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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Amedikallu

7-8th March 2009


Background
A mail that I sent to my friends about going for a trek on met with a surprising response. Every one of them was ready for the trek!! The next task was to find out a place to go. After discussing about lot of trekking spots, we finally zeroed on Amedikallu.


About the peak
Amedikallu is a prominent peak in the Charmadi range of Western ghats. This peak is considered to be one of the toughest climb in Karnataka. The steep climb, grasslands and paucity of water make the trek arduous.

The journey
Nine (Adarsh, Aishwarya, Aravind, Arjun, Ashraya, Girish, Krishna, Naveen and Subbu) of us started from Bengaluru on Friday night. It was a sleepless journey thanks to the hopeless road of Shiradi ghat. When we reached Dharmastala at 5AM, Prachi and Dhimoy had already arrived from Mysore and were waiting for us. Not to waste time, we immediately boarded a bus to Kokkada (15 km from Dharmastala). Since it was dark, we could not know exactly when we crossed Kokkada, but before we could realize it, the bus had moved 2 km further. Scolding the conductor for not dropping us at the right place, we walked back to Kokkada.


At Vishu Gokhale’s house
It was at Kokkada we got the news that the road to Shishila was closed for repairs. No one could tell us whether a bus to Shishila would arrive or not. We caught hold of a Jeep guy and convinced him to drop us at Shishila. It was a round about journey and at 8AM in the morning, we were at Shishila. Like any other trekkers visiting Shishila, we went to Gopu Gokale’s house.



Gopu Gokhale was not available and his brother Vishnu Gokhale took care of us. We had our morning activities and breakfast at his house. Vishnu Gokhale had also arranged for a packed lunch for the trek. The hospitality shown by him was simply great!! Our guide Chennappa had arrived by that time and at 9AM, we were all set for the trek.


Start of the trek
The start of the trek was about 4 km from Vishnu Gokhale’s house and Chennappa had arranged for a Jeep to travel that distance. On the Jeep, few of us were sad about the latest developments that were taking place in Shishila. (More about it at the end of the article).




Finally, at 9:45AM we started the trek. Initial climb was through Bamboo forest and within few minutes the hardship of the trek began. The hot and humid climate made us to sweat profusely and in the process made us extremely tired. Even the forest shade would be of no help. I had not been into any “tough” treks recently and I could feel the initial reluctance of my body to climb up.



We were automatically split into three groups. The big difference in timings between the first and the last group meant that the people in the first group had to break for rest for a long time and wait for the last one to arrive. The breaks were frequent and long.

At the grasslands
After about 90 minutes of climbing in the forest, we came to the open land. Amedikallu was visible for the first time since we started the trek. The mountain simply looked huge. Until now, the climb was only moderate and the route further promised to be tougher. We took a long break of 30 minutes for the last group to join.


The trek ahead was crisscrossing the grasslands and shola forests. There are several routes from here to climb Amedikallu and all of them are tough!! The normal route was to go straight to the base of the peak and climb directly. But non availability of water on that route made the guide to take us through an alternate route that had a water point.



At about 1PM, we were at the water source. Being the only one water point all along the route, we had our lunch there and filled up all the bottles.


Post lunch…. toughest stretch
The post lunch trek started at 2PM. We continued on a flat land in the forest for another 15 minutes and then climbed a steep climb for about 5 minutes to hit the grasslands. The sight of the grassland made us to take a break in the forest!!

The next 30 minutes was a moderate climb on the grassland where we crossed couple of dried ponds. The time had come for the toughest part of the trek. It was the climb to the base of the 3 stones from the base of the peak. The area was supposed to be filled with Elephant grass but since all of them were burnt in forest fire, it was a dry hill.


The sun was scorching and the path was devoid of any cover from sun. Only places to rest were the shades provided by few rocks. The journey was slow and it took me about 50 minutes to complete this stretch. Chennappa had suggested moving in a zigzag manner instead of trying a direct climb which helped a bit.


After reaching the base of 3 stones, we took a very long break of nearly an hour!! The second group had come by that time and the third group was not at all visible. Chennappa became concerned about that group then. With the current pace, he felt that it would be difficult to reach the peak before dark. He decided to go down and helped them to climb up. In the mean time, he asked us to continue towards the peak.


Forest and the final climb
The peak was a perpendicular rock from our side. So, we had to enter into the forest and go to the other side of the peak. A big cave at the entrance of the forest where up to 10 people can camp.



