decide to do another trek in the month of holidays – Sep/oct 09. I had decided to go with a group I met in a forum but one of my friends cancelled out. With a month to go and tickets booked, there was no turning back. I had to go. I heard of IndiaHikes helping arranging it and pinged Poonam and within a matter of days we were a big gang ready to do the Roopkund trek.

I wasn’t much into the preparation for this trek as I had most of the things required but it was not the case with the rest of the group. They had looted the famous decathlon store of all its trek gears and had began a huge mail thread for discussion about it. The thread which included all kinds of nagging, checklist and even java code and scripts to make a few people happy!! All flights,trains and jeeps were booked. I had to make a few cancellations and postpone a flight to adjust to the new date of travel but was happy to be accompanied by known people for this trek which had a 50% failure rate.

I am too lazy to blog. I haven’t yet made my mind to blog about my Tapovan-Nandanvan-Vasukital trek and since I have started this, I have decided to keep it short instead of writing a novel.

The day had arrived and I had an AI flight early in the morning which reached the IGI Delhi 2 hours ahead of rest of the gang. I waited or them, reading a novel until Poonam called me telling their flight has reached IGI. In no time I met the rest of the group and was happy to know that Bhanu has got the Spare battery and charger for my camera from the US. The Raniketh express to Kathgodam was scheduled at 10.20PM and hence we departed promising to meet in the railway station.

Everybody boarded the train at old Delhi Railway station in time except for Poonam and me and we boarded it at Ghaziabad. We had seats(and a few tatkal) booked in different bogies and without much hazzle everybody slid to sleep except for our compartment where 6 of us were together busy pulling each other’s legs.

The next morning the train reached Kathgodam in time(5:30 AM) but the cabs had not yet arrived. We all introduced ourselves. Though I knew half the batch, knew the rest only on the forum. After 1-2-3 rounds of chai the cab finally came and we left the station in no time. Our driver proved to be a Shaumaker and we had a good lead from rest of the cabs. We stopped at Bhimtal to take a few photos and learned that it has a branch of Indian Fish Research Council located there.

Bhimtal

Bhimtal

We climbed on to their floating deck and the guard explained us how they cultivate and study endangered fish there. By that time the other two cabs came and we were forced out of the deck. We stopped at a roadside dhaba for breakfast and hogged all kinds of paratas royally. I still remember the taste of pakodas and onion chilly paratha with cucumber raita. We left our so called co-ordinator Ravi to settle the bill and ran from that place in our cab to get a good lead.

River kosi - The playground

River kosi - The playground

Indo-Chini bhai bhai

Indo-Chini bhai bhai

After about an hour or two we realised the other two cabs are far behind us and hence we stopped at a beautiful place on the banks of the river Kosi where we got down for a photo shoot and played in the water for a while. With still no signs of the other cars we decided to wait for them at Kasauni where we stopped for lunch. Mahatma Gandhi had called this place as “Switzerland of India” as it provides a 360 degree panoramic view of Majestic himalayan peaks.I found a few funny menu cards at this famous place.

After lunch at Kasouni, we visited the famous Baijnath Temple located 19kms off Kasouni. The shiv temple town was the capital of the Katyuri dynasty who ruled Uttaranchal during 12-13th century.  We visited the temple at sunset time and the environment was very pleasant. The Gomti river flows right next to the temple and one can feed fishes here.

Baijnath Temple

Baijnath Temple

An Evening at Baijnath

An Evening at Baijnath

History:
Baijnath was once known as Kartikyapura. One of the most important places to visit in Baijnath is the historically and religiously significant Baijnath Temple constructed in the twelfth century. The temple holds significance because, according to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Parvati were married at the confluence of River Gomati and Garur Ganga. Dedicated to SivaVaidyanatha, the Lord of Physicians, the Baijnath temple is actually a temples’ complex built by the Katyuri kings with the idols of Shiva, Ganesh, Parvati, Chandika, Kuber, Surya and Brahma. Also the town of Baijnath draws its name from the temple. Situated on the left bank of the Gomti River at an elevation of 1126 mts, the temples are constructed in stone. The main temple that houses a beautiful idol of Parvati is chiseled in black stone. The temple is approached from the riverside by a flight of steps made of stones constructed by the orders of a Katyuri queen. On the way to the main temple, just below the house of the Mahanta, is the temple of Bamani. Legend goes that the temple was built by a Brahmin woman and dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Camp at Patwal guest house - Lohajang

Camp at Patwal guest house - Lohajang

We passed through Gwaldham and Deval to reach Loharjung. On the way we had very good view of Mt.Trishul. With the sun setting the whole mountain was gold lit. We reached Loharjung Patwal guest house by 9PM where Arjun received us. We had quick dinner and slid into our sleeping bags inside the tents at the campsite there.

