Trekking in the Sharavathi Valley

08-IMG_7594On the 15th of June (one day before my birthday) we left for this trek with Pratap Sikdar of BASC. This was supposed to be a preparatory trek for the Himalayan trip during which we could finally meet everyone and get to know the team before going for the big one.

The plan was to visit the Basavana Baayi and the Belligundi Water falls.

It was planned to be an easy trek so that we could all simply relax and enjoy the beauty around us..

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The first day was more like a walk in the countryside.

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It was drizzling throughout the trek and the walk through the villages and the surrounding woods was very relaxing and refreshing. Especially after the hustle and bustle of Bangalore and the uncomfortable night spent travelling in the tempo.

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The day’s trek culminated in a dip in this beautiful and discreet falls.

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The final stretch before the falls was riddled with big slippery boulders covered with slimy algae. I had an exciting time negotiating them.

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Trekking in the western ghats in the monsoons is a very unique experience. There are so many nice and not-so-nice things about it that make it a such a unique experience.

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We reached the home where we were supposed to halt for the night by around 1 in the afternoon. From then on it was relaxing, eating food, reclining on the verandah and reading for me.

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On day 2 we went deeper into the forest and the trek ended with us witnessing the Belligundi water falls. This trek was through really thick forests and the final stretch was simply amazing.

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Unfortunately, the whole area was saturated with mist and water droplets from the raging falls and my camera was completely fogged up. So, couldn’t manage to get any pics.

I had a wonderful time there. After returning we again had a meal at another home. This was followed by a dessert of jack-fruit that was freshly plucked for us.

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The countryside was so charming, the food so tasty and the weather so pleasant that I felt it harder than usual to say goodbye to the place.

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Both days were very easy and overall it was meant to be a very relaxing trek suited for allowing everyone to spend some time together and have some fun. Which is why I am not writing a very detailed log. I merely wanted to record the feeling of having experienced the rich tropical bliss of the western ghats that all of us had when we left the place for Bangalore. Hope the pics were able to capture that feeling…

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Weekend at Agumbe

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Image by karthys via Flickr

On top of Kundadri

Last week, I saw an article in The Hindu about how Hulikal had overtaken Agumbe as the place receiving the most rainfall in South India. I had heard a lot about Agumbe(famous for the King Cobra) and a wish to see that place where the Malgudi Days(Serial) was shot was always there in my heart. I decided that last weekend was a good time to go there. Immediately, I called up KP and asked him whether he wanted to join me. After that I did a little bit of research online and booked the bus tickets. There is only one direct bus to Agumbe from Bangalore and back. On Friday, Febin too joined us and I got a ticket for him too.

It had been a long time since I had gone somewhere and I was pretty excited about the trip. After trawling the blogosphere I came up with the name of one Kasturi Akka who arranges stay and food for people who visit Agumbe. I called the lady up and arranged for our weekend stay.

On Friday night, Febin managed to get us an entry-level SLR and I was very happy about that. The bus started at 10 and reached Agumbe by around 7. It was very foggy and cold the morning we got there. We quickly made our way to Kasturi Akka’s house which kind of defines Agumbe as it is one of the largest structures there and almost certainly the oldest. I was pleased to see that the place was not very touristy and everything was calm, quite and sleepy(just as I had imagined it). The house was the one in which Malgudi Days was shot. It had that aura that comes with age and the gentle character of its inhabitants. We learned later that it was around 127 yrs old. We went inside and were treated to the sight of a big nadukalam and living quarters surrounding it. We went and met Kasturi Akka who seemed to be the head of the family and introduced ourselves. After freshening up we had a breakfast of idlis and then set out on our way to the Barkana Falls view point.

Just landed in Agumbe

View Point

We got to the start of the trail by Auto. On the way we had to register ourselves at the police station which is near the Agumbe stand. We started to walk along the trail. It was a good refreshing walk and we passed a couple of meadows and small streams on the way. After a few kms we came to the view-point. We could see Barkana Falls from a distance and we could see that it was pretty impressive. Also, it was deep inside the forest . we had initially thought that the trail would take us to the waters. We were a little disappointed when we saw that it was just a viewpoint. After that, we did something incredibly stupid. We thought that if we walked through the forest, we could get to the waters. After trying that for around 1 hr, we realized that we were disoriented and the forest was too thick to proceed. KP kind of saved our lives by leading us out by following some branches that he had the good sense to break on the way. On the way back, suddenly what must have been around a million crickets suddenly started going crick-crick-crick. I never imagined that crickets could be so loud. It drowned out every other sound and we couldn’t hear even ourselves. It was a little unsettling coming on top of the fact that we were a little lost.

on the way to the view point

a something KP spotted on the way. Any know what it is?

