Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chorla ghat road

19th February 2011

The road I am mentioning here starts from Belgaum, goes via a small town of Jamboti and winds down the Chorla ghat to reach Panaji. This is a short cut when compared to the normally used National Highway 4A. But never think of taking this short cut!!

The road is good for the first 20km. As you are happy about the roads finally getting better in Karnataka, you cross the Jamboti town. The scenery suddenly improves with greenery all round. But the people will not be in a position to enjoy the beauty of the nature. One cannot go above 15km/hr!!!! The trees next to the road are all covered by a layer of dust giving an impression of mining area.

The next 40km is an absolute nightmare for all people travelling on this road. I was happy for not being on the driver seat. Thanks to the warning that I received earlier, I subdued my urge to drive all the way from Bengaluru. It was surprising to see several KSRTC and Goa state buses on this road. It is difficult to find a passenger who has not covered his nose and mouth with a piece of cloth!!

An hour journey from Jamboti brings us to a fairly big village of Kanakumbi. It would have been a peaceful village amidst the evergreen forests. But not anymore. Karnataka Government is busy building a huge tunnel to divert water from Mahadevi River. This controversial Kalasa Bhanduri project aims to bring some drinking water to Hubli-Dharwad. But those towns are very far from the project site. Was there no simpler solution? Controversies aside, this project is causing immense damage to the forests in this area. The Lorries, mud, slush and dust dominate the peaceful place in western ghat. I remember a Politician saying that this project is the most environmental friendly. I hate him. It is nothing but a loot of natural resources by greedy Government people.

It looks like a serious effort is going on to improve the road from Jamboti to Project area. This is not to help the locals but its people who have to come to the project area frequently. Government guys should not suffer.

The road after Kanakumbi deteriorates further. The villages on the way look very backward when compared to the ones in Malnad area. The negligence is shocking.

It took almost 3 hours to reach Goa border. And guess what…. A smooth road suddenly appears. There is no welcome sign for entering Goa. But the great road on the other side of the border takes care of it!!

Jai Karnataka!!!!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Kodekallu and Baalegudda

29th January 2011

Few people (who were awake) in the bus were surprised when six of us got down in the middle of the ghat road. The driver gave a curious look on what we are up to while the conductor was happy about the “extra" money he made for this unscheduled stop.

The sun was not still up. A dilapidated bus stop and a Jeep track next to it were the only indicators of a civilization nearby.

The black spot in the area were the two Jeeps with its owners. My first thought was that they were from forest department and I was not happy about it. They are the nastiest guys to encounter in a trek. Not a nice way to start a trek!!

We were relieved a lot after knowing that there not Government people but locals from a nearby village. That feeling did not last long as they began to tell about the elephant menace in the village that we wanted to visit. He mentioned that the elephants have already killed few people and were wandering to increase the toll. He advised us not to venture further as the road to the village was infested with these jumbos. What were they doing at the break of the dawn? The answer was that they wanted to go to the village and were waiting for forest department people to safeguard from elephant attack. “Why not spend some time in a roadside waterfall nearby and return back” was their suggestion. I think they expected that we the city guys would run away!! They were wrong. Our idea was to trek to the nearby village and then decide the course of action based on the inputs from them.

One of them takes a gun (looked like an air gun), opens the barrel, examines and keeps it inside the Jeep. That was unnecessary and confirms that the person was not good if not bad!!

We ignored them and start trekking.

Our journey was quite slow as we seriously looked out for any signs of pachyderms. Even a slightest noise from forest was carefully examined. The path itself was quite steep. As we climb, the sun comes out of the hills providing a colorful scene in the sky.

We hear sound of a vehicle and it was the Jeep. It was driven by our friend (!) whom we had met few minutes ago. He was taking a group of tourists!! So much so for scaring us about elephants!!!! Why he tried to drive away from the place remained a mystery.

We were expecting a war like situation in the village, thanks to the “information” given by the Jeep guys. To our respite, the village was as calm as we expected. “Elephants have all gone back long ago”, a villager told!!

I have not seen a more beautiful village in my life. With only five houses and small cultivatable area, it looks something like a heaven. A stream flows peacefully in the village. We finished our breakfast next to the stream. A person from the villager agreed to show us the path to the hills that we wanted to climb.

The trek was mostly on grasslands with Shola forest to cross in between. The first hill that we wanted to climb was Kodekallu, called so because of its umbrella shape. On the way, we crossed Jenukallu, another prominent hill in the place. The change in altitude was very minimal. At some places, we could see the Charmadi ghat road.

It just took us about an hour to reach Kodekallu. At the backdrop of Kodekallu, was another massive hill called Yerikallu. The entire stretch of Charmadi ghat from Kottigehara to Kakkinje was visible from this place. We spent some time relaxing under the rock.

Our next destination was Baalegudda, the highest peak in the area. A valley separated that hill from Kodekallu. So, we had to go back a little and start climbing from behind. This stretch can be tiring for many people as the walk is on grasslands with no respite from the burning sun.

It was here where I had the first experience of forest fire. Fire burning over grasslands is quite common during late winter months. In fact smoke was coming out from few hills nearby. The raging fire prevented us from climbing further. The fire was spreading at an astonishing speed, thanks to the blowing wind. Only guide seems to be unperturbed and took us into the burning hill.

Baalegudda provides a bird’s eye view of the entire Charmadi ghat. Hills as far as Amedikallu were clearly visible. We could only spend a few minutes on top because of the hot sun.

Walking back is always painful and the hot sun made the task even difficult. Back in the village, we were welcomed with a lemon juice. The stream flowing in the village forms a small waterfall. We spent a long time in the water there.

A short trek memorable for lot of things!!