Monday, June 06, 2005

Trek to BallaLa rayana Durga

It was thursday, during tea Saravana asked me if I was free that weekend. I told yes. I didn't even ask where we are going and what we are going to do. As usual I came to office on Friday. Then he told me Manju(my ex-colleague) was in his native(Chikka Magalur) and was planning to go for a trekking near kaLasa. Manju was supposed to call and confirm about the plan. He did not call until afternoon. He was not reachable on cell too....
Finally Manju called at around 3:00PM and confirmed that he is coming to kaLasa that night we were supposed to meet him by Saturday early morning. We booked tickets at 4:30PM. It was a semi deluxe bus leaving Bangalore at 9:00PM. The journey is about 8 hours and semi deluxe is horrible for night travel. There was no leg space at all. I hardly slept.
Day 1:
We reached kaLasa at 5:00AM and Manju was having sound sleep in Thotadur yatri nivas. None of us knew what are we going to do. We had take print out of 3 blogs. We decided to follow this:
We got freshed up and started at around 6:30AM. Bought some bakery items and water. Our starting place is Sunkasaale, some 20 km from kaLasa. There was a bus(to Mysore) which goes via Sunkasaale. The journey was about 50min. and the driver was effortlessly steering the bus on the road full of curves and numerous 180 deg. turns.
There are 2 hotels in Sunkasaale, one can hardly eat anything there. We had idly and sambar(no chutney). Some localites showed us the way to BallaLa rayana durga. It was a road for sometime and becomes Jeep trail after some 2km. We kept on asking people if we were on correct route. On the way we met one Arun(or may be Anil) who happened to have come in the same 9:00PM bus. His home was on the way to our destination. So he took us through a shortcut. It was quite steep trail. We reached his place at around 9:45AM. He also offered us to serve lunch when we come back. From here it was about 1 hour trek to reach the peak where BallaLa raya has built a fort. It was 10:00AM when we left Arun's home. Arun told us to watch out for a clearing where we can see the panoramic view of South Canara and after this view point we were supposed to take a right trail which goes up hill. We found the view point and took some nice pictures. We also got the trail which was going up hill. We didn't take it because it looked very infrequently used.
We followed the same Jeep trail for long and it started going down hill. Manju told it is normal that mountain trails generally go up and down, so we were on right track. Finally we crossed the moutain where the fort was located and still our trail was going down. We reached an estate called "Hori khan estate". We had walked about 3km extra and had descended a lot. There we met a man called Lokappa Gowda, who offered to accompany us to the fort. According to him, lot of people miss the way and he had guided thousands of people to the fort!!! He claims his name has been featured in magazines like Sudha(Kannada weekly). This trail was quite steep full of leeches. I saw leeches for the first time and they deadly. They hunt you if you keep your foot down for a second. Reached the fort at around 12:00PM. The view was ultimate. Top of the mountain looks like golf course. It was luch green fields all around the top and dense forest below. I forgot all my tiredness. There were clouds all around the peak much below us. I wanted to touch one and feel it. We sat at a croner in the peak where a panoramic view of western ghats was msemerizing. Wind started blowing towards us which brought a huge cloud towards us. It was a unique experience when the cloud swept us, I felt cold mist, make everything blur and suddenly it was clear. I don't have words to explain the feeling. One should feel it. I am feeling as it I am flying even when writing this blog!!!
We spent enough time roaming in and around the forest. At 2PM we started back, when a huge cloud was swept towards us. We could hardly see each other. We followed the direction shown by Lokappa gowda and were confident about it. After sometime we realized we are going away from our destination. There were cattle grazing, so thought somebody would be there. But to our bad luck there no human being who heard our shouting. We were able to see the trail at the bottom of the valley, but how to get there. Decided to climb down directly though the forest. After few minutes of descending steep landscape(it was very loose and no grip), we came to a point beyond which it looked to be vertically down. I had to struggle to pull myself up from there to a safer place. Amazing thing is, I was never scared. A stone came sliding from top and hit at my back, that was knocked by Saravana when he slipped. Anyway, it did not hurt me. We left water bottle, bread and some banana there, since it was tough to climb with something in hand. Finally we pulled ourselves up to safer place and decided we will follow the same way, which we came from. But we had walked enough till this place, if we go back to the fort, it would take a lot of time. It was already 3PM. We were supposed to be at Arun's place having lunch at this time!! We saw the house from where Lokappa Gowda had taken us to the fort. We started walking towards the house along the mountain clearing. There came a dead end yet again. We were very close to the house, so we shouted for help. People came out and shouted us to find a way towards our right. There was an obvious trail, which led us to the original trail which we had followed to climb up. We reached hori khan estate at around 3:45PM. From here to Arun's house we followed the same Jeep trail through which we had come in the morning. We were hungry too. Reached Arun's home at around 4:20PM. The lunch was so tasty. I ate twice the amount I usually eat. Buttermilk was so good(with green chilly and ginger), I asked them if I can have some more. They prepared again and served!!! From here the trek down was heavy on knees, but we had to reach Sunkasaale before 6:30PM. After 6:30 next bus was at 7:30PM and it was not regular. We covered this distance quite quickly and were at Sunkasaale at 6:15PM. Had coffee in a hotel. That was my first coffee of the day.
We reached kaLasa at 8:00PM. Took bath and went out for dinner. Most of the hotels were closed. There was a fast food center open. Fried rice was OK. At around 10:30PM we went to bed. I had kept alarm at 5:30AM, so plan was to leave early and walk along the river belt(Bhadra river).
Day 2:
I involuntarily switched off the alarm. It was 8:00 when we woke up. Got ready quickly and checked out at 9:00AM. There was a place called Amba theertha, which was some 5km from kaLasa. It was easy walk and we reached the place at around 10:15. There was not much water in the river but people warned us not to venture into the water as the pull was very strong. Took nice snaps. Decided to go back and leave to Bangalore.
We estimated 10 hour journey because there was not direct bus available till night. Came back to kaLasa at around 11:30AM. People suggested us to take a bus to Kottigehara, from there to Hasan and to Bangalore. Private bus to Kottigehara was boring and slow. Reached kottigehara at around 1:20 and came to know that there was no bus to Hasan at that time. We were suggested to take a bus to Mudigere(which was leaving in 5min!!!). Manju got direct bus to Chikamagalur. Luckily we got a bus to Hasan from Mudigere at 2:45. Reached Hasan at 4:30PM. After having lunch, Rajahamsa was waiting for us. Reached Bangalore at 9:15PM.
It was totally enjoying trip and I will trasure the memories forever. We also have plan to camp on the top of the hill sometime. Hoe we do it sometime.
There are three buses to KaLasa dialy. Semi deluxe at 9:00PM and two Rajahamsa's at 10:15 and 10:25PM. Journey is about 8hour with a lot of breaks. Prefer Rajahamsa to have good sleep.
KaLasa has a couple of good lodges. Price is also reasonable. We paid Rs.191(including tax!!) for 3 people.
It is good to pack food from kaLasa as Sunkasaale is a small village and hotels are not good.
Total cost of the trip is about Rs.550