Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roaring Hanuman Gundi Falls in middle of dense Western ghats

10th Aug 2013

Hanuman Gundi falls which is also called as Soothanabbi falls, plunges from height of 22mts in middle of dense and beautiful western ghats. Situated in border area of Chikmagalur district (which it originally belongs to) and Udupi district, it is prominent tourist attraction for locals like us :-). The falls is under jurisdiction of Kuduremukh National Park. It is main start point of Tunga River. The name comes from mythology which says Lord Hanuman carried out austerity nearby waterfalls. Many people do not visit during peak monsoon season. I wanted to visit the falls to enjoy its full flow. Despite of rains, I did visit the falls and drenched in heavy rains :-). As always my camera also drenched and co-operated with me on similar lines as during Sakaleshpura-Subramanya train journey :D.

Here starts my travelogue ;-). The falls is situated exactly around 60kms from my hometown. However the geography is pretty much tough to reach the place and hence requires almost 2hrs to commute. I had to go alone this time too but as said earlier I am used to that now. My mother asked me to start as early as possible. By 9AM I was ready to go. The monsoon had just taken break and there was only intermittent showers with bright SUN. Of-course very high humid weather too! It started raining when I started my journey however receded after few minutes. I wanted to take car but the bad roads till Karkala compelled me to take public transport. Also I was not aware of road condition from Karkala to HanumanGundi.

At 9:20AM here comes our good old AC bus "PM Travels" destined to Karkala. It has no window too :D only tarpaulin. There comes first bad news :(. The conductor informed that the trip is restricted till Belman. Nevertheless it is very easy to get buses to Karkala from Belman. That day was really bad. Even after 30 minutes of wait not even a single bus could be spotted to Karkala from Belman. Belman lies in middle of Padubidri-Karkala state highway. Eventually a service bus arrived to heal our frustration. The bus immediately was jam packed and I got a last seat! I prayed god to take care of my back :D. The road from Belman to Karkala is completely tortured and dreadful and the last seat added some more music :D. The highway between Padubidri-Karkala is being completely re-structured and re-layed. The half cooked work has left all the miseries with it. Also during Monsoon season,  it is impossible to carry out road work in coastal Karnataka. We were really helpless. Fortunately the driver seemed to very much mature and drove smoothly.

Around 11AM, I reached Karkala and my stream of bad luck continued. Two buses to HanumanGundi were canceled. The next bus was only around 12:30PM. I had no choice other than to wait. I had light snacks and packed some biscuits too! Around 12:15PM, I caught Balehonnur bus which has stop at Hanuman Gundi. HanumanGundi is exactly 30kms distant from Karkala but it takes 75mins to reach. The up-hilling of western ghats delays the journey.

The bus started around 12:30PM and 14kms thereafter we entered Kuduremukh National Park gate. Casual travelers need to take pass to enter park jurisdiction. There starts the joy :-). The beautiful western ghats were looking so gorgeous and monsoon has decorated them full greenery. The clouds kissing the hillocks, the water springs, the curvy roads, lush greenery all round and not to forget the torrential monsoon rains were eye catching and delightful. The water springs at many places OMG were so much ravishing. I felt, I should have taken car to capture all these. Yes, the roads are so beautiful. It is NH-13 which runs from Mangalore to Sholapur. Even though roads are narrow, it is very well paved with no pot-holes. I was surprised to see the beautiful roads despite the torrential monsoon rains this year. I missed car for other reasons too which is driving through picturesque western ghats with monsoon rains which is truly mesmerizing experience. The sight of layered hills was absolutely stunning. It is really joyous to drive along these beautiful curvy roads and hairpin bends with monsoon rains. My prediction was wrong again on condition of roads :-(. Nevertheless, I enjoyed whatever could be from within bus. The forest department has installed many dustbins to shred off garbage and erected signboards requesting not to disturb the peace of wild animals. I request visitors to make use of them and not to litter the western ghats. Please do not spoil the western ghats which are one of true pride of India.

3kms before Hanumangundi falls, a deviation could be spotted to reach Hanumangundi falls from NH-13. The bus conductor asked me the intention to visit the place. When said about falls, he uttered in Tulu "Barsadu yenchina maarayre. umbula pattundu toole" (Why are you visiting falls during rains. Leeches will bite you). Hmmm... I kept silent. Exactly around 2PM, here I am at hanuman gundi falls. It was raining tremendously heavy too :D. So much enjoying these monsoon rains. You need to take Rs.20 ticket to reach falls spot. Two forest guards issue tickets and thrive to maintain serenity of the place. Surprisingly a bit high number of visitors could be seen and most of them were locals. Even forest guards were surprised at my enthusiasm of visiting alone in middle of heavy rains.