We walked in the forest for about 20 minutes to come to the side of the peak. It was completely a rocky area. Chennappa had told that the camping site lies somewhere on the top. We climbed further in search of the camping place. While navigating though rocks, I looked down for a moment. Seeing the deep gorge down, I felt sick. I am a bit acrophobic and recently developed a phobia to walk on rocks after Basavana Baayi incident. I could no longer move further and decided to just sit down.

Change in the weather
In another 15 minutes, second group people arrived. There was a sudden change in the atmosphere then. The entire area was completely engulfed in the mist and became cold resulting in a sudden burst of energy in me. The gorge was no more visible because of the mist and I started to climb with renewed energy. I could hear from the first team that they had reached the campsite and within 15 minutes, I joined them. It was 5:45PM at that time. We had taken 8 hours to climb. The third group arrived after half an hour. The campsite was 25 mtrs down from the peak.


We could not experience the sunset as the weather was misty. Chennappa was worried that it might rain during the night. Since it was summer, we had not brought any tents. We would be in a bad shape if it rains.


Night
In the mean time, Chennappa started making preparations for the camp fire. Chappatis and MTR ready to eat were opened from the bags. At 9PM everybody had hit the sleeping bags!!

Shortly after sleeping, I could feel the droplets on my face. The drizzle had increased and there was a commotion in the group. I got up and secured my camera and other important items in the plastic bag and then got myself completely inside sleeping bag. Luckily, the drizzle never turned into rain. When I got up sometime in midnight I could see stars in the sky. I then slept happily thinking about the beautiful sunrise the next morning.





Misty morning
When I got up at 5:45AM, weather had changed again!! I could not even see an inch from my place!!!! Mist!!! I was pissed off. All along the climb we were troubled by the scorching sun and clear sky. When we needed the clear sky badly, the mist had spoiled the entire show.



At 6:30AM, we started climbing the peak. Though the climb is completely on rocks, it was not very difficult. We waited for nearly an hour, but seeing no improvement in mist situation, we climbed down to camping site.



We started back at 8AM, and the climate changed instantly. The mist of cleared and we could see hanging clouds everywhere. Ettina Bhuja, Minchukallu, Jenukallu, Ombattu Budda were all visible.



Back in Shishila
We had our breakfast at the water point and reached Vishnu Gokhale’s house at 2PM. We were greeted with butter milk and had stupendous lunch at his house.

At 5PM, we bid adieu to Vishnu Gokhale and reached Dharmastala. Few of us visited the Temple and had food there. An overnight bus took us safely back to Bengaluru.


Few points:
- There are many approaches to Amedikallu and the climb from Shishila is popular among trekkers. Another relatively easier route is from Neria, but getting permission from Hebbar estate is said to be next to impossible.
- It is possible to climb Amedikallu without a guide. But water can be serious problem on the route. Only guides are aware of the water source, hence advisable to hire a guide.
- Amedikallu is about 6 hour climb for an average walking person.
- Vishnu Gokhale at Shishila provides the food and guide, if he is informed of your journey before.

Final words:
Sad developments are happening in Shishila. Government is building a new highway from Dharmatala to Mudigere that passes through Shishila and cuts into the evergreen forest to reach Bhairapura and Mudigere. Local people tell that the road passes very near to Ettina Bhuja. Lot of things may change in Shishila in future. If one is suddenly air dropped in Shishila now, it is possible that he may think that he is in some part of Bellary.


Few reasons cited by the Government for building this highway are:
- Providing an alternate road to Chamadi which closes during monsoon due to landslides.
- Shiradi ghat road is not repaired!!

These problems can easily be resolved by repairing the existing ghat roads and providing several trains on Mangalore-Bengaluru route.


I could not find much information about the highway. All I got was the 2 websites.

1. Dinesh Holla of YHAI expresses concern that there is a proposal from Government to build a new road. Well, the proposal is no long in paper.

http://www.hindu.com/2008/02/27/stories/2008022760440300.htm


2. When it comes to “eating”, politicians across party lines queue for it!! Check the "New Road" section.

http://www.deccanherald.com/CONTENT/Oct262008/district2008102597256.asp

The Government that does not care to repair the roads puts all its resources in destroying the forest to build a new road!!

If you are planning to trek to the places near Shishila do it ASAP.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Jenukallu

17-18th January 2009

The boredom caused by the city Bengaluru was severe. My like minded friends Krishna and Girish were also feeling the same. This resulted in making a plan to head out to Western Ghats. There were lot of options and this resulted in confusion about the place to go. Finally we decided on a place which we never went, fully packed with different activities like driving (for me!!), photography, trekking and the luxury of a Home Stay.


The place we went was Jenukallu in Hassan district. I called up the owner of the Home stay and made necessary arrangements for the stay.