The rest of the amazing days will continue in upcoming posts. Its gonna be Legend… wait for it!

Click here for next day’s post: Lohajang to Didna

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Kumaraparvatha

Kumaraparvatha


Kumaraparvatha is one of my favourite places. I had always wanted to visit that place again. The time came when Neeraj announced classic treks and pinged me if I would like to join. I had no second thoughts before saying yes. Finally it was on 19th june 2009 we decided to go to that place. We were 12 people together and for a change Sheshadri had come with Sunffy( a trekker Labrador!) . We watched Wall-E before we slid to sleep in our Tempo travellor. I was cribbing how bad the road was after sakleshpur but i was taken by surprise to see newly laid roads.
Welcome KP

Welcome KP

We reached Kukke by 5:30 in the morning and then started our search for morning works! Since I knew a place a few people with me had no problems so to say. Later we realised that its already 7AM and we were getting late. We decided to skip breakafast and started our trek. It starts from a gully to our right just before the main temple. After a kilometre of road walk there is a board welcoming the trekkers of Kumaraparvat. We were expecting rains and hence without wasting time ew started our ascent.

Run- Leech attacks

Run- Leech attacks

Leeches leeches and leeches everywhere! We had just hit forest and they attacked from everywhere. They were on the ground, on the rocks and the barks of the trees and on the leaves. I ran along with Vishal stopping for every 15 steps to de-leech our legs. After 3kms, we reached a huge rock where we met another group of college students. After resting there for 5 minutes we again started running up the hill. It started raining heavily. This part is very steep and one hits grasslands after about 1.5 kms from the rock. After crossing the grassland it is about 1.5kms to bhatta’s house. Vishal and I reached his house and ate a few methi chapatis and maggi we had in our bag. After about half an hour one by one came in completely tired. A few were badly bitten by leeches and were bleeding profusely. Treatment took some time.

View point

View point


Mantapam

Mantapam


After about half an hour’s rest we went to forest guest house. After obtaining permission we started our trek further up. There is a viewpoint half a km from the forest guest house which offers scenic view of the mammoth mountain. The next 2km till kallu mantapam is very strenuous. There is a campsite and a small stream beneth Mantapam. We rested for a while at mantapam until everyone came and started further up. We could see a peak and the guys of another group were happy thinking that was the final destination, which looked nearby. They frowned when I said that was a false peak and there are two more peaks to be crossed before we could reach Shesha Parvat. Kumar parvata is 1.5 km from sesha parvatha!
Shesha parvatha

Shesha parvatha


After we crossed mantapam we were at the cloud level and it was continuously drizzling. After a while it was pouring and mercury level reduced rapidly. Vision was reduced to a few feet and we had no clue where we were heading to. After about an hour of trek we reached sesha parvatha. I had seen it in clear skies and had admired its beauty. Now it was foggy and the 1000ft free fall was completely masked by the cof and rain. I rested on the summit of sesha parvatha with 4 others and waited for rest of the group. When we couldnt find them even after half an hour, we decided to go further ahead.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

The trail after Seshaparvatha goes through thich jungle infested with deadly leeches. It goes down hill for about a kilometre. We literally ran all the way stopping once to pluck all the leeches trying to getcin the shoes. Soon sfter the jungle there is a waterfall( which had no water this time) We have to climb this steep rocky path which is a 200 ft ascent. Once we cross this, the kumara parvatha summit is just half a km. The mercury level falls further down at this place and rain had worsened the conditions.

Summit

Summit


Soon after reaching the summit we opened our bags and ate anything and everything we could find. I did not even had a rain jacket to keep some warmth. After a while Sheshadri and Sunffy joined the hogging party at the peak. We explored the place for a while taking photos( yes, in that foggy misty drizzling wether Karthik vishal and Benjamin dared to take out their camera).

There was no sign of rest of our group. Unable to bear the cold, we decided to start our descent. By the time we reached the falls, we met rest of our group and told them the way up. (It was then Neeraj suggested a better route to go down the water falls which led us to nowhere and wasted half an hour of our time in that cold. I’m still waiting for a revenge). After crossing the jungle, we rested for a while at sesha parvatha. It was 4PM and the rains showed no signs of stopping. It was a marathon run downhill. 5 km nonstop. I reached Bhatta’s house an hour ahead of others and hence was lucky to get some food to eat. I slept for about 2 hours and woke up at dinner time. Everyone ate Rice and rasam af if they had not seen food for days. After dinner no further discussions – straight to sleep!
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Next morning we got up early and left the place by 7:30 in the morning. Vishal, Benjamin and I ran ahead of the rest and reached downhill by 9am. There were more leeches this time and we made sure to pluck them every now and then. unable to find our vehicle, we ran straight to a hotel for breakfast. After about an hour and a half rest of the folks reached the civilization. After their breakfast we left to Bangalore. The vehicle had a good tv and sound system. Result? 3 animations back to back! – Finding the Nemo, Madagascar and The Incredibles! What a finish for an incredible trek.