Barkana Falls view point

Jogigundi Falls

Jogigundi Falls

But, thankfully, we made our way back to the trail and then back to the main road. On the way back, we took the diversion to Jogigundi Falls. After a short trek we got to the base of the falls which looks like a calm swimming pool. We had a pleasant and refreshing dip in the water. Afterwards we made our way back to the house and had a quick-lunch. After lunch we went on a walk to the sunset point nearby. It was along the state highway and all the vehicles passing by stop there. So, it was very crowded. We hung about for a while and then returned. After bath and lunch we were talking to a family member. He said that there was temple nearby which was around 800 yrs old. We were interested and we went with him to the temple.

Rajarajeshwari Temple

It was one of the best memories of the trip for me. There was some elaborate pooja going on and I too walked along with a dude who was holding up some statue around the temple a few times. There were pretty lights and clanging bells and it was a nice experience. It was then that I realized a profound truth. No matter which God you believe in or which religion you belong to there is something deeply special and magical about a place of worship. It is this. The closed eyes and bowed heads all around you gives you such a great opportunity to check out all the pretty girls gathered there at your own pace. Being surrounded by so much natural beauty was truly uplifting. When the pooja got over, we got some stuff to eat and a beetle leaf and areca nut to chew. Afterwards we walked around in the night and talked about our day and plans for the next day.

Kundadri

The next day after breakfast, we caught a bus to Gudikere. From them we tried getting an Auto to Kundadri circle. But there were none. Luckily a guy came along in a van and he gave us a lift for 100 rupees. The place was around 8 kms from Gudikere. From the gate, we could see the big mass of rock that Kundadri is and the little temple perched on top. There is a road to the very top. We walked along it and after a long climb some sections of which were pretty steep, we got to the top. The view from there is breathtaking. More than the view, it’s the solitude, peace and the calming influence of the unobtrusive temple that strikes you. We relaxed for a while and took photos of the surrounding vista. I noticed that in Agumbe, there was very little tourist crowd even in easily accessible places and I soaked in the enjoyable solitude as best as I could. We walked back down and on the way we took some shortcuts through the forest cover and shorted some turns in the road. We were just in time for the 11:15 bus from Kundadri circle to Gudikere. From there we got back to Agumbe.

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KP relaxing after a tiring climb

Onake Abbe(pronounced 1KB)

After lunch we set out for Onake Abbe falls which was the highlight of our trip. The trail is through a forested area. In Agumbe, vegetation is very prolific because of the heavy rains and because of that trails don’t remain very clear. The walk was an extremely pleasant one and I thoroughly enjoyed the greenery and cool refreshing air which reminded me of Kerala. In places plants had covered up portions of the trail and while walking through them we were very wary of snakes. At the end of the trail there were steps cut into the rock which lead us down to the falls.

Steps leading down to the falls

As we were walking along the trail we could seem some light to our left. We had thought that we were walking along the side of a road. But when we stepped out of the foliage, to our delight we realized that we were at the very mouth of the falls and there was a a breathtaking view from there. The place was completely clean and there was no one there. It was a dream come true for me. We walked along the meandering stream that made the falls, took a lot of photos and then had an enjoyable bath in the ice-cold water. This was supposed to wrap up our trip and relax our aching bodies.

We stepped out of the foliage and this is what we saw!

KP on the edge

crystal clear waters and only us to enjoy it!

This photo was widely considered to be the most interesting of all the photos we clicked. I present to you, “Bhootham, bhaavi, Narasimham!”

KP in "Narasimham" mode

KP is like a mermaid.:-). The moment he touches water, he loses the ability to stand on his two feet and starts slipping and sliding around. Swimming would have been a good option if he knew how to. So hanging on to rocks for dear-life is what he generally does.