We drove from Bengaluru on Saturday morning and at 12 in the noon, we were at the Home Stay. It cannot be called as a Home Stay in strict terms. It looks like the original owners of the estate got fed up with the peaceful atmosphere of the area they stayed for generations and decided to sell the land to some investor. It would have facilitated their movement to the happening city of Bengaluru. The people who brought the estate currently stay in city while the house is converted into a Home Stay.


The cook of the Home stay arrived just after we reached the place. It meant that the lunch would be delayed, but we were least bothered. Since there were no other people expected to stay on that weekend, whole estate was at our disposal!!

We spent some time in bird photography. The sunbirds in the garden provided some good photo shots. Krishna was jealous when he saw a male sunbird flirting with two female birds!!



We took some rest after a nice lunch and then ventured out to explore the locality. We visited Betta Byraveshwara Temple which was near the estate. This Temple is in a serene location on a hill top. It looks like the road is constructed newly to the Temple. I was flabbergasted upon seeing a brand new sulabh sauchalaya (Toilet) next to the Temple!! It was too much for a Temple located in a remote location. But anyway, the Temple is quite old and provides some nice view of the surrounding places.

We then climbed a small hill to get a full view of the place. The Jenukallu gudda and digallu peak were the prominent ones. Our plan was to climb them the next day. It looked like a simple task of walking on the ridge from one peak to another!!

We spent some time just watching those peaks and lazed at a small pond next to the Temple. After sunset, we visited the nearby town just to have a feel of it. The entire area seemed to be very peaceful and original!!

Since we had nothing else to do, we talked and talked till we felt it was time to sleep!!

Next day started with early a breakfast and then we set out to trek to Jenukallu Gudda. Raghu, who works at the estate, was assigned as a guide to us. Initial part of the trek was in coffee estate followed by the forest. The climb was gradual and walk was casual. After trekking for about 45 minutes, we were at the grasslands. The prominent peaks of the area, Amedikallu and Ettina Bhuja were now visible.

In another 15 minutes, we were at the base of the peak. The views got better and better as we climbed up and we did not spare a single opportunity to click a photo.


The final stretch was steep. It was bit tricky at couple of places where we had to navigate narrow path through the rocks with vertical fall on one side. This part would pose a challenge for the trekkers climbing during monsoon.

Soon, we were at the peak. We were surprised to hear from Raghu that we were the fastest group to reach the peak till that day!!!! It was about 75 minutes walk for us and we could have still made it even quickly had we not stopped for photos.


The view from the peak was completely different. One side was completely covered by the dense Kabbinale forests. Ettina Bhuja, Amedikallu, Ombattu Gudda was all visible. The road from Ombattu Gudda to the Lakshmi Saraswati estate can be seen from the peak.

What we thought of a simple walk from Jenukallu gudda to Digallu was not so. We had to climb up and down many valleys to reach that. Since Digallu was at a lower altitude, we decided to give it a miss and started the downward journey. Since we had plenty of time to spare, we walked slowly enjoying the beauty of the nature. There were quite a lot of butterflies which we were able to shoot with our cameras.


Upon reaching the estate, we spent some time in shooting a parakeet which was next to its nest. After a heavy lunch, we started our return journey.


It was a nice experience which will be remembered for long!!

Note:
When tried to book the home stay, we got this site
http://www.malenaduhomestay.com/. We were shocked to see the atrocious prices listed for the homestays on the website (Now, they have reduced but still expensive!!). It is just a marketing/broker website with intension to grab as much money as possible. I then got the phone number of the owners of the estate and called them directly. The rates they mentioned were much very less and got a good deal. The owners were very flexible with our plans.


More photos of the trip can be seen here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

AeroIndia 2009

14th February 2009


Despite staying in Bengaluru for the last 8 years, I had not been able to experience this event. Not wanting to miss again this year, I made myself free for the weekend to attend the show.



There were problems associated with the event like traffic jams (not really that bad!!), huge crowds and fight for the food. But finally, all the efforts were rewarded by the sheer pleasure of experiencing the aerial show by the fighter jets.


A US cargo plane took off when we entered the air force area.


I was bit disappointed with the exhibition. I was under the impression that the “real” aircrafts will be displayed in exhibition. It was not so. It was more for the companies that make the components for the aircrafts. But few models were impressive, especially from Israel and Russian stalls.



Here are some snaps of air show.
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Mig 35

F-16. The maneuvers it performed were amazing.

Eurofighter Typhoon was equally impressive.



Sukhoi 30MKI, India’s best aircraft was at the show.


A small aircraft!!


The show stealer was the demonstration by Surya Kiran aerobatics team.


Sarang team performed the helicopter display.

More photos of air show can be seen here.