The roaring sound could be heard even from road. The forest department has constructed around 250 steps to reach waterfalls. I was totally stunned when I reached water fall spot. OMG what a glory. Thats the purest water you can get which is straight out of western ghats. I tasted it and it was so sweet :-). Tunga river is so sweet from my experiences of Chibbalagudde visit. The statement "Ganga Snana, Tunga Paana" (Bath in Ganga, drink water in Tunga) is very much authentic. The sound of torrent was so much powerful and it superseded the joy of screaming people. My camera was busy too ;-). I took many snaps and videos including the milky way :-). The glorious water fall in middle of beautiful dense western ghats had already made my day. My heart became light and unknowingly my eyes were filled with tears of joy. I went to capture some more snaps from different platform. I got completely drenched in the rain as well as from water bouncing from rocks. Even my DSLR was so happy to capture the moments and co-operated with me without any hesitation. The velocity of water such that even my camera was struggling to auto focus. I really felt the need of wide angle lens to capture the entire site in one frame. Whilst the normal lens captured many beautiful snaps. I will definitely visit the place every year for sure especially during peak monsoon season.



Here are bonus milky way pics ;-)

The overcast skies and dense forest cover setup perfect lighting for milky way photo shoot ;-). I could get shutter speed of 1s with aperture as low as f/16. Also  due to torrent, even a shutter of 1/6s would produce proper milky way. Hope you enjoy these images :-)



After nearly 90 minutes of pure natural magic, I stepped up to reach the main highway. There are benches to sit and relax at the top. A bus just had passed off and the next bus was 45 minutes due. Some group also had come along with me. They were screaming so much nearby waterfall spot and leeches had bit them :-). Hence maintain silence to avoid leech bites :D. Carry crystal salt for safety. I did not carry anything and to my luck no leech disturbed me ;-). I had some buscuits and friendly chat with courteous forest guards. Both were really lovely people and narrated mythology behind the name of place. I asked if we could trek along Kuduremukh National Forest which they said one can do so after having written permission from Forest Department in Kuduremukh or Karkala.


Hanuman at hanuman gundi! This was the only monkey I could see nearby place. 

After sometime what a surprise! The sun sneaked through the dense canopy of western ghats which is a rare sight during monsoon season. I had also kept my clothes for drying which were totally wet after drenching in heavy rains. At around 3:50PM, the bus arrived jam packed. I stood till Karkala. After 2kms, there was gorgeous landscape of layered western ghats with Sun's reflections. I would have taken that scenery if I had come by car :(. It took only 40mins to reach Karkala due to downhill. I caught up bus to Shirva (last seat again :D) and eventually reached my village around 5:30PM. My father provided me two full glasses of tasty tender coconut water. Later I had delicious full meals at home :D. What a day it was :-). Started with so many hiccups and confusion and eventually everything was straight up. Removed all my anxiety and I was in complete relaxed mood. Not a bit tired too!

How to reach:

I do not know from Bangalore. If you reach Karkala, travel along NH-13 towards Shringeri. After 27kms of travel, you will find deviation towards Balehonnur. Follow that road for 3kms to reach Hanuman Gundi. Please make arrangements of your own for transport. You will be tempted to halt at many places ;-).

Best time to visit:

I highly recommend peak Monsoon season despite of difficulty. The water-fall has throughout year flow with maximum velocity during peak monsoon season. Whatever may be your level of expertise of swimming, do not swim during high torrents. It is not easy to manage here with tough landscape. If you have some more time, do visit Lakhya Dam near Kuduremukh and Sirimane falls near Shringeri. Should be able to cover in 3hrs.

Some Requests:

1) Do not litter the beautiful western ghats
2) Do not scream with joy [or else leeches will bite you ;-)]. Maintain sanctity of place by silently enjoying the landscape.
3) Please follow guidelines of forest guards.

Whats up this time!

Nothing special this time :-). HDR was not required here since lighting was perfect. Even for HDR, tripod was must since shutter was going beyond 5s. I did not have tripod and with heavy rains there was no possibility of setting up tripod. There was nothing to capture as timelapse however if I had own arrangements, would have captured some timelapse of clouds and sun's reflection with beautiful layered western ghats en-route.

The Video:

Finally I spared some time to compose the video ;-). The gush of water and the landscape tempted me to upload some clips to YT. Watch and enjoy with natural sound :-).

Last Note

I do not want to trouble my camera furthermore. I have finally ordered a weather coat for it :-).

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