Info: One can contact Bhatta’s house with numbers 9448647947 and 9945618495. Do remember to contact him before hand if you plan to have lunch/dinner at his place. He charges Rs.50 per lunch/dinner and some Rs.50 per head for stay.

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I got up at 5 in the morning and I wasn’t happy. I did not want to leave that beautiful place. Our flight to delhi was at 6:30AM and capt. Upul had arranged for a jeep to drop us. We got ready in time and met our jeep driver Ranjith Mehra, bid adieu to all army men, Tarun(our sahayak) and capt Upul and left the place with a heavy heart.

Leh Airport

Leh Airport

The Leh airport(Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport ) is a small and pretty airport. It’s one of the highest airport in the world at 3,256 m (10,682 ft) above mean sea level. It works only from morning 6AM to 9AM everyday for 5-6 months in a year. Only 3 planes take off from this airport. One each from the Kingfisher, Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. We reached as early as possible and asked for window seats. We could finally bag 3 window seats and boarded kingfisher’s small 120 seater plane.

Bird's eye view of sakti village

Bird's eye view of sakti village


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Hide and seek with clouds

Hide and seek with clouds


If you are flying back I advice you to request for a window seat. It offers a breath taking view of the mighty Himalayas with all its flamboyance. Numerous glaciers, snow capped mountains appear as minnows playing hide and seek with the ocean of clouds. We landed at IndiraGhandi International Airport at around 8:30AM. I felt the heat wave hit me soon I came out of the plane. We had our Paaji Balbir Singh’s taxi booked before and he was waiting for us at the airport. We drove straight to SBI holiday home where we had a cottage reserved for us. We got freshened up and went to a friend’s place for lunch. We realized the low altitude effect when the tasty lunch was kept in front of us. The amount of food we ate in one lunch was equal to the total food we had during our stay in Kashmir!
Akshardham

Akshardham

Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple


Musical fountain

Musical fountain


Akshardham_fountain (cout. Wiki)

Akshardham_fountain (cout. Wiki)


We had Akshardham in our must visit list. So we decided to spend the evening at this place. It is no doubtedly one of the most beautiful man made structure. It has taken 5 years and numerous man hours of work to construct this marvel. No cameras, phones and metallic objects(not even waist belt) are allowed inside the premises. Even the Taj could not create a kind of mesmerizing effect this temple imposed on me. We took the complete show ticket and went to the main temple. This temple(beemed world’s largest comprehensive Hindu temple) is built in memory of Bhagvan Swaminarayan. After visiting the main temple, we attended the robotics show, Imax theatre show and a boat ride named Sanskruti Vihar that explains India’s rich cultural heritage and technological achievements. There is a huge pure vegetarian food stall which caters variety of food items. The main temple closes at 6PM and Musical fountain show starts at 6:30PM. DO NOT MISS IT!. The famous Mysore KRS musical fountain doesn’t even come close to its beauty, variety, color and grandeur. The show is based on spiritual theme and carries it of very well. After the show, we went back to guest house.

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Friday the 13th. An auspicious day :-). Saurabh and I had decided to go to Chembra (Waynad) for a trek. We were waiting for the bus at symphony theatre and so were others. We did not know anybody else. At last there came a known face – Janak, whom I had previously met at Saavandurga. Chandra and his group were the first to introduce themselves. Then came shubadha(If I remember the name correctly) and Eli who were on their maiden trek in India. Making sure everybody has arrived, we left MG road by 10:00 pm in a white bus named Greenline. After traveling for about an hour an a half we stopped at a dhaba for dinner. The dhaba was quite shabby and gloomy but people managed to eat something.

Route map

Route map


I don’t remember when we crossed the Kerala border for I wanted to stay awake and watch out for a possible elephant sighting but fell asleep. It was 6 in the morning when I woke up and we reached Kalpetta bus stand( Waynad district) by 6:30 am. After a round of tea we traveled to the Chembra estate located some 15km from Kalpetta.
Fit IN!

Fit IN!