After cooling off we hurriedly walked back as it was quickly getting dark inside the tree cover. We would have loved to witness the sunset from there but did not think it safe to do so. After washing up we went out for a walk since the bus was supposed to be at 10. We came back at 7:30 and Kasturi Akka’s son reminded us that it was time for dinner and that we better hurry. I was a little surprised. I told him that the bus was only at 10 and that gave us plenty of time for dinner and stuff. He then told us that there is only one bus to Bangalore and it leaves at 8. We were shocked to hear that. We quickly rushed up to our rooms and packed everything, went down, gobbled up some dinner and KP ran to the bus station. Just as he was reaching there the bus was starting to move out. It was a little bit of unwelcome excitement. But, I later realized, it would have been uncharacteristic of me if everything had gone smoothly. So, yeah, had a pleasant trip back home.

Looking back, what most touched me about Agumbe was the old world charm, the slow calm and simple life of its people and the warm and genuine hospitality of our hosts. We were treated like family and it felt truly special to be in that house bursting with stories to tell and nothing to hide.

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TCS World 10k Marathon 2011

There has again been a big break in my blogging. The past one month has been really hectic and things are just flying by.

I had enrolled for the TCS World 10k marathon in the Open category. I ran the marathon on Saturday, the 4th of June.  It was one of the most amazing experiences that I have had since I arrived in Bangalore. It was conducted by Procam International and there were professional athletes participating in a separate category. They ran the race first and completed the 10 kms in less than 30 mins. The sight of them running at close quarters was one of the most beautiful things that I have seen. Their poise, fluidity, long swinging legs that give the impression of looseness but are strictly controlled, all, together was just awe inspiring.

I decided to go for the race upon an impulse and had not really given a thought as to whether I would be able to complete it. I also had not done any practice for it. The day before, I had almost decided to not go. But, one of my friends here at TI asked for company and so, I went. I thought, “What the heck!?, I will just walk and complete it”. Once, I arrived there, I was struck by the number of people who had turned up. Senior citizens, disabled people, celebrities, soldiers, police, college teams, children, ordinary guys and girls etc. etc.. They were all there and they were all full of enthusiasm.

After the pros had finished up, we set off. There were timing chips attached to our shoes which were used to record our timings at various check points. I started slowly. All around me there was a huge mass of people and there were people trying to navigate through it and trying to get ahead. I was not feeling very competitive and wanted to just finish the race running. So, I just ran behind a few hot girls admiring their dynamic beauty and did not pay attention to much else.

I thought that after a few kms, most of the people would stop running and start walking or even better, just give up. Then, I, young, fit and strong would breeze ahead of these old guys, children, fat people and weak girls. That is what I thought. After all, there were some 40 thousand people running and I expected at least half of them to give up.

But, boy!! Was I ever so wrong!? After what seemed like several hours and hundreds of kms later, I thought… “ok, now the finish line must be near”. My brain passed the FOD(“eff-Off and Die!”) command to the pain messengers  from my leg muscles. I pressed on bravely. Very soon… a banner popped up as I rounded a corner. On it was written “5 KMS“! That was the most demoralizing thing that happened to me during the race. I looked around. Everyone seemed to be rock solid. No one seemed like they were going to give up.

I thought, “hey, I am not going to let a bunch of old guys beat me at a marathon. I will not give up, come what may!”. All along the route, there were people who had gathered to watch the spectacle. They encouraged and cheered the runners. It was a heart-warming sight. Even the guys who were overtaking me cheered me and encouraged me on. I was struck by everyone’s warmth and good heart. All along, there was water and refreshments. I didn’t stop though. On rounding a corner, suddenly, there was a jam and I had to try and stop running. But, I found that I couldn’t and there were all kinds of strange sensations shooting up my leg. It was like something had taken control of my body and I was in charge of just processing the pain. I continued….

Km by painful km I neared the finish line. On seeing the line, I mustered my remaining energy, focused my attention on a super-hot girl blazing  away towards the line and ran like she was the last woman on this planet. It worked and I got to the finish line! On stopping I suddenly felt like I was about to faint. But, the genius organizers had arranged for a stage filled with dancers dancing to energetic music with clean beats. For a few moments my attention was diverted and I stabilized. I bit into an orange that I had picked up on the way. After that I went to refreshment counter and met up with my friend.

All in all, it was pretty amazing experience and it opened my eyes to the technical nature of running and the unique challenges it offers. Running unless done properly is not a smooth sport and can result in injury. Also, running marathons is a very intense activity. Another thing that I learned is that age does not matter when it comes to enjoying sports. Everything is in the mind and all that is required to enjoy it is determination and discipline.

Btw, I completed the race in 1hr 5 mins which is not bad considering my condition.

