The only other time I’d seen a street vehicle was when I’d trekked from Donigal to Edakumeri along the Hassan – Mangalore railway line. That time we’d seen a proper Tata truck with a set of rail wheels and the line was still being constructed. The line is operational now so the trekking is out. But you can still enjoy the train ride there. This is a 1920s Austin converted into an inspection car for the Railways.
So we learn about this place near Ujire which is supposed to be a really nice trekking trail that doesn’t usually feature a lot when folks are talking about trekking in Karnataka. While obviously folks seem to have trekked it, there’s not a lot of information floating around.
And the title kinda says it all. We chose November on the premise that the rains would’ve abated. However, it rained, and it rained copiously all over the Peninsula leading up to the trek. And just to trick us into going, the rains stopped for a couple of days prior to us leaving. Obviously, we weren’t going to let a little bit of the damp to dampen us. (Yeah, tired old joke). However on the night we left in the comfortable confines of a new Innova, it rained. Which brought out the collective population of leeches in the entire southern Western Ghats on to the trail leading to Bandaje Arbi. For that is where we were going and where Mr. Murphy decided leeches should be.
This post is going to be short on both details and photos. For the simple reason that on the way up, all of us were worried about not getting feasted upon, so we didn’t stop too much. And our confines-of-A/C-offices flogged bodies couldn’t take the rush-up-the-hill-before-we-get-bitten pace. So there are no photos going up. Once we got up there, we barely had time to find a place to camp – which was relatively leech free – before we could cook and before the rain Gods descended upon us again. Which left us grappling with another issue. One of our allegedly (meaning the Usual Suspect was lying through his teeth) waterproof tents turned out to be not. So in a tent meant for 3, there were 7 sweaty, hungry trekkers. But then what is life without some breaks? And it did come through with the showers stopping in about 20 mins and then with some amount of water evacuation both the tents were fairly sleepable. Which is a long winded way of saying that we didn’t even get to the waterfall. Where by the way, there are excellent spots to camp.
The next morning we woke up as refreshed as we could’ve been in the circumstances. But again, we didn’t go all the way up to the waterfalls. For those interested, the trek begins at Bandaje. This is near Ujire and Dharamasthala. You’ll need to call up Narayana Gowda, whose farm is at the base of the trek who’ll then arrange for one his trusted lieutenants Vasu to come with you. The actual trek is from Bandaje to Ballalrayana durga to Sunkashale. Or the other way around. Because the elephant grass between Bandaje Arbi and Ballalrayana durga was not cut, we were hesitant to go all the way over to Sunkashale. Like all places remote, transport to and from your entry and exit points are minimal so you’ll need to make arrangements.
And yeah, try not going when the leeches are feasting.
I’ve an excellent idea for the start of a vacation. Take the road. Better yet, take the road late so that you are in the Nelamangala sector by mid-morning. As is its wont, it’ll server a peach of a jam. In my opinion, nothing can be guaranteed to help you appreciate the fact that you’ll be away from all of this madness more. And in keeping with the spirit of getting away, I spent an excellent weekend in the hills. With an invitation to come back when coffee flowers, I might add. Our drive – I was with The Missus – took us to Coffee Valley, Sakleshpura. The drive after you take a left onto NH 47 is excellent, if a little narrow. To get to Sakleshpura, you drive past the right turn that welcomes you to Hassan and onwards to Belur and Halebidu. The road turned progressively worse as we took the by-pass. It was a portent of things to come, but that is jumping ahead of the story.
Once you get to Sakleshpura, you count down roughly 4 kms to a turn to the right that goes to Davalkere. As soon as you take this right, there is a fork on the road, the left leads to Mudigere and the left to Davalkere. Taking the road to Davalkere we reached Coffee Valley just after lunch – anything after 1 and before 5 is lunch – and were welcomed by Mr. Manjunath, the squire of all Coffee Valley.
Mr. Manjunath is a host who believes in the old adage that “Atithi Devo Bhava”. We’re not left alone a minute from the time we got in to the time we left. After a never-before-tasted lime juice (The Missus claiming that it had honey – we don’t know the secret ingredient though) was followed by excellent lunch of akki roti, a veg palya and chicken. Mrs. Manjunath, for she was the cook, over the next couple of meals, succeeded in demolishing all “diet”ary plans that The Missus had. As all my friends know, I don’t even attempt going on one when on a trip like this.
There is not much you are legally allowed to do after such a repast – going horizontal is mandatory I believe. I tried fighting it but eventually succumbed to Morpheus. The small rooms that they’ve built down the hillside from the drying yards is cool even though the sun outside attempted to huff and puff. True to his nature, Mr. Manjunath walked us to our rooms. Along the way, we stopped and gleaned some info about the various crops that he grows on his plantation, his routine and his estate. Considering that the walk is only about 5 mins, you can bet that there was a lot of stopping!
Post this, we were supposed to go some distance from the estate to catch a glimpse of the sunset. We met up with a couple of other folks staying there and we all piled in on the Hosamane (that’s the name of the estate) Gypsy. Considering that we’d made solid inroads into lunch and the beds really warm and inviting, we were a little late in getting to the location and missed the sunset. This was to be the leitmotif of this journey, but more on that later. We did manage to get the last farewell that the evening had put up for us however. The moon compensated – a golden disc rising in the east. We lingered as the both celestial bodies put up a show and silently took in the vista spread out before us. This seemed like a good place to camp, but I didn’t see any water body around. The moon rendered the torches that we’d got superfluous. Snacks and coffee awaited us. Camp-fire followed and we enjoyed excellent food and company around the warmth. Once dinner was done, we had to persuade Mr. Manjunath to rest for he was still hovering about like a mother hen. Our conversation followed around the camp-fire where everything from malls, childhood stories, Awesomely bad movies and college anecdotes were shared.
The next morning saw some of us (read yours truly) get up early to catch sunrise. A short walk outside the estate led to the discovery that Sakleshpura dogs do not like me. Since I’m such a wussy around them, I decided to curtail the walk to a short perambulation and made tracks back to the estate. I joined Mr. Manjunath on his morning inspection through the estate. Another mouth watering delight followed and we made tracks to Pandavagudda.
It’s a 20 minute ride from the estate to the base of the hill. A small temple to Ishwaran stands here and after the mandatory Patel shots, we moved towards the hill. It’s a pleasant walk up the hill and it gives you a panoramic view of Sakleshpura countryside. We reluctantly moved from there, only the visions of epicurean delight that awaited us at the base driving us down. While we would have liked to stay back and enjoy a siesta, the road beckoned all of us and we very reluctantly took leave. Our next destination was Udupi, but the good people at the PWD and NHAI connived to ensure that we only reached Mangalore. More about that in a bit.