We hired jeeps from the entrance of the estate to the base of Chembra. There were just 2 jeeps and 24 of us had to fit in. It was fun riding with 5 people plus a driver in the front row of the jeep and 2 sitting on the roof and 2 guys hanging behind the jeep . After a quick round of introduction, we shared the lunch packs and started our trek. It was flat muddy estate road with beautiful tea gardens till the watch tower.
Watch tower

Watch tower


Inside watch tower

Inside watch tower


Ramneek and saurabh were cribbing about jeep taking us half way and wondering how much of distance/altitude is left to cover. For their disappointment, the steep 60 degree never ending climb started right from the watch tower. Pit stops were scheduled for every 15 minutes. Water bottles were of great demand. Experienced Chandra’s group and we were ahead in the trail and it extended well over 2 furlong. Aravind was bossing over everyone shouting and screaming at people who were running ahead of the lot asking us to wait till everyone are at his visibility.
Chembra Peak

Chembra Peak


Half way up

Half way up


For you, with love

For you, with love


At half way we reached a plain stretch which had a beautiful heart shaped lake. We spent some time at this lake taking photos and cooling ourself. The chembra peak was visible from this place. Since it was getting very hot we did not want to waste time and started our ascent. The stretch got steeper and more difficult to climb. Surprisingly we met a German lady and a Canadian already on their way down. They would have started very early. We even had another group trekking with us and a bit ahead of us. A few girls of their group had decided not to climb anymore and had camped at a place and greeted us when we passed them.
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Peak

Peak

As we climbed further, the weather turned pleasant. Clouds started gathering around the peak and winds conditioned our tiredness. We finally reached the peak after 3 hours of climb. The peak was a small flat place. The group who were ahead of us were about to leave and we occupied the entire peak. After clicking a few photos and hoisting Karnataka flag(brought by Chandra and his friends) we opened our bags and unpacked the lunch packets. We were so hungry that otherwise impossible to eat MTR chapattis and cold channa masala/ panner masala tasted like mom made birthday dish. It started drizzling and with no shelter, it was fun having rain lunch.

Soon after lunch we started our descent. We moved down very quickly and were split into 3 groups. Chandra’s group were first to leave and went down at lightning speed. Myself along with a few followed them closely and rest were far behind. We reached the heart shaped lake and waited for them cooling out legs in the lake water. A first few took around half an hour to reach us and we could still see Janak and Poonam a mile away when it started raining heavily. We had waited enough and decided to leave before our cameras get wet. Rest of the folks who had just arrived stayed back for some rest watching the rainbow.

Sunset from Watchtower (sun?!)

Sunset from Watchtower (sun?!)


It was pouring cats and dogs and we were running at our destiny – The watch tower some 4km away. It was the only shelter which was in our reach. The bags already wet and our precious cameras in danger we ran downhill as if some mad dog chasing us. The trail forks were confusing and we were not sure if we are heading in the right direction in the jungle. Finally on seeing the tower we were relived. We went to the first floor and dried ourself. By now the wind speed had increased and so was the rain. We pity those poor people who were in the second batch who came half an hour after us completely soaked in water. We called up for the jeeps and waited for the rain to stop. Once it did, wasting no time we ran to the jeep. Since people were wet, we decided to send 2 batched in 2 jeeps and one jeep would come back to pick up the rest.

The clouds were afloat at or below our level though out our jeep journey from the chembra base to Meppady village. We reached our bus and waited a long time for other batch to arrive. Then went for some shopping – chappals fro those who had gotten water into the shoes, and for some food. There was some confusion for our dinner arrangement and it took an hour more to sort it out. Finally we went to a place half a kilometer away from suchipara falls for dinner – at 9:00 pm. Then came tragedy. No one were ready to pitch tents due to fear that it might rain. Though a few of us were against it, we had to go with the majority’s decision to stay in a dormitory. We traveled for another hour and reached a place called Ambalavayal and slept in one big dormitory.

Meenmutty 2nd stage

Meenmutty 2nd stage


Meenmutty 1st stage

Meenmutty 1st stage


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The next morning, after quick coffee at Ambalavayal we left to Meenmutty falls. We had breakfast in bus( bread jam). The meenmutty falls is located in some tea estate where we stopped our bus. Hiring a guide( yes, in kerala its mandatory) we started our trek to the 2nd step of the three step falls. The trail was very steep and guide looked more terrified than any of us. He scrapped our idea of going to the third step of the falls telling the route is very dangerous. We were disappointed on reaching the view point of the second step of the falls as all it had to offer was partially hidden view of the massive falls. The guide said we can get into water in the first step of the falls and hence we quickly started the ascent and reached it. The view was very pleasant and we spent no time in getting into water. The rocks were very slippery and in no time I saw poonam slip and three guys trying to rescue her in 10 feet something water. I was confused if they were actually trying to rescue her or push her deep into water. After sometime I learnt that two of them were tucking each other to come up and drowning themselves. Finally Janak and Aravind brought her to rocks. Till date I ‘ve been asking her for a replay ;-). We stayed in water for some half an hour and started our trek to bus. On reaching bus and gulping 2 liters of masala buttermilk I slept in bus enjoying cool wind on our way back to Mysore.
Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace


We stopped in Mysore and gave a short visit to the Palace. We did not go inside the palace but roamed around inside its compound for a while and left to Bangalore.

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