Brahmagiri beckoning

I badly wanted to do Brahmagiri before end of 2012. No logical reason, but I just wanted to trek that mountain. Many are on my to-do list, but this was on the top. So the Christmas weekend gave us a very good opportunity and friends were able to take time off work and a plan was made.

We drove to Coorg, the four of us and were supposed to be joined by two there. Now, the beauty of driving is, you can stop where you want, take a detour and enjoy the surroundings. We planned to cover Melkote, Ranganthittu and Tibetian colony on our way to Ponnampet.

Mode of transport: Car
People: 4
Date: 22/12/2012 morning 7am
Place: Bangalore

We left home at 7am and stopped near Bidadi for breakfast at the awesome Shivadarshini thatte idli shop. Idlis there are absolutely awesome. I suggest to try this place for a break if you are traveling on Mysore-Bangalore road. We also tried chitranna which was ok. If you are a fan of strong coffee this is the place you should go. There are many other thatte idli hotels in the area, you can take your pick. We went here because it was recommended.

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Bidadi thatte idli – Shivadarshini hotel

Our next stop was Melkote, which isn’t much besides a Kalyani and a temple on the mountain. Get a water bottle when you start to climb the stairs though, steps are tall and tiring. We didn’t visit the famous two pillar place where lot of shooting happens. We simply didn’t have the interest after seeing all that crowd (due to it being a particularly auspicious day).

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Melkote kalyani (you can see the throng of people and clothes lined on the iron fence)

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Melkote temple – view from the road

Then we took a deviation towards Ranganthittu bird sanctuary. We had lunch at a restaurant there. It was decent, but not recommendable. Never take chapatis there, you’ll only get papads. Fried rice and pulao were edible enough. We also had ice creams since it was pretty hot.

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Ranganthittu bird sanctuary

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Lazy crocs at the sanctuary

We took a stroll to watch birds and unfortunately there weren’t many. There were the storks which were pretty comfortably colonized on a tree and a few lazy crocs basking in the sun. The place is pretty ill maintained (S however feels that it was well maintained!!!) and tourism isn’t promoted as well as it could have been. It made me feel wonder for what I paid Rs. 50 as entry fee. We left at around 2:15pm and decided to skip the Tibetian colony and hit straight towards Ponnampet.

We took Periypatna, Siddapur, Ammatthi route instead of the regular Hunsur road since it is in non-drivable condition. We expected to find a few elephants as it had gotten dark, but looks like the huge fellows gave us a miss.

We reached Gonikoppal at 7:30pm and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. Gonikoppal is a small place and good restaurants are hard to come by. The one where we went was decent. Since it is a completely kodava community dominated place, almost all restaurants serve alcohol and non-veg. Picky vegetarians should get their food packed before reaching here.

We reached Ponnampet at around 9:30pm and settled cozily at our friend’s quarters at CIT.

Date: 23/12/2012 morning 9am
Place: Ponnampet
People: 4

We were bathed and fed by around 9 am and packed lunch. We drove to the forest office at Srimangala to collect our permission for the trek, after which it was straight to the Brahmagiri base. We were quite late already, due to friends not making it in time.

We didn’t spend much time at Irupu falls as the water wasn’t that great and we had a big trek ahead of us. So we followed the guide assigned to us. Now this young man was very energetic, however lacked experience. We all took a guess at his age and we agreed it would be not more than 20. Since S had already done this trek once in oct 2007, we didn’t think his experience would be a problem.

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Map at the forest office, Srimangala

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A very meaningful board at the beginning of the trek

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Another save tiger board. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Friend K was leading together with the guide and due to lack of fitness I was the last and weakest link of our group, so S decided to walk with me. The sun was unforgiving and the heat unbearable. Off came my jacket, which was supposed to protect my skin. To hell with the skin when I was being cooked inside the jacket. Then started the sipping of water at regular intervals. Even with hats on we felt the our energy was being sucked out of us by the scorching sun.

After a couple of hours we first saw Narimale (Nari – Tiger, male – hill), and after a few minutes reached Narimale guest house, built by forest department for forest guards. Trekkers are also permitted to stay here for the night on their two day trek to Brahmagiri.

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Narimale

Our initial plan was two day trek – first day trek till Narimale guest house and stay. Second day trek the peak, come back, see around and climb down. However, our plan had to be changed as there was recent elephant attack on the guest house and the building was completely smashed. All for a packet of salt which people who cooked there the previous night of the attack, forgot to take inside. The packet which was left on the window sill attracted a herd of elephants who tore down the place just to get the salt. And now we were left with no place to stay the night. So one day trek it had to be.

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Forest guest house at Narimale thrashed by a herd of elephants

We replenished ourselves with huge gulps of energy drink and fruits and started walking again.

After a while we saw a couple walking far ahead of us with their guide, to whom our guide reached and after talking to them found out that they were walking to the temple in Kerala. Oh we didn’t know there was a route to the temple too.