Cycling: Nandi Hills

The week before last, I had decided to go to Nandi Hills. Febin had also agreed to come with Manjeri’s cycle. But, on Friday, Manerji’c cycle developed some problem and we were in a fix. Febin decided to buy a new cycle immediately. I right away set off on my Trek to Decathlon in Sarjapura which was some 16-20 kms away. We bought a B’Twin Rockrider 5.1 the same day and came back to my place immediately. We rested and had some food. Since, Febin had not ridden a cycle in a long time we decided to leave early.

So, after a light nap, we set off at 1’O’ Clock. It was a little crazy as he had not had any time to get used to his cycle and we were straight away setting off for a 120 km ride, and that too immediately after a 20 km ride. Anyway, we decided to put good sense aside and  just do it.

Before setting off, we had decided on the route using Google Maps. I entered the destination into my phone and used it to make sure that we were not making any mistakes. There was no traffic and riding was an absolute pleasure for me. The night air was cool, the roads were smooth and there was light breeze from behind. Perfect conditions for a good average. After some 26 kms we were past Hebbal. We took a break as Febin started getting back and neck pains. Also, his cycle did not have high enough gear ratios and he was having a tough time keeping up with me.

The day before, he had made big claims saying that he would beat me with an ordinary cycle. I didn’t use the occasion to taunt him a little as I worried about the more than 100 kms remaining. We took breaks every 20 kms. I had some Tiger-On-Steroid balm like spray which he used on his neck. Very soon he started complaining about butt-pain too. Thats the most dangerous an unbearable of all pains.But, like a true soldier he battled on. Stroke by stroke, metre by metre, braving all sorts of pain, through the pitch black night he cycled on and eventually covered the 100+ kms.

It is a pretty neat feeling. Cycling through unknown roads, in the dark, with a light breeze while keeping out a beady eye for speed-breakers.

We stopped at a wayside eatery and had a cup of tea and a bread-omelette and again set off. After some 8 kms, I realized that I had forgotten both my bag and my new helmet. I had to cycle back and get it and come back again. I met Febin on the way and asked him to go on.

By the time I reached the start of Nandi Hills, he was waiting for me there. An accident had happened there recently and because of that they now let people through only after sunrise.  I really wanted to cycle all the way up. But my panicked cycling for the last 16-20 kms had shaken me up a bit. We were drinking only water and we didn’t have anything to eat with us. I was starting to get fatigued.

Anyway, I set off on my cycle and Febin started walking his cycle up. With a few breaks in between I cycled 6.5 kms up. But, the last 1.5kms was really steep and I had to simply give up. As I was walking up, a vehicle drew up and stopped in front of me. Inside, I saw Febin sitting with his cycle. What a relief it was! I put my cycle on board and dragged myself onto the vehicle. We were really too tired to see all the sights. We walked to the very top and bought a pineapple and some biscuits which we ate with great relish. I had not slept in 24 hrs. So, I took a nap on a rock in the strong breeze.

The ride downhill was just awesome!! No pedaling. Just speed. Free, effortless speed… The wind buzzing in your ears, the Bontrager tires making a juicy whining sound as they gripped the road, the sharp winding curves, pulsed braking before, light pedaling after, motocross style leaning in and making turns at crazy angles while perched like an eagle on the cycle… It was like a dream, a boy’s biggest dream(after well endowed girls, of course!)… 8kms of downhill road curving and winding… it was just mind-blowing!!

The confidence that my Trek inspired in me was amazing. I never thought I could cross 50kmph on a cycle. I could have done more if my legs weren’t shaking as much(probably from low electrolyte).

We cycled up to the airport. After that, the dry strong winds against us, the barren desert like road, the heat and the hunger started getting to me. We cycled for some 3 kms more and then caught a volvo bus to Bangalore. We slept soundly for some 2 hrs after which the bus dropped us off at Murugdeshpalya from where we cycled to my place.

After a nice hot bath I ravenously gorged on the chicken and chappathi that our cook had made. Made a lot of hot drinks and lay down in front of the TV to watch the WC final.

All in all, a fantastic trip. My tribute to Kudiyan for demonstrating great tenacity and endurance. But, he definitely underestimated the task and his claim that he would beat me with an ordinary cycle was rather stupid and a little irritating. I am pretty certain that he has learned his lesson though. The cycle plays a very important role on long rides like this. Looking forward to more such trips…

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