We walked till 1:15pm when we saw a watch tower at around 2 kms. And we were climbing down instead of climbing up the peak. S couldn’t remember seeing a watch tower the last time. He briskly walked to the guide and stopped him. Where were we going? To the Kerala temple ofcourse. What the hell!!!

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The watch tower!

We had missed our deviation towards the Brahmagiri peak and walked further down to the Kerala side. Our guide didn’t even stop to ask us if that is where we were headed. Our guess is even he didn’t know the deviation to the peak.

By the time we retraced our steps back to the deviation it was 2:15 pm and we were hungry and tired and I almost fell down. We had lunch near a small stream and decided to call it a day. Yes, we decided to halt the trek and get back to the base before dark. It made no sense to keep walking as we wouldn’t be able to reach the base before dark if we wanted to see the peak. And we couldn’t stay at the Narimale guest house due to obvious reason. At lunch we got to know the age of our guide – 29 years!!!

On our way back we spotted a Bison at distance. It stared at us for a few seconds before disappearing into a bush. Wild animal spotting is always a joy! 🙂

By the time we reached our car, we were all exhausted. Perhaps not being in the best of health took a toll or may be the heat was too bad. Either ways, we couldn’t complete the trek. It was a bittersweet feeling for me. I was high on adrenaline due to the day’s events. But sad that I couldn’t see the peak.

On our way back, while people chose to dose off (except for the unfortunate soul who had to drive) I promised myself that, soon, I will be back to leave my footprint on the peak. Oh, I will.

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Monsoon trip continued – Part II

And so after a lot of procrastinating I sat to write and finish the trip details at once. I am not good at writing posts in parts, I simply feel that there won’t be enough continuity. Or the break that I take in between the parts make it difficult to get continuity. Sorry for the long break; will try and avoid it.

Kukke Subramanya – Bisle – Sakleshpur (Manjrabad fort) – Hassan

Date: 16 Aug

After reaching Kukke Subramanya, we walked around a bit searching for lodges maintained by the temple. All of them were full. Only private lodges were available. Our friend wanted to eat churmuri and bhajjis which we bought from a shop nearby. We asked the bhajji guy for assistance regarding our lodging. He suggested a homestay a kilometer away, which we found was pretty good and hygenic. There were two rooms and we took both. It cost us 450 Rs per room.

After freshening up a bit, we went for God Subramanya’s darshana. It started to drizzle, so I and S opened our newly bought rain jackets to walk to the temple. We stopped on the way and enquired to hire jeep for the next day’s journey. The guy agreed for 2000 rupees to take us through Bisile ghat and drop us at Sakleshpur. Had tasty dinner at the temple dasoha and walked back to the room. We sat around and talked for a while before going to sleep. Woke up nice and early to the chirping of birds. The arecanut trees in the background were providing beautiful green view. It was a little cold, which was much to our liking.

We had to fill hot water from a tumbler/bindige. It made me nostalgic of the days at my home where I used to fill water from a bindige (kannada for a big round tumbler/container used to fill water). Had breakfast at a hotel near the temple, topping it with filter coffee. We met the jeep guy and started our journey towards Bisile.

The road was really bad. Only jeeps could tread that road and hence the humongous amount we paid to hire one. There were not many vehicles for the same reason. However, the journey was lovely. We talked, made jokes and enjoyed the lovely green surroundings. En-route was a temple, where we ourselves could do the puja. A small spring nearby where cold water was flowing. I felt like I could just live there.

Chamundeshwari temple

Small spring near the temple

A beautiful and roaring river en-route

We reached Bisile beauty spot at 12pm. The view from the view point is simple breathtaking. We can see water flowing in the distance. And the beauty of mountain ranges of Western ghats need no description We stood there for a while, took pictures. Came back and sat down on the benches and talked.

Gate to the bisile beauty spot

View from Bisile beauty spot

Next stop – Manjarabad fort. We stopped at the junction on NH 48 and had to walk for about half a kilometer up to the fort. Boys had some fun jumping around and trying to click the jump. Trivia: this fort is pretty famous as a popular shooting spot for Kannada movies. Tippu Sultan has got this fort constructed and it is in star shape. The shape is not readily visible as it is in dilapated state. But we got to see the star shape in a picture kept at the shop at the junction. We had tea and eatables at the shop and started towards Sakleshpur bus stand.

Entrance to Manjarabad fort

Boys having fun

View of the fort

We saw a new and pretty decent hotel before we reached bus stand so we bid good bye to our Jeep guy there. We filled our stomachs and walked towards the bus stand, which was about a kilometer away from the hotel. A bus going towards Bangalore was ready, so we grabbed our seats. I and S took tickets for Hassan and rest of the gang travelled to Bangalore.

Reached Hassan at 6pm and simply crashed for the day. It was a wonderful and memorable journey through the ghats. We reminisced all that we did and saw photographs over and again. That said I don’t think I’ll do the train journey again, just because I hate crowd and I hate loud crowd even more. I prayed to Lord Subramanya to give our people more commonsense.

Next up: Hassan – Belur – Chikmagalur – Hornad – Sringeri